As we juggle our hi-tech modern lives of driving here and there, the constant tweeting of mobile phones and having the world at our fingertips, my mum’s life seems almost impossible to comprehend – walking to school and thinking nothing of riding a bicycle to one of her many jobs and at times living without power or the telephone and always constantly working.
Her lifespan was marked by huge technological changes but she continued sewing, baking and making do until the very end of her life.
She was well known in the Glenorie community where she lived and worked for more than 60 years and has left behind countless family stories and memories that bring that past to life and keep her in our minds and hearts.
Early days and school days
Born in 1931, the Depression and World War II formed a background to her childhood. She
was the eldest child of Alan and Gertrude (Gert) Blaxland of Dural and came into the world on March 28 at ‘Inchneuk’, a hospital in Parramatta.
Alan was a carpenter who later became a house painter. The family moved around a lot but always in the Dural- Galston area. When Joyce was a newborn they lived at ‘Brenalan’ in Kenthurst Road, Dural but later that year they moved to a small fibro house on five acres in Gilligans Road, off Carters Road at Dural.
Her sister Judith was born six years after Joyce in 1937. Baby brother Graeme didn’t join the family until 1941 when Joyce was 10. Her Dad must have cut a fine figure on his sleek 1927 Indian Scout motorbike with sidecar. Joyce proudly traveled with him riding on the back while her mum Gert and little sister Judith sat in the sidecar. Alan had a passion for bikes – and had owned a Norton before the Indian.
She started school at age five at the primary school at Galston. By 1943 (and possibly as early as 1938) the family had moved to ‘Somerset’ in School Road, which was another modest house on five acres. It was right beside the primary school. Gert cleaned the school for many years and was always on hand for lunch with Joyce or to rush over with a coat if the weather turned cold.
The house had no electricity or telephone. Joyce told us of going with her father each Saturday morning to collect wood for the fireplace and to fuel the copper in the laundry. They’d milk the cow they kept, collect firewood, load it into an old wheelbarrow then push it back home. Joyce carefully carried the milk.
One of the stories mum loved to relate was how, as a member of the Galston Branch of the Red Cross, she raised money for the war effort. In 1942 dressed as a Red Cross nurse she collected 30 shillings by singing patriotic songs. The coins were collected in a flag. Joyce always had a lovely voice.
High school was at the more distant Hornsby High, which Joyce went to in 1943, taking the Gorge bus through the Galston Gorge to Hornsby. As it was during the war and there was petrol rationing the bus ran on charcoal and says Mum it often broke down.
Life however suddenly and abruptly changed when she fell from a horse. After the accident her weight plummeted and she was no longer able to get to school. The doctors suspected nerve damage. She completed her intermediate certificate by correspondence from home.
She gradually regained her strength and in 1947, when she was about 16, enrolled at North Sydney Technical College to study dressmaking and drafting. Back then North Sydney was a long way from Galston, so Mum lodged with the Peel family and worked as a nanny/house cleaner by day so she could study at night. She excelled at the course (but hated working for the Peels) and from 1948 to 1949 worked with Madame Ellis Dressmakers at Hornsby. Her work included drafting and cutting paper patterns.
Although she enjoyed dressmaking, she jumped at the opportunity to work at Yaffa, a newspaper business, where she ws a junior in the advertising section and also compiled statistics. She kept her feet firmly in the rural life though picking peas for Lou Heather at Galston during 1950 and also working with her parents at ‘The Kiosk’ at Galston Park where they now lived.
Marriage and family
On March 10, 1951 she married my Dad, Norman (always Norm) Featherston, at the lovely old sandstone St Jude’s Anglican Church at Dural – the same church where she had been baptized. They had met at a dance at Dural and when they married she was a few weeks short of her 20th birthday.
On that March day, Joyce looked beautiful in an A-line wedding dress of satin with a lace bodice that she created her herself. It was a work of art with a sweetheart neckline and long sleeves that reached over the wrist and thumb. She carried a large trailing bouquet of orchids and wore a long veil.
Norm was a farmer and the newly weds lived at Kenthurst on the corner of Porters and Pitt Town Roads in a caravan. Over the next five years Robyn (1951), Wendy (1952), Susan (1954) and finally a son, Darryl, arrived in 1956 meaning Joyce had four children under five. It was a hectic time and there was still the farm work to do.
Her dressmaking skills came to the fore. Not only did she make clothes for her growing family she also took in dressmaking work to earn extra money. She was very good at making us clothes from dresses and jumpers that she would deftly recycle into something new. She once made one large jumper into three small jumpers for her girls.
With the family growing they moved to ‘Oak Hill’ on Galston Road in 1953. The house was just near where Galston Road meets Old Northern Road now busy with traffic and shoppers.
The next move was to Cairnes Road, Glenorie to a house owned by Norm’s brother-in-law. This house was close to a tennis court where Mum and Dad loved to play tennis with local friends while the local kids amused themselves with ball games and riding bikes in the quiet streets.
It was while they were in the house that Joyce worked again in her parents’ shop at Galston. She left the girls with Norm and Joyce 6 with sister Judith Joyce & Norm Featherston 35 rode her pushbike across to The Kiosk in Galston Park. (It is now History Cottage.)
This was before Darryl was born as, by the time he arrived, they had their own property, ‘Pine Ridge Orchard’ at Glenorie, which they bought in 1955.
Life at Glenorie
At Pine Ridge they were able to spread their wings and really settle down and embrace family life. The 1930s fibro house set on 32 acres and had three bedrooms and a huge ‘modern’ kitchen where Mum loved to cook – her passion for cooking lasted all her life.
There was even room for a sewing room and as we children headed off to school she had time to resume sewing, making school and sports uniforms and taking on other work too. She worked hard – she always had – but her days were filled with packing fruit and vegetables (Dad grew stone fruit, citrus and a huge range of vegetables). In the evenings she’d settle down behind the sewing machine.
At times she also took on part-time work but somehow kept us all well fed and cared for. She even managed to find time to play the occasional game of tennis and go out to dances. At this time Mum and Dad didn’t have a car so relied on friends. We were often taken to church picnics at the beach in a borrowed car – Dad and Mum didn’t want us to miss out!
Some of the part-time jobs she had during the 1960s that I can remember were in the supermarket at Glenorie Co-op, at Pine Valley Flowers packing orchids for Norm Loader, picking and packing for local orchardists and a stint as a machinist at the Speedo factory at Windsor sewing swimming costumes.
When Mrs Hart opened a milk bar in Glenorie in around 1965, Mum went to work there, staying on when Terry Fatseas bought the business. In among all this work, she also served as secretary for the P&C at Glenorie Primary.
In 1972 Ivan White asked her to work with him as an assistant at the Glenorie Post Office. I don’t think she realised how long she’d be there. She worked with Ivan for 10 years and then became Post Mistress when he retired. She was there for another 11 1/2 years until she too retired in 1994 after 22 years work.
As all this work went on, so did working on the family farm, sewing, cooking and of course looking after her four children.
She recorded the Glenorie rainfall for the local area for many years and contributed a regular weather report to the local paper known as The Glenorian. After the column in the paper stopped, she continued recording the rainfall until she became too unwell in late 2015. She also contributed to The Living Heritage magazine.
Her volunteer work never ceased, and for the last 16 years of her life she was an active member of the View Club, collecting raffle money as well as baking to raise funds. She also sold relishes, jams and pickles along with Norm’s vegies from a roadside stall outside their house.
Children, grandchildren and great grandchildren
During the 1970s family life changed as one by one the children married and started their own families. Robyn married Paul Rogers, Wendy married Russell Pringle, Susan married Wayne Tapping and Darryl married Camille Nott. Joyce made all the bride gowns and the bridesmaid dresses as well.
She made them on her Italian-made Necchi Super Ultra, which was the machine of her dreams and that she bought for herself in the 1960s. She soon found herself ‘Nana’ to nine grandchildren. Those grandchildren too have grown and delighted Joyce with 24 great grandchildren. She loved each and every one of them, was proud of their number, and often boasted that she was known as ‘Favourite Nana’. It was a role she filled well and I can say that all the great grandchildren, as did the grandchildren, adored her.
It is sad that she has missed the births of two more great grandchildren. We know she would have been delighted to meet Alexander and Emma Rose, who were born during 2016 after her death.
She was diagnosed with lung cancer at the end of January 2015. The diagnosis took us all by surprise as neither she nor anyone in the family had ever smoked. The disease progressed rapidly and she died on March 6 just a few weeks short of her 85th birthday and a few days short of her wedding anniversary. Joyce and Norm would have celebrated 65 years of
marriage on March 10. They had lived in and around Glenorie for more than 60 years and Dad Norm continues to live there in the house they once shared. Friendly reliable service, strong plant knowledge. Residential, Commercial and Strata.