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Friday, 19 December 2014

Children make Christmas

Down here in the Southern Hemisphere, Christmas takes place in summer and the weather is usually hot. Often a backyard game of cricket with friends and family or a beach walk can follow the excesses of a hot Xmas dinner.  The first photo here is of my mother and her siblings Pat, Ken and Derek playing cricket at home in Aylmer St, Christchurch NZ on Christmas Day 1932. Young Derek the batsman was born in 1929.  I imagine the bowler must have been either the children's father Jack or their mother Mona, and that one of them took the photo.

The next photo shows my mother Jean helping Santa hand out gifts at a Christmas party for Cholmondeley, a children's home in the Christchurch area. It was Christmas 1944, when Jean would have been aged 18, and she and her friend Betty (standing behind Santa) must have been doing volunteer work at the home. Cholmondeley provides short term emergency care for vulnerable children from families in crisis, and these may have been the only presents these children received that Christmas. Jean and Betty met in their early teens and became lifelong friends. I discovered that the Cholmondeley home was badly damaged in the earthquakes of 2010/2011 and had to be demolished as a result, but that a new building is expected to be completed by mid 2015. I've since made a small donation towards the rebuilding fund and have also sent a copy of this photo to the home for their records, as any they might have had could well have been lost in the quake.

In 1953 I enjoyed a cold Christmas in Cambridge, England in the back garden with my parents, and went for a walk in the afternoon, so the weather can't have been too wintery. I think the first snow fell a couple of weeks later, as documented here in an earlier blog.

This next group of three photos shows our elder daughter Claire enjoying the fun of her first Christmas in 1980, with grandmother Mary for Christmas lunch and then back at her other grandparents' home for Christmas tea, where she wore her party hat and pulled a Christmas cracker with me.

Eight Christmases and three children later, here's a collage showing them opening a rather excessive number of presents from both sets of grandparents. Our younger daughter Laura looks quite overwhelmed in some of these shots, but there are also moments of joy.  The grandparents lived in neighbouring suburbs of Canberra, so it was not too difficult to stay at one home, open presents there after breakfast, then go to the other for Christmas lunch and more present opening, and then return to the first for Christmas tea.

All ready for a lovely roast lunch and plum pudding with the children's paternal grandparents Bob and Mary and their Aunty Ann ...

...and later a beautiful Christmas tea with Jean and Ian, which would have routinely included a glazed ham, salads of various kinds, meringues sandwiched together with cream, and fruit punch to wash it all down. We always pulled Xmas crackers at tea time, read out the silly jokes they contained and wore the party hats.

The other side of the table shows my mother's sister Pat, the former wicket keeper from the first photo above. She must have been visiting Jean and Ian, either on a trip from NZ or on her way home from one of her overseas assignments. I've written previously about Pat and her life's work here. Jean is on Pat's left. Our younger daughter Laura looks rather solemn in her Christmas dress and matching bib that I had made specially that year. She would have been around 21 months at the time, and it had been a big day!  Click photo to enlarge and pick out the bib.


I don't have that little Xmas dress any more, but both the bib and a matching Xmas stocking will get another airing this Christmas, when our little English granddaughter Isabelle is here with us. It's been a while since we've had a Christmas with children, so this year will be quite special in that respect. We will be sad that Isabelle's great grandmother Jean who passed away in August won't be with us around the family dinner table, and that other great grandmother Mary won't be with us either, but hopefully she will be able to come and meet her first great grandchild in early January. With luck we'll be able to get a four generation photo of baby, mother, grandfather and great grandmother. And a photo of the bib with its latest wearer.

Merry Christmas and all the best for 2015 to you all! For other Sepians' Christmas memories, just click here.
Sepia Saturday #259

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Of cowboys, steps and stairs

A small boy dressed as a cowboy has lassoed a man who is likely to be his father in this week's Sepia Saturday prompt photo. I have some photos of cowboys and stairs, but not together.  

The photo below shows my mother's two youngest brothers, Graeme and Peter, dressed up in their cowboy outfits, at their home in Aylmer St Christchurch, c. 1942. No lassos in sight, but they look to be pointing their toy guns straight at  the photographer, and were probably saying, 'this is a stick-up'!

Our family moved to Australia in 1956, and this next photo shows my brother aged about 2 or 3, sitting on the stairs with his toys in Canberra, ACT, and sporting a bead necklace that he probably threaded himself. I don't know if he ever had a cowboy suit.

To the early 1960s, and here's a group of three on the front steps. My neighbours Gerlinde and Elfriede lived across the street from us in the suburb of O'Connor. It was a brand new development when we moved in, and it looks like my father had roped off the garden in order for his newly sewn grass to grow, so we may have been restricted to the steps.  I'm not sure what we were doing, but Gerlinde appears to be holding up something, maybe a drawing or some other handiwork. I remember  spending a lot of time after school with Gerlinde and Elfriede, and playing games on their veranda like hopscotch and elastics were some of our favourite activities. Years later my parents were invited to Gerlinde's university graduation ceremony, because they had encouraged her to to achieve her best when she was a school student.

Here's my sister Louisa in a party hat, posing with her favourite dolls on those same concrete steps, and the garden has grown a bit

Meanwhile Guy and his friends Mark and Robbie the cowboy were playing out on the footpath with their billy cart. No sign of any lasso or gun though.

One more family photo taken on the steps in about 1964, this time around the back door of the house in Swainsona St, with our cat Phoebe, who had a litter of kittens that sadly all died of feline enteritis within a few days of being born. We never owned a dog, so I can't show any photos of them, although Mark and his family had a pug puppy that we enjoyed visiting. My mother was not keen on dogs and even confessed to once using my stroller, with me in it, as a shield against an intimidating Alsatian that we encountered when out walking! 

For more takes on cowboys and stairs, and maybe a dog or two as well, just click here to go to Sepia Saturday #257

Friday, 28 November 2014

The Palais in its Heyday

This week's Sepia Saturday photograph was taken at the Grace Bros Ball, which was held at the Palais Royal in Sydney in 1933. I thought that instead of showing photos of other pageants or parades, it might be interesting to have a look at both Grace Bros and the Palais building itself.

 Grace Bros was an iconic department store, founded in Sydney in 1885 by two brothers, Joseph and Albert Grace. There is quite a bit of information about the store's history on Wikipedia, and a photo from of the flagship store in the suburb of Broadway. The Grace Bros chain was taken over by the Victorian Myer group in 1983, and all the stores were re-branded in 2004. There's quite a lot of rivalry between the States of New South Wales and Victoria, and the NSW residents were not too happy about the Myer takeover. The Grace brothers also started a removals business in 1911 and this still operates under the name Grace Removals.

I've also included several other photos from the Powerhouse Collection, showing more scenes from the 1933 pageant, plus a newspaper report of the event. The British sitcom "Are You Being Served" wasn't written with the Australian store in mind, but it could have been. We shopped in Grace Bros stores for many years, both in Canberra and Sydney, and the standard of service was never all that wonderful, and these days at the Myer stores it's practically non-existent.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Report on the Grace Bros Ball, in the Sydney Morning Herald , 25 October 1933. Trove web site.

The Ball had been an annual event for some years, and an earlier report from 1926 referred to the fancy sets representing various sections of the firm's activities, and that the firm would contribute pound for pound to the amount raised to benefit the Children's Hospital. Another report from the Sunday Times of 15 September 1929, snipped below, refers to what was expected to 'present a scene of scintillating gorgeousness' at that year's Grace Bros. Ball.

So what and where was the Palais Royale (or Royal)?  Otherwise known as the Royal Hall of Industries, it still exists as part of what were formerly the Sydney Showgrounds, where the annual Royal Easter Show was held up until 1996, when the show moved to a new location. You can read all about its history and see photos here on the Centennial Parklands web site, but in summary the building was opened in 1913 and at that time was the largest exhibition hall in the Southern Hemisphere. According to that site, it has had various uses, including as a morgue during the 1919 Influenza epidemic, but when not in use for the annual Show in the 1920s and 30s, it became known as the Palais Royale and was the venue for many dances and balls. Here's an extract from the above web site.

"During the Great Depression of the 1930s the building was used as a boxing venue.
In December 1937, James Charles Bendrodt, a Canadian-born roller-skater and restaurateur (among other famous and infamous roles), formed a company to transform thePalais Royal into the opulent Ice Skating Palais which featured Canadian figure-skating and ice-hockey stars. He renamed this business – the Ice Palais. However this was a relatively short-lived venture.
In 1939, at the outbreak of World War II, the army took it over and used the building as the AIF District Accounts Office.

Becoming a children’s favourite…

More recently, the Royal Hall of Industries has become the stuff of childhood memories in its role as the “Showbag Pavilion” at the annual Royal Easter Shows at Moore Park.

And now, returned to an event and exhibition extravaganza…

Currently the Royal Hall of Industries is managed by Playbill Venues, and plays host to many spectacular events such as The Marie Claire Awards, the annual Mardi Gras Party and several festivals such as MasterChef Live and Stereosonic."

Of these many different uses, the one that has the most significance for me is the Showbag Pavilion. We lived in Sydney for 25 years, and attended the Easter Show with the family on a number of occasions over that time. I don't have a lot of photos, but I certainly remember the melee inside the Showbag Pavilion, which sad to say was the primary destination for our children, despite our efforts to interest them in the many livestock exhibitions and displays. Here are some photos of our visits.

This was our first visit, pre-children, in 1977.  We were very impressed with the large produce exhibits shown here. The various State districts would compete to create the best display.

In April 1982 my mother came from Canberra to visit us over Easter, and we took her to the Show. I really can't imagine now why I thought this would be a good idea, considering that the arrival of our second child was imminent, but I survived, and here we are afterwards in what looks like Centennial Park, with our daughter Claire exhibiting a show bag on each arm.  I think back then they were reasonably good value. Our son was born one week later.

Elsewhere in the Showgrounds wood chopping competitions were always watched with great interest, at least by the adults in the crowd, as shown here in this set of photos, which come from a 1991 visit. You can see one of the other showground buildings in the back ground, although it is not the Royal Hall of Industries.

A 1991 photo of a section of the  district produce displays.

But show bags were what our children were really after, and here is our other daughter Laura aged 4 in 1991, proudly displaying her spoils, of a bag and a Strawberry Shortcake doll on a stick. I think we only allowed them to buy one bag and they only had a certain amount to spend, so they took forever to wander around the hall deciding what they would most like to have. When they compared the contents at home, regrets at having bought the wrong bag were often expressed!  The Showbag Pavilion, formerly the Palais Royal is behind Laura, although of course the exterior is totally hidden by luridly lit stalls, such as those laughing clowns shown here.

So that's my tenuous connection to the Palais Royale. No doubt you will find other more direct takes on this week's prompt photograph on display at Sepia Saturday # 256

ps. Here are a couple of advertisements for Grace Bros the department store in the 1980s , plus an amusing one for their cleaning company.

The cleaning advert even came with  the added enticement of  a chance to win a trip to the USA!

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Let's rock!

This week's prompt was a bit tricky for me. I haven't come across any photos of silhouettes or silhouettists, so I've decided to focus instead on the little fellow on the left, who appears to be sitting on a toy horse of some kind. I've found quite a few photos in my albums, showing children of successive generations of family and friends enjoying  themselves on their rocking horses, with a few merry-go-round varieties for good measure.

I have featured this first photo before, but have cropped it here to show just this little late 19th century miss and her puppy on a rocking horse, c. 1898, and her brother Arnold standing beside her with his kitten. Her name was Charlotte Petrie and she was a daughter of my great grandfather Charles Cruickshank's sister Jessie. She became an artist when she grew up, but she was not a silhouettist as far as I am aware.  Her horse has only a tiny head, but it does have one. To see the full photo and read a little more about Charlotte and her family, click here.

The next photo is of my father Ian and must date back to about 1926 or 1927, when he would have been around two or three years old. I imagine Ian was rather a reserved child but he has a whimsical smile in this snap. Those double style horses for younger children to sit in rather than ride on seem to have been a popular choice.

The next photo is of my Uncle Derek riding on a merry-go-round and probably dates back to about 1931, as Derek was born in 1929. Not a rocking horse, but similar in style.  A  great deal of craftsmanship would be involved in making all the horses here, but particularly those on the merry-go-rounds.

Here I am with my mother Jean, posing on what looks to be a nice simple little model, c. 1955.

The son of a friend enjoying his ride on a spotted steed, around the same time.  Giddy-up, horsey!

 I don't know who owned this next horse, but my next-door neighbour John and I were obviously having fun together here and giving him a good workout.

Yours truly on another merry-go-round, c. 1957.

The following rocking horse is definitely ours ...

because I'm riding it above, c. 1957 and my sister is doing the same, a few years later, c. 1961, by which time both sides appear to be minus their manes. They must have been worn off by vigorous riding!

 Here's a big brother giving his little sister a helping hand to balance on her horse. They were the children of Jean's old college friend Colleen and the little girl's name was Robyn. 'Rockin' Robyn' perhaps, as the song goes!

Our first daughter Claire enjoying this simple sit-in version, c. 1980, which we rescued from the nature strip after it was thrown out in a council clean-up. We repaired, repainted and gave it a new lease of life. It probably ended up on the nature strip again a few years later,but may well have been rescued again.

Here we are on a couple of different merry-go-rounds in Sydney and Canberra I believe, c. 1988. Daughter Laura looks a little apprehensive and for that matter so do I, but her brother Strahan seems to be having a good time.  The horses in the second shot are all named after past Melbourne Cup winners, and Strahan is riding the great Phar Lap.

 Laura enjoying her grandmother Jean's little rocking horse, c. 1989. This sturdy little horse is no heirloom, but  he's now resting in our attic, ready to be brought down for Jean's great granddaughter and the rider's niece to try out on her upcoming visit. At nine months she'll probably still need a helping hand to hold on, and I'm sure Laura will be ready and willing to show her how.
 No doubt photos will be taken to add to the family collection.

The last couple of photos are of my aunt's cat Tussy, who was clearly accustomed to commandeering this lovely old steed, whether to survey the room or look out the window. I don't know whether or not Tussy could rock, but she must have had a good seat, as horse riders say. No hands needed! I took the photos in 1997, but this rocking horse was an antique model. Good horses are crafted to last for generations, and this one would have outlasted many of its young  riders. A granddaughter who arrived in 2007 would no doubt have competed with Tussy for prime position on that saddle.  My aunt also bred real miniature ponies, but I doubt Tussy could ride those.

A classic song to finish up with, appropriate to one of the photos above - well, sort of anyway! 

So now you're in the mood, rock on over to Sepia |Saturday #255
where you might actually find some silhouettes and lots more.

Postscript: here is a photo just received, of my little Canadian great niece Eloise, about to climb on the little pink pony that her Mum bought for $5. She's only just one but can get on and off by herself and loves to rock. Her great grandmother Jean would have been proud of her!


It reminded me of the rocking horse cake in the Australian Women's Weekly birthday cake book, which was my birthday cake 'bible' for many years. I don't think I ever made it, but here is the picture from the book: