Ron and Bobbie Wood have lived in Australia since 1967. They emigrated from UK at that time with their three children. They were both born in Blackpool, and have been married for 54 years. They have lived in Christie Downs for around 27 years, and for most of that time in their Trust place not far from the community centre. Ron is now 81 and Bobbie has just turned 75.
Ron has had at a variety of jobs over the years – he was trained as a wood machinist when he was young and has gravitated to working with wood ever since, although for a time in England he used to service amusement machines – pinball machines, one armed bandits and the like. Bobbie has also worked at different times – in the printing trade, doing promotional printing, and at factories including a woodwork factory that made ironing boards and ladders among other things.
After Ron retired in the early 1990’s he got into community work. How it happened is quite quirky. He was working off a speeding fine at Corrections. They had a wood turning machine there and other equipment to use for working with wood. Ron had trained as a wood machinist early in his life and so was able to start up a class to teach other blokes to do woodwork, and they developed a scheme for making wooden toys as Christmas presents for needy families. He continued to teach classes at Corrections for about 3 years, long after he sorted his fine.
Then he started doing similar classes at Eleanora Centre at Noarlunga Downs, a centre funded by the Uniting Church that houses homeless people. They had the equipment, and were opening up the Centre for general community use.
Ron ran woodworking classes regularly there for 10 years. At his peak he was running five classes per week for up to 7 people at a time. He was at Eleanora on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and as well as general classes, also taught a special class for people with disabilities, including a blind person, and someone who only had the use of one arm. He would have taught 30 – 40 people a week, and over the years, many people had a go. He never had a lathe that was empty he says.
Ron really enjoyed the company of others and their appreciation. He saw many blokes become very skilled at the work, and got a lot of satisfaction from helping people to learn. One was a carpenter in his ‘day job’, but had never touched a lathe in his life – he made some really beautiful work. The classes were open to all and had a waiting list of people wanting to join.
Bobbie’s community contributions started when her granddaughter started school, getting on for 20 years ago. At that time she used to help out at Sarah’s school quite a bit. She listened to reading, went on excursions with the classes, helped out at the year 7 graduation, and ran a pottery class at the school. She got to know lots of people, mums, kids and teachers and stayed with the school until Sarah moved on to high school.
At that stage Ron was working at Eleanora, and he asked Bobbie if she would be interested in teaching pottery there. She ran classes for 3 or 4 years, three per week, with around 6 in each class. She also ran a couple of school holiday programs for children.
One memorable student was a young Aboriginal woman who had a disability. Bobbie noticed that there was prejudice against her, and became keener to help her as a result. She (the young woman) wanted to make two bedside lamps, which Bobbie helped her with, and she was so thrilled with the result.
For Bobbie, the best part of it was the fun that they all had – and the satisfaction of showing people they could do things they didn’t think they could do. She says “you get so much pleasure out of seeing people’s faces when they’ve done something – it gives you a lift somehow.”
Ron and Bobbie have made a real contribution to community life in the southern suburbs. Without people like them, our options for taking up new challenges and learning new skills would be much reduced. They are a great example of sharing and having fun together with others, and making a difference as you go along.