As singer Chuck Berry put it in his 1964 chart-topper about a teenage wedding, “You never can tell.”
According to Janet Thompson, her mother was sure she was too young, at 18, to marry her high school sweetheart, Richard Thompson. That was in 1948.
Sitting in their respective recliners the day after this past Thanksgiving, the Thompsons quietly celebrated 70 years together over a reheated frozen meal in their La Crescenta home.
“It had no effort,” Jan, 88, said, referring to the celebration of their milestone. “We just couldn’t put anything out there.”
Dick, a Glendale native, turned 90 in August.
That low-key approach underpinning the couple’s platinum anniversary echoed Jan’s straightforward explanation for their marital success.
“There’s not any one thing, it’s just that we got along on every level,” Jan said. “We agreed on how to raise children, and when it came to spending money, we both had the same idea.”
When Jan, then a high school sophomore, first laid eyes on her future husband, he was under a 1935 Ford, and she was with another date. Still, she noticed his ample dark hair. That and he was tall — 6 feet — and good looking, according to Jan, who was 5 feet 9 then.
Later, Dick asked her out to a Glendale High School event but came down with the flu. He didn’t make it to their rain-check date either, struck by a relapse of the illness.
“I didn’t think we were ever going to get together,” Jan said.
Eventually, they did, though minor logistical difficulties persisted. Dick lived in south Glendale. Jan lived in north Glendale. Jan didn’t drive, and Dick had to continuously work on his car to keep it running.
Overcoming the geographic dilemma, the couple stayed together and set to wed about two years after meeting.
Dick, who was 20 at the time, needed his mother to give her signature of approval. Under California law, at the time, men needed to be 21 to wed without parental consent. Women could wed without parental consent at 18.
“When you consider our age when we met, we sort of grew up together,” Jan said.
Jan took a job as a bookkeeper at a bank in Los Angeles, and Dick began working at a lighting equipment warehouse in Vernon. The two often carpooled together in Dick’s pickup truck.
When boredom set in, Dick began experimenting with lighting at the warehouse — manipulating surfaces and painting the fixtures different colors. It began the foundation for an international company he began with his brother, creating lighting designs for casinos, hotels and other commercial properties, including Donald Trump’s casino in Atlantic City and the Marriott Hotel in San Francisco.
As their family grew — the couple adopted a girl, Linda, and a boy, Richard — Jan said the couple reconnected in their relationship periodically via weekend retreats organized by a local church.
“It’s a real addition to a marriage, just concentrating on each other,” Jan said. “Because when you have a family, your mind is blown a hundred different ways.”
There were arguments along the seven-decade path, and there was some counseling, although the couple tends to see eye-to-eye, Jan said.
Despite spending the majority of their lives together, Jan said her husband still surprises her. After Dick retired 25 years ago, and Jan told him he should take on some of the household responsibilities, he chose grocery shopping. In no time, Dick had become a dedicated cook.
Dick and Jan are also still growing their family: Nearly three years ago, the couple adopted a teacup poodle that Jan describes as “4 pounds of love.”
Looking back at seven decades of successful marriage, Jan remarked, “It sure worked out” — despite her mother’s misgivings.
“‘C’est la vie,’ say the old folks,” Chuck Berry sang. “It goes to show you never can tell.”