Some question love at first sight, but Irving Goldstein knew he wanted to marry Joyce Brener the first time he saw her. One Tuesday, July 28, the New Orleans couple celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary.
Irving and Joyce met on the Air Force base at Napier Field in Dothan, Alabama, in 1944. They have since returned to New Orleans, opened a business and watched their family grow in their 70 years together.
“(My friend) and I were walking down the street going to a rehearsal for a USO show,” Irving Goldstein said. “USO shows were put on to entertain the soldiers at different bases. On the way to the rehearsal, two girls walked in front of us, and I pointed at (Joyce) ... and said, ‘I’d sure like to marry someone like that.’ ”
Irving played the trumpet in the 99th Air Corps Band, one of the two bands on base. Before joining the Air Corps he had been first chair in New Orleans’ Fortier High School band ahead of Al Hirt (because Hirt transferred), graduated from Loyola University New Orleans with a degree in music and briefly served as the band director at Behrman High School. He often performed in the type of show that Joyce danced in that day.
“After the show we went to the PX — that’s where the people in the service go to get drinks and ice cream and stuff,” Irving Goldstein said. “We got a caramel sundae. … To make a long story short, a year later, we were married.”
In fact, the couple was married not just once but three times.
“We didn’t have a rabbi where I was stationed,” Irving Goldstein said. “So we wanted to be legally married so we went downtown and got married by the judge. Her father wanted a religious ceremony. One guy had a business in Dothan and he had studied to be a rabbi, but he wasn’t ordained. So he came and performed the ceremony for her father. … (The rabbi had) the wine in his hand to perform the ceremony, but he was shaking, so the wine went in every direction.”
The couple had a wedding performed by a base chaplain later. Irving finished his service just as World War II ended and the couple moved back to New Orleans where the two grew up. The couple opened Dance Ranch, a dance apparel and Western-wear store.
“We were very keen on Mardi Gras,” Joyce Goldstein said. “Not only from a business point of view because we sold the marching boots to the parade marchers and other things, too. … Irving was the main one with Mardi Gras. He’ll brag that he went to his first Mardi Gras parade when he was 13 and never stopped, and that’s the truth. Every single Mardi Gras, we went.”
In addition to the business, Joyce Goldstein continued to dance in her own studio for 18 years, to host recitals in the Civic Theater and to lead callisthenic routines on a WDSU television program. They welcomed their daughter, Carolyn, then their son, Sydney, into their family, which eventually grew to include grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Many of those descendants traveled from all around the country to join the Goldsteins for their anniversary celebration. When asked how two people stay married for 70 years, Joyce Goldstein laughed.
“Just endurance,” she said. “We were just able to put up with each other for 70 years. I don’t want to be too facetious about it. I guess I ought to try and inject a bit of sentimentality into it. But you know, it’s just — it is what it is. Seventy years. And it’s sort of amazing to look back upon and to realize how much time has passed. As the song says, time flies.”