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


  1. Hi Carmel - what a lovely 'T' post ... lots of happy memories - the tennis racquet and games I had similar experiences; tin kettling I'd never heard of ... while the phones - I can believe .. we had a battery powered one that I remember ... but then modernity set in pretty quickly ... .lovely memories - thank you - cheers Hilary


    1. We were privileged to have a tennis court but my game was never up to much. Almost hard to imagine life without mobile phones now.

  2. My first tennis racket was wooden too. I didn't play much but enjoyed it. I have never heard of a tin kettling but it sounds like a lot of fun and a great way to celebrate the newlyweds. How different it was to use a phone back in the day. You are right "times sure have changed".WeekendsInMaine


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