I turned eight in February 1943 and in May, I became a patient at Somerton Crippled Children’s home. With war time travel restrictions, I saw almost nothing of my family, though I did go home for the summer school holidays.
I left Somerton in December 1944. I was allowed to go home because the wife of the Headmaster of Millicent High School, Mrs Davidson, was a physiotherapist who was approved by the crippled Children’s Association. I was to make a visit each month for treatment. That sounds simple enough but Millicent was 65 miles away, petrol was rationed and we still didn’t have a car.
Caring neighbours took it in turns to make the trip – the most direct route from where we lived at Avenue Range at that time was over rough bush tracks. To go first to Naracoorte, where the roads were better, it was half as far again using more of those precious petrol tickets.
My maternal grandparents had a car – up on blocks for the duration of the war. Mum used to barter for those precious petrol tickets with eggs, butter, fresh vegetables, meat, and homemade biscuits. My sister Kathleen still spent the regulation half hour each evening working through the exercise program. All the complicated manoeuvring was worth it, as Mrs Davidson was a brilliant physiotherapist who made me own my disability and understand what each exercise was designed to achieve.