This country has gone through many changes, and seeing what we have now makes me long for what we’ve lost. So today, as a TBS Boomer, I look back.
Many years ago, before you were born, and when dinosaurs roamed the land, I and 9 million other Australians lived an idyllic life. In the ’50s there was no television, no mobile phones, no home computers, no obesity and no terrorism in Australia. We spoke Aussie English, not American gangster slang.
My childhood was mainly spent in a small country town in the south east of South Australia, called Naracoorte. We were not poor and not rich but we ate well and had far better food than we have today. Families grew vegetables in the backyard and planted fruit trees. Many had “chooks” in the backyard and from time to time went hunting for rabbits or ducks. Neighbours often visited with excess vegetables to give or exchange. Milk was delivered into a billy can left on the front porch with the money required. Most people boiled the milk to destroy any germs. The scalded cream which rose to the top and which was carefully saved when the milk cooled was far better than any cream you can buy today. (No additives, emulsifiers, thickeners etc.) Homemade strawberry jam and scalded cream on fresh crusty bread was a common treat.
Doors were often left unlocked.
In the ’50s, children were free range. We walked or rode to school, often several miles, and were oblivious to the perils of paedophiles. When we came home we played in the neighbourhood until almost dark. On the weekends we could be away all day and only need return home when the street lights came on. Activities such as bird nesting, yabbying, catching tadpoles, racing Billy Carts and swapping comics with other kids filled the days. I can only remember one child during this time who was “fat”, but no one teased him or he would sit on them.
School classes usually consisted of around 50 children, yet we never felt excluded or neglected. If you failed (very few did) you repeated the year. Games in the schoolyard were “chasey”, cricket or skip-rope.
Also on The Big Smoke
- TBS Boomers: Women’s Health and the danger of taking things at Facebook value
- TBS Boomers: What I’ve learned as a 50-something lesbian
- TBS Boomers: Don’t forget to remember, and the road to ruin
- TBS Boomers: A chat with Tony Barber
Country people often learned to drive at about age 10 and would sometimes venture into town on their own at about age 14. The police usually looked the other way.
When I was 8 and my “big brother” neighbour Barry was 12, it was a wonderful, carefree and innocent time in Australia’s history, when a gun was a tool and not a weapon. Barry’s mum had suggested roast rabbit for dinner so Barry went into the garage and took down an automatic .22 rifle and a box of cartridges, and we walked across the road to get a couple of rabbits. I walked behind him and to the left (a common safety measure) and he shot a couple of crows (the farmer granted access on condition that he shoot crows) and then shot a couple of rabbits. The rabbits were duly skinned and the hides pegged out to dry and then sold. I think he got two shillings per skin.
Today if two young children were seen with a rifle, there would immediately be a SWAT team surrounding them, with possible terrorism charges to follow, and the parents would probably have their children made wards of the state.
Our family moved to the “big smoke” (Adelaide) in the late ’50s and bought the first of the new “square look” Holdens in 1957. Dad paid cash for the car. There were no credit cards. It was a proud time for Dad as there were few families with cars in our street. Most people travelled by tram until the buses arrived in about 1958. Trams were considered “old hat” and were quickly phased out. Only the City to Glenelg tram remains; a reminder of a more sedate era.
Children played cricket in the middle of the road and everyone knew everyone else in a street which had around 50 houses. Most people lived their whole lives in the same house and there are still some remaining after more than 60 years.
How things have changed.