Mum was born in Grenfell on June 16, 1919, the only child of George and Bertha Graham, George was a bit of an entrepreneur I think, owning both the local newsagency and tea rooms. They had a lovely home in East St in Grenfell where George grew beautiful flowers and fruit and vegetables, a talent which he passed on to Mum, and now to grandaughter Kylie. The ownership of the newsagency became very handy when I was doing a school project, as if I ran out of sticky tape or glue Mum would simply get on the phone to Harry Nicholl who leased the newsagency for many years, and request that we come through the back door on a Sunday afternoon and purchase whatever was needed. Harry musn’t have minded too much as when Peter and I married he loaned us his car for the bridal party and also gave us a copy of the very first Margaret Fulton cook book which I still have.
At some point in Mum’s childhood, the family moved to Moss Vale where again they ran the newsagency, But Grenfell called them back, and they remained there for the rest of their lives, where Bertha passed away in 1960 and George in 1966.
Mum completed her schooling in Grenfell – apparently she was quite academic and a talented sportsperson. Although she and Dad went to the same school they insist they did not really meet until they had both left school and met at a local dance. Those of you who know how small Grenfell is may find this difficult to believe – I for one always have!
They married during the war years in Grenfell in 1942. Dad was a civilian plumber attached to the military during the war and they moved around quite a bit, spending time at Bathurst and also at Harris Park in Sydney. They were in Sydney when the Japanese mini subs crept in and Mum has a photo of Sydney Harbour on that day. Dad was then moved to Queensland attached to the US forces there and at this time Mum moved back to Grenfell to sit the war years out with her parents, helping out in the newsagency and tea rooms.
Dad came back to join his father in the plumbing business and Mum became the receptionist, book keeper and debt collector for some 40 years until they both retired in 1985.
I was born in 1948, carrying on the tradition of being an only child. We lived with Mum’s parents in East St until 1953, when we moved into the typical 3 bedroom 3 fronted fibro and tile house in Warraderry St. typical of those which sprung up all over the country after the war. The flower, fruit and vegetable garden was quickly established, and many were exhibited with great success in the annual Grenfell show.
In 1958 Mum and Dad bought a cottage in the holiday resort of Long Jetty. The family had been caravanning at Blue Lagoon, and renting other people’s garages and verandahs for some years when this decision was made. The house was fitted out courtesy of Mum and Dad’s efforts at the chocolate wheel and Housie at The Entrance. We would go down every night and return with armfuls of canisters, tea sets, saucepans and so on. Setting up the garden was quite a challenge, working with black sand and tank water! However a couple of frangipannis eventually were coaxed into flourishing. Retirement to the coast was always going to be an option, and even though it took much longer than expected this was eventually Mum’s decision.
Some of the best times I enjoyed with Mum were our annual visits to Sydney. The main purpose of this was to have her eyes tested and her hair permed. We would stay with relatives in Leichhardt, and take in a pantomime or other live show. On the way home I had to endure the smell of the perming lotion on her hair! She was still having her hair and nails done up until last week. Thanks so much to Sue for helping Mum to keep looking glamourous!
Mum was never an instigator but she was a great supporter. When Dad decided to reform the Swimming Club after it had folded during the war years, Mum was there. He was president and she was secretary, handicapper and general dogsbody for many years. Meetings were held around the family dining room table. Raffles were organised and cakes were baked. Interclub visits were organised and buses booked. When there were too many for the bus, Mum would drive the family car, and as the swimmers were old enough to drive, allowed them to drive the car back to Grenfell after the carnivals. She would pile almost half a school hockey team in the car to take us to carnivals as far afield as Orange . It didn’t occur to me until much later that we were one of the few families with two cars and that mum was one of the few mothers who could drive. She used her cookery skills to benefit the local school fete – lovely healthy food like toffees, marshmallows and coconut ice came from the kitchen, along with pikelets and passionfruit sponges. She taught me to drive in the 1963 Valiant station wagon– out on the country roads we would go, following the school bus routes. This was before I even had my L plates, and on one memorable afternoon, I almost demolished the fence at the front of the house while trying to get the car into the driveway.
When Dad decided to become a Lion, Mum became a Lioness. When Dad became a Rotarian, Mum was there beside him. They hosted many exchange students, as after I had left home, my bedroom became the guest room.
When I left Grenfell to go to Teachers’ College, Mum and Dad took up travelling. They started small, with a cruise to Singapore in 1969, and over the next 10 or 15 years took in New Zealand, Tasmania, the US, Japan and Britain and Europe. As they got older they joined Probus and enjoyed the many trips offered by the club.
Mum loved her sport. She was a keen supporter of the South Sydney Rabbitohs, and followed them keenly. We watched a match only a couple of weeks ago. She would sit up late at night listening to Test Cricket matches from England, and when television came to town she was able to comment on every missed ball. As she would condemn the unfortunate player, Dad would often say – so do you think you could do better?
Mum’s parents owned a 1948 Ford. It was a monster of a car. We would all pile in of a weekend and follow the local Grenfell football and cricket teams all over the area. That was the time when the car was nosed onto the edge of the field and horns were blown loudly when a try was scored or a 4 was hit.
Mum also loved animals, particularly cats. She had two cats, Henry and Snorkey who lived with them at the newsagents. For my 6th birthday I was given Tibby, a beautiful grey and white kitten who was so wild that he was locked in the back room for days. He became the most loving cat, and even though he was officially mine, it was Mum who provided the chuck steak and kidney for breakfast and dinner plus the numerous treats. It Mum who cared for him when I moved out, and later arranged his burial in the back yard. She then became mother to Lucky, and foster Mum to Hamlet when I was unable to keep him in one of my many moves. She rescued and found homes for three orphan kittens abandoned in the vacant block next door. At our home for Christmas in 1986, she spent almost the entire day sitting on the lounge in the same place so our very young ginger kitten, Bandit could sleep the day away, on her lap, undisturbed. She was also an avid supporter of Guide Dogs and was rewarded for her support when in 2007 she was invited to the Graduation Ceremony at the Guide Dog Training Centre at Glossidia near Windsor. The fact that I was still teaching, that it was a school day, and that I ran into one of my students who happened to be one of the graduating dog’s family all seemed unimportant given the pleasure she received from this experience. Having seen the conditions under which these dogs live, I think Mum would consider returning to earth as a Guide Dog a good idea.
Mum and Dad lived next door to a government house which over the years was home to mainly teachers and other government employees. She adopted them all, and their animals, becoming feeder and dog walker when the owners were away. One little dog, Goldie, became so attached that when her owners moved up to Rose St, she still kept coming back to visit Mum. When Goldie and her owners moved to Sofala near Bathurst, Mum and Dad went to visit the dog! At the village at Point Clare she quickly became a favourite of the live in village dog.
Mum took great delight in her three grandchildren, Chris, Kylie and Andrew. Even though distance prevented a really close relationship with visits being based around school holidays,she never forgot a birthday, and we enjoyed alternate Christmas gatherings in Grenfell. I assume she and Dad eventually forgave Chris for destroying a cassette tape when he got up early one morning and decided to investigate the tape player, and for helping in the garden by pulling out the potatoes and daffodils. When she moved to Point Clare she and Kylie shared their love of gardening, one small pot plant mushroomed into several – she then extended into the garden, and even got the staff involved with the planting and feeding of her plants. We were able to enjoy outings with fish and chips anywhere being a particular favourite. The birth of her great grand daughter Emily in 2004 brought great excitement, especially as she was able to see her just after her birth.
Dad passed away in 1999, and Mum stayed on in Grenfell, continuing on with her many activities including Probus and Gunyah where she sold flowers and vegetables. In 2003 she phoned me and said – do you still want the ottoman? Which I should explain is a big blanket storage box which I had always said I would like. When asked why, she said – because I’m selling the house. When asked where she was planning on living she said she didn’t really know. As the house was sold within a week, decisions had to be made quickly, and thus she decided to move into the self care accomodation at the Aubrey Downer Memorial Homes at Point Clare. This brought her close to myself, her grandchildren and soon to arrive great grand daughter Emily. Mum spent 5 very happy years there until a fall in 2008 resulted in a broken hip. After a total replacement she was up and running within 3 weeks. When Mum turned 90 in 2009, she celebrated with two of her cousins and their family as well as her grandchildren and partners. Lunch at Mingara turned into a wonderful afternoon of reminiscing as memories of the good old days were enjoyed. Mum’s last few years were spent at Jeffress Hostel at Point Clare, where she remained until 5 days before her passing.
We are very grateful to the all carers who looked after Mum, both at Aubrey Downer, with special thanks to Judith ,Denise, Sue and Lori and to Maria who helped Mum produce such wonderful craft items. Thanks also to those at Legacy who showed such compassion – Greer, Marilyn, Robert, Julie and Sandi – her stay was brief, but the care shown was great. We know she is peaceful and happy now, gone travelling with Fred.