Thursday’s Child – Introducing my Main Character

January 15, 2018 at 11:58 am | Posted in 1960s, Australia, divisions in society, Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, historical fiction, History, Reading, Social mores, Society, War and Conflict, Ways of Living, Writing | 4 Comments
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I would like to introduce the main character in my new Young Adult novel, Thursday’s Child.

It is 1961, and Victoria (Tori) Delaney is in her second year of high school. Her class has been discussing social issues that affect Australia. Her teacher, Miss Bradshaw, has given the class an assignment to complete for homework.

Choose an issue that you think is important and write a one to two page essay on it.

This is what Tori writes:

*         *         *

Why are girls and women treated as if they are not as good as boys and men? Why are they not allowed to do the same things as they are, or given the same opportunities?

It surprises me that women are even allowed to vote. I am sure that if it hadn’t been for the Suffragettes, they would still not be allowed to. I think it is very unfair that we are treated as if we are inferior. Women have often shown that they are just as good as men, the most obvious way is when they had to step in during the Great War and again in the last war.

Women who had never even lived in the country joined the Australian Women’s Land Army so that farming could carry on when the men went off to war. They did everything that the men had done. They drove tractors and did the ploughing, the reaping and the carting of the crop. They cared for the animals, shore the sheep and milked the cows, as well as butchering them for meat.

Some women took over jobs that needed specialist knowledge and strength. They became mechanics, drivers, engineers and aeroplane builders, as well as producing guns and ammunition.

The Australian Army, Navy and Air Force would have found it harder to keep going without the women who joined the special Women’s Services. They drove jeeps and big trucks, piloted planes to be repaired and returned to service. They became radio operators and even observers and anti-aircraft gunners.

It was mostly the women at home who made the men’s uniforms, who went into danger to nurse the sick and wounded, and who took over from the male doctors when they joined the forces. And many of them did this as well as raising families, often on their own, and worrying about their husbands and sons who were fighting or imprisoned.

When the war ended, the men returned home and, of course they wanted their jobs back. Most women were happy to go back to the home life they’d had before the war, but more than a few thought they had earned the right to work at jobs they had done well for many years. They didn’t want to go back to being under men’s thumb again.

They had kept vital industries going, kept the country fed and the forces clothed and supplied. They had learned new skills, felt they could contribute something to society. Now the exciting days of responsibility and self-respect were over, they didn’t want to go back to household drudgery and lose what they had showed they were capable of. It must have been really hard for them

Many women and even girls like me resent that they are not treated as equal to men, and are not satisfied with a life of pandering to them. What hope is there in that?

 

Tori will tell us a bit more about herself in the next few posts.

If you wish to purchase Thursday’s Child on Kindle, click here to pre-order. It will be available for download on the 1st of February.

 

 

 

 

 

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Re-telling the story

March 1, 2016 at 10:53 pm | Posted in 1960s, Australia, Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, historical fiction, Mental Health, Ways of Living, Writing and Life | 27 Comments
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For the last month or more, I have been re-writing my second novel, (its working title is Thursday’s Child, although that will probably change). It isn’t  complete – I had written about 62,000 words  but, about four-fifths of the way through it,  I had hardly written anything on it in the year until this January.

I was stuck. I couldn’t get motivated. I had no enthusiasm to get the story finished.  I also had a year in which depression played too big a part. I wondered if my book would ever get written.

Then, after reading a few teen/Young Adult novels at the end of last year that worked really well, I decided to change my story from past tense and third person to present tense and first person. So now, my main character is telling her own story instead of someone else telling it for her. It works so much better!

With my new-found enthusiasm and will, I have so far re-written and edited my manuscript to over 60,000 words. I have another 5,000 words to go until I get to the place where I almost gave up a year ago.

I am hoping – no, expecting – that when I get there, I will be able to carry the story to its conclusion. After all, it is so much better to be telling the story as if I am the main character than telling it from an outside perspective.

My main character, Tori, has become much more real to me in the process of re-writing, and at times, I can feel her emotions as if they are mine. They are raw and real.

My first novel, Ben’s Challenge, was written in first person past tense, and that seemed to work well. But this one does better written as an unfolding story in the present. That present being Australia in 1959-1960.

I simply must finish telling Victoria’s (Tori’s) story!

 

(c) Linda Visman

Some Memories of My Yesterdays

January 4, 2016 at 2:00 am | Posted in 1950s, 1960s, Australia, Experiences, Family History, Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, Memoir, Reflections, Ways of Living, Writing and Life | 21 Comments
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I have written just a few memories here in the form of an acrostic, using the above title. They are from my first thirteen years, and are limited by the letters I had available to me. They are also very brief, though I have already, or will in the future expand on some of them in other posts. It actually wasn’t that easy to do this self-imposed exercise!

 

School days at St Mary’s, St John’s, St Paul’s, St Mary’s & Dapto High

Oswaldtwistle, where I was born, and left when I was five

Making my own bows and arrows to play Indians

Entertaining ourselves with simple toys and games

  

Mowing the lawn at twelve

Easter rituals at Church and school

Mum’s green leather belt when we were naughty

Ordinary – that is how I saw my life; nothing special at all

Reading to find worlds of adventure

Ironing before heat controls or steam and burning my white school shirt

Earning a few pennies by opening & closing the railway gates for motorists

Singing old songs from England with my parents, uncle & Granddad

 

 

Odd one out – the middle child of five who didn’t fit anywhere else either

Finances always strained, with no money for extras

  

Milk – our milkman came around with a horse and cart

Yearning for I knew not what, but something more than I had

  

Yelling at my sisters & brother when I was angry – too often!

Eating Mum’s trifle at Xmas & New Year with Grandma, Uncle Fred & our families

Sitting at the kitchen table on stools that Dad had made

Taking Peter’s canoe onto the lake when I was forbidden to

Eating tough mutton chops & being unable to swallow the over-chewed meat

Radio serials like Superman and Tarzan that we listened to after school

Dad, David & Pauline hospitalised with polio

Accident, where I fell onto a joist when Dad was building an addition to the house

Yearly tests and trying to beat the two boys who were my main rivals

Songs from the 1940s, 50s and 60s that we listened to on the radio

 

What memories would you write if you did this acrostic exercise?

 

 

(c) Linda Visman

 

Epidemic (3)

June 15, 2015 at 12:30 am | Posted in 1960s, Australia, Family History, Memoir, Polio epidemic | 16 Comments
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Continuing the story of our family’s experiences during the polio epidemic that raged along the Illawarra coast of NSW, Australia, in 1961.

On a Tuesday, exactly two weeks after Dad became ill and four weeks after David had, my older sister Pauline came down with similar symptoms: nausea, weakness, difficulty walking. By then, Dad had managed to get his chest muscles working well enough that he was transferred back to Wollongong, although he was still in isolation. Not allowed out of our home, we couldn’t even see him.

I think that, at some stage during this period, David may have come home from hospital. I seem to remember him behind glass, crying for Mum, but, as we were still in isolation, it may be a false memory; we would not have been allowed out.

When Pauline was admitted, the doctors didn’t want Dad to know, as they thought it would retard his progress. However Mum disagreed and word was somehow got to him. As Pauline was also in the isolation ward, he was at least able to see her.

Pauline’s diagnosis had meant we had to remain confined at home another two weeks. Mum could not go shopping – we had no money anyway – and my younger sister and I ended up finishing the year unable to go back to school. Fortunately, Pauline had been inoculated with Salk vaccine, so she was only mildly affected once the initial sickness wore off. She came home after the two-week period of isolation was over.

Because all of us were isolated, Mum didn’t have even Peter’s meagre wages to bring in food. We lived on food parcels and other charity during this time. The local policeman, Sergeant Rose was great. He arranged to have money from the Police Benevolent Fund paid to Mum on a regular basis. He came to the house, in spite of the isolation order, to deliver it personally and make sure we were all right. The church and parishioners came to the rescue too. Father Greely, the parish priest, made an appeal from the altar, and two hundred pounds was raised. Mum was a great one for making pennies do a pound’s work, and that money lasted us quite a few months.

There were heavy rains around the region at that time, with roads closed due to flooding. David’s playmate Jeffrey’s father, went to bring Dad home from the hospital. He just managed to get there before floods closed the roads between us and Wollongong. After picking Dad up, they had to go a long way around to find roads that were still open and that would get them home.

Dad had been told not to try to walk, so he came home to a wheelchair. It was not a lovely padded and comfortable steel or aluminium one; I don’t even know where it came from. It was ancient, straight-backed, made of wood, with lattice-work seat and back. It had huge wheels, solid rubber tyres, and a flip-up footrest. I think a more uncomfortable chair could not have been found. The damage done to Dad’s nerves and muscles appeared to be confined to the whole right side of his body below the neck. My little brother was affected in his left leg, mainly at the ankle.

Dad’s and David’s crutches were the same basic style as this but much more primitive.

Dad’s and David’s crutches were the same basic style as this but much more primitive.

The specialist had told Dad categorically that he would never walk again. And that is what we all believed – apart from Dad. And again, the doctors didn’t reckon with Dad’s determination. Bill, the man who lived next door to us then was a boilermaker. He made Dad some crutches, the kind that has a handle and a wrist support. The crutches were made, not out of light aluminium, but out of heavy pipe steel. They were heavy, not adjustable for height, with only a rest for the forearm, not a grip, and with no padding at all. Using them, Dad forced himself onto his legs and feet again. Bill also made a mini-pair of crutches from the same materials for three-year-old David.

On his first return visit to the specialist, Dad used the crutches to get into the man’s office instead of using a wheelchair – he couldn’t have taken one up the steps and into the place anyway. The specialist castigated him for not following his orders to have complete rest. A few days later, Dad received a letter from him saying that as Dad was so unco-operative, he would no longer consider having him as a patient.

Dad was on his own – and glad to be. He didn’t want anything to do with the specialists, seeing them as stuck-up know-it-alls who actually knew nothing at all. Dad believed that he had to keep his muscles working if he wanted to get back any semblance of normality – if you don’t use it, you lose it. He wouldn’t let idiots tell him he had to do nothing. Unknown to us at the time, the work of Sister Kenny with polio patients had strongly supported this approach with great results. From then on, Dad worked at getting himself mobile with only the help of his family, a couple of friends, and his steely resolve to walk again.

The newspaper article, with Dad and David.

The newspaper article, with Dad and David.

In December, shortly after Dad came out of the hospital, with David also at home by then, the local newspaper, the Illawarra Daily Mercury sent a reported to interview him. Being the only family in the district with three members of the family affected by the polio epidemic, the paper decided it would make a good human interest story. Dad was interviewed as he half lay-half sat on a bed in the living room. The story was accompanied by a photo of Dad and David, Pauline was still in the hospital I believe, and wasn’t included.

But Dad still had other problems. Because of his debts, we were very close to losing the house that Dad had mostly built by himself. He had taken out a couple of mortgages on the place to finance the building and, I believe to keep his business going. He owed the bank a few hundred pounds – a fortune to us then. We were on the verge of being evicted from, with no place to go, when we heard from the head of the Royal Air Forces Association in Sydney.

The Association was set up to assist ex-servicemen who had belonged to any of the Allied Air Forces in WWII. The president had somehow seen or heard about the “Mercury” article on Dad and the dire financial situation he was in. As Dad had been an R.A.F. fighter pilot in the war, he arranged to come down and see him. The Association offered to pay off Dad’s debts. However, it was on condition that they be allowed to take over ownership of our home.

The alternative was homelessness. Dad couldn’t work to support his wife and five children. Here, he was being offered life tenancy of the house even though he could never own it. There was no other option for him but to take up their offer. We all lived there until we kids married and left home. Mum died in the house in 1984, and Dad lived there until his death, just before his 92nd birthday in June 2013.

That epidemic changed our lives. It took months before Dad was granted a T.P.I. government pension as being totally and permanently incapacitated. It was the charity of the church and friends that kept us going until then. There wasn’t much in the way of material gifts for us that Christmas, but our family was together again, with the promise of a more secure future than we could ever have expected. That was a priceless gift.

© Linda Visman

Epidemic (2)

June 8, 2015 at 12:30 am | Posted in 1960s, Australia, Family History, Health, Memoir, Polio epidemic | 10 Comments
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There was a recession in the building industry in 1961 Australia. At that time, Dad worked as a concreting contractor, and was sub-contracted to a company that was building a large number of houses on new estates. The company went bankrupt owing Dad, among many others, several hundred pounds (a lot of money in those days). Dad had no savings, and could not pay his own suppliers. He couldn’t meet the mortgage he’d drawn on to build the house. At the height of the epidemic, he was on the verge of bankruptcy.

We all felt a responsibility, whether financially or through helping around the house (though we’d always been expected to do that). My brother, Peter, at sixteen the eldest in the family, had already left school the year before the polio hit us. Pauline had also just left school aged fourteen and was working. Then came another blow.

Exactly two weeks to the day after David fell from his stool and was admitted to hospital with polio, Dad was driving his truck to work. He began to feel very unwell, so he turned back and went to the doctor’s surgery instead. The doctor strongly suspected polio. Dad was kept away from the other patients and an ambulance called.

By the time it arrived, he could barely walk or sit up. He was taken to Wollongong Hospital, where David was still a patient. I do not know just when Mum found out that Dad had come down with the disease, as we four kids were at school. The doctor had probably called her. Perhaps she even went to the hospital with him in the ambulance, though I suspect she wouldn’t have been allowed to.

During the night, Dad’s condition worsened. He was having difficulty breathing, and the doctors decided to transfer him to Prince Henry Hospital in Sydney, where there were machines called iron lungs that helped people to breathe when their muscles wouldn’t work. On arrival, Dad was assessed by specialists. With the muscles of his diaphragm and chest affected, he struggled for breath. The specialists wanted him to be put into an iron lung to assist him to breathe. Dad said no.

iron-lung

“Leave me overnight,” he said. “If I can’t make it through on my own, then you can have your way. But I have to do the best I can first.”

Dad knew that, once in the iron lung, he would soon lose any control over his muscles that might still be there – the iron lung would take over. That could mean a lifetime locked in a machine, unable to do all the things he’d been able to do. He was always strong and active, tall but wiry, a determined man for whom major problems were simply challenges to be overcome.

The specialists reluctantly agreed, but kept a close watch on him through the night. He made it through, though they wondered how. But they didn’t know what Dad was made of. The constant hard physical work Dad had done since we’d come to Australia over six years previously, had probably helped him in his fight against the fatal effects of the disease. But his determination was his real strength.

Through all of this, Mum had to cope. She now had a son and a husband in hospital, the latter in a critical condition. She couldn’t visit either of them, one in Wollongong and one in Sydney, widely separate hospitals, and had to look after the four of us at home. Council health officials said that we were still not allowed to go out in public areas or attend school. The whole family was quarantined at home for at least another two weeks – after the two weeks we’d already been quarantined after David was diagnosed.

At that time, it wasn’t known just how polio was transmitted. Because two people in our home had come down with it, officials from the Health Department thought our place must have been dirty. They sent a team, masked and gowned, to fumigate our whole house with some sort of white gas or powder. The men who came said they were surprised at how clean and tidy it was.

There was now no income, and not likely to be for a long time. The telephone was cut off because she couldn’t pay the bill. Worse than that, Mum had not been immunised, so there was always the fear that she would come down with the disease too. It was a very stressful period. Mum had always been a worrier and easily upset. However, during this time her inner strength came to the fore.

We waited anxiously, not knowing what to expect.

© Linda Visman

Epidemic (1)

June 1, 2015 at 12:30 am | Posted in 1960s, Australia, Family History, Health, Memoir, Poliomyelitis | 8 Comments
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Epidemic (1)

On the 21st of June, 1961, on the Illawarra coast of New South Wales, the first case of the disease commonly known as infantile paralysis was reported. We now know it generally as poliomyelitis.

Polio raged through the many small communities around Lake Illawarra and farther south for the next six months. By the end of October, fifty cases had been reported, five of which had been fatal. The peak month was September, with twenty-two new cases reported.[1]  From about then, the epidemic began to ease, with fewer cases reported each week.

Those numbers tell a story, but only a tiny part of it. They do not tell of the fear and the worry and the heartbreak that this dreaded disease caused to individuals and families as it swept through the Illawarra and South Coast that winter and spring. They do not tell of the lives torn apart, the futures of young and old forever changed by a tiny unseen virus. Some people avoided going into public places or visiting family and friends. Everyone was afraid they or a loved one would be next.

We were a part of that largely untold story, and three of my family are included in the case statistics. Salk vaccine, administered through injection, had already been available to all children who attended school, and had already been immunised against the disease. I remember walking with the other children from my school down to the Council Chambers to stand in line to be given the needle. Of the five children in our family, four of us had been vaccinated in the school programme.

As the epidemic grew and spread through the community, the vaccine was made available to all by the local Council. Because of the huge demand for inoculations, our local immunisation centre ran out. Because of that and probably other reasons too, Mum, Dad and David, my three-year-old brother, were never vaccinated.

David was too young for school, and often played with four-year-old Jeffrey from two houses away. One day, we heard that Jeffrey’s younger cousin, who lived nearby, was in hospital. It was polio, the diagnosis nobody wanted. We were really sorry that the little cousin, only fifteen months old, had been struck down. David continued to play with Jeffrey as usual. My older brother and sister, aged sixteen and fourteen, were working at that time, while my younger sister and I were at school. I was near the end of my first year at high school.

One Tuesday in early October, David was unwell, so he stayed inside. He was playing with his little boats, kneeling on a stool at the kitchen sink. When he went to get down from the stool, he fell. Mum lifted him up but he couldn’t stand. I think Mum knew right away what was wrong. We were fortunate to have a telephone and she rang the doctor, who said to get David up to his surgery right away.

I don’t know how Mum got him there, whether she pushed him in a stroller the mile or so, or if there was somebody around to take them in a car. The doctor checked David and called an ambulance. He was admitted to the isolation ward of Wollongong Hospital. We couldn’t go to visit him until after the incubation period of two weeks was up. As it turned out, we wouldn’t be able to see him for another four weeks.

© Linda Visman

[1] These figures come from various news reports in the “Illawarra Daily Mercury”, November 1961.

Pray for us, sinners

May 25, 2015 at 12:00 am | Posted in 1960s, Australia, Health, Immunisation, Polio epidemic | 13 Comments
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This story tells of a time in 1961 when everything changed for our family.

October 1961

There’s a tiny pebble beneath my knee and I open my eyes a fraction. Reaching down, I brush it away, impatient at the distraction. I must keep my concentration total, or my prayers won’t be effective.

It’s difficult to stay focussed on the Mysteries of the Rosary when I am so worried about Dad. I’m not saying the Joyful Mysteries. They don’t seem right. Neither do the Glorious Mysteries. The Sorrowful Mysteries fit the situation much better. The rosary beads pass through my fingers, one for each Our Father, ten Hail Marys, and the Glory be at the end of each decade of the Rosary. I’ve done The Agony in the Garden. The next decade is The Scourging at the Pillar. But my mind refuses to focus on the sufferings of Jesus.

Rosary beads

Rosary beads

“Please don’t let Dad die. Let him come back home soon.”

My concern for my earthly father constantly interrupts my address to the One in Heaven, and again I have to force myself to concentrate.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us, sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

I can hear my older brother, Peter, in the kitchen. My sisters, Pauline and Sheelagh, are probably there too, though I can’t hear them. I’m in the lounge room, in the dark so nobody will see me. I don’t know why I don’t want them to see me, because we all know how important prayer is – and this is an especially important time for prayer.

The carpet is rough on my knees, but I’m used to kneeling on all sorts of floors. I’ve done it for most of my thirteen years, and I can ignore the discomfort. However there’s usually the back of another pew in church,  a desk at school, or my bed to lean against. It’s hard to ignore the ache in my back from having no support for most of the Sorrowful Mysteries. I stretch, then say another Hail Mary, feeling guilty that I can’t keep focussed on Jesus and His Mother. My mind soon wanders again.

Mum’s at the hospital. I don’t know how she got there because there are no buses at night. It’s very hard for her. She always worries so much about everything, even little things. Now we have a really big worry. She’s already had to go to the hospital every day for the last two weeks to see my little brother, David. Now Dad’s in the isolation ward too, in the adults’ part, not the kids’ part. It’s pretty hard for us four as well. We have to wait at home, not knowing what’s happening. What will we do if Dad dies?

That’s what the prayers are for. Surely Jesus and Mary will help us. We’ve always gone to Mass and kept the Holy Days. But what if I’ve done something bad and God won’t listen to my prayers? I haven’t been able to go to Confession, none of us have. Not since we’ve been isolated in the house to stop the germs spreading. Surely Jesus will realise that. We can’t even go to school. I close my eyes tight and hold my breath, sending my prayers up to Heaven.

Polio quarantine sign

“Please listen, God. Even if I’ve been bad, Daddy’s a good man. He loves you and keeps the Commandments and goes to Mass. We don’t have much money even though he works hard. Please, don’t take him away from us. I’ll do anything you want me to.”

Hoping God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Ghost – and Mary too – are all listening, I begin the next decade of the Rosary, The Crowning With Thorns. I think about how that must have hurt Jesus. Then I think about David, and wonder why a three-year-old like him has to suffer.

It was Tuesday two weeks ago, and he was kneeling on the stool at the kitchen sink, playing in the water with his little boats. He wasn’t feeling too good and he fell off. Then he couldn’t stand up. Mum took him straight to the doctor. She had to carry him all the way, about a mile. Even though he’s only three he must have been heavy. The doctor sent him straight to the isolation ward at Wollongong hospital.

It’s Tuesday today as well. Mum said Dad was driving to work in his truck this morning when he felt sick and weak. So he went to the doctor’s surgery instead. By the time the ambulance took him to the hospital, he could hardly walk or even sit up. It sounds like he’s really bad. Oh, why didn’t they have the vaccine like we did? They wouldn’t have got this awful disease. Me and Peter and Pauline and Sheelagh walked from school down to the Council Chambers to get the needles. Salk vaccine it’s called.

We had our needles before people started to get polio around here. But for the last couple of months, polio has been everywhere, all along the Illawarra Coast, and it’s been really scary. They call it an epidemic – that’s when lots of people get it. Some people have even died. Now Dad has it as well as David, and we don’t know what will happen to them, or whether they’ll get better. Mum didn’t have the needles. Gee, I hope she doesn’t catch it too. I begin another decade of the Rosary.

rosary-tattoo

Peter pokes his head through the door and sees me kneeling there.

“What are you doing?” he says.

“Saying the Rosary for Dad. Want to say it with me?”

“Nah,” he says. “I’m hungry. Where’s the tin of jam?”

I sigh and make the sign of the cross, putting my rosary beads away in a little bag. I’m hungry too, though I hadn’t noticed it until that moment. I get to my feet and go into the kitchen.

“I’ll cut the bread,” I say, picking up the knife. “I cut it straighter than you.”

(c) Linda Visman

Paddling Peter’s Canoe

May 18, 2015 at 12:00 am | Posted in 1950s, 1960s, Australia, Discipline, Family History | 14 Comments
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I wrote this story a few years ago about one aspect of my childhood – a combination of where I lived; what I wanted to do; what I wasn’t allowed to do; what I did do; and what I was punished for doing.

We lived right beside Lake Illawarra when I was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s. We played cricket on the shore outside the back yard (into the water was six and out), explored its shoreline and adventured in its casuarina forest. Several fishermen plied their trade in the deeper waters, catching mainly bream and mullet, and prawns in season. At night, the lights of the prawn boats and waders looked entrancing from our bedroom window. The lake wasn’t very deep in our bay, but we didn’t play in it because you sank to your ankles in sticky black mud when you walked in it.

ErnThompson &boat Dapto Abt1956 001

Dad with one of his boats. About 1955

In his spare time, Dad made boats for sale out of plywood. My older brother Peter wanted a canoe, so Dad made him one. It was flat-bottomed and had both ends enclosed on top. There was a seat at the centre, so Peter could put his legs into the front section for a foothold. For safety, because none of the family could swim, there was a small outrigger to prevent it tipping over. The craft was painted black and so was the paddle Dad made for it. Peter could now paddle off across or around the lake on his own adventures.

I was three years younger than Peter, about nine years old. A tomboy, I was jealous that, because he was a boy, he could have a canoe and go off on his own, whereas I, being a girl, couldn’t. One day, I decided to take Peter’s canoe out on the lake for a short paddle. It was just to see what it was like. I didn’t see why I shouldn’t: I would be careful; it was easy to paddle; and I didn’t even think about the possibility of capsize – Peter never had so it wasn’t an issue.

I carefully and quietly pulled the canoe down to the water’s edge, then pushed it out and climbed in. I began to paddle away quickly, so that I wouldn’t be seen from the house. I followed the shoreline to the south and, as I got into the swing of it, my confidence grew.  Deciding I didn’t have to go back straight away, I set about enjoying myself – just for a little while. I was sure nobody would miss me. So I paddled on, imagining myself as an intrepid explorer searching out new lands. Then decided it was more exciting to be Hiawatha, paddling down a raging river in his Indian canoe. I had a wonderful time, but eventually knew I must paddle back home.

canoe_outrigger

An outrigger canoe

I had not realised I’d been out a couple of hours. My absence and that of the canoe had been noticed. Mum was waiting for me and she was in no mood to be understanding. I had been disobedient and, in spite of the canoe having an outrigger, she, fearful of water herself, had been afraid I would capsize it and drown. As soon as I’d put the canoe and paddle away, I got the sharp end of her tongue and a thorough hiding with her green leather belt. Then I was sent to the room I shared with my two sisters.

As I’d been approaching home in the canoe, I’d noticed that I was developing a headache. After I went to my room, it got worse and worse. Soon I was throwing up violently and feeling terribly weak. It had been a warm sunny day and I had been out on the water for some time. We only wore a hat to church – we had no others. As a result, I had developed sunstroke. This was a natural consequence of a few hours in the sun, but, to my young Catholic mind, it was really God’s punishment on me for disobeying my parents. The illness I suffered, and my own guilty conscience, were much more effective than any hiding Mum might give me, and I was never again tempted to take Peter’s canoe out on the lake.

Linda Visman

Household Chores

May 11, 2015 at 12:00 am | Posted in 1960s, Australia, family responsibilities, Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, household chores | 12 Comments
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Our childhood days were often anything but fun and games. Both Mum and Dad believed that children should learn early to help around the house. There were no free rides – at least not for the girls. Throughout our childhood and teens, we had our jobs to do and we couldn’t get out of them without good reason.

My sisters and I were expected to help Mum clean the house. We did a lot of the big weekly clean under Mum’s supervision. We didn’t have a vacuum cleaner. Instead, we used a stiff bristled hand (banister) brush to sweep the lounge room carpet on hands and knees. After that it was dusting the furniture, as well as sweeping and dusting the rest of the house.

One of the things I didn’t mind doing was polishing the brassware with Brasso. Among these were three or four round wall plaques pressed with scenes of sailing ships or old villages. Mum had worked in a large munitions factory in Accrington during WWII and, among other things, had filled the shells that the British fired at the Germans. Dad was a fighter pilot in the RAF, one of those who fired those 22mm shells.

20mm shell casing WWIIOn one of his leaves, Dad brought home an empty .22 shell casing; one that had been fired. That casing became one of the brass ornaments that lived in Mum’s china cabinet. I loved polishing that one. Many years later, after Mum had died, I noticed that the shell casing was missing. Despite enquiries, we have never discovered where it went to.

My sisters and I did all the washing up after dinner (we called it tea). We took turns clearing the table, washing up, and drying and putting away the dishes. With no hot water, an electric jug had to be boiled to start washing up the crockery, and another to heat the water up again for the pots and pans. We all hated washing up. There were occasional arguments when one of us ‘forgot’ which task we were supposed to do that night, or was late getting on the job – especially the washing up.

We had to make our beds of course – even my brother did that – and polish our shoes in the evenings for school or work the next day. When we were about nine or ten, we learned how to do our own ironing. The iron, although it was electric, had no heat regulator or steam. We had to turn it on or off at the power point to attain and maintain the correct heat – not easy to do, and easy to forget when distracted. Woe betide us if it got too hot and scorched the item of clothing we were ironing – especially if it was a white school shirt!

A Louvered Glass Window

A Louvered Glass Window

We also had to help clean the windows once we were a bit older. I remember the louvered windows and cleaning each one – each window had 10-12 long narrow panes. We had to wash each pane, on both sides, with wet newspaper then dry it with dry newspaper. You couldn’t press too hard on the glass or the pane could break in two. By the end of the job, our hands were black with newsprint. Sometimes we used Bon Ami, an abrasive paste that had to be spread evenly and thinly onto the glass. When dry we rubbed it off with a dry cloth. Every window in the house, apart from three, had louvres. So we soon got to hate the day that Mum decided it was window-cleaning day!

My older brother didn’t have many jobs to do – I only remember him doing one apart from making his bed and cleaning his shoes. Once we got a mower, he mowed the lawn and the bulrushes down the back. However, he left school to start work in 1960 when he was fifteen and had done his Intermediate Certificate, and he didn’t have to do it then. Other things happened that year too. When Dad contracted polio in October 1961 [that story to come] he could not do physical work for some time. I took over the mowing and loved it.

So, until we left home to marry, pretty well all the chores that Mum didn’t do fell to the three of us girls. My elder sister learned how to cook and I think my younger sister learned a bit of cooking too. They both did Home Economics at school, but I didn’t. I never did learn while I was living at home I wasn’t at all interested in cooking or sewing – I’d much rather do the mowing and other outdoor work.

Old Victa lawn mower

Old Victa lawn mower – except I always wore shoes!

(c) Linda Visman

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