Post Memories: 60 years of happy Dagenham marriage
PUBLISHED: 09:00 05 September 2015
Six decades ago, when Winston Churchill was retiring as prime minister, the Cold War was heating up and James Dean’s Rebel Without a Cause was delighting cinemagoers, two couples in Dagenham were being married in a very special church.
Those unions, as strong today as ever, will be renewed on Sunday in celebration of St Mary’s Church, in Valence Wood Road, Becontree, which is about to turn 80.
For John and Pam Brook, of Humphries Close, the ceremony is a fitting tribute to their love.
“I met Pam when I was 15 and three quarters – she was my senior at Barclays in Mile End,” the 80-year-old said. “I had to do everything she told me to – and I’ve been doing that for 64 years.”
Though they were soon quite taken with each other, it was years before they were given permission to tie the knot.
“In those days the age of consent for marriage was 21, and my parents thought I should only paddle my own canoe then – so we were forced to wait a while,” he said.
While Pam, 82, enjoyed a successful career as a teacher – including at Leys Primary School, in Leys Avenue – John worked at Firestone Tires, though only after an exciting two years in the RAF.
“I was deployed to a nuclear bunker in Kelverdon Hatch for National Service – it was all very top secret. Now it’s a museum – it even has a public car park,” he said.
“I also helped plot the air traffic for the Queen’s coronation in 1953 – we made a ‘purple corridor’ so no other planes could fly overhead.”
For Ron and Josie Harrington, of Rosemary Gardens, the church has always been at the centre of their lives.
“We are very pleased and excited to renew our vows – we are doing it to celebrate the church,” Ron said.
“Our shared faith has been central to our marriage.”
But it wasn’t in St Mary’s the young Christians met – even though their first encounter may have appeared pre-ordained.
“We met when I finished my National Service. I had wanted to try ballroom dancing, so I went to some classes,” the 82-year-old said.
“At the first one, I saw her across the room and thought she was very attractive. I asked her to dance, then asked to walk her home – and a few years later we married.”
Josie, 80, worked for the Inland Revenue before their two children arrived, while Ron spent 41 years at chemical firm May & Baker.
Vicar Julie Fleming, 58, is also renewing her vows with husband Paul, 55, after 34 years married.
“I’m very excited the older guys can celebrate their marriages and the church’s roots while also looking to embrace and build the future,” she said.
If you would like to renew your vows at St Mary’s Church on Sunday, call 0208 5922822
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