As a child growing up Barb McMahon always wanted to be a physical education teacher.
Coming from a family of 10 children and being third youngest, it was expected she would leave school at 16 and help the family.
It is prophetic that after many varied jobs over the years, she ended up working at Lakes Entrance Primary School for almost 30 years as a teacher’s aide and then a library technician.
After retiring at the end of January this year, Barb celebrated at the Central Hotel on Saturday, October 26, at a reunion of teachers and staff who she had worked with over the years.
Barb was born at Korumburra and grew up on a dairy farm where she helped with all the chores.
“Farm life was the best. I believe it’s the place for kids to grow up. Milking cows for me was therapeutic. I also loved feeding the animals, carting hay and cutting thistles,” Barb said.
“Dad also grew peas and potatoes seasonally. We would pick the peas, eating as many as we put in the pea bag.
“We didn’t have anything special but everything we needed. No TV, mobile phones etc., just one bike and a few toys.
“It was idyllic, we had a fantastic childhood.”
Her parents were both very good at sport and it played a significant role in their family life. Barb loved playing netball, basketball, softball, badminton, table tennis and cricket.
“At 15 I played netball in the squad team for Korumburra at Country Week and won the State Championship,” she said.
After leaving school Barb helped older members of the family in their mixed businesses and on dairy farms.
At 19 she was approached to work in a bakery at Korumburra and then went on to manage a bakery at Phillip Island, before going back to help a brother on his dairy farm.
At this time Barb met her future husband and they set off on a working holiday around Australia, returning to Korumburra in 1976 to attend a wedding. They decided to get married and live in Inverloch, but then travelled again as fruit pickers.
They eventually bought a small dairy farm at Katamatite and in 1982 their baby daughter, Belinda, was born.
After her husband’s motorbike accident, Barb worked night shifts at SPC, milked the cows and then irrigated.
“I had some wonderful helpers. My mum came up and looked after Belinda and two local men did the afternoon milking,” Barb said.
“It was a real learning experience for me, having to learn how to prime pumps and calve cows, among other things.”
It became too hard financially and the couple sold the farm and moved to Mooroopna where Barb continued to work at SPC.
Barb’s last move was to Lakes Entrance in 1988.
“I got involved in netball again and enjoyed playing, umpiring and coaching,” she said.
“I had multiple jobs at various motels and the ice cream parlour. I also volunteered at Belinda’s school.
“Then in July 1989 I was offered a job as a teacher’s aide and in 1997 I moved into the library full time.
“In 2009, until I retired, I went back to being an integration aide plus working the library.
“I am always so grateful for the support I received from volunteers in the library. They were blessed angels.”
She organised volunteers to come in and teach knitting, chess and drafts at lunch time, while books were often repaired.
While working at Lakes Entrance Primary School Barb went on the majority of school camps and sleepovers.
She kept up her netball interests coaching, playing and umpiring.
“I had two knee reconstructions and after the second one at 49 decided to give netball up,” she said.
One of her proudest achievements was when she instigated a breakfast club at the primary school. Each Friday a group of volunteers would provide a nutritious breakfast to any student that turned up.
She successfully applied for a Food Bank grant and they supplied all the produce for the breakfasts.
“We had excellent school and community support over the years,” Barb said.
Shane McDonald, of the Lakes Entrance Lions Club, was integral in the introduction of the breakfast club.
“In the beginning Shane delivered milk and produce every Thursday night in readiness for Friday,” Barb said.
“He was very generous, my right hand man. Tim Rogerson, from Bakers Delight, donated bread as well.
“The Lakes Entrance Lions Club would come in every Friday at 7.30am and prepare. So on special days like Father’s Day or before Christmas, the children would prepare their breakfast to say thank you.”
In 2017 Barb was named Lakes Entrance Citizen of the Year.
Her love for all the children at Lakes Primary over the years was shown in her last statement when speaking to the Post.
“Yes, we certainly learn from our elders, however let’s not forget how we can also learn from the children, if we take the time to listen to them. The best days were being there for the kids and seeing them grow and achieve in their lives,” Barb concluded.
For the next 12 months Barb is living in Barooga, helping run a Laundromat, which she established with Belinda and her husband Tim in 2017. It is an expanding business, which was a finalist in the People’s Choice Awards for Customer Service this year.
Between that and looking after her beloved grandson, Dyson, Barb will be keeping up her busy and fulfilling life.
PICTURED: Barb McMahon