City couple met when she was hitchhiking on Columbia Street and he picked her up
Bruce and Meryl Chambers met when she was hitchhiking in front of the old "Mc&Mc" store on Columbia Street in 1952.
The 17-year-old and her girlfriend had made the trek to shop in downtown New West and were looking for a quick ride home when they turned up their thumbs to hitch one.
Who knew the ride would last 60 years. "Back then, you could (hitchhike)," Meryl says in an interview at the couple's Sapperton home, where they've lived for the better part of their marriage.
Bruce, 22 at the time, and his friend picked them up.
"Two cute girls, why wouldn't you stop?" Bruce says, smiling.
Later that night Bruce and Meryl went on a double date to the movies with their friends. Bruce had had a date with another girl that night but broke plans to be with Meryl. It was Easter weekend 1952.
The courtship was quick. By May, they were engaged.
Bruce's proposal was another wild story. Bruce, then a logger, was headed back to camp. He had $20 left. He told Meryl that he was going to burn the $20 bill because he couldn't go back to camp with money left over.
"I said, 'Look, loggers never go back to camp with money,'" Bruce says, laughing. "She grabbed it (the bill), and said, 'You're crazy.'"
Instead of burning the bill, he brought her to a jewelry store and proposed to her.
But the bill-burning incident left a mark. At first, Meryl told him no.
"You're crazy," she says. But his charm won her over, and they were married on June 28, just a few weeks after that first meeting. Meryl, clearly her own person, opted for a pale blue gown instead of a traditional white one.
"They always said it wouldn't last, they said if it lasted for a year, you'll be lucky," Bruce says.
"Because I was too young," Meryl says. "It was too fast," Bruce adds.
But they beat the odds. The couple welcomed their first child in 1955. Five more followed, including a surprise set of twin girls in 1964. All of the kids - Jeanette, John, Tammy, Bruce, Cindy and Debbie - went to school at Richard McBride Elementary and New Westminster Secondary School.
Bruce was a truck driver for a number of years, but it was a tough way to provide for a growing family. Eventually, he bought a printing press and turned to printing, which boosted his income considerably. In the 1970s, when their kids were older, Meryl started working at the Civic Medical Clinic, where she stayed for 30 years.
She retired - "twice," granddaughter Kate says. They kept calling her back. Finally, she left for good about three years ago.
Staffing the front desk at the medical clinic meant that she got to know a lot of people in the community. Her grandkids found it hard to go anywhere with her because grandma was always bumping into and having long chats with people who knew her from work.
Today, Bruce and Meryl have eight grandchildren, including granddaughter Kate Chambers, who lives in Coquitlam but considers her grandparents' house her second home.
Her mom was a single parent, and so Bruce and Meryl helped raise Kate and her sister.
Meryl says Bruce, in particular, was there for the girls.
The 21-year-old is studying astrophysics at SFU - which was inspired by her grandpa Bruce, who likes to look at the sky. He was always telling her about the stars and planets, she says.
"There's a star that we both can see. I'm in Coquitlam, he's here, and we (both) look at it every night," Kate says, smiling at her grandpa, who looks down with a gentle grin.
Bruce was diagnosed with cancer in 2008, which he recovered from, but the cancer has returned.
Bruce and Meryl say their favourite thing to do together is to spend time with their grandchildren.
Bruce - the guy who threatened to burn money when they were first together - not surprisingly, says Meryl has always looked after their money.
"If it was me, I think I could make a mil-lion dollars and be broke all the time," he says. "She looks after things."
Meryl agrees, "I look after everything. I'm very organized."
What's kept Meryl around all these years, she says, is that Bruce is a "good guy."
"He helps me whenever I need help. He goes out of his way to help - that's why I stuck it out," she says.
And to think, if she hadn't stuck her thumb out all of those years ago, the story of Bruce and Meryl may never have been told.