Today is Valentine’s Day. Men and women will be rushing to flower shops and vendors to buy flowers for their loved ones at the last minute. Restaurants and merchants will also do brisk sales in Valentine’s gifts, such as chocolates, teddy bears and Valentine’s cards.
If Michael Butcher, 89, were to buy a red rose for every year he has been married to his wife, Marguerite Butcher, 86, he would spend a small fortune as the couple has been happily married for 62 years.
The symbol for a 60th wedding anniversary is a diamond, signifying an unconquerable and enduring bond of a couple who have experienced 60 years together and of living life. It is said that the fire in the diamond symbolises the constant flame of love. There is no symbol for a 62-year wedding jubilee, it might as well be a diamond.
The Butchers will be staying in the comfort and safety of their home in Diego Martin today where it will be safest for them in the time of COVID-19, but they will be together enjoying each other’s company. They have two children and two grandchildren.
Butcher has a collection of classic records, some going back to the 1940s. He may put on some music from his favourite musicians, Kitchener, Sparrow and Frank Sinatra and cut a rug (dance) with Marguerite.
Butcher said he had been collecting records even before he was married. Frank Sinatra’s All My Tomorrows was one of his favourites. Besides his Sparrow and Kitchener records, one of his most prized collections is a 1940s transparent record pressed in Trinidad by the Cook Company called Tan Tan.
Sunday Guardian spoke to the couple on their thoughts about Valentine’s and how they met and spent 62 wonderful years and counting together.
Marguerite said “We met at work at the Myerson Company that made dentures in Laventille.
“Michael was already working there, it was my very first and only job. I worked with them like forever. He was a customs clerk and I worked as a production worker, the production manager was Noel Norton.
“When he came to my parents, my mother, Stella Marie nee Moniz Ganteaume, and my dad, Arnold Ganteaume’s house in Belmont, Andy Ganteaume the cricketer was my brother, he had to ask my mother permission to take me out to the cinema, tell her where we were going, what cinema show, and the time he was bringing me home.”
She said there was the Globe, Empire and Deluxe cinemas.
Marguerite said she remembered fondly the New Year’s Eve parties where they dressed up and started from 8 pm and finished at 2 am, which was considered very late in those days.
She said it was a big occasion and was usually held by a friend who had a large house, and everybody tried their darndest to get under the mistletoe when the dance was finished.
Marquerite said they were married at the St Francis RC Church in Belmont on December 11, 1958. Large receptions weren’t too popular at that time and they had a little family gathering at her husband’s parents, Ernest and Hortense Butcher’ house in Woodbrook.
She said Valentine’s wasn’t celebrated that much when they were young, Trinidadians copied foreign trends, but it took up steam and got underway.
When asked what was the secret to their long marriage she said they were always very close and up to today they didn’t keep any secrets from one another.
Marquerite said she and her husband got enough rest, ate “good food”, like vegetables, fruits, meat, fish. Alcohol is for special occasions.
She said Butcher was a better cook than her, experimenting with recipes in their kitchen.
Butcher said he had a 1946 English Standard Eight car that he took Marguerite out in when they went out and on excursions.
He said they had “fairly alright” salaries in the 50s—he earned $12 a week and she earned $65 a month.
He said they were friends for a long time, they worked together at Myerson and their relationship blossomed naturally as 95 per cent of staff were women with only a few men working there.
He said Valentine’s was a big thing, there was more creativity and thought that went into the gift and occasion back then, but now it has become more commercialised.
Butcher remembered riding the last train to San Fernando in 1965. His father Richard Ernest Butcher was an employee of TGR (Trinidad Government Railway).
His advice for young couples: “Come together, better understanding and don’t go to bed with negative thoughts on your mind, sort them out first and have a dialogue.”