Sunday 1 July 2012

Reflections from Harvest in Winchester in the 1920s

Stephen Frost grew up on a farm at Marchagee in the Coorow district. His father is former local farmer Arnold D. Frost and his mother Dorothy née McSwan. The McSwain family had farmed in Carnamah and later Marcahgee. Stephen now lives in Hong Kong and recently wrote the following in response to our blog post Harvest in Winchester in the 1920s.

Harvest in Winchester in the 1920s on Ivan Johnson's Avalaon Farm

"In The Secret, Rhonda Byrne writes that being grateful is a powerful way to turn your life around. Reading this post on farming in Carnamah during the 1920s resulted in numerous thoughts about my parents and how grateful I am for all they've done. 

My mother was raised on a farm in Carnamah, and she was born at around the time these pictures were taken. She has hardly any photographs of her childhood, and the only one I can recall is of her and her four elder sisters in threadbare clothes and no shoes. I suppose it was taken on her father's block; he had served in the 10th Light Horse Regiment in the Boer War and then again in the First World War and bought the land under the soldier settlement program when he returned to Australia in 1919.

My father was born in South Australia. His family farmed as well. He was pulled out of school after completing Year 7 (at 12-years-old) and went to work picking rocks to clear land for cropping. With two older brothers, he knew the farm was too small to be divided into three, so in his late teens or early 20s he relocated to Marchagee (not far from Carnamah). He found work on a farm, then started share-farming with the man for whom he worked, and eventually bought his own farm (on which I grew up). 

The pictures in the post below compare farming in the 1920s with today. There are similarities of course, but in many ways the two eras are worlds apart. My parents were raised in houses without electricity; they were the last generation who recall a life with kerosene lamps and meat safes (a Coolgardie safe in Western Australia) instead of refrigerators. Dad told me when I was a boy that his father would cool his bottles of beer during summer by lowering them into the well. He has photos on the wall at home of ploughing with a team of horses. By the time he and mum had married in the 1950s, electricity, tractors, phones and fridges were commonplace. 

By the age of 55, my father had been working hard for more than 40 years. Growing sheep and wheat is not an easy life. It's not a bad life, but it's hard work, and he sold the farm. 

Now in their 80s, my parents surf the Internet, have email accounts, watch YouTube, talk to me in Hong Kong via Skype, have a mobile phone, and download and print off photos of their granddaughter. Has any other generation seen as much change (and adapted to it) as those born in the 1920s or earlier? 

My parents provided me with everything I needed for the shift from a family farm at Marchagee (where even in the 1970s we still generated our own electricity, survived off rain water, and had a three-digit telephone number - 207) to starting up my second business in Hong Kong. They taught me independence, hard work, persistence, patience, kindness, respect and to have a vision for the long term. 

I'm grateful for everything my parents have provided for me. They did a wonderful job raising me. As academics are fond of saying at the start of their books, thanks for all the help in getting me this far; any errors made are entirely in my own hands!

And I’m grateful to the Carnamah Historical Society & Museum for putting these pictures, and many more, online. Thank you."

[Thanks to Stephen for sharing his reflections and for allowing us to share them here]

Blog Post - Harvest in Winchester in the 1920s

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