Riverton's Vera Hannaford turns 100

Vera Hannaford’s dining table in her Riverton home has no room to entertain guests, with every square inch filled with flowers and cards marking her 100th birthday this week.

“I’ve also run out of vases,” she laughed.

The occasion further meant “having 100 selfies taken on cameras and bloody mobile phones.”

The jovial lady celebrated the significant milestone twice, first she was surrounded by her family – four children, nine grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren – on Christmas Day on the family farm she and late husband Claude originally ran.

On Monday, her actual birth date, the second party kicked off at her son’s, Alfie, art studio in Riverton with an afternoon tea that included a “beautiful cake”, with individual numbers consisting of chocolate, gluten free and coconut, to suit all tastes.

It also meant the usual and welcomed correspondence pouring in from dignitaries, her beloved footy team Port Adelaide and the Queen.

Yet importantly, it saw her share the special day with some family and her dear friends.

Born in Adelaide in 1918, Mrs Hannaford was brought up in Bute due to her father’s purchase of a business in the Mid North region.

She was schooled at Kadina, followed by a stint as a telephonist.

With the depression taking its toll and employment prospects grim, Mrs Hannaford took up nursing which saw her stationed at Riverton Hospital in 1937.

“I thought I was going to the river; I was a bit ignorant back then with South Australian geography,” she said.

Living on hospital site, Mrs Hannaford experienced nursing and all its glory from midwifery to surgery.

“We were a maternity training hospital which meant sisters would come up by train to see a baby born.

“I think they were a bit envious because we were just probationary (nurses) and doing it all,” she said.

Mrs Hannaford explained it was also a time when curfews were strictly 10pm and doctors were boss.

“The doctor was so lovely, but we were terrified of the matron.”

“If we wanted to go to a ball we would have to get a special permit; it’s (nursing) certainly different to nowadays.”

In February 1939 Mrs Hannaford gave up nursing to marry her sweetheart Claude, who lived on his family’s farm, five and a half miles from town. 

She still recalls breaking news of WWII being declared later that year.

With Claude expected on the property, it wasn’t long before the couple were busy with farm life and their growing family.

Mrs Hannaford remembers fondly, the baby train visiting once a month for mothers and babies in the district to check a newborn’s weight and diet.

Her children meant volunteering in the community which included helping to establish the town’s kindergarten and later becoming a founding member of the welfare club at the primary school.

Her love for little ones also saw her instigate the town’s Christmas Carnival which continues each year.

“During the war, Friday shopping stopped with no lights about and there was nothing for kids to do. I remember as a kid we would have something to attend. The Christmas party was held each Christmas Eve with the main street closed, and now it has moved to the oval,” she said.

For granddaughter Nikki Hannaford, who now lives on the family farm making her sixth generation, she has vivid memories of her grandmother (Nanny Vera) teaching the grandkids how to knit and weave, and generally have fun.

“She also would look after my four children when they were younger and they would always have a wonderful time,” Ms Hannaford said.

Meanwhile, Mrs Hannaford says keeping active through sports and walking, plus volunteering her time in Riverton, have perhaps been the key to her longevity.

She adds that while she can’t pinpoint significant changes to the town over the years, she believes volunteering helps make the region tick.

Still living independently, Mrs Hannaford shares how she is content to complete the crosswords in the newspaper, despite her ailing eyesight, and family will always mean everything to her.

“I am blessed with having a good family and I think they’ve done well with their lives, including the grandchildren who have excelled in school.

“I do feel quite fortunate,” she said.