Some folks believe Friday the 13th is an unlucky day, but for Dave and June Gilstrap it turned out to be anything but.
They were married on that traditionally nonauspicious day in October 1967, and this week their 50th anniversary falls on Friday the 13th.
Both grew up on farms, Dave on Four Mound Prairie, just outside Spokane, and June in Weiser, Idaho.
She came to Spokane after graduating in 1964, to attend Kinman Business University.
“I’d never been to Spokane,” she said. “The school found me a family to board with.”
Dave’s post-high-school journey took him a bit farther afield.
“I joined the Army in 1965,” he said.
The military wasn’t part of his plans, but Uncle Sam intervened.
“I was drafted,” Dave explained. “I went to basic training in Fort Polk, Louisiana, and was assigned to the 129th aviation company. They sent me to Vietnam.”
Their primary mission was to provide tactical air movement of troops, supplies and equipment.
“I spent a lot of time on helicopters and in trucks,” said Dave. “Vietnam wasn’t a place you’d want to visit. I got shot at some.”
He served 17 months in Vietnam before returning home.
Meanwhile, June graduated from Kinman and took a job with a local Caterpillar dealership. Dave had a cousin who happened to work for Caterpillar, and that cousin asked June if she’d be interested in meeting a newly returned soldier.
“I called and asked her out,” said Dave. “Three months later, we were married.”
He took June to a drive-in movie on that first date, but neither can recall what was playing.
“I had a good time,” said June. “But I didn’t hear from him for two weeks after that. I was in hopes that he’d call me again, and when he did I couldn’t get rid of him!”
“After our second date, we saw each other or talked to each other every night,” he said.
The proposal was strictly no-frills.
“I said, ‘Well, let’s get married and she said, ‘Okay,’” Dave recalled.
The whirlwind courtship may seem surprising by today’s standards, but for this couple it was perfectly natural.
“I didn’t do a lot of dating, but I just liked him,” said June. “And we both came from farm families. It was just supposed to happen.”
The wedding took place in her landlord’s apartment, with the minister from Dave’s mother’s church officiating.
They spent their wedding night at the Holiday Inn on the Sunset Highway, and both returned to work on Monday morning.
Dave’s knowledge and experience of farm machinery translated easily to fixing cars, so he worked for a variety of automotive businesses over the years.
After two years in June’s apartment, they bought a house on the South Hill, where they still live.
Their family grew with the birth of son, Wayne, in 1972, followed by Jeff in 1977.
Though they only had two sons, for many years their house was filled with children.
“It seemed like we had lots of babies around,” said Dave.
That’s because when their oldest son started school, June opened a day care in their home. She operated the business for 40 years.
“Well, I never officially retired,” she said, smiling.
However, her husband did. When his knees went bad and he could no longer crawl under cars to work on them, he took a job driving truck for Stoneway Electric Supply, and after 15 years with the company, retired six years ago.
While June, 72, said, “We worked all the time and didn’t have time for hobbies,” Dave, 73, has since found the time.
He makes and sells whimsical metal yard art. Dogs, pigs and even “Minions” movie characters decorate their home and backyard.
Dave said the ideas “just come to me.”
Their sons and three grandchildren live nearby, and the couple enjoys taking road trips in their RV. However, they have no plans to become snowbirds.
“I like the snow!” said Dave.
The Gilstraps insist there’s nothing special about them or their 50-year union, saying they’ve weathered their share of disagreements.
“I may have slammed a few doors, but not as a habit,” June said. “We’re just an average happily married couple.”
A couple that didn’t let superstition dictate their wedding day.
“You can’t be superstitious and get married on Friday the 13th,” said June.
“It seems to have worked out good for us.”