Many happy returns to Resthaven Murray Bridge, Hills & Fleurieu Community Services client, Mrs Edith O’Brien, who recently celebrated her 100th birthday.
Mrs O’Brien grew up in the small railway town of Hanson, where her family farmed dairy and wheat. She remembers riding her pony to school each day, where she attended with just 23 other students, who all shared one school room.
‘Of course we had our chores to do,’ she says; ‘We would pick up the eggs, do the wood for the stove, and I was always at my mother’s elbow while she did the cooking.’
‘Transport was a hooded buggy with one horse and two kerosene lamps on either side.’
‘I was 16 when we purchased a 32 volt motor, and that changed living conditions – Mother put aside the scrubbing board and bought a fancy American washing machine.’
‘We pulled a cord and a light went on, we thought it was wonderful!’
‘At age 16, I started at Methodist Ladies College [now Annesely Junior School], where I boarded for three years. I tell you, we got up to mischief!’
‘We used to walk to church every Sunday through the parklands, and I remember the first milk bar on the corner of Pirie and King William Street – it was called “Roxy”.’
After college, Mrs O’Brien went on to study nursing at the Adelaide Hospital (as it was then called, before the introduction of the ‘Royal’). However, when war broke out, she went in a different direction, working as an ammunition inspector. ‘I started off with hand grenades, then they said I was ready to go on high explosives at Penfield,’ she says.
‘Eventually I dealt with consignments of ammunition. We would go to the Port Wakefield range and note the action of ammo.’
It was during the war that Mrs O’Brien met her late husband, and the pair were married in August 1942. After the war, the couple moved to Broken Hill, where Mr O’Brien worked in the mines, before moving to Keith, where they lived on a remote farming property with their two children and Mrs O’Brien’s father.
‘We had 32 volt power, but no telephone. We had to trek through the scrub to get out,’ she says.
‘I taught the kids via correspondence school until my daughter was ten, when my father sold the property and moved closer to Keith, where the kids could attend the local public school.’
Never one to rest on her laurels, Mrs O’Brien became involved with the National Trust, the Keith Institute, RSL, over 50s, CWA, and Probus. She also learned cake decorating and woodwork.
She stayed in Keith for around sixty years, before moving to Strathalbyn in 2016 to be closer to her son. She now has three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Mrs O’Brien lives independently in her unit with support from Resthaven Murray Bridge, Hills & Fleurieu Community Services staff, who visit twice a week. ‘They’re lovely, they’re very, very good,’ she says. ‘I’m very happy with the services.’
‘All I can say is that Resthaven is excellent, they really are.’
The first one to reach 100 in her family, Mrs O’Brien credits a positive attitude to her great longevity: ‘I’ve always been positive,’ she says. ‘There’s so many people who say, “I can’t do that,” – so they don’t.’
Mrs O’Brien celebrated her milestone birthday at the Fullarton Hall with 90 family and friends from across Australia.