Fab Feb Photo Collage Festival: Day 18 Wedding Bells

4 x 7UP collageOne of the big differences between when I was a young adult and today, seems to be that many of us married young. I don’t mean this is a commendable thing, nor am I being judgemental of today’s delayed marriages or civil partnerships….simply making a social observation. We were among the early batch of our friends and family to marry: two cousins beat us to the altar, and one set of our uni friends. Now I look at our photos and think “Good heavens, we were young!” Of course like every young adult that ever walked we thought we were terribly mature <smile>.

P&P cut cakeOur plans had changed and we were to head off to Alotau in Papua New Guinea about ten days after our wedding rather than remaining in Brisbane. You might imagine that everything was in a bit of flurry. I remember one of the seminarians at  Pellegrini’s asking me how the wedding arrangements were going….I’m sure he thought either a crocodile or Doberman had got loose in the bookshop.

With so much to organise and Mr Cassmob flying in just days before the wedding I was just a tiny bit frazzled so it was great that my cousin took a Super 8 movie of some of the day’s events (but not in the church, heaven forbid!) Much of our day remains a series of snapshots.

  • Convincing the priest we could have folk hymns rather than the “old faithfuls”, and all that in the middle of Lent when no one was supposed to marry, and there was supposed to be no music –quite an achievement in retrospect.
  • The cringe-factor compulsory pre-marriage classes with the priest.
  • Rejecting the traditional hymn to Mary as my entrance hymn.
  • Making my mother-in-law-to-be cry (not easy!) as I walked down the aisle to Mozart’s 21st.
  • The priest’s injunction to the groomsman to ignore the best man if he fainted and just get the ring.
  • The priest’s instructions to us not to look sideways at each other (he meant well but, I ask you, how silly was that! Even sillier that we tried to comply!)
  • The gap in my friends, and bridesmaids, because one of my best friends was away.
  • My friend, a seminarian who was assisting at the ceremony, making a joke afterwards about how I finally matched my parents’ house’s colour scheme (a standing stir)
  • Mr Cassmob fiddling with his ring as we came out of the church.
  • The crazy speed race by the limo driver to the reception because he had another booking: No chance of any sort of romantic moment as we lurched from side to side while he slalomed around corners.
  • Hiding Dad’s 1st car from our uni friends so no one would make a mess of it as our getaway car.

    Leaving the reception. My outfit is another of Mum's creation -in a watermelon red colour.

    Leaving the reception. My outfit is another of Mum’s creations -in a watermelon red colour. It would be nice if we were both still this thin!

  • Our reception in one of the university’s function rooms, appropriately so much part of our story.
  • Mum’s floral decorations on the tables.
  • Our decluttered wedding cake after I removed lots of the icing  decor – I was having a “simple” phase. Mum had made the fruit cake to her recipe but we’d had it iced professionally.
  • My wedding dress made by my mother as well as my “going away” dress. Do they do those any more?
  • Driving through a monster storm to get to our first night’s honeymoon accommodation.
  • Being recognised while on honeymoon as our photo had been in the paper, and I guess we looked exactly what we were, honeymooners.
  • Trying our first Mexican meal at a place near Palm Beach on the Gold Coast.

 Do you remember your wedding day or did it pass in a blur? I’m not sure I’d go through a “bells and whistles” wedding any more, but then maybe that’s because I’ve already had the traditional wedding. At any rate it’s had a pretty good rate of return on everyone’s investment <smile>.

Fab Feb imageFamily Hx writing challengeThis post is part of the February Photo Collage Festival and the Family History Writing Challenge.

Fab Feb Photo Collage Festival: Day 17 A place in my heart

4 x 7UP collageNow I’ll bet you were thinking this was going to be about Mr Cassmob. But you’d be wrong, because he wasn’t my first love….sorry, dear.

Under the Jacaranda Tree, UQ

Under the Jacaranda Tree, UQ

In fact my first love wasn’t even a person, but a place. It was on a holiday-activity, bus trip around Brisbane that Mum & I first visited The University of Queensland’s campus at St Lucia. For me it was love at first sight. At the time I’d have been a year or two away from heading to uni, and the gorgeous sandstone surrounds of the Great Court stole my heart. There in its centre was a carpet of green adorned with jacaranda and gum trees. The colonnaded cloisters with their deep shade were equally appealing. Little did I know at the time that the sandstone was quarried in Helidon, not too far from my Kunkel ancestors’ home at Murphys Creek which also had sandstone quarries. Around the buildings are grotesques or gargoyles which are maintained to this day.

This history[i] of the key Forgan Smith building describes it thus:

All of the Great Court buildings were to be joined together by colonnaded sandstone cloisters around the two hectare (six acre) courtyard. The mix of violet, lavender, cream and brown sandstone from Helidon created a mottled but beautiful unified core for the St. Lucia campus, which remains much as the architects envisaged….

The Great Court at UQ c1998

The Great Court at UQ c1998

 Falling in love is one thing, sustaining the relationship is another. With the freedom of leaving school and the excitement of 1960s life on campus, not to mention meeting the man in my life, academic performance wasn’t what it could have been. But I have such great memories of those undergraduate years:

  • Newman society debates and socialising
  • Folk Masses in the Forgan Smith building at lunch times (post Vatican II)
  • Listening to the radical speakers (students and academics) at other lunch times talking about civil liberties and the Vietnam War
  • Civil liberties marches and demonstrations
  • Sitting with Mr Cassmob listening to music in the Music room of the Refectory
  • Meeting Mr Cassmob for the first time
  • Hanging out with friends in the Refec between lectures and science pracs.
  • The pervasive blooming of the jacarandas signalling the start of the exam (or swatting) period
  • Sitting exams mostly off-campus (Cloudland or the Wool Pavilion)
  • Hot, hot days writing exams as invigilators prowled constantly pouring cold water, girls sat with their skirts up to the point of indecency and boys took their shirts off.

Cloudland: famous for its balls and big-band dances; infamous for exams. From Trove and SLQ bishop.slq.qld.gov.au:64211

Cloudland: famous for its balls and big-band dances; infamous for exams. From Trove and SLQ bishop.slq.qld.gov.au:64211

Little did I know at the time how pivotal the university would continue to be in my life, despite my chequered undergraduate degree. On our return from PNG I eventually finished my degree and got a casual job with UQ, thanks to the fact that the interviewer actually understood the work I’d been doing in Port Moresby. That job turned from casual to permanent during my employment in the Business Services Division. Later on again my employment would turn to contracts as I took on research administration, not all of it at the St Lucia campus. It was here that I would meet many great friends, including my other best mate Linda. Lunch times at the Staff Club, coffee at Wordsmiths, long hours of high intensity work, and even a family history conference. My time at UQ ended with our move to Darwin: I had spent 18 years studying or working there.

While the core of the university remains the same, someone revisiting for the first time since the late 1960s would get a large shock as the architecture, and campus density is so very different. Buildings have mushroomed around the campus including on the front lawn where the featured collage photo was taken. Of all the changes that is perhaps the greatest loss: the sense of presence it gave to one of the approaches to the university. If you ever wonder about the significance of bequests and donations, wonder no more, as the whole site for The University of Queensland’s St Lucia campus was paid for by Mayne family, whose subsequent bequests continue to benefit the university, its research and buildings to this day.

I should have photos galore of the university but I guess in those days I didn’t take my camera to work. There are a few on Flickr but under copyright.

Fab Feb imageFamily Hx writing challengeThis post is part of the February Photo Collage Festival and the Family History Writing Challenge.


[i] Crossroads, UQ centenary 1911, Volume 5, Issue 2, pages 19-33.

Fab Feb Photo Collage Festival: Day 16 Cinderella and the ball

4 x 7UP collage

Another debutante in rural Victoria: Mr Cassmob's mother

Another debutante in rural Victoria: Mr Cassmob’s mother

Perhaps it’s all those children’s stories of Cinderella et al being transformed and sent off to the ball that makes formal outfits so appealing to teenage girls (well at least this one, as was). I did feel very like Cinderella at the ball in my Debut gown. I had professional photos taken but the real satisfaction came from the stunned look on my date’s face. He’d been dragooned into being my partner that evening and suddenly he looked as if it might not be such a hardship.

I’d asked a guy from uni who I’d been dating occasionally if he’d be my partner, and initially he said yes, only to renege a few days later. I suspect that when he got back to college, the other blokes told him just what was involved in being a deb’s partner: the white gloves, the formal waltz, the Archbishop presiding and the nuns with an overseeing eye. It couldn’t possibly have been that he didn’t want to go with me <wink>. The irony was that like Mr Cassmob he also came from Papua New Guinea, although nothing like him in colouring….seems I was fated to end up in PNG.

pauleen deb

There's that curtsy.

There’s that curtsy.

My mother’s dressmaking skills feature prominently as she made all of my evening wear dresses for formals and balls, but my Debut frock was her piece de resistance. I remember very clearly that we chose the white chiffon which she then took to a firm (no idea who/where) to have it permanently pleated into a concertina format.

How did she get it from a long piece of pleated fabric to this? Well, what happened was that she kept the tightness of the pleats at the top near the waist then of course the bottom spread out beautifully (perfect for waltzing and curtsying). She cleverly used a piece of the fabric, stretched out, to make the gorgeous collar. I just looooved this dress. Our bouquets for the evening were muffs (it was the Dr Zhivago era), with blue and white flowers and ribbons, the school colours. It looks as if, for once, I hadn’t gone home and washed all the teasing and hair spray out of my hair before the event which was held in the ballroom of City Hall.

Aunty Olive's deb photo circa late 1930s.

Aunty Olive’s deb photo circa late 1930s.

Heaven knows why I decided to make my debut though I don’t think it had anything to do with the “being presented to society” rigmarole. Perhaps for the sheer fun of getting all “gussied” up? The debut was hosted by our recently-departed school, and we were presented to the Archbishop. We had to make this deep curtsy –worthy of meeting the Queen. You could tell the All Hallows’ debs at uni, by the way they walked the week of our training – those curtsies killed your calf muscles, let me tell you.

I suspect that making one’s debut was not as much a social class thing in Australia as it is or was in Britain. Among our photo archives I have Deb photo for my husband’s mother and aunt, and also one of my mother’s friends.

This is the Vogue pattern for the pink dress, and also the basis of my wedding dress.

This is the Vogue pattern for the pink dress, and also the basis of my wedding dress.

Looking back at all the old photographs  it’s surprising how vividly I can feel the texture and cut of the many fabrics either Mum or I made into clothes.

Off to the UQ Science Ball with Mr PNG.

Off to the UQ Science Ball with Mr PNG.

Fab Feb imageFamily Hx writing challengeThis post is part of the February Photo Collage Festival and the Family History Writing Challenge.

Fab Feb Photo Collage Festival: Day 15 Dressmaking tributes

4 x 7UP collageIt would be interesting to know how widespread it was for mothers to make their children’s clothes “back in the day”. My mother was a good dressmaker, and very particular, though I think she sometimes felt overshadowed by my paternal grandmother who had been a professional dressmaker.

This a pyjama top made by my grandmother.

This a pyjama top made by my grandmother. Pity I didn’t iron it 🙂

Click to enlarge and see the neatness of the inside seams.

Click to enlarge and see the neatness of the inside seams. I’m not game to try removing the stains which have come out over time.

I still have my grandmother’s sewing machine, which is a dust-collector display shelf now painted white. I’ve had it since I returned to Australia. I used to love playing with Grandma’s buttons and bits when I was little.

My grandma's sewing machine.

My grandma’s sewing machine.

A smart winter outfit created by Mum.

A smart winter outfit created by Mum.

Throughout my childhood Mum made me winter coats, dresses, shorts, hats, beach tops, casual clothes, etc etc. You’ll see many of them through this collage series. Mum also excelled at making beautiful ball frocks which will feature on another occasion. Similarly Mum’s own clothes were always well sewn and she always looked very smart and fashionable. I have many great photos of her in these outfits but to respect her privacy I’ve not included them here, which is why you have to suffer through mine.

Soon after New Year every year, the major department stores would have their annual sales –remember those, in the days when they occurred once a year rather than every “five minutes”. Our primary objective was to hit the fabrics department running, gathering up fabrics by the armful that we could later sort into priority order. It was a fine balance between price and yardage to ensure the selected fabric was actually long enough to turn into an appropriate form of clothing. Not much point getting a bargain if it wouldn’t even make a top let alone a dress. Of course, the mini skirt made that much simpler <smile>.

One of my first store-bought dresses,and a favourite.

One of my first store-bought dresses,and a favourite.

I never felt that my clothes were unfashionable or, heaven forfend, looked “homemade” ie poorly sewn.  Still and all I remember my jubilation when we saw this dress at a January sale. Not only was it beautiful and on special, but it was complex enough with its matching stripe pattern, to make us feel like it was worth paying good money for, rather than attempting to reproduce it ourselves. Each and every stripe met the other perfectly, exactly as if my mother had sewn it herself. The skirt was cut on the cross so would have been even more of a challenge to sew.

I loved this dress, which is why I just had to include the photo in this series. My recollection is that it was my first store-purchased dress but perhaps my memory is playing tricks on me. Soon after I also bought a fabulous red woollen pant suit with a Nehru collar and buttons down the front. I loved that outfit too. It’s quite possible that I contributed to the cost from my Christmas holiday job savings. Perhaps the joy of store-bought clothes was not having to be fitted and re-fitted for whatever was being sewn, and not having to stand on the kitchen table while it was hemmed.

This cropped enlargement is fuzzy but you can see the hours of work Mum put into the beading. This was my Year 12 Formal dress for school, in the school colours.

This cropped enlargement is fuzzy but you can see the hours of work Mum put into the beading. This was my Year 12 Formal dress for school, in the school colours. It was pale blue chiffon over some sort of lining.

Taking photos in front of the Poinciana tree at the end of our street (cul-de-sac) was one of our family traditions.

Beware: more dressmaking stories ahead.

Fab Feb imageFamily Hx writing challengeThis post is part of the February Photo Collage Festival and the Family History Writing Challenge.

Fab Feb Photo Collage Festival: Day 14 Young Love

4 x 7UP collageI just had to rejig my sequence of photos so I could accommodate Valentine’s Day!

In the 60s and 70s, Valentine’s Day was a non-event in Australia but as a devoted reader of Seventeen magazine from the USA I’d caught the “love bug”! Of course having titled this post “Young Love” I also had Cliff Richard on my mind –ironically our children are even greater fans of his movie, Summer Holiday. Who knows why?!

Wasn't he cute?

Wasn’t he cute?

Mr Cassmob and I met during my first year at Uni, and after that for various reasons we spent long blocks of time apart. Having distracted each other enough to need to repeat part of Year 1 at Uni, he returned to TPNG to supervise the labour line at Gili Gili Plantation. As I said previously I’m sure they loved being under the supervision of a teenager.

During his year back in PNG and sometime after his family relocated to Alotau, the new district headquarters, Mr Cassmob sent me the featured collage photo. I’m sure you can see why it promptly became one of my treasured items.

Photo of Mr Cassmob's family home in Alotau taken from much the same place as the old one. P Cass 2012

Photo of Mr Cassmob’s family home in Alotau taken from much the same place as the old one. P Cass 2012

Hearts and flowersI also couldn’t resist the self-indulgence of including this photo of us out to dinner at a theatre restaurant (remember when they were in vogue) in our “courting” days. We’d planned to go a couple of years earlier but we did eventually make it there. Haven’t a clue what the theatre aspect was, or indeed the food, but obviously the company was worth it <wink>. Were we young, or what?!

Happy Valentine’s Day, Mr Cassmob!

Out to dinner.

Out to dinner.

Fab Feb imageFamily Hx writing challengeThis post is part of the February Photo Collage Festival and the Family History Writing Challenge.

Fab Feb Photo Collage Festival: Day 13 – The Youth March

4 x 7UP collageAs my theme for this collage festival was my first 28 years, I had to include a very important influence: my all girls secondary school. I’ve talked about it previously here, here and here in quite a bit of detail so what more is there to say? Heading laterally today’s topic is about an event of some importance to all Brisbane schools in my era.

A view of one of the school's oldest buildings c1988.

A view of one of the school’s oldest buildings c1988.

When I was at school in Brisbane, there was a big Youth March each year. As far as I recall all schools could choose to be part of this event and would turn out and march through the streets and pass a dais of VIPs on the steps of the GPO (General Post Office).  I have no idea what the point of all this was, unless it was to display the wonders of the upcoming generation, which seems a bit odd.

British Flag on Buckingham Place, Image from Wikipedia.

British Flag on Buckingham Place, Image from Wikipedia.

Mr Cassmob says that was pretty much it, plus a hangover of Imperial hoo haa…remembering that in those days God Save the Queen was still played at the movies. Actually a quick search of Trove suggests himself might be right (unusual….not!). Marches in much earlier years seem to have been associated with Empire Day celebrations. No wonder the whole event has died out.

At our school this event was bigger than Ben Hur! The school “imported” a consultant to make sure our standards were high enough. Each year we’d be sorted into progressive heights from tallest to smallest. This took little enough time for me ….I went straight to the top 10 and we juggled ourselves around marginally from year to year. One of my friends did the same at the shallow end of the marching group. It was those pesky girls in the average height range that took hours to sort out, and trust me, every millimetre or quarter inch counted!

Then the fun began as we were drilled to a standard worthy of (if not in excess of) the military! Heads up, chins in, chests out, stomachs in, bums in….try doing all that at once! The only excitement came in the form of a few dragooned teenage boys from St Laurence’s College across the river, who provided us with the necessary march music. I tell you those poor boys must have been due for a bravery medal having to arrive before the eyes of hundreds of young teenage girls.

On the day we would assemble (at the Gardens?) and then set forth. The march must have been in the winter because we always wore our winter uniform with blazers and beret-type hats. Every hem had to be at the precise height, no girl’s hair could be below her collar, gloves and stockings in perfect order, every step in time. Did I mention the similarity to the military?

All Hallows' School, Brisbane Youth March

All Hallows’ School, Brisbane Youth March

Inevitably there’d be photos in the newspaper and recalcitrant hair or hem lines would be circled and the offenders spoken to. And then there was the year when those of us in the front line got into severe strife because we had done our “eyes right” before the official order…even though we were by then past the dais. Who to offend? The Visiting Dignitaries or the school’s uniformity? Oops, wrong guess!

It’s moments like these I wish Trove went forward just another decade to reveal more about some of these memories.

AHS Youth March

All Hallows’ School in the Youth March, mid 1960s.

 Do you think schools used to have a bigger profile in the city’s life than they do today?

The of the city from the All Hallows' terraces c1964

The of the city from the All Hallows’ terraces c1964

The view of the Story Bridge from All Hallows' terraces.

The view of the Story Bridge from All Hallows’ terraces.

I’m also including some photos of Brisbane’s changed skyline. The school had a great view over the city and the river and those who know Brisbane now will see significant differences in the outlook, high-rises and apartment blocks among others.

Fab Feb imageFamily Hx writing challenge

This post is part of the February Photo Collage Festival and the Family History Writing Challenge.

Fab Feb Photo Collage Festival: Day 12: Cousins, aunts and uncles

4 x 7UP collageI’m not going to change the image I’ve posted in this collage but I am going off on a lateral tangent yet again. I had thought to write (even more!) about Magnetic Island but then I thought “why? I’ve done that to death”. Then in another of my midnight mental rambles I was thinking about relatives and so this post is about cousins and aunts and uncles.

Kunkels and Farrahers Cairns

My aunt and uncle, my parents and I, Cairns, Qld.

In the collage photo we were standing outside the Sunlander train, probably leaving Cairns for Brisbane. Earlier we had visited my aunt and uncle and cousins in Cairns where they were then living at the time. My uncle had something of a habit of changing bosses jobs and they moved from out west (Augathella comes to mind), to Far North Queensland, Tugun on the Gold Coast and Brisbane where my grandfather lived with them. At each move my uncle would chuck out my cousin’s toys and dolls…not exactly a therapeutic way of dealing with relocation.

army friends

Why is someone always doing rabbit ears?? My uncle is the cook in the middle (and possibly Mr Rabbit Ears).

Uncle Pat had been an Army cook for some time and been in Papua New Guinea during WWII. I’m lucky to have some of his photos which I found after my aunt died and without looking on the reverse (not all were annotated) I quickly realised they were from PNG. I hope to put these on my Tropical Territory blog in the near future.

My aunt and cousins

My aunt and two of my 8 cousins

His wife, Aunty Mary, was my favourite aunt. Sweet, kind with a quirky, cheeky sense of humour I always liked her. Mary’s daughter predeceased her and her son was far from well for many years and is now also deceased. As the eldest daughter, Aunty Mary was also privy to some of the family stories and shared (some of ?) them with me. Both before and after Mary’s death I was able to get scanned images of many of the family photos as well as my grandmother’s address book. As I cleared Mary’s house after her death I was able to ensure quite a few family “heirlooms” did not end up in the skip.

 Are you close to your cousins?

My grandchildren are enamoured with their cousins, and will hug and greet each other as if they haven’t seen each other for months, rather than only days before, regularly saying “I love my cousin.”

 My cousinly relationships are rather more haphazard. I was close enough to Aunty Mary’s daughter though she was a fair bit older than me. She used to paint my nails (purple) and let me have sleepovers at her boarding house when I was about 12 or 13.

My cousin Patsy (Patricia), named for her father.

My cousin Patsy (Patricia), named for her father.

Two of my cousins I have probably only seen three or five times. I wouldn’t recognise them if they walked through the door tomorrow. Their mother I would have seen only a few times more, though I would have recognised her if I came upon her. Her husband, again, I wouldn’t know from Adam.

But it was my male cousin from another aunt, with whom I have the closest long-term relationship rather than with his sister who was a year younger than me. We used to go ice skating together with our spouses and kids, and I’ve forgiven him for deconstructing my childhood Xmas toys to see how they worked. <smile> Their two much younger sisters, for one of whom I was the godmother, I also know a little, but life has taken us in different directions and to different places.

My non-cousin, daughter of my uncle’s widow’s second marriage, lived with us for medical reasons for about six months, but again we never persevered with our relationship. In many ways I think our longish time in PNG affected many of these family bonds.

(I do have photos of these cousins, but I don’t have permission to use them here as they are still alive).

Among my cousins, I was the only one of the first-born not named for their father.

For similar reasons Mr Cassmob has an even worse track record in the cousin stakes. In the decades that I’ve known him we’ve seen one of his cousins twice, some others only once: a consequence of his living far away from them. Another we met up with in Dublin years ago: they both thought “how will I know him” and found it no problem because both so resembled their fathers!

 Did you have close relationships with aunts, uncles and cousins? Are you still friends rather than just relatives?

Fab Feb imageFamily Hx writing challengeThis post is part of the February Photo Collage Festival and the Family History Writing Challenge.

Fab Feb Photo Collage Festival: Day 11: the Ekka

4 x 7UP collage

Front cover of The Queenslander newspaper 11 August 1927. Copyright expired.  SLQ bishop.slq.qld.gov.au:503000

Front cover of The Queenslander newspaper 11 August 1927. Copyright expired. SLQ bishop.slq.qld.gov.au:503000. It captures the kewpie dolls, icecreams, balloons and sample bags…and the happiness.

The featured collage image is really a story about Brisbane’s Exhibition or Royal National Association (RNA) Show, a 10 day event beloved by all Brisbaneites. However to Brisbane people it really only has one name, the Ekka, or occasionally the Show.

The Ekka is still a cause for great excitement but in my childhood even more so, as there were fewer competing events and treats to capture our imaginations. The Ekka existed mainly for the display and competition of produce, crafts and livestock especially for people from the bush, who would arrive in town en masse. It would be something of a novelty to see the country people in town dressed to the nines, or occasionally wearing an Akubra.

The Ekka was held at the RNA showgrounds, not too far from my home, so we would see the progressive unveiling of the accoutrements of the fair. It covered a lot of ground so you needed to have your walking shoes on and even that didn’t guarantee that you wouldn’t end up exhausted.

There were basically four areas to visit and a wise visitor planned their trip well in advance.

The Show bag Pavilion

Two young girls enjoying their show bags. Copyright expired, SLQ bishop.slq.qld.gov.au:139717

Two young girls enjoying their show bags. Copyright expired, SLQ bishop.slq.qld.gov.au:139717

The building (now demolished) which housed sample bags was of course one of the most popular with children. We would plot and plan just what we’d buy to make our pocket money stretch the distance….few children would have unlimited funds. My own children did much the same when their turn came round, costing each item in the sample bag to maximise bang-for-the-buck. But of course in those pre-decimal currency days before 14 February 1966, our purchases were in pounds, shillings and pence.

Sample bags actually offered samples of goods and I remember that they’d include things like a weetbix in a packet, for example or lollies. We would then use the empty boxes afterwards to play shops. In my uni days I remember working on a stall with my friend. Our job was to encourage people to try the free freshly-ground coffee, no doubt because tea was still the usual drink of choice. The stand smelled absolutely delicious, and I barely drank coffee in those days.

How old was I when this was done? Maybe about 11?

How old was I when this was done? Maybe about 11?

Upstairs in the same building was the display of arts and crafts and baking. It was always intriguing to see what children your own age had produced and wonder over the skills of the cooks who’d produced the delicious looking cakes, biscuits and confectionery. Little did I know at the time that my great-grandfather had won prizes at the equivalent show in Ipswich (Qld).  Near the steps going up to the arts displays was a man who would make your portrait by cutting out your profile with scissors from black paper. This is where my featured photo for today came from.  Nearby was the kewpie-doll stand with those gorgeous (to small eyes) dolls on sticks with frilly netting skirts and lots of glitter.

Wool Pavilion, Tasmanian Potatoes, and Machinery (and sometimes exams)

Across the road in the other buildings were the rather boring things like machinery but the nearby Wool Pavilion was much more fascinating with its wonderful fashion parades featuring Australia’s superb woollen fabrics. The Wool Parade was a great hit with girls and mothers, but less so with husbands and fathers. In later years I sat several exams in the Wool Pavilion. In the November heat, without any form of fans or airconditioning it wasn’t the more conducive atmosphere for doing your best. Still and all I can’t blame my Chemistry I exam results on that! Another popular spot was the Tasmanian potato stand where you could buy delicious fresh, hot chips on buttered rolls..they were constantly in high demand.

The showground: animals, motorcyclists, and fireworks

Hereford bull SLQ 1948

Hereford bull judging at the Ekka 1948. Copyright expired SLQ bishop.slq.qld.gov.au:101780

The hub of the Ekka was the main showground where the livestock exhibitions were held. When your feet gave up you could go and chill out and watch the premium stock being paraded or the expert woodchopping. At other times there were also exhibitions by the Police motorcyclists who would perform skilled choreography on their bikes, leaving everyone with their hearts in their mouths at the near-misses. As darkness fell everyone made sure of getting their place in the various stands so they could watch the night’s fireworks display. Everyone would choose their favourite colour and barrack for which one would go highest with oohs and aahs of happiness or disappointment. Behind the stands were various food outlets and I remember my mother working on the Guide stand serving food. Even the city-slickers would go and have a look at the large bulls and cows, the cute calves and the horses. Of course the smell was a bit overwhelming but it was fun even if we didn’t have the knowledge to assess the animals’ worth.

Livestock parade main arena Ekka c1981

Sideshow Alley

Sideshow alley was one of the “must visit” areas of the Ekka. Just imagine all the thrill of the fair: spruikers selling their shows, the wrestlers, the Fat Lady, the Mirror Maze and Slim Dusty’s singing show. And then there were the opportunities to win a cuddly animal or some other (often tacky) item: the sharpshooters stand, the clowns with their smiles swishing back and forth (more suitable for littlies) and the big Mater wheel.

Side Show Alley from the ferris wheel late 1980s

Side Show Alley from the ferris wheel late 1980s. P Cass.

And the rides!! As a small child you would start with the gentle horses on the carousel and progress to the train before moving up to the centrifugal force of the Octopus or the stomach-churning fear of the Wild Mouse roller coaster. Each year the scary rides got scarier. The stately ferris wheel was an all-time favourite and good for all ages. Each day as I went past on the bus to school I could assess just how close the Ekka was by its steady growth.

Sideshow alley lights

Sideshow alley lights and the Octopus (?). P Cass

My Littlest one (some time ago) enjoying her strawberry and cream ice cream

Our Littlest Bear (some time ago) enjoying her strawberries and cream ice cream

If we’d finished for the day we could duck out the gate near the hospital and catch the bus home, but usually we had to go back to pick up the show bags that had been put in storage rather than carrying them around: a good excuse to stop near the underpass of the railway line and get some bright pink fairy floss and that Ekka staple, an ice cream with strawberries and cream. Yummo!

To top it all off we got a public holiday on the Wednesday but wise people didn’t go to the Ekka on that day!

 And there you have it, a day at the Ekka. If you used to go, what do you remember most?

Fab Feb image

Family Hx writing challengeThis post is part of the February PhotoCollage Festival and the Family History Writing Challenge.