Mother was a city girl even though she grew up on the outskirts of Melbourne in South Oakleigh. Along with being a single child (explains a lot) she did not really learn proper domestic skills until she was married and had to learn them. If anything Father's domestic skills were better than Mother's.
Father built the family home in Riley Street, South Oakleigh and also a rather nicer house in North Road for Mother's parents. Who knew North Road we go on to be a truck container route? Then Prime Minister Menzies' credit squeeze hit the building industry and the construction of new houses slowed considerably so Father decided to buy a farm with money from Mother's father. Grandpop told Father not to worry about repaying the money, just make sure my daughter has what she needs. Of course, come their divorce and the farm was sold, Grandpop wanted the money repaid, and it was.
I was four years old when our family moved to Gippsland on a cold, grey and drizzling day in June. Mother went on a quick learning experience. She did not have a clue how to
light a black wood fueled stove and on the second morning at 6.30am
poured petrol over the wood and when she set a match to it, the
hotplates all rose into the air and then fell down with a loud clatter.
Mother, in tears, went back to bed and did not rise again until 10.00 and so set a sleeping pattern for a lifetime.
Father lit the stove the next morning before departing to the dairy.
Hot water? You have to light this chip heater with paper and little bits of wood for bath water. You use an electric immersion heater to heat water in the laundry. Dishes are washed with water heated in the kettle on the stove.
No Mother, you cannot use the tank water for clothes washing. There is insufficient supply. You have to pump that water from the well by hand into a bucket and carry it to the laundry, along with water for the garden.
The black wood stove was mastered in time, but the small electric Vulcan hotplates saw a lot of use.
The toilet? Down this steep muddy track and once a week a hole has to be dug to bury the contents.
Of course you can use the telephone, so long as no-one else on the party line is using it. Be careful what you say as people can listen in.
You need wood for the stove? You have to chop the wood.
Unlike other farmers' wives in the area, Mother had nothing to do with the farming side of things and found it enough to cook, clean and wash for three, often four adults, the extras being Father's brothers, and eventually four children. Although other women in the area did similar and milked cows morning and night.
Gradually things improved. An electric hot water service was installed. A briquette burning slow combustion stove that did not go out overnight and helped to heat the hot water was a good buy. A pump brought water up from a dam to fill the well and a water pressure system installed to supply the house, which led to a new automatic washing machine. When Sister was born, the monster never used lounge room was divided into a bedroom with hallways either right angled side and an indoor septic toilet was a marvellous addition, although the occasional vegetable garden seemed to lose some of its vigour.
While Mother has never had to worry about money, until recently and even now she knows her children won't see her go without, up to a point, she did do some really hard yards when we were kids. But Mother's situation was not so different to general society then. Mother's now may not have to pump water from a well or chop wood, but by golly in modern society, Mother's work hard in other ways. What a pity both parents seem to have to work and one is not at home to bring up children but that subject is for another post.