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Tuesday, 11 August 2015

"On the Fourteenth of February, 1966"

Our Sepia Saturday prompt photo for this week appears to show a gentleman from a bank exhibiting some very large piles of bank notes, closely watched by two guards.  I have nothing remotely like this in my family history photo collection, so what could I possibly write about this week?

On 14 February 1966 Australia converted from pounds, shillings and pence to decimal currency. Anyone who was of school age or above in this country at the time would surely remember this, as it was quite a momentous event, and something you couldn't ignore, as it affected your daily life in so may ways.  In 1966 I was a school student in 2nd Year at Lyneham High School in Canberra, ACT, and my maths teacher was a lady called Winifred Townley. I remember her as being rather stern and strict, and not putting up with any nonsense from us, but if we did our homework and showed an interest we got on fine in her class.  Amazingly enough, I or perhaps my mother saved a couple of project books that I was required to produce for Mrs Townley, and I thought you might be amused to see the one I did on the history of Australian money and the conversion that year to decimal currency.  I think Mrs T must have been keen on projects. i'm surprised at how neat my lefthanded handwriting was when I was 13, and that I only made 3 spelling mistakes in my short 'potted history' of Australian Money and Decimal Currency. I'm afraid my maths marks probably went down after that year, as maths got harder and there were no more projects, just problems to be solved!

We no longer have 1 or 2 cent coins, and prices are rounded either up or down, whichever is closest, unless you pay by card. The 50 cent piece has become  a 12 sided coin and has featured many different designs to celebrate various national events. I'm not sure why I didn't mention notes in my project, apart from the play money at the end, but  $1, $2, $10 and $20 notes were also issued in 1966. The $1 and $2 notes have since been replaced by coins, and $5, $50 and $100 notes have subsequently been produced.  For more details and pictures of our first decimal notes, click here

The process of polymerization was developed in Australia and in the bicentennial year of 1988 Australia introduced polymer notes to help prevent the problem of  counterfeiting.  Here is a direct link that explains this and other security features that are hidden on Australian notes.  

You can read more and see pictures and explanations of the manufacturing process and the people featured on our colourful notes on that same site, the Museum of Australian Currency Notes. 

Here are a couple of short clips that were shown repeatedly on television in preparation for the change. The title of this blog comes from the catchy jingle you can hear in the first clip, sung to the tune of one of our national songs, Click go the Shears. I think some older people might have felt patronised by the tone in the second clip!

I'll just finish with a little more information about my maths teacher Mrs Winifred Townley, who was born in 1916 in England and died in Canberra in 2000, aged 84. She must have been about 50 in 1966 and one of the more senior members of staff when this photograph appeared in the Lyneham High School magazine.

 I knew that Mrs Townley was a Quaker and have found an entry for her here in Australian Quaker Biographies.  Here is a brief extract from it:

"Born Winifred Margaret McKeon in London in 1916, she studied science at university at a time when this was unusual for women. She did postgraduate work in physics and became a research physicist with a company making one of the earliest colour films. During the war she joined the Women's Auxiliary Air Force and became a Weather Forecaster at the Meteorological Office.

Between 1959 and 1975 Winifred taught mathematics at High Schools in Canberra. She and Kenneth [had five children and] also fostered and cared for numerous children over the years." 

It is interesting in the context of Sepia Saturday to read that Mrs Townley did research on early colour film technology. Teaching high school maths might have been rather tame compared to her previous work, but hopefully she enjoyed encouraging her students to develop a good grounding in the subject. Thank you Mrs Townley for your wise teaching.

Our family did have one small ongoing connection with Mrs Townley in a way, because a year or two later my mother Jean either bought or was given a kitten from a litter belonging  to her, and that kitten became our beloved ginger cat Gus, who survived in Canberra for 21 years.  I've included a couple of photographs of him in an earlier post.  He was a friendly fellow, but definitely no maths wiz!

For more blogs about about piles of money, click here to count your stash at Sepia Saturday #292