Joyce's parents met when Alfred, a heavy drinker, frequented the Rovers and got friendly with Edna. The couple married in 1921, with Joyce following two years later. The family lived in cramped conditions at 1 Coronation Street with Albert and Bessie Tatlock, Joyce's paternal uncle and aunt.
However, Joyce contracted scarlet fever shortly after her birth and suddenly died; Edna also contracted the disease and died a few months afterwards. Alfred moved away from Weatherfield and became a station master on the Liverpool Road line, moving into a cottage. In 1936 he married Edith Brown and Joyce's half-sister, Valerie, was born in 1942.