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    SHARP: Neville and Mavis Jarred work on a crossword in their Nhill home. Mavis turns 100 today. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER
  • Hero image
    Mavis Jarred at Nhill. Mavis will turn 100 on July 27.
  • Hero image
    Neville and Mavis Jarred at Nhill. Mavis will turn 100 on July 27.

Mavis Jarred celebrates 100-year milestone

By Abby Walter

Mavis Jarred is one-of-a-kind. She was the first woman to drive a semi-truck in Australia and today she celebrates her 100th birthday. 

Mavis says while life had not been easy, she would not trade it with anyone.

Holding hands with her husband Neville, Mavis reminisced about her 50-year truck driving career in their home at Nhill, ahead of her birthday.

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“I started driving trucks at 19 years old after I married my first husband, Ivan Rethus, at 18 years old,” she said.

“I was the first woman to cart wheat to the Miram silo after it was built.

“I loved the transport driving, it was one of the best parts of my life.”

Mavis said after spending time working on a farm between Kaniva and Yanac, and later at Diapur, she and Ivan purchased the Central Café in Nhill, located at the site of the pharmacy in 2022.

“We had the cafe for two years, but being off the farm we hated it and sold it to go into the trucks,” she said.

“In that time, we were the first to introduce the idea of dipping ice cream cones in chocolate to the area.”

Mavis said Ivan had a friend who owed him money but could not pay him back, and instead they took his truck as payment.

“It was an old Ford, and we did quite a lot of miles in that before we brought a grey Leyland Beaver in 1954, and that’s when I really started driving,” she said.

“We then brought a red Leyland Beaver second-
hand in 1956, so Ivan drove that one and I drove the grey one.

“I’ve carted sheep from the Western Australia border right up to Queensland and the Northern Territory and the other side of Melbourne.”

Mavis and Ivan had four sons, Terry, David, John and Wayne.

“Wayne and John spent a lot of time in the truck with me – I would put them to bed in the back and away we’d go,” she said.

“I only ever heard swearing twice in all the years that I drove trucks. It was like I was mother to half the boys who used to drive trucks, they all used to call me mum.

“I think that’s an honour because it looks like truckies would be ones to put someone down, but they didn’t with me, they treated me as if I was one of them and I had their respect.”

Mavis said her first husband died when he was in his early 50s. 

She later married Neville in 1974.

“Neville has been a pretty good husband. We don’t fight and we’ve been good together,” she said.

“There is 20 years difference in our age and when we got married, the town said that will never last – but they didn’t know us.”

Neville said Mavis was a very determined character and cared for everyone she met.

“She sympathises with people no matter what, it’s in her nature,” he said.

“We’ve had a ball together. We have done a fair bit of travelling around and we’ve enjoyed our own company and done what we wanted to do, and even been around Australia a couple of times with a caravan.”

Mavis said together with Neville they owned a tyre store for some time, before getting back into driving trucks.

“We brought a truck and were carting fruit from Adelaide through to Nhill and up to Mildura,” she said.

“We also carted offal from Nhill to Keith and we had our truck on gas, so we’d have to fill up in Keith because there was no gas around here.

“When we had to fill up here, we’d have to use a big gas bottle, tip it upside down and breathe it into the tanks, which took some time.”

Mavis retired in 1993 at 71 years old and was inducted into the Road Transport Hall of Fame in 2010.

She now spends time working on her word book to keep her memory sharp, spending time with Neville and keeping track of her many grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren.

The entire July 27, 2022 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!

The entire July 27, 2022 edition of AgLife is available online. READ IT HERE!