"Eating oysters, no smoking or drinking", says Val Wood, "that's how I reached 100". Advocacy, female friendship, charity and cakes, scones and handicrafts, that's how the CWA has reached 100 !
How about the timing ? Grafton's famous 100-year-old CWA member Val Wood is celebrating her great milestone with the CWA's own 100th birthday.
Val was born on the Hawkesbury, not far from Brooklyn on a prawning and oyster farm where she had to travel in a mail boat to go to school.
The CWA started in a Sydney men's club when women decided they needed their own voice for the bush. It took off like wildfire. Within four years, in 1926, Grafton, of which Val is patron and member, had its own branch.
Val is excited her 100 years has coincided with the CWA's big celebrations, about to kick off next week at Royal Randwick with a big three-day conference, motions and debate and a gala dinner.
Val has been part of the conference as a former branch secretary. Her own CWA membership dates back almost 50 years. She's still doing handicraft and making pickles and cakes for fundraising. She only gave up her driving licence two years ago and says she does all the work and ironing at her home. "I haven't reached the walking stick time yet," she says proudly.
"Eyes are not so good now," she says. "But I still have my home and do the ironing, cleaning and washing." Her sons visit when they can. She grows roses and a man mows her lawn. Her biggest fear is losing her balance - but so far, so good.
She was secretary of the South Grafton evening CWA Branch for 20 years. She says the CWA has many young members now and the CWA "was good for me". "It gives you a great general interest, you learn a lot. I've been to all the conferences and enjoyed it and made a lot of friends. It's good company and I still go to handicrafts once a month. I'm still there !"
She's often said it was eating oysters that gave her longevity. She loves watching tennis, may keep an eye on the races but is "not a football crank".
Life was pretty raw for her down on the Hawkesbury River in the 1920s when she was growing up. It was a third generation of Davidsons farming oysters at a place called Glenwood. The Davidsons helped move goods on the river to the remote towns. They did that right up until the 1990s, with one writer commenting "the Davidsons waterfront was littered with the crushed shells of oysters, a testament to their long farming life on the Hawkesbury".
They had goats wandering around their riverfront home.
Val was the eldest of six and travelled to Spencer for school in the river mail boat. "We were always busy doing things, fishing for prawns and getting oysters. It was a good and heathy life." She boarded with aunts in Sydney to go to high school.
Eventually she married and left with her husband Sidney to set up a caravan park at Grafton. They had two sons. John, now 73 and Ross, now 76. It was there she joined the CWA. She's had plenty of certificates and first and second prizes for her cooking, but it's the friendship within the CWA she's prized the most.
She has one grandchild and two great grandchildren. She was a longtime memmber of the South Grafton Bowling Club.
"I've been a worker all my life," she says. "I've always been a volunteer." Vals' cooking now includes pickles, cakes and date rolls. She goes down to work at the Handicraft mart in South Grafton.
Grafton branch secretary Sharron Davison says the branch was elated they could celebrate Val's 100th on March 30. A bus will start from the North Coast and pick up CWA members on the way down to a big 100th celebration in Sydney. Grafton has some cooking entries that have made the state final and also a motion on expanding the control of fruit flies that will be debated. "We're very excited," Mrs Davison said.
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journalist and author
journalist and author
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