It’s Queensland Seniors Week! This is a time when we celebrate the achievements, talents and contributions of senior people in our community.
The TASC team is paying tribute to people who touch our lives in different ways: family, friends, people we support in the course of our work. We hope you enjoy reading their stories.
How gorgeous are these handmade carrier bags!
These beauties were crafted by Beverley, one of our local senior community members – and incredibly, they’re made from recycled plastic shopping bags.
TASC is celebrating Beverley’s (not her real name) amazing talent during Queensland Seniors Week. During this week we take special time to honour the wisdom and experience of those who have paved the way for us.
Beverley tells us she learned how to crochet when she was a little girl and went on to teach herself crocheting, knitting, tatting and ceramics.
Beverley can crochet pretty much anything and does not use a pattern to guide her. Over the years, Beverley made porcelain dolls and handcrafted the clothes they wore.
These bookmarks were tatted by Beverley, a beautiful rainbow of carefully crafted colours
Beverley’s talents became well-known in her local community, to the point where she was approached to take part in competitions and create pieces that businesses wanted to buy. Beverley won medals and often donated her dolls to charity.
Beverley says her creative skills have been an important therapeutic outlet, helping her cope with life’s difficulties. We are so lucky to have Beverley and her artistic creations in our community!
Cyrus and Izzy, two very special people in the lives of TASC's Senior Lawyer Louise Secomb
I was nearly 15 years old when I wandered into a fish and chip shop in Birkdale on my way home from school.
I had decided that I wanted a job. I went up to the counter and a man came over and asked me what I wanted. I said to him that I wanted a job. I looked at him and he at me. He said okay come in tomorrow night and I will give you a go.
24 years later and I am still in contact with Cyrus and Izzy or as I refer to them, my “other parents”.
I can’t even begin to explain the significance that these two people had on my life.
I was a little bit prone to finding mischief when I was younger but Cyrus and Izzy were both there to provide guidance, encouragement and gentle kick when I was not doing the right thing.
Cyrus taught me to work hard. It wasn’t good enough to just turn up and expect to be paid. Izzy taught me to be caring, compassionate and patient. “Patience is a Virtue” she would tell me. Let’s be honest, I am still working on that one, but I find myself telling my children the exact same thing.
For me, patience is a life lesson not something I can just do automatically, but I will often hear Izzy’s voice in my head telling me to be patient.
Cyrus and Izzy, two very special people
I often wondered if Cyrus and Izzy kept me working all through my senior years at school to make sure I finished school and didn’t find trouble over the weekends!!
When I didn’t know what to do Cyrus would always be there to help me make good choices. He told me to finish school, and go to University and get a good job. I was one of the first in my family to go on to University. I have no doubt in my mind it was from the constant encouragement they both gave me.
“They treated me like I was one of their own children and I will be forever grateful for that act of kindness”.
When we are younger, those who are older take us under their wings, protect us, guide us and help us to become what we want to be. In their senior years, we should show the same to our seniors, protect them from harm and help them to live their lives as they wish to.
Who would we be today if not for those who provide positive influences to our young selves?
“I know without a doubt that I am who I am because of the influences of Cyrus and Izzy”.
Louise Secomb is a Senior Lawyer with TASC, working mainly in the areas of Family Law and Domestic and Family Violence. This year she is raising funds by participating in the virtual running event, Run Against Violence – more to come on TASC’s Facebook page!
Kym Allen of TASC’s Social Justice Service, sat down for a chat with our community member Evelyn (Evie). At 84, Evie has a lifetime of stories to share, and TASC loved hearing some of them.
The photo below is of Evie and her beloved husband Bob, who she was married to for 63 years before he passed away. Evie says she wishes she had more time with Bob, the love of her life, and that “listening to music and Saturday nights can be hard for me still as it makes me think of him and the dances we would go to”.
Hearing Evie talk about her life, her optimism, resilience and sense of humour shines through. It may be incredible to younger generations to imagine a life without so much we take for granted. But Evie’s stories show us how much we have to appreciate about our world – just as she appreciates her life, then and now.
How we lived growing up
I was the only child until I was 4 years old and my brother joined me. My parents had six children after me – all boys!
My father was a dairy farmer and we lived on a dairy farm in East Cooyar. He was one of 14 children and my mum was one of 14 children.
We had very simple food like meat, potatoes, pumpkin and peas, and maybe a Sunday roast. The bread came once a week. I remember having Weet-bix for breakfast and if we were out of bread we would take Weet-bix to school for lunch. Getting a packet of chewing gum was wonderful!
People made their own clothes and the washing of clothes and sheets was done outside in a copper with boiling water.
Cows and the farm were our lives, and family members visiting. We had no electricity or hot water at home and would heat water in a tin on the little wood stove. People with money had a fountain on the side of the stove with a tap. We bathed once a week in the wash tub inside.
The invention I remember most growing up was definitely electricity and the washing machine! Before we got electricity we used kerosene lights and a kerosene fridge. My baby was 4 years old when I got an electric washing machine.
What we did for fun growing up
What did we do for fun? I would wander around the paddocks and climb trees. My brother was my companion and we would go fishing in the creeks and ride our bikes.
I remember fishing in the creek near my grandmother’s house. We caught some fish and my grandmother cleaned and salted them and we rode home on our pushbikes with our fish.
We also went to dances at the dance halls – my parents loved to dance. There was no electricity, so someone had to light the hanging kerosene lights and there was always a billy boiling outside. Country dances always had a supper; women made sandwiches or cooked cakes.
I remember my mum telling me that she would ride to a dance on a horse and sit on her hands to keep them warm! My dad would drive me to dances at Murgon, Wandai and Tindoora in our sedan.
Music was provided by a local family – there were two girls who played piano accordion, someone on drums and even a violin. Nightclubs eventually took people away from the country dances and cars – people could go to other places.
In every district there was always one girl who was the ‘Belle of the Ball’, but that wasn’t me.
I was voted ‘Most Popular Girl’ by the crowd at one of the dances and received a lovely crystal bowl, which I still have. I also won ‘Best Dressed’ at one dance in a broderie-anglaise organdy dress.
We did our own sewing with Home Journal patterns bought when we went to town or on subscription. There were three designs on the covers with the patterns inside. Everyone had a sewing machine!
I’ve always loved music and was in a concert when I was 10 years old. I played the part of a little waif and sang the song ‘Won’t you buy my pretty flowers’. When I finished my song, people starting throwing money on stage and the lady who organised the concert, Mrs Ferrier, came out and told me to sing it again!
I did correspondence school through Brisbane. When my brother was school age, we rode horses to school and at the end of the day we would catch them from the paddock and ride back home. I had a couple of busters falling off horses on those school trips!
I remember riding to school one morning and my brother and I came across elephants. There had been a circus at Cooyar and the circus people were walking the elephants to the next town, which would have been either Crows Nest or Oakey. We were pretty frightened of the elephants and went as far around them as we could!
My favourite subject at school was math. I loved math – there were math cards and I loved doing them. My dad never had an education, but when he did timber cutting he did a lot calculations in his book.
Education for his generation was more for people with money and they would go to boarding school. It got better for the next generation as high schools were built near smaller towns and it was more accessible, though some still had to travel an hour and a half each way to school!
Work and career
I wanted to be a nurse, but I was too frightened. I had offers for interviews and jobs in Winton, Nanango and Goomeri, but didn’t do it. I was frightened that I wouldn’t know anything and that for night duty I might be the only one there having to look after patients.
I didn’t really have anyone to sit me down and talk me through it, or offer encouragement. My mum and dad wouldn’t have known and because I was the oldest, no one else had travelled that pathway. There was no career counselling or guidance, which would have helped.
My advice to my younger self now would be: “Don’t be silly: go nursing!”
We have ended up with 5 nurses in the family and I cared for family members when they were unwell.
I ended up doing some babysitting and housework for others. I earned 2 pounds a week washing and cleaning for another family.
The outside world
A fellow would bring the film reels and play them on the screen at the dance hall in Cooyar. We also watched the news reels at the hall.
I remember The War – I was 10 years old when it ended in 1945.
I remember throughout the war we couldn’t get things. As a child, I had my favourite ice-blocks and I couldn’t get my ice-blocks. The man who ran the little old shop in Cooyar had a kerosene fridge and he would try to make ice-blocks with jelly in them. To this day, I cannot stand jelly!
I had four uncles who went to war and all came home safely. My favourite Uncle Tom was injured by shrapnel in New Guinea. He was in a tree with a fellow soldier when they were shot at – the other soldier was killed.
I also remember the army camped in the Cooyar Hall at one stage, and going to Toowoomba with Mum where a lot of people had air raid shelters in their back yard so they had somewhere to go if there was a bomb.
Evie and Bob on their wedding day, 16 April 1955
Marriage and memories
I first met my husband Bob when he was living at the dairy farm next door when our family was at Upper Yarraman. Bob was five years older than me and the first time I saw him I was only twelve. I was on my pushbike riding home from school and he was on a horse on the road chasing a bull that had gotten out. Bob used to board at the agricultural college in Gatton and was home from school.
He ended up being the love of my life and we got married when I was nineteen.
Bob played cricket, football and tennis. I remember crying one day when he was going to cricket and I had to stay at home on my own with a new baby. Bob offered to give up cricket, but I wouldn’t make him do that.
I wish we had more time together, but we were married for 63 years. Listening to music and Saturday nights can be hard for me still as it makes me think of him and the dances we would go to.
Life in 2020
The things that are important to me now are living a healthy life, good relationships, my family and not being a problem for my children. I also thank God for such wonderful neighbours!
When I was younger I was never really confident, nor outgoing, and that has stayed the same. I didn’t want to be better than anyone; I just wanted to feel as good. I do now feel good with myself. Thirty years of town life helped. When I started playing squash, which I loved, it was a bit of a shock to be around so many other women. I also felt as good as anyone when I got married to Bob; it made me feel more secure.
What things bring me the most pleasure? Well, I’m just contented the way I am.
Sometimes, it does get a bit lonely, but I like being in my home. I enjoy time with my family and my brothers, and visits from my son and his little dog. I love going on country drives.
We asked Evie what she would say to a young person asking what are the most important things for living a good life. Her response?
“Stay away from alcohol. Be thoughtful to other people and think of how they feel. Don’t be a bully; be a decent person”.
We at TASC think that’s very smart advice from a strong woman who has led a life worth celebrating. Thank you Evie for sharing your lovely insights, stories and treasured photograph!
the ultimate recyclers
We’ve read about Beverley, who recycles plastic shopping bags into beautiful carrier bags; and Evie, whose stories of growing up in our region made TASC reflect on how we live today.
Now TASC team member Jennine Kiely pays tribute to her parents, the “ultimate recyclers”. Their creative ways of reusing, repairing and repurposing materials are a terrific inspiration to generations coming after them.
As a child I still remember collecting drink bottles and returning them to the cordial (soft drink) factories to be washed and refilled. We would get 5 cents per bottle back in the day. So the recent 10 cents per bottle is not a new idea.
The bottles we had were refilled not recycled into other objects.
When we studied the origins of the law of negligence in law school, I could fully relate to the facts of Donoghue and Stevenson – the “snail in the ginger beer bottle” case (Google it!)
However, my parents put me to shame and are the ultimate recyclers. Nothing is wasted. While most of us purchase fully constructed items from Bunnings or other outlets, with some skill, time and patience, many of these items can be constructed from recycled materials.
For our seniors who lived as children during the war years, rationing and the need to repair and recycle were common custom, and they have continued this practice throughout their lives. Farmers learnt many skills and carried out most of work themselves. Wooden farm gates, prevalent throughout the war years, often required repair as they aged. Bolts and other raw materials were in short supply.
The gate in this photo, a relic from a different era, would not swing and had warped. A few minor repairs with diagonal wiring and the addition of some horizontal timber resulted in a fully functional duck-proof gate.
My project was to create a duck-herding course. By salvaging discarded verandah boards, my parents made 21 gates for me to set up obstacles around the course.
With great pride, my Mum and Dad helped me erect an arena and set up the panels in the arena.
They also made raised garden beds for winter vegies and future citrus trees. All from recycled materials stored on the farm.
My parents feed household scraps to the chooks. They keep the chooks safely locked up at night to protect them from foxes and other predators and let them out to free-range during the day.
This means fencing off the cottage gardens where flowers and vegetables grow. The fence is constructed from old netting with old pipe and fence droppers. Perhaps not the most “aesthetically pleasing” fence, but cheap and functional.
This mailbox was made from tongue and groove boards left over from renovations, with a piece of discarded tin adapted and painted for the roof. The hinges and handle were removed from old cupboards and attached to the mail box. The old worn farm sign was painted and attached. The old iron post and pipe were painted black.
The cost? A few screws, paint and varnish.
Generations helping the earth recover
While our generation hear a lot from the current generation about reuse and recycling, we could suggest to them that if they discarded their technology, lived a simpler life growing their own produce, and reused and recycled in the manner of my parents’ generation, the world would be a cleaner place.
One thing COVID-19 has taught us, give the earth a break from the human race and it will recover very quickly. Let us value and celebrate the contributions of seniors, the ultimate recyclers!