Accidental beginnings

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A smack in the face isn’t usually grounds for a budding relationship but for George and Bernice Beckwith it was the beginning of a long-lasting love affair.
The couple celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary on Wednesday February 19 in Alexandra.
They met in Dunedin while working for hardware company J. A. Wilkinson Ltd.

Mr Beckwith started at the company as a messenger in 1943 when he was just 14, and Mrs Beckwith (nee Zimmerman) joined the firm five years later in 1948 as an office junior when she was 15.
Their relationship began in a less-than-romantic way, Mr Beckwith said.

‘‘There were big high ceilings in those days, and I was putting in a new fluorescent tube.
‘‘Bernice was holding the ladder for me and my screwdriver slipped out of my hand and gave her a black eye,’’ he said.
The boss had given him tickets to take Bernice to the police ball, ‘‘so I took her to the ball with a black eye’’. Mrs Beckwith said despite this, the pair hit it off . ‘‘That was the first time we went out,’’ she said.

They continued to work together until they got married in 1955 at St Mary’s Catholic church, in Dunedin.
Mrs Beckwith had a second-hand wedding dress that was altered to fit.
‘‘My mother worked for H.G. Syme cake shop in Dunedin, and I had a second­hand dress that was altered to suit me from the boss’s daughter.’’

The married couple shifted to Alexandra in 1965, when Mr Beckwith was tasked with setting up a branch of Fletcher Merchants, which later became Placemakers.
They had four children, three girls and a boy, and now they have nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren ‘‘with two more on the way’’, she said.

The secret to their long marriage? ‘‘He is very easy to live with,’’ Mrs Beckwith said.
‘‘We just tick over.’’
Mr Beckwith said there was no point in arguing. ‘‘The way I look at it, you look back 12 months and you’ll forget what it was about, so what’s the point of arguing?’’
The couple have received a message of congratulations from the Queen.
The considerable collection of Beckwith family members will gather for a celebration at the Alexandra District Club on Saturday.