Peggy Compton said no to a date with her future husband in hopes of reconciling with her former beau. Her beau said no, and that was the best thing that ever happened to her.
Peggy was a senior in high school in Baytown, Texas, in 1967. Her friend, Johnny, called to ask if she would go on a blind date with his friend, Jerry Whatley, a freshman at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. Jerry, who was from Malvern, and another friend were in college together and had come home with Johnny for spring break.
The first time I saw my future spouse:
She says: “He was wearing slacks and a dress shirt and that was a major hit with me. Most of my dates before that had worn jeans and Western shirts. And I thought he was handsome as well — I just liked his looks.”
He says: “She was a really good-looking girl. I didn’t trust my friend — I didn’t know who he was going to set me up with because we played some pretty rough jokes on each other — but I was pleasantly surprised.”
On our wedding day:
She says: “I was as nervous as a cat in a room full of rockers.”
He says: “I was pretty much in awe of the whole thing. My dad had given me some advice — be good and don’t be a screwball. I was thinking, ‘Hey, I’ve got to make all this work financially, too. We do have to eat.’”
My advice for a long happy marriage:
She says: “Follow the rule book and that’s the Bible. That would have relieved a lot of friction in our earlier years if I had paid more attention to what my role was.”
He says: “You need to enjoy doing stuff together. We had a lot of things in common and I would say just don’t be a loner with your hobby. Don’t get a hobby that you just do by yourself.”
Johnny's mother and Peggy's mother were best friends, so when Johnny mentioned that he was looking for someone to go out with Jerry, his mother volunteered Peggy, who she knew had just broken up with her boyfriend.
"I told him that Bubba was supposed to come over that night and patch things up," Peggy says. "I said 'Doggone it, I already promised Bubba that I would be here. Bubba stood me up and I thought, 'Boy, I should have gone with that fellow from Arkansas.'"
The next morning, Johnny called again, this time inviting her to go skiing with them, but Peggy had plans that day as well. He and his friends hadn't seen a movie the night before, though, and they arranged for her to go out with Jerry that night.
"We triple-dated that night to see a James Bond movie," Peggy says. "We just hit it off right away."
Peggy liked that Jerry was a little shy and quiet, and he liked that she wasn't.
"Normally on a first date you might or might not say much to each other, but Peg was a real talker. She just entertained the whole night," he says. "I had been out with girls who might not say three words the whole night. That wasn't my kind of date. I just wanted to hear somebody talk and make conversation with me and she did."
Johnny had to go back to school a few days later, and they kept in touch through a flurry of letters.
"We lived on letter writing for months and months. We wrote lots of letters, and there were very few phone calls but we made a call every now and then," Jerry says. "Any kind of long break I got out of college I would head that way."
He stayed with his friend's family in the beginning and later with Peggy's family. Her sister had grown up and moved away and her parents were happy to let him sleep in their spare bedroom.
Peggy visited Jerry in Arkansas twice -- once with her parents, when they went to meet his family, and once with a friend to go to UA's homecoming.
Jerry's father had helped him buy a 1967 Pontiac GTO.
"I like to have wore that car out driving back and forth from Texas that year," says Jerry, though he managed to keep that car for another 30 years.
On one of his trips to Baytown, Jerry proposed.
"We talked about it a little bit in the living room and I'm not sure how formal it was but I got the answer I wanted," he says.
They exchanged their vows on June 1, 1968, at First Christian Church in Baytown.
"We only had six dates -- that was six long vacations from college -- that we could see each other and it was a little over a year before we got married," Peggy says, "so only six dates in that year and a month or two since we met. And this was all from blind date -- we're going to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary this year."
They spent one night in Nacogdoches, Texas, and then drove on to the new apartment they had rented for the summer in Malvern, where Jerry was going to work for a power plant and save money to cover the next year's tuition.
The next day, they went to Jerry's grandparents' farm just outside town and dug up Irish potatoes.
"I told my friends that should have been a red flag that we spent our honeymoon digging potatoes, but we were so in love it was all exciting and we were just having fun," Peggy laughs. "We just had a ball. Loved his grandparents and his parents. I felt like I had known them all my life."
In August, they moved together to Fayetteville. Peggy worked while Jerry went to school.
"I was kind of concerned about how we were going to put together a bank account and a tank full of gas and all that," Jerry says. "I remember the first bank statement we got together said we had 38 cents. But we worked it out. We started making those paychecks and by jingo it worked out pretty good."
Jerry and Peggy have two children -- Jenny Lanier of Malvern and T.J. Whatley of Ozark, Mo. -- and seven grandchildren.
"Jerry is truly a Renaissance man, he can castrate a steer and play Mozart on the piano all in one day," says Peggy. "He still melts my butter!"
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Peggy and Jerry Whatley only had six dates before they married. They are retired, he from engineering, teaching and farming and she from teaching — and both again from owning a convenience store, 250 head of cattle and six commercial chicken houses.
High Profile on 02/04/2018
Print Headline: She got stood up on a date and he stepped right in