Mavis James

Mavis James

90, Alcheringa

I was the youngest of 8 children and I was 2 years old when my Mum died. The story I was told, she had appendicitis and the doctor was supposedly drunk and Mum didn’t survive the trip to theatre. Nowadays things are so different aren’t they? But I’m going back 90 years. I don’t remember my Mum. I mean I’ve seen photos of her but I have no memories whatsoever and that’s sad. For that reason I’ve had three sons and I’ve just loved them because I remember what I missed. It was sad I didn’t have a daughter but now I’ve got 3 angels. They are just so kind, so good – I’m very blessed. But poor Dad. This little 2 year old, a 4 year old, a 6 year old… and there’s 8 kids and Mum gone. That would have been tough. I went to various aunties – I was farmed out all that time. A lot of that time – the sister that’s 2 years older than I – the two of us went to an aunty here or an aunty there or whatever. My eldest sister was 17 when Mum died and that poor girl took over the job of housekeeper. She must have been a gem of a person. Listening now it sounds tough but we didn’t know any different. That was just the way it was. And the aunties were kind and good, the cousins were all good and kind. By the time I started school my eldest sister married and went to live in Kerang and I went to live with them and went to school in Kerang. Until I got to grade 7 , then I came back home to Dad at Pental Island. I rode my bike from there to Fish Point – 7 miles each way – to go to school for that last year. I mean, the kids get on the bus to go next door now! Eventually Dad moved to Swan Hill and I moved in here and I worked at Bo Peep Salon selling baby clothes, baby prams – anything to do with babies. The clothes, the rugs, the blankets, a lot of prams and that sort of thing.

Sundays were the day people used to go out and so Dad used to bring my brother and I to Swan Hill. We’d go to the dance, or the pictures or whatever, when we were teenagers.  Dad used to go and play cards at some place and we’d go to the dance at the Memorial Hall. After the dance we’d all go back and meet up with Dad and we’d go back out home to the farm on Pental Island.

Eventually Dad announced he was getting married again.  He took us – my brother and I – in to meet her and she was nice. We were very lucky that he’d found someone really nice. So he got married again and by that stage John was married and I came and boarded in town and worked. I worked there a few years and I’d just gone 21 when I got married and went to live out on the farm. We had a good married life. I met Keith at a dance at the Memorial Hall here in Swan Hill and this nice young fellow asked me for a dance. When we were dancing I said, “Oh, thank you,” when we finished and he said “Oh, I’ve been watching you for quite a while.” So I said, “Well, what’s your name?” and he said “I’m Keith, what’s your name?” That was it from then on. I mean it took us years before we finally got married but he was a wonderful husband and I was very blessed. We had these 3 lovely sons and they are just gems. They’ve been so good since Keith died 16 years ago.

We owned the land across the river from the Pioneer Settlement on Pental Island. When the settlement was getting started they wanted to do something that involved the river bank on Pental Island and they had to come and get our permission to be able to do this. So I’ve been involved with the Pioneer Settlement in one way or another for all the years it’s been there!

I was always one that did things for myself rather than accept other people to do things for me. I always thought if you tried there was a way around whatever the problem was. I would be much happier helping somebody else, than expecting anybody to do anything for me. People have got to get back to being more generous to others, more kindness instead of the nastiness. In some ways the world is now better. A lot better than it was when I was little, as far as I can see. There is less poverty and things of that sort because there are groups now that see that there is this type of trouble and groups that take over and try and help them. The awful weapons they’ve got now are just making things too dangerous. I’ve always been a very peaceful person and if there’s a problem, I’ve always tried to go the right way about trying to fix it. I think that I’ve been through the best years.

I think that technology has changed things more in my life than the other things. My son, give him two pieces of string and he’d make them talk to you – he’s just a tech whizz. He works for Australia Broadcasting and they send him wherever the locals can’t fix something. Amongst my friends, they sort of have no idea about these things. I think that he has just taught me so much, like the use of iPads and things of that sort. I’ve got a niece in America I email and I do any of the quiz sessions that are on. I’m on Facebook. Not that I use it often but I look at it every morning to see who is sending me messages and I answer them if they ask me something. I have 240 photos on my old iPad. I went through my photo albums and I photographed every photo, looking straight down on them! And anything that happens I take another photo and it’s fun!

n’t survive the trip to theatre.