Al Perloff never intended to ask Geri Richman out. But when his previously scheduled date for the evening called to cancel, he turned to the cashier and bookkeeper at his father's Upper Darby meat market as a viable replacement.
"I looked at her in the cash box and said, 'Would you like to go out with me?' She was more beautiful than my other date anyway."
After 70 years of marriage – the milestone anniversary took place last month – he still looks at his wife, a former beauty-contest winner, with as much admiration as ever.
"I think she's even better-looking now," the 90-year-old said of his older, 91-year-old mate.
For that first date back in 1934 – they were both 19 – the future Mr. and Mrs. Perloff traveled to Annapolis, Md., in his Chrysler convertible. While casually strolling the grounds of the U.S. Naval Academy, they stumbled upon the filming of "Shipmates Forever," staring Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler, and observed the spectacle from behind a rope.
The couple dated for two years, until Al decided that it was time to get married. He went to the printer who made ads for his father's stores and ordered 25 engagement announcements – before he even proposed.
"He said, 'You can't turn me down; I just had these made,' " recalled Geri, who grew up poor in West Philadelphia. The two now live in Plymouth Meeting.
"I figured, it was the Depression," added Geri, "and I could get out of the house and live on my own."
"She was just looking for a place to sleep," quipped her husband, not missing a beat.
On yet another trip to Maryland – this time to Elkton, a municipality offering the ability to get hitched the same day – a friend of Al's suggested that the duo make it official.
The two eloped, and were married by a justice of the peace on April 19, 1936. She never wore a wedding dress. The bride and groom went to Atlantic City, N.J., for a one-week rainy honeymoon, which, according to Geri, was spent indoors eating hot dogs and hamburgers. When the newlyweds arrived back in Philadelphia, her mother hosted a small reception, where the two were formally married by a rabbi.
The Perloffs rented an efficiency on 48th and Walnut in West Philadelphia, paying $42.50 a month in rent. They brought in a combined income of $40 dollars a week – she gave a large portion of her share to her parents – from working at the meat market where it all began.
The couple moved around a bit until they settled in Wynnefield, where they raised their two daughters, and attended Har Zion Temple in Penn Valley.
After a mild heart attack at age 50, Al started selling insurance. The pair moved to Boca Raton, Fla., shortly thereafter and lived there for 28 years until eight years ago, when they moved back to be closer to their daughters, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
The two said that the key to a successful marriage is something they learned early on: compromise. Offering an example, the pair pointed to Al's love of football – as a young man, he played for a semi-professional team in Clifton Heights – which fell by the wayside for the sake of marital bliss.
"It was Thanksgiving and he was playing, and I went to see the game," remembered Geri, pregnant at the time. "It was snowing, and I thought he was going to get killed. He was the smallest one on the team. After the game, I gave him an ultimatum: 'Do you want to play football, or do you want to be married?' He stopped playing football."
Years later, the two took up golf and spent time traveling. These days, Geri busies herself with mah-jongg and cooking. In fact, this Passover, she made 167 matzah balls for the family seder.
"She's a wonderful person and a wonderful cook," said her husband. "But I was in love with my wife [because] she's a very nice person. It wasn't about the cooking."