|BUSH CHRISTMAS. 1928. MY DAD IS IN THE FRONT ROW. THIRD FROM THE LEFT. Source: personal collection.|
Preparation for Christmas started months before the festive day. If presents or foodstuffs were not picked up during rare trips to town, the mailman brought the rest. My parents liked buying treats like English biscuits, cheeses or marmalade jam from city department store catalogues. The mailman, Mister Riggs, brought most of it on his weekly trips. Unbeknown to me, he even brought most of my presents. Mister Riggs was like a bush Santa.
It was all very English. That's how it was celebrated then, even if the weather was always blazing hot. An English Christmas? We liked to celebrate as if we are still in the old country; we imagined we were having a white Christmas; snow, pine trees and fireplaces. Many of us dreamed about having a white Christmas in Europe.
There were not any fans or air conditioners at the homestead. Remember, this is the 1960's. The homestead did have fly screening. Without the screening the homestead would have been swarming with flies. There was refrigeration though; supplied by six kerosene fridges that sat in the kitchen which was the size of a small house. The only cooling agents available were beer and soft drink. A country pub probably did not not carry as much beer stock as Lornesleigh station.
The Lornesleigh homestead was also well stocked with food and good cheer. Mum and Dad loved having guests for Christmas, the more the merrier. The Christmas tree had been put up in the dining room a week before Christmas. The tree was not a pine tree but a heavily decorated gum tree that Dad has cut out of the bush. It was always hard to put a star on the top of a gum tree. Everyone pitched in with the decorations.
Guests came and went. Some stayed. They were from the next door stations (next door means they are twenty miles away, at least), stockmen without families, uncles and aunts who lived on the other family stations, the mailman and his kids and my two older half-sisters who usually brought their friends from the city. Even strangers were welcomed. My half- sisters had been here for weeks, playing the record player, staying up late, laughing, dancing and swimming in the river.
I tried to join in but I was seen as an annoyance. I’m way too young. That did not stop me of course. If I got sent to bed I’d just get out again. Hey, it’s Christmas. My two half- sisters were accomplished musicians so the piano in the lounge room was given a good work out. More singing and dancing. Mum and Dad don’t care, they would join in.
They did not complain when the modern music was played ( Beatles, Rolling Stones etc). My parents had their favourite music; Marty Robbins, Tom Jones. It was all played loud and everyone enjoyed themselves.
To end the long day, Dad always played Christmas carol compilation records into the wee hours. To be continued.