Our friends Marg and Don Hauser were glider pilots who regularly came to Benalla to fly. On occasion they asked me to join them for the weekend, awakening my interest in the sport of gliding.
Working a full-time job and with three still dependent children, the time and money involved to make flying a reality led to it being put on the back burner.
One Saturday afternoon some years later, when the children were older, I was standing doing dishes at the kitchen sink. As I looked up, I saw a small plane fly overhead. On that day, our children were off with friends, one on a sleep over and the other two involved in a weekend with scouts and cubs. Karl was at lawn bowls. The thought suddenly hit me, “Why am keeping the home fires burning, when there is just me in it?
When Christmas time came around, Karl asked me what I would like for Christmas. In answer, I formulated a list, on top of which was an emerald and diamond dress ring, and on the bottom, a new potato peeler. Somewhere near the middle, I slotted in a week in Benalla to learn how to fly. I got the potato peeler and not the ring. However, I did find myself in Benalla learning how to fly.
Gliding is a sport where males and females are able to compete on an even footing. Muscle power is of no consequence. Karl was from the country town of Tongala in the Goulburn Valley. We would often visit Tongala, however I found the small town claustrophobic. I made it clear that I could never move to live in the country.
Eventually the children left home. Karl had semi-retired from teaching and I was still full time employed.
One Friday afternoon I came home and Karl said, ”How would you feel if we sold this house and built one in Benalla?”
I thought for a minute. I had come to have a feeling for Benalla from my exposure to the gliding club. Our eldest son Stuart, his wife and their two children were living in Yackandah, so we would be able to see them more often. It also meant I could have more access to my glider and flying. All positives. I also realised that the weather is better In Benalla, with more sunshine than Melbourne.
To Karl’s surprise I agreed. With that, he was on the phone to an estate agent who arrived a very short time later to talk about putting our home on the market. The following day we drove to Benalla and looked around for a block of land. On Monday, when I came home from work, I found our house had been sold that day, so the die was cast for us to become Benalla residents.
It was the best move we ever made. We made friends and slotted into the local scene effortlessly.
The gliding club at Benalla is known throughout the gliding world as a premier soaring club. The conditions attract overseas pilots who want to fly in the northern winter and attain long flights in the excellent thermal conditions that this part of Australia provides. Over the years we made many, many friends from England, Scotland, Finland, Canada, Wales and New Zealand. I have flown in England, Scotland, New Zealand and Slovenia and Hawaii. We have been able to offer accommodation to some of these pilots, especially those that bring their spouse. They have become lifelong friends. We have been fortunate enough to have several overseas holidays staying with these wonderful people. Often, we were handed from household to household, moving from the south of England on up to the Lakes District, then Glasgow. Staying with locals was a wonderful way to see more of England in particular.
I am eternally grateful to have moved to this friendly town. A turning point in our lives that worked out well for my family.