by Ashley Johnson | Photo by Jason Flowers
When Peggy Shaw stopped by Martha Faires’ room in Binnion Hall in 1956, neither of them knew it would result in Martha meeting her Mr. Right that night.
“Peggy was looking for three girls to accompany her, her boyfriend and his three roommates on a group date,” Martha said. “I wasn’t terribly into the idea, but I went along with it and claimed ‘dubs on Norris.’”
While Martha had only seen Norris Barnard once before, she knew one of the other young men had a girlfriend and the other wasn’t quite her type, leaving Norris as her obvious choice. After guessing correctly that the men would arrive in Cavalier-style clad in red pullover sweaters (as three of the four were in the Cavalier social club), the ladies dressed alike as well.
“They thought they were so cute,” Martha said. “And we knew we were.”
“When I saw Martha I thought, ‘oh, this is going to turn out okay,’ and it did,” Norris said. “Fifty-four years later it turned out real good.”
Almost immediately, Norris and Martha knew that this was more than just a blind date. After only six weeks of dating, Norris decided it was time to pop the question on a group date to the bowling alley.
“I knew I was going to ask her, but it was like asking a girl to the movies for the first time when you’re 13,” Norris said. “I was nervous, but I knew she was the one. Thankfully she said yes.”
For Norris and Martha, the only strange part about getting married before they graduated from East Texas State College was living in married housing, somewhat away from the main hustle and bustle of campus life.
“Before we were married, I had been very involved in the Kaidishan social club and other groups on campus, and now I could no longer walk out my door and be in the middle of it all,” Martha said. “It was different, but it was good. Nine months and 23 days later, our first daughter was born.”
A few years ago, Norris recalls watching the College World Series on television and seeing a young baseball player with his wife and little baby girl up in the stands. After wondering what would drive a young man to go to college, get married and have a baby so soon, he remembered he too had followed that same path.
“Those kids seemed so young, but so were we,” Norris said.
As for what’s kept them together through successful careers in teaching and business, raising two daughters and enjoying life as grandparents, Norris links it to he and Martha’s unspoken goal of staying faithful to each other, and to do whatever they needed to do to help the other and their family.
“We just have plain old respect and admiration for one another,” Norris said. “We’ve had some good and bad times, but here we are. And we still like each other.”