One of these well dressed young ladies is my grandmother. Grandmother Vera was one of six girls born to Francis Beckham and Emma Sellick. Vera was the academic one becoming a teacher, whereas Winifred (b 1888), or Auntie Winnie to us, was the dressmaker. Winnie was the third of these girls and the one tasked with the making of her sister’s clothes.
Given that when all the girls were still at home and on a fairly remote farm, I think she did an excellent job! Long distance shopping for materials probably by a combination of mail order and delivery by the Indian hawkers and all worked by hand as there was no power meant it was quite a monumental task to keep all those girls well dressed.
In 1915, the family moved to town and Winnie eventually married in 1926. Her husband had come to the town some years previously, and in 1919 opened a haberdashery store – luckily Winnie knew a thing or two about sewing and could be an active part of the business. There were no surviving children to the marriage but my uncle kept the business running expanding it to include furniture and floor coverings until he sold it on retirement at 72 or so….
At the time of her death, Winnie was the oldest person in the town, living to 101. One of her sisters made it to 93, another well into her eighties. Winnie loved to garden and I think it might be from her I learned about the joys of playing in the dirt!
So now we’re up to part three of this reflection and I’m suddenly aware that this is 39 years ago and yet it seems like only yesterday. Sticking to the format as per the previous two posts…..
Living – Our first home was filling up gradually with lots of stuff – new music, ‘new’ old cars, our first forays into buying furniture rather than inheriting family hand-me-downs….
I was discovering the joys of gardening – it was a challenge as bees and I didn’t get on (adverse reactions to stings) and this old garden was full of flowering shrubs that were very attractive! We ended up having to remove quite a few so I could safely get in and out of the back door.
The big asset purchase in this time, apart from the house, was our first colour TV. Colour TV broadcasts had started in Australia in 1975 but the actual TV sets were quite expensive -we waited a while before buying one as the price became a bit more realistic.
Studying – on the back burner apart from in service training. There were too many other things happening to occupy my time.
Wearing – not much changed for me …. I lived in sensible school friendly pants and tops. But those gold rimmed glasses had gone and I was working on regrowing my hair after having it all cut short in 1977…. what was I thinking???
It was definitely a time of page boy blow drys with flicked under ends. The jacket was a suede finish and striped shirts with contrast collars and cuffs were just the thing for both men and women.
I attempted a bit of knitting for adults but decided after completing a jumper for husband and a short sleeved top for myself that it took too long. Instead, I enlisted the assistance of my handy grandmother who was a great knitter, providing her with the yarns and setting her loose! I discovered, when packing to move house just a few years back, that I still had all those knitting patterns from that time tucked away safely.
Playing – still belting around the squash ball for stress release and venturing into the occasional game of tennis. The local gym had a great circuit trainer and good sauna so I spent the odd evening there in the company of my sister in law trying to look like I was getting fit.
Outside school hours – There were heaps of opportunities to get involved in the old car movement and when you fancy something as esoteric as a Citroen you need all the help you can get. Swap meets, car clubs, rallies, concourse d’elegance, motorkhanas – we did it all, all over the state and interstate. I wrote for the club magazine, I served as club representative (and as secretary) on the committee of the Association of Motoring Clubs Inc., I helped to sort parts for the club’s spare parts fund, to organise events and generally immerse myself in all the activity of club membership.
When we weren’t off chasing the elusive bits and pieces, or following up reports of rare examples languishing under trees on farms, we actually worked on the restoration of our own vehicles.
The husband’s every day transport became a Honda 500 motorcycle – he’d been wanting to get back on a bike for some years and space in the driveway was becoming a bit tight. Replacing one of the daily drives with a bike seemed the best solution. I loved riding pillion and this period (BC – before child) was one of freedom and tangled hair out on the road.
I sold my trusty Volkswagon after it had a ‘failure to proceed’ that seemed to be terminal. My second car was handed down to my middle younger brother – he managed to get an enormous number of miles out of it as it seemed to be unburstable. For a while, I drove bright a yellow 1972 Toyota Celica and finally decided that something modern in the way of a Citroen was necessary – I bought a 1975 GS 1220 wagon. Tiny car by today’s standards but still accommodating enough to sleep two adults in the back – a bonus considering how much camping we were doing.
Travel – It was, in this five year period, a time to spread the wings and get aloft. I had never flown anywhere, my experience of airports being the arrivals and departure lounges seeing other people off or collecting them when they returned home.
Our first ‘overseas’ trip was to Tasmania. We flew into Launceston and tried to land, however the cross winds were so bad, just short of touchdown the pilots hit the gas and pulled us up to circle around and have another shot at it. It’s not the best way to be introduced to the joys of air travel, but it didn’t deter me. A fortnight of self drive holiday wasn’t the greatest experience as, two nights in, I contracted a severe dose of food poisoning. There’s nothing quite as good as this for losing weight – I was skin and bone by the end of the trip! I still have a couple of pieces of everyday use ceramics I acquired from a studio potter. I fell in love with Tassie despite the scallop incident and have returned there a number of times since – especially in recent years now that I have family living there and I have discovered an historical family connection as well.
Our second adventure was to New Zealand. This trip was the first of about six I have made across the straights and I still haven’t seen it all. Again, I found a remarkable country and people that appealed to me, calling me back repeatedly. Around this time my grandmother, who had never been in a ‘plane in her life, at 80 years plus, took to the skies also going to NZ. There were relatives there to catch up with and she didn’t have all that long (something about which she repeatedly reminded me).
Music – We still ventured out to concerts but they were definitely ones that I wasn’t allowed to choose: there was a night with Billy Joel
….And there was a night with Bill Cosby at Festival Hall (this one ended with Mum and Dad in hospital after they had been hit by a drunk driver going through a red light.)
Somewhere in there was a Moody Blues concert as well but I can’t recall the timing. Locally, we ventured underground and behind Green Doors to Folk clubs where Clannad and others played to small devoted audiences.
The record collection expanded to include George Benson, Huey Lewis, Alan Parsons Project and Bonny Tyler whilst Queen, ABBA, Madonna, Elton John and others dominated the airwaves. The new car had a tape player so there were cassettes added to the collection as well.
Having settled in our new home, the family expanded as we acquired a cat named Sooty. He kept the cold water fish collection and the axolotl company…..
Looking Back: Why don’t you pick a year and review it? It might end up forming notes for a memoir, a record for a future family historian or even the prompt you need to get writing that family history.
Catching the ‘flu can be deadly even now but, in 1918 – 19, the Spanish ‘Flu pandemic killed rapidly and indiscriminately.
In my family, we lost my 1st cousin 2R, Percy Robert Richardson, to this disease – sometimes reported as Spanish Flu, other times pneumonic influenza. It’s not often clear to later generations what has been the cause of death as medical terms can be difficult to understand and common use terms have also changed over time so it always pays to look at death certificates and check a medical terms dictionary for a ‘translation’. This could be helpful.
This Obituary appeared in Foostcray’s Independent Newspaper some days after his death. Percy, as you will note in the article, had been involved in the establishment of a local influenza hospital. This temporary hospital facility had been installed at very short notice in a local Footscray school – Percy having been responsible for sourcing and installing some of the equipment necessary for the care of the patients isolated there. Many of those in need of care were family members and employees of Richardsons Gears Pty Ltd, the family company.
This hospital was one of hundreds set up right around Melbourne at the time in public buildings and facilities like schools.
Read about the Footscray Influenza hospital here and here.
One of Percy’s surviving children, his daughter Violet, went on to train as a doctor. Violet had been just 12 years old at the time of her father’s death. We can only wonder now at her motivations for such a career path – was it the example set by Percy?
This very tatty photo passed down from my grandmother is the only image I have of Percy and his young family. It is dated on the back as being Christmas 1902 and was taken at Club Terrace (near Bairnsdale)
The people are, from left to right, Myrtle Lillias Ada Richardson (1901-06), David James Richardson (1899-1944), wife Lillias May (nee Beel) Richardson (1877-1956), William Andrew Richardson (1852-1903) and Percy Robert Richardson. William was my great grandfather.
This was an adventurous and well traveled family – as noted in the obituary above, Percy had been born in New Zealand. Initially migrating from Wapping, London, the Richardson family had relocated, after a number of years in Auckland and Cambridge, from there to Victoria and began their businesses in Footscray. For Percy and his young family to have visited Uncle Will (as he was described on the photo’s reverse) they faced an overland journey of over 450km – and that’s on today’s routes. Its likely they may have used some of the coastal shipping available at the time as a quicker alternative but in any case it would have been quite an undertaking.
You or your local history group can contribute to the Australian experience of the influenza pandemic of 1919 by making your contribution to the research being undertaken by Royal Australian Historical Society. They are particularly interested in the effects on communities in NSW.
Five years on from the first ‘Looking back’ and things in my life had changed dramatically and rapidly. The first of these posts received quite a positive reaction so I have been motivated to continue with them and I will try to follow a similar pattern as established there.
Living – for the first few months of the year still at home. Not a lot had changed except that I now had my driver’s license and my first car which cost a whole $85.00 (about $700 in today’s terms). Talk about freedom to go where and when it pleased me. However, that car was only slightly younger than I and it
wasn’t up to much in the way of speed or distance so I tended not to go too far away from where I could be helped if it failed to proceed.
The second half of the year I was living with my newly minted husband in his family’s home. We house sat and cat minded Marmaduke Sebastian the 3rd for the parents-in-law whilst they were overseas on a prolonged holiday break, spending a good deal of our spare time looking for a place of our own to buy.
Studying – final semester at teacher’s college. Mid year, I became a fully fledged primary school teacher and was back into a classroom within days of handing in my final folio for assessment. It was definitely a case of thrown in at the deep end as I scored a highly overcrowded school, a class of forty grade six students, some of whom were only 6 years younger than I. Definitely a baptism of fire…. and my poor little car struggled to make it through the traffic 40km plus each day each way.
Delightfully, those same students who terrified me at the start, somehow found out I was turning 21 and arranged a special party at school for me. Seems my cousin who lived near to the school had let the cat out of the bag.
Wearing – beige flares! How embarrassing it is to reflect on that now – but I did have this beige (maybe, to be kind to myself, I could call it caramel) pants suit that saw several year’s service as ‘school uniform’. Pants suits were de rigeur as they were a little more formal than slacks or jeans for work and of course they were meant to be worn with high heels. Not this little black duck – I couldn’t spend my day racing about school in high heels especially as I was a little prone to falling down stairs and the like. Note the shoulders – there was a fair bit of extra padding but nothing compared to what was to come in the 80’s!
My hair was long and my specs gold framed – I hadn’t, at that stage, caught up with the big plastic frames that featured as fashion items later in the 70’s.
Playing – Teacher training and learning about the teaching of Phys Ed had necessitated a return to something of a sporting nature so I was swimming regularly (and gaining certification for teaching swimming) and discovering the therapeutic value of squash. Those little black balls could take just about anything I could dish out and believe me, I dished it out with a vengeance some days!
Outside School Hours – as mentioned earlier, we were house hunting a good deal of the time. There was also the attraction of motor sport, classic car hunting and slot car racing – all of which captured many a weekend and evening. We acquired the first of many Citroens around this time, the first being a 1953 11BL Traction Avant who became known as Smerildina (Smelly for short). Smelly was so named as, at the time, I was taking part in a production of Servant of Two Masters, a Commedia dell’arte play which had been set to original music. Smerildina was one of the main female characters of the play – in later years we acquired a blue 1949 Light 15 and as it was blue, it was masculine so was named for the male character Truffledino.
Classic Citroens and the people who owned them, restored them and rallied in them figured predominantly in our lives for many, many years.
Music and attending live performances wove in and out of my time – I can’t recall exactly what year it was but within about two weeks I saw The Carpenters and Chicago perform live at Festival Hall, West Melbourne. Talk about a contrast – Karen Carpenter was chatty and friendly; sweet harmonies drifted through and the music was, in general, pleasantly poppy. Chicago, on the other hand, were deafening, relentless, driving beats coupled with endless throbbing guitar solos all washed down with so much dope smoke, you could barely see the stage! I recall being informed that I would never ever get to choose what we went to see, ever ever again!
Travel – around this time was start of many road/camping trips. The first was the touring holiday we took after getting married. It was my first serious foray into South Australia and involved Mount Gambier, Wilpena Pound, Quorn, Port Augusta, Whyalla and what was left of Iron Knob. I loved this area and still have, lurking around the house somewhere, a small piece of hand made pottery bought from the potter’s studio in Quorn. Acquiring something made by a local artist has become a feature of my travelling over the years and I still aim to bring home a glass, ceramic or textile piece as my souvenir/memory of choice.
My collection of tropical and cold water fish had survived moving house but my two blue tongue lizards were relocated to the science wing at College. My brother had given me a sweet black and white kitten early in the year but she didn’t understand that all dogs weren’t as friendly as the resident Border Collie cross. She fell victim to two marauding racing greyhounds that had escaped from a neighbour’s property. It was decided that a new feline family member would wait until we had moved to our own place.
Looking Back: Why don’t you pick a year and review it? It might end up forming notes for a memoir, a record for a future family historian or even the prompt you need to get writing that family history.
….to 1970. I’ve been inspired to think about what was happening in my life in 1970. This inspiration has come from another whose blog I follow – thank you Charles, as you’ve distracted me from reviewing my Ethics notes before a test I need to take today!
Where was I in 1970?
Living – at home. As the eldest of five, I had a fair bit to do with helping care for the younger kids. My grandmother was in and out of the house looking after us for long periods at this time too.
Studying – Year 11 at Canterbury Girls High School. I recall my English class as being the envy of all others, as we had the first male teacher to set foot in this all female environment. It was a source of great angst that a male staff member should enter these hallowed halls as he may have served as a substantial distraction from the task at hand. Despite his youth and rather attractive appearance, this turned out not to be the case. He had the advantage that we had been advised if we weren’t properly behaved, he would not be able to remain on staff so we made sure we behaved perfectly.
I still have a slim volume of poetry he gave me as a source of inspiration to keep writing – I didn’t stay the course but occasionally reflect on what might have been if I had pursued a poetic direction.
I still write when the mood takes me but its generally when I have an image to share on one of my other blogs and it needs words.
Wearing – trousers/jeans/pants as often as I could. I spent all my school days in dresses and hated them. I was a pants person and still am. I think it was about this time I was given leave to make my own decisions about the length of my hair and began to grow it.
Playing – the occasional game of tennis and the odd game of hockey, again mostly at school. I wasn’t a particularly sporty person but I would do what was required of us in Phys. Ed. which sometimes included swimming, various athletics events and the odd bit of gymnastic style stuff. I was not good enough to join the school competition teams and didn’t play a sport in my own time. I rode a recycled, single speed bike, but it was to get to and from the railway station and the library: not for pleasure nor for sport.
Singing and acting – I had always been a part of the school choir right through high school and continued singing on a regular basis. The choir entered the occasional interschool competition and I was always disappointed that we sang such traditional and apparently old fashioned work by comparison with some of the other competing schools. I loved the opportunity to be part of the school drama production as well so I spent a lot of time in the school assembly hall/theatre. I particularly liked the technical aspect and found that there was one of the staff who was prepared to encourage my interest in the mechanics of the stage – I learned about lighting and sound, building sets and designing staging.
Outside School hours – I was still in Senior Guides and whilst staying with my aunt and uncle would also take part in Ranger activities as my aunt was a group leader and she would take me along for the ride.
I discovered a local musical theatre group and began learning more about the skills of staging and particularly lighting. By the time I graduated from high school, I had become very proficient with the follow spot! I also knew every song and move made by the principals in “South Pacific”, so every time I now hear “I’m gonna wash that man right out of my hair” I know I need the soft pink gel in a narrow focus on the head only of the principal singer in the centre back of the stage!
There’s probably a lot more that was going on in the wider world I could reminisce about but I was keeping my head down most of the time and just trying to muddle through – it was a tough time for the family and I felt pretty much on my own a good deal of the time.
It would be a couple of years in the future before I could really appreciate some of the wider influences in music, film, television and theatre; and to be able to take a more active and social part in the big wide world.
Why don’t you pick a year and review it? It might end up forming notes for a memoir, a record for a future family historian or even the prompt you need to get writing that family history.
What are you going to do to celebrate Genealogy Day?
I can hear a number of people rolling their eyes and saying/thinking “What the????” Yes, there’s a day for those of us who like to explore the past. Why not? There are days for almost everything you can think of….let’s not be the odd ones out.
For me, I have been planning to write a contribution to Womens History Month – so I’m going to make Saturday the day on which I focus on getting it done. I’m planning on telling the story of the teachers in my family – my great grandmother, great aunt, grandmother, aunt and maybe even me.
Luanne at The Family Kalamazoo is exploring her old photos as part of Womens History Month – something she does in the public space of her website as it often results in finding out the identities of those in the pictures. It also helps her to build family connections through her research. This might be something that you could do to help you solve some of those brick walls as your Genealogy Day celebration.
Why don’t you check out some of the links that can be found to the stories of interesting, resourceful, talented women celebrated around the world in #WomensHistoryMonth ? Just go to Twitter and search using the hashtag #WomensHistoryMonth and you might be surprised at what you find.
We’ve all had that experience at one time or another where we meet someone who is connected to us far more closely than we realise. It happened to me last night.
Over the last month, I have become involved with a group of people who are keen to see an aircraft accident at Mia Mia (Vic) that occurred 74 years ago appropriately memorialised. The crash of Stinson aircraft claimed the life of my great uncle, Roy Fairfax Richardson along with the lives of nine others. I have been researching the families of those killed in order to apprise them of the plans and to invite their participation in the commemoration.
Last week, some of the group met with Lisa Chesters MP at the proposed site for the memorial. Photos were taken and the meeting was reported in the Midland Express.
Imagine my surprise when, at the AGM of the Maldon & Baringhup Agricultural Society, my fellow committee member Betty Taylor turned to me and said she had seen my name in the paper and then proceeded to tell me about her wartime experience boarding with one of the main witnesses to the crash.
The witness was one Mrs Govey – the local Redesdale post mistress and VOAC warden. It was her role to ‘spot’ the plane as it passed through and report to Bendigo that it was on its way. Instead, on 31 January 1945, she reported that the plane had broken up in mid air and crashed on the Spring Plains property near Mia Mia.
Betty’s recollections of the time were crisp and sharp despite her youthful years at the time of the accident. We plan to get together and record her memories of that time very soon.
You never know what or who will turn up when you start to research a story. Six degrees….. hmmmm.
Last night, Betty’s 43 year contribution to the organisation and support of the Maldon & Baringhup Agricultural Society and its annual show were recognised with the presentation of her Life Membership. Betty is still an active committee member, steward and sponsor of the Show and continues to see the Show go from strength to strength.