Beautiful 60-year love story began with car raffle
SIXTY years of marriage - quite an achievement in this day and age! What is the story behind this special event?
A chance meeting between a group of C.M.F. Reserve Soldiers visiting the display of Redex Rally Cars at the Rockhampton Showgrounds - where a young 18-year-old Elaine Richards, "Miss Rockhampton" for the upcoming Central Queensland Spastic League Charity Queen Quest, and her good friend Dot Fitzgerald, were selling tickets in a car raffle - was the start of their romance.
Dot's boyfriend Neville Pfaff encouraged his mate, 21-year-old old Eric Watson to invite Elaine to the upcoming Military Ball at the Archer Street Depot, making September 1955 a date to remember. Elaine remarks, "we came from different backgrounds but somehow it seemed to work for this quiet, caring young gentleman and a very active singer and stage performer". Balls were the highlight of the social scene in the 50s and 60s with the Post Office, Railway and Military Balls "must attend events".
Their engagement was announced at the 1957 Post Office Ball and Eric & Elaine were married on Monday 2nd May, 1960 (Labour Day) with a 9am Nuptial Mass at St Vincent's Catholic Church, Wandal. Attendants were Judy Waters, Margaret Clarke, Pam Cockerill, Guy Watson and Nev Pfaff.
Eric's working life started as a 13-year-old message boy at Emery and Connors, Drapers in East Street. Part-time study in accountancy led to an administration position with Walter Reid & Co, followed by 33 years as credit officer at Byrne/Chippendale Motors and 10 years as night manager at the Regency Motel on Albert Street. A long working life - retiring in 2000.
Before their marriage, Elaine was a teleprinter operator and reception clerk for Ansett/A.N.A. Airlines and Waltons (clerk), and also spent much of her spare time in theatre and vocal performances, until becoming a full-time mum. Eric and Elaine were blessed with four children Kathleen, Paul, Annette and David. In 1985 Elaine returned to the workforce as librarian/book hire co-ordinator at Marian/St Stanislaus - Emmaus Colleges, retiring in 2000 also.
Thus began a very busy period in their lives as the children grew older, and Eric's commitment to the Army Reserve became more involved. Promotion to WO2 saw him regularly travelling to Townsville on alternate weekends, as an instructor with the "11th Training Group - Officer Cadet Unit".
Eric served for 32 years with the 42nd (RQR) Australian Infantry Battalion.
In retirement he retained his military involvement as secretary of the 42nd Infantry Battalion Association, retiring from the position in 2018.
He is still an active member of the St Vincent de Paul Society in Rockhampton.
Elaine's love of performing prevailed. She returned to the Rockhampton Musical Union Choir playing Sr Margaretta in "Sound of Music" - the first Musical to be performed in the new Pilbeam Theatre in 1979, closely followed by her favourite role as "Bloody Mary" in South Pacific. Her vocal studies gained her many awards as Champion of Champions and State Contralto Champion at local and state eisteddfods.
Her association with the R.M.U. Choir as performer, assistant conductor, director, president and life member, have brought her numerous rewards and lasting memories. Directing, "Les Miserables" in the Pilbeam Theatre in 1993-1995 and the Inaugural Mayoress "Carols by Candlelight" at the Music Bowl in the early 90s were events she will always cherish. Daughters Kathleen and Annette were also performers in eisteddfods and R.M.U. shows. Health reasons saw Elaine finally resign from the R.M.U. in 2018 after 49 years active membership.
Now in 2020 as Eric and Elaine look back on their 65 years together, they reminisce on the numerous world events, both good and bad, which have occurred and how fortunate they have been throughout. They still reside in their North Rockhampton home which they built in 1965.
They have a loving family which they are very proud of, all of whom have achieved much in their respective careers. Their partners and nine beautiful grandchildren, who are all cherished dearly, complete their family unit.
Knowing how much family get-togethers mean to Eric and Elaine, the family had organised some quality time together in the Montville region over the "Labour Day" weekend.
But, this has had to be postponed to a "future date". In the meantime, they are keeping up with family via recently acquired "modern technology".