How a meat workers’ strike led to 65 years of marriage for Betty and Joseph McCall, of Harold Park

Joseph and Betty McCall (middle) with daughter Mary Larner and her husband John Larner (left) and gr

Joseph and Betty McCall (middle) with daughter Mary Larner and her husband John Larner (left) and grandson Mark Nagle and partner Emma Ward (right) - Credit: Archant

If it hadn’t been for the meat workers’ strike, Betty and Joseph would never have met.

Betty and Joseph McCall's wedding day at St Michael's Church, Gidea Park

Betty and Joseph McCall's wedding day at St Michael's Church, Gidea Park - Credit: Archant

A little over 65 years ago, RAF man Joseph McCall – who was based in Wittering – was drafted down to Hornchurch to help distribute rations.

Joseph and Betty McCall (middle) with daughter Mary Larner and her husband John Larner (left) and gr

Joseph and Betty McCall (middle) with daughter Mary Larner and her husband John Larner (left) and grandson Mark Nagle and partner Emma Ward (right) - Credit: Archant

While there, he crossed paths – one evening on a dancefloor – with a young woman called Betty.

Yesterday, the couple celebrated their blue sapphire wedding anniversary.

“We met at the Elm Park Assembly Rooms,” said Betty, 85, of Ingreway, Harold Park. “They’d brought all these airmen down and I went to a dance.

“In those days you used to stand at the back until somebody would come up and pick you as a partner.

“We had a dance together and then he saw me to the bus stop. We arranged to meet again and it went from there.”

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Years later, after his RAF service, Joseph worked as a milkman. His float bore the number seven – gaining him the nickname “Lucky Joe”.

That evening, he earned his future moniker.

Because the meat strike wasn’t the only thing that brought the pair together – if it hadn’t been for Joseph’s persistent friend, he’d never have gone to the dance in the first place.

“This chap knocked on my door and said: ‘Have you got a spare collar?’” remembered Joseph, 92.

“He asked what I was doing that evening, and I said I didn’t go out.

“He said: ‘Come to the Elm Park Hotel’, so I did.”

Joseph’s first impression of his future bride? “I thought she was charming,” he said.

He must have been smitten - because he popped the question after just two weeks, attracting the opprobrium of Betty’s father.

When, four months later, he asked rather more seriously, the former Heath Park Girls’ School pupil said yes, and the pair were married at St Michael’s Church in Gidea Park.

Their meeting may have been pure chance, but both attest to the hard work that has gone into keeping the marriage successful.

“We’ve had ups and downs but it’s been a lovely time to be with Betty,” said Joseph.. “And whenever she cooks, her meals are 10 out of 10.”

The couple, along with their African grey parrot Sam, celebrated the special day with friends and family at home – and the Recorder dropped by to capture the moment.