In my previous post here about my life story I mentioned how at the end of my primary school days I started treatment for scoliosis. As I wrote about my experience on ‘the rack’, I realised (rather belatedly) that what I had had to endure was quite barbaric but it had never occurred to me at that time to protest which probably would have been useless. I’m pleased to report that later treatments for scoliosis were more thoughtful of the young patients.
Continuing on with my story...When I was in my first year of high school my half sister c ame to Queensland for a reunion with my mother. She was 19 and had last seen her mother when she was 4. I was entranced by this beautiful, sophisticated creature and got on very well with her. My parents did not have a car but some friends of my parents, the Nicols, insisted on taking mum, Margaret and I out on day trips to show my sister around our part of Qld. ( dad missed a few outings as he was at work :-() Unfortunately she and mum did not get on well and there were some shouting matches. Margaret had planned to stay for a fortnight but she left after only a week because of the fights with mum. How sad! I often wonder whether TV shows like ‘Find My family’ ever have situations like my mother and sister as we only see happy reunions in the show.
|A picnic with my sister, mum and Allan and Jo Nicol (Allan is taking the photo)On the way to Moogerah Dam|
In Grade 8 I started my ‘love affair’ with sewing when I did the school subject Domestic science. I actually hated the classes but picked up enough knowledge to start sewing on my mum’s old Singer. My mother was a keen sewer and her mother was a tailoress so it could have been in the genes. Nanna had worked for Fletcher Jones in her home town of Warnambool. My mother also knitted and crocheted and had taught me to knit when I was 7 as I had pestered her to teach me all that year!
Then things started to not be so good...during my Grade 9 year (1965) my father had a few strange episodes involving his health. Unusual bleeding and lumps developing and bouts of severe vomiting are some of the things that I can remember. Eventually just after Christmas that year he became so unwell he took to his bed and a young doctor he knew was called. Tony, the young doctor talked with him for quite a while and then told my mother that dad would need some tests done. These tests were done at the public hospital over the coming weeks. My parents did not tell me anything about the results but something happened one night that still gives me chills all these years later...I was in my room dozing one night when I awoke and heard the voice of a neighbour who had obviously come for a visit later in the evening. I stirred sufficiently to just hear Mr Hardy say, ‘Now tell me Paul...what is actually wrong with you?’...I remember I stopped breathing waiting for dad’s reply. Then it came...’I have leukaemia but we don’t want Mary (me) to know’. The term ‘blood run cold’ really is true! So began 11 months of pretence that I didn’t know. I didn’t tell my friends, I didn’t tell anyone. I learned very effectively to build a shell around myself.
The next year during each set of school holidays, my parents sent me to my godparents’ farm at Ballandean, outside Stanthorpe. It gave them some space I guess and my godmother (Patrozza) spoiled me rotten. She must have been upset about my dad’s illness as they had been friends for many ‘many years but she maintained the pretence too).
|The dam at Patrozza's farm|
|Looking across the dam to some of the orchards|
|My beloved Patrozza hanging out the washing. She always strictly segregated male underwear from female underwear!|
|The farm had the biggest 'chook yard' I'd ever seen! not only chooks (hens) though; I loved this fellow!!|
My dad went back to work for some of the time in 1966 but by October he had had to finish up. I guess he was working at making sure things were in order as he and mum spent a lot of time at the solicitors’ office. By early December dad became gravely ill and was hospitalised. Radium treatment was commenced and left him very weak. Transfusions were hurriedly given also. Apparently the disease had progressed from the ‘chronic’ type to the more serious ‘acute’ phase. He came home for a few hours on Christmas day but he was so ill...He passed away on January 5, 1967 at 58 years of age. I remember coming home and seeing a pair of his PJs on the clothesline...I wrapped my arms around them and sobbed...that was the only time I cried as ‘everyone’ told me I had to be brave/strong etc and look after my mother now as she needed me as she had MS and had been widowed...so I did.
I had a little holiday job at this time working at a local deli and I was grateful to be kept busy. The owners, our neighbours the Hardys were very kind to me and my mother.
So I went back to school after the holidays ended late January with a new serious attitude. The first 3 years of high school it was more about the social side of the place. Now I worked harder and at the end of Year 12 took the teachers’ college scholarship that was offered. I loved teachers’ college and I now had a handsome boyfriend and with him I went to balls and other ‘fancy’ occasions when one dressed up to the nines! Lol. We also used to drive to both the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast beaches just for day trips of swimming, sunbaking and some surfing for him. However the handsome boyfriend would sulk when I chose to study near exam time so he decided to find someone else...Probably I had a lucky escape, as I think on reflection, he would have been the controlling type.
|18 years old and in my first ball dress|
|One of the many dresses I sewed for myself|
At the end of my first year at college I met the son of one of my mother’s army friends. He came from Melbourne but was in Qld for a Scout Jamboree for a week. After he went back to Melbourne, he rang me and we also wrote to each other. Sounding like my parent’s romance isn’t it? Eventually we became engaged in the August of my last year in college. I was 19...
|The night of our engagement party|
|With my BF Linda in the assembly Hall of our college waiting for our first teaching posts. The principal of the college read all the names and schools out.|
|With my mum just before we left for my graduation ceremony. I remember it as an exciting time of my life. (I also sewed both outfits)|
When I finished the course, my first posting was back at my old school, Newmarket. It was scary being graduated and out on my own, but our courses were quite practical and we did lots more practicum sessions as well. I was still only 19 when I stood in front of that first class...My first class was a Grade 5 and there were 38 students in the class. Their ages were 9-11 so I wasn’t that much older than them. By May that year I turned 20 and my teen years were behind me but I still wasn’t an adult. In those days you had to be 21 to be termed an adult.
|My first classwith some absences! Most of them are 50 this year; some were 50 last year!!!!|