Amherst, VA

Sally & Marcus, Amherst, VA - married 1948

While I was in residence at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts in 1998, Sheila Gulley Pleasants, the admissions coordinator, generously offered to curtail her birthday celebrations long enough for me to speak with her parents, who had driven up for the day on short notice from their home in Winston-Salem, NC.

Marcus put himself through medical school by driving a cab; Sally contributed earnings from her teacher’s salary.  He still practices psychiatry and she is a retired medical school administrator.  They have six children.


Sally:
Both of us [come from] small towns in the south.  Both of us Baptist preachers’ children.  So we know all the old hymns, you know?  (Laughs.)  Used to go along in the car singin’ those hymns.  And we both went to the same colleges.

RF:
You’d known each other for a while?

Sally:
Since I was fourteen.  And he came home and he was eighteen, came home with my brother.  From college.  This is before the war.  And then they went in service, my brother and he did, and were gone for four years.  And by that time, I grew up…

Marcus:
I’d visited in their home with her older brother when she was fourteen, as she said.  As we were leaving, to go back to college, she was already in bed, so her brother went to her bedroom, kissed her goodnight.  So I leaned over and kissed her goodnight, too.  And I didn’t see her again for four years, I came back from service, still in uniform, and wandered back through the old college campus where she was.  I’d gone to see some friends.

It was a very strict Baptist school, with a very rigid Dean of Women, who looked closely at the morality of the young ladies.  (Sally giggles.)  And Sally was standing on the front porch of her dorm, this Dean of Women was right behind her.  As I cruised by and said, “Good morning,” -- why I recognized her after four years, I have no idea -- and I said, “Sally Morton Hudson.  The last time I saw you, you were in bed and I kissed you goodnight.”  (Laughter.)  The Dean of Women looked over to her, and Sally said my fate was sealed.  I had to make an honest woman out of her.


Sally (regarding Marcus’s internship):
He was making zero.  In those days they didn’t pay the interns anything.  The next year, they started paying him fifty dollars a month.  And there we were up there living in slums in Winston-Salem, and we got to Philadelphia and he had to ride the bus up to the graduate hospital, you know, University of Pennsylvania.  And just get the lay of the land and see how to get there and stuff.  He called me back, and said they’d put him to work.  He’d walked into the emergency room and the guy that was finishing up left.  And he didn’t come home for about three days.

We didn’t have any furniture; only thing I had, I sat on two - there were phone books.  I’d never seen phone books like that.  They had yellow pages that thick, and a regular phone book that thick.  And I sat on the phone book…

Marcus & Sally (together):
…and cried.  (Laughter.)


Sally:
I went back to work.  I had that nice little career when our youngest son was five, we have a good friend who was made Dean of Continuing Education at the Medical School.  He was our contemporary.  I had mentioned to his wife one time that I might, you know, when [our youngest son] Ned got to go to school, I might do something; because I don’t like to shell peas or clean house (laughs).  Particularly.

And he asked me if I would come work for him.  And I said, what do you do?  He said, it’s stuff they call Continuing Education.  And he didn’t have any clue what it was, we knew it was teaching doctors to get credits after they’re in practice, basically.  And so, I said sure.

So I started working two half-days a week, and it worked up to three half-days a week, and it went to three days a week, and then by the time I quit 21 years later, I was working full-time and we had a big department.  So it was a lovely little career that I hadn’t planned on.


Sally:
His great thing in any relationship is respect.  He respected the children, he respected me, he respected the dog and the cat… (Laughs.)  And it was a time when men were less sensitive; and even the bonding in the delivery room came later.  I have contemporaries whose husbands never, ever changed a diaper, or got up at night with the baby, and he always did.  You know.  So it was never a problem.

RF:
So, would you still call it a traditional marriage of the time?

Sally:
Well, yeah.

Marcus:
Well, it was traditional to the sense that one of our friends’ daughter – of some of our closest friends – the daughter came to talk to Sally, because she was having trouble with her marriage, and it was easier to talk to a neighbor, you know…  But then she asked Sally, said, “Mrs. Gulley, what did you do the times you thought about divorcing Dr. Gulley?”  And Sally said, “I didn’t know I had a choice.”  (They laugh.)

Sally:
What would I do?

Marcus:
It was traditional in that sense.  You make your bed, you lie in it.  In other words, marriage, your vows are for real.  And so, it’s not up for debate.


Marcus:
Each of us – I think each of us has a fairly keen sense of what the other’s boundaries are, and as you approach those, you know, the force field builds, and you back off, or you ease back in that sense.  We grew up on the old Southern tradition of non-confrontationalism, so to speak.

RF:
So how do you blow off the steam?

Sally:
You know, luckily there was not a whole lot of steam blown, I don’t remember.

Marcus:
No, it is taken so much as a part of the culture, that it’s not seen as a steam-building circumstance.

Sally:
We had this thing a long time ago, and I don’t know whether I read it, or what, but it kind of has helped us through a lot of things:  that there are three words that save a marriage.  And it’s not “I love you,” it’s “maybe you’re right.”

Marcus:
Not “you are,” but just maybe.

Sally:
Gives you a little wiggle room there.

Marcus:
It leaves the opening, leaves a little wiggle room, that’s right.  And it came sort of automatically, also, in the marriage, that you don’t draw the line, throw down the gauntlet, challenge the other person.  But each other you… read, you know what the other means, you know the meaning behind the meaning.

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