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Four friends still meeting up 72 years after they first met at Bamawm Central school

By Daneka Hill

FOUR 77-year-old ladies who grew up on neighbouring farms in Bamawm have pulled off the impossible – they’ve been friends for 72 years.

Margaret Ross, Dorothy Pearse, Betty Cunnington and Jean Pedretti’s friendship began in earnest on their first day at Bamawm Central school when they made the shocking discovery they were the only girls in their class.

Margaret, Dorothy, Betty and Jean would remain good friends for the rest of their school lives as they continued to catch the bus together to Echuca High School and Echuca Technical College.

The next 30 years would see them split apart was work, life and family took priority but once everything started to settle down the then 50-somethings would begin catching up as if nothing had changed.

Betty said she didn’t know how their catch ups “came about.”

“No, I don’t know either,” Margaret said.

“We did lose touch for a little while but we all managed to come together,” concluded Jean. “Dot (Dorothy) probably did it.”

Dorothy said it likely all begun at a reunion in Rochester many years ago, and the four ladies were the only ones who kept coming back to see one another time and time again.

There were four different ‘oh yes’s around the table when the ladies were asked if they enjoyed their catch ups.

“Lots of memories come back,” Margaret said, “we have lots of laughs.”

“I remind them every now and again of how they broke my leg.”

Margaret has a mind like a steel trap when it comes to the time her and six others were swinging on a broken piece of fence. When the fence gave way she broke the two main bones in her leg.

“One of them said to me ‘just get up and walk on it, it will feel better’,” Margaret recalled vividly.

“I blame them for breaking my leg.”

“OH&S wasn’t around back then,” Betty added.

Jean had her own story.

“I keep referring to that night… the four of us in the ute, Margaret with her boyfriend and another boy with me,” she said.

“No seatbelts, my dad would have killed me if he knew.”

When teased about the ‘romantic ute ride’ Jean said “it was romantic for Margaret but not so much for me.”

Margaret's own date was more successful.

“That was my first date and I ended up marrying him,” Margaret said.

“We had a lot of fun, it was a different life from what it is now.”

The privilege of time has revealed the incredibly different lives the four have gone on to lead.

Betty became a nurse and worked most of her life in Papua New Guinea, she now lives in Logan, Queensland.

“I found it hard to decide what to do after school, and in our day it was teaching, nursing or secretarial work and so in the end I tired nursing,” Betty said.

She is the only one of the four that never married.

“Marriage is very important in Papua New Guinea and they used to say ‘you should be married’ and I used to say ‘well if I was married I couldn’t do this work’ so that was all their was about it,” she said.

Jean left school early and did secretarial work before she had three daughters

Afterwards she started dressmaking in Echuca and became so good she was getting wedding dress orders and creating costumes for the Echuca-Moama Theatre Company.

“I had a wonderful life really, very lucky, very lucky,” Jean said.

Margaret on the other hand ended up in Rochester and was the early starter of the group.

Alongside marrying the first boy she dated she also begun her life-long profession as a piano teacher at the age of 15.

“How it started in the first place was because I was learning from my sister-in-law but she gave it up when she got pregnant, and then I had the choice of taking her students on,” Margaret said.

Margaret continued to teach piano while raising her four children and teaching in two school, and still teaches today.

The only one who kept farming in Bamawm was Dorothy.

She raised three adopted children with her husband and couldn’t be more proud of how her children have gone on to live their lives.

While life has taken the four ladies in different directions, it has not broken the bond of friendship which were forged 72 years ago, a bond which will only strengthen in the years to come.