Wednesday, February 06, 2008

TIF Challenge for February - first thoughts

Well, I'm a bit late blogging my thoughts about the February TIF Challenge as posed by Sharon B. at

The colour palette this month is "interesting" while the concept is very thought provoking. I started scribbling random thoughts on a foolscap notebook on the topic "What are you old enough to remember?" and 3 pages later I'm still coming up with memories. Some of the other participants have already blogged their memories, and a lot of them are political and significant events in America and the UK. So I thought I'd try and record my Australian childhood memories and see where that leads.

I was born in the early 1950's when Australia was just starting to accept migrants from the war torn countries of Europe. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second of Britain visited an Australia with just 9 million people the year I was born. My family lived in half a house at Epping shared with my godparents for several years after I was born. Vivid memories include the neighbours rose gardens and their children picking wattle (a small native bush with fluffy yellow flowers) to take to school for Wattle Day on August 1st. I must have been about 3 years old. The kids carried Australian made Globite school cases, which were made from pressed cardboard and could be shined up with shoe polish when they got dingey.

Our next house was at Arncliffe, again rented, as Dad had lost a business before I was born and money was tight. We boarded a disabled relation who helped a little around the house, Mum was having a difficult pregnancy with my oldest brother. I remember Maureen as a big girl who was intellectually delayed, but good at heart. It was sad when Mum had to send her on to a group home when my brother was born, Mum just couldn't cope. I can remember a group of kids setting fire to a palm tree in the park next door with fireworks, and the red fire engine racing up. We also had a grandfather clock in the house, it chimed all night.

In 1959 we moved to a rented house in Bexley. It was an old horizontal weatherboard one with a wooden plank verandah, 2 large bedrooms and a kitchen/ dining room. The landlady lived in the former lounge room. There was a back verandah closed in to make another room for me as I got a bit older, and a bathroom with a chip heater for the hot water. There was no shower, and the worst bit was the dunny (lavatory) up the path in the back yard. We had a very deep yard, with a chook shed down the back. I never realised it at the time, but we were pretty poor. We called the landlady Auntie Win (I guess Winifred) and she worked at Benson and Hedges cigarette factory and smoked like a chimney herself. She was very good to Mum, and often brought home little treats of food and sweets for me and my little brother. I used to run around bare foot all the time (still don't like to wear shoes, although I love them on other people!) so I was always treading on nails in pieces of broken down fencing, and we'd walk down the road to the doctor for a Tetanus injection AGAIN. I earned 3 permanent scars at that house. The first one was on my forehead where my best friend (?) threw a lump of concrete at my head after an argument. I remember the look on Mum's face when I ran screaming down the yard with blood pouring out of my face, she didn't know what had happened. Then my Dad made me a wooden swing to hang in the doorway of my room, and you guessed it, the silly think hit me in the mouth, scarring my bottom lip permanently. Lipstick still won't stick there. The third one I haven't seen myself, let's just say I climbed through a window where a nail was sticking up and scarred my groin.

I started school at Bexley in 1959. In the photo I'm the very serious little blonde girl in the second row from the bottom 4th from the right (marked with a spot)I think my dressmaker Mum sewed my fashionable jacket, you'll notice there wasn't an official school uniform back then. I did my first needlework in K2, where I made a woollen canvas work teapot shaped trivet (see photo). Mum put on the binding and a label for the Education Week display. Then an elderly neighbour taught me how to crochet. She did the little ring in the centre and then I crocheted around them to make squares for a rug but I don't recall making it.

I began my long history of "dressing up in public" at Bexley. My maternal grandparents attended West Botany Methodist church where there were regular fetes and parades. See the photo of me dressed as the Princess of Spring and my brother Glenn dressed as an old fashioned swaggie with my girlfriend Margaret beside us on the f ront verandah at Bexley. Dad found a little plastic pipe which had an insert not unlike incense which burned in the pipe bowl for Glenn. Another year my Papa found a hessian bag on Tempe tip full of flat pearl buttons, so mum covered black serge school uniforms with thousands of buttons and made Glenn and me into the Pearlie King and Queen for the church fete parade. We were too poor to afford a camera, the photos were taken by our grandparents. When my father left Mum years later, he took a lot of family photos away with him, so our remaining photos are few and far between unfortunately.

1 comment:

Lindi said...

Your school photo looks axactly like mine, same year, same size group, same motley "uniform". Even the kids look the same! Different school, though.
I suppose you could call us a rabble of '59 clones! LOL