Central Texas couple married 46 years recreate first big date at State Fair of Texas in Dallas
WHITNEY, Texas (KWTX) - A Central Texas couple married 46 years recreated their first big date to the State Fair of Texas in Dallas by returning to the fairgrounds on the 50th anniversary and winning a similar stuffed animal to the one the couple has held onto and cherished for the last five decades.
Marianne, 65, and Mike Hejl, 68, of Aquilla, were just teenagers at Whitney High School when they went on a double date with some friends to the fair and Mike won Marianne a stuffed turtle.
“I had to woo her someway,” Mike said. “I remember going down the midway and I remember I had to impress her. I had to win something. I didn’t have very much money. I was working in a grocery store back in high school. I thought, ‘wow if I won her a stuffed animal that might win her over.’ So, I was pretty good at basketball back then, and so I tried my skills at shooting some baskets and I knocked down enough to win Louis.”
“We have kept that thing forever,” Mike said. Louis is the stuffed turtle that Mike won.
Marianne wrote a message on the back of Louis with a pen which reads “Mike won this for me at the fair “1972.”
Marianne and Mike married in 1976 and had two children and Louis, they say, was a favorite stuffed animal of the kids.
The couple now has seven grandchildren, and they say because of Louis’ age, the toy spends most of its time in a keepsake box.
“We’ve kept Louis all these years,” Marianne smiled.
“He’s losing his stuffing. He’s a little dirty, looks a little weird, too, compared to today’s stuff but he’s been through the family, been through my kids, and been through the grandkids.”
The Hejl’s main alure to the State Fair this year was a Dallas Mavericks’ exhibit since the two are big fans, but they decided if the visited the grounds on the 50th anniversary of their big date, they had to find Louis a friend.
“He said ‘I’m determined to win something since we won something in 1972 for you and I’m going to get something for you today,” Marianne said. " So, as we were going down the midway doing some different games, I spotted little Louise and he started shooting the basketball and he won.”
Mike said it took him about five shots and $30 to sink the three winning shots. When it came time to choose a prize, the decision was easy; a smaller turtle the couple named Louise.
“Once again my basketball skills came in handy and we won little Louise,” Mike laughed.
“It turned out to be a very special moment for us.”The couple says they plan to keep Lewis and Louise in a safe place as a reminder of the fifty years they’ve spent together.
“We plan to put it in safelty in storage,” Mike laughed. “Marianne says ‘it’s the grandbaby!”
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