The purpose? “To preserve for as long as is humanly possible that state of bliss known as bachelorhood,” their 50-year-old “declaration of bachelorhood” reads.
The first of the trio to marry would have to pay the other two friends $20 each, and the second would have to pay the last remaining holdout another $20.
"He who shall be the last of the three to be married will be harassed to the fullest extent possible by the two married members of the group," the third condition of the document reads, "and sent on his way $40 richer at the expense of his buddies to suffer the same fate as his buddies."
Now, decades after that pact was initially signed, all three friends have since celebrated their respective 50th wedding anniversaries. And Noel Fuller is $40 richer. He ended up giving the money to his wife, Martha.
“She’s proud that we collected,” Fuller said.
Fuller, Fred Boyd and David Smith, who are now all 75, met as freshmen in fall 1962 at East Tennessee State College, where they were all enrolled in the college’s pre-engineering program.
The young men grew close and embarked together on outdoor adventures during college and after graduation.
During the week of Labor Day, Smith and Fuller took a boat trip down portions of the Tennessee, Ohio and Mississippi rivers in a 16-foot outboard motor boat. Fuller said he and Smith camped on riverbanks at night and navigated 8-foot waves from barges and tugboats during the day.
“The only people that believe that was accomplished was the ones that did it,” Fuller quipped. “That can be said more than once.”
In 1966, between junior and senior year, the three friends took a trip out West, towing a small popup camper behind a new Mustang.
“We weren’t even sure where we were going,” Boyd said.
Their objective was to get as far west as possible on half of their pooled money. The other half would be dedicated to getting them back home in time for school. At that time, none of them had traveled further west than the Mississippi River.
Hopping between camping areas and state and national parks, the young men stopped in places like Possum Kingdom State Park in Texas, Bottomless Lakes State Park in New Mexico and the Grand Canyon.
Tempered by days of adventure, the three developed a strong bond.
Around their junior years in college, one of the three men looked like he was about to enter into a fairly serious relationship, and the other two cooked up the declaration of bachelorhood as a way to give their friend a gentle ribbing.
“I’m not sure if there was much serious about it other than the fact that dating was a lot of fun,” Boyd said.
It didn’t take long for payment to come due. Boyd married in spring of 1968, Smith in the fall of 1968 and Fuller in the summer of 1969.
“I don’t know if I ever intended to not get married at some point in time,” Boyd said. “But that was a really enjoyable time in my life, and this just seemed like a fun thing to do.”
Each man developed his own career and life after college, but they still found time for gatherings and kept in touch through Christmas cards and letters.
“I have felt very close to both of those guys over the years,” Boyd said. “Even though we’ve been far, far apart a lot of the time ... it’s one of those situations where we do come together it’s kind of picking up where we left off last time.”