Tuesday, 30 January 2018

#52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. Week 1: 'Self '

In the Genealogy world, Amy Johnson Crow starting up a challenge to us all, of responding to weekly prompts by writing (or sharing in some way) about 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.  I had been tempted to participate but life was busy.  A few weeks late, but now I'm ready.  I believe in her worthwhile aims of sharing the information found about our ancestors.  Amy says:
       "The point is to get you to take that knowledge that you have and the discoveries that you've made and get them out of the filing cabinet/computer/pile of papers and do something with it. How you share it is up to you."

So here goes:
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Week 1 Prompt:   'Self'
Not an easy subject to write about - one's self.  Think I will just put down some memories that I have now before my 71 year old brain forgets them all.
I am sitting on something freezing and my bottom is getting colder and colder.  I am alone.  
This I think is my earliest memory - tho' the rest of my family have said I think I remember it because Mum has told the tale so many times. We lived in town, Shepparton at the time:
"You ran off when my back was turned - I was changing your nappy when Mr Diamond came in the door.  Next thing I know you're missing.  We searched the house, but you were nowhere to be found. I started to panic - calling out your name I raced outside and then up the street.  Mr Diamond went home next door to check. There you were - only two years old sitting on the concrete step of the closed corner shop, three doors down the street - with just your bare bottom!'
So I wonder now - will my memories be fact, my truth or fiction ? I can't say, but I will give my perspective as I believe to be true on my history regardless of all the changes in re-telling over the years and the time distance from the fact. 
My next memories are out on the orchard at Grahamvale. Pre-school days so I would have been 3-4 years old.  We have this beautiful big golden and white Collie dog called "Lassie" and she lets me ride her around the yard.  She takes me up to the gate (a channel bridge actually) about 200 yards to meet my older brother and sister in the afternoons when they return from school.  They hop off their bikes and we all walk home together along our dusty road next to the irrigation channel.  When it is too hot and dry, we wade through the water cooling off and squeezing the mud between our toes like happy little piglets. Always watching out for snakes, though.
Remembering now what it was like as a child - I recognise that we had a good childhood living in the coutry, on the orchard, with our pets - dogs, cats, kittens, hens and chickens.  We were in the main, healthy and carefree.  School was a rideable distance from home, travelling as a posse with kids from different families turning off to their own homes along the way.  We were the last ones on our road. We would call in at Peterson's to check the mail and carry it home in our bike baskets. At the right time we would join the Opie's (1/2 way home) up their loquat and walnut trees in bliss eating our hearts out.
So many things are coming to mind - I will just list them for a bit.
Picking fruit, bottling fruit with visiting relatives. Mum giving us a spoon of the sweet liquid. Stencilling the boxes for tomatoes, using old tomatoes in the black ink.  Seasonal workers staying in the spare house.  Albanians, Macedonians, Italians, Greeks.  We loved it - they gave us postage stamps from their home countries for our collections.
Drying apricots out in the sun, stored in sacks. - our home treat.

Going up the paddocks in the evening to find Dad for his dinner. Looking for his cigarette glow as a guide. He kept his leather baccy pouch on the tankstand and a couple of loose made cigarettes in his pockets.  Then Dad being very sick and being ambulanced to hospital with double pneumonia.  We were warned that he might die.  After that - no more cigarettes, instead he sucked peppermint lifesavers. He always held the lifesaver up and blew through the hole before sucking it - as they would gather old tobacco strands in them from the bottom of his workclothes pockets.                              

I remember the little black van that called at the farms with goods for Mum to buy. We loved to poke our heads in and smell the aromas of soaps and unknown things. So many shelves of goodies and goods.

Getting the milk from Van Asperen's over the road. A Dutch family who migrated and worked Hopkin's dairy farm.  We would take our billy over and have it filled with creamy milk. Brother Bill would swing the billy around in circles over his head without spilling it. Bill had his own little hut near the Fruit packing shed and spent a lot of time in there when younger playing with his meccano set and when older - his Crystal Set. We girls had a cubby house down the side of the packing shed in a little room, we used to save the little circles from the Marie biscuits and hide them there in case we got hungry. Once my sister Frances and a visiting cousin tried to sell lambs to passers by. However they weren't ours they were from the flock next door at Mr Jock Robinson's. Dad took her over to apologise. Luckily they hadn't sold any.

We had lots of books - they were for Birthdays or Christmas (or Cup, saucer and plate for our Glory box). We all loved reading and spent much of our time with our heads in books. We played Hopscotch called hoppy, skipping, marbles, or tennis practice with a ball on rubber attached to an old iron base. also hidie, and swung hoops around our waists, climbed trees, and dressed our kittens in doll's clothes and wheeled them around in old dolls prams. We swam in the big irrigation channel and turned leaches inside out on the barbed wire fence.  We collected swap cards and swapped at school. We had roller skates that clipped on over our lace-up shoes and zoomed around on the path and verandah.  Most of the time though we were bare feet, which were very hardened from the peach and apricot kernels scattered on our road like gravel.

Dad had some lovely old draught horses who helped with the heavy work and ploughing  and dragging boxes back to the shed.  When the sled was empty we hopped on for a ride.  They would get their hessian nose bags filled behind the shed, under the peppercorn trees. Jean was Dad's 'workman' - a wonderful female worker, who also fixed our bikes and mended the punctures till we were old enough to do them ourselves. She always wore overalls and her hair tied up in scarf.  It was a big shock to us when she announced she was marrying.

Isobel my cousin and her husband Hunter with their baby Barbara came to live in the small house on our place. One day Mum and I found our dairy cow stuck in the mud in the irrigation channel near Isobel's. The cow was making a terrible noise moaning, the three of us got covered in mud but we did eventually pull her out.  When my siblings had left home, one day I arrived home from school and couldn't find Mum. Outside I found her unconscious at the wood heap. She had been using a steel chock to split wood and a piece of steel had flown off and embedded in her leg. A big scare for me - I thought she was dead.  Luckily she came too just after I found her. 

Grandma Cottam (Mum's mother) died just 10 days before I was born so sadly I never knew her.  She died kneeling by her bed saying her prayers. They were living with us in Shepparton then and Grandpa Cottam lived with us in Grahamvale on the orchard. He used to sit on our verandah in the cane chair and let us comb and brush his snowy white hair. A lovely memory I still have.
The family listened to the old bakelite radio. Smokey Dawson and at 2 minutes past 1 everything stopped and was silent for the adults to listen to Blue Hills. The same for the 6 o'clock news.  We could play cards on any day/evening but not Sunday. We also played Monopoly, and being the youngest and often losing, I learned to hide some of my money under the big table on the ridge, so the others would think I wasn't doing so well.

Sundays we dressed in our best clothes and the girls in berets with a brooch on the front. We attended Sunday School at Scot's Church in town and some days would go out to Orrvale to the Pearce family's church out there. Aunt Tib or Aunt Ray played the organ there. Other times we went to the evening service back in town as well.  We had wonderful Sunday School picnics with fairy bread and Ice cream.

Sometime, I think at Easter, all the Pearce relatives had a day's picnic at Keady's Bridge over near Euroa. Most of the time was spent in the creek.  Christmas, we shared at the original Orrvale orchard with all the Pearce families.  Coloured lights sparkled in the evening in the old Oak tree Grandma Pearce brought out from the 'home country'.  This was the settlement where Grandfather and Grandmother Pearce and the little Pearces (including my Dad who was 8 years old) emigrated to, from Scotland in 1912.

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