This story appeared in the January 2003 edition of Country Roads. Seeing as that was the annual “Weddings Issue,” it seemed a good idea to spotlight a successful marriage. We also wanted to highlight the couple’s visible involvement with the local cultural scene, though that bit (near the end) reads far too clunky now.
A Marriage Story: Anne & Ed Price
Originally opting for “career life” over wedded bliss, Baton Rouge’s longtime arts voice discovered in the ’40s, she could have both
Story by Pamela Price
One afternoon in March, 1947, a recent college graduate named Ed Price rolled into Baton Rouge on a bus form Tuscaloosa, Alabama. At the tender age of twenty four, he had already stormed Omaha Beach and helped liberate Paris as an infantryman in the second World War. After leaving the bus station, he walked to the Daily Advocate–as the Baton Rouge newspaper was named at the time–where he was to join the editorial staff.
In the newsroom, he met Anne Kirkendall, another twenty-four-year old journalist. She planned to leave Louisiana soon. While at the University of Missouri, she had switched her major from music to journalism after realizing she was more talented at writing. She only took the job in Louisiana when her attempt to join the Women’s Army Corps failed; she was too light to meet the minimum weight to serve.
Did the late C.P. Liter, a local editor who liked to recruit young journalists through his contacts at various universities, know he would play matchmaker? Probably not. But the couple left the newsroom that March night more than fifty years ago and went to dinner.
“We’ve been together ever since,” says Ed.
Although he retired in 1998, Ed sees his favorite journalism colleague daily–even though the bride-to-be was hesitant initially.
“I never dreamed that I’d ever get married,” Anne says. “I planned to be a career woman.”
Undaunted and perhaps a little enchanted by his beloved’s independent streak, Ed proposed not long after they met. Since the couple shares a love of the arts, especially music, he arranged for them to see the Metropolitan Opera when it stopped in New Orleans.
“No one could afford a car after the war,” explains Ed. “So we took a bus.”
“We went to the Municipal Auditorium, and we saw The Marriage of Figaro,” Anne says. “He proposed at intermission. I said I had to think about it.”
Anne’s father had died the previous year. An only child, she felt responsible for her mother’s long-term welfare.
“There were thing to discuss before I could agree to his proposal,” Anne says.
“She didn’t think I was ready,” Ed volunteers. “But I was.”
They wed at First Methodist Church in Baton Rouge since, at the time, their church, United Methodist, still met in a building on the LSU campus. Anne’s mother made the bridal gown.
“Ed arrived here in March, and we married on September 14 that same year,” Anne says. “The only reason we waited so long was because that was the first weekend we both had off from the paper.”
At this point in the story, one might suspect that Ed continued his journalism career while Anne left hers to make a home.
“At the end of the war, the staff at the paper was entirely female. We felt that what we were doing was desperately important. The press was the fourth arm of government. I couldn’t just stop working,” Ann says. “I stayed on full-time until we had our first child. Then I worked part-time. I was always on call. The night Robert Kennedy was shot, Ed called and said that I had to get down to the paper right away. I woke one of the older children, said that I’d be at the paper if anyone needed me, and raced downtown.”
“We were the only paper east of the Mississippi to put out an extra edition that night!” announces Ed with pride.
For years, the couple sat together in the Louisiana house chamber and covered politics. On many mornings, Anne would send her column into the office with Ed in a primitive form of telecommuting.
“One of the secrets of our success is that we respected each other’s abilities and interests,” says Anne. “Ed never said to me ‘you can’t do that because you’re a woman.’ I wouldn’t have tolerated it if he had!”
How did their children (five boys and a girl) feel about their “working mom” in a time before the phrase had cachet?
“One of my sons once said, after a visit to a friend’s house, that he couldn’t imagine having a mother who only kept a clean house,” says Anne. “When the legislature was in session, they knew I’d be gone more. But that meant more money for our camping trips. I do recall one particular phone all from home at the office. A tiny voice asked for oranges and other items–like a prisoner requesting rations.”
As the children of journalists, the Price kids enjoyed special perks. When Anne interviewed the Beatles in New Orleans, her eldest son, Ted, went with her. That was the same year the couple took a trip to California to visit family, and Anne’s nephew told his neighbors in Oxnard that Ted, who had stopped cutting his hair that summer, was himself a Beatle.
“We looked out the window after dinner, and there was a crowd of people in the backyard waiting to meet him,” recalls Anne. “Ted played some music for them, and we had a marvelous time.”
With a healthy balance of work and play, the couple overcame the hardships that their generation faced to create a vibrant home life filled with discussion of politics, art and culture.
“The war made our lives so different. They took our teenage years away,” Ed says solemnly. “We were only twenty four when we married, but we’d both done so much already.”
Might the challenges of the early years have fostered a greater interest in the world around them? Or was it the couple’s shared curiosity that has kept them engaged with their local hometown?
“We’ve never stopped talking and we’re naturally interested in a variety of things,” Ed says.
“Being a part of the community is important to us,” says Anne. “For example, Ed helped start a crisis hotline at LSU called ‘The Phone.’ [At the newsroom,] he got calls late at night from people, often students, who were in trouble or hurting. He’s such a good listener.”
“The newsroom was the only place open late back then,” Ed explains.
“So he approached the university about putting a hotline in place. Ed stayed active with it for many years. As for me, my real passion is the arts.”
If you have ever read about a Baton Rouge arts event in the pages of The Advocate, you probably already know that, because for over fifty years, Anne has given voice to the arts scene in the city’s daily newspaper.
Although she didn’t begin covering the arts exclusively until about twelve years ago, when she stopped covering the legislature, Anne has been writing about the arts since 1945.
“I asked if I could review events and did that for many years, covering symphony, dance, theater, etcetera,” she remembers. “I started doing visual art in the late fifties at the request of the publisher, who was then Charles Manship, uncle of the present publisher. He sent me to the University of Georgia for a refresher course for art criticism, and then I added that to my list of tasks.”
“Ed and I share a genuine interest in the arts. I always took our children to the free music recitals at LSU,” Anne says. “We still do what we can to support the arts in the community.”
Many locals feel indebted to her for her thoughtful coverage in an age when many newspapers would rather fill space with celebrity stories purchased from wire services.
“Anne’s extraordinary contributions to the arts provide a vital service not only to local patrons, but also to our talented artists and gifted technicians,” says Michael Tick, LSU Theatre department chair and executive producing director of Swine Palace Productions.
How do Anne and Ed Price, a couple that invested so much time and energy into the arts community, feel about the recent developments like the new Shaw Center for the Arts?
“It’s a dream come true to see these things happening in Baton Rouge. We’re thrilled!” says Anne, as energetic and enthusiastic today as one suspects she was the day Ed met her in the newsroom.
Alas, Ed Price passed away a couple of years after this story ran. I believe that Anne Price has retired from the newspaper business. And in case you were wondering whether or not we’re related, who knows? If so, it’d be only distantly and by marriage, though Ed used to love to greet my husband as “Cousins!” I can live with that.
Re-typing this story brought back a lot of memories…. Many a time I chatted with the Prices on opening night at the local theater. My husband and I spent the better part of one fun-filled evening (with Ed in bright green pajamas, which was recommended attire) at the Louisiana Historical Foundation’s annual Old Governor’s Mansion Gala. For this story, I spent an evening in their home eating cookies and drinking green tea in their University Hills home, built by the same man who constructed the “New Bridge” over the Mississippi. It was really wonderful.
• Priceless: Anne Price Reminisces About Her Years With Our Newspaper (Judy Bergeron, The Advocate, 4 November 2006): Much of the content is similar, but there’s a nice photo of Anne.
• University Hills Civic Association History – Includes a mention of the Prices along with several other writers who resided in the neighborhood.