Remembering my Grandparents

Anne Davis

My grandparents had to be pretty self-sufficient living so far out of the small township of Stroud (NSW) in the early 1900s. They grew their own vegetables, kept chooks and pigs and Grandfather in his early days had a bullock team and snigged logs out of the nearby forests.

The township of Stroud was quite a distance away, eight miles, so there was no ducking in to the shop if you ran out of sugar. They killed their own meat and cured, smoked and did whatever they had to do to keep it from going off. No refrigerators or ice-boxes then, only the drip-safe, which hung out in the breezeway with a wet bag over it to catch the cooling breezes.

My Mother told me that my Grandmother was frequently visited without notice by her family from their far away farms. No telephones to see if they would be at home so very often the visitors, travelling in a horse and sulky, would be first noticed at the gate up the road quite some distance away. Grandma would have a fowl caught, its head chopped off, its feathers plucked, cleaned and ready to roast by the time the visitors were at the homestead. In those days it was a special treat to eat chicken so the baked dinner was always a welcome feast for everyone.

Grandma used to have to get up before daybreak to light the fire under the copper to boil the clothes and manhandle them through the mangle and then hang them out on to the lines strung between two trees. What I always remember as a very small child were the snowy white sheets and I later learned they were made from unbleached calico. All the feathers were kept from the defunct fowls to fill the feather mattresses and pillows. A great deal of home manufacture went on in the bush not only out of necessity but also to save money.

I remember once on holidays being able to sleep in the little back room or sleep-out in the house on Stroud Road. It was probably because my Father was with us, otherwise I slept with my Mother. This was an unlined room with a high bunk bed with feather mattress and I used to take a running jump into the bed so that I made a hole in the centre. If I climbed up into bed I made a dip in the side of the mattress and always felt as if I was falling out of bed. I was allowed a candle in a white enamel holder, like Rip Van Winkle. There was no lock on the door, just a home made latch which one had to lift to open.

Grandma might have been a gentle lady but I believe she was very strong in grit and determination. She watched the cows and used to tell Grandfather when it was time to put this cow with that bull; she kept the books and made sure that the animal husbandry was spot on. Two of her favorite sayings were, “work never killed anyone” and “if in doubt, don’t.” I still live by that creed today.