The Haines family
My mother, Brenda, was second in a family that had five daughters and one son: Lillian, Brenda, Chloris, Marian, Henry Charles and Mary. Marian died very young and was seldom spoken of.
In my mother’s childhood, my Grandmother was a shy woman. When someone came to the door, she would tell the children to be quiet and pretend no one was at home. A visitor’s card was dropped through the letterbox in the front door to let them know who had called.
When my mother was two, she fell off a chair and became paralysed. She remained so for a year. The doctor didn’t know what had caused this, writing to International journals about the case. My mother screamed when there was noise, so straw was placed on the unsealed road outside the house to minimalize the noise. Brenda demanded a crystal glass to drink from. In later years Brenda thought that the skull bone must have been pressing against the brain, which gradually shifted, releasing pressure, allowing her to learn to walk again.
Chloris died at the age of twenty-one in Melbourne whilst she was completing her studies to be a pharmacist. She was thrown from a horse. The Devonport police rang my grandparents and asked them to come to the police station to be told the news. Henry heard the news when the Melbourne undertaker’s rang him at home, and so went to pick his parents up, knowing that they would be in no fit state to drive home. Recently, my cousin, Peter, found a newspaper cutting about Grandpa donating a wing to the maternity hospital at Meercroft named the ‘Chloris Haines’ wing’, after this tragic event. No one seems to know of this, nor know what happened to the brass plaque that was mentioned in the newspaper article, as Meercroft is now a large old peoples’ home, totally changed.
My grandmother held that pain in her heart, as we discovered in 1969 when we found Chloris’s things, emptying the attic at Ronald Street. There were boxes of new underwear that Chloris hadn’t even worn. My Grandmother moved to live next door to her daughter Mary who lived at 126 Steele Street; a big break with the past.
Grandma wore an apricot-coloured corset that had to be laced up the front. Her body was curvaceous. (I inherited her hump on her upper back, and Auntie Mynie shared this too). Chloris and Mynie’s children missed out on this defect, lucky for them, and were proud of their straight backs. Long white hair was twisted into a bun at the nape of her neck where the clear plastic hairpins attempted to hold the bundle. Black and navy shoes were polished daily, and handbags and gloves had to match the shoes. The array of hats: wide, tall or sometimes snugly fitting, decorated or plain were always eye catching. If only we’d kept them. Osteoarthritis caused her to hobble slowly, leaning from one side to the other using a walking stick. Her swollen knees, ankles and fingers were distorted and must have been very painful, though she never complained, nor believed in taking medication.
The first morning task was to always red-ochre the fireplace before setting the fire. Farting as Grandma painfully knelt was part of the ritual. She also whistled, though denied that she omitted these noises. I pretended that she neither farted nor whistled, unless there were brothers or cousins about to share some giggles. Mornings were not her best time, as she would rather have slept in, preferring to sit up late into the night. Silence was her kingdom, and the radio was seldom used. This was before television. Talking was her entertainment. She made scones for her own aging mother and delivered them daily, till Nana died. The daily paper and the telephone brought any news. Grandma’s annoying habit was to ring at teatime, when Mum was busy preparing tea. Fridays Grandma would arrive with a welcome basket of fruit and chocolate for my mother, as Mum was a chocoholic.
Mr. Harman was the gardener for many decades. Grandma always took out his morning/ afternoon tea in a rainbow coloured jug with the milk and sugar added, accompanied by biscuits/ scones on the tray. It wasn’t until he retired that Grandma found out that he didn’t take sugar in his tea. He’d been drinking it all of those years without saying anything. When he retired Mr. Sharman took his place.
Grandma played contract bridge with her friends. My grandfather would sometimes arrive home before they had left. He’d place one of their hats on his head and embarrass my grandmother by saying,
‘Haven’t you got homes to go to?’ He was always full of fun. Grandpa loved to act (taking the part of a fat woman in the local Cof E hall performance of a Charles Dickens play) and he also enjoyed singing. Bowls and rowing were two of his sporting interests.
When my grandfather was offered a knighthood, he refused, saying,
‘I was born Harry Haines and will die Harry Haines.’
He also hinted that his wife was proud enough, and he couldn’t bear for her to be made Lady Chloris. In those days, she wouldn’t let anyone use her Christian name, apart from a very few, who could be counted on one hand.
One of those was Miss Vera Benjafield. When Miss Benjafield went into hospital, she asked the nurses, ’Where are my teeth?’ They looked high and low to no avail. Finally they found out she hadn’t brought any with her. Such a dear old soul!
Grandpa visited us often when I was small. He used to take Clive with him on his trips to the Dulverton Brickworks in Railton or to one of his many timber mills. I was not included on these trips, as I was a girl or perhaps considered too young. Once I hit Clive on the head in frustration. My grandfather expounded,
‘You can’t buy a new head at a shop, you have to look after them.’
He was a kind man, and ahead of his time. He arranged for his employees to have superannuation when they retired, long before it was law, so that he kept most of his employees for life. In the beginning F.H. Haines P/L did building work as well as selling building materials. Later he realised it wasn’t fair to other builders and so gave up the building side of the business and just kept the timber mills, timber yards and brick works, plus the hardware shop in Best Street down by the railway. The firm had a whistle that went four times a day, letting the whole town know the time of day.
When my grandfather had a fridge delivered to our house, my mother objected, being proud, ‘We can manage,’ and it was six months before she turned it on.
Harry Haines realised that his son Henry didn’t have his heart in the business, so he sold the firm to Kauri Timber Company in November 1951, a fortnight before he died. Henry managed the business for Kauri Timber Co. until June 1956. Then Henry bought the farm ‘Cheverton’ at Deloraine, surprising the farming community by making a great success of it, never having lived on a farm before.
Grandpa suffered from asthma; he wasn’t a strong man and died in December 1951. My mother, 34, cried, something I hadn’t seen her do before. She was devastated. I felt, at aged 5, detached, as I wasn’t close to my grandfather and couldn’t understand why my mother was so upset. Only now, as I learn more about him, am I sorry I didn’t know him better. It was after this that I started going up to Ronald Street to stay. I’d look at Grandpa’s shaving equipment left in the bathroom cabinet and it gave me conflicting feelings of discomfort, intrigue and distaste; a dead person’s things.
When we were a little older we’d play with Grandpa’s billiards upstairs. On the walls at Ronald Street Grandma’s children’s pastel drawings were framed and displayed. I was intrigued by the fact that one of the aunts was dead. This added to my belief that the house was haunted.