HISTORY OR HER STORY (PART 5) – Maisie Allan’s story of growing up

Perishable food was kept in a meat safe, a small portable metal cupboard which was hung in a cool spot. Later Dad made a drip safe, this was a larger cupboard made of flat galvanised iron and covered on three sides and door with Hessian, and a tray filled with water on top. Muslin was draped over the sides of it and the water dripped over the Hessian and kept the contents cool. By the time we were teenagers, Dad had made a large fridgesized ice chest, again out of flat iron and lacquered cream iron. The iceman called every second day with a huge block of ice. Dad was a perfectionist and very clever with his hands.

When I was young, the butcher came around in what was known as a ‘cutting cart’. It was a small dray drawn by a horse. In the dray was a chopping block and joints of meat, scales and knives. The ladies gathered with their plates and the butcher would slice off the required amount. The dray was covered and each side of the top lifted up. Another man came with fish and another with rabbits.

When we young, our road was unformed and a large open drain ran across it, this was later cemented and the road surfaced. When the road was still dirt, hard patches were good for hopscotch and skipping. We played rounders and cricket and were allowed to play until dark after our evening meal during the warmer months. All the neighbourhood children joined in as there were very few cars around to watch out for.

We worked harder manually without all the modern machinery of today, but life was slower with none of the pressures of today. Stress was an unknown factor and families stayed together and we lived quite happily on one wage. In school holidays we went on bush walks, for those who know the area we lived in, there were very few houses and plenty of bush. We would walk to the waterpipe at Regents Park and along to a playing field with a grandstand which we would climb to the top and eat our lunch. The ladies made sandwiches, baked scones, cakes and cookies and all were shared around. All the prams would be loaded up with these and home-made lemon and orange juice for drinks and, of course, the old black Billy in which the welcome cuppa was made. After he food was eaten and every bit of mess cleaned up, we kids held our concert, watched adoringly by our Mums. We then managed to get home in time for our Dad’s to return from work, there were usually a number of families involved.

As we got older we were taken to Parramatta Park where there was a little waterhole on part of the river, called “Little Coogee”. One day it rained very heavily and we hastened to shelter under the railway bridge. Only the ric h had umbrellas and we weren’t rich. The ladies wore Crinoline hats in those days, a light mesh stiffened with a type of glue. Dainty, wide brimmed and colourful when dry, a gooey, floppy mess when wet. Mum’s was a lovely rose pink and it wasn’t long before a pink goo was running down her neck. We all came home on the train draped in baby nappies, but it was fun and a great day was had by all. During the Depression years, Mr McDonald, who lived close by, had a produce store in Lidcombe. During the weekends he often took his wife and family of 5 girls and 5 boys and as many other families as he could fit on his lorry on picnics. Again the ladies baked and shared their cakes around. Dads came too, we loved those trips, lorries were often seen loaded such as this, but when more cars clogged the roads and became capable of higher speeds it became illegal to carry people this way.