The following four contributions were submitted by members of Werribee (Vic.) U3A’s Writing With Words group.
Sun Li had a market garden on the outskirts of town. People said his produce was so good because he used human manures. His horse and cart called at our house regularly, as did the butcher, baker, grocer and milkman. When Sun heard that my aunt had died at a young age he laughed and said, "Velly solly". Every Christmas he gave us jars of ginger and wicker baskets. The grocer would give us boiled sweets in a twist of paper when we paid the bill, or sometimes a bag of broken biscuits. Mum used to buy our clothes "On appro." Which meant on approval and could be returned if not suitable.
"Please to remember
The fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot"
I remember when the Fifth of November was a really big event. Children would find an old pram and make a Guy and dress him up. Then wheel him round from door to door asking "Penny for the Guy ?".They would use the money to buy fireworks to be lit at the bonfire on a vacant paddock. All the garden clippings and household rubbish would be piled up and as soon as the night became dark enough the fire would be lit. We'd buy Jumping Jacks, Catherine Wheels, sky rockets, penny bangers and throw downs.
I was born in Stawell in 1926 and lived there until 1935. I remember when electricity came to the town. We all gathered at Cato Park to see it turned on and a great cheer went up.
I remember when I began school at the age of 4½. My eldest brother took me and led me in by the hand through the boys' entrance. His teacher came out and asked "Who is this little curly-headed girl?" In my own class I began to cry and the teacher asked me what was wrong. I said I was hungry, so she shared her lunch with me. I've used food ever since when lonely or upset.
I remember going to stand in a quiet side street and watch a magic lantern show. The first silent picture I saw when they began to be shown at the drill hall was "Seventh Heaven" with Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell. When a talkie was shown at the Town Hall my father and I went and peeped in the side door to see and hear comedians called Gallagher and Sheene. They sang as follows:
"Oh, Mr Gallagher. Oh, Mr Sheene.
What is on your mind this morning , dear old bean ?
Cost of living is so high, that it's cheaper now to die.
Do you think so , Mr. Gallagher ?
Oh, I'm certain Mr Sheene."
The Coolgardie Safe was invented by miners in the town of Coolgardie in Western Australia. It came before Ice Chests and Refrigerators and was an efficient method of keeping food cool in the hot weather.
It consisted of a wooden frame on four legs, approx. 4 ft. 6 inches high and it sat about 2 ft. off the ground.
The legs stood in jam tins filled with water so that the ants couldn't climb up them.
It had one shelf of slats in the centre and a floor. The 3 sides and the door were covered with hessian and a galvanized iron tray dropped into the top of the frame and overlapped the sides. This was filled with water. Flannel cloths were lain over the sides to keep the hessian wet. A gutter at the bottom collected waste water which ran into a bucket.
As the breeze blew onto the sides and the water evaporated, it cooled the inside of the safe.
My husband, Richard, grew up in the country in Eaglehawk, Victoria, and as a young boy in the Thirties he remembers having to fill the tray with water every day and scrub it clean once a week to remove the slime.
School No. 4166
Blackened boots on chillblained toes,
Icy pools along the road,
Friends to meet at the gate,
The whistle blows, we're never late.
Twisted nibs, empty inkwells,
Chalky dusters, school room smells,
Dog-eared books, pages torn,
Shuffling feet on the floor.
Play time, what a din,
Cricket, rounders, football too,
We played the games as kids will do.
Birds walks along the creek,
Nests and eggs for us to seek,
Back to school after lunch,
Tired feet, but happy bunch.
Trotting ponies with kids astride,
Some had gigs in which to ride,
Saddles and bridles in the shed,
Nose-bags on horse’s heads.
Christmas trees, gifts to bring,
Break-up concerts, songs to sing,
Proud parents clapping loud,
Children smiling, feeling proud.
Candle-greased school room floor,
Circular Waltzes by the score,
Supper ready in the shed,
Hungry dancers to be fed.
This day has ended,
What is there to say,
Memories linger as we go our way,
The last car leaves, and the gate swings shut,
The pine trees whisper
Goodbye to Brewster School.
Black and red in Parkville
The trappings of war surrounded the suburb of Parkville in the 1940's. The just completed Royal Melbourne Hospital had been taken over by General MacArthur’s boys as their headquarters. Royal Park was a sea of Army tents. An American marine had murdered a girl in Gatehouse Street.
Searchlights split the sky as we stood on the tiled verandah of the two story terraced house in Park Street, the leadlight panel on each side of the door had red roses twinning up through the green glass background.
The dark haired lady had a small child resting on her hip when she opened the door to our knock. We had the cutting out of the paper, only one line in the Rooms Vacant Column.
"Furnished room and kitchenette 15/- a week." The passage was dimly lit, soft carpet muffled our footsteps and half way down the hall a beaded curtain tinkled as we walked through.
The room was large, and contained a double bed, wardrobe, chest of drawers, table and two chairs. The carpet was threadbare but clean. Two hanging lights had striped material shades that threw shadows like prison bars on the top half of the room, a green candlewick bedspread covered a sagging mattress. A door led out of the room to a kitchenette that was obviously part of a passage, a two-jet silver frosted gas stove stood in one corner, a chipped wash basin where the water ran tiredly when you turned the tap was behind the door. The cracked lino that covered the small table was turned up at the edges. The gas meter which we later discovered swallowed up shillings with alarming monotony was under the table.
Later we accepted the rent book and paid the first week’s rent. The next day we unpacked our two cases and our electrical appliances, and by showing our marriage certificate, we obtained a permit to buy a jug, toaster and iron. Sitting on the table they were a symbol of marriage and war years. We were poor in possessions but rich in love and hope.
It was quiet and peaceful in the room, the thick walls absorbed the sounds of the other tenants, someone up the stairs always had war songs on the radio and snatches of them would enter our windowless room. We became part of the rabbit warren of Parkville.
The landlord was dark and swarthy; who was he, enemy, friend, spy, fifth column, internment escapee? The paranoia of war was always hovering on the edge of your sane and more logical thoughts.
When the landlady opened the door each week to take our rent, it brought a glimpse of another world, red plush lounge suite, grey carpet, gold clock, inlaid wooden coffee table, cabinet full of dazzling crystal, red velvet curtains tied back with gold cords, no war time austerity restrictions in that brilliantly lit room.
Taxis were frequently out the front as people came and went on short visits, and the tinkling curtains told us when they visited.
Arriving home late one night, we saw a taxi waiting out the front, a man walking down the steps carrying three bolts of material and the landlord standing in the doorway with a handfull of pound notes. We then knew how the red room was furnished. The black market was big business in war years.
As we shut our door the radio was playing "Over there, Over there".