Big day 65 years ago ‘cost 33 cigarettes’

Charlie & Betty Hill, on their Wedding Day 1942
Charlie & Betty Hill, on their Wedding Day 1942
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SIX-AND-A-HALF decades may have passed since Charlie and Betty Hill’s wedding day - but they can still remember March 6, 1948, like it was yesterday.

“We had 47 guests, 127 litres of beer - and it cost me 33 cigarettes on the black market,” grins Charlie.

Charlie & Betty Hill, celebrate their 65th Wedding Anniversary

Charlie & Betty Hill, celebrate their 65th Wedding Anniversary

“We had a dance band on from three in the afternoon till seven o’clock in the morning. They wanted more cigarettes to carry on playing, so we had to call it a day. It didn’t matter - I was blind drunk by then.

“It was a good do.”

The couple’s celebrations for their blue sapphire 65th wedding anniversary were more sedate last weekend with daughter Aileen, 64, grandson Andrew, 38, and great-grandchildren Jaydon, six, and Erin, three, and a minibreak to Wales - but just as memorable.

“Spending time with your family and grandchildren –that’s what life is all about,” said Betty.

The couple met in 1946 in the ‘steel city’ of Essen in the Ruhr Valley, Germany.

Betty was a German girl working as an usherette in the local picture house, and Sheffield-born Charlie was a veteran soldier of D-Day waiting to be demobbed after World War II.

“We could barely understand each other,” said Charlie, now 87.

“I spoke to her in pidgin German but it wasn’t much use - I managed to get her age wrong. I asked her if she was 21, and she said she was. She was actually 25. I found out the truth just before we got married.”

Betty, now 91, was just as bewildered by the man who would become her husband - when she first saw Charlie he was wearing ‘a skirt’.

“He was in the Gordon Highlanders regiment, which wore kilts, and my girlfriends in the cinema were saying, ‘Have you seen, there’s an English soldier here with a skirt on, showing his hairy legs’! We had never seen that in our lives.”

After a swelteringly hot wedding day, even in March, and weeks living apart while Charlie was demobbed, the couple eventually settled in Sheffield - but for nearly a decade did not have their own home.

Instead they lived with Charlie’s parents and relatives, or rented tiny rooms - a squeeze once daughter Aileen came along nine months in.

“They were very hard years,” said Betty, who got work in a cutlery factory. “But I found the Sheffield people very friendly, so lovely.”
The couple finally got a house on the Gleadless Valley estate when it was newly built in 1958, and have lived in their home on Gaunt Road ever since.

Charlie was employed in the steelworks for 30 years, then spent 10 years with Sheffield Council’s parks department.

They agree the secret to a long marriage is ‘give and take’.

“You have to know when to let an argument go,” said Charlie.

“Even when you know you are right,” said Betty.

She added: “Not many people reach so many years together. But here we are to tell the tale.”

It happened in 1948

* UK Railways are nationalised to form British Railways

* London hosts the summer Olympics

* Sheffield United finish 11th in the First Division, while Rotherham United are second in Division Three North. In Division Two, Sheffield Wednesday, Barnsley and Chesterfield finish 4th, 12th and 16th respectively. Doncaster Rovers are relegated after finishing 21st.