Mavis Martin has been from coast to coast, from control towers to chocolate factories.
The Qualicum Beach woman turned 100 on June 8, but said she doesn’t give it too much weight.
“I don’t even think about it,” she said with a laugh. “But people remind me.”
Martin was born in New Westminster to Elsie and George Bartholomew in 1920. When she was just 19, she joined the Royal Canadian Air Force. She left for basic training in Ottawa in 1942 and eventually spent the following three-and-a-half years working as a wireless operator and travelling most of Canada during the Second World War.
“They put me in the control tower, and I really liked that, that was nice, but my friend, she wanted to take this wireless course, but she wanted me to go with her to take the course, so I did and I got chosen, but she didn’t,” she said. “They chose me because I could play the piano.”
From there, she took the course in Montreal. Her group was one of the first cohorts of women to ever take the course. Martin said it’s hard to highlight specific times that stand out while in the RCAF – it was an especially good time for her.
“There’s just so, so much,” she said. “It was great.”
Martin said one standout memory was when she and a group of women wireless operators all went down to New York City for a holiday together from their station in Dartmouth.
“That was great, because that was when we went to Rockefeller Center and they were talking about television,” she said. “They interviewed us, and television wasn’t on yet, but they were experimenting with it and they took pictures and asked us lot of questions.”
Martin said she would go over to Halifax with those same women and work at the chocolate factory on weekends.
Of course, there were less light-hearted times as well.
“One Saturday night, two Germans came up on the submarine and came to our station because it was a Saturday night, so we had a dance and they came around on the station up to the dance and they had Canadian uniforms on,” she said. “They were caught, anyway.”
After the war ended, Martin was discharged to Vancouver, and got married in 1949 to Cecil Myers.
“We had five lovely children, he passed away at 52, worked at Sears and [the] Holiday Inn,” wrote Martin in an entry about her life from age 90.
“At 90, I still enjoy life.”
She later married Jim Martin in 1997 at the age of 77 and they had two years together before he passed away.
“We had fun travelling to various places,” she said.
Looking back on past birthdays, she said her 90th stands out as an especially great day she likes to look back on.
“On my 90th birthday, [her daughter] gave me this party,” she said. “She lived in a house with a big yard… she had several tents put up and everything and I came in a Rolls Royce, it was gold-coloured and it was a beautiful car, an antique car… we drove all over Qualicum, different streets, and I waved as if I was the Queen.”
She said on her 100th birthday, she felt very appreciated and grateful. In terms of tips on how to live a long and healthy life, she said “everyone has been asking me that!”
Martin said her only tip is: Eat. Nothing specific — just do it.
“People ask me and I just say, ‘just eat’,” she said. “I eat anything.”