The Carters and the Cittas

Best friends married best friends after meeting as teenagers in the 1960s working at the newly opened Yorktown Shopping Center, Monday, Dec. 2, 2013 in Lombard. (Chuck Berman, Chicago Tribune)

Growing up in Lombard in the 1960s, best friends Kathy Hughes and Annette Saviano always had something to talk about: teachers, boys, hopscotch, Barbies.

They'd talk as they walked to school, talk as they walked home, and then call each other at night to talk some more. They'd walk three or four miles, just because they'd gotten wrapped up in a conversation and lost track of time.

They knew adulthood would pose challenges to their friendship, but that was OK, because when they were about 13, they came up with a plan.

"Wouldn't it be great to grow up and marry two best friends, so we could stay best friends forever?" Kathy said.

Yes, Annette said. That would be perfect.

Three years later, they met Bob Carter and Nick Citta. Bob had grown up in Downers Grove and had good friends in his neighborhood. But when Nick moved to Downers Grove from Chicago the year before, Bob invited him to spend time with him and his pals. Both boys liked cars, Motown, ice hockey and softball, and it wasn't long before they were best friends.

In the fall of 1968, all four teenagers were working at the Woolworth store at the brand-new Yorktown Center mall, the girls as cashiers, the boys as stock boys. Nick quickly noticed Annette, and he began to focus his restocking efforts on the pets department, where she worked.

"That was the cleanest area of the whole store," Kathy recalls.

Annette had a boyfriend, but when he came to the store looking for her, Nick was ready.

"Oh," Nick said casually to the boyfriend. "She doesn't work here anymore."

Bob and Kathy started dating in April, and Kathy thought it would be great if their best friends could date too.

"You don't have to marry the guy," Kathy wrote in a note to Annette. "You just have to go out with him."

Nick, in fact, kept asking Annette out — and she kept saying no, until finally Nick told Bob that he was going to ask just one more time, and if Annette said no, he wouldn't ask again. Bob told Kathy who told Annette, who walked through the halls of Willowbrook High School with her books in her arms, thinking, "Why won't I go out with him?"

That's when Annette told Kathy who told Bob who told Nick that, OK, Nick could take her out on a date.

The four friends had become inseparable at work, where they took all of their breaks together, even after they had been warned repeatedly not to. One Sunday in June, they all went out on break together, and returned to learn that their manager had had enough. He fired Annette, and the other three friends quit in protest before they, too, could be fired.

Their relationships went better than their Woolworth careers. Annette and Nick got engaged a month after high school, and married two years later in 1973.

"Once they started dating, that was it," says Bob.

Bob was drafted after high school and served in Vietnam, but he and Kathy stayed in touch and started dating again after he came back. By her junior year of college, they, too, were engaged.

Four decades later, the Carters, who live in Downers Grove and have three children and two grandchildren, and the Cittas, who live in Bartlett and have two children, say they're still the best of friends.

"We all have a good sense of humor and we like to talk and laugh, so it doesn't get old," says Annette, 61, a former banking executive.