MOUNT AIRY, N.C. — When Carl Taylor went to Roses Department Store back in 1936, he got more than he bargained for, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.
He went in looking for a pair of boots and came out with stars in his eyes.
“It was the first time I’d ever seen her,” Taylor, 96, said. “I looked at her across the counter and thought, ‘That’s it. That’s the girl I’m going to marry.’”
Now, Chris and Carl Taylor are celebrating the 75th anniversary of their wedding on July 16, 1939. They held a party Saturday in Mount Airy, the city where they had both grown up and fallen in love.
After Carl first spotted Chris Mayberry in Roses, he arranged for them to go on a double date on Halloween 1936 — except they weren’t on the date with each other.
Chris, who was 17 at the time, was paired with Carl’s best friend. Carl had come with a date of his own.
But after a night full of gallivanting around town, putting corn in people’s mailboxes as a Halloween prank, whose date was whose was long forgotten.
“It was love at first sight for me and Carl,” said Chris, who is 94 now. “The next day he showed up at my house and asked me to go out with him.”
The couple dated for three years before they decided, spur-of-the-moment, to elope to Galax, Va. and get married.
When they returned to Mount Airy, they lived separately for a few months, keeping their marriage hidden from their families, not for any particular reason, Chris said.
Soon after, they moved in together and the rest is history.
“Honestly, I’m surprised that we’ve hit 75 years, and that anyone thinks that’s a big deal,” Chris said with a laugh. “I never really had time to think about how time was passing. We were always too busy.”
Carl worked in sales for several decades at Spencer’s Inc., a job that took the couple to Utah, Nevada and California where they lived for short stints.
After the baby clothing company closed down in Mount Airy, Carl, who is a cousin of Andy Griffith, got a part-time job as a salesman at Wal-Mart, where he worked until he was 89.
Chris spent her days as a stay-at-home mom, but after the kids moved out, she helped him with his sales day in and day out.
The couple now live in Winston-Salem.
They’ve had their challenges, everyone has, Chris said, but their relationship has stood the test of time.
“We mesh really well together,” Chris said. “I think it’s just that we are very different personalities, which makes things interesting and fun.”
While everyone at the party agreed the couple are a match made in heaven, no one would dispute their differing personalities.
“My grandmother is a bit of a firecracker, and my grandfather is more laid-back,” their oldest grandchild Chemmine Taylor-Smith said. “One running joke in the family is that you can get away with a lot with Poppy, but if you sass my grandmother, then you’re in real trouble.”
Carl Todd Taylor, the couple’s oldest son, sassed Chris once upon a time, but he learned his lesson real quick.
“I had plenty of discipline but also a lot of love,” the 74-year-old said. “They taught me practical things — how to lay cement blocks and fix cars — but also the meaning of true love. They’ve just been the best parents ever.”
Chris and Carl have four sons, 13 grandchildren and 33 great-grandchildren with a 34th on the way.
To the family, Carl is known solely as Poppy and Chris is Chris-Mom, the nicknames given to them by Chemmine when she was young. Nearly all of the family was in attendance at Saturday’s party.
Todd Wendall Taylor, the couple’s oldest grandson, flew in from China, where he lives with his family, to attend the party.
“A 75th wedding anniversary doesn’t happen very often,” he said. “They’ve been such a great example for me and they just adore each other.”
The couple have seen a lot of changes throughout their marriage — automatic washing machines, color TVs, computers — but their love has been unchanging, growing stronger with each passing year.
“My grandmother says that any relationship is hard work, and that’s true, but they’ve set a good example,” Chemmine — who has been married 27 years — said. “They’ve taught me that mutual respect and love is key and that laughter really is the best medicine.”
Gavin Gunther, 8, said his great-grandparents have been together forever—like since dinosaurs roamed the Earth.
“It’s not likely for most people to stay together that long,” Gavin said. “They’re really cool, though. I want to be like them one day.”
The great-grandchildren were all in agreement.
“They got married in the old-fashioned times,” Emory Smith, 11, said. “They look very young even though they’re not.”
Age has certainly been kind to the couple and their youthful spirits still shine through. While Chris flitted around the party, chatting up all the guests, Carl sat in his chair telling stories of the good old days.
Chris still drives with no restrictions on her license. Both take no medications and exercise daily at their home gym.
With good health on their side, they expect to be together for years to come.
“If you knew my wife, you’d know I married the smartest woman in the United States without any question,” Carl said. “When you’ve married the best, you can only go up from there.”