Once upon a time in a small town

I was born in 1963 which only makes me middle aged but my life as a child was a world away from my adult life.

For instance:

We didn’t have a home phone until I was 10 or 11 and were one of the few people in town that had one even then. I was terrified of it until my early 30’s.

If we had to call long distance to Melbourne which was 60 miles away, the call was booked through an operator who cleared the line and phoned us back to then connect us. We did this rarely as it was very, very expensive.

I never ever knew anyone who called overseas.

Most communication was done by letter. If it was urgent a telegram was sent, this still took hours.

We would go to family gatherings where my parents would drink all day and then drive 60 miles home not exactly drunk but not exactly sober either.

There were no seat belts.

No one had air conditioning or central heating.

My mother didn’t have an automatic washing machine until I was a teenager. She had an agitator and a wringer through which clothes were fed and most often had their buttons ripped off.

Computers were the size of a large room, no one had one and we couldn’t imagine why anyone would need one anyway.

My mother was considered over protective because she wanted to know my movements before I went off by myself all day and always supervised us when we were swimming.

The only reason why my parents drove me to music or dancing lessons was because they were 20 miles away and I was too young to drive. If anything was local I was responsible for getting there under my own steam. This was normal.

At age 7 I was considered mature enough to be responsible for my 5 year old sister when we went out by ourselves.

As much as I would dearly have loved it we had no personal portable sound systems except for an AM radio with one earpiece.

Children were afraid of adults and an adult’s word was always believed over that of a child’s.

Even though vegetables  were cheap and abundant we largely ate like 19th century Irish peasants. Until I was 16 the only fresh vegetables I knew were potatoes, pumpkin, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, parsnips and onions.

I was 27 before I saw a raw beetroot and realised that bright red color was natural and tinned was not the only option.

I was in my mid twenties before I ate cheese of the non processed variety.

Olive oil could only be purchased at chemist shops and was never, ever ingested.

Until I moved to Melbourne the only ethnic groups I had seen with my own eyes apart from Anglo/Celts and the Dutch were 5 Aboriginals, 2 Indians , one Italian family and two Greek families. The children of the latter 3 families were teased by the other children because the adults thought they somehow did not belong in our town.

There was a  family where the parents were white and the children were all adopted and Aboriginal. No one spoke of this and no one had heard on the Stolen Generation. These children were miserable.

The first time I had pizza or lasagne I was 10 and I had absolutely no idea what I was eating, I hadn’t even heard of them.

Curry came in tins, was mostly tumeric and no more than 2 teaspoons were used no matter how big the meal. Cabbage and minced meat boiled together with this was considered curry.

I was told not to drink the water in Melbourne when we visited because it was strange and may upset my stomach. My cousins from Melbourne also were told not to drink water when they visited us for the same reason.

I was told by my careers teacher in High School I did not need to think about a career or education because I was just going to get married anyway.

When I was old enough to drink women had only just been allowed to drink in the front bars in hotels.

The Australian Public Service had only just allowed women to wear trousers to work a few years before I started work and had also just removed the rule whereby women were sacked once they married.

Apart from migrants,I never knew anyone who had been overseas. When my grandparents went to New Zealand in 1973 this was considered exotic.

Renters were looked down on as they were considered shiftless and irresponsible.

No one ever got divorced but sometimes one parent would seemingly disappear off the face of the earth and never be spoken of again.

Everyone was married and sometimes a teenager would have a child out of wedlock which were then told was her brother/sister.

I was told not to accept sweets from strangers but there was no mention of what to do if an adult tried to touch you inappropriately.

We lived in this town for nearly 20 years and were still considered the new family.

There was a strict social hierarchy and anyone who stepped over the line was shunned.

Education and learning were treated with deep, deep suspicion.

The town was amazed and bemused when the rich family built a house with 2 bathrooms which was until this point totally unheard of.

Most of these things I did not like.





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