Monday 8th August 2022

Telling My Story.Chapter One. My Parents. 2017.69.

Telling My Story.Chapter One.My Parents. 2017.69.

Added: March 2018: This was published one day before I knew I has cancer. Once that was diagnosed a lot of change took place for me as I need to focus on my health, surgery and recovery. The story now picks up again…in mid March 2018 here! 

Recently I decided to begin Telling My Story.

Initially it was school-career based in a memoir genre. Then I wanted to tell what had happened in my life once I’d reached 60 and what I had learned. Where I am at now it a mix of all of this! I am going to start here: the beginning of my life, and interspersed with my career will be aspects of my life and how I have grown and changed…over and over!

I hope you will find something of interest. I know essentially I am doing this for me as it helps. However, as a blogger, I would like to think it has enough appeal for you to enjoy too.


Telling My Story.

I was born in the last year of the 1940s.

Photo taken for my Dad in Melbourne.

But before this all happened….

Obviously most memories of early childhood are gleaned from photos and other people’s stories when they tell us too. My life began in a most conventional way, first born to parents who loved each other and already had secured a house. Mum had worked in retail until I was coming along. Dad was an accountant continuing his career started at 15 with Australian Iron and Steel Port Kembla (later BHP) and joining a new company when the old one wanted him to move permanently (with me and Mum) to Melbourne for work. He did not want to leave the familiar and family which was based in Wollongong and surrounds.

Here’s a bit more to that story….

Dad tells me that in my first year of life when he HAD to go and work in the Melbourne office was one of the worst times he could recall being separated from his loving wife and baby girl. He even had us fly to Melbourne for a stay. What a time that must have been for my mum. In Wollongong we had loving and caring neighbours who helped Mum find her feet as a new parent. This family was amazing and I loved that we had a gate between our two places and I always felt welcomed there! Dad found another job, which was in the same company he retired from some 30 years later, and the family was complete when my brother was born AND we got our first car. A Holden FJ of course!

More on my parents before they met…

They were born in 1924 and raised in working class families on NSW South Coast, living through the Great Depression and World War 2 before meeting in the 1940s. My Dad is from Wollongong and my Mum was from Dapto.

Dad’s father died after a workplace accident at The Steelworks in 1935 and his mother was left to raise 4 children. Dad was the second child aged 11 at the time. He did without but his good marks at school and his willingness to become involved in the community which was predominantly the scouting movement meant he developed resilience and knew the power of having some money to survive. Even though he could have done the Leaving Certificate it was his duty to help support his family so at 15 he went to the Steelworks (AI&S as above) to begin in the role of Office Clerk.  Later this would lead to his training as an accountant as he had the mathematics for it! He tells me though, he never ‘got’ algebra.

Mum’s parents worked hard, one in the home, and one outside the home at the coal mine at Wongawilli near Dapto. My grandfather had lost an eye in a mining accident in 1924 so they gave him work ‘above the surface’ looking after the workers’ change areas. They helped raise two families. One, their own, of three children (Mum was the youngest, and 2nd daughter) and the family of two boys where the widower was my grandmother’s brother. It was not uncommon in the 1920s and 30s for this to be the case. Nevertheless my mum remembered it as the ‘boys’ got spoiled and did nothing and we girls did all the work around the house. Mum left school at 15 and went into retail where she thrived.

So how did a young man from Wollongong meet a young lady from Dapto in the early 1940s when there was a war happening? Dad was exempted from war service (age first, then industry reasons) and Mum had only just left school and was working in retail. However, they were both in the Scouting organisation as leaders in their respective home towns and met at Mt Keira Scout Camp Wollongong. After a courtship of some two years, they married on 2 November 1946 at Dapto. Mum’s cub group put on a guard of honour outside the church.

Wedding Day. 1946.


Dad and Mum late 1950s. Still in Wollongong.

In 1959 Dad got a job offer within the company he moved to in 1951 and that was of promotion to Chief Accountant at the Sydney office. It was one that could not be refused and this time with 2 children, I was 10 by now and my brother aged 7, we moved to what was to be Mum and Dad’s forever house at Balgowlah Heights.

Snapshots of Mum and Dad over the years…

They had active social and sporting lives, which continued in Sydney. Mum who had been a district rep in Hockey in her youth, went into tennis and played socially and competitively into her 70s. Dad found golf as a sport and business connection and played each Saturday and then once he retired on a Wednesday. Whenever they went away, their golf clubs and tennis racquets went with them as did groups of friends or they would meet up with friends. Mum loved her cards and working for charities such as the View Club. Both supported me and my brother in scouts and guides and in our sporting and school arenas.

Dad retired in 1983 and they spent 6 weeks annually on the Gold Coast, chasing the sun and meeting up with the many friends who had retired that way as well. Mum becoming unwell in the mid 2000s saw the end of that tradition. Sadly too, by the mid 1980s Mum had lost both her older siblings in their 60s. Dad, now 93, is the longest living member of his immediate family of 4.

1980s & 1990s on Holidays on the Gold Coast


Mother’s Day 2006. Mum and Dad with me.

Up until Mum’s 80th Birthday in December 2004 she had been quite well. A few so-called minor things were wrong and I know where my worry/anxiety gene comes from. But my mum, just as I do, could put on a smile no matter what.

Mum and Dad celebrate 60 years of marriage. 2006.

We knew Mum was not well but Dad, as her primary carer, liked to see she did as much as she could that she enjoyed in what ended up being her last 2 years. on 2nd November 2006, after the messages from the Queen and many more, for their Diamond Wedding Anniversary, there was  a very special family-only get together, where this photo was taken. After that, Mum’s health sadly declined.

Mum was diagnosed with secondary brain tumours in early 2007  We will never know how much Mum knew about her declining condition but she was the one, back in late January 2007 who said ‘no operation’ when it was offered. The specialist and her doctors  agreed, along with us,  that we would not want Mum to go through that. She spent the next 2 weeks at home and sadly despite Dad’s best efforts to care for her there, she was admitted to palliative care where she died some weeks later. Dad visited every single day.

Moving along….

Mum and Dad have always supported our families over the years and of course, we have been there to support Dad in his new status as widower. He stayed in the family home for the next 4 years. He is still fiercely independent and wanted to be there. He did all the jobs as he was raised to do, and learned via scouting. By the end of 2010 loneliness was prevalent and he announced it was time to sell and move on. Along with family help of my brother, sister in law and me he was delighted to find the best place I could have found. In June 2011, after selling at the downturn in Sydney markets (!!) he moved into an airy and spacious independent retirement unit at Dee Why and has more interactions with people every day than ever. He has only given up driving, and the car, in the past month.

3 years ago at Dad’s 90th Birthday. 3 years ago!

Reflections now…about my parents.

I love my parents and I was always well-cared for and encouraged to follow whatever path I chose. Dad was keen on continuing education and I when I wanted  to become a teacher and remain in the workplace, there was no feeling that I should be at home with the kids. However, my mother, who had always been at home, used to say “Denyse you rush those kids too much”…and sadly I may have but my work at school, along with childcare drop off, was where I was headed. I am more like Dad in personality and less like Mum. Yet I do have some of mum’s anxious disposition and I do enjoy what she did which was to cook and care for her family. She taught me a lot about cooking and I have her recipe books too. She did not encourage me to read, but I did. I was not interested in helping around the house because I preferred to read! I did not inherit Mum’s sporting prowess but I did her smile and the ability to chat with people. I can do that without my mum’s deafness for which I am grateful. More to come in the weeks ahead!

Please tell me if this has been of interest…and if it was too long.

I do know I can ramble on so I may need help!

I welcome your comments and thank you in advance!




Beginnings. Life This Week. #ltw1. 366/256.

Beginnings. Life This Week 1. 366/256.

Welcome to the first week of the new Link-Up called “Life This Week.” I’ve been writing about the  topic I named “life this week” all year each Monday.

Today’s prompt, which I am following is:-

Beginnings. “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start” sang Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music. I began my life in Wollongong NSW as the first born to my parents.

At The Dapto Show age around 4.

At The Dapto Show age around 4.

Life was pretty ordinary in a good way from 1949 until 1959 when we made another beginning…. I began living on Sydney’s northern beaches and went to primary school in Year 5 & 6 there, and onto Manly Girls High School until 1967 where I was in the beginning… of the Higher School Certificate cohort. Yep, the first ones to do 6 years at high school instead of 5.

2nd Year of our 6 Years at High School.

2nd Year of our 6 Years at High School.

I knew I wanted to be a teacher but I didn’t get to teachers’ college at the beginning of the intake. No, I was not ‘good enough’ to be given my teachers’ scholarship in February 1968.  Instead, my offer came at the beginning of the first week of the first prac in April so I was thrown in the deep end and swam because I was ready to begin learning to be a teacher! That beginning was awesome and I knew it was the career for me.

In 1970 I began my first year of teaching and left home to teach in country NSW. That was it! Talk about a “get real” beginning. From a spoiled kid with Mum doing pretty much everything for me, to going into a shared house with other teachers. I was soon sorted out by them and I began to learn more about being independent, how to prepare a simple meal, and, reluctantly, how to clean the house. Later that year my life began the path of ‘forever love’ and more as I met my now husband and we began this life of ours that has been 46 years in the making this October.

At our Wedding Reception

At our Wedding Reception

Beginning life as a new bride, teaching in a new (to me) position at a two teachers school (with a male chauvinist boss – not the hub!), setting up a house together, and being pregnant were HUGE beginnings. Mothering a daughter in 1971 and staying home were contributing factors to my beginnings of over-eating to compensate for unhappiness and lack of social contact. There “were” always diets to begin..and we know they didn’t work out of course.

I love(d) being a teacher, especially those kids aged from around 5 to 8. These kids are at the beginning of their learning and I so enjoy being part of that. My teaching career took me, following my husband’s career path because that WAS how the NSW Dept of Education did that then, to places where I had to begin again in new, rural, and isolated communities. This was a challenging time to a couple in the 20s but we did it. And those 8 years hold great memories.

Many years of hairstyles, ages and weight up & down! LIFE!!

Many years of hairstyles, ages and weight up & down! LIFE!!

Then to the beginning of living in a house we mortgaged and lived in for over 14 years in Sydney’s northwest. We had a second child, after thinking that would never happen and we settled into suburban life with 2 kids, 2 cars, mortgage and 2 of us in full-time teaching jobs. In 1980 my career took off as my unwell husband had to medically retire. It didn’t feel like a ‘choice’ but I did it anyway.

Thus began for the next two decades more beginnings…as I studied two degrees (bachelors and masters of education over 7.5 years via distance education) as I taught and lead in K-6 schools in Western Sydney. I began many different programs to help kids improve learning and was committed to staff development and did all I could for teachers to improve and learn new skills. I was promoted three times to executive positions, finally as principal, in 5 primary schools.


Worked Hard For These….from 1970 to 2006.

Twenty years ago this year, I began a new role. That of grandmother. This was and remains one of my best ever gigs! Our 2 children have 4 children in each of their families and grandparenting 8 has been a wonderful time. We also began as regular carers to some of these lovely little people when I took some leave from teaching, and later, once I had partially retired. By the time I got to 60 it was time to retire. Again.

The first time was not one of choice but of ill-health. I had started my role of Principal in 1999 with great hopes and endeavoured to make the necessary changes within a school community but after almost 4 years it took its toll on me. I did have time out and whilst I was grateful, I really needed to be ‘back in schools’ so I made a beginning as a classroom teacher and ESL teacher in 2004. This was the school from which I was given a ‘retirement’ that I missed before. I began an education consulting role in pre-schools and also began a part-time, casual role as a University tutor and was an external observer for BOSTES. I chose to leave each of these paid roles with the last ones completed in  August 2015.

End 2009 last days as a teacher.

End 2009 last days as a teacher.

What about now? Before I finish, of course I made beginnings as a blogger in late 2010 and have been blogging in different platforms since then. Whilst I had hoped to make a niche for myself based on my education and schooling experiences, readers did not grow.  But I began to meet loads of lovely bloggers in both real life and virtually! Always fun. Mrs Whelan & Mrs Woog Early 2015, we made the beginning of the next part of our lives when we moved away from Sydney to start a life for two on the Central Coast and I “knew” then that blogging would be my daily go-to and it has proven so. I am so very pleased with how I have been accepted by the blogging community as I am way older than almost everyone! denyse whelan facebook profile picture Now, I am beginning my first link-up here, on the blog where I blog about many different topics. Today’s is Life This Week, and that is the name of the link-up! I hope that many bloggers decide to come on board and post here too!

What beginnings are you thinking about right now after reading some of mine? Thank you for reading….I realised that at my age there are loads of beginnings to note! Warm wishes to you all. Denyse. life 150

Here are the rules for the link-up

  • “Life This Week” is a link up that runs every Monday and remains live for until Thursday at 5 p.m.during that week.
  • You can link up something old or new, just come on in.
  • Please add just ONE post each week!
  • Feel free to go with the prompt for the week to add your ‘take’ on the prompt. Or not.
  • Please do stay to comment and check out what others are up to by leaving a comment because we all love our comments, right!
  • Add a link back to this blog in your post somewhere. I don’t have a ‘button’ so a link in text is fine!
  • Respect and tolerance however, are the hallmarks of acceptable on-line social behaviour and as my blog is family-friendly I will reserve the right to delete comments that may be offensive to me or others.
  • Tweet with the hashtag #ltw (adding the numeral for prompt) if you like.

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I am linking up with Alicia from One Mother Hen for Open Slather and with Kell at All Mum Said for Mummy Mondays. Thank you both for your bloggy friendships!