Isabell Butterworth is the only child of Norman and Betty Lane.
Norman enlisted in the army in 1940 and by April 1941 was in Singapore with the 4th Motor Transport Company. When Singapore fell to the Japanese, Norm, with thousands of other Allied soldiers, was imprisoned at Changi but later was sent to work on the infamous Burma Railway where, like so many other men in that dreadful place, he succumbed to illness, starvation and exhaustion. He died on 20 September 1943.
The story of Norm’s war service is told by his close wartime mate James Boyle in The Lights of Norlane by Ferg Hamilton (pages 68-74). James also wrote a book Railroad to Burma in which he includes Norman’s story. As well, in The Lights of Norlane, one of Isabell’s aunts, Jean Lane, recounts the Lane family history (pages 162-171).
After the war when the residents who lived to the west of the railway line in North Shore sought a post office, they were asked to recommend a name for the proposed new postal area – ‘West North Shore’ would hardly have been a suitable name - and they came up with ‘Norlane’, an abbreviated combination of Norman and Lane, and this inspired suggestion was accepted and is a permanent tribute to one who, as James Boyle records in his article, “was a fine soldier and a gentleman”.
I was born in Geelong in 1934 and my mother took me home to No 2 Donnelly Avenue, North Shore. I have few memories of my early life in North Shore. I remember walking across the paddocks to North Shore State School but I have no recollections of being there. Nor do I remember my father except for a faint memory of standing with my mother in Geelong watching him as he marched with other soldiers to the Geelong Railway Station to go away to war.
When Japan entered the war and there was fear of an invasion Mum decided that North Shore with all its factories was not a safe place to be so she rented out our home and took me to live on a farm property at Gapstead, a little place on the Myrtleford-Beechworth Road. I remember being at the little Gapstead State School – one big room with one teacher and the six grades. I was in Grade 3 or 4 I think. Before she married, Mum had worked as a nurse at the Beechworth Mental Hospital so had made friends in that part of Victoria.
When the danger of invasion passed, Mum returned to our home in Donnelly Avenue but was anxious to keep up with the mortgage payments so she got work at Ford’s where many women were being employed in jobs only previously thought of as men’s work. Mum became a welder. Because of her work commitments she arranged for me to board with friends whose home was on the western side of the railway line in North Geelong. They were Mr and Mrs Grey and I called them Uncle Joe and Aunty Kate. I remember walking to North Geelong State School and crossing the railway line at the Victoria Street gates beside the station. Girls I remember from those school days are Norma Barclay and Yvonne Talbot. I recall a couple of boys, Tommy Stickland and Percy Heap, the latter because he used to stick his wads of wet chewing gum under his desk lid or behind his year.
When I was old enough for secondary school I returned to live with Mum at Donnelly Avenue and I remember the terrible day the telegram came to say that Dad had died. I recall Mum hurrying across the street to Mrs Swindells and then she returned and broke the news to me. Even though Dad had died in September 1943 we did not receive the sad news until after the war was over.
I was enrolled at Matthew Flinders Girls School and travelled on the Bender’s bus to Geelong each day to attend. After only a couple of years there I left and got a job at the International Harvester canteen which was managed by a lady who lived in Donnelly Avenue. After a while I graduated to work in the factory.
At about this time Mum married Harry Hodgens. Mum had been a long-time friend of Harry and his wife from her time in the Beechworth area – they had a farm at Gapstead - and after the death of Harry’s wife, Mum and Harry renewed their friendship.
Mum sold the Donnelly Avenue home and we moved to Harry’s home in Miller Street, Thornbury and I studied at Scott’s Business College and later worked in a city office.
Then I went to live in Lara with my Aunt May Treloar and it was during that time I met a young man named Bill Reed and we became great friends. Bill was from a Lara family: his parents were Jack and Thelma and he had a sister, Dawn and brother, Jack.
Bill and I married in Geelong but we made our home at Flemington and later at Thornbury and had four children: Sandra, Bill, Donna and Mike. They are all married and have made me a proud grandmother of 23. Many of that generation have also married and produced almost the same number of great-grandchildren for me.
Bill was a driver of buses and trucks and later became a manager of a trucking company. It was at this stage of his career in 1993 that I lost Bill to a massive heart attack. He was only 39 and our children were aged between 19 and 4 years.
Mum and I were always close to Mum’s sisters but did not see much of the Lanes despite the fact that Dad had eight brothers and sisters and some members of the family lived – and still live – in Norlane.
Mum had come with a sister from Ayre in Scotland and was later joined by another two sisters and two brothers in Australia. Her three sisters – my aunts – were May, Ann and Margaret. After Mum’s father died in Scotland her mother also migrated to Australia. My mother died at the age of 85.
After Bill’s death I lived at various places and it was while I was living at Launching Place that I went into a Milk Bar/Takeaway business with my older daughter Sandra. Bill Butterworth was one of our regular customers and we became good friends. Bill and I married in 1992 and we now live in retirement at Mulwalla, just across the Murray River from Yarrawonga.