I’ve been inspired by members of the Starts at 60 community who have so openly shared stories of their much-varied and adventurous lives. I enjoy reading such stories, and encourage others to recount events in their lives; they are an excellent way of identifying the experiences that have defined and shaped our lives. Who knows, they might even help to shift stereotypes and influence wider audiences on issues of ageing.
I was born in 1948 and never left my mother’s side until the day she dropped me off to grade one at school. I still vividly remember the fear and the tears of that first day. Primary school itself, is a blur in my memory though. I recall having to sit an exam in my last year of primary school to determine what level of high school I would be eligible for. As it happened, I attended an all girls school, a 50-minute bus ride, from home.
I knew no one at my new school, which was very traumatic for me. Yet, it turned out a lot of girls had come from far and wide, so new friendships were soon formed. I remember very little of my time at high school, but I did have a boyfriend by the time I was 16. As was the norm in those days, we went out, got engaged and planned to marry. Life was all set out in front of me… or so I thought.
When I was due to leave school, I applied for jobs. I finished school on a Friday and started working on Monday. I got my start in the mail sorting room of Shell-BP and moved into the invoice typing pool before eventually ending up in the telex/teleprinter office. I loved that job. I had to read five-digit tapes, which I typed and then transmitted. Weekend work was fun (skeleton staff) as I could talk live to other offices, via telex. This was well before the invention of computers!
Some things I remember are the horrible fogs we used to get. Only someone who has experienced it can understand. It was due to industry and homes burning coal. I often wonder how much we caused climate change in the 1950s… I once walked home from the city because of heavy fog, and the buses wouldn’t run. Three hours of walking by touching walls and shrubs etc. as visibility was only a couple of inches in front of me. When I got home I found mum on the doorstep waiting for me (no phones, remember). After getting inside, I went to freshen up, washing and rinsing my hair several times before the water ran clear. To think that the fog and pollution was going into my lungs…
Events conspired for me to emigrate to Australia — a decision I am thankful for every day. We bought a block of land for $4,700 and built our house. We had saved and scrimped for four years to buy the land. Our mortgage was determined by the bank. There was no going in and asking for whatever you wanted. Then we were in the lovely situation of being able to start our family.
My first born resulted in an emergency Caesarian section. Because of general anaesthetic I didn’t meet my son for 24 hours. With my second child I elected to have C-section by epidural. It turns out I was the first person in Western Australia to do this, and it’s now the norm for C-sections today. A third child followed and our lives progressed. School, university, our children growing up and getting married…
My own marriage ended in divorce, but after meeting someone new I began travelling all over Australia, working in Aboriginal communities and various roadhouses. I have seen and loved so much of this wonderful country. Believe me, you must travel the outback to really know Australia! I’ve travelled further afield too — America, Europe, Hawaii, China, which made the decision to move into a lifestyle village and ‘live the dream’ of retirement that much easier.