The world of adulthood: then and now

By Bridgette Ali

The world of adulthood is a serious adjustment, especially for someone like me, who has never truly been independent.

After graduating high school I moved to the Gold Coast, only three hours away from where I grew up, but at times it felt like three states. At 20 years old, I know a lot of people can relate – can relate to the hardships of moving out of home at 18 and building a new life for yourself at such a young age. I believed this was something everyone had, has or will feel. Benny Huey, however, proved me wrong.

Settled in the Sunshine Coast town of Buderim, Benny tells me about her life as a young adult, and it is nothing like mine, nor anyone else’s that I have ever met.

Benny was in born in Westport, New Zealand, sent to boarding school in Wellington, before moving to Hamilton at the age of 16, to live with her brother, Mike, and his wife Kathy, who was expecting their first child. At first, when she told me this, I was slightly shocked. I pictured myself at 16 – immature, naïve, nowhere near ready to leave the comfort of my parents home (despite the angst-driven thoughts telling me I was).

“Mike was a baker,” Benny says. “So he obviously worked late into the night, as well as early in the morning. Kathy was nervous living in the house on her own, so I stayed with them for a while before moving into a flat with some friends. I stayed in Hamilton for about three to four years. After that, I moved to Christchurch for a year, before moving to Europe when I was 22.”

In Europe, Benny and four others (one Canadian, another New Zealander, and two Australians) flatted in London for the winter months.

“The five of us only had one a night a week off together, Wednesday, so we would go down to Shaftsbury Avenue for dinner at the Hong Kong café, and from there would to see a show that was playing. I suppose I didn’t see London at its best. The winter was a bit grim – cold and grey.”

Benny lived in London for four years, where she worked at Heathrow Airport in the Ministry of Aviation for her first.

“They didn’t give you too many holidays though,” she tells me. “I wanted to go touring around Scotland during the summer so I left Heathrow and took up waitressing at a steakhouse.”

During the summer, Benny and her flat mates hitch-hiked through Europe. Their travels in them all around the continent. From Greece to Oslow to all the Scandinavian countries, staying in various youth hostels, where they paid three shillings a night.

“We were quite the novelty, really. This was 1961, so they didn’t have a lot of backpackers at the time. The locals loved us! They loved hearing our stories and having us help them with their English. They would take us all around whatever country we were on and show us all the best sights. I remember once we were taken up to set of cliffs, and we were watching this tiny little ferry sailing along the water below. It took us a while to realise that the ferry was actually ours, and we had to race back down in order to make it! They were about to pull up the gang plank when we got there.”

On her way home from Europe, Benny stopped in to Australia with one of the Australian girls she had been flatting with. It was there that she met her husband, Peter, the brother of the Australian.
“I was only there for a few months, but Peter proposed to me just before I left for New Zealand. I told him I wasn’t sure, I was worried about the climate. He wrote to me every week for six months until I finally wrote him back, ‘Yes, I will marry you.’”
Benny and Peter married in Hamilton, New Zealand, where they stayed a month before moving back to Peter’s home in Brayside, north Queensland.

“Peter worked on a cattle station there. We stayed for four years before moving up to Malpas at the bottom of the Gulf, where we bought a block called Trenton. All we had a was a caravan and a tent. The caravan was our house and the tent was our shed.”
“I loved it. I loved the horses, I loved mustering the cattle. The only adjustment that I struggled to make was the heat. I found it very hard to adjust to the north Queensland heat after New Zealand, and when we were at Trenton we had no power for two years.”

As well as power, Benny lived without telephone, using only the outpost radio from the Royal Flying Doctors Service, and telegrams.

“It took us three and a half hours to get into town, maybe 120 miles because of the road. The only visitors we had were the occasional musterers going through, or our neighbours, the closest of which lived 36 miles away.”

In 1969, Benny and Peter left Trenton to live in Charters Towers, at a lot called Ulgula, where they stayed for thirty years.

“By then, our eldest daughter was just starting school. I had another toddler and couple month old baby as well, and it was just too difficult as I had to help Peter with the cattle also.”

After talking to Benny, I found myself in awe of her. I’ve been overseas on family holidays, but never on my own, and the fact she lived in Europe for four years, working and travelling is inspiring for me. On top of that, she then left her home country to marry the man she loved, building a life with him on a cattle station, something she did not see herself doing and would not have done for anyone else. Benny’s life experience impresses me greatly, I can only hope I achieve as much as her in my life.