Still together after all these years

Shelby and John Fischer hold hands in front of their Canyon Country home of 50 years on Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2019. Gilbert Bernal/The Signal
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Canyon Country residents John and Shelby Fischer met in the 10th grade at Oil City High School in Pennsylvania.

“I was in class and he came walking in,” Shelby said. “He had a lot of wavy hair, a really nice boy, and I went for him. I don’t know how, but somehow, he got the message that I liked him.”

John said he remembers seeing Shelby walking to the bus each day after school.

“That’s where I really noticed her,” he said, adding, “and the guys all told me, ‘Don’t even worry about that one. We tried and she ignores us’ … So, of course, yours truly, I just walked over one day and started talking to her … and she didn’t tell me to go away.”

John and Shelby Fischer pose for a photo in Oil City, Pennsylvania, at the beginning of their relationship in 1954. Courtesy Photo

Mere months later, they were married, which must’ve been fate, because, on Dec. 11, the couple celebrated 65 years of marriage.

“I wouldn’t suggest anybody do that, but it worked for us,” she added.

John’s father had died when he was just 3, leaving his mother to care for him and his seven siblings on her own, while Shelby was a child of divorce, so both knew what it was like being raised by single mothers.

“We were determined our family would always be together,” Shelby said, adding that she believes that’s the simple secret to a long marriage.

“Everybody said it will never work … but neither one of us are quitters,” John added.

In the early years of marriage, John worked hard to support Shelby and their kids.

The 1954 edition of the Oil Can High School yearbook, where John and Shelby Fischer met in their sophomore year, Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2019. Gilbert Bernal/The Signal

“We grew up with our kids,” Shelby said. “We had a family dinner every evening with our kids and a lot of times their friends.”

John and Chief, the family dog, moved to California in December 1963, and in March, Shelby made the 3-day journey by train with their five children in tow — their youngest was just 10 months old and oldest 9.

“My dad lived out here,” Shelby said, adding that he helped John find a job at Modern Motors in Glendale.

“I got here on Sunday, her dad took me around to look for a job Monday, and Tuesday, I went to work,” John added.

In September of 1969, the Fischers moved to Canyon Country.

“There was nothing when we moved out here, just a Safeway … (Highway) 14 wasn’t built yet, ” John added. “Everybody knew everybody, and you couldn’t go anywhere without running into somebody you knew — it was that small. It’s changed drastically (since then).”

John and Shelby Fischer at their wedding on Dec. 11, 1954.

When their kids were young, John helped coach little league on the field that is now the El Segundo Shopping Center on Soledad Canyon Road. 

“We used to have a house full (of kids) all the time here,” John said.

“It was pretty hectic … but fun,” Shelby added.

While John enjoyed woodworking as a hobby, Shelby enjoyed painting, and the two were able to partner up to create projects together.

“He used to cut the wood out and then I would paint it,” Shelby said. “I’d sit up until 2 or 3 in the morning and paint.”

John and Shelby Fischer often worked together to create tole paintings, such as this Santa hung out front of their Canyon Country home. Gilbert Bernal/The Signal

Over the years, the Fischers and their home have survived two major earthquakes and a number of fires, two of which had them evacuate.

“The first time was in the 70s,” Shelby said. “The neighbors (and I) took our kids … and the guys stayed back and watered down all the roofs to keep it from burning because that was a pretty bad one — all these fields around us were on fire.”

“It got pretty smoky, but it didn’t seem like it had gotten that bad until a couple of days later, you started looking at plants outside and they were all turning brown and willing from the lack of oxygen,” John added.

Another nearby fire left their kid’s friends stranded. “So, we had kids sleep on the floor and every place else because there’s no place else to go,” John said.

John opened Soledad Automotive on Soledad Canyon Road with a partner in 1972, then went to work for the Southern California Rapid Transit District (RTD) when things slowed down, until retiring in July 1999 after nearly 20 years

Though the house was small for a family of seven, now, Shelby said she loves their “little” house, so much so that they never moved. It’s now been 50 years since they moved in, and they are one of only two “original” homeowners still on the block.

The Fischer family photo that hangs in John and Shelby’s Canyon Country home of 50 years where the children grew up. Gilbert Bernal/The Signal

Their children still live nearby, and the minute they need anything, they are there.

“If they call us and we don’t answer, all five phones are calling and we get in trouble for not responding,” Shelby said, chuckling. “They take care of us.”

“Well it’s kind of comical, you raise your children, and all of a sudden, you’re the child and they’re the adult,” John added, laughing along with his wife.

With five children, nine grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren, the Fischers have certainly lived a full life.

Though the family has scattered over the years, with some living in Wyoming, Minnesota, Texas and Nevada, they still try to visit each other every so often.

“We’ve had a good time here,” John said.

Through the years, their dedication to each other has remained the same.

“It’s not like something you get tired of it and you throw it out — it breaks, you repair it,” he added. “And I don’t think either one of us has ever looked back.”

Shelby and John Fischer at their 65th wedding anniversary celebration at Backwoods Inn on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. Courtesy of Debra Katz

Shelby and John Fischer, bottom, with their five children at their 65th wedding anniversary celebration at Backwoods Inn on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. Courtesy of Debra Katz

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