Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Charles Z. Smith Interview
Narrator: Charles Z. Smith
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: August 13, 2004
Densho ID: denshovh-scharles-01-0016

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: I'm going to shift gears now, and, because I wanted ask you, around 1952, when you were in law school, that was about the time you met your wife, or, or you got married? What can you... let's talk about your wife a little bit... and talk about that.

CS: My wife is an ethnic Puerto Rican born in Hawaii. She graduated from the University of Hawaii in 1954, came to Seattle to teach. She enrolled in a course at the University of Washington in the evenings to be around younger people in her age group. I was then in my third year of law school, February 14, 1955. And I met her in the cafeteria at the University of Washington. She was with somebody else, and I tried to move in and take over the conversation, and that didn't work. But I found out that she came to the university once a week. And so I sneaked off from my buddies in law school, because we had a group that studied together, about six of us. We were sort of like a gang, a studying gang. And we would go to dinner together, and if we saw somebody with somebody, we'd interfere. Well, I sneaked off from my friends and camped out at the cafeteria, because this young woman -- who I learned was Elie Martinez -- would be coming there at 5:30. So I camped out at 4:30 -- [laughs] -- and as it happened, she came in at 5:30, and I got in the cafeteria line behind her. And when she got to pay, she realized she had left her wallet at home, and she was embarrassed, and I was behind her, and I said, "Do you mind if I paid for your meal?" It was something like seventy-four cents. And she said, "On the condition that I repay you next week." I said, "Fine," so I paid for her meal, seventy-five cents, seventy-four cents. And so I said, "May I sit at the same table with you?" And she said, "I don't mind." And then when we sat down, my buddies from law school found out where I was. [Laughs] And so they came through the cafeteria line and decided to come and take over the conversation. And I realized then that my wife had a Spanish-language background, and I had a Spanish-language background, and neither one of us is fluent in Spanish, but at least we know Spanish well enough to communicate, and I knew none of my law school buddies could speak Spanish, so we just shifted into Spanish. And so that's how I kept my law school buddies out of our conversation. That was (one week after) February 14, 1955.

Then every week after then, I would sneak away -- not sneak away -- they knew where I was going. I would separate myself from my law school gang, and go and wait for Elie Martinez to show up, and then I would follow her through the cafeteria line and we would sit together. And I found out that she was taking the Greyhound bus on Highway 99 from Burien, where she was teaching, coming into the, what is now the Metro bus station in Seattle, and taking that bus and coming to the university to go to her classes. And her class was from 7:30 to 9:30, and at 9:30 she'd reverse that and get the Metro bus back downtown and get the Greyhound bus to Highway 99 in Burien, and then walk. They had no lights or anything else to where she was living, about a mile down the road. I was absolutely horrified. I couldn't believe... and this was a very young woman, first year out of college, and I said to her, "Do you mind if I take you home after classes?" And she said, "I do not wish to be involved." And so I said, "All right, I'll make an arrangement with you. Would you let me take you home whenever it rains?" And she said, "All right," and I prayed for rain. So every night she would come to the university, it would rain. [Laughs] And so under her agreement with me, she let me drive her home. And that was the beginning of our relationship in 1955. And I think it was three weeks after I met her that I asked her to marry me, and she said, "No." She was going back to the Islands, and so she did. She stayed through my graduation, June 8, 1955, went back to the Islands...

TI: So you just fell totally in love with her. After three weeks you, you proposed to her?

CS: Yes. Yeah. She, it was a combination of a lot of things, but anyway, you read about, quote, "love at first sight," that's a cliche. I believe that in the universe that of the billions of people in the world, two people may be destined to meet each other. And it's sort of like star crossing. So somehow or the other, she changed her mind. It probably helped that I would write her a letter every day. So from June 8th to August the first, she'd get a letter from me every day. And then finally, I think, out of exasperation -- [laughs] -- she said she changed her mind, and she would marry me after all. So she came back to Seattle and we got married August 20, 1955. We will have been married in (2004) for forty-nine years, and we're still in an intact marriage. And I used to say we stayed together for the sake of our children -- we have four children in their forties now -- and now I say we stay together for the sake of our grandchildren. [Laughs] We have six grandchildren. But whatever our motivation for staying together, that 1955 meeting, February 14 has matured into a marriage of forty-nine years, four children and six grandchildren.

TI: Well, I'm glad I asked that, that question. What a great story.

CS: Yeah. [Laughs]

TI: That's really nice.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.