Advertising moguls wouldn’t likely select Jim and Pat Melville of Hedley as their Valentines Day poster couple. After the bumps and
bruises that come with almost 45 years of marriage and raising 2 children, the Melvilles don’t have the sleek, unrealistic fashion magazine figures. They don’t exude the “over the top” glamour advertisers thrive on. For me their life partnership provides convincing evidence that stability and faithfulness in a relationship is more rewarding than the Larry King model of multiple failed marriages. I was interested in meeting with them because they are so thoroughly untouched by the hype and values of the advertising gurus.
They grew up in a time when money was scarce. Recalling the day in 1960 when he went to a car lot, Jim said, “I told the salesman I liked the1949 Pontiac they had, but I could pay only three hundred dollars. He said he’d talk to the manager. A few minutes later he came back. The manager had approved my offer.” The first time he went to put in gas, he couldn’t find the gas cap. After hunting for some time, he found it behind one of the tail lights.
For Jim, meeting Pat must have been “love at first sight.” He still remembers the day and the precise time. “I was working at what is now the Weyerhauser Mill in Princeton,” he said. “Some friends came to give me and a co-worker a ride home. They brought Pat along. It was 6 pm on October 24th, 1969.” For him the timing was fortuitous. His father had been deceased for 13 years, and he had lost his mother 3 weeks ago. Pat was a ray of sunshine. The following weekend he took her to a movie in Oroville.
They had similar interests and values, and their relationship flourished rapidly. It may surprise younger readers that Jim asked Pat’s parents for “her hand in marriage.” At that time there was greater respect for societal values and institutions, including marriage. Her father liked him and jokingly said, “if you want her, take her.”
“We asked Reverend Derek Salter to marry us,” Jim said. “He took marriage pretty seriously. We had to go to his home and tell him about ourselves and why we wanted to get married. I don’t remember what we told him.”
Apparently the Reverend was satisfied with their responses. He performed the ceremony in Hedley’s United Church (now Hedley Grace Church) on March 28, 1970.
Pat and Jim share a lengthy history in Hedley. Her family arrived in 1951 and her father operated the tram that moved ore, supplies and people between the Nickel Plate mine, high on the mountain, and the town. “I attended school here,“ she said. “So did our children and grandchildren.”
Jim arrived somewhat later than Pat. He is one quarter native and related to the well known Allison family. “My mom was half aboriginal,” he said. “My dad was Irish.”
Initially they rented. When they applied to rent a house owned by the Credit Union, the manager said, “Why rent? You should buy it. There is a grant available.” They accepted his advice and it is their home to this day.
“There were large families living in small houses then,” Pat said. “People didn’t have much money to do things. We attended community events. There were dances at the Moose Hall and a big Robbie Burns celebration each year. Also Boxing Day and New Years dances. Groups of ladies met for coffee in their homes. Expectations weren’t as high as now.”
It has taken love, a sense of humour and commitment to get to where they are now. “If we didn’t agree about something,” Pat said, “we talked about it. We always worked through the problems.”
When our coffee cups were empty and they were ready to leave, it occurred to me that throughout our conversation, their voices had been gentle and respectful toward each other. At a time when 30 day Hollywood unions no longer surprise us, the Melville’s life long partnership is inspiring and well worth observing. Happy Valentines Jim and Pat!