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.

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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.


On my brother — some images reconsidered

See Ian Jeffrey Whitfield 3/10/1935 – 5/4/2017.  Last Friday on Facebook I posted a photo from c.1940 of Ian at 61 Auburn Street Sutherland, where I also lived 1943-1952. My niece Maree (with whom I have only recently renewed contact) commented that she had never seen it before.

That took me back to the image I used in the post linked above. I cropped it in order to think more about exactly when it was taken. It also shows my sister Jeanette (19 March 1940- 15 January 1952).  My father was in the RAAF from 8 April 1940 to 23 November 1945. The following photo was taken probably in 1944. It shows the family grouped in the yard at 61 Auburn Street.  It is possible my father took the photo before he was sent to Port Moresby, where he served in the last year of the war. Reflecting on the fact that these are wartime photos has been part of my revisiting them.warfamily

Left to right: back row: my aunt Ruth Christison, my uncle Neil Christison (in RAAF uniform), my aunt Beth Christison. Front row: me, my mother Jean Whitfield, my sister Jeanette, my brother Ian. The photo is creased so much because my father took this copy with him to Port Moresby.

Now the cropped photo, which may even date from the same day. If so, Ian would have been eight or nine years old.


Just over ten years later, Ian (right) on his wedding day at 1 Vermont Street Sutherland, 1955:


VP Day

Yesterday was VP/VJ Day — Victory in the Pacific/Victory over Japan. 74 years! And yes, I was alive at the time, doing what I have told before:

I do remember sitting on my dinkie on the gravel drive, near the Dorothy Perkins climbing rose which I called Mrs Perkins and confused with the lady next door who I thought was also Mrs Perkins. A yellow biplane flew over very low and the pilot leaned out and waved to me. My mother later told me that must have been the end of World War II.


And here I am close to that time with my sister Jeanette (1940-1952):


My dad was still in the RAAF in Papua. Here he is in the cockpit of a Kittyhawk in Port Moresby:


And here he is in uniform:


My uncle, Neil Christison, turned 21 in July 1945 — I was named after him — was around Moratai at the time. His was a hard war. Here he is out of uniform in the backyard at Auburn Street, Sutherland.


Another uncle, Keith Christison, was in the army on the home front.


Yesterday there was a commemoration at Wollongong City Diggers. To be honest, it wasn’t until I saw footage on the local WIN News that I remembered what the day was! Not many WW2 vets left now. The scene at City Diggers yesterday, photo from our local member of parliament Sharon Bird:


Anzac Day 2019

What better than to repost from last year?

I have posted often on this, as Anzac Day reposts: 1 shows. In 2015 I posted:

In my Neil’s Decades series you will find much that is relevant.


And going back to the South African War I should add:

….pictures of the people – all relatives – mentioned in those posts…

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John Hampton Christison in South Africa; David Christison, his son, a sapper on the Western Front in WW1; Keith Christison, my uncle, WW2

NHC1 dadww2

Neil Christison, my uncle, RAAF WW2; Jeff Whitfield, my father, RAAF WW2

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Norman Harold Whitfield MC and bar, German New Guinea, Gallipoli, Western Front – from Wollongong; Kenneth Ross Whitfield, my uncle, from Shellharbour

One hopes that 2019 Anzac Day will pass without incident, given recent events in New Zealand, Turkey, and Sri Lanka.