As a seamstress in Melbourne during World War II, Jean Holloway would slip notes for the soldiers into the pockets of the trousers she was making for the British and Australian troops. ‘We’d write, “I miss you and hope you’re well”, and we got word back that the soldiers liked that. Especially when they were overseas,’ Jean says. ‘You got a shilling for every pair of trousers you made, and you'd make a hundred a week. Five pounds was a lot of money. You didn't talk. You just sat head down, bum up and sewed eight hours a day.’
Studying via correspondence
Jean was born in Bendigo in 1922. There was no local high school, but her dad was keen for Jean to continue schooling, so he organised for her to complete her intermediate certificate by correspondence. ‘You know, it was very up-to-date thing to do. It’s something they do today, not back in 1930s.’
Building a family
The family moved to Melbourne when Jean was 16 and she got a job at the Commonwealth Bank. A young man, Bill, would say hello to her each morning as she waited for the tram. Bill’s friend gave him Jean’s address to send her mother a letter, asking if he could take Jean out on a date. ‘She let me ring him up and I said, “Yes, please”. That was all I said, I was so nervous.’ One of Jean and Bill’s six children has framed the letter that led to a happy 65-years of marriage.
Bill was a British engineer who turned his hand to gardening for a while, prompting the family to move to the country until they returned to Melbourne for the children’s education. A love of country life saw the family continue to have adventures out of the city. ‘We bought two big tents and I sewed the flaps together and one end was for the girls, the other end was for the boys. The middle part was where we ate, and my husband and I took the inner spring mattress off our bed and put it in the car. We slept in that and we had some fabulous holidays.’
Jean says she’s had a fortunate life so far. ‘At 99 - I don't know where the years have gone.’
Sadly, Jean's family let us know she passed away. Vale Jean.
Reviewed 19 July 2022