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73 years since their wedding
Alex Paul/Democrat-Herald
Jean Anderson, center, was just 10 years old when she attended the wedding of Erman Johnston and Erma Mesman. It was the first wedding she had ever attended. She thought the bride’s white gown was “the most beautiful dress I had ever seen.”

Erma and Erman Johnston of Albany, who will soon observe their anniversary, live just a few doors away from Jean Anderson, who attended their wedding on Aug. 23, 1933

By Alex Paul

Albany Democrat-Herald

When Erma Mesman Johnston walked down the aisle, 10-year-old Jean Anderson thought the bride's wedding gown was "the most beautiful dress I had ever seen."

Aug. 23 will mark the 73rd wedding anniversary for Johnston and her husband, Erman, who live at the Mennonite Village. Anderson, now 83, lives just a few doors away. The Johnstons are the second longest residents at the Village, having moved there in 1980. Anderson has lived there six years.

"I went with my grandparents, Joseph and Harriet Wakefield," Anderson said of the event, when visited recently by the Johnstons.

"Oh, I remember your grandfather," Erman said. "He came here from Canada and visited our place nearly every weekend."

The 1933 wedding took place at an interdenominational church in Albany. In the midst of the Great Depression, decorations were hand-picked ferns. The weather was "scorching hot" and there was an overflow crowd of guests, said Erma, who was 18 at the time. People stood outside and looked in through open windows.

"The church was beautiful," Anderson recalled. "It was my first time at a wedding. I was so excited I can hardly remember anything. I also thought it was romantic that their names were so alike, Erman and Erma."

Anderson's mother, Jessie Parker, didn't want her to go to the wedding. But after the young girl insisted, her mother gave in. She took Anderson to a store in downtown Albany and bought her a pair of "black Mary Janes."

"She bought the shoes one-half size larger than I wore so I could grow into them," Anderson said.

On Sept. 4, Erman Johnston will celebrate his 95th birthday. He grew up on an 80-acre farm on Scenic Drive and quit high school after one year to go to work. He and Erma, 91, met at church when she was in the eighth grade. Erma was born near Tallman, which was between Albany and Lebanon.

"He was so cute," Erma said, rubbing her hand over his now bald hear. "He had curly hair. That's why I got him."

Their courtship actually began when Erman would drive by her school while delivering groceries in a Model T truck. One day he gave Erma and another girl a ride home from a social gathering. He took Erma home last.

Erman worked on the railroad from 1937 until 1974 and the family always lived in Albany. Erma was used to the lifestyle, since many of her family members also worked for the railroad.

"For five years, every third night I left for Coos Bay," Erman said. "It was a lot of hard work, but it was also a lot of fun." Erma chipped in, "That's why we got along so well."

Erma spent 20 years as a secretary in the Albany school system. She worked in several schools including Takena when it was brand new. "I really enjoyed my work. Talk about variety," Erma said. "Every day was new. You couldn't plan anything. I helped start Calapooia with a ream of paper and a really old typewriter. Ralph Gibbs was a brand new principal."

The Johnstons reared three sons nn Ken, Gary and Steve nn all of whom live in Albany.

Erman retired in 1974 and Erma in 1975. They spent many years fishing and traveling in their motor home. They also ventured to Yuma, Ariz. for 25 winters and maintain numerous friendships there. The Johnstons also took seven cruises and visited nine countries in Europe.

Humor has been a key to their successful union. "We like the same things," Erma said. "When we go out to eat, we will often order the same meals."

Erman said that over all the years together, they've had very few arguments.

"What's the use of arguing," Erma said, laughing. "I just tell him what we're going to do."

Anderson and her husband, John, were married 54 years. A banker and real estate manager, he died three years ago. Anderson had several jobs over the years, including being a buyer for Nordstrams.

The Johnstons plan to spend their anniversary with friends at the coast.

Alex Paul can be reached at alex.paul@lee.net or 812-6076.

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