You can take the girl out of country – but you can’t take the country out of the girl.
Joan Hinds, Ina McAully, Valda English and Joyce Marler, who live at the Carinity Shalom retirement community in Rockhampton, reckon their rural town is the best – despite some changes over the decades.
“It’s a nice quiet place and you can go anywhere in a quarter of an hour and you don’t have to worry about transport. You don’t have to make an appointment to see your friends, you can just go and turn up,” Joan says.
The women say while Rockhampton has changed enormously over the 90 years of their lifetime – they miss the trams and “there are so many cars now” – they enjoy the laidback and friendly feel of the town.
While Rockhampton once felt safer – Joan used to “leave your doors open all night and have no worries” – the ladies feel secure living in the Carinity Shalom community.
“Before I came here to Shalom I used to always leave a light on because I never felt safe, but I go to bed here feeling quite safe,” Joyce says.
After leaving Rockhampton State High School, Joyce worked as a public servant in Brisbane and two years later transferred back home to work at the same school at which she studied.
Skilled with her hands, Ina made everything from dresses and buckles, to furniture coverings and mosquito nets.
“I started off in a shoe shop from when I was about 14 and then a job came up to work in a factory to learn to sew. I learned every stitch you could think of,” Ina says.
“I took on cutting material and then I was a machinist and every week I’d make myself a new frock to go out in.”
Valda, who lived mostly in nearby Yeppoon, worked in pineapple farming for the majority of her married life.
“Those were the days of pineapple canning when every day trains full of pineapples were going down south to near Brisbane where the cannery was,” Valda says.
“We were always farmers. My father when he had a farm would just take his produce to Yeppoon and sell it to people in the shops.”
The women agree that technology has advanced at an astounding rate during their lifetime.
“Where my husband worked they told me that years ago they had a big computer that would have been the size of a room,” Joyce says.
Joan says she “feels a bit left behind by technology”.
“Even though I’ve got an iPad there’s so many things to learn about it. When young ones speak to you they tell you very quickly and then go on to something else, and they don’t give you time to absorb it and learn it,” she says.
As for advice for a long and happy life, Valda reminds us to “just keep laughing” while Joyce says, “don’t worry about what might not happen”.