Sepia Saturday 175: Thinking of my Dad


Sepia Saturday 175Late again! This week’s Sepia Saturday had me thinking of all the smokers in the family, especially my Dad. I have never been a smoker, but most of those around me at work or at home, were. It was just normal at the time.

I was surprised looking through my photos that I actually had relatively few of anyone, cigarette in hand. One or two of Granddad with his pipe, none of Mr Cassmob but quite a few youthful photos of Dad, some alone, some with me.

Dad at the beach during my parents' honeymoon, pipe in hand.

Dad at the beach during my parents’ honeymoon, pipe in hand.

With me at the beach, cigarette in hand.

With me at the beach, cigarette in hand.

On the rocks at Rocky Bay, Magnetic Island.

On the rocks at Rocky Bay, Magnetic Island.

Dad was healthy – he had to be because he walked for eight hours straight every day in the railway yards, many miles in a dangerous environment. For possibly the first twenty years of his working life there were steam trains, progressively fading out over the years. By the time Dad was fifty, our friend, a physician, said he had the worst lungs he’d ever seen, full of coal dust. Dad also smoked until he was in his 70s.

For ten years before he died Dad was on oxygen 24/7. Coal dust or cigarettes: which was the major problem? Impossible to say. No doubt the coal dust played a part offset by the lung capacity from walking every day and a longevity gene. 

I wouldn’t wish it on anyone to watch someone they love cough hackingly, be too embarrassed to go out in public accompanied by the oxygen cylinder, totally dependent on it for breathing and vulnerable to power outages. Smoking isn’t sexy or sophisticated: it can and does kill. Hence the bans on cigarette advertisements and the warning notices on cigarette packs. I could have included a photo of Dad, wired up for oxygen, but I preferred to show him full of youth and vigour, and also to respect his privacy in ill-health.

The timing of Dad’s death is inextricably linked in my mind with the re-election of the ALP to government in Australia which was happening during his final stint in hospital. Dad died on the same day as Australia’s campaigner for compensation for those with illnesses caused by work-place asbestos. Both men’s deaths were, at a minimum, contributed to by work-place dangers. Ironic I suppose in conjunction with the election into government of Australia’s party for the working person.

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18 thoughts on “Sepia Saturday 175: Thinking of my Dad

  1. Interesting that you say you have few shots of your father smoking. I’ve found the same. I don’t even have photos of my dad smoking a pipe which he did do in the ’50s. And with all the photographs I’ve collected of strangers I rarely find photos of people with cigarettes.

    Very sad your dad went through that. My grandfather started out as a fireman on steam engines. I imagine his lungs were a mess too. He retired as an engineer.

    • Thanks for commenting Tattered and Lost. I’m sure your grandfather would have experienced much the same with all the spurts from the engine as he shovelled in the coal -what a job! It must have been sooooo hot. Pauleen

  2. It is so nice to remember him as the handsome healthy man that he was . Smoking gave him pleasure too and it is of course a great stress reducer if he was working in an environment that required 100% attention at all times. I speak as a former smoker – now off for 20 years and suffering from COPD! The coal dust must have also been a huge contributor to the deterioration of his lungs. He would want you to remember him as you have shown. And you are very recognizable in that lovely picture! Lovely post!

    • Thanks Angela…he was a good looking fella indeed. And I can quite see that smoking would have been a stress release and a way to keep alert through long hazardous shifts, night and day. Sorry to hear about the COPD! Like you I think the coal dust played a large part in his lung deterioration, possibly more than the smoking. Also, because he walked non-stop through his 8+ hour shifts his lungs got a good workout every day. It would be interesting to know how the factors balanced out. Scary that I look like me even at such a young age ;-)

  3. The affectionate pose of your father with you is very lovely. I too could match you u with the childhood picture. I’m sorry your Dad experienced such an uncomfortable end to his years.
    In my memory everyone smoked and yet I too had trouble finding photos of them in the act.

    • Thanks Helen. I was quite surprised to find how difficult it was to find photos of smokers -interesting that they didn’t often want to be photographed like that it seems. It’s a cute photo isn’t it?

  4. These are wonderful photos of your dad and the best way to remember him in his prime. Smoking has caused a lot of suffering in our lifetime.

  5. Your post reminded me that Two Miles up the road from me in Yorkshire was an old asbestosis mill.Even people who didnt work there (perhaps just cycling past) ended up with that stuff in their lungs.
    Your Dad looked such & fit & happy man.And,yes, It’s important to remember that this was the important part of his life.
    Thank You for sharing these pictures of him.
    A Fine Post.

    • hi Tony, Thanks for visiting and commenting. Sorry about my delayed response. Scary that the mill had such a significant effect even on people who weren’t actually working there. Cheers Pauleen

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