Jean is lucky to have ex­pe­ri­enced scheme

The Cobram Courier - - NEWS - By Pa­trick Tansey

At the grand age of 95, Jean Win­ter’s mind is as ra­zor sharp as ever.

She dis­cusses in great de­tail her ex­pe­ri­ence of liv­ing on a farm as part of the sol­diers set­tle­ment scheme, which was in­tro­duced in Vic­to­ria in 1917 and rein­vig­o­rated and con­tin­ued post-World War II.

Mrs Win­ter’s quick wit and abil­ity to re­trace and re­cap­ture mo­ments from more than 70 years ago is captivating and you feel priv­i­leged to be trans­ported back to a time in which the world was noth­ing like we know to­day.

Land­ing on a set­tle­ment farm in Sin­ga­pore Rd, Yar­roweyah, was a sud­den process for Mrs Win­ter.

She mar­ried Fred William Win­ter in March 1947. They were al­lo­cated block 42 — a dairy farm — as part of the scheme in July that year and took over the prop­erty in Oc­to­ber.

They started with two heifers, two dogs and two bikes and de­spite be­ing in­un­dated with mice, Mrs Win­ter said the pair was ‘‘very lucky’’ to have the weary farm house.

Orig­i­nally from Hawthorn, Mrs Win­ter re­lo­cated to Kyabram af­ter get­ting a teach­ing po­si­tion there.

She said it was easy to leave the city lights be­hind be­cause of her love for all things out­doors.

The man who lived on the Yar­roweyah prop­erty be­fore the Win­ters as­sumed con­trol was the water bailiff.

The 120-acre (48.6 ha) farm was a ‘‘nar­row block’’ with a chan­nel down one side.

‘‘We were young. We didn’t have a lot of money at the time, but back then if you wanted some­thing badly enough you would go out and get it, and that’s what we did,’’ Mrs Win­ter said.

‘‘It was rough when we started off. There were no ameni­ties or power, the win­ters were freez­ing and it was ter­ri­bly hot in sum­mer.’’

Mrs Win­ter loves telling the story of how she met her hus­band.

‘‘It was at a barn dance in Kyabram in what must have been 1945 or 1946,’’ she said.

‘‘He put me in a re­verse waltz and I said ‘‘you’re not Vic­to­rian, Vic­to­ri­ans don’t re­verse waltz’’, and he ex­plained that he was from Queens­land and was work­ing on a farm in Kyabram.’’

Fred was a sig­naller in World War II and made trips to the Mid­dle East and Pa­pua New Guinea dur­ing his four years of ser­vice.

Mrs Win­ter said Fred did not talk about the war much, choos­ing in­stead to tell his wife funny sto­ries about some of the things that went on.

She said Fred and a group of friends who had served in the armed forces de­cided to cre­ate a group where they could all con­nect and formed the League of Set­tlers at the Yar­roweyah Town Hall.

Fred went on to spend 53 years as a mem­ber of Legacy and was pres­i­dent of the Co­bram Foot­ball Club.

Although the con­di­tions were harsh, Mrs Win­ter said the sol­dier set­tle­ment scheme was fan­tas­tic for men who came back from war with­out a job and purpose in their life.

‘‘Yar­roweyah was a big sol­dier set­tle­ment area,’’ she said.

‘‘There were a lot of big farm­ing fam­i­lies with four or five boys in places like Ton­gala and Echuca and the fa­ther couldn’t keep them all on the farm, so a lot went to sol­dier set­tle­ments.’’

The Win­ters re­mained on their Yar­roweyah farm for for 18 years, en­joy­ing the out­doors and be­ing ac­tive.

They even­tu­ally sold the farm to their friend Colin Bar­ton, who Mrs Win­ter said had been ex­tremely kind to her since Fred passed away 11 years ago.

Mrs Win­ter said a lot of the blocks which did not have houses on them had tin sheds in which peo­ple lived. These would go on to be­come util­ity sheds in many cases.

As far as she is aware, Mrs Win­ter is one of only three liv­ing peo­ple who was con­nected di­rectly to the sol­dier set­tle­ment scheme in this area.

The other two are Hazel Camp­bell and Jessica Mel­lier.

❝We were young, we didn’t have a lot of money at the time but back then but if you wanted some­thing badly enough you would go out and get it and that’s what we did.❞

She’s a mar­vel: Jean Win­ter, 95, lived on a farm in Yar­roweyah with hus­band Fred as part of the sol­diers set­tle­ment scheme.

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