Getting the Renovations Done

Getting the Renovations Done

An early farmer's wife gets her renovations

Speaker: Elsie Margaret Dawson
Date: 1985, talking about the 1930s and 40s
Topic: The Farmhouse and Renovations

Well, yes, we built the house at Newtown (Vasse), but it was a group house we bought. I forget how much we bought it for. It was very cheap, a hundred and something pounds. I think we got it, but we had it changed a bit from a group house, because it had a passage put in and it made one room much bigger.
It had two rooms in the front. It was the front bedroom and we called it the front room, because we used it as a lounge-dining room. It had a little passage between the two, then it had one long big room for a kitchen, all lined with T and G (Tongue and Groove). Then it had another bedroom on the end of that and it had a front veranda, and a back veranda. It didn’t have a bathroom then. We had a big bath, but we had it sort of in the little place built on the back veranda. Of course, we had very little. It was during the Depression and we couldn’t afford it. We had to buy everything as it was, like the separator, and the cows we milked in the yard without any shed or anything.
Well, we got a garden straight away. Beautiful vegetables we had out of the new ground, you know, grows lovely vegetables. We had some lovely, I remember, antirrhinums, and we had a photo somewhere of those. They were that tall along the front and gradually we got a lawn going. Of course, we had no water laid on anywhere. So I had to carry it from the well in kerosene tins. We had a rain water tank for the house.
We used to have a cooler to keep the butter, you know, with the flannels coming down the side, and you just filled the top with water. Then we had a big meat safe in the kitchen for the meat. Then we used to salt a lot of the stuff down, lamb, mutton, and stuff, were salted. Now these days, I think that salt would be terrible for you, wouldn’t it? That was the only way of keeping it, you see.
Lamps, we had lamps. Kerosene lamps and the first fridge that we got was a kerosene fridge and that was really wonderful, having a fridge.
Later, we had a few alterations added on and what not. We had that old big kitchen. It was made into a big dining room. It was funny, I must tell this little story about why I went to Perth, and I bought this dining room suite. We didn’t have a dining room suite because we used to use it as a kitchen. Then we had a kitchen built on. We had it altered, turned it into a dining room, then we had a little kitchen built on the back veranda.
Not very big, the family was getting bigger all the time. We decided that we wanted a bigger kitchen, made straight down the veranda. I said to my husband, ‘Look, we only have to saw through that there, and push it all back, and we’d make a nice big, long kitchen.’ He said, ‘Don’t ask me, do as you want to, don’t ask me’. Vernon said, ‘I’ll help you, mum.’ Mr Wells, the old fellow we had then, he said, ‘I’ll help you.’
My husband went over to the other block. Mr Wells got the crosscut saw, and we got into that piece that divided the kitchen from the veranda, and we pushed it all back, and it fitted perfectly into that little space, and it made it long, sixteen by ten feet; a long room. Anyway, that was all, we got it fixed up. Of course, in the dining room, we soon got things. Because I’d been up to Perth, and bought the dining room suite, and we had not place to put them. I bought a kitchenette while I was up there, you see, and I thought, ‘I’ve got to put them somewhere’.
The old dining room table out into the kitchen, and all the chairs, and the kitchenette back against the wall in the dining room. Of course, we had the new dining room suite. We had that all put in. When my husband came home, everything was back in its place, and he walked in.
He said, ‘What the Dickens has been going on here?’ he said. He couldn’t believe his eyes. The only thing that was wrong with the kitchen was where we had to saw through to push it back.
There were these boards we couldn’t get off the runners, scantlings. We couldn’t get the pieces off, so there were about four pieces hanging down from the ceiling, you see. They were there for months, or it might have been years, I don’t know, but anyway, the kitchen was much more roomy in every way, and it was much nicer.
I could have people in. Of course, my husband was always hard to get started on things, you know, and it didn’t matter how much I kept on him, he’d put it off or something else.
One day a friend of ours was there and he used to do building, and he said, ‘I could line it for you.’ Of course, you’d have to pay him. So he came and lined it all, and took all these bits of board down, and lined it all. Then, I’ve always wanted a veranda right around the house too, so I was telling him this, and he said, ‘I know just the people for you. They’re marvelous workers, marvelous cementers.’ We were going to have it all cemented.’ So I thought, ‘Well, bring them out tomorrow morning’.
I never said anything to my husband about it, because he knew that I wanted a veranda because he’d carted loads of stone. We thought we were going to put stone in it then, and he put them all around the house and said, ‘That will keep her quiet for a while.’ He said to my brother, because my brother carted the stone in his truck. He said, ‘This will keep Margaret quiet for a while.’
Anyway, those stones were there for years and he hadn’t done anything. These men came there next morning and my husband had been out milking. He came in and I introduced them. I said, ‘Gus, these men said they could put a marvelous veranda around and make a good job of it. Mr Stevens advised me to get them.’
Gus just looked! He didn’t know what to say. He came in to me and said afterwards, he couldn’t do anything else but say, ‘Yes, well then, do this and do that.’ They quoted a price and we had this lovely veranda put all around. It made a big difference to that house. He said, ‘Don’t you ever do that again; without asking me.’ I said, ‘Look, I’ve asked you dozens of times and you’ve put me off’, I said, That’s the only way to get things done.’ So you see, I’ve had to fight for what I could get.

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