Final boarding call for popular station mistress

Family and friends across the Riverina have paid tribute to Narrandera-born Norma Ellen Woodland (nee Bynon), who passed away in Griffith last week aged 90.

The granddaughter of Paddle Streamer Wagga Wagga captain Thomas Bynon Sr, Norma was a former station mistress and devoted mother.  Known for her quick wit and strong work ethic, she overcame many adversities to forge a successful life for her family.

Born in Narrandera hospital on 20 November 1928, her dad Thomas Bynon Jr must have celebrated her arrival a bit too hard. He didn’t register her birth until 30 November, putting this incorrect date on her birth certificate.  

She started school at Narrandera Public on time though, leaving during high school to take up an apprenticeship at Ainsworth’s Hairdressers – a business that endures on East St more than 70 years later.

In 1948, she met a young railway shunter from Morundah named Alf Woodland at a dance at Corobomilla Hall. Although glamorous Norma had many suitors, Alf had the inside running. In an era when men needed to ask a father for permission to marry their daughter, Norma’s Dad Thomas was also a railway man who looked after his own.

Norma and Alf soon formed a partnership spanning 60 years, raising five children across nine towns and cities.

“I honestly don’t remember her having a negative word when it came to her family and upbringing,” son Michael said.  

In 1957, the married couple moved to Old Junee, working together at the railway station – Norma as station mistress and Alf as shunter. Young sons Peter and Paul were often called to help out on the track.   

“There was a day when one of them pulled the wrong lever. Peter says it was Paul. Paul categorically states it was Peter,” Michael said

“Anyway, the result was that the next train was set to literally head off the tracks.”

“Mum was seen running towards the approaching train screaming and waiving her arms frantically for the driver to stop.”

It was perhaps a relief to train drivers across the Riverina when Norma and Alf won the lottery in the early 1960s, moving the family to ‘Big’ Junee where Norma quit as station mistress to focus on her family.

More fortune fell on Norma in 1969, when at age 41 she gave birth to her fifth child Michael.

“Mum would always say that I was a blessing in disguise and kept her and Dad young,” Michael said.

Luck turned against the family in the 1980s, when Norma was diagnosed with breast cancer. Ever the fighter, she fully recovered within a few years.

Norma was also known as a wonderful cook, a passionate Canterbury Bulldogs supporter and a keen tennis player and fan. 

She spent the last 15 years of her life in Griffith, living near her sons Peter and Paul. During this time, husband Alf passed away, as did her daughter Helen.

The Woodland family would like to thank the amazingly dedicated staff at Pioneer Lodge, who looked after Norma for her last two years; and the nurses or doctors at St Vincent’s Hospital Griffith, who cared for her during her final weeks.

Norma Woodland was laid to rest at Griffith cemetery on Friday 14 December.

She is survived by her children Peter, Paul, Sue and Michael, 11 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

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