JACKSON, Maine — Phyllis and Clifton Grant had been married for just a few months when Clifton was drafted into the the Air Corps and sent to fight in World War II.
They survived the war, three children, travels to bluegrass festivals all over the northeast and more. Seventy years after marrying, the couple celebrated their platinum wedding anniversary Sunday afternoon with an open house at their Jackson home.
“He has a good disposition,” Phyllis Grant, 92, said of her husband. “We have just little arguments, like everybody does. Nothing more than that. You learn that you have to share pretty much, too.”
Her 91-year-old husband agreed with his wife.
“Just get along, I guess,” Clif Grant replied when asked about the secret to their long union. “We get along. No knockdowns and drag outs or anything like that. I can’t see any point in fighting and arguing all the time.”
But that’s not all, he confided with a smile. Just before getting drafted, the newlywed worked the swing shift at a noisy shipyard in Portland. They didn’t have even basic safety equipment, like ear plugs or steel toed boots, and it affected his hearing. When Clif Grant came home to a late dinner prepared by his bride, he couldn’t hear a word she said.
“You couldn’t argue, because I couldn’t hear,” he joked. “Probably it was a good idea in a way.”
Underneath the gentle teasing, it was clear that the Grants still get a kick out of each other. They met in elementary school and didn’t marry until a few years after Phyllis Grant graduated from Farmington Normal School at the age of 19. The newly minted schoolteacher spent her first few teaching years at the rural Frankfort School, where she was occasionally mistaken for one of her pupils.
After Clif Grant was drafted, he was sent to the Pacific, spending most of his war time in New Guinea. He drove a tractor-trailer loaded with jet fuel on a 229-mile-long road that had been hacked through the jungle.
“Thirteen months doing that,” he recalled.
It was an intense time. Phyllis Grant said that letters could easily get lost during the war and she used to listen to the radio news every night to find out what was going on.
Her husband said that his war experiences included Japanese snipers, but they missed him. There was also malaria, which didn’t.
Grant was sent home early because he was sick, and surprised his wife at the school where she was working as a substitute teacher.
“I guess we probably did some smooching with the kids peeking at us,” Phyllis Grant said.
After the war, the couple settled in Jackson, where they both were from. They spent $600 to buy a house there and began raising their growing family. Clif Grant worked in the woods, making his living by cutting and hauling pulpwood and hardwood to mills around the state. He also hauled milk, and drove a school bus for 15 years.
Grant was renowned locally for his tightly constructed wood piles and even was featured in a 1978 Down East magazine story about Mainers who heated with wood. In that article, Phyllis Grant said that her husband stacked wood so well that a spider couldn’t squeeze into the piles.
She spent 27 years teaching in local schools, and spent time on Sunday chatting with some of her former students. She also talked about the summers she and her husband spent driving around to go to bluegrass festivals in states as far away as Pennsylvania and New York.
The couple and their family members said that one of the most special events of Sunday came when Clif Grant was presented with the World War II medals he had never received because he came home early. U.S. Rep Mike Michaud helped the veteran get his Good Conduct, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign and World War II Victory medals all these years after the end of the war.
“His eyes lit up when they passed him the medal today,” granddaughter April Small of Monroe said. “I thought he was going to cry. He’s the only living World War II Veteran in Jackson or Brooks.”
The medals were hard to come by — but so too were anniversary cards with the correct number of years printed on them, Phyllis Grant said.
“People couldn’t find cards with 70 on it,” she said. “I know. It’s a long time.”