I was born in Bega Hospital on 4 th of July, 1946.
My mother later told me she suspected Dad had been having an affair with the matron. I think she was right, as at 76 years of age he hadn’t slowed down much.
My first memories include being dazzled by the sun as my half nieces took my photo, me scrunched and squirming on a bunny rug on the lawns at Raheen.
Both parents treated me as a miniature adult..so that is what I became. I learnt poetry to be totted out to visitors. On one occasion I gave some visiting group the total history and cultivation of fuchsia plants. They listened politely, but, for the first time, I saw suppressed humour!
I remember my staggering steps across the carpet, discovering my father’s office,( including the Vicks lozenges in the second drawer of the desk.) The immense spread of the night sky,with Dad pointing out constellations. Being woken in the early hours of the morning to see the Aurora Australis.
Learning to read, which opened an amazing world for me. Dad insisted on reading the Age newspaper first, spreading it out on the floor..so I learnt to read upside down, which served me well later in life when I went for job interviews!
The “Magic carpet” and Dad’s stories of where we went every night. Walks with Dad. The pram episode. Health Nurse in van, being weighed in a scale.
Dad only became ill with a failing heart ( a condition then called dropsy) when I was about 4.
He had given his T model Ford to the son Hugh..and Mum didn’t drive, so we walked everywhere. Dad’s legs were starting to give out and it must have been very hard for him to keep up with Mum & myself..I was in a large wicker pram. The Mirrabooka Hill and home seemed a long way away and Dad ended up in the pram,with me walking. I can remember his fear that someone in a car would come by and see him, so we had to listen carefully for the occasional vehicle.
I have no idea where the pram came from, but it served multiple purposes..carriage for myself and Dad, added groceries as required and once, a HUGE bee swarm, when I was in it. Mum dragged me backwards by the legs to get me away and the swarm was “smoked” by Paddy(relative of Beaties) and put into a super box under our peach tree. Then I think everyone went inside for a comforting drink (probably alcohol, knowing my family) When Paddy came to collect the bees next morning it was discovered that the box had been placed over a bull ants nest. Not a bee left! What a fight it must have been.
This was a tumultuous year for me as I started school, sitting next to Blue Bruce in Grade 1 as this was the only desk space. When I did my first maths test I was completely confused(still am!)And copied my companion, with disastrous results…we both got everything wrong!
Attendance at school was sporadic, due to the 2km walk in from home. There was always something interesting to see and do. Creeks, bush, then the fishermen mending nets..and so on. I did enjoy the school library, which the teachers trusted me with borrowing. This was a change from Dad’s reference books and poetry. He had a wide variety of material, including medical tomes with illustrations..so my sex education was started. I knew what happened, but it was a few years before it was explained to me in detail! (I had heard one of the Rankin boys say “fuck” and went home and asked Mum what the word meant). She was making scones and threw the flour everywhere.
One room. Grades sharing wooden lift up desks. 2 Blackboards. Smaller children on one side, blackboards to match, ornate borders in coloured chalk. John & Betty. School readers. Blue Bruce’s rendition of where the Pelican builds its nest. No shoes. School and gardens fenced in. Outside paddock for sport, toilets pans up the back. Horses and tack room. Iodine tablets. The gumtree swing. Tank water ,nails with mugs on them. Lining up before school, out the front. Radio with speaker, flag pole. No shoes worn,bare feet in the dust. School gardens, with the miracle of radishes. Learning how to plant ranunculus. Depending on the teacher..mad keen school sports or “nature study” the curriculum varied.
Immunisations. Jelly bean reward. McCarthur’s horse Toby. Amazing advent of kindergarten teacher Mrs McLeod and a new school building. Coming home with the Rankin kids. Gilberts & Davis Creek. Tarzan in the vines at Shady Gully and my fall.
Cracker night. Coleman’s retriever (crackers as well!!) Brian Bobbin walked through hot ashes. Sky rockets in beer bottles, lit by men only! Huge bonfires. Mum & Dad and the Roman candles. I was too frightened to come out.
Christmas tree in old hall and publican Santa(who smelt of beer) Dances ,and sawdust on the floor.
Dad sending me up the loquat trees, teaching me to spit the pips. Prawns from Hugh. The snake in the pumpkins episode. Both good gardeners.
The snake in the pumpkins.
I was taken by a story on the Chelsea flower markets and proceeded to make my own version in Dad’s office. To summon potential clients I somehow managed to hang a huge (it was as tall as I was) brass gong to the edge of the steps. A passing snake, intrigued by the vibrations, appeared with great enthusiasm, headed straight for me. Mum did a flip out, woke EJ and insisted he dispatch it with the shotgun, forthwith.
He did his best. No glasses on and befuddled by sleep he aimed in the general direction and our entire pumpkin crop was blasted to bits. The snake left. The “market” did not go over well and was dismantled.
Our gardens. Towering broadbeans. Cosmos, bedlladonna lilies and lilacs. Flight the retired draft horse and our roses. My first garden, poor man’s orchids (this had me puzzled) Our spring in the vegetable garden dam and the frogs. Kerosine can bucket. Cotton over the pea seedlings, stick trellises. The veg truck from Bucklands.
The post office (and ferocious dog) Parcels on the veranda. The phone system and party line. Carl Shoreland. The mail car.
My mother was always worried about missing the mail car. This vehicle passed our back gate/fence at some very early, dark hour of the morning..one in a series of vehicles bound with mail and passengers to Melbourne. We slept in our clothes(just in case) and I was sent up to the fence to make sure the driver stopped. Cliff Hatfield(one armed) then later on Nancy Dingle(Brown)
Mum would be headed for my half sisters Nancy or Sadie..in Melbourne.
Mallacoota to Cann River, Cann River to Orbost, Orbost to Bairnsdale( a bus, so slow I swear it would be possible to walk beside it and keep up if not get ahead!)Then a steam train to Melbourne.
Princes Highway was unmade in sections. Bus became bogged on one occasion and had to be pushed by the male passengers. Aboriginals were sent to the back, which produced more loud questions to an embarrassed Mum, from me. The incident made me think of Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith as this particular man had an axe!
Cliff Hatfield must have lost his arm in the 2 nd WW. He used to roll a smoke and light it whilst steering(with his knees?) This occurred once on Drummer mountain. I thought my mother might take over the mail car, although she had never learnt to drive (and never did ,another story)
Cliff was a great driver ,for all that and also drove the school bus.
I can’t remember Dad driving and think he gave his son Hugh his car. Hugh drove us to Pambula Hospital when Dad became ill. I can remember Dad yelling
“civilisation!!”when we went over the border into NSW( They had a Labour Gov. at the time!)
The mail car North.
It took a whole day to get to Eden. People were driven to Genoa to meet a very motley vehicle.
This was the only contact for groceries and mail for a lot of people. Twice or once a week. The ‘car’
stopped at most mail boxes to pick up and delivery supplies. Collection of passengers seemed to be at random, as they waited at different parts of the road and just flagged down the car.
To Wonboyn was a long and unmade nightmare. As there were stops at every pub Mum took full advantage of the bars, whilst I went straight to either the publicans wife or the cook. Gipsy Point Hotel had maids in a black and white uniform with cap and apron. One beat a small brass gong to summon the guests to the dining room.
Genoa Hotel had homemade cheese sticks, an emu in an enclosure and a very foul mouthed white cockatoo on the front veranda.
Mum and I stayed in a rooming house behind the bakery once we reached Eden. Flo at this stage was making commercial quantities of shell ornaments and the cemetery beach at Eden had totally different shells from the ones from Mallacoota. Plus there were the shops and TWO hotels!
Bright red hair,curly. Covered in freckles. Always had a very fair skin. Different.
Always different, wanting to fit in,but never did. Must be the pack instinct. Didn’t comply with the accepted standards (hope I never do)
Floods. Albert Greer rescued the water tank from the hall. Pumpkins dotted the lake shores, being washed off Genoa River flats. A dead cow went past, legs in the air. The water, at this time was up to what is now Croajingolong Cafe. It attracted quite a crowd and I can remember an ovation at the rescue of the water tank.
Coming back from living in Melbourne and finding the piano on a heap of rubble when Parks office was built. The travelling acts. The school concert and fancy dress (Mum dressed me up as a devil, complete with pitchfork made of Gran’s hair curling tongs.)
Bushfires. Cats in sugar sacks, down to the lake through Brady’s paddock.
There were not enough sacks, so very bad fights occurred ( and urination) I remember the sacks with claws sticking out of them. Beatie, devout Christian, knelt and prayed. It was pitch black, very hard to breath..and the noise was terrifying.(roaring) My Dad was still alive as I can recall that he was not happy being relegated to supervising the women and children, whilst my brother Hugh and many sweating and blackened neighbours did what they could with wet bags on sticks. The fire stopped at our back fence(Mirrabooka Road) The cats, when liberated, were not seen for weeks..roast possum and humiliation?
Storms. I am afraid ,but fascinated, by storms and thunder. Mum used to bang the back of the wood stove chimney, imitating thunder, to get me to come inside…until I stood behind her one day and worked out what she was doing!
Bill and Bobs row boats. Bob Mc Donald, Bill Bruce’s half brother had a soft spot for us kids (Rankins and Pearl Cuzner nee Rankin) and would let us use his row boats. We always left them in good order. They were often sunk to swell the timbers and we had to bail them out(jam tins). We went all over Coulls Inlet, but stayed well away from the channel as the water was deep, green and churning, especially on the run out tide.
Blue Bruce joined us for a favourite, but forbidden pasttime…pushing the freezer works trolley from the freezer down to the wharf and back again. One day, with Blue as a passenger, I managed to push the trolley so hard that it broke the chocks that stopped it at the wharf and it hurtled, with Blue aboard, straight into the lake and the dreaded channel. None of us could swim, but we all jumped in after him. We were pushed by the current, to the bank down from the wharf, unharmed. I thought I’d drowned him and was very upset!
Freezer works: fish preserving, cool chests ice supply.
Boxes for fish: shallow, wood with gal.handles. After storms, corks were found which had been used as floats for the nets and lost in the lake. Tanning tanks (wattle bark) Particular smell from net sheds. Poles for hanging nets onto dry before they were stored. One of the distractions on the way to school was Dave & George Casement mending nets. My half brothers brother in law, Cecil steamed ribs for a boat over a fire.
In early Mallacoota the shops were:
Bottom of Mallacoota
Mailings general store and Iggledon butcher. Later a bakery was built below the mixed businessand before the community hall.
Top: McGraths (general) pub, chemist and gift shop.Then opposite school Wallaces Cafe.
Bill Bruce had a picture theatre where Silver Bream is. Communal hall was down near freezer works.
Bush Nurse somewhere near Miva (later) and finally a doctor(Hollands)visiting from Orbost at first,then a resident doctor where Barry Coles mother lived (now surgery)
Mail,papers and bread by mail car at first,then bakery established. Old Post Office between Medical Centre and Coull Waters,then moved to what is now a surf shop,then moved once again.
Travelling salesmen sold haberdashery etc. Bucklands had vegetables from ute every week. Nobody had a shop for Real Estate, Coles & Souter sold from home. Mary Herbstreit had a cafe where laundrette/bank is.
Slaughter house for butcher was near where TV towers are,then at Double Creek.
Tom Davies established power station,before that kerosene lamps,Tilley,candles or a cantankerous generator. Everyones generator had a different sound. If one didn’t start someone would go to see if all was OK. Fish from fishermen or catch your own. Brother Hugh trapped rabbits & shot ducks as well. Nearly everyone kept poultry. Eggs were preserved in barrels with something called “keepegg”. Hugh ran cattle (beef) and for milk. There was a dairy, near Morton Bay fig. Some people kept bees. Large vegetable gardens were almost essential.
Beatie & Hugh and the orchard.
Fruit from the orchard was very important. There was always a race to stop the birds getting everything. It was bottled and dried and made into jams and pickles. Apples were stored in a special,airy shed full of shelves.
Beatie’s standard of housekeeping was amazing.
Monday wash day. Copper (wood fired) Irons on top to heat up. Blue bags and Recketts starch were used. Unbleached sheets were left on the line to whiten, especially in cold weather (frost)
Wood stoves went every day and lots of things were put in the oven together on baking day.
All the silver, brass and copper was polished on a regular basis. Wooden furniture was beeswaxed. Blinds were often pulled to save the carpets from fading. The carpets were hung on a special frame outside and hit with a beater to remove the soil.
When the wood fires were not in use the surrounds were whitewashed with pipe clay from Shady Gully. The fireplace itself was often filled with gumtips. I can remember Hugh driving us to the old Quarry area to harvest them. (Mi & Leone)
Mi & Leone.
Great excitement as Mi & Leone prepared for a dance. Some held in Mallacoota, some in Genoa and even further away.
When I first met Miones future husband I was fascinated by the way he nervously twirled his hair. I used to stand behind him, unnoticed!
Mi and the embroidery cottons and pedal sewing machine. Mione, Hugh and Beaties daughter taught me to sew and use a sewing machine(Singer pedal) Mi once gave me a huge ball of embroidery threads which took me ages to untangle. I used them all.I still had, until recently, a tablecloth I embroidered with those threads. Red roses..always my favourite.
Mione’s sister Leone(deceased sadly) instilled a love of gardening in me. I am growing a cutting of the red rose my father grew and the orange blossom from Miones wedding bouquet. Graham has managed to save Hughs apple Lord Nelson, by grafting it onto one of our Granny Smith trees. The apples are huge and flat and the tree had so many that Hugh had to prop it up with poles to save the limbs from breaking. Not much for eating, great cooking apple.
Hotel. Mum painting the town red. This actually was the toilet and surrounds at the Pub. Mum had received a parcel from “Deans”(a firm in Melbourne who supplied mail order artists supplies) She had ordered Carmine Red and was very excited to receive it, opening the parcel and its contents. Unfortunately, (this seems to run in the family..I do it too) she did not put the top on correctly and during the course of the evening the tube leaked into her handbag and onto her hands. When she went to the loo it ended up everywhere in and on the toilet.
She was banned, again. It took about 4 coats of paint to “get rid of the red”.
The “snakepit” ladies lounge. Long boards creaked when people walked on them, which was an early warning sign for the illegal drinkers. Many attempts were made to stop drinkers on a Sunday. Police came from Cann River. Bloke had a girl friend at Genoa (housemaid) who warned Mallacoota when he was on his way.
Now it’s fill in notes as I get time!
Gipsy Point Hotel
The “Camp” where we lived.
The tents. The toilet. The set of gold false teeth. Aboriginal artefacts, gourd, gadaicha shoes, club, sword, duelling pistols, flute, banjo. Beatie’s pianola.
Ken Morrison and National Geographic. Beatie’s women’s magazines, Keith Iggledon’s comics.
Mum cooked over an open fire. Kite episode. Food. Salt episode. Plates smashed. Willow pattern mug. (move to start)
Christmas at Hughs and the tin plane on the pianola. Paddy McCaffreys wax glass of beer.
Money in the pudding.
Drunken cows in the orchard and the fox in the chook yard.
Dingo episode..mouth organ and floods, “long way” into Mallacoota.
Mum and the chook bonnets and mirror for the rooster.
Many cats. The dog under the slip rail with a mother cat attached to him.
Dads illness and death.
Mum off her tree.
The Estate (Mum never had a job, used the money, all of it)
School sports and meeting Harry Scott, owner of Real Estate business in Melbourne and a very wealthy and kind man.
Toby and the brazil nuts.
“boarded out” in Coogee at the Norman’s.
Rheumatic Fever. School and repercussions. The beach and the girls. Elvis for the first time? Or the beginnings of Rock & Roll.
Returning home with measles.
Never seemed to go to school..correspondence. Mum sat exam for me. Her stories of Auckland prison..and how she got there. Her Dad having worked for paternal Grandad at Cobar(?) before NZ. Mum a baby.
Flo’s drinking bouts and depression. (Mum couldn’t cope.) How I tried to “fix” things.
The McPhersons as a boarder.Melbourne.Gwen & Hugh. Daughters Sandra, Deahn , . My half sisters Tuppy, Sadie and Nancy.
To NZ as Gran supposed to be dying of cancer. Lana Calnan and brother.
Sexual awakening by my cousin Neil (never consummated!)
Return to Mallacoota. No money. Learnt about my Estate, or lack of it. Half brother Ted resigns as executor..but there is no money for Uni. Local real estate agent sold a lot of the land she ethically wasn’t supposed to.
Mary Herbstreits cafe. Mum took all my money. She was not happy, wanting to return to NZ
I refused to go.
Went to stay with sister Nancy & John (Connell) in Hawksburn. Daughters Sue and Bernadette.
Myers Melbourne cadetship.
Mum returns, destitute. I help as does Nancy, but I don’t return to Mallacoota
Nancy too ill (angina) to cope.
Went to stay with Sadie and Gus (Kristensen) in St Kilda,then Ripponlea.
Have daughter, Karen 1965
Starting to get very home sick.
Marriage OK, but on his terms and still dominated by his Mum. MY mother total ratbag.
Diversey Industrial Chemicals (had to look after Mum for a year or so,lost job at Penguins as a consequence.) Met Peter Kurz through Renee Arendsen.
End of marriage
Return to Mallacoota and Peter Kurz. Marry.
Divorce. Took $50 with me.
By myself, for the first time in my adult life. Affairs. Disappointed, want more. Advertise Grass Roots
Start into Real Estate industry. Graham, no marriage. 20 years or so together now. Rheumatoid arthritis arrives, as age catches up with me and I turn 70. My mother glowers back at me from the mirror (some mornings it’s my grandmother!)