Journals

12. My Duck Maisy – Journal Entry 19th Jul 1969

[My mother’s childhood memory of keeping ducks.]

My mummy said I wasn’t old enough to own a dog so she bought me some ducks from a farm nearby.

She said that at least the ducks can be eaten.

I went with my dad and mum to pick them up. We bought six ducks. I had to feed the ducks every day and give them clean water. They were always dirtying the bowls of water I’d put out for them. They had baths in their drinking water. We didn’t have a pond for the ducks to swim in nor did we have an old bathtub which we could use as a tiny pond.

So one day my mummy asked my friend’s dad if we could search the village dump for an old tub for my ducks. My friend’s dad is in charge of the dump. He said yes. So we went there and found an old petrol tank which my friend’s dad cut open. Then he hammered the sharp edges and made it into a super swimming pool for my ducks.

At first they didn’t go near the tub when I had filled it with lots and lots of water. They were afraid. The next day they took water in their beaks and threw it over themselves like they did with the bowls of drinking water.

After a few days, one clever black and white duck jumped into the tub. She liked it so much that after she’d had a bath, jumped out and dried herself she jumped back into the tub to have another bath.

Before we found this tub I had to hold a water hose over them so that they could have a shower. Some ducks didn’t like it and tried to run away but I could easily spray them with my hosepipe so the poor things just had to sit quietly and get washed.

Afterwards they loved flapping their wings and fluffing out their feathers to dry themselves. They looked very happy drying themselves in the sun.

One day when I returned from school I found two ducks missing and I saw a few feathers near the back verandah.

I knew my mum had taken them for our dinner.

So I went to her and told her not to kill my favourite little white duck Maisy. Well, at least not till all the other ducks had gone first. And as my mummy said, “The ducks were bought for the table, after all.” She also said she’d buy more ducks and a drake, and that the white moscovy ducks with the black spots on their heads would be kept for me.

Moscovy ducks can fly. They were always flying over their fence and into the garden. They ate the cabbage and for that their wings were clipped. Now they climb up the wire netting fence and jump down into the garden. But they know they mustn’t go near the vegetables and I quickly chase them back to their pen whenever I see them out.

In the afternoons, when I remember, I take them for a walk up the hill at the back of our house. They love eating weeds and catching insects. I have to be very careful though because they head straight for the cabbage patch when they think I’m not looking.

My ducks started laying eggs. The magpies sometimes stole the eggs.

Maisy, my little white duck made a nest right under the duck house. She was so far in that my mummy pulled up a board in the duck house so I could look at Maisy sitting on her eggs.

The other ducks are very rude to her, I don’t know why. They hiss at her with their necks on the ground, their heads up and beak open. They look very nasty and mean. The drake is good to Maisy and talks to her when she comes out to feed.

The other ducks started laying their eggs in Maisy’s nest. She is getting more eggs to sit on now.

KarenProfileCircle120Useful Links

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11. Tree Poem and Locals – Journal Entry 17th Jul 1969

Strange sort of evening. First dinner with the speakers of tomorrow’s symposium on technology in Queensland and the way in which the institute* can help. There were about eight or nine spread over this huge dinner table, everyone madly trying to make conversation.

Sketch didn’t come for the dinner, apparently he was very tired and had plonked himself in front of the TV, not looking at it. He did walk in during the dinner to have a word with his wife and then pushed off again.

We then went onto a concert by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra. A rather big social event in Rocky but the concert wasn’t good except for a young girl who played the violin rather well. She looked lovely too.

18th July 1969

A beautiful day; cloudy and sunny in turns. I went to visit a friend and read his poetry. I rode there on the bike with Gareth on my back. On the way home, young Buster Brown (Gareth) dropped a shoe. Seeing the darn pair cost four dollars, I went to search for it, found it and we had fish and chips for lunch on the beach.

Couldn’t sleep or think because Gareth thought I lay on the sand to allow him to jump on my back, the sand flying most of the time. He enjoyed himself though. And he does love chips.

A super day all in all.

The things that made it super were:

  1. Being given a seal-top mug for Buster Brown
  2. Being given a duck
  3. Buying tiny tumblers for visiting children at $2 each
  4. Buying cigars
  5. Chatting with Anita P’s mother who I’m going to play cards with one day
  6. The electrician turning up; a huge guy wearing a shirt like mine and humming merrily

We chatted about almost everything. The children and two of their friends came in while we were having tea. They looked confused so I served milk and cakes to them, talking madly to Callow all the time. A very, very, nice man. And he sawed a bit off the legs of a bar stool Johnny bought me. I sat on it at the kitchen table excitedly chopping onions. He had turned up when I was out and Mrs O’D told him I might be at Bunny’s. Well I’d left Bunny’s place for quite a bit, came home and was told Callow was searching for me. So I tried to phone the motel to see if he was working there. A search was made, but no Callow. In fact, he pitched up here while this kind woman who answered the phone was scouring the motel for him.

Marvellous place Emu Park.

Was there ever such a place as Emu Park? Or is it like most small towns, friendly, informal and all-knowing? It has everything has Emu Park, except emus of course. Emus roamed her unborn streets long ago but what was she named before the emus came?

I’ll stop rambling.

SkinnyTreesPoem
Poem by Gita July 1969

Now for the people. I always say it’s the people who make a place. Don’t you think so too? I mean Emu Park has beaches, fish and chips, sunshine and islands the same as everybody else and yet she has more appeal than any she-town.

Why, there is Mrs D who talks in a croak, makes tea, holds raffles and cleans floors for her club. She donated $4 to her club only last week and got her name in the papers for that. Mrs M, who writes a bit of our social chat is sixty, excitable, inquisitive, short-sighted and gets her facts deliberately wrong. She has more dust in her shop than goods, likes cats, has a lover and dines out someplace every Sunday night. Her husband works for her but he is there and not there. Mrs L, who helps her son to run his shop, swears she gets beaten whenever she forgets the price of something. A fisherman, very old, who has a fish run on one of the beaches, loves to fish all day. The shop owners don’t like hawkers because it spoils their sales. The owner of the local dinky supermarket is dying and is such a good man.

Mrs J keeps goats and they think she is off her top.

Footnote:

*The institute refers to the Queensland Institute of Technology (Capricornia) in Rockhampton  where Johnny worked as an academic. In 1972 it became the Capricornia Institute of Advanced Education and then in 1990 it became known as the University College of Central Queensland. Re-branded as CQUniversity Australia in 2008.

 

KarenProfileCircle120Useful Links

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  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series

10. National Fitness Club – Journal Entry 8th Jul 1969

I’m sitting in the Yeppoon hospital waiting to see the doctor. Nothing much wrong. I’ve got infected fingernails and neglected my thumbnail when it started and now almost all the other nails are infected. Does it sound familiar?

Thank you very much for your letter. Johnny was just as anxious as I to see if the baby had arrived. No doubt we will get a letter soon telling us all.

Will try to get back when it is safe for you to travel. Kathmandu might seem tame but it’s so colourful and vibrant, no? And I bet Minoru will fill the house with food for the baby and you. I must get round to sending drawings and a letter to Minoru. The first lot I’ll send to you because I don’t know if I know his post box number.

I’m involved in running a National Fitness Club in our tiny town. I’m supposed to be the leader – one who stands with a whistle in hand and shouts out instructions. Monday will be the first time I will go it alone.

Some Rockhampton women have been helping us. Actually there are three women who are supposed to be leaders. One of them is the wife of the headmaster and is away at present so it leaves Bunny and me. And Bunny has a brittle spine so that only leaves me to do the demonstration.

It’s all good fun and a big joke for Johnny.

It’s a two-hour programme and many old women come along. Some of them are 65 years old and a few are 69. They love folk dances and playing games.

Can you imagine me trying to work out dance steps to the time of Waltzing Matilda and Susanna? And I’m going to teach them yoga, so I’m madly reading up on the subject.

It’s all good fun as I said. What else?

We’ve been entertaining people a bit and so far we’ve met only three people we enjoy talking to. I mean they are intelligent and alive people. Otherwise, while the evenings are pleasant, they are not exactly exhilarating.

Of course after people have gone, Johnny and I start a lively discussion, usually in agreement with each other, and then we’re happy again.

All this might sound conceited but it’s not meant to be.

Useful Links

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  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series
  • Draft letter written to mum’s best friend Cynthia.

9. My Mystery Illness – Journal Entry 3rd Jul 1969

Hospital-Image

The fares to Brisbane and back were paid for by the Bush Children’s Association. They didn’t do anything in Brisbane, didn’t even want to admit me. Actually what they did was show me to the students so they could study my case.

Was mum mad!

She had a fight with the head doctor and burst into tears. He said to come back later in the year when they have their new machine.

My doctor was hopping mad and said I was to go to Sydney instead, to see if they could help.

Mum said she couldn’t afford the fare and the Bush Children’s Association refused to pay because it was outside Queensland, so my doctor mentioned it to the publican who took up a collection to pay for my medical attention in Sydney. Ansett-ANA gave us the flights to and fro and our church arranged for mum’s boarding and lodging. The CWA would have arranged somewhere for mum to stay but it would have been too far across town, well away from the hospital.

So when mum came to visit me, she told me all about it. “I stayed with this old lady. She wouldn’t take a penny from me. So whenever I could, I would bring home a nice steak or piece of fish or something and cook it for our dinner.”

The hospital was marvellous. Lovely floors and the nurses so friendly with a TV room for those well enough to get out of bed.

I enjoyed myself.

They did all sorts of tests and then told mum they couldn’t do anything for me.

 

Useful Links and Updates

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  • Emu Park Family Tree, at the bottom of the home page, updated to include my grandmother
  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series

8. Rocky Show – Journal Entry 22nd Jun 1969

It’s Saturday today.

I’m sitting on the beach in the sun with the baby. It’s a good place for sitting and gazing at the sea which is so calm and flat.

Gareth, Emu Park beach 1969

We lost a plastic ball a little while ago and nearly lost a friend with it. There was this girl, about eleven or twelve, swimming around when she noticed our green plastic ball and matching surfboard starting to drift out to sea. She tried to get both, got out of her depth and panicked.

I screamed too because I can’t swim.

There was an elderly couple, smiling as they passed by, with their squat, overweight dog. I practically fell on their chests.

“Now it’s alright,” the old man said, “she’s coming out now.”

But the kid was crying and I didn’t know what to do. So, like you see in films, I directed the old woman to stay with Gareth, who was scared stiff of their dog, threw off my jibbah* and tamely walked into the sea in my bikini. Fortunately for me, the girl waded out still sobbing. She’s fine now and busy making Gareth walk up and down the beach. Even though he is a year old, he can’t walk by himself.

What a beautiful beach this is. Islands not very far away, or so it seems, the land jutting well into the sea with cars, trees, beach huts and a white dinghy anchored and ghostly. It’s a bit cold for swimming – it’s cold enough on the beach with the wind blowing.

I’m sitting in a friend’s house with the TV on full blast, it is now 8 o’clock. I thought I would have a quiet time reading and writing. Let me explain. Johnny is acting; the last night of Antigone** and there’s a cast party. I decided to skip the play and get some reading done but this blasted TV is on, with it’s adverts and corny programmes. It’s terrible. Can’t even think and find myself watching the damn screen. I decided to sit in the kitchen and it’s so much better.

Let me tell you about these friends. They are a very good couple. She is dead efficient, finishes her housework in next to no time (they have six kids plus one Aboriginal boy who lives in during school term) and does things like amateur dramatics, social welfare work, reading and I don’t know what else. She is only a tiny creature too. He is marvellous, has lots of racing pigeons, knows about fossicking and is now back in college trying to get a Diploma in Engineering. They are wonderful parents and watching them makes me feel rather inadequate. Johnny has a high regard for them.

I bake our own bread now. The kids and Johnny seem to prefer it to the shop bread, which of course pleases me. We have ducks in the yard and Marcello is supposed to look after them, they are his and meant for the table. Killed one the other day and Johnny cooked it for lunch with lots of green peas and potatoes. We also had a salad of lettuce from the garden. Just think, homegrown duck and lettuce.

Yesterday we went to the Rockhampton Show. My goodness it was expensive at 2.5 rupees^  for a try at any darn game stall. And with two kids wanting to have a go at most things, a bit of money was spent. However, they managed to win some toy each and even I won a couple of packets of toffees.

The birds, fruit and animals on show were so good and it was interesting to see what won prizes. I would have loved to wander around looking at them all day, but that sort of thing doesn’t interest small children. In fact looking at the animals, birds and farm produce made me want to become a ‘cocky’. A cocky being a farmer or man of the soil.

Oh goodness, listen to this. A neighbour of ours was having a birthday, so as a special treat, we sent across a bottle of burgundy. Back comes a report some days later that nobody could drink it; it tasted like vinegar, they said. Honestly, what do you do with people as backward as that? Of course it’s only recently that Australians have started drinking wine. PLONK they called it, in a derogatory tone of voice. Beer was the thing.

Footnotes:

*jibbah is a South Indian name for a ‘kurta’ which is a collarless, long-sleeved shirt to knee-length. However, jibbah also refers to a hand-rolled cigarette containing marijuana…

**Antigone is the name of a tragedy by the ancient Greek playwright Sophocles, written around 442 BCE. More information here.

^Equivalent to 30 cents Australian in 1969

Useful Links

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  • For email followers, click here to read this post online
  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series
  • A draft letter to a friend living in Kathmandu, Nepal. I have added the footnotes.

7. Rain Poem – Journal Entry 17th Jun 1969

On Monday I walked along the beach. No-one was there except for two pelicans. They could well have been deformed cranes. They walked away, two ugly creatures in love with each other. Something about their rear view gave me a feeling of tenderness for their awkwardness and vulnerability.

The sterility of the town and the place we live in is slightly disappointing. Sterility in the sense of being devoid of such things as flowers in women’s hair, peanut sellers, betel juice squirted on the pavement benches, auto rickshaws and the smell of jasmine. Ah dear me, but still, there are things you don’t get on the Indian scene, like dear ladies (in powder and hat) selling raffle tickets, Aboriginal couples quietly talking to each other, meat shops with plastic fruit and Christmas decorations, supermarkets and fish and chip shops.

RainPoemMum
Poem by Gita 17th June 1969

Notes and Links

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  • Preamble post updated for new blog viewers
  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series

6. Cocktail Party – Journal Entry 15th Jun 1969

Sunday was hectic.

First a cocktail party where we were supposed to meet a few famous people like the Chairman of the Meatworks and the Harbour Board, the Archers, who were the first settlers in Rocky.

Best of all were the host and hostess – Shorty Leah and his wife. A good couple, old, who own a pineapple farm in Tanby. Very dramatic is pineapple farming.

In the evening we had six people to dinner. I wish I could describe what went on. One couple kept having digs at one another, the other couple (J&S) egged on another older couple who were hankering for Darwin and felt that Rocky was a dead hole and filled with old people. No culture too. J and Sue, the bright, young, newly married couple stayed the night with us and we sat up till 3am talking about all sorts but mainly about whether one had a purpose in life or not. A subject I’d prefer not to think about.

16th June 1969

This morning was not so good. Had to get up at 7.30am (which wasn’t too early really), fed the kids and myself and the pup on the front verandah that belonged to J&S and then took them all to the beach so the others could sleep on.

Ah! The beach in the early morning.

Saw the boat leave for the Great Keppel Island – one of the reef islands. Apparently there are lots and lots of coral islands, every one of them beautiful, with oysters for the picking. And fine white sand beaches to sit on and eat them. We will be going sometime. The thing to do is to own a boat and go sculling round these islands, fishing or just exploring.

Holidays are fabulous here with everything so conveniently near – mountains, forests, creeks, gem fields, beaches and islands. What more could you want? Not money, because all this costs so little.

It’s been a warm and glorious day today. I find it difficult to describe the days when they are warm and glorious; so difficult…

The swamp twinkles at me from between the trees with ducks and swamp hens foraging into it’s soft belly; the main road is behind the swamp and stray cars flash past the few houses on the hills around me which seem to stretch themselves luxuriously in the not too bright sunlight. Thieving gulls scream hideously at our uncomplaining, fat, good-natured ducks who take not the slightest notice and gulp down their food before the mob of seagulls descend on them. When I see all of this I know it’s a beautiful, warm and glorious day. I hang out of a window and go mushy.

Karen and Gareth, camping near Emu Park 1969
Marcello, Gareth and Karen, camping near Emu Park 1969
Notes and Links
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5. Fish ‘n Chips – Journal Entry 13th Jun 1969

Ah now, today has been very good.

Johnny bought me two pairs of jeans and a donkey jacket. And we wandered round the shops and shopped. We talked to people and looked at lino. We asked for plain brown lino which the army buildings and orphanages get rigged out in but no, nothing like it. It will have to be ordered from Brisbane at $5 a yard which is a helluva lot for us to spend on a rented house.

And we had fish ‘n chips. I can eat fish ‘n chips anytime of the day or night.

14th June 1969

Saturday was great.

Went to Byfield looking for picnic spots.

Found one particularly good one with a shallow creek, stony and fairly fast moving. Lots of trees and rocks and quite isolated. The water was very cold though. Should be good in the summer.

Saw a small bird. He was curious about us and kept flying off the wire he sat on, came towards us then went back. This he did for some time until we moved away.

Blog Updates:

  •    Click here for the Emu Park Family Tree on the home page footer
  •    Shorter journal entries have now been combined into one post
  •    How to read my blog infographic added to top of home page
  •    This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series

4. Pig’s Cheek – Journal Entry 12th Jun 1969

Shopping day. Each day seems to be so good.

Mrs O’D and I shopped together for a while. She is a person who has lived. That sounds corny but how else could I put it? She has worked hard all her life, brought forth nine children, lost two, and has one with a bad heart.

“Look Gita, she spends so much money on her glory box. She’ll never get married, we don’t even know how long she will live. She thinks she will find a man to love her for herself and that they can adopt a child. She is not grown up. She is twenty-one but acts like she is fifteen. She has no idea of things and I had to mollycoddle her till she got her tonsils out because of her heart, but after her tonsils came out I haven’t mollycoddled her. Look, she didn’t menstruate till she was eighteen. You will be lucky if you see it once in twelve months, the doctor told us, and she’s been as regular as any other woman. She’s a bit cranky at that time but then I say, ‘What are you doing here?’ and she goes back to bed.”

So we had coffee and studied the papers for the special sales, found none except the usual lousy mince and sausages at so much for two pounds.

I bought a pig’s cheek for 25c. I was going to try all sorts with it but when I had to hack the thing I felt all squirmy and it smelled a bit too, even though it was pickled. I suspect the little piggy hadn’t been cleaning his teeth or alternatively not chewing his apple before bedtime. Ugh. So even though the pig cheek was so cheap (and I can’t resist such bargains) I won’t be buying one in a hurry.

Did the week’s shopping. Then went off with L for lunch with B. The house was unusual for central Queensland, arched windows, thick brick walls, big rooms, verandahs and so on. ‘Twas built by a German brickmaker, later taken over by a nunnery in which two nuns committed suicide. It’s a lovely house and B seems to have worked hard on it. Lunch was hilarious and L and I returned to town cheerfully intoxicated.

At least I was disgustingly cheerful.

 

Notes:

  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series

3. Sickle and Scythe – Journal Entry 10th Jun 1969

Winter days here seem beautiful days. I don’t know what makes the days so unbearably sweet. Today especially was glorious.

I hacked at the long thick grass. It looked so easy but really wasn’t and besides I don’t know how to handle a sickle. I own a sickle and Johnny owns a scythe, like real country-folk.

Of course after an hour’s work, Gareth and I lay on the newly turned earth.

It was happiness.

Note:

  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series