A 42 year old woman and her 16 year lover. It was always going to make headlines.
Our story unfolds in Merredin in 1933. The characters are:
WILFRED LONGMAN was headmaster of Merredin School. More than middle-aged, with iron-grey hair, he was the calm and philosophical type, never revealing his emotions.
WILMA LONGMAN was slim, with sharp features. She liked to dress elegantly in black, with a bright red cap for a vivid contrast. A small gold cross was often hanging around her slender neck.
CLARRIE SMITH did not look sixteen. With a muscular chest and broad shoulders, he was a keen athlete, excelling in both boxing and cycling. Also not one to show much emotion, he would occasionally smile at a joke and then return to his passive expression.
It all started at the Merredin cycling club, when Clarrie became good friends with Wilma’s teenage son, Jack. Clarrie started visiting the Longman home and so met Wilma and her thirteen year old daughter, Ruth.
Gradually his visits became so frequent Clarrie’s father became suspicious and objected. This caused the young man to pack his bags and move in with the Longmans.
In a real-life case of ‘Stacey’s Mom’, Clarrie and Wilma became very friendly. The boy admitted they used to hug and kiss each other a lot and sleep together in each other’s arms. The older woman also wrote a number of passionate letters to the young man, but she denied their relationship was anything inappropriate or immoral.
Wilma had a passionate heart, and perhaps her dry-as-dust headmaster husband was not meeting her romantic needs. A passage from one of her letters to Clarrie shows how much she felt inside. It also shows that Clarrie couldn’t keep his mouth shut.
You have been to me a dear sweet holy thing. You have been wonderful. I have known you as the thing called Love. It is very beautiful. It is holy. I have worshipped the better you. I’ll always remember it, dear boy, but they have spoilt it and your carelessness…
Friends and lovers are being parted every day and hearts are breaking and desolated with only blackness in the future just because names are hurt through careless tongues. I shall for ever love the you I loved. When a mind can take a holy thing and call it unholy and have us feel it is unholy when we know it is holy—well, we are not masters of ourselves, but mastered. I loved, treasured, valued and worshipped the manhood I was meeting.
The bond of Love is not bondage, but the surround of a home. The bond of Love is not prison but the walls of defence. Love gives, shelters, protects. Love is strong. It is the mightiest force in the cosmos.
And so on. And so on.
During the inevitable divorce case, the judge looked straight at Clarrie and asked him if he slept with Wilma.
“In the same bed,” he replied.
“How were you dressed?” “In a pair of pyjamas.” “How was she dressed?” “In a nightgown and kimono.” “You had been in the habit of kissing each other frequently and fervently and embracing each other.” “Yes.”
And then the judge asked: “Do you still say you did nothing improper?”, to which Carrie replied “Yes sir.”
“Well I don’t believe you!” declared His Honour emphatically.
Dodgy Perth is not sure we believe him either.