Life is a gift

CELEBRATION: Ellen 'Nell' Blandford is turning 101 on Wednesday. Picture: JODIE DONNELLAN

CELEBRATION: Ellen 'Nell' Blandford is turning 101 on Wednesday. Picture: JODIE DONNELLAN

Nell looks back on more than a century of change and achievements

ELLEN 'Nell' Blandford celebrates 101 years of life on Wednesday. Since her birth in Golden Square she has always lived in the Bendigo region.

Her life's journey is a valuable window into the changes this region has seen since 1913.

"When I was young you could roam free without worrying about strangers," Mrs Blandford said.

"We used to walk everywhere when we were young and I can remember when the first cars came to us.”

Mrs Blandford said her family went through hard times.

"My father died at 39 and Mum was left with six children from 11 down to two years old."

She said her mother was a wonderful lady.

"She had to be pretty great to look after all of us," she said.

"I had a very happy childhood though we never had much.

"We had always had to struggle but I got through and here I am."

The Great Depression hit in 1929 and Mrs Blandford remembers the desperation of many to make a living. She said men worked for the dole shovelling gutters in the street.

Mrs Blandford began work as a seamstress at age 14.

She remembers having a flair for sewing at a young age.

"I was able to sew frocks and things for people," she said.

"It was quite remarkable when I look back on it - maybe it is a gift I have."

She soon went on to design clothes for a company that sold all over Australia.

In her mid-twenties she married Walter Blandford, who had been courting her for nearly a decade.

They were married in 1940 just as the Second World War began.

"We first met at O'Connells dance. They sold soft drinks and we had the dances in their tin shed," she said.

She remembers there was only horse and gig for transport back then.

"We would ride up Hargreaves Street as far as Thistle Street," she said.

"You couldn't keep driving through, at this stage, so you had to turn.

"When we turned there was always a tram there and the horse, Tony, would stand up on its hind legs.

"I used to get so scared going around that corner."

They moved to the bush in Neilborough where they stayed for 15 years.

"My husband was eucalyptus distilling while I was raising the family."

Walter Blandford's eucalyptus distilling business became a supplier of eucalyptus oil for medicinal purposes during the war.

"We would sell it to local merchants who would move it on to Imperial Chemical Industries to refine it," said Mrs Blandford's second son Wayne Blandford.

"At one stage during the war there were 150 eucalyptus distilleries in Bendigo," he said.

He said the family lived without power during their 15 years in Neilborough.

"We had no telephone or electricity but we never felt deprived because we never knew it so we never missed it."

"We kept a milk can two miles from home stuck in a tree," he said. "The bakers would deliver our bread straight into the milk can."

These days Mrs Blandford is in good health. She cooks her own meals and does her own washing.

"I might have been a good cook once but these days I hardly have time to read the paper," she said. "I think I need a new pair of legs."

Mrs Blandford has four children,12 grandchildren, 23 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.

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