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The Memories of Mildred Miles (nee Douthat)

Posted by on March 3, 2012

Spring Flowers Waanyarra c 1936 Mavis Else, Milly Douthat, Isabel & Raymond, Phyllis Perkins

“I was born in the family home at Waanyarra. My brother Dick, sisters Mary, Sally and Isabel were also born there. ‘Gran’ Strahan, a midwife and neighbour brought us all into the world. Brother Raymond was born years later at Dunolly.

When I was very young Dad took the family to Koondrook to live for about two years. Uncle Bill had an orange grove there and Dad went to help him. Dad let the Indian Hawker, Meer Khan into our house to look after it while we were away. When it was time to come back to Waanyarra, Dad came ahead on his bike to get everything ready for our return. On arrival, he found that Meer Khan had kept fowls in the bedrooms. We had to stay in Dunolly until the house was fit to live in again. We stayed in a two storey place behind Stafford’s shop. I was school age when we returned from Koondrook.

Waanyarra school had a picnic each year. People from other places came along and joined in with us. Our mother made large batches of scones, dozens of ‘snow balls’ and many other good things to eat for the picnics. Dad made cream puffs, he was expert at making them. Some of the shops in Bendigo, where the Waanyarra people had mail orders, sent boxes of fruit, lollies and small gifts for the prizes. Pat Daly and Alan Cairns, who had stores in Dunolly and delivered to Waanyarra, also donated many things for the picnics. Ison the butcher from Tarnagulla, who came out to Waanyarra with the meat chopping-cart, donated meat for the sandwiches, and Bill Davenport gave the bread. Reid’s store also gave many things for the prizes. The mothers would make buckets of raspberry and limejuice for the thirsty kids.

At the school picnics Nell Morton and I always paired up for the double-sack race and the Siamese race. We lived near each other and practised for the races together. We spent a lot of time with each other. We started school the same year and sat for our sixth grade exam and our Merit exam together.

Sunday night was visiting night at our place for the girls who were our friends. We took turns in going to each other’s places, Scholes’, Morton’s, Sturni’s, Lockett’s homes each Sunday. Mum encouraged us to bring our friends home, it was always open house at our place.

Each Guy Fawkes night we had a big bonfire at Waanyarra. Most times the bonfire was in our paddock, all the men helped to build the huge pile of wood and rubbish to burn on the night. Potatoes and onions were cooked in the fire and there was always plenty of fire-works.

Grandma Thorp used to save up old bones and fat to sell to the soap works (Peters) in Dunolly, to get money for fire-works for us kids. She was a wonderful grandmother, one of the best.
During the 1930’s Depression Dad gave the miners vegetables and milk. The men would sit out on our tank stand and listen to the cricket on our wireless, one of the first in Waanyarra. Mum gave the men drinks of home made hop beer.

Ed. Scholes was the first to have a car at Waanyarra, and we would go for rides with Nell Scholes. Vera Bool, our School teacher had a single-seater car. We would take it in turns to walk along the track to meet her and get a ride back to school.

A dance and cards were held at the school once a month. At a very early age we were taken along and taught to dance by our Uncles, Ted and Dick Thorp. When we got older we would hang lighted lanterns in Morton’s hotel and teach other people to dance. My brother Dick played. the accordion and the mouth organ at the dances. Isobel and I were allowed along because our brother was there. We’d ride our bikes to the dances, except when we were taken there by “Icksey” Arthur Jones on his truck.

Waanyarra had a cricket team. We travelled to different places with the team on Icksey Jones’ truck. The girls and young married women would sometimes play the men at cricket, and sometimes the girls would win.

Our Great Grandparents, Cogswells, had a mixed shop at Waanyarra. When we were kids the remains of the shop were still there and we used to bring home trinkets and fans. Our mother forbade us to go there as she was afraid there might be dangerous poison about. But by the next week we’d be back there hunting around in the odds and ends.

After I was married my husband Ern. and I would take our children out to Dads at Waanyarra to stay so they could live some of the lifestyle we had as youngsters.

Those were the good days when we were all together.”

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