The Great Depression
> Kezia Ruth Dubios
> Fort Street Reunion
14 August 1953
> Bushwalking memories
An Experienced Driver
Homemaker and Mother
Wandering the Wide World Over
Frustrations & Despondence
Our Own Place
Our Big Trip
We Move into the House
Bill Goes to New Guinea
Leaving New Guinea
A New Direction
* * *
Dorothy's teaching career
These pages were written by Dorothy Bremner for her
children and grandchildren.
Chapter 31 THIRD CHILD
While I was working I made sure I controlled my own income. I paid off the other block of land and the bank overdraft, repaid the money that Uncle Perce had loaned me and brought up-to-date the insurance I had taken out when I began to work eleven years earlier and which had fallen into arrears. Then I bought a rotary clothes line. It was marvellous to be able to put all the washing out at the same time.
Our Christmas was very low key compared with the event in Germany. Dressing the boys in similar suits I had made, I took them to have their photo taken with Santa, a good photo suitable to get copies to send to Mutti. Christmas would have been a complete non-event if Mutti had not sent some gifts. Anything she sent during the year I put aside and bought a few essential things which I also put aside so as to have SOMETHING under the tree.
Bill agreed to try for a bank loan to complete the house but the value of the land and the unfinished garage were not sufficient and our application was not successful, calculated on Bill's recent earnings (mine of course, although greater, did not count).
Peter had been very independent for his age when David was born. He learnt quickly anything I showed and explained to him. Even at that age he liked to have things in order. One of his earliest expressions as a one-year-old was "lid on" which meant he had noticed something which was disarranged and wanted someone to fix it. He took things seriously and did things correctly. David was much less methodical and needed more time to learn, but quickly became the leader in imaginative games. If he found an old tin he would put in some dirt and say "Look mummy, pudding."
Another pudding he made was a bit more realistic and rather more costly. Bill had agreed to mind the boys while I went shopping just before the next baby was born. When I came home I found a "pudding", made of items which he could easily get from my doorless cupboards, rice and brown sugar, raspberry flavouring with a dash of tomato sauce and...
"Look Mummy, pudding," said David as I came in. He was very pleased with the result.
In the year since our return from Germany Bill had built the steps to our future front door. The steps led to an expanse of cement, the garage roof and the floor of the proposed house, with lots of tools and building materials in heaps. On the garage side it was a full storey above ground level, on the other side not so high but still dangerous with a ledge in front of the proposed lounge room which was intended by Bill for flower boxes as in Europe. One day I was reducing the eiderdown from which the feathers had been escaping for thirty-seven years to cot size for the winter. It had started off as my parents' and double-bed size, then single-bed size when Mum and I lived at Ramsgate in an unlined room. I heard footsteps pattering on the roof. The staircase enticed David to climb up to the concrete slab. He terrified me, he was so unafraid. No matter what I tried, he climbed around or over.
"Peter, run up quick and catch David. Hold him tight till I come." He was always reliable as a "help". I ran along underneath, hoping to catch David if he came over the edge.
"Look at me," he cried. "I'm a buzzy bee."
Peter caught him in a bear hug and I went up and brought him down.
"I'll be grey before we get the house finished with railings and everything to make it safe for children."
"I'm not building a house for bloody kids."
I was trying to get things in order before the arrival of the next baby, get all the mending and sewing up-to-date. There was no time to make anything for my new baby. Things I had made for Peter would have to do. The nappies were threadbare but I was given some new ones.
Nobody at the time threw things out. Clothes were either given away to someone in need or mended carefully. Sometimes items were remade with creativity to lengthen, disguise wear or damage, or unpicked and the parts used again in a "new" outfit. If I had another boy, there would be lots of hand-me-downs.
Towards the end of the year Bill got a few weeks' work. Just before it was due to finish he had a slight fall but failed to get compo as he had hoped, to see him through the Christmas period, always a slack time in the building trade. After that he did not try to get a job for about three months but spent his time reading and tinkering.
DDT had been hailed as a miracle pesticide, reducing deaths from malaria and crop losses due to insects. "Silent Spring" by Rachel Carson alerted people to the misuse and unintended effects of such poisons resulting in the loss of birds which ate the insects and people who ate the crops. This influenced President Kennedy of US to order more rigourous tests for the chemicals mentioned, taking into account the food chain. This was the embryonic beginning of thinking that mankind is damaging the environment. Rachel Carsen died later in the year from cancer aged 56
I had been impressed by Kennedy's statement "Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country." I was not so sure of his intention to put a man on the moon to beat Russia in the Space Race. He and his family were very popular. He also supported civil rights for negroes which was not so popular in United States. In November he was assassinated, a truly startling event. In time we learnt of his major personal shortcomings. Politicians were expected to be perfect but were just human. The tragedy of his assassination brought to our attention the name Jacqueline, his attractive wife. Bill liked the name, so did I, should the baby be a girl. At last I could hope fervently for a girl, having finally agreed upon a name. Boys' names had been easier.
It was midsummer. For Christmas I had bought the children a small canvas pool and tried to make it a special time for them. The boys wore hats and shirts and underpants and had a wonderful time in the water. Four weeks after school finished for the year, Dad was back from a lengthy visit to Tasmania. He thought Bill was working hard enough to fulfil his responsibilities and enjoy some leisure. It was my job to do the shopping, cooking, washing, housework and look after the children. The fact that I was 8 months pregnant and had also worked full-time until then did not affect that. It was just bad luck for me. Dad was helping us with a few jobs (men's work). He was able to drive me to the shops and to hospital when my time came, after I had got the boys to sleep. It was the day before my brother's birthday and two days before my mother's. Our little daughter was a beautiful baby born an hour later, after a short labour.
The next morning Dad returned to Mudgee where he and Dot and her brother were now living. As Bill was not working, he minded the boys with the help of the neighbours, but on the third day he said they would not eat and he could not cope. He brought them to the hospital and left them on the other side of the busy main road while he came in. He indicated I should look out of the seventh-floor window and I was terrified to see my two little boys, three-year-old Peter holding the hand of David aged twenty months while the traffic rushed by. I urged Bill to take them home. A neighbour had offered to collect me when I was due to leave. Immediately I sent a message for him to come as soon as possible. That night I cooked the dinner and was immediately back in the "baby" routine. Bill helped by washing up, at least by starting it.
I proposed adding the name Ann to Jacqueline and Bill agreed. I had liked Pat's little daughter Ann, when we sat together feeding our children on board ship. Pat had a son and named him Peter, although we had not seen each other in the meantime and did not know until later what the other was doing.
We crammed another borrowed cot into the bedroom. I had been given a narrow bed for Peter which I put in the other room, and Jacqueline was in one of the cots in the bedroom. My baby-sitter, friends and relatives gave me some pretty new baby dresses and other necessities.
Previously I had thought of four children as being the ideal family size but no longer. I had began to think about overpopulation. Now I thought three children would be quite enough to look after and educate properly. Bill agreed wholeheartedly that our family was complete. It was not really rational to have big families especially in the west where life-expectancy is long and each person uses more than a small share of the world's resources. The pill was now readily available so I decided to get a prescription from the doctor. The pill removed one of the reasons for young couples to postpone intimacy, but many people said it would create problems in society greater than unwanted pregnancies.
When I started taking the pill I found I was losing my milk. I went next door and rang the doctor who consulted the Pharmaceutical Representative who called personally at our garage and said if I wanted to breast-feed my baby I had better wait for a while. He reminded me that breast-feeding was only partly-effective as a contraceptive. Jacqueline was a happy baby healthy and thriving, and although excellent formula milk was available, I knew that breast milk was best (and cheaper and more convenient). I went back to the diaphragm, earnestly praying not to get pregnant again.
The shepherd suit which I had made for Peter and which he and later David had worn "for best", also other clothes from the boys, I packed up and sent to my sister-in-law for Roderick, hoping that I would not need them again.
Jacqueline was a very easy baby to get along with - ate well, played and gurgled for a while, then drifted into sleep while I sang "Rock-a bye-Baby". Of course I was more experienced and she was quite co-operative. The boys and I called her "The Pearly Girl".
Occasionally I asked Peter to go to the local shop for a few items. The vegetable garden which I had started on our return from Germany had been sacrificed while I was working. So everything came from the shop. Peter took his job very seriously but it was a lot of responsibility for a three-year-old, although there was practically no traffic. If I had any spare money I gave him a penny or two when he got home and he put it in his money box. Other people sometimes gave him a coin. When his money-box was full we opened it and found he had saved 7/6 (90 pence). When next we went to Wollongong he chose a cardboard jigsaw puzzle.
Peter never wandered off but David did at every opportunity as we had no effective fences. After the first curiosity about a new baby had worn off, I had to tie David up like a puppy and give him a few toys while I was feeding her, to make sure he didn't wander. Our garage and the cottage next door were still the only buildings in the area and we were surrounded by a farm with a couple of hundred cows. A string of barbed wire was supposed to contain the cows. It was not effective and when it rained there were cow-prints in the mud and at all times cow manure left to attract flies. The wire certainly did not contain my toddler. He had the habit of trying to catch the cows' swishing tails. Luckily for him they ignored him, or waved their tails and walked away disdainfully. He loved all animals especially the "dear little caterpillars" and was unafraid. I had grown up without any phobias and wanted my children to be the same - with a healthy respect for spiders, snakes, strange dogs and other animals but no irrational fears. David seemed to have an affinity with animals.
Down the hill was the waterhole where the cows drank and every time David disappeared, my first thought was the dam. There were now fewer cows on the farm, the waterhole was allowed to silt up. Birds, mainly ibis still came there to drink. Fortunately David preferred to go uphill, knowing that we went up to the shops and that there were more neighbours including children that way.
During the first year of our marriage Bill had been on the receiving end when a block had fallen at the steelworks. Xrays showed no injury but he insisted he was in pain and had gone off work on "compo" at the time that he was building the garage. When we came home from Germany, the steelworks would not re-employ him. Obviously his back did not bother him as much as mine bothered me. Pregnancy, supporting babies while breast-feeding, lifting them as they got heavier, hanging out the washing were all problems, [later diagnosed as severe scoliosis] especially seeing Bill lounge around reading. I refused to support him in his damages claim which made him very angry. He declined to wear the special back support which had been made for him. The medical report said that he was suffering from a neurosis which made him more angry. He believed that there was a conspiracy against him because he was born overseas. I tried to calm him by saying it meant a "nervous condition".
During 1964 he was awarded an out-of-court damages settlement, an amount which made up for his loss of wages since our return from overseas. This addition to our bank balance plus collateral enabled us to get a loan to finish the house. Bill left work and started full-time on the building. Nothing in the plan was standard. Nothing was simple including special windows and fly screens for every room.
Two children I could take to town without too much difficulty, but it took time, especially coming back up the hill. With three children the difficulties compounded and I found it increasingly impossible to keep ahead of the housework as well as cooking, washing, sewing, shopping... When Jacqueline was about a month old, the little cooker I had been using until then departed this world and Bill decided we should buy a new stove for the unbuilt house and use it in the garage in the meantime. I was very much aware that growing children need plenty of protein and vegetables. This had been difficult on the little cooker. A good stove with a proper oven and grill would greatly enlarge the possibilities of what I could cook and the variety of methods. Bill agreed to mind the children while I went to choose it from the County Council and take advantage of their twelve-months interest-free policy. I calculated carefully what repayments could realistically be made. It was a half mile to walk to the bus, then half an hour to town. As I walked back over the hill towards home nearly three hours later I could hear a great screaming. I rushed home. Later my neighbour said to me apologetically
"I knew you were out and I would have gone over to see what I could do, but I didn't like to interfere." She called my children affectionately "Big boy Peter, snowy-haired David and little fairy Jackie." She thought I was a devoted mother, but I felt doubts about my relationships to Bill and to my children. Was I paying them more attention than necessary? Was I neglecting my husband as he frequently complained?
The baby had woken and would have liked to be changed and perhaps nursed. She was really very easy to get on with and was not quite due for another feed. Failing this attention she had begun to cry. The boys, not accustomed to hear her cry for a prolonged time, stood on either side of her basket and cried in sympathy. Bill was as far away in the yard as he could be.
Usually when we went to Wollongong, we walked the half-mile down to the highway to catch the bus. I folded the stroller, gave Peter the money for the fare and boarded the bus, with the baby on one arm, the stroller and shopping basket on the other, helping David on and relying on Peter to pay the fare and collect the ticket and the change.
Going home up the hill afterwards was always a problem, pushing the stroller on a gravel road with shopping balanced on its roof encouraging the boys to keep plodding. One day David refused, half way up, so I left him sitting on the grass beside the road with Peter to keep him company, I rushed home, put the baby in her basket and hurried back to the boys. The amount of traffic on the rough dirt road was still negligible as the area remained undeveloped.
At my first episode on the pill, I was losing my milk so postponed it until Jacqueline was six months old and beginning to eat other food. She showed no signs of an allergy to gluten.
Bill and I still hardly talked. We had not developed any common interests since we stopped dancing. Our only topic of conversation was the building of the house and any discussion invariably ended in a circular argument, then tears, a brief encounter in bed, complaints about my frigidity, instant sleep on Bill's part, sleeplessness on my part.
One time Bill was expecting Dad to do a certain electrical job. Dad was also doing some work for his brother in Sydney. When he had not arrived by 9pm Bill began to get impatient and insisted I go next door and ring to find out what had happened. Grandma said that Dad had gone back to Mudgee as Dot was not well. When I told Bill he flew into one of his worst rages. He sat for half an hour in a silent fury then began to shout and scream. I said if the job was so urgent he should simply get another electrician which he did on Monday but on Friday he would not be placated.
Using his mother's apartment as an example I had persuaded Bill that instead of having a laundry downstairs, he should make my "sewing room" into a "utility room" and have it on the same level as the bedrooms. It fitted quite neatly.
The solar heater of course had to be on the north side but I had not realised that rooms on that side would be so cosy. The hot water tank fitted above the upstairs toilet and we now had a pergola to hold the panels and at last all the hot water we needed was supplied free. Only occasionally did I need to switch on the booster if the weather was really overcast for days and the water cold. If at all possible I postponed wash days.
When we moved into the house, the worst would be over, the damp walls, the cold cement floors in winter, not enough ventilation to get a breath of air in summer, water pouring through a thousand cracks when it rained, no curtains, no floor coverings, no cupboards and no fences.
The special windows for the kitchen arrived and were not exactly what Bill had expected. As he was up to that stage, he built them in, but refused to pay for them.
Mutti sent some little gifts, including a doll and a packet of Lego building blocks. Lego was fairly new and at the time I had no idea (probably nobody did) what a world-shattering concept it would become. Bill and I found enough money to buy tricycles for the boys for Christmas - Peter's had a seat for a passenger, his little sister, so Christmas was an exciting time.