To hear many centenarians talk, you’d think the key to a long life was not to drink and to stay single. Marge Johnson would disagree.
“Mum always said the reason she got old was because she had a bloody good time,” Marge’s daughter Margaret Blewitt says.
Born in Orange on 20 November 1921, the then Marge Faull moved to Canberra with her family in a horse and cart a year later. Her father worked in the rose gardens at the old Parliament House and her mother did alterations for local shops.
But sewing and gardening sound a little sedate for the young Marge, who left school to work at the Hotel Kurrajong and went on to make a name for herself as a barmaid.
“She loved it,” Margaret says, “she and her sister used to be barmaids and they got into a lot of mischief. She had a lot of stories.”
Marge and her first husband Charlie Law had three children in Canberra – Colin, Margaret and Robert.
When Charlie was sent to war, she was left to parent alone.
“She married dad in the 40s and we lived in Turner,” Margaret recalls.
“She’s just always been a great mum, a really caring person.”
Sadly, Marge’s first marriage broke down but she later met and married Bill Johnson, an oyster farmer, who lured her to Batemans Bay in 1971.
She quickly became a familiar face pulling beers at the Catalina Country Club and ended up working there for 10 of the 50 years she’s lived in Batemans Bay.
“Mum always had a full household each weekend with friends from Canberra, she could make something out of nothing,” Margaret says.
“She always had a smile on her face and never said a bad word about anyone.”
A bit of a character, Marge left learning to drive until late in life – and then never really mastered the skill.
“She was a hopeless driver, why I ever let the kids get into the car with her I don’t know!” Margaret says.
“When she went for her licence she said to the instructor, ‘I can’t back up’ and he said, ‘well how am I going to give you a licence?’. She said, ‘well I’m only going to drive around Batemans Bay’, so he gave it to her.”
Marge was also a hit with the lady golfers, delivering freshly cooked pikelets and cream to them every Wednesday afternoon before she and Bill upped stumps for a few years to travel around Australia.
Now a resident of The Glen, in Batemans Bay, Marge’s health has deteriorated rapidly in the past few months but she’s rallied to celebrate her 100th birthday today with about 70 guests in fitting style – at the Catalina Golf Club.
“She will have 12 of her great great grandchildren there,” Margaret says. “She has three children, six grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren and 12 great great grandchildren.
“She just loves kids and she’s seen so much. She’s really lived life to the full.”