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Letters to Frank…

January 24, 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.

Wednesday

51 Ward St

Kal

There is a shadow on the paper.  thought I was at the edge.

Hence the space.

Was just about to start a note to you Frank dear, when Mrs Martin brought in the enclosed envelope she had just received per air mail.  Hope they are new to you.  Thank you for your letter yesterday, & of course you may come to us for your holidays – when are they?  I rather hoped you would see the plays for the [Junior Red Cross] but I expect they wil be on after the play – must ask Aunty Joan when it is – I think this is the night of your play – I do hope it is a big success after all your work – all Norseman will be there, I bet.

Yes, Mummy had told us of your excellent marks in your exam – jolly good, weren’t they?  Hasn’t it been very cold the last few days & nights? I must confess to being lazy at getting up this winter the first winter I remember being in bed at eight o’clock of a morning.  I am sleeping inside & do not like it, but Gran likes me to be in, so I came in.

Anyway, it is pretty good being able to please ourselves, people say, but I do wish I just had to get up.   Aunty Joan & Uncle Joh brought Mrs Anderson Senr back to Kal for a few weeks – she says it is lovely to see our sunshine, & no rain.  I must try & write some more letters I am much behind.  We will be looking forward to seeing you dear.  Maybe Mummy might let you bring one of the little girls.  Margaret could come free, could she not being of school age – or Baby Ruth or both of them (yeah, I can hear Mummy say).

Our love to all the kids

Your ever loving

Aunty.

‘Aunty’ is the name my Dad called his grandmother.  I don’t know why.

The photo on the left is my Dad (Frank McLeod Kirwan) with Aunty (Alice McLeod nee Jones).  Dad was probably about 20 or 21 in this photo, so it was taken a few years after the letter was written.  The letter was written in 1952 or early 1953.  Gran (Emily Bertha Eliza Jones nee Peck) was still alive, so it was before August 1953.

I have very few photos of my Dad – mainly because he hated having his photo taken.  He looks like an unwilling participant in this one.

The things I find most noteworthy in this letter are Aunty’s mention of her ‘lazy’ 8am sleep ins, and ‘sleeping inside’.  I think this is a reference to her normally sleeping  out in an enclosed verandah.  She must have liked it out there – perhaps the air was fresher – but as she was getting older she was feeling the cold.  The strength of these women amazes me.  They worked so hard.

I remember my grandmother getting up before everyone else in the morning to light the fire in the wood stove in the kitchen.  And then she took all the children breakfast in bed (or at least she did when I was a child).  I think that was probably to keep them out from underfoot in the kitchen for as long as possible, but it was a real treat.  Breakfast (your own personal preferred breakfast) would be delivered to each of us as it was our turn to get up.  My preferred breakfast when I was little was cornflakes with cream instead of milk and I seem to remember strawberries. Later I graduated to bread with strawberry jam and cream.  With a cup of tea, on a tray.  A Manny sized chenille dressing gown would be draped around my shoulders so I didn’t get cold while I ate, sitting up in bed.  No wonder my mother thought I was spoilt when I came back from staying at Manny’s 🙂

For a long time, Gran and Aunty didn’t have running water in the house (although running water was installed in the stables).  I remember Manny, my grandmother boiling the copper in the outside laundry or on the wood stove in the kitchen for the baths when I was a child.  There was no running hot water in the bathroom until a chip heater (bought by my Dad, I believe, after he started working) was installed in the bathroom.

 

A wringer washing machine c. 1950s

Manny was still doing alot of her washing in the copper when I was a child, although she had one of those washing machines with a wringer over it.   Even when I was an adult, she still used a twin tub washing machine.  I have a small, child’s washboard that I used to play with on washing day at Manny’s house when I stayed there as a child.  Manny still had (and used) the full size version, over a metal tub.

With seven children of varying ages – some going to work, some going to school, and some not yet going to school – and then grandchildren as well, Manny had a lot to do.  I’m sure the days when she would still be in bed at 8am didn’t come around until much later.  When I stayed with her when I was in my 20s I would hear the radio news come on in her room, very early, and that was the first thing she would do – listen to the news, and then she would be up.

Aunty’s comment about wishing she had a reason to ‘have to get up’ in the morning is poignant.  It must have been very strange for her after years of having to get up in the morning, to not have an urgent need to.

 

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. comicstar permalink*
    January 24, 2011 1:49 pm

    “baby Ruth” 😀

    There’s a couple of typos – “convess”; and “may be” appears to have been intended to be one word.

    You often talk about Gran and Aunty’s house, as one house – did they live together their whole lives? Like, when Aunty had children, did her mother still live with her, or did she move in when they both got older?

    The thought of cornflakes with cream makes me want to gag.

    • snpdragon permalink*
      January 24, 2011 2:20 pm

      Thanks for picking up the typos. Will fix asap.
      Gran and Georgie lived in Belmont/Ascot at some stage – Manny used to go there in the school holidays and walk to the bakery to buy bread – in that little old building that is a restaurant now, near the primary school, on great eastern highway.
      But Georgie and Aunty’s husband, Angus died fairly close together, and I think that may have been when they moved in together. Or possibly sooner than that – Georgie died in Kalgoorlie, and there was the ‘it makes the women lazy’ story about running water to the stables.
      After Gran died – i don’t know how long after, Aunty moved to Esperance and when I was a child, she lived in a little house with a big ramp up to it, and Manny’s sister lived in another house (on the same block, i think) next door – thats my child memory – it was probably a granny flat, that Aunty lived in. So you see there is a long history of ‘an elderly woman and her mother’ living together in our family – you are not the pioneer in that regard 🙂

      • comicstar permalink*
        January 24, 2011 2:25 pm

        How are you commenting?! Sneaky…

  2. comicstar permalink*
    January 24, 2011 1:53 pm

    Also, I believe “Junr red X” may refer to this: http://www.redcross.org.au/nsw/services_jrc.htm sounds like the kind of thing that would get a lot of community involvement in a small town like Norseman.

    • snpdragon permalink*
      January 24, 2011 2:15 pm

      YES!!! thank you for that! Junior Red Cross makes perfect sense. I got stuck at ‘Junr’ and assumed it had something to do with Dad’s Junior Exam – the exam that used to happen at the end of year 10/third year of high school. I figured the X was short for exam! how wrong we can be.

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