Looking forward to holidays made the school year bearable. We’d go to the farm at East Sassafras where we children would stay in the old house, whilst our parents slept in the new house. We helped paint the old house inside; yellow and grey in the boy’s bunkroom, and pink and blue in my room. How hideous it sounds now, (fashionable 50s colours). The open door to the outside veranda let the possums in, with their shiny black eyes reflecting in the firelight. Both bedrooms had a fireplace that I delighted in lighting. That love of an open fire remains with me. There was magic about the place. The gnarled old apple tree was the backdrop to our lunches outside in the sunshine. Winter days I picked masses of yellow daffodils growing wild. Arranging these inside radiated a warm glow, brightened the very dark kitchen with the camp oven. The windmill overgrown with an old-fashioned pink cabbage rose filled a fron garden.
One sad holiday, Rummy, our Cocker Spaniel, who was getting old and slow, didn’t manage to keep up with the Land Rover. It was one of the few occasions I remember Clive crying. It was a wet, cold month, but the daffodils bravely flowered.
There were always plenty of jobs to be done. Milking I decided not to be good at, as I really didn’t want that responsibility. My father milked the cows by hand. Feeding out was something
we all enjoyed, throwing hay from the back of the Land Rover. Learning to drive was fun, and we learnt as soon as our legs were long enough. Once I drove Uncle Bob, (before he married my aunt), to show him around the farm. I took him over Greens Creek and ended up bogged, and both of us had to walk through the mud to organise the tractor to rescue the Land Rover.
Only once do I remember my father getting angry. We children had all gone around the swampy area with firebrands, burning what we thought was just a swamp area, but Dad had just finished planting out new trees, and we managed to destroy them. I can’t remember any consequences, though knowing Dad was angry was enough to subdue us for some time.
Christopher often used to ride his bike out to the farm for the holidays. He says it was about a three- hour ride, though he is inclined to exaggerate. We’d play Monopoly and Ludo by the fire in the old house on stormy days. Clive and Chris would cheat, and Clive had a terrible temper if he didn’t win. Chris was also competitive, so it was always interesting. Christopher would
sometimes creep into my bedroom after the boys were asleep. He’d lie on top of the bed, sharing my pillow as we quietly talked into the wee hours, watching the shadows from the fire play on the ceiling. He introduced ideas I’d never heard of, like ‘pop’ music. Our fathers only listened to classical music. I had so much to learn.
Walking around the farm we’d sing songs, pick mushrooms, burst stomachs of dead sheep and collect wild flowers. Mary Mayguard helped housekeep for Dad and Graeme White whilst they were living at the farm when Mum wasn’t there. Mary helped around the farm too. We called her Mary Mudguard as she rode a motorbike.
Sometimes the first long weekend in the year fell on my birthday. There was an Apex carnival held in Devonport on Victoria Parade that weekend. The man who ran the Ferris wheel would give us free rides before the carnival officially opened. It was always very exciting, and during my school years I was sad to be dragged away to return on the bus to school in Launceston.
Graeme boarded with (Great) Auntie Mynie for part of this time, so that he could attend the primary school in Devonport whilst Mum went to the farm. As a middle child, he probably felt undervalued. He was good-looking and clever too, like Clive. He excelled at school and became a prefect at Scotch College and then went on to study engineering at university, also like Clive.
Nigel and Angus went to Scotch, following in Graeme and Clive’s footsteps. The new principal was a single man. During their time at Scotch, a fire broke out in the boarding house. The house- master’s paedophile activities were uncovered by the discovery of photos hidden in a wall, of him-self with some of the boys. I don’t know if Angus and Nigel were involved but they were brought home to the local high school. Nigel’s best friend committed suicide. It was a terrible time, especially for Nigel.