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Couple married 72 years in Matfield Green are timeless

Charles (94) and Betty (88) Swift remember when Matfield Green had close to 3,000 residents, a grocery store, post office, swimming hole and a hardware store around 70 years ago. They have been married for 72 years and live on 147 acres in the Flint Hills they bought for $25,000.
Charles (94) and Betty (88) Swift remember when Matfield Green had close to 3,000 residents, a grocery store, post office, swimming hole and a hardware store around 70 years ago. They have been married for 72 years and live on 147 acres in the Flint Hills they bought for $25,000.

Residents of Matfield Green do not buy eggs in the supermarket. Instead, they buy them from the Swifts for $1.50 a dozen.

“I never changed the price,” Betty Swift said triumphantly.

The couple sat on two small stools in the shade of their garage, full of old farm tools and an old Chevy truck with a cat and her kitten lazily sleeping underneath.

Charles Swift was hunched over, his long legs extended out in front of his lean body. He sat quietly, his tan, calloused hands laid in his lap and an almost toothless smile permanently rested on his face.

Betty’s strong, full figure fit her large personality. At least two feet shorter than her husband, she made up for the difference in her height by the volume of her voice.

“I’m 88 and I’m not one bit ashamed of it,” Betty said.

Charles, 94, showed no signs of aging as he climbed down into the dark cellar, revealing dozens of cans full of vegetables, jams and fruit. Betty’s only complaint was that she can’t do as much heavy lifting.

Betty said she met her husband of 72 years accidentally.

She chuckled as she told the story of how she accompanied her friend on a double date with Charles’s best friend.

“So, I was stuck with him,” Betty said.

Charles grew up about three miles up the road on a farm, and Betty was born “over the hill” in Homestead.

“I’ve lived here all my life,” Charles said. “It is nothing but pasture now, but it used to be houses. After there was no work when the highway came, everyone went to town.”

About 70 years ago, Matfield Green had a swimming hole, lumberyard, hardware store, grocery store and post office.

“In the day when the train came through there were more than 3,000 people in Matfield,” Betty said.

But Charles had no reason to leave. His dad owned a farm on the other side of the turnpike where he grew corn and wheat. After his parents passed away, he and Betty bought their own place down the road with 147 acres for $25,000.

They used to have cattle, horses, dairy cows and chickens on their property.

“I just watched the cattle from the house,” Betty said. “I didn’t even have to have a horse or four-wheeler.”

They still have 50 chickens, 10 cows, a big garden, a hound dog with no name, two cats and about one dozen kittens.

The Swifts’ tiny house is surrounded by pasture on all sides. Betty walked into the bedroom that looked like it had not changed since they moved. She rummaged through old photos of her and Charles among the 90 years of photos on the dresser.

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Charles said his favorite thing to do is work. He said he still drives the tractor, mows, tends the garden and sells eggs.

Betty disagreed and said Charles’ favorite thing to do is sleep.

“He could sit down and konk off in five seconds,” Betty said.

Until recently, Betty mowed, sawed down limbs, hauled off debris and trimmed the grass around about 500 gravestones in Matfield Green cemetery.

“We couldn’t get nobody to cut it, and we want it to look nice,” Charles said.

Charles and Betty do less mowing now, but they still keep busy with two grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren.

Everyone in Matfield Green knows Charles and Betty, even the newcomers. Bill McBride recently moved to Matfield Green from Chicago.

“My older kids love to go visit Charles and Betty,” McBride said.

Betty said she used to know everybody in Matfield Green, but everything goes so fast nowadays, it is difficult to keep up with who comes and goes.

Time seems to stop for Charles and Betty, who still don’t know the wonders of home air conditioning and have a fridge full of fresh eggs for $1.50 a dozen.

— Chandler Williams

Comments

Doris Brent Shaw

Best friends with Delores, one year older. Knew them ,liked the write up.