Tuesday, May 6, 2014

TELLING IT ON TUESDAY (Part 18a) 1957-1959

In part 17 I left us living in Walcott Street having spent a lot of time making a somewhat dirty house into one in which we were quite happy to live with out little daughter.  I had just found out I was pregnant and my GP had once again referred me to Dr Connaughton, the obstetrician, just in case.

We were quite happy that another baby was on the way and there would be just over 2 years between them which I felt worked well.  I kept quite well this time but once again my baby decided to arrive 4 weeks early.  Strangely enough my mother, the night before Karen was born, was concerned about me and told me to take care.  The night before this baby was born she walked around to our home to see if I was OK.  When I told her I was pretty sure I was having contractions she was not at all surprised.  She and dad had adopted me so how was it she had this sixth sense where I was concerned?  It has never failed to amaze me.  I do know she loved me very much so perhaps that was enough.

It was probably about 8.30pm when mum arrived to check on me and we eventually took off for the hospital at about 10pm where on 24th September, 1957, at 11.55pm our son was born.  He weighed 6lb 5ozs and was 19" long.  This time there was some concern that he may have respiratory problems,  so he was placed in a humid crib for a few days.  During both pregnancies my blood pressure had gone much higher than normal and I had put on weight as my body was also full of fluid.  When this baby was born he was very plump looking but he too had fluid which, when it had drained away, left him quite a few ounces lighter than his birth weight and he then looked a little like a skinned rabbit. I had to be content with looking through the window to see him in the humid crib but after about 3 days they said he was doing fine so he was placed in the main nursery.

We first decided to call our son Peter and then realised Aub's sister had a son Peter and then someone made a stupid remark suggesting I had thought of Peter as a name as I was still sweet on Peter Webster that I had gone out with on a casual basis.  He was in fact the chap that had introduced me to Aub.  They were so wrong as it had never been serious between us although he was still a close friend.  We talked it over and decided that our second choice was best so we now had Steven Aubrey in our family.   I chose that spelling as I thought should be wish to use the abbreviated form of his name, the spelling would be the same and he did, in later years, choose to be called Steve, so that worked out well.

Once again, to the chagrin of other mums in the hospital, my doctor said I didn't have to stay in bed and it was great to be able to shower each day and walk around as much as I cared to.  I would often go down to the hospital shop to buy items the other mums wanted.  This time the maternity ward was over full so four of us were on a large verandah.  Being September the weather was quite temperate and it was rather nice not being confined to an indoor room and we had lots of fresh air.

I was a wee bit apprehensive about going home and dealing with a new baby, plus a very active  toddler, in a two storey house and strangely enough I developed quite a severe back ache day or two before I was due to go home.  I did wonder if it was perhaps psychosomatic but did mention it to Dr Connaugton. I am sure he knew the reason for this sudden sore back and his response was "Oh, you'll be fine.  When you get home pop out and mow the lawn and you'll find you then won't have a problem."  I'm not sure he would have suggested that if he'd known the large expanse of lawn we had and, needless to say, the lawn did get mowed, but not not by me.  Aub used to borrow his step-dad;s electric mower which made the job very easy.  My back did improve or otherwise I just didn't have time to think of it any more as I was suddenly quite busy.

It didn't take long for Steven to pick up and although he looked quite thin when I took him home it only took a few months for him to begin to thrive and stack on weight.  Unfortunately, for some reason, I don't have any very early pictures but here he is in December,1957, aged 3 months in his basket and with his big sister.  He had short quite dark hair and, unlike, Karen he did have eyelashes and eye brows when he was born.

In those days there were restraints for babies or children in cars and the baby, in her or his basket (as shown above), would be placed on the back seat or otherwise mother (dads usually did the driving in family cars back then) would nurse the baby in her arms or, with older kiddies, on her lap.  Adults also did not wear seat belts.  The traffic was far less dense then although the speed limit much the same as it is today, or even faster then as it is now 50kph in built up areas.   In Perth suburbs the speed limit was 35mph with give way to the right rules in place at all intersections where there were no traffic lights.  I don't remember any of our family or friends having traffic crashes in those days but I know that quite a few did happen from my experiences when working for the insurance assessor and also in the claims section at Western Assurance.

Steven continued to thrive and by six months he was a happy, plump baby.  He was always very happy with the family but was terribly shy with strangers so they did not get rewarded with a big beaming smile from him as they always had from Karen when she was a baby.  March, 1958 at 6 months of age:

It was at about this time that my daughter decided to go walkabout.  I would have been sitting quietly somewhere in the house feeding Steven (he took rather a long time to have his feeds) and after it was done I called Karen but she was nowhere to be seen.   I searched the house and the big shed but no Karen.  I popped Steven in his pram and popped around the corner to my friend Del's place.  She put her second daughter Susan in her pram with Dianne on board as well and off we set.   Thinking Karen may have headed to my mum's place we proceeded down to Fitgerald Street.  Mum, of course, was at the office but no sign of Karen in her garden anywhere.  Karen was wearing her red candlewick dressing gown and Del spotted a tiny figure right up at the top of the park where there were swings.   Del said to let her go up there while I minded the three children as Karen may run if she saw me coming, thinking I could be cross.  Next thing there was Karen coming down holding Del's hand.  She was not the least bit perturbed about going walkabout but she had been playing in some gravel and said "I got a stone up my nose" and sure enough there was.  Del carefully removed the pebble and all was well.  Strange how other mums can often do things with one's children that they are wary about their own mums doing.  We realised she had managed to climb the cyclone fence (she couldn't open the gate) that stretched across the back yard,  had walked down the back lane and headed down York Street to Fitzgerald Street.  Her other grandmother (Aub's mum) had a friend tell her she had been heading up Fitzgerald Street for a visit that very morning and had seen this little girl in red walking up the middle of the road.  I have no idea if that lady had the presence of mind to tell Karen to go to the footpath but somehow that child managed not to get hurt at all (except for the problem of that pebble) and we had her back home safe and sound with many big sighs of relief and my thanks to Del for being there when needed.  Karen at that time would have been a few months of 3 years old.  I doubt she would have survived in today's traffic.

Things in the Lewis household were going along reasonably well although cracks were showing.  We had a group of friends and would alternate between each others's homes to play cards and perhaps enjoy a drink or two.  Sadly two of the couples with whom we were close lost their babies when not very old (one to cot death, the other we were not really sure what happened).  When you have babies of your own it is sad to go to the funeral of a very young one. We did what we could to comfort them but unless you have lost a child it is difficult to even imagine what they were going through.  One of the couples split up not long after the loss of their son but I feel theirs was never a happy marriage anyway.

Aub was not a good one at handling money.  He was great in that he handed me his unopened pay packet each Friday and I would put money away to pay all the different bills.   Unfortunately he would find he had need of money to perhaps go fishing or shooting with friends and he spent quite a lot of money on photography and so my well thought out payment plan would go out the window.  I remember once going to see Dr Wheeler and felt so embarrassed when he suggested I ask Aub to please pay the accounts that were owing.  I'd had the money put away but of course it has been spent for other purposes.  I made sure our doctor got his money straight away and always on time after that.  In those days you didn't pay at the surgery on the day of your visit but would receive a bill in the mail.

This is a photo of Steven in April, 1958 at 7 months and Karen would be two years and nine months:


We were always rather short of money and my mum was wonderful in that she would buy items for both the children and I always made their clothes.  She bought me a very nice brushed nylon dressing gown when I was expecting Steven and a very smart overcoat the following year.  I even made some of Aub's working shirts which also saved us quite a lot of money.  I had an account with Economic Stores (long gone now) where you would 'buy' some of their store currency so you could buy things in their store (mainly material and wool in my case) and pay off the account on the 'never never'.  That worked out very well and they had a great variety of fabrics and other things required for making all types of clothes.  I first of all had mum's old Singer sewing machine but then managed to buy myself a more modern machine (again on the never never) that had fancy stitches so I could make really pretty things for Karen and buttonholes on shirts and blouses as well.  That really made dressmaking so much easier.

I was not a wonderful housewife but did my best although did find it a bit difficult living in a not very convenient, but otherwise comfortable, old two storey home.  I often wonder if some of my later back problems came from carrying the children up and down the stairs, especially when by 12 months of age Steven weighed 2 stone (28 pounds).   These are photos of him when he was 10 months and 11 months old and you can see he was quite a big boy.  July, 1958 and

having a picnic with his sister in the back garden at Walcott Street in August, 1958.  Looking at this photo I wonder if he painted more on his face and legs than he ate!  Karen had turned three the previous month.  They really did make a delightful pair.

As things became worse between Aub and myself I decided I'd had enough and told him I was taking the children and going to stay with mum.  Talk about the old adage "I'm going home to my mother" but go I did as I didn't feel it was doing the children much good seeing and hearing us arguing so much.   One of our friends helped me moved as much as I needed to mum's home and this of course enraged Aub and I truly think he believed Don and I were having an affair.  Nothing could have been further from the truth and I often did wonder if perhaps Don wasn't all that keen on girls but must admit he was very kind to me.   He actually picked the children and me up on Christmas Day 1958 and took us for a picnic to Harvey Dam (south of Perth).  Steven was 15 months and Karen 3 years and 5 months.  This is a photo of the two kiddies on the day:

Karen had begun to talk when very young and by the time she was about 12 months you could almost carry on a conversation with her.  She had also begun to walk just before she was a year old whereas Steven didn't talk much at all (apart from mumma and dadda) not did he try to walk.  I talked to the clinic sister and she said not to worry and asked if I thought his sister understood what he wanted.  I then realised he would often make a sound and Karen seemed to understand what he wanted and many times seemed to do what he wanted her to do.  The clinic sister explained this was often the case.  The older child would know what their younger sibling wanted so there was no need for the young one to bother talking.

We were quite comfortable staying with mum and fortunately the tenant from the room at the back of her house had left so Steven and I were billeted out there and Karen shared mum's bedroom.  I cooked most the meals so mum had less to do when she returned from the office.

We did give her a bit of a break when the kiddies and I went down to stay with friends Judy and Barry in their home in Katanning for a couple of weeks.  We had lots of fun all driving down their in Barry's VW beetle.  I still try to remember how we fitted but think Judy and Barry were of course in the front bucket seats while I was on the back seat with Karen and their daughter Robyn and the two little boys, Steven and their son Bruce, sat in the little well between the back seat and the rear window.  Sounds dangerous and when you consider it was a trip of about 180 miles I guess we were lucky to make it without any mishaps.  As said before, driving on the roads was much different back in the late 1950s.

Judy and Barry were moving into another house they had bought (they were going to rent out their current home) and I was able to help Judy with the packing.  Their eldest son Geoffrey was away at boarding school in Perth but she still had her hands full with the other children.  We actually had a lot of fun and it was nice to get away from Perth for a while.  Aub had decided he would drive to Katanning and pick us up and he did this, though still back to my mum's place.

I think that is a good place to have a rest and give you one as well (if you've even got this far).

I have divided this into 18a and 18b as I am going to do the second part entirely with photos of Karen up to the age of about two and half years which is just after Steven was born.  


  1. Both children are beautiful. Healthy, happy and beautiful.
    How brave of you to move out when things became so very difficult with Aub. So many didn't 'for the sake of the children' and I think a lot of damage was done.
    And yes, to lose a child (says the childless woman), would be incomprehensible and a life-changing tragedy.

    1. Thank you EC I guess they weren't a bad pigeon pair.
      I had no choice but to move out as I could see my daughter becoming unhappy and I certainly wasn't feeling all that at home where I was.
      A later decision may not have been as intelligent as it could have been though.

  2. So nice to hear memories of a time I remember when traffic was light and people didn't need to be tied into cars. We had a 'runaway' incident with our daughter as well. Talk about panic lol. What lovely photos you have of your babies.

    1. Those quieter days on the road are those I often look back on and sorrow that everything has become rush, rush, rush.
      I think when one's child goes missing the feeling of panic is overwhelming.
      Thank you for the comments about the photos. Only old black and white prints but I love them still.

  3. Hari OM
    Oh yes the 'runaway'... suspect many families have at least one and we also had the one who was always packing her bag and 'livin an dat's da troot'. (sic)

    Good reading as always, Mimisie. YAM xx

    1. Thank Yam for your kind comments. xx
      I had a friend whose little one also used to pack his bags but he never got out the front door. lol

  4. Such sweet pictures! How I look forward to Tuesdays!!!

    1. Thank you Susan. I wondered had I shown too many pictures but there are so many and so enjoy looking at them too.

  5. I prefer the Steven spelling over the Stephen too. He does look quite chubby at 10-11 months, had a good appetite I'd say. My own youngest was a skinny toddler and child, so I was surprised one day to see just how chubby he had been as a baby when I found some old photos. I'd completely forgotten the plump little arms and legs he had before he started crawling.
    I didn't have a runaway, but my K did wander away from us in a big shopping centre, so I know how you felt at not being able to find Karen. Luckily we both found our girls fairly quickly.

    1. Steven was a good eater. I fed him till he was nearly 12 months and he used to also love his vegies and other food. He never ever drank from a bottle but always a spoon or a small mug.
      Panic stations certainly are hit quickly when kids disappear and we were fortunate the final outcome was a good one.