Colouring unlocked the story of my family in the late 1930s!

One of the old family photos I colourised today is this one of my brother Ian (1935-2017).


By the brickwork I know this is my own early childhood home, 61 Auburn Street, Sutherland NSW. Other than the fact Ian looks a bit real-boy mucky, he also looks under five years old, wouldn’t you agree? Now that puzzled me as I thought my immediate family arrived at Auburn Street as a wartime thing. Before that, I thought, they had been in Shellharbour, where they married, then Wollongong.

But that picture has to be no later than 1939, possibly before war broke out.

I knew that my grandparents Roy and Ada Christison had moved from Shellharbour to Sutherland in 1938 when Roy took up headmastership of Caringbah Public School. I find a NSW Teachers Federation Illawarra Association Annual Report dated 18 March 1938.

Screenshot (254)

Nice to see Grandpa was a conscientious Federationist!

Now my parents were married in 1935, Ian being born in October. Going on stories my parents told (especially my mother) I know they first lived with my Whitfield grandfather, Tom, in Shellharbour. I have seen the house, which is/was in Addison Street. It was not a totally happy arrangement as Tom was a bit of a Tartar and mum stood up to him. Mind you, it turned out Tom rather liked that…. I recall a story of my mother being shocked one day when he turned up with two dead Rosella parrots and told her to pluck and cook them.

Dad was working for Tom but itching to leave, not discouraged I suspect by my mother. I think, but am not sure, that he worked briefly at the Port Kembla steelworks, while he, mum and Ian moved to Wollongong — somewhere near the Catholic Church. A flat or boarding situation, where there were bedbugs.

So what happened next? Without realising it, I had the likely answer in a post on this blog some time ago: “Elizabeth Anne Hunter had married one Albert Boyne in 1891. My father for some time just before World War 2 worked for their son, Cyril Boyne, who was a Real Estate Agent and Auctioneer.”


That is a reference from Cyril Boyne, dated 3 May 1938. So now I think that at that date my mother, father, and Ian were already living at 61 Auburn Street, Sutherland.

Contemplating the photo of my brother generated this sorting out of my family’s story!

Next day

In the uncertain hour before the dawning (thanks, TSE) two things occurred to me about the above. From somewhere in my buried memories came the possibility that Dad worked for a while in Wollongong for Vandyke Brothers, builders, who were active in the region in the late 1930s.  I should mention that Dad was a carpenter, and old Tom a builder of some repute.

Second, I think that the first place Mum and Dad lived on his taking up employment with Cyril Boyne was Earlwood, an inner western Sydney suburb. I think it is fair to say that Dad, while an excellent carpenter thanks to Tom’s sometimes harsh tuition, was both ambitious and a dreamer. His ultimate goal was to be a businessman in his own right, a goal he at times achieved after the War, but which eventually came crashing down on us all — though not through anything shameful Dad did. I suspect Dad’s agenda was to outdo old Tom, even after Tom had departed this life (1948). Dad used often to say disparaging things, not always appreciated by my Christison uncles, about “wage plugs” — those who worked for others. So I also suspect Dad chafed under Cyril Boyne, especially maybe given the job with him had been organised by the Christison/Hunter side of the family, no doubt to help Mum. Therefore perhaps taking up residence in Auburn Street coincided with Dad’s leaving Cyril Boyne’s employ. Then came the War, and Dad joined the RAAF 8 April 1940. In many ways this was a good period for him, and his contribution respected.


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