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Fun bet turns fairytale romance for Shirley and Allen

Wednesday, Sep 12, 2018

What started out as a dare amongst friends ended up being a life changing moment for 17-year-old Shirley Close from Crystal Brook.

“I was going on holidays and we used to have to travel on the bus from Crystal Brook to Merriton to catch the train,” recalled Shirley.

“The girls in my office said ‘bet you’re not game to sit by that fella’ so I did – and it has been going on ever since.”

The ‘fella’ was 23-year-old Allen Hurst and, this week, they are celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary.

Allen knew there was ‘something special’ about Shirley the first time he saw her and started their conversation on the bus with a comment about the weather.

“The first thing he said to me was ‘lovely day after the rain’,” said Shirley.

“It had poured the day before…it just didn’t let up all day and then this day was beautiful.”

In a fortunate twist of fate, the train was an hour late to Merriton which gave Shirley and Allen more time to get to know one another.

“When we got to Adelaide Railway Station…Allen said to me ‘will you get my ticket out of my top pocket?’” said Shirley.

“I turned around and my sister was sitting there with her eyes agog thinking ‘who is this man my little sister is talking to?’ – and it was Allen.”

The pair arranged to meet at a dance in Crystal Brook a few weeks later and ‘more or less took it for granted’ that they would marry.

“It was a matter of my mum letting us get engaged,” said Shirley.

“She said ‘you can get engaged but you can’t get married for two years’ but we did break her down to 18 months.”

Proposing to Shirley was easy for Allen.

“I was young in those days – I didn’t have any nerves!”

The pair married in the Crystal Brook Methodist Church on 11 September 1948.

“It was very exciting,” said Shirley.

“Mum made the bouquets and we had the reception at her home and all the relatives were there – it was lovely.”

After 70 years of marriage, Shirley attributes their relationship success to ‘thoughtfulness and sharing’ and not going to bed on an argument.

“We can’t say we haven’t have arguments – it wouldn’t be truthful,” said Allen.

“But whatever we’ve had, we’ve been able to sort it out before we went to bed.

“I think it’s a perfect relationship and there’s give and take between both of us.”

Shirley, 89, and Allen, 95, said their proudest achievement as husband and wife has been raising their three children; Barry, Des and Robyn.

“I feel they’ve done very well for themselves – all of them – and they’ve got lovely partners and families,” said Shirley.

Eldest son Barry said watching Shirley and Allen’s relationship is like ‘witnessing the perfect team’.

“Dad’s always been a community-minded person…Dad would never have achieved what he’d achieved if Mum hadn’t been supportive of him in all that,” said Barry.

“Dad’s got an Order of Australia Medal but really it ought to have both names on it.

“The tolerance, love and respect that Mum and Dad have shown each other has rubbed off on us I think – it’s the perfect recipe for a long marriage.”

Marion Mayor Kris Hanna made a surprise visit to Shirley and Allen at Eldercare Allambi, where they now live, to celebrate their platinum anniversary.

“I’ve been to a few 100th birthdays but it’s not very often you get a 70th wedding anniversary,” said Mayor Hanna.

“It was a pure delight to meet Allen and Shirley…they’re a lovely couple and you can see how much in love they are with one another – it’s beautiful.”

Allen and Shirley’s three children, four grandchildren and five great children from Adelaide and Melbourne will come together to celebrate their anniversary this Sunday.