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.
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.”
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.