VAN ALSTYNE — Wayne and Carol Bradley’s eyes sparkle brighter than the merriest Christmas lights, especially when they look at each other. Their warm smiles and infectious laughter fill their cozy farmhouse with a genuine, welcoming feel that can’t be created with anything man-made.

VAN ALSTYNE — Wayne and Carol Bradley’s eyes sparkle brighter than the merriest Christmas lights, especially when they look at each other. Their warm smiles and infectious laughter fill their cozy farmhouse with a genuine, welcoming feel that can’t be created with anything man-made.

Like many, the Bradleys, who live between Van Alstyne and Howe, will be celebrating the birth of the Christ child next week. However, on Christmas Eve, the couple will also be celebrating what they consider to be the best Christmas gift they’ve ever gotten — each other. On Dec. 24, 2013, the starry-eyed couple will have been married for 70 years.

"That was a heck of a Christmas present," says Wayne with a giant grin as he looks over at his still-beautiful bride.

The two married on Christmas Eve in Van Alstyne at the home of the Methodist Church pastor. It was a union that had been in the works for several years.

Carol was born in Van Alstyne and Wayne was born near Farmington. At that time, Van Alstyne was the social gathering spot for all the residents of surrounding rural communities. It was there that the Bradleys met for the first time. Carol was a sophomore in high school and Wayne was a year older. They, along with the families and friends, were often part of the Saturday crowd in downtown Van Alstyne.

"Saturday night was like boom night in Van Alstyne," says Wayne. "Every drug store and grocery store stayed open until midnight! It was a lively little town and there were no vacant stores."

The lengthy love story began one Saturday when Carol and Wayne were in Van Alstyne. Carol had come with her family to Van Alstyne from Whitewright where she lived. Wayne was already there with friends.

"I think we met at Savage’s Ice Cream Parlor," remembers Carol.

Though they first spied each other amidst the cool treats, there wasn’t really any conversation or sparks between them, yet. Later, Carol was headed back home in a car with her mother, aunt and cousins. Another car quickly approached from behind them then pulled alongside. A daredevil — the same boy Carol had seen at the ice cream parlor — suddenly climbed out of the car and perched one foot on the car’s running board. He then straddled the small space between the still-moving cars and placed his other foot on the running board of the car Carol was in. After a short time, the daredevil got back into the car where he was a passenger, and the car sped on off.

"I was just letting it all hang out on a Saturday night," said Wayne with a hearty chuckle. "We were just out driving and passed them."

Some time later, Wayne went to Whitewright and found Carol. They talked but didn’t begin dating. Carol’s family then moved to Sherman, across from Wilson N. Jones Hospital. Wayne graduated high school and began his farming career. Carol was still in school. It wasn’t until Wayne was injured in a car wreck that the romance blossomed.

"I was in a wreck, and they took me to the hospital (WNJ). I got banged up a little but not very bad," said Wayne. "After they doctored me, I just got dressed and walked over to Carol’s house since I didn’t have anyone else there with me."

This time, the two decided to try dating.

"I thought she (Carol) was Miss America all over again, right here in Grayson County, and I made her believe that," said Wayne.

After a year of dating, they were married. Carol was 17 and Wayne was 18. Wayne continued farming while Carol took over the duties of a wife and, later, a mother to four sons. The newlyweds moved into a farmhouse next to the home Wayne had grown up in with his mother and grandmother, the same home he and Carol reside in today. Still being teenagers, the task of learning how to get along as a couple was sometimes tough.

"When we would get into a fuss, she (Carol) would go stay next door with my mother and grandmother. Then I’d come over and we’d make up," said Wayne. "There’s a lot of fussing that goes on when you’re first married. The fussing is just part of it because the making up is so much fun!"

While Wayne talked about the couple’s "fusses," Carol laughed and shook her head at her exuberant husband. She then added part of how the two have remained together so long.

"Our love for each other and our boys is what kept us going. … And you learn how to finagle people to get what you want," said Carol with a sly, sideways grin at her husband. He returns the grin.

Wayne continuesd with words of wisdom for couples.

"You’ve got to have a whole lot of give and take — more giving than taking, actually," said Wayne. "And once the kids start coming, you’re too busy trying to make a living to fuss and fight."

Helping each other is a motto the Bradley’s have lived by. During the years their four boys were growing up, Carol stayed at home, caring for the kids and the home, helping Wayne and even taking him lunches while he was working in the fields.

"You haven’t lived until it’s a 104 or 105 degree day and here your wife comes with a tuna fish and cheese sandwich," said Wayne with a laugh. "It took about 10 gallons of water with that!"

Carol helped Wayne by hauling grain, picking corn and the other tasks involved in farming.

"I did everything," said Carol.

Carol was also an active PTA member while their sons were in school. She later worked as a secretary for the Van Alstyne schools for 33 years.

Both Wayne and Carol took active roles in their son’s lives. Sports and academics kept the entire family busy. And, after their sons were grown and had families of their own, the Bradleys continued to attend the grandchildren’s school functions. The couple have also been active with the First Christian Church in Van Alstyne and were avid square dancers for many years, belonging to the Texoma Squares in Denison and the Van Alstyne square dance club.

"We had a new 12 by 24 corn crib, and we’d run electricity to it, put hay bales around the sides, used a hand-cranked Victrola, and we’d dance. We also had a house in Farmington that didn’t have any electricity. We’d hang lanterns, put hay bales down, and we’d have a square dance. We’d see people on the outside looking in the windows to see what we were doing. … Square dancing was our main thing, but that hugging and talking dancing is hard to beat," said Wayne with a sneaky grin.

When asked his advice on making a marriage work, Wayne said, "One of the things wrong with modern marriages is that there’s not enough humor. You’ve got to have a lot of humor in it. I’ve always believed humor is a big part of living and with four boys, there was always a whole lot of laughing going on."

Would the couple change anything?

"There’s probably a lot of things we’d do differently," said Wayne, "but the problem is you don’t know how many of those different things would be wrong."

The Bradleys are still sitting a prime example of how a loving marriage works for not just their sons, but six grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. Their continuing love for each other is evident as they banter back and forth, Wayne’s more boisterous, laughter-filled personality melds with Carol’s endearing, quieter one.

A family celebration of the anniversary is planned for the first of the year, so Carol and Wayne will be spending their actual anniversary alone. But as Wayne gently hugs his "Miss America" bride close, it’s evident that the two love birds will be just fine with that.