I have a very special post to share tonight, its a thankyou note to my husband who will be starting a new phase of his life at the close of business tomorrow. October 6th 2017 will mark the end of Bill’s working life after leaving school and first entering the workforce as a young 13 year old in 1973 to help support his family almost 46 years ago. In those days, you could walk into a job right off the street and Bill’s very first job as that young teenager was working as a car detailer at a dealership called McLean Tetof Motors in Preston.
Bill worked at McLean Tetof for two years helping his family out and then after working at a few local industries, he joined the Victorian Railways as a railway officer and worked at Bell, Reservoir and Regent stations finishing his railway days at West Richmond Station. He still talks about those days and often reminisces about getting up to lots of tricks with his old mates and brother Soapy, John Lowden, Wolfie & Bunny. I have heard many fond stories of those days, of the pranks and great times he shared with this group, which for Bill, were among the most memorable in his early working life.
After leaving the ‘The Railways’ and working at some local factories, Bill then joined the Australian Army in September 1984 and it was in this capacity, as a soldier, serving our country that I met and fell in love with him four years later, and after a very short time we were engaged, then married a year later with big dreams and plans to add to our family which already included Bre who was nine at the time. Pregnant with our firstborn son, we made the decision that an army life as a family and living away from Bre was not ideal so Bill requested to be discharged from the army and soon found work within the building industry working for Skilled Engineering Group as a builders labourer until 1990.
Bills’s Army days and memories of life as a soldier :
Day 1 Kapooka Haircut Sep 84
5 PL Alpha Coy 1RTB Sep 84
Super Soldier 1 RTB Oct 84
Route March 1 RTB Oct 84
A well earned rest 1 RTB Oct 84
The Graduates – Brett, Windows, Bill & BP Visco
Privates Baldock & Vallence Dec 84
After Graduation with my beautiful Beazley & Scotty Baldock Dec 84
Down from Pucka for the weekend with Geoff Young & Bre 85
After Graduation with Bre
Bill working for Skilled Engineering on the Broady Station upgrade
and overpass in 1988/89
As a builder’s labourer Bill relished coming home to me with stories of swinging in the wind on very tall scaffolding in between some pretty high Melbourne builds which his group was working on and often when we would drive through the city of Melbourne, Bill proudly pointed out which buildings and what floors he had been up on putting in glass walls or floors and would love describing in great detail and much to my horror, which floors way up above, he had been hanging out of!!!
Then suddenly, it seemed, the building industry came crashing to a halt and there just was no continuing work as Bill explained to me one day in hospital while nursing our 3 day old newest member of the family, Matthew. So, after much discussion on what we were going to do for money, it was decided that Bill would relist into the Army. At least we figured, it was a regular pay cheque and we would have somewhere to live.
No sooner had I got out of hospital and was trying to learn how to be a new mum, Bill announced that the Army was sending us to country Victoria in Bendigo where he would take on the position of Travel and Payroll clerk at The Army Survey Regiment. This posting was in an ideal setting within the grounds of the beautiful old mansion known as ‘Fortuna’ (See pic below). This stunning building was at one stage, the largest home in Victoria, an opulent 19th century mansion ‘eccentrically decorated’ during the height of the Goldrush era by the original owner, wealthy prospector George Lansell, who purchased the building in 1871. Fortuna was later appropriated by the military during World War 11 in 1942 and acquired as a base for mapping activities.
Bill spent many sunny lunch breaks walking around the gardens admiring the beauty of this old historic building and we knew he was very lucky to work in such a grand old place. I would often visit Bill with our two children in tow, as I did not work during this period with Matt only just walking and Melissa being born around this time at the Bendigo Base Hospital. We would sit in the grounds on the grass with our picnic lunches and let the kids crawl and roll around while we chatted about our days as a young family with two little ones. It was very much a carefree time in our lives when our focus was simply on the day to day activities of nappies, baths and feeding two children 15 months apart.
After a while we were missing our families and of course Bre in Melbourne so we asked for a posting back home and lived for a while in new army accommodation West of Melb then secured an army house in the married quarters patch near Simpson Barracks and Bill travelled into town to Victoria Barracks working at SCMA but it was during this stint that Melissa was diagnosed as asthmatic and after several months of all night visits to the Austin and Children’s Hospital with a very sick little girl we were advised to seek a warmer climate if she was to get healthier and stronger.
SCMA 1990 with Phil Sforcina
Mel’s weak immune system was the catalyst for our next adventure, a posting interstate to Wacol, South West of Brisbane. So we packed up shortly after that diagnosis and headed off with two young children to live in a totally different climate in a different state. What I loved about Bill was he always made it seem like an adventure, wherever we went. Others may not think it ideal, but I found it exciting and fun to pack up and move every two years. It was the start of a little saying we have said to each other fondly for years,
I go where you go….
We absolutely loved spending our weekends with the kids up in Brisbane in their double pram, exploring our new environment, walking in parks, catching the ferries across the river, visiting any market we could find and window shopping while we learned our way around our new environment. There was much to love about our Brisbane posting and quite honestly the kids were at their absolute most cutest. I always hope one day we’ll take a trip back there to reminisce on those happy times, where the sun always shone and the days seemed easy, and yes the weather healed our daughter, enough for us to venture back to Melbourne a couple of years later which was timely as shortly after arriving back home, my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Bill with Matt & Mel in our front garden in Brisbane, happy days…
Our return back to Melbourne in 1995 was quite unexpected and then turned very stressful after Bill began to experience pain in his neck and arms. The army sent him for tests which revealed a spur dangerously protruding onto his spinal column and with any hit or blow to his neck had the very real potential to sever his spinal chord resulting in paraplegia. Here we were, a young family far away from home, with no other support being told that Bill most probably would be medically discharged immediately and would have to leave his full time career. Well, we kicked up our heels about that arrangement and told them they had to get us back home which they did oblige and Bill’s position was transferred to Victoria Barracks while he undertook neck surgery to fuse his neck within weeks of arriving back home at St Vincent’s in Melbourne.
Unable to work after surgery then forced Bill to take a medical discharge which he was deeply saddened to do, leaving the career he loved and being told by the medical industry that he would never work again. Unable to support his family, recovering from painful surgery and a long frustrating rehabilitation took us through some very dark times over the next five years.
However, over a period of time, even though he did not choose it, Bill shifted into one of his most important career roles and officially became “House husband” And boy, was he great at it, once he began to realise how valuable this role was both in my eyes and the kids he took it all in his stride and had the house immaculate when I came home each night to happy children, along with all the other school kids in the house playing together and dinner prepared each night. For five years Bill kept our family organised and while I took on the role of sole breadwinner, Bill became the ‘favourite’ parent on excursions, the parent every child wanted to do their reading with and the best cricket coach the local cricket club ever had!
It was around a time when Bill was back in hospital having a second operation that our old neighbor and colleague of Bill’s came around looking to see if Bill was able to work for a couple of hours a week at Simpson Barracks, Watsonia. After accepting this new lease of life for a short period, those couple of hours became a couple of days per week and after a while doing this he was offered a full time position again in 2001. After 5 years on one income it was like having Christmas every fortnight!! We went on a shopping spree for the first month buying the kids lots of new clothes and toys and new things for the house, then I began to put Bill’s salary away and after 12 months of hard savings along with the first home owner’s grant of $7,000 we had accumulated a deposit of $22,000 and were able to buy our very first home, a home I never imagined I would have. That decision right there helped pave the way twelve years later to enable us to move down to the beautiful life where we live today on the Bellarine…
So how did we get to where we are?
Bill was 54 years old when he decided the job he was in was no longer fulfilling after he returned from three months of Long Service Leave and the Dept of Defence had moved his travel role to Canberra. He had a short stint at The School of Languages which he loved, working with Bob and Mark who have both become lifetime mates however he was not able to stay in that position and didn’t want to go back to his old job which was no longer the same. It was then he decided he wanted a better life for himself and the family. On a weekend trip down the coast to visit Bre and the Grandchildren, I questioned Bill on the way back if he were to live anywhere in the world what would that look like, his response was exactly ‘where we had just been’.
And so on our return of that same weekend, we began looking for our little slice of paradise which then in turn began the serendipitous events of one of Bill’s supervisor’s confidentially informing him of an opportunity opening up which led us here and Bill’s final working place at another beautiful historic building owned by the Dept of Defence, Fort Queenscliff.
Bill at Fort Queenscliff just before he began working there. Pretty impressed with the view he was about to have everyday for the next 4 years…
There is a group of very special people who, if you are reading this, will know who you are, who helped bring Bill out of his shell and helped him to enjoy work like no other time in his working life (both Defence Archives Point Cook and Defence Archives Queenscliff). It makes it so much harder for Bill to walk out tomorrow saying goodbye to you all as you were instrumental in making this move for Bill and subsequently me, so seamless. For Bill to make the change to Point Cook and Queenscliff in the later stages of his working life was incredibly hard for him but you all made it such an easy transition and he absolutely loved going to work, and loved working with everybody there and I am quite sure would have stayed longer if his body had not had enough.
2nd last day with the Fort Queenscliff gang DAC-FQ, 5th October 2017
Working in the most idyllic location, Bill has spent many an afternoon over the past 4 years meandering home with his camera and stopping at all the beautiful scenery on his way which really is his happy place. Here’s a few of these beautiful shots from his album I just wanted to share. This was a typical work day for Bill after he had clocked off at 3.30pm each night. I used to wonder why on earth he would get up at 5.30 am each morning but it was to finish early and head off to these views…
When I look back at the last 28 years with my husband by my side, I am so very proud of his work ethic and know without a doubt, that he worked very hard for us, and never gave in even when life threw us some painful challenges, all so that we could have a comfortable life.
So, to my amazing husband who I am proud of every single day, I wanted to write this post to thank you from the bottom of my heart for every morning you got up for us, even when I know some days it was so damn hard for you and particularly the past 4 years, the last of your career life when the injuries sustained during your army days just would not hold up anymore, you have fought through the pain long enough to see the kids grow up and leave home and now with just the two of us, its now time to hang up your work boots.
Thankyou for having the vision of our retirement life
and the courage to believe in it
its just perfect for us
and I love it
Tomorrow, when you walk out of the Fort for the last time as an employee, I want you to know that I have never been prouder of you as I am right now, for giving us the life we have here at mybeachretreat and for providing for us for the last 28 years.
You did good love,
you did good