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30 October 2019
By Lotte Reiter
Wendy Donald has countless personal memories. It is a bank of information she continually refers and adds to, using the memories, recollections and records of other people.
As a Horsham Historical Society researcher and editor, Wendy, 68, has sifted through hundreds of documents, photographs and stories about Horsham and district.
It is a never-ending job, the Lower-Norton retiree explained, because ‘today is tomorrow’s history’.
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But, like many society members, she has experienced both the good and bad of time gone by. Most notable, she found, was Horsham’s infrastructural evolution.
“What I notice most is the changing of times. They’ve pulled down some beautiful buildings here, we’ve lost a lot,” she said.
“The society runs history street walks, and we have to say, ‘this is where this was, and this is where that was’, and take photos to show people what it used to look like.
“I think it’s tragic. I can see why it’s done perhaps. But buildings like the old hospital that were pulled down – I worked there for so long – I really felt that.” Wendy loved growing up in Haven in the 1950s. She remembers the district’s community spirit, where everyone seemed to be friends. It wouldn’t matter if a family was poor, because no one was really that rich anyway, and the school and hall were the centre of everything.
“The school was quite different from today,” she said.
“There were peppercorn trees in the yard, and we had a vegetable patch and a dam. Can you imagine a dam these days with children in grades prep to six?
“And the toilets were called the long drop, they were just a hole. That was very flash; before that there were pans and the boys got paid a schilling or so for emptying them into a hole down the back of the school.”
Friend and society member Janet Allen grew up with Wendy and her sisters Joan and Marlene, who she said could often be found at Horsham’s swimming pool.
“When it opened in 1957, all the kids in Horsham lived at that pool,” Mrs Allen said.
“I remember Wendy and her sisters were always there. Because we both have this passion for history, we know each other better now, we’ve got quite a lot to do with each other. And just like Wendy was, I sent my daughter off to someone else’s place to ride horses.”
Growing up in a family that couldn’t afford a horse, a young Wendy would ‘beg and borrow’ from her cousins.
Now, she owns several, is a life member of both Riding for the Disabled Association and Wimmera Equestrian Club, and is active with Horsham Pony Club.
Her passion for horses has extended beyond her years with Horsham Historical Society and has left her with countless memorable experiences.
But it might have been her lifelong nursing career where she discovered the most ‘marvellous’ memories of all.
Wendy worked at Horsham’s Wimmera Base Hospital for 38 years.
She started her training in the 1960s, before working at the day centre for 26 years and eventually securing work in district nursing homes.
She can still recall memories of people she nursed in the early 1970s.
“Like Mrs Puls,” she said, pulling the name to mind.
“She told me once that she kept her youngest child alive and warm by putting him in the wood stove when the fire died down at night. That’s how she reckons she saved his life.” Horsham’s Barry McCourt worked as a laundry truck driver for the hospital when Wendy worked as a nurse.
Barry said he remembered running into Wendy as he unloaded a truck full of supplies.
“Wendy and another girl would always cross my path when I was unloading the truck, and we talked about the old times of the hospital. She would have a lot of memories about it,” he said.
“She’s really got her head down among it now at the society. She’s always been putting stories to paper. She follows up research and goes through the old papers.
“I remember she would come to me in meetings and say, ‘do you remember this?’, and I’d say, ‘I remember that quite well’, and we’d back each other up. That’s the thing, somebody has got to spark you to make you remember things and stories.”
Wendy might simply be a volunteer with a passion for putting stories to paper. But just as she has found through her time at the society, a small collection of memories can quickly become a treasure trove for future generations.
“The details will be lost forever unless people write down these things,” she said.
The entire Lifestyle Wimmera Edition 5 is available online. READ IT HERE!