IT'S only once in a lifetime that you turn 100 and according to centenarian Dulcie Parkes, her secret to longevity is eating "all the bad food".
"I tell everyone I ate all the bad food - bacon, eggs, white bread, sugar and cream," Dulcie laughed.
But Dulcie's daughter Nancye Graham said Dulcie has always been careful about what she eats, and spent years eating oatmeal for breakfast, though lately it's been Weetbix. She also exercises regularly, has never smoked, only occasionally drinks and used to garden all the time.
After spending her entire life in the Northern Rivers area, Dulcie turned 100 this week, celebrating her birthday with a large cake, friends and family at the Caroona aged care facility in Goonellabah. When Dulcie was born in Rosebank in 1912, Queen Victoria was still on the British throne. To mark her century on the planet, Dulcie received a commemorative 1912 replica stamp set from one of her many well-wishers, which was placed on the party table alongside the many congratulatory letters from famous names, including Queen Elizabeth II, PM Julia Gillard, Opposition leader Tony Abbott and former Queensland Premier Peter Beattie (who happens to be a relative of hers).
Dulcie said she was "delighted" to receive so many letters and she still takes an interest in politics, eager to discuss what she listens to on the radio with friends and family. Strong and independent, Dulcie lived in her own home in Goonellabah until she was 98 years old and even used to play championship bowls until she was 93, when she had to give it up because of her failing eyesight.
"I said I was giving up while I was on a winning streak," Dulcie laughed.
While she is now legally blind, Dulcie still has more get up and go than many younger people. One of her mottos is "Don't give up". While her daughter Nancye and her son Alan both agree that Dulcie had a hard life while she was growing up on her parents' farm, then later looking after her husband Wal's dairy farm when he went away to war, Dulcie said the early years when her children were still growing up were "much more exciting than life is now".
Dulcie remembers as a child, travelling to dances in neighbouring homesteads and making a trip to Lismore once a month in the horse and sulky. The family would stop at the shop at Boatharbour for a cool drink on the way home and at the waterhole at Corndale where they would water the horses.
In 1964, Dulcie and Wal bought their own butchering business on Keen St, Lismore and Dulcie became the book-keeper for the business.
"It was my first job; I used to order the meat carcasses for the butcher shop," Dulcie said. "In those days telephones were still new and I had to learn how to use the phone."
When asked what changes she has seen over the past 100 years, Dulcie said there are a lot more fruit trees around today than when she was a child.
"Mum used to get dried apples and pears to stew, because there was no fresh fruit anywhere to pick, but these days there are a lot of mandarins and peach trees around."
Most of all, Dulcie believes it's important to keep in contact with friends and family; and it's possible that that is the real secret to a long life.