If you happen to find yourself in Woolwich Park on Valentine’s weekend, have a glance around for Joan and Stan Dyson.
The loved-up couple saw their romance sparkle in 1950s Docklands during evening walks around a very different east london.
Even now Stan, 70, and Joan, 71, enjoy many nostalgic trip back to their former stomping ground and recently took part in Forgotten Stories, a project to shine the spotlight on the history of the area.
We chat to Stan about their romance - a tale to rival William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet - as well as dating in the East End and the secret to a lasting relationship to get you in the spirit for February 14.
Just like Romeo and his star-crossed lover Juliet, you were from different districts?
We both lived in Docklands but I was about 100 yards from Royal Victoria Dock in West Silvertown, and Joan was born in Leonard Street in East Silvertown.
It was a wonderful place to live in the 40s and 50s.
As a kid we were playing on our bikes and having races in the streets, we were never indoors.
It was a wonderful time.
Tell us about the ‘peculiar’ circumstances of how you met?
I was a bit of a Mod boy when I was 15 in 1959 and I never wanted a long relationship with a girl.
I used to go to the local youth club and you’d have a dance and have a kiss in the doorway and I would say I’d might be nice to go out sometime - and I just didn’t turn up.
I didn’t want a serious relationship but one of the girls had a row with my mother and she said “If you make a date, you take a girl out.
“Why don’t you find a nice girl and bring her home to see us?”
So things started there and then, on a bus?
I never sat down on the bus - instead I would run up the stairs and get to the front.
But in September 1959 a voice in my head said sit downstairs.
There, sitting opposite me, was this girl.
She was nothing like the type of girls, all modern and dressed up.
he was wearing a long coat no make-up on her face and had four large bags of shopping on the floor around her.
But the moment I looked at her face something in my head said ‘there she is’.
It was as if I had woken up from a dream and I couldn’t remember why she was important to me.
And again, in true Romeo and Juliet style, it was unrequited?
I gave her a very big smile - and she looked at me with complete contempt.
She turned her head away in dismissal and at East Silvertown, opposite Tate and Lyle, she got off with her bags.
A few months later, she still gave you the cold shoulder at a Tate and Lyle event and then you saw her again on a bus - so when did sparks fly?
I saw her going into her house and her friend said ‘she wouldn’t go out with you’, she’s not out and about girls.
I said ‘I’ll come round at 7pm’ - I arrived at 6.30pm and suddenly all courage deserted me.
I was ready to put the door knocker down and give up but as I was pulling away from the door there was Joan.
It was as if it was all planned.
I was looking at her and she smiled, then we were chatting and we didn’t stop.
We walked and talked - and we did that for years and miles.
How did you known she was the one - and what’s the secret to true love?
It was the moment I saw her for the first time - in 1963, when I was 18 and she was 19, I married her at St Mark’s in Silvertown.
Every night we would walk to East Ham and talk.
If we didn’t do that, we would go from North Woolwich to South Woolwich.
In those three years, I only had one night off, I didn’t want to have it off, but I was the only person in the school swimming club who did butterfly and there was a big gala.
The secret? I think it’s true love.
I fell for her the moment I saw her - someone sprinkled some fairy dust some fairy dust when she opened that door.
Your first date - and walk - was at an East End off licence. What were the other dating hotspots at that time?
There was the Lotus Ballroom at Forest Gate and the Tate and Lyle socials as well as Ilford Palais and the pictures at South Woolwich on a Sunday.
How do you feel about Docklands and east London now?
It’s totally different there now.
There’s a lot of nostalgia there but it’s all changed so much.
It was a different time and there were different values back then.
I don’t think I would move back again but we like visiting. We walk around places like Woolwich Park and there’s still some history.
We’ve had a happy life and we are extremely lucky.
This Valentines, we’ll probably go to the pictures and have a meal.
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