The Advertiser – September 08, 2011
OSCAR W and Alma Thomas are South Australian treasures that have lived long and fruitful lives – and both are still running under their own steam.
Now the paths of the paddlesteamer and the farmer’s wife have finally crossed, in the year they celebrate their 103rd birthdays.
Yesterday Ms Thomas stepped aboard the legendary Murray vessel for the first time, and is looking forward to a cruise next month near Goolwa.
Ms Thomas was born at home in the tiny farming settlement of Pallamanna, near Murray Bridge, in 1908. Oscar W was built at Echuca in the same year.
Ms Thomas said she would walk 3km to school until she left after Year 7, then earned a living doing housework in the area.
“Twice a year we would make the 2½-hour train trip to Adelaide for shopping and have photographs taken,” she said.
She recalled a paddlesteamer near Murray Bridge when she was about 20.
She married in 1934 and spent her life farming with her husband and children in the area before moving to Victor Harbor in 1971.
Chief engineer and Friends of the Oscar W volunteer Dave Finnie said the vessel spent most of its life towing barges on the river.
Tourism SA bought the Oscar W and made Goolwa its home port in 1987, where it was restored by the volunteer group that still maintains and runs it. The Alexandrina Council owns the vessel, which is now certified to take passengers.
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