Friday, May 04, 2012

A New England childhood - a country slice

I was responding to comments and then I suddenly realised that I hadn't posted today!

In a comment on Personal indulgences just for regular Kathleen Drummond Forglen 1944readers, marcellous wrote:

What a charming picture of yourself when young.
Seems quite another era.

Another era is right. I often describe myself as a townie since most of my friends were from town. But I was also gown and had a country slice. These are a few more photos from that early country slice. 

The photo included in my last post showed me as a two year old on the verandah at Forglen, my grandfather's place. I really loved going there as a young child.

This photo taken the year before I was born shows Aunt Kay (Kathleen Vickers nee Drummond) ready for riding.

All our aunts but especially Kay helped bring us up. When I was two she took bother David and I out to play in a nearby creek where the shallow waters ran over the stones before plunging some distance away into the deep gorges below. Much later after Mum died, she became my girl's de facto grand mum on my side of the family. They loved her dearly.

Kay's death hit me hard not just for her loss, but also because it was the ending of my direct family connection with Armidale. The pattern of regular visits - we went four or five times a year - to see Kay was over. Now when we went to visit, we stayed in motels. Slowly the family visits dropped away. The girls haven't been back to their home town for several years. Now when I visit, I go alone.  James B, Forglen, July 1947

This next photo it taken at the same time as the first; I was two. You can just see mum in the background.

We spent a lot of time on that front verandah. Straight ahead was a small garden with a path that led into the front paddock past the small orchard and then down to the woolshed.

I remember the old wind up gramophone with its large records. We used to wind it up to listen to songs and nursery rhymes. Then it would suddenly run down, and we would have to wind it again. 

When we first started going to Forglen there was no electricity. We drove out in the old oldsmobile with its running boards, generally arriving after dark. Then the tilley lamps had to be lit and, as I remember it, pumped up to give a light far brighter than the ordinary  kerosene lamp.

With no electricity, some food and especially meat was stored in a meat safe in the garden beside the house. This was a largish structure with mesh walls to allow the breeze through and hessian drapes that could be dropped if necessary.

Later my grandfather purchased a generator. This had to be turned on as we arrived. As the noise settled down, the lights would suddenly come on.

This next photo shows my grandfather with his beloved Ben. Very DH_Drummond Forglenmuch the bushy, but not quite.

He was very deaf when he went into politics, unable to hear conversations. That, of itself, made his early achievements somewhat remarkable, including his sonorous voice.

Later he got a hearing aid. You can see one version here, stuffed into his shirt pocket. That helped. However, he wasn't above using all this to his own advantage.

Faced with someone he didn't want to talk too, his hearing aid could always be off! He also trained his daughters and especially Kay to support him. Meeting someone whom he knew but didn't remember the name, he would say this is my daughter Kay. The other party would then introduce themselves!

I am not sure when I first became involved in politics in some way, but it was pretty early.

After a Christmas morning at home, we always went down to my grandparents' place. This began with open house for his key friends and electoral workers. Later at primary school, I used to listen to the Commonwealth budget so that I could argue with him when he returned from Canberra. In retrospect, I was a remarkably serious child!

My early world was, in some ways, a much more mannered world than Australia in the twenty first century. There were far more unwritten rules of behaviour. This was especially so on the New England Tablelands with its complex social stratification. I tried to explain naming conventions, what names were used in talking to which people, to a Chinese colleague. He got quite lost! 

It was also a world with far fewer material things. Clothes, for example, were expensive, while the range was limited. People made do. Mrs Knight (Anne Milne's mum) with Pearl Drummond, 1944

I was looking for a photo to illustrate all this, so finally selected this one, partly because my grandmother is on the right. The photo is again from 1944.

They are out in the paddocks. Everybody is wearing very similar clothes. It's clearly a partly social occasion; the men are wearing coats.

In an earlier post I mentioned the old irons heated on top of the stove. I said that they were still around when I was a kid. Yes, there were electric irons everywhere, but at Forglen with no electricity you used the old irons if you wanted to iron. Made, I think, of cast iron, they came in different sizes depending on what you wanted to iron.

Time spans.

I had lunch with a work friend that I have been teamed with on certain matters. Under pressure and with the week ending, we decided to go out for a proper lunch to an Italian restaurant.  She talked about her horse riding experiences. I couldn't match those, but here's a last photo of a group of us on a horse. I am in the centre with brother David behind.

This was probably the last time I was on a horse for many years. I remember it seemed a long way down!     On horse, brother David behind


Anonymous said...

Lovely post Jim. Brought back memories of another childhood in another place.


Jim Belshaw said...

Thanks, kvd

Rummuser said...

Yes, that deja vu about bygone eras keep popping up for, forgive me Jim, Senior Citizens!

You have had a marvelous childhood and like I do often, seem to visit them through old photographs. My father's collection, now here with me along with him, is a fascinating way to spend time when I am too lazy to do anything else.

Great post. I can relate to your emotions.

Jim Belshaw said...

Oh dear, Ramana. Senior citizen! While it's true, I still protest!

Unknown said...

Expert blog