30 April 2017

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.

29 April 2017


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

28 April 2017

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!

27 April 2017

Waiting and washing

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


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.


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.

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.

26 April 2017

Vegetables, verandas and the magic Vegemite jar

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


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.


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!

1958 'Advertising', The Australian Women's Weekly (1933 - 1982),
5 February, p. 44. , viewed 22 Apr 2017,
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/

25 April 2017

Udders and unders

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


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 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

24 April 2017

Tennis, tin-kettling and a telephone

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


Anyone for tennis? 
Mary and Edward Horgan - 1927
Alma tennis court, South Australia

My father, his brother Joe and sister Mary had all played tennis in their youth in the 1920s. There are several mentions of the matches they played, won and lost in the newspapers of the time.

When we moved into our new farmhouse in the late 1950s a tennis court was constructed along one side of the house.

Sunday afternoons when the weather was clear, it was time for tennis. Uncle Joe, though of short stature at about 4 ft 11 inches, had a very mean slice and backhand. He made up for his lack of speed around the court by excellent ball placement. Games played were usually doubles to cater for a number of players. Often Joe would be at one end and Dad at the other with one or other of my siblings pairing with them. Some of my siblings also played in the local town tennis teams during summer.

Our racquets had heavy wooden frames with gut strings and were kept in screw down frames to prevent the wood from warping.
A high fence had been constructed around the court but there were often stray balls that ended up in the paddock beyond the gate.

1954 'Blyth Notes and News.',
Blyth Agriculturist (SA : 1908 - 1954),
7 April, p. 1. , viewed 20 Apr 2017,

Tin Kettling

Tin Kettling of newly married couples was a common country tradition to welcome them home after the honeymoon. A group of friends of the couple would arrange a meeting place armed with pots and pans that could make a loud noise. They would then proceed furtively with car lights turned off as they entered the property. The aim was to arrive outside the newlywed's house after the couple were settled for the night. Then with loud banging of pots and pans, and the added cacophony of car horns, the noise continued until the surprised couple appeared.

The evening would end with either a previously arranged dance and supper in a nearby venue or the tin kettlers would go home after they had been offered a drink and some supper. Food for supper was usually supplied by the tin kettlers.

I remember the excitement I felt as some of my older siblings gathered together pots and pans to take to a tin kettling. There are many reports in the local country papers of the time about tin kettlings.


One phone for all
In the old farmhouse, the telephone was attached to the wall at adult height and had an earphone receiver piece that was lifted off its holder. To speak into the telephone one had to face the fixed mouthpiece. Our short Uncle Joe had to stand on a stool in order to use the phone.

In the new house, we had a black bakelite phone like the one above that I spotted in a museum visited recently. Next to our phone in the hallway was a money tin. Telephone calls cost sixpence for three minutes so the bill was to be paid by those who used the phone.

To make a phone call on a special occasion such as Christmas, Mum had to ring the operator days in advance and book a time for the call. Christmas and birthdays were usually the only time that she made phone calls to her siblings who all lived further away than the local area sixpence calls. These were known as long distance or trunk calls and cost significantly more. At the appointed time the operator would ring our phone, then announce "Putting you through." At the end of the three minutes the operator would ask "Do you wish to extend?" this, of course, would result in an additional charge.
During the sixties, automatic telephone exchanges were gradually being introduced to country areas but manual exchanges were still needed for calls outside the local area.

T for Times sure have changed!

Next U - Udders and unders

22 April 2017

Sheep, sewing and saving

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


Sheep were raised for the wool clip and were also sold to the abattoir at Pooraka, Gepps Cross on the northern outskirts of Adelaide. On the farm, the sheep were shifted between paddocks as they grazed and when little grass was about, they were fed with bales of hay. From a young age, we all learned to steer the truck while hay was forked from the tray.

During lambing season there would often be weak newborn or orphan lambs that we cared for at the house. As children, we loved having pet lambs and fed them from bottles. It was always surprising to return home one day later in the season and find that the pet lamb, now well grown, had been returned to the flock. Each Sunday Dad liked to go for an afternoon drive around the paddocks to check on the sheep, I always enjoyed these drives. Apart from milking cows morning and night that was usually the only farm work done on a Sunday. Sometimes the full grown sheep that had been pet lambs would still come when called.

All lambs were tailed to prevent them from becoming fly-blown, a serious problem in Australia. Crutching ensured that the sheep remained clean by removing the dirtied wool around the tail and down the back legs. Faces were also tidied and trimmed. Once a year sheep were shorn. Two or three shearers would arrive, and with Dad and later on, my brother penning and sorting the sheep, the shearers would bend to the task. Each fleece was then tossed on the table for sorting and classing. Into the bales it went and once the clip was complete the bales were branded before being trucked to market. Shearing usually lasted three to four days, a busy, tiring time for everyone.


Mum sewed all of our clothes and taught all the girls to sew. With five older sisters, I had many hand-me-down dresses or dresses made from the material of previously unpicked garments. My early efforts at sewing included making doll's clothes and sewing up hems.There was a Singer treadle machine to learn on and great excitement when the new electric machine, also a Singer, arrived when I was still quite young. 

In the sewing room, I enjoyed playing with the button tin, sorting all the buttons into sizes or colours. There were plenty of scraps of material to play with too, these were sorted by colour in a variety of bags that were stored in the bottom of a large chest of drawers. When a garment could no longer be mended all the buttons were cut off to be saved for future use. The old clothes then became dusting cloths or rags for Dad to use in his workshop. 


“Take care of the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves.” This was an oft-repeated phrase I learnt early in life. Money was hard to come by so was to be carefully saved. I had a Commonwealth Savings Bank of Australia money tin and precious halfpennies and pennies, sometimes threepences and sixpences were added to that. It did not have any way to open it apart from using a can opener which would then render it useless. Money could only be removed by tipping the money box upside down and shaking in the hope that a coin would fall out. Once the money box was full, it was taken to the bank where it was emptied and deposited into an account.

Pre-decimal currency coins
When I went to boarding school in 1963, my sister and I were allocated 10 shillings spending money for each term. There were three school terms each year. Each term was about fourteen weeks with one trip home in the middle of each term. Our suitcases were packed with clothes and toiletries but if the soap or toothpaste did not last or was lost, we had to buy supplies from the allocated money. I was well into high school when decimal currency was introduced into Australia on the 14th February 1966. Australians of a certain age will all remember this jingle used to introduce the new currency.

Next T - Tennis and tin-kettling

21 April 2017

Rabbits and the rain gauge

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


Rabbits are a serious pest in Australia. They were brought to Australia as early as 1788 in the First Fleet and the first record of them appearing in South Australia is in 1840 when the ship Courier set sail from England for Port Adelaide with “a number of hares and rabbits…. to be turned out on their arrival in the colony.” 1  

They were protected by legislation for gentlemen’s sport until 1864. It appears that the rabbits on Mr Dutton’s Anlaby station near Kapunda were turned loose at Julia Creek. Rabbits eat crops, dig burrows and destroy the arable land. By 1867 farmers were allowed to destroy them but they had spread far and wide. 2

On the farm, we used several methods to try to get rid of rabbits. The most exciting for a youngster was to go spotlighting. After dark Dad would drive into a paddock in the car and use a spotlight to focus on the rabbit. Once framed in the light it would be shot. A clean shot meant roast rabbit was on the menu the next night. Several rabbits were needed to make a decent meal so spotlighting went on until enough for a meal were obtained.

Rabbit traps were set in the entrances to burrows and rabbit skins could be seen hanging on farm fences. Sometimes a ferret was used to hunt rabbits out of their burrows and a quick dog could catch the escaping rabbit. Rabbit skins could be sold and in 1954 were worth 20 -24 pence per pound for skins in good condition. 3

Rabbits are still a problem in Australia in 2017.

Rain gauge

Each morning Dad would check the rain gauge for any sign of moisture. This area of South Australia has low rainfall averaging less than 400 mm per year. The graduated glass rain gauge was housed inside a galvanised cylinder attached to the fence. A funnel directed the rain into the glass cylinder. As he wandered outside he always looked up to the sky, often sneezed, then proceeded to check the gauge. The amount of moisture in the soil determined when seeding could start and at harvest time the amount of moisture also determined whether crops could be reaped.

1. 1840 'ENGLISH NEWS.', South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900), 11 July, p. 7. , viewed 16 Apr 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article27441604

2. 1876 'HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY.', South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900), 1 November, p. 6. , viewed 16 Apr 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article43013586

3. 1954 'Hides And Skins', Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1895 - 1954), 2 December, p. 27. , viewed 16 Apr 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article93985968

Next S - Sheep, sewing and saving

20 April 2017

Quinces and the Queen

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


Quinces were the one fruit we never took from the tree. A raw quince is dry tasting and has an unpleasant furry skin. When they ripen however they can be used to make a variety of dishes. Mum made quince jelly which was a jam strained of fruit until only the clear liquid remained.

The cleaned and chopped quinces were boiled with a little lemon juice for about one and a half hours. When the fruit had cooled the juice was strained through a muslin cloth then boiled with added sugar. The scum was skimmed from the top before pouring into jars for sealing and labelling.

The left over quinces were somewhat dry but leaving nothing to waste, Mum would then make a cake-top pudding from the remaindered fruit. We also had stewed quinces with cream for a sweets course when our tree had plenty of fruit. Nearby neighbours had more quince trees so it was not unusual to process a large bucketful of quinces for either the clear red quince jelly or stewed fruit.

The Queen

I’ve added this post about the Queen from my sister Catherine’s memories.

In 1954 Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip were due on their first trip to the antipodes. Much excitement was generated in the papers of the day with thousands of articles in national, regional and local papers following the royal progress through New Zealand and Australia. As March approached, plans were published of the details for the South Australian visit.

On Tuesday, March 23rd the royal couple would be greeted by thousands of school children as they toured the Wayville Showground oval in an open-topped vehicle.
Schoolchildren from all over the state were transported to Adelaide for this momentous day. The local primary school where my brother and three sisters attended sent some carloads of children to Adelaide for the event. Catherine was excited to be going in a neighbour’s car dressed up in her Sunday best. It was the first time she had been in a car that did not belong to Dad and she remembers having a paper flag to wave.

Here’s an extract from the afternoon edition of the News on that day.
98,000 CHILDREN CHEER FOR 5 MIN. Noisiest welcome Queen has had
The Queen watched with apparent delight at Wayville this afternoon 98,000 schoolchildren in the largest, noisiest, most spectacular display she has seen in Australia.
When the Queen and the Duke arrived on the oval the massed children broke into a scene of fluttering flags and shrill sustained cheers. They cheered without pause for more than five minutes as the Queen and the Duke, standing in the back of a Land Rover drove around them smiling and waving. It was the longest sustained acclamation the Queen has received any where in Australia, and the greatest in volume of sound. Joy and dignity were the twin key notes of this occasion which none of the children will ever forget.

The complete article can be read from the following link.
1954 '98,000 CHILDREN CHEER FOR 5 MIN.', News (Adelaide, SA : 1923 - 1954), 23 March, p. 30. , viewed 13 Apr 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article130871892

It must have made quite an impression on a young farm girl from a small country school to see such crowds and I thank her for recalling it now 63 years later.

Next R - Rabbits and the rain gauge

19 April 2017

Plenty of peas

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

Pigs, pine trees, pens, penfriends, practice, plums, peaches and peas. So many Ps, a plenitude of choices. We had peas in a paddock, pigs in pens, pine trees along the driveway with plums, peaches and pears in the orchard. Photos were taken but the film was expensive and one would sometimes wait months before the roll was finished and sent for processing.


My brother received two mated sows for his sixteenth birthday. Imagine our excitement when large litters were born. The pigs were “large whites” and sometimes had up to thirteen piglets in a litter. It was difficult to prevent the sows from rolling onto and squashing one of their litter. Clean straw had to be added to the pens regularly, cleaning out the pen before adding fresh straw was a really smelly job. Thank goodness I never had to do it. Once the pigs started to grow the pen could be opened into the small paddock where they often proceeded to roll in the mud. Pigs were bred for the market for several years.

Pine trees

My father planted a row of pine trees along one side of the driveway and named the property, Pine Creek. At this stage, there was no town water supply on the farm and he watered and tendered those trees carefully until they were established.

Pens and penfriend

After several years of practising one’s letters in pencil at primary school, we graduated to pen and ink. The school desks had a hole where the inkwell sat and after carefully dipping the nib in, one started to write. It was difficult to get the right amount of ink on the pen and a blotter was used to soak up the extra ink blobs on the page. If a person pressed too hard there would be a hole in the paper or the nib would split and be ruined. One wrote slowly and carefully. I remember the excitement of getting my first fountain pen. It had a removable cartridge which could be refilled. The end of the cartridge was carefully inserted into an ink bottle and ink drawn up into it like a syringe.

While I was still at primary school I had a penfriend in New Zealand. Her name was Helen Uhlenberg from Taranaki in the North island. We had practised writing letters at school and once the letter was deemed acceptable we rewrote it on good paper to be posted. It was very exciting to receive a letter from someone far away in a different country.

We also practised our penmanship by writing letters to the Five Stars Club which was the children's page of the Southern Cross newspaper and several of us had letters published there over the years. Letter writing practice was an excellent preparation for boarding school where each Sunday night we wrote a letter home to our parents. Mum wrote to me every week at boarding school without fail. I wish I had some of those letters now.

Next Q - Quinces and the Queen

18 April 2017

Oranges in the orchard and some offal

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


“I’m just testing the oranges to see if they are ready.” I often heard my mother say this with a smile as she peeled another freshly picked orange.

We had a wonderful collection of fruit and nut trees in the orchard planted between the house and the milking shed. There were navel and Valencia oranges, mandarins and lemons. Stone fruits included apricots, several varieties of peaches and nectarines and a least three varieties of plums. My favourites were the delicious dark satsuma plums. A pear tree bore plentiful fruit alongside a quince, fig, almond and walnut trees. There were at least two apple trees.

Fruit was eaten fresh, stewed, made into jam and marmalade, bottled and preserved so that we had it throughout the year. In winter there were fruit crumbles – stewed fruit with a crumble topping made of flour, butter, sugar and cinnamon, fruit tarts in pastry cases and fruit puddings – stewed fruit underneath with a batter cake baked top. Apple cakes, orange cakes and more, nothing was ever wasted and no food thrown away.

Lemons and oranges were also made into cordial. This is Mum’s recipe in her handwriting.

She knew and recited or sang all the related nursery rhymes, stories and songs related to the fruit. These are some that were in her repertoire. I'm sure you'll be able to find them.
Oranges - Oranges and lemons say the bells of St Clements ......
Plums - Little Jack Horner ....
Apples - Johnny Appleseed ....
Pears - I had a little nut tree but nothing would it bear ......


Does that put you off? We did not have tripe but lamb’s liver in a thick gravy was a staple meal. The giblets from hens were used to make a nourishing soup with carrots and onions from the vegetable garden. These were chopped very finely to enhance the chicken stock. Sometimes the soup was very thin as water was added to make it go a little further. I still enjoy a feed of liver and bacon.

Next P - Plenty of peas

17 April 2017

Nettles, nasties and netball

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


Remember those stinging nettles? Just when we thought to find a fine place to play in the grass, the sting stung, painfully and irritatingly. Often when climbing through a fence, concentrating carefully on avoiding the strand of barbed wire that ran across the top, I stepped straight into a patch of those nettles. A pain for the child and a pest to the farmer.

The cure-all in our house for stings, rashes and mosquito bites was calamine lotion. It came in a large brown glass bottle. This had to be shaken and agitated before opening otherwise a thin watery pink trickle was all that appeared. It dried hard and crusty on the skin but I remember well many days covered in blotches of pink calamine lotion.
Never have I tried nettle soup. Nettle anyone?

Nasty visitors

No, not the human kind. The mean, munch through anything mice, the silent slithery snakes.

Just picture that horrible grey mass of mice when one uncovered a nest of the pests. The smell of a mice infestation has left me with a loathing. I have no understanding of those who allow their children to have them as pets. Mice would infest every nook and cranny, nibble and destroy everything in their way.

Snakes and small children, not a good mix. A long, rigid wire hung over the back fence to be grabbed when a snake invaded the house yard. A swift swing down with that wire did the job. After we moved to the new house, the old house was a great place to play. One day when I was happily playing down there, I heard a swishing noise. I thought it was one of my sisters or my mother sweeping the old linoleum in the next room. No, a snake was sliding across that floor. I shut the door, turned and hid as there was no way out except across that old dining room. As I know now, snakes go their own way if left alone, but that day I was frightened.


It was not called netball then, it was called basketball. We played in the local Tarlee teams on Saturday afternoons against teams from nearby towns. Boys played football, Australian Rules, in the same towns.

The basketball courts had a bitumen surface so many skinned knees and hands were not uncommon at the end of the game. We wore uniforms with box pleats that fell from a square yoke. Underneath that we wore a button up blouse. A girdle tied around the waist stopped the uniform from flying all over the place. Those girdles were like a plaited silky rope with a tassel on each end. On Saturday mornings it would be a rush to get all the uniforms and blouses ironed before the matches. This was well before stretch materials made sportswear comfortable.

Next O - Oranges in the orchard and some offal

15 April 2017

Making merry, mud and other muck

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

Making merry

Celebrations played a central role in my childhood. The obvious birthdays, Christmas and Easter were pivotal points in the calendar. We had family birthdays to be celebrated in January, April, May, July and August. There were two in September and one each in November and December. Our bachelor uncle lived nearby and as he shared many meals with us, his birthday in April was also cause for celebration. That was a lot of birthday cakes each year. Mum made these, usually a double layer sponge filled with homemade jam and delicious whipped cream. This was served as the sweet course after the main meal at night. The birthday candles were recycled until they were too short to light again.

Celebrations were the only time that we had fizzy drinks. The choice was often lemonade or creaming soda. Adults might drink beer on a special occasion but my father’s favourite tipple was a small glass of port. Mum sometimes had a sherry shandy, sherry with lemonade. In later years drinks such as Barossa Pearl and Cold Duck made their way to the table.

Twenty-first birthdays were the only birthday parties and these involved both friends and neighbours. Some of these were barn dances. Our barn was cleared and cleaned, the floor polished then sprinkled with sawdust to make it slippery enough for dancing. Hay bales or bagged grain was used for seating at one end. We decorated with crepe paper streamers and matching coloured balloons. A musician or small band was employed for the evening and a sumptuous supper of homemade treats followed the dancing. An alternate venue when the barn was full of grain was the shearing shed. Here the wooden floor had been saturated over many years with the lanolin from the sheep's wool. The addition of sawdust created a good surface for dancing. For one sister's 21st birthday party in 1967, my brother rigged up a bulb inside a sheep's skull to light the shed.

Conga lines were fun and a progressive, change partners dance number was usually included.  Novelty dances sometimes included an elimination statue dance, no movement allowed when the music stopped, or a lucky spot dance. By the end of the sixties, the Beatles music was popular along with the dance crazes of the time.

At 21st birthday parties, a large wooden key was presented. Guests at the party would sign their names inside the key as a record of those who had attended.

Mud and other muck

Mud, mud, not so glorious mud. Mud bogged vehicles and animals alike.  Rain was welcome but also brought muddy shoes and clothes. As children, we loved to play in the creek and capture tadpoles to watch them grow into frogs which we then released back into the creek. Muddy shoes were unavoidable when walking to or from the bus on rainy days. At the edge of the veranda, there was a boot scraper to remove most of the mud. Dried mud was removed from brown school shoes with an old blunt knife. Boot and shoe polishing was done outside on the back veranda.

In a farmyard one always had to be careful not to step in animal muck. Cows. hens and pigs and provided plenty of manure to act as fertiliser in the vegetable garden. At the conclusion of milking time morning and night, the muck was shovelled if firm or hosed away if of the more liquid variety.

Next N - Nettles, nasties and netball

14 April 2017

Love, learning, luck and a little licorice

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

My childhood was filled with love and I suspect quite a bit of luck. I was the youngest of seven children otherwise known as the lucky last. My mother was 38 and my father 42 by the time I was born and by then, well experienced with child rearing. I was also nurtured and cared for by older siblings and had plenty of ready-made playmates. Farm income was so dependent on the seasons but I was never short of clothing, food or love.

Luck and learning

I was lucky that government regulations for school buses changed when I was in grade four so then I could travel to the Riverton Convent for the last three years of primary school. Previously regulations only entitled school buses to carry government school children. In Riverton, the nuns carefully coached their charges and at the end of year seven, I was lucky enough to secure a scholarship to a boarding school in Adelaide. I suspect the nuns played a role in recommendations. The fact that my parents had previously paid for other siblings to attend the school, probably contributed to this award.

I made the most of my learning opportunities even though the shock of moving from a small country class of seven, four girls and three boys, to a class of 51 girls, was a major change. Along with that, there were no loving parents to kiss goodnight. I thrived in boarding school and luck intervened at the end of Intermediate (3rd year) when my scholarship finished. It must have been a relatively good season and some older siblings were in paid work. My parents then paid for my last two years at boarding school.  This paved the way for my chance to commence tertiary studies at the end of the sixties.

Luck and love

I met my future husband at one of those boarding school socials in April of 1967 – ah, that’s now fifty years ago! Just demonstrates one must make the most of the opportunities that luck offers.

A little about licorice

On Sundays after Mass, Dad would seek out an open shop to buy a packet of licorice allsorts. These were his favourite lollies and this was a Sunday treat. We could select one each and usually there would be a second round while we were driving home. The packet then found its way to his desk where the rest would have lasted a whole week for him.

Next M - Making merry, mud and other muck

13 April 2017

Knitting, kneeling and killing

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


Winters were cold in South Australia and knitted woollen jumpers were well valued. I learnt to knit with scraps of wool and probably first knitted squares or a scarf. I also knitted small vests for dolls. Mum’s motto that idle hands make for the devil’s work, meant that it was always wise to have something on the go. New wool was expensive to purchase so I do remember much unravelling of previously knitted garments to be rolled into tight balls before the wool was reused for a new jumper.

New wool came in skeins rather than balls, so several hours involving two people would be spent rolling the skeins into balls. Many women took their knitting everywhere they went. In the waiting rooms for doctors and dentists, it was not uncommon to see all the women knitting. I appreciated having learnt how to knit especially once I was at boarding school. Knitting filled in many long hours chatting with friends.

It is interesting to look back at knitting patterns through the Internet Archive.


Every night after the dishes had been washed, dried and put away we knelt as a family to pray the rosary. The Catholic rosary is a sequence of prayers repeated five times. The belief that the family that prays together stays together was always highly valued. This did not stop us as youngsters getting the giggles or poking fun or nudging at a nearby sibling. At the end of a long day, one person might fall asleep, a quick tap would suffice to bring them back into the fold.


A sheep was killed regularly to feed our large family. After slaughter and skinning, the beast was suspended high on a meat hook to deter the dog and numerous cats. Dad gutted it then sawed it roughly into joints. The whole collection of parts was delivered to the kitchen.

Mum trimmed the flaps and neck chops ready for stews. All the scraps that could be salvaged from any cut off remnants were then minced. The mincer was screwed on to the end of a table or the kitchen bench. Perched on a chair I took my turn pushing down on that meat to feed it through the mincer while turning that stubborn handle. Other joints were sawn into chops. Meat processing took several hours before it was all packed away into meal sized portions.

Hens that no longer laid eggs were killed for consumption. If one could get the fowl to lay still, neck stretched across the chopping block, a quick strike of the axe did the job. The smell of wet feathers after the bird was plunged in boiling water remains with me. We plucked the feathers before “dressing the fowl,”  cleaning out the innards and saving the giblets for soup. Old hens, the boilers, made great stock for chicken soup and provided cold meat for hot weather and sandwiches. Younger birds were stuffed and roasted, one to serve many.

12 April 2017

Jelly jests

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


Jolly jelly everywhere. Jelly with fruit, fruit in jelly, jelly and trifle, jelly in trifle, jelly and cream.

These were some of our regular desserts served after the main meal. Jelly was quick and easy to make and came in a wide variety of colours and flavours. I guess it was also a way of stretching the meal as cooking for seven hungry children can not have been simple. Jelly cakes – now these were delicious and made for special occasions. A current recipe reveals they are still popular.

Port wine jelly was a reddish colour so plums, nectarines and occasionally cherries found their way here. Orange jelly went well with apricots. Green lime coola, well I guess it was just another colour for variety. Other varieties were raspberry and strawberry.

Lemon jelly was my favourite. We often needed two packets of crystals to make enough jelly to feed the family. First, the kettle was boiled and the jelly crystals emptied into a heatproof bowl. The boiling water was carefully measured before being stirred into the crystals. Too much water resulted in wobbly soft jelly, too little water, hard rubbery jelly. The cooled bowl of jelly was placed in the fridge. There were no leftovers after the meal.

Who can forget beetroot in jelly and peas in green gelatine? These were cut into cubes and made an exotic addition to a plate of salad!

The rubbery jelly served at boarding school had little flavour but bounced well on refectory tables. Full page advertisements for jellies appeared in The Australian Women's Weekly of the time suggesting a variety of recipes using jelly. Visit All Down Under for the background story to the Aeroplane Jelly song and story. YouTube video of the original advertisement is here.


Junket was the healthier alternative to jelly. A junket tablet was dissolved in warmed milk with a small amount of sugar added. When it had cooled it was put aside to set in the fridge. A sprinkling of nutmeg on top was really the only thing that added any flavour. 

Jokes and jests

There was always room for laughter in our lives and practical jokes were my brother's forte even from an early age. He even claims to have stirred up the bull in the paddock before we got near it as referred to in this previous post.
Then, of course, there was the inevitable retribution when we short-sheeted his bed, always a good prank. The top sheet on the bed was folded back on itself then the blankets placed on top as normal. All was folded and tucked in and when the victim got into the bed feet hit the sheet.
The bed had to be stripped of blankets and remade before retiring for the night.
What childhood pranks and jokes did you get up to?

Next K - Knitting, kneeling and killing

11 April 2017

Instruments and implements

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


The piano was in the lounge room. In her youth, Mum had sometimes played piano at dances and was keen for her girls to learn. At least three of us played regularly and I had lessons through both primary and secondary school years. One of my sisters was accomplished at playing by ear and could pick out almost any tune. Another sister went on to become a music teacher. 

As children, we were often expected to play in front of visitors so easy duets were popular pieces to cover this duty. The piano was a great source of in-house entertainment too as we often gathered around and sang along to popular songs of the day, hymns or old favourite songs we had learnt from Mum. A violin rested on top of the piano but I don’t remember it being played very often. One of my sisters played a piano accordion too.


Plough, binder, harvester, elevator, cultivator, seeder, baler, slasher, combine, stripper, scarifier, tiller:  just a few of the implements that could be found on our farm. I did not know exactly what each one did as a child but there was an interesting collection of old implements behind the large machinery shed that Dad had built. This binder below was one of those.
1942 - Binder with Ben Arnold  - Horgan family photos
This old binder was one of the implements behind the shed
(Benno Heinrich Arnold of Stockport 1907-1970)

These old implements were interesting to climb on and explore and a great place to play all sorts of imaginary games. Luckily our tetanus shots were always up to date. A gallery of implements used on farms from the twenties to the seventies can be seen in The History of South Australian Agriculture photo database. There were quite a few of these lurking behind the shed.

Those were just the paddock related implements. In the cowshed there was the milking machine and separator, the shearing shed had the shearers’ posts and the wool press. A farm was a fascinating place for a curious child.

Next J - Jelly jests

10 April 2017

Harvest, hay and a Hills hoist

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

Harvest time

The weather dictated harvest time. Too damp, no reaping. The crop must be dry. The very long days on the tractor meant my father and later my brother were gone for hours. In early days my father and Uncle Joe bagged the wheat. The bags had to be sewn up before they were moved so for many long hours they would stand out in the height of the summer heat. They stitched up the tops with the curved bag needles that were threaded with thick twine. The bags were branded for delivery and others were stored in the barn for livestock food.

Sometimes harvest was finished by Christmas but it often went on well into January. In those days the crops were mostly wheat, barley and oats. A paddock of peas would be sown to enrich the soil and they also provided peas for home consumption.

1958 Branding bags of wheat before they are conveyed and stacked via a bag elevator.  Photo 103794 A History of agriculture in South Australia http://pir.sa.gov.au/aghistory viewed 30 March 2017


At the end of harvest, the remaining crops grown specifically for hay and were slashed then rowed ready for gathering. When I was small the hay on many farms was made into sheafs which were then collected and stacked in stooks. Using a pitchfork the hay was tossed on to the truck for movement to a shed or to the corner of a paddock where a traditional stack was built. Hard physical work.

The arrival of a hay baler improved the process and rectangular bales soon appeared in the paddocks. Hay making was still hard work as the bales were about 25kg each. Large bale hooks were used to move the bales. Haystacks changed shape and baled hay was fun to climb on but prickly for play. We were expected to stay away from the haystacks. Skill, dexterity and accuracy in stacking were needed to ensure the stack did not come tumbling down.
Linwood 1953 season's bales, Edward John Horgan - Maurice on top

Hills Hoist

Moving from the old small house to a larger new one in the mid-1950s brought many delights. For my mother, the addition of a rotary clothesline must have made a huge difference to her washing days. The Hills Hoist rotary clothesline was made by a South Australian company started in 1946. Lance Hill had improved on an earlier model. The clothes line had a winder handle so that it could be lowered for pegging then raised to make the most of any breeze and sunshine. This was a huge change from the prop line along the edge of the creek.

Mum always pegged the smalls, underwear and socks, on the inner lines then the larger items such as work clothes, sheets and towels were hung on the outer circles. Complete privacy for those unmentionable items.

Next I – Instruments and implements

8 April 2017

Gates and grates

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

Gates and grates

A farm is a place with a myriad of gates. Gates on paddocks, sheds and yards all for a variety of purposes and all differently constructed. Close the gate after you is still as relevant today was it was then.

Gates kept animals in paddocks and sheds and children out of danger. There were high gates on the old farmhouse backyard. The house was next to a creek, unsafe for small children. Along the edge of the creek, the washing line was strung above the grey wormwood bushes. I have very early memories of standing at the gate straining to watch as Mum hung out the clothes. In my early years, there was a gate leading to the driveway out to the road seen in the photo above.

The top gate was at the entrance to the property and after some years was replaced with a cattle grate. This saved a lot of getting in and out of vehicles to open and close gates. The paddock gates were usually made out of a panel of fencing wire which closed against a straining post.  These gates had a light post on one end, could be opened in either direction and were easy to pick up and move aside. Over time old posts that had been used in fences were replaced with star pickets or cement posts.

In the new house, front and back yards were constrained by gates. The gate into the orchard marked the extent of the back yard where a carefully tended piece of lawn was nurtured. Further along a gate to the extensive vegetable garden provided access from the house yard and a high surrounding fence also kept dogs, turkeys and chooks (fowls) at bay. The far exit from the orchard into the cow yard required negotiating another two gates.

The pig pens each had individual wooden gates leading out to the paddock.
Gates on three sides of the tennis court provided quick access to other areas, useful for chasing stray balls. Mending fences and maintaining gates was always an ongoing job for the men of the farm.

Next H - Harvest, hay and a Hills hoist

7 April 2017

Feathered foes and furry friends

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

Fowls and Turkeys

The fowl shed was - yes you guessed it  - sometimes foul. To collect the eggs was usually not a trial unless a hen had “gone broody” and wanted to retain the eggs for hatching. Generally one could put one’s hand underneath a sitting hen and safely retrieve the eggs but sometimes they pecked. We had about a hundred hens, so collecting eggs was a daily chore. Once a week we cleaned and packed the eggs into crates for the market.

Then there was the not so delightful job of shovelling out the hen house once the litter became too deep. When it had dried out it was used as fertiliser around all the fruit trees. Fresh straw was forked across the floor of the hen house much to their delight, they would scratch and scrabble around in it. Sometimes we would catch or tame a hen and tuck it under one arm to carry around. The flock were happy to be hunted back inside the shed for the night.

Turkeys were a different case. Mum bred them for the Christmas market. They roamed the yard by day and every now and then one would see the gobbler chasing after a hen. He could be a fearsome beast with his feathers fluffed and his red neck glowing. It was best to keep out of his way. They were more difficult to herd into shelter, the flock often running madly around in circles. Even though birds were locked up every night, sometimes those wily foxes could still find a way to snatch a live feed.

Cats our furry friends

Just as dogs were an essential part of the farm so too did our cats play an important role. They controlled the vermin; mice, rats and rabbits. Smokey the grey female was once seen dragging two rabbits she had caught for her kittens, one hanging out each side of her mouth. She was a small cat but an intrepid hunter. Sandy the big brindle male was not so friendly. The number of cats we had varied over the years. I had a cat named Norman, a big grey sleek fellow. He was happy to be draped around my neck as I wandered the yard.

Our cats and dogs were outside animals but well loved and treasured. They were fed table scraps and could be seen lurking for well-deserved treats each time a sheep was killed for domestic consumption. The cats also liked to frequent the milking shed on the chance of spilt milk or a saucer of milk still warm from the cow.

Next G - Gates and grates

6 April 2017

Early childhood and Easter

A-Z challenge – My memories of life on the farm in the nineteen fifties and sixties
I''m the youngest, second from the right, the fence behind us was a rusty red

Early childhood

In our backyard at the old farm house, Dad had erected an old wagon wheel on a pole, it was our hurdy-gurdy. We had a lot of fun spinning each other around. There was no such thing as a comfortable seat, just sit on a spoke or the metal ring, grab hold and make sure one's legs were not touching the ground. We also had a home-made swing under the pepper trees. It was a straight, hard piece of wood attached by chains to an upper tree branch.

 As I was the youngest of seven children most of my memories involve trailing around with others and playing whatever games were on the go. Once all my siblings were at school, I had the solitary pleasure of sitting in front of the large cabinet radio and listening to Kindergarten of the Air.  This 25-minute program aimed at children from 3-6 years of age was broadcast Monday to Saturday at 9 am. This was before television and was my experience of the world beyond the farm gate.

When siblings returned home from school I was always ready to pester them to play “school” with me. By the time I started school at five and a half years old, I was familiar with the playground and classrooms having been there with my mother on the days of Mothers’ Meetings which were held about once a month. In 1956, the school at Tarlee had two classrooms. Miss Dora Thomas was in one room with grades one, two and three and Mr Payne in the other room with grades four to seven. I was a quick learner having had the advantage of learning from elder siblings and my mother.

One school activity clearly remembered was making cushions from the hessian sugar bags. We counted six rows up, took a stitch then six rows down and across for the next stitch in brightly coloured wool so causing a zig-zag pattern to be made. After two or three rows a new colour was added. After four colours had been added the pattern was repeated. When the piece was completed after a term’s sewing, these masterpieces went home for the mothers of the district to make them into cushions. I recall our lounge room having at least three of these creations at one time. It is probably just as well that no photo survives!


Easter was a most solemn time of year. In the weeks of Lent, we were encouraged to “make a sacrifice” this usually involved giving up lollies and sweets for six weeks. We really looked forward to breaking that fast on Easter morning. No chocolate eggs or treats before then.
On Easter weekend we went to church three times. On Thursday evening there was the solemn Mass, Good Friday afternoon “The Stations of the Cross” service then Easter Sunday morning the celebratory Mass.

Our roast dinner was in the middle of the day but by then, as young children, we had consumed our Easter egg, usually one not many. The Easter eggs that lasted the longest were the hard as a rock sugar ones. I’m sure these probably caused more damage to our teeth than the enjoyment warranted.

Next F - Feathered foes and furry friends

5 April 2017

Drat that darn dog

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


By Wuerzele via Wikimedia Commons
Farm work was tough on clothes. There was always mending and darning to be done. Socks were darned and re-darned to make them last. Men’s work trousers were patched over and over.

When the sheets wore thin they were cut down the middle then the sides resewn together. Knitted jumpers were darned where holes had appeared. I’m grateful I no longer feel the need to darn anything!

The skill did come in handy at boarding school in the sixties, those 30 denier stockings were liable to hole. When a dab of nail polish would not suffice to stop a run, that darn skill was useful.


Dogs were essential for working with sheep. Flossie was treasured and she worked hard. Sometimes, of course, the dog would run contrary to orders and try to anticipate where the sheep were to go. In such a case my father in retelling the story would  refer to ‘that darn dog.’ He was a very mild-mannered man and I never heard him use language stronger than that.

The bond between man and dog working together each day was strong and close. Often Dad would sit on the veranda after meals with his dog. How sad it was when a dog became old and no longer able to work, the inevitable day would come for the dog to be put down. No trip to the vet for a needle like our pampered pet pooches of today. The heartbreak of disposing of one's own dog was part and parcel of farm life.

Next E - Early childhood and Easter

4 April 2017

Cars for carting

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

Cars and utes

How many could fit in a sedan of the times?

Squashed in the front of the EH Holden my father drove, my brother sat next to him, Mum on the left passenger side and me jammed in between. In the back seat my five sisters were seated one back, one forward, one back, one forward and one more back.

That’s how we travelled to Mass each Sunday and no complaints were to be tolerated. No seat belts then, just packed in like sardines. That car was more spacious than the earlier green and white FC Holden we’d previously owned.

Teenagers and cars

I learnt to drive in the paddocks. Perhaps it was first steering the tractor or truck as it slowly progressed in a straight line while hay was distributed to sheep from the back. I then progressed to the family sedan learning to change gears along the way. I remember well the kangaroo hops made before getting those gears to change smoothly.

One sister acquired a two tone pink and grey Standard 10 which she needed to get between the towns where she taught dressmaking. My brother’s first car was a blue Holden ute for farm work often with sheep, equipment and tools loaded in the back. If that car could tell tales it would recall Rural Youth outings, taking sisters to dances and some romances.

My first car, a red 1955 Ford Prefect, came from my eldest sister as she left Adelaide to accompany her husband on an overseas posting in 1969. Unfortunately I had an accident, not serious enough to be hurt, but enough for the insurers to write the car off. The small red car was retired to the farm where it was cut off as a ute for a paddock jalopy.

Here's Dad with one of his earlier cars.

Next D - Drat that darn dog