Love, laughs and a large Thai elephant
CHARMING is one way to describe the love story between Charles and Helene Greenhalgh.
Listening to them talk about their marriage, which reached its 50-year milestone yesterday, it's obvious they have had a lot of fun, some sad times, laughs and adventures.
There's the tale of the giant elephant, a box full of love letters, a bamboo cottage built in Papua New Guinea, a miracle baby and Mr Greenhalgh dying and later being revived in Germany.
Mrs Greenhalgh wasn't sure anyone would be interested in how they first met but Mr Greenhalgh was keen to tell the story.
It was the late 1960s and Mr Greenhalgh, a self-declared Pommie, was on a break from work and staying at Stones Hotel in Ulverstone, Tasmania.
He was 25 and had travelled the world. She was 22 and working in a bank, being transferred between various branches.
Their first meeting was in the hotel corridor - he thought she was a maid - and again at the breakfast table, where she was sitting with Mr Greenhalgh's friend, who had travelled to Ulverstone with him.
She was on her way to church and he tagged along.
"She was the most beautiful girl," Mr Greenhalgh said.
He returned to his work site at Savage River Mine but was later fired for being distracted. Mr Greenhalgh had been thinking about "that girl" he met on holidays when he forgot to unload his truck before driving back to the site for another load. His supervisor wasn't impressed and sacked him.
"A few hours later the next shift came on but they went on strike," he said.
"They said you can't sack a man for being in love."
Mr Greenhalgh was reinstated but he knew he had to go and find "that girl" again.
He did, arriving with red roses in hand. She cancelled her other date and their relationship began.
With no money to start a marriage, Mr Greenhalgh took a job on the railway, and the young couple began writing letters to each other, one for every day of the week.
"The railway was thirsty work so at the end of the day we would go to the pub for a drink," Mr Greenhalgh said.
"They would hand out letters. Some boys got none but I had one every day."
Years later Mrs Greenhalgh learnt that instead of writing to her daily, her husband would dedicate his Sunday to writing seven letters and then post one each day.
They saved their money and purchased a car and caravan.
Mr and Mrs Greenhalgh were married on October 25, 1969, in St Francis Xavier Catholic Church, Melbourne.
Mrs Greenhalgh said her dress had long sleeves, chiffon, a ruffle around the neck and rows of tucks on the skirt. She wore her hair down because that's how Mr Greenhalgh liked it.
"The dress is still in the cupboard," she said.
They later lived in Papua New Guinea where they built a bamboo cottage on the edge of the jungle.
Over the years the Greenhalghs have made Townsville, Bowen and finally Mackay their home.
In 1974 their daughter, Michelle, was born. Their family has since grown to include, son-in-law Tony and two granddaughters, Caitlin Rose and Ashlin Lily.
Mrs Greenhalgh puts the success of their marriage down to love and compromise.
"I found a good one and I really do believe there was a grand plan," she said.
Mr Greenhalgh said they were lucky to reach the 50-year mark after he 'died' in Germany in 1999.
The couple had been attending the wedding of a friend's daughter when Mr Greenhalgh had a cardiac episode. He was revived through CPR but had to stay in Germany for two months before being able to come home.
Mr Greenhalgh said he wanted to thank the people of Bowen who sent him cards and flowers during that time. The incident meant he couldn't return to his former workplace and thus retired.
A lover of golf, he enjoys the game and has three holes in one to his credit.
Mrs Greenhalgh enjoys reading and spending time with her family.
The couple recently sold their home and will relocate to Carlyle Gardens next month. They just need to work out how to transfer Ellie, Mr Greenhalgh's giant half-tonne teak elephant acquired during his bachelor days.
Mr Greenhalgh grew up in England and knew he wanted to travel. At 16, he hitchhiked with friends to Europe and explored several countries before hitching a ride back home with a school group.
Travel was still a priority when he finished school at 18 so he knocked back a position offered to him in the family company.
"I wrote back and said I was going to save 100 pounds and hitchhike to Australia," Mr Greenhalgh said.
And he did, He made his way to Australia, found work and travelled around the country before moving on to Asia where he acquired Ellie.
The half tonne elephant was shipped back to England and Mr Greenhalgh later followed, with plans to travel on to Canada.
The adventure was called off when he discovered he had Tuberculosis (TB) a fluke find after he was denied access to a plane because he didn't have a visa. He believes if hadn't been stopped from boarding the plane he could have died from TB.