What would Graham Remember?

I am still coming to terms with the recent death of my beloved husband. He had suffered from dementia for many years, and was becoming debilitated. I knew there was no possible improvement, or recovery, and hated to see the way he was suffering, so had been praying for his release for several months. But still I feel a great sense of loss, now that my prayers have been answered.

He was 12 years older than me. My pre-teen memories are of the 1950s, his would have been of the early 1940s. I do have photos of him at that age, and some stories he shared with me. I am trying to record what his memories would have been of that time.

Graham grew up in the suburbs of Adelaide, the capital city of South Australia, on the southern coast of Australia. That sounds grand, but in 1939, the whole population of South Australia was about 600,000 [1]. Adelaide usually has around 50% of the state’s population, so we can guess that some 300,000 people lived in Adelaide. We still think of Adelaide as ‘a big country town’, despite its current population of 1.4 million. Almost everywhere I go, I meet someone I know, or a connection of a friend.

Graham lived in a 2 bed-roomed brick house with his parents and elder brother Bruce, just 2 years older. His father had a good job, as a manager in a firm supplying industrial components. His mother was a typical homemaker, very few women were employed outside the home then. Bruce and Graham rode their bikes to primary school and later to the nearest high school. I am not sure when the family acquired its first car. In his early childhood, the family travelled by tram every Sunday to visit his paternal grandmother, to take her for a drive in her car. His father usually caught a tram to work each day.

The family attended the local Anglican church and were deeply involved there. The minister led a troop of Boy Scouts, and Graham was an enthusiastic member. I have his cap badge, and a paper attesting that he knew how to care for his bicycle. Another paper shows that he knew enough about First Aid to earn an Ambulance Man’s Badge. We also have his ‘woggle’ made from a large empty gum-nut. He threaded his tie through it. We also have the knife which he wore in his belt.

The bike was important in his life. His first job was delivering groceries after school, riding his bike to the homes of customers. He and Bruce also rode their bikes to the beach, where for a time Bruce owned a small sailing-boat. A longer ride took them to the country town of Roseworthy, to visit an uncle and aunt, a distance of about 60 kilometres or 35 miles. No wonder they were saddle-sore afterwards.

As he grew older, the Church community held ball-room dancing lessons. Graham took this up seriously, and in later years achieved silver and gold certificates in Ballroom and Latin dancing. I still have the badges he earned this way. He also played tennis with church groups.

The family took regular holidays. I have photos on the beaches south of Adelaide, Normanville and Second Valley, of both Graham and Bruce, sometimes with cousins, sometimes with uncles.

Of course, during the early 1940s, Australia was involved in World War 2. I know that trenches were dug in Adelaide’s main parklands, but can find no mention of what happened in schools. Pupils were organized into the SPF –Schools Patriotic Funds – and helped with fundraising. Together they raised over $24,000,000 in today’s money [2]. I do know that Graham’s father Theo, was the district Fire Warden, and kept his ‘tin helmet’ well into the 1960s. An older brother of Theo was a Prison of War in Java for more than 3 years.

I spent a lot of time asking questions of my parents and grandparents about their early lives. Now I wish I had spent more time asking my husband about his.

Vale Graham.

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