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Sugar cane, cattle stations, award-winning scones and more…

Thursday, 27 August 2020

Grahame Stroud has enjoyed a sweet life so far. Born 60 km south of Cairns in Babinda, Queensland, into a sugar cane farming family, he followed in his father’s footsteps and worked the cane himself.

Grahame received his primary school education at Bellenden Ker State School, at the foot of Mount Bellenden Ker – the second highest mountain in Queensland and home to the wettest meteorological station in Australia.

Each day, Grahame’s sister would double him to school on her bike. Their journey involved a 100m walk from the family home to the river, which they’d row across before picking their bike up on the other side and riding the 10-12 km to school.

The family moved to Gordonvale in 1953 and Grahame finished his education there in 1957. His father was managing a local cane farm and Grahame was offered his first job by his dad.

After 10 to 12 years working the cane, it was time for a change.

“I took a number of different jobs on cattle stations in North-West Queensland over about three years,” says Grahame.

“My experience working with the horses on the cane farms stood me in good stead. I went to Mount Isa, Cloncurry and other places. But then an opportunity came up back in Gordonvale for me to manage a cane farm myself, so I took it.”

When Grahame and his mates got together, they didn’t mind going out for a Chinese meal. They were often seen at a local Chinese café, but it wasn’t just the food that attracted Grahame, one of the staff caught his eye – her name was Beryl.

Grahame and Beryl will celebrate 50 years of marriage in October 2020.

“I eventually got tired of cane farming and went driving trucks,” says Grahame. “Mostly in the local area, carting general freight from Cairns to Townsville. I really enjoyed that. My eldest son came to work with me, and he took the business on when I retired.”

“He sold it last year and now runs a courier company. I still drive for him occasionally – recently I was doing a fortnightly run to Normanton – that’s 700 km one way, and it was nothing for me to do it – I still enjoy the driving.”

During Grahame and Beryl’s early years of retirement they bought a caravan but only managed one trip before Grahame’s health put their plans on hold. They did get back on the road and travelled Queensland, the Northern Territory and South Australia.

Grahame also continued his voluntary work with the Gordonvale Turf Club – back in 1962 a friend asked him to lend a hand and he has only recently stopped. It was same with the Cairns Speedway Club. His interest in racing developed in 1972 and he took on many voluntary roles over the years.

However, with the travelling behind them, their large home on acreage at Gordonvale was getting too much.

“Out of the blue, the right person came along and offered to take it off our hands,” says Grahame. “The money was too good to refuse. We just had to decide what to do next.”

“We looked at two or three retirement villages before Oak Tree Cairns. We knew right away Oak Tree was for us.”

“It’s close to everything – particularly the hospital and medical services. It’s a gated community and that makes Beryl feel safe when I’m not here.”

“It has a swimming pool we can use anytime we want, and there are lots of activities to get involved in if we want – billiard, bowls, morning teas and more.”

“Of course, living here in COVID times, things have had to change. There are rules we need to abide by, and some things have gone on hold, but we’re not alone. We are here for one another – there’s a real sense of community. We can still have a cuppa or a chat at a distance. We’re still with our friends.”

“It’s much better than living in any other complex or in the family home.”

“We’ve just restarted our Wednesday morning teas, with just a few of us getting together in the clubhouse.”

This means Grahame has just tied the apron on again. He’s a scone maker – and it’s a tradition that goes way back.

“Mum taught me how to cook and always said I had good hands for cooking,” says Grahame.

Grahame’s scones are hotly sought-after at any event. They not only taste divine, he themes them to suit – dishing up green ones on St Patrick’s Day and pink ones on Pink Ribbon day, for example. Over the years, he’s even won competitions with them.

His friends at Oak Tree couldn’t be happier that Grahame’s scones have just returned to the morning tea table.

To find out more about Oak Tree Retirement Village Cairns or for a personal tour call 1300 367 155.