Today, Thomas Massingham celebrates 70 years of marriage to his childhood sweetheart – notching up a certain win in his battle with handsome American servicemen for her affections.
Thomas and Joyce, both due to turn 90 this year, were inseparable from the age of 10 when they met at school in Harpley, where Thomas used to pass Joyce notes with the answers to tough questions.
Then, just as the pair left education, the Second World War hit and the area flooded with American and Canadian servicemen who were desperate to lure local girls into their arms.
Joyce was working hard making parachute materials at West Newton flax factory and initially her head was turned by the suave foreign servicemen, but it did not take her long to realise where her heart truly lay.
Thomas, who had found work as a farm labourer, said: “One day I was at work and I heard this voice calling my name. It was Joyce and I said ‘what do you want with me?’
“She said ‘I’m not interested in those Americans. I think we should get together and think about getting married’.
“Within two to three months that is what we had decided to do. I told her she’d have to pack up smoking and she never smoked again.”
Joyce was dismayed when she lost her engagement ring while at work in the factory but the couple pressed on with their wedding plans.
Achieving their ambition of a three-tier wedding cake proved a challenge during a time of rations, but they got there thanks to donations from friends and family from their 2oz per week of lard and fruit smuggled out of a Cambridgeshire Army camp.
Joyce wore a borrowed dress for the ceremony at Harpley Church where they were married by the Rev Beck, who refunded their licence fee when he realised his camera was faulty and he could not take the photos he had promised. The couple ended up having no pictures on the day and had to dress in their finery again to get one the following weekend.
During the war, Thomas served in the Observer Corps and Home Guard and it was thanks to him that the final two German aircraft to enter UK airspace were shot down.
The couple had three sons and three daughters. The eldest of their children, Carol, will be 68 this year and the youngest, Andrew, is 54. They also have 18 grandchildren and more than 20 great grandchildren.
They raised their family on Thomas’s 7p a week wage, but still made them a wonderful home, according to daughter Glenda Calton, 58.
She said: “There was always a hot meal, a roaring fire and a lovely snuggly bed. Mum always fights through adversity and makes good out of bad.”
Later in life Thomas left farming for a career in retail and sales and ended his working life as manager at Eastern Electricity in Swaffham.
Joyce and Thomas moved to Middleton 59 years ago where they still live in the family home in Walter Howes Crecent.
Thomas does not get out so much these days, but Joyce prepares a hot meal every day and the couple say they are quite content.
Thomas said: “We’ve been married 70 years and we haven’t ever had a real upset. We have little arguments – you’re bound to – like if I put too many chips on her plate.
“The only time she got really annoyed was when I suggested we ought to have twins before we finished our family!”
Joyce said:“The problem today is people think marriage is all high days and holidays. Our secret has been that he has always done as I have told him!”