CENTENARIAN: Self-taught pianist Emma Strickland will play her own birthday tunes when she turns 100-years-old today.
CENTENARIAN: Self-taught pianist Emma Strickland will play her own birthday tunes when she turns 100-years-old today. Tom Strickland

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Emma celebrates her 100th today

WHEN former Grafton resident Emma Strickland first started reading The Daily Examiner in 1936, Berlin was getting ready to host the summer Olympics, the Tasmanian tiger was on the brink of extinction, and Grafton's ambulance station had just opened.

More than 80 years later, the DEX is still Ms Strickland's preferred source of news, despite the fact she has moved to Coffs Harbour.

So it is only fitting that as she celebrates her 100th birthday, it is her turn to make headlines.

Born on the Manning River and raised in Nambucca, the stories of Ms Strickland's childhood make it clear she grew up in a different era.

According to her son Tom, she couldn't go to school for two years because there was a "dingo menace" on the trail she would have to walk to get there.

Instead, she stayed at home and taught herself to play piano, a talent she still puts to use.

At the age of seven, Ms Strickland had another setback from attending school when she contracted scarlet fever.

"There was no treatment for it back then so you would just wait and hope it would pass," Tom said.

"One day a Gumbayngirr man came in, put his hand inside his shirt and pulled out a baby pademelon, and gave her that and said, 'you get better'. It became a devoted pet to her and she always felt that little act of kindness was something that really changed her health."

When Ms Strickland finished school, she decided to dedicate herself to the health industry like her sister Blanche, who by that time was running a maternity hospital in South Grafton.

At 18, she took a job as a nurse at the Grafton Base Hospital, and in the 1960s became the deputy and relief matron at the Grafton Benevolent Home.

When she was married to Eric Strickland in August 1939, he brought her home to a house in Alice St where they would raise two sons together.

She left that house just three years ago and moved to Coffs Harbour to live near her son, but still reads The Daily Examiner every day.

"I've got to go down to the newsagent every day to pick it up," Tom said.

When asked what keeps her young, Ms Strickland replied: " I never smoked cigarettes, I think that's one thing, and I've always been sensible with my diet."

She also loves her beauty sleep.

"I love my little naps in bed, you know," she chuckled.

Her son can attest to that too.

"The other day I came in to make her breakfast and she was fast asleep so I said, 'oh, what have we here, a sleeping beauty?'," he said.

"When she came out later she asked what did you say while I was asleep? I thought I was back at Grafton Base Hospital 80 years ago and someone said 'wake up, you're on duty'.

"She's a happy retiree, she still laughs a lot."

Today Ms Strickland will celebrate her century milestone with about 80 members of the family and friends, and is expected to spend plenty of time playing the piano for her guests.

"If I know the tune, I can put it to the keyboard," she said.



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