Maisie Allan’s story of growing up

Prickly pear grew freely in the bush near our home and Dad and we kids used to collect it and Mum would cut it up, boil and strain it. I think she added lemon juice and sugar, it set into a clear jelly and used to ease the cough of whooping cough. During the Depression years, people would take a large, clean bottle to the Health Centre and were given Cod Liver Oil emulsion, it was foul tasting but we were given a spoonful each night. It was to ward off Tuberculosis which was rife in those days. I was old enough to know many people died, others were sent to Sanatoriums if they caught it, so I didn’t mind swallowing the emulsion. Each Saturday morning, Mum boiled Senna leaves, and added sultanas or raisins. We were each given a small cup of Senna tea after breakfast to keep our bowels working. Again I quite liked it and drank it happily. We had to be content with 1 piece of fruit each day, the roughage of today was unheard of, so in most families the Senna tea was a Saturday ritual.

We were all curly-haired kids, we were lined up in the sun each morning, head lice were freely caught at school and our heads were searched. If nits (lice eggs) were found our heads were wrapped in a cloth soaked in kerosene to kill them. After the search, we four girls had our hair rolled over Mum’s fingers into ringlets.

People were often very superstitious in those days and were scared of lightning. They believed steel and mirrors attracted lightning and it was dangerous to be holding either while it was flashing. Even during a meal, our cutlery, especially the knives and all steel objects, scissors etc, were dropped behind the big sideboard in the dining room. Mirrors were covered, blinds dropped and we were not allowed near windows and doorways, until it cleared.

There were no fly sprays in those days, but fly papers were available. They were a flat paper about the size of an A4 page, I think they came as two stuck together and were pulled apart to use. They had a sticky substance on them and were hung from the ceiling or placed on cupboard tops and flies would stick to them. Later they brought out another type, these were a tube about 6” long with a string on top to tie them up and on the lower end was a cap which was pulled and a length of sticky paper spiralled out.

It was not unusual, because there was a great deal of open land around, to come out in the morning and find the dog’s water dish frozen and a thick carpet of frost over every bit on lawn, fence rails etc. As more homes were built the frost seemed less severe and these days we seldom have such a heavy one. Just about every backyard had at least a peach tree and a lemon tree, often more, but the increase in fruit fly caused many people to do away with them.

When younger, Dad had half his yard planted with vegetables, beans were grown over the fences, pumpkins trailed over the wood heap. After any horse drawn vehicle passed, Mum would grab a special box and shovel she kept and cleaned up the manure. Dad always had a heap rotting in the corner covered in grass clippings and used to gather the manure from the dairy on the hill nearby to make liquid manure from it. This was manure placed in a drum and covered with water, a lid was placed on top and left to brew for several months. It would be diluted to a suitable strength for watering his plants. A jam tin was nailed to a long pole and this was used to water plants, the reason for the long pole was to keep the smell away from one’s nose, it sure did pong!, but grew fine plants and vegetables.