Lessons from a life well lived

Posted on Thursday, January 20, 2022

In 1926, the first domestic refrigerator was introduced in Australia.

World War II took place from 1939-1945.

In 1940 the modern colour television was invented.

In 1969, the internet was launched, and the first man walked on the moon.


When we think of the last 100 years our minds will often reflect on technological advances such as the first television or computers or major world events such as world wars. Yet when asked about their lives over the last century, Brightwater at Home Client, Molly, and resident of Brightwater Huntingdale, Joan, remain modest. 

It seems when you turn 100, the questions everyone wants to ask you are things like, what are your fondest memories? What are the biggest changes you have seen? And what piece of advice would you give young people today?

These are big questions and not easily answered. After all, with a wonderful life still being lived, memories are still being made every day.  

A little bit like Brightwater’s own 120th birthday this year, our age tells others we have experience and stories to tell, but there is always still room for more.

Meet Molly

Mary (Molly) Worsnop was born on the 18th August 1921, growing up in the small country town of Shackelton, approximately 200km east of Perth.

She attended a one-teacher school, where she was taught by her Mother.  She moved to Perth at the age of 12 and then at 18 she began her own teaching career.

When reflecting on her time at school in Shackelton, she said she was not very good at sport and laughs as she remembers a school report saying “Molly runs hard, but not fast.”

However, it was at the age of 12, when Molly went to a convent school in Adelaide Terrace in Perth, that she discovered her talent for acting. It was here she was selected as an actress for the first time in a school play and she has never looked back.

Molly had decided that one day she would be an actress, but said “there were no jobs for actresses, so I interviewed for Teacher’s College.”

Five very important gentlemen – they were all men in those days on the panel of course – asked me why I wanted to become a teacher. I said to them, ‘well I have thought about it and it is because I will get plenty of holidays!’ – I was still offered a spot at Teacher’s College.”

Molly taught at Greenmount School in the Perth Hills before moving to Sydney to teach. She went onto marry and have two daughters.

Whilst working as a monitor at Greenmount Primary School, she got a lead part in a play at His Majesty’s Theatre, starring in Lady Precious Stream.

During rehearsals I go the mumps – a fortnight before the play was starting. My Doctor gave me some tables and told me not to breath on anyone. I got a very good review – that was 83 years ago,” she said.

After living in Sydney, Molly moved back to Western Australia and taught most of her life in various schools and in the last eight years of her career Molly taught drama.

Drama continues to be a party of Molly’s life. She has worked at the Patch and Playhouse theatres, acting in plays including A Street Car Named Desire and The Physicist. She has also starred in television advertisements and said upon retiring at the age of 60 was featured in at least 20 commercials on Australian television.

She also recently narrated a short film, which won an award for best short film at the Perth Film Festival, and today she produces plays at the Beaumont Retirement Village, where she lives.

Molly continues to attend a creative writing class, and her speech writing skills were put to the test at her recent birthday celebrations.

Molly celebrated her 100th birthday with 54 of her closest friends and family.

I had a rather splendid party with lots of friends – young and old – and my daughter was the MC,” Molly said.

She also had a second party at her Retirement Village, where Molly said they celebrated with champagne and she was gifted a set of pearls.

So, what does Molly say in answer to those big questions?

When asked what her secret to a happy life is, she says: “Everyone asks me that and I don’t have a secret actually. My mother lived for a long time too – she was in her 90s when she passed way – and I remember asking her the same. She used to say ‘just keep keeping on’ – I like that too.”

Molly adds that doing yoga, writing and being part of a book club help her keep feeling good.  She says she always has something happening each day and stays very busy.

People always say I am amazing. They use the word amazing all the time. I don’t think I am any more amazing than anyone else. I do think being light-hearted about life and not taking anything too seriously is important and a secret to a happy life.” Molly Worsnop


Meet Joan

Ellen (Joan) Bagley was born on the 7th September 1921 and grew up on a few acres in Bullsbrook in Perth’s East.

Joan says her Mum and Dad met and got married in the same year – 1916 – with her Dad leaving for war the day after they were married. It was when he returned from war that Joan and her siblings were born.

Joan has two children of her own - Dawn and Daryl and well as three grandchildren and one great grandchild.

She said growing up in Bullsbrook was a happy time.

We could not have been poorer, but also could not have been happier. We had nothing, but wanted for nothing.” Joan Bagley

When asked about her life and the happy memories, Joan recalls some of the simple pleasures she enjoyed as a child.

Our favourite treat to eat was jelly,” Joan says.

Our parents made it for us on our birthday and at Christmas. They had to set the jelly overnight in a bucket and drop it down into the well, where it was the coldest. We then had to eat it before it melted again during the day.

Birthdays were a special time as Joan would sometimes get a sixpence to go and treat herself to lollies, like aniseed balls, at the local store in Bullsbrook.

She also fondly remembers her Mum making all of their clothes and blankets from a material called ‘crouton’ and she said she and her siblings loved building cubbies in the bush.

Joan’s favourite subject at school was arithmetic, but she won an award in 1933 from her teacher and principal, Mr Cecil Charles Hill, for the best script work.

Joan and her siblings travelled the 3.5 mile journey to school each day taking turns on her horse, which she loved. Two on the horse and one walking.

Joan’s love of horses is evident – and when she celebrated her 100th birthday at Brightwater Huntingdale, the staff surprised her with a special visitor.  Joan’s love of horses even translates to poetry – the Man from Snowy River – she can recite it from beginning to end.  “I loved that poem because of the horses, but also because of the Man himself. ‘ The man from Snowy River is a household word to-day.’”

My horse was called Zip and I rode him everywhere from the age of 5 until 18. I loved him and could call his name from anywhere and he would come galloping to me,” Joan said.

Joan left school at the age of 14 and went to work in the boarding house at Pearce Airbase. She did several other jobs during her career, including helping her neighbours muster the dairy cows on her horse.

Joan also recalls running the Muchea refreshment room on the railway line during the second world war, servicing the soldiers travelling from Perth to Geraldton.

I used to make 400 meat pies a day at one point. I used to make them with a short pastry on the bottom and puff pastry on the top. As soon as the train stopped, the soldiers hit that refreshment room hard – they could not get enough of the pies.

Joan’s years as a young adult saw her with a busy social life of local country dances.

Every weekend I would attend a dance on a Saturday evening – there is nothing more enjoyable than a good country dance with local people – it was a wonderful life,” she said.

Joan recalls winning a ‘popular girl’ competition at the age of 19, just before she met her late husband, Jack.

Dad was so proud to think that his own daughter had won the popular girl competition – I will never forget it.”

Today Joan loves looking after her own small potted garden outside of her room at Huntingdale, loves watching the cricket and is a mad West Coast Eagles fan.

In fact, Joan loves her footy so much – she has won the Huntingdale footy competition several years in a row now.

When asked about the secret to a happy life, what did Joan say?

“I just went along with what was happening each day. I was happy with what we had. We had simple life and hard life, but I was content and happy in what I had.”

“People today want more. I cannot understand that. I did not worry about what I had and did not care what anyone else had. We were just happy. My advice would be to be content with what you have. You can find happiness if you make up your mind to find it.” Joan Bagley