Is there a secret to staying married for 50 years and beyond? Journalist Emilie Ng spoke to three couples celebrating Golden Anniversaries and more about love and fidelity in good times and in bad.
Losing love letters but not love
OUTSIDERS used to make friends at the Jimboomba Dance.
Morna had just moved to Beaudesert from Winton, the land of Waltzing Matilda and dinosaurs.
The wife of a hotel owner suggested her son, Brian Kassulke, could take Morna to the dance.
“We lived a block away from each other,” Morna said.
“He was mad keen on football; he was a player for Queensland.”
The first time Brian laid eyes on Morna, she was tinkering on the family’s piano.
“She was new in town; I liked the look of her,” Brian said.
Sparks flew that night at the dance, and even if the dancing wasn’t fantastic, their 60 years of marriage have been “pretty good”.
“I wouldn’t be without him for the world,” Morna said.
In 1954 Brian was called up for the first intake of the National Service and they continued to court over handwritten letters.
“He was a good letter writer,” Mrs Kassulke said.
“I kept them for a long time.”
Unfortunately when the pair became parents, the letters fell into the hands of a playful four-year-old boy playing ‘postman’.
“One of our sons, when he was a little boy, posted them all around the neighbourhood,” Morna remembers, laughing.
She’s not sure which neighbours received her love letters and has never seen them since.
The pair eventually married in 1956 at St Mary’s Church, Beaudesert, Morna at 22 and Brian – “a much older man” – at 23.
“We were brave, weren’t we?” Morna said.
Brian said he was the only family member “who married someone from outside the town”.
“It was divine intervention,” he said.
To celebrate their milestone, the pair joined 65 other couples from Brisbane celebrating Golden Anniversaries or beyond at St Stephen’s Cathedral on October 1.
They said there was no real secret to reaching 60 years of marriage.
“We take it one day at a time,” Morna said.
“We’re still working on getting to 61.”
Brian takes a slightly more practical approach.
“Know when to keep your mouth shut,” he said.
“We have always been able to have a good laugh.”
In good times and in bad
BARRY and Marie Boyle picked a touchy date for their wedding 50 years ago.
It was July 16, 1966, but to hardcore rugby league fans like the Boyle’s families, it was called the second Battle of Brisbane, where Australia played England in a bloody Test Match.
It was perhaps one of the “coldest days of the year” when the couple emerged from St Mary’s Church, Ipswich, as husband and wife.
The Boyle’s were co-workers at a stamp duty office in Brisbane.
“One thing led to another and…” Barry, a self-confessed “boyish larrikin” said.
“She was reasonably shy, but when she would say something, she really took us.”
He said their decision to remain committed to their marriage was the key to lasting 50 years.
“Once we decided to get married, it was a commitment.
“There’s a lot of problems in the world because people don’t know what commitment is.
“In the 50s and 60s, we had a different attitude.”
Barry said his wife was the rock of the family.
“It’s only through (Marie) that we’ve lasted this long,” he said.
“She has to be a saint.”
After five children, 13 grandchildren, and 46 good years in the same house, the retired Sandgate parishioners credit their commitment to each other as the success of their marriage.
“There’s no secret,” Marie said.
“It’s a lot of trial and error.
“Yes, it’s been a good 50 years.”
Family makes us stronger
THE highlight in Henry Mason’s 50 years of marriage was the day his mother-in-law accepted him into the family.
She was on her deathbed talking to daughter, Barbara, who against her parent’s desires married Henry in 1966, aged 19.
“I was wrong,” Barbara’s mother said to her daughter.
Henry said it had taken 20 years for the in-laws “to see the good side”.
“Her parents hated my guts, to put it plainly,” he said.
Both believe it was God’s plan that the two meet more than 50 years ago.
In 1939 in Lublin, Poland, Henry’s mother, two sisters, a brother and parents were at Sunday Mass when German soldiers “stormed in”.
They took Henry’s mother and threw her into a labour camp.
A brother who tried to rescue her was shot.
Towards the end of the war, Henry’s mother met an American soldier, and on June 8, 1946, the pair welcomed a son.
The soldier returned to America, and Henry and his mother had planned to move there with him but “for some reason stayed in Poland”.
They never saw him again.
“So I was the bastard son of an American soldier,” Henry said.
“As I often say, life can change on a phone call.”
Or in Henry’s case, life can change on a motorbike.
“I met Barbara on January 3, 1964 at the local dance,” he said.
“I had a motorbike back then, and Paddington was a bit of a rough area.”
Barbara was 16 and had only been in Brisbane for several months, having been born in England and travelling with her parents through Africa and then Armidale.
“When we first came to Brisbane, I rode my bike along Coronation Drive to the library,” she said.
She said Henry had made a good impression on her at the dance.
“He seemed quite nice,” she said.
“Well he asked me out and we went to the movies.”
In March 1966 Henry entered the Australian Air Force and was posted to Amberley base six months later.
They wed on October 15, 1966 at St Ignatius’ Church, Toowong.
“Where has the time gone,” Henry said.
“We’ve had our share of good times and bad times,” Barbara said.
Henry’s life in the Air Force took the couple around the world, living in Melbourne, Sydney, Malaysia, Canberra and eventually back to Brisbane.
“Moving away from family, we’ve always had to rely on each other,” Barbara said.
She said being married into the Church made their marriage stronger.
“Being Catholic, and married into the Catholic Church, you do make vows ‘for better or for worse’, and it does get worse, but it also does get better,” Barbara said.
“The Catholic faith was the motivation to keep me going.”
The Annerley parishioners have seven children, including a 31-year-old daughter with Down Syndrome, Aimee, one of many great blessings in the family.
In 1997, Henry had a car accident and received a compensation pay out.
He used the money to send Aimee and Barbara to Rome where the pair arranged to stand in front of now St John Paul II.
“He gave Aimee a blessing,” Barbara said.
Henry continues to work part time as the owner of a pest-control business.
He said communication and dialogue were key to having a long-lasting marriage.
“But I always get the last words in,” he said.
“They’re, ‘Yes dear’.”
By Emilie Ng