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Child Marriage: An Official's View

((Banner: An Official’s View))
((Reporter: Carolyn Presutti))
((Camera: Mike Burke))
((Edited by: Phil Dierking))
((Map: Caruthersville, Missouri))

((Pam Strawbridge, Recorder of Deeds, Pemiscot County))
My name is Pam Strawbridge, and I've been in this office for almost 40 years. I started in the Collector's office in 1977. I came in this office in January of 1980 and I’ve been here ever since. We've had a lot of marriages since 1980. What bothers me is 14 and 15 year-olds coming in here to get a marriage license and get married, because I really just don't think that they are experienced enough. They don't even know what marriage is. You haven't got your driver's license yet at 15, and marriage is supposed to be a lifetime thing. And, you know, if you have to get your mom or dad to sign for you, you know, that tells you something, you know.

In Tennessee and Arkansas, which are our bordering states, you can't get married at 15. So, instead of staying there in their states, they just come to Missouri, get their marriage license, get married, and then go back to their states, which doesn't seem fair or right either, you know. If you can't get married in that state, then you shouldn't get married. Is that not as important, being married, as being able to vote and drink liquor? I don't know, maybe, just they don't think it is important. I mean, I didn’t either. I got married at 19. I still didn't know all that. Really, you don't know what kind of life these teens have had already with their mother and father, or grandmother and grandfather, you know. I know a lot of them have grown up a lot differently than I did. I had a mother and father. They knew how to take care of their kids. We didn't have a lot, but we had love, and we knew that. And I don't know that all of these do. I mean, they just come from a bad home, a lot of them, I think.

I think very few of them do finish high school after they get married. You can't learn everything in school. There's some things you have to learn at home, and if you don't learn it at home, what do you have, you know?

You know, I wanted to tell him those things, but that's not my business, you know. I'm here to sell marriage license and issue marriage license, and that's what I do. But, if they do all the steps that it takes to get a marriage license, I can't refuse. I have to issue the marriage license.
Like I said, it's not really what I want to do, but I do. Who knows if they're going to mess up their lives? Maybe it's going to make it better, you know. I hope that it's going to make it better, but that's not what I think. I think, oh no, here's another one going to go get married so young. It's just too young to me. It's not something I would want for my child, and I can’t understand it sometimes why the parents do. But, like I say, you never know what kind of family they're coming from.