Real Romance

By Dee Walmsley

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Valentine’s Day conjures up images of Hollywood-style romance. But when it came to the marriage proposals of these local seniors, asking the father’s permission, getting down-on-one-knee and saying those four little words “will you marry me?” were seldom the reality.

I had the unique experience of knowing and liking my future in-laws for some time before I met their daughter, who was away at college. Her father had had a serious car accident and was in the hospital. So, when Eleanor was returning home from college for the summer her mother asked me if I would pick her up at the bus stop in a larger town about 25 miles away. Many young men may have viewed this as a parental plot right away, but being a naive, small-town boy that thought never dawned on me. In just the hour or so of the leisurely drive from the bus stop to her parent's home, I was smitten. I wasted no time in finding excuses for outings - swimming, sightseeing, picnics etc. In those days, however, it was proper to have a chaperone along, and her younger sister filled the bill, even conveniently turning her head when we stole a kiss. As the end of summer approached and time arrived for Eleanor to return to college, we managed to find a bucolic spot alone in the country, where all the forces of nature seemed to conspire for the event. I think it was the moment of decision for me, and I feel it was for her, too.
My wife isn't sure there was any special time when I formally proposed, but over that summer we had bonded, and we knew we wanted to be together for life. It took me at least another year before I could arrange to move to where my fiancé was, but we finally worked it out. After I was settled into a new job, we decided it was time to get married. Fortunately, her father was a minister and he gladly performed the ceremony. That was 54 years ago, and we still laugh at our first "date" on the way home from the bus stop.
Jack and Eleanor, Maryland, 1956.

Picture it: Halloween, 1959, driving through Chinatown in Vancouver, firecrackers exploding everywhere, even under the cars. I thought we'd better get out of there, fast. We took a leisurely drive through Stanley Park and stopped to watch the submarine races near the Lion's Gate Bridge. He asked me to remove my friendship ring, and then replaced it with a diamond engagement ring. It was understood that we would one day marry, we just hadn't set the date; and I knew there would be an engagement ring someday as we had already chosen a set from Shores Jewellers at Cambie and Hastings Streets. I was so happy that I could have floated through Chinatown and never noticed the firecrackers!
Bob and Carolyn, Vancouver, 1959.

I had been transferred from Ottawa to Toronto. My future fiancé stayed behind. For a few months, we kept in touch by mail and the occasional phone call. On Halloween night, I took a couple of dollars in change and headed for a phone booth in the Golden Mile Plaza, called and proposed. She accepted. We chatted. I presumed that the operator would tell me when my time was up. She didn't. When we finally hung up, I thought Bell had given me a bargain. They hadn't. The phone rang and the operator asked me to deposit another $8, which, of course, I didn't have. I went and got a roll of quarters and paid up. After the shock of becoming engaged and spending over half-a-day's pay in the process wore off, I realized what a great bargain it was for a capable, hardworking and quite lovely bride.
Bill and Ann, Toronto, 1958.

My dear wife is slightly older than I am and when I professed my undying love and wish to marry her, she told me, “Don’t be silly.” She couldn’t believe I was serious. It took a bit a convincing, but it worked over 30 years ago and is still working today.
James and Mary, Vancouver, 1980.

I knew my future husband had gone to a Winnipeg Wholesaler (he was in the RCAF and had a trip out west) to purchase a set of rings for our upcoming nuptials. I waited anxiously for the big proposal. He called to say he'd made reservations at a posh restaurant (probably to get me out of my jeans and into a dress) and that he'd pick me up at 7 p.m. I was all gussied up in anticipation that this may be my lucky night, and wondered how he was going to propose. I knew he didn't ask my father for my hand in marriage as we were in Montreal and my father was in Nanaimo. Would he get down on one knee in the restaurant? Not likely. Would he have the waiter pop the ring into a glass of wine? Hmm, a possibility.
Promptly at 7, Jack pulled up outside my barracks and I jumped in the car beside him, leaned over for a quick kiss and sat back grinning like that old proverbial cat. The next thing I know, he throws a brown paper bag onto my lap and says, "This is for you." Inside was a beautiful silver Birks crown containing the set of rings. No “will you marry me?” No wine? That's it? I think I said "Thanks" and off we drove. Some folks just aren’t romantic, but we married and had 47 years together and I did get a diamond band on our 35th anniversary - once again with little or no fanfare.
Jack and Dee, Montreal, 1962.

Margaret was a first-year teacher in the small town of Armstrong, B.C.
I believe the year was 1957. I was a handsome young banker just transferred there on my first job. I was a real city boy from North Burnaby, and missed all the action of the "big smoke." What was I to do?
So, I went through the bank accounts of all the single girls in town, and I think there were three, and went to introduce myself. And here we are today. Margaret says, this, of course, is not what I did, but I love to tell a yarn. We are now in our 52nd year of marriage.
Dudley and Margaret, Armstrong, 1958.

I was painting all day in 95-degree weather and became dehydrated. I passed out, and couldn't get up. Crystal called the ambulance, and as they loaded me in, I asked her if she would marry me. She said, yes, and the emergency people said "OOOO!! You've done it now and we're all witnesses!"
I kept my word. That was on Sadie Hawkins Day and I made her wait until February 29th, a leap year. It saved me lots of money over the years having to only buy anniversary gifts every four years.
Doug and Crystal, Tennessee, 1995.



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