52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History: Week 38: Hooked on Hobbies: books, shells and photos

The topic for Week 38 in Amy Coffin’s and Geneablogger’s 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History series is: Did you have any hobbies as a child? Which ones?

This little book was my guide when collecting and identifying my shells.

My childhood hobbies depended in part on circumstance. Throughout my life reading and books have been my constant leisure time activity. Life just wouldn’t be the same without books in any form. This topic was my theme for Week 23 in the 52 week series, so I won’t go back down that path. The other lifelong hobby which I’ve enjoyed has been photography – this love affair started with my first camera when I was about 10 and has continued every since: hence all those images I still have to scan.

One of my favourite hobbies was collecting shells but this of course depended on being near the beach, so it was a periodic hobby rather than an everyday one. I was lucky that every few years we would holiday on Magnetic Island, which I’ve already talked about previously. Although quite close to Townsville it also has off-shore reefs and tidal flats where it was possible in those days to see and collect shells. While we stayed at Picnic Bay, the best place for shell hunting and collecting was usually Horseshoe Bay where low tide exposed rocks and reef and shells. Cowrie and olive shells were especially prized for their glorious sheen and colours while the potentially deadly cone shells had to be treated cautiously. Their poison darts had to be carefully avoided so there was definitely a right way to pick them up. Also on the tidal flats were quite a lot of stone fish which are nigh on impossible to detect until your eyes adjust to spotting them. With their poisonous spikes they would inflict a major injury if you were unwary enough to stand on them.

The beautiful book I bought with my shell cataloguing prize money.

Now I cringe at the environmental impact of collecting the shells, but in those days I suppose we didn’t know any better. The smell of decaying molluscs in the sun is an abiding childhood memory. In high school I catalogued a series of shells for a science show and was proud to win a prize though it was pretty tame in comparison with the high-tech scientific experiments which others presented (most of them boys I have to say, also reflecting the era perhaps).Still I got a £7 (today about $160) prize from the competition (thank you the donors Peters Arctic Delicacy Co) and with it I bought a gorgeous book on Shells of the Western Pacific. On my shell wish-list is seeing live paper or pearly nautilus shells “swimming” – they are just so gorgeous.

Some of the lovely shells we looked at this afternoon.

I still have some of the shells I collected (and in a few cases bought) and my grandchildren enjoy seeing them when I unearth them from the cupboard. Perhaps because the shell book was on the table today my eldest grandchild wanted to see the pictures of the shells then look at the real thing so we spread them out and inspected the different varieties….building up memories I hope.