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Old friends . . . Alan and Lorraine Ritchie, of East Gore, are celebrating 50 years of marriage today.

When Lorraine Wilson hit a brick post while driving her new boyfriend’s car, she thought that was the end of the romance.

However, the spark of love could not be put out that easily, and Lorraine and now husband Alan Ritchie celebrate 50 years of marriage today.

Mr Ritchie said the couple met in 1967 at the dance that was held every Saturday night in East Gore.

Mr Ritchie, who grew up in Gore, was working as a carpenter and Miss Wilson, of Kelso, was teaching in a kindergarten in Invercargill.

The couple “just seemed to click”, Mrs Ritchie said.

“He was happy.

“He had a lovely smile, nice blue eyes.”

It was “natural attraction”, Mr Ritchie said.

“I think you liked the dress that I wore,” Mrs Ritchie said.

“She was always neat,” Mr Ritchie said.

After the dance Mr Ritchie drove his new friend home in his “pride and joy”, a Super Hillman Minx.

The next day he visited and offered to help Mrs Ritchie learn to drive.

The drive went well until they arrived back home.

“We get back to her place and she put her foot on the accelerator instead of the brake,” Mr Ritchie said.

“It was dad’s fault because he was waving me in with a great big sock on a stick,” Mrs Ritchie said.

Mr Ritchie grabbed the steering wheel and pulled it to the left, but the driver’s door still collected the post, denting the door.

“I thought I would never see him again.”

The next Saturday Mr Ritchie turned up, much to Mrs Ritchie’s surprise.

“My mum said ‘There’s that boy’s car coming over the railway crossing’.

”’Mum,’ I said, ‘and I’m not even dressed’.”

Three years later the couple married at the Tapanui Presbyterian Church.

The wedding day was not without funny incidents.

”The minister wasn’t there to to marry us,” Mrs Ritchie said.

“He was working in his garden wearing a pair of shorts.”

The bridal car went around the block to give him time to change.

“I’m sure he got the time wrong.”

Later that evening when they arrived at the hotel in Balclutha, no-one answered the door bell.

“We thought we were going to spend the night in the car.”

The couple went to the police station and met a police officer who had been to school with Mrs Ritchie.

“He got us into the other hotel across the road,” Mrs Ritchie said.

The challenges they had faced during their 50 years together had helped cement a strong bond between them.

“That’s why we stuck together for 50 years know how to solve problems,” Mr Ritchie said.

“Right through we’ve never ever begrudged helping each other out,” Mrs Ritchie said.

Mr Ritchie said “patience and tolerance” were two qualities that were important in a marriage.