Wedding Wednesday: Denis & Kit

Trawling through my digitised photos at the weekend, I came upon this one which I’d quite forgotten. It is my paternal grandmother in her wedding attire. Doesn’t she look simply elegant? She was a professional dressmaker, working for Finney Isles store in Brisbane CBD, so I imagine she made the dress herself. I also love the shoes – they could be worn perfectly well today. I wonder if they went into the photographic studio after the wedding or if they dressed up again another day and were then photographed.

Catherine McCorkindale Kunkel wedd

My grandparents, Dinny and Kit, were married on Saturday 29 April 1922 at the Ithaca Presbyterian church at Red Hill. I discovered that a rather grand new church was opened in 1929. There is a clue on Trove that there may be an image of the old church, but it is not yet digitised and will have to be looked at one day when visiting the State Library of Queensland.

Denis and Catherine Kunkel wedding

My grandfather wasn’t a great one for big smiles so he was probably happier than this photo suggests. Neither Kit nor Dinny were young by the standards of the day – he was 41 and she was 35. My understanding is that he had met Kit before he went off to war in 1917 and perhaps even visited her kin in Scotland while on leave (a family yarn or fact?) I don’t know whether it was the conflict of religions that caused a delay in their marriage but it’s possible. Dinny had been brought up a strict Catholic but had already walked away from the church before then.

It’s doubtful that any of Dinny’s siblings attended the wedding, except perhaps his youngest brother (Ken) whom he helped to bring up when their parents died within six weeks of each other. Kit most likely had her mother and siblings there, and it’s highly likely she was given away by her older brother Peter. There may even have been bagpipes to celebrate since her brothers were all champion pipers.

The witnesses were Thomas Jinks, a friend of my grandfather’s, and Florence (Flo) Cumes and the minister was James Gitson. It is somewhat strange that none of Grandma’s sisters were her bridesmaids, so I wonder if perhaps there was conflict about religion on both sides of the marriage. Ironically although I lived next door to my grandparents, I don’t recall either grandparent ever attending church.

Given the trauma of Dinny’s mother’s death, I’ve often wondered if perhaps he deliberately delayed the marriage to avoid the risks of childbirth to his bride. Perhaps that’s just my imagination running away from me.

I also don’t know if they had a reception, or where it might have been, or if they went on their honeymoon somewhere. Sadly, unlike his younger brother who married only a few months later, there is nothing in the newspapers to enlighten me. It’s these little details of our ancestors’ lives that we miss when we have neither oral history nor new stories. So many things I don’t know for all that I knew them well on a daily basis.

This post is part of a Geneabloggers’ theme, Wedding Wednesday.

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Sepia Saturday: Strolling in the City

Sepia Sat 338

This week’s Sepia Saturday theme was a “gimme”. I’ve had this photo strip for ages but have never used it because I felt it made my grandfather look a little gormless.

However it’s a perfect match this week, so here is Dinny strolling through Brisbane city probably in the 1920s or 1930s (the car would be a clue for some, but not me). I can’t even pick which street he’s in, but there’s a barber pole in the background, so perhaps it was George St. Perhaps he’d even been to have a haircut himself and was feeling pretty spiffy.

Denis Kunkel walking in town

He’s got one thumb tucked into his waistcoast pocket and his hat angled so he keeps the sun off his face, but then he has to tip his head to see….not so wise Grandad. I don’t think he’s coming from work as he looks dressed for the day out, not in railway attire, though as a guard he would have been more smartly dressed than in some other roles.

Looking at his shadows he’s got it falling straight behind him, so I’m thinking he’s walking on an north-south street, so perhaps it is George St down near Roma Street station. (What do you think of my directional theory?) With this in mind, I went searching our good friend Trove for images of George Street, Brisbane circa 1920 and, by jove, I do believe she’s got it!

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Harvey, J. H. (John Henry) 1921, George Street, Brisbane looking south, June 1921 [picture] Out of copyright.

Can you see the barber’s poles and the verandah on the building opposite? Thanks to the magnificent old sandstone buildings, which remarkably for Brisbane, still stand, I know exactly where this is. The lady in the image is crossing the street to the lane which runs behind where Alan & Stark’s shop was, between Albert and George Streets (patriotic lot, with our CBD streets named for royalty!)

View of Trittons furniture shop on George Street Brisbane ca. 1935

Unidentified 1935, View of Tritton’s furniture shop on George Street, Brisbane, ca. 1935, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Out of copyright.

Grandad would have been walking out of the frame on the bottom right of this image heading towards Roma Street Station. If my memory serves me correctly, the old Trittons furniture store was on the right hand side before the barber’s. And above I’ve found an image from Trove which confirms my theory, and we now know the barber/hairdresser was a T McMahon.

Brisbane map 1878 extract

Unidentified 1878, Street map of the city of Brisbane, Queensland, 1878, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. (extract). The red dot is my estimate of the location of the photo.

He had a kind heart, my granddad, so perhaps he bought the photo just to help the street photographer out, perhaps he was a fellow Digger trying to make ends meet. I know my grandparents had a camera at home, or among the extended family, because I’ve got quite a lot of photos from the 1920s/30s among their collection.

Why not stroll over to see where other Sepians are off to this week? I wonder if they got caught up in the search like I did when I found myself taking several detours into Trove…I left my mental wanderings as a breadcrumb trail.

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Monday Memories: Weekend picnics

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Hiking and picnicing at Brookfield c1965.

I’ve recently come to realise that one aspect of our family’s traditional life has faded into obscurity, due to a blend of improved circumstances, general disorganisation, and a social trend to eating out in cafes and restaurants. In our case, I suspect that it was the move to Darwin’s hot humid climate that contributed as well. So where are my memories taking me today? Why, on a picnic in the fresh air and sunshine on a day which once would have seen us desperate to pack an al fresco meal and escape.

We didn’t often do picnics in my own family as Dad worked shift work which wasn’t very family-friendly for school-aged children. We didn’t own a car so we were mostly dependent on the bus, train, or an outing with the neighbour down the back. I don’t recall ever eating out in a café on these outings – it was always a packed lunch of some sort.

Over the years we’ve picnicked in all sorts of places depending where we lived, and the age of our children. When Mr Cassmob and I lived in Papua New Guinea we picnicked rather more often, usually to explore some new place, and quite often with an entourage of interested villagers who would sit at a distance from us. Not entirely conducive to lolling around with a book, not that there was much time for lolling with a toddler!

Peter and girls at Buck Palace

We didn’t invite QEII to our picnic near Buckingham Palace in 1977.

 

After we moved to Port Moresby, on the coast, our weekend trips took us often to Ela Beach as we’d take the dog and check our mail box en route. We’d even hear the Police Band if we were there early-ish in the morning, or watch the beach-volley-ball players.

Our other favourite, but more distant spot, was  Varirata National Park. This involved the longer drive up towards the Owen Stanley Range and Sogeri, near where the Kokoda Track ends (or starts). The national park was such fun with open spaces, BBQ areas, and the tree house. All the family enjoyed the outing and we always took visitors there when they came to town. We have quite a few photos of groups of smiling families perched like starlings on a fence.

Variarata picnic view

Back in the Land of Oz, picnics were either by the beach (Sunshine Coast or Hastings Point) or in the ranges. One of our faves was Lamington National Park where we could camp as well. It could be chilly and you could have a camp fire at night. During the day there were bush walk and the chance to see the beautiful rosellas (birds) and regent and satin bowerbirds.

Depending on where we were going, the picnic would be fresh bread, cheese, ham and tomatoes (and a thermos of coffee!) Other times we’d take sausages (aka snags) and the portable BBQ. Last weekend we drove past one of the spots where we’d had a BBQ on the river bank. The name always amused us because Obi Obi Creek has multiple crossings. Our picnics were pretty lazy affairs – taking it easy, having a book or magazine to read – a way for the family to recuperate after the busyness of the workday week. None of those energetic cricket or footy games, unless we were camping…our best effort was a bush walk.

Peter and Louisa BBQ Obi Obi Ck

A creek-side BBQ at Obi Obi Creek.

Did your family go on picnics? What food did you take? Were you energetic or lazy like us?

Sepia Saturday: Aussie royalty – the koala

Sepia Saturday Header

How could I resist this wonderful Sepia Saturday prompt which had passed me by until I read Jollett Etc’s post today?

koala sign croppedThe koala is, of course, a key icon of Australia – they look cuddly and cute, even if all they do is sleep much of the day and between-times munch on a gum leaf or two. In fact, they’re rarely seen in much of Australia these days though I know LoneTester is lucky enough to have them near her home. Despite the local signs, I haven’t seen any koalas or roos as yet, and I surely don’t want to see them on the road!

One place I used to see them in the wild quite often was when we’d visit Magnetic Island off the coast of Townsville. It was a tremendous koala habitat and patience was rewarded with regular sightings. In those days the old Kodak camera just wasn’t up to capturing their images though.

koalas at lone pine 1939 copy

1930. Koalas at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, photographed for Mrs Forgan Smith, October 1939, Queensland State Archives. Copyright expired.

German Shepherd and Koala Lone Pine

Photographed c1960 by P Cass

Brisbane has a long-lived tradition of showing its tourists the cuddly koala at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. While many similar places have limited access to them, they can still be handled by besotted tourists from Princess Alexandra of Kent(1959) or the Russian Ballet troupe (1961) to The Legal Genealogist (2016).  Luckily for all of them the koalas were on their best behaviour and didn’t piddle on royalty, British or genealogical, although it’s possible they were bored and yawned.

Of course it’s not just the tourists who would make the pilgrimage to see the koala at Brisbane’s iconic tourist spot. Back in the day it was a “special treat” outing for children during school holidays. We would catch the ferry from North Quay and arrive upriver at Lone Pine to be greeted by the German Shepherd with a koala on its back.

pauleen Lone Pine

oh my, look at those freckles!

 

Pauleen Kunkel Valerie Carstens middle and Pauline Morris and brothers Lone Pine

A picnic with family friends by the river at Lone Pine c1960.

You can see from these photos that my family made occasional visits to Lone Pine. While our children didn’t get to go to Lone Pine, they’ve managed to cuddle a koala on a couple of occasions.

Rach Louisa and Bec and koala crop

My small bear is looking a little worried about that ‘bear”..perhaps she knew she was in the “firing line” if it decided to wee.

 

Koalas Lone Pine news fm TroveLone Pine has always been proud of its reputation, boasting proudly back in 1939 of four generations of koalas living there. The trend for popularity is long established as one was named “Princess” and another “Amy Johnson” and our own Aussie genearoyalty, Jill.  I notice that the sanctuary was still referring to koalas as bears, which they’re not.  Don’t you love the photo from our good friend Trove of a whole row of koalas?

So there we have it, one post combining “Trove Tuesday”, “Sepia Saturday” and a planned-for-another-day “Monday Memories” post.

Have you ever cuddled a koala? Are they on your bucket list? If so you might want to think about visiting Australia for Congress 2018, our triennial family history conference.

And if you think they’re always docile, check out this video which has been doing the rounds on Facebook and YouTube.

 

FOUR GENERATIONS OF KOALAS (1935, July 6). The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 – 1954), , p. 12. Retrieved June 21, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article36766724

Here are some photos of my aunt and cousins, Patsy and Jimmy, at Lone Pine. Sadly they are all deceased now.

Mary farraher with koala

Aunty Mary, perhaps circa 1995.

My grandmother with cousin Patsy and koala.

My grandmother with cousin Patsy and koala.

 

My cousin Jimmy being introduced to a koala.

My cousin Jimmy being introduced to a koala.

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Monday Memories: My life in cats

Pauleen in basket with kittenIn my daughter’s memory photo album I wrote “where there’s a Cass, there’s a cat”. Very true, but equally so of my own family as the various photos here will attest.

From my earliest days to today I’ve been without a cat for only a few short months – and felt myself off-kilter and at a loss. It’s not that I don’t like dogs, and as a child I’d often pester for one, but Mum was somewhat afraid of dogs. She didn’t greatly like cats either, but on that she was over-ruled. Mum preferred our blue budgie, called – wait for it – Bluey! He would sing away on the back landing and call in the wild birds.

I know that one of our cats had kittens at one stage and I suspect Dad had to drown the kittens in the creek (the way it was done in those days). He would have hated that, because he loved animals, almost more than (most) people.

Pauleen cats and kittens

Which cat had the kittens? Perhaps Tammy or Sooty.

ChippyOne of our cats, Chippy, used to walk down the street with mum and I when she went to ring her best mate in Townsville from the public phone box. I don’t recall how old I was when we got the phone on, but I would have been in my early teens, until then urgent calls came through our friends over the road – as a (railway) engine driver he needed the phone in case he was called in.

Many’s the time I would sneeze my way through Sunday Mass thanks to the cat being curled up beside me – I wasn’t going to let a minor allergy get in my cat-loving way.

One of the big attractions of Mr Cassmob when I first met him at uni was his love of cats – they had a white cat called Wizzle who’d splash in the puddles.

Valerie with Sooty and Tammy

This photo of a family friend with Sooty & Tammy would be about 1960.

After we married and moved to Alotau we acquired a female cat who we named Tabitha. She was a great leaper which was unfortunate given her predilection for catching large tropical butterflies. It wasn’t uncommon to wake up and find scattered butterfly wings on the floor, along with shredded tissues – the latter delivered by my in-laws’ daschund who we were minding. The locals were bemused how her ears would stand out in the wind when we drove along – Er wah, they’d say. Sanguma (magic) and they’d call Tinka “bat dog”.

Louisa in basket and Pedro Nth Goroka 1972

Daughter #1 with Pedro – echoes of the one above of me.

Tabitha excelled herself when she delivered her first litter of kittens. It was Anzac Day 1971, very early, when I woke up the technicolour image of a kitten being ejected right above my face. That was too much even for this cat lover! We left Tabitha and the rest of the kittens behind at the High School when the government decided we needed to be in Goroka “yesterday”, but we took one of the kittens, a handsome boy we called Pedro.

Some years later we suspect Pedro came to a sticky end and wound up either as a hat or in the cooking pot, given our home on the route to various villages and squatter settlements. The bossy neighbourhood cat, Brandi, had pushed him out. Ironically she was to become our next furry feline when her owners “went finish” (leave PNG). It was a common tradition to pass pets on, because in those days the quarantine period was very long -a year or more from recollection. In much the same way we acquired out cattle dog, Whisky, who loved going to the beach with us each weekend. We threatened to get a budgie and call it Rum.

Brandi was a beautiful cat and we all loved her to pieces. She nearly came to a sticky end too, when the neighbourhood dogs caught her one day. Luckily we were able to rescue her, and with lots of TLC she survived. Very sadly we had to have her put to sleep when we left Moresby as, post-Independence, we had fewer friends left still in Moresby, and they weren’t really cat people. We were all in tears and I still regret that we didn’t bring her home to be buried in the garden rather than leave her with the vets. I still worry that dastardly deeds may have been done to my gorgeous girl.

Our lovely Brandi cat

Brandi – our much loved cat in Port Moresby, PNG.

Whisky was handed on to our neighbours when we left, but soon after went off to join the man who had done our ironing. She’d been taken to a village when she was very tiny and had an obsession with Mackerel Pike so I guess she’d have fitted in okay. It was very tough leaving special furry friends behind when we had to leave.

DD1 again with Socks Xmas 1978 with last week's chair in the background and my crocheted poncho effort.

DD1 again with Socks Xmas 1978 with last week’s chair in the background and my crocheted poncho effort.

Around the time we decided to “go finish”, Mum and Dad had adopted three kittens whose mother was completely wild. They kept one, as our old cat Sooty had crossed the rainbow bridge sometime previously. Another was allocated to us, and became another firm favourite (aren’t they all?), Socks. One vet suggested that she may have been part-Burmese – she had a beautiful colouring and a lovely nature.  She had an attitude though, when it suited her. When Ginger Megs came into our lives she swatted him across the face and established who was boss of this household! She also took on a Doberman which wandered into our yard one day – she could be quite fearless. Unfortunately, she didn’t live to a ripe old age but died of cancer aged about 10 years. Another sad day for the Cass mob.

Meanwhile Ginger Megs aka Gemma (AM = ack emma hence GM = Gemma) had arrived. Had we known his temperament in advance we’d have named him Garfield as he was very cheeky…and large. He grew to be about 10kgs (22lbs) and was totally quirky – when he wanted you to get up, he’d bat things progressively off the bedside table. And an afternoon nap was an excuse to lie on your back. He got cancer and he too was put to sleep and also brought home to rest in the garden.

Kizzle and Ginger Megs

A very tiny Kizzle with her mate Ginger Megs.

Kizzle was “just a tabby tat” but was immediately part of our family. At age 10, she came to live with us in Darwin, and boy did she give us heaps about her experience on the 4 hour flight. She had a couple of grand adventures in the drama of the house being packed and us relocating, but those yarns are far too long for here. She got very old (18) and wasn’t well, and we dithered whether to have her put to sleep before we went away to Europe in 2006. Sadly, she deteriorated badly and it was our daughters who had to deal with it. She rests in our Darwin garden.

Kizzie does Family history 1

Kizzle keeps an eye on the family history progress.

Despite a promise to myself to take “time out”, my cat-addiction took hold and Springer joined us only a couple of months after we returned home. You can read about this king of our universe here, and the follow up here. And yes, it does seem that we have a trend towards tabby tats.

Springer and craft

Springer in Darwin after “sampling” decorations from the Christmas tree.

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Tuesday Memories: the wicker chair

Somehow Monday passed me by in a flurry of Irish research…I really need to pre-program some Monday Memories posts. Today I’m just going to share with you some photos of a family heirloom which is now with my eldest daughter. Among her photos is also one of my granddaughter taken in the same chair. I really think that I have one of DD1 in it as well…but where?

Dad as a small boy in the chair with his parents Dinny & Kit.

Dennis, Catherine & Norman Kunkel crop

This photo of Dad and his cousin Belle may have been taken on the same day. I have the little wicker rocker, which I played with as a child.

Norman & cousin Belle

Dad as a young man in the chair with his mum, in the late 1930s/early 40s.

norman and kit in chair

Yours truly as an infant in the chair with my Mum.

Pauleen & Joan Jan-Feb 1949

No chance that the chair would cope with someone sitting on the arms now, but it has survived 90+ years so it’s doing well.

All these photos were taken at my grandparents’ house, which was next door to ours, and was my second home. You can read my story about it here.

 

 

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Monday Memories: Maternal Inheritance

Joan Kunkel young woman crop and low

A beautiful photo of Mum – perhaps for her 21st?

The past few days my mind has been occupied with planning my mother’s 90th birthday later in the year: a trip to Sydney and the theatre. Then to top it off, last night, after watching DNA Nation, I was trying to make sense of my mitochondrial inheritance (once again!).  I’m still very confused about that and have lots to learn but I’m very grateful that Mum was willing to provide a sample, or my results would be even more ambiguous.

Unsurprisingly, these thoughts led me to reflect on which of my interests came down from her.

However, it’s not only our mother’s mtDNA that we inherit, it’s often their characteristics and interests. Is that nature or nurture I wonder? I’m far too close to judge which personal characteristics we share and don’t share, so I’m not even going down that path.

From Mum I inherited:

joan and pauleenPhotography – I’m fortunate to have quite a lot of family photos thanks to mum’s interest in it, especially impressive since money was often tight. She was a self-avowed head or legs-lopper in the days of the old Kodak cameras. Mum and Dad also gave me my first camera (birthday or Christmas?) and this engendered my life-long love of photography.

A love of cut flowers – though mum loved to arrange them whereas mine just get plonked in the vase. We both share a love of pansies and roses. I love frangipani, she hates it.

Baking – every Saturday was baking day in our house and Mum inherited her grandfather’s and mother’s baking expertise. There were always cakes and biscuits made weekly. My sweet tooth won’t let me give them up.

Sewing skills – but a limited amount of patience for it so that I’ve long since given up sewing clothes. She was a very skilled dressmaker and the finish on her sewing left nothing to be desired.

Joan Kunkel poss Sth Brisbane

At South Brisbane?

The wonders of nature – through bushwalks on Magnetic Island with her and dad during our holidays.

Theatre, dancing, tennis and other useful social skills: as I mentioned last week my mother was the prime mover in these areas. No doubt she was determined I’d have advantages she hadn’t had.

Craft – Mum has always enjoyed new craft activities from flower arranging to decoupage. Like most women of her era she could also crochet though knitting was never her thing.  I thoroughly enjoy learning new creative skills but then there’s family history….a time-absorber.

Beautiful decorative items – we have completely different taste, but we both like those special-to-us touches in our homes.

joan Pauleen theatre

At the theatre.

Commitment – from persisting with giving me the best education and in a myriad small ways, I’ve learnt commitment to tasks.

Eveready batteries – this used to be one of my abilities in emulation of Mum’s busy days but sadly my family history has helped me to slow down – plus a somewhat better understanding of what’s good for my health.

Typing – Mum used to type my uni assignments for me at all hours and when she was no longer around after we moved to PNG I had to learn to type myself – the air was “blue”.

We don’t share:

pauleen norm at picnic bay

One of my favourite photos – Dad and me on holidays at Magnetic with the local kittens.

A love of cats and dogs, though we always had cats around the house…Dad’s inheritance.

A love of reading – Mum was always one of those busy women who never stopped to read much so this is another inheritance from Dad.

A love of painting and wall-papering: wall painting drives me mad – give me growing grass any day.

The ability to sing – Mum has this, I don’t!

Fashion style – Mum has always been interested in the latest styles whereas for me it’s rather ho-hum. Like many of her generation she’s probably also more formal.

Religion – although this was a huge part of my life until my 40s I’ve sworn off it since then, to mum’s great disappointment.

Curly hair – to mum’s minor envy my hair is thick and wavy. Not sure where the waves came from.

When I was a young girl, people would say to me “gee you look like your mother” and then when they saw me with Dad “No, you look like your dad”. Obviously a mix of both in many regards.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned since having children in my early 20s, it is how difficult it can be to do all the right things as a mother…my quote is “I’ve learned lots about myself I’d rather not have known”. For all these things, and others, I’m grateful to my mother for what she’s done and the enthusiasms she shared with me.

 

 

 

 

Serendipity across time

Sketch of Her Imperial Majestys Opera House Brisbane 1888 Trove

Unidentified 1888, sketch of Her Imperial Majesty’s Opera House Brisbane, 1888, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

For Mother’s Day we took my mum to see the ballet Giselle broadcast live on the big cinema screen from London. On the way home she happened to mention that my paternal grandfather, Dinny Kunkel, had enjoyed opera and gone to see the Opera in Brisbane. Who knew?!

Like many things this was one of those snippets that leave as many questions as answers – after all he’d been born in a railway camp near Dalby:

  • How did he come to learn about opera?
  • When did he start connecting with it?
  • Did he learn a little about it from his German grandfather, George Kunkel?
  • Did he learn about it during his Paris leave amid World War I?
  • Was it part of a self-improvement program, along with joining the Masons (not looked on kindly by the Catholic church) or did he just like the music and drama?

Rigoletto record DJKInevitably I am unlikely to know the answer to these questions and it occurred to me to look among the gramophone records from my grandparents’ house, which I’ve inherited along with the gramophone. Sure enough there was this record…and a variety of classics but no other opera.

I turned to Trove to see what was happening in Dinny’s years working in Brisbane. Immediately before the war, the city was abuzz with the arrival of JC Williamson’s Madam Butterfly. I wonder if he attended, and did he perhaps go dressed up as he is in this photo? Perhaps he was even photographed there – I know I had photos taken at concerts I attended.

Denis Joseph Kunkel abt 15

Denis Joseph Kunkel (1880-1965). The original is held by Pauleen Cass.

The Opera was being staged at Her Majesty’s Theatre, earlier known as Her Imperial Majesty’s Opera House. Sadly no longer surviving thanks to Queensland’s political indifference to matters cultural, it was somewhere that most Brisbaneites would have visited for the ballet or a show. Quite grand, with heavy drapes, uniformed assistants and gilt embellishments.

Strangely enough, in a serendipitous link across time, we are planning to see Madam Butterfly ourselves soon, in a very 21st century way, at our local cinema, thanks to HD transmission from the Metropolitan Opera – a whole new experience unknown in Darwin.

 

1910 ‘”MADAM BUTTERFLY ” GRAND OPERA IN BRISBANE.’, The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 – 1947), 11 October, p. 20. (SECOND EDITION), viewed 10 May 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article186550560  Madam Butterfly

 

So this is Christmas 2014 – a geneameme

Christmas_L6My friend Sharn from FamilyHistory4U blog has set us all a Christmas geneameme challenge.In previous years I’ve posted on the Geneabloggers’ Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories and this meme offers a change of pace for me. I’m lucky that I’ve been able to check with mum on a couple of the questions.

1. What kind of Christmas did you have as a child? 

Baby Jesus in mangerChristmas was always a religious event at our house with Midnight Mass and adoration on Christmas Eve. I’d often pester my father, who was a non-Catholic, to come with us….poor man, he got no Christmas peace. Our Christmas celebrations were pretty low key as we have a small extended family and so it was usually just roast dinner with Christmas pudding and cake.

  1. Where did you spend Christmas?

We always spent Christmas at home, apart from when we’d visit my maternal grandfather’s house across town – no mean feat on a public holiday using public transport.  Mum tells me we mainly did this before her mother died, and only occasionally after that, which surprises me that I can remember, as I was only a small child when she died.

The maximum number of people we had were my own family, plus grandfather and sometimes one set of maternal aunts and uncles and cousins, so between 7 and 11 tops. For the life of me I can’t remember my paternal grandparents, who lived next door, being invited to partake in Christmas lunch….don’t go there, sigh…perhaps Grandma came over after Grandad died. Mum tells me the rellies would come over on Boxing Day mostly.

Image from Shutterstock.com

Image from Shutterstock.com

When I was a child we never went away on holidays at this time of year because it was peak period and expensive.

When we lived in Brisbane I used to dislike (hate/loathe) sitting in the northbound traffic to visit rellies, while the southbound freeway was totally free.

Mostly we’re at home for Christmas, though once when we lived in Papua New Guinea and once (or twice?) since we’ve been in Darwin, we’ve been back to Brisbane for Christmas. Once we had a white Christmas in Lucerne (some of the family) and once Himself and I returned from a trip on Christmas Eve, just a tiny bit jetlagged. And a few years ago we had Christmas in Tasmania with DD1.

  1. A letter and something yummy for Santa

I may have written to Santa (surely everyone did?) but I have no recollection of doing so. We certainly didn’t leave anything out for Santa or the reindeer – I remember being a bit mystified to find that other people did that.

Our gum tree Christmas tree when I was a child.

Our gum tree Christmas tree when I was a child.

  1. The Christmas Tree

Yes, we always had a Christmas Tree and it was always a small gum tree (eucalyptus) from down the creek bank near our house I’m pretty sure we only put it up close to Christmas so it would survive.

We still maintain our family tradition of putting up the tree together, though now it’s an artificial one, and we always decorate it while playing Christmas music. It basically stays up over Advent.

  1. Decorating the Christmas Tree 

Mum and I would decorate the tree together as Dad would either be on shift-work or think he was too clumsy. I think we had a mix of handmade and special glass baubles. I see in one photo we had balloons – I guess gum trees are less spikey than firs.

We have a wide variety of Christmas tree decorations – no colour-coordinated themes for the Cass mob. Some go back to the first year of our marriage, some were made by our children, some were gifts and quite a few have been brought back from our travels which has become a family tradition, helped by the fact we often travel off-season.Xmas decorations collage

  1. Did you decorate outdoors? 

Not really. I think we may have had some sort of wreath but no lights as they were not readily available then, as far as I know.  I don’t remember anyone else doing it either, unless it was those paper chains we made as kids…but then it is the rainy season in Queensland (and Darwin). These days we put up a wreath and solar lights in the frangipani.

7  Christmas Cards

P1160921Mum would write our Christmas cards and send them to a small group of family and friends…she has amazingly neat writing, even in her advanced years. What did we do with them? Hmmm, I think we may have cut them up and used them for craft and Mum would save the stamps and send them to the Missions. If I remember correctly they were hung on tinsel with our clock in the centre (why, I don’t know).

Remember when the postie would do two mail “runs” a day in the stinking heat of a Brisbane summer? We would always have a cold drink for him when he came by with his big pack…I think he was more like Santa than Santa himself.

These days I send electronic cards to some, paper cards to the older generation and try to ring my interstate friends for a catch-up chat…more fun, and informative, than a card.

I made this kermit stocking for my youngest daughter but it is really only used for decoration.

I made this kermit stocking for my youngest daughter but it is really only used for decoration.

  1. Christmas Stockings 

No, I never had a Christmas stocking other than those ones you bought in the shops with little round lollies, blowers, cartoons etc, which I really liked. All our presents would go under the tree. In my husband’s family there would be one gift at the bottom of the kids’ beds and they were told when they first woke up they could open that and read (it was usually a book). We maintained that tradition too, but the joy of Midnight Mass is that it makes the kids too tired to wake up super-early.

9. Christmas Presents

I got presents from Mum and Dad and Santa, something from my grandparents and a small gift from my aunts and uncles, and I would swap gifts with close friends. I think I made small gifts for my parents and I remember the first time I was able to go shopping in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley for gifts for my parents. Mum’s confirmed we didn’t do gifts for the nuns who taught me.

My bride doll Mary on display.

My bride doll Mary on display.

I remember that it was traditional to always leave out some beer as gifts for the garbos in those days when they had to carry the bins and empty them manually. The milko also got something.

These days we’ve rationalised our family present buying: the adults exchange a secret Santa gift to a limited amount and I swap presents with some of my friends. Ironically my oldest friend and I don’t do presents any more – we ran out of inventiveness – but if we see something during the year we’ll buy it at the time.

Each year we have a craft session with the grandchildren when they make gifts for their parents. They seem to have a good time and so do we. I remember some school holidays when the girls were young and we had chaos while neighbourhood kids made fymo necklaces and decorations.

  1. Your favourite Christmas Present

Well I’d be stretching it being confident about this but one I very much remember was a large Readers Digest book on animals. I was desperate that it would be among my gifts and was thrilled when I did, but was it a Christmas or birthday gift? I still have it in my library.

Actually my favourite Christmas present was always a book, any book. A sad Christmas would be one with no book (don’t think that every happened). I still have many of them, especially some from one of Mum’s close friends.

  1. Was there an unrealistic present you wanted but never received?  

I was going to say “no” but on further reflection, every year I wished for a baby sister or brother but it never happened. Obviously that was not in God’s plan for our family.

12. Did you give gifts to teachers and friends at school? 

I thought I might have given presents to the nuns in high school but mum thinks not, and since she would have done the buying (what mum doesn’t?) then I’d guess not. I don’t think it was the almost compulsory activity it has been with our children onwards. Perhaps we just gave them a holy Christmas card.

Again, close friends exchanged gifts but the wider circle of girls would exchange holy pictures with messages on them.

Christmas in Tasmania was all about the seafood and a fantastic meal by DD1, oh yes, and the company :)

Christmas in Tasmania was all about the seafood and a fantastic meal by DD1.

  1. Christmas Food
Green Peppercorn Xmas cake recipe from the Australian Women's Weekly (I think) circa 1990

Green Peppercorn Xmas cake recipe from the Australian Women’s Weekly (I think) circa 1990. CLICK TO ENLARGE.

Now this I do remember!

Despite the heat we always had a hot Christmas meal. Chicken was an expensive treat in those days and I don’t recall anyone having turkey or seafood. Roast potatoes, carrots and onions with peas for vegetables. Steamed Christmas pudding, custard and cream for dessert (yes please Dad would say, meaning all three). Shortbread was made according to my Scottish grandmother’s recipe and we would always have crystallised ginger on the table….one of Mum’s favourites. Dad might have a  beer (remember that Scottish mother) but no one else had anything alcoholic.

We always had our meal inside on a formally dressed table with all my parents’ quality linen and crystal…one of the few times each year that the crystal made an appearance.

  1. A special Christmas Recipe

Yes we made the shortbread (see above) which I still make to Grandma’s recipe. The pudding was also her recipe and is a delicious, moist version. Mum made the same delicious Christmas cake for decades which I also made until I found a new recipe for a Green Peppercorn Christmas Cake which we really like but which no longer likes me…sigh.

  1. Christmas Traditions 
Backyard Christmas celebrations Gerehu, Port Moresby.

Back yard Christmas celebrations Gerehu, Port Moresby.

Bon bons were always on the table too with their usual sad jokes but still fun. We didn’t go carolling – that was done around the church services and we also listened to them at home.

And yes, grace before and after meals –always, not just at Christmas.

In Papua New Guinea where we were all far from our families of origin, we would hold Christmas gatherings of friends and rotate through different households from year to year. It was always great fun.

  1. Christmas Music 

Me, in a choir?? Thank heavens, no! Mum has a good voice and I would sing at home but that was it. Dad was tone deaf unfortunately and couldn’t even carry a tune. We would listen to the music on LPs once we got a player and one of our first Christmas records was one which included Oh Tannenbaum. That was when I was learning German so I guess we got it when I was in Grade 10.

At church in Brisbane the band would play carols before and during Mass, but then let rip with the liveliest ones as the Mass ended.

It’s a shame that the abuse of Christmas carols in shops as a marketing ploy has taken the edge off our enjoyment of such a happy part of Christmas.

For a very long time our family would go to Carols by Candlelight in the park in Brisbane – our youngest even went when she was only a few weeks old. It was a very special part of our family’s Christmas tradition until it became way too commercialised and tacky.

nana-mouskouri 1_edited-1We love listening to a CD we have of Carols from Oxford…just so relaxing.

  1. Your favourite Christmas Carol 

Can I remember that far back? I guess the traditional ones like Silent Night and Away in a Manger then as a teenager Oh Tannenbaum. As an adult, Feliz Navidad, the Little Drummer Boy, and Mary’s Boy Child are my absolute favourites.

  1. Christmas Parties

Our family didn’t do parties, period. I remember being taken to the Railway Club where I got presents but not every year. I was in Guides but again, I have no recollection of having parties there.

Hmm, I guess I contradicted myself with the Gerehu parties above, but then I didn’t really see them as parties per se.

  1. Christmas Concerts/Plays

Mum confirmed for me that we didn’t have Christmas concerts at my primary school, only St Patrick’s Day ones. We didn’t have them at All Hallows’ because every second year was the state-wide exam so we all finished school on different days.

20. Christmas Holidays

As I mentioned, we never went away over the summer holidays so mine were spent hanging around the house, playing with the kids who also were at home. I remember that at least once we went up to my aunt and uncle’s camp site at Noosa, right in the midst of what is now a very upmarket resort. My cousin says we stayed with them at least once, but I only remember visiting.

I loved it when I got books as Christmas presents and could just hide from the heat and read…not that mum was so keen on that idea when there were jobs to be done <smile>. One Christmas in high school I read an entire collection of Dickens’ books which my cousin had left with us to mind. Since I read books like a glutton at a smorgasborg I’ve forgotten much of what I read.

Christmas Holiday camping at Hastings Point in northern NSW

Christmas Holiday camping at Hastings Point in northern NSW….a packed “house”…better to just visit.

21 What is your earliest Christmas memory? 

Whew, my brain is stretched from all these questions….I don’t have a specific memory but I guess it might be the year I got my bride doll.

Thanks Sharn for inventing this meme for us. I’m looking forward to seeing what others have written – it’s so interesting to see the things we have in common, and the ways we differ.

 

 

 

William Rudolph (Robert) Kunkel: Always missed

A few years back I wrote in detail about my father’s cousin, William Rudolph (Robert) Kunkel, who went missing in Korea. Dad always said that Robert’s parents never gave up hope of finding him. Like so many families whose sons went missing in action during battle, there must have been a sense of ambiguity and uncertainty…perhaps one day he’d turn up.

Recently I was searching Trove and came up with another news story about Robert Kunkel. It was a very big entry on page 4 of Brisbane’s Sunday Mail on 12 December 1954[i]. Robert’s mother, Hilda, plainly believed that it was her son seen in the march-past at the City Hall of the 3rd Battalion, recently returned from Korea, even though he’d served with the 1st Battalion. As a child I always heard that Robert had never returned so it’s plain that the man marked didn’t turn out to be her son. What a sad loss it was for Robert’s parents, Hilda and Bill, who never stopped missing their son.

I had hoped to hear from one of Robert’s mates after my previous post, but would still welcome contact from them or a descendant if they inherited a story about Robert’s capture by the North Koreans. The surviving men from the patrol were Corporal William Crotty, Brian Ransfield Mau from Hamilton, New Zealand and S Brent (Sidney Henry Brent?). Crotty and Kunkel were apparently good mates.

Robert Kunkel from Sunday Mail top of pic

Robert Kunkel from Cour Sunday Mail 12 Dec 1954

[i] Mother seeks her son. (1954, December 12). Sunday Mail(Brisbane) (Qld. : 1926 – 1954), p. 4. Retrieved December 1, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article97951154