A good friend is a connection to life — a tie to the past, a road to the future, the key to sanity in a totally insane world. Lois Wyse
In our quest to find our ancestors as well as their siblings and extended family such as aunts, uncles or cousins, we can tend to forget that there were other people in their lives besides those related by blood; there were also friends.
Unfortunately, the further we delve into the past, the less chance there will be of finding out who exactly these friends were and the role they played in our ancestors’ lives. It is with the closer generations (parents, grandparents and perhaps great grandparents) that we can work to ensure that photos are labelled and stories are told. Even though they may not be related, friends still play an integral part in helping shape the people we become.
My Nanna, Gwen Harwood, spent her teenage years in the 1940s living with her family at 111 Hay Street in Subiaco. A few doors down, at 115 Hay Street, lived the Hatch family. Walter and Rita Hatch’s daughter, Audrey, was born on 21 October 1934. Nanna was two years older than Audrey but living so close to each other resulted in a friendship being established.
Nanna and Audrey at Kings Park
The friendship between the two girls may have been the catalyst for a friendship that was also established between their mothers. Or vice versa. After the early death of his parents, my Pop’s brother, Ray, moved in with the Harwoods for a short time. While chatting on the phone with him, he recalled an amusing story where Mrs Hatch, in her house, would yell across to Mrs Harwood (in her house) asking if she had something or other that she needed. Their “conversation” would often result in Mrs Hatch coming over for a cup of tea.
Gwen and Audrey out the front of 111 Hay Street
As their lives started to change (Nanna married my Pop in 1950 and the Harwoods moved away from Subiaco in the early 60s) it is unknown whether these friendships continued via letters, cards or phone calls. It’s probable that they didn’t, but I like to think however that for me to know who these people were (passed down in stories by my Mum and Uncle Ray) the friendships themselves must’ve left a strong impression on both my Nanna and my Great Grandmother.
The friendships forged by my Grandpa, Ron Barratt, truly stood the test of time. His closest mates were Geoffrey Higginson and Glen Anderson and their bond most likely began when they first started school together (they were all the same age). Though I don’t have specific details, photos of them mucking around and standing in a group at Scouts or at a Sunday School picnic indicate that they were obviously quite close and that their friendship went beyond the schoolroom and into social activities.
Geoff, Ron (on top) and Glen
Sunday School Picnic – Ron is at the back (fourth from the left) and Geoff is standing next to him (fifth from left).
Their mateship continued throughout their teenage years and remained strong after they married and had children of their own. Photos were passed between them and their families and Grandpa even named his first born son after his friend, Glen.
Geoff’s early death due to a tragic gliding accident in 1989 absolutely devastated Grandpa and was a terrible shock. They had been friends for well over fifty years. The friendship between Grandpa, Geoff and Glen (from adolescence to old age) really is inspirational and for it to last as long as it did, I believe, is an indication as to their characters and the good people that they were.
After the shock death of her Uncle Tom in 1915 (whom she was living with at the time), my Great Grandmother, Matilda Maria Crampton (known as Kitty) ended up living with her Uncle Abe on his farm in Argyle. It turned out to be a fateful move. Not only did she meet her future husband, Vic Barratt, she also met one of her closest friends, Jessie Knight.
Jessie and Kitty were both aged about 21 when they first became friends and it seems that they instantly hit it off. When Kitty eventually married Vic after his return from WWI, it was Jessie who was the maid of honour. She was dressed in “a very pretty dress of cream crepe de chine and carried a bouquet of watsonias and marguerites” and can be seen in the header image of this blog (standing left of the groom who’s sitting).
Jessie Knight in 1920
The back of the above photo [To Dear Kitty, Wishing you many Happy returns for your birthday. With love, From Jessie]
Photos, cards and best wishes were constantly mailed to one another throughout the years and even though no letters survive, the photos, however, do. Jessie herself married Irem Thompson in 1924 and though the couple had no children, they were however close to Jessie’s sister’s children. Proud of them, as they grew, it was photos of her nieces and nephews that were also sent to Kitty throughout the years.
Jessie Knight in 1918
The back of the previous photo [To Dear Kitty, Wishing you the compliments of the season. From Jessie. Hoping to see you soon].
The correspondence appears to have continued at least until the late 1930s and though it’s possible it continued longer than the evidence allows us to see it sadly would’ve come to an abrupt end in 1947 when Kitty passed away at the relatively young age of 53.
Physical evidence, stories and long lasting friendships have enabled the names of these friends to continue to be passed down my family throughout the years. Where such things do not exist, one can only wonder who the people were, especially when their faces stare out at us from photos. The following are a few photos of my relatives with their friends or of just the friends on their own; all of whom are unknown. If you happen upon this post and recognise a face, please let me know.
My Grandma (Audrey Flynn – right) with an unknown friend in Merredin.
Audrey Flynn with an unknown friend
My Pop’s (Reece Nicholson) friend with his children
Friends of Charles Victor Barratt and Matilda Maria Barratt (nee Crampton)
The back of the previous photographic postcard.
Unknown Couple (probably friends of Vic and Kitty)
- 1934 ‘Family Notices.’, The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954), 23 October, p. 1, viewed 6 February, 2015, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article32803999
- 1919 ‘Mainly About People.’, The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 – 1950), 23 October, p. 3 Edition: THIRD EDITION, viewed 6 February, 2015, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article81932474
- WA Births, Deaths & Marriages; Marriage; Jessie C Knight and Charles E I Thompson; Registration Number: 59; Registration Year: 1924