The ram’s head and the rock playground

A visit to the farm

Time flies and the past slides into the distance. After my series of A-Z posts in April, I enjoyed a week’s visit to South Australia. This chance to catch up with family brought more shared memories, photographs and reminiscences of times past. With my brother I toured the farm 2017 style, looked at additions and changes that time has wrought since I lived there as a child.

A visit to the sheds revealed that, amongst other treasures, the ram’s head I mentioned in Making merry and other muck still hangs in the shearing shed 50 years later. The lower jaw is missing as is the wire my brother had rigged to move the jaw up and down just as friends glanced upwards to view the light source. At the time, much amusement followed as there was speculation about how much drink had been consumed at the 21st birthday party that was in progress. “Did that jaw really open and close?”

In the sheds, evidence of my father's labour. The hand built walls from creek gravel and cement which grew by a plank width and height over time. The wooden gates, fences and yards painstakingly constructed as he followed in the footsteps of those who had laboured and innovated before him.

Walls in the cowshed and shearing shed built up
layer by layer, plank by plank
Evidence of my brother's labour - looking up in the lofty sheds to the frames welded together then mounted high before installing the roofing. Evidence of the ongoing work  and new sheds, now with machinery that dwarfs that of yesteryear, more technical expertise needed as well as the hard physical labour.


The rock playground

We clambered onto the rocks once more in the creek where we played happily for hours as children. Over the years the creek has deepened but recognisable clefts in the rocks and the ‘seats’ remain the same.  The lower branches of the trees where we bounced up and down and rode them as ‘horses’ are still there.
Further down were the ponds where we gathered tadpoles and moss. The old house was built along the edge of this creek for the fresh water it supplied.
The rock playground in the creek



The old walls of the original stone house built in the 1850s crumble now, but the memories of times past are reinforced by shared photos, memorabilia and a tribute to those men and women who have lived and laboured on this farm to provide for their families in good times and lean.

from 1858: the widow Johanna Horgan with sons John, Thomas and Daniel
1863 John and Honora Horgan, then with sons Andrew, John (Jack) and Tom, daughters Catherine (Kate) and Johanna
from 1883 the widow Honora Horgan with sons Andrew, John (Jack) and Tom until Andrew's marriage in 1906 took him to Alma, SA.
until 1941 Jack and Tom with their sister Kate
1942 return of Andrew (after the deaths of Jack and Tom) with his son Eddie and Hannah Horgan
until 1975 Eddie and Hannah Horgan with their son, my brother
My brother and his wife and children
and now my nephew, the current incumbent.

One of the original, now crumbling walls, stones and mud

Zero, nought, nothing

A-Z challenge - My memories of life on the farm in the nineteen fifties and sixties

Indoor games

In the game of Scrabble, the letter Z is one of the highest scoring letters worth 10 points. Mum loved to play Scrabble and so did I. It was a game we often played, recording the scores and keeping a tally of who had won the most games. If one was lucky enough to get a Z and use it with either a double letter score or a triple word score square, one was well on the way to victory. Scrabble is more challenging with multiple players and competition was fierce as we all aimed to better Mum. She kept the dictionary nearby to check up on any questionable word one wanted to use.

Noughts and Crosses was always an excellent time filler. On the backs of envelopes or scraps of paper, many games were quickly scribbled and contested.

Monopoly The aim of this board game was to collect as much money and as many properties, houses and hotels, as possible. Probably the lingering memory of Monopoly is the card from the Community and Chance chests which read GO TO GAOL: Go directly to gaol. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. In other words, you have nothing, zero, zilch, a negative result.

And that's it I have zero, nought, nothing left to add. Thanks to all those who have visited and commented either here or on Facebook. If you missed a post here’s a linked list.

A – Apricots and Almonds: all whistle now
B – Bulls in the paddock, baking and bicycling
C – Cars for carting
D – Drat that darn dog
E – Early childhood and Easter
F – Feathered foes and furry friends
G – Gates and grates
H – Harvest, hay and a Hills hoist
I –  Instruments and implements
J – Jelly jests
K – Knitting, kneeling and killing
L – Love, learning, luck and a little licorice
M –Making merry, mud and other muck
N – Nettles, nasties and netball
O – Oranges in the orchard and some offal
P – Plenty of peas
Q – Quinces and the Queen
R – Rabbits and the rain gauge
S – Sheep, sewing and saving
T – Tennis, tin kettling and a telephone
U – Udders and unders
V – Vegetables, verandas and the magic Vegemite jar
W –Waiting and washing
X – Some eXtras for X
Y – Youth
Z – Zero, nought, nothing - that's the lot for now.

Youth

A-Z challenge - My memories of life on the farm in the nineteen fifties and sixties

Rural Youth Clubs

As early as 1949 there were plans afoot to introduce a program in South Australia that would emulate the young farmers' organisation in the UK. By December of 1951, a supervisor had been appointed by the Department of Agriculture to oversee the formation and promotion of Rural Youth Clubs. The early aim of these clubs was ‘to interest young people in both the city and the country in the agricultural way of life’ 1

The first senior and junior clubs were established at Clare in the mid-north of South Australia in 1952.  Fifty-five young farmers attended the first Rural Youth week at Roseworthy College in August of that year. Clubs were established at Kapunda and Freeling and by October of 1953 there were 30 clubs in the state. 2  The clubs were for both male and female, city and country. Statewide competitions and exchanges between the clubs were introduced. Rural Youth organisations soon became important contributors to both their local and state agricultural shows.

Maurice Horgan
An active member of the Tarlee Rural Youth at
the roadside sign just south of
Tarlee, South Australia c 1967
My older siblings became heavily involved in the local Rural Youth club. There were informative talks to attend, debates for participation, dances and balls, visits to farms and field days, opportunities for leadership, other areas of the state to see, as well as interstate trips and the chance to host other youth. I have a wonderful picture of my brother ready for a Rural Youth "mock debutante" fancy dress ball but it is not for publication here.

Tarlee Rural Youth club had a strong debating team and in 1962 were the runners-up in the Statewide final narrowly defeated by the Victor Harbour Club. 3

The Rural Youth movement provided companionship, education, skill development and friendship opportunities for many in the years from 1952 up to and beyond the time my reflections about life on the farm finish in 1967.



1. 1951 'Rural Youth Supervisor Appointed', The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 - 1954), 7 December, p. 3. , viewed 26 Apr 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article45790766

2. 1953 'RURAL YOUTHS', The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 - 1954), 21 October, p. 17. , viewed 26 Apr 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article48928232

3. 1962 'RURAL YOUTH DEBATE', Victor Harbour Times (SA : 1932 - 1986), 21 September, p. 1. , viewed 29 Apr 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article186743849

Some eXtras for X

A-Z challenge - My memories of life on the farm in the nineteen fifties and sixties

Extra! Extra! Read all about it the newspaper boys called as they touted their wares on street corners. I have a few little extras that did not fit into the main edition of A-Z posts.

Sugar in hessian bags

Sugar was bought in 70lb hessian sacks. The bag was put on the pantry floor with a scoop in the bag to access the sugar for jam making, preserving and everyday uses. The hessian sacks were put to a great variety of uses once they were empty. They could be used to store potatoes or onions, used to carry tools in the boot of a car or in the back of a ute, and sometimes cut up to use for children's craft or sewing projects.

Chop picnics

Before there were barbecues there were chop picnics.  Sometimes on a Sunday, the car would be loaded with a loaf or two of bread, mutton chops from a recently killed sheep, the thermos for tea and a picnic rug. The occasion may have been a birthday or Dad’s cousins visiting. We headed over to the scrub paddock, the only paddock where there was a rise that still had a few acres of uncleared land. A grate over a fire or a fire in a cut-in-half 44-gallon drum served as the cooking medium. Once the chops were cooked, we ate them in a piece of white bread. A chop picnic was quite a novelty as it was rare that we ate outside of the house. Chops would be charred but delicious and we could run freely and play hide and seek between the trees.

The rock playground in the creek

We spent many happy hours playing in the creek. Not far from the house and through a fence, a mostly dry creek ran with a trickle of water. At one spot there was a solid crossing place consisting of many rocks. We would clamber and climb, play imaginative games and hide in the trees nearby. In winter when there was more running water we were not supposed to play there as it became very muddy. Of course, children will be children and there came the day with shoes off we went to cross the creek. As it was slippery, someone made the decision to throw the shoes across. The first shoe made it but the second was carried away in the now swiftly flowing stream. These were new brown school shoes purchased only a few weeks before. I don’t remember the consequences but my mother was very good at selecting a punishment to fit the crime.

X for Extra help in the house

When I was small, Mum had extra help in the house. I don’t remember the two girls who worked there over the years but my older siblings remember them.

Here’s a picture of us on an outing with Grandma O’Dea at the back (Georgina Ellen Bennett 1890 –1965)

Centre front nursing me is one of those extra helpers, Kay Browne. Soon after this, I was a flower girl at her wedding, what a pity I can't remember that either!

Waiting and washing

A-Z challenge - My memories of life on the farm in the nineteen fifties and sixties

Waiting

I spotted the old dentist equipment in the picture above in a London museum, it brought back the waiting room agony I suffered as a child. The walls were thin in the dentist’s surgery and the loud noise of the drill created a dread of expectation. We were taken to the dentist every six months and with poor teeth, there was often a filling to be done. Mr White, the dentist would cheerily approach and ask “Now who is going to go first?” He had so many gold fillings, his mouth almost glowed. I don’t ever remember volunteering to be that child but I’m sure there was more agony in the waiting than the actual treatment. The needles used to numb the mouth were huge. Do you remember them?

Waiting for an injection at the doctor’s surgery was just as bad. Crying children emerging and a distressed mother reassuring me that it wouldn’t hurt. The doctor did offer a jelly bean after an inoculation to pacify the criers.

Washing

Bathrooms
In the old farmhouse, there was a chip heater at the end of the bath that was used to heat water on bath nights, Wednesdays and Saturdays. We collected kindling for the fire from the wood heap, and once the water was warm the eldest girls got to bath first. The chip heater got very hot on the outside so care was taken to keep well away from it. Water was scarce and on the other days of the week, we washed with a flannel – a face washer. In the new house (1958) the bathroom had hot water taps and the electric water heater was on the veranda directly outside the bathroom. A shower was later installed in one corner of the laundry.

Laundries
Separate from the old house, the laundry contained a copper tub for heating water, two large concrete troughs and a green tub wringer machine. There were also washboards for scrubbing and a large tin wash basket. Once the water was boiling in the copper, it was ladled with a dipper into the washing machine or into one of the tubs so that the really dirty clothes could be soaked.

At the end of the wash, sheets and garments were passed through the wringer. They were then rinsed and had to be passed through the wringer again. One had to be careful to avoid getting fingers caught as clothes were fed into the wringer. The weight of sodden wet sheets meant that this was heavy work. This old laundry had a tin roof and the temperature in there both during the heat of summer and the depths of winter made washing days some of the hardest work a woman had to do.

The new house incorporated a laundry at the end of the back veranda, but the water was still saved from the wash in one tub, clothes rinsed in the other tub then the wash water returned to the machine for the next load.

Laundry was not finished until all was dry, ironed, folded and put away. We first learnt to iron handkerchiefs, tea towels and pillow cases. Mum even ironed all the men’s work clothes. I remember Monday as always being the washing day. I guess by having such a routine she could plan to get through the week’s chores.

When I look back I realise how easy these tasks are now. As children, we took for granted the hard work our parents undertook in their daily lives.

Be sure to read W for Wringer Washer where Carolyn details the day-long task of doing the washing.

Vegetables, verandas and the magic Vegemite jar

A-Z challenge - My memories of life on the farm in the nineteen fifties and sixties

Vegetables

We had a large vegetable garden with beans, carrots, turnips, swedes, onions, potatoes and pumpkins. In summer there were watermelons, strawberries, tomatoes, beetroot and lettuce. As the pumpkin vine spread, we would look for those that grew hidden under the large leaves. The pumpkins were a large blue variety that kept well for months on end. They were stored on the tank stand just at the edge of the back veranda. Onions and potatoes were picked and bagged and stored underneath the concrete tank stand in the cool dark space. Thinning the carrots was a favourite task as we got to eat the tiny sweet ones fresh from the garden. We ate potatoes and pumpkin and a third vegetable with our meat most nights. Vegetable soups warmed our winters.

Verandas

Our house had three verandas. At the front of the house was the red polished concrete veranda surrounded by a low wall ideal for seating. Mum was very proud of her front veranda and the job of polishing it usually fell to her children. It was a down on the hands and knees job for many years before the advent of an upright electric polisher. She was happy for us to slide up and down on the veranda on rags as this kept it shiny. In later years, three of my sisters left the house through the front door for their weddings and had photos taken on that veranda.

The back and side verandas were the functional spaces. At the back door, an old cedar sofa was the ideal place to sit and remove muddy boots and shoes. Cats and dogs made that sofa their home too. Easy access to the wood box, the water heater, and an old meat safe meant this was a functional space. It was also a good place to play in inclement weather as it continued around to a side veranda that bordered the tennis court. Two lines stretched across the side veranda for hanging the washing in wet weather. In hot weather, water was cooled by evaporation from a canvas water bag, it swung on the line under the shade of the veranda. Another lidded box seat at the end of the side veranda had tennis racquets and the net stored in it.

The magic Vegemite jar

Many Australian children grow up eating vegemite on their toast or in their sandwiches. We were no exception and often on meatless Fridays we had vegemite sandwiches for school lunches. Vegemite is a rich, strongly flavoured yeast extract spread.

Each year in August we went to the Royal Adelaide Show for our big day out. One year I got a show bag that had a small jar of honey and a small jar of vegemite along with promotional material. I had not seen tiny jars like this and was excited to be allowed to use them at breakfast time. Each morning I would find the jars were once again full.  It took me a long time to realise that Mum was refilling the small jars as they emptied, she had me convinced that I had a magic honey and magic vegemite jar!

vegemite
1958 'Advertising', The Australian Women's Weekly (1933 - 1982),
5 February, p. 44. , viewed 22 Apr 2017,
http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article51599289
In 1954 as part of an advertising campaign, this catchy radio jingle for Vegemite was launched

We’re happy little Vegemites as bright as bright can be,
We all enjoy our Vegemite for breakfast, lunch and tea,
Our mummy says we’re growing stronger every single week,
Because we love our Vegemite,
We all adore our Vegemite,
It puts a rose in every cheek!

Sing along or enjoy listening to this 30-second clip – courtesy of the ASO https://aso.gov.au/titles/ads/happy-little-vegemites/clip1/


Udders and unders

A-Z challenge - My memories of life on the farm in the nineteen fifties and sixties

Udderwise

The cows were milked morning and night but before milking their udders were washed. Once the cow was penned in the milking shed a clean pail of warm water and a cloth was used to wipe over the udders before the suction cups of the milking machine were applied. Cows would usually stand contentedly but occasionally a cantankerous beast might try to kick. If there was very little milk to be had, or when the herd was small, a cow was sometimes milked by hand. I remember trying this once or twice but never successfully.

By Amanda Slater (Butter Pats)
 [CC BY-SA 2.0 ],  via Wikimedia Commons
We always had fresh milk, in fact the fridge was often overflowing with milk so milk puddings and custards were frequently on our menu. At school when the free milk in little bottles was delivered many of us disliked it, it was not the day fresh milk we were accustomed to.

Cream, yes lovely thick cream, separated from that milk over in the milking shed, there was plenty of that so we added cream to all our desserts and when there was no dessert we piled jam or honey topped with cream onto slices of white bread.

Sometimes Mum made butter from the extra cream, beaten until the whey separated then salt added and the wooden ridged butter pats shaped the final product.


Underneath

  • underneath the Christmas tree, there were often up to fifty small presents as we all tried to give something to each member of the family
  • underneath the blankets on a cold winter’s night, I remember the heavy weight as more blankets were piled on
  • underneath the trees along the creek, we loved to go mushroom picking in late April and May
  • underneath the workshop Dad had built a pit so that a vehicle could drive in and he could get underneath it to change the oil
  • underneath the wood pile spiders and the occasional snake lurked, we collected kindling from the edges and wood was chopped on a larger log
  • underneath the kitchen bench a clever wood box was concealed – it was filled from the veranda outside and wood could be retrieved inside, it was also a favourite hidey hole
  • underneath the old house a cellar housed the generator before the power was connected
  • underneath the ground the sewerage pit was concealed, I remember a sister threatening to drop me in it but it was always securely sealed
Next V - Vegetables, verandas and the magic Vegemite jar