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Letters to Frank…

January 12, 2011

I have a collection of letters that belonged to my Dad.  They were written to him by his grandmother and his great grandmother, mostly in the early 1950s.  It turns out my dad was curious about his family history when he was about 15 years old.

This is one of the letters.

Thursday

51 Ward Street

Kal-

Our love – Aunty and Gran.

Dear Frank

“Blessed be he who expecteth nothing” – says the bible – for they shall be surprised – Your letter & the enclosed £1 was a very big surprise, & it was very lovely of you to think of Nannie & myself  – you really should not have done that dear – it was a wonderful thought, but oh dear; when I think of all you need when school commences, you should have saved it towards your expenses.  I am buying Nannie a bot of sherry today, & some soda water – this is such thirsty weather, & a tiny drop of sherry in a glass of soda is what Nannie likes.  She will write to you, but maybe not today, as this is not one of her good days. Gee! Mum & Dad have to start in & put lots of “coyn in the bin” if you must be a doctor. it takes plenty. they will have to keep you for a few years before you become a doctor – reckon you want to have another think about it.  This is the year you start in on special subjects to help you be whatever you would like to, isn’t it? Being a grocer isn’t much is it? It is alright for you now, is helping you along – there is not much profit in groceries – never was.  Alan & Margaret have gone over to se Aunty Joan – then Alan is going into town I think – It is so hot again today, but each day brings the end of the summer a bit nearer – Aunty Joan is taking the nips to the park tomorrow & they are going to the pool too – I hope it is cooler for them – & me too – it is bridge day.  Once again dear, thank you very much for thinking of us.

My Dad was working in the school holidays (at a grocer, I gather from this letter).  The £1 he sent to his grandmother and great-grandmother to buy a “bot of sherry” was from his holiday earnings.  I have a dinner set that Dad bought for his Mum ‘with his first pay’.  I’m not sure if this was also from his holiday earnings in the school holidays, or his first grown-up, full-time job pay.  Some of the bowls have been broken and repaired – Manny was determined to keep the full set together and not lose a piece, and always kept it for ‘best’.  I don’t remember ever seeing it in use.

Alan and Margaret are my Dad’s younger brother and sister.  They must have been in Kalgoorlie visiting for the school holidays.

My Dad never did become a doctor.  He got an apprenticeship ‘on the mines’ as an electrical installer after he left school.  He was always very interested in politics and was an active member of his Union and his Methodist church.  He became a lay minister (as he never completed the qualifications required to become a fully qualified Minister) and later ran as a candidate for the federal electorate of Forrest in the south-west of Western Australia.  He didn’t win the seat in the first election in 1966, but he was successful in the second one in 1969.  He served as the Member for Forrest for that three year term and then lost the next election, just as the Australian Labor Party came into power under Gough Whitlam. The seat was a safe conservative seat, held by a sitting government Minister (the Treasurer) before my Dad won the 1969 election, but he was devastated to lose the election (even though it was so close it went to a recount).

I think he would have made a very good doctor, and clearly, judging by what he did achieve in his short life, he was able to do anything he ‘set his mind on’.  However being the eldest of seven children, and the family finances never being plentiful, the prospect of many years of study, being supported by his parents as described by his grandmother, would not have been tenable for him at the time, regardless of his desires or ambition.

On top of that, my Dad was left handed.  I have heard stories of how teachers used to hit him across the knuckles with a ruler to make him use his right hand.  This set him back, so that although highly intelligent, he was only ever an ‘average’ student at school.  Everything he achieved later was largely achieved or facilitated by his efforts to educate himself.

It makes me wonder about all the things he could have achieved if he had lived a longer life.

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