Marjory Pitchers – Just A Part of Me

You know I’ve only ever known one other person with an artificial eye.  I was about five and a half when I lost my eye.  We were living near Albany. (Rural town South-west Western Australia) I was walking hand in hand with friends.  Some barbed wire that held a gate closed, flicked back and hooked my eye out.

My father ran three miles to borrow a car to take me to Albany Hospital. Then I spent three months in Fremantle Hospital. Attempts to get the eye to heal failed and they removed it.

A man came to Fremantle Hospital with a box of eyes and fitted me with a new eye.  That was Mr Buckeridge.  It was horrible growing up with an artificial eye back then.  People said unkind things.  I said it was alright but it wasn’t.  Eventually I let the teasing wash over me.

I married in 1941 and the day after my wedding my husband went off to war.  I only saw him for a day in the next five years.  I conceived a child from that reunion.  By then I had left Katanning and went to live with my sister in Narrogin.  After the war my husband and I settled back in Katanning as that was his hometown.  We had two more children.

I had a glass eye at this time that was made by Mr Schaler who came over from the eastern states.  He made me two eyes.  The first one was successful.  The second one exploded in the socket and split in two pieces.  People who’d worked with me for ten years were amazed – they’d never realised the eye wasn’t mine.

I never told people I had an artificial eye. I didn’t see any reason to. It was just a part of me.  If you grow up with something it doesn’t seem to matter as much as it does if you lose an eye later in life.  My friend lost her eye in an accident as an elderly person.  She told me she feels half blind.  I’ve never felt that because I’ve never known any different.

I was a keen sports person.  I ran and did highjump.  I was good at both of them.  Later I took up croquet instead of bowls. I had to practice day after day.  Eventually I was President of the Katanning Croquet Association.  I also played for the Victoria Park Club for years.  Having an artificial eye never stopped me doing anything.  Mind you my father did spoil me a bit.

I ran a cafe in Katanning for 14 years.  It started out as just a tea and cake place.  The boss let me run it my way.  The business built up to be the life of the town where everyone met.  I ended up with five girls and two casuals.  The girls loved working there and knocked back other jobs.

The girls at work knew that I hated spiders. As a joke they used to leave a big plastic spider in the flour bins sometimes.  To take revenge I once hid an artificial eye in the cream on a birthday cake.  I can still hear the girl screaming.  There was no trouble with spiders after that.

I left the café and came to live in Perth when my husband became ill. I made a life for myself here.  Doing voluntary work during the first ten years has made all the difference.  I saw people in nursing homes and that helped me to see how fortunate my choices were.  When I finally left I received a letter saying-

“It is not every day (or even every decade) that such a wonderful person becomes a part of our lives, not only as a committed volunteer but also as a person who can co-ordinate a kiosk, make desserts for candlelight dinners, make cakes and preserves for market days, actively fundraise, chat with residents and staff and most importantly make “the best sponge cake ever.”

I find Paul (Geelen) a kind sort of person. I told him that I could no longer manage the stairs to his office.  He just said, “Well I’ll just come to you.”   He didn’t have to do that.

Marjory’s Sponge Recipe

4 eggs (separate yolks and whites), 3/4 cup caster sugar, ½ tsp bi-carb soda, 2 tbsp cornflour, 1 tsp cream of tartar, 2 tbsps custard powder, 3/4 cup plain flour, 1/2 tsp vanilla  

Method

Preheat oven at 180C.  Line your tin. Beat the egg yolks and caster sugar until creamy. Beat the egg whites until stiff. Add the flour mixture to the egg white. Fold in the creamy mixture. Pour into a round greased tin. Bake for 22 minutes. 

As told to Julia Sutton. Reprinted with permission from Marjory Pitchers.  You may link to this story, but please do not copy or otherwise circulate.