OUR HOME
COMPILED BY MAUREEN SINCLAIR AND CORALIE MAHONEY

January 31, 2001
The Sinclair family moved into Hickory Street Dorrigo in 1951.  The reason that I have not put a house number on the address is simply because there were no house numbers in Dorrigo at that time.  The postman and indeed everyone knew where everyone lived so the use of house numbers was quite unnecessary.

My father, Patrick John Sinclair and my mother, Elizabeth Mary Sinclair (always known as Mary) bought the house from Norman and Olive Goodfellow. The Goodfellows lived there until they built their new house.  They lived two doors down from us and also owned the house in between.  My father bought the house for the cost of one thousand  pounds which was quite a bargain for such a nice well kept house and grounds.

I don’t know when the house was built, but Mum used to tell us that it was one of the oldest places in Dorrigo.  Up until then we lived in Parkes street in a shabby rented house and this was the first house we had ever owned.  The first time we children saw the house, we could not believe that we were going to own such a beautiful house.

We moved into our lovely home in May.  At that time the roof was high pitched and painted red. Coralie caused Mum and Dad many a grey hair as she would climb up on the roof and walk across the ridgepole whenever she thought that she could get away with it.  I was never game to climb on anything so I would look in awe as I saw Coralie having a wonderful time on the roof.  Two years after we moved into our house, we had a house fire. It started in the kitchen and spread to the rafters.  There was not a great deal of damage done, due to the quick response of the fire brigade and the help of neighbours.  The result was that we had a new roof  and a repaint throughout the house.

We really loved the four little golden pine trees that were planted in a row at the side of the house.  I have a photo of myself where the top of the first tree in just visible above my head.  We were led to believe that the trees were small growing trees and would never exceed about twelve feet.  They looked so nice that all the neighbours decided to plant one in front of their houses, again thinking that they would always be smallish trees.

Mum was delighted to at last have a garden in which to grow flowers especially roses and later on azaleas and camellias. We especially loved the many fruit trees that were in the back yard. There was an apple tree, peach trees, plums and pear trees.  There was never a shortage of fruit as Mum preserved the excess.

We didn’t own a car for some years and when we finally bought a small car it was hard to fit it in the garage, as Dad had so many tools, timber and all sorts of things there.  When we bought a larger car, due to the increase of Dads collections of “garage” things the car wouldn’t fit, also by that time the “smallish” trees had grown dramatically making it almost impossible to drive the car into the garage.  Dad built a carport of sorts to protect the car.  Now he could really spread out his tools, timber, etc, etc. etc. all over his own domain.  Mum only went into the garage when it was absolutely necessary.

When we moved into our home, the laundry was a little room behind the garage with it’s own rainwater tank and bricked in copper and two cement tubs.  The clothesline was between the laundry and the back fence.  This was the most modern laundry Mum had ever had.  Water was always a bit of a problem as town water was not available until about the mid 50’s.  About this time we had power connected to the laundry and Mum had a washing machine. Later again, the new laundry was built and a rotary clothesline installed.

Our toilet was in the back yard and when the town sewerage was available, the new toilet, laundry and back verandah were added to the back of the house. The old toilet was then used as a garden shed/wood storage area.  In the later years Mum and Dad spent many happy hours sitting together on the verandah talking, doing crossword puzzles and looking at the scenery.  It was also a favourite  place of all of us, when we came to visit.

There were five of us in the family Lance, Colin, Barry,  Maureen and Coralie.   Lance, Barry and Coralie all got married from the house.  We all have large families and our children loved to come to Dorrigo for holidays. Our old home has a special place in all their hearts and they all drive past the house when ever they visit Dorrigo and take photos. Mum and Dad were most hospitable and the house was always ringing with laughter and bursting at the seams with visitors.  Our numerous water fights were not always confined to outdoors.

Mum and Dad moved from the house and into a nursing home in 1994.  Dad died in October 1999 at the age of ninety seven.  As I write Mum has just celebrated her ninety third birthday.

DADDY
 

My beloved father, Patrick John Sinclair, had the most amusing and descriptive words and sayings of anyone I have ever known and I will try to remember some of them.

He used to call people, mostly his children and grandchildren “wooden headed melons” when they did something stupid. A mean person, whether they ate the last piece of chocolate or beat him to the chair that he wanted to sit in, or made themselves a cup of  coffee and didn’t make him one was called a “miserable bandicoot”. A penis was sometimes referred to a tallywallah. A gastric attack was “the flying axe handles” and if someone broke wind he would say that had “opened their lunch box”. When he was surprised he would say “hells bells and buggy wheels and pussycats pyjamas”  “Holy Ghost” was  a pet saying of his and one which my mother tried unsuccessfully to break for the seventy two years that they were married.
 

Daddy also had some very good stories to tell, how true they all were I wouldn’t like to guess.  One of the ones that I particularly liked was about and old chap who used to hang around at one of the outlying pubs.  He did a bit of work around the place and his reward was that he was allowed to drink the beer from the overflow at the bar.  Someone asked him how he liked the beer and he replied that it was “perfect”.  “How come it is perfect”, he was asked  “Well” he said “It’s like this. If it was any better they wouldn’t let me have it and if it were any worse, I wouldn’t be able to drink it. So it’s just perfect.”

When we were little he used to entertain us with outrageous stories about when he was a little girl.  He also told us that one day he went to the doctor because he had a sore eye and the doctor took his eye out and placed it on a saucer and let him look at it.  We just loved that kind of nonsense and laughed and laughed which urged him on to find other outlandish things to tell us.

He told me that once he saw a tree so big that it took two men and a boy to see the top of it.  One man had to look as high as he could then the other man took over and looked as high as he could then a boy had to look to see the last bit of if.

My sister did something silly and Mum told her that she didn’t have the brains of a mouse.  Dad  pretended horror and corrected Mum by saying “You are quite wrong.  She has got the brains of a mouse” My sister was quite unimpressed and couldn’t decide who had insulted her the most.

There was a man in our town named George Devine and my father had a couple of stories about him that are worthy of note.  The railway station was quite a way from the small township and someone asked George if he knew why it was built so far away.  George’s rely was. “I’m buggered if I know, but I guess it’s so that it will be near the railway line.”   He had been going out with a lady for about seven years and she asked him if he thought that it was time that they got married.  He said “Yes it is, but who the hell would have us”

A neighbour had a dog called Sketta and it seemed  to spend half it’s life at  Dad and Mum’s place.  This suited them perfectly as they had all the pleasure of a lovely little dog, but none of the responsibility.  Daddy used to get an old worn out piece of material which used to be a tee shirt or a teatowell or similar and hang it on the rotary clothes line and Sketta  would have a marvelous time jumping up at it and tearing it even further.  One time Daddy was describing to me the looks of some man that he knew.  He said that he looked just like the rag that Sketta played with on the clothes line.

When I grew up Daddy and I would tell each other some mildly dirty jokes and we thought that we were extremely funny.  Mum never caught on to the jokes and when Daddy and I would be falling about laughing, Mum would say “Neither of you are a bit funny and Pat, you are just showing off to Maureen”.  She was probably quite right too.  Even though she would put on a straight face, she just loved the fact that Daddy and I had such a lovely warm relationship.

 Daddy had a great collection of songs, but alas, a dreadful voice and no tune what-so -ever, but he made up for that with the songs he sang.  The grandchildren loved to hear him singing and when he started, they would call to each other “Grandfather is singing” and they would all stop what they were doing and come to listen to him.  The fact that he had no musical ability did not deter him in the least.

My Dad was a joy to everyone.  We were truly blessed to have him for so long.  He had great pride in all his family and his family were and still are very proud of him.

FLOWERS IN THE BATHROOM

My mother used to recite a little verse that went:

I think when I pick up their playthings
That sometimes disorder is sweet
And I smile through the tears
When I think of the years
When the house will be silent but neat.

Well now my house is silent and neat, but I am quite pleased about it and certainty don’t miss the disorder and chaos of the former years.

I am a mother of five sons so life was very busy and hectic in those days. We also had an uncle living with us and I had a husband who was completely non-supportive in every way. So all domestic arrangements and child rearing was left to me. With five boys there was always a calamity either happening or about to happen.  The house was never tidy for very long and there was always a cupboard just begging to be cleaned.  The boys were in the usual activities of football, little athletics, cubs, etc etc.  I was on tuck-shops, football committees, school committees  etc. etc.  Money was also pretty tight so I  did various things like child minding, ironing, Tupperware dealing.  When the last child started school I got a job in a school so that I worked school hours and had the school holidays off.  I was still on the committees but not tuck shop duties.

Even though there the kids activities kept me busy, I still made sure that I had time for myself as well.  I played netball, squash, and ten pin bowling ( not necessarily at the same point in time) coached a netball team and saw and went out with my friends. All in all lifewas pretty hectic for me.

Now things have completely changed.  I have a different house in a different town. I have a different husband. I don’t work.  I have no kids living with me.  My house is always tidy.  Cupboards are always neat. There are no “playthings” to pick up.

 I have the time and money to make my home look lovely.  I even have flowers in the bathroom.

CARS I HAVE OWNED

The first car I ever owned by myself was a red Holden.  I had to save up really hard to buy this car.  I had three preschoolers (as well as two at school) and my friend needed to go back to work, so I minded her three preschoolers as a paying proposition.  This suited us both as she didn’t have to pay me a great deal and I needed any money I could get without actually going out to work. We did this for a year till her parents migrated to Australia.  At the same time, the oldest of my little ones started school and I had enough money saved to buy the car.  It was second hand painted red with a white hood.  I thought I was made.  What with only two children each day instead of six and a car to drive.  I then started a new job selling Tupperware with most of the work at night so having a car was heaven.  Each week I had to go to the warehouse for a meeting and to collect my ordered goods. This was great fun.  I would put the two little boys in the back of the car and off we would go.  We had a wonderful time on these trips. We would sing and talk and I would teach the boys the names of all the bridges that we crossed and the names of the suburbs.  I named the car “Georgie” as she was red and white like St. George football team. Georgie made my life so much easier as I could transport the kids to their various activities and visit my friends without having to rely on public transport. I also taught two of my friends to drive.

Georgie was an old car when I first bought her and though she was quite reliable she ended up dying of rust.  I traded her in on another car and the dealer assured me that he would always look after her when he knew how I hated parting with her.  My insensitive family kept telling me that she would soon be part of a new fridge or washing machine.

The car that replaced Georgie was a pale green Datsan and I hated her.  I called her Nippy as she was Japanese and also had a bit of “grunt”, but there was always something wrong with her. One window wouldn’t open another wouldn’t shut, and as soon as these things were fixed something else would go wrong. Her petrol gauge was stuck on “full” so I was always running out of petrol and she wouldn’t start when I needed her the most.  She was a real cow.  We just did not get on.  Strangely enough, a friend of mine really liked her and asked me if he could buy her even though I used to complain to him about her shortcomings.  At first I thought that he was joking, but when I realized that he was serious, I had the registration papers changed over before he could change his mind. I couldn’t believe my luck and couldn’t get rid of her fast enough.

Samantha was my next car and my very favourite of all time.  She was a two door hard top Ford Falcon, white with red leather upholstery.  She was a lovely looking sporty car.  I taught two of my boys to drive on her.  At this time I was coaching a net ball team so the car always seemed to be full of one sporting team of the other.  These were the days  when there was no restrictions as to how many people you could have in your car and seat belts were not compulsory.  Samantha was ideal for those days, being two door, the kids could pile in the back and there was no chance of them falling out. I was working at the school by this time and my morning routine was that I would drop the two youngest to their school, pick up another two kids and take them to their school along with my other boy. The other parents would take the three of them home.  Any how one day after I had dropped the youngest two off I was driving along the usual route but did not notice that the “stop”sign had changed directions.  Where the cars had to give way to my car the day before, now I had to give way.  There were no lines on the road either, so I went through the “stop” sign.  No excuse as I should have been on the lookout for cars on any cross road, so I collided with a car which was coming in the direction of where the “stop” sign had been previously.  Samantha being such a big tank of a car, on impact spun the other little toy sized car around so that it was facing down hill.  The stupid girl who was driving the car, for some unknown reason jumped out of her car without putting on the break so her car went down the hill driverless.  Usually that was a very busy street with plenty of cars and pedestrians on it, but this day it was completely deserted.  As the stupid ones’ car could see no damage it could do to cars or people on the hill, with complete accuracy it lined up a line of cars parked at the bottom of the hill at the curb them smashed into one car, which happened to be a Lincoln Continental the last one to be imported from America, which in turn rammed the car in front of it and that one rammed a ute in front of it.  I asked the stupid one why she jumped out of the car and she replied  “Because I was scared”.  The cops arrived as well as all the tow trucks and I gave them my statement.  They let me off with a caution and didn’t charge me.  Then they said “Now we will deal with the other ladies accident” meaning the pile up of cars at the bottom of the hill. As I left the scene I noticed that one of the young policemen was in the police car with the stupid one and they were enjoying a cigarette together.  I received a call from the cops later in the day saying that there was now a different light on the matter.  The stupid one hadn’t  jumped out of her car as I had said, but on impact  her seat belt came undone, the car door sprung open and she was flung out .  Perhaps the stupid one and her new friend, the cigarette smoking policeman, weren't so stupid after all.  I later received a letter from her solicitor saying that I would be expected to pay for the damage done to her car, but my solicitor wrote back saying that we would both pay for our own damage. And that was more or less the end of the matter.

Sadly the day came when Samantha and I had to part company.  She was becoming far too expensive as the poor old girl was dying of cancer of the motor.  There are still a few Samantha’s around and every time I see one I feel very nostalgic.

I went without a car for sometime then found that I needed one again so Caroline come into my life. She was a white Honda Civic.  I was having a job thinking up a suitable name for her.  My husband and I had been on cruise just before I bought her and the cruise director’s name was Caroline Cooper.  I used to tease my husband about her telling him that he had the hots for her (I really think he had them too) Every time he went missing, sure enough I found him talking to Caroline.  When I was trying to think of a name for the car he said. “The car reminds me of Caroline Cooper.  So smooth, white, pretty and virginal.”  So she was Caroline from then on.  She was a lovely little car, but she had some funny ways about her.  One thing, I swear that she was a lesbian. When any man went near her she would refuse to start.  I would have to coax her and eventually she would be persuaded to go, but only after I had wound the windows up and down a few times.  My two youngest boys learnt to drive on her.  She tolerated them and would usually start first try for them.  One of them were telling me that one day she wouldn’t start, so feeling extremely foolish, tried the winding up and down the window trick and off she went. It worked every time.

Finally, she had grown too old and sick, so I had to trade her in.  But I felt a bit disloyal about her just the same.  The new, again second hand car was a red Ford Laser.  I called her Lena, for Lena The Laser.  She was an all right car, but with absolutely no personality.  I had her for some time, then as I was retiring from work we decided that we needed a new car that was going to last for a very long time especially as we were going to the country to live.

For the first time ever, I had a new car. She was (in fact is, as I still have her) a metallic blue Toyota Corolla. Very nice too. She is the first car that I have had with power steering.  When I first bought her I thought that she looked as though her should be called Priscilla so that was her name.  After having her for some time and calling her Priscilla, I went to the movies to see “Priscilla Queen of the Desert”.  I just knew that I had to change her name.  I had a good talk to her and explained to her why she had to have her name changed and she seemed to understand perfectly.  On the spot her name was changed to Clementine and I get the distinct feeling that she likes it better than Priscilla. She is a lovely car and we have had many very nice trips in her.  We have been to Queensland (several times) Victoria, South Australia and many trips around New South Wales.  I have even taught someone to drive in her. I guess the day will come when we will have to update, but not for some time, as she does everything that is required of her.  I must say that a new car is a very nice thing to own.  It has taken me long enough and many second hand cars to get one.

ANIMALS I HAVE KNOWN

When I was first married we went to live on a sheep station in the out-back of South Australia.  As I am not an animal lover, I was concerned that I would have to come into contact with a whole range of animals, but The Husband assured me  that the sheep dogs would be kept right away from the house and that the sheep would only be seen as we passed them in the car. Silly me believed all this.  The Husband had to buy two pups which he had to train as working dogs.  When he brought them home they were two adorable bundles of fluff and no one would be able to help liking them.  While I was petting them The Husband announced very casually that handling them while they were small made them much easier to train and would I like to name them?

Next thing, we began to have a problem with mice so The Husband said that we really needed cats to combat this.  So we acquired two kittens and they effectively dealt with the mice.

The tiny town that we lived closest to (twenty miles away) relied a lot on local produce to sell in the store.  They had a shortage of eggs for some time so, of course, the logical thing to do was for us to have our own.  Soon we had chooks, ducks, bantams and geese.

One day The Husband came home from work and he had the most pathetic little lamb with him.  It had been abandoned in the paddock and the crows were beginning to peck at it.  This was a very common occurrence as the mother had probably produced twins or triplets and they reject some so that they can look after the remaining one.  So most station wives have at least one had fed lamb.  I called my lamb "Wittle Wam" and I loved him.  He was my constant companion as I was so far away from anyone with my nearest neighbor living ten miles away so had little contact with people and was very lonely.  I was  expecting my first child then.  Wittle Wam went every where with me,  he sat behind my legs while I drove the car to town and on the odd occasion when I had a cuppa with the neighbor, he came too. All the wives took their lambs with them while they were very young and we could all tell if it was our lamb that was bleating.  He came with me to the outside toilet and wanted to escort our guests there too.  He used to sit on my knee in the sun where he would put his head under my arm and go to sleep.  When he was a big whether I would catch and hold onto him and he would put his head under my arm and go to sleep standing up.  He would also run to the car and try to get in when he saw us go near it, even though we had stopped taking him for drives months ago.  When my baby was born my sister-in-law wrote this limerick.
There once was a bottle fed lamb
Who went by the name Wittle Wam
It saw Timothy feed
And said "that's what I need"
But Maureen said "Wittle Wam Scram"
She wasn't far from the truth either, as he could smell the breast milk on me and felt sure that it was for him.

By this time the sheep dogs were getting big and needed a lot of food.  There were a lot of wild goats on the property so The Husband would catch one and bring it home and tether it to a log till he got round to kill it for the dogs.  After a few days he would say "I'll just go out and kill that goat now"  I would say "Don't you dare even think about it.  That is my goat."  So he would get another one that the whole thing would start all over again.  I was by now as silly as true animal lovers are.  The only way he could kill a goat was to do it before I saw it.

Later on we moved back to the city to live, dispersing with all the animals except for the one remaining cat which ran away  never to be seen again, as soon as the  removal truck pulled up. I was quite pleased to be without animals again.  Of course this state of affairs didn't last for long. My sister was gong overseas for a year and guess who ended up dog sitting for her two dogs?  One was a sweet little thing but the other one certainly had a mind of it's own and would snarl and snap at all of us. One afternoon we found it dead and I swear that none of us had anything to do with it.  Before my sister returned, a friend persuaded me to have her mothers dog, as she was moving to a flat and couldn't keep the dog.  Why she would want us to have it I don't know as we weren't the best handlers of animals.  Our family had increased by now and I was the mother of five boys.  So now we had  two dogs again.  When my sister returned and took back her dog, a stray dog turned up at our place.  I  kept chasing it away and the kids kept feeding it.  One night I told The Husband that I was going to call the R.S.P.C.A. the next day to take away the stray, but he said that we would have a family vote to see if we would keep  the dog (who the kids had named Buck) or Daniel our youngest child.  We had an uncle living with us at the time so Daniel was busy going around the family canvassing votes.  Like any good politician, he was making promises that he had no intention of keeping.  The day of the election came and the votes were counted and the result was that  Daniel, The Husband, and Uncle had voted for Daniel and the other four boys and myself had voted for Buck.  So how come we were stuck with both Buck and Daniel?  We did threaten Daniel quite often with a call to the R.S.P.C.A.

We had  various cats, guinea pigs etc. that the kids conned me into by promising to look after them but I was left to do it all.  Then we got a mentally retarded cat called Hector.  I cannot remember just how we came to get Hector, but it was certainly a mistake.  We had a set of poisonous twins living close to us and for laughs one day they put Hector down a storm water drain. After their mother and I  couldn't get him out after trying for ages,  we finally called the council to rescue the cat.   Two very pleasant young men arrived wearing suits and collars and ties assuring us that Hector would be rescued in next to no time.  Much later they were stripped to bear chests and the pleasant looks were gone.  They had to dismantle the top of the drain which was a lot of guess work because in spite of Hectors mournful cries, it was very hard to tell exactly which drain he was in.  I had no idea of the network of drains that are under a suburban road.  Finally, there was success.  By this time there was quite a crowd watching this drama unfold.  We thanked the men and told them what heroes we thought they were.  I would not have been surprised if they had resigned the minute they got back to the council.  I imagine that that was the start of Hectors mental problems.  He loved the rain and as soon as it started would go outside and lay on his back in it.  He also developed some unsociable behavior.. We invited new friends for dinner one night and  Hector very lovingly climbed unto our guests lap and peed on him.  The embarrassment I suffered was enormous.  The friends new most have liked us as they made light of the situation and remained friends with us.  He fell madly in love with one of the boys left leg.  Daryl would be lying on the floor watching T.V. when Hector would sidle up to him and mount his left leg.  Daryl was less than impressed.  Hector finally died of pneumonia from being in the rain.  The vet could not believe that he was young cat.  He thought that he was very old.  I explained that he'd had a very hard life.

The older boys decided that they wanted to have two field mice that one of their friends were giving away.  Once again, I let them have them against my better judgment.  The idea was that they had to be played with and looked after well and that they made lovely pets.  After the novelty wore off  the mice were forgotten about till I shouted at the boys that I wanted  the mouse box cleaned out because it stunk.  As the mice had been left to their own resources, they had interbred and were anything but tame so some would escape when the box was opened, so we ended up with mice in our cupboards and in other parts of the house.  The boys had to get rid of the rest of the mice and an exterminator was called in to get rid of the feral mice.
 

One of the boys had a birthday party and for a present, one of his little mates turned up with three goldfish in a peanut butter jar.  Of course we had to go out and buy a fish tank, fish food, pebbles weeds etc. etc.  The birthday present cost me a fortune especially as we had to keep replacing when they died.  I said that we weren't very good with animals.  The girl next door was kicking a football in our loungroom ( as you do) and hit the fish tank so that meant a new tank on top of all the other expenses.

Daniel and two of his mates arrived home one day with a tiny yellow fluffy duckling, begging to keep it .  They  had asked the other two mothers if they could keep it but had been turned down.  We asked where it had come from and we were told that they had been at the beach and  some kids were trying to kill it and these three heroes had saved it's life  and "please can we keep it".  The Husband said that he could keep it if he cleaned out the space under the bar-bar-cue for it to live and looked after it but it had to go to a duck pond when it was fully grown.  All these conditions were readily agreed upon  "Now tell us how you got the duck and you can forget the story about the beach and kids trying to kill it."  so the whole truth came out.  The trio had caught a bus into town and went to the markets, pooled their pocket money and actually bought the duck.  Of course none of this was allowed.  The problem was that the duck would not eat or drink.. I finally force fed it water and cracked wheat. He just loved the cracked wheat and wouldn't eat anything else.  He hated bread and when we filled up the wheel barrow to give him a swim he hated the water.  He loved Daniel and followed him everywhere he could.  We imagined that he thought that he looked like Daniel, so we got a big mirror and I held him so that he would be able to see both of us in the mirror.  He was horrified when he first saw himself.  He flapped his wings and squawked, he'd obviously never seen anything so ugly or frightening.  As he got bigger he found the joy of  eating snails and kept the snail population at bay.  He got smarter too.  If he found a snail with a shell too hard for him to crack with his beak, he would carry it to us  for us to smash on the cement so that he could eat it.  The day came when he was really to big for us to keep in our small yard so we took him to the park where there was a duck pond.  I must confess that we were all quite sad to see him go.

Stray animals seemed to be attracted to  us.  Why I don't know, as we had little success with them.  Any how one day a rabbit wandered into our yard.  None of the kids were responsible for his arrival (for a change) and we asked everyone if they knew if anyone was missing a rabbit.  We never solved the mystery, but of course kept the rabbit which we named "Moscow"  He really was sweet but like all our other animals developed strange habits.  He would escape from our yard and go next door and nibble on the neighbours most prized pot plant.  He  would also nibble at the legs of the boys pants while they were wearing them and would leave a little"V" shaped hole in them.  He even got into my bedroom and chewed through the cord of my electric blanket and lived through it all.  We had him till be was a ripe old age when he died of natural causes.

I have a book that is full of little sayings.  My favourite one is.  "You don't start to live when you are first born or when you are twenty-one.  You start to live when the last child leaves home and the dog dies."  How very true.

MY FIFTH BIRTHDAY

My fifth birthday is the birthday that I remember more clearly than any other birthday.  We were living with my grandparents at the time in Leigh, a tiny rural area outside Dorrigo.  There was also a teenage cousin living with us.  For the memory to be so vivid there must have been a big build- up to the occasion.  My first memory is waking up in the morning and saying “I’m five”.  I must have received lots of presents, but the one that I can clearly remember is a string of red, white and blue beads.  My cousin had some the same and I greatly admired them so I was very thrilled to get some too.  Best of all they were a present from Santa Claus!  I couldn’t believe my luck that I had the beautiful beads and that Santa had given me a birthday present when he usually only gave presents at Christmas time.

My Mum took me to visit a neighbour who lived about a mile away.  She had her radio (or wireless as it was called then) turned on. I could hardly believe my ears when I heard my name announced, wishing me a happy birthday. I found out that Mum had arranged the birthday call for me and as we didn’t have a wireless, she had asked the neighbour, Mrs. Akers, if we could go to her place to hear it.  What an unbelievable thrill for a little five year old girl.

An even more remarkable surprise was in store for me.  I was given a birthday party, I think it was only just the family there, as there weren't too many other people around.  We always ate at a long table and my Grandfather’s seat was at the head of the table. I wished out loud that I could sit on Grandfather’s chair, but of course I knew that no one ever was allowed to sit there, so it was just like wishing for the moon.  I can still remember how I felt when Grandfather sat at the side of the table and told me to sit in his seat.  I was the proudest birthday girl in the world.

I always get a nice feeling when I think of that long ago birthday.  I  go for ages and never think about it, but when I do, I can remember exactly the excitement of the entire day. The cards at the top of the page were actually my cards which Mum had kept for me.


 

GRANDMA SUTTON’S BOX

Avery cherished possession of mine is “Grandma Suttons Box”  The box is a plain camphor wood box with brass trimmings.  After almost one hundred years it still has the wonderful camphor wood smell.

My grandmother Elizabeth Sutton nee Adams originally own the box.  She was engaged to a man who went to Japan and brought her back the box.  I know absolutely nothing about this man, I am rather regretful to say.  Anyhow the engagement was broken and Elizabeth (Lizzie) married my grandfather, Edward Sutton in about 1904.  She was about thirty-four and at that time considered to be an “old maid” as very young marriages were the normal way of things.

I would imagine that she used “Grandma Suttons Box” as her glory box.  She certainly used it to store her baby clothes when she was expecting her babies.  She had four children.  Annie, Charles, Elizabeth Mary ( my mother who was always known as Mary) and James.

Very sadly she died when she was forty-five, leaving a grieving husband and heartbroken children.  My mother missed her mother all her life and as I write this, Mum is ninety-two and has dementia, but still talks about her mother and how she always missed her.

Mum used “Grandma Suttons Box” as her mother did by putting her baby clothes in it when she was expecting her family.  Mum married Patrick Sinclair and they had five children, Lance, Colin, Barry, Maureen (me) and Coralie.

Mum gave me “Grandma Suttons Box” and following family tradition I used it for my babies clothes and in fact also used it for the things I collected and made for my grandchildren.

My daughter-in-law Karen Palmer has laid claim to it when I am ready to hand it over and she said that she would also like it to be filled with my Limoges collection.

Some years ago I had “Grandma Suttons Box” restored to its original state. The hinges and fittings were taken off and cleaned and it was sanded back and varnished with a clear lacquer. The Japanese writing was clearly seen under the fittings.

I am sure that the man who bought the box in Japan would be pleased to know that it is so treasured and I am positive that Grandma Sutton would be delighted to know that her box has a special place in the lives of her descendants.


MOUNT SAINT JOHN’S.

My primary school was at St. John's convent Dorrigo.  I started there in kindergarten in 1944 and finished in sixth class.  The school was very small and it had day pupils and boarders.  These were the days before the school bus so that a lot of the     pupils who were boarders were from out lying areas where there was no schools or from farms.  Some of the children lived close to a small village school but their parents preferred them to be boarders at a Catholic school than to have them at home and attend a state school.  Strangely though a lot of the children came from large towns and cities where there certainly were Catholic school for instance, Sydney, Coffs Harbour and Lismore.  It wasn't until I had children of my own that it occurred to me to wonder why parents would send their children as young as five to a boarding school and to have them  complete their primary school education away from their parents.

We only had one school photo taken and that was when I was in about fourth class and there were forty-eight children in the photo, about two thirds of them boarders.  It looks more like a class photo than an entire school photo.

All our classes were composite one being for kindergarten or as it was called,"bubs",  first and second classes and one for third and fourth classes and one for fifth and sixth. There were no class rooms.  A small room to the side of the altar in the church was for bubs, first and second,  the boarders dining room was where third and fourth classes were conducted and  fifth and sixth classes sere held in the church itself with a curtain pulled across to hide the altar.  The nuns told us how privileged we were to be taught so close to God.

There were two schools in the town, ours and the state school.  These were the days when there was a conflict between religions.  Being bashed up on the way home from school was commonplace, taunting was also rife.  There were charming little poetic gems such as "Catholics Catholics ring the bell while the publics march to hell" and of course the "publics" would say it the other way around.  We called each other "connie wackers" and "public wackers"  Great insults which started many a fight.

Children from both schools went to school barefooted and we loved it even though we sometimes had cracks on the top of our feet. I can remember my brother having bleeding cracks on his feet.  Still the suggestion of wearing shoes was met with great protests.  When I was in about third class we got a new lot of nuns and they were horrified when we turned up for school barefooted.  They made the boarders wear shoes and told us day pupils that we had to wear shoes from then on.  When the parents of the public school children saw us in shoes they made their children wear them too, so that was the end of us going  shoeless.  We felt quite put out about it too.

In those days there were very few nuns who were trained teachers.  I would imagine that in all probability I was never taught  by a trained teacher while I was at that school.  Lack of teacher training didn't stop them from being great teachers though.  Each year a Catholic bursary was awarded to one girl and one boy from the Lismore diocese and also there were state bursaries.  The winner of these bursaries were given free tuition and free board at a college.  These were very important as there was only one small high school in Dorrigo with very limited subjects and it only went to the Intermediate level.  This was the case in most small towns at that time. Year after year at least one child from the St. John's got a bursary, sometimes the same child got both bursaries.  In fact my brother got both.  Unfortunately I was never in the running.

Things are so different now.  The last time I visited the school I saw a modern school with not a nun in sight and all the pupils were wearing shoes, and no boarders.


LANCES’ FIRST SCHOOL

My brother Lance was a fully qualified school teacher at the age of nineteen in 1947.  In those days there were five years of high school and then two years of teachers college. Also teachers were “bonded” meaning that the government paid for their teacher training and in return the teachers had to teach for, I think, three years or had to pay back the money that the government had spent in training them. I don’t think that they had a great say in where they were sent to teach in their first year of teaching.   I know that they could request a posting later, but of course there was nothing to say that they would be sent to the place of their choice.

Lance’s first school was in Caroona which is close to Werris Creek.  There were two schools in the town, one a “white” school and one a “black” school.  Lance was sent to the latter where there was the headmaster and  him on the staff.  Some of the pupils had blue eyes and blond hair, but as they had a small trace of Aboriginal blood they were not allowed to attend the “white” school.  Also in the town there were two types of buses, a “white” bus and a “black” bus.  Lance would hop on the first bus which came along and usually was the only so-called “white” person on the bus.

At the end of the year Lance put in for a transfer to our home district and as a second choice to stay in Caroona, as he rather enjoyed being there.  He was got the transfer and I think was a little sorry to be leaving.

I think the whole “black” and “white” thing really disgusting especially  considering that this was happening  such a short time ago. Lance was appalled at it then and still is.


THE WRONG ERA

I am convinced that I was born into the wrong era.  When I was a kid there was no such thing as a bad parent, only bad kids.  Then when I had children there were no bad kids only bad parents. We were taught to obey our parents.  Our children are encouraged to question everything and be their own person regardless of what we may think.

In my time teenage girls collected a “glory box”  and learnt Home Economics while the boys were taught Woodwork.  We were taught how to be good wives and mothers.  Columns in magazines were titled “how to be a better wife” never “how to be a better husband”.  The advice we were given was to make sure that the house and children were neat and tidy when the husband came home from work and that delicious cooking smells were there to greet him.  Also for the wife to change her frock and put on a little make-up so that the husband enjoyed coming home.  We were also told to let him relax and encourage him to tell us about his day before we told him about ours.

The “agony aunt’s” column went like this  “My husband is having a affair.  What should I do?” The answer went  “Have a good look at yourself.  Are you still the girl he married?  Have you let yourself go?  Have you put on weight?  Do you nag him?”  He writes, “My wife is having an affair.  What should I do?”  The answer to that one is  “Get rid of her.  She is no good.  Find someone who is worthy of you.”

Our jobs were the way to fill in time and to support ourselves till we got married or perhaps till the first child was on the way.  Our role in life was to be a wife and mother.  Hadn’t we always been taught that?  But later we started to wonder about our lives and decided that we wanted to have our own money and not to be so dependent on our husbands.  We wanted a life that was not solely within the confines of our homes.  We wanted to work.  The husbands were not a bit keen about this, but reluctantly agreed as long as it made no difference to the smooth running of the house.  So we went to work brought in money (the husbands liked that part of it) but still did all the household chores with no help at all.  If we moaned about the unfairness of it, the husbands said, “Well you wanted to go back to work didn’t you?”

In the meantime, we taught our sons how to cook and clean and sew on their own buttons and do work around the house that was regarded as “women's work”. We also taught our daughters to expect men to take an equal share in household duties and made sure that they realized their true worth that they were not to be taken as second best. We encouraged our daughters to have careers and to be independent.

Now everything is shared in families.  Both husband and wife can be housekeepers and breadwinners and take an equal share in the rearing of the children.  I certainly was born in the wrong era.  But then I guess it was my generation that instigated the change of attitude.


CIGARETTES

Cigarettes smokers come in all shapes and sizes, they are of all religions, race, profession, sex and ages.  Except for the very young and/or very stupid, they all have one thing in common.  They all want to stop smoking.  Stopping smoking is not as easy as it sounds.  I have been told that it is harder to quit smoking than it is to stop using heroin.  I wouldn’t really know, as I have never used heroin, but I certainly know how hard it is to stop smoking.

Most smokers started the habit when they were young and wanted to be “cool,” like their mates, or to be “cooler” than their non-smoking mates.  Unlike them, I didn’t start until I was about twenty-three.  I was working on Heron Island on the Great Barrier Reef and everyone of the staff smoked.  Of course, being on a small island we all saw a great deal of each other and socialised together.  I would be offered cigarettes and would accept them, them I would realise that I was taking peoples ciggies and never returning them, so I would buy a packet and hand them around , but there always was a few left over, so I would smoke them.  Then the merry-go-round would begin all over.  Of course the inevitable happened and I was soon buying them for myself and I became a smoker.

I made a few feeble attempts to stop, but wasn’t very serious about it.  When I was pregnant with my first child, smoking really turned me off and made me sick, so it wasn’t hard to give up.  I didn’t smoke again till after my second child was born.  Why did I take it up again?  Who would know what madness came over me.  I smoked all through my third pregnancy.  (My baby was nine pounds at birth, so the fags certainly didn’t stunt his growth)  At that time (this was 1968) smoking was allowed in hospitals.  I shared a hospital ward with three other mothers and we all smoked.  To make people reel in horror now, I relate to them how the babies were with us all day long and we all smoked around them.  Of course, this nasty little practice was going on in all hospitals in Australia and I guess the whole world over.  I get shocked now just thinking how irresponsible I, and other mothers (and fathers) was.

Over the years I made great efforts to stop smoking and on a couple of occasions stopped for a couple of years, but always took it up again.  My mistake was thinking that I could have and enjoy the occasional cigarette.  Now I know that it is a case of never, but never allowing a ciggie to touch my lips.

One night I was having dinner with two friends and John.  John has never smoked in his life, but the other two friends had given up the habit and like true reformed smokers were giving me hell about my smoking.  Their barbs made no impression on me, but John said that if I stopped smoking for six months, he would buy me an antique bracelet.  I was allowed to finish the opened packet, but no more.  Of course, my friends jeered and said that I would never do it.

Three months and no cigarettes later, I must have gone insane for a time as John was telling me how well I was doing and reminded me that I only had three months to wait for my bracelet.  Can you believe that I said  “I don’t need a bribe now”.  So he said O.K. and I never got my bracelet.

For the first three years after I gave up smoking, I put my smoking money aside and bought all sorts of things with my “smoking money”.  It was quite amazing the amount of things that I bought.  After the three years, I retired from work, so I was pleased that I wasn’t wasting money on smokes.  I haven’t smoked for nearly ten years, but just occasionally, I feel the urge to have one.  I would never trust myself to even think of trying one, though, as I know that the Smoking Monster, is still lurking in the background, just ready to pounce on me.

IT JUST DOES NOT SEEM FAIR

When I was a young lady, living away from home, and sharing a flat with other girls, cooking was one of those things that we just hated doing.  It was like making the bed, catching the bus to go to work and putting up with a horrible landlord.  It had to be done and the quickest and easiest way to get it over with was the best way.

As a young wife and mother, I took a lot more interest in the culinary art and enjoyed feeding the family nice meals.  Unfortunately, there seemed to be a severe shortage of most things.  I did not have the money to buy the expensive ingredients needed for a lot of dishes.  I also could not afford to buy the wonderful cookery books that were available.  Also, I could not afford the time that it takes to cook exotic meals. There always was something that needed my urgent attention.  Consequently I cooked mostly wholesome, healthy, but rather plain dishes.

Now that I am retired, I have a very well equipped kitchen.  I also have enough money to buy whatever ingredients  I want.  I have a lovely collection of cookery books and I have plenty of time to cook the most time consuming and wonderful meals.

Now my doctor tells me that I must stay away from fats, dairy food, salt and sweets. In fact anything that has any nice taste to it must be avoided like the plague.  It really just isn’t fair.


THE SILENT CLEANERS


While we all go about our daily lives doing the normal things there are silent cleaners at work being incredibly efficient.  We sleep, eat, play sport, watch television and never think of these hard workers, in fact mostly we have never given them a thought for the whole of our lives.  These remarkable cleaners are inside our bodies making sure that we are healthy.  The ear cleaners use little brooms which are in fact hairs to keep all the junk out of our ears so that are hearing is good.  Our nose cleaners also use little hairs to get rid of all the nasties that invade our noses.  Even while we sleep, the eye cleaners are hard at work keeping our eyes in good condition and all the thanks we give them is in the morning saying to ourselves "Look at all this horrible sleep that's in my eyes".  That's gratitude for you.  Women have a lot to thank the womb cleaners for.  They collect all the debris that's floating inside our wombs and have a good cleanout once a month and all we do is complain and call it "The curse".  Nice one!!!  The kidneys and liver and pancreas are all working hard doing their jobs and we never give them a second thought.  The stomach has an especially hard job as he (or she or whatever) has to sort through all the food that goes from our mouths into their work station.  They have to put one lot into the chute that goes to the hair, another into the tube that goes to the teeth, another into the bin that goes to the bones etc. etc etc. and get rid of the rest that is of no use to anything.

All the thanks these silent cleaners get is abuse if they make the slightest mistake.  We grumble to our each other e.g. "The doctor said that my kidneys aren't getting rid of the toxins fast enough".  Just as well all the cleaners don't bring in the union and go on strike when they hear these negative remakes .  They never, but never, hear a word of praise.  No one ever says "Gosh but my eye (ear, womb, liver) cleaners are doing a great job.  I don't know what I would do without them”.

In future we should be a little more grateful to our silent cleaners.
 

email:-maureen38@bigpond.com


Since 13th September 2002

Last updated 1st February 2003