Wednesday, September 29, 2010


My Grandma is gravely ill at the moment. She turned 94 in August. Her health has been declining in the past couple of years, but so much more in the past 6 months that she doesn't really go out much anymore & can barely see. She developed a cold last week, which turned into a chest infection. Antibiotic's picked her up after a couple of days, but then rapidly declined & now has a lot of fluid on her lungs, is on oxygen full time & her heart is not really coping.

My cousin Jax & I did an emergency trip down to Port Fairy (3.5hrs from Melbourne) & back on Sunday, wanting to see her, as this is probably it. Although Mum (nurse) said she could take 6 hours to 6 weeks to pass. She is still hanging in there, but they've moved her to the Palliative Care part of the hospital since Sunday, as she needs more care, ie someone to feed her, look after her comfort, cleanliness etc & there is not enough nurses per resident where she is to provide the higher care needed.

My sis said "the room she is now in is beautiful – more spacious & modern with couch & tea/coffee making facilities for family & friends, big window, nice outlook, nicer bigger bathroom etc. It’s the room where people see out their last days. She is only allowed to be there for 2 weeks though. So if nothing happens in 2 weeks she will then probably have to be moved to Belfast House which is where all the bedridden oldies end up where life basically consists of food/fluid in food/fluid out.

I suppose it’s just a matter of making her as comfortable as possible & seeing what happens."

While I am quite OK with the fact that she has had a long & fulfilling life & is ready to go - she actually told me this on Sunday - I am still feeling quite sad. It is also difficult waiting & I've been a bit on edge, waiting for the call.

Plumbing Boy & I had already planned to go this weekend to catch up with family & see Grandma anyway, & Jax & her brother J are coming as well. J hasn't seen Grandma yet, so for his sake I hope she hangs in there. I just want her to be out of pain & at peace. She's been "seen too" in Grandma's words, by the local minister & has her affairs in order. It's just a matter of how long her body hangs in there, now that her mind seems ready to let go.

Grandma just before her 90th Birthday August 2006

An interview with Grandma (Mum's Mum) about her life before she got married.

Rita Jean, Born Geelong West 20/8/1916

Father – Stewart b. Londonderry Nth Ireland
Mother – Alice Elizabeth b. Ceres Victoria
They married 9/8/1915

Younger siblings - Jack & Leila

I started school with my cousin Keith on my 6th birthday - 20th August 1922. We walked from Autumn Street in Geelong West (just close to Elizabeth Street) to Neossia state school. It was quite a long walk for six year olds. We were met by our teachers Miss McAuliffe and Miss Salmon. We lived in Minerva Road – the last house from the cemetery. I remained there with my brother, sister and cousins Mavis and Keith until my family moved to Mt Moriac.

Our home was the old police station (with lockup which was later taken away) next door to school number 1609 and the teachers’ house. After primary school I attended secondary school for years 7 & 8 in Geelong, boarding with Aunty Jean in Minerva Road. This became too expensive for the family & when correspondence lessons became available I returned to Mt Moriac primary school to do years 9 & 10. I was helped by the teacher who was a likeable man and his wife was a sewing mistress who taught me sewing, fancy work and knitting.

In my time at Mt Moriac, a Queen competition was held with Dulcie M, Thelma T, Lilias D and Alma G raising money for the tennis club. Dulcie raised the most money. I played the piano and read a poem. A Young Peoples club was formed in Mt. Moriac and we played table tennis against other towns in the Barrabool Shire such as Moriac, Modewarre, Ceres and Waurn Ponds. I can remember winning the Ladies Championship from Ellie Q in three sets by winning the last set 23-20 after being down 10-20!

The family spent some time at Torquay in a tent when my father was working on the Great Ocean Road. I have a photo of my mother cooking on an old fashioned wooden stove. Later we rented a house in Anglesea with Eric H who worked under Pop. The house was behind the Post Office, near a tennis court and the river. I learned to dog paddle from one set of steps to the other and eventually across the river – my only swimming lessons!

After finishing the Intermediate, I sat for a Commonwealth Service examination for telephonists in reading, writing and arithmetic. 900 sat for the exam in Melbourne. Before going to Melbourne I did some housekeeping and then worked with Marion in a “milk bar/cafĂ©” at Angahook – Anglesea. Leila came down later and looked after the owner’s children. Marion later bought the shop which became known as Marion’s. After 3 months I was called to the Spencer Street Post Office for 6 weeks tuition before being sent to the Central Exchange. There were 5 girls in our group and I have kept in contact with Nell W for 70 years.

I was employed at the Central Telephone Exchange in Lonsdale Street at the local call switchboard with a couple of hundred other girls. My first pay was 36 shillings but after 12 months rose to 2 pounds. I could afford a trip home to Mt. Moriac as previously I needed to work a Saturday or Sunday for extra money to pay for a train ticket.

We worked a 48 hour week with some weekend work and shifts were between 7.30 AM & 10 PM. The technicians took over at 10, as females did not have to work the night shift. Once a technician took us underground to see the cabling and we followed them via tunnel to the Elizabeth Street Post Office.

I boarded first with a former teacher at Ascot Vale, then the Salvation Army Hostel in the city and later in Albert Park. I would catch the cable tram to Market Street. We would often sit on the outside and they seemed to go round the corners faster than on the straight line! Spare time was spent doing “fancy work”.

I travelled home to Geelong every 1 or 2 months by train. I worked there for about 2 years and came back to get married to Clifford Hugh on the 14th of April 1937. Female Government employees had to resign when they married. Automatic telephones were being introduced as I left. Walkabout magazine took my photograph sitting at the trunk line switchboard and it was not until after I was married that a former work mate saw the photo on display at Yarraville Post Office for promotional purposes.

My mother - Alice entered cooking in local shows around Geelong & as far as Colac. She won the Geelong aggregate 2 years in succession. The trophies were 2 silver trays donated by GJ Coles. Alice cooked plain food ie meat & vegetables but had some family recipies for sweets & cakes. She cooked for the Barabool Shire Council meetings and hosted them in our own home (at Mt Moriac)! My earliest memory of cooking aged 6 – making scones; otherwise I can only remember being allowed cook cakes.

I can remember entering some shows as a teenager at Mt Moriac, Modewarre & Waurn Ponds. I cannot remember entering any more shows until the end of child rearing ie Koroit – cooking and flowers? I was taught fancy work by a Mrs. Fitzbibbon? My first entry in lace work was rejected because the judge thought it was shop made! It was done on unworked muslin given to me by my school teacher’s wife (a sewing teacher) who was disgusted when she could not change the judge’s mind.


Ute said...


It's never easy. Never. Even when they are aged, and had a good life...long life. My thoughts are with you...xoxo

What a lovely photo. I can see the family resemblance in her eyes... :o)

Chris H said...

It is a lovely thing to have a long and happy life.. and hopefully a peaceful passing for your Grandma.

Slyde said...

im so sorry, hon.

If you remember, i went thru this 2 years ago with my grandad, who was my best friend.

hang in there.

unique_stephen said...

My dad died earlier this year.. it's hard.
Big hugs hay.

AlleyCat said...

Hey Ute - thank you - & thanks for the email too XO.

Chris - yes, it is & thank you too.

Slyde - mate, yes I do remember your Grandad - you are much closer to him than I am to my grandma. I know it was a devastating time for you; thank you. I've got a long post to do one day about my grandpa who I was really really close with.

Unique - sincerely sorry to hear about your Dad. Thanks for the hugs.

AlleyCat said...

G'ma update: she is still in the "waiting to die" room. She tried to get out of bed 2 days ago to take herself to the bathroom & of course fell. Has had Xray's but they didn't find anything although she is still in a lot of pain. She's eating & drinking, but the DR's still beleive her to be end stage. We're heading off later this arvo & will spend tomorrow with her.

Thanks again everyone for your support & kind words. It does make it easier to deal with. XXOO