Les Vincent met Esma Woodhouse at one of the popular monthly dances held in little Maxwell hall during the 1940s.

The two celebrated their 70 years of marriage with family and friends at their Marton home on Saturday. They received congratulatory cards from the Queen and from New Zealand's Prime Minister and Governor-General.

Aged 91 and 90, they are both in good health, although Les has lost his eyesight. Esma can still get into her wedding dress.

At the age of 18 she was living in Maxwell on the night of the dance. She was supposed to go home with her dad - and not with a young man - and she got a hiding for it.


Les was from Waitotara, and worked as a shepherd on the Parsons' farm. The two were engaged for 18 months before marrying at Christ Church in Whanganui on July 3, 1948.

Their wedding breakfast was in an upstairs restaurant in Victoria Ave, Esma remembers. It was just after World War II, and coupons were needed for everything.

"No matter what you wanted, you had to have a coupon. You got four gallons of petrol a month for a car," Les said.

For the first three years of their married life Les drove graders for the Ministry of Works and they lived in a caravan towed behind a grader wherever he was working. Cooking was on a wood stove and the tiny house had firewood stacked at one end and a water tank at the other.

"The boss would call and we would hitch the caravan on and away we would go. They used to call us the gypsies," Esma said.

They saved lots of money and moved to a little house in Taihape, where their first child Kevin was born. Then, one day while Les was working on a deviation at Ohingaiti, the Rangitikei County Council engineer offered him a job.

They moved to a council house in Marton's Russell St in 1954, and their second child Betty was born there. Les oversaw 30 to 50 men working on roads, bridges and buildings. He was often out at all hours repairing slips.

"I have never had a bad accident or lost a man on the job," he said.


One day he returned saying he had been given some trees, and that he would use them to build their own house.

They bought a former nursery section in Tutaenui Rd. For a whole year they poured concrete every weekend while their brick house was being built. They moved in 1969, Les said, and still live there.

Esma was an avid gardener and filled the front yard with roses. There was a huge vege patch at the back. Les built a launch, the Sea Fair, and they had holidays in the Marlborough Sounds.

When the children got older Esma's reputation as a cook got her a job in a Marton bakery. She worked there for 15 years.

"She was known for her savouries - sausage rolls and potato-tops," Les said.

He retired at 60, and the two travelled all over New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific Islands. They went to the United States, where son Kevin lives, many times, and to Europe and Hawaii.


Les has written a memoir about his working life, The Long Winding Road.

He attributes their good life together to "tolerance, and working things out'.