Faye Johnston went to Lake Hamilton schools in eighth and ninth grade before she moved to Hot Springs for high school.
She kind of liked Lon Pennington then, but she wasn't sure she would see him again after she changed schools.
"You couldn't forget that pretty black hair he had," she says. "Anybody could remember that black curly hair of his."
He noticed immediately that she was missing from the sophomore class. There were only 37 students, after all.
He had a little bit of a crush on Faye, although he had never let on as much to her.
"You know, boys are more bashful than girls when they're younger," he says.
He didn't have a car, so he wouldn't have been able to take her on a date, even if they had been old enough, so he didn't ask.
"And to be honest, I'm the youngest of nine kids and I didn't have money to go places anyway, and I don't think she did, either," Lon says.
He didn't dwell on her absence, though, and she didn't think long about him.
They both went on to graduate from high school in 1961, and eventually they both got jobs in Hot Springs. Faye was working at a dress shop downtown, and Lon was an electrician. And one night they both happened to be at the Malco Theatre at the same time -- only Faye wasn't alone.
She was on a date when she ran into Lon, who thought he might have liked to be on a date with her himself.
Some time later, they saw each other around town. Lon was out working on an electrical job, and this time Faye was alone. They chatted for a while and then Lon asked her for a date.
She let him know that the guy he had seen her with wasn't a serious boyfriend.
"I wouldn't have butted in," Lon insists.
Their first date was at the Malco, for a showing of Waterhole No. 3.
The dress Faye chose, a pretty silky navy polka dot one that she had modeled for J.C. Penney and then been lucky enough to keep, was perfect for the occasion but it wasn't quite right for the weather.
"It was raining and cold and the wind blew up my dress all the way up on top of my head. It was cold -- it was rain cold," Faye says.
Her heart was warm, however, and she and Lon began seeing each other as often as they could after that, for movies and bowling and other simple outings. Faye took him to work sometimes, and sometimes she picked him up, depending on their work schedules.
Within a year, Lon had proposed.
"I just said, 'Will you marry me?'" he says. "I said, 'Let's get married.' And she said yes."
They eloped, exchanging vows in front of a justice of the peace and his wife, who played piano and took their pictures, at 7 p.m. on Aug. 25, 1967.
Lon's family didn't know about their forthcoming nuptials, but Faye had told her mother and grandmother that they were getting married.
"My grandmother thought she had just adopted him -- my mama, too," Faye says.
Faye and Lon had also told a few friends, but those folks didn't have the details, either.
"They were going to shivaree us and we sure didn't want that," Lon explains. "So we didn't tell anyone."
After the wedding, they went straight to Lon's family's house to tell his mother their news.
"She was putting her two fingers together and wishing us luck, telling us she hoped everything worked out for us," Faye says.
There wasn't money for a honeymoon, so the newlyweds went straight to the tiny house they had rented.
"We had fixed it up but we hadn't lived there yet. It was little bitty," Lon says. "You could be in the back bedroom and scratch the window on the front of it."
About six months later they moved into a bigger place, and not long after that, a bigger place than that.
In 1973, they moved into the Pearcy house they still live in today.
The Penningtons have one son, David Pennington, who lives in Hot Springs with his wife, Becky. They also have one grandson and one great-granddaughter.
They plan to take a delayed trip to Branson and Hardy to celebrate their anniversary.
"We like to go up there, and to spend time in Mountain View," Faye says.
Like most, they have had ups and downs over the years but for the most part they enjoy a quiet life together, Faye says.
"It's kind of like mother and dad on their 50th anniversary ... everyone was standing on the porch and they were getting ready to leave and my mom turned around and said, "Rube, why don't you tell me you love me anymore,'" Lon says, "and he said, 'Woman, if things ever change I'll let you know.' That's kind of how it is with us. We know we love one another and that's it."
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Faye and Lon Pennington celebrated their 50th anniversary on Aug. 25. He says the secret to a long, successful marriage is letting “the Lord be the head” of the household.
He says: “I thought she was something else.”
She says: “I was just in eighth grade at the time.”
On our wedding day:
He says: “After we were married we went to tell my mother. Everyone was happy.”
She says: “I wore a two-piece suit. And after we got married we went out to his mother’s house and told her we had gotten married and she was wishing us luck that everything would work out for us.”
My advice for a long happy marriage is
He says: “Serve the Lord and remember there’s not a head in the family. The man is the head according to the Bible but that means he’s supposed to take all responsibility. But when it comes to being a boss in the house, he’s not. Inside the house belongs to her and the outside belongs to me and we help each other. But the main thing is to let the Lord be the head.”
She says: “Be as one, not as two. And love one another because that’s what it’s all about.”
High Profile on 12/31/2017
Print Headline: Fate put couple together after 2 missed chances