The other day someone asked me if we had a Christmas Tree.
We certainly did! Our property was from Mirrabooka Road down to Shady Gully Creek so we had plenty of trees to chose from. Mum grew water cress in the creek brought from Yankie Creek which ran through their farm at Nethercote, where it grew prolifically. Each. year I would take the tomahawk and cut down a tree, most often cherry ones, as I thought it was the nearest to the real thing. It would be much bigger than me but I would lug it home. Mostly it was too big, but I would cut a bit more off it and put it in a large pot where it would promptly hit the floor a dozen times. So I would shovel a bit more dirt around. There were no beautiful commercial decorations like today, only several colours of streamers which had no shine. Mione and I would cut them in small sections and, with glue made from starch, manufacture paper chains. With a few balloons and cut out stars we thought the tree looked wonderful. One year we acquired three paper Chinese Lanterns which made the tree look more up-market.
Dad, like many other people, had shares in the Merimbula Bacon Factory, so we purchased the ham from there and he would cook it in the copper. A chook would be killed and hung ready for plucking. Dessert would be mostly Christmas pudding and the threepences would have been boiled before putting in the mixture. Mum would make sure our Grandfather McCaffrey would get a piece of straw (for long life). It must have worked as he lived to 95 years of age when he was sadly killed. She was always careful that her unmarried brother, Jack, never got the button (for bachelorhood). Then later, Mum purchased from WinnS Mail order Catalogue, a packet of trinkets which contained bells, a horse shoe for Good Luck, a ‘wedding’ ring marzipan and sweets. The crackers weren’t as sophisticated as those of today, but still great fun. After our Christmas dinner it was always a tradition to go around to the township and look at all the visitors in the Foreshore Caravan Park. One year there were ten canvas tents (no caravans then) and that was a very big year! There were no privately owned caravans parks in those pre WW2 days.
It was also our family’s tradition to have our Christmas Tea on the Camp Park over looking Mortimer’s paddock. We would pack everything in the old Buick, rugs, coats and leftover food from dinner. Dad would invariably say, “Where the kitchen sink?”. We children loved it as we ran around and explored the gully then sat down around the picnic rug to have our meal. Our Christmas was simple in those Depression years. Everyone was poor in our little township, but looking baCk, I have memories of warm, happy Festive Seasons that seemed to have more values.
Commercialism hadn’t entered our world!