It was December 1965, and the band was playing 50s and 60s music at the bar in Selby, South Dakota.
Linda Haefner went to the show with a friend, but was drawn more to the new friend she made when the band took a break from playing.
When the music stopped, the crowd shifted from the upstairs dance floor to the bar in the basement. That’s where Linda remembers Leo Schaefbauer, a 22-year-old farm boy from her hometown of Herried, handing her a beer.
“I don’t remember that I bought you a beer,” Leo said.
“Yes, you did,” Linda replied.
But even if some of the details are foggy, both agree -- beer or no beer -- meeting that night ultimately led them to 52 years of marriage.
Leo’s brother Tim gave the two a ride home after the show, and they listened to the Lone Ranger theme song on the radio. Linda mentioned that she liked the song, and Tim joked, “If you like the Lone Ranger, you can marry my brother.”
Leo wanted to take Linda to the upcoming New Year’s Eve dance in Zeeland, North Dakota, a town just across the border, about a 30-minute drive from Herried, but that plan was met with some resistance from Linda’s mother Betty.
“Her mother said, ‘I’ll have you arrested for taking her across state lines,’” Leo said.
But once Leo started fixing things around the house for Betty, he won her over.
Leo and Linda don’t remember exactly what their first date was after they met, but they remember some of the early moments in their relationship.
There was the time Leo brought her a single red rose, only for Linda to find out later he’d snagged it from a bouquet given to his mother.
“It’s the thought that counts,” Leo said.
Or there was the dinner date where Linda ordered steak and french fries, but she was only eating the fries.
“He said, ‘Eat the meat. It’s more expensive,’” Linda recalled with a laugh.
And then there was the moment when Leo asked Linda if she wanted to “go steady.” When she said yes, he reached into the backseat of the car, pulled out a box and gave it to her. Inside was a beautiful coral sweater.
Leo soon moved to take a job in Rapid, but the two kept in touch by writing letters. He also drove the 250+ miles from Rapid to Herried to spend his weekends with Linda.
That’s how she knew he was the man she wanted to marry.
“And he would say complimentary things,” she said.
“Well, I still do once in awhile,” he replied.
Leo knew he wanted to marry Linda through their letters. He used to write her every day, he said. They started talking about wanting kids, and it was clear they got along.
“She cared about my interests,” he said. “We kind of drew to each other.”
The couple got engaged around Christmas in 1966, nearly a year after they first met.
Leo proposed when they were in the car. Linda had just gotten her eyes dilated, and Leo asked her if she wanted her Christmas present early.
“He hands me this box, and I said, ‘Oh! It’s a diamond ring,’” Linda said.
She didn’t realize it was a proposal until Leo asked her if she wanted to see the other part--the wedding band.
“I had no idea,” she said.
They were married in Mobridge on Aug. 26, 1967, exactly a week after Linda’s birthday.
“She didn’t want to get married on her birthday,” Leo said.
“I wanted two gifts,” Linda replied.
They had a reception at the church and a dance to follow at the Moose Lodge. It was a typical Schaefbauer wedding, Leo said, which meant the booze was flowing.
“We put a limit on (the bar), and we came back a week later, they said, ‘You owe us $100 yet,’” Leo said.
Their honeymoon was a drive to Seattle in a ‘67 Chevy with no air conditioning.
The decades that followed weren’t all roses, the couple said, but part of what made it work was their commitment to and love for their four children: Beth, Susan, Michael and David.
“A lot of it is family,” Leo said.