About the Whitfields: family pics for my brother

me45RIGHT: Yes, I was pretty once! The picture on the right was taken around 1946. I had something wrong with my feet and wore special shoes. I used to be taken regularly to a Macquarie Street specialist. The fact that I was not supposed to go barefoot until around age 10 caused me great embarrassment, as all the other kids were barefoot most of the time. Note the wings on the shirt: a short time before my father had returned from serving in the Royal Australian Air Force in New Guinea. Apparently my first words regarding him were “Get that man out of here!”


This must have been taken a year or so earlier, perhaps late in 1944. On the left is my older brother Ian (born 1935) and on the right my sister Jeanette (1940-1952).

*Thanks to Mister Rabbit for scanning this and the following few pics.



Also possibly 1944. Ian hides in the background, I am preoccupied, Jeanette looks sweet, and a cousin is being attended to by my mother or my aunt!



On the back it says “March 21 aged 9” — Jeanette’s ninth birthday (19 March 1949) being crashed by me, it appears. Left to right: Connie Phipps, Jeanette, me, Gail MacNamara, Deidre Hawke. The Auburn Street house is in the background.



RIGHT: Me, Ian and Jeanette, probably in 1951.

You can find more detailed stories about Auburn Street on About the Whitfields 4.

# …My brother’s horse, Lassie, possibly the most placid and dopiest horse that ever lived, spent most of its time in the Saunders’s backyard on the other side of our place, but sometimes was let into our yard. My sister would ride it, and would climb the persimmon tree in the backyard. I was too big a woose for those sorts of things, or maybe too young. If Lassie was in our yard she would climb the back steps and stick her head into the kitchen so my mother would give it sugar or carrots. I am sure that horse could grin.

Peter the kelpie dog certainly did. When my grandfather and grandmother moved into a house of their own (which my father built and where an uncle still lives) Peter would accompany my grandfather when he walked from our place to Waratah Street. He would go on ahead, stopping at all the places where my grandfather regularly stopped for a chat, as was his wont, and would wait for my grandfather to catch up with him. Eventually Peter would come back home. But one day he didn’t–killed by a car on the Princes Highway. That is the first loss I remember….

# …One of the mysteries in the back yard was a well with a concrete dome on it. There was a concrete slab covering the hole in the top, but you could still drop things in and wait for the splash. We thought it was bottomless, and quite scary at times. Quite possibly gnomes or bunyips lived in it.

… At the bottom of the backyard was a line of gum trees, a paling fence with allegedly poisonous gourds growing on it, and in front of that the chook yard. The story goes, as I can’t remember this, that my grandmother (whose nerves were not good as she had two sons and one son-in-law away in the War) was coming back one day from feeding the chooks when an American in a Kittyhawk or a Mustang appeared at treetop level and chased her up the yard. Convinced it was a Zero and she was about to die, my grandmother dropped everything, screamed, and ran for the house…

My own earliest memory is of sitting on my tricycle in the driveway at Auburn Street. A yellow biplane flew over very low and the pilot leaned out and waved to me. Many years later my mother confirmed this must have been the end of World War II!


# … Grandpa Christison had one eye, an eyepatch over the empty socket, the result of a too realistic sword fight with sticks in his own childhood. He had just retired from teaching, and was endlessly patient. Once he was down in the vegetable garden, digging, weeding, planting. This must have been before 1948. No, I know what he must have been doing–putting out snailbait, or picking snails off his growing lettuces or cabbages or whatever. I was very curious about snails, spending hours watching them. I asked him about snails, in fact to be precise I asked “What are snails for?” Even then I was preposition-aware! Grandpa gave me the complete rundown on snails, their life cycle, their diet, their mode of locomotion… “Yes, Grandpa–but what are snails for?” Even his patience had limits, as he called to my mother, “Get this kid out of here!” …


# …Very many days after school I would be at their place, and a regular event was to walk over the road, cut through the railway fence, and stand together by the pulsing and hissing C32 steam locomotive that at about 4.00 pm always sat on the goods line waiting for the all clear to proceed to Sydney with its train load of fresh Illawarra milk. Grandpa had befriended railway workers during his time in the country and loved to talk to the engine driver and fireman, who seemed to enjoy talking to him as well. I just loved steam engines, their smell, their heat, their sounds, their explicit power. I was fascinated too by their age: “Beyer Peacock England 1896” for example, on the side of some C32. Of course the magic moment was when the South Coast Daylight Express would come roaring down the line on its return journey to Sydney with its streamlined C38 and its beautiful Pullman carriages that I would dream of travelling in one day. Why, it would come rushing through at 60 or even 70 miles per hour! Wonderful…

Go to Part 4.

Return to Part 2.

2 thoughts on “About the Whitfields: family pics for my brother

  1. high my name is deidre talbott it was hawke before i got married. i was just looking on the internet and found it rather neat that someone had the exact same name as me, even spelled the same way.

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