52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History Week 7 Toys

February 20th, 2011

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

This week’s topic is all about what was your favourite childhood toy. I was always a bit of a tomboy so even though I was given the obligatory Barbie doll when she came out in 1959 (I’m a few years older than Barbie and I have great trouble accepting that Barbie is now a 50+ woman), I don’t think I ever really played with dolls.  I was more likely to be found swimming down the creek or fishing and yabbying.

Living in Brisbane it was usually hot and humid and in the days before water restrictions, we used to have a canvas pool with a steel frame (about 6ft x 4ft and maybe 18 inches deep) – I’d put that into metric but that is still one of the things I’ve never really mastered. It was really just big enough for me and my younger brother to splash around in with the family dog on a hot summer’s day.

We also had a ‘Cowboy and Indian’ tent which gave us endless hours of fun with our toy guns and bows and arrows. Yet when my own son was little I wouldn’t let him have guns or other weapons – how the world changed. But in my own defence, I did use to take him down to the Brisbane River and we would chase and sometimes even catch the fiddler crabs in the mudflats (catch and release was my motto even then).

I also used to spend hours in this makeshift bird hide I constructed on the back verandah so that I could watch all the various birds in the bush behind us. It was just old blankets and sheets but I felt that the birds couldn’t see me.

Probably the main reason I didn’t have that many toys to play with is because I was actually a reader and most people gave me books as presents rather than toys. I’m still a reader and there are probably enough books in my current house to set up my own library – every time I move it’s a nightmare and I often end up giving friends books I know they would like and the Salvos get the rest.

I think my interests in life were set in those early years (although it took me over two decades to realise it) but my favourite books were Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five series. I’ve always loved solving mysteries – is that why I got into genealogy – and I have always loved criminal detective books and TV shows. I can’t get enough of them or genealogy for that matter – is it all Enid Blyton’s fault??

Well this was supposed to be about childhood toys, but toys could be loosely defined as anything that you spend time doing which is why I have included some of my other childhood activities. The question I am left with is – how many other genealogists read The Famous Five while growing up?


52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History Week 5 – Food

February 11th, 2011

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

Surprisingly this has been a difficult blog to write as I have been unable to pick a central theme. I like all foods and cooking styles but if I focus back to my primary school years I would have to say that I always liked Friday nights. That was fish and chip night and unwrapping the newspaper and letting out all those wonderful smells is an enduring memory. I can’t remember it from my teenage years so we obviously stopped the tradition at some point but I don’t know why.

Perhaps the only memory of food and my maternal grandmother is the coconut ice cream she used to make – she must have cooked other things but I can’t recall anything. Sadly no one has a copy of her exact recipe. She died when I was 7 years old but I do remember that she was the catalyst for all Mum’s siblings getting together on a regular basis. A feature of those nights was Sao biscuits with tomato and cheese and still a favourite with me today. Although I like to put raw onion on them too! After my grandmother’s death, these nights gradually ceased as everyone got caught up in their own individual lives.

My father always liked to BBQ, cooking outdoors whenever he could and this is a tradition that I still retain – we cook outside most nights of the week and breakfast at the weekend is always bacon and eggs on the barbie. He was also a keen fisherman and always cooked his own fish and crabs – something that we still do when we get the time to go fishing. My son also likes his BBQs and fishing so perhaps that is a family trait that we have developed.

These days my eating habits are very much Asian with a love of Indian, Thai and Malaysian curries – my partner lived in Malaysia for 3 years so his curries are very much authentic and probably a good thing that we both love spicy curries. A trip to Vietnam is now planned as we have become addicted to Luke Nguyen’s Vietnam cooking show on SBS.  We love the way he uses fresh chillies and makes it all look so simple.

As I said at the start, this Food challenge is difficult as so much of our lives is spent eating with friends and family and as such, there are so many memories attached to thoughts of food. It would be good to ask this question at the next family gathering and see what others remember.

Looking forward to Week 6 – it is really good trying to remember childhood memories. I think I am getting better at it!


52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History Week 6 – Radio & Television

February 11th, 2011

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

This week’s topic is all about our favourite radio or television show when we were kids. I remember loving Romper Room and each time I waited for Miss Betty to say my name at the end of the program but it was always the more regular kind of kid’s names. There weren’t that many Shauna’s in the late 50s early 60s in Australia so although I watched Romper Room, my memories are more of disappointment and wanting to be like the other kids. My surname was Norwegian and having an Irish given name was an odd combination that no one could pronounce or spell!

My happier memories of television are because we lived just down the road from the television studios in Brisbane. Our parents used to drop us off there, along with the neighbour’s kids, every Saturday and we used to be part of the audience for the local children’s shows on Channels 7, 9 and 10. We used to pick a different station each week. I can honestly say I remember Kerri-Anne Kennerley when she was young, along with Jacki MacDonald and a host of other local Brisbane TV presenters of the 60s.

If it was your birthday you got selected to participate in some of the sessions and both my brother and I were in special segments at various times, even our dog Scamp was on the pets session. I remember winning a game by Professor Julius Sumner Miller and they gave it to me because they said I looked the brainy type! Wish I still had the game but can’t remember what happened to it. Probably disposed of after I left home.

I even remember my little brother’s 5 minutes of fame – he went on the tell a joke segment and Beanpole asked him what was his joke. My brother said ‘Why was the sand wet?’ and the answer was ‘because the sea weed’. I can still remember the whole audience laughing and Beanpole asking can we say that on live television – how times have changed. It is still the only joke that I can remember.

I wonder if that television footage is somewhere in the studio archives – it would be really great to see ourselves again as young children. Although without dates I suspect it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack even if it has survived.

A few years back now I took my son to be in the audience of Gladiators when it was filmed in Brisbane. He loved the show and being in the audience was just so much better and more exciting. You also experience the energy and enthusiasm of those sitting around you.

There are a few shows filmed here in Melbourne – I must try and get into an audience again. It is definitely more fun being part of the show than just watching at home and if you can catch a glimpse of yourself on TV,even better!


52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History Week 4 – Home

January 28th, 2011

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

This week’s challenge is to describe the home we grew up in. This is much easier for me as my parents stayed in the same place for the whole of their married life. Not like their gypsy daughter!

We moved there shortly after my brother was born and I was still a young child. Before that we had been living in a small place behind some family friends.  It was in one of Brisbane’s western suburbs, on the side of a very steep hill and backed onto bushland. The house itself was just a smallish, 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom basic home of the 1950s.

My most vivid memories however are not so much of the house itself but of the wildlife that used to be there in the 1950s and1960s. Today people don’t believe me when I say that I had to fight (scare) off the bandicoots before I could go to the old thunder box in the backyard at night. There was an owl that used to live in the tree outside my window and often scared the life out of me. Or the night I turned the light on to see heaps of green tree frogs plastered to the outside of my window – I think I screamed the house down!

We used to hand feed the kookaburras, routinely kill snakes in the backyard, sometimes even the front yard and I can still remember crying when a carpet snake got into our budgie cage. We never did find out what happened to the guinea pigs. If we were lucky the odd wallaby or two would wander in or jump past. And let’s not forget the possums!

At the bottom of the hill there was an open creek (long since filled in as it used to flood all those living below) but we used to love collecting tadpoles, fishing and yabbying not to mention swimming on hot days. Kids growing up in that area now wouldn’t even realise that you could, once upon a time, do those activities in their street.

We don’t have many photos, although I am sure that Mum must have a photo somewhere of the old house. I must ask her next time I am in Brisbane. The house is still there and surrounded by more modern homes but it has been added to and probably changed inside as well. When Dad died, Mum sold the house to live somewhere where it wasn’t so hard to look after the yard and garden. It was, sadly, the end of an era.


52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History – Week 3 Cars

January 19th, 2011

This week’s topic is one that I do have clear memories of.

As a teenager I wasn’t all that fussed on getting a driver’s license and in fact, I was in my early 20s before I obtained my first driver’s license. By then I was married and my husband had a blue volkswagen but we replaced it shortly after I got my license with a Honda Civic which I really loved. However that marriage didn’t last and sadly the car went with the ex and I was carless yet again.

I remarried a few years later and my husband was a sports car fan so we had a blue Celica hatchback which I now blame for my lower back pain. When our son was born I was the one who drove to work, dropping him off at kindy on the way and getting him in and out of the two door Celica was a strain on my back at the time. In  the afternoon I repeated the process and we did that for quite a few years as my husband did not want to trade in the Celica hatchback for a family car.

Then my husband was diagnosed with cancer and we traded the Celica in for a family car (it’s a long story) and we bought a red 4 door Ford Telstar which was much more family friendly. After surviving cancer my husband then bought himself another sports car, this time a Supra (all second hand of course) while I kept the Telstar.

This marriage also didn’t go the distance and I moved to Canberra taking the Telstar with me but there didn’t seem to be any point in having a family car without a family. So I bought my first ever car for myself. What did I buy? A very sexy midnight blue Mazda MX6 with sunroof and all the works. Talk about a mid life crisis but that car sure did attract some looks and not a few tried to drag me off at the lights!

As I approached my 50th birthday the mid life crisis had passed and I wondered if it was time to settle down. Plus I was finding it harder to get in and out of the low seats of the MX6. I had always wanted a BMW – don’t ask me why because I don’t know. So a few months after my 50th I went out and bought a second hand Beemer, a lovely light green colour that matched my nail polish that week (maybe I wasn’t quite grown up yet). The sales person told me that no one liked green cars and that was why this one was cheaper than other BMWs of the same age and make. When I pointed out that it perfectly matched my nail polish he simply looked at me as if I was strange. However I am not silly and did get it checked out by the RACV before I bought it.

I really love driving the BMW and it has travelled many kilometres with me and although I really should start to think about replacing it, I will be sad to part with it.

It’s funny how our cars are an integral part of our lives and represent different stages and events all with their own memories. I hadn’t really thought about it until doing this challenge. It has been interesting reflecting on my own life through events associated with the cars in my life!


52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History – Week 2 Winter

January 12th, 2011

Like Week 1 in this series 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History, I am finding it hard to remember things from my childhood. I simply cannot remember winter in Queensland although I was there for over 40 years which seems unbelievable.

However I think I didn’t really appreciate winter and the other seasons of the year until I went to live in Canberra in 1999. Canberra is a city where you do experience all the seasons and there is quite a difference between them. Autumn is the time when the foliage turns a brilliant red and golden hues before the leaves fall to the ground. In winter there are no leaves and everything looks quite dead (except for the pine trees), the days are short and you quite often wake up to the most amazing frosts on the ground which makes it look like it has snowed. Come spring, all the trees and other plants renew themselves and everything becomes green again and you know that winter is over. That first winter in Canberra it actually snowed for me and I remember talking to my mother on the telephone while standing on my balcony watching the snow fall!

In Brisbane’s semi tropical climate you don’t really see such a contrast between the seasons so I think my lack of memories is because so much of the year was the same only with summer being hotter and more humid.

One winter memory from my Brisbane childhood does stand out and that is because I was a very sickly child and suffered from bronchial asthma during my primary school years. I can’t remember how old I was (probably early 1960s) when one winter my doctor told my parents that they should buy me an electric blanket as it would keep me warm without the additional weight (and dust) of the blankets I usually had piled up on top of me. There was some debate because of the ‘expense’ so electric blankets must have been a relatively new product but my parents did end up buying me one and I used it for years. My health also improved and by my teenage years I had outgrown the asthma.

Nowadays I think we tend to use doonas more than electric blankets although some people still prefer the latter. I haven’t used one (except in motels when travelling) since I left home in 1975. Even in cold Canberra all I had was the doona, although a heavy duty one!

Winter here in Melbourne over the last 7 years has been relatively pleasant, not all that cold or wet due to the drought (which is now well and truly over). But Melbourne can have really cold December days so even though there are clear seasons here, there are often times when that is blurred. Sometimes you even have all 4 seasons in the one day!!

I am looking forward to Week 3 in this series – just hoping that it is on a topic that I can remember!


52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History – Week 1 New Year’s Day

January 3rd, 2011

Well I have just signed up for another 52 weeks of improving my genealogy skills with Geneabloggers. Last year’s theme was Better Genealogy and this year the theme is Personal Genealogy & History.

The first week is looking at New Year’s Day traditions in the family and sad to say I can’t remember any times we celebrated new year but we must have. I know every year my parents and younger brother and I used to go down to the Gold Coast and after my 12th birthday we had a caravan that we left down there. We used to travel down every weekend, especially in the summer months. So for New Year we would have been in a caravan park, and earlier it would have been a tent in a camping ground. But I can’t recall ever seeing the New Year in.

Even today I don’t really celebrate New Year – in fact this year I totally slept through it! When I have been in Brisbane for New Year and staying at New Farm, we would walk down to the river and watch the fireworks although we could see some of them from the second storey of our house.

One year in Melbourne we stayed overnight in the city and watched the fireworks but there were so many people it was a struggle just getting back to the hotel and we’ve never done it since. Strange  but I can’t remember any New Year parties in Canberra either.

I am an early riser and not into late nights at any time, so maybe I simply don’t attend New Year parties and celebrations – certainly while I think the fireworks are impressive, I do wonder what else the money could be spent on.

I am going to ask those close to me about their New Year memories just to see if I am totally forgetting something, but I suspect that it is not a tradition that I have ever really followed.

Week 1 has certainly got me thinking about my own personal genealogy & history- it’s a bit of a worry that I don’t seem to be able to remember anything!


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