Let’s meet the rest of my father’s family. Uncle Jim, Aunty Rita and Aunty Leah. The three youngest members of a family of 10.
Owen or “Jim” as he was known, was born in Geraldton in March 1930. Jim didn’t have a name for several weeks after he was born, until one day his father went into town and bumped into his cousin Owen Williams. He mentioned this to Norma when he got home and she said, “That’s what we’ll call him, Owen David!” His father gave him the nickname of Jimmy, when he’d sing “Jimmy crack corn and I don’t care”, to him and when he was about two years old, he was always in the vegetable garden eating tomatoes and the gardener called him Tomato Jim. The tomato was eventually dropped, but Jim has stuck with him.
When he was about eight years old Jim had polio. He was taken to the Rosella Hospital and left by himself in the ward. Everyone was placed in quarantine and couldn’t leave the farm. Jim remembered being in hospital for about six weeks and no one was allowed to visit him, not even his mother and father. The worst thing, he said, was not being told why he was there and what was happening.
As his brother’s before him, Jim went on to boarding school at the Christian Brother’s College (CBC) in Geraldton. A favourite teacher was Brother Whiting and at recess time he would be off to play football with the boys.
Jimmy too left school in 1944 to work on the farm. In the early 1950’s the three brothers, Charlie, Ernie and Jim worked under the partnership of Cripps Bros. They remained under the name of Cripps Bros until about 1955. Charlie took Glass’ “Rockvale Farm”, Jim took over Woodcock’s “Manor Farm” and Ernie took on Flavel’s “Sutton Farm”. Charlie then took on “Mumby” when their father died in 1958.
Jim married Nellie Jackson in March 1957 and they had five children, Kerry, Vicky, Gaylene, David and John.
**********By the time this blog is published, Rita would have just celebrated her 85th birthday with her immediate and extended family and friends. Rita was born in Northampton, the 9th child.
Her nickname of “Skeet” came about when she was always complaining about the mosquitos, so Donny and Jack Reynolds, who used to work on the farm after World War II, nicknamed her Skeet.
Rita recalls playing with her dolls and reading a book called Snow White, which she still has. There were no pets to call their own but the family did have a pet kangaroo and there was always a sheepdog, a horse called “Ally” short for Alleluia and cats. She loved the kittens.
A special memory for Rita, was the time Jimmy threw red ink at a schoolteacher and he ran away into the crop. Rita knew where he was and took his shoes to him, as the crop was full of double gees.
School days were started at Mumby where she went for three years before boarding at the Northampton Convent for eight years until her Junior in 1947. When she was at the convent, there was always a birthday party for each of the boarders. Her sister Phyllis, would make special cakes and they would have a picnic. Rita left at the age of 15.
There was no particular favourite subject, schooling was just something you had to do, but her favourite schoolteachers were Sister Angela the junior teacher and Sister Carmel.
Rita’s first job was on the farm at Mumby with the boys and Brenda, then six months at The Flour Mill in Geraldton, typing out the laundry accounts. The pay at the time was roughly twenty-five shillings a week. She would also play the piano at dances in Northampton and earn one pound a night.
Rita married Gordon Bridgeman in February 1953 and they had three children, Kevin, Susan and Corrie.
**********Aunty Leah, the youngest, the baby as she always called herself. I can relate to that, as I’m the youngest in our family too. She was born in December of 1934.
Leah grew up on Mumby and went to boarding school in Northampton until the age of 14. She loved geography and biology at school and her favourite teachers were Sister Angela, Sister Domenico and Mother Therese. At recess time she would play hopscotch, practice basketball (now known as netball) and if ever she got into trouble would have to say 10 Hail Mary’s. Leah went on to be a netball coach in Geraldton.
An all time favourite dish was the family roast and Christmas times were around the huge dining room table filled with special food. While the eldest girls cooked, Leah would mind their children. Their father would play a trick on them by sprinkling powder around the fireplace and put his footprints in the powder and the cookies and milk would mysteriously disappear. Their mother would make them homemade clothes for presents.
Leahs’ first job was a shorthand/typist at Millar and Stadden in Geraldton. She received £1.7.6 a week equivalent to $2.76 today.
In 1956 Leah married Hub Mainwaring and they settled in Geraldton with their four children, Glenn, Brett, Wendy and Chris.