She remembered her fashion when they first met


Charles Whedbee was dressed differently than anyone Ivalee Yancey had seen the first time she saw him.

“It was when boys wore panties and it was the first time I saw a boy wearing panties,” said Ivalee, who was 5 or 6 years old and at a funeral with his parents when she saw Charles for the first time. “I just passed it on. I had never seen a young man dressed like that.”

Ivalee’s family was originally from the Mansfield area, but they had moved and returned several times by this time. Charles’ family had also left and moved, so they were both basically new kids at school. Charles hadn’t noticed her during this dark event when they were little, but she caught his eye when he saw her on the school bus when they were a few years older.

He started saving her a seat on the bus, so they could sit together and talk on the way to school.

“He lived two or three miles away, as the crow flies, but he used to come to my house on Sunday afternoons, on horseback. We didn’t have vehicles at the time,” says Ivalee.

They took long walks together on the dirt road near her family’s house.

“We took a lot of walks,” she says. “We would see the men chopping wood for their hearth or their woodstove to heat their homes and we would just see people in their yard and say hello and carry on.”

They had dated for a year or two when Charles asked Ivalee’s father for her hand in marriage.

“My dad asked him if he thought he could make a living for me,” she says. “He said, ‘Well, I think I can.’ He was still in high school at the time.”

His proposal to her was indirect.

“He just said, ‘How about we get married?'” she says.

They married on January 11, 1946.

They didn’t have an appointment and they had to wait for the preacher to come down from where he was covering his house and go shave before he was ready to do the ceremony.

Ivalee had then left school, but Charles had attended classes as usual that day, and she didn’t even know what time he would be home to pick her up.

“They borrowed the agriculture professor’s car to pick me up,” Ivalee said. “They had to walk to his house and fix an apartment there before they could leave.”

Their first home as newlyweds was in a place on the family farm, nicknamed the weaning house.

“That’s where all the kids lived when they got married, before they left,” Ivalee says. “There were three rooms – a large kitchen and a small living room and a side room. There was a back porch and a full front porch.”

They lived there for several years on and off, between moves to Oklahoma and various towns in Arkansas.

“Charles worked for a painting company, then after we got married he went to preach and we moved to different places so he could do that,” she says.

Ivalee remembers Charles telling her he wanted to preach as they were walking home from Dayton Baptist Church one evening. They were both Sunday School teachers, he for a Junior Boys class and she for a Junior Girls class.

He worked in an ice cream factory in Fort Smith at the time, commuting daily with his father and bringing home 100 pounds of ice from work, which allowed Ivalee the luxury of storing milk and some of the other errands she had to do. bring home from the Dayton store.

“We had an ice cream factory in Mansfield at the time, along the train tracks, and the ice man was running around and you had a card that you hung up on your front screen saying how much you wanted,” says Ivalee.

They had no electricity in the early years of their marriage. Ivalee did the laundry on a scrub board with water she brought from the well. She sewed their clothes and they grew most of their own food.

“We didn’t know anything different back then,” Charles says. “Everyone lived the same way.”

Charles led churches in Little Rock and Fort Smith as well as several others in between. The Dayton Baptist Church offered him a role that allowed them to return to the area where they had grown up.

They live in a house they built over several years on the Whedbee family farm, spending weekends and days off there when they have the chance.

“We were happy to be back home,” she says of when they were finally able to settle in.

Charles and Ivalee have three children: Tom Whedbee of Mansfield, Barry Whedbee of Liberty, Okla., and Pam Williams of Fort Smith. They also have six grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren.

The years have passed quickly, says Ivalee.

“But if you read at least one or two chapters of the Bible every day — one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament — it helps you along the way,” she says.

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