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When Gordon and Sylvia fell in love it really did begin with their eyes meeting across a crowded room. They met on the packed Empress Ballroom dance floor, which was the place to be in those days.

Sylvia was one of the “Marks (Marks & Spencer) Girls” who couldn’t wait for the Winter Gardens' dance nights every Wednesday and Saturday in the late 1950s.

"They were good times," she said. "The Marks girls were lovely - a few of us are still in touch now - and the male staff went as well. They had all the big bands, there was Charlie Barlow and during the summer they had Ted Heath and Joe Loss - and we did all the ballroom dances…the Foxtrot, the Waltz…

"I’ve been at the Winter Gardens when you could only just move your head, the floor used to be jam-packed. We went twice a week, and to the Palace on other nights. There were dos in the Spanish Hall too, I went to a 21st there.

"It was marvellous. Best part of my life that, with all the girls at Marks.”

Sylvia moved to Blackpool from Oldham with her family the night she left school at 15. She got a job in a rock factory before settling at Marks, working in the office and on the switchboard and shop floor. Gordon was an electrician and lived in Poulton, working for the English Electric Board and attending Blackpool Technical College, where Marks sent Sylvia for a typing course. When Sylvia saw Gordon at the Winter Gardens, she remembered having seen him around at college.

Gordon described how, for him, Sylvia stood out from all the other girls: “She always had a nice hairdo, a nice dress and lipstick. And she didn’t smoke.”

Sylvia smiled: “Yes I used to have quite a bouffant hairdo. He asked me to dance a few times and then we started going out properly.”

“We used to go ice skating and we went on scooter holidays down South. We liked a bit of adventure,” Sylvia declared. “But we had to stay in different hotels because we weren’t married.”

Not that Gordon hadn’t asked for Sylvia's hand in marriage several times already. “Quite early on he proposed to me, it was me that wanted to wait. He was getting fed up of asking after a while, so I thought I’d better say yes!” she laughed.

So after a three-year courtship they married at St Paul’s Church in October 1961 and became Mr and Mrs Stamper. They had a son, Andrew, in 1963, with sister Carol arriving in 1965.

More than 60 years later at the age of 81 they’re still happily married and celebrating their 58th wedding anniversary this October.

The happy couple at Sylvia's 80th birthday bash

Looking back nostalgically on their dating days Sylvia said: “I think we had a much nicer time courting then. They said, “Would you like to go for a drink?" And a drink meant a cup of tea. There was a tea bar opposite the Winter Gardens we used to go to. From the Empress Ballroom there are some steps down to an alcove and you’d meet somebody there. It was the best meeting place. You’d say, “Where are you going to meet?" and they’d say, “In the alcove”. We went to an Open Day at the Winter Gardens last year and we couldn't believe we had difficulty getting up those steps!"

Sylvia added wistfully: “We had a dance on the dance floor while we were there. We had many happy days at the Winter Gardens, the best of our lives. If I could bring back that time I would.”


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