Anyone who meets Kathleen Davies, 102, cannot help but be charmed. The Huntfield Heights resident has a polite but playful way about her. Although she’s been in Australia half a century, her English accent remains strong and she refers to everyone, endearingly, as ‘darling’. She might not move as quickly as when she was bussing tables as a waitress, and her eyesight is sadly waning due to macular degeneration. But she’s as quick witted as they come, with an astounding ability to recount details and stories in vivid detail.
Kathleen was born on 30 December 1916, in Litchfield, Staffordshire, England. She and her family were “country people” and self-sufficient on the land. Uninterested in academia, Kathleen preferred home to school. “I threaded a needle when I was four-and-a-half,” she says, leading to a lifetime interest in embroidery, for which she has won many awards.
She lived at home until age 23, when she married Thomas Davies. Their son, Michael, was born 18 months later, followed by Pauline, Miriam and David. Despite proclaiming “I’m not very interesting, but I’ll try my best,” Kathleen’s memoirs include hair-raising stories such as her family’s cottage being shaken to its core when a nearby American Air Force Base was bombed in World War II. Then there was the experience of travelling with her husband and four children (aged five to 18) in a Morris Minor from Brisbane to Adelaide, sleeping on the roadside or in the car. They had just landed in Brisbane after a four-week sea journey to Australia, to find Tom’s workplace was striking and work wouldn’t start for nine weeks. With four children to support, they resettled in Glenelg, where there were more opportunities.
Tom worked as an engineer for Holden and then Hills Hoist, and Kathleen waitressed until they could afford a home in West Beach, where they lived for almost 20 years. As the children got married and started families of their own, the empty-nesters moved to a home in Hackham, where they stayed for 19 years.
Sadly, Tom passed away in January 2007 at age 95 and three of their four children have also gone to rest. However, daughter Miriam, six grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren live across South Australia, interstate and overseas.
Kathleen goes out every weekday; one of her favourite outings for over a decade has been to Elizabeth House Positive Ageing Centre in Christie Downs. She loves attending the Kookaburra Club for games and chats on Tuesday mornings. “I really look forward to it,” she says. Council’s community bus service transports her there and also takes her grocery shopping. “They look after me.”
Kathleen says everyone wants to know the secret to her longevity.
“I’ve never had any money and I’ve always had to work hard; whether that’s done the trick I don’t know.
“I’ve always been a positive thinker, and do you know, I think that’s really the secret!”