The Wash Tub

I grew up in the era of Sunday baths. There were five kids in our family and there is no way each of us had a clean bath full of hot water so it must have been rather murky for the “last man in”. The baths were on Sunday so we were fresh for the new week. I don’t remember any smelly kids at school so presume we all smelt as bad as each other! After playtimes forty active kids had to create quite an odour, especially in summer.

Having a bath on Sundays didn’t mean we became grotty gradually, we were always playing outside and often in the dirt. One school morning I was all dressed ready for school when Mum noticed my dirty legs, they must have been beyond cleaning with a face washer because Mum made me stand in the washing machine. I have no idea why there would have been soapy water in it at that time of the day but there was.

The washing machine was a big, cylindrical tub on castors with a wringer attached. The wringer had two rollers which you could swing over the centre of the tub or back to the edge. There was a metal plate on the end that you hit to separate the rollers.

Mum never  ever had what you would call, “lightness of touch” and even if she did have, dirty knees need a bit of scrubbing to clean, I suppose.  As I stood in the soapy water her enthusiastic scrubbing caused me to overbalance and I dropped down into the soapy water. I was soaked and needed a complete change of clothes before I could leave for school but I guess my legs were clean!

You didn’t know that about Nana did you?

This is a similar washing machine though I remember it as much bigger. As a giant child gobbler in fact!

This is a similar washing machine though I remember it as much bigger, as a giant child gobbler in fact!


It’s Christmas Again

To me Christmas Time is Family Time, I know that isn’t the same for everyone but I’ve been lucky and almost always had family close by. I still remember the first Christmas I spent away from my immediate family. For years every Christmas holidays I’d been going to stay with Aunty Mavis in Port Pirie but I always left home after Christmas Day. Aunty Mavis owned and worked in, “Pirie Art Florist” and when she was old enough my cousin, Barbara, also worked there. I think I would have been about 14 the year I stayed at Barbara’s house so I could help look after her little boys and that year I was already there before Christmas.

On Christmas morning everyone was in the lounge room, I heard the excitement but I stayed in bed. I felt totally out of place. Christmas morning was all tied up with Mum, Dad, my brothers and sisters. I had no idea what to do. Eventually someone came into the room and said, “Aren’t you ever getting up?” I was embarrassed but I did get up and go into the Lounge Room. I was given a present and when I opened it I was shocked and delighted, it was a manicure set in a pale blue leather case. I’d never seen anything like it and it was such a “grown up” present. I felt proud that they thought it was right for me.

You didn’t know that about Nana did you?



The weird thing about the photos is that I can’t find my leather case just now so I’ve used an image from the web and the scissors are missing. The one part of my set that I’ve always used are the scissors so although they’re looking rather old at least I can to take a photo of them.

Cheese and Jam

Today I made myself some toast with cheese and jam and was immediately reminded of a long car trip with Dad and Mike to Western Australia.  As part of the Soldiers Settlement Scheme Dad had been allocated a property at Jerramungup but before he accepted it we had to check it out.

The distance was about 2442.5 kms or 1517 miles and 1200 kms of that was unsealed. Long sections were corrugated or had potholes filled with “bulldust” which was like talc and if you didn’t spot the slightly pink colour of it and hit the hole the result was a bone jarring “whack”. We were in a 1954 Vanguard, Spacemaster and I don’t know if any cars at that time had Air Conditioning but ours certainly didn’t. Because of the dust you couldn’t have the windows down but even so it still managed to find its way inside the car and we were travelling in December, the Australian summer.

What has this to do with bread and jam? Well, Dad was keen to get to Jerramungup as soon as possible so the only stops were unavoidable ones and more often that not lunch stops didn’t fit that category. I sat in the back along with the food supplies so it was my job to make lunch as Dad drove along. The easiest lunch to make that way was cheese and jam on bread.  One day though Dad fancied sardines on bread but while I was balancing all the bits and pieces on my lap Dad hit a pothole and the oil from the sardines spilt onto my nice new pants. I cried. Dad decided maybe we could stop for lunch then. Back home when Mum asked how the trip had gone Dad told her I “got a bit moody one day”!

You didn’t know that about Nana, did you?

Mike and me with the Vanguard.

Mike and me with the Vanguard.

There was no caravan, camper or tent, I think there might have been camp stretchers but don’t remember.

Dressmaking Disasters

Unlike many, maybe even most, children these days I had no say in the clothes I wore before I was about 12, that’s when I started Secondary School. We had sewing lessons once a week and Mum decided I could make a school blouse. It took all year for me to draft the pattern and cut out the material, it was still in pieces at the end of the year! When I chose some material and a pattern for myself I quickly finished the article but it wasn’t exactly satisfying.

I had plans to go to the beach with a friend and decided I’d make a “playsuit” for the occasion. I bought some pink, Hounds -Tooth Check material (It’s the signature David Jones pattern).  I‘d bought a Simplicity pattern because I hoped it would live up to its name. I cut the material out and sewed, sewed, sewed then inserted the elastic and attached the shoulder straps. It took me until about 1 o’clock in the morning. I went to bed happy I’d managed to finish it. In the morning, disaster. I tried it on. That’s when I discovered my torso is longer than average, the finished playsuit didn’t cover my nipples. I flung it at my sister, after all my effort it was useless for me but fine for her. (We didn’t get along even before that!)

To avoid having to sew anything Mum decided I was better at it than she was and one day she gave me my brother’s trousers to fix. The zip was broken. I didn’t want to do it but no way could anyone win an argument with Mum. I’d never sewn a zip in pants before and really struggled but eventually finished the job. I gave the trousers to Mike and off he went but he was soon back again. I’d sewn the zip in very neatly but I’d also sewn both sides to the backing material so undoing the zip didn’t open the trousers. I left Mum to deal with them.

Luckily for me “shifts” were in fashion during my teenage years so there was no need to mess about with umpteen pattern pieces. I did however discover that not only was my torso longer than average but armholes on everything I made were too tight so I had to make them bigger. Simple? Not really because then none of the facings fitted so for years everything I ever made was lined. Sewing would have been simpler if I hadn’t  been “abnormal”!

You didn’t know that about Nana did you?

How the "playsuit" was supposed to look!

How the “playsuit” was supposed to look!

Wearing a "playsuit" I did manage to successfully sew.

Wearing a “playsuit” I did manage to successfully sew.