I wish you could tell me, Mum

May 23, 2016 at 5:00 am | Posted in Australia, Family, Family History, heritage, History, Love, Memoir, Polio epidemic, Reading, Reflections, Writing and Life | 29 Comments
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Today, the 23rd of May, would have been my mother’s birthday.  Sadly,  however, Mum lost her battle with illness almost 22 years ago, on the 13th June 1994, at the age of 74, less than seven years older than I am now.

I was close to Mum as a child, though I knew little of her earlier life. The selfish perspective of youth meant that I knew her less as she aged. Then, at the age of just twenty, I married and left home.

For almost all of the next twenty-five years, I lived some distance away, having children, seeing them grow up, getting divorced from their father, entering what was then a forbidden relationship, moving even farther away in both miles and understanding, visiting briefly only once or twice a year. It was only when Mum was on her death bed that I returned home, helped Dad nurse Mum there for two weeks before attending her funeral.

I have always regretted that distance between us. As I grew into my forties, I wanted to know her better, but it was already too late. Illness had made the last years difficult for her.

A few years ago, while Dad was still alive, I wrote a poem called. “What’s your story, Mum?”. Recently, Dad having died in June 2013, I edited the poem and re-named it “I wish you could tell me, Mum”. Here it is, on what would have been her 96th birthday.

 

Agnes Thompson 1941 front

Mum aged 21, 1941

 

I wish you could tell me, Mum

 

What’s your story, Mum?

I wish you could tell me.

Dad told me his when he was still here,

when I could finally visit from far away

But you had already left us then.

 

We often talked about you, Mum.

He’d tell me of when you were young.

Like how beautiful you were, how popular,

and how, even before he’d met you,

there was never any other girl for him.

 

His eyes lit up as he told of how you’d laugh,

And how the joy of it made his heart sing.

Of how you later ‘walked out’ together,

through wet, coal-blackened streets,

and for miles over cold and windy moors.

 

He’d remember how you both loved to dance,

as if the two of you were one,

Still gliding and twirling when the band

And everyone else was exhausted.

 

Dad told me, Mum, about the births of your children.

The first, a son, and the paralysis his arrival caused.

He told me how he couldn’t defend you against the pain

whilst flying his plane far away in defence of your country.

 

He said how wonderful it was later,

to assist in the births of your three daughters,

at home, in the bed where we had been conceived.

He told me what a great home-maker you were,

always making the best out of very little.

 

But what’s your story, Mum – in your words?

Dad could tell me how much he wanted to migrate

to a country free of class and arrogance,

but he couldn’t tell me how you really felt.

Did you want to go as much as he?

Or did you go simply because you loved him?

 

It was easy, I think, to leave your selfish father,

but oh, how difficult it must have been

to say good-bye to your gentle, loving mother,

to go to a new country; a strange land.

 

Heat and drought and wide expanses replaced

the cold and damp of a bustling ancient township.

A tiny caravan, then a little fibro house, replaced

the solid security of your old stone terrace.

 

Venomous snakes and spiders brought unwelcome danger.

Barbed-wire fences and eucalypt forest replaced

soft green fields bounded by hedge and mossy stone.

Oak and ash, bluebells and buttercups were left behind.

 

How did you adjust to the changes?

What fears and insecurities did this bring?

Oh, what did you really think, Mum?

 

Then, in this new land, another traumatic birth:

my baby brother healthy, though his twin sister died.

And you, alone in a hospital bed, not allowed your own,

denied even the comforting presence of your husband,

as you fought, alone, for life.

 

Is that when the fearfulness began to creep in?

Is that when you began to think you might lose us;

had to always know where we were, so you

could feel some measure of control in your life?

 

Or did that happen in 1961, when two of your children

and Dad, all contracted the dreaded polio?

Was it when we thought Dad might not even live,

And there was no money to even buy food?

 

I remember that awful time, Mum.

I was only thirteen and could only guess

at the fears that burdened you.

The responsibility you had to take alone.

 

Dad, crippled and unable to help,

your father taking away the mother

that you needed then

more than you had ever done.

 

What I do know is that you kept our family going.

That it was your strength, dredged from

some deep, unknown place within you,

that fed and clothed and housed us.

 

It took its toll on you, I know,

but I thought of you as strong, Mum

in those desperate times.

But what did you think and feel then?

 

Dad struggled to overcome the ravages of polio,

to get back on his feet, figuratively and literally.

You were by his side, his partner in all ways,

as he set up a steady business

– concreting, of all things!

 

And how did it make you feel, Mum,

When, after so many years,

he took you dancing again?

 

The years that followed were mixed sorrow and joy,

With three daughters and one son married.

I remember the light in your eyes and your smile

as you welcomed my son,

your first grandchild, with more to come.

 

But as time went on, I realised that something

prevented you taking those little ones to your heart.

Not just because mine were always far away,

and you didn’t like or trust their father.

 

What was the barrier, Mum?

Did losing your own mother close your heart

against the awful possibility of hurt?

Was there something inside you that said,

‘if I don’t open myself to love, I won’t lose it’?

 

We grew apart – not only because of miles.

I saw you too seldom and we could not share

the things that mothers share with

daughters who are also mothers.

I missed that, Mum. I still do.

 

Dad and I nursed you at home,

night and day, until you finally left us.

Was it a relief to go; to give up

the burden that life had become?

 

Dad missed you so much then, Mum, lonely for you.

He always loved you – there was never another.

He never forgot the day you first spoke to him,

when you asked, ‘how old are you?’

 

He re-lived the days of your courtship

and listened to the music you’d loved together.

I am sure he felt you once more in his arms,

twirling yet again around the dance floor – until he left us too.

 

But I want to know more than that, Mum,

because I think that many parts of me –

my insecurities, my fears, my depression –

have come from you.

 

So I want to know how you felt; how you loved.

I want to know your story, Mum – in your own words.

 

But you’ve been gone now for many years,

and I must rely on fragments of memory,

and find you in the words of the man

who loved you.

 

But I wish you could tell me, Mum.

 

Agnes&Ern Thompson 1974

Mum & Dad dancing, 1970s.

 

 

In loving memory of Agnes Mary Thompson;

born 23rd May 1920; died 13th June 1994.

I wish I had known you better, Mum.

 

Also in loving memory of Ernest Thompson;

born 24th June 1921; died 18th June 2013.

I am proud to have been your daughter, Dad.

 

(c) Linda Visman,  May 2007

Edited 7th May 2016

 

 

My Rose-coloured Childhood

December 21, 2015 at 1:00 am | Posted in Australia, Experiences, Family, Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, Leisure activities, Memoir, Mental Health, Nature, Philosophy, Society, Ways of Living, Writing and Life | 9 Comments
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I sometimes wonder whether my childhood memories are as authentic as I believe them to be. There have been times when my siblings have reminded me of  an event that occurred which illustrates an alternate version of those times, one that I may have pushed aside or interpreted in a different way.

I know that people can focus on aspects of their youth that colour and reinforce a version they have become used to. Sometimes, that version is a happy one, sometimes a negative one. I know of two brothers who see their experiences in a way that makes it seem they lived in different worlds – one seeing a society accepting of migrants and the other seeing discrimination everywhere. That has to be related to how their personalities have been shaped and to their natural optimism or pessimism I think.

Of course, there are some who really have endured awful family backgrounds,  situations that could  break them if that is what they focus on. And it does break some – but  paradoxically makes others, even in the same family, stronger and more resilient.

We had a pretty good family, where we were loved and cared for, but during which we also endured some pretty tough times. I do remember those hard times, but I also remember the good times. Perhaps I have created a world that was somewhat better than it actually was, but at least it helps me to focus on the good stuff. Here’s a poem I wrote that does that:

 

 

In spring, summer and autumn,

we walked along muddy creeks,

along lake shores and ocean beaches,

over expanses of sea-side rock,

dotted with crystal-clear pools,

our bare feet tickled by weed and grass,

salt water and sand.

 

We collected driftwood and shells

and wave-smoothed stones

and carried them home

in bright red or blue or yellow buckets.

We spent hours sorting them

by shape and size and colour,

and days making sea-drift sculptures,

shell borders for photo frames and mirrors,

shell pictures and maps.

 

We strolled through wetlands,

dense with melaleuca,

wary of spiders and biting mosquitoes,

through lakeside forests of casuarinas

with their wind-eerie sounds,

and through paddocks and gullies

studded with eucalypts & blackberry bushes,

wary of red-bellied black snakes.

 

We collected sheets of paperbark

to make three-dimensional pictures,

flexible green sticks to make

Hiawatha bows

straight-stemmed

dry reeds for arrows,

and bulrushes for spears.

 

 Our Christmas decorations

were made from strips of crepe paper

that twirled across the room;

the star on top of the tree was

a piece of cardboard covered in

silver paper from cigarette packets.

 

From the huge pine trees

that bordered our school yard

(long gone now)

we fashioned their thick bark

into serviceable pistols, or dolls,

and their pinecones sawn through

created wide-eyed owls.

 

Inside, on cold or rainy days,

a sheet of newspaper could make

a ship or a plane or a hat,

or a row of dancing dolls.

A block of wood

made great cars and trucks;

large circular off-cuts from

holes drilled in plywood

made wheels for them.

 

Making our own entertainment was normal,

a stimulus to creativity and independence.

Not for us the electronic wizardry

of television or video games,

of computers or mobile phones.

We made what we could out of what we had

and enjoyed a childhood

rich with stimulation and experience.

 

 

What was your childhood like? Are your memories pleasant or negative?

 

© Linda Visman

 

 

High School – loving it

December 7, 2015 at 12:30 am | Posted in Australia, Education, Family, Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, high school, Memoir | 14 Comments
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For whatever reason, many people look back on their school days with distaste. But I did truly like school and my attendance reflected that. I only missed an occasional day almost every year (except when we were quarantined for the polio) and, in my final two years, my attendance was 100%. When the time came, I actually regretted having to leave school.

It wasn’t the social side I took to so much, as I didn’t have many friends. What I loved was the learning and the rewards I gained from my own efforts. My parents supported me in my studies and as the only one in our extended family to have the opportunity of completing high school, I wanted to make the most of it.

 

 

David,Ernest,Linda.1964-350

Dad never had the chance to go through high school (he went to work at 14), but he supported me. Here I am at home in my summer uniform with him and my little brother in 1964.

 

My sisters and younger brother were much more sociable than me, and had friends right through school. I was self-conscious and I sometimes wonder if it was because of our poverty. Most of my free time was spent at home. We never had the extra money to go out anywhere, or if we did, it was only to church. I didn’t have new clothes very often, and Dad used a cobbler’s last to repair our leather school shoes.

In Fourth Year, I needed a new school bag. Instead of buying one, Dad, always good at making things with whatever he could find, made one for me. He cut up an old leather coat, and stitched it to make the outside with a flap over the top. He then glued plywood inside for the base, front and back, and also glued and riveted two straps around it. The handle consisted of a piece of thick round dowel attached to the straps. At first, I’d usually go to my locker when I’d get to school in the morning and leave in the afternoons, so nobody else would see it. However, once I got used to it, I was really proud of Dad’s ingenuity and skill, and I really loved that bag. It was a symbol that we were different, but in a way that I could accept. I really wish I still had it, or at least a photo of it!

A more realistic interpretation of my feeling of being an outsider was probably because I had many insecurities. I envied the girls who were confident, social and popular, and I felt so different that it was hard to feel accepted by them. I was a tomboy, not into makeup and fancy clothes, and I probably contributed a fair bit to their excluding me by my own attitude. Looking back with a clearer knowledge of humanity, I realise they probably thought I was stuck-up and too good for them.

When our English class put on a play, in spite of feeling excluded, I really wanted to take on one of the roles – even a small one. However, the teacher chose those who were confident and outgoing to play every part. My timidity didn’t allow me to even ask to be involved, not even in the support crew. My only friend, Valerie, didn’t get asked either, but I didn’t even ask if she’d wanted to be. I wonder if I’d been allowed to take part in the play it would have made any difference. Mmmm…

In my final year, I went, together with one of the top boys, Tony, to attend a Lions Club dinner and speak to them about our hopes for the future. I’m not sure, but I think it was because that group had paid my scholarship and Tony must have been the other recipient. I also gave a speech to the school at our Anzac Day ceremony in April 1964 about the importance to Australia of Anzac. Dad helped me write that speech, and I wish I still had a copy of it.

(c) Linda Visman

 

Secondary School (2) Leaving St Mary’s

October 12, 2015 at 12:30 am | Posted in Australia, Catholic Education, Family, Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, Memoir, Polio epidemic | 6 Comments
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I mentioned in an earlier blog post that I wasn’t particularly happy that I had to leave St Mary’s College in 1961 after the polio epidemic. I was even less happy to be going to Dapto High – our nearest state high school – even though both my brother and sister had earlier attended there for between one or two years.

I hadn’t made any friends at St Mary’s, although I did talk with some of the girls at breaks. I always travelled to and from Wollongong alone as there were no other pupils from my school on the train, and nobody to accompany me on the half mile or so walk to and from the station at Wollongong. However, I hadn’t been unhappy there. I was comfortable with the school and its religious context, the learning style and how I was progressing in class.

Paper Clipping

Dad and David, just after Dad came home from hospital. Illawarra Daily Mercury, Dec.1961

The months of not being able to attend school due to the polio epidemic had been unsettling for all of us, and we’d been glad when the restrictions on our movements were lifted. But it had not been in time for school, and Dad was still struggling to get on his feet – literally. It also took a while before Dad was granted a Totally and Permanently Incapacitated (TPI) pension. For many weeks, we’d had no spare money. Indeed, if it hadn’t been for the charity of the church, the police and a few friends, we wouldn’t have had anything at all.

The school holidays of summer 1961-62 meant that my younger sister and I had a lot more to do at home. Our older brother and sister had managed to get work again and were gone all week. Sheelagh and I helped as much as we could, not always with the best grace, to help Mum with the housework. We also had our little brother, three-year-old David to look after and keep occupied when he wasn’t at medical appointments. He had to wear a calliper on his leg to support his polio-affected ankle and foot, though I’m not sure just when he was fitted with that.

Me with my little brother in 1962. Dave is wearing his caliper.

Me with my little brother in 1962. Dave is wearing his caliper.

Anyway, when the time came to go back to school at the end of January, it had been decided that the only school I could attend was Dapto High. My sister still had a year to go at St Paul’s Primary. I don’t remember any details of being enrolled at Dapto, nor of getting a summer school uniform. I don’t remember catching on the train for the first day at the school. Nor do I remember walking the half a mile or so from the station at Dapto up to the school with a bunch of kids whom I neither knew nor wanted to know.

What I do know was that I was resentful, sulky and as unco-operative as a usually obedient, religious thirteen-year-old could be.

(c) Linda Visman

Accentuate the Positive

September 2, 2015 at 9:02 pm | Posted in Family, Gratitude, Memoir, role model | 7 Comments
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Recently I read a post about inspiration on a writing blog that included the words to the song, Ac-cent-tchu-ate the Positive. (Music written by Harold Arlen; lyrics by Johnny Mercer; published 1944).

The blog writer said it was Frank Sinatra who sang it, but Bing Crosby actually first sang it in blackface in “Here Come the Waves”, and I distinctly remember Bing singing it with the Andrews Sisters. (Here it is, 1940s). Our whole family loved Bing Crosby, and I think it was because he sang it that I remember it so well from my childhood.

You’ve got to accentuate the positive

Eliminate the negative

And latch on to the affirmative

Don’t mess with Mister In-Between

You’ve got to spread joy up to the maximum

Bring gloom down to the minimum

Have faith or pandemonium’s

Liable to walk upon the scene

I have spoken before about my father and his positive attitude to life. Seeing the words brought back many so memories of Dad. In later life, when he was legally blind, deaf, physically ailing and often lonely (Mum had died many years before), instead of bemoaning his fate, he would sing this song and whoever was there would join in singing with him.

My dad, Ernest Thompson August 2007, aged 86

My dad, Ernest Thompson August 2007, aged 86

Whenever he was asked how he was, he’d say, “Top of the world!”, even if he wasn’t feeling that way. He said that always talking positive would make you feel better and that saying negative things only made you feel bad. So, he would always accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative and cultivate an ‘attitude of gratitude’ for the things he did have..

He was a great role model for us all, not just family and friends, but everyone he came into contact with. He has been physically gone for over two years now, but he will always be there for me.

Linda Visman

I Remember When …

June 22, 2015 at 12:30 am | Posted in Family, Gratitude, Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, Memoir | 10 Comments
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I remember when…

 

The lake shore, the farms and the local streets

were all places where children could safely roam;

and we played pirates, and cowboys and Indians

and wandered ‘til dark in the bush near our home.

 

I remember…

 

The milk and bread being delivered to our door

on a cart with a horse that knew when to stop;

when it was exciting to travel on a steam train

and a penny bought four lollies at the local shop.

 

And I remember…

 

Walking three miles to church on a Sunday

with my family and wearing my best frock;

and the joy of reading a library book

or of being allowed to stay up until eight o’clock.

 

Aah, the memory of…

 

Our excitement when Christmas morning arrived

and we couldn’t wait to see what Santa had brought;

when the family came together to share a meal

and we sang the old songs that we’d all been taught.

 

Do I want to remember…

 

Going outside down the path, in sunshine or rain,

to the backyard dunny with its newspaper and pan,

in daylight or dark, with the smell all around,

hoping they’d not come while you’re sitting to pick up the can?

 

I also remember…

 

The long hard hours Dad worked to get enough

for the basics of life and a deposit on some land;

And Mum, never knowing if ends would meet

or if there’d be enough money to go around.

 

And the polio that changed our whole way of life

when it struck down my brother and sister – and Dad;

How Mum coped with all the worry and stress;

Her fears we’d never keep even the little we had.

 

But the things I remember best are these…

 

the love that our family had for each other

and the strength this gave us in bad times and good;

the joy we took in life’s simple things;

the hard work that was something we all understood;

the respect that we knew was earned and not bought;

and the strong moral lessons that our parents had taught.

 

Maybe rose-coloured glasses have changed my perspective,

but I believe that our past is always subjective.

What we do with our memories shows who we’ve become –

so let’s use them to help us in times that will come.

 

 

(c) Linda Visman

This poem was first published in “I Remember When” an anthology compiled and edited by Julie Athanasiou, Legacy Books, November 2006.

Entertaining ourselves in the 1950s and early 1960s (2)

March 30, 2015 at 11:00 pm | Posted in 1950s, Australia, Family, History, Memoir | 2 Comments
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One of the things we did a lot of as children was making things. Our parents had little money to spare, and if we wanted toys, we often had to create them ourselves. I’ve already mentioned making bows and arrows and guns.

We also made dolls from the appropriately named dolly pegs, with varying levels of skill (Mum had a job keeping enough pegs for hanging the clothes on the line!). A wooden cotton reel, a few small nails and some wool made us a loom for French knitting.

French knitting   Dolly peg doll

Here are some of the other things we used to make for ourselves (or that Dad made for us).

Things Made From Paper

i) Aeroplanes: There were a couple of tried and true ways to make paper aeroplanes. One of them I have never seen anyone else other than my family use.

ii) Party hats and sailing ships: the party or pirate hat is an easily folded bit of newspaper, and most people know it. The sailing ship was a development on that, and I cannot remember now how it went.

iii) Kites: made from a cross of two sticks and brown paper. The tail consisted of string with paper strips tied to it at intervals. Often they were too heavy, or not strong enough, or not big enough to fly, but we kept trying. Occasionally, one would fly quite well.

Simple kite

iv) Dolls’ dresses: Another thing that we sometimes got on cereal packets was two-dimensional cardboard figures. You could cut them out and make paper clothes for them. You could also get a book of paper dolls with fancy clothes that fitted on the figure using flaps of paper that extended from the costume itself. They came in all kinds of period costume, so you could make up stories from the past. I only saw those once.

v) Christmas decorations: Crepe paper and newspaper made chains and twists to hang on the walls and on the tree we’d get from the bush. Silver paper from inside cigarette packets would cover a cardboard star (cut from a cereal box) to put at the top of the tree.

Things Made from Wood

i) Scooters. Dad worked with wood in his shed. When we were little we didn’t have any spare money. One Christmas Dad made wooden scooters for me and my younger sister. The whole thing was made from wood except for the wheels. We thought they were great! (Ten years later, Dad made my little brother a scooter in steel, using the footrest of an old motorbike for the base)

ii) Cars and boats: I used the off-cuts from Dad’s shed to make myself cars and boats. I was always fascinated by the circles of plywood that resulted when Dad drilled a big hole in plywood and I used to use them for wheels on my wooden block cars and trucks.

wooden wheel

Dad made a canoe for Peter when he was about 13-14. It was made from plywood and had outriggers for safety. Peter used to paddle around on the lake, exploring all the bays and creeks. I was so jealous that I couldn’t have one – indeed, I wasn’t even allowed to set foot in that one.

Things Made from Shells

One of the things we loved to do was go to the beach. We didn’t go to swim – none of us could! We went to play in the sand and at the water’s edge, and to see the sea creatures in the rock pools along from the beach. And we went to collect shells. Mum loved shells and did so all her life. Kids love shells too of course, and Shellharbour, where we went, still had a multitude of them along the beach and the rocks. There are only little ones now, and none of the larger ones we used to get.

Mum used shells to decorate around picture frames and mirrors. When I was about twelve, I made two wall plaques. They were a map of England and one of Australia, in-filled with small shells on plywood backings that Dad cut out for me. I lacquered them when they were done. The one of Australia has disappeared, but when I was looking for something for Dad in his cupboard, not long before he died, I found the one I made of England.

Shell map England re-sized

Reading, Writing and Drawing

My brother and I especially loved reading, and we belonged to the local public library from an early age; I also used to get books from school. Primary schools received the School Magazine from the NSW Education Department. There were separate ones for different grades, issued each month during the school year (ten per year). I loved these too. If I were lucky, I would get a book for Christmas or for my birthday. I remember one Christmas – 1958 I think – I got the first books of my own. I spent a lot of time as a child and a teenager with my head in a book. I loved adventure, and read as much as I could about it, I also wanted to write my own stories. I began many but didn’t get far with them as I just didn’t know how to do it.

Like most kids, we drew pictures and coloured them. Mostly what we used in the early days was the creamy white paper that meat from the butcher came wrapped in. We occasionally had drawing or colouring books too. On rainy days, when I wasn’t reading or doing jobs, I’d settle down with paper, coloured pencils and (usually) Peter’s set of compasses. These circle flower designs were one of the things I loved making. I made other designs as well as this one, but I loved the symmetry of this one and it was my favourite. These two colours, blue and yellow, were also my favourites then and I loved using them together.

Circle flower design

(c) Linda Visman

Building Rooms as the Family Grows

March 8, 2015 at 1:01 pm | Posted in 1950s, Australia, Culture, Family, Family History, Gratitude, History, Memoir, Migration | 3 Comments
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I have been away, and set this post to be published on Monday the 9th March. It didn’t work for some reason. Now I am back home, here it is.

 

 

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By the end of 1957, we’d been out of our four-berth caravan for about a year, and were living in the tiny three-roomed cottage Dad had bought and set up on our block of land. He had also built an extra room onto the back of it during that time, a bedroom for us four kids. At last Mum and Dad could have their own bedroom. But it was to be for only for a short time.

Mum’s brother and family had come from England to Adelaide in South Australia . My uncle visited us from there about 1957, and decided there was plenty of work for him in the Illawarra region of New South Wales and that he would leave his job in Adelaide and bring his family there. They would move in with us until they had a place of their own.

So Dad again had to get busy building a small two-roomed ‘garage’ next to our little cottage. Its front room served as a very basic kitchen, the back one as a bedroom, into which Aunty and Uncle moved with their young daughter. Their older son joined us four kids in the new bedroom. By that time, our total household amounted to ten people – and Mum was pregnant with twins.

This sharing of limited resources with extended family was not an unusual situation for the times. In the late 1940s and especially in the 1950s, Australia’s population grew very quickly, due to both post-war immigration and the baby boom. A great many migrants began their lives (once they had left the migrant camps to which many had come) with the purchase of a block of land and very little else. From there, they would build their own ‘garage’ that would house their family until they earned enough to build their own house.

When I say ‘build their own garage/house’, I mean that literally – many, if not most, did indeed build with their own hands. They couldn’t afford the cost of having it built by someone else. The 1950s was a time of great energy and enthusiasm, a reaction to the horrors of six years of war, a grasping of the freedom European migrants were offered in a new land. It was a time of economic growth, when most people were willing to put up with hard work, long hours and difficult living conditions in order to make a better life for themselves and their family than they would have had in post-war Europe.

Post war migrants arriving in Australia

Post war migrants arriving in Australia

In mid-1958, after a difficult birth where Mum came close to losing her life, our baby brother joined the family. His twin sister had, unfortunately, died at birth. It was about then, with their only two children in Australia, that Mum’s parents decided they would come too. When Grandma and Granddad arrived in late 1958, Mum and Dad moved out of their newly regained bedroom so her parents could have it, and went back to the night-and-day in the lounge room.

Dad was busy building rooms again. The kitchen, which in 2014 still had its original small cupboards, would be extended to a new outer door, and the little L-shaped cottage would become a rectangle, with two more bedrooms filling in the space. 1958 was a year of high rainfall in New South Wales and Dad was often rained off the building projects he worked on as builder’s labourer and concreter. During those down times, Dad worked on our house. He says he did more work on our house in those days than he did on his regular work, even in the rain.

Late 1958. The last two bedrooms are still under construction. My lovely grandmother stands at the doorway. On the grass are me (second from right) and my two sisters and our baby brother, with our two cousins. My older brother isn’t in the photo.

Late 1958. The last two bedrooms are still under construction. My lovely grandmother stands at the doorway. On the grass are me (second from right) and my two sisters and our baby brother, with our two cousins. My older brother isn’t in the photo.

Granddad had never helped my parents with a penny the whole time they were with us. Grandma slipped a few pounds to Mum from time to time when she could. She also gave us grandkids a shilling a week pocket money. We thought it a fortune, as we’d never had our own money before. In 1959 I think it was, my uncle bought a block of land close to the railway station with finance from Granddad. Granddad also helped to finance the building of a house there. Once it was completed, my uncle, aunt and cousins, and my grandparents too, moved in. At last, our family of seven had our home to ourselves.

For us kids, life was pretty good back then. We didn’t have much in the way of toys and possessions, but we had fresh air, plenty of room to play, lots of interesting places to investigate, and few worries, apart from our schooling and household chores. However, when I see the burdens my parents carried, I realise how difficult it must have been for them. I also believe it made us all stronger, both individually and as a family. Our parents gave us five kids a good start in many ways and we had much to be grateful for.

(c) Linda Visman

Photographs on Friday – Scrapbooking

January 23, 2015 at 12:49 pm | Posted in Family, Family History, Love, Memoir, Photography, Scrapbooking | 6 Comments
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I have decided that, when I can, I will post some of my photographs on a Friday – I was going to call these Friday Photos, but I decided on Photographs on Friday instead. I like the alliteration in both, but prefer the rhythm of the latter. I haven’t learned how to make myself a logo for these pages yet, but hope to do so soon.

I have been scrapbooking for a couple of years now, mainly to get digital photos printed and preserved. I could have just printed a whole lot and put them in an album as we used to do in the old days. However I decided to take up scrapbooking and add meaning to them.

Scrapbooking is more than just sticking photos on a page – the. It is also more than sticking photos on a page with lots of fancy embellishments. It is telling a story that you want preserved. Yes, embellishments can be used, but they are most effective when they enhance the story.

Because I am a writer, I often like to add the written story too. Sometimes, this is written or printed and adhered to the page like a photo would be. At other times, the written story can be tucked behind a photo or an embellishment or hidden in other ways.

In these pages, I have told two stories of farewell that I have been putting off since my father died 18 months ago – one to our parents and one to our childhood home. I have used photos and embellishments, some of which I purchased, some I made myself.

Here are photos of these two pages, created just this week.

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The ‘Leaving 73’ page has journaling hidden behind the biggest photo (that my brother enhanced by adding a photo of Dad). In is on a card that can be pulled out, with the ‘Memories’ tag stuck on it. The ‘Mum & Dad’ page tells its own story.

I will probably post more ‘normal’ photos next week.

(c) Linda Visman 23.01.2015

Memories of England (1)

January 12, 2015 at 7:25 pm | Posted in 1940s, 1950s, England, Family, Memoir, Oswaldtwistle | 8 Comments
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This is the first of my entries for Monday Memoir. I am using the Monday Memoir logo from my friend Queasy Peasy’s blog. Thanks to her inspiration, I intend to post entries in this category each Monday.

monday-memoir-badge

 

My Early Childhood

I was born in Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire, England in 1948, and lived there until my family migrated to Australia in February 1954. The Lancashire climate is humid, and the cotton industry flourished there in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. When I say the climate is humid, I mean that it rains a lot there!

Remains of Rhyddings Mill, Oswaldtwistle

Remains of Rhyddings Mill, Oswaldtwistle

There were many huge red-brick cotton mills in and around the town, carding, spinning and weaving cotton products for domestic and overseas markets. There were also all the support industries, such as dyeing and maintenance. Streets of terrace houses had been built by mill owners for their workers. It was in such a terrace house, a “three-up-three-down built of stone, that I and my older brother and my two sisters were born.

By the 1950s, the cotton industry had been killed off by cheap imports from places such as India, and engineering had taken over as the major industry of our district. My father had been a moulder before World War II, but joined the R.A.F. in 1941. When he returned home after he was demobilized in June 1946, he hated being in a foundry and worked outdoors whenever he could.

Mum & Dad with my older brother, 1945.

Mum & Dad with my older brother, 1945.

I have very few concrete memories of my life in England, even though I was old enough to begin school there after the summer holidays until we left in mid-winter. I attended St Mary’s Catholic School with my older brother and sister. We walked over a mile there and back each day in sun and wind, rain and snow and sleet. The only memory I have of school is sitting next to a girl who had head lice; I didn’t like her.

Mum, me & my older sister, about 1950

Mum, me & my older sister, about 1950

Here are a couple of earlier memories that I do have:

Hospital – I was in isolation at Blackburn Infirmary, suffering from glandular fever; aged about 2-3 years.

I’m in a cot. I don’t like being in a cot. I’m standing in the cot and holding the bars, and looking at the door. There is a smell. I don’t like the smell and I don’t like being here. Mummy and Daddy are coming. I can see them. Maybe they will take me home today.

Me and my siblings 1953

Me and my siblings 1953

Toy HorseI am about 2-3 years old

I’m on my horse outside the front of the house. The house is on Roe Greave Road. It is made of stone and is big and solid and dark from all the smoke. All the houses are joined together and there is a whole street of them with doors opening onto the footpath. The footpath outside the house runs between the front wall and the cobbled street. My horse is made of wood and has wheels. I push it along with my feet, but every time it comes to a nick in the footpath it stops, and I have to lift the front wheels over it. It is a bit heavy, but it’s good fun.

 My brother and I playing on the footpath in front of our house c.1950

My brother and I playing on the footpath in front of our house c.1950

Leggings – I am about 3-4 years old

We are going for a walk. It is winter and here is snow on the ground. Mummy is putting on my leggings for me so my legs won’t get cold. I have a coat on over my dress. My leggings are made of thin leather and they are soft and brown. They cover my legs from my shoes to my knees. There are lots and lots of little buttons down the sides and Mummy has to do them all up. I love my leggings and all the little buttons, but I can’t do them up myself.

 

 

Buttercups and Bluebells

We’re all going for a walk up to the Top Reservoir, my Mum and Dad, my two sisters and my brother and me – Sheelagh is in her pram. Buttercups cover the ground, bright and golden and cheerful. When I pick one I hold it up to my face. When you hold them up to your face the gold shines on you. Little bits of yellow powder fall off the flower and cover my nose. We come to a glade. Farther on there are trees around, and under them are carpets of bluebells. The whole ground is blue.

When we get to the moors near the water, we have a picnic. Dad cooks baked beans and bacon on a fire. I feel good.

Buttercups – looking over Oswaldtwistle in 2010

Buttercups – looking over Oswaldtwistle in 2010

© Linda Visman

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