A soda fountain romance

A soda fountain romance

Like his father before him, Charles Mishler was struck by love at first sight when he saw his future wife.

"I was in a soda fountain in my hometown of Paterson," Charles recalls of his first encounter with Janet Getz. "She was sitting at the end of the counter eating a sundae. I fell in love with her, even though I didn’t speak to her."

At least Charles knew her name. Janet was from San Antonio by way of Paterson and New Orleans, but her grandmother’s house was only two doors down from his family home. Fortunately, his cousin’s girlfriend knew Janet well and she set up a blind date for them.

"We went to a movie in Passaic," Charles says, "and then out for dinner at about 11:30. Janet must have weighed 86 pounds at the time, but she ordered a roast beef platter and ate the whole thing! I was impressed."

Their next date was at the old East Paterson Golf Club, where they went for sodas and danced to canned music.

But as smitten as Charles felt, this was still a long-distance romance. "I did go out with him whenever I was in New Jersey," Janet explains, "but at the time it was still pretty casual. I was 15 when we met and he was in his early ‘0s."

By the time she was ready for college, Janet, who had gone to high school with film star Brenda Marshall, decided to study acting in Hollywood. "I went to the Maria Ouspenskaya School," she says, "and even had a studio interested in signing me."

But then Pearl Harbor was attacked, and all of California felt at risk. Janet’s mother pleaded with her to come back to the East Coast. So she moved to New York City, where her mom was now living with her second husband. At that point Janet began to see Charles more steadily and they were soon engaged.

Charles, who had graduated from the Penn State College of Optometry and was practicing in Paterson, went into the service. He attended boot camp at Fort Dix, and in 1943 was stationed in New Orleans. After a family visit in Texas, Janet came to the Big Easy to see him.

"I told her I wanted to get married right then," Charles says. Janet agreed, but didn’t tell anyone. "Our families thought it would be foolish to get married with Charles facing being sent overseas," she explains. But they decided to go ahead anyway. They were wed by the Jewish base chaplain — with 135 soldiers in attendance, but no family members, since the point of embarkation was off-limits to civilians.

The couple got to spend a year together in New Orleans before Charles shipped out. Janet returned to New York and began working for Elizabeth Arden in New York, as well as modeling for her stepfather’s sweater manufacturing business.

Charles found himself in England as the head of the eye clinic in the 74th General Hospital, where severely wounded soldiers recovered before being sent to the United States. After four years of service, Charles returned home. He and Janet took a belated honeymoon trip to Los Angeles to visit her father, whom Charles had never met.

"I decided to contact comedian Lou Costello while we were there," he explains. "I knew his family from Paterson, and he ended up taking us through the studio where he was working. We met Bud Abbott and then went to the commissary, where we saw Claude Rains and Yvonne DeCarlo." Once back at home, Charles took over the optometrist shop behind his father’s jewelry store. It wasn’t long before Charles had sold his practice to become a full-time jeweler.

Janet, meanwhile, was busy raising their two sons, Ken and Lee. When it came time to look for a house, they found a nice starter place in Elmwood Park. Five years later, they had their own home built in the Lyncrest section of Fair Lawn, where they still live, 54 years later.

"Just to show you what a small world this is," Charles relates, "right after we moved in, Janet and I met our neighbors, Rabbi David Lapp and his wife. We started talking and I told him we’d been married by Rabbi Herschel Schachter on the base in New Orleans. Our neighbor laughed and told us Herschel was one of his best friends." He also told the Mishlers that Herschel Schachter was one of the first rabbis who went into Auschwitz after the war.

The Mishlers had yet another celebrity encounter when they took their sons to Hyde Park and met Eleanor Roosevelt walking in her rose garden. "She was very gracious," Charles says, "and let us take a picture with her."

While their children were younger, the family attended the Fair Lawn Jewish Center. Charles was also active in the Paterson Chamber of Commerce. The Mishlers share a love of show business, and enjoyed going to the city to attend Broadway shows and events at Lincoln Center. Both of their sons became doctors, and the couple have four grandchildren with whom they are very close.

After 64 years with his soda fountain sweetheart, Charles believes the key ingredients to a good marriage are simple: "Love keeps you together," he says, "plus devotion."

Janet adds, "We were lucky because we had so much in common. And most important, you have to be patient and tolerant and learn to compromise."

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