52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History Week 43 Worst School Subject

October 29th, 2011

I’m participating in the weekly Geneabloggers theme of 52 Weeks of Personal  Genealogy & History and sadly I don’t always get the time to do each week’s topic. This week is your worst school subject and I simply had to do this challenge. I only ever failed one school subject and that was Art. Personally I don’t think it should have been a compulsory subject in Year 8 because not everyone is artistic.

I’m a very practical kind of person and not all that patient and the idea of sitting around and sketching, drawing, painting and colouring never really did anything for me. So I attended the classes with no real development of any artistic skills and then time came for the final exam. We had to design, draw and paint a wallpaper for a bedroom and this was the late 1960s. At that period of my life I had already painted my room a striking purple with even darker purple trims and picture rails.

So as I sat there waiting for inspiration it finally came in the form of one of my true loves – the night sky, the moon and the stars. To me the black sky, the planets, moon and stars all looked fantastic on my exam painting and perhaps it was my best work as I was truly inspired.

However when the teachers (the art teacher had asked other teachers to also give their opinions) saw my work they did comment it might be a bit too dark in the room with black wallpaper. For someone living in a purple room it didn’t seem that dark to me but I did take their point. They did praise me for my vision, imagination and artistic skills but the exam was for a bedroom wallpaper and therefore it was the big F.It was the only F ever received and I don’t think I have ever drawn anything since.

Sitting here reliving that moment in my life reminds me of another teacher, my English teacher, who was forever telling me what a boring writer I was. I needed to get more interesting so I find it a bit ironic now that I spend a great deal of my time actually writing blogs, articles and books that other people actually like to read. When did I become interesting (and how)?

My final recollection on this impromptu theme of people’s negative comments, is where shortly after leaving high school in 1972, I applied for a job in a library and at the interview, the librarian in charge told me that I wouldn’t make a very good librarian. I’ve often wondered if it was the purple hair I had back then (I was always ahead of my time, now I would fit in very well!).

Ironically many years later I joined the staff of the John Oxley Library and that particular librarian was working at the State Library of Queensland too. Not long after I started she came up to me and said ‘I remember you’ and I replied that I remembered her and that long ago interview. We went on to do many genealogy events and desk rosters together and at one point I thought I might even try for her job when she eventually retired. That was not to be as I was lured back into archives by Queensland State Archives.

I’ve always believed we end up where we belong, doing what we should be doing – but how we get there is not always that clear. I wonder what they would think of me today (although I still colour my hair, wear makeup and have long painted nails) so perhaps not much has changed at all?


52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History Week 39 Least Favourite Foods

October 1st, 2011

I’m participating in the weekly blogging theme 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History and this week’s topic is all about our least favourite foods. When I first saw the topic all the horrible things Mum used to cook for me as a child instantly came to mind. Now before anyone says that’s not nice, I have to say my statement needs to be placed in the context of the times.

This was Brisbane, Queensland, Australia in the late 1950s, early 1960s before we had any real impact from the European and later Asian and African migrants who would make Australia their home. It was very much a meat and potato type diet and as my parents were not very well off, it was more offal than meat. My earliest food memories are of tripe with onions in a white sauce, lamb brains crumbed, lambs fry and bacon, steak and kidney with more kidney than steak and all served with lumpy mashed potatoes, peas and carrots.

Meal times were a bit of a battle as I simply could not eat tripe, brains, kidneys or lambs fry without gagging and eventually I ended up having sausages instead. The only trouble was Mum usually cooked my sausages in with the other ‘foods’ so they still smelt strange but at least they tasted like sausages. Even today if I see mashed potato, peas and carrots on my plate I have trouble eating them and there is no way that I can eat offal.

The best day of the week was Sunday when we had the traditional roast, usually lamb but it was probably mutton, and I can remember my brother and I fighting over the shank. That was always the best part.

As the 1960s progressed, I remember going to our first ever Chinese restaurant and having chicken chow mein and soon Chinese became a regular weekly takeaway event. When  my brother started playing soccer we made Italian friends and discovered pasta and pizza and again I discovered there was a whole world of good food out there. In the early 1970s I discovered Mexican food and chillies at Byron Bay and I use chillies in just about everything I cook today.

Mum wasn’t into baking so I don’t have any memories of cakes and biscuits and as she went back to work once my brother and I went to school, there wasn’t too much time for cooking anyway. I’m not into cakes and biscuits either but I do try and cook exotic dishes for dinner most nights. These days my taste is very much Asian and anything hot and spicy is good. My partner and I both like trying cuisine from different cultures and when we travel we always try and eat the local foods. Although the frog dish we had in Bali reminded me a lot of my experiences with offal!

I know my family was not alone in eating offal back then and some people still eat it today – but if you ever come to my place for dinner, I can guarantee you won’t be served any form of offal. It is still my least favourite food!


52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History Week 37 Earliest Memories

September 17th, 2011

I’m participating in the weekly blogging theme 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History and this week’s topic is all about our earliest memories. I find it hard to define earliest – is it what I actually remember or what I think I remember? A lot of  early photographs of me with my family often make me think I remember but I suspect I am just remembering having seen the photos before, and not the actual event.

Most of the earliest memories that spring to my mind are from Grade One at school – this was a big change in my life and I clearly remember the first day because I was so scared. That morning I proudly got dressed in my new uniform and Mum packed my lunch and a cold drink bottle into my school port which I carried on my back. I had been looking forward to going to school so much. Although Bardon State School in Brisbane was only about a 10-15 minute walk from our place, by the time I walked there on my own, I had scared myself silly. My mother had stayed at home with my younger brother.

Shauna in her Bardon State School uniform

Shauna in her Bardon State School uniform

It was 50 years ago and kids did walk to school then so what spooked me? Unknown to me my drink bottle was leaking and seeping out onto the back of my uniform. I had been told not to stop anywhere, so I kept going but was increasingly frightened by the ever spreading sticky wetness on my back. Had I been a little older I might have twigged it was just a leaky bottle but at the time it was all too strange.

Fortunately my first ever teacher was a lovely, motherly kind of woman and she immediately saw what the problem was and that I was upset. She was the type of teacher that kept spare children’s clothes at school just in case of illness or accidents. She helped me take off the uniform and put on a change of clothes and then rinsed it out so that it didn’t stain.

I can’t remember much more about that day but I have lots of memories from that first year of school and the things we did together in class. She was an excellent first year teacher and made our transition into the education system easier.

My memories of school after that year are not so pleasant and was often dependent on how well I got on with the teacher. But then that’s a story for another blog!


52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History Week 28 Summer

July 15th, 2011

I’m participating in the weekly blogging theme 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History and this week’s topic is all about Summer  and what it was like when I was growing up. This is very much related to last week’s topic on Vacations as we always had our annual holiday in summer.

As I have written in other blogs, I really only became aware of the seasons once I left Brisbane and moved south where the seasons are much more obvious. Now when I think of summer in Queensland perhaps the most vivid memory is the summer storm which could spring up quickly. Dark clouds, loud thunder so much so that the house shook, unbelievable lightning and incredibly heavy rain, if not hailstones.

I have yet to experience that kind of storm in either Canberra or Melbourne. Yes they get thunderstorms, lightning, heavy rain and hail but not like some of the storms I have experienced in Brisbane. We have been in Melbourne (actually west of Melbourne) since 2003 and it has been mostly drought conditions although this year we have seen more rain than previous years. The east side of Melbourne seems to get most of the storm damage but then they seem to have more trees than the west.  It seems to be windier here in Victoria too but perhaps that’s  just another of my perceptions.

I remember one really bad storm in Brisbane – we lived in a semi bush suburb and in those early days you would still see bandicoots and the odd wallaby hopping around. In this particular storm, lightning struck one the big gum trees in our back yard and literally blew it out of the ground. It fell backwards into the bush area behind our place – had if fallen forwards it would have hit the house. At first we thought something had exploded but after the storm we went outside and saw that the tree was uprooted, split in two and burnt.

It was an amazing sight and the closest I have ever been to a lightning strike. I always shudder when I hear people have been struck by lightning as I can still see what it did to that huge gum tree.

Summer is also cyclone season in Queensland and while we lived in the south east corner below where cyclones usually hit, occasionally one would come further south and create havoc with heavy rains, high tides and flooding.

I will indulge myself with one final Summer memory and that is of Christmas beetles. When I was a child it seemed that there were lots of Christmas beetles around but now when I go home for Christmas each year I rarely see them any more. In fact I can’t remember the last time I saw one.

I wonder why – it’s a bit like the soldier crabs I mentioned last week, there were always so many of them, and now they are gone too. How many other living creatures from my childhood are now missing in action? I’m going to have to give that some more thought and when I visit my family next month, I’ll ask them too.


52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History Week 27 Vacations

July 8th, 2011

Participating in the weekly blogging theme 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History is always a trip down memory lane and this week’s topic of Vacations is no different.

When we were really little our parents used to take us to Maroochydore to holiday with friends who had a house there. This was the early 1960s before anyone used to go to the Sunshine Coast and there were no high rise buildings and very few people. We used to go fishing and crabbing and one of the highlights was chasing all the soldier crabs on the mud flats at low tide. There must have been thousands of them everywhere, every day. On recent visits we haven’t been able to see any, so all the development must have impacted on their natural environment. There was no TV in the house and at night we went to bed early, worn out with all the physical activity.

When we  were a little older we started to go to the Gold Coast instead as Mum had three sisters who all moved there in the mid to late 1960s. I remember spending several Christmas holidays with one of my aunts and her family in a tent at the Kirra camping grounds – it’s not there any more either. That area was heavily eroded following a cyclone and over the years the camping ground got smaller and smaller with further erosion from high tides and storms until it closed. That aunt bought a house at Miami, another aunt was at Palm Beach and the third aunt at Southport with her daughter’s family.

In 1969 we threw away the tent and bought a caravan which seemed very luxurious after the very small tent. We left it permanently at a caravan park in Miami to be near to Mum’s closest sister. However, in a hail storm the caravan was not a good place to be, neither was a tent, but the caravan was ever so much noisier. I remember my brother and I were home alone during one afternoon hail storm and we were both scared but trying not to show it – but it was one of those hail storms with lots of big stones and seemed to last forever. I never liked the strong winds which made the van rock and could be quite scary at night.

My little brother was a nipper (junior life saver) with Burleigh Heads Surf Life Saving Club so we travelled down every weekend during the summer months and of course we spent Easter and Christmas holidays in the caravan park too. We used to go fishing, swimming, and seemed to live on the beach most of the day. With my fair skin I was forever getting sun burnt, and while I haven’t had any skin cancers (yet) my brother has an annual burn off (as he puts it).

Over the years we saw the Gold Coast change into the high rise, multi density city it has become but I haven’t stayed there in years. I still like the beach, walking on the sand, swimming but all the cars, people, buildings have made it very different from the place we knew when we were kids.

We are currently trying to find a retirement place where we can go fishing and crabbing, walk along the beach, see the native birds and other wildlife without too much traffic, people and high rise buildings. It’s getting harder and harder to find what a lot of us enjoyed when we  were growing up. But then on the other hand, I suspect today’s generations with all their technology might find that kind of vacation a bit too quiet. Happily, I have a son and nephew who both enjoy fishing so our family traditions won’t be lost too quickly.


52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History Week 26 Songs

July 1st, 2011

Due to all my travelling around over the last month or so, I have missed a few weeks of the blogging theme 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History. It is an excellent theme to generate personal memories and to then capture them into a regular blog.

This week’s theme is Songs and the question is what was the No 1 song in the year of your birth. The easiest way to find this out is to look at This Day in Music and while the information is not available (for my year) in Australia, I do know that The Green Door by Jim Lowe was No 1 in the USA and Frankie Laine was singing A Woman In Love in the UK.

Some years ago when I was living in Canberra I visited the National Film and Sound Archive and in their shop I purchased a CD with the music for the year of my birth. Artists popular that year were Gene Vincent with Be Bop A Lula, Dean Martin with Memories Are Made of This, Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers with Why Do Fools Fall In Love, Nat King Cole with Too Young To Go Steady and one of my all time favourties Fats Domino singing Blueberry Hill.

There are others on the CD but I won’t bore you by listing them all. Perhaps more amazing is whose not on the CD and that is Elvis Presley. I have always been an Elvis fan and I was led to believe this was because my mother listened to him constantly while pregnant with me (so I was indoctrinated/brainwashed even before I was born – it’s not really my fault).

Heartbreak Hotel did become a No 1 hit in the USA the year I was born, and his first movie Love Me Tender came out in the USA the month I was born but I now doubt whether he was that popular or well known here in Australia during Mum’s pregnancy. Certainly I remember as a small child listening to Love Me Tender (the film album) endlessly so perhaps it is still Mum’s fault that I like Elvis. I can even remember exactly what I was doing when I found out he had died, it’s a bit the same for Princess Diana.

Mum also had Bill Haley & the Comets’ records and other early rock artists so my taste in music (even today) is still very much in the 1950s. As I reached my teens the first album I ever bought for myself was Cosmo’s Factory by Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR). To this day I still have their records and now CDs and of course everything John Fogerty has produced as a single artist. CCR was one of the first bands I ever saw perform live when they visited Brisbane in the early 70s.

Thinking about that Creedence concert now, it is nearly 40 years ago and that’s a scary thought. There are lots of songs and artists that have made an impact on me over the years but I would have a hard time trying to identify more modern songs and artists. They don’t seem to have the same attraction for me as the music of the 50s to 70s. Do I need to grow up and start living in the modern world of music or is it ok to stay with the decades that gave me most musical pleasure? I’ve always been an independent soul so Elvis has just slipped into the CD drive and I’m off to relive some fond memories!


52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History Week 15 Sports

April 15th, 2011

I’m participating in the 52 weeks of personal genealogy and history challenge.

I’ve missed a few weeks in this series due to my overseas genealogy cruise and catching some dreaded virus on my return to Melbourne from the tropical north.

This week’s topic is sport and I don’t have a lot to talk about because as a sickly asthmatic child in primary school no one really wanted me on either the softball (summer) or basketball (winter) teams. I more often than not found myself on the sidelines cutting up the oranges for the other players.

My only real recollection of playing softball was the time I was hit in the face with the ball, luckily my nose wasn’t broken!

My younger brother was the athletic one playing soccer during the winter and being quite good at it too. So most weekends I was dragged along to watch him play. To this day I can’t bring myself to go to a football match of any code although I did watch my son’s games. Sadly, he was a bit like me when growing up, much preferred a good book or his computer.

Once I started high school I seemed to grow out of the asthma and took up swimming and played more tennis but not in any competitive way. I was still very ‘bookish’ and preferred weekend visits to the library rather than a playing field.

During summer my parents had a long standing love affair with the Gold Coast and most weekends we were dragged down there and of course during the summer holidays we lived down there. Both my brother and I liked surfing although he became much more a surfing addict than I did. I lost my enthusiasm after nearly drowning off  Burleigh Heads one year.

On my recent trip back to Brisbane I came across some early photos of my brother and I in our sporting gear – obviously our parents were proud of our achievements  and we were snapped on Mum’s old Box Brownie by the look of the photos.

Steve soccer Shauna tennis Bardon 1960s

Steve soccer Shauna tennis Bardon 1960s

Steve Shauna surfing Gold Coast 1960s

Steve Shauna surfing Gold Coast 1960s

I suspect the other photo is us on our very first surfboards, coolite by the look of it! My brother still goes regularly surfing down to Byron and other beaches in northern NSW.

Nowadays when I visit Byron, I do the shops and the restaurants, visit the lighthouse and think about the good old days.

The only sport I’ve done for the last few years (or is that decades) is chasing ancestors but we are planning to take up golf now that we are retired and of course, take the boat out more often and go fishing. Another pastime that my family used to do way back when but that’s another story!

I always find it amazing how many memories start to come back when I’m given a personal blog topic to think about. Probably why I enjoy being part of this challenge. If you haven’t tried it yet, I can thoroughly recommend it!


52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History Week 10 Disasters

March 9th, 2011

I’m participating in the 52 weeks of personal genealogy and history challenge.

I’m fortunate that my immediate family have never suffered a big disaster – my mother’s family were continually flooded out when she was young and that is the reason why there are few family photos on her side of the family.

The only small scale disaster I can recall as a child relates to our Christmas camping adventures on the Gold Coast in the 1960s. We used to holiday in a tent, Mum, Dad, me and my younger brother and  it wasn’t that big a tent once you had four beds, a table and chairs in it. There was also a cupboard for foodstuffs which stood against one wall of the tent.

I clearly remember the last time we ever went camping in a tent. It was Christmas, maybe 1967 or 1968 and there was heavy rain and wind from a cyclone which had come too far south that year. We were in Rudd Park, near Goodwin Terrace, Burleigh Heads.

We’d been out some where and had gone back to the tent because it was really raining and very windy from the tail end of what I think was a cyclone. We entered the tent and the cupboard with all the foodstuffs had been knocked over and glass jars and bottles smashed. It was a mess of sauce, honey and whatever else, which we had to start to clean up without getting cut by the glass.

A tent is not a big place in wet weather so tempers were a bit frayed to start with. At some point we noticed that the water was rising around us and the park was flooding, I still have images of the sauce bottle floating in the water. It became obvious that we were going to have to leave and I remember wading out in what was quite deep water but probably wasn’t given that I was still only about 10 or 11 years old.

I remember Dad saying something about we needed to take the tent too and Mum saying that the tent could stay there as she was never ever camping in a tent again. They bought a caravan in 1969 which is why I think this was 1967 or 1968. No doubt a search of newspapers will help me pin down the year.

By the way, I have never been in a tent since either. I don’t mind staying in caravans or cabins in caravan parks but I can’t bring myself to try a tent again.

Anyway that was my only personal experience of storm flooding and is quite minor when compared to what others have experienced in Queensland over the years.

The 1974 Brisbane flood had a tremendous impact on many people and it had a minor impact on me as I was due to start my first full time job in January 1974 in Albert Street in the CBD, down the river end. I spent the weekend in great excitement but as the rain came down, and the river rose, and the city submerged I knew I wasn’t going to be starting work that week. They rang and told me that given the building was underwater, they were delaying my start until it was safe.

I think it was about a week later they rang and said it was ok to turn up for work. Going into the building that first day it was hard to believe that it had been under water and anyone who hasn’t seen Brisbane in flood conditions must wonder how the city can become so submerged. The 2011 flood brought all these memories back as where my son now works also went under water and he had to have a few days off while the building was made clean and safe again.

As I said at the beginning I have been lucky (so far) with disasters but even small scale events can still leave lingering memories and destroy personal collections. Backup everything is probably a saying that we should repeat almost on a daily basis.


52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History Week 9 Sounds

March 4th, 2011

I’m participating in the 52 weeks of personal genealogy and history challenge.

This week’s challenge is to describe sounds that take you back to your childhood. This one stumped me for a while as I couldn’t really think of any sounds that opened up memories. In fact I still only have one memory that I can write about.

I now live on the outskirts of Melbourne and there is not a lot of bush around us anymore. I don’t really hear too many bird noises out here – we do have some magpies, pigeons, sparrows, blackbirds and Indian mynas – but not the bird sounds of my childhood. In an earlier post I described how we had the bush behind us in Brisbane and how we use to feed the laughing kookaburras.

If there is one sound that triggers memories of growing up it is the sound of a kookaburra laughing. We used to hear them all the time, they seemed to be everywhere. It is one of the things I really like about visiting Brisbane and Mum still lives near a creek with the bush only a five minute walk down the street.

Whenever I am home we go for a morning walk along the creek and see all the birds, even scrub turkeys, the odd snake, lots of lizards, tortoises and most mornings we can hear at least one kookaburra laughing. As I watch the kids walk home from the school near me, I wonder how many of them have even seen a kookaburra let alone heard it laugh.

It is such an iconic Australian bird to me, and so closely tied to those childhood memories of feeding them, worrying about them in the storms, the hail and the wind. I have just done a Google search on ‘kookaburras’ and there are YouTube videos of laughing kookaburras, and an entry in Wikipedia and so on. Obviously I am not alone in my love and respect for this ’sound’ from my childhood!


52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History Week 8 Technology

February 26th, 2011

I’m participating in the 52 weeks of personal genealogy and history challenge.

This week’s topic is all about what were some of the technological advances that happened during your childhood. Wow – where to start as there has been incredible change during my 50 something years.

After some thinking I have come up with my top 3 technological advances that impacted me the most in hindsight.

Without doubt the purchase of our first television changed our lives (and our eating habits). We always used to eat together as a family at least up until our high school years. When we bought the TV it went into the lounge room but we all were soon addicted to the TV (even though it was B&W).  And no we didn’t start eating in the lounge room!

Our lounge and dining rooms were really one big room so it was a relatively easy matter to turn the TV around at dinner time, although it was incredibly heavy. We always had to watch the news and then my strongest memory is of Bob and Dolly Dyer and Pick A Box which we watched religiously. I can still remember Barry Jones and his debates with Bob.

Of course with the TV on that was the end of dinner conversation as a family unless we could do it within the adverts and there didn’t seem to be that many back then. After dinner I had to go to my room and do homework, especially when I was in high school, and I remember having to yell to turn the TV down so that I could think. It was only a small house and my brother would be playing his music in his room across the hall to make it even more chaotic. I ended up using ear plugs.

Even today I tend to associate dinner time with the 6.00pm news and I strongly suspect that is why Queensland still doesn’t have daylight saving – they are all inside watching the news on TV and having dinner at 6.00pm, which would only be 5.00pm real time. I never really believed the curtains would fade.

My second technologically shattering event was the invention of the pop up toaster. I can’t tell you how many times I used to burn my fingers on the old toaster which you had to open from the sides to put the bread in and then open without burning yourself once it got hot. I also used to burn a lot of toast as well. So for me the pop up toaster was simply the best invention after sliced bread or was it before sliced bread! Everyone’s allowed one trivial memory!

From a non family perspective the greatest event I ever witnessed was Neil Armstrong walking on the moon. It was a school day and I was in a small high school in Brisbane. Due to the significance of the event, we were all herded into the science lab to watch the television. We stood there for what seemed like hours (thankfully it was winter) but it is still incredible to think we were watching it live on television.

I had always been fascinated by astronomy and outer space and I used to watch all those early B&W space movies and so on. My first real love was William Shatner aka Captain Kirk from the Starship Enterprise – none of the other spin offs have captured my attention as much as the original series did.

If I was to come closer to the present, one would have to say things like my first computer and then laptop, the joy of email, the internet not to mention mobile phones and all the other gadgets that we can no longer seem to live without. My generation has certainly seen a lot of technological change in our everyday lives. I am left wondering what my Gen Y son would say to the same question.


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