Small Brown Case

It began with a message from an old neighbour during our sojourn in Maldon in 2008. Harry was inquiring if I was a member of the Facebook group, Maldon Noticeboard, because there was a post on it regarding memorabilia from the 1920’s relating to the Stacey family. I duly joined the Facebook group, saw the details of the message and contacted one Kaz Mackay on the phone number she supplied.

Kaz had recently taken over an antique business in Maldon and this small brown case had been left behind by the previous owner in case Kaz was able to track down who it belonged to. The previous owner had picked it up in some deceased estate but couldn’t recall who it was. The first thing that Kaz pointed out was the hand-printed name on the outside of the case, “A. O’Hara”, and a Maldon address. I immediately responded that was my Aunt Coral’s husband’s name and they lived at that address. I suspected already that this was part of the clearance of my old Aunt Coral’s property after her death in 2015, see my eulogy for her. We then verbally went through most of the contents and it became more and more certain that this was indeed from Coral’s estate. I think Kaz was very happy that she had been able to find its rightful home and generously forwarded the case on to me.

The case duly arrived and it was obviously an old school bag belonging indeed to Alf O’Hara. It was with a degree of excitement, I opened it to see what it contained. I found a layer of books first and below that a box containing a mixture of photos and papers, with a group of larger photos making up the bottom layer. The back of the lid had both of Alf O’Hara’s addresses, in Melbourne and in Maldon. This confirmed that it was originally Alf’s bag because the Maldon address was not the one he shared with my Aunt Coral but rather the address I knew his father was living in a few houses down from us on Parkins Road.

Let’s work our way through the content.

The books were an interesting mix. The largest one labelled “Wiring” was a very old textbook of Alf’s on electrical wiring from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology with various handwritten notes added. Alf was an engineer with the Government Aircraft Factories at Fishermans Bend, Port Melbourne in those ancient times when we actually made things in Australia. The second book is “The Oxford Introduction to British History” subtitled “A Portrait of Britain between the Exhibitions 1851-1951” also belonging to Alf by the address on the front page. It also had various old cuttings and notices tucked between the pages. The last book was “Victorian Readers Eighth Book” which had my name and class number, IIB, on the inside page. Presumably a high school book of mine of which I have no memory.

Yes, I can swim, and I now have a certificate to prove it. Mind you it is from 1957 and certifies that I had passed the test for juniors in swimming, diving, floating and method of resuscitation. There was also a birthday card from 1954 sent from “Darling Gran” and is the only memento I have of my Mum’s mother, Dorothy Barnes. I recognise the handwriting from the brief exchange of letters I enjoyed with her back in the late 60’s before her death in 1972. There was also a small diary from 1956 when apparently I weighed 5 stone 6 pounds and stood 4 foot 9 inches tall. Another small diary from 1962 included at least some entries in my terrible scrawl which I now have trouble deciphering. However, it appears that I met Suzanne Max from West Essendon on the 11th of January 1962 and a somewhat intense affair began. It appears I had my first kiss with her before she broke it off a couple of weeks later, presumably because of the tyranny of distance separation. Well that was the reason I suspect although it is not clear to me from my scrawl. I wonder whatever happened to Suzanne Max, I hope she has had a great life. I think I was duly broken hearted for a period of time after this. I have since recovered though you will be pleased to know.

My Dad appeared next with his Intermediate Technical Certificate from 1939 which I presume stood him in good stead throughout his life. There were also a couple of photos from his service in England during the Second World War and a couple from his time in Napier New Zealand, obviously held on to by my Aunt Coral.

My uncle Max then comes into the picture with a somewhat surprising pass in religious instruction in 1927. I say surprising given his predilection in later life for continually claiming that religious ministers were a drain on the community. There is also his wartime Record of Service book covering his time in the Australian Army between 1941 and 1946. And just to round out a snapshot of his life there is a letter from the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission detailing his transfer to Rochester Construction in 1969. He worked as a pay clerk I think with the Commission for quite some years.

My grandfather, Frank Stacey, is also represented by a statement of pension and confirmation of his electoral enrolment, both in 1976. There is also a 1977 newsletter from the Maldon Historical Promotion League. I wonder if this worthy institution is still in existence.

Now for the “pièce de résistance”. A very rare sight these days but here is a lock of my hair which had been sealed in an envelope. Mind you I was only about 18 months old when it was cut from my head. Duly inscribed in my mother’s handwriting it is a bit of a treasure for me.

Finally here is a gallery of the other photos in the suitcase which I can not identify. The first one however is inscribed on the back with “Doris Irene Shearer age 12 years”. My grandmother’s mother was a Shearer so I knew I was related to the Shearer family but do not know young Doris’ place in it. If anyone recognises any of these photos and can identify them please contact me through the comments below and I will return them to their rightful heirs.

I started this post some months ago but each time I came to add to it I drifted off down memory lane and into some more family research. However here it is now, finally completed. I will close by registering my wholehearted gratitude and appreciation to Kaz and Harry for alerting me to the existence of these precious memories.

P.S. Kaz commented on Facebook:
“One small correction though, I only have a humble recycle/vintage shop in Maldon, not an antique business (I wish!). 🎩🧰”
Thank you Kaz but one man’s antique is another man’s vintage😂


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