Charlie and Pamela Bowen never want to stop learning. The pair, who recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, have audited about 50 classes beginning in 2013. Charlie is an adjunct professor in the W. Page Pitt School of Journalism and Mass Communications, and both Bowens have newspaper experience, as they worked together at The Herald-Dispatch. Pamela earned her degree in journalism from Marshall in 1968, while Charlie graduated from the University of Kentucky with a bachelor’s in journalism in 1970. The couple shared their advice for maintaining healthy relationships, as well as reflected on the past 50 years of love and friendship.
Their relationship advice? Lots of communication and respect. Couples need to learn what works and what doesn’t, including, in the Bowens’ case, if they can put a bookshelf together or not.
Pamela: “We get along great, but we cannot put together a bookshelf together.”
Charlie: “We learned that early on. I remember we were sitting putting this thing together, sniping at each other, and finally we looked at each other and said, ‘You can put this together. I can put this together. We can’t put this together.’ We both are bosses.”
Pamela: “I think really communication is the key thing.”
Charlie: “Yeah it is. And laugh.”
Pamela: “Oh gosh yes.”
The two have always read to one another. And recently, to celebrate their upcoming anniversary, Charlie dug around in their basement looking for their old letters, which they’ve kept all these years. They read them to each other, too. Once, a few months ago, they read some of them aloud to each other. He put them in order. Over the course of their relationship, they’d only been apart for a couple semesters while Charlie was at UK and Pam at MU.
Pamela: “This was a year where we wrote letters to each other. And of course, he saved all of them.”
Charlie, softly: “Well you did too.”
Pamela: “Well I did too. So, he would hand me the letter I wrote to him and he would take the letter I wrote to him on that day 50 years ago, and we would read them to each other. It was pathetic.”
Charlie: “I would finish them and say, ‘Why did you stay with this guy?’ What a whiny self-centered idiot.”
Pamela: “He missed me!”
What do they like about each other?
Charlie: “One of the things that so impressed me when we were dating, Pamela has always been curious about everything. When we were dating she would subscribe to everything she could subscribe to. She was always seeing things in the back of magazines and saying ‘That’s interesting,’ and writing off and getting catalogs and brochures, and it continues to be like that. It’s not just for journalism, you want to spend your life with someone that goes into the room and says, ‘I wonder what that is, I haven’t seen that before,’ and that’s Pamela.”
Charlie would come visit Pam after she started at Marshall. There’s even a picture in one old yearbook of him walking across campus “on his way to skip classes with Pamela.” The pair reflected on their past dates and their new dates, which include attending Marshall lectures and performances.
Pamela: “We would buy a package of cookies and two Cokes and go up on the hill in Ritter Park and sit there and tell our life stories.”
What are your dates like now?
Charlie: “Mainly going to class.”
Pamela “Our whole existence is like a date.”
Charlie: “We never really celebrate birthdays because we’re celebrating all the time. I think it’s a mistake to just sort of say, ‘Okay, Christmas and Valentine’s Day and birthdays, those are the special times and then you don’t have to do anything else.’ We try to be thoughtful with each other and respectful and have a good time together. And if you think about what you want to do with a good friend, well, that’s what we want to do. We like to experience things together that we both will enjoy.”
Amanda Larch can be contacted at [email protected]