Sunday, November 18, 2007

Earliest Memory Meme

Neil (Ninglun) tagged me for this one. He asked me to:

  • Describe my earliest memory where the memory is clear, and where “clear” means I can depict at least three details.
  • Give an estimate of my age at the time.
  • Tag five other bloggers with this meme.

I am not going to nominate five more bloggers at this point. Having just checked my blog list, I am not sure that I actually know five bloggers well enough to ask excluding those already participating, those like LE who are temporarily off-line or those whose blogs are in some ways not suited to this type of exercise.

Still, to please Neil I will respond myself.

When I was four, we moved from a little cottage in Rusden Street Armidale into a bigger weatherboard house on South Hill. So all my memories of Rusden Street are four or earlier.

I can remember a fair bit about Rusden Street. Not things that I have been told, but scenes in my mind. Like most Armidale houses, it had a back yard where Dad grew vegetables. I remember this, including the huge (to me) paling fence that separated the yard from the Plymouth Bretheren Church on the corner next door. I remember sitting on the back steps. I remember my bedroom, and the park just down the road in front of the hospital with the swings.

I have no idea which was the earliest memory, although I suspect that it may well have been the light and shade memories of my bedroom. However, I have to pick one memory.

Photo: Brisbane Mail crossing Quartpot Creek near Stanthorpe 1966. Eric Marggraf, Australian Railway Historical Society, Queensland Division.

When I was born the Great Northern Railway was still the main rail line between Sydney and Brisbane. Unlike Queensland where the Government kept its lines open and is now using them quite effectively as a tourism draw card, the more prosaic and I think short-sighted Sydney Government closed this historic line north of Armidale in the name of economy.

At the time I am writing of, the passenger and freight trains still went through Armidale on the long journey between the state capitals, whistling as they struggled up the long grades. Armidale railway station was still a bustling place with its long platform and refreshment room.

The Brisbane Mail itself went through Armidale at 4am in the morning on the way to Wallangarra where the passengers detrained to join the narrow gauge Queensland system.

Photo: Wallangarra Railway Station today. The Queensland station is on the left, the NSW station on the right. Passengers used to carry their luggage between the two.

I do not know why Dad needed to go to Brisbane, presumably on some business connected with the University College. I do remember, however, being allowed to get up in the early morning and then eating eating toast with Mum and Dad in the dimly lit front room before Dad left for the railway station.

Boy, those trains could be cold. The only heating came from chemical heaters, small metal containers, that we used to shake to try to warm them up. For those not lucky enough to have sleepers, the overnight train trips often meant sitting up huddled under a blanket to keep warm.


Koren said...

Beautiful memory, Jim. I like looking back into people's pasts.

It's funny you should mention the huge fence in your yard; when I went back to my Brisbane for my Nan's 90th in August her backyard seemed so much smaller than I remembered. It was once the size of a football oval...or so it seemed.

Jim Belshaw said...

Interesting how things shrink, isn't it. I have been reading about your rolling farewell to school. Must be a real emotional roller coaster.