Pop and Cate

Catherine Furphy’s
Memories of Pop and Jo

as told to her daughter Jane
December, 2002

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The House - Staying at Cotham Road - Memories of Jo - Memories of Pop -
Family Get-Togethers - Spending Time With Jo - Rhymes Jo Used to Say - A Much Sung Song


The House

The house at Cotham Rd was absolutely gorgeous. It was a dark Edwardian house with many lovely nooks and crannies.


You came in the front door to a timber panelled octagonal hallway. Opposite the front door was a hall table with a mirror behind it. The floor was covered with a floral carpet and the space was a favourite area for children to play. There was a hall cupboard with coats and spare eiderdowns. There were four doors going off into: the lounge room; Jo’s bedroom; a passage to the kitchen, dining room and bathroom; and “the alcove” which led to the stairs, and to another bedroom that had been Paddy’s and Sue’s, but now Pop slept in. The alcove extended to the west side of the house and was divided off by a wardrobe in which Jo kept most of her clothes to create another bedroom. There was a beautiful stained glass window halfway up the stairs. I was mortified when I was invited into the house years later and saw that Carol Crane had taken the window out, and put it in Jo’s bedroom which had been turned into a dining room.


The lounge room was a lovely light room in contrast to the dark hall and dining room. It was a beautiful room and no one was allowed to go into it. Mum used to sneak in and sit in it when she was a girl when Jo went out. The piano was in the lounge, so I was allowed to do my practice in there. The piano was a Lipp and had a lovely soft tone. A black ebony inlaid sewing box was kept on the windowsill – it had needle cases, pin cushions, tape measure, cottons, and other precious things in it. There was also a dark blue glass vase that the light used to shine through - it was magic.


The kitchen was very old-fashioned, with a big pantry. There was an Albert Namatjira original in the kitchen in a lovely spot. I can remember looking at it when I had my breakfast.


Jo’s bedroom had a jutting out bay window. When I stayed with Jo, I would sleep in the spare bed in Jo’s room. Jo’s concoction was kept in the drawer in her bedroom – revolting green powder mixed with dates and figs that helped her with her terrible bowel problems. There was a chest of drawers, a dressing table, a shoe box covered in blue velvet (which I now have), two bedside tables, and a full-length mirror on the wall. The desk was in the bay window.


Pop slept in the room that Mum and Sue had had as children. I used to go in there to make his bed – a single bed that used to stick out from the wall.


The dining room was fairly dark. There was a lovely glass cabinet in the corner. I can remember a glass in it that was supposedly ‘terribly valuable’ because Jo had seen one just like it in the museum. I believe that when it was finally investigated it turned out to be less valuable than we had all supposed. There were many other lovely precious pieces of china and glassware in the cabinet – Jo absolutely loved beautiful quality china. My Crown Derby coffee set was kept there. There were two wonderful original paintings on the walls – one of them was a Buckmaster of white rhododendrons which I really loved.


Jo had all her meals at an autotray in the dining room and when I was staying I would have my meals at the other end of it. There were also two leather armchairs. Jo’s chair on the left of the fireplace had a record player and a bookcase with books, photo albums and records behind it. We loved the books and read them over and over again. I can remember sitting in the chair on the other side of the fireplace doing homework or whatever else while Jo and I both watched television and ate ginger nuts which Jo dunked in her black coffee.


At the top of the stairs were 2 bedrooms. One had a table tennis table which we all enjoyed playing on, and the other had a couple of beds and a door that opened out onto a balcony. There was also a door into an ‘unmade’ room – no-one was allowed in there because it was considered too dangerous.


The toilet was out at the end of the back veranda. At night you would have to cross the dark and scary hallway, go into the passage round the dining room, then out through the kitchen, through the laundry and out onto the closed veranda where the dogs slept. The veranda faced north and was very sunny. Jo had a shelf with lots of plants.


The toilet had a chain which you pulled to flush it. There was always an old phone book which one used instead of toilet paper.


Jo had a beautiful formal garden in front of the house. Out the back the garden was divided into two sections. On the left was a grass tennis court. A big corral for the dogs occupied the south end. There were trees on the west side and a row of rhododendrons across the north end. The right side of the garden had a double garage with a driveway out into the lane, a Seville orange tree, and the clothes line. Behind the garage was a vegetable garden overgrown with stinging nettles. There were gates down both sides of the house to stop the dogs getting into the front garden. More citrus trees grew down the west side, and down the east side was the side gate and a blank wall that Susan and I used to play Sevens on – throw the ball 7 times, then bounce it, and so on.


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Staying at Cotham Road

My memories of Pop and Jo and of the house at Cotham Road are clearest from my teenage years when I used to stay on Tuesday nights for Guides – first with Susan and later alone. In addition to this, either Susan or I would stay for the three nights that Pop was away in Gippsland for an Eye Clinic. Although Jo saw little of Pop she liked to have someone stay with her for those couple of days.


When I was at university I used to stay the nights that I had Choral Society. In third year physio I would stay for weeks at a time if I had a placement at a hospital that was hard to get to from Templestowe.


Memories of Jo

Jo would have her breakfast on a tray with a tray cloth. She would have half a grapefruit, toast with homemade (and grown) Seville orange marmalade (I remember helping to slice the fruit) and white coffee served with the Sun newspaper. Every morning Jo would eat breakfast propped up in bed with cushions looking out the Bay window.


The house was beautifully kept and free of clutter. Jo was very organised and tidy, and there was no way that you could watch telly after dinner if you hadn’t washed the dishes, nor leave the bedroom before you had made the bed. Mr Wardlaw came to clean the house, there was a gardener, and Jo sent all her sheets and table cloths to the laundry man.


I don’t remember Jo being very active. She loved her clothes and was very proud of herself for staying a particular weight. She had fine wispy baby hair, hats (with little bits of netting), high heeled shoes and gloves. She held herself straight and upright and would say to me: “Be proud of your height, Catherine. . . there is nothing worse that a tall women who slouches”. . The family, including Elfie and Dulcie all called her Jo – everyone else called her Mrs Lawrence except close friends and Pop who called her Amy. I was not even allowed to refer to her as ‘My Grandmother’ but would have to say: ‘I’d like to introduce you to Mrs Lawrence’.


Jo used to get the Sun in the morning and the Herald in the afternoon. She loved to look in the paper at the births, engagements and deaths and would take great pleasure in the names: ‘What would you do if you married someone with that name’, she would exclaim. The Wealth Word competition was in the Herald. It was a crossword lottery that had 3 or 4 possible answers to every clue – the chances of getting exactly the right answers were almost impossible. Jo would always enter, sometimes with two or three solutions.


Jo used to play cards regularly with a group of friends, usually Solo. When the get- together was at Cotham Rd there was a real routine that would take place. Jo would set up the auto tray with beautiful individual fine china cups, saucers and plates on the top level, and underneath would be the cakes, scones and sandwiches. I would walk up to the delicatessen and buy the nougat cake and Jo would make the scones. I can also remember having to ring around all the ladies to cancel the meeting when Jo had one of her terrible migraines.


When we stayed we were always being sent to do lots of errands and I got to know all the shops at the top of Glenferrie Rd. We would have to place a bet for her at the SP bookie at the barber shop or were sent up to the butcher to buy sweet bread (pancreas), or chump chops. We would have to go further afield to High St to buy the horse meat for the dogs which we would then be required to cut up into slices of the right size and lay out on a tray in the fridge. We also used to take the dogs for long walks round the block, down Kent Street, along past the cemetery, and back along Hillcrest Avenue.


Jo would also come up with schemes for us to make some money. She would save all the newspapers in a pile at the end of the veranda and we would have to lay them flat, roll them up and tie them up with string for the fish and chip shop. Similarly, she would get us to take the Lily of the Valley down to the florist.


When we were staying with Jo we would often have a meal of spaghetti from a tin in jaffles cooked on the gas stove using dripping instead of butter. Jo would cook scones and special spicy cakes in gem irons that she called her “specials”. They were delicious when they were fresh and I always had them in my school lunch when I was staying at Cotham Rd.


There was lots of food that Jo had that I hated. She made a funny icecream out of coffee and water (no cream or milk) and always had rotting pawpaw in the fridge. I can remember a spicy stew out of carrot, parsnip and meat. Jo was very intolerant of fat and would wash her chop in hot water to get all the fat off. In the evening she would have black coffee mixed with the juice of half a lemon. Susan and I were always having to “Clean the Main” – an enamel plate on the gas stove that was always getting covered in coffee that had boiled over.


Most nights Jo would get out the cards and play patience (sevens). She could not stop playing if she had not covered the Death Card (the ace of spades). This was one of her many superstitions. I would play German Whist with Jo and also with Pop on the Sunday nights. I can also remember Susan and I spending hours looking at the photograph albums. There was a tin full of periwinkles and an amazing board game of snakes and ladders with hideous and life-like snakes.


Amongst Jo’s other superstitions were: never leaving your shoes on the bed; never walking under a ladder; and not letting a black cat cross your path.


Every night Jo got down on her knees and said her prayers – this was an absolute ritual. When I stayed, I used to do it too. One of her favourite little rhymes she often said was “Please forgive poor little Willy for saying his prayers in bed – it’s chilly.” She had a potty under the bed for the night and an earthenware hotty bottle which she filled religiously every night to keep the bed cosy and warm. The eiderdowns were not kept on the beds, and you had to go and get them.


When you stayed with Jo there was never a night in which there was not a race to bed. Once that she had decided that it was time for bed she used to think of a string of things that you would have to do so that she would get their first – and then she would say “I’m gloating". I would have to go and get my eiderdown from the cupboard in the alcove, or go and check that the door onto the veranda was closed, and meanwhile she would have dashed into her bed having said her prayers and there she would be, gloating.


Jo loved reading. She used to send me into the Atheneum library when she was too sick to go herself. She loved to have books by her bed. I can remember that she particularly loved biographies and love stories. On Saturday afternoons, Jo used to send Susan and me to the flicks. I used to hate it because I would see something like Raw Hide or Dick Turpin and would have nightmares. On Sunday mornings we would have to go to Church, but Jo never came.


Jo never drove. Pop had his beautiful Bentley, but Jo was very dependant on the tram. She used to go into Georges or Buckleys in the city wearing her hat, gloves and lipstick that was increasingly poorly applied as her eyesight failed. I can remember helping her choose the material for some new bedspreads and buying toasted sandwiches for lunch. Jo would also go down on the tram to Walkers in Glenferrie (past the house in which Bill was born). She bought me my first bra at Walkers.


Jo had a very sensitive nose that would be grossly offended by anyone’s BO or “persp.”. She used to love an advertisement for a deodorant that she used to see on the tram: “Someone isn’t using Amplex”.


There were normally one or two Corgis sleeping at night on the back veranda, or more when there was a litter of puppies. Jo particularly adored Sally. Sally would get up on her back legs and beg and would respond to the words ‘walk’ and ‘food’. Psyche was one of Sally’s pups – a great big fat dog that Jo also really loved. Jo didn’t love all her dogs – if she didn’t take to a pup Mum would have to take it so that she could get another one.


She never liked to look forward to a day. Jo went over to England to meet Pop after the war – she had a fairly rough time over there but came home pregnant. She was sick almost every day on the ship, was glad to be home and was looking forward to the arrival of her baby on June 24, or thereabouts, and that was the day that her mother died – 2 or so days after Mum was born.


Jo had a brother who was quite a bit younger called Geoff. Before Jo was born, her mother had had a long string of miscarriages. Geoff died quite young. He was a doctor and worked terribly hard. Jo loved him and missed him greatly when he died. He was a great one for practical jokes and making life difficult for her when she brought home boyfriends as a young girl.


She liked love stories – “Gone with the Wind”. I can remember watching a Greta Garbo film “Ninochka” on the telly with Jo – a love story that she absolutely loved.


Jo loved the Mission for Seamen and the Prisoners’ Aid – they were the charities that she would support. Jim was in the navy, he and Sue got married in St Paul’s Cathedral and all of his friends were in uniform – it was very exciting.


Jo had training as a kindergarten teacher. She started nursing but had hated it. Mum used to say what a good teacher she was – she had the two girls well trained as offsiders – they were very competent at helping with the roast and making the scones. Mum has a lot of stories of Jo doing horrible things, like throwing out some of her things that were very precious to her – she used to say that it taught her not to place too much value on things. Jo was a great cleaner outer, was very tidy and kept the house absolutely beautiful. There was never anything out of place.


I had Jo’s little dolls’ tea set and Alice, Jo’s doll. Alice had beautiful dark brown hair and a china face. Unfortunately Alice was broken when I was a teenager. She fell off the top of the wardrobe. I was heartbroken. She had a wonderful set of clothes which I have kept.


Memories of Pop

Pop would get up a 4.30 every morning and go into his ‘rooms’ in the city. He never had breakfast with Jo as far as I can remember, but would go in early to his rooms. Even on Saturdays he would leave early to check the track and study the form of all the horses that were racing that day. Pop went to the races every week and was a member of the VRC. Jo would often go with him, especially to the important race meetings. Mum or Susan sometimes went with them to the big occasions. On one occasion I was allowed to go to the Melbourne Cup with Pop and Jo. Pop gave me some tips, and I had a small bet on every race. I backed Tulloch against Pop’s advice, and he lost. Pop loved his Bentley and I remember him driving it through the side gate into the garage.


Pop loved good quality food. He would always ask the grocer for his biscuits “out of an unopened tin”. He would go to the greengrocer and buy one beautiful piece of fruit. He also loved music, but had never been allowed to learn. He played piano by ear and had a lovely touch. His favourite composer was Bach, especially Jesu joy of man’s desiring. He gave me his two volumes of “the life of Bach” by Albert Schweizer, and I still treasure them. Unfortunately, Jo hated Bach’s music, and often referred to it as “Hurdy Gurdy”


We didn’t see Pop much. I found him a bit scary and never knew what to say to him. He never said much. He would often be grumpy. While I felt uncomfortable in his company, I still loved him, and accepted him just the way that he was.


Mum loved him and had a real affinity with him. He didn’t need to communicate verbally and Mum used to be able to just go and sit with him and she didn’t need to talk. Quite a few times when Mum was in trouble financially with all of us children, he would just suddenly give her money – he would just seem to know without being told.


I used to have to go and have my eyes tested by Pop. His rooms used to be right near the Independent Church in Collins Street – No. 120 on the ground floor near Russell Street. Later he had to move out of there and he moved into the Coates Building at No. 20 on the seventh floor ( Suite 111). He had a waiting room and must have had a kitchen or at least a fridge.


I don’t remember Pop ever laughing, but I can remember him being amused by a little boy whom he had treated: Pop had asked whether things were “Better, worse, or just the same” and the boy had replied “Worser”.


We always had to give something to Pop for Christmas – I can remember knitting him a pair of bed socks. We would see him come out of his room in his old dressing gown, his beanie and his bed socks and go down to the loo.


Pop would always have his shower at night to help him get to sleep. Maybe he had trouble sleeping and that is one of the reasons why he would get up at four in the morning. He would come home after Jo had had dinner and was sitting in the dining room – about 8 at night. Sometimes he didn’t even say hello but usually he poked his head in the door and say ‘hello there’, and Jo would say: ‘Is that you Arthur?’ There was often an embarrassed time when Jo would have to ask for some money for the gardener or something like that – it was awkward. Every now and again Pop would come home early on a Sunday and Jo would cook him one of her special omelettes. Jo was always pleased when he came, and raced into action to look after him.


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Family Get-Togethers

We used to go over to Cotham Road most Sunday nights for dinner. I remember us all cramming in around the round table in the dining room. Usually dinner would be macaroni cheese – one of Jo’s specialities. Pop would leave the table and set himself up with the card table in the lounge room and he would play sevens patience. He would shuffle the cards by fives and then do 7 brrrrrs between each game. Then he would play German Whist with any takers. Pop would sometimes play the piano. They had a beautiful Lipp piano, which I played a lot. I used to hate to play with Pop listening because he was very critical; he would say, ‘oh she ruined that’, or something similar – it was horrible.


Susan and I would usually do the dishes and would sing duets together which we had learnt in school madrigals and choir.


It was a family tradition that there would be an Easter Sunday family picnic at Olinda in the Dandenongs. It was a date that everyone knew to keep free. We would eat egg and bacon pie and play poison ball, cricket, and keepings off. There was always an Easter egg hunt.


The Christmas Party was always held the Sunday before Christmas. The occasion often coincided with Steve’s birthday that was on the 20th. Bill and Steve’s families would be there, but Sue and Jim would often be unable to get there if they were living interstate. Aunty Ivy and Aunty Nell would come, and sometimes Elfie’s parents: Mr and Mrs Beilby, and Dulcies’s mother and her second husband Mr and Mrs Fletcher. The occasional neighbour was invited and Jo would always have a present for them – perhaps some hankies. People were addressed as Mr and Mrs – it was ‘very formal’.


Aunty Ivy and Aunty Nell were Jo’s cousins. They lived in the Ballroom of Labassa House in Caulfield. Aunty Ivy was Susan’s Godmother – she was married to Uncle Claude and was a bit of a tease. I remember that she drank dry sherry while Aunty Nell, who had a more engaging temperament used to drink sweet sherry. Aunty Nell’s husband had died in the war and she worked at Buckley’s for years. The Aunts never recovered from having to move when the house was sold and were not seen again. It was a bitter blow to Jo when they stopped coming.


Pop would come home early in the afternoon for the occasion. There would be poultry that Pop would carve, a tin of Mayfair ham and strawberries. After dinner everyone would sing carols – this was a happy time. Usually Steve would play the piano. I was always asked to play and was nervous about it. Pop and Steve both played completely by ear. I can remember one time Pop playing Finlandia by Sibelius. He had a prize - a box of chocolates - for whoever could guess where the composer came from. Everyone was calling out countries and I called out Finland without having any idea and won the prize.


Jo would not open her presents until Christmas day. I can remember being there on Christmas morning one year and Jo being horrified by a present of blue and white checked tea-towels that she eventually made an apron out of. She made no secret of the fact that she didn’t like something. I can remember going to Coles and buying Jo little sugar basins out of cheap glass crystal, hankies, butter dishes, a comb, or soap. I can remember Susan giving Jo a tile trivet that was quite a success.


Jo was very organised with presents and would be planning all year – it was a big job. We were often given books. I can remember being given “Heidi”, “Doctor Dolittle” and “The Little Black Princess”. Inside Jo would have written ‘To Catherine with love from Pop and Jo Christmas 1953’.


We were also often given jumpers. The last one I received was a green cardigan. I had chosen both the wool and the pattern, but it was not a great success and turned out too big. Susan unpicked it and knitted it up as a jumper, which I wore over and over again. Jo loved knitting – and never used a pattern. She would always be knitting bed-socks and beanies – everyone always had them and we were all taught how to make them.


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Spending Time With Jo

Jo was a terrible tease and practical joker and April Fool’s day was a great delight. I was fairly gullible and was a regular victim. I can remember grovelling around on the floor under the hall table looking for the mess that the dog was supposed to have done. Jo would be in fits of laughter. I can also remember Jo teasing me about Clem not writing me a letter when he was away for a couple of weeks at Intervarsity Choral festival - I wish I could have told her we had been secretly engaged for nearly a year, especially as she died later that year before we had become officially engaged.


One of her favourite tricks was to pass you something – often it was quite precious – and just as you were about to take it she would lower her arm so that you thought that you’d dropped it. You would startle every time because her timing was absolutely spot on- she would laugh and think that that was hilarious.


In the early days when I was a lot younger I was always getting in trouble for stealing food that Jo had hidden. The best biscuits would be hidden in the linen cupboard or the chocolates in her desk and Susan and I would always find them. I was always that little bit out of control and would have more than I should. I can remember Jo getting me to shell the almonds for her and eating far too many – I always seemed to be starving. Jo had a belief that if you shelled a double almond, and shared it with a friend, the first person to remember it when you next met received a present from the other person. I shared an almond with Jo, and remember her giving me a pink comb as a present, but then being cross when she discovered how many more almonds I had eaten.


School was very close and I would often go to Jo’s for lunch. We would have saveloys or spaghetti from a tin. I would chat away and as I was going out the door I would hear Jo going over to the phone to ring up Mum. I always wondered what I might have said as I was always getting into trouble for telling secrets. On one occasion I remember getting a kick in the pants from Mum as we walked down the path towards the gate because I had told Jo that Mum had broken that vase that she had given her.


As I got older, Jo seemed to enjoy my company more. She used to love hearing stories of my outings. I can remember telling her all about my misadventures with Richard – an extremely painful and outrageous friend of the family who was a bit older than me and a bit younger than Susan. Richard used to have very old fashioned parties with wonderful food and party games with prizes. I used to come home from these parties and tell Jo all about them to the very last detail. I went out with Richard on a few occasions and would tell Jo about all of the ridiculous things that he did – she used to absolutely love my accounts and go into fits of laughter.


I remember some of the stories that she used to tell me about her boyfriends. Of one suitor she used to exclaim that she “wouldn’t have had him if he was served up on a gold platter”.


Susan used always to get Honours, but Jo used to say to me: “if you ever get in Credits at school I’ll hoist a flag”. When I finally did get Credits in Leaving she said: “Would you mind if, instead of hoisting a flag, I shouted you, and a friend, to ‘Gone With the Wind’?” I was at Rosebud when I got my Matric results and she sent me a telegram saying ‘Good Girl – Congratulations’. When Susan got engaged Jo gave her a set of Crown Derby cups and saucers. Jo asked me whether I wanted individual ones or a set for my engagement and I told her that I would like individual ones, but I never got them because Jo died before my engagement was announced.


Normally when you stayed with Jo you spent the whole time doing things for her and she was quite demanding (we were forever looking for her glasses). But when you were sick, or when you had exams, the tables were turned and she’d look after you, cooking up special omelettes and attending to all your needs. When Pop was very ill he let Jo look after him and it was sort of a reconciliation time. He moved back into Jo’s room and even said something along the lines of “You have been good to me Amy”. This meant a lot to her.


I think that Jo lost heart a bit after Pop died. I can remember reading in her diary (that she had left on her chair in the dining room) that she didn’t think that she “had long”. I thought that she was being a bit melodramatic – but I think that reflects my naivety.


The week before Jo died I had been staying with her while doing a Physio placement at Hampton. I was running late on the Friday morning and Jo wanted me to rush up to the newsagent to find out why her paper hadn’t arrived. I did the errand with very poor grace and when I got back from the shops she was waiting there at the gate with my huge heavy bag. She died that weekend. I had gone away to a choral society camp and got back on the Sunday. I can remember saying to Mum “How’s Jo – I didn’t leave on the best of terms. . .”


Rhymes Jo Used to Say

“Oh dear, down on the pier, somebody gave me a push in the rear.”


“Please forgive poor little Willy for saying his prayers in bed – it’s chilly”


A Much Sung Song

“Every woman thinks she’d like to wander
And turns her money when the moon is new.
Happiness is hiding just beyond her,
And perfect love is further down the queue.
Round the corner gentlemen are fonder,
Over there the sea’s a brighter blue.
Every woman thinks she’d like to wander
And be a naughty girl with someone new”


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