Endless love

Ber­nice Ru­bin (left) re­ceiv­ing a Valentine’s Day card from her hus­band, Irving.

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.

Ber­nice nod­ded.

“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.

Mr. Ru­bin?

“Sure, of course I would.” ••

Re­port­er John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or jloftus@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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