Joan dressed for the part

Softly spo­ken but still full of life, Joan Equinox has danced her way through life, as Moya Stevens learned

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS | LOOKING BACK -

Joan Equinox is read­ily recog­nised by her ex­cep­tional style and taste in clothes but there is more to her than just her ap­pear­ance.

Born on a dairy farm at Conon­dale, a small ham­let west of Maleny, Joan lived a life of most coun­try chil­dren, help­ing on the farm and en­joy­ing the free­dom af­forded by small com­mu­nity.

“Dad (Ernie Prior) had a bul­lock team, so he would go away work­ing,” Joan ex­plained, “and the kids would have to milk the 30 cows we had – and it was in the days of hand milk­ing.”

There were seven chil­dren in the Prior fam­ily, Joan be­ing the sec­ond born.

“Our mother was very lov­ing but she re­ally was more aca­demic than a home­maker – she hated house­work,” Joan said, “so I did a lot of the rar­ing of my sib­lings.”

Af­ter at­tend­ing school at Ela­man Creek with a year at Ip­swich Girls Gram­mar, Joan got a job as a do­mes­tic at the nearby Maleny hospi­tal.

“En­ter­tain­ment when I was a teenager was cen­tred around lo­cal dances and I just loved it,” she said, “and it re­ally was a lovely life.”

Joan very much wanted to be­come a nurse so she trained at the Gympie hospi­tal, grad­u­at­ing when she was 20 years old.

“Life as a trainee nurse meant we went to the beach and drank too much, we went to the park and drank too much,” she laughed, “and we all re­ally loved beer – but we were very good nurses too.”

Upon grad­u­a­tion, Joan got a po­si­tion at the Cairns Base Hospi­tal and she re­mem­bers com­plain­ing that she had been in Cairns for two months and “there were no dates and no go­ing out”.

“Then one night one of the other nurses came in and said there were some guys sit­ting in their cars out the front of the hospi­tal, ask­ing if there were any nurses who wanted to go out.

“I said to my friend ‘that’s us’ and off we went,” she said, “and that night I met Lou Equinox – and I never saw any other bloke af­ter that.”

Joan said that one of her stip­u­la­tions when go­ing out with a man is that they liked to dance, and for­tu­nately Lou was a good dancer.

“Lou lived with his fa­ther for many years in New Guinea, and he would go to dances, and as he didn’t drink, he would dance with all the wives of Aus­tralians who were liv­ing there at the time,” Joan ex­plained.

An en­gage­ment en­sued and wed­ding plans made. In 1954, they were mar­ried in Moss­man as Lou’s fa­ther, Car­los, had cousins in the area (the Lom­bardis), and he had bought a house in the town and a cane farm at Cas­sowary.

Joan and Lou lived hap­pily in and around Moss­man and had three chil­dren, Rus­sell, Keri-Lu and Joanne and soon bought a big­ger cane farm in Mow­bray.

“Lou and I still loved to dance so when we heard about a dance some­where around, of­ten on the table­lands and Cairns, we’d pack up the kids and go,” Joan rem­i­nisced.

“We par­tic­u­larly liked the mod­ern waltz and the quick step but didn’t care what it was, we were on the dance floor,” she said.

“Lou was shy but a very, very good dancer and luck­ily he only wanted to dance with me,” she laughed.

Along with the danc­ing came the gowns which were de­signed by Joan and if not made by her, by a lo­cal dress­maker.

Af­ter many years work­ing the farm at Mow­bray, Lou be­came ill and spent 10 years eas­ing back from the farm’s re­spon­si­bil­i­ties which were taken on by Rus­sell, their first born.

“It was only when the doc­tor said that he needed hospi­tal care, that I moved him to Moss­man Hospi­tal and he was the first pa­tient in their Aged Care Ward,” Joan said.

“He was looked af­ter beau­ti­fully there,” she said, who vis­ited Lou every day of his 12 month time in Moss­man Hospi­tal.”

Mean­while, the fam­ily sold the farm and Joan bought a lovely home in Port Dou­glas and shortly af­ter she had set­tled in her new abode, Lou died.

“Shaun Cram sang Could I Have This Dance for the Rest of My Life at Lou’s fu­neral,” Joan said, “and it was re­ally beau­ti­ful.”

“We were very much in love from our first date un­til the day he passed away,” Joan sighed.

Joan bus­ied her­self with sewing clothes and patch­work quilts, and con­tin­ued to seek out dances with friends and fam­ily join­ing her, and she took up go­ing to the Cairns horse races.

“It’s an­other op­por­tu­nity to dress up,” she laughed.

As Joan’s danc­ing has waned over re­cent years, she do­nated her gowns to the Cairns Cho­ral So­ci­ety but still has an en­vi­able wardrobe of stylish, be­spoke out­fits.

Joan dons these el­e­gant en­sem­bles when at­tend­ing the theatre both in Port Dou­glas and Cairns.

“I know I may look a bit over­dressed but I feel good,” she said, “and when I dress up, I feel my­self.

“I have a good life still,” she ex­plained, “go­ing out with girl­friends and I have lovely neigh­bours who pop in at 5 o’clock some nights for a glass of wine.”

See­ing Joan dressed in her fin­ery is one of the plea­sures of liv­ing in Port Dou­glas and it would ap­pear she in­tends to main­tain her ex­cep­tional style.

I said to my friend ‘that’s us’ and off we went and that night I met Lou Equinox – and I never saw any other bloke af­ter that

Pic­ture: MOYA STEVENS

Joan Equinox with one of her gowns. Inset above: Lou and Joan in the 1960s. Right: Nurs­ing grad­u­a­tion, 1954

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