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Golden anniversary . . . Sally Woodhead was made to feel special by her colleagues, family and friends as she celebrated 50 years at the Temuka dental practice. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

by George Clark

It is quite uncommon to remain at the same place of work for 50 years in this day and age, Sally Woodhead admits.

But she has done it.

Mrs Woodhead celebrated 50 years last Monday at Lumino the Dentists in Temuka.

Now practice manager, the 66-year-old left Temuka High School (or Opihi College as it is now known) a little sooner than she had planned to take up the position as dental assistant for Dr G B Hill Dentist in Temuka’s King St in 1970.

“I had been thinking of becoming a nurse but the position became available and I thought it would also be a good career choice, so left school at 16 and a-half to take up the position”.

She is especially happy when things in the practice are running smoothly – which she does her best to ensure.

“There was one nurse before me who was leaving to get married so I was thrown in at the deep end, at a young age, working as both receptionist and dental assistant and running two surgeries for a very busy dentist, Dr Gordon Hill.”

The practice later expanded, taking on associate dentists, a hygienist and several dental assistants after the creation of a new building in 1977.

The practice was later sold to Dr Joe van Jaarsveld who in turn sold it to Lumino in 2009.

“So many of the previous staff have become close friends and will always remain so even though many have now left the area.”

Times have changed in Mrs Woodhead’s 50-year tenure.

“When I started I wore a short white smock and had pigtails and we used to stand up to operate. I used to mix the amalgam filling material by hand in a mortar and pestle.”

When asked for some highlights, she was quick to reply with “the people”.

“I consider myself lucky to have met so many fantastic people, a lot of the patients have become long-time friends.

“We live in a world where things change so frequently and some of the patients tell me that they are happy to see a familiar face when they come in, but I guess that has to end at some point,” she laughed.

“Retirement is not quite on the horizon yet .. I have to be honest It does not seem like 50 years. Time flies when you are enjoying what you do.”

The Temuka practice team bought her flowers and celebrated with a grazing platter, cake and balloons, after she had expected her golden anniversary to be low-key.

“I love who I work with and love who I live with in our surrounding community, so it has been an honour to serve them over these years,” she said.

A “50” sign was put up on the day and some patients even said “Happy 50th Birthday” which was answered with “I wish” and made her laugh.

With such experience comes wisdom; Mrs Woodhead’s advice to everyone seeking to go the distance was simple.

“Tolerance, be accepting of others, do not judge too harshly.

“You an only ever do your best and remember that unfortunately, you can never always please all of the people all of the time.

“You need to learn to be diplomatic; patience and understanding is key.”