At the grand age of 95, Jean Winter’s mind is as razor sharp as ever.
She discusses in great detail her experience of living on a farm as part of the soldiers settlement scheme, which was introduced in Victoria in 1917 and reinvigorated and continued post-World War II.
Mrs Winter’s quick wit and ability to retrace and recapture moments from more than 70 years ago is captivating and you feel privileged to be transported back to a time in which the world was nothing like we know today.
Landing on a settlement farm in Singapore Rd, Yarroweyah, was a sudden process for Mrs Winter.
She married Fred William Winter in March 1947. They were allocated block 42 — a dairy farm — as part of the scheme in July that year and took over the property in October.
They started with two heifers, two dogs and two bikes and despite being inundated with mice, Mrs Winter said the pair was ‘‘very lucky’’ to have the weary farm house.
Originally from Hawthorn, Mrs Winter relocated to Kyabram after getting a teaching position there.
She said it was easy to leave the city lights behind because of her love for all things outdoors.
The man who lived on the Yarroweyah property before the Winters assumed control was the water bailiff.
The 120-acre (48.6ha) farm was a ‘‘narrow block’’ with a channel down one side.
‘‘We were young. We didn’t have a lot of money at the time, but back then if you wanted something badly enough you would go out and get it, and that’s what we did,’’ Mrs Winter said.
‘‘It was rough when we started off. There were no amenities or power, the winters were freezing and it was terribly hot in summer.’’
Mrs Winter loves telling the story of how she met her husband.
‘‘It was at a barn dance in Kyabram in what must have been 1945 or 1946,’’ she said.
‘‘He put me in a reverse waltz and I said ‘‘you’re not Victorian, Victorians don’t reverse waltz’’, and he explained that he was from Queensland and was working on a farm in Kyabram.’’
Fred was a signaller in World War II and made trips to the Middle East and Papua New Guinea during his four years of service.
Mrs Winter said Fred did not talk about the war much, choosing instead to tell his wife funny stories about some of the things that went on.
She said Fred and a group of friends who had served in the armed forces decided to create a group where they could all connect and formed the League of Settlers at the Yarroweyah Town Hall.
Fred went on to spend 53 years as a member of Legacy and was president of the Cobram Football Club.
Although the conditions were harsh, Mrs Winter said the soldier settlement scheme was fantastic for men who came back from war without a job and purpose in their life.
‘‘Yarroweyah was a big soldier settlement area,’’ she said.
‘‘There were a lot of big farming families with four or five boys in places like Tongala and Echuca and the father couldn’t keep them all on the farm, so a lot went to soldier settlements.’’
The Winters remained on their Yarroweyah farm for for 18 years, enjoying the outdoors and being active.
They eventually sold the farm to their friend Colin Barton, who Mrs Winter said had been extremely kind to her since Fred passed away 11 years ago.
Mrs Winter said a lot of the blocks which did not have houses on them had tin sheds in which people lived. These would go on to become utility sheds in many cases.
As far as she is aware, Mrs Winter is one of only three living people who was connected directly to the soldier settlement scheme in this area.
The other two are Hazel Campbell and Jessica Mellier.