Wednesday, 31 March 2010

The choko vine as life blood


Foppish yellow flowers drip off the choko vine as it winds its way over the rusting corrugated iron that serves as a back fence. Lanes in working class Sydney in the 1930s were dotted with choko vines, mulberry trees, chook houses and pigeon lofts. Susannah Place in The Rocks is a perfect example of that poor urban landscape. Housing was basic and shoved together. Sanitation was a tin emptied weekly by the ‘dunny man’.

Women were poorly educated, married early and had larger families that are fashionable today. The evening meal (tea) might consist of a rabbit stew bulked up with wedges of choko, followed by bread’n’butter pudding or runny custard from a packet of Foster Clarke’s powder. Children thought there were kings and queens when able to take vegemite sandwiches or fairy bread to school for their meal in the middle of the day (dinner).



The head of the household might find a day’s work on the Hungry Mile wharves. This was no more than a day-by-day proposition. If he was lucky with a day’s work, Dad would knock-off at 4 o’clock and rush down to the local pub to knock back a schooner or two of Resch’s Draught or Toohey’s Old before the end of the 6 o’clock swill.

By the time he got home, Mum was onto her third or fourth Bex Powder. The next morning, they both needed a dose of castor oil to help unclog their systems and prepare them for more of the same.


I am down the South Coast, swimming and walking at Merry Beach, then to the Four Winds Music Festival at Bermagui. I return late Monday.

30 comments:

In Real Life said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
In Real Life said...

Beautiful shots! I enjoyed reading the history as well. Thank you!

Piyush said...

Lovely shots Julie. Love the tones!

James said...

I love the wonderful aged look of the place and I also love the lighting, it's beautiful. I could go on and on about the colors and textures too. Really nice post Julie.

Sean said...

Great one Julie...

Lois said...

These are lovely pictures Julie! Your narrative really does give one a glimpse into another world.

Clytie said...

Beautiful pictures. And your history narrative ... it brought to life a time not that long gone ... Wonderful post!

lizziviggi said...

I have a habit of romanticizing things that are best left unromanticized, but somehow even though it was a hardscrabble existence, I can't help but think of the ways those families were better off than so many families today. They probably talked to each other more, appreciated the small things, and didn't ignore each other in favor of video games or the TV. That being said-- it didn't sound like much fun! As far as your photos go, they're gorgeous. Despite the worn surfaces, the walls seem to be gleaming somehow.

Woody said...

The first image is so powerful, I really love it. Simple, yet it speaks volumes to me. The story is captivating. I've never heard of Bex Powder. Great summary of life from not-so-long ago.

T. Becque said...

Your images are beautiful - I love the tones.

Birdman said...

Love this shot, Julie.

jabblog said...

Fascinating post. Your photos make the mean houses look much more attractive than they really could have been. We have much to be thankful for today.

Tulsa Gentleman said...

Choko on the dunny. I learn something new every day. Very interesting, thank you.

Jilly said...

The photographs are outstanding and so is your writing. I have a choko vine in the garden, love it and the flowers but haven't tried eating the vegetable. Actually I think mine may be a variety that isn't edible as it's regularly sold in the veggie shops here and the one they sell looks a different colour.

Who lives in these houses now, Julie?

Enjoy your trip.

Andrew said...

Nothing quite gets my imagination working like a very worn set of steps.

Susan said...

I wonder if these homes are now gentrified and far surpass a "working man's" budget? Lovely photos.

Jayne said...

Bravo!
Fab post, loved the photos and history :)

Marka said...

I like the green, it brightens up the wall.

Bruce Caspersonn said...

My Aunty, who lived well into her 90s, had a Bex every morning, "In case she got a headache" !!!

J Bar said...

We had a choko vine over a rusty corrugated side fence that looked just like this one, when I was a kid.
Sydney - City and Suburbs

Vicki said...

Chokos always remind me of my grandfather. He would give drop by with a box of them when they were in season. Unfortunately chokos always made me gag (still do). Such a great Australian icon.

Joan Elizabeth said...

Wonderful wonderful photos today and good social history story to go with. I can't believe you actually found a choko vine ... the curse of every 1950s child ... they are so prolific! and tasteless.

Janet said...

What a lovely post! Your photographs remind of the old Lilian Beckworth books! Really glad I popped in today! :)

brattcat said...

Journey well.

diane said...

My, you are the best photo hunter. These shots are fabulous and no evidence of modern day glitz. The choko vine standing out in all its glory is super too. The historical narration is a memory tugger. Enjoy your get away.

Bill said...

This '64' door intrigues me. Surely it isn't big enough for residential purposes as it wouldn't pass the BCA. If it is something else, why put a number on it. Any idea, Julie?

Mary Ann said...

I enjoyed reading this, and as always the pictures are fantastic.

TheChieftess said...

Very European!

Serge Cornillet said...

Thanks Julie for these beautiful pics of Sydney I discover when I visit your so interesting blog. Always nice!
Serge

altadenahiker said...

One of my favorites. Good show, in all ways.