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Descendants of Rev Joseph Qualtrough and Agnes McCullock 
- by Malcolm Qualtrough (Grandson of Henry)

Memories of Bendigo, Victoria, Australia in the 1950s

Malcolm-Ian-1957-58

Malcolm and Ian Qualtrough 1957-58

I was born on the 7th November 1951 in the Bendigo Base Hospital. Today Greater Bendigo is a city of about 100,000 and is 130 km (90 miles) North of Melbourne.

In the 1950s up until 1972 Bendigo's predominant form of public transport was electric trams. My father Alan Qualtrough was a tram-driver for my first 20 years. Alan is descended from James Qualtrough born 1832,(Chart 22). Alan and his wife Betty (my mother) rented a miners cottage briefly in Allingham Street, just opposite the Kangaroo Flat Railway Station and I can just remember my Mother pushing me up to the shops along the railway line.

We next rented a house at 38 McIvor Road where I went to Gravel Hill State School for 4 years. We used to catch the old blue East Bendigo bus from outside Ashman’s Men's Clothing Store to make the journey home.

I can remember the Olympic Games in Melbourne in 1956; also late nights listening to the wireless serials over and over again. Bed was the warmest place in the house. The wireless was usually plugged into the light bulb socket. We had one cold tap in the kitchen; the old chip heater fed the bath we had once a week and the wood stove in the kitchen never went out.

Every Saturday Mum cooked up a roast dinner and my brother and I had to be quiet while Dad listened to the 12.15 news on ABC radio.

Being a chronic asthmatic all my life had a big impact on my memories. I remember the many nights awake trying not to suffocate or bother my parents, late night trips to hospital, sleeping all of the next day and night, probably full of drugs. I remember the many horrid trips to Dr Straede in McCrae Street. Worst still was the old dentist Dr Batchelor also in McCrae Street who didn't believe in local anaesthetics. You were taken up the back stairs and strapped to a bed and given chloroform.

Dr Straede came round each week before Christmas with a carload of toys for the kids.

I remember the Christmas dinners. Typically Christmas Eve or morning you went out with Dad to buy a live chook or duck. Then you went home and watched whilst it had its head chopped off. Mum would then pluck all of its feathers out. Dinner was not complete without a pudding filled with sixpences and threepences for us to find.

The days were filled with playing 'cowboys and indians' and I don't believe the toy guns and arrows did any harm to us. Our neighbours were the one of the first to get TV in 1956 and we were allowed to watch the Lone Ranger at 6.30 in the evening.

I remember the first Around Australia Redex Rally going past the front of our house. I can also remember the first Boeing 707 flying laps of honours on its inaugural trip to Melbourne. From time to time, possibly Anzac Day, the Airforce sent its big Delta winged jets to do the same thing.

I remember the 'Rabbit-O', a big flat dray cart coming up the highway laden with rabbits for sale.

I remember the summers were extremely hotter than what they are today, and when you got sick you just went to bed for a few days or a week until you got better.

Every Summer Dad packed up the car and trailer. The old Vangaurd took us to Barwon Heads (near Geelong) camping. Many memories of exploring the beach and cliff, many nights at the old Leopold, near Geelong Drive-in.

Bendigo had three picture theatres and one drive-in in the 1950s. We must have been fairly well off because we went to the pictures every Friday and Saturday nights, and most Saturday matinees. At the Saturday Matinee you took a load of comic books to swap with other kids.

Bendigo was a great place in those days and until I started work in 1971 you knew just about everyone in the town. Mum and Dad took us to St Andrews Presbyterian Church in Myers Street, where I briefly went to Sunday school. The church also had a Sunday school hall just around the corner from us in Neal Street. How important you felt when the minister patted you on the head as you left the church.

Every November we went to the Sunday school Picnic, usually by train to Ravenswood about 20 km South of Bendigo through the Big Hill tunnel. My memories are filled with the races, the tents, the long dry grass, the raspberry cordials and the ice creams kept in dry-ice.

Easter time was the Bendigo Easter Fair where the stalls and amusements surrounded the main city block and kept the traffic away. Again we thought ourselves well off because we had enough money to satisfy us on the merry-go-rounds and sideshows. The Easter parade on the Monday was the highlight and today is just a mere shadow of its former self. Again my Mum had to keep me away from the last entrant which I think was the Rotary Club with a truck laden with Rotten Egg Gas. This was sure to set off an Asthma attack.

My mother played tennis with the Kennington Club, so many hours were spent at Neal Street waiting for her to finish, and hanging around the playground. She played sometimes at Eaglehawk and I remember more Christmas picnics in the gardens beside Lake Neanger.

Life seemed so simple then, we had no one telling us we were baby-boomers and making us feel ashamed of ourselves for contributing to today's' moral problems. We had no problem with our identity, we knew the Queen lead the country. We knew how to entertain ourselves.

It was a highlight for Dad to cook us up some 'bread and dripping' for a main meal. We didn't know we were perhaps poor, and we didn't care if we were. We were invited to birthday parties wherever. I can remember some kids did it a lot tougher and some did it a lot easier

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© 2016 by Malcolm Qualtrough, Elizabeth Feisst and John Karran Qualtrough.
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