He was in the Army; she worked at a cigarette factory.
They married in Perth in 1946 and last month the sprightly 91-year-olds celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary.
John said he told Ethel when they were dating she would not be able to get rid of him.
“I reckoned she was on to a good thing,’’ he said.
John was a twin. His sibling died aged 26 in a motorcycle accident in South Australia.
The couple have one daughter, Carole Lane, who lives in Coodanup.
She has twin sons and both of them are fathers of twins.
The Mitchells have three grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
John, who served for five years in the Army, built the couple’s first home at Bedford, making the bricks and tiles himself. He also took on a six week job at Gloucester Park – and remained there for 43 years – as a track curator and later grounds supervisor.
Ethel worked for a time at Wesfarmers and CBH and said she loved to just shut the front door of their home so she could sing and dance.
The Mitchells lived most of their lives in Perth before moving to Silver Sands 27 years ago.
In his retirement, John spent every spare minute fishing, often on the beach at Silver Sands at 5am, and keeping his family supplied with fresh fish.
A huge mulloway was his biggest catch but he said there were always plenty of tailor, herring and whiting around.
But he later gave it all away when he became tired of blowies and arguments with people who were taking undersized fish.
“It was no fun in the end,’’ he said.
And what is the secret of such a long and successful marriage?
Understanding, communication and plenty of give and take, the couple agreed.
“Life is all about helping each other,” they said.