Bob and Myrtle Wilson take to the dance floor as the band plays True Love, the Cole Porter song made famous by Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly in the musical High Society, the year before. It’s a Saturday night in Cape Town, April 27. The year is 1957.
It will be many years still before that day in April becomes part of South African history, but for Bob and and Myrtle, it will always be a special one – it’s the day they got married at St George’s Cathedral before holding their reception at the Embassy Ballroom in Mowbray.
After 60 years of marriage, the Wilsons are still together and still in love, although their faces these days are a little more lined than the smooth countenances of the bride and groom cutting their wedding cake and raising glasses of champagne in the hand-coloured black and white photos of their wedding album, which Bob now pages through in their Sunningdale home.
Myrtle celebrated her 81st birthday last week, but she talks about her and Bob’s first date as if it happened yesterday, and she laughs as she remembers her disastrous order.
“Oh I remember the meal. I ordered chicken aspic, but I didn’t know what it was. I never ate out at restaurants.”
When the gelatinous blob arrived, she sent it back and ordered something else.
Asked if he recalls their meal, Bob’s eyebrows shoot up. “Remember it? I had to pay for it!”
Bob and Myrtle started dating at sweet 16, but as pupils at the same Green Point school they knew each other before that.
Bob lived in Dorp Street and Myrtle lived in Zonnebloem. One evening on her way home from a dance with friends she met her mother and Bob half way.
“They had both attended the same party,” says Myrtle. A true gentleman, Bob had escorted Myrtle’s mother home, and it was that evening that Myrtle caught Bob’s eye.
“I asked her mother if I could take her out,” says Bob.
After marrying, the couple moved to Newlands and had their first daughter, Allison. Later they moved to Kenwyn, where they lived for 17 years and completed their family with Glynda, Trevor and Gavin.
Then, in 1981, tragedy struck: Myrtle was driving Trevor back to the navy base in South West Africa, when they were involved in a car accident 10km outside Rehoboth. Trevor suffered a head injury and was left a paraplegic.
This experience encouraged the couple to open a Headway House in Summer Greens, in 1994, for people with brain injuries. Bob served as the chairman and Myrtle was house mother.
“We made many sacrifices for that house, but we really enjoyed it. We want to thank everyone and especially those in the northern suburbs who supported the Headway House,” says Myrtle.
“She got an award for service at the house,” says Bob, and he disappears for a few seconds, returning with the glass-framed award Myrtle received from the Milnerton Lion’s Club.
Trevor died in 2006 and a few years ago the couple lost Allison to cancer.
“I’m okay with it. As long as they are with God I’m satisfied,” says Myrtle.
Their granddaughter, Genevive Detering, has been listening to her grandparents talk about their lives and she says they’re an inspiration to others.
“They give us youngsters hope that soul mates and true love are out there and that it’s all possible,” she says.
Bob believes “togetherness” is the key to a successful marriage while Myrtle says it’s all about sacrifice. “
You must make sacrifices all the time,” he says.
Tomorrow Bob and Myrtle will celebrate their diamond anniversary aboard the luxury liner Oppie Water sailing to Windhoek. And South Africa will celebrate an anniversary of a different kind.