Friday, 3 October 2008

grandma

My Grandmother died last week, at the very respectable age of 94. Even though I'm sad, I know that she lived a long life and one that she was generally satisfied with. I am also thankful that, as part of an obsession with genealogy, I took many opportunities to talk to Grandma about her life and really try to get to know her. I hope that you will indulge me by letting me share her story with you, too.

Florence Edith Davies was born on New Years Day, 1914. On the day she was born, her grandfather held her and said "What a dear little Tuppence. She could fit into my coat sleeve." Both the name and small size stuck with her for life. She claimed to have reached 5 foot 1 in her heyday but that may have been an exaggeration. Certainly she was to experience great trouble finding shoes for her tiny size 2 feet.

Tup was born in the Port Broughton Hotel, where her parents were licensees. Soon after they moved to Port Lincoln, where at one time they were running three hotels. Their family home was in the Port Lincoln Hotel.

Tup learnt to swim when one of the local fishermen threw her off the Port Lincoln Pier with a life buoy. While growing up in the Port Lincoln Hotel, the family would go for a swim in the ocean at 7am each morning. In winter when it was too cold they would go for a walk instead. Mind you, Tup's version of swimming mainly consisted of floating on her back.

Mr Broadbent, a lawyer in Adelaide, would come to Port Lincoln each summer to visit his brother and live in the hotel. Tup would take his lunch down then go out fishing in his dinghy. Once when Tup was around 8 years old, she had her hand in the water when they saw a shark nearby.

In the Hotel, the parents' bedroom was downstairs and the girls' upstairs. They had a chain on the door to protect them from unsavoury types but when building began on a nearby dam when Tup was aged five, it was decided that there were too many rough workmen so Connie and Tup were sent off to boarding school at St Peter's in Kermode street, Adelaide. The girls travelled to school each term on the Minnipa, a coastal ship owned by the Adelaide Steamship Company that was regularly engaged in Eyre Peninsula sea trade for many years.

The school was just past St Peter's Cathedral where they wen to church every Sunday, walking crocodile fashion. The summer uniform was a white tabalco dress with a fine blue stripe and in winter they wore a navy blue blazer with a navy blue pinafore. Hats and gloves were always part of the uniform. Tup was pleased that the girls started school just after the summer hats had been changed from ugly straw boaters.

After leaving school, Tup first worked for the family in the Port Lincoln Hotel. She had three main tasks: ironing napkins and table cloths for the dining room (a very time-consuming task as she had to use a flat iron); housemaid (only when they were particularly busy); and waitressing in the dining room. After Tup's sister Connie married in 1934, Tup took over her job as a dental nurse but she had to return home and work in the Hotel when her mother became ill.

In around 1935, Tup went to Horsham for four weeks to visit her sister, Connie. Connie's husband, Merv, suggested that they invite his friend Ray Huf around for a game of four-handed Solo because "he's a nice boy". Ray went home that night and told his mother "I've met a girl with the most beautiful hair" (Tup's hair was strawberry blonde). After Tup returned to Port Lincoln, the two continued to keep in contact by mail and Ray visited her a couple of times, driving there in an Essex 6. The roads were not good, traversing sand hills, and the journey would have taken him at least 18 hours. Ray proposed in the car during one of these visits. After a year of courting, the couple married in Adelaide on the 28th of January, 1939. Tup wore an ice-blue chiffon dress with smudgy flowers. Tup's sisters Connie and Grace were bridesmaids and David Nightingale was a groomsman. Their honeymoon was the two-day drive back to Horsham, stopping at Port Fairie. It was Black Friday and they had to take an alternative road because a tree on the side of the road was on fire and threatening to fall.

In Horsham, they lived in a newly-built house on Ray's mother's farm in Lubeck road. They intended to buy furniture with the money owed to them by a man who ran off. They were left only with thirteen cows which they milked, selling the cream to get money for furniture. Tup churned their own butter and had to wash the separator, which was quite a chore.

Tup's first pregnancy ended in miscarriage. To make matters worse, both Ray and their usual doctor were away at the time. The young replacement doctor insisted that Tup was still pregnant and prescribed strict bed rest. This went on for months! Happily, she went on to have four daughters: Christine in 1941, Elizabeth in 1944, Rosemary 1947 and Margaret in 1948.

Tup's first priority was always her family.

In spite of her fear of snakes, upon discovering one under the washing line that she had been about to use, Tup duly armed herself and threw a stick at it. She missed but the snake took fright and was never seen again.

Having learned from her mother in the hotel, Tup was a great cook and collector of recipes. She was particularly noted for her light scones, the secret of which she said was "all in the fingertips". Having lived through the Depression, Tup was also a great offal cook and a master at making something out of nothing. In addition to feeding her family, Tup would also prepare lunch for the workers on the farm.

Tup retained her childhood love of the ocean and many family holidays would be spent at the seaside. Ray would drive them down then return to the farm in Horsham, leaving Tup to look after the four girls with the assistance of her sister Connie or their housekeeper, Mrs Hallam (Hallie).

Tup was President of the Horsham Golf Club. Known for a unique flourish at the top of her golf swing, Tup was an accomplished golfer, winning both the B-grade championship and the grandmother's trophy.

When bowls first started at the Horsham Golf Club, Tup teamed up with Mrs Smith to win the pairs competition. She continued to play and at age 70 won the championship and was President of the Horsham City Bowls Club. She also qualified to represent the Central Wimmera Bowling Club in Melbourne.

Tup was a keen card player, her favourite game being Bridge. On one occasion she was playing with Ray and two friends when they saw a fox running past outside. The three men immediately threw down their cards in hot pursuit of the fox but Tup stayed at the table and patiently awaited their return, as she was holding a winning hand.

Tup's husband Ray died at their home in Gleed street, Horsham, in 1996. Tup stayed on there until 2005 when she broke her hip and moved in with daughter in Great Western. With four generations in the house, there was lots of opportunity for misadventures. On one occasion, great-grand daughter Isabelle was playing air guitar (using a real guitar for extra effect) when she got a bit too enthusiastic and hit Tup in the leg, causing significant injury. After that, Tup was set up with a fire guard in front of her for protection whenever the great grand children visited. On another occasion, great grandson James' pet ferret had been missing for a couple of weeks. Tup had established a respectful relationship with the ferret so when it reappeared in the living room where she was sitting by herself, she greeted it, saying "Oh there you are. Welcome home." The ferret immediately ran up the inside of Tup's trouser leg, scratching and clawing as it went. Tup calmly waited for a family member to come and rescue her. They were met with some amusement at the hospital when they tried to explain how the 90+ year old had come to suffer her latest injuries.

Tup died in hospital on the first of October 2008 after a brief illness, aged 94 years. She had retained her sharp intellect until her final days and her wisdom and wit was proven again at her funeral, a cold a rainy day, when it was revealed that she had been asked to be buried in "something warm. Because I'm going up, not down".


On a more personal note, these are a few things that I associate fondly with my Grandma:
* stewed plums for breakfast
* five o'clock is sherry time
* guests are always invited to make themselves "com-fort-ab-le"
* my excitement as a little girl when I was able to fit into my Grandma's "grown-up" shoes
* her unending patience and selflessness

Rest well, Grandma. I love you.

2 comments:

Sharon said...

What a wonderful lady, and such a lovely way to remember her.

Chris said...

Thank you so much for sharing her story. One of my grandmothers died last year and I'm still sad that I didn't get to know her very well at all. Your memories of her are really lovely :)