Be happy, be kind, and keep on dancing.
Home Nursing Group client, Mrs Joyce Read recently celebrated her 90th birthday in Coffs Harbour. Learn more about her story.
I was born in Greece and raised in Egypt, an only child to a doting mother who cared for me alone, after my father moved back to Greece. Growing up, I attended a French school and then an English school, but education was quite expensive. When my friends started to leave school, I begged my mother to let me leave also. So, when I was 14-and-a-half years old, I acquired my first job and left school.
I worked for the British Army in the stores room. After a time, I was asked if I’d like to dance for the troops two night per week. I always had a love of dancing, so I jumped at the chance.
It was during this time, in Alexandria, Egypt, that I met the man of my dreams. His name was Wally Read. He was a tall, blonde, blue-eyed soldier from Australia. It truly was love at first sight. I was holding my breath, hoping he would ask me to dance, but he didn’t — at least, not that night. But I did get that dance soon enough, and I went home floating on cloud nine.
We were together from that dance on, and six months later we decided to marry. But our path to matrimony was hardly smooth. Wally was 23, I was 16, and Australian servicemen had a poor reputation from the first war. Wally hadn’t sought permission from my mother, and when she found out, she hit the roof! But he was invited to dinner and thankfully won her over. I became his fiancée over a bowl of Greek chicken soup.
But we had a bigger problem. Wally was to be transferred back to Australia in just three days. Three days was not enough time to arrange a wedding, so it was booked for ten days’ time. The morning of the wedding, MPs came looking for Wally; they thought he had gone AWOL. My aunty hid Wally in a cupboard until they were gone, and thankfully the wedding went ahead at 3pm as planned. We were married on a Saturday, and on Monday Wally caught a train back to camp, returning to Australia in January 1943. It was thirteen long months before I joined him, in March 1944.
I was one of the first World War II Greek war brides to come to Australia. I arrived in Victoria, eagerly anticipating my reunion with Wally, but instead I was greeted by my new in-laws. They told me Wally was fighting in New Guinea, so it was one more excruciating week before I saw him again. We set up a home in Melbourne, and in 1946 my mother came to live with us in Australia. Soon after, Wally was discharged from the Army, and we were able to settle into happy married life. We welcomed our daughter, the first of four, and moved to Cairns, where we lived for a blissful 14 years.