The children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Robert and Marlene Hatton will gather at the Northland couple's home Saturday, June 28, to help them celebrate two major milestones.
One is their 60th wedding anniversary. The other is the 60th year since they appeared on national television.
That the two events fall on the same day is no coincidence at all.
Robert W. Hatton and Marlene Tuller, Columbus natives who met in Spanish class at Linden-McKinley High School, were joined in matrimony June 25, 1954, on the NBC-TV program "Bride and Groom."
A radio show in the 1940s, "Bride and Groom" -- a forerunner to reality TV -- made the leap to early black-and-white television on CBS from 1951 to 1953, and then for a single season on NBC the following year. The 15-minute program, which aired along with soap operas, offered couples willing to be wed on-air prizes and a honeymoon trip.
"We used to watch that show along with some of the soaps back in the '50s," Mr. Hatton, 80, recalled last week. "It just occurred to us one day that maybe we could be on that program. We sent an application and we were accepted. The rest is history, I guess."
Actually, there's a bit more history to the couple's wedding than that. They sent in their application in 1953, and when they didn't hear anything back, they planned to exchange vows in Columbus on June 26 of the following year. The invitations had been sent out and everything when a letter of acceptance arrived in May.
"We had given up, of course, at that point," Mr. Hatton said.
With the scheduled appearance on "Bride and Groom" set for June 25, the two boarded a Greyhound bus a few days earlier for the trip to New York City, accompanied by his brother and her brother, "as chaperones, as we did in those days," he said.
Although the program's personnel married couples five days a week, "they made us feel very special," he added.
"The people were naturally very, very kind," Mrs. Hatton, 81, said. "They were just nice. They would almost have to be to get through the show."
"They didn't tape in those days," Mr. Hatton said. "They did make a 16mm film, and they sent that to us along with our gifts. We did have a record of that, complete with commercials."
"They gave us a trip to the Pocono Mountains, to a place called Bedford Springs in Pennsylvania," his bride added. "We had a weeklong stay there."
After the show was over, with the service conducted by a Baptist minister chosen by program executives because the couple's own minister wasn't able to make the trip, a brand new car awaited them for the 300-mile journey to Bedford Springs.
They had to give the car back at the end of their honeymoon, but prizes they got to keep included some carpeting, sterling silverware, a refrigerator and a sewing machine, Mrs. Hatton said.
"Bride and Groom" even supplied the couple's wedding rings, her husband said.
Marlene and Robert met as high school students in the fall of 1950.
"She graduated in January of '51, and I had one more year," Mr. Hatton said. "I tried to court her during that time, but it didn't work out. It was in the fall of '52 that we met quite by chance at a bus stop at the corner of Hudson Street and High Street here in Columbus, and we started to date very seriously from that point on."
After their wedding and honeymoon, the Hattons returned to Columbus, where he continued his studies at Capital University, majoring in Spanish, English and biology, and she worked at the Farm Bureau Co-op, the forerunner to Nationwide Insurance. From 1958 to 1960, Mr. Hatton taught Spanish at the couple's alma mater before he accepted a job with the U.S. Information Agency that sent them to Bogota, Colombia, for two years.
In 1962, they came back to the United States and settled in their Northland home. Mr. Hatton taught Spanish for two years at Ohio Wesleyan University and then returned to his other alma mater, Capital University, where he became a full professor and spent the next 36 years, part of that time as a department head. Mrs. Hatton stayed home with their three children, a son who died at a young age, another son who is today a firefighter and a daughter who is a stay-at-home mother of six children.
"And they all live in the Columbus area," Mrs. Hatton said proudly.
The producers of "Bride and Groom" set a great deal of store by the proposal stories of the couples appearing on the program, and in that regard, the one Robert Hatton had to tell didn't disappoint.
"We were on a Ferris wheel at a carnival in the Linden area where we lived, and it got stuck at the very top," he said last week. "I chose that moment to propose. I didn't have a ring, but apparently I didn't need one."
"I really had no clue he would do that because he was planning to go to college," Mrs. Hatton said. "I hadn't even thought about it, I guess. We were in a bad spot, so I had to agree."
Looking back to their wedding day, Mr. Hatton said, "It was 15 minutes of fame at high noon on Broadway on June 25, 1954."
Followed, of course, by 60 years of wedded bliss?
"No question about that," the Hattons said virtually simultaneously.