The Bruce Family

At the front of the house below the verandah was a huge yucca which I think must have been the only one in Mallacoota. From the middle grew stems covered in large creamy-white bells. Though the 1930 years meant hard work and little money they passed at a leisurely pace and we were not to know that storm clouds of War were gradually forming over Europe. Soon life would be changed for us all. Somehow it would never be quite the same again. But such thoughts were far from our minds as we listened from our front verandah to the happy sound of music from next door as Bob, Charlie, Fred and Joe played the accordions. Fred also played the mouth organ and that musical instrument popular at the time, the Jew’s Harp. Later Mrs Bruce who also played the accordion, joined them. They had something else that provided music, an old Edison Gramophone and a stack of records. There were two other things belonging to the Bruce Family which fascinated me. One was their pomegranate tree and I would marvel as that tough rind would split open to reveal that many seeded pulp. The other item was their Coles Funny Picture Book. Looking back to well over 75 years, that copy must have been one of the original publications. There were few books in ttiose days and even fewer obtainable in Mallacoota. The Matthews family had a large Emporium in Bendigo and each year Mrs Matthews would bring Mione and I beautiful picture books when she and her husband holidayed in Mallacoota. Somehow, though nothing compared with Coles Picture Book with it’s pages of puzzles.

Most kitchens had opened shelves covered with folded newspaper, part of which hung down to form a frieze which had decorated cut outs. I don’t know if it was Mrs Bruce herself, or one of the family who was responsible for this art work but it always fascinated me. All those huge range of designs. With scissors, I would practise for hours to copy these masterpieces. When table baize came onto the market housewives used this with it’s many different· borders on their shelves or for ‘cloths’ to cover wooden tables.

Mrs Bruce was formerly Ellen (Nelly) Smith, one of a family of ten whose parents selected and farmed along the Genoa River. The property is now owned by the De Geus Family. I only remember three of the family, Vin who lived on the Genoa farm, Lizzie (Mrs MacFarlane) from Moe, she was the loveliest lady. Once, when she was visiting us the conversation centred around the frightening (earth) tremor experienced during the early hours of the morning. We were living at the ‘old’ camp at the back of ‘Raheen’ then and the crockery had rattled on the dresser, some pieces cracking. It was during the 1930s.

The other member of Mrs. Bruce’s family, I remember was Ned Smith who lived at Cabbage Tree Creek. (Former Orbost Councillor Ted Smith, his son and his sister Norma, is named after my Grandmother). Ned was a very well read man who could converse on all subjects, particularly politics, and was a great’ friend of Grandfather Brady and always called on him when he was visiting his sister, Nellie when in Mallacoota. They would greet each other with warm hand shakes expressing their delight at meeting again, then settle down to talk. It always seemed coincidental that I had to take a message up the hill to Grandfather on these occasions, the timing was nearly always wrong, for by the time I was half way up there, the friendly talk would have developed into a political debate. Each could be heard, bellowing and roaring like the proverbial bull, as they stated their views. Too frightened to interrupt them, I would crawl under the steps of the Study at the Camp, cowering in fear, as the verbal war raged overhead….quite convinced that they would kill each other. There would be thumping of fists, stamping of feet and they would suddenly spring up as each would declare their point. Then suddenly it would all subside, with much shaking of hands, and pats on the back, they would say how they had enjoyed the talk “It’s been great to see you, Ted” and “We don’t see each other often enough, Ned.” As a child I could never understand their attitude, as I knew it would be a repeat performance next time they met!

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