Volunteering and gardening enjoyed
Thelma Fanning’s memories are still strong
A HORSE and sulky along a corrugated dirt road 10 miles from Biggenden carried Ethel and Henry Graham to the Biggenden Hospital for the imminent birth of their six pound daughter they called Thelma.
Ninety years on and Thelma Fanning said in those days there was no midwife or ambulance while phones were very scarce and motor cars were few and far between.
“Even though five sons followed, being the oldest I had to learn to milk by hand at a young age,” she said.
“I didn’t go away to college like the rich kids as my father couldn’t afford it.
“In those days the dairy farms were 160 acres – and barely made a living.”
Thelma worked at the hospital as a maternity maid until she married Fred Fanning.
Sadly, Fred was only 53 when he was killed in a freak accident on the outskirts of Biggenden when a tree that had been burning for three days fell and landed on his truck.
Mrs Fanning said he was on his third load of hay, carting it from theWidgee area to Leith Busteed’s property just a short way down the highway.
“I was only 46, had a little money saved but Centrelink wouldn’t give me the widow’s pension until I was 50,” Mrs Fanning said.
“It wasn’t easy but to make myself a living. I opened my home to boarders and took in washing and ironing to survive.
“I loved gardening and grew all the vegetables to feed the family.
“I always had a chip hoe in my hands.
“Just loved being outside to being inside doing the housework.”
Today, daughter Aileen is her carer and she has taken over the gardening and the cooking, but Mrs Fanning is able to cut up the vegetables.
Mrs Fanning said she enjoyed volunteering for various organisations during the years and was awarded Biggenden Shire Council’s Citizen of the Year in 2008.
“I am now Patroness of the Biggenden Show Society but was treasurer of the Ladies Committee when Mabel McKenzie became ill,” Mrs Fanning said.
“This was something I had to learn as I only went to Grade 7. It was a bit of challenge but with some help I managed it. Volunteering for Meals on Wheels I cooked the soup and dessert the day before my rostered day.
“In those days we cooked the main meal at the Memorial Hall kitchen.
“Delivering the meals with Eaton Giles I enjoyed seeing the clients’ faces – in some cases it was the only visit they got.”
Mrs Fanning felt honoured when given life membership of the QCWA six years ago.
“I have been a continuous member since 1985 and during that time had held all executive positions with the exception of international officer,” she said.
Mrs Fanning celebrated her 90th birthday with family and her Gospel Hall friends at the Show Hall last week.
“My mobility is not what it could be but my memory is terrific – you could say my mind’s willing but my body isn’t,” she said.
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NINETY YEARS YOUNG: Thelma Fanning has lived in Biggenden 84 of her 90 years.