Home' Aurora : Aurora February 2014 Contents 16
Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle www.mn.catholic.org.au
BONDS OF FRIENDSHIP
SPAN THE YEARS
SEASONS OF GRACE
I'll be there for you, when the rain starts to pour.
I'll be there for you, like I've been there before.
I'll be there for you, cause you're there for me too.
The theme song from the enduring television
series "Friends" could well be sung by a group
of spirited Newcastle women. Shirley McHugh
shares an encounter with enduring friendship.
Ther e ar e two cer tainties in life -- the
beginning and the end. In between, most
of us would like the experience of family,
faith and friends and it doesn't matter in
which order they come -- as long as they
do come, one day at a time.
It is the 'one day at a time' aspect of life
that Gwen Fuge (nee Bailey) and her
friends, Phyllis Watson (Marks), Joan Little
(Watson) and Val Kavanagh (Stewar t),
have maintained for 65 year s of enduring
friendship, beginning with ten enthusiastic
but very shy fifteen-year-olds commencing
their working lives at Gow's Depar tment
Stor e, Beaumont Street, Hamilton. Today,
they are still going strong, although the paid
workforce is well behind them.
In the 1940s, af ter the Second World
War, it was usual for young people to
leave school and commence working
immediately, as oppor tunities for ter tiar y
education were limited. Possibilities for
women were usually restricted to teaching,
nur sing, sales, office or factory work and
the workplace was fairly segregated. It
was in these conditions that ten young
women met and began their working lives
at Gow's. They immediately for med a bond
of friendship and loyalty that has lasted
all their lives. They decided that as long
a s they were in the Hunter, they would
always meet at least once a month so that
they never lost contact with each other.
What a commitment and what joys they
have shared !
They reminisce easily about their "Gow's
days", when customer s put almost ever y
purchase "on layby" and cash payments
were made via an air chute that whiz zed
across the store above the heads of
customer s and staff. Joan, who presided
over the centr al office, says, "The money
was there, almost on display, and there wa s
no security but nothing ever went wrong."
How times have changed !
"As each of the girls married," said Gwen,
"we went to all the weddings and some of
us were bridesmaids. We also went to the
baptisms and we saw our children star t
school at the same time, leave at the same
time and get sick at the same time.
"We babysat each other's kids . We laughed
at all their behaviour patter ns as we
compared our monthly growth notes. We
shared a common grief at their setbacks ,
and we tr acked them through their various
romances. Our shared tales of our children
for med a stronger bond until it seemed we
were all par t of the same family. We shared
common joys, laughed at each other's jokes
and cried at our setbacks."
They also shared their spiritual jour neys
and as time passed, the children grew
up and the women grew older, they
experienced events in their lives that
tapped into hidden depths of love and
understanding. It began with the loss of a
gr andchild, then a husband and wor st of all,
the death of a member of the group. These
were sad times but they clung to each
(l-r) Val Kavanagh, Gwen Fuge, Phyllis Watson and Joan Little.
other, enjoying the monthly dinners and the
rituals forged by many year s together.
One by one with the passage of years, the
'girls' realised they had reached the 'golden
years'. Their hair had turned to various
shades of grey and silver, spectacles were
a necessar y accessor y, the heels on their
shoes became lower...and sunspots wer e
the legacy of many days on the beach.
There are just four of the girls left now --
empty spaces at their table, but still they
talk of each other as if ten were present.
When asked if the women ever r un out
of conver sation, Gwen responded with
an ir repressible twinkle in those very
blue eyes, "We're women and we're
friends. How could we ever run out of
conversation? Our lives have covered
hundreds of year s --- the course of many
world histories, to say nothing of our own."
I felt humbled by this wonder ful group of
women, their endur ance, their loyalty to
each other and their determination to share
the moments the future still holds for them.
I couldn't help but be impressed by their
ability to listen to each other without sitting
in judgement, but rather simply sharing the
abundant Spirit of friendship.
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