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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

More of Marjory Lawrence’s memories


Marjory Lawrence (later Long) wrote to her oldest sister Joy (later Wood): These writings are really a ramble of mainly our Lawrence life and some of my life. Many you will have shared, but they may revive memories.

An early memory is of you taking me to start school. I was a few weeks short of five years, and the school told you to take me home. Mum took me back and explained my birth date and I was accepted. We all went home for lunch. I often had a penny to buy lollies at the shop.

Do you remember ‘Hancocks’ at the top of Clarendon Street (Thornbury)?

When the Depression was bad, we would take a cut lunch to give to a child who was without a lunch.

We seemed to have lots of people in our lives. As a family we knew each other’s friends, and sometimes their families. We were often in their back yards, kitchens or bedrooms. There were relatives living close by; I guess it was tribal.

We were blessed with a stable home life and so lucky to have our Merricks life also – suburban, country, beach – what a great childhood.

We were fed well. I liked Mum’s rabbit stew, canary pudding and she made a short pastry pie with sausages for filling. Her lamb rissoles were good.

Do you remember Dad cooking bacon and eggs for breakfast at Merricks?

We also had cocoa before bedtime.

Chummy Club: you organised (sister) Sylvia and me to have activities and took us to the parks. I think we sat under the bed for meetings and you wrote a paper sometimes. I don’t remember you being cross with us but Sylvia and I didn’t always agree with one another. We kicked each other in bed.

You let me look at your things and try your make-up. I loved seeing your evening dresses. Particularly a mauve one which you wore with mauve butterflies in your hair.

Later, us three girls had some things similar – beach pyjamas, kiminos, grey tailored shorts, jodphurs, dirndles. We used to sun bathe at the beach with Norma and Lois – Norma always had a bundle of film books which we all read.

Our bedroom at Merricks sometimes held a few girlfriends. How did we fit?

Our days were full – swimming, tennis, long walks, cards and board games. Lois and I used to take tuns riding Ray’s bike up the main road and around the block passing Harris’s house. Some New Years’ Eve we went to Williams’s house for a party.

One New Years Eve – 1938 – we were at our place, and at midnight, the Coleman lamp went out, and later we saw the clock had stopped. When war was declared that year (1939) I was it was an omen.

I remember running up from the beach (most people) Sunday evenings to listen to the Hit Parade on the wireless, and the little song books with the words.

As a Brownie, I went on outings to the Botanic Gardens where we danced around the Fairy Tree. One time (possibly Jubilee) at the Northcote Town Hall, I think you were a Queen, and (brother) Jack was a Page. I was asked to stand on the stage in uniform – I was too shy but later wished I had as the girl that went in my place received chocolates and gifts.

We also had a Brownie Display at Guide Day at Frankston Jamboree. As as Guide I recall we decorated  our ‘Corners’ with different themes. I seem to remember borrowing advertising material from Annie Morgan’s shop for one display.

I went on to Rangers and was proud to get Fireman’s Badge. As well as learning to put out incendiary bombs, we learned the Fireman’s Lift – you slung a body across your shoulders. I could do it, but couldn’t walk far. Still, I passed.

I also became an Assistant Cubmaster. After training at Scout H.Q, I usually read the Cubs a jungle story and organised some games. We went on outings like hiking at Plenty Gorge. Once we took them out on the lake at Albert Park. I didn’t think they might fall in the water. I don’t think where we went boating was very deep.

A memory I have is of a Church Parade at St Paul’s, and I was proud to carry the flag. This was as a Girl Guide.

I think back to these times and a question of things that define us – I feel I got self-reliance from Mum who let us make up our own minds and supported me and didn’t interfere. We just got on with things. Dad provided me with self-esteem and pride in myself. We used to go on walks on Sunday afternoons, and we talked of many things. He told me of the universe (stars, etc.). He would have loved to have flown. In a later time I think he may have become a sky diver??

Girl Guides, etc., provided me with moral and duty ethics; Church – spiritual values; School taught (brainwashed) British (Australian) White Protestant, that we were the world’s best. The Army taught me discipline.

When I had my family I guess it taught me to be a realist!

Back to Merricks – do you recall a film star staying at Harris’s house? I think her name was Nola and she may have been Zane Grey films. Also, Harold Badger (jockey) had a weekend house nearby.

As children we would go to Northcote Baths – I think it was a Mr Fogg who  taught us to get our Herald  ‘Learn To Swim’ certificate. How did we survive the condition of the water, etc. at those baths?

We all visited the library, progressing from Mary Grant Bruce to Ethel Dell and Georgette Hayer.

Later I used to get books from a library nearby High St, Plenty Rd when living in Rene St (East Preston). We had a library man that called – he may have had a horse-drawn vehicle.

At High School I did domestic arts and you may recall the head mistress had a flat next to the office. Several girls at a time had to practise housework in her flat (free labour).

One time at Preston Girls’ High School, I was chosen for a Centenary Choir. We sang in the Exhibition Building. It was a big occasion and Mum took me to Buckleys to get a white dress.

Paynes Bon Marche store, Melbourne.

Paynes Bon Marche store, Melbourne.

Usually when I went to ‘town’ with Mum she went to Paynes, a shop I disliked.

I remember when I came home from High School, Mum would make me a cup of tea. She bought a little brown teapot specially for one, as she and Dad had earlier afternoon tea.

I didn’t do any chores except some messages after school. I think most other times I would spend reading.

Do you remember the lovely gifts we would receive from (uncle) Bob and (aunt) Ettie? Silk stockings, chocolates, etc.

When I was in the Army I think they sent fruit cake.

Dogs – factory dogs: Toby, Tin Ribs, Darkie and an Alsatian ‘Nicky’. Our little granny fed him though he was tied up (I didn’t get too close).

Grand Dad would give me 6d (sixpence) and say “Here you are, my girl”. He knew I was a grand-daughter but I don’t think he knew my name.

We used to pick quinces off their tree. It was fun going up the tower at Black Rock. We usually had a spider drink at the shop nearby. One of Dad’s treats: he usually gave me the change when I went to buy his tobacco.

Do you remember afternoon teas at Kinglake, when Uncle Tom visited? I usually got off school and we often took him up the hills. Uncle Tom, a few times, bought us necklaces. I thought they were jewels, but probably he got them at markets on his travels?

We would go to Ballarat, usually have a boat ride on the lake. A few times tea at a posh hotel.

I recall gathering acorns which later, when planted at Merricks, grew into oak trees.

Dad had a block of land at Kinglake and we had picnics there some times.

We had a canary, and ‘Popeye’ the budgie. I recall Billy (dog) box with newspaper. Dad made a fish pond and aquarium in our fernery. Did we have newts?

In war-time he had a bomb shelter in the backyard. When we had an apple tree. When young, I saw fairy under it (probably prompted by Dad, but real to me). I must say I’m still not sure about the ‘wee folk’. My Irish gene?

When we had a school concert one year I was in a fairy act. I had a frock made of yellow crepe paper.

I remember anniversary services where we all tried to sit at the top of the stair-like stand; also a couple of times receiving prize books, a surprise as we missed a few Sundays going away.

As we got older, there were socials and house parties. ‘Spin The Bottle’ was popular.

At Mernda, there were Sunday School picnics on Cup Day. We played a game with cherry bobs. We spun a disc, with I think horses’ names on it. Maybe it was called a ‘thingymegig’.

I loved riding a scooter (not mine) down Clarendon Street hill. How we played in Armadale St. on hot evenings, and tearing across, yelling ‘Charlie all over the water’. On hot days the milkman came twice and we had a cold drink. The egg man called at the house.

Reading material was not censored for us and I remember reading Truth, News of the World and Smith’s Weekly. Do you remember some of Dad’s lurid paper backs? Dad liked also to listen the wrestling bouts.

We read each other’s books. I used to even get at Jack’s scout books – I don’t think I asked him for them.

We all followed Mandrake in the Women’s Weekly.

As the glow grew as we got close to home, we wore more hats – Mum often had feather trims, and wore hats even local shopping. She also wore corsets. Her shoes were made at a Northcote shop and always of special leather. I don’t think she ever wore make-up and had a lovely soft skin.

Dad always seemed to wear a hat.

As a teenager I went with Mum and Dad to Sydney. Jack was at a jamboree there and was to come back with us. We stayed at a posh hotel  at Bondi – we had a suite and even a bath tub, really something at that time. The trip by car was extremely hot. It was over 120° at Gundagai, and cars were along the way, stopped with boiling radiators. It was the summer of terrible bushfires.

After Stotts (Business College), I worked for Club Motor Insurance (RACV), which had quite a staff and we had a social club. We would have picture nights (once, the Tivoli show) and also ice skating trips. We would go to either the Glaciarium or St Moritz.

Lois worked in the City and we often had our lunch on the banks of the Yarra, when Jim Morris was on leave. He would meet me at lunch and take me to Russell Collins or Elizabeth Collins. I remember the flower displays. Another place was ‘The Wattle’ in Lt Collins Street.

Lois and I were going to join the Army together, but she met Don. I volunteered alone. I did a rookie course at Darley, then Seymour for a short time. I was then ordered to Bandiana and told to go to Wodonga by train. The names had been removed from all stations (to confuse the enemy!) so I had to ask people where I was at each stop.

The camp was some miles from the station and I had to find a way, so I asked a soldier in an Army vehicle to give me a lift.

Our barracks was a mile or so apart from headquarters where I worked. Sometimes we marched and sometimes went in Army trucks- they were high off the ground – often we would jump off the back and the soldier (driver) would catch us!

At HQ where I worked, there were about a dozen girls. We all slept in the same hut, ate together and worked in the same building. We were young and fit, and got on well with each other. Sometimes there would be a dance and we would be marched there and back – an officer in front with a lantern. The hut the dance was in would be shut, so could not wander off!

I worked at first in the office of our Colonel and then in the control office where Jim Long was in charge. I was the first female soldier in that job. It was a busy office and we had a chart room where many important officers from Melbourne would come to study progress. It was the base of AEME (Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers).

There would have been thousands of vehicles (cars, jeeps, tanks) in the paddocks awaiting repair in the workshops, also many smaller items such as guns, wireless, etc., in huge hangar-type buildings.

We usually had Sundays off work and perhaps two-night leaves till midnight. We could get transport to Albury, but could not travel with the men back and fro.

When I started going out with Jim, usually first stop was a meal. I didn’t like a lot of our camp meals (Jim was OK in the Sergeant’s Mess). We often went to the pictures if night leave. On a Sunday we would perhaps swim or play tennis, walks and go to church.

Some nights we were allowed to see a film at the men’s camp and I could meet Jim. When we had leave we could not travel together on the troop train. Even after I was married we could not be together going back to camp. Also after marriage I could not work in the same unit but had the option to leave the Army, which I did.

We lived in Albury for a few months – sharing a house with a soldier and his family. Jim would ride  his push bike to camp and home unless he was Duty Officer.

Jim had attacks of Dengue Fever, caught in the Middle East, which gave him fevers some times. He was put into Bonegilla Army Hospital, then Heidelberg Repat., and Stonnington, so I came back to Melbourne.

War ended and there was a Victory March in the City. I was asked to march with the Army girls. Sylvia marched also, with the WRANS. A few years later when the Queen came to Melbourne, the Army invited me to the Shrine to a service and I was only a little way from the Queen and Duke.

Bikes: I bought a bike and would go to Rangers on it some times. You and Sylvia then bought yours and some times we would a ride to together at weekends.

Jim had been a racing bike member at Bendigo and had lots of long distance trips. When we biked together, going up a steep hill, he would  ride beside me and with one hand push the back of my bike also.

When the builder our home in East Preston went bankrupt we had to sell our bikes as we had to pay other tradesmen to do jobs that we had already paid for previously.

Jim played cricket and table tennis for RSL Brunswick when we lived at Moreland. He also had racing pigeons. Some times we had social events with these activities.

After Jim was discharged from hospital and Army we had two holidays.

First we went to Merricks (not a soul in sight). We went for lots of walks, once to the beach at Balnarring, up the road to the main store, along to Farragars etc. Our legs were in good shape. The other trip was by car to Portland (Jim had lots of relatives there) and at other times we would stay at his grandfather’s home, or the hotel.

We then drove along the coast to Adelaide (very lovely tracks) and up the side of the Murray to Mildura. We stayed at wayside pubs, till at Mildura where there was a new hotel.

Jim and I lived with his people for several years at Moreland, while we saved to buy our house. I got on well with them all – Girlie (Jim’s sister) became quite a friend. We both did a night school course on dressmaking at Emily McPherson.

We both cooked a lot of fancy cakes on Saturday afternoons. I got on very well with Jim’s Mum.

We had a sweet factory – I would usually do banking and sometimes packed boxes of sweets. I did some house work and the shopping. There were often relatives staying. I made the desserts. I remember both Lemon Delicious and Lemon Meringue Pie were favourites.

There were several girls working in the shop. At this time I also had a music teacher and learned to play the piano (not too well). The Longs had a piano and some Sunday nights we would have a sing-song. Jim could play piano by ear.

We shifted to our house a few months before Denise was born. Remember when we girls were pregnant; we would ’round robin’ our maternity dresses.

I was always thankful after Ashley’s birth, as you came down weekdays for a short time, and made beds and did dishes for an hour or two.

Do you remember when we moved to Reservoir? I had loads of curtain material to sew and an old hand machine. You came around and we took turns on the machine.

Do you remember – did we have a window at Clarendon St with bird in stained glass?

A few world events we lived through: Depression, world war, aeroplanes, wireless and TV, technicolour films (do you recall you would take Sylvia or I to premieres of MGM films?)

As a child there would have been red dust storms in Melbourne; a polio epidemic (our High School closed for a time); the abdication of Prince Edward; communits, atom bombs, and the Moon landing.

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