Five days before Valentine’s Day, love was in the air. Sinatra was swinging. Young and old gathered to dance in lines and circles. Hearts and chocolates aplenty. It wasn’t your typical February Sunday afternoon in Haddonfield.
For more than a decade, the Haddonfield Lions Club has provided older adults from the borough and beyond the chance to rekindle some romance and reminisce about their younger days with a Senior Citizens Prom held in the all-purpose room at J.F. Tatem Elementary School.
Sandy and Fran Haug — South Jersey natives who settled just outside the borough in Haddon Township — were selected Prom Queen and King based on the fact they were engaged on Feb. 14.
“Yes, we were, back in 1963. We did it at the Cherry Hill Mall,” Sandy admitted. “No, it wasn’t ‘love at first sight.’ In fact, he stood me up when we were supposed to have the first date.”
Despite that rough start, the pair grew to know each other while participating on opposite bowling teams.
“Years ago, there was a bowling alley in Oaklyn, and it was a mixed league. I was 17 and (on the team) we had a man and woman, he (the first male teammate) had a son close to my age and another man that had a daughter my sister’s age and another man who was 81. He (husband Fran) bowled with young kids — his brother and sister-in-law and another couple. He was a little bit older and he thought they were kids,” Sandy explained.
The Haugs eventually raised three children close by, and although she acknowledged the truth about allowing kids the wings to fly, Sandy only half-jokingly added, “One’s in California, one’s in Oregon, and one’s in Wyoming. They abandoned us.”
A long and relaxing retirement for the pair has only recently been interrupted by some worrisome world events.
“Well, we were supposed to fly to Shanghai and take a cruise from Tokyo and do the cruise through China and Japan, Taiwan, Philippines and South Korea. But the plans just changed,” she said, alluding to the coronavirus scare.
The Haddonfield Memorial High School LEOs kept things light-hearted by talking to the various couples, dancing to everything from Elvis to the Cupid Shuffle and encouraging attendees to shake what they got on the dance floor. Joan Downing and Mavis Dolbow didn’t need much encouragement, tripping the light fantastic as the music spanned the decades.
“It is such a joy to watch over 30 LEO Club students volunteer their time, efforts, creativity, and kindness just in time for Valentine’s Day. The dance has become an anticipated tradition in town and the LEO Club is proud to spread the love to our Haddonfield neighbors,” said Maggie Gammie, advisor to the LEOs who has organized the event for the past four years.
Another love story which endured a bit of travel, was that of Bob and Mary Metrione, current Haddonfield residents and first-time Tatem dance attendees, who first met at Bowling Green State University more than six decades ago.
“It was 1957 we were married, so (our first meeting) was probably 1953. He came from New Jersey and … my parents moved in between when I started college and finished. Syracuse was where I ended up,” Mary said.
What connected each to the other was a typical story for the times: Mary thought Bob was very good looking, liked his Italian ancestry and loved the fact her parents didn’t like him. Bob was struck by Mary’s beauty right away, but grew to like her pleasant disposition.
“We ended up in North Jersey after we were married. But then we found our way back down here. We’ve lived here about 30 years. We had three kids, and they all went to Tatem. It’s a good place to go to school. It’s one of the reasons why we settled on Haddonfield. Because it was a nice place to live,” Mary added.
The Metriones keep active physically — Mary and Bob with playing tennis and walking their dog four times a day — and mentally, as Mary enjoys her reading group. But they both realize that living as long as they have and staying in the area means that “a lot of our friends have either died or moved away. It happens. That’s part of life.”
When asked what the secret was to keeping their marriage fresh, Mary deadpanned, “I think we still like each other.”