She was 16, walking home from school.
He was almost 21, standing on the side of a Revelstoke road talking to a friend.
“I’ll walk you home,” he said as she passed by.
He did just that, and Cathy and Ernie Baynes have been together ever since. On Sept. 2, they will celebrate 72 years of marriage.
“I never thought about it, but it worked,” said Ernie about his attraction to Cathy.
Laughter erupts when the couple are asked how they courted, declaring in unison that “it was a long time ago.”
“I don’t know, he was the only one,” Cathy said of her interest in Ernie. “The others were turned off by my English accent.”
Born in Winnipeg her family lived in Woolston, England for a time during the Second World War. She and her sister slept in a shelter at night and went to school during the day, always ready to rush home when the air raid sirens sounded.
Her family returned to Canada in 1948 and moved to Revelstoke when Cathy’s dad got a job with Canadian Pacific Railway.
Ernie, B.C.- born and raised, worked for the CPR, then a sawmill in Revelstoke until the business went broke. He later worked as a millwright for Blomquist Brothers, a Malakwa logging outfit. He retired from that job but returned to the company as a night watchman.
When the Revelstoke business failed, there was no money, but Ernie got a truck full of lumber, which was shipped to Malakwa where he built a family home close to the local school.
“My uncle gave us an acre and we built a three-bedroom house,” he said, pointing out that Cathy was very involved with the construction. “In them days you did it or you didn’t have it; if the roof leaked, you’d get your ass up there and fix it.”
The couple lived in Sicamous during initial construction and moved into their new home when it was half built.
“It was a few years before we had most of it done,” said Ernie, pointing out it was home to him, Cathy and their five children.
“We lived in that house for many years, then moved two miles down by Yard Creek,” he recalled. “We bought 37 acres all covered with timber, built the road into the property and slowly built the new house.”
The notion of parties, picnics and other outings during this time is again greeted by laughter.
“Most of the time we were busy with everything and there were so many mosquitoes, they’d pack you away,” declared Ernie, pointing Cathy maintained only flower gardens because the mosquitoes were so prolific vegetable gardens were out of the question.
Clearly humour has been part of the glue that has bonded the couple over time. Laughter swells again as each of them respond to a question about the secret to their 72-year marriage.
“I have no idea, I guess you just get used to it,” said Ernie, noting money was often ‘mighty scarce.’ “If there is a problem, you just have to fix it.”
“Could be we tolerate each other,” added Cathy, giggling.
When the last of the children left the family home, Ernie made a deal with his workplace. He worked through one full year without holidays. The following year, the couple rented an old camper and drove across Canada, right to Newfoundland.
“The next year they wanted me to do the same thing,” he laughed. “Maybe that’s because they got rid of me for four weeks.”
The couple agree many memories have dimmed over time. Now 94 and 88 respectively, Ernie and Cathy reside at The Lodge in Sicamous. Their children have scattered across the province, with two of their sons living in the Caribou, one in Chase and another son in Revelstoke. Their only daughter lives near Salmon Arm.
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