Les and Nan Cowling were married at Church of England Coffs Harbour on 18 August 1962. Their reception was held at the CofE Hall in McLean Street and catered by the CofE Ladies Catering Group, with afternoon tea for about 80 guests. Les and Nan celebrate their Golden Wedding Anniversary this month. Nan shares their story with us.
How did you and Les first meet?
Les became a family friend in 1955 while he was employed by Midco Butcheries on their relieving staff, travelling from Kempsey to Maclean to (work in) their shops. He finally moved to Kitch Willis’ Butchery, that was formerly Midco Coffs Harbour, in 1958.
Was it love at first sight, or did you strike up a friendship which then developed into something special?
Les was in and out of our home for many years before we fell in love in 1959, and it continued on until we married.
Do you remember your first date? Tell us about it.
We grew into this relationship over a long time. However, attending the pictures at the Tasma Theatre was a regular feature. Parking in High Street and chatting with all the locals on a Saturday afternoon, when all the shops except the cafés were closed. Body surfing at the Jetty beach every afternoon after work for nine months of the year was another regular date.
Things were a lot different back then. No need to lock your car or your home. We even left the keys in the car!
Were you living on the Coffs Coast when you started dating?
Yes. Coffs has been our home for over 60 years. With such a marvellous climate, why would you ever want to live anywhere else?
In August you and Les celebrate your Golden Wedding Anniversary. Congratulations! Can you take us back to the day Les proposed?
Who said Les proposed? He is a Libran and they do not like making decisions – so I asked him! It was May, and Les had taken me to Sydney to find work. He was heading back to Coffs. How could I let such a wonderful man leave my life? So as the saying goes, the rest is history.
And what about the wedding day? Was it a big affair?
The dress was flock nylon with long sleeves, multiple tucks at the waist tying into a huge bow at the back. The wedding cake was made by the bride’s mother and iced by Meg King.
It was a beautiful day. Les was a great one for playing jokes, so we knew we were going to cop the works as far as the car was concerned. They did not disappoint. They smeared Vaseline all over the car and then rubbed confetti into it – even the windscreen and windows. What a mess!
So we drove very slowly out to Korora Bay Road and pulled off the highway to clean the windscreen. When we tried to start off again, we realised the handbrake had locked on. So we turned around and limped back to Coffs and gatecrashed the after party fun at the Hoey Moey.
Only for the pranksters messing up our car, we would not have been back in Coffs on the Sunday morning when we received news that our offer on the Coffs Squash Centre had been accepted, so our married life started at 31 Park Avenue. Wages were very low back then, so we started life with 2 borrowed single beds and a card table to eat off. We made do with second hand furniture, until two years into our marriage we bought a brand new twin tub washing machine on time payment. Up until then, all washing had been done by hand.
That summer was a particularly wet one, and all the visitors to the squash courts were hiring towels @ 1/- each. This meant lots of washing, and Les got blisters from wringing them out … hence the necessity for a washing machine. No laundrettes in those days.
And 50 years on, you’re still happily married. What will you be doing to celebrate this milestone?
We are repeating the reception of yesteryear in the same hall at the same time with the same food. It will take the form of an open house from 2 to 4pm, with an afternoon tea at 3pm. The only difference is that it will be a bring your own plate affair. That way, it doesn’t matter if 20 or 200 turn up. We will have lots of photos and Powerpoint presentations to renew memories of years gone by. Everyone is welcome, but definitely no gifts are allowed.
This is a celebration of new and old friendships. Grahame and Janice Watt share our anniversary and will be 56 years married on that day and will be with us in helping us celebrate. Grahame was the winner of the Bush Poet Laureate award at the Tamworth Country Festival in 2012. He is going to write a poem for this occasion.
Finally, what’s your secret to the success and longevity of marriage?
We both had similar interests but different passions and allowed each other to pursue our own passions. We were both heavily involved with tennis, squash and cricket. Les loved his fishing and horse racing, while I delved into family and local history and Coffs causes like Brelsford Park, the show ground and the Open Spaces campaign. We both supported one another on all issues.
Les could always see the funny side of any point and that has always helped to keep the peace – especially when I take things very seriously. Even when I suggested that I would like to stand for the upcoming Council elections, he didn’t put up any barriers in my way and said he would support me all the way. We have had a wonderful life together and are looking forward to the Diamond Anniversary.
Thank you Nan, and congratulations!
This story was published in issue 23 of the Coffs Coast Focus