Betty Cooper - Words of Wisdom
As told to Melise Coleman
This week we caught up with the beautiful Betty Cooper who resides at Gosling Creek Aged Care. You could sit and listen to Betty all day, she has the most interesting stories, we hope you enjoy her Words of Wisdom.
Name: Betty Cooper
Age: 92, I’m turning 93 in April.
Where and when were you born? Sydney, 1926.
What are the most important lessons you've learned in life? To be self-reliant. My father was killed in a road accident in Goondiwindi when I was only 11 and my Mum was very sick after the accident too, that meant I had to be self-reliant. I have one sister, she’s older than me. In hard times you went to line up at the Court House or the Police Station and you’d get hand-outs of clothing, or shoes or food, and she would never get in the queue, she’d say ‘You go!’ so I learnt to do all of those things just to help Mum.
Those were hard times, people had no money to go to shops, we were grateful for what we got, especially in cold weather you’d get a jumper or a jacket maybe. Shoes were hard in those days, these synthetic ones go on forever, in the olden days they were leather and leather soles, they used to wear out and get a hole in the bottom, you used to get some cardboard and make an insole and put it in until you got a new pair of shoes because you only had one pair.
Things like that made me aware of helping my sister and my mother, so I just carried on doing that all of the time.
What’s the secret to a happy marriage? Just work hard and enjoy what you’ve got, don’t be one that has to have things just for the sake of having.
What big world events were the most memorable while you were growing up? The war. When the war started, we moved to Brisbane and one of my first jobs there was with the American Army, it was at South Brisbane next to the dry docks where the submarines would come in for repairs. I was in the post office there, I used to sort mail. To qualify for that without any proper schooling, you just had to go out on a wing and a prayer and say all the right things, and I got through.
I worked there for three and a half years, I was one of the last five civilian employees when the war was finished.
Because I was in the Signal office, there were all top-secret things like troop movements we had to record. What paperwork was left after the war was over, we had to take it out near the flagpole and burn it all, it was a real traumatic time, you just coped the best way you could. It was something I often look back on because I was so young with everything I had to do, I coped and I didn’t make a big deal of it, if it’s there to do you learn to do it.
We had a General who used to come around every so often and he would quiz you on the troop movements and you had to go through your files, that was the hardest thing, you couldn’t always remember what event he wanted to know about, it was pretty scary, when he would go we would do a sigh of relief. *laughs*
What is your favourite childhood memory? Just being with the family, my sister was Mummy’s girl and I did everything with Dad.
What life advice would you pass along to your grandchildren? Just to work hard and be happy, your life is up to yourself and what you make it.
What did you want to be when you grew up? Well, I think I just had to take things as they came along, it wasn’t a time of what you would like to be, it was what you had to do. I think just to accept what you have to do and do it to the best of your ability.
What was your first job? Because we had no money, I had to leave school at 12 years old to get a job, I was scrubbing floors at the local hospital. I had a room near the nurses’ quarters, I got on well with Matron.
What was your favourite job? The Army, I was so good at what I did there. I was approached by Ansett Airways after that job because I could use a certain machine, I thought well I’ve had enough of office work, so I started working at a place like what David Jones is now. I was in the jewellery department, I thought well, I want a job with the people and that wasn’t so hush hush, I wanted to be normal for a change. *laughs*
What are you most proud of? My family, I’ve got teachers whichever way you look. *laughs*
What was your favourite thing to do for fun? I used to collect stamps with my friend from school, I think I’ve still got the books.
Who is the person who influenced your life the most? Why? I’d say Dad, I did everything with Dad, he taught me to handle horses and do odd jobs, I was his little offsider. My Dad was very good with horses, a lady who had a riding academy used to call on Dad for troublesome horses, I used to help him lead them around and gentle them.
I had a little pony, we couldn’t afford a saddle for me, and instead of riding bare-back (which I didn’t like) Dad got a little sugar bag and packed it with whatever soft packing he could get and made a little makeshift saddle and put two stirrups on either side.
In my later years I was out on a friend’s sheep station, I used to go out mustering, you had to get used to the water, the horses would jump to get over because there were no bridges, most times they’d be really good, one time I’m there ready to jump and he baulked, I nearly went out right out and over his neck *laughs* I thought oooh you bugger. *laughs*