LONG-TIME Millicent resident Ruth Henderson has mixed memories of her girlhood in Melbourne in the 1930s when she happily celebrated Mother’s Day each year, but also had to cope with the disruption caused by the deadly polio epidemic.
Her recollections are timely as Mother’s Day comes around on Sunday while the world is facing the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the second-eldest of 12, Ms Henderson played a major role in the running of the family household.
It is not surprising that Mother’s Day was marked in a special way.
“It was not as commercialised as it is nowadays,” Ms Henderson said.
“I would always buy my mother a small gift and everyone would wear a white flower.
“Other than church, nothing much was done on Sundays in those days.”
The impact of the polio epidemic remains firm in the mind of the 91-year-old, who was around eight or nine at the time.
“There was no warning like we had with COVID-19 as everything was suddenly shut,” Ms Henderson said.
“The schools were closed and I could not go the gym.
“It was a complete shut and we did not have TVs or tablets like we have now for entertainment.
“All we had was the radio.
“My brothers had a boxing ring in our back yard while my sisters and I set up a high jump.”
Fast forward to Sunday and Ms Henderson will be having a low-key Mother’s Day in the company of her husband Herb.
The couple arrived in Millicent in 1959 with their four children and the family has grown to include 12 grandchildren and 17 great grandchildren.
Only a handful still live in Millicent, but Ms Henderson expects many to make contact by telephone or video conferencing, while others will send cards and gifts.
“I get to see them face-to-face on skype,” she said.
“We talk about all sorts of things.”
The COVID-19 restrictions have had some impact on the Henderson household in Millicent with a granddaughter unable to visit from Hamilton in Victoria.
With some health and mobility issues, some of Ms Henderson’s regular activities have had to be curtailed to comply with the COVID-19 social isolation protocols.
Her weekly exercise sessions have been cancelled along with painting classes at her home.
Along with support from her family, Ms Henderson is grateful for the services provided by Resthaven personnel and Meals on Wheels along with the Fosters Foodland home delivery service.
The affection for their mother is obvious among two of her daughters who live in the region.
“Mum has lived a full life with her golf, badminton, floral art, bowls, painting and the garden,” Jenny Smith said.
“Mum would do all the cooking, make our clothes and bake our birthday cakes”
Sue Vanderheul said the Henderson children would “make a fuss” on Mother’s Day in years gone by.
“There were no extravagant gifts as there was not a lot of money around,” she said.
“However, we would always make or buy a card for Mum.”