Our granddaughter turned thirteen today. Born into the electronic age she vlogs. She makes musical videos on tictoc. She loves to cook cakes. Actually she bakes all things sweet. Her school holds many extracurricular activities to develop in her life long things to be interested in. She has tried almost all popular sports. Now she now plays netball. Hers is a privileged life. As yet she has no other responsibilities to perform after school. Her life does not easily compare to the life my sisters lived at her age. Unsurprisingly, as I am male and grew up in an age of male privilege, it does not compare to my upbringing at the same age .
My mother, like many mothers of her era, thought the best way to ensure her children did not get into trouble was to make sure we were always busy. “Idle hands are the devils workshop.” In other words being busy meant we couldn’t get up to mischief. After school we each had domestic duties we were expected to perform. Speaking for myself, it was my job to fill the woodbox which sat undercover outside the kitchen door every day after school. That was because nearly all the cooking done in there was done on a wood fired cooker. When firewood was needed inside instead of walking all the way to the wood heap it meant the cook only walking a few steps to the door and back to replenish the fuel. If the wood box was full.
The other job I had was to separate the cream from the milk after either of my parents milked our cow, or cows. (At one stage we had three cows.) Our separator was a centrifugal de Laval machine. To separate one had to assemble the previously washed pieces of the machine and turn a crank handle by hand at a given speed just as raw milk flowed from the small vat into it. The heavy counter-piece that did all the work had about thirty parts and most of these were (my name for them) the gills. The milk dropped in to the bottom of the centerpiece and because of centrifuge the lighter part of the milk, the skim milk flowed out of one hole swiftly, and the heavier cream came out another. The job was not done until the parts were disassembled and washed ready for next time. Thrice weekly the cream went off to the butter factory. We fed the skim milk to the calves twice a day.
Jobs were only part of the process of keeping my idle hands busy. I was also involved with the scouting movement from my last years at primary school until I finished secondary school at 18. Scouting was something most boys tried sometimes, either as Cubs, or Scouts. The skills we learned were of survival, and civic importance. We learned to tie knots once used on land and sea to sail boats. We learned semaphore, or Morse code, as a means to send messages. We were often outside so we learned about the stars and navigation. Additionally we learned to cook and darn and manage ourselves. Chiefly it prepared boys for leadership and responsibility.
I thoroughly enjoyed the scouting movement. Perhaps it was attrition, perhaps it was abilities I learned from regular attendance but I rose through the ranks from a Tenderfoot (a newbie) to a Patrol leader (leader of a tent full of kids) to a Troop Leader, (head kid). I also enjoyed earning the achievement badges of the association, (first aid, cooking, etc) and the different badges of responsibility. up to Queens Scout. (Never got there.) ((Attrition came about because kids left school to work on their parents farms or to to take up apprenticeships from age 14. Very few of the boys that started school with me had six years at secondary schooling.) ((Mum was determined that each of us would get a good grounding at school before we left as she had been required to during the Depression.)))
While at primary school like many families we spent Sunday at church. I went to Sunday School. Mum was a Sunday school teacher so it was hard to avoid that part of my upbringing. It wasn’t so different from other kids though because in almost every house in every street on Sunday everybody dressed in their Sunday best clothes and went to church A,B,C, or D. It was like this in almost every town in the White Australian Christian culture I matured into in the mid nineteen fifties.
When I had almost finished school I spent a whole year, with other youth leaders, being instructed one night a week learning about sports and games promoted by the National Fitness Council of Australia. In our country town where Australian Rules football, Cricket and Tennis dominated as sports for men, netball and tennis the games women, and old folk played golf, bowls, and croquet, it was interesting to learn other sports were played across the globe.
We had ball lessons on volleyball, badminton, soccer, rugby and a host of other sports and games designed to get people moving.
On reflection it seems strange I spent time learning about sport. I had little aptitude for ball games, (apart from golf) and no interest in sport generally (except running) and no interest in team games because I was and remain basically a loner. (An observation pointed out to me when I applied for training as a teacher.) Over time the vague interest I had in sport has all but dimmed to be of no interest whatsoever to me. The little I do know is to allow myself a conversation starter when silence erupts whenever I am in a group.
In late secondary school I did what many of my peers did as well and joined a junior youth group at church. For me it was the young Anglican fellowship (YAF). The Presbyterians had an equivalent body the PFA. The Methodists had theirs and the Catholics had the YCW. Among other things we organised dances, and visited dances organised by the other groups as well.
My school days were very busy and at no time did my thoughts or actions lead me off the rails to crime, or gambling, or girls. Much to my mother’s relief. I was just plain daggy, not nerdy as the word would not have fitted had it been invented. Daggy is a title given to someone awkward and clumsy as in the comic character Dagwood, found in the comic, “Blondie.”
I know my mother was terrified I might run off the rails if I had nothing to do, and I suspect she thought the same applied to her daughters as well. She became a leader of the Girl Guides to prevent them from failing at a time she needed them for my sisters. She took up tennis for the same reason and frequently she would take them off to the tennis court to wear them out before school. I really took no notice of what else my sisters got up to because of her fear but I am sure they too had plenty to do as they were growing up as well.
As I have remembered this it is so very dissimilar to my life when I compare it to that of Georgia at thirteen. She now has 450 followers of her vlog. Imagining this is well on the way to being a million she behaves as a twenty year old influencer already. I have no idea of the person she will become. Except it is obvious already it is as a woman confident in her own skin. I reckon that is ideal. Go G.
These reflections are written without a theme in mind. Perhaps they might one day be used to hear my voice from the grave. However they are received is unimportant to me. Just follow me and I might say something that resonates with you. Thanks for reading this far.