Dancing to 70th wedding anniversary

Last updated 10:00 26/07/2012
Jim and Betty Morrison, of Johnsonville, are celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary
Supplied and KEVIN STENT/Fairfaz NZ
PLATINUM BLISS: Jim and Betty Morrison, of Johnsonville, are celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary. They are picture above as a young couple in the 1940s and below as they are today.

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She used to do the cancan for him in the living room, and seven decades later their eyes are still dancing.

This week Jim and Betty Morrison will become one of the rare couples to celebrate their platinum wedding anniversary.

The Johnsonville couple insist the other was responsible for keeping the 70-year marriage together.

"He's the brains of the establishment," Mrs Morrison, 91, said.

"I couldn't have had a better husband, he's a lovely man. I've just been so lucky. He's pretty good for 97, isn't he?"

Mr Morrison wasn't having any of it. "It's her, she's done it. She was always a hard worker, and never afraid to tackle things."

And then, there's the clincher: "She was always very good with money."

New Zealand wasn't a frivolous place when the lovebirds met. The world was at war, and rationing and conscription took precedence over affairs of the heart.

Still, romance blossomed between the two, who went to the same church, when they bumped into each other in Oriental Pde.

Seamstress Betty had taken on a second job in the area, while Jim was waiting to be called up for army service.

They got talking, and he offered her a ride back to Johnsonville. The pair soon fell in love, and married six months later, in May 1942, at Johnsonville's Presbyterian Church.

But the country was at war, and Jim was posted to the Solomon Islands in August.

When he returned at the end of the war, it was to a waving Betty holding his toddler son, Malcolm. The first thing the 18-month-old reputedly said to his dad was "Keep your hands off my long pants!" - a treasured item sewn by mum.

The family had been renting the Johnsonville home they still live in today but, under the 1950 National government, state houses were offered for sale.

For the sum of £3000, the Morrisons bought the weatherboard villa and set about raising young Malcolm, and siblings Gary and Ruth.

Mr Morrison was a wharfie until his retirement, a union man who proudly took part in the 1951 waterfront strikes. Mrs Morrison worked at The Buttery, a well-known tea house in Lambton Quay.

Daughter Ruth Henry, who lives in the house behind her parents, said she remembers as a little girl watching her mum don long skirts to dance the cancan for her dad, the pair collapsing in laughter.

Her mum's catchphrase had always been: "Never let the sun go down on your wrath."

She thinks her parents' good humour and kind nature are key to their happiness. "They've always just been great fun. I really think it's quite a wonderful thing, to be married for 70 years."

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The couple planned to celebrate with an afternoon tea with family.

- The Dominion Post

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