Their first meeting, aboard a ferry, was not promising. He dismissed her as too young; she didn't particularly care what he thought.

When they chanced to meet again a year later, she tried to set him up with a friend of hers. He decided instead that he preferred her company.

Four months later, Leonora Elliott of Hume, Va., and Charles D. Watts of the District were married in a small ceremony boycotted by the bride's father, who thought his only daughter, his pet, too young for such a big step. The date: Aug. 19, 1915.

"Mind you, our first child was not born until eight years later and her parents worshipped the ground I walked on," said Charlie Watts, 89, a proud man who likes to get his facts straight.

"She was young and she didn't really know I was the one for her. But everything turned out all right, didn't it, honey?"

"Yep," Leonora Watts, 83, agreed. "We've proved ourselves."

A 70th wedding anniversary is one of those momentous occasions when relatives stage parties, friends offer congratulations and reporters come to pry.

The Watts, a private couple who worked for the federal government before their retirement 30 years ago, politely submitted to the inevitable questions in their Hyattsville apartment.

Their marriage reflects the companionship as well as the independence that arises from 70 years together.

She is a carefully groomed woman in a yellow dress, yellow earrings and necklace, and a whiff of perfume called "Turbulence." He wore a navy blazer, checked slacks and a pearl tiepin.

They sat in a living room filled with dark wood, swag drapes and sprigged upholstery. Photographs of the couple's two children, eight grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren covered end tables and the top of the television cabinet.

"He has always had and always will have a good disposition," Leonora Watts says of her husband.

"It's a good thing I wasn't jealous. All the girls who worked with him love him. One calls up and says, 'Can I speak to that dear husband of yours?' One time he called me and said, 'I've been to lunch with seven girls,' and I said, 'Good for you.' "

"She's congenial and she does everything to please me," said Charlie Watts, asked about his wife's best traits.

"I do his laundry," Leonora Watts said dryly.

"And she's a good cook, too," Charlie Watts continued.

When he was unable to name her specialty, however, Leonora Watts was mildly taken aback. "What about my bread pudding?" she demanded.

Charlie Watts was a chief clerk and administrative officer in the Defense Department when he retired in 1955. She worked in the credit office of The Hecht Co. for 17 years and then as an administrative assistant in the Defense Department. They still socialize with former coworkers and a group of people they met during World War II.

"In our younger days, we liked to dance," said Leonora.

"The tango, the two-step, the fox trot, the waltz. I was a great dancer," said Charlie.

They have a close family, they said. They are proud of their daughter, Evelyn Harter, 54, who lives in the area, and their son, Charles Watts Jr., 62, of Great Falls, who is director of military sales for ITT.

Sooner or later, the question of advice to other couples already married or considering marriage has to surface.

"The main thing is," Charlie Watts said of the art of a marriage, "when you find our your wife is in a fussy mood, stay away from her. It takes two to fuss and she'll get over it."

"You've also got to pull together, especially when it comes to money," Leonora Watts noted. "You can't get along if one makes it and the other spends it."

Are they best friends? "Yes," she said promptly.

Charlie Watts said nothing; his wife looked at him expectantly. "Oh" he said. "I'd say so."

"You don't sound like you mean that," Leonora Watts said teasingly.

"I mean it," he said. "I mean it."