Charter class college sweethearts

Linda Byington and Tom McAllister met in kindergarten, attended school through college graduation and got married later that year.

The pair was the only married couple from the 1963 charter class to attend the 50-year reunion at Oakland University.

This December, they will celebrate another 50th — their wedding anniversary.

Growing up

The pair’s dads were close friends as members of a barber-shop quartet they formed with two other dads. The group performed together for about 15 years. Consequently, Linda and Tom became best friends.

“We rode the school bus together, swam in the Williams Lake together and sledded and ice skated,” Tom said. “Around about 10th grade, I discovered she was a girl! I don’t remember a first date, it just sort of happened.”

Linda tells it a bit differently.

“The girl in the band that he was going to ask to go [to a concert] with him told him no,” Linda said. “So he said, ‘Well, Linda will go with me.’ So he called me up.”  

By the time they graduated from high school, they said they knew they would get married but only after college.

“Neither one of us could afford to go to college, unless we could live at home,” Tom said.  

Both enrolled at Michigan State University-Oakland in 1959. Linda graduated in June 1963 and Tom in August 1963.

They spoke of the car pool of almost a dozen students that rode to MSU-O together.

“Everybody was in the same boat,” Linda said. “Nobody could afford to go anyplace else. We came out here determined that we were going to get the education and we worked our tails off.”

Class rings 

Tom said he and Linda were members of the committee that designed the charter class ring.

“We were determined that we were going to be different,” he said. “So our college rings were not going to look like other people’s college rings. That’s when we came up with this diamond shape.”

The ring was going to read Michigan State University-Oakland. However, administration was hesitant about students buying a ring with those words because the university would be soon change its name to Oakland University.

“We panicked,” Tom said. “The guy who was our faculty adviser said, ‘Don’t worry about it, it’s all been taken care of.”

Matilda Wilson invited the charter class to attend a prom at Meadow Brook Hall.

In her late husband study, Matilda said she had a gift for everyone — diamond rings that read “Oakland University Charter Class.” Each ring came in a white box tied with a golden ribbon and an envelope tied underneath it. All the students who had paid a $10 ring deposit received an envelope with a “crisp” ten-dollar bill.

“Because of this last minute change in the design of the ring, the morning of the prom, (Matilda) sent her private airplane to Grand Rapids to pick those rings up,” Tom said. “That was the story that was around at the time. We were stunned. I will never forget.”

Love and marriage

Tom and Linda married Dec. 21, 1963, for which Linda made her own dress.

“I can remember sitting on the floor in my mother’s living room, hemming that wedding dress, watching John Kennedy’s funeral and crying and crying and crying,” she said.

Linda and Tom have two daughters and one granddaughter who live in Michigan. Their elder daughter went to Eastern Michigan University and their youngest daughter went to Western Michigan University.