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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

My latest read...

When I retired in 2011, I vowed to read more books and last year I finally started on getting back to reading different genres of books. I have just finished reading 'Bonzer' by Sandy Thorne. The book is a childhood memoir of the author who is an accomplished horsewoman, author and raconteur entertainer. The word Bonzer is Australian slang for 'good or excellent' but Thorne's book also deals with the not so good aspects of growing up in a dysfunctional family, as well as a childhood set in a rural area on the outskirts of Brisbane. 

Sandy grew up in the Bald Hills district during the 1950s and 1960s. I remember this area, as Bald Hills was on the old highway travelling north from Brisbane and it was the way to the Redcliffe Peninsula without paying the toll on the old Hornibrook Highway. Everyone's parents seemed loath to pay that toll and would go the inland way. Thorne describes an area of dairy farms, now long gone, replaced by huge housing estates. She describes areas such as Aspley, Strathpine, Bridgeman Downs and Brackenridge which were farms and bush in her childhood. Thorne loved animals, especially horses. 

Thorne's father owned 2 garages and had been a mechanic in the air force. The family were well off and were a 2 car family when many families in this area had none. Her mum  was a bit of a socialite with her tennis, committees and party giving. According to Thorne, her mum looked 'down' on the hardworking dairy farmer's wives. 

As I read through the book, I found myself completely fed up with the non stop mischief and outright bad behaviour of the Sefton (family name) children, particularly Thorne. I would have hated to be her teacher! 

But then I gave it a bit of thought...Thorne was acting up to get attention...her behaviour got more and more outrageous as she got into her teens. Her father ignored his family; her mother was busy with her social life and also appeared to be reluctant to enforce 'boundaries' on the children's behaviour. Neither parent took an interest in the children. With the help of a family who befriended her through school, Thorne learned to ride  horses and joined a pony club where she won ribbons but her parents would not come to watch her at the club. Her dad 'was a bit of a lad' apparently and in the evenings Pearl and 'Snow' Sefton would row about his infidelity while their children would cower in their rooms. 

After being expelled from Bald Hills State School in Grade 8 and Corinda State HighSchool in sub Junior ( she went all that way to school as they had animal husbandry subjects), Thorne was sent to St Margaret's, an Anglican private  school, where she did surprisingly well . She found the nuns to be kind and nurturing and consequently this wild girl thrived. During this time her sister left home and so did her mother, obviously fed up with her unfaithful husband who also would hit her according to Thorne. 

Now Thorne and I had something in common...we both hated Domestic Science...however she played up...I conformed ! Lol   Here's some memories of that time (grade 8) from my 'recipe drawer'...
This is the front cover of my Domestic Science notebook from Grade 8...this book is very old :-/

Under the brown paper cover...a Woolworth's own brand exercise book.
Domestic Science is now called Home Economics and both male and female students do this subject. In my day, only the girls did. In those 'olden days' girls were expected to leave school, work for a year or two, then marry and stay home to raise a family and run the household. Domestic Science was designed to make us efficient housewives and mothers. So we learned to make basic recipes...
We also learned how to clean stoves and refrigerators, including defrosting the latter. ( well we copied notes from the blackboard into our books)  We learned about nutrition and how to look after our bodies to keep them healthy. We also did pattern drafting and sewing on a sewing machine...oh how I hated those lessons as my sewing was rather terrible and the teacher would hold up my work to show the other girls, how NOT to sew. 
 Sandy Thorne and I found in our experience, that some of those Domestic Science teachers were absolute harridans and goodness I sound quite bitter! Lol

I struggled for years with this scone recipe but always got 'bricks'. As a young married I asked a neighbour what I was doing wrong. She picked it straight away...'Put more milk in than the recipe says', she said. From then on, I made much better scones. 

 The following was alien food for the daughter of an Italian
I was nearly always in trouble for untidy I did improve by the time I graduated from teachers' college. 

The only recipe I make from this old book is the mock chicken which is an old frugal recipe used as a dip or sandwich filling. But I've kept the book as it's a real 'time warp' when society was so different and expectations for females were set rather 'low'. 

Now being a bit of a busybody I checked out the Bald Hills Sefton family on the electoral rolls via In her book, Thorne wrote that her mother had left the family home. I was able to find out that Pearl was the Postmistress at Pt Lookout in 1972. In 1977, her address on the electoral roll was listed as Chevron Is on the Gold Coast...maybe retired? And in 1980 Pearl's address was in Labrador also on the Gold Coast.  The rolls available through Ancestry only go to 1980 :-( . 
I love books with old's the page showing photos of Thorne's parents when they were young.
So I've managed to weave in a bit of my 'history' with that of Sandy Thorne! 

1 comment:

angela said...

Wow what a great book review. I loved homeeco while I was at school. I even did sewing! But I did do and love wood work and metal work as well and I can say i am quite the welder lol
Thank you for sharing I really enjoyed it. I might have to find the book now