Doris Dawson’s Childhood Memories (Part 3)

The following is part three of four excerpts from ‘Childhood Memories’ written by Doris Dawson in 1986.

– PART 3 –

We never seemed bored and, we never needed girl friends — my twin and I were always together. An elderly uncle of ours lived a couple of miles away, and he often visited us bringing us tomatoes or vegetables that he grew around his house — actually a hut in the bush, and he always had yarns to tell us of the animals, lizards etc. around him. Sometimes they were true, sometimes not.. Getting to his place we went through several scrub gullies, namely Poverty, Mopoke and Nuggetty — near which Sir Frank Tait was born, these were old diggings. In these gullies we used to do our “specking”. Armed with pocket knife and an empty “Doan’s” pill bottle my sister and I would follow mother along the gutters, washed out by the rain. She had exceptional eye sight and could detect small specks of gold quite easily, as she walked along. Then out came the pocket knife to lift these specks of gold carefully into the bottle. I don’t remember finding much, but the smal! lots mother sold brought in a little more to balance the budget, which must have been a constant worry.

However, this did not deter mother from lending a helping hand to neighbors when a crisis occurred. One Christmas my sister and I had to wait a week for Santa Clause to call, as a small boy from the next farm had pneumonia and mother gave a hand at

nursing him. You see we never did our Christmas shopping till Christmas Eve. Possibly want of cash. Then mother had to walk over 2 miles to catch a cab to Castlemaine, of course that meant carrying all the parcels from the cab stop another 2 miles on the return trip. This particular year we got slightly better gifts for our wait. I remember that a lovely dolls pram with a real hood we could put up and down and a lovely tea set. My twin and I shared them, we always played well together. New black patent leather shoes and white socks generally helped fill our stockings that were pinned to the drape around the mantle piece or above the open fire in the front room. Others benefited from my mothers help.

Previous to her marriage my mother worked in Melbourne as a domestic, for little more than 5/- (50c) a week, however, from this she attended the Working Men’s College, to learn tailoring. Also amongst her achievements were lessons in music and buying a harmonium — a small organ without stops, this very instrument was purchased many years later by the Newstead State School. Mother learned to play hymns which helped her as a Sunday school teacher at Holy Trinity Campbell’s Creek.

Her knowledge of tailoring proved a wonderful help in making almost all of her families clothes. I remember the old grey flannel under shirts, and striped galatine shirts my father wore. Of course the red handkerchiefs with white spots were all the go tied around the neck. Woolen socks and hob nailed boots were the usual type of foot wear for work with softer ones for best wear.

Remarkable though it may seem, my mother even mended these boots, and all the families, besides I had the old boot last for many years that she used. The brass sprigs, tingles and toe caps she had to buy were sometimes brought by hawkers. The leather pieces were bought in foot squares in all different thicknesses, and with a very sharp knife the shape of the sole was cut. Dad’s boots even had very heavy heel plates, and hob nails — big headed brads hammered into the soles. Worn out boots were used for mending the ladies and children’s. Soles were cut from the leather tops. The beeswax was used to wax the thread to sew any patches on from the softer parts of the ald boots and even the tongues were handy for this. To help out with the large amount of work my mother always had to do — my twin and I had various chores.

I remember every Saturday morning we cleaned the boots for the household. The working ones and school boots got blackened – a thin paste of black lead made from a thick cake and water, applied with a stiff brush and polished when dry with a soft one. This brought up a good shine if brushed well. Gypsum from quarries near us was used for the white shoes mostly canvas. We collected it from our trips into the bush. We also used it for white washing the fireplaces. Cleaning the cutlery was another Saturday morning “job” that we managed turn about. Sometimes room cleaning came to us as we got older, and doing messages on the bicycle that we had to share. This bike provided us with endless hours of pleasure. I’] never forget the wonderful feeling riding alang on that first bike. The two wheels were not éven the same size, and it had no free wheel,

and no brakes, but we took the hills alright and came down with feet upon the front fork — dangerous on the gravel roads but no more serious injuries than grazed knees and hands when we fell off. The smal] bike served us well and did the many trips to the stores at Campbell’s Creek.

My twin and I grew more alike as we grew into our teens and no one could tell us apart. Mother knew by the way we walked — my sister slow and steady, while I seemed to have a lolloping way and always wore my boots out first. Naturally we got all the childish ailments then. Whooping cough, croup, mumps, and measles — not always together, but whatever it was, mother had a warm bed for us to get into by using the long handled brass and copper bed pan. This she filled with hot coals and slid up and down in our beds to help warm them up before we got in.

My son still has this bed pan, a valuable antique. When my sister got measles a week before me I was very disappointed as I missed the New Year’s Day trip to Castlemaine Botanical Gardens. Every year for miles around folks would meet on New Year’s Day just for a get together. Horse and buggies started going past our place at an early hour, so we had to go early or all the shady trees would be taken before we got there. There were lolly stalls and ice cream. Rides on the “Ocean Ride” and “Merry Go Round” cost 3 pence each. My one consolation on one New Year’s Day when I had the company of a tiny neighbor a few months old, she had them too. My mother had adopted her since the mother had died when the baby was just a few weeks old. We loved that baby and cried often when she had to go away with her father. I often wonder where Maree Otten is now? That very particular New Year’s Day in Castlemaine my twin had her first ride in a motor car belonging to a friend of my father. It was quite a while before I had my first ride in an old model Ford with the mail driver who carried the mail between Castlemaine and surrounding Post Offices. If we were lucky he gave us a ride as we walked the 2 and 1/2 miles home from school. Just as all the cars were scarce as many head of cattle were loose along the roads getting cheap feed.

Another one of our few days out — especially with my father because he was a real “stay at home”, was Boxing Day races at Campbell’s Creek — he was even stationed at the back gate — we thought that important then. Dressed usually in white with coloured sash, white shoes and long white socks to our knees and long gloves we were a picture of fashion, beaded handbags and new parasols completed our outfits. If we had to have black shoes they were always black patent leather. Mother made our hats with wire frames and stitched silk straw around them in overlapping strips.


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