MELVA Henry’s approach to life is best summed up in that most Australian of expressions – have a go!
It’s an approach that seems to have served her well: Mrs Henry turned 104 earlier this month.
She celebrated her birthday (June 1) with friends and golfing buddies at Toronto Country Club on Wednesday.
“I’ve always believed you should join in on everything you can,” Mrs Henry told the Lakes Mail.
“Have a go! It doesn’t matter if you make a fool of yourself. Don’t say no, give it a go.”
Golf, tennis, singing, gardening… Mrs Henry has tried and enjoyed them all over the years.
”I’ve belonged to a lot of [organisations]. Whatever was going, I’d have a go,” she said.
Now that she’s slowed down a tad, Mrs Henry has embraced Scrabble.
“I love playing Scrabble,” she said. “Once a week I go to the [Royal Motor] Yacht Club [Toronto] to play Scrabble with four friends.”
Mrs Henry was born at Dead Man’s Pass in Gawler, South Australia.
“There were horse and carts back then, and I remember when we got the electricity put on, that was a momentous occasion,” she said.
But the newfangled electric light took some getting used to.
“Everything was so glary because we’d been used to the light from kerosene lanterns and candles,” she said.
“Things were slower then. And we walked everywhere. We’d walk about a mile to and from school.”
When motor vehicles arrived, things changed for ever.
“It was very special. My uncle had a car, and he’d drive to our place from Two Wells and pick us up to go on a Sunday afternoon drive down the main street,” she said laughing.
“We weren’t well-to-do. We were a poor, ordinary family, but we had a lot of interests.”
Mrs Henry worked as a typist in an office for four years, before taking up a job as a governess on a sheep station for a year.
“My job was to help the children of an Irish family with their schoolwork by correspondence. I’d supervise them in the home. There were two boys and a girl.”
In 1937, Mrs Henry married William John Henry.
“He was a good man, and a very good husband. But he’s been with the angels for some time now,” she said.
The couple had a daughter, Christine (deceased), and a son, Patrick.
“Patrick has retired now, but he used to be a greenkeeper here at the [Toronto] golf club and at Waratah.”
For 67 years Mrs Henry has lived in the family home at Coal Point. Son Patrick and his family live next door.
“I do all of my cooking, but a woman comes in once a fortnight to do the floors,” she said.
So what does Mrs Henry make of life in the 21st century?
“I think television has altered life incredibly,” she said.
“It brings the world into your lounge room. It’s wonderful, really – especially for people who can’t get out much.”
She also marvels at Australia’s growing population, and how migrants have enriched our culture.
“I think they brought a lot of interesting foods,” she said. “Before, it was just meat and vegetables. That’s all.”
When asked what brings her the most joy these days, Mrs Henry doesn’t hesitate.
“Friendship and company,” she smiles.
And she had that in spades on Wednesday as her friends queued to chat and take photographs with the birthday girl after their round of golf.
Ms Henry’s love of golf blossomed in the 1950s.
By 1957 she was on the steering committee for the old Kilaben Bay golf course, later serving the ladies club as president, captain, secretary and publicity officer.