Anzac Day 2016 in Wangi Wangi

April 25, 2016 at 4:47 pm | Posted in Australia, History, Reflections, Society, Special Occasions, War and Conflict | 15 Comments
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ANZAC means Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.

As we do every year, today we celebrate Anzac Day here in Australia and in New Zealand.

The landing by the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) on Turkey’s Gallipoli peninsula on 25 April 1915 was Australia’s first major action of the Great War. These soldiers quickly became known as Anzacs, and the pride they took in that name endures to this day.

When they landed they faced fierce resistance from the Ottoman Turkish defenders. What had been planned as a bold stroke to knock Turkey out of the war quickly became a stalemate, and the campaign dragged on for eight months. At the end of 1915 the allied forces were evacuated from the peninsula, with both sides having suffered heavy casualties and endured great hardships. More than 8,000 Australian soldiers died in the campaign.

Gallipoli had a profound impact on Australians at home, and 25 April soon became the day on which Australians remembered the sacrifice of those who died in the war.

I have written before on Anzac Day – herehere and here.  And Here is more background.

Here in Wangi Wangi, NSW, there was a dawn service. At 10 o’clock we had a parade down Wangi’s main street, consisting of past and current servicemen and women, school children, and members of various public services and voluntary organisations. The R.A.A.F. provided the armed service contingent this year.

The large and growing contingent of vintage army vehicles is a always popular drawcard for everyone. It ended at the memorial in front of the RSL (Returned Services League) Club, where a half hour ceremony was conducted.

We also had a flypast by three BAe Hawk fighter jets from the RAAF base at Williamtown, Newcastle.

I took photos of the parade and the later display of vehicles, but I could only get one partial shot of the people conducting the ceremony as I wasn’t tall enough to see over those in front of me. Here are some of the highlights of the morning.

01 Hardware sign

02 RAAF lead parade

03 salute

04 K9 unit

05 Wangi school

06 Full tracks

07 Jeeps

08 Ambulances

09 Old blitz trucks

10 Half-track truck

11 Crowd heads to the ceremony area

12 Ceremony blocked by crowd

13 Part of vehicle display

14 Looking to lake

15 Looking from jetty

16 Flags

 

Lest we forget

 

I have heard people who are quite opposed in their views about occasions such as ANZAC Day, Remembrance Day and others. Do you think they really commemorate those who served and suffered for a righteous cause? Or are these occasions really glorifications of nationalistic pride?  I would be interested if you could share your views.

 

(c) Linda Visman,  25th April 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Leaving High School – Hopes for the future

December 14, 2015 at 1:30 am | Posted in Australia, Education, Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, high school, History, Memoir | 9 Comments
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The Leaving Certificate exams were held In November 1965. These were the culmination of twelve years of schooling, and the results would determine much about our future. It was important therefore that we put everything into them we were capable of – at least that’s what I thought.

About October, the school held its end-of-year assembly and prize-giving. I won the senior public speaking prize for my Anzac Day speech -a copy of Palgrave’s Golden Treasury of VersePalgrave’s Golden Treasury of Verse. I also won the French Consulate prize for French – I don’t know whether it was just for our school or for the region. That prize was also a book, a history of life in France, La vie Francais a travers les ages. I kept and read both of those books for many years. In late 1989, just before leaving New South Wales for nine years to teach in remote areas of the Northern Territory, I boxed up most of my books so they wouldn’t get damaged and left them with a friend. Soon after that, the friend left the area and I never found him again – nor did I get my thirteen boxes of books back!

Before the exams, we had a week’s break from school for study. We called it StuVac (study vacation). It was our final opportunity to catch up on, go over, pretend, go into a panic, or hopefully understand and expand our knowledge of the topics we hoped would be covered. Most people know the stress that final exams can put onto a student. In those days, any assessments we received during the school year did not contribute to our final result. They meant nothing – the examinations were everything. Some students, not as motivated as others, took the week as if it were an ordinary holiday, or only did a minimum of work. Others, including myself, were determined to do the best we could. Some wanted high grades, whilst others just wanted to pass well enough to get that precious certificate. I set up a study regime for myself and spent many hours every day working to achieve the best grades I could.

Our last day of school before StuVac was ‘muck-up’ day for our cohort of students, a day to let off steam before the intensity of cramming and exams. The principal, Mr Stacey, had made it clear before muck-up day, that there was to be no vandalism, no damage done to any property and that we had to clean up afterwards ourselves. If those rules were broken, he said, our school references would be withheld – references that we needed to impress prospective employers.

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Gangsters at DHS

 

On the day, everyone dressed up in whatever we felt like, and did things like flour- or water-bomb teachers and other students. The science students made and released rotten egg gas – a staple. Dirk, who became my husband forty years later, was in the same year as me. He remembers more of the day than I do and told me more about what went on. One group dressed up as gangsters and their molls and drove around the school in a student’s 1940s car. Some of the boys picked up a teacher’s car – a Mini Minor – and carried it down to the end of the sports field and set it down sideways between the goal posts. They did return it to its place before leaving the school though, I’m glad to say. Some students held an assembly where ‘famous people’ made speeches, including an occasional satirical comment about the teachers. It was all good clean fun.

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‘Famous’ figures of fun

 Examination week came during an early summer season. We wrote them in our school’s assembly hall, which was next to a grove of trees. That year was a great one for cicadas and their strident noise almost made it impossible to hear the moderators give us our instructions. But once I began, all sound seemed to vanish as I concentrated on my exam papers. It’s weird that I don’t remember any of those papers now. The only thing that immediately comes to mind when I think of those days is that almost overwhelming noise of the cicadas.

Nowadays, students in this country who have finished their exams have what has become known as Schoolies’ Week. Many go off for cruises or to popular tourist spots, like the Gold Coast. Most have, after their six years of high school to our five, turned eighteen. They are legal adults, and in many cases the focus of their newly-won freedom seems to be an orgy of sex, drugs and alcohol. When we finished school, we were seventeen, still legally children, even though most kids our age had already been out in the workforce for two years or more.

On the last day of our exams we said goodbye to Dapto High school. Those who already had jobs to go to, started as soon as the exams were finished. Dirk began his on-the-job training at Port Kembla Steelworks as a metallurgist. Valerie and I among others were hoping to go on to further education, and we had our last summer holidays to enjoy. Val and I would occasionally visit each other’s homes and go for walks, where the topic of conversation often turned to our hopes for the future.

Val wanted to be a Maths teacher. As French had been my favourite Parlez-vous francaisesubject, I had decided I would teach languages. When we talked about the exciting possibility of overseas travel, my destination would always be France. I wanted to speak the language properly and see the country I often read about. Val previous results just about guaranteed her a place at university, but that was a prize I had never thought I could reach – nobody in my family had even aspired to those heights. So, although I tried to be optimistic, I didn’t know what the future really held.

Then, in January 1966, I received my hard-earned Leaving Certificate. My results were good enough to earn me the choice of any one of three scholarships to university. After discussing it with my parents, I settled on the Teachers College scholarship that was tenable at university. The nearest one was the University of Sydney, the oldest and most prestigious in Australia. There, six weeks later, I would begin my studies to become a teacher of French and German in the public education system.

(c) Linda Visman

 

 

High School P.E. and Sport

November 30, 2015 at 12:30 am | Posted in Australia, Education, Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, high school, History, Memoir | 5 Comments
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Academic subjects weren’t my only focus at school. Sport is a regular part of school in Australia. It is part of the health curriculum, occurs within normal school time, and is for everyone, not just the better athletes. As such, all years and class groups (up to fourth year in my day) participated in a physical education lesson each week.

Girl with vigoro  2In my Catholic primary school, the nuns did the best they could to teach us games and a few skills. I remember playing ball games, and loved a game similar to cricket, but with an odd-shaped bat, called vigoro. However I do not remember the school ever having any sporting interaction, or any other interaction for that matter, with other schools. We also never went swimming – it’s probably pretty obvious why, I suppose.

However, at Dapto High, as well as our weekly forty-minute P.E. lesson, we also had an afternoon of sports – on Thursdays then for us, as well as for most schools in the region. The only time P.E. or sport would be called off was in heavy rain. All kids had to participate unless they had a note from a parent to say why they couldn’t. High schools had boys’ and a girls’ P.E. teacher, and kids were segregated by gender for all sporting activities.

I was reasonably athletic and co-ordinated, though certainly not outstanding, and liked getting outdoors as a change from the classroom. We all hated our girls’ P.E. uniform, though it was much better than our regular school uniform. It was a square-necked, sleeveless plain cotton tunic with no pleats in school colours of maroon (the actual tunic) and gold (two strips of braid near the bottom), with a white shirt under it and a cloth belt that few wore. The tunic came to less than half-way down to the knee, and we wore maroon bloomers under it for decency. Footwear was the ubiquitous white canvas tennis shoe of the times (called a sandshoe) with short white socks.

Girls softball team 1964

P.E. lessons in the cooler months covered track and field or ball game skills. In summer we were expected to go to swimming lessons. In the track events, I was a sprinter and not a stayer. I enjoyed the field activities: long jump, though not so much high jumps; javelin, discus and shot putt. The ball games – captain ball and tunnel ball – were fun.

On sports afternoons, we were allowed to choose one of the activities available. In the winter months these were usually football (rugby league) or basketball (what we then called International Rules) and soccer for the boys, and hockey, basketball or netball for the girls. In summer, the options were cricket, tennis, squash or swimming for the boys, and softball, tennis, squash or swimming for the girls. Athletics was also available for both boys and girls.

I loved hockey and softball so usually chose them. In Australia kids were expected to be capable swimmers by their teens, and students were encouraged to learn and be tested for life-saving medals at various levels. However, I couldn’t swim and had caught my mother’s deeply ingrained fear of the water, so I completely avoided the sport of swimming.

In fourth year at Dapto High, the choice of summer sport for girls was broadened with the addition of cricket as an option. We were a cricket-mad family, and played whenever we could – just ours and Mum’s brother’s family – at the park, the beach, or in the back yard. When England and Australia played a Test match, the radio was on for us to listen to the play. So, when cricket was offered, I jumped in with both feet, even though the teacher who took us was the Economics teacher I didn’t like. That didn’t matter – I could play the game and I loved it.

 We were actually the first high school in our region to allow girls to play cricket in the first summer at the start of 1964. Because we could only play within the school, and there were not a great many girls who took on the game, we were limited in our competition. However, skills grew and, with the start of summer at the end of 1964, a few other schools had had started up girls’ teams. Me and a girl called Isabel were the stars of our team. When our school’s team (with me and Isabel in photos) was featured on the sports pages of our local rag, The Illawarra Daily Mercury, we said we’d play any other girls’ team that would accept the challenge. We couldn’t play the boys, of course. No school accepted that year.

 Mercury picture Linda playing cricket 1964

Team games were my preference, as I had very little chance of doing well against the more actively sports-involved girls. I never made the school softball team, and only once was selected to play hockey in an annual inter-school sports competition with Arthur Phillip High in Parramatta. It was even held at that school the year I was involved, and we were billeted with the families of students there.

In Fourth year, I gained my hockey umpire certificate. I also joined the school hockey team that played in the regional Saturday (not school) hockey competition. I almost always played the centre forward position, which I loved. It sure was a change for me to play with some of the more popular girls of the school – the only time I really interacted with them.

Each summer there was a swimming carnival. I don’t remember ever going to one. Each winter, we had an athletics carnival, where I competed in several different events, but was never placed. One of the features of school sports carnivals was the cheering for the representatives of your ‘house’. When each student started at the school he or she would be assigned to one of four houses on the basis of their last name.

Clive Churchill medal for GFman of match

Clive Churchill, with the medal in his name that is awarded to the man of the match in the Rugby League Grand Final each year.

 

The houses were Bradman, Landy, Konrads and Churchill, named for Australian sporting heroes of the time: Don Bradman (cricket); John Landy (long distance running); John and Illsa Konrad (swimming) and Clive Churchill (rugby league football). Their colours were red, yellow, blue and green. I belonged to Churchill – surnames from S-Z, but I only recall that it was green, not which belonged to which other house.

The houses competed against each other for points, and the champion house was the one whose athletes got the most at the end of the comp. So we had to cheer them on with silly war cries screamed out as loudly as we could.

Altogether, my academic studies and the sport made school both challenging and satisfying. There were a few other aspects that I found a bit more difficult to get into.

 

 

(c) Linda Visman

 

 

My Primary School Years (1)

September 21, 2015 at 12:30 am | Posted in Australia, Education, Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, History, Memoir, Religion | 7 Comments
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I had started at St Mary’s Catholic school back in Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire, after their summer break (August or September) in 1953. I had just turned five years old. My brother and older sister were already there, and we walked the mile or more to and from school together – rain or snow or sunshine. The only thing I remember from then is that the girl sitting next to me had head lice.

After we arrived in Australia in March 1954, the three of us attended St John’s Catholic school in Dapto. My younger sister was about to turn four and would start the following year. Apart from wagging school and getting punished for it, I have only a few vague memories of school.

One memory is of walking from the coal truck that dropped us on the main street up the hill to the school, carrying our home-made cloth school bags. On one of those days, my sister Pauline was stabbed in the leg by the nib of her pen that had poked through the cloth; I think she still has a blue mark where the skin was pierced. After that, we got leather satchels for our school books.

Linda & Pauline in their new macs, ready for school, 1955. Pauline is carrying her school satchel.

Linda & Pauline in their new macs, ready for school, 1955. Pauline is carrying her school satchel.

We moved to Albion Park Rail in 1956 and once again we were sent to the local Catholic school, St Paul’s, in Albion Park. That was about 3-4 miles away, so we caught the school bus. St Paul’s school was in a small, four-room brick building, and was situated on a 3-4 acre block at the western edge of town. It had a large playground that sloped down to the road. To one side of the school building was the weatherboard convent, where the nuns lived.

On the other side of the convent stood the two-storey presbytery, the priest’s house, and the church was after that. Beyond the Catholic church when we attended, was the Church of England, and across the road was the Presbyterian church.

* The area known first as Terry’s Meadows had been settled by the 1830s; and in 1859 the township was officially named Albion Park. There was mixed farming at first, but gradually dairy farming became the largest and most profitable primary in much of the Illawarra district (apart from coal and in the 20th century, steel).

The original Catholic Church, built of weatherboard, was established in 1867, but there was no school until parishioners wrote to Mother Mary MacKillop in 1881, requesting her to staff a new school with her ‘hard working Sisters of St Joseph’. The foundation stone for the convent school was laid in September 1881, and school began early the following year with about forty pupils. For about fifty years, the school was named St Joseph’s, for the Josephite order who taught there. Later, it became St Paul’s.

St Paul's (then St Joseph's) school 1925

St Paul’s (then St Joseph’s) school 1925

Schooling in the early days at St Paul’s consisted of the three Rs; the traditional Reading, Writing and ‘rithmatic, but with an added fourth R – Religion. Religion was what made it different to state schools, drawing Catholics together in a common faith and community.

Many children at that time would walk or ride horses up to four miles each way to school, and that was after having helped with milking and other work before school, and then again after school.

(c) Linda Visman

* Historical material sourced from Daybreak, a history of the Sisters of St Joseph in Albion Park, 1883-1983, a publication to commemorate their centenary, 1983.

A to Z Challenge – T is for Time

April 23, 2015 at 12:05 am | Posted in A-Z Blogging Challenge 2015, History, Philosophy, Poetry | 13 Comments
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A2Z-BADGE [2015] - Life is Good

Time – framed

 

Have you ever wondered where ‘time’ comes from? I wrote this poem after I heard the clock chime midnight.

.

Twelve chimes mark the end of day

and the beginning of the next.

Although Man’s own construct

Time seems almost mystical

measuring our days as we move

from past through present

to future.

.

How many days will we own?

One or nine hundred,

or twenty-five thousand –

our three score and ten.

In our allotted days

life becomes complete –

or at least completed.

.

We waste our minutes

count our hours

measure our months

celebrate our years.

.

And yet they do not exist in reality

but only in our minds.

We did not need them in the forests

nor in the caves.

.

But as we hunted and gathered

we became aware of seasons

and named them, giving them magic

framing the cycles of life

of planting, growth and harvest

binding them to us

in ritual and celebration.

.

And so we created Time –

to measure the seasons

to plan our toil and our rest

to measure our lives

to provide meaning and certainty.

.

Now, Time is a number

measurable beyond the change

from season to season

or from night to day.

Time is hours, minutes and seconds

nanoseconds

timetables and calendars

Time is money

Time marches on.

.

The tool has become the master;

our creation has become a tyrant.

We don’t have time

Time waits for no man

Time’s up.

.

Perhaps we should take

Time out.

.

(c) Linda Visman

A to Z Challenge – G is for Going Grand

April 8, 2015 at 12:05 am | Posted in History, Philosophy, Poetry | 7 Comments
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A2Z-BADGE [2015] - Life is Good

It is amazing what can inspire a poem. This one came from a newspaper report I read of an airline crash.

Going Grand

 

An old postcard, tucked into the mirror.

the writing, scrawled and faded.

….

How close is Death? Can we ever know?

Awareness of the grave is

a sword of Damocles above my head,

held by a single, flimsy thread;

waiting for a weakness, a jolt, a blade.

Inevitable extinction; the flip side,

the corollary – the end point, of life.

How long abides that life?

….

I turned the postcard over

to see the picture on the front.

….

Last week, a friend died,

six weeks short of his century,

a former prisoner of war

who reconciled enemies

and bequeathed to generations,

his life’s spirit, fruitful and inspiring.

….

Others died last week:

Wombed babies, aborted

by accident or design;

Infants, starved by war and famine;

Children, lost to accident or affliction,

neglect or violence;

Life barely tasted.

….

A curlicued border surrounded

the sepia photograph of a mighty ship.

….

Some died in the midst of life:

young men who drove too fast or lived too hard;

innocent victims of hate and suicide bombers;

soldiers, sacrificed in wars decreed by others.

Some welcomed Death’s cold embrace,

escaping the heated anguish of Life.

….

Others slipped away under the allure

of mind-altering drugs.

And how many others were just

in the wrong place at the wrong time?

….

The “Titanic”, in all her majesty;

symbol of a new and glorious future,

magnificently portrayed.

….

What of we, who have tasted

Life’s full flavour –

or frittered it away

in wasteful might-have-beens?

….

Are our lives any different

to those foreshortened?

Do we, any more than they,

know the time of our passing?

….

Dear friend, the writing on the back said,

‘just a line to show I am alive

and kicking and going grand.’

….

Death comes by chance alone

it seems at times – Fate’s whimsy.

Many say that Life and Death,

their time and span,

are not ours to determine,

but are in the hands of God;

or perhaps of Destiny –

our time written in the stars.

We do not know the hour;

and if we did,

would it make a difference?

….

The postcard was dated the day before

the ill-fated vessel sank beneath

the frigid waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

….

 

(c)  Linda Visman

Written after reading an article by Matt Price in Weekend Australian (10th Feb. 07) about the death, last week, of one journalist and the serious injury of another in the Garuda Airlines crash in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Price mentions the story of an old postcard that cosmologist, Carl Sagan, kept near his shaving mirror.

Matt Price himself died towards the end of 2007 of a brain tumour. He was aged in his early forties.

A toZ Challenge – E is for Embrace the Good

April 6, 2015 at 12:05 am | Posted in Destroying nature, Gratitude, History, Poetry | 13 Comments
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A2Z-BADGE [2015] - Life is Good

 

 

I don’t know about you, but there are many times when I wonder what the world is coming to. I am concerned about wars and what is happening to our environment, the horrible things people do to each other …….

One day, I wrote a poem about it.

 

 

Embrace the Good

 

I’m sitting in my lounge room chair

Thinking about the world’s indirectness;

Reading the paper, trying to understand

All about political correctness;

I’m wondering why they just can’t call

Everything by its proper name –

But every now and then I hear

My children out enjoying their game.

I’m making the beds and listening

To ABC radio’s latest news

When I find that I’m breaking down in tears

At the things that some people choose

To do unto their fellow man;

Why does this always have to be?

But now and then a magpie’s clear song

Breaks into my misery.

I’m walking along a street in town

To the shops and to mail a letter

When I hear someone at the corner proclaim

To all his religion is better.

I despair at the terrible wars that result,

And the suffering that comes from Man’s greed –

But I look at the colourful flowers that grow

And the beauty that comes from their seed.

Sometimes the misery and grief of the world

Seem to fill up the depths of my soul,

And it’s hard to carry on every day;

When the pain is a smouldering coal.

Then someone does a kindly thing

Or I see the smile on a baby’s face,

And I realise there is much good in the world –

It’s this good that I must embrace.

(c)  Linda Visman

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

Entertaining ourselves in the 1950s and early 1960s (1)

March 23, 2015 at 11:22 am | Posted in 1950s, Australia, Culture, History, Leisure activities, Memoir | 16 Comments
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Apart from the little ride-on horse I have mentioned before, and my older brother and sister’s trike, I cannot remember any play activities in England. However we did often go for walks in the countryside, over the local moors.

My sisters played with dolls, but I was never interested in them like they were. Dad had made gollywogs for my younger sister and me from fabric blanks he got when he worked in the weaving mill in Oswaldtwistle. Mine came with me to Australia, and I have a photo of me holding it, taken at the caravan at Reed Park, Dapto.

Me with my gollywog on the caravan step; my elder sister with her doll.

Me with my gollywog on the caravan step; my elder sister with her doll.

Making My Own Wild West

I was a real tomboy and wanted to be an explorer, a cowboy or an Indian. Inside certain cereal packets were small plastic toys to collect. For me, the best of these were the cowboys and Indians and horses for them to ride. The packets also had cut-out wild west buildings on the back that fit together. You could collect these and make your own town. It was mostly me who played with them.

CowboyAndIndianFigures

I often made bows out of the shrubs and thin branches that grew around the place, and string. My arrows I made from a green weed that grew long straight stalks and dried off in summer after seeding. Though light, they made fairly reasonable (straight at least) arrows. I made my quivers for the arrows out of newspaper.

Here I am with my sisters, posing with my home-made bow and arrow.

Here I am with my sisters, posing with my home-made bow and arrow.

I loved the poem “Hiawatha”, which I’d read in an issue of our NSW Education Department school magazine when I was about nine. The poem mentioned the type of wood, ash, that Hiawatha used to make his wonderful bow with, and I decided to make a bow for myself just like Hiawatha had. I asked my brother Peter if there were ash trees around. He laughed and said, “You’ve been reading ‘Hiawatha’, haven’t you?” I was embarrassed and denied it. He said “Anyway that’s America. We don’t have those trees here”. I was very disappointed.

It was rare for us to have ‘real’ toy guns. We would make a pretend gun from a dolly peg, a matchbox and an elastic band. Mum used dolly pegs for hanging the clothes on the line (no spring pegs then). Sometimes if the clothing was too thick, the peg would split; leaving the top part and one ‘leg’. We would use this broken peg and, with a doubled rubber band, fix a matchbox, sitting upward and end-on to it. The head of the peg became the handle of the gun, and the matchbox was the barrel. If you fitted a half-match with the rubber band stretched around it, between the box and the peg and then depressed the matchbox with your finger as if firing a gun, the match stick would fly off like a (slow) bullet. Mum would find that more of her pegs than she thought had suddenly lost one leg!

Gun& Holster set 1950s

A gun and holster set from the 1950s

As many kids did, we made rifles from odd bits of wood that had the right approximate shape. One Christmas, when I was about eight, I received a cowboy set – chaps, vest and a gun-belt with a toy pistol. It was just what I wanted, and I thought it was great – except that my skirt would get in the way of the chaps, as we girls weren’t allowed to wear pants then. My younger sister got a cowgirl outfit, so we played together sometimes, but I thought she was too girly most of the time.

(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
Tags: , , , , , ,

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.

 

 

monday-memoir-badge

 

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

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