HISTORY or Her Story (Part 11)

After family get togethers, we would often find ourselves a spot on the front verandah and talk, tell yarns, have a sing-a-long and then a cuppa! John was the yarn teller, he would puff away on his pipe and tell yarn after yarn. Reg came a close second, his yarns were usually the long drawn out type. Those madly in love were usually nestled up close, kid sister Mae and her dog making a nuisance of themselves, then Dad would decide to drop the clanger and announce to the boys it was time to go home and for his daughters to be in bed. So another weekend was over and we all eagerly awaited another evening as this had been, usually in two weeks’ time.

I was only 14 when I was taken from school. Aunty Myrt was into the last two months of her pregnancy with her second son, Clive. Uncle needed to have someone to call him if needed, also to take out the morning and afternoon teas as the men often worked on the outskirts of the farm at Griffith NSW. Work was hard to get in Sydney at the time and Uncle thought it would help Mum and Dad if they had one less mouth to feed. It was New Years Eve 1933, having never been far from home alone, when Dad put me on the train. He asked a lady who was also travelling to Beelbangra to look after me. If ever a lady deserved a place in heaven it had to be her. I have often thought of her over the years. I was in tears by the time the train slid out of Central Station. We were in a box carriage, these were under 2 metres wide, five seats along one side, four on the other. At the end of the short seat a door led to a small toilet and a small walkway between the row of seats. Can you picture a crying kid with a weak bladder and seven or eight people trying to get to sleep in a sitting position, with the kid clambering over their legs every hour or so. Mum had bought me a lovely crinoline hat to go with the best dress I was wearing and the kind lady had hung it on a hook beside us. During the morning, with another four hours’ journey ahead – (we’d already been 13 hours on the train) a puff of wind sent my lovely hat flying out the window. She pressed the emergency button and stopped the train, the guard came to see why and he kindly got the driver to back the train and he retrieved the hat, with a warning to the lady never to do it again. When we got to Beelbangra, Uncle knew the lady and she told him the story, I never lived it down.

I can remember our arrival at the farm. I was so tired and, being summer, the beds were in a sleepout, a part of a long verandah, enclosed with fly mesh. Aunty suggested I lie down for a while and when I woke it was pitch black and foxes were wailing not far from the house, it was so eerie.

Uncle George was a terrible torment and suggested I should chop wood to improve my bustline. I was out at that woodheap twice a day. I guess the exercise helped me but it took two kids to do what the woodchopping didn’t. Cousin Ray was about eight at the time and wasn’t too impressed with a new baby brother and a girl cousin around. After all, he’d had Aunty and Uncle to himself until then. He would do all he could to get me into trouble but was crafty enough not to seem involved. One day I was going to visit Barbara, my friend on the next farm. Ray was told to clean the sulky for me, the job was completed and I drove off. Imagine my dismay when I arrived covered in chook poo. He hadn’t cleaned the sulky properly, nor had he dried it off. That was one time he couldn’t pass the blame on me. I quite enjoyed farm life and to this day I love travelling through the country areas.