History or Her Story (Part 4) Maisie Allan’s story of growing up

Mum used to say that when they were young, and were sent on an errand, her parents timed them and if they were late returning, they were punished. My sister Nola, told me that Mum once told her they were taken to the Hawkesbury River and she was told to go and buy a watermelon. It was quite heavy so she decided to roll it down the hill and run alongside it. Result was a squashed melon and one sore bottom.

Wax dolls were the fashion when Mum was young. One day her brothers took hers outside and left it in the sun and it melted. How come horrible little boys usually grow into lovely men like our Uncle George and Uncle Wal. When I was in the “Bubs” at school, I took my celluloid doll to show the class. One horrible little boy bit its’ nose off. When Dad came home that night I took him to show him the doll. We had gaslights in the house then, a match was needed to light them. One of the boys ran and lit a match, it started to burn his fingers and he dropped the match on the doll and it flared up and burnt to a cinder.

One of my earliest memories must have been before I started school. Mum had dressed me to go shopping, and her friend, Mrs Woolff and her daughter Marge came along. We girls sat on the verandah edge, pulled our narrow cotton frocks tightly over our knees, and were pulling out legs apart sideways. My skirt split right down the middle and Mum must have been devastated, it was my only good dress.

I vividly remember Arbour Day, when I was in 2nd class. I was chosen to plant a tree in the grounds of Auburn Boys School. I was so proud, I watched that tree grow, I used to show it to my children as we passed and it grew into a huge gum tree. It is still one of a group of trees growing there today. The teacher who chose me to plant it then, could not have known how much I love trees and have always regretted now having been able to own a large tree covered property.

I have very vivid memories of our house in Gordon Road. At the side of the house, which was on a corner, was a huge peppercorn tree, which our brothers spent many an hour climbing. Most boys had a slingshot or catapult in their pockets made of a forked twig with a rubber band attached, a stone was placed on the band and fired usually at leaves swaying in the breeze or tins atop a post etc. But boys will be boys and other targets were often chosen. The local Constable used to walk the beat and one day, as the boys saw him coming, they fired a stone at him. Mum heard a commotion and went out to see the Constable pulling the boys and their mates one by one out of the tree. Mum never had to worry again. When the boys saw the Constable turn into the street, the boys would drop like stones out of the tree and hide.

Mum didn’t go out very often except to shop. She once told me that once you had six children, as she did, it was easier to stay home than to get them all dressed. When she did go out, she pushed a large seagrass pram, it had very large wheels and she usually had a baby in the pram and a toddler sitting on a seat near the handles. We others straggled along, the boys usually ahead, looking for a tree to climb and we girls busy picking daisies to make daisy chains when we got home. Sometimes we walked to the cemetery to put flowers on the graves of our two baby sisters and baby brother. It was a very long walk, the boys carried spades and clippers. I used to dislike the crows flying overhead with their mournful cry.

Most families went to the main shopping centre on Friday nights, it was a meeting place for friends and neighbours, a real family outing. The storekeepers knew most people by name and, in many cases, the stores were handed down from one generation to the next. The local shoe shop was owned by Mr Strike and he never allowed a child to leave his shop wearing new shoes unless he roughened up the leather sole on the footpath outside.