Married at St Paul’s Church, Hamilton, 1945
Kath and Clive married shortly after Clive’s return from World War II: Kath in a wedding dress made of pure silk, purchased for the princely sum of £5, Clive, handsome in his Air Force uniform. Now in their nineties, with four sons, ten grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren, they recall their wedding and the long, rewarding marriage that has followed…
Clive: What first attracted me to Kath… I guess all I can say is I liked the look of her, she was very good-looking – but it was really that almost instantly I knew we had a lot in common and that she seemed to like me.
I don’t think I actually proposed, as we always took it for granted we would get married when we were old enough. Kath lived and worked in Hamilton and I did the same in Tauranga, but we wrote a lot of letters. Though I went regularly to local dances and met many girls there, it didn’t occur to me to think of them as anything other than good dancing partners.
Apart from the occasional long weekend, we kept in touch via letters and our only means of getting together was after a long train trip on the then ‘Taneatua Express’ – there and back with not much time in between. In early 1943 I joined the Air Force and for the next 12 months was posted to different stations in New Zealand, so we saw even less of each other. In 1944 I was sent to Bougainville and was there until a month after the end of the war, so during that time it was letters only. After the Japanese surrender, I had the chance to go to Japan as part of the occupying force, with promotion, but I only wanted to get home and see Kath again. After demobilisation, we got engaged and were married a couple of months later. I was 21 by then, Kath was 20. It was 1945.
As for anything that stands out on our wedding day… I guess I was nervous as I’ve never been confident in front of a crowd, but I felt quite proud and happy that we were at last married.
I love how very competent and organised Kath she is. What has brought me the most joy in our marriage would just be having the help, love and understanding of a good wife.
Kath: I understand we first met when I was about a year old! That’s what we were always told, that we’d met when I was still in the pram! Our parents were friends – they met when Clive’s family were farming and my mum and dad were working on a farm close by. Then Clive’s family moved to Taranaki, and we didn’t all meet up again for years. The next time I remember meeting them was when I was about 15 years old. My other memory is of one day when Clive called at our house, actually to meet up with my sister Marjorie, who must have met him at some stage earlier. I can’t remember when we next met or how we actually got to be so friendly, but I must have been about 17 or 18. I know by then we were ‘going together’ and then he went into camp, and when I was 19 he went overseas. He had his 21st birthday in the islands while he was in the Air Force. Before he went away we had wanted to become engaged but our parents all thought we were too young. But when he came home we knew we still wanted to be together and we were engaged for a couple of months, with a ring on my finger – then we were married.
Our wedding was held in St Paul’s Church in London Street in Hamilton. I don’t think the building is there anymore. It was a lovely, exciting day. I remember the organist in the church playing the music I’d chosen and Clive looking handsome in his uniform. You have to remember the war was only just over and it was a very different scene in those days. There was a shortage of all sorts of things, especially the nice things you expect for a wedding, like good fabrics and clothing. Our wedding gifts were things like a set of jugs, a crystal bowl was considered special, and in money we received a total of $25 – that was worth a lot more in those days of course – and we were delighted with all our gifts. I remember the reception – such a simple, happy affair compared to what happens today, but very suitable, with all four of our grandparents present. The drinks were soft drinks – a small bottle for each guest! Imagine! After it was over we borrowed Clive’s father’s car to drive to Lake Rotoiti for our honeymoon on the lakeside in a cottage belonging to friends.
I guess over the years our love has changed from a very young and romantic love to something much deeper and stronger. Having a family has shaped our marriage over the years, adjusting to understanding and being a good parent to the children’s different personalities and providing a good home and environment to give them the best life you can. The best thing about being married is always knowing there is someone there who cares for me.
I love so many things about Clive, his good nature and mostly his support and willingness to go along with anything I wanted to do, like travelling, building a new house – they were always joint efforts and a lot of fun. Just being together every day brings us a lot of joy, and of course our grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Our advice to couples about to marry would be to communicate! Talk everything over, agree to disagree sometimes, but be open and honest. Never go to sleep with a problem unresolved. Concern and understanding brings about a similar response; never insist on the last word. Just love one another and let them know it – share everything.
Interview by Hannah Tunnicliffe