by Elaine Peronchik
Sydney, September 1985. A phone call from Taree to say a position had become available. This was the transfer I had asked for, my journey to the Manning had begun. But my story had started much earlier.On March 11, 1935 at Boorowa District Hospital, in south-west NSW Elaine Frances Regan came into the world. That’s me, the last of six children. We lived on a farm four miles out of the township of Binalong on the Boorowa Rd. My main recollection of my childhood days was of a very close and loving relationship with my Dad which continued until his sudden death when I was 25.
Days on the farm were never boring; time was spent catching yabbies in the creek with my siblings or riding on the farm machinery with my father. We all had our chores. I loved collecting eggs, breaking many in the rush to be first home.However I did not always listen or do as I was told. I have a 9cm scar on my leg as evidence of my disobedience. My brother told me not to run, I ignored him and kept running but was stopped by the barb-wire on a fence pole. Another vivid memory is of placing a tiny button up my nose, and Mum and Dad having to travel quite a distance for medical help. Yet another is of sitting with my Mum in the yard when the earth began to tremble – the area we lived in was prone to earth tremors, I was terrified and can remember calling out '“That bloody thing came right up at me!“
These were also days of joy; watching baby ducklings hatching, and then cuddling
the beautiful bundles of yellow fluff. There was my beloved pet cow, which I could milk when I was only four years old. She was allowed in the house yard as she was my pet and very timid. I suffered my first broken heart when she died after giving birth to a lovely calf, which went on to be adopted by another cow.
My first venture into education was through the “Blackfriars Correspondence School”. Lessons were supervised by my mother, sent to Sydney for correction and marking, and then returned by post.
Then came my first knowledge of the horrors of war. World War II had
begun, but it seemed a world away, until my favourite uncle left to fight in the Middle East. Unlike so many others he was to return.
By this time we had moved into the township of Binalong. Life here changed, as I now had to attend a small school. Weekends were spent cycling with my cousins and friends with the inevitable falls from our bicycles and the skinned and very sore knees that came with it.
Eventually we moved to Sydney. I began high school at Our Lady of Mercy College, Paramatta. We were living at St John’s Park and this meant a bus to the rail station, the train to Parramatta and quite a walk to school. I left after the Intermediate Certificate, the equivalent in those days to what used to be the School Certificate which came at the end of Year 10. My father began work at Cablemakers, Liverpool, but his health began to decline.
When I left Scool I was lucky to find a job that I loved with the Bureau of Statistics as a data processor, mainly recording taxation returns and in quiet times other government records. Each year some of the time was spent working in Canberra.
I was a normal teenager; Work in the City five days a week, nights playing tennis and my great joy, dancing. My then-boyfriend was a keen dancer and the three years of what was sometimes a very rocky partnership was spent going dancing every Friday and Saturday night at places like the Trocadero
At twenty I was hit with Cupid's arrow. It was a guy who had lived almost opposite me for seven years! This threw my life into turmoil, as I had just applied for a flight-crew position with T.A.A. one of our two interstate carriers. What to do? Stay in my old job or move on? Decisions, decisions. I finally chose the first option, as the latter would have meant a move to Melbourne for three months trainig and at that stage of my life three months seemed a lifetime.
Fifteen months later I married that neighbour. He was Australian born but seen as a foreigner, with parents from the former Czechoslovakia. Australian girls didn't marry foreigners all that often then. I found it much easier to give my maiden name when having dry cleaning and shoe repairs done. I still become annoyed when people give me a bewildered look and ask how to spell my name.
By the time our first son was born we had built and moved into our first house in Canley Vale. Then, several days after discovering I was once again pregnant my world fell down around me. On the 4th of April 1960 my beloved Dad died suddenly of a heart attack during an asthma seizure.
Our family grew to four children and it was not easy to live on one wage, so I went back to work as a casual. My husband was a taxi driver and our aim was to purchase our own taxi plates. This meant a big outlay, but by scrimping and saving and living from week to week we managed to do so. As the children grew older I went back to full time work.
In 1982 my husband suffered a massive heart attack. I managed to hold down my job while managing the taxi and also the household. With the increased crime rate in the Sydney area, it was becoming dangerous to drive a cab there, one day my husband was held up at gun point.
So we decided that as soon as the children had flown the nest we would sell up and move on. We purchased a block of land in Old Bar, built a home and were due to move in on the 8th April 1986. However fate was to play a hand. My husband suffered yet another massive heart attack, this time fatal. He died three days before what was to have been moving day.
I was never to live in that house. I sold and just picked up the pieces. I continued working, bought a new home and still live in the area. My days are ful; walking several kilometres each morning, playing tennis and much, much more. With eight Grandchildren there are several visits each year to family in Coffs Harbour, Yamba and Brisbane.
My journey is over.The Manning Valley is now my home.