IF THERE is a short-cut to happiness, Len and Shirley Shaw of Maryborough found it when they met at a dance more than half a century ago.
One dance – the Twilight Waltz – was all it took to set the scene for 60 years of marriage that produced three daughters, 15 grandchildren and by the end of this year, 18 great-grandchildren.
Len and Shirley were married at St Paul’s Church of England (now Anglican Church) in Maryborough on June 16, 1956.
Celebrating their diamond wedding anniversary at B & B On Sunrise in Tinana on June 18, the couple agreed their secret to a long marriage was simply to “be happy”.
“We don’t have any arguments,” Len said. “If it looks like there’s an argument brewing, I go down to the dam and come back an hour later.”
Shirley (nee Birt) said: “I watch The Bold and the Beautiful on TV. He hates that so I watch it and he goes outside.”
Their recipe for compatibility works for them.
“It’s been easy sailing,” Shirley said. “We’ve had ordinary life, nothing special really. We’ve only been on one trip, a Fairstar cruise. Otherwise, we’ve just worked and raised the kids.”
However, the glint in Len’s eyes and Shirley’s cheeky smile suggests their story is anything but ordinary.
“Len had an AJS motorbike that we often rode to Hervey Bay,” Shirley continues.
“In those days you never wore a helmet. We were coming home from Gympie one night and we were just outside Tiaro.
“I’m on the back asleep on his shoulder and we woke to the sound of gravel scratching the bike as we were headed for the bush.
“Luckily we woke up in time. We were both asleep with no helmets on and we survived.”
Len, a typical Aussie larrikin, was sacked from his first job at Reid’s Bacon Factory after an altercation with his boss.
“It end up that he had a rowing team and he wanted another man so I rowed in his crew. There was no animosity,” he said.
Len grew up in Maryborough’s flood area of the Pocket, the son of a blacksmith whose shop was located opposite the Carlton Hotel on the east side of Bazaar Street.
“I used to ride a horse to drive the cows down every morning before school and bring them back past Reid’s Bacon Factory in the afternoon to do the milking.
“One day the boss’s son pulled me up and asked if I wanted a job. I was only 13 so my old man rang the headmaster to see if I could leave school.”
Len laughs: “The headmaster said ‘For Christ sake, take him the hell out of here!'”
That was the first of many jobs from the bacon factory to sugar and meat factories, driving trucks and owning a bread run. He was even Hervey Bay’s first Mr Whippy!
“I was Mr Whippy when it first came to town,” Len said. “I had the Hervey Bay run and I’d pull up and there’d be kids coming from everywhere.
“I also sold insurance for three months but hated it – if you couldn’t eat it I didn’t want to sell it!”
Len said: “We were never rich with money but we felt rich having such a beautiful family.”
Most of them were among the 50 people who gathered to celebrate Len and Shirley’s special milestone.