52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History Week 3 – Cars

Week 3: Cars. What was your first car? Describe the make, model and color, but also any memories you have of the vehicle. You can also expand on this topic and describe the car(s) your parents drove and any childhood memories attached to it.

I’m going to jump straight to family cars. Here is my Mum’s car. She learned to drive after her marriage to my Dad ended and we moved back to Dubbo where her parents were. She bought the car second hand from her father. It was a Valiant, a beige Valiant station wagon. It had a bench seat in the front so we could seat three in the front when necessary. As the eldest of four I sat in the front and the other kids in the back.

Our house

The house I grew up in, with the car next to it.

My first driving lessons were in this car. It was a terrible thing, big and heavy. It had a column shift, coming out of the steering column. I ran it into a tree ( I nearly missed it!) at a very low speed and not a scratch did the car suffer.

This is the only photo I can find that has the car in it that doesn’t show people that may not want to be displayed for all to see in my blog. Some of them are in this picture too, but I’m confident that they’re privacy is secure.

I will save the commentary on the house for a future post which I’m sure will be coming over the next few months.

My grandfather had a small farm in his semi-retirement. He used to take my sister and me out there on Sundays, and we used to ride in the back of the ute. We watched farming stuff going on – sheep being dipped and so on. We got our cat from a litter of kittens on the farm. Here we are disembarking after one of these trips:

Pop's ute

Pop's ute

I don’t know when riding in the back of a ute became illegal. Perhaps it was already illegal by then. We loved it!

Here is my grandfather and his young family in perhaps the mid-1930s. I like to think this was his first car, but I don’t really know.

Grandfather's car

Grandfather's car

Actually I’m only guessing that it’s his car. He’s in the middle and looking proprietorial so I think I’m safe. I can imagine the family piling into the car and chugging off home, with all these other people waving them off.

Any information about what sort of car this is would be very welcome!

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History Week 2 – Winter

Week 2: Winter. What was winter like where and when you grew up? Describe not only the climate, but how the season influenced your activities, food choices, etc.

This challenge runs from Saturday, January 8, 2011 through Friday, January 14, 2011.

Amy Coffin of the We Tree blog ( has yet another successful series on her hands: 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History (

No. It’s not winter here in Australia. It’s the middle of summer. The heat, humidity, bright sunshine, thunderstorms, cicadas singing, cats bringing mice in, bark falling off the gum trees, kids screaming and splashing in neighbours’ pools; all these things tell us it’s summer in Sydney.

Summer in Dubbo where I grew up was hot. Dubbo is in western New South Wales, in the middle of wheat and sheep country. It was a dry heat but it got much hotter than it does here in Sydney. I do not like the heat.

Christmas was a bit strange. We send each other postcards with snow and icicles and so on when outside it is pushing 40C. Some of us still have a big baked dinner in the middle of the day, heating the house up even more with the oven.

I much prefer winter. It is easier to keep warm in winter than to keep cool in summer. I like the cocooning thing, of closing the house up and keeping warm. I like the clothes better, too.

My mother grew up in Blayney, where it is colder than Dubbo. Her family all seem to remember the day it snowed and they all went up on the hill behind the house and played with the snow. They point to the hill and say ‘remember when it snowed…’. So snow wasn’t common.

I had never seen snow until I travelled overseas to Switzerland. Later I saw it at the Grand Canyon in the US. When I was 16 I went on a school excursion to Tasmania and we saw some old dirty snow on the mountain behind Hobart but I don’t think that really counts. We scraped up what we could and made it into balls and threw it at each other.

Carole ready for work c.1975Winter in Dubbo wasn’t a big deal. It doesn’t snow. It gets cold, but I don’t remember it being a big issue. We had a wood-burning stove, the type that was enamelled and had little mica windows that you couldn’t see through. That’s how I learned to light a fire. It had to be lit when I got home from school, before Mum came home from work. We used to build cubby houses (sort of) out of the firewood before it was stacked away in the shed.

Later we moved to a house with an oil-heater. The tank was on the wall in the car port outside the lounge room wall where the heater was, and a truck would come and fill it once a year.

The only other difference about winter was the clothes. We would need a jumper, and perhaps a jacket. I had a black dufflecoat in high school, one of those ones with wooden toggles on the front. I didn’t particularly like it so I swapped it with my boyfriend for his army greatcoat. A lot of my friends had dufflecoats too. And desert boots. Do they still make desert boots?

I’ve tried to find a photo from my childhood that shows ‘winter’ and I can’t find any. Pictures of people in front of the heater in the fireplace are not very inspiring. This is a picture of me dressed up for work in front of the fireplace in a fuzzy jacket. I was about 15. The shiny black shoes had a red and a yellow stripe across them. Ah, those were the days!

The picture is interesting, though, even though it is not very wintery. You can see we’d been to Fiji, where winter means you may have to put on a light cardigan and it doesn’t rain so much. We had a black and white TV that my uncle had given us when he bought a colour one. By the time my family bought a colour one I had left home and I got this black and white one.

The baby picture on the mantle piece is of me. I’m the eldest, and that’s the price we have to pay. The mural on the wall came from my uncle too, from memory, but I can’t remember the circumstances. The heater had a vent at the back that went through into the kitchen/dining room, so the door could be closed and the rooms both stay warm.

At least I’ve been prompted to do some more photo scanning!

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

That’s a long title and it’s going to get tedious as the weeks go on.

The question  is:

Week 1: New Year’s. Did your family have any New Year’s traditions? How was the New Year celebrated during your childhood? Have you kept these traditions in the present day?

The answer is no. It wasn’t. I don’t know anyone who celebrated New Year’s Day, certainly not in my extended family.

So we’ve had to make our own traditions. My husband and I used to do the NYE thing when we were younger.  These are from 1988. we had a great spot at Taronga Zoo, which is on the harbour at Mosman:

Carole at Taronga Zoo

1988 fireworks

As you can see, the fireworks were not as spectacular twenty years ago as they are today. Cameras didn’t take great pictures in low light either. These were scanned from prints. Actually the photos are from the Bicentennial celebrations on Australia Day, 26 January 1988, but you get the idea. I think this was the first year the Bridge was used for fireworks.

Sydney Harbour Bridge 1988

We still like the fireworks but we don’t go in to the city to see them in person any more. It’s all too much hassle. It took us nearly an hour just to get out of the Taronga Zoo car park that night in 1988. We’d had to camp all day to get a good spot, and that was even after buying two of the restricted number of tickets for Zoo Friends. We had the Zoo to entertain us but once we’d picked a spot we had to stay there.

These days we watch them on TV. Up until this year we had a tradition of getting takeaway Thai food, but this year we had leftover risotto. We drink champagne, or sparkling shiraz, and watch movies, interrupting them for the kids fireworks at 9 and the big ones at 12.

New Year's fireworks 2011

Courtesy Channel 9 Sydney

The TV is much bigger, and with a much better picture, than the one we would have watched in 1988. All the more reason to stay at home. We prefer watching movies at home these days too. A sign of age, or of better technology? Perhaps both.

I don’t really make New Year’s Resolutions, but I do think about what I’ve achieved in the last year and what is ahead of me this year. Perhaps it’s time to formalise this process and write things down.