Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Trove Tuesday: A bridge and a bridge too far

Dorothy, David (right) and Jim Wyllie, c1920

In 1922 my grandparents, Allan and Dolly Wyllie, were living at Drumcondra in Geelong when their young son, David, was diagnosed with TB (tuberculosis). They moved to Melbourne so he could receive treatment there and then to Barwon Heads on the coast because they'd been advised that salt water baths and the fresh air would be beneficial. This is their house on Flinders Parade overlooking the Barwon River estuary.

Wyllie home, Barwon Heads, Victoria c1926
My dad, born in 1921, started school at Barwon Heads and has fond memories of living 'on the beach'. He also remembers the bridge being built. It was a huge bridge. At least he thought it was, until he went back as an adult and realised that it wasn't so big after all. He remembers too that one of the workers gave him a cigarette to smoke! The bridge was completed in 1927 and allowed traffic to pass from Ocean Grove (and the Bellarine Peninsula) to Barwon Heads for the first time since the towns were established about 70 years earlier.

The Argus, 28 Jan 1927
The Argus, 23 Jul 1927
Early postcard shows Barwon Heads across the bridge. My grandparents' house was just to the right (out of photo). Original photo online at State Library of Victoria, accessed via Trove.
Tuberculosis was a terrible disease and it killed a lot of people. This newspaper article states that almost as many people died as a result of the disease as had died in the war.

Moree Gwydir Examiner, 26 Jul 1923
And the treatment of tuberculosis (or consumption as it was known) was often terrible as well. Sufferers were often separated from their families and placed in special isolation homes or hospitals called sanatoriums, where various remedies were tried, mostly to no avail. The newspapers report discussions about possible causes, from contact with sick cows or eating dairy products to poor living conditions, cold weather, crowded living conditions and many others. And there were just as many ' miracle cures' being advertised, but a regular treatment involved sea water or living next to the sea, sleeping in the fresh air. That's why my grandparents moved to Barwon Heads when David became ill.

Children in a sanatorium c1925-35. (San Jose Public Library)
Northern Star, Lismore, NSW, 18 November 1929
The Northern Star, Lismore,  6 Jan 1915
Sadly, this story doesn't have a happy ending. David died in 1926 when he was eight years old.

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