SALEM — When Dave Jones and Louise Nicol met in Arlie Holt’s English class at Dallas High School in 1965, Dave believed Louise was as good as engaged to someone else.
During preseason football practices, Dave, the new kid, asked his teammates about the eligible ladies in the senior class at DHS. Paging through the previous year’s annual, a girl caught his eye.
“I saw her picture and I thought, oh … What about Louise Nicol?” Dave recalled saying to a friend.
“Someone told him ... that I was as much as engaged to someone in the Navy,” Louise explained.
It wasn’t true.
“I never dated anyone in the Navy, and I was never engaged,” she said.
The information Louise received about Dave wasn’t any better.
“She thought I was getting married to a gal I was going with in my old hometown of Dayton,” he said.
With the knowledge that the other was taken, however misleading, the two did little more than exchange polite “hellos” and “how are yous” throughout most of the school year.
They might have missed out on each other if it hadn’t been for a newspaper photographer.
In May of 1966, Louise was called to the school’s office to meet with Itemizer-Observer photographer Carol Lusso about being a model in a photo shoot for a special wedding publication. Lusso picked Louise to be the bride in a series of photos highlighting businesses selling wedding-related products, services, and household goods a new married couple might need.
“I said, ‘Sure it sounds like fun,’” Louise recalled. “She said I want to know who you want for your groom, because I can’t tell height. So, she started going through pictures and came to Dave’s and I said ‘I’ll take him.’”
Dave agreed, and the two posed as bride and groom for the publication that was part of the June 9, 1966, edition of the I-O. Many of those businesses, including Greenwood Stationary, Crider’s and Guy’s Hardware have closed, except one, Brixius Jewelers, still located on Main Street.
Louise said several people in town were convinced that they were married, even though the publication identified them as models.
“I remember, one of the kids came up, in fact I believe it was Brian Dalton, the mayor of Dallas, and said ‘I didn’t know you guys were dating, let alone married,’” Louise said. “He might not remember saying that. … That was sort of fun.”
After learning that they were both single, Dave invited her to go to baccalaureate with him. They dated over the summer, but had higher education plans.
“I went off to Oregon State and he went to Western,” Louise said. “That was my first time away home and I wasn’t coming home every weekend.”
Louise said she liked Dave a lot and they “clicked,” but both were focused on their education and making new friends.
“You were busy going through all the single girls in Dallas,” Louise said, smiling. “I heard that from my best friend’s boyfriend.”
They didn’t reconnect until later in the fall, during her first visit home. Not normally one to call a boy, Louise mustered up the courage to call Dave. They started dating again, and this time it stuck.
They got engaged in the summer of 1967, and his proposal strategy ensured he wouldn’t pick out the wrong ring. The couple went to a movie in Salem and had a Coke afterward. It was after hours when he parked in front of a jewelry store.
“Louise said ‘what are you stopping here for?’” Dave said. “I said ‘I thought you might want to pick out your engagement ring out of the front window.’”
His unconventional approach worked. They got engaged during the summer of 1967 and became Mr. and Mrs. Jones the next year.
Dave and Louise’s 50th anniversary was on Friday — and the couple says they owe it all to the photo shoot during their senior year at DHS that was more than a bit of foreshadowing.
After their wedding, Dave transferred to OSU, but soon realized that working nights at Safeway and going to school was more than he could balance. He quit just in time to be drafted into the Vietnam War. They didn’t get to spend their first anniversary together because he was shipped off to boot camp on Aug. 5, 1969.
“He went to Vietnam when I was six months, seven months pregnant,” Louise said. “I stayed back while he was in the service, finished up at Oregon State and graduated.”
He said he found out his son was born while in the field. Dave said protocol was to give each soldier a number instead of using names when relaying messages.
“They said No. 186, you have a baby boy,” he said. “He was born when I was in the jungle.”
Dave was allowed to come home on leave to meet his newborn son, Matthew. He arrived on Christmas Eve of 1970, and was home for 10 days before returning to combat.
“I always knew he would come home. I never worried about him,” Louise said. “I knew he would come home.”
Dave was discharged in 1971 and resumed his career with Safeway. Matthew was followed by three more boys, Paul, Adam and Gregory.
Louise returned to school to earn a master’s degree in education with a specialization in marriage and family therapy. She took a job with a Native American tribe in California after Dave’s retirement in 2004. She worked there for 12 years.
Louise said they know several long-lasting marriages among their group of Dallas friends.
“We often say it must have been in the water,” she said.