Monday 5 September 2022

Family history triggers

My mother, Rena Wood, formerly Richardson née Cox, spent her life in Australia and was a keen family historian. 

In her eighties she began Triggers, a collection of short accounts of events that had been significant in her life. They were written over a couple of years whenever something triggered a memory. It was a great idea and a wonderful alternative to the huge effort in writing and printing a book.

This is how my mother explained Triggers

How often I wonder, do we realize that small things such as noises, colours, words, pictures, smells, a chance remark from a friend or neighbour, even an item of news in the daily paper or magazines, something on TV or Radio recall to mind some event or incident, that happened in our childhood or in the years past? These things act as triggers to our memory and can be recalled when we have not thought about the experience or happenings for many years.

Here are some of her entries:

I recall, as a girl living in Melbourne, going to the city to see the procession of the Duke and Duchess of York through the city. The duke was then going to the Exhibition Building for some ceremony, but the duchess was returning to Government House and travelling in an open car down Spring Street. I was one of many children who ran halfway down Spring Street, wildly waving to the most gracious lady, now the Queen Mother.

Bad thunderstorms, bring to my mind our early fears, and how we would get into Mother's bed, or she into ours, to comfort us. Her way was to make us use our imaginations and describe to her what we thought it sounded like. A load of bricks falling down? The petrol tins? There were no petrol bowsers in my childhood, and the [four gallon] tins were piled high in the garage or shed and were being thrown about by the wind. Or would it be piles of crockery being dropped and broken? Rocks being dropped on glass or a window broken? It was not very long before we were imagining so many things, that the terror of the thunder and lightning had passed away.

 As a mother of four children, in a country town [Charlton, Victoria], my children dug trenches in the back yard, lined them with wheat and sugar bags, and with old blankets settled themselves down for the night. They had used sheets of galvanised roofing iron, to cover the trenches, to protect themselves from damp and rain, but not counted on the whippet dogs, owned by the next door neighbour, getting into our yard and walking over the iron sheets to investigate. From memory I think they survived out there until about 9pm, when they were happy to come inside to their own warm beds.

The T.V. pictures last year showing the great clouds of dust coming from the country to the city, clearly demonstrated to the city folk what all the words in the world failed to tell, of the problems of the early 1940s, when droughts for years at times caused the sun to be blacked out during the daytime. The worst [dust] storm I remember, the children were sent home from school [in Charlton] at lunch time, and by 2pm it was pitch dark, the street lights were put on, the fowls went to bed thinking it was night. Cars used their headlights and travelled slowly as it was impossible to see the shops on either side of the road.