Moving on we get closer to the coast into the Upper Hunter valley. The hills disappear and the rain comes back. We are taking a little detour to the town of Cassilis because I have not visited it before and as you know I like little country towns.
Our strategy paid off, look at the sunshine. The people of Sydney and the mountains had a soggy weekend and we were enjoying crisp sunny weather. This is the Catholic church in Mudgee, not hidden by the bare winter trees. We stopped at Mudgee for a bite to eat before moving into some new territory.
Actually this was the second weekend in a row we had been in Mudgee. The previous weekend we went to the Farm Field Day which is quite a big event and genuinely rural. While I enjoyed it I was not having a very good photographic time so I doubt I will be showing the shots unless I run dry ... this trip was more exciting.
After a long wet, cold week in the mountains we wanted respite from the climate so went on a Winter Wayfaring weekend to the west where the persistent rain wasn't reaching and the daytime temperatures warmer.
It was so great to be out and about again with no other objective than to see and capture images of places new and familiar. Over the next couple of weeks I will show you what I found -- you can expect to see old favourites like abandoned buildings, country lines, small towns, frosty mornings and a new Royal Hotel.
Determined to get my camera shutter going early on the trip we diverted off the main road to grab a shot of Capertee Railway station which I have spied many times through the trees but never taken the time to explore. Like most of the stations on this line it is closed (in the case well boarded up) but this part of the line is still active for coal and cement trains.
I received this photo in my in-box today. Isn't it a ripper. I am so jealous that is it not one of my own shots and will definitely go to Birdsville some day before this Royal falls down. Gordon is doing a terrific series of his outback adventures at the moment and I always enjoy his bushwalks. I encourage you to go lookANDsee for yourself.
Yep. I like this place. I've got a photo of me on our honeymoon relaxing on those river stones. And I've got a whole jar of polished stones that we collected from one of these river beds many years ago and tumbled until they shone. The memories are good.
We ended our drive at The Cotter. The dam on the Cotter River was built to provide drinking water for the new city. A popular picnic area is located at the base of the dam wall. I like this spot with its extensive plantings of exotic trees beside the clear stream.
Canberra is famous for its extensive plantings of exotic trees which means it puts on a terrific Autumn colour display but by this time of year are bare and wintery. It's a chilly place with the mountains often being snow capped in Winter.
While Canberra is a very liveable city and I enjoyed my years there I am no fan of suburbia and Canberra is just that -- neat, ever so neat suburbia. With a day to spend I just wanted to get out of there and head towards the mountains that form such a delightful frame to the horizon of the city.
The government needed to accommodate the burgeoning population so had a public housing plan where whole suburbs of near identical houses were built and rented to the public servants they were trying to lure into the new city. These government houses were sold at a low price to the tenants and once sold were known as ex-govies. Mostly they were modest brick veneer homes but in the older suburbs they were timber.
We owned an ex-govie in O'Conner - one of the timber variety and decided to pop by and see how it was looking today. It was rendered and extended and looking quite swish and the neighbour even swisher - very hard to imagine the humble timber home that forms their bones.
He must be nuts having a front yard like that. This is a street lined with oak trees!
Despite all the changes, some things don't change. On the other side, the migrant neighbours with the huge vege garden still have their ugly letter box. In fact, that was how we located the house.
Canberra is odd place, a planned city built from scratch to be the nations capital. The foundation stone was laid in the middle of sheep paddock in 1913 but with wars and the depression intervening things didn't move along very fast until the late 1950s. They started to transfer government departments there in the 1960s.
I joined the influx of young graduates moving in and filling up government hostels in the 1970s, arriving there in 1974 and staying around 10 years. In those days, every one had come from somewhere else and were planning to return to that somewhere else.
In 1974 the population was 180,000 today it is 360,000.
Then we came to the listings for Dad's old squadron and we all stopped while he bent down to read the names. He straightened up and said in a odd thick voice, "I never knew what happened to some of those men."
Dismayed I looked up at the tears in his eyes. I'd never seen my father cry. In my childish way I understood that Dad had a very important wish ... that it should never happen again.
In the classroom I argued, "We have to remember so we don't forget."
Sadly the wars go on. This photo was taken at the end of the hall where names are still being added today.
Thinking back to my childhood I now realise that the war years were as close to our parents as my youthful years are to me today. In my mind my recollection of my uni days are close and clear. I have a new appreciation of why the people and memories of the war seemed so present during the childhood of my generation though we ourselves had no proper comprehension of it. In the classroom debate I supported the continuation of Anzac Day with its mix of remembrance and mateship. I was still young and inexperienced. I didn't understand death, or fear, or freedom, or the adult fixation wiht the communist threat. However, I did understand that this day was important to Mum and Dad amd many other's like them. I particularly remembered going to the War Memorial in Canberra as a little girl and seeing the thousands and thousands of names mounted on the walls underneath the sandstone arches flanking the pool of remembrance.
After the service, Mum and Dad went to the luncheon for ex-servicemen and women held at the CWA rest rooms. Every year Dad came home saying things like "They should call him Moses, whenever he opens his mouth the bull rushes." it seems the war that some men fought became more glorious with every passing glass.
"It was the beer talking," Mum said.
While Mum and Dad were at the luncheon we children headed for the supper room at the local dance hall where the RSL Women's Auxiliary put on a lunch for the children of returned servicemen. What a feast! The table was groaning with sandwiches and cakes, more than the collective appetite of a vast collection of offspring, who each stuffed themselves -- being careful to give only the mock chicken sandwiches a miss. This was all washed down with bottle after bottle of soft drink. If we had been ex-servicemen on the grog, we would certainly been hanging onto each other, singing boisterous songs and falling into the gutte…
We all took part in the Anzac Day march. The diggers led the parade. The school, scouts and other local groups followed. We stood up straight and concentrated hard to march in step to the muffled beat of the drum and the mournful wail of the bagpipes. None of us matched the heel snapping precision of the men in front who knew exactly what to do when the leader of the parade called out in a deep Sergeant Major's voice "paraaaaaade quick march", "squaaaad halt" and so forth.
A sparse group of mothers wearing Sunday hats with babies in strollers lined the street beside the shops. Blue ribbons sold by the men from the RSL were pinned to their floral frocks. They clapped gloved hands as we passed.
The ranks of marchers came to an organised halt at the marble monument and the townsfolk clustered around us. Together we followed the order of service and sang the dirge-like hymns. I watched the soft ooze of tears in the eyes of widows, mothers, daughters and sisters as…
Dad's DFM (Distinguished Flying Medal) was the round silver medal with the purple and white striped ribbon. Mum said this was a very special medal, more special than his star medals and they were all much more special than her two medals, which she only sometimes wore.
Mum and Dad both talked freely about the friendship and camaraderie of camp life. Mum revelled in the comradeship, drill and discipline. It suited her outgoing personality. Her intellect and innate leadership blossomed in the Australian Women's Army Service.
And Mrs K our latest Lieut,
We know that she will be a beaut,
As an N.C.O she was always Lil
And as "Madam" I'm sure we'll like her still.
From Fawkner Park Personalities Xmas '43 Signals Magazine.
From Dad's diaries I get a sense of the importance of the trains during the war. How they were the arteries of the country carrying troops away from their dearest hearts and sometimes bringing them back again. The trains were crowded. Tired young men grabbed a sleep in luggage racks, on the floor and if they were lucky on the shoulder of a young lass beside them.
I get a sense of the eagerness of heart that shortened a long journey when it was going in the right direction.
Friday 28 May 1943 "Reported back to R.T.O at 1pm big muck up and long wait got seat in (Dog Box) left Bris at 2.30 and had good companions to travel with. Same old rush for tea at Casino. Good nights sleep on the floor."
Saturday 29 May 1943 "Awoke at 5:30 and was 1st into breakfast at Gloucester. Funny the remarks made by some of our boys, they thought I was a rookie on account of the new overalls."
At this time Dad was no rookie. He had been in Papua New Guinea, the Islands and the north …
A couple of days befoe Anzac Day Mum said "Daddy's going to be at school today."
My chest puffed out with pride when I saw Dad with the other men from the RSL on the school verandah waiting to address the morning parade. He looked big in his blue suit and his chest looked very broad with his medals stung across it.
One of the men gave a speech, usually a long and boring one, about the dawn landing at Gallipoli and the war. This excerpt is from scribbled notes of an Anzac speech Dad gave at the school.
"The ships came in close under the cover of darkness and at 2:30am on April 25 the day Australian's and New Zealanders have remembered ever since, most of the men disembarked into barges and set off for the shore. The moon had been bright and now was low, so that the hill at Gallipoli was silhouetted on the skyline. The night was cold and the sea was smooth as glass. The boats made their way to the shore and on April 25 the Anzacs made their landing. For two of …
I woke to the strains of the Last Post and Reveille. Dad had switched on the wireless, which was replaying the dawn service from Anzac Square in Brisbane. Cups and saucers were clicking in the kitchen. Mum and Dad were back home from the dawn service held at the local cemetery. Graves of the servicemen would now have red poppies on them. It was eerie lying in bed listening to the bugle and realising we children has been left alone in the house by ourselves, in the dark while we were asleep.
Mum popped her head around our bedroom door to make sure we were alright. She was wearing her best blue woolen suit with a soft white georgette blouse and smart pill-box hat that I only ever saw her wear to the Anzac service. I knew Dad would be wearing his blue double-breasted suit with his medals on.
Dad rarely wore his suit. Preparations for Anzac Day started a week before. Mum took his suit from the wardrobe and brushed it down with a clothes brush as she examined and picked at any small marks…
We spend a lovely winter weekend in Canberra recently and among other things visited the War Memorial. It reminded me of a story I wrote when recording my family history 12 years ago so I dug it out. The text will be much longer then my usual posts but may amuse the Baby Boomers among us.
The story is titled "Lest we Forget". I will spread it over the next week and a bit as I take you around the War Memorial.