Sixty years of smooth sailing
Saturday, 13th June, 2020
By Annette Northey
Broken Hill couple Bonnie and Rino Piotto will celebrate 60 years of marriage on Thursday and will do so with nothing but beautiful memories of their dependable and care-free partnership.
Bonnie James and Rino Piotto were married on June 18, 1960, at St Peter and Paul’s Catholic Church in Murton Street. But that wasn’t their first choice of venue for the ceremony. The Cathedral was temporarily closed at the time because it was having a new roof put on, so they couldn’t have the service there.
Bonnie said there were a lot of weddings that day.
“When my car drove up, there was another bride just coming out (of the church), so we had to do a lap around. That was a busy Saturday,” she said.
Their wedding reception was held at the Masonic Hall in Oxide Street with 300 guests to help them celebrate.
Bonnie is from a big family; she is the youngest of 10 children (7 girls, three boys) and Rino has two sisters - a twin sister, Rina, and an older sister, Gina, who is 96 years old.
Bonnie and Rino were both born in Broken Hill, with Rino’s father immigrating to work on the Zinc Mine; his wife and first-born coming out later when Gina was about seven years old.
The circumstances in which Bonnie and Rino met could easily be a 1950s movie script.
“When I first met Rino, my sisters and girlfriends, when we were all about 17, were allowed to go to the dance at the North Mine Hall.
“We used to love dancing because at our home my mum used to play the piano and we’d roll up the carpet and all the girlfriends used to come, and we learnt how to dance the Pride of Erin, the Barn Dance and all that,” Bonnie said.
“We’d put the old gramophone on. So, when I met Rino, he’d walked in with his two mates, Bob and Frank, and one of the girls knew the twins (Rino and Rina).
“Rino leant on the wall, he was like a wallflower,” Bonnie said
“I couldn’t dance,” said Rino.
Rino ended up driving all the girls home in his big car, and after he got home, he contacted Bonnie and asked her out, but Bonnie had her standards.
Bonnie asked Rino, “Well, do you dance?” and Rino replied, “No”.
So, Bonnie said, “Well, there’s a studio that teaches dancing, Glady Bridgewater’s.”
And so Rino went there; determined to get his girl.
“And then I taught them how to dance,” said Rino.
Bonnie said that her mother just loved Rino and thought he was the bee’s knees.
“One time when we had an argument, and I told mum I wasn’t going to see Rino anymore, it was all my fault,” Bonnie said.
The couple has three children - Andrew (59, who lives in Perth), Kathryn (57, who lives in Brisbane), and Lisa (55, who lives in Adelaide). Between them, they have provided Bonnie and Rino with five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
With their children all living in different states of Australia, Bonnie and Rino have surely done some traveling, and when Kathryn was living in England with her husband, they spent two months over there when their granddaughter Lucy was born.
When asked what the secret to 60 successful years of marriage was, both immediately responded with an emphatic ‘give and take’.
“And Rino is very placid, he’s a very placid man,” Bonnie said.
“I don’t know, sometimes she stirs me up, or tries,” said Rino.
“We’ve had three wonderful kids and they’re very caring,” Bonnie said.
Apart from their wonderful family and trip overseas, a big highlight during their marriage was winning a car - a Ford Customline, which they won in a raffle.
“We had to fly over to Sydney and drive it home and that was a bit difficult,” Bonnie said.
“It was getting dark and we didn’t know where the lights were; they just plonked us in the car and gave us the keys.”
“We had to work things out for ourselves, it was a bit funny,” said Rino.
“But we had that car for about 20 years,” Bonnie said.
Bonnie and Rino have both worked hard all their lives. Bonnie was a hairdresser before they were married and Rino worked at the International Store on Oxide Street.
Rino’s sister Gina and her husband were in partnership with another man, but later sold their half to Rino. Then when Rino’s partner moved to Sydney he sold his half of the business to Bonnie, and the two worked in it together for another ten years.
Running the grocery store/deli was hard work in the days before large supermarkets were around.
“We used to do the shearing contractors and we had a lot of bush orders,” Bonnie said.
“We’d be there until two o’clock in the morning on a Friday and Saturday night.”
Rino said, “It was the hours, there ‘til eight o’clock every week night.”
“It was hard on the children, they’d go to sleep behind the counter sometimes,” Bonnie said.
“When they got older, we let them stay home on Sunday. I don’t know what they got up to, but they were pretty good kids.”
Bonnie and Rino both reflected on their good fortune that they never had any troubles with their three children.
They sold the store in the 70s and Rino got on the mine, where he worked for 25 years until he retired at the age of 65.
Rino said he didn’t really have any time for hobbies over the years as the business took up so much time, but when Bonnie got out of the shop she went to Meals on Wheels where she volunteered for an impressive 34 years.
“Then my girlfriends took me to Line Dancing, and I did that for about 10 years. One girlfriend still goes,” Bonnie said.
“They’re all in their seventies now, and we meet on a Wednesday, and we’ll go somewhere for lunch.”
Bonnie and Rino racked their brains for any notable points of contention or quirky habits that might rub one partner the wrong way but could find none.
“I can’t remember,” Rino said.
“We’re boring, aren’t we,” laughed Bonnie.
“Except when just before I turned 80, the family wanted to know what I wanted, and I said I wanted to go on a cruise (with all the family), but Rino wasn’t too happy at first about going on a cruise,” she said.
“But we had such a wonderful time.”