UNLOCKING THE PAST: Stories of lovers and the lovelorn in Cessnock in the 1920s and '40s

BEAUTIFUL BRIDE: A love story from Cessnock's early days. Ivy M. Thompson in 1929, who found love with local lad Edgar Slack. Picture: Cessnock City Library

BEAUTIFUL BRIDE: A love story from Cessnock's early days. Ivy M. Thompson in 1929, who found love with local lad Edgar Slack. Picture: Cessnock City Library

It is centuries since Englands most famous playwright, William Shakespeare, wrote the course of true love never did run smooth.

Despite that, his idea - that true love frequently encounters difficulties - seems to be as universally applicable as ever.

And Cessnocks lovers and would-be lovers have not been immune.

In February 1920 a curious love token was found in Vincent Street. It was a hand-written note adorned with blue and green ribbons and read:

If you love me as I love you

Return to me the ribbon blue.

If you dont love me, and think me mean,

Return to me the ribbon green.

Who was this true romantic leaving such a public love message? The note appeared to be written by a woman and with 1920 a leap year this might give us a clue. Leap Day, February 29, occurs every four years and on this day custom has it that a woman can legitimately propose to a man.

The young man who found the note was very excited. He headed to the local newspaper, the Cessnock Eagle, to tell them the story.

According to the paper he believed that it was the hand of Providence that had placed the proposal in his way and he was keen to make contact with the notes author. Or, as the paper put it bluntly, this young buck was open for business.

An unknown soldier from Greta Army Camp in the 1940s. Picture: Cessnock City Library

An unknown soldier from Greta Army Camp in the 1940s. Picture: Cessnock City Library

Two decades later love of a more raunchy kind was making waves in Cessnock. The Greta Army Camp opened in 1940 and Cessnock Municipal Council saw this as a wonderful business and civic opportunity. Soldiers were encouraged to patronise local businesses and to visit the towns excellent facilities, such as the newly opened swimming pool.

Things might not have gone exactly as the eminent members of the council anticipated. In their smart military uniforms the soldiers were a hit with Cessnocks women (and maybe some men) and soon the pool became a great meeting place for young singles. Handily adjacent to the pool was the former Shakespeare Park, which provided the privacy necessary to take that new romance to the next level.

The park became known as a lovers lane of sorts. So much so that by 1941 residents were complaining, via letters to the local newspaper, about extremely loose moral conduct taking place there, especially at night, with lamentations that the formerly family-friendly local park had now become a notorious place.

Kimberly O'Sullivan is the Local Studies Librarian at Cessnock City Library

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