Saturday, April 18, 2015

Sepia Saturday: Hello

Ghan workers tapping in to the telephone line in central Australia 1942. [Photo: D Kendall]
This photo needs some explanation.

The place is central Australia near Alice Springs. The year is 1942 - it's the middle of the war. Our friend Don was an Australian soldier stationed at Darwin when he and a mate were told to find their own way south to Melbourne and report for duty at the Air Force base at Point Cook because their applications to transfer to the RAAF had been accepted.

Sounds simple, doesn't it? The problem was that Darwin is a long way from Melbourne, especially in war time. It's 3,800 kms and the population is very sparce for most of the way. The road was really just a track for most of the way. They had very little money and the army provided them with a few food vouchers and travel passes but they had to organise their own route.

So, they hitched rides to Alice Springs on various army transport vehicles, then they went by train to Adelaide, and then by another train to Melbourne. It was all a bit of an adventure for two young lads.

The Ghan railway route today.
 In 1942 the old Ghan route (brown dotted line) from near Adelaide terminated at Alice Springs.
In 1872 a major engineering feat was completed. It was called the Overland Telegraph Line and it connected Darwin to Port Augusta in South Australia. It allowed much faster communication between Australia and the rest of the world. The building of the Overland Telegraph was fraught with difficulties but that's a whole other story.

The famous old Ghan was a narrow-gauge railway that opened in 1927 as 'Central Australian Railway'. It ran north to Oodnadatta in 1891 and then to Alice Springs in 1927. Its nickname derives from the Afghan cameleers who were so important in the the early days. (That's another big story, and so is the story of the difficulties encountered in the building of the Ghan railway.) The new Ghan is one of the great railway journeys of the world - all the way from Darwin to Adelaide in comfort. The old Ghan was a different story as weather and the environment played havoc with the infrastructure so travellers never quite knew when they would arrive at their destination.

For the purpose of this blog suffice to say that the telegraph line was extremely important and so was the Ghan, and that they followed the same route for much of their journey through the tough Australian landscape.

In 1942 Don and his mate travelled south from Alice Springs on the old Ghan and in Don's photo we can see that some of the workers on the Ghan are in the middle of nowhere tapping in to the telegraph line to set up some sort of temporary communication.

This post is in response to Sepia Saturday's theme photo of electrical linesmen in Tasmania.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Sepia Saturday: Working horses

Women's Land Army, England, WW2
My photo this week is one I purchased several years ago. It was in an album of family snapshots taken in England in the 1940s and some of a family living near Perth in Western Australia. As there were no surnames in the album I have no idea who the people were but I have uploaded them to my Flickr page so maybe someone one day will recognise a friend or relative.

There were about ten interesting photos of Women's Land Army activities in the album, including this one. The women appear to be wearing the land army uniform and would have been employed in using the horses to prepare the fields. As the same women are in several of the photos I assume the land army was organised so that the same women worked together over time. 

The smiles seem to indicate genuine enjoyment, the women having fun together on a summer's day and enjoying each other's company as well as the hard work. Hopefully the horses were happy on their food break as well.

To see more working horses I suggest you trot on over to Sepia Saturday's webpage and follow the blog links.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Sepia Saturday: Cycling

Joyce Barry, all-round cycling champion of  NSW, 1936
This little advertising card was with some 'found' photos that turned up at the Genealogical Society of Victoria. (I've been gradually scanning the photos and uploading them to Flickr.)

Joyce Barry, from Australia, must have been a natural all-round athlete as well as a champion cyclist in 1936. I really like the text on the reverse side: "Cycling on my 'Malvern Star' in the fresh open air keeps me slim and ensures that delightful bloom which no cosmetic could impart." Apparently her well-proportioned weight of 11 stone was admirably distributed over an athletic yet essentially feminine frame.

We have quite a few cyclists in our family. They enjoy riding long trails, riding to work, mountain biking and riding just for fun at a more liesurely pace. We have one family member who is blind and competed in cycling events at the paralympics.  And we even young grandchildren who enjoy riding to school and at the local playground. But I'm not posting photos of any of them.

I've chosen instead some photos taken in one back yard at Kerang over several decades, posed photos of family members. And in the background the bicycles are leaning on various garden constructions, unnoticed by the photographers.

Shirley Phelan with Phil, Alan, Shelley and Kay.
Kay Phelan on the scooter, Phil and Alan in the background.
Shelley Phelan
Renee McCasker with Jane, Lorraine Phelan with Kerrie.
Kay Phelan
And finally, Shelley and Fiona on a tandem made by Alan.
I suggest you take a trip over to Sepia Saturday to see some more cyclists.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Sepia Saturday: The Fordson Dexta tractor

Cutting firewood c1975
In the 1970s we bought a farm that was very run down. Nothing on the farm was in working order. The fences were numerous but all were old and had been mended numerous times with extra wire or posts, the house was old and hadn't been repaired at all and had no piped water, the outdoor toilet was way down in the orchard, the orchard was a completely untended (but surprisingly productive), the pasture couldn't be called pasture as it was full of weeds and bracken, the paddocks hadn't been levelled properly so were rough and bumpy and we couldn't stock the farm because the animals would have immediately wandered onto the roads through the broken fences and gates.

But it was cheap so we could afford it and we loved having some land we could call our own, and still do forty years later. Now it is in much better condition all round and is very productive. We no longer live there but we use the house as a holiday house and a local dairy farmer leases the paddocks.

So, the photo. The theme photo for this week's Sepia Saturday is of a tractor in Turkey. So I've chosen to match it with a photo of a tractor on our farm, taken about 1975. My husband and his father are cutting firewood for the wood-burning stoves in the house. The old house had a very old and inefficient wood stove and the only heating in the house was a small wood heater. Timber was in plentiful supply because we were gradually pulling down all the old fences but it had to be sawn into short lengths for the stoves. The photo shows a saw driven by the tractor and when I look at it now I'm amazed at how dangerous it is. It was noisy as well and neither worker is wearing ear protection. 

The tractor itself is a red and blue Fordson Dexta (don't know the model) that we borrowed from my father because at that stage we owned absolutely no farming machinery or equipment. I remember doing numerous turns around the paddocks when I was a child, with my dad driving and me (and sometimes other siblings as well) sitting on the wheel arch - completely unsafe of course but we kids survived our childhoods. We all learned to drive dad's tractors from an early age so we could help with the hay-making, feeding out and numerous other tasks around the farm. We still have a Fordson Major tractor but as it's no longer in working order it's a good restoration project for someone in the future.

You can more theme blog over on the Sepia Saturday page.