Love? Actually, they’ve been married 80 years
WHEN HELEN and Maurice Kaye married at the old Borough Synagogue in south London, Britain was in the grip of the Depression, Edward Prince of Wales was beginning his dalliance with Wallis Simpson and Oswald Mosley was filling arenas with supporters of his British Union of Fascists.
Eighty years on, their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren gathered at the couple’s Bournemouth home to celebrate a remarkable marital milestone.
Talk to the Kayes and you would be forgiven for thinking that they are very much younger. They dart around their living room although Mrs Kaye, 101, reluctantly uses a walker. Her husband, 102, complains about no longer being allowed to drive his beloved Mercedes, at the insistence of their two surviving children.
Those joining the anniversary celebrations included members of the local Chabad shul, in which Mr Kaye has been a prime mover. Barely a Shabbat goes by without him davening there and partaking of the lavish kiddush.
The Kayes have led a reasonably prosperous life, at one time having five ladieswear shops in the Bournemouth area. But there has been tragedy, too. Two children died, one, Anthony, a boy of four, who suffered a misdiagnosed burst appendix.
“They said he had measles. I was so brokenhearted, I tried to commit suicide,” Mr Kaye recalled. A daughter, Lesley, died in her 30s in 1991 of an inoperable brain tumour.
Photos of the two hang in the hallway of their flat.
When they met, Maurice Kaye was a travelling salesman for his father’s women’s clothing business and 17-yearold Helen was serving behind the counter at her mother’s shop. “We could actually be celebrating our 84th anniversary now,” she said. “But I had an older sister and my mother wouldn’t let me be the first to marry.
“What I liked about him was that he had a car,” she recalled.
“Yes,” said Mr Kaye. “A red Morris Oxford. I had just bought it. I was sat behind the wheel, told by the salesman how to move the gear stick and blow the horn and in five minutes I was driving it away. No test. Didn’t have them in those days. I’ve never taken a test in my life.”
He volunteered for the Army — “I wanted to show that Jews needed to
‘What I liked about him was that he had a car’
do their bit” — becoming a physical training instructor, which might partly explain his longevity. He didn’t stay in the post for long. He got into a fight with a soldier who made an antisemitic remark, practically blinding him.
He also took part in the anti-Mosley Battle of Cable Street.
“People said I looked like Mosley,” he said. “I had a little moustache and even wore a black shirt with a rolled collar. But just because I liked it.”
The luckiest thing that happened to him during his Army service was when the Luftwaffe bombed their south London house. He was sent home on compassionate leave at the time of D-Day. He missed being shipped to Normandy as part of a unit that was totally wiped out.
They moved to B o u r n e mouth, which they both love, and where Mr Kaye built up his empire.
“I was the toughest businessman,” he said. They also loved travelling, and
‘It would be nice to be young but I don’t want to go back in time’
particularly cruises, until a couple of years back. But those days are over. “Oh, I couldn’t fly any more,” Mrs Kaye confided. “And the airports are terrible.”
“I don’t see the problem,” her husband countered. “They give us wheelchairs, we are taken to the planes and are quite comfortable when we get on them.”
What years they have to look back on. “It would be nice to be young but I don’t want to go back in time,” Mrs Kaye said.
Long-term relationship: Maurice and Helen Kaye are celebrating a rare wedding anniversary