The world is changing so rapidly, that I seriously urge you to talk to your parents, and especially your grandparents, before it is too late, because they represent a window into the past. Already, the world I was born into in 1949 will seem strange and mysterious to the up-and-coming generation. How much more, then, the world of my own forebears! Because both my parents married late in life, I was able to tap memories dating back longer than those of most of my readers. I was, for instance, able to flesh out the story of my paternal grandfather, and have put it on record.
As for the other side of the family, my mother was born more than 100 years ago, and grew up on a farm about 14 miles [21 km] outside of Wagga Wagga, in the Riverina. For years, I used to hear tales about what it was like then. So, when I finally purchased a tape recorder in 1979, one of my first missions was to get the stories on record. This blog, more than 30 years later, is the result - though, even then, it does not do justice to the tone of voice, laughter, and exuberance with which she told it.
However, the cameras I used when travelling overseas in the 1970s and 1980s were manually operated. You had to wind the film on, set a dial for the speed of the film, and then for every photo, manually adjust the lens and shutter for distance and light intensity, before pushing the button or pressing the lever. After that, you had to manually wind the film forward - otherwise, you would end up superimposing the next picture on top of the first. If you wanted to use a flash, you had to attach a battery-operated flash device, and manually adjust it as well. It was a pain, but you got used to doing it all very quickly, and there were even a few tricks you could produce which automatic cameras do not allow.
However, the sort of cameras used by the ordinary non-professionals in the period between the World Wars - and they were by no means cheap - were far more primitive. They were simple boxes without any ability to adjust for distance and light. You looked in the (often very small) viewfinder, aimed, pushed the lever, and hoped for the best. The result is that most of the few photographs I have from that era, and much later, are not-so-impressive black and white images, and rather small - often 3½ by 2½ inches, sometimes only 2½ by 1½ inches.
It was for this reason that, at the age of 31, my mother went to a studio and had a professional photographic portrait taken, to be kept in her room for the rest of her life as a reminder of what she looked like when she was young. (The slight cloudiness you see is due to the scanner light on the glass covering. After 70 years, I was not game to remove it from its frame.) And, no, it was not done on colour film. I doubt if they even had any in Australia in 1940. The photo was tinted by hand. That's what used to happen in The Olden Days.
What's In a Name?A lot, if you don't like its abbreviation. Once Mum commented that, when signing Christmas cards, she had to remind herself under what name she was known to the recipient. Her friend, Aileen (my godmother) called her Margy, with a hard "g". Her brother, Alf was the only one who addressed her as Margaret. It is a pretty name, but she could not stand the sound of the abbreviation, Maggie, which she used to speak with a tone to suggest she was clearing her mouth of something foul tasting. So, sometime in her 20s or 30s, she adopted her middle name, Clare, by which she was known to everybody except her family of origin. To them she was "Girl", the first daughter of the family. It was so well established, that even the daughter of her youngest sister, Hilda always called her "Aunt Girl". At least I never called her mother "Aunt Babe", which was her family nickname. Indeed, when they found themselves together on a package tour of India, Mum made the proposition: "I won't call you Babe if you don't call me Girl." However, the agreement appeared to be limited to the tour, in order to avoid confusion among the other passengers.
Do you want to know what it was like growing up on a farm in those far off, distant days? Then please scroll down. The next post will be about the setting up of the farm more than 100 years ago.
Or else you can click here.