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 (http://wetree.blogspot.com/) has yet another successful series on her hands: 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History (http://www.geneabloggers.com/52-weeks-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!