Sunday, 22 June 2014

My Baby He Wrote Me A Letter

If a picture is worth a thousand words, how much more is it worth when you find a thousand words already written about it you never knew existed?

In the early 1960's my father travelled to far north Queensland (Julia Creek and surrounds) for a job building roads so he could afford to buy a ring and marry my mother. My mother was still in teacher's college in Newcastle at the time, a tender 18 years old to my father's worldly 25. The two young lovebirds corresponded frequently. Of course this was an era long since passed of no email, no internet, no Skype and no mobile phones, actually no phones at all where my father was working. So pen to paper it had to be. 

They wrote faithfully to each other all through this courtship and long distance romance over the course of a few years. How do I know this? I found in my mother's effects a box, about the size of a big shoebox, and it was packed full to overflowing with letters, most still with their stamped and postmarked envelopes, dated back as far as 1962 (maybe earlier – I've not been through them all yet) and through the end of 1964.


Back to the letters later, for I digress. When my father was building roads up the North he also spent some time taking photos, which he then sent to my waiting mother at college. He had a box brownie camera, similar to the one this photo was taken on -
Jim and Di very young
- you can see dad has hold of the case while an unknown person took their portrait. I'm not sure of the date here, but probably the late 1950's.

These photos from 'up the north' were put into albums, cherished, occasionally looked at and fleshed out with stories from both of our parents to became part of our family legend. I've chosen just a few from the many we have to illustrate the time:
Jim
Jim (white shirt) and co-workers
It wasn't until I found the box of letters that history suddenly crashed into the first person, because with the letters I found a box containing the negatives from this northern adventure, kept all this time in the original packaging and in perfect and pristine condition. The hairs stood up on the back of my neck when I raised one to the light and realised what they were.
Then, deep in the box of letters, I found one where dad tells mum how he has bought a camera just like hers, and hopes to send her some prints shortly – but has to send the film to Townsville to be developed first! I held my breath and a few letters later I found first-hand descriptions of the prints. Not only that but detailed descriptions of the land and the work in my father's own words, in his own handwriting, on paper that had survived more than 50 years to be discovered again. So, far from being worth a mere thousand words, these icons of another time suddenly became priceless.
The print with my handsome suntanned head in it is the rear vision mirror. I don't know whether Anthony Armstrong Jones could do better than that.” No, dad I don't believe he could.

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