Back in 1919, mothers kept a close watch on their daughters when suitors came to call.

"It was pretty tough back then -- you couldn't really take a girl out," George Wilburn said, recalling the days whenhe had a hard time seeing his sweetheart, Sallie Mae Allen.

It was 1919 in Georgia, and the two 16-year-olds were in love andwanted to get married. But the couple faced one major obstacle -- Sallie Mae's mother didn't approve of the union.

So the couple sneaked off to the local preacher and, with only a few witnesses present, tied the knot anyway.

Despite a shaky start, Savage residents George and Sallie Wilburn have been together for nearly 72 years.

They're 88 years old now and will celebrate their 72nd wedding anniversary Saturday at a family picnic at daughter Kathleen Wheeler's house inSavage.

Invited are the Wilburns' three other children, ages 71, 69, and 64, their 20 grandchildren, 56 great-grandchildren and 43 great-great- grandchildren.

The Wilburns' actual wedding anniversary is Oct. 26, but Wheeler, 64, wanted to have the picnic while the weather is still warm.

The picnic is a family tradition going back several years, and the Wilburns still enjoy all the fuss.

"We're getting pretty old now," George Wilburn said. "I'm looking forward to it."

When the two met at the home of George's sister, it wasn't exactly love at first sight.

"I rushed into the house to keep from speaking to him," his wife recalls.

But George was smitten.

"I liked the looks of her, and I liked to talk with her," he said.

Georgewas persistent, and Sallie Mae eventually let him walk her home. Pretty soon, the two were taking walks every weekend.

"Back then, youdidn't have no way of going except mule and buggy," he said. "I didn't have that, so I'd ride a bicycle to see her."

After their clandestine wedding, the couple settled in Georgia and by 1927 had four children.

The couple worked on farms picking cotton and corn. In 1939, they decided to move to Maryland to look for better opportunities.

"We were paid 50 cents a day for farm work, and up here you couldmake more than that," George Wilburn said.

After moving here, he worked for a box factory in Washington and then became a foreman withWilliam J. Davis builders, where he worked for 28 years. He retired 25 years ago.

The Wilburns have lived in Mitchellville and Bowie and now live in their childrens' homes, alternating every three months.

Whenever they can, they attend services at Calvert Baptist Church in Bowie.

The secret to their enduring marriage?

"We've neverhad any trouble; we always got along," George Wilburn said.

"We've tried to live like man and wife. I think that's about as good as wecould do."

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