Thursday, May 21, 2009

Time's Past - Belshaws at Glenroy January 1964

Belshaws Glenroy 1964

This photo from cousin Jamie's collection took me back into a distant past. From left to right: Jim Belshaw, Dotty Walford, Aunt Kay (Kathleen Vickers), Mum, brother David.

I still stand that way, but I seem to have lost my hair!

This was another world.

In January 1964 I was 18, just about to turn 19. Dave is fifteen months younger than me, so he must have been 17 in one of those brief overlaps when our nominal ages were just twelve months part.

Now before going on, a short story that drives to the heart of this post.

I showed youngest (now 19) the photo. She laughed because it showed me as a teenager. She still thinks of herself in that way.

Now I cannot begin to tell you how wrong this is. To us, teenager (the word was not often used) was an Americanism that described a small slice from around 14-16. An eighteen year old was a young adult.

Because my parents felt that I was to young to go to University when I could, I was just entering second year in this photo. Many students were younger. In 1967 I joined the Commonwealth Public Service as an Administrative Trainee. Two graduates in the group were just 19. One had a young baby.

This was a more formal world.

In 1963 my group at UNE had rebelled at being called Mr or Miss; we wanted to be called by our first names. Yet I still called many older men sir as I had been trained to do. I also still recognised a complex hierarchy of place and position, each requiring modification of behaviour to fit in. University people were not the same as country, nor the same as townies.

While more formal, this was also freer world in a way that the modern young (and some of their parents) find hard to understand.

There were no mobile phones or internet.

When I went to Tasmania at 16 hitchhiking on my own, there was no expectation that I would contact my parents every day. I could not. They had to wait.

When I started working in Canberra at age 21, I was not expected to contact my parents. Yes, Mum wanted contact, but she had to wait on me to initiate it.

This type of freedom carried through every aspect of life.

Our children are long term teenagers because we make them so. As parents and authority figures, I include Government in the second, we have emasculated our kids.

Parents worry, as I do, about excessive drinking. I would argue that we have created a situation in which excessive drinking is the only form of self-expression left for young people.


Neil said...

My mother would have shot me if I'd gone hitchhiking in Tasmania at age 16 -- so would my father, come to think of it. Organised group excursions to places like Katoomba, which I did do at that age, were OK.

But the dresses do rather remind me of what my mother had in her Jannali dress shop... I was always rather embarrased when, as occasionally happened, I was sent into Surry Hills (then the dressmaking district) to collect stock, which I had to bring back on the train.

Not a drop of alcohol had passed my lips at that age...

You country people had all the fun.

rummuser said...

Jim, I had more or less the same kind of background. I am just four years older than you are and I fully remember the days when one wrote letters and posted them and waited for weeks to get a reply back. Trunk calls and overseas ones particularly, were too expensive and telegram writing was taught by employers to minimize the number of words used. I started working when I was 16 and I had a different life from most others of my age who went on to college etc. No, things are very different now.

Jim Belshaw said...

Hitchhiking at that age was unusual, Neil. But brother David and a friend went bike touring at around the same age.

Your comment on your own experiences nicely draws out differences between families. I suspect that with a lot of country kids things were more relaxed because so many had to leave home. Only a tiny proportion of students at either UNE or the Armidale Teachers College came from Armidale.

Laughed (and empathised) at the dress story.

Interesting, Ramana, to see your perspective from another country. Long distance calls were very expensive. Even when real costs fell, my parent's generation kept their calls short.