Iva Lea Bryant first came to Arkansas City as a college graduate 51 years ago.

Her name was Schupp then, not Bryant, and she was employed by the public school district as a home economics teacher.

“I came to Ark City, fresh out of college, with a new Conoco credit card,” Bryant said.

So “I started buying gas at the Bryant Conoco Service on North Summit.”

The gas station long since has become the home of a mechanic shop, but in the 1960s, it was a Conoco gas station owned by Delbert Bryant.

“After a while, believing that I was a teacher, he asked a friend if he had heard of me,” said Iva Lea Bryant.

Their first date was Feb. 2, 1967.

“Delbert fell pretty quickly,” she said. “Within three weeks, he proposed — declared he would like to marry me.”

But for her, love came a little more slowly.

She dated some others, although Delbert Bryant tried to discourage anyone who showed interest.

“I came home from one date and found him parked in front of my house,” said Iva Lea Bryant. “I went in the back door.”

Eventually, he succeeded in his quest and she agreed to marry him in October of that same year.

“Delbert sent me to Manhattan driving his car and with a ring on my finger,” she said. “We married on June 1, 1968.”