Lance and Billy

By Elise Cook

Lance was a young, handsome policeman who moved to Gladstone during wartime in Australia. Arriving with his good looks, a flashy car and a big dog by his side, he made an immediate impression on the women in Gladstone. However, Lance quickly decided there was only one person he was interested in; a local girl who preferred to be known as Billy.

“He was lovely looking, with black curly hair,” Billy begins. “Everyone thought he was just terrific. He could have had any one of those girls from Gladstone, but he made up his mind that he wanted me. But I wasn’t interested, not in the slightest.” At least, she wasn’t to begin with.Lance and Billy

Lance was persistent. Despite the lack of interest from Billy, and an even colder front from her parents, who had other ideas for their daughter, Lance made it his business to be around Billy as much as he could. He asked her next door neighbour if he could board at their house just so his chances of running into her grew.

Everyone in Gladstone was involved in the war efforts, including Lance and Billy, and it was their work that eventually brought them together. “During the war we used to have to watch out for planes, sitting at the very top of Gladstone Gaol. One night I was rostered with Lance, and we started to get to know each other,” Billy recalls. “We just clicked.”

A few months later, as Billy worked her shift one night, there was a knock at the door. “The boy who was about to take over my shift went to answer it. Lance was standing there with a parcel,” Billy says. “He wasn’t allowed to come in so he gave it to the boy who walked back, and gave it to me, saying, ‘This is from Lance Ewens’.” Inside was an engagement ring.

In 1942 the pair were married. It was a happy marriage, but it faced many challenges. Six months in, Billy fell very ill and spent a long time in hospital. After her operations she was told she would never be able to conceive children. Billy was devastated. “Lance bought me a dog to ease the pain.”

However, only a year later Billy fell pregnant, which she describes as being one of the best things that ever happened in their lives. They went on to have two more children, giving them three in total, all of them sons. “Lance loved his boys and they loved him,” she recalls. “They cared for him so much when Lance was ill”.

Lance became very unwell after developing a stomach ulcer. “Lance was a very sick man,” Billy shares. “That stomach ulcer developed into cancer and he lived for twenty years with it before passing away in 1996.”

Now 92 years old, Billy reflects on her life with fond memories, and recalls her 54 years with Lance with affection. “Because of the war we had to grow up very quickly, but I absolutely loved dancing and going to the social balls. Lance was such a good policeman that he would come, all dressed up in his uniform, and he would just stand there,” she laughs. “He wouldn’t dance, he was always taking care of the people. He was very responsible.”

“In order to make a marriage work you need to be considerate of each other,” Billy explains. “We were different types of people, but we clicked. He has a lot more sense than I did. I just wanted to have fun. I have always enjoyed my life, from the beginning to the end – it’s been wonderful!”

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