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Australia’s oldest couple celebrate 80 years of marriage

Michael Owen, October 15, 2018 7:00PM The Australian

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The happy couple: Esther Collings and her husband Ronald . Picture: Emma Brasier media_cameraThe happy couple: Esther Collings and her husband Ronald . Picture: Emma Brasier

humanities

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Australia’s oldest living couple celebrate their 80th wedding anniversary this week.

Esther Collings, who turned 102 in March, met her husband, Ronald, who turned 103 in April, in Adelaide, South Australia in the 1930s.

In June last year, they were named Australia’s oldest couple by The Australian Book Of Records.

Ronald and Esther Collings, aged 103 and 102, celebrate their 80th wedding anniversary on October 19. media_cameraRonald and Esther Collings, aged 103 and 102, celebrate their 80th wedding anniversary on October 19.

As a teenager, Mr Collings worked as a chocolate boy at a now-closed Adelaide cinema called the Ozone Enfield. The two often met up there when they were first friends. Chocolate boys walked around selling treats to moviegoers at their seats.

They were married at nearby St Cuthbert’s Church in Prospect, South Australia on October 19, 1938, and have been inseparable* since.

This short beach video was made in 1938 and shows the fashions of the time

The couple both live in an aged-care home at Goolwa, South Australia.

Mr Collings, who likes to joke, said their 80th wedding anniversary meant one thing: “It means we’ve been married for a very long time.”

He said the key to enjoying a long marriage was supporting one another and providing space to follow your own interests.

Mr Collings, the youngest of six children, was a travelling salesman for an Adelaide souvenir company.

Mrs Collings, born in Broken Hill, NSW, was a dressmaker who made her own wedding gown as well as her bridesmaids’ outfits.

Ronald and Esther Collings on their wedding day on October 19, 1938. media_cameraRonald and Esther Collings on their wedding day on October 19, 1938.

She worked at Myer in the children’s department, as a dressmaker, yoga teacher and spent 15 years working as a volunteer for the disabled.

They have two sons and a late* daughter, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, ­scattered across Australia and overseas.

They began their married life in Adelaide and later moved to Melbourne and Sydney, and then back to Adelaide before Mr Collings retired in 1980.

The couple’s eldest son, Ron Collings, said his parents had been supportive* of each other for all of their adult lives.

His wife, Lynne, said her parents-in-law* spend time together every day but always found time for their own interests, which for Mr Collings was supporting Australian rules football clubs North Adelaide and the Sydney Swans, and watching cricket, while his wife enjoyed yoga and Indian mysticism*.

To celebrate their 90th birthdays, they went hot-air ballooning.

Mrs Collings said marriage, like life, was “about compromise*”.

“These days people are too quick to throw in the towel* … like most people we’ve had our ups and downs,” she said.

Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II) and her parents, Queen Elizabeth, King George VI, and sister Princess Margaret Rose wave from the balcony of Buckingham Palace August 15, 1945 on VJ Day in London, UK, the day World War II ended. Picture: Getty Images media_cameraPrincess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II) and her parents, Queen Elizabeth, King George VI, and sister Princess Margaret Rose wave from the balcony of Buckingham Palace August 15, 1945 on VJ Day in London, UK, the day World War II ended. Picture: Getty Images

WHAT WAS THE WORLD LIKE IN 1938?

  • The Collings were married on October 19, 1938.
  • Australia’s population in 1938 was just under 7 million people.
  • George VI was the King. He was Queen Elizabeth II’s father.
  • The first television design was patented*.
  • The character of Superman first appeared, in DC Comics’ Action Comic #1.
The June 1938 issue of Action Comics, the first to feature the character Superman. You can see him lifting up a car at top right. Picture: AP media_cameraThe June 1938 issue of Action Comics, the first to feature the character Superman. You can see him lifting up a car at top right. Picture: AP
  • Bugs Bunny, the cartoon character, made his debut in a cartoon called “Porky’s Hare Hunt”.
  • A direct radio-telephone call was made between Canberra and Washington DC, US.
  • Toothbrushes made with an amazing new man-made product called Nylon were launched.
  • The first seeing-eye dog began work.
  • The Wizard of Oz film, starring Judy Garland as Dorothy, was being filmed.
Dorothy (Judy Garland) meets the good witch in The Wizard of Oz. media_cameraDorothy (Judy Garland) meets the good witch in The Wizard of Oz.
  • Buick cars featured an electronic turn signal (we call them indicators or blinkers). Before this, drivers held their arm out the window to show they were going to turn, or held out a stick with a hand shape attached to the end.
  • Adolf Hitler was Time magazine’s “Man of the Year” for 1938, took control as leader of Germany and made many laws discriminating* against Jews.
  • There were a lot of small wars and fighting going on around the world. September 1, 1939 is the official beginning of World War II.

EXTRA READING

Snapshot of Australian history

Dorothy’s ruby slippers safe

Aussie soldiers’ bravery awards

GLOSSARY

  • inseparable: can’t be or don’t want to be separated
  • late: no longer living
  • supportive: providing help or encouragement
  • parents-in-law: parents of your husband or wife
  • mysticism: spiritual beliefs
  • compromise: give and take to agree
  • throw in the towel: give up
  • patented: register an invention so no one can steal it
  • discriminated: treat someone differently because of race, religion, gender or age

LISTEN TO TODAY’S STORY

QUICK QUIZ

  1. What was a chocolate boy?
  2. What did Mr Collings joke that their 80th anniversary means?
  3. When did Mr Collings retire? How many years ago is that?
  4. What two popular characters first appeared in 1938?
  5. What is the official date of the start of World War II?

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES

1. Then and now

Think about all of the ways life has changed since the Collings were married in 1938. Create a table with the headings “Then” and “Now” and record 5 facts about life then and a corresponding fact about life now.

Here’s an example: Then – The first television was only just being patented, people did not have televisions in their homes. Now – Most Australian homes have a television (some homes have multiple televisions), there is a huge range of channels and programs to watch and we can even watch shows on other devices like tablets and smartphones.

2. Extension: Do you think you would have enjoyed life back in 1938? What do you think would have been better about that time? What do you think would have been more difficult? Why?

Write a detailed response.

Time: Allow 30 minutes
Curriculum links: English, History

VCOP ACTIVITY

After reading the article, with a partner, highlight as many pieces of punctuation as you can find in green. Discuss how these are being used, where and how often. What level of the punctuation pyramid is the journalist using in this article?

HAVE YOUR SAY: Imagine you could go back to 1938 for one day. What would you like to see and where in the world would you go? Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No one-word answers.

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