52 weeks of Personal Genealogy & History: Week 3 Cars


Family outing at Kelvin Grove c1950

As hard as it is to believe these days, when (and where) I was growing up, very few people actually owned cars and those who did were generous with their availability. Dad’s family had owned a car for quite a while when he was young but I don’t know why they sold it. My own family didn’t own a car until I was 20 and throughout the years my father rode his old un-geared pushbike to work in rain, hail or shine. Our family excursions were either bike rides or bus or train trips around the area. Dad worked for the railway so our family holidays didn’t really require a car as we got an annual train pass. On a day-to-day basis, we got around on “shank’s pony” ie we walked and as we lived in a hilly part of Brisbane, that was very good exercise!

Me and the neighbour's car at Kelvin Grove

Throughout my childhood, my experience with cars was through two sets of neighbours. One family, across the road, got one I think when I was about 10 and they used to regularly drive their daughters and I to Girl Guides, tennis or the library. This is a picture of me standing in front of it…talk about “legs eleven” as in the Bingo call. I’m guessing this must have been about the time that they got the car though I don’t honestly know.

The neighbours down the back used to take us occasionally on longer drives in the countryside. We would have singalongs in the car as we went. One thing that always mystified me (and still does!) is something they’d say every time we crossed a railway line: “rip up the railway line & sack all the men!” Now, why, when they were all railway workers would they sing something like that –sarcasm or wishful thinking, a bit like “when I win the Lotto.” I don’t know why I never asked Dad but it has certainly stuck in my mind across the years.

When we’d go on Guide camps we’d travel in the tray back of a large truck with all the gear, tents etc and again have a sing-along. In retrospect it’s astonishing to think we were allowed to travel like that but I suppose there were a lot fewer cars on the roads.

Our first car, Goroka, PNG -typical car-sales strategy!

We got our own first car after we’d been married a year. It was a little Datsun 1200 station wagon which enabled us to take day-trips in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea –not that there were many roads. On one drive up to Daulo Pass we encountered a group of warriors with spears and arrows off for a payback encounter (ie fight with another clan over some real or perceived injury). You might imagine we did not look right or left as we drove past, but were very delighted and relieved when they jogged past us chanting and didn’t look at us!

52 weeks of personal genealogy & history- Week 1 – New Year’s Memories

In the past week I’ve been discovering other people’s blogs about family history, not just their specific families but general discussions as well. Among these I’ve discovered (belatedly) are Amy Coffin’s WeTree (http://wetree.blogspot.com/) and Geneabloggers (http://www.geneabloggers.com/). For 2011 Amy has put forward another year of topics for family history bloggers which is hosted on Geneabloggers and this year’s topic is “52 weeks of personal genealogy & history”.

I love the concept of writing up my own history for my family and will probably use the framework to make a gift for my family for Xmas 2011.

In general terms I struggle to reconcile blogging about family history, and especially personal history, with privacy concerns. Where to draw the line? How to maintain a balance?

Week 1’s topic is about New Year’s memories. New Year wasn’t big in my family -probably partly being anti-social but also affected by my father who worked shift-work and missed the “events” that other people take for granted. I do have a few memories of it though. One was an old-style party where people sang songs around the pianola (who remembers those?) and then sang Auld Lang Syne at the stroke of midnight. Or another neighbourhood party which was a little livelier and for which my prevailing memory is the Seekers’ songs being sung loudly and enthusiastically.

My most memorable New Year was my first as a young bride. We were living in Alotau in the then-Territory of Papua New Guinea and we only had power for 18 hours a day. We were hosting a party (or so the plan went) for New Year so I was up early to do some preparations. I had no sooner lit the kerosene lamp and turned to go to the kitchen when the kerosene exploded, the lamp shattered, and my nylon nightie caught fire and melted! My husband arrived to see kerosene in flames all over the floor! As I was pregnant at the time this caused a little consternation and a quick trip to the clinic. People’s reactions were interesting ranging from “someone’s shot his missus” to “why’s she going down the street at this hour”.

I learnt my lesson…I never did plan (or host) another New Year’s Eve party!

My most fun NYE as an adult was a party which turned out to be a surprise party for me and from which we returned about 4am. Our teenaged children were shocked, stunned and not a little amazed!