Room with a view through the ages

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Sometimes life just comes full circle.

For Yvonne Foster, living at Whalan Lodge in Kurow brings back many memories.

Mrs Foster’s room at the Waitaki Valley rest-home was once part of the birthing unit of the Kurow Maternity Hospital where three of her children were born.

“In this room, I had three daughters,” Mrs Foster (nee Welsh) said.

“My three girls were born in the room I’m sitting in now.”

Built in the 1920s, Whalan Lodge was once a maternity hospital, filled with the cries of newborn babies, before it was converted into a rest-home. It was closed in 1975 and remained unused until it was bought by the Whalan family and was reopened as Whalan Lodge rest-home in 1984.

Mrs Foster (94) has been living there for the past five years, and has spent all of her life in the Kurow area.

Born in the Hakataramea Valley to parents William and Matilda Welsh, Mrs Foster went to Hakataramea Valley Public School and Kurow District High School.

After leaving school, she got a job at Hislop, Creagh and Main law firm in Oamaru as an office junior. She worked there for four years before returning to Kurow “waiting to get married”, she said.

She met her husband, Bill, shortly after starting a job at Kurow District High School teaching typewriting.

“Then I got married. And then what happened? Of course, I had children,” she said.

Mr and Mrs Foster’s three daughters – Denise, Marilyn and Sharyn – were all born at the Kurow Maternity Hospital. Their son, Stephen, was born in the Hakataramea Valley.

When all of the children had reached school age, Mrs Foster got a call from the manager of the Waitaki Supplies Store offering her a job in the hardware department.

At the time, she thought she had enough to do at home, but she accepted, on a week’s trial basis.

“I didn’t know about that either. I said never hear the end of it from the Kurow people saying: ‘What’s she working for? Her husband’s got a good job’,” she said

“These little towns, you know.”

Sure enough, people talked, but the manager assured her they would forget all about it in a week’s time.

“I said be here [in a week’s time], anyway’.”

Mrs Foster worked at the Waitaki Supplies Store for 18 years.

“I really enjoyed it,” she said.

“I did the buying; I loved buying crystal and all the good things.

“We had three sections in the shop. One section was the grocery, the next section was hardware and fancy goods and the next one was clothing.”

Mrs Foster got to know everyone in the community, and enjoyed forming relationships with regular holiday-makers in the Waitaki Valley. She was also busy in the community playing bowls, being involved with Girl Guides and through her children’s sporting pursuits.

“In those days, I did [know everyone]. Nowadays, I could walk up the street and I don’t know anybody,” she said.

Kurow, like everywhere, had changed a lot over the years, she said. But she could not imagine living anywhere else.

“I’ve been so lucky – I had a wonderful father and mother, a wonderful husband and four wonderful children,” she said.