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‘Call me Floss’ said this one of a kind girl

By Kyabram Free Press

SHE has been one of a kind most of her life.

Actually, from the very beginning of her life.

At which point she was one of seven children – but the only girl.

And was one of the first to appear on a popular Melbourne beach – in a two-piece bathing suit.

Then getting married she would have been one in a million in 1950’s Australia because she was a decidedly mature 32.

In her room, in Waranga aged care in Rushworth, she has clocked up another one – she has just turned 100.

“Call me Floss,” the region’s newest centenarian invited.

You collect a lot of memories, stories of good times and bad, of love and love lost, over 100 years.

And Flossy has no problems rolling them out, one after the other.

Her mind is as sharp as that proverbial tack, reaching back into the mists of time; to 93 years ago when she first set foot in Melbourne, straight off the boat from the UK with the rest of her boy-sterous family.

But she just as quickly moves to her favourite memories – the dances at St Kilda and summer with the sand and sea at Dromana.

Which is where this remarkably free spirit had her brush with fame – as a pin-up.

It all started with that outrageous two-piece ‘bathing costume’ from her early 20s, stretched out on Dromana Beach.

Risqué beyond the pale.

It was so good it got her a half page spread in PIX magazine and won her five pounds.

“Mind you, back then that was a considerable amount,” Floss quipped.

It also won her the hearts of countless servicemen – those who were overseas and some on the seas – and letter after letter began coming her way.

“I got a telegram from one serviceman, it said ‘phone this number and name a time and place for our rendezvous’. He was some captain on a boat from Europe which was heading for Melbourne,” Floss said.

“They were just looking for someone to talk to from the outside world. The relationships were all strictly platonic,” she said.

“This one man in the Navy – we wrote for a while and then all of a sudden this officer was at my door. We were friends and he was a pianist in a band from Adelaide, but through the war he was a deep sea diver.

“The war years changed a lot,” Floss said.

For Floss, as it was for too many, the war tore her young life apart.

In her early 20s and engaged to be married, her fiancé was a rear gunner in a Wellington bomber.

Posted to the Middle East and with just more than two weeks of flying time to complete his tour of frontline duty, he was shot down.

“That knocked me rotten,” she admitted.

“We had our wedding planned; it’s not something I talk about often. I just got on with it.”

The war years compressed years into moments, and everyone just got on with life, including Floss.

And get on with it she did, getting out and about, swimming, the beach, playing tennis, badminton and heading out to dances chaperoned by her brothers.

She met her husband Royston Clarke in St Kilda at those dances where the city girl one night bumped into a country boy from Tasmania who had not gone home after being discharged from the RAAF at war’s end.

“I had started at a millinery work room where I made ladies’ hats and worked until I was 32 and married,” Flossy said.

“I wasn’t young (getting married at 32) but I had a damn good time. I was a social person and I did everything.”

She and Royston had two children – Barry and Dale – and when they were old enough she went back to work.

At age 46 she joined Phillips Telecommunications and stayed there until she retired at 60.

“I knew nothing about electronics, but I was one of the employees who stayed for the longest time,” she laughed.

In retirement the Clarkes moved to Frankston where Floss was involved in everything the senior citizens would run.

Royston died at age 90 and Floss stayed in Frankston for about 10 years before moving to Waranga aged care in Rushworth to be closer to her son Dale.

Like many of her generation Floss reckons her life was nothing remarkable or, as she described it: “Nothing very exciting”. Yet as a seven year old she crossed the world to a new home; started a new life as a migrant, lived through the Great Depression, the war and all its personal pain before emerging into Australia’s golden era.

With a husband, a family and a future.

No, Floss, there was nothing ordinary about your journey.