Couple celebrates 50 years together

James and Marion Davidson Sides have known each other almost a lifetime — youngsters together growing up in Helena, attending grade school, then Thompson High School and hanging out with their siblings for endless summer hours around Buck Creek.

As they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary and received friends at the Helena Baptist Church where they were married, they shared memorable and poignant times that reflect local history.

“Our wedding was quite a social affair for Helena,” Marion Sides said. “There were hundreds of names in our guestbook.”

Marion’s best friend throughout the years was is Jeannine Sides Nunnally (James’ sister), and one of her six bridesmaids in 1960.

In those days everyone knew everyone, and the grocery store operated by Keith Campbell and Kenneth Mullins was the information hub for the community.

“If the fire truck went by and you wanted to know what was burning, you phoned Mullins Grocery,” said Marion.

“We had to schedule our wedding for eight o’clock in the evening, after closing time.”

After their wedding and honeymoon trip to Gatlinburg, Tenn., James and Marion lived in Atlanta. Marion taught fourth grade and James finished his studies and played quarterback at Georgia Tech. Marion recalls her teacher salary was $200 per month.

They next lived briefly in South Carolina, where James worked for Deering-Milliken and their oldest daughter, Andrea, was born. James then was making $6,200 — top salary for a college graduate in 1961.

The death of Marion’s father in 1966 and her mother’s ailing health brought them back home. The birth of daughters Kim, Michelle and Allison followed.

Marion’s brother, Dick Davidson, then mayor of Helena, was killed in a plane crash at Shelby Springs in 1967. A planned fishing trip to Florida with Leonard Bearden, the pilot, was to have included James Sides, but he changed his mind last-minute.

James and Marion have been restoring and living in the historic 1895 C.T. Davidson home, where Marion was born, for the past 18 years. The meticulously maintained home and yard is a local treasure, where they welcome family and friends.

At their 50th wedding anniversary celebration, family gifts on display included a framed napkin from their 1960 wedding day, a portrait of their eight grandchildren and a leather-bound photo memory book.

“We have always been an extremely close family,” the Sides agree. “It takes a lot of give and take, but truthfully, we have never had any arguments.”

That is a rare statement and positive example in this 21st century.