‘Just give me your handbag’
(Betty’s 2nd husband’s constant refrain)
When I was 17 years old, I went into the WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force) in England and signed on for four years. I was training in photography. The last part of the course we went up in a plane to do aerial photography. I had the parachute on, and they've taken away a panel from underneath the nose of the plane and installed a framework with the camera over the top. So once we reach the right height, the pilot said to me, ‘right, take your parachute off and crawl under here’. We were operating the camera to make squares on maps. I could see down the sides of the framework all these tiny fields and cars going along lanes, and I felt wouldn’t it be marvellous to do a parachute jump? When we landed, I said to the pilot, ‘is there any chance we would ever get to do a parachute jump’? He said, ‘not out of my plane you won't, that will mean we were in trouble’. The WAAFs weren’t allowed to do it, it was very male orientated in 1949.
So I thought to myself, I'd like to do that at some time.
When it was approaching my 80th birthday, I heard about the Sky Diving at Kirra. They said I’d need a letter from my doctor, who is a bit of a comedian, so he wrote, ‘Betty Gregory is perfectly fit to jump out of a perfectly fit aircraft’. The skydiving boss said to me ‘you'll have to put this suit on’. I said, ‘I don't want to wear a suit’. It was an old one-piece thing. ‘Well,’, he said, ‘we don't want your bits flapping in the breeze’. So they gave me big t-shirt to wear over the top. They opened the door and we sat on the edge of the plane, all clamped up together, he tapped me on the shoulder and pushed the two of us out. I yelled ‘Geronimo’; it was great! I loved it. It’s exhilarating, I didn't feel any fear at all. Once the parachute opens, of course, you’re just gently swaying from side to side and the views are magnificent.
I’m not brave, it’s just all good fun.
Before Betty and his kids scattered her second husband’s cremated remains, he had given her instructions, ‘remember Betty, look for the 7th wave because that’s always the biggest, and scatter me just after that’. He couldn’t swim so wanted to be placed in the shallow water off the groin in Palm Beach. Betty followed his instructions, but a big wave came right after and washed his ashes all over her legs! ‘So much for that’ she chuckled, and his kids laughingly said, ‘he doesn’t want to leave you Betty’.
Betty is a witty, chatty, happy, incredible adrenalin junkie who has spent her later years hot air ballooning, sky diving (80th and 85th birthday, and was booked in for her 90th birthday too!), climbed Ayers Rock, climbed through the Viet Cong tunnels in Vietnam, tap dancing, performing burlesque, painting, swimming, and socialising. She is besotted with her 10 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren and can often be found sitting on the floor playing cars with them. She only handed her driver’s licence in a few months before her 90th birthday. Betty is still keen to do a tandem para-glide off a cliff. During her photoshoot I said, ‘You look so sexy Betty, you must have all the men eating out of your hand’. She laughed and said, ‘what would I want that for, I don’t want a man, who wants a 90-year-old man?’.