Byron Barker is a suit and tie kind of guy.
It’s readily apparent as he greets me at the door while wife of nearly 65 years Beth takes my jacket.
Perhaps his penchant for ties is part of what makes him a popular cashier at Monterey Recreation. It’s an endearing facet of his character, but not the one that drew them together many years ago.
“I saw her walk by the door of the commons room at UVic,” Byron said. “I pursued her.”
“Then I pursued him,” Beth laughs. “I never saw anybody after him. He was a lot of fun you know.”
Saturday they’ll celebrate Valentine’s with dinner at the Fireside Grill, where Byron swears the “best chef in town” works.
“The food is so good and I know what I’m eating,” Beth says.
They figure the getting ready for a night out should fill the day. It’ll harken back to their early days of dating and marriage. They didn’t have a lot of cash and spent time walking and talking. When they were flush, they headed for nightclubs, for example one on View Street, where they lived for a time, stands out.
“We loved to dance. Loved swing music, we still do of course. We went to every jazz festival here, Dixieland jazz. We loved jitterbugging.”
They’ve danced their way through 65 years of marriage come Sept. 23 and feel keeping a marriage, and a happy one at that, requires only the basics.
“Respect. Respect for your mate’s wishes. We just love each other very much,” Beth says. “You have to have strong feelings to keep a marriage. I love going down the street with Byron’s hand in mine. That’ll always be there.”
“We have common interests,” Byron adds.
The couple married on Sept. 23, 1950 when Beth was 23 and Byron 22, with one false start where she didn’t show up for a civil ceremony.
“I kicked myself for not going down there,” Beth says. “Once you’ve decided you’re getting married, you’re getting married.”
They agree today, that in hindsight, the second chance was more the wedding the couple sought.They wound up with a small service performed by a pastor friend and reception put on by the pastor and his wife the second go-round.
“Our spending money was $20 Byron’s dad gave us,” Beth laughs.
“We went to a nightclub outside of Port Alberni with my brother and his girlfriend,” Byron recalls.
They’ve since spent five decades living in or near Oak Bay but “sort of went around in a circle,” Beth says, travelling the Island from Cumberland to Tofino and back to Sooke, where Byron taught. He retired from Central junior (now middle school).
When he had a stroke more than a decade ago, a daughter decided Byron needed some activities in his life. The family discovered Monterey Recreation Centre. “Six months later he was vice-president,” Beth recalls. He also served as president of the computer club. Between them they attend exercise class, belong to the singalong group, Note-ables, and the garden club.
Byron served as president of the seniors association and for the last dozen years he’s worked as a volunteer at the Fern Cafe, where he is to this day a cashier.
“I enjoy it – the people,” Byron says.
“All the ladies love him,” interjects Beth, who also volunteers at the cafe.
Fun seems to seep into most everything this couple does, even offering sage advice to the young.
“Young people, they go into a marriage expecting too much,” Beth says. “Until the end of time the wife is going to have to give a little.”