Ernest and Elizabeth Manasse from Plumstead celebrated 60 years of marriage last week.
They are both 83 years old, both grew up in Steenberg and they were born a day apart.
“He’s a day older than me,” says Elizabeth. “My son always says, ‘Mommy, you two were a match made in heaven.’
“Like any marriage, there’s ups and there’s downs, but I must say the Lord has been good to us.”
Ernest met Elizabeth through her older brother, who he happened to be friends with growing up.
They both attended primary schools in Retreat, and one day, when they were walking back from school, Ernest’s friend decided to make a move for him.
“She got off the train at the station and walked in front of us,” recalls Ernest. “My friend, John, said to her, ‘Listen to what Ernie has to say, Elizabeth. He says you two have the same initials and you were almost born on the same day.”
Ernest says that was how their flame started and they continued to “make eyes” and tease each other throughout primary school and high school.
The couple both matriculated at South Peninsula High School and went on to study teaching.
Elizabeth had a very strict mother, so courting her was challenging, says Ernest.
“My mother used to say, ‘I don’t make young women for the street. You must work,’” says Elizabeth.
Her father, a musician who played the trumpet, was more soft-hearted. He was fond of Ernest who was popular for being in the church choir and brass band.
After they qualified as teachers in the 1950s, both Ernest and Elizabeth went to work in factories for a year because there was a shortage of jobs.
Ernest then got a teaching post in Port Elizabeth, and Elizabeth got a teaching job in Retreat, Cape Town.
He recalls a time when he sent a telegram to her wishing her a happy birthday while he was in PE.
“My pastor delivered the telegram to her. He would always tease her when he saw her in town. He’d say, ‘Happy birthday, darling,’ just like I said in the telegram,” chuckles Ernest.
When Ernest returned to Cape Town, he and Elizabeth continued dating but at church gatherings, bazaars and prayer meetings because Elizabeth’s mother was so strict.
“I also used to go watch his rugby games. My parents didn’t know,” Elizabeth giggles.
In 1960, Ernest went down on his knees at the Wynberg train station to propose to the love of his life.
The couple got married at the Wynberg Magistrate’s Court on a beautiful sunny day on Friday March 18 1960 and had two intimate family celebrations afterwards.
“I wore a blue dress because it’s my favourite colour. I love blue because the sky and sea are blue,” says Elizabeth.
It was tradition at the time for the groom to gift the bride with a bedroom suite.
“My pocket money was 10 shillings a month. I went to a furniture place in Woodstock with her. She said I like this one, and I bought it for a deposit of 10 shillings. The whole bed suite was R1,” says Ernest.
After the wedding, they lived in their first home in a separate entrance in Retreat.
“We were poor; we had nothing, but it was the best first 10 years of our lives. The people in our community were also very poor but also very supportive and kind,” says Elizabeth.
She recalls how during apartheid the law forced women of colour to resign from their jobs when they married or fell pregnant.
“The Boere saw us as ‘dinges’ (things) back then. They made you resign because there was a break in service,” she says.
They had their first son in 1960 and four other sons thereafter.
Elizabeth continued teaching at various schools as did Ernest. He became the founding principal of Hillwood Primary in
“As a teacher and principal, I always treated children like they were my own. It’s important for parents who send children to schools to know that respect starts at home,” he says.
The couple retired in the 1990s and are now kept busy by their nine grandchildren who frequently visit.
Elizabeth says the power of silence has been her secret for a successful marriage and teaching career.
“If you are quiet, you achieve more, especially when there’s chaos. With my classes, when they were being rowdy, I would stand in front of the class, look at them, just stand still then they would be quiet. I did same thing at home, when I can see my husband wants to be the man, I keep quiet, I let him have his moment. You know men are very stubborn, then after few days, I reason with him, and everything’s fine.”