Thursday, February 07, 2008

Growing up in Australia pt 3

I have to begin this next episode by saying that although we were pretty poor in monetary terms, I think I had a fairly happy childhood in retrospect. We had regular visits to our grandmother at Neutral Bay by train and ferry, and Dad drove us to Rockdale to the other side of the family too. We had picnics and sports clubs for the boys and I went to church youth groups and Girls' Friendship Society. All 4 kids managed to stay out of serious trouble for most of the time, VBG.

I remember in the early 60's how the milko delivered our milk in glass bottles with foil caps, by horse and cart in the early hours of the morning. He'd run between the houses with a little wire carrier with the bottles in it, and whistle for the horse to move along a couple of houses. There was one problem though, around puberty I started sleep walking. After a famous episode where I fetched in the emtpy milk bottles left out for the milko, filled them with water then replaced them, Mum had to put a slide bolt up high on the front door to stop me doing it again. My bedroom was the closest one to the front verandah and I used to have nightmares about prowlers climbing in through my window in the Summer. I still can't sleep with the window open without a sturdy window screen.

In the early 60's we still had daily bread deliveries, with the uncut square or tank loaf wrapped in white tissue paper. It was quite remarkable a few years later when the bread began to be packaged in a bag, and then it came pre-sliced. Don't we take these things for granted?

Any male readers are excused from reading the next bit.
I can recall when we girls had to endure being trussed up with belts, pins and layers of thick padding once a month. No thin, self adhesive sanitary products then, just one or two products at the chemist, usually Modess pads and belts to hold them up. You couldn't wear trousers, you couldn't swim, you felt "indisposed" even if you felt well. We've come a long way, girls.

The boys will WANT to read the next bit, the subject is ladies underwear, VBG. Modern girls think stockings and suspender belts are sexy, but I'm here to tell you that in the 60's they were anything but that. I recall going to church on Sunday wearing my newest bri-nylon paisley baby doll dress, in pinks and yellow and white swirl fabric. In the photo see some of the fabrics typical in that period. The quilt top was made by my paternal grandmother from scraps donated from the Osti dress factory, used for fete items for the church. She never wasted the leftovers though. For church I wore new nylon stockings held up with a suspender belt. It kept slipping down my hips, and then you had to get in and out of the car without flashing your legs and suspenders, I mean real ladies just didn't do that!! Whenever I wear real stockings I think of those funny times. I can also remember the trauma of being fitted for my first bra at 13, it was a monstrous all cotton affair, with 1cm wide cotton straps and it was uncomfortable. Years later when I wore cotton maternity bras I had flashbacks to those first bras.

I mentioned in a previous post that Australia was welcoming many immigrants in the 1950's and 60's from post war Europe. They were setting up Greek fish and chip shops, Italian green grocers and Chinese restaurants in larger numbers and we loved it. Our first take-away fast food outlet in Sydney was Kentucky Fried Chicken. As most Australian families had a baked dinner for Sunday lunch in those days, a leg of lamb or cooked chook, this was a real bonus. Mum could have a break from cooking and buy a full chicken, and possibly some potatoes and corn as well. She only had to put on the green vegies to cook while Dad drove up to the shop. This late 60's and early 70's period also saw a huge influence from ethnic cooking. Up till this time we mostly enjoyed English style cooking, meat and 3 vegies for tea followed by apple pie and icecream for instance. Now we were cooking Greek, Italian and Chinese at home, not just in the restaurants. And they were real restaurants, not little cafes. Recently my DH and I took a trip to Melbourne by car and we stopped at Gundagai overnight in southern NSW. The local cafe is still run in the old style, with wooden booths to sit in, bevelled mirrors on the walls and a mixed grill on the menu. It's been in the same family for over 50 years, and still going strong.

The area that has probably changed the most in my lifetime has been technology in the home. We didn't have a TV till we arrived at Lurnea in 1962. At the old house we had a radio in the kitchen, and I think Auntie Win had a TV in her room, but that was always locked. Our first TV was bought from Waltons at Liverpool, and paid off once a week when the Waltons man came around to collect the payment. Lots of families paid off furniture and appliances that way, but in the neighbouring estate in Green Valley there were lots of repossessions as people overcommitted and then defaulted on their payments. We didn't have a telephone, there was a red wooden phone box on the corner of our street though. When mum was expecting my 2 youngest brothers Dad rigged up an emergency buzzer to the next door neighbours' house so Mum could call her in the night if needed, while he was out playing the piano at a supper club. We did have an electric refrigerator and Mum only used the copper supplied with the house a few times. She preferred an electric washing machine, so the Waltons man called at our house for many more years to collect his payments.

We had black and white television of course till 1975, and I can recall watching our favourite shows in the loungeroom with the kids being told to sit further away so as not to ruin their eyes. Dad loved World Championship Wrestling and the televised golf programs. I can remember visiting my maternal Grandpa and seeing the cricket being played on the TV there. We kids loved "The Big Top" with Don Ameche, a circus show with fabulous acts including trapeze artists and lion tamers, plate twirlers and acrobats. "I Dream of Jeanie" and "Get Smart" were American shows which were warmly received by us in Australia and of course as a girl I started to watch "Days of Our Lives" the long running American soap opera which is still airing in Australia every weekday (when the cricket isn't on that is!) Of course the only way to learn to type was on a manual typewriter, with carbon paper for copies and a rubber to make corrections. Word processing on a computer was unimagineable back then, as were fancy phones. We had a beige plastic rotary phone installed after Dad left in 1972 as by then most families were getting the phone and the phone box at the end of the street was removed. Mum cooked on an electric stove with rings on top or in an electric frypan. She only got a microwave oven after I left home to be married in 1974.
And audio technology has made rapid advances too. In 1962 we brought a wind-up gramophone from Bexley with 10 thick hard plastic records, I think they were bakelite actually. My favourite was by Nat King Cole, called Autumn Leaves released in 1955. Recently I Googled it and heard an original record playing on a collectors' YouTube site. I cried!! I was instantly tranpsorted back to the front porch of the Lurnea house, with my baby brother Warren laying on an eiderdown in his play pen while I played the record at 78 rpm. The first portable music recording devices were 8 track reel to reel players, and in fact at high school the seniors recorded a mock radio broadcast on my DHs reel to reel player to be played over the PA system at school and we still have it in the cupboard. Not game to play it though in case we damage the old tape, must investigate having it tranferred to a CD for fun ! Cassette cartridges were soon all the rage, but they broke quite easily and you'd often see discarded tape littering the country roadside from an irate driver when the tape broke on a long journey. Cars only had a very basic radio until the first cassette players were availabe to go in the dashboard, no 6 stacker CD systems back then, or Ipods or MP3 players. Another area where technology has boomed.

I'm also old enough to remember when you didn't have to take a second mortgage on your home to pay for your daughter's wedding. When my DH asked Mum for my hand in marriage (because Dad had left us) she apologised that she couldn't afford a large wedding. We sat and planned every little detail and decided my DH and I could do it for a reasonable sum. I made my wedding gown and veil, 2 bridesmaids dresses and a flower girl's dress. I think my white hail spot cotton fabric cost $1.29 per metre and the bridesmaid's fabric was 79c per metre. My Nana paid for silk flower arrangements from a city florist and a head piece for me from my gown fabric. DH supplied the buttonholes and corsages, and for the transport ee borrowed his father's car and hired a Mercedes for the bride and groom. Our reception was held at the local community hall and we got in caterers, and if I recall the wedding breakfast was $3.50 per head including drinks. Friends who had a professional band entertained our 90 or so guests, and everyone agreed it was a lovely wedding. We honeymooned in Queensland and came home to sleep on my grandmothers' loungeroom floor until we could find a flat to rent. Contrast this to the average price for a wedding in Australia now, some $25,000 for a pretty basic wedding.

Well, I've enjoyed reminiscing about what I'm old enough to remember, a few ideas have begun to form in my head about a project for the February TIF. The problem will be which memory or memories to use..... I think I mentioned at the beginning of this year that I intended to try to F O C U S this year..... now seems like a very good time, LOL.


kay susan said...

I did enjoy reading this little essay. Thank you for sharing.

Doreen G said...

Hi Christine--I think I still have my Nat King Cole record of Autumn Leaves-- Thanks for the great memories.

Margaret said...

I've been enjoying all your memories. I hope you keep them all someplace for your children and grandchildren. I know there were times when I was younger that I couldn't wait to get away from my grandparent's stories, but I'm glad I paid more attention as I got older. My daughters have had to interview grandparents for school projects, and it turns out they are actually interested in what life was like between the wars.
I don't wait to see what you create for TIF!

Margaret said...

Ooops. I meant can't wait - I must remember to proof read!