Bert and Polly Britt share memories
Versailles couple celebrates 63 Christmases

Beth Ramsey, Staff Writer

“What do you get a couple for Christmas who has been married 63 years?” asked Harry Nuxoll, nephew of Bert and Polly Britt of Versailles, who have enjoyed 63 years of marriage. He wanted to give them a gift to remember. “I thought it would be great to get their story out to the public, and to let the younger generation know about some of the Christmases they went through during their life together,” said Nuxoll.

Bert Britt was drafted into the service in December of 1943 as a selective volunteer, one who could choose which branch of the service to join. Britt joined the Navy when he was unable to join his first choice, the Air Force. He took aviation mechanics training courses as well as aerial gunnery and radio operating training. It was while he was stationed in Norfolk, Virginia, that he wound up being a yeoman, said Britt. His job was a captain’s write, a secretary to an officer, which took him to Bermuda.

It was in Bermuda that Bert and Polly met. Polly was a WAAC, Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps, and stationed on the other end of the island. It was December of 1944, and the naval base was going to have a Christmas party. “But, we needed girls,” said Bert. He was on the committee to find girls who would be willing to go to the party. Bert called the Army base, located on the other end of the island, to request permission for Polly and her companions to attend. Polly relates, “We had only been in Bermuda for a short time, and our commanding officer felt it was too soon for us to go.”

The following February of 1945 allowed for another meeting for Bert and Polly. The Navy was hosting a Valentine’s Day party. Bert met Polly and her companions at the local store and requested they come. Polly and her friends were permitted to come, and she and Bert became better acquainted. “We got to talking and I guess we made a date,” said Bert. They would meet to play golf when their schedules permitted. “That was just about all you could do there,” said Bert. On June 2, 1945, Bert and Polly married. They were told by many people that the marriage wouldn’t last for many reasons: soldiers and sailors don’t mix and wartime marriages don’t last. “It has been 63 years, I’m still waiting for it to end,” laughs Bert.

“Our first Christmas was in the States,” said Bert. It was after the war, and Polly was already in the States due to a pregnancy. Bert was waiting for his discharge, but due to his experience as a secretary, he would not be getting discharged until January. He was to help with the paperwork for the discharge of other soldiers.

According to Bert, “About the middle of December the captain asked if I was going home for Christmas. I told him that my discharge was frozen, and I wouldn’t be able to leave until January.” The captain decided that Bert should be home for Christmas and arranged for him to have a 20-day delayed order to report to Bainbridge, MA in January. Bert took the next flight out on a cargo plane that landed in Washington DC. He then took a train to Cincinnati where Polly was staying with her sister. After a short visit, Bert and Polly traveled to Charleston, West Virginia to have Christmas with Bert’s family. “We didn’t have much to give each other, just a kiss,” laughed Bert.

“Our best Christmas was the Christmas of 1947,” Bert said. It was their oldest daughter, Linda’s, first Christmas. And, it was the first Christmas in their new home.

Jobs were difficult to find after the war with so many soldiers returning home looking for work. Bert read a help wanted ad in the paper for a position in the payroll department for the Jergens Company. They were living upstairs with Polly’s sister, due to the difficulty in finding an apartment that would rent to someone with children. “Everyone it seemed was on that kick. We were looking for anything, and if we found somewhere to rent, we would be asked if we had any children. No one wanted to rent to anyone with kids,” said Bert. Bert became angry. But, around the corner from where they were living, was a piece of ground which he bought. It was there that he built their first home. “It was more of a shack,” he laughs. It was a cedar shingled house, built with his own tools which he still owns today, with the exception of his hammer, which was lost a few years ago.

With the scraps left over from building his home, he made his daughter a Hoosier-style cabinet, about three feet high, according to Bert. “That was our best Christmas,” said Polly.

The most memorable Christmas for the Britts was the Christmas of 1951 or 1952 when they lived in Columbia, South Carolina. They had three children then, and wanted to visit Bert’s family in West Virginia. “So we loaded up the car, and stopped at the store and bought a tree and all the trimmings. We walked in the home the day before Christmas,” said Bert, adding, “my dad was just like a kid that Christmas.”

His brothers and their families came to visit and had dinner together. “When we have dinner, it’s like a party,” said Bert. A neighbor told the family, “You people have more fun at a meal than anybody I’ve ever seen in my life!”

The worst Christmas for the Britts was last year, when Polly had a heart attack. It happened at 4:30 in the morning, and we called 911, said Bert. Polly was taken to Batesville and later to Indianapolis. Their daughter, Sue McNew, Holton, was called to get her dad. “She had all her family over,” said Polly, adding, “it was awful.” According to Bert, “that was the worst Christmas. It had to be, nothing else could be worse.”

The Britts live in Versailles and own the Country Affair store, across from Ernie’s Pizza. Their daughter Sue now runs the store. Bert and Polly started the store to help pay for their medicine, according to nephew Harry. They have three children: Linda Alperin, a pediatric home health nurse in Canton, Ohio; Dan, who owns an advertising company in Hamilton, Ohio; and Carolyn Sue McNew, of Holton. The couple has eight grandchildren, six great-grandchildren and “one on the way”, said Polly proudly.

“I would like for everyone to know that no matter what the obstacles are while you’re married, it can be done,” concluded Bert.

Above: Bert and Polly on their wedding day, June 2, 1945 in Bermuda.

Below: Bert and Polly still smiling after 63 years.