Nervous excitement was building up inside as I walked around the yard picking flowers from the shrubs: red hibiscus, yellow allamandas, and whatever else we could find to fill in the gaps. My older brothers were doing the same; it was just the thing our family did, so I don’t know if they enjoyed it as much as I did. I was five years old, the only girl, and making a wreath with Mum for Anzac Day was very important stuff. Especially as I was the one who had to lay it next day where the flag was raised down in the park.
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Over the next 5 or 6 years, that was how Anzac Day was for me in our little town. Dad would go to the Dawn Service, and later we school kids would march behind the Veterans and the rest of the town folk who joined in. A German who fought with his countrymen, but who earned the love and respect of the people of our town, led the way with his drum as we marched, and later played the Last Post and Reveille on his trumpet. Dad was the flag-man. Every now and then a child or a vet would drop to the ground from the heat or, in the case of some of the old blokes, a little too much to drink after the Dawn service.
Dad was in the Middle East during WWII, and Mum’s three brothers served then as well, so there were a lot of photos of that time. One of my favourite past-times was to go through them, asking questions about who was who, and where that was, and writing the answers on the backs of the photos (unfortunately I didn’t do them all)! I know now after having my own inquisitive children, how that probably frustrated them no end! I had a couple of favourites: one of my dad and a mate reading the paper, sitting side by side on a three-seater toilet in the Egyptian desert – that always made me laugh. The other made me smile and stirred my inquisitiveness even more, although at such a young age I didn’t quite understand why. Colonel Jim Gerald was sitting on a step casually chatting with a woman in Tel Aviv. I always wondered why this man was so friendly, and with the help of Google, I have uncovered a wealth of knowledge about this man. Dad was also one of the entertainers, and would have known the Colonel through the entertainment units. The photos seemed to make me feel like I was part of it all, and the experience has served to give me the incentive to research my ancestry, and dig up some information, and helped me understand the importance of recording the events in our lives, through photography and journaling.
Attending parades or watching on TV, hearing the sound of bagpipes, the trumpet sounds of the Last Post and the Reveille, the tears have flowed. Over the years, my Vietnam Veteran husband and I have usually attended the local services. We believe it is important, not to celebrate war, but to instil in our youth the spirit of gratefulness and respect towards those who have done so much to make our world a better place for them to be raised in. Three of our grandsons and a granddaughter live near us these days, and over the past few years, the boys took turns to march with Pop. This year Pop will be holding the hand of his little granddaughter as he marches, and of course, “the ever-ready, camera swinging, memory-keeping Grandma” will be recording another family event.
Do you have family memories of Anzac Day? What did you do on Anzac Day as a child? Is it the same now?