Thursday, August 20, 2020

Family history

This photo popped up in one of my feeds. It's a nice enough photo and reminded me of some family history.


In about the year I was born my father built my maternal grandparents a new brick home in the suburb of South Oakleigh. Foolishly it was built on a main road that became a busy car and truck route, and as nice as the house was, it was only two bedroom, so impractical when their daughter ended up having four children, but we managed when we stayed. The kitchen had a pull out dough making board and the laundry a fold down ironing board that was unfortunately unusable as it rested at an angle on a the new automatic Frigidaire washing machine.

Note the Malcolm Reid furniture store? While Adelaide based, the company had branched out to Melbourne and sold high end furniture.

Here is a colour photo of the store.


In preparation for the connection of a sewerage system, the house had an indoor flushing toilet, but of course it couldn't be used and there was outbuilding with a lav, emptied by collectors who slung the pans on their backs and I remember seeing them and they wore a large rubber back covering to prevent their clothes being splashed.

A new house needed new furniture and Mother took her mother in to Malcolm Reid to shop. Mother selected everything, including crystal dressing table handles to match the crystal door handles that Mother had managed to sneak into the house fitout, telling her father they were just glass. My Pop just paid the bill in both cases. 

This photo of Malcolm Reid furniture shows quite closely the style Mother selected to furnish her mother's home


What remains of the furniture? Mother still has the three piece lounge suite, somewhat nicer than this one in the photo and plans to have it reupholsted for the second time and move it to where she lives at my brother's. 

In a a crate in our spare room I have the crystal handles from my grandmother's dressing table, and this mirror in our short hallway was part of the dressing table. It has a wonderful curvy bevelled edge and the original felt pads where the clasps clamp it to the backboard.


I guess high end reproduction furniture fell out of favour and Malcolm Reid closed down. It is a now a Quest accommodation hotel, no doubt empty because of COVID, although it could be housing the homeless and/or domestic violence victims.


33 comments:

  1. I do envy people, like you, who know something of their family history.
    I have some things which belonged to my parents but nothing further back than that.
    That said, while my siblings and I grew up with no more than the immediate family, the extended family will have lots. I wonder whether they will think of it as a plus or a minus...

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    1. I have my mother's big old rolling pin, but none of the good, solid furniture that she once told me would be mine when she went.

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    2. EC, generally I think keeping some things from the past is a good thing.

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    3. River, the rolling pin is good but would you really want all that heavy old furniture?

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    4. At the time, I had a house big enough and when I eventually go, my kids could have sold the antiques and got themselves a nice bit of cash in the bank. My younger kids are still in that house.

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  2. wow you have a great family history. Greetingds from Poland

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  3. Fascinating. Did your father do the building himself or had it built? Either way it was nice of him.

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    1. Sandra, my father and his brothers built it. They would have been paid well enough.

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  4. My grandmother had those door handles too. And here it was the height of fashion to use mahogany wood for the furniture. It was all dark and heavy with brocade coverings. I only have a few items from Grandma, but mostly it's in my memories.

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    1. Maribeth, I do like some nice brocade.

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  5. Fortunately, throughout my childhood our septic-system toilet was upstairs and indoors. We were fortunate because all the other houses in our street had the outdoor "thunder boxes". Our little family unit of four...our grandmother, mother, my brother and me... lived in a two bedroom rented flat..not a house, a flat. My brother's make-ship bedroom was part of the small front verandah.

    Our abode was humble, and not fancy by any means...but we did have the septic system...and that was wonderful. How that was to be I will never know...but I know I was so glad it was that way.


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    1. Luxury, Lee. I must have been 7 or 8 before we had a septic tank. It was horrible and the memory has not been erased.

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  6. Family histories are such fun, as long we acknowledge two main problems: 1] grandparents forget what really happened, or they knowingly change the truth and 2] we may not be pleased with the findings. I love watching Who Do You Think You Are, but people keep finding that grandma ran a brothel during WW2 or great uncle was gaoled for smuggling.

    When the soldiers came back after WW2, they were encouraged to get married, build a house in an outer suburb and have babies - via a low interest housing loan. They were all two-bedroom houses! My parents added on two more small bedrooms in 1958.

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    1. Hels, which is why oral histories, while interesting, are not reliable. The idea of a child having its own bedroom was not even thought about.

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  7. Our family of 8 moved to a new subdivision ("estate") when I was 6. 2 bedrooms and a boxroom. We were like rats in a cage as the "front room" was off limits and the kitchen the size of the box room.

    I love these snippets of your past. and that furniture is endlessly fashionable and solid.

    XO
    WWW

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    1. WWW, yes, I can imagine what it was like in Ireland then.

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  8. When my late father went to work in 'The City' (his first job), he took some rooms near St Paul's Cathedral. His father had their local carpenter to make all his furniture. A table and six chairs, a sideboard, and a desk (I expect there was already a bed there). All in limed Oak, and of a simple design. I still have the desk.

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    1. Very impressive Cro, and you have one piece still.

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  9. The only thing I have that I can think of that goes back to my childhood is an old suitcase that goes back to my MOTHER'S childhood! So it goes back to at least the 1940s, possibly earlier. It looks like it's right out of an Astaire and Rogers movie. I don't actually use it as a suitcase, and I'm not really hanging onto it for sentimental reasons, but I don't particularly see any need to throw it out. Right now it's sitting on an end table in my bedroom, an end table that I empty my pockets out at night on. Having the suitcase there makes the table a little more wider, better to empty more of my pockets on.

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    1. Kirk, I can picture the suitcase and at least it still serves a purpose.

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  10. I remember wandering through furniture stores looking at things I would buy if money wasn't an issue, then buying what I could actually afford and I miss doing that. There just aren't any proper furniture stores these days. Ikea doesn't count. Most other furniture stores are filled with miles of base+mattress ensembles with a few proper pieces tucked away in corners. Even Freedom Furniture seems to be mostly bits and pieces with a heavy emphasis on soft furnishings like cushions and throws. It's a good thing I don't need any new furniture.

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    1. River, while probably 15 years old and we would like to update them, our lounge room furniture works for us and we can not find anything better.

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  11. I have five of the chairs from my grandparents dining room table, bought new in 1925. Oddly, none of the furniture from my parents home.

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    1. Travel, that's impressive but what happened to chair number six?

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  12. Funny about your mom and the crystal handles:)

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    1. Sandra, he never ever found out.

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  13. Must be a really strong lounge suite to last this long, but I suppose it was well looked after as well as being loved.
    Interesting regarding crystal handles, must have really liked them..
    Take care.

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    1. Margaret, as door handles, they weren't so nice to use, with kind of sharpish edges.

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  14. Those were the days of good solid furniture that lasted and lasted...
    I love the mirror with the scalloped edge. I painted a sideboard from the 60's that had a scalloped mirror, so pretty.

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    1. Sami, if looked after, such furniture would probably last for ever.

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  15. I enjoy looking at furniture store ads. It's interesting to see how it is all staged for a photo shoot.

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    1. Gigi, yes some really do staging well, others not so well.

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