Friends and Neighbours

Friends and Neighbours will always be a very important part of our lives and no more so than for country people in the 1930’S. During those years, the Bruce Family lived next to us at ‘Raheen’ and there was a well worn track through our adjoining orchards with several palings missing from the fence. Despite the fact our sugar was purchased in bulk, likewise the flour in white bags, housewives often ran short of these two important items. Whenever this happened Mum would send one of us girls through the fence to borrow a cup of sugar or flour from Mrs. Bruce. Theirs was a happy family and I don’t think I ever went to their house without someone being home. Mrs Bruce was a very organised woman and one of the cleanest people I have ever seen. I can still see her, dressed in a blue frock with the whitest apron and despite working hard all day there was never a speck on her. Like all womenfolk of that era, she wore a cotton sun hat. Hers was pristine white. Large floral ones were popular too, and of course they all had to be washed and starched. Both men and women of those years were very aware of exposure to the sun and their complexions were protected in this way.

To the side of the Bruce home was a large apple tree which bore green fruit and had been grown from a pip of one of the apples on the beach from the wrecked “Riverina”. Despite being a green apple, it caused quite a bit of controversy as to whether it was a Granny Smith variety. Above the tree branches and across to the gateway, a huge banana passionfruit formed a canopy; it’s pink, pendulous flowers later turning to yellow fruit. The dirt path underneath was always well swept, such paths were common around our homes then. We hadn’t ‘run’ to cement ones. Outside the gate was the wood heap and this is where we gathered when Mrs Bruce sent one of the boys ‘through the fence’ to tell us a hawker had arrived.

The Bakery was on the other side of the house and as we approached through the orchard we could smell the aroma of freshly baked bread. Many a child sampled Mrs Bruce’s ‘dough boys’ with their currant eyes. Mione and I loved them but it was her biscuits called ‘kisses’ that I remember best, none have ever tasted like them, since. Made with dripping, which attributed to their crispness, they were large with a big daub of jam in the centre. Mrs Bruce was a great jam maker, and we would often sample the products, particularly the conserve made from their early fruiting apricots. She would always cut several of the almondĀ­like kernels from the stone, adding it to the jam for extra flavour.

Our two apricot trees fruited after Christmas. Mrs Bruce was a great believer of fruit and vegetables being an integral part of ones diet and this was long before dieticians discovered the value of natural vitamins. No wonder her ‘brood’ was such a healthy lot. Despite those lean years of the 1930’s, Mrs Bruce always seemed to set a place at her table for any extras and at Sunday dinner time the kitchen seemed to be bursting with her family, The McDonald boys. Bob, Charlie and Fred and Cath (Flora had died when I was a small child) and the Bruce Family, Jess, John, Joe and Bill and usually the two Clarke brothers Fred and Nat who were stripping bark in the area and anyone else who happened along. At Christmas the large ‘Riverina’ cloth would be used on the table.

Leone Pheeney

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