Elsie’s life a vibrant tale
ELSIE May McCracken (nee Crooks) was born on September 18, 1913, to Bertha Louise (nee Mohr) and Stephen George Crooks at Nurse May’s Nursing Home, Fort St, Maryborough.
Elsie had two older sisters, Mabel, born in 1909, and Ethel, born in 1911, and younger brother Hector, born in 1917.
Elsie’s life was influenced from an early age by her German grandmother, Christina Pohlman, who immigrated to Maryborough in 1870. They shared interests in religion, cooking, craft and gardening.
In May 1917, Elsie’s father, who was employed by the railway, was transferred to the Bundaberg railway office and the family relocated to North Bundaberg.
Elsie started her schooling at Bundaberg North State School in 1919, with 11 other pupils in her class.
In 1925, Elsie moved to Bundaberg-West State School and was one of its first pupils.
She helped clear land for the school to be built.
Academically she excelled, gaining the highest marks for the school in the high school entrance exam in 1927.
From 1928 to 1930, Elsie attended Bundaberg State High School, her studies including French and Latin.
Her ambition was to be a school teacher, but she was 13 days too old for school teaching from junior standard.
In the sporting arena, Elsie played tennis and was a foundation member of the 16ft Skiff Sailing Club that was formed on June 3, 1931.
From 1932 to 1938 she was three times declared champion lady skipper and five times handicap winner.
In her memoirs, Elsie writes: “Music takes first preference in my life, then sewing, gardening, cooking, cars and house designing.
“I was involved in the foundation of Bundaberg’s first radio station.
“Jim Jordan, Jack Jones and Bill Kelly were the technicians.
“The boys played mouth organs, ukuleles and our sailing club girls sang.
“Every Sunday morning we were on air in about 1935.”
On December 21, 1938, Elsie married Arnold John McCracken, an engineer at Fairymead.
Elsie and Arnold knew each other at school.
Years later they were paired for mixed doubles on the tennis court and romance began.
Like most men in 1938, Arnold didn’t believe in women working so her business closed, but she continued to sew for her family.
Elsie lived in Bundaberg from 1917 to 1941, when Arnold was transferred to Walkers Foundry in Maryborough.
The couple had four daughters: Lynette (Bauer), Gilda (Edwards), Delma (Murray) and Alice Beth (Johnson).
In 1982, Elsie moved to Mundubbera and in the 30 years she lived in the town she was involved with the kindergarten, Red Cross, Blue Nurses Respite, Anglican Church and historical society.
She would often sit in the main street selling raffle tickets for any organisation that asked.
Her love and talent for sewing influenced her daughters and granddaughters.
At 100 she was still crocheting for family and friends, could thread a needle without glasses and loved to read.
On Elsie’s 100th birthday, her family spanned five generations and included 16 grandchildren, 43 great-grandchildren and three great-greatgrandchildren.
In the last months of her life, her health declined.
Elsie passed away in her sleep on May 7, 2014.
MUCH LOVED: Elsie May McCracken.