A WELL-known and contented Midhurst couple have celebrated a very special milestone this week, surrounded by their firefighting family and firm friends.
Betty and Dennis Gamblen marked their diamond wedding anniversary with a family meal, a surprise party and have spent time remembering 60 years of happy marriage.
So what is the secret to their long, happy life together?
“Its a bit of give and take,” said Betty,
“Or take and give,” joked Dennis. “We haven’t had any trouble, we’ve just got on with our lives as normal.”
After a few years serving in North Africa with the armed forces, Dennis worked as an agricultural engineer in between call-outs during his 31-year stint in the fire service.
He has been an inspiration to his family, two of whom have followed in his footsteps.
Their son Nigel Gamblen, considered a hero by many in the area after he saved a woman’s life, is a popular fire station manager in Midhurst and his son Matt also looks as though he will have a bright future as a firefighter.
The couple were married in Stedham Parish Church in 1953, six years after first meeting each other.
“We must have had about 50 guests,” said Betty. “And there was a guard of honour with all the axes, and all the firemen Dennis worked with.
“We used to go dancing all the time. We loved dancing, and used to go in a big group.”
Betty has played a big part in Dennis’ working life, despite her own long hours as a lady’s maid to families in the gentry and military.
“She’s always been part of it,” said Dennis. “When you are called out at any time of the day or night, your wife has to be working with you.”
In those days, Betty said, there were no microwaves. “If he wasn’t in for lunch, it would go cold and I would have to start all over again.”
When Dennis was working, a bell used to ring in the village to alert the firefighters. “I used to have to cycle back from seeing Betty to get my gumboots on,” laughed Dennis.
“It’s so different now,” said Nigel. “It’s almost luxury in the fire engines!”
The couple are both keen gardeners and Dennis, who is a skilled carpenter, still enjoys spending time out in the shed.
“He’s made so many lovely things for us,” said Betty. “He’s very skilled. He even made a fire engine out of one piece of wood.”
Dennis and Betty celebrated with all their family at Old Thorns in Liphook last Saturday, and Nigel’s wife Jenny organised a big surprise party for the unwitting pair.
“We’ve been spoilt,” said Betty.
“Everyone has been so generous.”