Brenda is our senior of the month. At 91 years of age she is a wealth of information and knowledge on the suburb of Blackburn and is a very busy lady still the organizer of celebrations and events, she is truly amazing for her age. I ask her if she has an afternoon nap and she roars laughing ‘you want to know if I have a nanna nap everyday’. Well yes. Never! Brenda just keeps herself too busy to sit down for a nanna nap; she goes to bed around midnight most nights and sets her alarm at 7.00am as she has too much to do. WOW, what a zest for life and attitude.
Brenda was born in Feb 1923 in Box Hill and has lived all her life in Blackburn. She had a younger brother and went to Mont Albert Central school. I asked Brenda of her memories of the depression and she said her dad had to sell his grocery store in South parade Blackburn during the depression, but he was extremely lucky that ‘Normans’ bought his shop and her father was able to stay on as Manager of the shop. Brenda then went to Box Hill girls Tech and did a Commercial Principles course which covers book keeping, shorthand and typing.
In 1938 Brenda got a job at Metropolitan gas and worked there for 10 years. In the meantime she met her husband Jim and they married in 1948. Brenda left work, she married and had her first child a son within the next year. She went on to have a further 2 sons. Brenda now has 4 grand children, 9 great grandchildren and 2 step grand children.
Jim, Brenda’s husband served in WWII in the air force in the 6th battalion. When he returned from the war he became an engineer and passed away in 2006 aged 87.
Brenda & Jim bought their block of land 75 feet x 165 feet and it cost them 150 pounds. They then took a loan of four and half thousand pounds to build their brick house. They could only build a 2 bedroom house as that was the Government ruling at the time because of a shortage of materials. It was also during this time that her husband helped to build the local kinder. In those days as a local it was just expected that you will help out during your spare time to build the local kinder if that’s where you wanted your kids to go. Bit like a today’s working bee in advance! Lady Brooks opened Pope road kinder, the kinder Brenda’s husband and other locals worked on.
Having lived in Blackburn all her life Brenda is a wealth of knowledge knowing all sorts of facts on the local area. Apparently a Mr Hadley owned a lot of the land around North of Blackburn station. He had a son called Stanley who didn’t make it back from WWII, so he named Stanley Grove after his son. She also had tales of the ‘Worth” circus setting up in the car park of the Blackburn hotel in the 1950’s and 1960’s. She can remember going into her garden one afternoon and seeing an elephant trunk come over the fence and pull out her plants! She contacted the Blackburn hotel to complain the elephants were eating the plants in her back garden and needed to be moved!!!
To this day Brenda is involved in many different groups and says this has helped her to stay young. She started a book group in the street in 1954 that is still going albeit she is the longest serving member and those long departed street members are replaced by others around the area. She said anything to get a break from the kids and leave the husbands to escape for a little while back in those days!!! She is currently part of the local Probus group, the Music group, the Book group and the Women’s group! She is also the organizer for birthday parties and events with her club!
I asked Brenda a few of our regular questions:
What do you think the biggest change in society is?
Women returning to work and having choices. In her day it was just expected you got married you left work.
What’s your biggest achievement?
My three boys. Sadly for Brenda she lost her eldest son just 3 months ago, so she is dealing with that recent loss.
Do you have any regrets?
No, she has had a happy and fulfilled life.
Any advice for the younger generation?
Keep connected with groups and people, it keeps you young, active and connected.
Brenda has to race off to a 90 birthday party she has organized. Not only is she knowledgeable about the local area she has really stayed connected. Her nephew lives 2 doors down from her and one of her sons in the next street. She really does not look or behave as you would expect a 90 year old too! She is so vibrant and has so much energy. We are so lucky to have seniors like Brenda in the area that can fill us in on our local history and stories of days gone by.
I have now interviewed 3 seniors in the their 90’s and all are very active physically and mentally and an absolute credit, we really are blessed to have some incredible seniors out there. Keep up the great work Brenda!