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

Friday, May 28, 2010

Who is Jean?

Marion Jean Haw was born on the 7th day of March, 1923 to farmer parents Marion (Paynter) and Amos Haw in the cute little district of Koroop, near Kerang in Northern Victoria. Jean, as she preferred to be know, was the second eldest in a family of 10 children, four of which - twins Mary and May, daughter Mavis and son William -  died not long after being born. They are the bare bald facts of Jean's early life....

Grandma Jean sitting on the stool - what a cutie !

Jean is my much loved Grandmother, and it was so moving to hear the tributes of admiration spoken by her 4 children and 13 grandchildren at her funeral in October 2006 . She was so much more than a bunch of dates and figures - she was a living breathing epitome of love and service to those she cared about. Grandma Jean wanted to be a nurse and would have been very well suited to the occupation, however, she married my Grandpa, Clive - a local dairy farmer, in 1945 and began on a career of wife and mother instead. This was a career she undertook with as much care and perfection as she did everything - something that was reflected at her funeral. Her cooking which was second to none, her immaculate knitting and sewing, her breathtaking style (she was renown for it in her small hometown of Cohuna) were all discussed in reverend tones ! As was her encouragement of the wearing of singlets and petticoats in her grandchildren !!! (Advice I usually never heeded !!)

Clive and Jean on their wedding day in 1945

Grandma Jean spent her life in the service of others, firstly as a child caring for her younger brothers and sisters, then as a wife to a busy and successful farmer and then as mother to 4 vivacious children. By the time we grandchildren came along, Grandma Jean was well versed in wild kids, something that I am sure I was - I remember playing peek-a-boo under her petticoat, and being awfully cheeky !

Living through the war years and Great Depression made Grandma very resourceful and frugal - something we need to value today ! I remember drawing pictures on sheets of butchers paper she saved from her grocery shopping, and playing with tin toys, games and books that had belonged to my Aunts and Uncles (wonderful!!!), playing 'horse and carriages' with a pair of old stockings, not to mention being encouraged by Grandma in my teenage years to re-elastic my underpants to make them last longer - something a 15 year old in the late 80's found quite horrific ! Silly me !

Grandma Jean (centre) as a little girl probably around 1930

There was always a pot of home-made apricot jam on the breakfast table, freshly squeezed orange juice for morning tea, lamb chops and veggies with the divinest gravy the world has ever seen for lunch, and scrumptious, decadent goodies for afternoon tea at grandmas, all cooked on the wood fired stove with no temperature gauge.....she just knew how to cook !

Grandma's garden was oh so pretty - I used to imagine it was "New Moon" or "Green Gables" from the LM Montgomery books. A darling little green painted 1950's wooden home on the edge of a meandering river and backed by State Forrest, it had a blossomy orchard to play in, and all the delightful old fashioned flowers to fill ones world with colour and magic - hydrangeas, crepe myrtle, hibiscus, cottoneaster, elephants ears, violets, gladioli and of course, magnificent scented and velvety roses.

As for the things Grandma loved herself, well, I must say that Grace Kelly and British Royalty were both things that Grandma admired and followed with pleasure.......isnt there always the fanciful longing for elegance and beauty in every girl??

A beautiful and somewhat rare Haw family photograph, Marion and Amos with their 6 surviving children. My beautiful Grandma Jean is third from the right. Isnt she stunning? Grandma was ofton told she looked like the Queen, a compliment she no doubt revelled in !

Grandma Jean's life was not a perfect one, but to me as a child, it seemed so. Surrounded by family and friends, and living on a farm that should have been in a story book just seemed like such a pretty dream to me. Truth be told however, it was Grandma who made her world as beautiful as it was - she filled her garden with colour and beauty, she gave such flair to everything she did - the way she dressed, the way she cooked, the family events she hosted. I adored my Grandma Jean, and she taught me much about striving for the best in ones life, living to make the world a prettier, more beautiful place, serving other people gladly,  making the most of what you have personally and around you, and dressing with flair ! These are valuable lessons that I will always treasure as I remember my Grandma Jean - more than a name on a family tree, Jean was a woman who inspired and passed on so much of herself to her children and grandchildren......her legacy will continue on  down through the generations to come, no matter if they realise her impact or not, she will be there in their acts of kindness, service and love to others. Grandma Jean you are adored and loved still.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

What do the women in this post all have in common? Read on and find out.....

December 2012: In an update to this post from 2009, can I just share that my marriage was falling apart when I wrote this - I chose to wear  the blame, and was surrounded by people who told me 'mental instability' was the cause of my problems.. In retrospect I now know this was not the case and any 'instability' was a symptom of the end of the marriage, not the cause. I have not had depression (other than normal 'bad times') since I left my marriage, have not taken anti depressants from 5 months after I left, and am back to the generally positive person I have always been (save for the months surrounding the death of my Nanna). Just needed the world to know that, although depression/mental illness is nothing to hide from, it is usually a BIG sign that something in your life needs to change or be addressed. Having done that, I now know freedom from it's debilitating effects, the words of the following article will enlighten you to my condition at the time........

In 1965 The Rolling Stones recorded one of their classic hits, Mothers Little Helper. (It was released in 1966.) This song always mystified me....what was it talking about? There was something in the song that I found quite compelling lyrically, even though I am not a huge Stones fan. It is only in the last couple of years that I researched the meaning behind the lyrics, and low and behold, I found that it was something I could identify with.....

This song is about a housewife who abuses prescription drugs to "get her through the day." It turns around the image of a suburban housewife, who is usually portrayed as cooking and caring for her family, by showing her as a drug abuser.
 Mick Jagger: "It's about drug dependence, but in a sort of like spoofy way. As a songwriter, I didn't really think about addressing things like that. It was just every day stuff that I'd observe and write about. It's what writing is for really. "

OK, so I am not saying that I am addicted to prescription drugs ! What I do note from the song was Mick Jaggars observation that housewives of the time were struggling - harried, frazzled, disillusioned and more than likely depressed - and so resorted to drugs (in this case vallium) to help them. Depression existed in the early 1960's, in much the same circumstances as it does today.

There were many noted cases of women who were struggling with various manifestations of depression and post natal depression in the early part of last century. Often times these unhappy, misunderstood women were committed to institutions, in some cases remaining there for life ! It was also prevalent in Hollywood - so many leading ladies suffered terribly with depression and mental illness. My adored Gene Tierney was one of them, Judy Garland, Francis Farmer, Vivien Leigh, Veronica Lake, and famously Marilyn Monroe are others. Depression does not discriminate between the famous, wealthy, middle class, working class, men, women, oppressed or successful, and it often manifests itself in different ways depending on the person, or circumstances.

Unfortunately, I am someone who is prone to the damn thing, and since having my children, I have really struggled. I can really understand the feelings of  those women in the 1960's who required a 'mothers little helper' to get through each day. It can really wear you down giving of yourself to other people 24 hours a day, particularly when you are an idealist like me !! Mother and idealist are not happy companions ! Children will never behave ideally, and my mothering - try though I might - will never be 'ideal' either ! So in writing this rather serious post, I simply want to share my own personal struggle, and let other sufferers know that whatever form of depression may they battle with, they are not alone !

One thing that has astounded me as I deal with depression - which has involved going on anti-depressants in recent times - is the huge amount of people with the same issues. One friend, who is head of nursing at a nearby large hospital, told me that every nurse there who had young children was on anti depressants !! Depression takes a number of forms - depression, anxiety, bipolar (formerly called manic depression - unexplainable and extreme  highs and lows) and postnatal depression being the main culprits.

When I lost my Nanna Alice on top of a number of other stress factors in my life, it tipped me into a depression that lasted a number of months, the symptoms of which were that I was unable to enjoy anything, found it difficult to get out of bed, and had no motivation for the things I had once enjoyed, and had thoughts of self harm.

Thankfully I recovered. However, when I had my children, because the symptoms of my second bought with depression were very different, I didn't recognise that I had the illness again. This time around the symptoms were an anxiousness/fear of connecting socially anywhere I might have to take my kids, feelings of isolation, withdrawing from friends and family, inability to hope or dream (something that has always been a BIG part of me), feeling sad or miserable, trapped, frustrated, inability to enjoy my children, no desire to participate in my children's lives any longer, blaming myself for everything that went wrong, and extreme over-activity to fill the 'emptiness'. I do have alot of inner strength, so for a number of years I simply 'braced up', put on a smile and carried on until I could no longer avoid the slide into darkness.

Fortunately for me, my husband, my sister Tanya and my dear friend Brooke have been an amazing source of understanding, forgiveness, support and love over the past 6 months. That said, for those who are caring for someone with depression, PLEASE take care of is a rotten job, make sure you are well supported yourself and surround yourself with people who can care for you, and take regular breaks and respite !

My 'support group' simply listened to my heartaches, continued to love me despite myself, and when the need became so great, helped me start on the little white serotonin pills that have made such an enormous difference to my outlook and perspective in the last 6 weeks. Couple that with counciling and allowing myself time to really search my soul, I have discovered alot of things about myself that I can begin to address to help me understand and recognise problems in the future. The future for me looks promising now !

n sharing this, I simply want my story to be a source of encouragement to others.....if you are struggling, you might like to take some time to have a look at the Beyond Blue website which is chock full of great advice and tips, encouraging stories, self analysis, contacts and information. I'd also like to encourage you to share your stories here if you feel like it...... writing is such tremendous therapy for me, you are more than welcome to 'purge' here too - you just never know whom it might bless in the long run.

Whatever you do, don't ignore it, and 'don't go running for the shelter of mothers little helper' - make sure you get proper medical help and advice, surround yourself with people who are compassionate, positive and understanding, and take time out for yourself and the things you once enjoyed. Left untreated, depression can destroy marriages, friendships, employment and careers, not to mention everything wonderful you were created to be ! It is very real and very debilitating, - may you be engulfed in waves of faith, hope and love enough to lift your heart to a place of freedom, peace and joy today and ever on.

Love to you all today.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Movie Club - May 2010

The Movie Club movie for May is the cult classic "The Girl Cant Help It" starring Tom Ewell and the incomprible Jayne Mansfield. Known as one of the first 'Rock and Roll' pictures, the film features a number of performances from classic artists such as Fats Domino, The Platters, Little Richard, Gene Vincent, The Treniers, The Chuckles, Johnny Glenn, Nino Tempo, Eddie Cochrane, Abbey Lincoln and Eddie Fontaine. It is worth watching simply for the music !!

As usual with the movie club, it's the third Thursday of the month - so join us wherever you are in the world and feel free to comment with your review of the film at any time !

Flower of the Season - Autumn 2010

Isnt it beautiful? And very very hardy too !! This Autumn the flower of the season is the pretty 'Cosmos' flower, sometimes known as the Mexican Astor. Native to Mexico (obviously!), this pretty little plant is an annual, but oh so easy to grow from seed, or you can obtain seedlings from your local nursery.  It is known as a wildflower in it's native land, but suits the wild cottage garden look here in Australia. They will readily self seed so you can either collect the seed heads at the end of flowering and store then in a dry brown paper bag for use next year, or you can simply let the seed fall where they will and watch for new plants in the coming spring. (Here where I live, unless tended, most garden seeds will not reproduce in the wild, however you may want to be a bit more careful of 'escapee's in other parts of Australia that receive higher rainfall that the semi arid inland where I am.)

 The plant in the photographs is actually growing in quite a dry but mostly shaded part of my garden, however this is not the best spot to make the most of your cosmos.....better to be in full sun with well drained, moderately rich soil.

Cosmos is wonderful as a picked flower in cottage garden type bouquets alonside other 'wild' flowers such as Queen Annes Lace, Love in a Mist, Kiss me quick, and Cornflowers. (Arnt some of those plant names just dreamy? Whoever handed out those 'common' plant names deserves a big trophy of appreciation from romantic old me!!) I grow my cosmos to add a sunny little lift to my garden at this time of year (and in spring too), but also because I love to pick bouquets for people - an inexpensive way to show loved ones you care about them - and you simply cannot beat cosmos to add that delicate something to a solid bunch of roses or geraniums. There's nothing like a little bit of 'wild-ness' in your life now and again!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

1950's Heart Throbs

Who knows when the term "Heart throb' first came into vogue, but we all know what it means ! Usually in reference to a guy who gets your heart racing ! There were many such men in the 1950's, and I am going to post a few film/performance clips of them here - they get my heart racing anyhow! Let me point out that this is not about musical ability, or handsomness, or even talent, it is purely about the possession of a certian indifinable quality that is, quite simply, captivating........ here we go.......

These are my 'heart throbs' (interesting that they are all muso's !! I could have put Donald O'Connor from Singing in the Rain there too -gosh I adored him growing up! - but somehow, he doesnt quite gel with the idea of a 'heartthrob'....perhaps more of a hero or icon to me !!)

I am keen to hear other peoples ideas - who stirred your heart strings?
(Hmmm, I cant help but notice that Elvis bears a strong resemblence to my hubby in the fame and fortune clip - lucky me !)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Quote of the Month - May 2010

"Tomorrow is always fresh with no mistakes in it"

I am not entirely sure if this quote is from just the movie "Anne of Green Gables" or if it is also from the book as well. Once upon a time this die hard "Anne-fan" would have been able to tell you off the top of her head, but post three children my brain is not retaining all that it once did (well, that is my excuse at the moment !) and as all my books are packed away in boxes (not enough space 'till my boys start sharing a bedroom) I cant even look up the answer for you all !!

However, the source is really immaterial, it is the substance of the quote that is the greatest treasure. Anne of Green Gables is filled with such inspiring gems, reminding us of the beauty, goodness, purity and loveliness that can be in life if we only have the eyes and open hearts to see it and experience it. I used to wish I lived in the era of Anne of Green Gables, but the real truth is that I love the gentleness, community and idealistic life revealed in the stories.....and those things are worth striving for whatever era you live in - there is beauty in 2010 as much as in 1885!

May your tomorrows be filled with hope and fresh starts, and as few 'mistakes' as it takes to learn and develop real charactor !

(How funny is the photograph above ! My girlfriend JennyVellacot and I being "Anne Shirley and Diana Barry", all of 18 years ago! Oh that big hair - I swear it was the fashion in the early '90's!)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Living Dolls - Miss May 2010

Allow me to introduce our beautiful living doll for the month of May......the ever elegent Sue Cadzow

What does 'vintage' mean to you?

Gorgeous, pre-loved items that were created prior to 1980. The 70’s are the cut-off point for me! The fact that the eighties are considered vintage still shocks me!

What was it that first prompted your interest in vintage culture?

Oddly enough it was country television in the 1970’s! We had limited reception (ie a choice of Ballarat, Bendigo and the ABC channels) and the only late night movie that ever seemed to on, and was repeated endlessly, was “Dial M for Murder”. I was besotted with with Grace Kelly. Her hair, her clothes, her style. My mother had a collection of 1950s dress patterns from her younger days and as soon as I discovered these I started making my own outfits. This lead to a bit of an obsession. Next came “Happy Days”, “Old 55” and “Grease” and my major HSC art project was based on the life and death of Marilyn Monroe. Then I moved to the big smoke to attend art college ansd I was thrilled to find I wasn’t the only one – there was a whole bunch of people obsessed with vintage stuff the same as me!

What is your favourite era, and do you 'live it' every day? In what ways?

I think my favourite era would be the mid 1950’s – early 1960’s – Basically the atomic era when space travel and rocket ship styling was the inspiration for design. My house was built in the mid-sixties. It is filled with furniture and knick-knacks from the era. My wardrobe is filled with vintage clothes and accessories (And anything new is made from an old pattern!) All my vintage appliances are in daily use and I drive a 1962 EK Holden. Mind you, I’m a graphic designer so at the other extreme I utilise the utmost in modern computer technology!

Tell us about your favourite item of vintage clothing, kitchenalia, music, furniture or whatever !

Too hard to choose! I love all things plastic, especially coloured kitchenware. I use all my kitchenware – the canisters, the utensils, the crockery, but my pride and joy is the Sunbeam Mixmaster which is identical to the one my Gran used. She taught me how to bake, and I swear the Sunbeam makes the lightest sponge cakes and pavlovas! I also love my bakelite and lucite jewellery and my (small but ever-growing) collection of lucite handbags. I guess I’m a real Plastic Queen.

Can you share with us why vintage culture continues to hold such appeal for you?

I love the quality and design of vintage pieces. Things were made to last. The workmanship is just amazing. Even machine-manufactured items are far superior and much longer-lasting than what is available today. I love the fact that there are other people out there who treasure those qualities as much as I do. And I love the fact that anywhere you travel in the world, like-minded people will seek you out and ask you about your handbag!

Do you have any tips for anyone starting out in the vintage scene?

Follow your heart! There are plenty of people out there who are vintage snobs and will look down their noses at the newcomers who may not know as much as they do or have such an extravagant collection. But just remember there are plenty of other people out there who will support and encourage your obsession! The internet is a fantastic resource for purchasing vintage items (if you have the cash) but also researching the history and background of the era. When I started out we had to read books and magazines and watch old movies for information, we scoured the op shops and markets, and a lot of first-hand knowledge was gleaned by chatting to the old ladies behind the counter who had lived the era first hand! They used to always say how lovely I looked compared to all the other young girls (who looked like Madonna and Cyndi Lauper at the time – it was the 80’s!)

Now is your chance to provide us with an overview of who you are and what you do. Tell us as much or as little as you like !!!!

I’m a graphic designer with my own company Red Pepper Graphics I’m currently in the process of setting up Red Pepper Retro, which will be an arm of the business dealing exclusively with vintage-inspired graphics and custom artwork with a retro twist. Even my main-stream clients seem to be chasing the retro look these days!

Finally, what or who inspires you and why?

Lauren Bacall, Rita Hayworth, Katherine Hepburn – those sassy, sexy women who didn’t put up with chauvinistic nonsense from the menfolk!

(Bottom two photographs thanks to Stuart at; )
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