107 years young: My memories of Ipswich

Ipswich’s oldest resident looks back on how life has changed over the years and why she loves living here.

Liz Jordan is meticulously knitting a cardigan for her granddaughter, carefully looping the dark blue wool around her needle.

“She wanted black, but I’m doing it for her in navy, because my left eye plays up a bit and has a bit of trouble seeing the stitches in the black,” Liz says.

At 107 years old, Liz is in remarkably good health, and still lives on her own in the same Ebbw Vale home she moved into in 1936, with her late husband Joseph.

She cooks her own meals, grows orchids in her greenhouse, and heads out with friends to play bocce and indoor bowls each week.

“I try to keep active, even if I’m sitting down knitting for hours, I’ll get out for a little walk in the yard,” she says.

“I look forward to playing indoor bowls, and I’m fortunate that I’ve got friends who make sure I get a lift up there.

“We head out to Laidley or Gatton, we get around.”

The centenarian credits her long life to her busy social calendar and her great friendships.

Production music courtesy: Purple Planet Music

“I have some great friends and I love to mix with all different groups, at church and from bowls,” Liz says.

“My advice is to get out as much as you can. Sometimes it’s an effort, but it’s worth it.

“I think to this day, that’s what’s kept me alive, that I’ve had something to do and I was responsible for what I had to do.”

Born in 1912, Liz has seen Ipswich change dramatically over the years.

Her earliest memories are of growing up at the old family home in Johnstone Street in West Ipswich and attending West Ipswich girls’ school.

She recalls her grandparents coming out to visit in a horse-drawn carriage, and the long gossip-fuelled walks around the city as a teenager.

“We’d walk everywhere back in those days,” Liz says.

“When we were teenagers, we’d go out to church services. Some of our group would go to St Paul’s, others would go to the Catholic Church at St Mary’s, and then we’d meet after in a group.

“We’d all mix together.”

Rising water on Brisbane Street during the 1974 floods. Courtesy: Picture Ipswich

While Liz and Joseph’s house was not affected by the floods of 1974 or 2011, she lost many of her wedding photos when her brother’s home was hit by the rising flood levels.

“My brother did a lot of photography and had lots of our wedding photos and family films. But the floods came up under his house, and we lost them,” she says, shaking her head.

“But that was nothing compared to what others went through. People lost so much.”

Reid’s fire aftermath, Bell Street, August 1985. Courtesy: Picture Ipswich

Liz remembers the blaze that ripped through the former Reids department store in August, 1985 as the most devastating event in Ipswich’s history.

“It was absolutely terrible,” she says.

“So many jobs were lost and Ipswich has never really been the same.

“You have your sad times and your good times, we all go through that.

“But I hear now they are trying to rebuild things a bit up town, so we’ll see how that goes.”

The former dressmaker- who has two children, five grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren- says she is grateful for her good health, but thinks people make too much of her age.

“I’m fortunate that I’m in good health, but people really do go on about how old I am,” Liz says.

“My kids always ask me, mum are you sure you still want to live on your own?”

“But I have lots of friends come to visit me and I am still able to get out on my own and take care of myself.”

Sitting in the fading afternoon light, Liz picks up her knitting needles again, berating herself for a dropped stitch.

“Look what I’ve done. I need to get going on this or I won’t finish before the end of winter.”

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