Real Life

My 16-year lie to be with my forbidden love

I'd do anything to be with Bobby and our children
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Janet Shamroze, 81, from Broken Hill, NSW, shares her story with Take 5…

Standing on the street talking to my friend, I was distracted by the sight of a handsome young man with big brown eyes and curly black hair approaching.

Just then, he bumped into me. “I’m sorry,” he said. “Let me buy you a Coke.”

I accepted, and as we got chatting in the local cafe, in my hometown, Naracoorte, SA, I was instantly smitten with Bobby, 17.

“Can I take you to the pictures tonight?” he asked.

“Not tonight,” I told him. “But I can go on Friday.”

Me and Bobby in 1957 – we were smitten right away

(Image: supplied)

It was 1957, and at almost 15, Fridays were the only night my parents let me go out. Bobby and I had a great time, though we didn’t see much of the film – we were too busy kissing!

From there, I fell madly in love with Bobby. He was such a gentle and considerate person.

Everyone who met him loved him – except for my father, Bill.

He wanted to put a stop to our relationship as soon as someone in town told him they’d seen us together.

“How can I help it if I went to the pictures and he was sitting in the seat next to me?” I protested.

Soon after, Bobby had to leave town for his job as a rouseabout in the shearing sheds. We’d only been together four months, but I was heartbroken.

I was heartbroken when Bobby left

(Image: supplied)

I never got over Bobby, so when he returned to Naracoorte 18 months later and came to surprise me at work, we picked up right where we’d left off.

When Dad found out, he wasn’t happy.

One day, he discovered I’d been out with Bobby and when he tracked me down, he asked me to get in the car with him.

“Let’s have a chat,” he said.

My father was a very hard man and I was terrified that he might become violent so I ran to a friend’s house.

“I’m not going home,” I told Bobby over the phone. “We have to run away.”

“I’ll do whatever you want me to do,” he replied.

So, the next day, we packed a bag and sneaked off after dark. We didn’t have any money, so Bobby sold his watch to a man for three pounds to buy us two train tickets to Adelaide.

I knew he was the one for me

(Image: supplied)

There, Bobby’s auntie, Esther, put us up and loaned us money for bus tickets to Broken Hill, NSW, where we moved in with Bobby’s sister, Rosie.

Meeting Bobby’s family, the Shamrozes, I learned about their heritage.

“I’m Afghani,” Bobby told me. “My father was one of Australia’s first cameleers.”

Bobby was a good provider, working as 
a rouseabout and wool presser, and soon we were able to rent our own house.

At just 17, it was hard living in a new town, not knowing anyone.

Leaving my family was heartbreaking, especially my mum, Dolly. I knew she’d be devastated, but I loved Bobby and this felt like the only way we could be together.

Bobby was hardworking and provided for us

(Image: supplied)

I kept in touch with Mum secretly, by sending letters to the boy living next door, who’d pass them onto her. She’d write letters back, by giving them to him to post.

Later that year, I discovered I was pregnant.

In 1960, there was such a stigma around having children out of wedlock and you had to 
be 21 to get married without your parents’ permission, so we had no choice.

“We have to tell people we’re married,” I told Bobby, terrified our child could be taken from us.

I checked into hospital under Mrs Shamroze and wrote down that we were married January 3, 1960, the day we’d moved to Broken Hill.

Our daughter, Debbie, was born June 1961.

We kept up 
the lie when 
I gave birth 
to her sister, Julienne, 14 months later.

From left: Julienne, Randell, me, Debbie and Bobby

(Image: supplied)

Two weeks after I turned 21, we left the girls with a neighbour and went off to get married, celebrating with tea at Bobby’s auntie’s place afterwards.

Shortly after, my brother, Peter, arranged a secret meeting for us with Mum.

During a trip to Mt Gambier, SA, we stopped in at Naracoorte where Mum was waiting for us behind the main grocery store.

We both cried as soon as we saw each other.

“I’m your nanna,” she said to Debbie and Julienne.

The girls ran to her and she threw her arms around them.

Our son, Randell, was born in 1967 – our only child with our real wedding date on their birth certificate.

We continued to meet with Mum secretly whenever we visited SA.

Bobby and I with my parents

(Image: supplied)

For 16 years, I never heard from Dad, until I got a letter one day.

“That’s Dad’s handwriting,” I told Bobby, bursting into tears. “Something must be wrong with Mum.”

Dear Janet and Bobby and as many children as you have, he wrote. I want you to come home.

He invited me to bring the family over for Christmas, but didn’t want me 
to tell anyone.

He’s going to kill us, I thought.

Bobby and I talked it over and decided to take the invitation on face value.

Bobby, the kids, and I drove to Naracoorte a few days before Christmas.

Dad met me at the front door and gave me a big hug, then shook Bobby’s hand.

“I’m so sorry for how I’ve treated you,” he said.

We have three kids, seven grandkids and ten great-grandkids

(Image: supplied)

When Mum appeared behind him, she had a terrified look on her face.

“I arranged this,” Dad explained to her. “I wanted to surprise you.”

“So that’s why you told me to buy extra food,” she laughed.

It was such a beautiful moment being together after so many years.

Dad had mellowed a lot.

It warmed my heart to watch him playing with my kids in the backyard.

Bobby and I have been married for 60 years

(Image: supplied)

“I told him he’s a fool for not knowing his beautiful grandchildren,” my brother told me later. “It seems I finally got through to him.”

Pretty soon, Dad loved Bobby just like everyone else always had.

“I didn’t realise you were such a nice bloke!” he told him.

They formed a good bond, and Dad and Mum regularly came to visit us. This meant so much to me and I chose to forgive the past.

We renewed our vows on our 50th wedding anniversary in 2013

(Image: supplied)

Today, Bobby and I still have a great relationship.

We renewed our wedding vows for our 50th wedding anniversary in 2013, and this month we’ll be celebrating our 60th anniversary with our kids, seven grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

“I don’t need to win the jackpot, I’ve got my family,” Bobby tells them.

While it was very hard running away from home as a teen, I wouldn’t change a thing. Bobby is a wonderful man and I love him just as much today as I did at 15, if not more.

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