It Was Soon Time To Farewell Childhood
How aware were my family of the devastation of the depression years? I’m sure they suffered along with everyone else. My grandfather’s attempts to get overdrafts from the bank were fruitless, the price of milk and wool plummeted. But I guess there was still much to be grateful for in that a family living on the land was unlikely to starve. Thinking of all Mum has told me about her early childhood years, I’m sure the family coped well with providing food for themselves, just as they had all the years previous to those lean times. Mum has often spoken of her mother making the children’s clothes from ‘salvageable’ pieces of material. I remember her talking about floor bags being used to make underpants, I suspect this would have been during the depression years, too. I like to think, with no clear indication of evidence to support this theory, that my grandparents would have been willing to share what little they had with any neighbours in need.
I understand life became much quieter on the farm during the winter when the cows were dry. And of course, consequently, the income into the home slumped. While I don’t recall ever hearing mention of Eric ‘working’ elsewhere, some years during this period my mother worked for other people. The three younger boys were obviously still at school during the depression.
“One year I kept house for a lady who was expecting a baby and I did everything in the house as she had to stay in bed. They were a lovely couple and very good to me. I went back to the farm in the spring, after the lady lost her baby. They never had any children after that. Such a shame as they would have made wonderful parents. I received seven shillings and sixpence which would be 75 cents today. Of course I could buy a pair of shoes for that and material to make a frock would be less than 10 cents a yard.”
“There were lots of dances in all the near districts that we could go to. The music was always just piano and violin but they were very good and enjoyed by everyone. There was no problem then with alcohol, perhaps some had a little but it was never noticeable. Of course in those days people didn’t have money to spend on anything that wasn’t essential. Everyone (the family) went to the dances. Dad would dance with us girls. At the dances everyone danced, even the youngest children, but not our mother, she would never dance.” This is another possible indication Bessina’s upbringing might have been quite strict. Her parents, particularly her father, were very devout Methodists.
“Dad was often sick (with malaria), but he was very active in the community and attended most social functions. He only had a drink of alcohol if he was out somewhere and couldn’t refuse. Alcohol made him sick.”
“Our father was always very interested in what was happening around us. I would go with him to political meetings and listen to what all the men were saying. Dad cared about what was happening in our district and the country.”