There is something so special about childhood friends, especially if you grew up in the country. Our nearest neighours in 1950s Tasmania were the Richards family.
Cheryl and Michael were almost the same age as me and my sister Robbie. We lived on adjoining dairy farms at South Road Ulverstone, and went to school together. However, our play visits had a charming, semi-formality about them.
Sometimes Cheryl and Michael would appear in our laneway, immaculately dressed in hand-knitted cardigans. My mother would provide afternoon tea, just as she did when her adult neighbours called. For we kids it would be a cream filled sponge, or maybe Chocolate Simplicity Cake. Oh the memories.
When Cheryl told me she had written a memoir about her lovely mother Philma I couldn’t wait to read it.
The very first chapter was a complete shock to me.
What had become of this young, 25 year old man? Cyril was a gunner on a Lancaster bomber, the most dangerous position of all on the plane. But when they were hit in mid air over Holland on Christmas Eve 1944 there was no hope for any of the seven man crew. The Lancaster simply exploded. The bodies were interred in a common grave in the churchyard at the Dutch village of Oostelbeers.
For many years a local Dutch woman faithfully tended the grave, in acknowledgment of the ultimate sacrifice by the Lancaster crew.
For Philma there was unbearable grief, but thankfully she found love again. She was a talented singer, and young Joe Richards would listen to her performing on the Devonport radio station 7AD. The story goes that he fell in love with her voice before he even met her!
The couple made their home with Philma’s widowed father Fred at South Road, and the first of three children came along.
Cheryl, Michael and Janine would all inherit their mother’s musical talents, along with her strong Christian faith. Later they would form the gospel group The Ascension Four with Chery’s husband Kevin Weeks. (I still have their first album).
I cannot resist concluding this piece with some funny stories from the family’s years at South Road, recalled by Cheryl.
HIGH JINKS ON THE FARM
The farm was the ideal place to grow up, and as children on a farm we got up to many ‘high jinks.’ We had free range hens in those days and it was a mammoth task to find the eggs around the bushes. As kids we used to find the rotten ones and have rotten egg fights. Mum used to really tell us off when we came home for tea smelling like I don’t know what!
I remember we had an old billy goat that had huge horns, which curled up over his head and looked quite menacing. At the old farmhouse we had an outside toilet, ‘an outhouse’. We kids took to tormenting the goat, which would take one look and then chase us at great speed. We would go screaming down the path into the outhouse, slamming the door after us, and with all our weight pressed upon it would listen in trepidation to the clipity clop, clipity clop of Billy’s heels tearing down the path until BANG! he would butt headfirst into the door with a tremendous CRASH! We thought it was a great joke and did it often, usually when Dad was busy with the milking and Mum was busy with preparations for tea.
Cheryl, your memoir is a beautiful tribute to your mother Philma, and brought back so many memories.
NOTE – FOR THE FULL STORY OF CYRIL KEITH DEED AND THE LANCASTER BOMBER, CLICK HERE