She was just 19. He was barely 23. When they committed to each other on June 26, 1937, they didn’t anticipate that in June of 2012, they would be celebrating a milestone event, their 75th wedding anniversary.
Honoured by greetings from the premier, local politicians and the prime minister, as well as numerous best wishes from family and friends, Ambert and Nelda Brown of Iroquois planned to observe their 75th quietly at home.
That was their original intention anyway.
When I talked with them on June 27, they were catching a few minutes of rest before the next round of visitors and well-wishers arrived.
“The door bell and the phone never stopped ringing all day yesterday (June 26),” explained daughter-in-law Connie Brown. “People kept dropping in and calling non-stop. The celebration has overflowed into today as well with more guests expected for dinner.”
In 75 years together, the Browns have experienced full and rich lives. They have two sons Clare (Catherine) and Ron (Connie), and are the enormously proud grandparents of four, great- grandparents of seven and great-great-grandparents of two.
The couple was married at the end of the Great Depression, lived through World War II and Korea and raised their two sons in an ever-changing world.
I asked them to describe their wedding day.
“We were married at my parents’ (Ernest and Mabel Fader) home up on the Iroquois Point,” Nelda said. The Fader family owned a big Victorian style frame home, with a verandah stretching around it and orchards near by.
In 1937, there were 15 permanent homes, some dating back many years, at the Point. People had summer cottages there as well. The old canal cut through, with ships passing close by. In fact, the Point could only be reached by a swing bridge.
“I had a garden wedding with about 60 guests,” Nelda said. “The tables were all set out right on our lawn. My wedding dress was a very pale pink, net over taffeta: I guess that I had decided that was more appropriate for an outdoor event. I wore a beautiful sun hat and carried an assortment of flowers in my bouquet.”
“It was absolutely the hottest day of the year,” Ambert said. “The butter completely melted on the tables.”
They both laughed as they recalled how Reverend Thomas Knowles, who performed the wedding ceremony, and possessed a very bald head, finally folded an old newspaper into a very distinctive ‘hat’ and wore this all day.
How did the couple meet?
“Well, in those days, I used to put up my horse and buggy at a place in Ventnor, owned by an aunt and uncle,” Ambert said. “She was visiting and I met her then.”
As acquaintance grew into love, the young couple often went to the Iroquois Pavilion on the Point. They were, and still are, very fond of dancing.
“That old Pavilion was simply beautiful,” Nelda said. “The dance floor circled the band (some famous dance bands performed there) and it used to be packed on a summer’s night. It was a very romantic time and place.”
“I’d say a lot of romances began at the Iroquois Point, in the moonlight, at that Pavilion,” Ambert added, smiling.
They married with an income of $16 a week, good money during the Depression. Both recalled the homeless men, young and old, on the roads, fruitlessly searching for work, asking for food at kitchen doors, and sleeping in barns.
Ambert Brown’s first job was at the old Caldwell Mills in Iroquois, but he confessed that he never really liked ‘weaving.’
When the news came that Hitler and the German army were sweeping across Europe, like many Canadians, Ambert went to enlist, but was turned down for medical reasons. Instead, he became a war worker, working 12 hour days seven days a week in Prescott at the Dominion Lighthouse Depot, making depth charges for destroyers, and commuting with other war workers in a Frontenac (“worst car ever made,” Ambert maintains).
After the War, he went to work in Cardinal at Cardinal Motor Sales (also known as Riley’s Garage). He retired after 30 years. The couple did some travelling: “I like to travel,” Nelda said, “but Ambert wasn’t as keen, so we didn’t do a lot.”
What has made their marriage alive and enduring for 75 years?
“Actually that’s easy,” Ambert said as Nelda smiled. “Just love one another.”
Do they have advice for young couples starting out, with 75 years of experience to back them up?
“You’ve got to be even tempered,” Nelda said, “and practice give and take. Also,” she added, laughing, “pray you get good in-laws.”
“Use good judgement and common sense, and share continuous love,” Ambert said. Then he smiled at his wife of 75 years and added, “And always agree with her.”