Tomorrow is my mum and dad’s 45th wedding anniversary, and as I’ve previously concentrated on ancestors further back in my family tree, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to tell a more recent story – How My Parents Met.
Wendy Perry was born in Wanstead Hospital in 1955. The family moved from Forest Gate to the East Ham Estate in Brentwood, Essex in the early ’60s. Just a few years later they took part in a council house exchange to a property a mile up the road in Ingrave.
George Ernest Gray was born in 1951 in the East End Maternity Hospital, Stepney; this being the closest maternity hospital to the family home – a flat in Frances Gardens, South Ockendon, Essex. When George was 18 months old, the Gray family moved to a house just a few hundred yards away.
Following his apprenticeship, Dad worked in the New Model Programme Control department, planning office refits at the nearby Ford Motor Company in Arisdale Avenue. In 1974, Mum (who was working as a temp), was posted to the same office in the role of Punch Card Operator.
This is the type of IBM keypunch machine used in the 1960s and 1970s. Operators by the tens of thousands would spend a full shift keypunching orders, time cards and a host of other transactions. https://www.pcmag.com/encyclopedia/term/keypunch-machine
One day, Mum went to buy a cup of tea from the machine, but found she was 5p short. She asked Dad if he would be kind enough to lend her 5p and that was it – the start of the romance. Their first date was at a pub, not far from work. Mum being the modern woman she was, insisted on buying Dad a drink. Expecting him to ask for half a pint of beer or something similar, when he replied with “I’ll have a Bacardi and Coke please.” she was embarrassed to say she couldn’t afford it. We joke that Dad should have realised then that Mum was only after his money!
For two years, their courtship consisted of driving around in Dad’s purple Mini and meeting up with friends. Mum recollects many an afternoon spent in my grandparents’ lounge with a couple of friends called Fid and Diane (Fid was a nickname for Steve, although my dad can’t remember how that nickname came about). Fid and Dad would play their guitars and sing songs – their favourite being The House of The Rising Sun. Dad soon upgraded the purple Mini to a metallic green Cortina with a stereo that played tape cassettes. They would listen to the likes of Bread, Status Quo, Yes, 10CC, Styx, and the Beatles.
There was no romantic proposal. My parents tell me they were looking in a jewellery shop window one day, both spotted rings they rather liked, so decided to buy them.
Wendy Perry and George Ernest Gray were married on 5th March 1977, at St Nicholas’ Church, Ingrave. The Best Man was my uncle Steve (Dad’s brother). As we have such a large family, rather than choosing and upsetting anyone, my parents decided against having any Bridesmaids or Page Boys. They couldn’t afford a honeymoon, but did spend the wedding night at Ye Olde Plough House in Bulphan.
Happy Anniversary Mum and Dad. Here’s to many more happy years ahead.
If you would like to discover how my maternal and paternal grandparents’ love stories began, you can read all about them here. Please feel free to share how your parents or grandparents met in the comment box below.