Patracat's Memories

This blog is my story. I have created it for posterity, as some of my early memories are of a way of life that many of my peers have forgotten, and the younger generations will never experience. I hope the reader enjoys it, and will be encouraged to write their own story. Once you have gone, your memories go with you and can never be recaptured unless you write them down.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Chapter 3: Mod cons. (Modern conveniences)

The chook house was there all throughout my childhood. I don't remember if all the hens and roosters were named, but there was one called "Cherrybottom" because all the other hens had pecked her feathers from her rear end. For special occasions, a hen would be killed so we could have roast chicken - usually only at Christmas and Easter. Dad and the boys would round up a hen, lop its head off with the axe, and laugh while the headless creature ran around the yard until it dropped dead. They would then pluck the feathers and clean the carcass ready for Mum to cook. Mum and I would not go outside while all this was happening, but even though I knew what was going on, it never put me off eating chicken.

The toilet in our house was civilised compared to many other homes in the fifties, some of which had outdoor dunnies, which had to be emptied by a man who came into their back yard, lifted the trapdoor at the back of the outhouse, took the can holding the effluent to his truck, emptied it, and replaced the can in the dunny. The kids who lived with this primitive plumbing endured merciless teasing and practical jokes by the others who lived in houses that were connected to the sewer. Boys thought outdoor dunnies were great fun. If a kid was sitting in the dunny, someone else would sneak up at the back, lift the trapdoor and shout "BOO!" or poke the victim's bum with a stick and run off laughing. The girls didn't escape lightly from these jokes, although their 'treat' was more likely to be a dead Huntsman spider planted on the seat. Redback spiders under the toilet seat were a reality in those days, but the much larger Huntsman corpse was much more effectively used to frighten small girls out of the toilet at first sight.

Our toilet was part of the house, but we had to go on to the back verandah and through the wash house (laundry) to reach it. Even thought we didn't have to go outside, it was still a chilly trip out there during winter, especially at night. So we all had potties under our beds for night time use. If we were sick, we usually headed to the bathroom to use the vanity basin or bath. Once when teenage B2 was taking a shower, I felt sick, so I rushed into the bathroom and hung miserably over the vanity basin. Dad was right behind me to hold my head, but B2 was outraged. He stood under the shower trying to cover his genitals with his hands, complaining loudly about the lack of privacy. Dad rounded on him angrily - "Can't you see your sister is sick? For goodness sake, she's not the least bit interested in looking at you right now!" I must admit to have a peek in the mirror inbetween bouts of vomiting, as until then, I hadn't seen any of the males in our family naked. But as Dad said, I wasn't in in a fit state to appreciate the view!

Mum loved mod. cons. She nagged Dad incessantly to get wall to wall carpet, a telephone, a refrigerator, a car, a Mixmaster, a television, etc. We got the fridge first, as that had become a necessity for most people by the fifties. I can't remember what year we bought our Servex brand fridge, but I have fond memories of the icebox we had before that. A huge block of ice would be delivered once a week and placed in the top section of the icebox, which had one door, a compartment at the top for the ice, and a few shelves underneath. The ice was delivered by the Iceman, who carried it wrapped up in hessian, from his truck into the house. Mum would be fussing around, holding the door open, making sure the ice was positioned where she wanted it. In summer we would chip off pieces to suck. Mum used to panic when we had a run of very hot weather, because of course the ice would melt more quickly. She was always worried that milk and meat would go 'off', but I don't recall that happening. She probably cooked the meat well in advance so it would keep longer. Of course we couldn't have stored ice cream, even if it had been available in cartons, which it wasn't. Icecream was a treat enjoyed on an outing, bought as a scoopful in a cone, from a milkbar.

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