TEA WITH MRS. JOHNSON

 

I was reminiscing with a friend recently, and discussing embroidery pieces I’d done, in particular, a supper cloth, as they were once known. You can see a section of it here..

I planned my supper cloth when I was very small. Each year we would have to move out of our little house for a few weeks at a time, as the landlady would come down from Inverell for her annual holiday. OneIMG_4343 year, we went to stay with Mrs. Johnson… who lived in a big old house that had a lovely verandah and rooms to spare. Each afternoon, she kindly made us afternoon tea, on a highly polished wooden tea trolley.

 

 

(c)Claudine    

who kindly allowed me to use her image*    

This is very similar to Mrs. Johnson’s trolley.

 

She trusted me to wheel it out to the verandah, which overlooked the garden, filled with roses, hydrangeas and daisies.. I’m sure there were more, but they are the ones I remember. I do recall the lilacs in the front of the house, but this was on the back.

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Courtesy Pixabay

 

She had the loveliest china, always a beautifully starched tea cloth and a sponge or butter cake.. and biscuits, often jam drops, sometimes tiny shortbreads. This was such luxury for us… Mum would sometimes make scones… then there would be cream asilver-tea-set-989820_960_720nd home made jams in tiny china dishes. One of her many cloths had crinoline ladies on the edges… I was totally enthralled. We even had cloth napkins… The three weeks we stayed there were such an eye opener for me. I loved it and planned what I would have when I was grown up. Mrs. Johnson was kindness itself..she gave me an iron on transfer to ‘make my own cloth one day’.

Courtesy Pixabay

 

 

It was just before Christmas… the only negative there, and I didn’t really think that at the time, was it was there I broke my leg.

I was having an afternoon nap and I heard my cousin, Chris, in the kitchen with Mum… she’s nine years older than me and I wanted to see her.. so jumped out of bed and went sprawling… Mum was cleaning the house as part of the rent payment and had polished the floors, then forgot and put a mat near the bed. I ended up in hospital getting X-rays and plaster… which hurt as it was hot then… and I wasn’t a good patient, kicking out at the nurse and doctor, as in those days, nothing was explained to a 4 1/2 year old and I was terrified. There’s more to that, but another day.

Mrs. Johnson sent me a lovely birthday card the next year… a fold out crinoline lady card… as did my Aunt Nita for the next few years… they came in many different versions. So, when we were told we had to make something practical at the end of our sewing lessons in primary, my choice had been made many years before… I only got half of it finished for school and not much of the satin stitch for the border, but I finished it all in a few months. It was truly Scan 8.jpega labour of love. I can’t recall a time when I didn’t have some kind of embroidery on the go, still do… but nothing big just now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

(c) Crissouli 2016

Lovely memories of times gone by…

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Courtesy of Pixabay

A LETTER TO MY MOTHER

 

 

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Hi Mum,

it’s so long since I’ve written, though I talk to you every day. I just wanted to say Hi and tell you I’m thinking of you, as always. I hope you like the flowers, we both loved daisies and roses..

We’re all ok, though there are a few more of us now… you knew three grandchildren, now you have five … and two great grandchildren, with a third due any day now. I know, you would spoil them all every chance you got. You always loved children… and were never happier than when you were with them. I was listening to you the other day, when you were helping your first grandchild to learn to play the organ. That was such a lovely day looking back… though, of course, it was just one of many. *

I have so much to say.. and yet so little. It’s hard to write and see through the tears… how I miss you… we all do. You were the centre of our family, our rock… our guide. You were and are, loved by so many… family and friends. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t feel you with me and for that I will always be grateful. We miss Dad also, but the one great comfort is that we know that you would be so happy to be together again.

Had to smile this morning as I was looking through old newspapers and came across this clipping…I never knew that you could do a Clog Waltz… see you still surprise me…

 

 

 

Then I found this … I’m sure you would have been so pleased to get your Merit Certificate..

 

I’m sure you would have loved to have told your Mum, but sadly she had passed away earlier in that year, when you were just eleven…

Don Dorrigo Gazette Jan 1943 memoriam Bridget

Don Dorrigo Gazette Jan 1943 memoriam Bridget

I am trying not to be sad today, so instead, I just want to post a few memories we can share… I will love you always… and will always miss you calling me Petal…

Biddy fam2

Bridget (Dillon) Swadling.. eldest daughter Mary, with friend’s baby,  front left Betty and Peggy (Mum)…the youngest.

Betty, Mary, Peggy Swadling 2

Swadling girls, Betty, Mary, Peggy…

 

 

Mary & Peg,                    Mary, Peg, Betty                Mary’s wedding day with Peg

Peg at back of shop in Dorrigo, about 17.

Margaret (Peggy) Swadling 1947

beautiful bride..

Peg Catsoulis (nee Swadling) holding daughter, Chris

 The only photo I have of Mum with me as a baby.. I think it was my christening.

Mum with my youngest brother, one of my favourite photos of Mum, Pa (Mum’s Dad) Mum and Dad

Mum and Dad 1959  Dad, Mum, me and brother Theo..in Sydney,  Dad, Theo, Mum and Michael in Maryborough (Qld)  Botanic Gardens..

 

Swadling girls 1981 Peg Catsoulis, Betty Jones, Mary Green                     The three sisters… Mum (Peg), Betty and Mary.. at Sunnybank.

Vince & Peg Catsoulis 1981

Last photo of Peg and Vince (Mum and Dad) together… just a few months before Mum died.

Today is even more poignant for me… as today I have missed you as many years as I had you in my life… loving you always, Petal..

 

 

(c) all photos crissouli and family

* Memories (Such Sweet Sounds)

I MISS HIM STILL…

A lot is said about the influence of grandmothers, not quite so much about grandfathers… I was fortunate enough to know both my grandfathers. Strangely enough, I didn’t really know them both at the same time.

This is a brief story of Theodore Haralambos Catsoulis.

My paternal grandfather lived in the same country town as we did. He was tall, with a ready smile and an open heart… we children adored him…no matter how busy he was, he always had time for us, maybe just a word or two then, but always kept his promise to ‘be there soon’. I really didn’t understand that he had so much to tell us, much of which I didn’t hear till many years later. He was a farmer, a bee keeper, a man who could turn his hand at anything. That I knew… I also knew that he came from another country, Greece, but when, at 5 years old, I didn’t know to ask…

It was many years after his passing that I heard that he had been chosen to be a guard at the Greek Palace…a great honour. I still haven’t been able to find the exact year, but I would think that it was in his early 20’s as that was the norm. How I would love to have a photo of him in the uniform. The basic uniform hasn’t changed a lot since that time… this photo was taken outside the Greek Palace which is now used to house the President.

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(c) worldoneness.tripod.com

Papouli (grandfather, one of several spellings) was born in 1878, on the small Greek island of Kythera… this photo (below) was most likely taken around the time of him becoming a guard (evzone) or not long after. I have him watching over me as I write this… he came to Australia in 1904, worked in cafes before actually owning some, in northern NSW, then moved to Aberdeen, where he had a farm.

papouli_formal

 

 

He was to become a farmer for the rest of his life, raising his 9 children along the way. Theodore and Chrisanthe Catsoulis were well known among not only the village of Urunga, but also the Greek community and their home was always full of people.
I have written more about them at
That Moment in Time
http://thatmomentintime-crissouli.blogspot.com.au/2011/07/grandma-dont-make-marmalade.html
Papouli loved to sit in the verandah and tell us the stories of how things worked and grew. He showed us the honeycomb, dripping with golden delight and warned us to keep away
from the bees till he said it was safe. I can see him in a veiled hat and smoking the hives till this day.
He helped us pick fruit from the many trees and walked through the garden with us,
introducing us to aniseed and fennel…He showed us how to shake the macadamia tree
till the ripe nuts fell and took us to one of the sheds to crack them open in a vice. I still
think of him every time I enjoy that fragrant fresh nut meat from a newly cracked nut.
We fed the chickens from the huge barrels of meal mix that he had in the storeroom, of course, tasting a little on the way, just because.
The farm was across a road from the lake on the bottom side and below the railway line at the top.

 

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                                                                       (c) Catsoulis

 

 

1927 in Urunga was the year that the last trip of the Urunga ferry took place, as a bridge was built across the Bellinger River…

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(c) Picture Australia

It was also the year that the new Ocean View Hotel was built… to replace the original which was burnt down…

 

Original 1896

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(c) unknown

1927

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(c) unknown
current, still standing…

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(c) Crissouli
The hotel has a story all it’s own, for another day…
My father’s family on the beach at Urunga… very different attire to today…

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(c) Catsoulis

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(c) Catsoulis

His story is long, though my time with him was short… he died in 1953, on 19th May, 26 years after moving his family to Urunga in 1927.

Theo Catsoulis SMH 1953 died 19 May

Sydney Morning Herald, May, 12953 sourced via TROVE

Obituary Theodore Catsoulis 1953

Theo wasn’t 76 until 21st June, having been born in 1878.

 

 

My beloved grandfather was to pass away not long after this photo was taken.
If I close my eyes, I can still smell the faint aroma of his pipe, feel the texture of his cardigan and see his loving smile.

I miss him still.

 

Papouli
(c) Catsoulis

 

Reblogged from  The Back Fence of Genealogy, 28th August 2012

(c) Crissouli

The Back Fence of Genealogy

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CHRISANTHE!

Nona (Chrisanthe)

One hundred and thirty four years ago, on the 12th May, 1882, Konstadine and Stavroula Coroneo welcomed their tenth child and fourth daughter, Chrisanthe.

Their first child was also a daughter, Eleni, born in Potamos, in 1854. Theodora followed in 1856, then their first son, Spero, in 1858. There was a break of a few years till the birth of their second son, Menas (Mick) in 1865. Stamatico was added to their family in 1868… he lived to the quite remarkable age for the time, 91 years and 9 months, passing in 1960.

Marigo followed closely in 1869, Yannis (John) in 1874, Kosma (known as Con, not Charles) was born in 1877, Panagioti (Peter) in 1879… then Chrisanthe.

These details come directly from one of the many notebooks belonging to Papouli – books passed to my father, Vince, youngest son of Chrisanthe and Theo (Papouli).

I know little of the siblings, other than Peter, who came to Australia and raised a family in Perth. I believe others came as well, possibly Stamatico, but I don’t recall meeting any of them. I wonder about the sometimes long gaps between the births of the children. Were there miscarriages or stillborns in between perhaps? That certainly wasn’t unusual in those times.

My grandmother didn’t talk a lot about her childhood, other than to say that she had good parents who did their best for their family. All worked from a very young age – my grandmother never went to school and never learned to read or write. She made sure all her nine children did.

 

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Chrisanthe in the middle with cloth cap and cord belt…her family plus friends…

 

She worked spinning cotton from kapok and weaving cloth, which became sheets, rugs, bedcovers, etc. I have been entrusted with one of the very colourful rugs she made, handed down via her daughter, Mary, her granddaughter, Stella and then on to me.

Chrisanthe married the love of her life in April, 1904, in the Holy Virgin Church,  Potamos, on the Greek island of Kythera, also known as Cerigo, when she was 21. They weren’t to be together for very long, as times were really hard on Kythera and Theo decided to leave, along with a group of other young Kytherian men, for the promise of a better future in Australia. He arrived in November, 1904. It would be around six years before his young bride could join him. It must have been very hard for her, coming to a strange land, without speaking any of the language. She would have had to rely on her husband for all communication. Of course, I didn’t realise this as a child, when I was curious as to why my grandmother ‘spoke funny’, not knowing that her broken English was a great achievement.

Among my first memories of Nona, is learning how to make pancakes on the top of her wood stove. Nona was very short, so Papouli had made her a wooden step to make cooking easier.

Here I am, apron and all..

Papouli

 

Aunt Mary showed me how to measure ingredients in cups and didn’t mind a bit when I spilled some flour, though we made sure we cleaned it up very quickly. She and Nona insisted I had a very smooth batter and while Nona dropped spoonfuls on to a highly polished section of the stove surface, I was allowed to stand on the step and turn the pancakes ‘when the bubbles burst’. I was so proud when Papouli was served some of ‘Crissouli’s own cooking’ with his morning tea.

I graduated fairly quickly to making cakes, biscuits, sauces, etc. all with either Nona or Aunt Mary putting things in, on or out of the stove. I remember that the only thing I was disappointed about when I started school, was not being able to spend so much time cooking. I can’t say that I was missing the washing up though.

I learnt far more than cooking in those times – I learnt that my grandmother, and my Aunt, were part of a rather large group of people around me, to whom family was all important. Nona was very generous as far as sharing her skills, and the results of them, with family and friends.

There was always room for more at the large kitchen table and no one ever left without fresh produce or a jar of pickles, chutney, jam or whatever was in the large dresser. Nona couldn’t read a pattern, but that didn’t stop her from crocheting the most intricate patterns and creating everything from doilies to baby wear, tablecloths, bedspreads, collars and clothing… She had quite a number of godchildren, so many layettes to make…

Chrisanthe loved nothing better than either visiting family and friends or having them visit her. This trait stayed with her till her passing on 2nd January, 1965, aged 82 years and 6 months, from complications of diabetes. She’d been widowed for twelve long years and missed Theo terribly…. reunited at last.

 

(c) Crissouli 12th May 2016

 

EVERYONE NEEDS AN AUNT MARY…

As a child who grew up in the 50s, I was blessed with not one, but two, Aunt Marys.. Most of my friends only had one, and there were a few poor children who didn’t have any.

My mother’s oldest sister was Mary, as was my father’s oldest sister. As we livedScreen Shot 2016-04-06 at 7.42.50 pm in the same small town as Dad’s family, it was his sister whom we saw most.

Aunt Mary (Walsh) was the pivot of my paternal family. It was she who cared for the younger children and my grandparents, especially my grandmother, after my grandfather died in 1953. Aunt Mary’s meals appeared on many tables, and not just those of family. She seemed to always know when someone was ill or in need and thought nothing of walking all over town to help.

Many’s the time I walked with her out to Nona’s ( my grandmother), either via the railway line, which was very exciting, or via Hungry Head Road. That only happened if she had called to collect me. Any time spent with Aunt was wonderful. She’d tell me stories about the family or teach me the names of plants and flowers. It was she who taught me to skim pebbles in the creek and showed me dragonflies near the banks.

blue-fairy-on-dragonfly

Of course, you know that dragonflies are fairy messengers, don’t you? They  bring messages to children while they are asleep. If you dream
of fairies, that’s because you’ve seen a dragonfly. I know that’s right, Aunt Mary said so.

If we walked out on the railway line, it was a bit quicker. She had me listening for trains all the time. Little did I know that our adventures were timed to be well within the few times a day that the train passed through. I was always looking for lost treasures between the tracks, as Uncle Herb, Aunt Mary’s husband, told me he kept finding lots of money when he worked on the tracks. I did find a few pennies, but most had been flattened. The local boys thought it great fun to put a penny on the rails and and hope the train ran over it.

Aunt always carried a basket out, often with a meal for Nona, sometimes her newly cleaned washing. Coming home was different, her basket would have plant cuttings, jars of jam or preserved fruits or sauces. Many of the latter, she would have made with Nona, and if I was very lucky, I would have helped. *

Both my grandmother and Aunt were very involved with the church. They provided flowers, cleaned the church on roster, visited the ill and the bereaved. They were also enthusiastic members of the Country Women’s Association or CWA.

While very aScreen Shot 2016-04-06 at 8.08.57 pm.pngctive all year round, nothing could compare to the flower shows or the fairs. They entered so many categories that it would have been very surprising if their names weren’t among the winners each year. Thanks to TROVE, I’ve discovered that my grandfather also entered in the garden section and won a prize. #
Aunt Mary taught me how to make delights such as sponge cakes and butter cakes, ‘mushrooms’ and jam drops.. and my favourite baklava. I must admit that I made that a lot more after pre packaged filo pastry became available. Her spanakopita (spinach pie) was legendary, as was her pastitso (spaghetti pie). Though food, gardens, kindness and caring are what I’ve mentioned so far, it was her sense of humour, her laughter and her knack of seeing the funny side of things, alongside my mother, that I treasure most. Those two would get the giggles at anything and often would laugh at themselves, not always at the most appropriate times. Some stories are for family ears only.

We all had a laugh at Aunt’s expense on one of our night walks around the town. There were quite a few of us, including my mother, Aunts Mary and surprisingly, Nita, her sister. It was decided to make the most of a beautiful moonlit summer night. We had walked quite a long way, up over the railway line, past the convent, up on to the highway, down beside the bridge and were walking along beside the golf course, when a car pulled up.

“Would you like a lift, ladies?’

Aunt walked over to the car and went to open the door, with the rest us laughing at first, then getting anxious when Aunt Mary didn’t realise they were strangers. My mother pulled her back, the car drove off and we all dissolved into uncontrollable laughter, except Aunt Mary. She’d thought that the car belonged to one of the family. We saw the same car a bit further up and Aunt just had to tell the driver off for scaring us. Needless to say, they disappeared quickly.

Aunt Mary left us in 1987, she would have been 104 this year, having been born in 1912. The news of her passing affected my Dad very badly. They had taken care of each other all their lives, though she was eleven years older. They wrote each week and also called at least once a week. I’ll never forget how much it meant to him to have her stay for a while after my mother died.

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Aunt Mary wasn’t a career woman, having just one paid job, working as a housekeeper in the local hotel when she was younger, but she worked so hard for others all her life.  This included working for the Red Cross and rolling bandages, knitting socks for the troops, and helping many local families during WWII.

Everyone should have at least one Aunt Mary in their lives.

(c) Crissouli April 6, 2016

 

 

credits

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BEAUTIFUL EYES

“She had the most beautiful eyes… ” he was smitten. He was just 16 when he first saw her at church, with her family. He dared not approach her, but his church going became more regular. However, he’d been accepted as an Evzone (Palace Guard) and was soon to leave Kythera, for a year at least. He couldn’t leave without knowing more about her.

Evzones Evzones

 

He asked around, her name was Chrisanthe. She lived in the village, he lived on a farm on the outskirts. She and her sisters were known for spinning and weaving. If only his family had grown kapok instead of growing olives and herding goats.

Theo was honoured to be training as an Evzone. His height, and muscular build had stood him well. His family were so proud.. and it was one less mouth to feed.

The olive harvest festival wasn’t far away…the whole village would be there, he’d see Chrisanthe.

October was warm. The women laid heavy sheets beneath the trees, while the men knocked branches with sticks to release the fruit.  Once baskets were filled with olives
and loaded on to carts, the feast was spread out.

 

Bouzouki2Before long, a bouzouki or two appeared and the dancing began. There she was, smiling shyly at him. Theo made his way toward her, under the watchful eyes of her brothers. They danced as if they had done so all their lives. All too soon, the evening closed in and Chrisanthe and her family left.

It was Easter before Theo returned for a few days. His family happily embraced him, before his mother insisted he go to church. Arm in arm with his mother till they lit the holy candles, he looked around. No sign of Chrisanthe. The service seemed much longer than usual, even for Easter and Theo was getting restless. His mother bade him to be patient. As they mingled with family and friends, his mother touched his elbow and turned him slightly. Those beautiful smiling eyes greeted him.

A feast always followed the Easter Sunday service, with dancing after. Chrisanthe’s mother, Stavroula, came over to Theo’s mother, Maria, and greeted her like apapouli_formaln old friend. It seemed they approved of the growing friendship, though they still had to work on the fathers, Haralambos and Konstantine. Of course, Chrisanthe was far too young and Theo had little to offer, other than the prestige of guarding the King’s palace. Still, he was a hard worker
and could turn his hand at most things.

 

 

The young couple made the most of their time together and agreed that she would wait for him. By the time he returned, life on Kythera wasn’t easy. A couple of very dry seasons plus the earthquake of 1903, which flattened the village of Mitata, just a few kilometres away, saw many leave for chances of a better life. Theo decided he would join them, choosing Australia as a number of his cousins and friends had done. But first, he was determined to marry Chrisanthe. That would make her passage easier when he had established a future for them.

They were married in April 1904, in the Holy Virgin Church in Potamos, where they had first met. Chrisanthe was now 22 and Theo, 26. The time passed quickly, before Theo made his way to Port Said in 1906 to embark on the Grosser Kurfurst, to travel to Sydney, via Perth. He had a job waiting in a cafe, thanks to a fellow Kytherian. Despite very long hours and sleeping on the cafe floor, Theo was determined to learn all he could before moving on. His brother in law, Speros, offered him a job in his cafe in Glen Innes, where he was much happier, working and saving hard for the next 23 months.

Theo entered a ballot for land, which he was granted… 640 acres at Myall Creek, Whiporie. He dreamed of a dairy farm and started clearing the land. It wouldn’t be till around 1909 that he could bring Chrisanthe to Australia. Still no hut, but in 1910, Chrisanthe went with him to the farm, despite being heavily pregnant. Life was hard, especially raising their son in the isolation of the bush.

Lagoon off Myall Creek, Whiporie

Theo and his cousin, Michael, decided to try cafe life again, so the young family moved to Bellingen. Life was easier there.. and two more children were born. When Michael left in 1911 to go fight the war in the Balkans, farm life in Aberdeen beckoned.

What a contrast: rich soil, kinder climate, familiar faces and their lucerne and small crops farm prospering. They stayed there till 1927, before moving to Urunga, a small seaside village. Their family had grown by six, five born in Aberdeen and one in Perth, putting stop to a planned trip home. Sadly, they left a toddler at rest in nearby Scone, after losing him to convulsions.

PapouliNana

 

Urunga saw them settled back into farming. They became the centre of a growing Greek community in the nearby towns. World War II set them on a different path. Three brothers enlisted, four remained on the farm, deemed to be an essential service, with a government contract to supply food for the troops. They worked very long days and nights with kerosene lamps attached to their old tractor. Chrisanthe and the two girls worked for the Red Cross and also cared for many families left alone.
These years took their toll on Theo, who succumbed to heart troubles in 1953, thus ending a love affair which lasted over 50 years.

MANY TEARS AGO

How many tears have been shed over these precious items?

Mine fall, almost unknowingly, as I feel a strong connection to the grandmother I never knew.

It’s the first time I’ve seen them over 40 years. They have been encased in what waIMG_1819s soft beige leather, stitched carefully together by my mother. She had the best of intentions, so as not to lose the crucifix, two religious medals or the small portrait of Our Lady.

My grandmother had made the original red satin wrap, before encasing all in a beautiful, red leather ‘envelope’. They were always with her, even as she drewIMG_1815 her last breath, seventy four years ago, when they were passed to my mother, then just eleven years old. No doubt, many tears touched them then

This was one of the few items my mother had from her childhood. She carried them with her every day – her prayers and hopes offered, as she farewelled loved ones, gave thanks for recoveries and longed for IMG_1821help for others. All were wrapped around this much revered link with my grandmother.

This pouch was entrusted to my care, when my mother went to be with my grandmother thirty four years ago. So many tears… My turn, now, to replace the worn stitching and wrap up the love, faith and hope within, for generations to come.