Love is in the air at Meadowhall this year as Valentine’s looms, but rather than look to the younger generations for inspiration, the centre has uncovered a wealth of romance under its own roof!
For over 20 years now, Meadowhall has been a Monday morning destination for hundreds of regulars to its ever-popular tea dance.
Many attendees have been going since day one, couples and good friends finding the time (amid children, grandchildren and great grandchildren) to head down each week to chat, dance and gossip the morning away.
With some couples celebrating golden, diamond and even longer marriages together, Meadowhall uncovered some touching love stories that would rival any Mills & Boon.
Anne and Dennis Booker, both aged 86, were just 16 when they met in 1946 at a dance in Sheffield, after being introduced by Dennis’ brother who was courting Anne’s friend.
The pair went on a few dates in the years that followed but it wasn’t until Dennis returned from National Service in 1950 that they rekindled their love and became a couple.
Recalling their wedding day on August 23, 1952, Dennis said: “It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining for us”.
As he waited at St Christopher’s church in Shiregreen, the car carrying his bride-to-be drove straight past – “I’d forgotten my bouquet!” protests Anne.
The pair welcomed twin boys Robert and David in 1953, with another son, John, following a decade later.
They now have six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
With partners included, the family stands 21-strong and they’ll all be heading to Blackpool for the couple’s 65th wedding anniversary in August.
“The secret to romance is all give and take” says Anne, “For example, if there’s something I really want to watch on television, Dennis will always let me have that time and space and go into the other room.”
As far as Valentine’s Day goes, the pair say it’s just like every other day, with Dennis adding: “I’ll probably get her a card…”
The pair have been coming to Meadowhall tea dances for more than a decade and have made great friends with other dancers, who they see regularly at the centre.
“The foxtrot is our favourite” said Anne, “We always make sure we’re up and dancing when one comes around!”
Young at heart Don (80) and Silvia Hagin (79) will be celebrating their first Valentine’s as a married couple this year, after tying the knot on a cruise on May 16 last year, just off the coast of Malta.
The couple met through their love of dancing in Sheffield in 2011 and, after a five-year courtship, Silvia broke with tradition to get down on one knee at their home in Aughton and asked Don to marry her – “It was a leap year!” explained Don.
According to Silvia, the secret to romance is: “If you find the right person, you’ve got to go for it!”
Don added: “Don’t think that the romance has to die after the first few months, I still kiss Silvia regularly – I might even pinch her bottom in the lift!”
As for Valentine’s Day?
“Oh yes! I’ll be taking her out somewhere alright…I just haven’t decided where yet – it’s a surprise” said Don.
“And roses! Can’t forget about those.”
For some, Valentine’s is all about spending time with a close friend and having a laugh.
Joyce Hartley, aged 79, and Rita Speight, 84, are both widows who found a friendship for life when they met in their local hairdressers in Wombwell back in the early noughties.
Where romance is concerned, these ladies are absolutely looking for love; “They’ve got to be able to dance and know how to have fun,” said Joyce.
Rita added: “Life is too short to spend time with someone boring – where’s the fun in that?!”
As for Valentine’s? Joyce and Rita want to go “somewhere where there’s lots of folk about and plenty going on,” with Rita adding: “I want to go for dinner at the Hilton in London!
“We love coming here and meeting folks and chatting to new people. Meadowhall is a great place for everyone from all walks of life to come and get involved in dancing.”
Similarly, Maureen Wright, 77, and Beryl Mumford, 81, have been friends for over 40 years, ever since their husbands would go to the pub together and they’d end up chatting the night away.
The pair have since become widows but love nothing more than to get their dancing shoes on and head out for a night on the town.
Their Valentine’s plans usually include a dancing holiday with a Cointreau and lemonade… or two!
Gloria and Brian Studley of Sheffield have been married for 53 years and when asked how they’ve handled all the years of marriage, Gloria replied: “With difficulty!”
She then added that the secret to a long and happy romance is to “work hard at it every single day”.