Valentines for life

Nathan Liewicki
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Horsemans have danced together for 68 years

Hal and Thelma Horseman jived and jitterbugged their way through their first Valentine’s Day together – more than 70 years ago.

“I’d throw her out and bring her back,” said Hal. “She kept coming back, so I guess she was satisfied.”

At 91 and 90 years old respectively, Hal and Thelma have remained dance enthusiasts long after she first picked him up in her parent’s vehicle in 1939.

“That was the thing to do,” Thelma said. “That’s how everybody met each other – dancing or skating.”

During their courtship days, the couple was often found dancing the night away at Temple Gardens, at the local beach, or skating at the old arena. However, dancing was by far their favourite activity.

“We spent a lot of Valentine’s Days in Palm Springs and we usually ended up going to a dance somewhere,” said Thelma.

Their complimentary dance skills formed a covalent bond between the young sweethearts, and so Hal and Thelma became an item. Pushing 69 years after the couple said, “I do,” they are still together and still in love.

Born and raised in Moose Jaw, both Hal and Thelma were only children. He lived on the south side of the city. She lived on the north side.

They often had to walk lengthy distances in order to meet somewhere.

“We walked across the Fourth Avenue Bridge and believe it or not there were no street cars and no buses,” said Hal. “If you wanted to go somewhere in Moose Jaw you walked.”

After dating for two years, Hal joined the Canadian Navy in 1941, but not before he proposed to Thelma.

“I went down east to train for six months and when I came back I gave her a diamond,” he said. “We got engaged at that point.”

During his two years of service, Hal noted that Thelma would often write to him. Sometimes those letters arrived every other day.

The letters are long gone, but the memory of them still remains.

On July 19, 1945, the couple tied the knot.

Thelma bore two children – a son and a daughter – often raising them by herself, as Hal was busy working and supporting the family. It wasn’t always easy, but she persevered through such marital obstacles.

“He wouldn’t be home for days at a time, and I just did the best I could,” she said.

While Thelma was a homemaker, Hal spent time on the railway and at the local post office. However, when he was home with Thelma and the kids, Hal noted his wife’s other job.

“She looked after me and that was a full-time job in itself,” he said amid laughter.

After their daughter ventured off to Montreal to pursue her post-secondary education and their son headed north to Saskatoon, Hal and Thelma remained in the Friendly City.

With an “empty nest,” that is when Hal and Thelma’s adventure truly took off.

“We have had the greatest life that you could have had,” said Hal. “I’ve had a very good wife to go along with me because she was an adventurous type person.”

Their adventures included riding camels in Morocco, visiting Spain, England, areas of South America and sailing aboard many cruise ships. The couple has also driven all over the United States and across the Great White North, including periodic visits to their son and his family in Yellowknife.

But one of Hal’s most memorable moments came years ago when he and Thelma were drove down to Mexico.

“We drove all the way to Acapulco from here and that’s when I made a mistake,” Hal told the Times-Herald. “I made a left turn when I should have made a right turn and ended up on the main drag in Mexico City.

“It scared the pants off me.”

Until about eight years ago, Hal and Thelma would annually drive down to Palm Springs for a good chunk of the winter. They did that for 29 years.

“It was just too far and it just became too much,” said Hal. “You get like that with certain things that you know you should quit.”

Even though they have loved it so much, dancing is one of the things Hal and Thelma have stopped doing. Part of it, according to Thelma, is the lack of places in Moose Jaw that allow people to dance to the type of music she and her husband regularly used to grove to.

This Valentine’s Day, however, Hal and Thelma might just sneak one more dance and relive some of those memories from over the years.

“I’ll still probably get her some flowers,” Hal said. “But it’s too late for a diamond.”

Nathan Liewicki can be reached at 306-691-1256 or follow him on Twitter @liewicks

Organizations: Canadian Navy, Times-Herald

Geographic location: Moose Jaw, Palm Springs, Temple Gardens Mexico City Montreal Saskatoon Friendly Morocco Spain England South America United States Yellowknife Acapulco

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