The Golden Years – Joyce Marlin

Long lives well lived, a wealth of wisdom accumulated over the years…There is much we can learn from our elders and so many stories waiting to be heard. Mirror journalist Wendy Williamson meets Joyce Marlin, who lives at Prom View Lodge.

Joyce is in fine fettle for someone who was born over 93 years ago. She has lived at Prom View Lodge for more than three years and before that lived at Banksia Lodge for a couple of years. She says she is very well looked after by the staff of Prom View. “She is constantly telling the family how wonderful the staff are,” says her sister, Elaine Truscott, who lives locally and visits frequently, as does another sister, Rae Truscott.

Although her mind is not as nimble as it was, Joyce still enjoys playing cards, doing crosswords and reading.

She was born Joyce McMaster in Korumburra in April 1919, the eldest child of Carl and May McMaster, who were to go on and have three more daughters and eventually a son. Carl worked as a wheelwright in Korumburra, but when Joyce was only two or so the family moved to McCartins Road in the hills near Turtons Creek north of Foster and Carl started dairy farming. It was the 1920s and the land was still covered in thick bush which Carl proceeded to clear.

Joyce can remember walking to school at Turtons Creek, a distance of nearly two miles (four kilometres), dodging snakes – much to her terror. The route she took was half through bush and then through bracken – and extremely muddy. At first she was accompanied by her little fox terrier, ‘Nappy.’ In later years a few neighbourhood children and her sisters walked with her.

It was a one-teacher school catering for around 25 children. Joyce was a good student, particularly good at spelling and reading, according to Elaine. (She was far too modest to reveal this detail to ‘The Mirror’ herself!) She was often asked to be the monitor – even after one memorable occasion when the teacher returned to the classroom to find young Joyce taking her off, much to the amusement of her classmates! “I am surprised at you, Joyce,” the teacher merely remarked.

Trips into the shops and services of Foster were rare, at first made by horse and buggy and only later by car. Carl bought his first car around 1935.

Joyce was very much a Daddy’s girl in that she much preferred helping her father with the cows and horses rather than helping her mother with the housework. She was pleased to later have a pony of her own and maintained a lifelong love of horses.

When she had completed Year 8, Joyce finished school and was sent to the Mallee to help out around the house for an aunt who was having a baby. She stayed on to assist for several months. Once she returned to South Gippsland she went to stay with a family friend who had broken both wrists in a fall from a tree she was pruning. Joyce was a great help, as she was too at the next house she stayed, where the lady of the house was having a baby.

It was while Joyce was living at her next situation – her grandmother Minnie Youl’s – that she met the man she was to marry. Joyce was helping Minnie run the Turtons Creek post office. Joe Marlin had come down from Moama to teach at the McCartins Road School. It rained for the first six months of his stay in South Gippsland, which must have been tough for a young man from the sunny north of the state.

Joe had a motorbike and together he and Joyce would go off to dances by bike. In 1942, with the Second World War raging, Joe enlisted and was sent to fight in the islands north of Australia. Just before he was sent away he and Joyce were married. Joe had trained as an accountant before becoming a teacher and he worked in communications for the army, taking messages on a teleprinter.

In 1943 a son, Laurie, was born. Joe didn’t return from the war for good until 1945 so Laurie used to call his grandfather ‘Big Dad.’ His birth was followed a few years later by the arrival of a little girl, Jeannie.

Joe returned to teaching after the war and the family moved around as he taught at a variety of schools – Woorarra West, Yanathon (near Lang Lang), Alberton and Morwell.

Joyce was very sad to lose her husband in 1966. Joe was only in his fifties when he died. For six months Joyce taught sport at Morwell. She has always loved sport and in fact has trophies for badminton, tennis and golf, as well as bridge.

She then moved to Melbourne, where her daughter was living, and got a job at an advertising agency, Nicholls Cumming. It was very demanding work, with lots of deadlines to be met, but Joyce coped well and stayed there for several years. When she finally left in 1973 she went on a camping trip across Australia to Perth with her sister Elaine and Elaine’s daughter, Dot. They took turns driving, each driving 100 miles and then swapping.

The following year, 1974, Carl died and Joyce returned home to her widowed mother, now living in Foster, and lived with her for nearly 30 years, until May’s death at the age of 104 in 2002. During those years Joyce went on lots of trips with various family members all over Australia and overseas. There was England and Europe in 1978, when Elaine’s son, Terry, was doing his PhD at Bristol University, also New Zealand and Tasmania and much more.

One of the most interesting trips was with Reg Truscott and others to Flinders Island. Shocking weather developed and most of the party flew home, but Joyce and her niece, Dorothy, stayed on.

Some people might have been scared in the rough conditions, but Reg’s family members knew better. “Reg mightn’t care about himself, but there’s no way he’d let anything happen to his boat! If we went off with Reg on his boat we always knew we’d be right,” says Elaine.

They were only meant to be away for a week but it was nearly a month before they got home. On the way back they stopped at an island where a shark boat was grounded. The rescue boat would not get there until after high tide, so Reg, Joyce and Dorothy took it upon themselves to pull the boat off the sands. 

These days life is considerably quieter for Joyce, but she is quietly content in Prom View Lodge, where she enjoys visits from her sisters and other members of her family. Daughter Jeannie lives in Melbourne and son Laurie lives in Bairnsdale, though many locals will know him well from the 18 years he ran the general store and newsagency at Fish Creek. Joyce now has four granddaughters and two great-granddaughters, of whom she is very proud and fond.