How It Was For Then – Part 3

Continuing Mary Leonora Smith’s story about her parent’s trials and tribulations during their lives at Baulkham Hills during the 1920s and 30s.

“One day a small miracle happened when a friend of my parents suggested that we could be eligible for a War Service Home. A letter was written and re-written many times and finally posted.

Imagine our joy when we were told we were to have a new home built on our land and that the rent would be seven shillings and six pence a week. Not only this , but in the meantime we were offered the rental of a home in the same road.

It was a nice solid brick home and our happiness knew no bounds when we moved in. The kitchen had a fuel stove with a built-in hot water tank and it was wonderful to get up in the morning and have a hot wash.

My older brother had commenced work as a clerk in a woolbroker’s office and his wage helped with the rent. He was 17 and it was to be his only place of work. He retired in 1985.

My father found a position as a storeman at Hardies and I too, after having won a part scholarship to business college, began work. I was 16 and bought my first bicycle, paid off at two shillings and sixpence a week.

We acquired a wireless set which had pride of place in the lounge room. I never ceased to wonder at my gentle mother’s passion for listening to the wrestling broadcasts.

After about a year our own home was completed and it seemed that we could never want for anything again. I can remember the smell of the new timber and the excitement as each section was finished.

Our garden and orchard were flourishing; we had our own cow and a run of chickens. We were healthy and happy and between us we bought Mother a new electric stove and copper, a nice lounge, a hall carpet runner and even a “welcome” mat for the front door.

Life was good, then suddenly and unexpectedly, our Mother died during a minor operation. She was only 57.

Two years later, our father suffered a heart attack. He survived but had a second attack and died at 66, less than 3 years after we lost our wonderful mother. Nothing then or now has ever brought me to terms with their untimely deaths after a lifetime of struggles.

I remember a sweet, gentle mother who never complained, who yearned quietly for the loveliness of the Cornish village where she was born. I cry inside for the bleakness of her life as she bravely stood by her husband and raised her family in those harsh times. But I laugh too, when I recall her humour and the fun she managed to bring to the most mundane events.

I remember too, a wonderful father who could fix anything, who worked so hard since he was 11 years old, who once a year, on Anzac Day, left for the city to march coming home, just a little worse for the drinks he had consumed, but it only happened once a year so nobody minded.”

This is a true story of some of Mary Leonora Smith’s parents’ struggle and determination to survive against overwhelming odds. The pattern of hard work and endeavour has been repeated throughout her family’s life.


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