Peg French, 24 May 2017

It’s such a privilege to be able to share with you some stories about my niece and friend, Ruth, during her childhood and teenage years.

Ruth Elizabeth Lohmann was born in the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital on 1 April 1961.  Her mother, Betty, describes her as a precious, little baby, full of energy and always on the go. It wasn't long before she was pulling herself up in her cot, and by ten and a half months, she wasn’t just walking, she was running!

Ruth’s parents, Vic and Betty Lohmann, and Ruth’s older brother, Mark, lived on acreage at Pinelands Road, in Sunnybank. For children growing up, it was what we would imagine as an idyllic existence. Wherever Mark went, Ruth followed. They were great mates and stayed that way, always. Digging gardens, climbing trees, building cubby-houses were all in a day’s work, and tomboy Ruth loved it all.

But there was one thing that Ruth insisted upon doing that her brother, Mark just wouldn’t be part of. Right from the time she was a toddler, Ruth loved animals of any kind, and at this stage of her life, it happened to be bugs. Large or small, it made no difference. Once, she collected a large container full a medley of insects, and that night stored them under her bed. Despite dire warnings that some of them could escape, she persisted, and of course they DID! But not just onto the floor. They climbed into her bed!

Ruth was always such a sociable child. She was never shy and sometimes when her mother took her to town shopping, she would say, “I’m going to make a new friend today!”…..and she often did.

Mark and Ruth both started their school lives at Runcorn State School but when Ruth was six years old, her parents decided to have a change and leave Brisbane for a while. Ruth’s father was a farmer at heart. He’d grown up near Toogoolawah and the chance to spend a couple of years back on the land was a very strong call. So, they found tenants for their house, packed up and moved to a dairy farm at Samsonvale, which was north of Dayboro.

These days, dairy farming might not be first choice for too many land owners, but, back in the late sixties, it was a good life. And they all loved it. Ruth’s father, Vic, was in his element with animals to tend and wonderful soil for crop growing. Ruth’s mother, Betty, loved it, too. In her spare time, she established a beautiful flower garden.

Mark and Ruth settled into Mount Samson School, a two-teacher school, only a short car ride away along an incredibly bumpy road. However this kind of road was no novelty for this family as Pinelands Road, back in Sunnybank, had, in those days, the worst corrugations ever experienced!

Car-pooling has always been a way of life in country areas and what better way to get to know your neighbours than to share, week about, the job of driving their children to school and collecting them in the afternoon. There were four families nearby with children at the school, and they all became good friends.

The property had a shallow creek down the back, safe and perfect for Mark, Ruth and their friends in which to paddle and “kind of” swim. It also had an old wreck of a car for all the adventures that imaginative and happy children make up, day after day.

Ruth and her friends also loved feeding the calves and often helped themselves to some of the food not meant for them!

Once, when her parents were busy milking, Ruth disappeared. There was much calling out and racing around searching, before she was found, fast asleep on bags of chaff in the hayshed. She’d just grown tired of waiting for them, but decided that she couldn’t be bothered walking all the way back up the hill to the house.

She also grew tired of not being able to ride a bike when her older brother obviously did it with such ease, so some serious lessons were in order. These were accomplished but somehow riding a bike wasn’t what she really wanted. She wanted to ride a horse!

Ruth’s love affair with horses began on the farm. They had just one horse which Vic used to round up the stragglers, those cows which did not take themselves willingly to the milking shed. Ruth’s turn to ride came in the afternoons after school. But this was no pony.  I remember that it was black and huge! Ruth’s father would pick her up, place her in the saddle and then walk along beside the horse, while Ruth grinned out at the rest of the world.

Ruth’s family had two very special years on the Samsonvale farm.  But then, out of the blue, came word that the farm was going to be no more. The land would be resumed and flooded to become Samsonvale Dam. The family could stay on a little longer if they wished, but when faced with the inevitable, they just wanted to get moving.

So, it was time to pack up, and the family returned to their Sunnybank home, to find lots of work awaiting them. By this time, Ruth is eight years old and Mark is ten. They return to Runcorn School. The family returns to the church at the end of Pinelands Road. Vic returns to his old job at the foundry.

Over the next few years, to help with the settling back process, Mark and Ruth went to judo classes at Coopers Plains and swimming classes at Mt Gravatt. For five cents each (and Mark reminded me how keen on swimming they must have been, because he could have bought an iceblock with that 5cents!), they could practise their skills at another pool down on Beenleigh Road, which belonged to a lovely lady by the name of Mrs Sweetapples. (Yes, that really was her name!)  I don’t know how much actual practice they did but it was obviously a lot of fun to be with other children, and have a lot of truck inner tubes to mess around with.

Beenleigh Road also became the site of fulfilling Ruth’s latest wish – having riding lessons! She had become the incredibly proud owner of her very own horse. He was a present from her parents. He was black, and his name was Midnight.

Ruth’s father used to walk down Pinelands Road with her on Midnight, to the riding school, wait while she had her lesson, and then walk home with her again. Ruth was a very happy girl!

So life for the Lohmann family settled into a routine of school and work (and horse care and riding). The local area was like a small village of little farms, where everyone knew everyone, all the children played together, and migrated from one house to another, depending upon which game was being played that day. The family was also strongly involved with the local church, with Ruth joining the Girls Brigade and Mark the Boys Brigade. They participated in camps at Tamborine, Warwick and the Snowy Mountains, cementing friendships that would last into adulthood, and shaping the caring child into a thoughtful and concerned adolescent.

But the times are a-changing. Pinelands Road is finally graded and surfaced and immediately becomes a through road for far too many trucks which always seem to need to change gears right outside their home. It finally becomes too much for a family who love peace and quiet, and in 1973, they sell the house and move, not that far away, to Illaweena Street in Drewvale, just past Calamvale. Don’t go looking for this house, today, as the land on which it stood, is now part of the lovely Karrawatha Reserve.

It’s 1973. Mark has been at Sunnybank High School for a year and a half and Ruth transfers to Calamvale State School which she attends for only18 months,  before moving on to Acacia Ridge State High School. Drewvale, which had much better soil than their previous Sunnybank farmland, makes it possible for Vic to establish a very large vegetable garden and they become almost self-sufficient. Now, Ruth’s horse, Midnight, has a huge paddock in which to graze. In those days, the property was regarded as being in the country. Today, it’s an outer suburb of Brisbane.

At 14 years of age, Ruth develops a new interest – square dancing. But this soon becomes a family pastime which gives them all so much pleasure for quite a few years. I remember going to a couple of these evenings out at Park Ridge. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, but I had a wonderful time with a great group of people there. In the massive, net underskirts that were worn for square dancing, Ruth looked like a beautifully coloured puffball!

And so, Ruth is now well and truly into her teenage years.

Always impatient to make things happen, Ruth decides to leave school after graduating from her Junior year, saying, “One day I’ll do my Senior. But not right now.”  She quickly found a job at William Adams and worked as a telex operator. She worked there long enough to save up and buy a car.

Now, she was ready to move on to the next stage of her life.

Peg French, 24 May 2017

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