Getting married young has many disadvantages but, with some luck, you can survive the early years and come through smiling.
Dave and I married when he was twenty and I nineteen. At the time Dave was serving an apprenticeship that started at fifteen and ended when he turned twenty one. This meant that for the first twelve months of our marriage, he was earning apprentice wages, which were a pittance. His take home pay was just over two pounds per week, around three dollars. This was 1964 and money went much further but, an average wage was about five times that amount, so things were very tight.
We had got married in a bit of a hurry as I was pregnant, in fact Dave’s mom had rushed me up the aisle so fast, my feet didn’t touch the floor! My mother lived in the USA with a cousin and, when receiving the news of my condition, she sent me one hundred pounds and washed her hands of me. She didn’t speak or write to me until the baby was born, then she relented and sent baby clothes. The money was wonderful and gave us a deposit for a modest home and Dave’s mother took over the nuptials. She was a very loving woman and had taken me under her wing when we first met, however, she insisted we have a church wedding, no civil ceremony for us. She also insisted on a blue dress, which was the custom if you were not “pure”. Being young and frightened, Dave and I did what we were told.
My mother’s attitude was upsetting but the money gave us a start in life by making it possible to buy our first home. The feeling of closing our own front door on the rest of the world was wonderful and we felt we could face anything the future held.
Within several weeks I had to stop work as I had a few health problems so money was extremely tight. I learned how to make meals out of very little except vegetables. One pound of ground beef would last us all week in various casseroles, with eggs or cheese filling the days in between. Sundays was always roast beef and Yorkshire puddings at Dave’s parent’s home, and that was something we looked forward to.
The next door neighbour gave me an old treadle sewing machine and I loved it. It led to so much creativity. Our Lancashire town had cotton mills and each mill ran a small store on one day each week. Here you could buy seconds of towels or sheeting and one mill made candlewick bedspreads. This was a strong cotton backing with synthetic yarn sewn in rows across it. The threads would then be machine cut and the yarn would pop up in little tufts. This fabric was sold in a bleached, white state and was perfect for dying.
A similarly hard up friend, who had also had a rushed wedding, and I used to haunt these stores and buy remnants. We used to make a big dye bath on top of the stove, with a huge enamel pot and here we experimented with different dyes, pink’s blue and yellow also mixtures of the colours. Dyes cost just a few pennies and made such a difference to the fabric so we really enjoyed creating something out of nothing. We made pram and crib covers for our babies, also matching curtains for the babies’ rooms. We then experimented with sheeting which not only made bedding but curtains for the rest of the home and dresses for my daughters. Small dresses were so easy to make with the pastel dyed sheeting and trimmed with a little lace or fancy buttons. The towelling we made into baby towels and bibs, all similarly dyed. We got so good at doing this that we took a weekly stall on the local market and sold the articles we sewed, we also knitted baby sweaters. The money we earned helped out with the budget and gave us a sense of self worth.
I really believe that starting from nothing and working your way up is one of the best feelings in the world. Dave and I have worked hard all of our married life and have enjoyed making each home into the very best we can achieve with sweat equity. This also applies to yard work. There is nothing more satisfying than sitting back and looking at something you have created with very little money but a lot of hard work. It is good for the soul.