Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Book of Me - My Childhood Home part 1

My Fourth Birthday at Enoggera. Image held by author.

My Childhood Home as a prompt will unavoidably elicit a long response from me, since, by the age of 14 years, I had lived in five homes in Brisbane, at Enoggera, The Gap, Kenmore, Pullenvale and Jindalee.  Each home holds unique and special memories for me. In addition to these homes, my family spent one year living with my paternal grandparents in Garfield Drive Paddington Heights, while we built a new home. For me personally, my earliest memories are my most evocative. Of my early formative years, before my reminiscences of home life become interwoven with school, friends, sports and hobbies, my memories are affectionately of my home and my family.

Enoggera (marked red) and other suburbs of Brisbane, Google Maps

My first childhood home was in Crescent Avenue Enoggera, a suburb of Brisbane. Enoggera was an area of Brisbane first settled in the 1840's as farming land. The name Enogerra is believed to have been derived from an Aboriginal word Euoggera, which meant a 'place of water' or 'a place of breeze', Euoggera. It is thought that a simple clerical error afforded the suburb the name Enogerra. One of the prominent pioneer families in this area was the Pullen family who I believe a place I later lived called Pullenvale was named after. 

Photo: [State Library of Qld] Enoggera Creek 1906

My father and myself at my Enoggera home. Image in possession of author.

The house,  pictured above, is where I lived until I was 7 years old. To this day, I have strong recollections of my first childhood home. The house, although not old enough to be considered a 'Queenslander' in style was typical of a Queensland 1950's home. Like so many homes in Queensland, ours was  timber constructed. It had a brick base at the front and at the back of the house which was slightly higher, as the yard sloped away, timber slats filled the gaps between concrete stumps. 

My fourth birthday party at Crescent Avenue. Image in possesssion of author.

Although I only lived in the house at Enoggera until I was seven years old, I can still vividly recall the first house that I called home. My parents owned the house and so it reflected them both very much. My mother, Alwynne Jean MacDade ( Reece-Hoyes) was a talented interior decorator so her style was reflected inside the home and in the garden. My mother was well known for her creative gardens and it was a familiar sight for neighbours to see us pull up outside our home with a car full of plants and barely room for we children.  My father, Colin John MacDade (McDade) who would very much today be referred to as a D.I.Y man, built a booth style table with padded bench seats in our kitchen. The kitchen, which was on the right hand side of the house at the rear, was a place in my home where I spent a lot of time helping my mother to bake. Our piano had pride of place in the open plan lounge dining area, which was entered directly from the front door. I don't recall having a formal dining table until our next house which we built new in the leafy suburb of The Gap when my mother splashed out on purple leather Grant Featherstone designer lounge and dining furniture. 

The Grant Featherstone lounge chairs my mother bought in purple

My Enoggera home was a two bedroom house, so my younger sister and I shared a bedroom.  My father painted my pink bedroom walls a pretty pale lemon colour just before my sister was born so I am guessing that he was expecting a son. Lemon walls with lemon and lilac bedspreads were the colours I think about in my bedroom in my first home. Whenever I see the lilac flowers of Jacaranda trees and the yellow of Silky Oaks which grow abundantly in Queensland and which often flower together, I nostalgically think of my bedroom at Enoggera. My father, who was very clever with his hands, built my first bed. I was extremely proud of that bed because it had a blackboard and shelf as a bed head and I was the envy of all of my friends. I wonder now, looking back, if the inevitable chalk dust on my bed was perhaps not quite as popular with my mother.

I have a very clear recollection of the bathroom in our Enoggera home. This memory has most likely remained with me because of one distinctly happy event. I recall my mother standing beside the bathtub in which I was bathing, teaching me to do a dance called the Twist. While my sister and I were sharing a bath,  the 1960's Beatle's hit, 'Twist and Shout', (originally known as 'Shake it up Baby') began to play on the radio. Singing along to this song, my mother  began to show us a dance known as The Twist. Possibly whilst I was in the bath was not the safest place for me to attempt my first ever twist and shake - dance in the bathtub I did. I can still recall the shrieks of laughter coming from that small bathroom. This was the first time I heard of the group known as the Beatles and although I was too young at the time to understand the impact their music was to have upon the world, their music and the memory of my mother dancing, prompts a flashback to my childhood home. I only have to hear the song Twist and Shout  to recollect a happy memory.

The Twist

The colour of our house changed every few years when my father painted it. He was somewhat of a perfectionist about the appearance of our home and garden. I remember the house as being a greyish green colour.  My father is pictured above holding me as a baby, when the house was a lighter colour than I recall.  I have a clear recollection of my parents painting samples of  colours on the back of our house, to choose from, when I was around four years old. My father and grandfather had built a cubby house for my sister and I, in our backyard which we called our 'Little House'. It was a beautifully constructed miniature of our own house and was even painted to match our home. I was permitted to paint colour samples on my cubby house whilst my father did so on the real house. My cubby, unlike our home, had colourful red, green and yellow timber louvre windows, which opened by means of a small hanging chain. My sister and I  spent many halcyon days playing in our 'Little House'.

 My backyard was a wonderful playground for my early years. I had a blue and red tandem swing which as you can see in the photograph below, fitted more than two young children on it.   

My sister, left, myself and my cousin on our swing. Image in possession of author.

Our back yard and fence adjoined land owned by the the Enoggera Army Barracks. Before I began attending  pre-School at the Ashgrove Memorial Kindergarten at the age of three, one of my favourite things to do was to picnic in our back garden. My mother would pack a picnic hamper filled with delicious tomato sandwiches, freshly baked cream buns, drinks and ... cake... but I daresay that I have spoiled that delightful image with my cake tin confession! After spreading a blanket  in the back yard my mother, my sister and I langorously enjoyed those pleasant picnics, and many a summer feast ended with sticky fingers from a home made ice-blocks. I recall that whenever I was in in backyard, I desperately wanted to see soldiers over the fence. Apart from the obstacle of a very high fence, the actual army barracks were quite a distance away and over a hill so I never did achieve my childhood dream of seeing soldiers marching.

My grandfather, Colin Hamilton McDade, built a huge sandpit underneath a large clump of banana trees which grew magnificently in the back yard of the home at Enoggera. Those trees yielded delicious fresh bananas and along with paw paws, cumquats, mulberries and fresh grapes picked straight from the vine growing against the side fence, we children feasted on fruit every day. I have one particularly painful memory of playing in our sandpit. It was a large sandpit with a low seat surrounding it for us to sit on. One warm summer's day, I was sitting on that seat and leaning into the sandpit to dig a tunnel, when I noticed a bee slowly walking in the sand. Thinking it hurt I picked it up and called to my mother, 'Look mummy, a poor bee. It's sick and can't fly. '. ' Put it down at once,' replied my mother calmly. 'It will sting you.' 'Oh no', said I, It's a nice bee!' Before my mother could reply, the bee stung me ... and flew away, leaving betrayed and in excruciating pain. Not learning my lesson that day, it was many bee stings later during the making of clover chain necklaces at my next home that I finally concluded that bees were not nice at all! 

I was fortunate as a young child to enjoy a great deal of freedom. As a four year old, I knew all of the children in my street and we played at will at each others' homes or at a large oval at the end of our street.  Bright yellow flowering cassia trees lined the fence between my neighbour's house and mine and these made perfect 'ladders' to climb to the top of the fence and to jump over into the next door yard. Whenever my father pruned the cassias I used to play in the big pile of branches pretending it was a forest. 

Cassia trees - cassia fistula

On weekends, teams of marching girls competed with their precision drills, on the oval and each Saturday,as soon as I heard the rythmic drums and music begin. I would hurry to the end of my street to watch.  At four years of age I wanted nothing more than to wear a white pleated skirt and white boots and to march  in uniform to the beat of drums. My mother had other plans for me, however. At four years of age I was enrolled in tennis lessons, making use of  my mother's own tennis racquet. I can clearly recall, on my first day of lessons, the tennis coach joking that the racquet was bigger than me. I also began ballet lessons at the age of four. These were both activities that I kept up until my late teenage years with dreams of marching and drills receding into my active routine of Brownies, Girl Guides, Gymnastics and other childhood activities. But I will say this - whenever there was an award for marching on the parade ground at my Primary school - I  won it!

I wanted to be a marching girl.

Most of my memories from my first home are happy ones, however, one sad incident impacted heavily upon me at the age of five. I had made a friend at school who was coming to play at my home one afternoon. As I stood waiting for her for what seemed like hours, I heard my neighbour telling my mother that my firend had been hit by a car crossing the main road near my street and killed. A car that had stopped for her at the crossing and as she walked on to the road, a less patient driver, overtook the stationary car and hit her. I don't think that I fully understood what happened at the time, although I do remember walking to her house a few days later, to tell her mother how sorry I was. After my friend was killed, my mother became nervous about me walking to school and for some time after that, my grandfather drove me to and from school each day. 

The house painted a darker colour.

I started Primary School from my home at Enoggera, after two wonderful years attending pre-school/ Kindergarten, where my teacher, Miss Lightner was adored by all. I was very proud of the fact that my father and grandfather built an exciting playgound at my Kindergarten, complete with a tunnel made from a huge concrete pipe covered by a turf covered hill. I attended the same Primary school that my father had attended in 1936. The Oakleigh State School was quite a long walk from my home but at just five years of age I happily walked to and from school, sometimes accompanied by my neighbour Denise. 

As an adventurous five year old, by the end of my first year, I had discovered a number of alternate and interesting routes to school, several of which, only as an adult have I realised were quite unsafe for a five year old child. But my mother knew none of this and undeterred I continued to explore the areas and suburbs which surrounded my home. My favourite route to school took me through a bushland area and across a bridge over a creek. I thought this journey to be a most exciting adventure. One day I was an explorer and the next, a hunter! I found the bush to be a place of unlimited imagination. Another way home that I discovered, was along a busy main road,which in one section had no footpath, but instead ran right up to a steep cliff. I walked as close to the cliff as possible to avoid being hit by a car. After my friend was killed on this same road I stopped walking by this route. One would never think of allowing a young child so much liberty today and I have no doubt that my mother would have thoroughly disapproved of my excursions, having told me strictly to walk  to and from school according to her safe directions. 

Oakleigh State School

Our home at Enoggera had an outdoor toilet, since the suburb was not yet sewered. As a young child I hated using this toilet.  I recall it as being very dark when the door was closed and I never once ventured in there without a fear that a spider would bite me. I quite clearly remember the overpowering smell of tar which lined the tin under the timber seat, and which was replaced by men who arrived weekly in the sanitation truck to empty the pan. I loved to visit my paternal grandmother because she had an inside flushing toilet. Shortly after I moved from the Enoggera home, the area was sewered.

Thinking about my first childhood home, has stirred so many memories. Cracker night, as we children called Guy Fawks night was always anticipated with much excitement. The baker delivered fresh bread in his van daily and the milkman left bottles of milk on the doorstep early each morning. The fishman drove along our street once a week ringing a bell and selling fresh fish, although with my father a keen fisherman we usually had a plentiful supply of freshly caught bream or flathead. A truck delivered soft drinks and the Electrolux representative called regularly to provide service calls for my mother's vacuum cleaner. The highlight of the week for the children in my street, however, was the icecream truck. The driver rang a bell and children ran from every house in summer months to buy flavoured ices. Home delivery was a commonplace service when I was a small child.

My father constructed concrete garden edges around all of my mother's garden beds as well as car tracks in our driveway. I loved to watch him mix the cement in his cement mixer. Both my sister and I left our hand prints in the concrete driveway at the house in Crescent Avenue, Enoggera. My first childhood home was not without some memorable childhood accidents and my father's concrete was involved in at least one. I recall painfully, when aged only three, I dragged a heavy bench to the side fence to chat to neighbours, despite my mother's warning to not to climb up on the rickety bench.  The call to chat over the fence with the children who lived next door, lured me into disobedience and of course I did fall. Straight back onto the concrete, splitting my head open, acquiring concussion and requiring an ambulance ride to hospital for stitches.

My father had a workshop underneath the house where we made Mother's Day gifts such as a tea towel hanging rack, sanded and painted by my sister and myself, supervised by our father. My father also craftfully built a small table and two little chairs for my sister and I in his workshop beneath the house. Working for Massey Ferguson,  a large tractor firm, my father was often away on country business trips but he always found time to build wonderful things for me. From the age of four, I owned a progression of different sized stilts made by my father, and I became very proficient on them indeed. My stilts were a very popular attraction in my street.

Recently I went back to Brisbane and took a drive down memory lane to look at all of my childhood homes and schools. The house at Enoggera is now painted a bright yellow and the back yard seems so much smaller than I had recalled. The house hd been extended taking up more of the back yard,   however, just seeing it again evoked so many wonderful childhood memories. A deck has been added at the front of the house and and my parents' bedroom window is now a sliding glass door, but many of the windows remain original.

My first home in Enoggera, in 2011. painted yellow

I was pleased to see a new generation of parents and children enjoying my old home

When I was seven years of age, my parents bought a half acre block of land in a new, bushland suburb of Brisbane called The Gap. When I first saw the land at the Gap, on which my new home was to be built, I thought all my dreams had come true. We had a creek running through the back of our yard, with a sandy little beach to play on. While our new split- level home was under construction, I spent many weekends playing down by the creek, searching for a platypus and exploring the bush and mountain on the far side of it. As an adventurous 7 year old, this was a fairy-tale place to live and a huge adventure.

I don't really remember moving from the Enoggera house and as a young child I found everything new to be exciting. A new home and a new school was just a big adventure to me. We were to live with my paternal grandparents while our new home was built. Their Queenslander style home high on a hill at Paddington, was one of my favourite places to be with its huge mango tree in the backyard and dark spaces beneath the house on high stilts to explore. Here, at Paddington, I caught the tram to school and played with the many children who lived in the street, including the four children of policeman Terry Lewis, later Police Commissioner who lived next door to my grandparents. 

 Part 2 will cover my year at Paddington where I attended the Bardon State School (where I have now discovered that Shauna Hicks, was a year behind me) and my expeditions and adventures while I lived at The Gap from age 7 1/2 to 10 years. I will try to briefly cover my childhood home at Kenmore, where in a war with a wasps nest, I came out the worse for wear, and a 13 acre property at Pullenvale complete with cows, ducks, chickens, a fruit orchard, lots of snakes and a near drowning for my sister, plus our last move to Jindalee, will complete my childhood homes. Make a cup of tea folks... this could be a long blog!

My Grandparents home at Garfield Drive, Paddington Heights, Brisbane


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