The good old days

My father provided the following, which I’m including with minor edits only to protect the names of the innocent. This is a family history I had never heard before, and I’m quite stunned by it.

For reference, Salisbury is about 30 km from the city, and about 15 km from Enfield.

Something on your dump prompted me to recall something your grandfather told me late in his life.

I don’t think he ever told anybody else in them family.

He always had an old camera, a Kodak 616, a very large format which in the end it became impossible to get film for. He had owned this a very long time and always recorded family events on it, 8 shots per film each one about postcard size.

Once when things were very tough in the mid-late 1930’s, I think I would have been a little child, they were living in Salisbury so it would have been about 1936 or even 1937, he could get no work, had no money in the bank and there was absolutely no food in the house to feed 4 hungry and growing children for the coming weekend.

So he took his camera and road on a bicycle [may have borrowed that too] down to the city and pawned the camera. With the little bit of money from the pawn shop, he then rode around to the Central Market and filled a sugar bag with vegetables and fruit and a bit of meat, enough to keep them going until the middle of the following week.

It took an age to redeem the camera but he did.

However, he then swallowed his pride and applied for the dole. At that time it was called ‘going on the rations’. They issued one with a ticket each week which you then took along to a store who gave you food in exchange for the ticket. Rather than get the ticket filled in Salisbury which was a typical little gossipy and bitchy country town, he used to ride his bike down to Enfield each week and get the food from there and ride home to Salisbury and feed us.

He always hated certain shopkeepers in Salisbury and I think I understand the reason.

It’s no wonder that he lived until he was nearly 91 as he was so fit from all the bike riding. He would have been about 38 or 39 when all this was happening.

He got work not long after with my Uncle Colin [my mother's brother] who had borrowed enough money from his rich mother-in-law to import two floor surfacing machines from the USA. Dad used to cart them around from job to job in a huge ‘box’ attached to a gigantic Indian motorcycle and on weekends we used to go around crouched in the box. They are my first memories of family outings.

When war broke out, he got a better paying job with the South Australian Railways working on munitions manufacture at the Islington workshops and this brought in a lot of overtime so we improved rapidly in financial position eventually buying my grandmother’s house in Payneham in 1943.

All this was the struggle to keep alive in the late 1930’s and support a family, so Dad always had this tremendous emphasis on education and improving yourself. Also to get a good job working for the government and stay in it.

So much for John Howard’s harking back to the ‘good old days’. The bugger simply has no idea how hard it was just to hold body and soul together for most of us in an earlier era.

I’m not so sure about the bit about getting a job with the government, because at a later time it is my understanding that my grandfather was summarily dismissed from his job with the government to make a position for a returning soldier from WW2. I believe this was quite a common occurrence, and my aunts are still bitter about it, 60 years later.


What a story. You told it well, too–felt like I was there for a second…wow.

Comment by Adam Wilk | August 9th, 2005 9:27 am | Permalink

Hi Adam – thank my father – his words, not mine.

Comment by Wally | August 9th, 2005 10:33 pm | Permalink

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