They said it wouldn’t last ... Valentines for 65 years
When Fred wed Faye, not a soul came to celebrate their union
One evening, at a local dance hall in country NSW, 20-year-old Fredrick Charles Howe met 16-year-old Faye McAndrew and they danced.
A couple of weeks later, they met up again at another district dance somewhere. By this time Fred was sure Faye was the one. Faye must have felt the same way about him.
When Faye turned 17 that year, Fred proposed. About a month later they were married in a small Anglican church in Lithgow, about 100 kilometres north of their community in Rylstone where they met.
No one came to their wedding.
It was 1950s Australia and sectarianism between Catholics and Protestants was rife. Fred was Catholic and Faye was from the Church of England. Faye’s father objected to the wedding the most, and refused to attend.
“I just made up my mind about Faye and that was it.” – Fred Howe
“It was an awful time if you were Catholic back then,” Fred says. “I was called all sorts of names growing up. But what could you do? You just had to turn the other cheek.”
The gossip through town was that their marriage wouldn’t last. Some unkind people suggested they were married because Faye was pregnant out of wedlock.
“But we showed them,” says Fred. “Our first son was born on November 5, the following year.”
It was, as they said at the time, a mixed marriage. Many people back home continued to whisper awful things about them. But they were determined to face it together. Even with no one attending, Fred still says their wedding day was a happy one for them.
“We spent our honeymoon at Mt Victoria Hotel [in the Blue Mountains] and four days in Sydney.” He smiles at the memory.
It must have been hard to stand up to the prejudice. But Fred is pragmatic about it all.
“I just made up my mind about Faye and that was it. The people who mattered to us didn’t mind,” he answers.
“I guess bigotry is still around in different forms. All I can say is get things straight from the beginning and talk it through.”
“We did everything together. Our marriage was a real team effort.” – Fred Howe
If the early stages of their marriage were a little difficult, it was because they didn’t have a lot of money.
“I was working as an apprentice mechanic. I was earning 10 pounds a week for my family. My boss took pity on me and increased it to 11 pounds after I married. But that was it.”
Sixty-five years, four sons, six grandkids and nine great-grandchildren later, Fred and Faye are still married and ageing happily at Anglicare’s Lemongrove Gardens in Penrith, far western Sydney. Faye is now in the late stages of dementia and Fred is her constant companion.
When asked about the secret to their long marriage, 86-year-old Fred takes Faye’s hand and says, “We did everything together. Our marriage was a real team effort. I don’t regret a moment of our time together.”