301 years of birthdays

In the past five days two Gore women who grew up about 10km away from each other across the hills of Eastern Southland have turned 100 years old. A brother of one of the women also celebrated his 101st birthday on Saturday. The Ensign reporter Sandy Eggleston chats to them all about their lives.

Fashionista . . . Gore woman (Marguerite) Joyce Burden who is turning 100 today has had a lifelong love of fashion. PHOTO: SANDY EGGLESTON

Gore woman Joyce Burden may have spent more than 40 years selling clothing, but she also tells interesting stories about working as a land girl.

Mrs Burden, who is also known as Marguerite, celebrates her 100th birthday today, almost a year after her brother Fred Cooper reached the milestone.

The siblings grew up on a farm at Knapdale and went to East Gore School.

She did not go to Gore High School but worked first at a jewellers and then at H&J Smith’s department store.

‘‘I loved shoes [and] nice clothes.’’

She also worked at a chemist but when World War 2 broke out, she was seconded to work at Seacliff Mental Hospital.

Her father went to court to prevent that happening, proposing she was needed on the family farm.

He won the case and Mrs Burden became a member of the New Zealand Land Army and worked at home.

Being of a slight build it was very hard work for her, she said.

One day she had a run-in with a Jersey bull she called Mungy.

The bull used to swing his head at her and she did not like him at all.

‘‘I always thought he was looking at me.’’

She was wearing a dirndl dress with buttons down the back and the bull started to chase her.

She ran through the cows and headed for the fence which had tightly strained wires.

‘‘I went straight through that fence and tore most of the buttons off the back.’’

Her father shot the bull the next day.

During harvest she had to gather up the sheaves of wheat and stook them.

At lunchtime she would often fall asleep exhausted.

‘‘Dad always had to shake me awake after I had my meal.’’

It was also her job to drive the milk cans to the factory, which she enjoyed. One day, as she left the farm one of the cans fell off the back of the truck.

She was ‘‘petrified’’ of what her father would say, but he said it was his fault for not checking the cans were loaded securely.

After the war she went back to the chemist shop.

When she was about 30 years old, she went on holiday with friends to the North Island.

She met her husband Trevor there and gave him her telephone number.

He was a bee-keeper and not long after she arrived home, he rang to say he was coming to see her.

After they married she moved to Waipawa, in Central Hawke’s Bay.

It was ironic that she married a bee-keeper because she was allergic tobees, and would be hospitalised if she was stung.

For about 40 years she owned a clothing shop in the town called La Parisienne.

‘‘We had posh things.’’

She would go on stock buying trips throughout New Zealand and had regular customers from as far away as Whanganui.

She retired at 75 years old.

‘‘I was wanting to stay until I was 80 but my husband died.’’

Later, her brother built her a home in Gore and she moved south about 2014.

‘‘My brother bossed me down.’’

Centenarian . . . Bupa Windsor park Care Home resident Dawn Gardyne celebrates her 100th birthday in Gore today. PHOTO: SANDY EGGLESTON

Accepting whatever challenges life has thrown her way has worked well for her, Dawn Gardyne says.

The Gore woman celebrated her 100th birthday at the Windsor Park Care Home on Saturday with family and friends.

Mrs Gardyne said she had always lived according to the saying ‘‘What is, is best’’, which was on the wall in her family home when she was growing up.

‘‘Whatever comes along your way, just accept it.

‘‘Don’t worry, it doesn’t fix anything,’’ she said.

It did not do any good to complain either, she said.

Even though her grandmother had lived to be more than 100 years old, Mrs Gardyne had never thought about reaching the milestone.

She had decided not to get too excited about becoming a centenarian until it happened, she said. She was ill with pneumonia when she was 4 years old, and again when she was 19.

During the second bout of the illness the doctor said he had never seen anyone ‘‘nearer death than I was’’, she said.

‘‘And here I am — 100.’’

Mrs Gardyne (nee Thayer) grew up on a farm at Merino Downs, near Gore.

‘‘It was almost three miles to get to school, and that was a long walk for a 5-year-old.’’

Each year she was awarded an attendance prize for not missing a day of school.

When it was time for her to go to Gore High School, she boarded with her grandparents.

She wanted to be a nurse but her father was against the idea, as his sister had died when she was training to be one.

‘‘At that time everyone did what they were asked to do.

‘‘You didn’t contradict your family.’’

Around the start of World War 2 her father enrolled her in the New Zealand Land Army, and she worked on the family farm.

‘‘We worked very hard in the land army, doing men’s work.’’

One night at a Waikaka dance she met Ernie Gardyne, the night before he left to go into the army.

‘‘I went to the social with Henry, my brother, but I came home with Ernie.’’

The pair wrote to each other during the war, and were married in 1947.

‘‘I really had a very happy marriage.

‘‘Ernie was a good husband and he was a great help either bathing or putting children to bed.’’

The couple had five children, 17 grandchildren and 31 great grandchildren.

Mr Gardyne died in 1996 while the couple were living in Frankton.

In 2004 Mrs Gardyne moved back to Gore.

From 2017 to June 2022 she lived in the Bupa Windsor Park Village.

She now lives in the village care home.

Her health was good but her hearing and eyesight were starting to fail, she said.

Gore man Fred Cooper, who turns 101-years-old today examines the immature seed pods of a kowhai at his Te Anau holiday home. For about seven years Mr Cooper has been collecting the seed to grow seedlings and any seedlings from under the tree, to plant on the lakeside. So far about 100 kowhai had been transplanted which was a result he was pleased about, Mr Cooper said. He was looking forward to celebrating a few more birthdays, he said. ‘‘I’m healthy enough to think I can carry on for a few years yet.’’ PHOTO: SANDY EGGLESTON