A Lifetime of Love

Story by Johnna Walker

On January 15,1938, Heartsill Bartlett and Polly Ann Robertson were married at the Central Presbyterian Church in Russellville. Seventy-one years later, they are still a happily married couple. 

Heartsill said he met Polly in the middle of the street. He worked at Cowan-Goodwin men’s store in downtown Russellville and was crossing the street. He saw Polly sitting in her mother’s car and stopped to say hello.

Polly was only 15, and had just graduated early from Ola High School. Polly she always loved math and said she took as much as she could. As a result, she finished school early. She added, “It’s not something that I’d really recommend.” 

In September, Polly became a student at Arkansas Tech and lived in Caraway Hall dormitory. That is when the pair started dating. Polly had a job working in the dorm. Heartsill remembers that he picked her up for dates from Caraway at the back door.

The couple says they “did a lot of courting in the library. Students had to be in the dorm following the evening meal unless they were going to the library.” Polly recalls that one time Heartsill gave her a peck on the cheek outside in the daylight and her dorm mother saw them. The dorm mother became so upset that she called a dorm meeting where she announced that “Nice people don’t peck in public”.

Heartsill Bartlett graduated from Arkansas Tech (known at that time as Arkansas Polytechnic College) in 1937 while his wife, Polly, left Tech in 1938 and completed business school in Little Rock.

The couple married when Polly was only 17 and Heartsill was 21. They don’t have any wedding photos because at the ceremony, no one had a camera. Good friends Rudolph and Helen Fern Shinn stood up with the couple as witnesses.

Heartsill said he left his parents’ Pontiac car parked in one of the parking spaces at the old Shinn’s Funeral Home location and returned to find that all the windows had been whitewashed and tin cans had been tied to the back bumper. The couple spent their honeymoon in Harrison at the Seville Hotel.

Polly became secretary for the local draft board five years after the couple was married. Heartsill had already been in the Arkansas National Guard for seven years when he was sent to Camp Robinson to prepare for active duty in the Army. Polly recalls being the one who called the roll of men who were getting on the bus and called out her own husband’s name as he went off to prepare for war.

From Camp Robinson, Heartsill went to Camp Wallace in Corpus Christi, Texas. Following that he went to Officer Training School at Camp Davis, N.C. Then, it was on to Ft Campbell, Ky., and then to Camp Stewart, Ga.

Polly was able to follow Heartsill as best she could during those years. When he was stationed in Georgia, Polly stayed with friends in the Savannah area. She said she slept on Army cots that were raised up on concrete blocks.

Heartsill eventually went to Ft Kilmer N.J., boarded a ship for Scotland and then went on to Wales by train. He was an officer in an anti-aircraft battalion. Heartsill remembers crossing the English Channel on caissons.

As a young soldier, he served in the countries of England, France, Belgium and Germany. Heartsill said as soon as he returned to the United States, he stopped at a hamburger shop and got a glass of fresh milk. He and his fellow soldiers had been drinking powdered milk for two years.

 

Polly had been on a diet while her husband was serving in the military and she had lost 15 pounds. She says she was really proud of herself, but when Heartsill returned, he walked right past her because he didn’t recognize her. Heartsill remained in the Arkansas National Guard and retired at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

Following the war, the Bartletts became partners with Woody and Bonnie Mayes in Woody’s Motel and Café. The couples were doing most of the work themselves, along with a small staff. After a year and a half, the Bartletts sold their part of the business.

The president of Arkansas Tech at that time was J. W. Hull. Mr. Hull offered Heartsill as job as the manager of the Techionery. He said he wasn’t sure about the job because he had always been his own boss, so he told Mr. Hull he would stay for two years. He ended up staying for 28 years.

Heartsill retired in 1977 to care for his mother who had cancer. Polly was the Executive Secretary for the Western Arkansas Telephone Company, located upstairs over what is now Italian Gardens restaurant. She remained with the telephone company for 26 years.

The Bartletts don’t have any children, but they have had three Boston Terriers over the last 30 years. They named them Pug 1, Pug 2 and Pug 3.

Heartsill explained, “That way we don’t have to remember a new name.”

Much of the Bartletts’ energies have been spent in support of Arkansas Tech University. They have hosted reunions for the Arkansas Tech class of 1938 for many years.

Though the class is very small now, they still make an effort to get together each year during Homecoming. The reunion is thought to be the longest annual reunion of any college class in America.

Because of their long standing support, the Bartletts have both been inducted into the Arkansas Tech University Hall of Distinction. Heartsill was inducted in 1987 and Polly was inducted in 2007.

The Bartletts established a scholarship at Arkansas Tech in their name many years ago. They said it started out small and has grown through the years.

The Bartletts have made a lasting impression on both Russellville and the Arkansas Tech community. Julie Morgan, assistant to the President at Arkansas Tech said, “Polly and Heartsill’s 71-year love affair began at Arkansas Tech when they were students. Their love for each other and for Arkansas Tech are examples to which we should all aspire.”

Suzanne Harmon is a longtime friend of the Bartletts. She stated that “Heartsill and Polly set an enviable example for all. They are dedicated to their church, their family, their friends, the class of ’38, Arkansas Tech and especially to each other.”

When asked what the secret is to such a long happy marriage Heartsill said, “Our love has lingered all these years. I always get up early and bring her a cup of coffee in bed.”

A visit with the Bartletts is many things — interesting, informative, entertaining and simply delightful. They are a wonderful example of a loving couple that has kept their love alive for more than seven decades.

 

 

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