#2 My Father.

Well that was mother and that explains where your name comes from Ida May.

Now we come to Douglas and where that name comes from. My father, had four Christian names and I think they were all important but I don’t know why. He was christened Walter Foster Douglass Ernest but he always was known as Douglass.

Now I can’t see the badge that he is wearing but I’ll bet that’s a Crusader Union badge and this is relevant. I don’t know if it is still functioning but the Crusader Union was an evangelical Christian organisation that was active in schools and universities. This is relevant. Mother and father were both Christians. It is understandable when you realise that Dad’s father was an Anglican minister.

This is my grandfather when he was young. Below is his wife, my grandmother when she was a lot older.

Grandma was a Quaker and she had a major influence on her children such that during the second world war my father refused to enlist in the Australian Army. He spent the duration of the war as a teacher. It is known that he did receive some “White Feather” envelopes. A white feather would be posted to a conscientious objector and the message was, “You are a coward”. It wasn’t always written but the feather was enough to convey the meaning.

So imagine this; Douglass is in love with Ida Johnston and he sets off to visit Ida’s mother to ask for her blessing because they wanted to get married. He can’t ask Ida’s father because William Johnston was killed in 1916. What’s more Ida won’t be getting any support from her favourite brother Walter because he is in Egypt training for the battle of Bardia. Ida mother has lost her husband in one war, two of her sons are in the Australian army or airforce and she is being asked to give her daughter in marriage to a man who refuses to join in the war. But she agreed, however reluctantly, and on the 15th of January 1940 they were married.

Mother was at university studying law at the time but because she was now married she had to give up her studies and she got a job as a law clerk in Bank Place Melbourne. It was hard for women to have a career in those days. They moved to Sydney where Dad got a job teaching at Knox Grammar School.

I know only two things about his time there. First of all one of his roles was to conduct air raid drills. Trenches had been dug across the sports oval and at the sound of a siren the whole school population had to move out of the classrooms and assemble in the trenches without panicking. I imagine it would have been a necessary procedure but eventually a tedious and boring exercise.

The other story goes this way; he was given the French classes. My father hated French. He had not done French at school and had no idea what to do. However mother had studies French up to Matriculation level and was very competent. So at night she would prepare the lessons and father would present the lesson to the classes and set homework and would take the students work home. Mother would correct the work. Very often a student might ask a question – often quite a simple question – and he would tell the student that it was a good question and he was going to give him a detailed answer the next day.

One day in the staffroom another teacher said, “Douglass, I am very jealous of you and your French classes.” Father asked why, and the other fellow said that he had always wanted to teach French but was stuck teaching English which he wasn’t all that fond of. Father went, later, and spoke to the Headmaster and said that there was a colleague who was not very happy. He explained that this colleague would love to teach French and the Headmaster said that was a shame but they only needed the one French teacher. So good hearted fellow that he was father then volunteered to give up his French classes and let the other fellow have them. And yes, if it would help he would be prepared to take the English classes. The boss was delighted and thought dad was a very decent chap. And the other fellow said he didn’t know how he could ever thank him enough. And my mother was very happy not to have to do all those French lessons and corrections because she had a young daughter to look after and me. I was born just about then.

I will tell you more tomorrow.

12 thoughts on “#2 My Father.

  1. I’m able to read this one! And you’re so lucky to have these photos. Sometimes I regret that I don’t have my grandparents’ photos to show my grandchildren and then sometimes cynicism takes over ( maybe a tad harsh to use that word, skepticism perhaps) and I think would the grandchildren even be interested in those photos if I had them?

    • I think you might be being a tad unfair on your grandchildren. I don’t think children are interested in the ancestors until they have children of their own.

  2. Notice the young clergyman with the dog collar. When we lived at Knox Grammar School he had the rectory at Erskinville so could visit us often. I could not understand why his photo was on all the letters that we got. My mother explained [to a 2 year old] that the picture on the stamps was our King George. So from that day forward I called my grandfather George and I still think of him as George.

    • Such a lovely memory Robin. You thought the king on the stamp was your grandfather! My mother´s oldest sister, my aunt, was born on 11.11.1915. When Armistice came on that day in 1918, she thought that all the flags in town were up for her birthday. In Denmark, we use our flag for birthdays.

  3. Pingback: More about the other blog. – Paol Soren

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s