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Saturday, 24 June 2017

"I live in a taraban"

Each year in the 1960s over the Christmas summer holidays my parents packed the family tent and set off to drive from Canberra down to the South Coast of New South Wales, trying out at a different beach each year. In 1970 however their camping style changed when they bought a caravan, which became Dad's pride and joy for the next few years.  Below are a number of photographs from Mum's 1969-1973 album.

I think this must have been a caravan they hired to find out whether or not they would enjoy driving the Ford Fairmont with with a van in tow.

Here's my mother Jean showing off the interior of the van they subsequently purchased

1970 and this was probably the first trip with the van, and the only one I was part of, since I left school that year and found summer jobs, and in any event at 17 or 18 family camping wasn't really something I fancied all that much. I must have taken this photo however, as my boyfriend of the time with his tousled locks can be seen crouching here behind my parents and sister Louisa in the caravan park at Mollymook beach.

Said boyfriend had to camp nearby on his own and I was under strict instructions not to join him in his tent, but I confess, I may have sneaked in once or twice. Hello Chris Curtis, how are you? We haven't been in touch since 1971, the year after that photograph was taken. 

More caravan photos above and below from subsequent trips to the beach and elsewhere. Collapsible beach chairs to relax on outside the van were an essential camping accessory.

My sister Louisa poses with the ever present van in the background

Mum's caption on this photo of my brother at the door of the van reads 'Wilson's Point. Temperature at least 107 degrees '. Australia adopted the Metric Act in 1970  but it was almost 10 years before forecasts were given exclusively in Celsius degrees, and in the early 1970s we were still talking Fahrenheit temperatures. No air conditioning in the van of course, but then there was none in the house either, just the occasional fan and open windows at night to let in cooler air and any breezes that might help move the air around.

Here's Jean at home with the van in its resting place beside the house, where it doubled as an extra bedroom for visitors when needed. We could have done with a caravan for extra space last weekend when we had 10 people sleeping here but we managed!
One of my mother's enduring camping memories was of a little girl standing on the step of her van across the way from Mum and Dad and calling out "I live in a taraban'.  Our younger daughter and her husband have recently bought themselves a small van, and perhaps their little daughter will one day stand on the step and call out something similar to her camping neighbours.
 When my parents no longer felt up to the strain of driving with the van and decided instead to move to a house near the beach on the Central Coast north of Sydney, my brother took over the van and he and his family used it for a few more years up in Queensland.

For other blogs prompted by the old image from the National Library of Ireland and posted in Sepia Saturday #373 of an Irish couple and their dog camping at Tramore in 1918, click here.

It looks like a gypsy caravan in the prompt picture, but if Mr and Mrs Foley were indeed gypsies, I hope they were not treated badly in the way that very many of their people were, as documented in the lyrics of this song written by Ewan McColl and sung by the great Christy Moore.


  1. Growing up I knew no one who had a camper or caravan, as you say. That was such a luxury, I guess. You obviously have some great memories and photos from your camping trips. I especially like the one with the boyfriend's tent off to the side and the story that goes with it.

  2. Great pictures. I san't imagine anyone staying in the trailer at 107°

  3. Fantastic collection of campers/camping. Thanks for keeping them and sharing them for our pleasure...which was nothing compared to the fun your family had!

  4. Your mum should have been a documentary maker! She was so good at recording detail.
    The lovely photos brought back lots of memories for me too.

  5. It always takes me a moment to remember, when Aussies talk of doing summer things at Christmastime, that it IS summer 'Down Under' then! Too bad my Mom & Dad waited until all us kids were grown up & on our own before they bought their first little trailer and yet we kids would've been sleeping in tents anyway - the trailer being only for Mom & Dad. But trailer or tent, some of my favorite memories of camping were in my late teens as that's when I met boys on the beach and went dancing in the resort with them at night. Girls weren't allowed at the dances until age 15 so being 17 and 18 was a definite advantage. :)

  6. We never went camping when I was growing up nor did I know anyone who did. I would have liked the decision your parents made to move to the beach later on.

  7. Great old caravan shots and memories