Seventy years ago next month, Irving Rubin didn’t marry the girl next door. His future bride lived four doors away.
Irving Rubin and Bernice Fritz both grew up on Mildred Street in South Philly. They were married on March 7, 1943, when he was 20 and she was just 16. Irving, now 89, had to chase Bernice, and he had some close competition.
“When I was a girl, he and his twin brother, Ken, chased me up an alley,” 85-year-old Bernice said during a Feb. 11 interview in their home on Langdon Street in Rhawnhurst.
“The candy stores at the time sold marshmallows from these big gallon jars. They chased me, and I went inside.”
When she came out, she said, Irving emptied one of those big containers of marshmallows on her.
Love did not bloom immediately from that sweet and spongy incident. Irving had to wait for Bernice to decide on him.
“He lived at the end of the block,” she said of Irving. “When I would come home from a date, he would be waiting on the corner for me.”
This happened so often, she said with a chuckle, that the guy she was dating asked her if the guy waiting on the corner was her brother.
The Rubin brothers liked to follow Bernice around and play jokes on her, she said. With a smile, she recalled how the brothers would sneak up to a house where she was babysitting and knock on the door. When she would answer the door, they wouldn’t be there. However, they had left behind something black on the doorknob. When she touched it later, it got all over her hand, she said. They pulled that little joke more than once.
One Valentine’s Day, Bernice got a bunch of unsigned cards. Only years later did she discover they were from Ken Rubin.
“He loved me,” Bernice said of Irving’s twin. “But I really didn’t like Ken.”
Instead, she married Irving, and the two have stayed together through plenty of hard times, they said.
So what’s the secret to staying married for seven decades?
“Be patient. Help one another and keep thinking about the good times,” Bernice said. “The kids who are married now don’t give it a chance. They don’t work hard enough at it; they really don’t.”
It also helps if you are too occupied to mark the years, Irving said.
“I was always so busy trying to make a living for my family,” he said.
“He never sat around,” she said.
Irving Rubin worked here and there as a welder, he said. He also worked in the city’s sweater mills, he said, until that industry left Philadelphia. Bernice Rubin worked for a West Philadelphia printer.
Once, Irving was working so hard and for so long that he didn’t come home for three days, Bernice said.
“I thought he was having an affair,” she said.
Turns out Irving had landed a job where his employer was giving him all the hours he could handle. His employer, Bernice said, told people, “I got a guy here who won’t go home.”
“He wanted that money,” she said.
But at 62, Irving Rubin was ready to retire.
“I couldn’t wait to stop working,” he said.
Although the couple had many lean times, they always were able to sock away some dollars to travel. Bernice’s list of favorite tourist destinations begins with Hawaii.
“It was like going to heaven,” she said.
Of course, in addition to working and traveling, the Rubins had other matters to keep them occupied.
Their marriage produced Norman, now 69; Cheryl Schnoke, now 63; and Holly Boggess, now 46. The couple has four grandchildren: Sarah Boggess, Jessica Boggess, Stephanie Messina and David Messina, and one great-grandson, Matthew Messina.
The couple’s memories are just that, for the most part. They lost almost everything else that was tangible, including almost all photos of their life together, about four years ago in an apartment house fire at Bustleton and Solly avenues, Holly Boggess said.
Family came through, Boggess said, and helped them resettle in the same apartment house in which Norman lives. Boggess said she lives nearby in Castor Gardens. Daughter Cheryl, Boggess said, lives near the Poconos.
Twenty years ago, when the Rubins celebrated their 50th anniversary, family members threw a surprise party for them in a Bucks County restaurant.
“They were shocked,” Boggess said.
“I screamed!” her mother said.
This year, there are no big plans “that we know about,” Bernice Rubin said.
After reflecting on 70 years together, the Rubins were asked if they’d do it all again.
Mrs. Rubin seemed to think she would.
“Sure, of course I would.” ••
Reporter John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or firstname.lastname@example.org