Meet our 'tea lady' who is on a mission
JENNY Tanner provides a vital service for the hangar crew – she provides the sandwiches for morning tea – but there is a lot more to the Jenny Tanner story. The volunteers who tuck into those freshly made morsels can thank the Wagga-born girl’s farm upbringing. “On the farm, the workers need good food to keep going and we always made sure our contractors, the shearers, were well fed,” Jenny said. “The same goes for volunteers in the hangar.”. So when the volunteers return after the present restrictions are lifted, so will Jenny with her sandwiches and a sweet treat, cake and the Tim Tams. Jenny has been providing morning tea since the early days of the project when the plane was still parked in the mud off the airport’s southern apron and there was a race to move it into the Smartair hangar before reconstruction of the adjacent apron closed off access for many weeks.
Jenny, trained as a veterinarian nurse, moved to Albury in 1974 but left the profession in 1979 after suffering nurse burnout, and took up reception, payroll and clerical work at KG Sheetmetal Products, run by Graeme Robinson, a member of Rotary Club of Albury West, then involved in bringing a derelict DC-2 to Albury to create an Uiver memorial, thus began Jenny’s link with that project.
But the Rotary Club had another ambitious plan, to recreate Albury’s paddle steamer history in time for the 1988 Bicentenary celebrations and during 1984-85 launched the Cumberoona project, another local icon to which Jenny was attracted.
Attraction was also happening in Jenny’s personal life, meeting Volvo mechanic Stephen Tanner in 1978. They married two years later and have two sons, now living in Sydney and Adelaide. Jenny works fulltime at the couple’s business, Stephen Tanner Automotive Services in Drome Street, so they get to work together but “There’s no thought of retirement”.
The threat to the Cumberoona brought Jenny into the fray on Mothers Day 2010 when, responding to an advertisement in a shopping centre, she visited a display in Noreuil Park by The Friends of the Cumberoona. The Albury Council at that time was considering selling the paddle steamer and there were fears it would be gutted of its valuable steam engine and broken up. “What irked me was that the Cumberoona had been gifted to the city by the Rotary club to be preserved and maintained and now the city was planning to sell it,” Jenny said. “It seemed so wrong.” Many hours were spent in shopping centres and markets collecting names on a petition and canvassing support. Without the skills and resources to maintain the paddle steamer, The Friends of the Cumberoona could not keep the boat in Albury but supported its sale in 2015 to Robbie and Fraser Knowles who now operate it on Lake Mulwala.
Meanwhile, the Albury council was considering selling the DC-2 Uiver memorial aircraft, another gift from the Rotary Club of Albury West, so Jenny and The Friends of the Cumberoona turned their attention to the fight to not only keep the plane in Albury but create a permanent museum to the Uiver story. They threw their support behind Pieter and Ivo Mol’s plan to restore the aircraft which was ultimately accepted by the council in 2013. Jenny is now a member of the board of the Uiver Memorial Community Trust, as well as a member of the trust’s Community Engagement Committee.
She has also organised the “Uiver Ladies”, a group of six to eight women, mainly wives of the hangar volunteers, who help out with fundraising activities such as mini-fairs on open days or the dinners in the hangar.