Six lifetimes of friendship

By John Lewis

Friendship is the lifeblood of communities, making bonds stronger and challenges easier to bear. Today The News presents another story in its occasional series about friends — how they met, what keeps them together and what they share. If you have good friends, or know someone who has, let us know — we'd love to share your friendship story. John Lewis reports.

It seems like coffee, scones and cream spread with gales of laughter is the perfect recipe for several lifetimes of friendship — if these ladies are any measure.

Shepparton's Faye Wheelhouse, Dawn Waterson and Margaret Warwick, Tatura's Carol Neave and Suzanne Milne and Kialla's Gloria Baker and Ysolinde Hahnel have been friends for more than 65 years and are still going strong — even though the venues and the menus might have changed a bit over the years.

“Somebody will send a text — who's up for a coffee? We always make the effort,” Gloria said.

“We're sort of like a family now — a family of sisters,” Carol said.

The friendship circle began when Faye and Ysolinde met at Fryers St Primary School, Shepparton, in 1952.

The circle grew at the formation of St Georges Rd Primary School in 1953 and was cemented in 1959 when they all went to Shepparton Girls School together.

The school later became Wanganui Park Secondary College in the 1970s.

Down the years they played tennis and met boys together at dances in Toolamba, splashed around at the Raymond West Swimming Pool in Shepparton, chopped up the waters of Victoria Park Lake in speedboats, and drank coffee and ate fish and chips at the Neo, the Hurco, and the PNO cafes on Saturday nights.

They also "did the block" around Fryers, Maude and High streets on Friday and Saturday nights, years before Maude St Mall appeared.

“The coppers would eventually say, `Come on girls, you've done enough now. Time to go home',” Ysolinde said.

They all married farmers, except Dawn who married a teacher — and of course they all share wedding memories, especially Suzanne who asked Dawn to be her bridesmaid.

Suzanne was also there for Dawn's big day — which went off with a bang.

“Dawn's wedding was unbelievable,” Suzanne said.

Dawn said when her brother tried to light the flame on a barbecue gas bottle, the resulting explosion sent her father and brother to hospital and the wedding guests to Victoria Park Lake for safety.

Dawn said she had cherished her friendship circle down the years.

“The support has been wonderful. At my mother's funeral, when I looked up to see those faces it was so comforting and very special,” she said.

Down the decades, some of the "sisters" moved away for a few years, but they always kept in touch — and now, in their 70s, they are together again.

But not everything stays the same.

“We used to spread our family photos out on the table to share them — now we just show them on the phone,” Faye said.

Carol said they'd never had any arguments.

“Life is too short,” she said.

But there is a niggling little problem.

“I can't get anyone to play bowls — they probably think it's for old people,” Faye says.