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U3A Writing: My Generation

...I value my memories. In my thoughts I see my father playing the piano, and my mother singing. I would watch the ceiling in case it collapsed with the vibration of her beautiful strong voice...

Rose Perry looks back on the times she has lived through, and the values of the generation into which she was born.

I often hear older folk say 'when I was your age' or 'in my younger days' or 'in my day.' I also make these statements at times, especially when I am with my grandchildren. There is something special about my generation. As I think back through the years to my "growing-up", I am very thankful to my parents and others for what they endeavoured to teach me.

I remember the discipline, and also the freedom to be an individual, but without compromise. I was content. I was carefree. I was a dreamer. I dreamt of many things - the books I read, the people I cared for, what my future held, who I would marry, how many children I would have. I still dream of the past, and I still dream of the future, I am realistic and mature enough to know that I shouldn't make too many plans.

I value my memories. In my thoughts I see my father playing the piano, and my mother singing. I would watch the ceiling in case it collapsed with the vibration of her beautiful strong voice.

I remember the time when our house was badly infested by white ants. My father arranged for the white ant exterminator, Mr Smith, to carry out an inspection. After he had checked the house inside and out, in the roof and around the garden, he said "This house is in a bad way and needs to be treated." My father didn't reply, but walked around the house. After awhile he came back and said to Mr Smith, "You can't spray the white ants, because they are standing shoulder to shoulder holding the house up, and if you kill them, the house will fall down."

This was an example of my father's weird sense of humour, which I see in some of my siblings today.
I remember that we lived very simply; all our meals were home cooked, lots of the healthy foods, plenty of milk and eggs, and cakes and biscuits. Mum's Anzacs and cream puffs were the best!! In fact mum is remembered for her Anzacs within the circle of her family and friends.

I remember harvest time when the fruit was picked into dip tins, then put through the hot or cold dip, whichever was necessary to the variety of grapes. There were times when we were asleep in our beds, and we would be awakened by Dad to help him cover the fruit on the ground sheets. In our half-asleep condition we would quickly pull on our dressing gowns and out to the drying green, where we all worked together to ensure the fruit was protected from the rain.

One of the special treats we enjoyed was going fishing. Just watching my mum amused and delighted me. She loved sitting on the riverbank holding the line or rod in her hand. She would become so excited with each twitch of the line. Most fishing excursions would produce beautiful Murray perch and sometimes a Murray Cod, and, as mum was a quality cook, we would all enjoy a feast when we arrived home. She was always a keen fisher woman until she could no longer drive the car. This was a disaster for her.

We had no television, no lollies, no takeaways, and there were no supermarkets. The grocer would come on his bicycle early in the week and take our order, then, within a couple of days, he would deliver the goods to us. I remember how excited I was when we unpacked the boxes and put the items away in the cupboards. The butcher and baker also called at our house, and delivered to the door. We either walked or rode our bicycles to school.

I remember the frosty mornings. I loved to see the ice on the fences and the cobwebs, with the early sun causing them to shine with all the colours of the rainbow. By the time I arrived at school, my hands and feet were so cold it took them a while to thaw. The teachers were very wise and encouraged us to run and jump to get warm.

In my early days I was taught to be courteous, to say 'please,' and 'thank you.' When I was in my teens I knew that it was the correct thing for a man to pull out a chair for a lady to sit on, that he would hold open a door for her to pass through, and most importantly, a man would always give up his seat for a lady. Children were taught to respect their elders, and these same courtesies applied.

Very few women were employed in commerce or industry. The fathers went to work. The mothers were the homemakers. I never knew what it was like to come home from school and not find my mother there. The security we had was very special, even though we didn't realize it then. Life wasn't rushed. People had time to stop and have a yarn together.

When I was being courted by a young man, the rules were that couples only held hands in public. I remember our behaviour being monitored so we didn't make a wrong move. In fact my younger brother was sent along with us whenever we went for an outing. He was only three years old, but I guess our parents considered this a deterrent.

I look back to these times with mixed emotions. My parents are no longer with us. My ‘young’ has changed to ‘senior’. Life has changed. The age of technology dominates our lives. We have electronic banking machines, telephone banking. In fact we can order our groceries through the internet. We don’t have to leave our homes if we don’t feel up to it.

The English language was very special to me, as there were so many fascinating words to learn. We would say, “I brought…” Now we hear, “I brung…” We would say, “those,” now we hear “them ones.” Has the English language changed or is it something to do with this age of technology?

Progress in technology has done very little for human relationships. Watching a TV or sitting at a computer teaches children many things, but I still hope that this new generation will learn to accept the finer points of life, such as the simple courtesies, manners and caring for others.

We don’t see many cows or hens these days. Many children believe that milk comes from bottles and eggs also come from cartons.

Things have changed. There are many children today who are driven to school each day because in many areas it is not safe for them to walk or ride their bicycles. I feel saddened by the reality of this situation, because I remember when we were free to ride our bicycles along bush tracks, take a picnic lunch and not even consider our safety. I enjoyed the simple uncomplicated lifestyle I had in my younger days.

I love my grandchildren. They are the new generation and need grandparents to love them and teach them many things, including how to speak and behave properly, as their parents are at work and don’t have the time to spend with them. Life has become too busy! I value my memories. I value the generation in which I was born.

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