|Joy and me...Circa 1962|
|Randall and Me...our casual wedding day..Sunday, 21st March, 1976|
|My beloved Pushkin...circa 2000...in Gympie|
|Town Hall, Gympie|
|Tozer & Jeffery Building in Upper Mary Street, Gympie|
Changes are happening around us all the time. Some changes are for the better, some are not; some are worthwhile; some are pointless, to say the least - just plain silly – totally ridiculous.
A few weeks ago, during one of the rare occasions I am allowed to roam free, un-tethered and unchaperoned among the populace, while enjoying a pleasant conversation with my local newsagent, I stated, “I’m glad I’m growing old!”
A lady, similar in age to me, who was standing within earshot said, aghast;
“How can you say that?”
“Easily,” I replied.
Smiling, I repeated my declaration, but slower the second time around.
“See! Easy!” I said.
We burst into laughter. A pleasant conversation ensued between the two of us.
Thankfully, some things never change. In this instance, I refer to enduring friendships; and one in particular that has extended over 70 years.
On 6th July my long-standing friend, Darry, celebrated her birthday. She does sit down at times, in case you’re wondering.
Darry was two months short of 9 years old when she and I met. I was three and a half; six months shy of four years old.
In May, 1948 a change of scenery occurred when my family, with me tagging along grasping my favourite doll, left Slade Point, a seaside suburb of Mackay. A steam train transported us to Gympie, where both my grandmother and mother had been born.
Our new abode was across the street from Darry and her family’s home.
Soon thereafter she became my first best friend.
In the November, Darry ran across Fern Street, up our front stairs, to attend my fourth birthday party, and to help demolish my ice cream birthday cake. The cake being a huge incentive, I imagine.
It had been the first ice cream cake I had ever seen. I believe similar applied to her.
Strangely, I wasn’t very fond of ice cream when I was a child.
Darry was my only “outside” guest. The other invitees/attendees were my grandmother, mother and older brother, Graham.
Before Darry and I became mates my best friend, and only friend, had been my beautiful cat, “Socksie”. I wrote my sad story about "Sockie"and posted it a couple of years ago.
Immediately upon meeting a strong bond was forged between Darry and me.
Our unique connection remains unbroken to this day.
In 2002, a month after I arrived here on the mountain, Darry returned to Gympie from Brisbane. On and off through the years, she'd lived and worked in the city.
For a couple of years or so, for a change of scenery, she worked in London, too.
We enjoyed phone conversations over the past couple of weeks, during which she and I discussed the uniqueness of our friendship.
There would be few people who have a similar relationship to the one Darry and I share.
For a nine year old and four year old to become good friends is distinct, unusual in its self. Such a difference in age at that stage in a child’s life is massive. Our age difference made no difference to us. It never has - not when she was 15 and I was 10; not when she was 18 and I, 13 years... and so on.
We played together. We enjoyed listening to records. Often Friday nights were spent together at her home. How I looked forward to those ‘sleep-overs”. Impatiently, I would wait for permission to be allowed to race across the street. Mum or Nana wouldn’t let me leave until dinner time had passed.
“It’s not polite to arrive on someone’s doorstep at meal times!” Was the rule in our home.
Those Friday nights would be spent giggling, talking, playing records, singing along to our favourite songs. Musicals such as “Oklahoma”, “Carousel” and “My Fair Lady” were high on our list.
We shared our dreams. We carried on like a pair of loonies. We tried to skate together with only one pair of roller skates between us. With one skate on her right foot, and the other skate on my left foot, our arms entwined, we weren’t very graceful as we “skated” along her garden path.
Aspirations of becoming a world-acclaimed skating duo were scrapped pretty much straight away.
Games of shuttlecock, with “monkey nuts” off the palm trees in our yard stuck into the cone-shaped shuttle, which turned them into speedy missiles were enjoyed after school. No eyes were lost in the process. No humans, cats, dogs or guinea pigs were harmed.
Darry had friends of her own age, as did I once I began school. However, our friendship remained uninterrupted.
The strength of our friendship doesn’t change even though we don’t talk every week – or even every month. But, when we do catch up, it is as if we’d only chatted, or saw each other “yesterday”.
An everlasting alliance beyond our control began in 1948. It was in our stars - our destiny - our fate - whatever it’s called.
Darry turned 79 on 6th July. Her sense of humour hasn’t changed. She’s the wonderful, straight-shooting, honest, nonjudgmental person she has always been.
Another good friend of mine with whom I’ve been friends since we met in our early years of primary school celebrates her birthday on 7th August.
During our teenage years Joy and I, along with a couple of other girlfriends spent every weekend during spring, summer and autumn at the coast, surfing, sun-baking and dancing our feet off at the record hops.
Joy’s younger brother, Russell - she had three brothers – two were older than her - and my brother, Graham were lifesavers with the Noosa Heads Surf Lifesaving Club. Both Graham and Russell are no longer with us. Six months after my brother passed away, which was 6th June, 1998, Joy’s husband, Rod died.
During our loss, our grief, we were “rocks” for each other.
Joy and Rod had four children...two boys and two girls, all of whom are wonderful people.
After my brother fell ill, early in 1998 I knew I needed to move back down to South-East Queensland from the north to be closer to him. At my request, he’d been transferred from the Townsville hospital to a Brisbane hospital for treatment.
It was Joy I called upon for assistance in my transition. I didn’t want to move back to the city, having left city-living in 1979. I had no desire to return to the city.
Gympie, to me was my logical choice. I knew the town well, and it was only a couple of hours drive to Brisbane, a trip I ended up doing every day until Graham's passing six weeks after my returning to Gympie. I missed only one day, perhaps two, in between working, when Graham was hospitalised.
Looking back now, I’m not sure how I managed to do that, but I did. We can achieve much when it is what we must to do.
From Mackay, I rang Joy who has never lived anywhere else other than Gympie, explaining what was going on in my life. She had friends who, at the time, were seeking a tenant to take up residency in an investment rental property they owned.
Sight unseen, Joy’s friends took her at her word, and character reference. They took me on as their tenant.
Joy also contacted the owners of Gunabul Restaurant-Function House explaining my situation.
Wasting no further time, at 7 pm, Anzac Day, Saturday, 25th April, 1998, I hit the Bruce Highway at Nebo Road, Mackay. I headed south...my destination was Gympie, my old hometown that I’d left many years previously...in July, 1965.
I had both a job and a home waiting for me upon my arrival from Mackay where I’d been managing a motel. For the first week until the rental property was ready for occupancy I was Rod and Joy’s house guest.
My ginger cat, Pushkin, was also their guest. Pushkin, who had travelled the length of Queensland with me, living here there and everywhere, (Pushkin also lived on Newry Island with me, preferred to remain out of sight and out of the way of Rod and Joy’s two cattle dogs. One dog was a Blue Heeler (Australian Cattle Dog) and the other a Kelpie.
Joy and her now late husband, Rod ran beef cattle on their property, on the banks of the Mary River, at what is known as the “Southside” of Gympie. The property is around 360 acres in area (145 hectares). The road that runs along the property bears their family name.
As well as breeding cattle, Rod owned and operated, with staff, a Gympie butcher shop, Joy. on the other hand, owned and operated her own hairdressing salon through the years.
55 years ago....7th July, 1963....(funny how times slips away)...Joy turned 19 years of age. It was a Wednesday. On the Saturday night, the 10th July, a birthday celebration was held at her family home.
Her family home was partly high-set. The party was held underneath the house. The floor was concreted and wooden palings formed the "walls" of the underneath section of the house.
Coloured lights, streamers and popular music of the time soon put the party-goers in a merry mood.
I remember the evening well. Along with 20 or so other happy teenagers, I danced, and danced, and danced the night away.
One of the guests at Joy’s party that evening was a young man, a relative stranger to the town. He’d only arrived in Gympie a few weeks previously to join the staff at the local radio station as a radio announcer.
I’d only seen the handsome young fellow from afar as he walked past my place of employment....the office of solicitors, Tozer and Jeffery. For the first few weeks in town, until he found suitable shared accommodation, the young man was a guest at a hotel, The Freemasons, which was just up the road a bit from where I worked.
The evening of Joy’s party we just nodded and smiled at each other. I remember him dancing nearby to where I was. We bumped into each other a couple of times, accidentally, but that was our only interaction that night.
How was I to know then, on the 10th July, 1963, in the future, he and I would become boyfriend and girlfriend; and then, a couple of years later, become engaged...and then a few years down the track, become husband and wife?
The handsome young stranger was Randall, who would become - after his lengthy overseas odyssey, travelling wide and far; after spending almost a decade living and working in New York - my second husband. Randall is now my ex, but remains a good friend – a best friend.
Through the years Randall would jokingly tease me, stating my bumping into him the night of Joy's party wasn't accidental. If I did, it was, on my part, anyway. He's always had a vivid imagination!
Old friends...are good friends...best friends, even better friends....
It’s comforting – good for the soul - to know some things don’t change...