One woman’s life of adventure on record

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Geoff VivianGeraldton Guardian
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Retired businesswoman Denise Crooks has written a book about her life story, including a childhood at Geraldton and the Abrolhos Islands.
Camera IconRetired businesswoman Denise Crooks has written a book about her life story, including a childhood at Geraldton and the Abrolhos Islands. Credit: Manuel Goria/Supplied, Manuel Goria

As a child, Denise Crooks used the family dinghy to explore a cave, only to find it trapped inside by the rising tide.

Her crayfisherman dad had to swim ashore that night.

As a young soldier, she hoisted her bra up the regimental flag pole.

Now she has recorded her memoirs in a first-time book.

“I’m pushing 76 so I wanted to leave something for the younger family to read,” she said.

“I’m retired now but they only know me as a businesswoman in nice suits working in the top end of town.”

Denise Crooks and her mother on the block the family bought in Johnson Street Wonthella. They already had a caravan, and added one room.
Camera IconDenise Crooks and her mother on the block the family bought in Johnson Street Wonthella. They already had a caravan, and added one room. Credit: Supplied

Her life in Australia began on Anzac Day as the four-year-old daughter of an English family stepping off the boat at Fremantle, where all the shops were closed.

As packaged milk was not sold in the 1950s, the title Who’s Billy? came from her mother’s first shopping experience the next day.

“Where’s your billy?” the shopkeeper asked.

“Who’s Billy?” her mother replied.

Denise Crooks' father bought a fishing boat and this camp at Big Rat Island where the family lived for several months.
Camera IconDenise Crooks' father bought a fishing boat and this camp at Big Rat Island where the family lived for several months. Credit: Supplied

As Crooks’ father heard there was work in Kalgoorlie, they bought a car and caravan and drove all day without a map.

Towards the end of the day, her father asked a man at a garage if they were close to Kalgoorlie, only to be told “Mate, you are almost at Geraldton”.

“We often said: ‘Dad we are so glad you got lost because Geraldton is so much nicer than Kalgoorlie’,” Crooks said. “I had the most amazing childhood — it was one adventure to the next one.”

Her sense of adventure took her into the Australian Army, where she decided to break every single rule and not get caught.

“I did, and I got caught,” Crooks said.

I was only 19, the Vietnam War had just started, and we needed some light entertainment, and I was the entertainment.

After three years in the regular army, Crooks studied to become an accountant.

“I missed the army so I joined the reserves and I constantly got into trouble,” she said.

“I loved the military — it suited my personality.”

Crooks will be signing copies of her book at Roma Gifts on Wednesday from 10am-noon and from 2pm-4pm.

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