Open Road to Reading

June 29, 2014 at 11:22 pm | Posted in Australia, Family History, Reading | 22 Comments
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Girl reading 1940s

I have always loved reading. I don’t actually remember learning to read – the letters, phonics, word recognition, etc; I just remember reading. I feel like I have always done it.

I do distinctly remember the early years of school and the books we used to read. I started school in England when I was five, but we came to Australia only six months later. So it is the books we used here that I remember best.

The first reader I remember was a red soft-covered one that was followed by one with a blue-cover, “Stories to Read” The stories were illustrated in colour, which made them more attractive to young kids – to me anyway.

Stories to Read cover

More advanced readers, written for the NSW Department of Education, were “The Open Road to Reading” and “Travelling On”, and another I can’t remember now. The stories in these books really grabbed the imagination of this little girl who still believed in fairies, elves and a natural world that felt and responded to what people did to it. My favourite stories included “The Elves and the Shoemaker” and “The Little Fir Tree”.

The Open Road to Reading

One book from my childhood – when I was about eight years old – I will always remember. My brother Peter had probably borrowed from the library, as it was only there for a relatively short time. It was one of several flower fairy books by Cicely May Barker, I think “Flower Fairies of the Trees”.

Flower Fairies of Trees cover

I so wished it were mine, and I would get hold of it whenever I could.
That book would keep me engrossed for hours, drinking it its gorgeous pictures and the verse that went with each one. I wanted so much for those beautiful little fairies to be real, and more than half believed they were.

Australian public primary schools received magazines published by the Department of Education. Catholic schools, which we attended, had to buy them. They were graded in difficulty by age and class, with content aimed at the appropriate reading level. They were cheaply produced on white paper, and we would file them into a folder that used string to hold the issues for a year.

The magazines contained true stories, fiction and poems, many, if not most of them Australian, opening me to stories that were quite different from the English ones I usually read. The magazines came each month of the school year (ten a year, I think). I loved those stories too, and the nuns had no trouble getting me to read them. I would have read each item many times myself before we had to read them in class.

School magazine cover

I joined the local public library as soon as I was able to and when there was one I could get to. We lived in a mainly dairy farming area, with small villages here and there. The nearest decent sized town was fifteen miles away. There weren’t a lot of public services then either. So I also used to read any book at my level wherever I found it.

Do you remember when you first learned to read? Are books and reading important to you?

© Linda Visman

An Enterprising Young Lad

June 24, 2014 at 4:51 pm | Posted in Culture, Family History | 12 Comments
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Superman 04

When I was in primary (elementary) school, my enterprising older brother decided he wanted to make some money. It was the second half of the 1950s in rural Australia, and Peter was about eleven or twelve years old.

Phantom 05Peter knew that kids who wouldn’t read books did read comics. He was an avid reader of books, but loved comics too. They were popular, but a little expensive for struggling families to buy on a regular basis. Peter decided he might be able to make a little pocket-money while also providing a cheaper alternative.

Somehow, he managed to get together a reasonable selection of used comics, and these provided his base stock. The idea was not to sell them – he would soon be out of stock if he did. No, he was going to exchange them – at a cost, of course.
Peter stacked his pile of comics into his billycart and took them out around the streets of our town and one a couple of miles away. Because both were small, but with many young post-war migrant families, Peter knew that there would be plenty of kids who would love to get their hands on the comics he could provide.

Depending on the size and condition of the comics he exchanged (both those outgoing and those coming in), he would charge between a penny (one cent) and threepence (just under 3 cents) for each one.
Billycart 01
Peter did his arounds regularly for a while, but I don’t remember how long he kept it up and how successful this enterprise was, though I think it went well for a while at least.

Getting the whole story can be difficult at times, especially when he lives in another state and doesn’t have a telephone. However, when I think about his creativity and initiative, I realise there is a lesson in it:
Opportunities can be created when someone sees an unmet need and finds a way to fulfill it.
create your own opportunities

Have you seen examples of creative enterprise in a youngster? How did it turn out? Are there opportunities these days for the young to exercise initiative?
Were you a comic person when you were a youngster?

© Linda Visman 24.06.14

An Orange Treat

June 17, 2014 at 4:07 pm | Posted in Australia, Family History, History | 7 Comments
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Group of oranges

Mum loved oranges. When we lived in England she would occasionally buy the Australian ones. They were the best to be had, large, sweet and juicy, something to put in a Christmas stocking, a real treat.

Dad made the decision to come to Australia when he returned from the war in 1946. He first applied to migrate in 1947, but it wasn’t until 1954 that families were allowed to have assisted passage.

Assisted passage adMum would have seen Australia, then a British colony, as many others did – rough, raw and wild. I’m sure it was Dad’s enthusiasm that drove the emigration; Mum was more reluctant and full of anxiety. Leaving the soft English country farms and moors and even the dank, dark and soot-stained town was a step into the unknown for her

One of the things that may have softened the anxiety she felt at leaving her home, her mother and all that was familiar to her, was the thought of those beautiful Australian oranges. She could enjoy them any time, instead of only when they were in season) and available from the local Oswaldtwistle greengrocer. That was in the Australian winter, summertime in England.

Orange export label Leeton 1940s

To Mum’s great disappointment, those big, sweet and juicy oranges were not even available in Australia. All the best of them were exported, mostly to England. What was available in Australian shops was the second and third grade fruit.


What a let-down!

Have you ever got your hopes up over something and had them dashed when you got it?

(c) Linda Visman 17.06.14

Picnic Table

June 14, 2014 at 3:14 pm | Posted in Mental Health, Society, War and Conflict, Writing and Life | 2 Comments
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I thought it was a friendly chat at first – an elderly couple at a picnic table by the lake enjoying the winter sun and each other’s company.

Then their posture changed. He sat with his back against the table, she at the edge of the bench seat, facing away from him, elbows on knees, back and head bowed.

As I walked closer, I heard an angry voice – his. Gesturing hand, stiff posture. He sounded as though he was justifying himself. If she replied, I didn’t hear it. He raised a beer can to his lips. She held one between her drooping hands. I hadn’t noticed them before.

In no mood to listen to someone else’s anger and its futility, I turned and walked the other way.

When I glanced over again later, her posture was the same as it had been previously, but he had turned away from her completely, arms and legs crossed, body tense.

I wouldn’t like to have gone home with them when they left. I wonder what tie, what imagined bond, keeps them together.

Do you take note of other people’s attitudes, bearing, actions, etc when you are out? What great material for writing real people!

(c) Linda Visman

Power of Appreciation

June 12, 2014 at 9:50 pm | Posted in Australia | 3 Comments

This is a re-blog from my friend queasypeasy. When I read it I had to share it with as many people as possible as it is so wonderfully expressed. Thank you my friend.

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