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Joan and Keven, 70 years of living in Harman-y

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In 1951, Prime Minister Robert Menzies retained power following the federal election, the Australian Financial Review was first published, South Sydney defeated Manly Warringah 42-12 in the rugby league grand final and Hunter couple Joan and Keven Harman exchanged their wedding vows.

On Wednesday 23 June, the pair will celebrate their 70th anniversary – a major milestone in anyone’s language – with their children, grandchildren and many great grandchildren.

The fairy tale romance began more than seven decades ago… Joan, a Blacksmiths’ girl, was one of a group of young ladies making their debut at the Swansea-Belmont Surf Club’s annual ball; Keven, a Belmont boy and apprentice boilermaker at John Darling Colliery, was loyal to the Caves Beach Surf Club, with family ties going back to foundation members.

They met at the function when Keven and a friend “gate-crashed” the sea of green and gold decorations on their rival organisation’s night of nights, with their maroon Caves Beach blazers standing out like flashing neon lights.

Joan and Keven Harman on their wedding day.

The debutante and the intruder danced the night away.

And, the rest, they say, is history.

With such divided loyalties, the courtship was often tricky, Keven explained.

“But, love prevailed,” he said.

“We were married at Belmont Methodist Church in High Street by Rev Walter Pidgeon.

“Then, after the war, there was a severe housing shortage due to soldiers returning home.

“However, we were immensely lucky to purchase a small half-house made from fibro.

“It was directly across the road from the fledgling Swansea Bowling Club, with the sport becoming a passion of mine for many years.

“The little house became a home – and we welcomed the arrival of our sons Greg and Chris, and daughter Kim, who are now all in their 60s.

“They have fond memories of being free-ranging youngsters, whose trusty push bikes could take them almost anywhere in the world that felt safe, uncluttered and uncomplicated.

“A favourite excursion during the holidays was to Newcastle by train on the old Belmont line, which has transformed to the Fernleigh Track.

“Written in stone was the rule that after that journey you must have a treat of pie, chips and gravy at Winns self-service cafeteria.

“The cherry on top was if you managed to get a table near the window and overlooked the old boat hole and harbour.”

As the family grew, a larger house was required.

Blacksmiths was the chosen location.

It proved to be the right choice as the family loved the beach; and Keven spent all his leisure time either riding or building surfboards.

“They say it takes a village to rear a child,” he said.

“Well, Blacksmiths was the perfect village.”

But, retirement changed everything.

Joan and Keven moved back to Swansea, where they felt truly “local”.

“We’ve enjoyed a long and successful marriage – and have led fulfilling lives,” he said.

“We have truly been blessed.”

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