“You were 18 when we were married,” Emily Smith told her husband Syd from their Turtle Mountain balcony overlooking Vernon’s cityscape.
“I was lying,” he said with a sly smile. “I was only 17.”
Laughter, a good sense of humour and family are the keys to this Vernon couple’s successful 60 years of marriage.
Emily, 79, was born in Vernon and was introduced to Syd through mutual friends and the pair clicked. They were married July 16, 1960, when they were 19 and 18, respectively — not 17.
Syd purchased Emily’s wedding gown and veil from Blocks Apparel — a shop owned by Lydia Block, which stood a few stores down from the old Eaton’s, where Raku Rice and Noodle Bar stands today, according to Vintage Vernon.
“The only reason I did that is because she didn’t have any money,” Syd said with a hearty laugh.
Emily was studying hairdressing at Olga’s in Vernon at the time the two tied the knot.
“We were so young,” Emily said.
The two celebrated their day among family. Emily said they couldn’t afford a big white wedding so they kept it small and intimate.
“The reason our marriage has lasted as long as it has is that it has been all family all the time,” Syd said. “We were never big partygoers or people that had friends over all the time.”
“Unlike now,” he said as the doorbell rings.
Darcy, the Smith’s eldest son who was visiting from Grande Prairie, Alta., answered the door and had to ask two of the Smith’s friends — who happen to celebrate an anniversary the day prior — to try calling again.
Sticking it out through “trials and tribulations,” Emily said is a key component to a successful marriage.
“A lot of our friends said we would only last one year,” she said, noting most of the couples that offered that warning were shortly divorced.
Syd cited an article he had read; “If you want your marriage to last and have a good life, you have to help your wife with the dishes. Well, I can guarantee that guy has never been married 60 years.”
“It would be nice to have a man help with the dishes,” Emily said with a laugh.
“Thank God for dishwashers,” Syd said.
The pair have spent years up north in Fort St. John and around the Peace Country, but Vernon’s warm climate and Emily’s relatives were always a drawing factor that saw the couple return home.
The three Smith sons were raised in Vernon, spending countless hours in the arenas, representing different teams.
“Either the kids were dragging us around town, or we were dragging them around,” Syd recalled.
The snowbirds have spent the past 24 winters in Arizona, but Syd said in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, “You’re not going to catch me there this year.”
Otherwise, the couple said the worldwide pandemic hasn’t changed too much of their routine.
“What are we going to do?” Emily asked. “There’s nothing to do.”
“With this COVID thing, the casino quit and I had to go get another wallet,” Syd joked.
“I was always at the casino,” Emily admitted. “It was the only thing I could do.”
Emily was diagnosed with macular degeneration, a medical condition that affects vision.
Syd said Emily hasn’t been able to do a lot of the things she loved to do because of it, including crosswords.
“She was famous for crosswords,” he said. “She can’t do those anymore.”
Emily said driving isn’t even an option anymore.
“I’m going to buy a Bentley,” Syd said. “Like Driving Miss Daisy.”
As the two celebrate 60 years of marriage — which Syd said is just another number — the Smiths will be surrounded by immediate family and treated to a fishing trip, a great dinner and perhaps a round or two of golf.
“We would like to wish our parents, Syd and Emily Smith, a very special and happy 60th wedding anniversary,” Darcy wrote in a special message from himself, his wife Charlee and brother Todd Smith.