Intangible Heritage Workshop: 4th Conversation: Jill Burfield

My final conversation for the day was with Jill Burfield. Although Jill had not lived in Marion council specifically, she recalls Marion as it was when she was younger and shopped a lot in the area.

Jill’s mother gave birth to her in a private hospital in Rose Park in 1934 at the age of 30, which was considered old then to have kids. Money troubles had meant her mother didn’t have enough money to pay the doctor, which would have looked bad, so she saved her finances until the age of 30 when she could afford children.

Memories of ritual

 Jill remembers getting dressed up on a Sunday to go for drives. On the way back she would sometimes go up Sturt road and past the vineyards that were on every side. She specifically recalls the gumtrees as part of the landscape. There were not many houses as it was mainly the vineyards that characterised the area and and as u looked up to Shepards Hill road you could just see the long dirt track rather than the paved roads and modern more modern structures standing there today.

Memories of place

 An interesting building Jill recalled was the sanitorium for those with tuberculosis. Tuberculosis (TB) was quite common and there was also a plague Jill recalls that people contracted when they travelled overseas for a period of time. The sanitorium was where an oval near the Flinders hospital and university is now, and it had low buildings where people would stay, separate from the healthy community, until they felt better. Jill and I discussed the high rates of TB in the area and she mentioned that in the first world war people from different places were together and many may have contracted the illness there. The lack of sanitation and poor living conditions here wouldn’t have helped people back home suffering from the disease.

 Memories of attitudes

 In 1939, Jill’s younger sister was born. Her mother wasn’t feeling well (she probably went without food looking back on their economic situation at the time) and went into Memorial Hospital to give birth. At one point, she felt herself slipping and had enough wit to press the button for assistance. The nurse came in and gave her a dose of brandy- something you wouldn’t hear of doctors or nurses doing these days!

Jill’s mother had been a school teacher. She had to take time off work the moment her pregnancy started show to avoid any situations where children may ask questions. Jill laughed about how some were afraid to even share swimming locations in case they fell pregnant, illustrating the lack of sex education in those days.

As you couldn’t just go buy scones or cakes, Jill’s mother used to make them and have her friends around to fill time as a home mum. She would use her nice cups and mugs. Exchange systems were common among members of the community- ‘if you had some almonds, you would give some to your friends and they might give you some plums’, Jill explained.

Without much money and a lot of time on your hands as a stay at home mum, many women were able to take their knitting, get the bus to the welfare club and knit as they sat. Most people couldn’t afford to buy jumpers and other clothes, so they would sit and knit (and a few people could sew as well!). Women weren’t expected to work, it was all about when you were going to get pregnant. Jill was and is a strong feminist. She finished year 11, went into the work force as a teacher when everyone was expected to get married and have children. Her father had to work at 14 years of age as his father died young, and he encouraged Jill to go to uni perhaps as he saw the value of work and income.

Jill went on to have three children and went to university in the 1970s, despite growing up in an era where women were expected to get to year 10, leave, get married and have three or four kids. In those days, education for women were superfluous to their roles as home makers and mothers.

 Her 21st birthday party

 With a clear strength about her which challenged social conventions and expectations of her time, Jill’s 21st birthday story is one that would shock many of the ladies in the 1950s.

Jill told the story of her 21st, which involved crayfish for dinner and some sandwiches at home before heading to the Palais, which was where dancing occurred in the evenings. People would dress up; the ladies donning frocks and getting their hair done up, and the boys in their suits. The dress code was much more formal than these days where you can ‘be yourself now’.

At her 21st party, Jill was seeing not one, not two, but three lads at the time- including one she was to marry who was a friend of her parents, another boy from a teachers college she competed with academically and the son of a police man from Tailem Bend! And they all showed up to her 21st, unaware of the others, from what I could understand. Not many details were divulged on how the night progressed, but given Jill’s loveable cheekiness and magnetic humour, I’m sure she smoothed things over with a charming smile.

Jill painted a mental picture of a past with strictly gendered conventions and expectations. Women and men were born with specific social roles and were expected to maintain those roles throughout their lives. Despite this, it was also a time of relationships. Where people would share what they possessed with one another, to help through the hardships of war-time and post-war life. Thank you Jill, for ending the day with some laughter.

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Intangible Heritage Workshop. 3rd Conversation: Diana Catchlove

Diana lived in a rented home on the corner of Morphett Road and Sturt road. She was on a block where there were vineyards and almond trees. During our conversation together, she recalled many of the wonderful businesses and community members who defined Marion when she lived there. Marion’s essence was expressed tangibly through the vineyards and fresh markets which operated by people you knew by name, which created a real sense of community business.

 Memories of Marion

Diagonally across from her, Mr Thomas and his family owned and ran the local dairy. Diana recalls Mr Thomas taking her for a ride in his horse and track. He also taught her how to milk a cow by hand as a child- they didn’t have mechanic milking systems in those days.

Where the KFC is now, a market garden used to exist. Diana recalls Mr Stewart and his family who sold flowers. There were a lot of markets going up to Marion and South road. Diana said it was lovely to have fresh tomato and cucumbers; a sentiment similarly expressed by many of our participants recalling early times in Marion.

Across the road where she lived there was a vineyard and vacant block: ‘you could see the trains heading in and there was a harness racing practice track for the horses in the area.

Diana told a story of her cousin and some friends using rifles one day. A bullet from her cousin’s gun hit a clod of soil in the ground, ricocheted and went through the window of a house nearby and ‘he got in a lot of strife from that’.

‘There were so many vineyards and groves from that area and it’s really sad now to see so little vines in the area’, Diana lamented. Hamilton’s winery was on the corner of what was then known as Adelaide road (now Oaklands road) and Morphett road.

Prior to Sturt Creek development, Diana recalls having played  up at the creek on Sturt road which was ‘such a pretty area in the days before Sturt Creek was cemented’.

Despite the wonderful farmers markets in the suburbs surrounding Adelaide these days, the feeling is not the same as living amongst the market gardens. Today; rather than the market gardens, numerous vineyards and family businesses; Marion is defined by the Westfield shopping mall and housing developments.

Diana worked in nursing and ended up going to KI to work in a hospital for a period of time before returning to the mainland to live in Brighton at the end of 1980. She is glad she has known some of the history of the Marion area and notes that current youth wouldn’t realise how different it was and what it was like back when she was living here. And she means this not just in a physical landscape sense, but also in terms of community. People looked out for one another, knew each other by name. You knew your neighbour well.

 Changes in Marion

I asked Diana if she could trace the changes in Marion to a particular time. She felt that the 1950s was the era of change where more shops began operation. Butchers, green grocers, even her father had a deli at Marion at one stage. After the war, people started to build and the housing trust built a lot of homes also.

Diana’s family shopped across the railway line, where Mr Bourne had the grocery store. Mr Bourne sold broken biscuits at a reduced price after the war, when everyone was struggling. Another participant mentioned previously in a group discussion that in earlier days most things in shops came from bulk by hand- such as cheese being cut from a block, biscuits from a jar, butter from a knob. Something that has definitely changed, in an age now where everything comes pre-divided and packaged and merely scanned by the shop worker.

Mr Landon was the butcher, and one of his staff would deliver the meat in a horse and cart.

Mr and Mrs Howard Miller owned a green grocer and their son Kevin would help occasionally (who went on to become an international opera singer!). In the 1950s Mr Foxwell used to deliver groceries in his van in person.

Post-war poverty

Post-war life meant that people didn’t have money. They built basic homes, lived frugal lives. Diana’s household welcomed an electric fridge around 1949 which was a big event in her household. She recalls her mother using a copper, ringer and wash trough before they had a washing machine. Reckitt’s blue was used to whiten the clothes back then, something I had heard of before but not known much about. ‘Lots of kids these days don’t know what a copper stick is…or scrubbing board,’ Diana chuckled.

Diana’s family had an electric fridge around 1949 and that was a big event in her household. Her mother had a washing machine but prior to that it had always been washing using a copper and ringer on the wash trough.

My discussion with Diana was an enlightening one. I walked away feeling like I’d learnt more from her than just her heritage and ideas of heritage. There was clearly a Marion culture back in pre- and post-war times that was very supportive and personable which Diana recalls. Thank you Diana, it was a pleasure.

Intangible Heritage Project Workshop. 2nd Conversation: Margaret Hayes

Margaret Hayes was born in 1940 and lived in Marion until she was twelve years of age. Today she brought in a beautiful watercolour original that was handed down to her from her auntie who passed three years ago.

Margarets mysterious watercolour by Leslie Rhile

The painting, which Margaret and I agreed looked like a watercolour image, remains an enigmatic heir. The painter could possibly have gone by the name Leslie Rhile, which was written in cursive writting on the back of the painting and scratched into the wood in the back (perhaps with a pen end?).

As you can tell from the photograph of the painting, the image has kept its colour and is superb condition. However, guessing its age is just that: guessing, at this stage.

As Margaret and I tried to deconstruct the image we speculated it could well be over a century old. The feature of the art is the old Catholic church in the old township of Marion (where it still stands proud today). The lack of telegraph poles for electricity could be an indication of the antiquity of the painting. The church also now has three windows on the side which are not featured in the painting (although as Heather Latz has mentioned in the comments below, this could be a product of artistic license).Margaret mentioned they had no electricity sources when her family lived next door, however. In fact, the church used to run a line over to her own household’s electricity and use that as a source for night missions, midnight mass, choir practice or any other activities at night times!

I asked Margaret what sort of connection she had with this church in the painting, and she pointed to the property fence on the lower left hand corner of the image: she used to live there! Her house was the original Marion butcher shop and had belonged to the Rivers family, from whom Margaret’s family leased the property.

She attended the church and there were a lot of community events that took place there. Margaret said she was invited to sing in the choir and recalls the latin masses and learning the latin words of the songs. At Christmas time she was always chosen to take the little baby Jesus up the centre of the church for midnight mass. She associated a feeling of mystery with this memory as well as a sense of importance.  Christmas eve events and midnight masses were always something to look forward to.

Margaret also recalls living next door to the church and what that meant for her as a child. If someone was engaged in the community there would be a campfire and singing around the fire. A lot of community cohesiveness came from the church’s organisation. She recalls the Keane family, who were paritioners and good people who looked after the younger ones.

Margaret’s auntie (the prior owner of the painting) was originally born in Marion also, and probably had a similar connection to the church- which adds further heritage significance to this image for the family. Margaret’s grandmother was very involved with the church and her mother taught religious instruction there- perhaps that is how it ended up with her auntie.

A connection beyond religious significance exists between the church and Margaret that lives on today. Margaret says the church gave her morals and values that didn’t always come from the home but she certainly brought her children up with decent morals and values.

Another childhood memory of Margaret’s is the weddings held next door in the church. There would be great excitement amongst the kids (Margaret was one of 12!) and they would all rush over and have a look: ‘nothing could happen that we didn’t know about,’ Margaret joked.

The conversation with Margaret was an intriguing one- and I truly hope she can one day find out more about the history of her mysterious watercolour. No information yet on the artist or time period has been recovered in Margaret’s research so far but even without those details the image is incredibly symbolic and representative of Margaret’s family history- and local history really- linked with the old church. Thank you Margaret.

Results of the Intangible Heritage Project Workshop: 1st Conversation: Rodney Coombs

The first workshop for the Intangible Heritage Project was held yesterday, 28th April 2012.

The results of conversations with a number of community members are going to be placed on this blog for community access. The interviews (four in total) were a wonderful mixture of stories about objects, place, people and activities. Every participant was full of amazing stories and contributed to a great day of thinking back to earlier times in the Marion area.

The first community member to speak with me was Mr Rodney Coombs:

Rodney was born in 1944 and lived on Unley Road in a single bedroom with five family members until his family was moved to Springbank army camp. Here, Rodney’s family lived in a tin warehouse with hessian erected as walls to make rooms. It was here that Rodney was struck with polio, aged just four and a half years old.

Rodney in 1949, coming home for a day from hospital

Rodney in 1949, coming home for a day from hospital

The image above is of Rodney tied down ‘like an Egyptian mummy’ to an iron frame in 1949. He was coming home from the children’s hospital, transported on Bill Smith’s open buckboard in the background for a visit home one Sunday. His mother had been told he was not going to survive. When he returned to hospital that afternoon his pink cheeks and apparent improvement from a meal at home was noted.

Rodney described the memory of his illness as…‘traumatic for everybody concerned’. His mother and little brother Wayne situated in the high chair are also pictured. The photo is dated to approximately June 1950. Rodney remained in this condition until he was around eight years old when he could start to walk again.

The second picture (below) is Rodney’s first date of attendance (1952) in an opportunity class- which he was placed in, for a few months, to catch up on his English and other general skills as he was unable to attend school during his period of illness.

First day of opportunity class

Above Image: Rodney's first day of attendance in the opportunity class (1952)

His right arm was placed in a sling (featured in the photograph). This was later found to be detrimental to his rehabilitation which should have required activity and movement rather than rigidity and support. As a result, Rodney has limited movement in his right arm despite operations to restructure his muscles and tendons that now allow his fingers and thumb to touch. Rodney has learnt to write left-handed to accommodate this.

One memory he recalls from this period is a teacher, whom spoke poshly with an Australian accent. As he was about to leave the opportunity class, she came down quietly to his ear and said “well, you’re going into grade school..you won’t be able to catch up to the other kids… look what you listen and hear what you see…”. This confused Rodney, and it was not until many years later when he was in his twenties that he understood her meaning: to be observant and aware. To not only hear things but look from where they’re coming from.

The final two photographs Rodney discussed (below) were two cars owned by his previous employer, Mr Walter Brown, the son of W Brown Sons (the original scrap metal family in Adelaide). Rodney looked after and maintained Walter’s cars.

Rolls Royce of Mr Walter Brown

One of Mr Walter Brown's Rolls Royces (circa 1963) on Delamere Avenue

The brown Rolls Royce was photographed when one day, whilst driving down Delamere Avenue circa. 1963, Walter asked Rodney to pull over immediately and stop the car right there so he could take a photograph of the car. So Rodney, surprised, stopped in the middle of the road (hence why it’s many feet from the curb) and the imaged was shot then and there.

The car below (Mercedes) is another model which Mr Walter Brown owned. Mr Brown owned many cars, including about four Rolls Royce’s (such as in the above picture), and also a gold painted car- not gold coloured paint, Rodney told me, paint made of actual gold!

that Rodney looked after.

Mercedes-Benz 600- one of the many models in Mr Walter Brown's car collection that Rodney looked after.

Rodney was a delight to speak with. Hearing his stories and struggles as a child with polio were inspirational. His years of various positions of employment clearly generated much respect from others also- he showed me a number of wonderful handwritten references which clearly illustrated he was deeply valued by all of his past employers as an honest, reliable and trustworthy man. Thank you for sharing your stories with us Rodney.