One of rt health’s oldest members Joy Calley, aged 95, lives in Coolangatta on Queensland’s Gold Coast. Joy is an rt health member as her husband had a career working on the tramways and joined the Railway and Tramway Hospital Fund (now rt health) before the couple even met. Joy and her husband originally lived in Earlwood in Sydney, near the tramway, where Joy also lived as a child.
“I lived opposite the Returned Soldiers Buildings, and they had dance music every Friday night. And I met him at a dance. And then at the end they have one final dance. He said, ‘I’ll stay and dance with you’.” They had three children: a boy, Clifford, and two daughters, Gail and Sue. Joy now also has seven great grandchildren. Joy’s children Cliff and Gail live nearby in Brisbane and her daughter Sue lives in Sydney.
“We had a lovely unit in Coolangatta, but unfortunately my husband passed on. So, I was left alone and needed Gail’s help and guidance. She started looking after me and that was it. “My husband was perfect. Not much you can say about men at times, but mine was perfect,” she says. “He worked at the tramways, that’s right. He was in the war then went to work in the tramway, driving trams in those days.” The couple were married in 1949 and lived in Sydney till 1973. They then moved north to Tweed Heads in 1973, eventually settling in Coolangatta.
When Joy and her husband first decided to go north on his motorbike, Joy’s mother was horrified. “She said: ‘You are not going on that terrible motorbike’. And I said, ‘We are, Mum, we’re going north on it’.” She says her husband “wanted us all to be healthy and strong. And the only way he could do that was to make sure we all had health insurance. And from there on, we were healthy and strong, paid our money to the fund and stayed members ever since.
“We never really had any problems. You got up each day and did what you had to do. And that’s all there is to it. The children have got to be at school at a certain time. And before you know it, they’re home from school and you’ve done your housework and cleaning for the day. So, you’re busy, busy, busy.” Before she was married, Joy worked at the Grace Brothers department store near Central Station in Sydney. “It was a lovely spot. You nicked in on the tram every morning, it was very quick,” says Joy. “It was fairly easy going in those days.” Both of Joy’s daughters, Gail and Sue, also worked for a time at Grace Brothers. (The original Grace Brothers building where Joy worked now houses the Broadway shopping centre.)
Joy says back in “those days” women stopped working when they married. “All women stayed home and looked after the family and children and the household.” Asked how she’s stayed healthy throughout her long life, Joy says walking and talking and drinking plenty of water. “Walking and talking – talking too much, I think. I’ve just always been a walker. I usually eat everything that comes my way. I know when I’m not feeling well, I’ve neglected to drink enough water. You just have to have nice water all the time. No headaches after that. Water’s the thing that saves you.” Joy and her husband travelled quite a bit in their retirement and went on many cruises.
“There are plenty of places to travel. All you have to do is save up your pennies and go on your holidays.” She loved the cruises. “Every day, everywhere we went. We went with a friend of mine and her husband and we enjoyed every bit of it. The four of us were always together.” At rt health, we’re very fortunate to have long-serving, loyal members like Joy, who help us to recall the stories of years gone by as well as to solidify their place in our history and community.