Nary a free pot holder, but couple celebrates 50 years of marriage

In the 1950s and 1960s, The Outlook ran an annual promotion honoring a June bride and her groom. Each couple was featured in a story and paraded around town for photos with advertisers, who sold items newlyweds need.

Now laminated and somewhat yellowed by age, the photos will serve as centerpiece at an upcoming 50th anniversary celebration for longtime Gresham residents Sylvester, “Syl,” and Nancy Johnson. They were married June 21, 1964, at Trinity Lutheran Church and were chosen for The Outlook’s Bride and Groom Shopping Tour a month before their wedding.

Though their celebrity as the 1964 June bridal couple didn’t net them so much as a free pot holder, it did set in motion five decades of happy housekeeping. by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHY BY AJAY - Syl Johnson was a pharmacist at Gresham Rexall Drug when he accompanied the former Nancy Hanson to a Johnny Mathis concert in downtown Portland in 1963. The pair were introduced by Syls sister, Sharon, who worked with Nancy at the former Jeans Glamour Room beauty shop in Gresham.

Nancy Hanson was a newly employed beautician at Jean’s Glamour Room in Gresham when she was officially introduced to a dashing young pharmacist named Sylvester Johnson. Turns out the pair had seen each other around town — Syl worked around the corner from Nancy at the Gresham Rexall Drug store — and bowled weekly in the same league at what is now Mt. Hood Lanes. Around Halloween in 1963, Syl’s sister Sharon, who worked at the beauty shop with Nancy, orchestrated what was essentially a blind date for the two.

“I asked Sharon to go with me to see Johnny Mathis in downtown Portland,” Nancy recalled. “She had a boyfriend at the time and they had plans the same night. So she said, ‘I’ll ask my brother to take you.’”

Syl views the meeting a little differently, saying he was “ganged up on.”

Sharon’s intuition apparently was spot on, since the couple became inseparable, and in December 1963, Nancy and Syl announced their engagement.

The bride-to-be immediately got down to the business of planning a wedding. She purchased a “white organza gown with a bouffant skirt and ruffled tiers in the back” at the former Charles F. Berg in downtown Portland for $55 and commissioned her mother to make the wedding cake. After a reception in the church basement, Syl and Nancy would board a prop jet for a seven-hour flight to Hawaii for a weeklong honeymoon.

But as Nancy managed the wedding details, Syl set about finding a place the newlyweds would call home.

“Our wedding present to each other was this house,” Syl said. “It was still being finished when we bought it for $16,000. Fifty years later, we’re still here. We were the first ones in this area. Everything else was berries.”

by: OUTLOOK ARCHIVE PHOTO - Chosen for the Bride and Groom Shopping Tour a month before their wedding, Nancy and Syl were photographed checking out wares sold by The Outlooks advertisers, like this provincial love seat at Amiton Furniture in downtown Gresham. The couple settled into their new three-bedroom home, with a $93 monthly mortgage payment, around the corner from what is now Highland Elementary School. Initially, they hung blankets in the windows, Nancy said, until they could afford curtains. They raised three children, sons Eric and Aaron, and daughter Angela, and eventually became grandparents to five.

Now 77 and 78 respectively, Nancy and Syl look back on a half century of wedded bliss and offer some words of wisdom for those poised to say “I do.”

“Forgive one another when you goof up,” Nancy said. “And have lots of patience.”

“Be faithful to one another,” Syl added. “There are so many things that go into love. But when they all congeal, it’s wonderful.”

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