65 years of working it out
Betty and Les Atkinson know all about hard work; they’ve been married for 65 years.
They have four children, six grand children, 16 great grandchildren and one great-great grandchild.
They live in Oxford, where Betty grew up. They met in Christchurch and lived there while they worked and raised their family then moved back to Oxford when they retired in 1990.
The couple said their’s wasn’t much of an interesting tale, until they sat down and thought about it a while.
‘‘I suppose we have had quite a few adventures, haven’t we Les?’’
Betty and Les celebrate their birthdays one week apart. Betty turned 82 in July and Les 85, then one month later in August – last week – they celebrated 65 years of marriage.
‘‘I was 17 when we got married. I had only just turned 17, Les was 20. We’ve just always got on really,’’ Betty said.
Les has his own version of events.
‘‘You know what I tell people? She got me in a garage sale.’’
Betty said he’s always been a tease – that’s one of the things she loves about him.
Les’ journey to new Zealand began as a youngster. He grew up in County Durham before he literally ran away to sea.
‘‘My Mum was putting me down the pits, I hated that. I went out one night to get a paper and and jumped aboard a ship and sailed off.’’
Les spent a number of years at sea, before finally working on the wharf at Lyttleton. He was working on the ferry when the Wahine sunk.
‘‘I said to Betty then, ‘that will be the end of my job’, and it was.’’
Les said with only one ship, The Maori, operating out of Lyttleton Port after the Wahine sunk, they had too many staff and had to lay people off. He then started working as a tele-clerk at the wharf and was there until he retired.
Betty also worked hard, ironing and sewing while the kids were at school.
‘‘When we got married we only had two and six in the bank, it was tough, very tough. But we worked hard and I still remember the amount of pride we had when we bought our first house,’’ Betty said.
Since the couple retired they have travelled the world four times. A favourite place is the Greek Islands, another the Nile in Egypt.
They have family living all over the world and beam with pride when they talk about their children and grandchildren.
The couple lost two daughters as babies, a complication due to the Rhesus factor.
‘‘Nothing could be more difficult then that, but we got through it, ‘‘ Les said.
The couple believe there isn’t a secret to a long and happy marriage, just communication.
‘‘Just listen to each other. We have a rule – one person talks and the other shuts up, then it’s the other person’s turn. Then we stir it all together and find a happy medium.
‘‘We’ve had a ball, the two of us. I wouldn’t change my life for a ransom. We are lucky to have found each other so young and lucky to still be together,’’ Betty said.
Betty and Les Atkinson celebrate 65 years of marriage