Saturday, May 29, 2010

Who is Alice?

Alice May Jones, age 23

Vivacious. Spirited. Generous. Kind. Fun-loving. My Nanna. Alice May Jones. If there is any one person I have known who is my inspiration in life, it is my Nanna Alice. How I love her and miss her still.

Baby Alice, 1916

Born on the 14 June 1916, Alice was 5th in a family of 11 children, born to tobacco and dairy farmers Thomas and Elizabeth Jones in the picturesque King Valley of north eastern Victoria. From all her many delightful memories, it was a wonderful childhood, full of hard work, but plenty of play and fun with her large and much adored family. I remember Nanna saying how she envied her brothers being able to go off and swim in the King River on hot summer days, but the girls were not allowed to join in as swimming was done in the nude ! How times change, in this case for the better !!

What a total cutie !! Toddler Alice with her Aunty

Along with the hard work of farm life, there was time for picnics and dances, romance (I understand Nanna had many would be suitors, and at least one fiance in her youth !!) and friends. Nanna Alice was a keen photographer and I have albums of beautiful black and white images of the King Valley and her early life. Nanna loved the natural world and the photographs show a pristine King Valley environment with rivers and mountaintops, newly opened railway lines cutting through the landscape, flowers and ferns, and tobacco farming life in every aspect. Like me, she was fond of capturing memories and adored family history. When I was researching my family many years ago, Nanna was my number one alie, providing me with stories and details, photographs and contacts galore. Family and friendship were of tremendous importance to Nanna, and we both believed in valuing people now, and preserving their memories always......I wear a beautiful ring that belonged to Nanna Alice's own grandmother, Elizabeth Bartrop, and through that I feel Nanna Alice is with me every day.

Funloving Alice in King Valley (3rd from left)

The second world war was very unkind to Nanna. She lost a dear brother - Douglas - killed in Papua New Guinea. Also during the war there were a number of American/Canadian soldiers based in Australia, and it was at this time, while she was working at a munitions factory, that Nanna met a young Canadian soldier with whom she fell in love, and he with her. Tragically, this young man - whose name I do not know - was deployed overseas and killed in action. Nanna kept his picture for a number of years and wrote to his mother who lived in New Zealand. To my great sadness, Nanna, in a pact with my Pop many years later, burnt the photograph. We never knew about her soldier boy until after Pop had passed away and I was about to embark on a trip to Canada. Nanna remembered her soldier very sad.........

Alice (centre) with sisters Jean (left) and Belle (right)

But fortunately for me and my family, Nanna did fall in love again with my 'Poppa Mick' (Albury was his real name) and they were married in 1946. Their new life together entailed stints on a dairy farm in Myrtleford, living in the inner city at Fitzroy/Brunswick, before they settled on a farm of their own at Koroop, near Kerang in Northern Victoria. Two little boys came along and life settled into the simple joys of family, farm and community life.

Picinic in King Valley - Alice is second from the right

My Nanna was a very big hearted woman, and when her nieces and nephews ran into trouble, Nanna Alice was always there to lend a hand. When her nephew in Melbourne was 'getting in with the wrong crowd', Nanna took him in for a year or so, giving him the chance to redirect himself by a break in the country. And when three little nephews were left orphaned, Nanna took them in as her own. She was always someone to dig in, work hard and get on with the job, doing so with a smile and a laugh that endeared her to other people!

Wedding day in 1946 - Nanna was 29

Nanna Alice had a number of interests - photography and family history I have mentioned. But she also loved to garden and had the most amazing fuchsia hot house full of colourful blooms even in our winter frosty northern Victorian climate. She enjoyed cooking and entertaining, and would always make me my favourite childhood dessert - trifle - whenever I came to stay.....not always omitting the brandy I might add !!! She loved to travel and explore new places seeing much of the South Pacific with Poppa Mick in their retirement (Nanna loved Tiki and Polynesian style!!! Awesome !!) And Nanna loved bowling, knitting, music, playing cards, dancing and being with her friends - the "Koroop Gang' as she called them.

Alice, Mick and their children Doug (left) and Ken (right)

Nanna Alice was so much more than a grandparent to me. I consider her a true friend and soul mate, and I long to be able to phone her up and talk, or pop in for a cuppa. She passed away in 2003, and the ache of her loss in my life has never really dimmed. Now that I have become so involved in vintage culture I have so many questions I would love to ask her too ! She really enjoyed popular culture - I recall her wanting to get her ears pierced when that became the vogue - she would have been in her 70's I think !! Way to go Nan! Nanna loved all sorts of music, from Hawaiian instrumentals, dance-hall bands, to Patsy Cline, Jim Reeves, Foster and Allen, and Slim Witman. She dressed in a vivacious style suited to her personality, loved movies and good TV, and particularly liked Harrison Ford after seeing him in the remake of Sabrina, followed the Saints (we wont hold it against her) and promised us ardently that she would take all 7 of her grandkids to Disneyland when she won tattslotto !

Always a happy couple, Mick and Alice

There are so many words to sum up my Nanna Alice - vivacious, generous, warm-hearted, outgoing, loving, kind, hard-working, fair, fun-loving, happy, easygoing, joyful. But I guess when I think of my Nanna Alice, the word beautiful always comes to my mind. Nanna was so beautiful - her smile, her spirit, her presence, her warmth.....Alice was a woman in a million. I am so looking forward to the day when I will see her again and we can go on a picnic or a  photographic expedition together, or simply have a cuppa and laugh over old memories.  You are beautiful Alice May, in every possible way, and your spirit, I hope will live on with me, through the pages of this blog, and in the joyful laughter and happiness of your descendants. XX

Mick and Alice with 5 of their 7 grandchildren - I am sitting betwen them with my arms around Nanna and Pop


  1. What a fabulous post - I really enjoyed reading it!


  2. What a lovely tribute to your grandmothers. I must admit it brought a tear to my eye (Paul, but don't tell anyone). It is so important that we pass on all our stories to the next generations. I never new my own grandparents, it looks like I missed out on something special.

  3. How funny! I have a great grandmother called Alice Janes! (from Bristol UK though!)


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