Gwenda and her twin brother never really knew their father. They were only two-and-a-half when he passed away from wounds sustained during World War I, leaving their mum to look after them and their older sister.
When World War II began and the government was evacuating Melbournians to country Victoria, Gwenda’s mum moved the family to Warracknabeal.
‘That's where we went to school and we loved it,’ Gwenda says. But after passing Form Four, Gwenda decided to return to Melbourne and to enrol in secretarial studies at Stott’s College.
‘I got a wonderful job at a solicitors office in Bourke Street, Melbourne. I just loved it and learned a lot.’
A chesty cold proved to be fortuitous when she was 21; she took sick leave and returned to Warracknabeal to recover. That is when she met Ken, who became her husband. Ken had come up from Melbourne to work on a big plumbing job.
‘He liked the country and he decided to stay, so then I did too. There was an office job going up in the local hospital, which I fortunately got.’
Life changing accident
Gwenda was pregnant with their second child when her car was hit by a drunk driver in an incident that has had life-long repercussions.
‘I was four-and-a-half months pregnant when we had this awful accident on the highway. I ended up in hospital and stayed there until about a fortnight before he was born.’
Gwenda’s right leg was broken, and her left was shattered.
‘I was plastered from thigh right down to the ankle and I got a tooth knocked out and a fractured shoulder. In those days you didn’t wear seatbelts. You just got bashed on the dashboard.
‘It was so hard, just lying in bed, not being able to move. After that, I wasn’t supposed to have any more children, but I did. I had two more boys and I love them to death. All four of them.’
Community and family life
The family moved to Euroa for Ken’s work and whilst Gwenda couldn’t play sport as a result of her injuries, that didn’t stop her becoming involved in community life, including volunteering to be an office holder for the local tennis club. She also volunteered for 19 years at the aged care facility where she now lives, Karingal Seymour.
Her advice to younger parents is to listen to, and communicate with, their children. ‘At our house, every Friday night without fail was fish and chip night, and they would all sit down at the table and we'd ask them if they had any problems or how school was going. That was a ritual with us, and you learn so much that way.’
The ritual worked for Gwenda’s family. ‘They've all done well. And I'm so proud of them, I really am. We tried to bring them up right and I think having that Friday night was wonderful.’
Gwenda says she’s pleased that she gave up smoking 50 years ago and is happy with how her life has turned out so far.
‘I missed not having a father. That really got me a little bit, but it’s been a good life. I’m proud of how I got on.’
Reviewed 01 September 2022