The secret to 68 years of happy marriage
James Paynter has bad knees and he blames it on his wife, Marie. He wore them out when they were courting back in the 1950s, pedalling from his home in St George’s to visit her in Sandys.
“I’d hit damp patches around by Warwick Pond or going over the Causeway and it was really cold,” the 90-year-old said.
“I burnt out the bike too. As I was riding I’d think ‘I better marry this girl’.”
But the sacrifice of the odd knee cap was worth it because the Fort Lane, St George’s couple celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary on Friday.
The couple credit faith in God and a whole lot of patience for keeping them together for so long.
They first met at a Salvation Army youth group meeting at White Hill, Sandys, when she was 15 and he was 17.
“But he thought I was too young to talk to,” said Mrs Paynter, 88.
She thinks the saddle shoes and socks she wore in those days made her seem younger.
But they met up again two years later at another youth group meeting and started dating.
At the time, Mrs Paynter was living with a young Salvation Army officer couple, because her mother, Mildred Barstowe Doers, had died four years before.
“The husband was very strict, and also funny,” Mrs Paynter said. “At some point in the evening he’d say, ‘OK James, it’s time for you to go home’. Then he’d say, ‘And when you kiss her good night, make sure it’s in the light’.”
But six months into the Paynter’s courtship, Mrs Paynter’s foster family received orders from the Salvation Army to move to Canada.
“They didn’t want to leave me without anyone,” Mrs Paynter said. “So they put it to us, did we want to get married then? So we decided that we would get married. We were pretty young so we took a chance.”
They were both very innocent when they first wed.
“I was his first and last girlfriend,” Mrs Paynter said. “It was the same for me. I had guys coming after me, but I used to run away from them.”
“With parents as strict as ours, you better be innocent,” Mr Paynter joked.
Neither of them knew how to cook.
“My parents, Solomon and Lydia Paynter, had nine children,” Mr Paynter said.
“I was the seventh. I had seven sisters and one brother. My father was a stonecutter. Sometimes we had to wait weeks until someone finished their house before my father got paid. So we had to learn to make do, by fishing and so forth.”
So in the early days of their marriage he turned to that skill again. They ate a lot of fried fish.
For a few years he worked as a gardener on American millionaire Vincent Astor’s Ferry Reach estate.
“They had this tennis court and I remember seeing Shirley Temple and Bing Crosby playing on it,” Mr Paynter said.
Later, Mr Paynter and his wife found jobs at Esso Bermuda in St George’s. Mr Paynter drove an oil truck for the company for 41 years and Mrs Paynter did cleaning work and other tasks.
Mr Paynter retired in 1992 and Mrs Paynter retired the next year although she continued to work part time for a while.
They spent several years living in Ferry Reach, near where Mr Paynter grew up.
There were no lights in the area in those days so they would walk home in pitch black, often through patches of trees. Sometimes they would be carrying large bags of ice to put in the ice chest. They had no refrigerator.
“Everybody who lived down there would walk home together,” Mr Paynter remembered.
The Paynters developed a mutual love for music.
“We’d sing around the house,” Mrs Paynter said.
“He taught me how to sing. He’s the real singer and has sung in church and even overseas. He plays the guitar and the organ and used to play the trombone in the Salvation Army band. His favourite song is His eye is on the sparrow.” Her favourite is God bless the day I found you.
In their younger days they enjoyed playing host to their friends.
“People would come over to sing and play music,” she said.
“I’d cook. My son used to say our place was a restaurant, because I was always feeding people.”
The Paynters have never argued much. And when they did, they would make a point of doing it in private.
But mostly, after almost seven decades together, they find each other amusing.
“He’s very funny,” she said. “He always has something to say.”
Mr Paynter likes to tease her about her “parrot toes” which point inward.
Their advice to couples just starting out is: listen to each other.
“If you really love someone you listen to their viewpoint,” Mrs Paynter said.
“And you have to have a forgiving spirit. I would say they should go to church and get a picture of what love is.
“Christ portrays his love and he forgives us and that is what we have to do. Forgive each other and work with each other.”
On their anniversary, they enjoyed a nice dinner with their family.
They have three children, Steven and Maxwell Paynter and Patrice Lynch, eight grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.