I have been struggling to get it into a logical sequence. All suggestions welcomed. I am getting the M/S ready for an editor. Apologies to those who have read this bit before… Hilary has suggested a family tree, which is a great idea, but will take some working on!
Great Granny Haines’ thin shadow fell over me as she stood towering above me in her black dress with the white lace neck- piece at the base of her long scrawny neck. She continued to ignore me. I knew why she wasn’t my mother’s favourite grandmother. Was it that she didn’t like children? I don’t think she favoured my mother as an adult either. Perhaps her aloofness was her self- protection from the outside world, which made her seem superior and, as a consequence, lonely.
Great Granny Isabella lived with my Great Aunt Dolly in a small white weatherboard house at the top of the hill above the town at 70 Wenvoe Street, Devonport. Camellias, roses, lilies, violets, spring bulbs of every sort, hollyhocks and delphiniums filled the garden. The dovecote in the backyard completes the picture outside. Inside, on top of Great Granny’s bedside table, sat a toilet roll and a lolly jar that she seemed reticent to share. Her death in October 1953 at the age of 94 years meant that she’d been a widow for forty years. Her husband, a baker and naval contractor, had died in May 1913, aged 58.
After Granny Haines died, Auntie Dolly lived alone. Dolly’s first love had died in the First World War. Since then there had been a succession of suitors and fiancés. Her generous nature was well known. This is why Grandpa Haines had ensured the house couldn’t be sold, so that she remained with a roof over her head.
Ruby, Dolly’s older sister, then died, which left Ruby’s husband, Percy, vulnerable. Auntie Dolly pestered him until she had convinced him that they should marry and she’d look after him. He reluctantly agreed to marry her. She was seventy- three. He moved down to Wenvoe Street leaving his lovely home at 8 Ronald Street, next door to my maternal grandparents. It seemed Ruby and Percy had compensated for not having children by surrounding themselves with beautiful antiques. Percy’s father had been a sea captain, so he would have brought some of the treasures home from overseas. The garden with its double cherry trees in the front garden, one pink and one white, were spectacular in bloom. A huge tulip tree loomed out the back; their large block shared a fence, like my grandparents, with the high school.
Dolly’s house was small and so the beautiful and the kitsch were thrust together; clutter was a kind word for the chaos. She was determined to have it all. The wooden statue of a man that had stood elegantly in the entrance at 8 Ronald Street now had to compete with a myriad of eclectic objects collected over the years. In those days plastic flowers were a no-no. Dolly had those, plus a blue budgerigar, a green and yellow budgerigar and a cat. She was diabetic and going blind, so she wore a hat inside with a veil to stop any glare, as well as sunglasses. Dust was something she couldn’t see. Poor Percy lasted only six months before dying.
The story of Dolly getting her licence was one we loved to hear repeated, always with great amusement. She tried three times to get her car licence.
Cars were not common, even in my early childhood. My grandparents were probably the first couple on the North West Coast to go on their honeymoon, in 1914, in their own car. Auntie Ruby and Uncle Percy had a dear brown car with a dicky seat at the back. (I didn’t ever see anyone sitting in it). My parents didn’t get a car until I was in primary school. They let their garage to the Pyett family for their cream Austin with the soft roof (whilst they were living at Elimatta Hotel and Eric was building their house up at North Street).
Back to Dolly: on the second attempt of trying for a licence she turned the car over on Hill Street, Hobart, with the policeman in it. He got out and walked back to the police station.
Uncle Henry had spent some time trying to teach her to drive, and one day she entered the family firm, (F.H.Haines Pty. Ltd.), in Devonport and said to Henry,
‘You must come, I’m going to get my licence’,
‘Surely you are not ready yet’!
Dolly answered, ‘That nice policeman, Mr. Rothwell, said he’d take me’.
So off they went. After taking her only around the block, Mr. Rothwell said to Henry, ‘Do you think she should get it’? Henry answered, ‘I guess she’ll improve once she has her licence’,
‘Oh well, I shall leave her in your charge Mr. Haines’. Henry thought to himself, but I won’t be there! She was never a good driver, and people avoided her car when they saw it coming, as they did with my Grandmother and Great Auntie Con (on Dad’s side).
Dolly married her nephew-in-law, Ted Bolton, twenty-five years her junior; she was a ‘cougar’, ahead of her time, she was seventy-six. Her niece had died, and, oh what an opportunity! They did the deed quietly in Latrobe without the family knowing. It seems he was an alcoholic. My mother was grateful he was there to look after Dolly. My Aunt Mary had no time for him at all. Myrtle Russell, a friend of my mother’s, always asked, ‘How are you feeling Brenda’? – As she felt Frank might be next on Dolly’s list.
The lovely large, blue, white and red ochre Asian dish I have was a wedding present from Dolly when Umberto and I married. We put confetti in it, (tulle-covered sugared almonds with our names and the date of our wedding), to be given to each guest, following an Italian superstitious, but pretty ritual of fertility. I always felt honoured to have something from that amazing Aladdin’s Cave, as the rest was left to Ted’s family. What they didn’t want they auctioned off without notifying the family. A big black mark.