Christmas memories 11



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I’m very grateful to my parents for having me in 1949 because it meant a blissfully carefree childhood in the 1950s when, it seemed, the entire world was young – except, of course, for the grown-ups.

I was a naturally inquisitive child and I must have driven my parents to utter distraction sometimes with my questions – after all, weren’t Mummy and Daddy supposed to know everything?

When I was about 6, I told my mother that I thought it was terribly unfair for the baby Jesus to have his birthday on Christmas Day because he would have missed out on one set of presents. Couldn’t it have been on a different day? Very bad planning by God I must have thought at the time. It was one of those “Why don’t you ask your father?” moments. There were more than a few of those and the usual response was “Have you asked your mother?”

This stonewalling did nothing to bridge the generation gap, I can tell you.

Television came to Brisbane in 1959 and Mummy was so excited that she would be able to watch the Queen’s Christmas Message in living black and white. Alas, this was not to happen – that year instead of Her Majesty speaking to all of her subjects from Buckingham Palace, there was a pre-recorded radio message as she was pregnant at the time with Prince Andrew.

While I don’t recall Mummy actually saying it at the time, I got the very clear impression that getting the lovely new Bushmatic Console Deluxe had been, more or less, a complete waste of money – and, in those days, you had to pay for a TV license which funded the ABC. Within three or four years, we had upgraded to a HMV Three-in-One in lovely mahogany which was not just a TV/radio/record player all cleverly in one cabinet, it was a lovely piece of furniture and one of the best vases sat on top of it – naturally on a lace doily.

Australia was the first country in the world to introduce a regular Christmas stamp in 1957 – the first two, costing three pence halfpenny and four pence, featured a little girl praying under a shining star and for years Christmas stamps usually featured a religious (Christian) theme. Now we have gone all politically correct, it just doesn’t do to have a government-owned statutory body – Australia Post – appear to be discriminating in favour of one particular religion.

I recall a few years ago when I was helping my mother shift into her retirement home, finding a clipping from The Australian Women’s Weekly dated 21 December, 1955, which carried the story, “Australia’s millionth migrant Mrs Barbara Porritt has given us her Christmas cake recipe”. This recipe included one pound of butter, one pound of sugar and ten eggs – but mummy still got ours from The Shingle Inn.

But the happiest memories of those 1950s Christmases were the toys I got.

Of course in those days you just didn’t get presents from Mummy and Daddy, you also got a special one from Santa himself. At some stage I must have realised that Santa wasn’t actually for real but I pretended to believe for as long as possible just to get that extra present. Not just inquisitive, but devious.

Every year I would add to my Matchbox cars collection and my Hornby train set which eventually grew so expansive I could scarcely get from my bedroom door to my bed without hurting my poor little tootsies on some bit of track. I was thrilled to bits one year when I got a water gun shaped like some outer space weapon – you couldn’t be too alert as the Russians had launched the first Sputnik in October, 1957 – although I risked losing it when I kept drenching my baby brother.

And I had a various cowboy outfits complete with what I considered to be very realistic cap pistols. I always saw myself as the cowboy and not as the Indian for the very good reason that a six-shooter was a far better weapon than a bow and arrow. Or maybe I was an incipient racist. I even got a wonderful Daniel Boone – or was that Davey Crockett? – hat made from genuine imitation raccoon skin complete with a possum’s tail hanging down the back. The plastic big-blade knife complete with its own sheath to tie around my waste complimented the hat which, I’m sure, I wore at a rakish, devil-may-care angle.

And, by the way, despite what assorted do-gooders and nanny-State meddlers might tell you today, having toy guns and knives did not lead to my becoming a psychotic serial killer. Really and truly I haven’t shot or knifed anybody – ever!


What are your favourite Christmas memories? Where did you go and what did you do? What presents did you get? Share with us today.

Russell Grenning

Russell Grenning is a Brisbane-based former journalist and retired political adviser who began his career with the ABC in 1968 in Brisbane and subsequently worked on the Brisbane afternoon daily, "The Telegraph" and later as a columnist for "The Courier Mail" and "The Australian". He worked for a string of senior Ministers in the Federal, Victorian and Queensland Governments as well as in senior executive public relations positions, including Assistant Federal Director, Public Relations, for Australia Post, Public Relations Manager for the Queensland Department of Main Roads and Principal Adviser, Corporate Relations, for the Queensland Law Society.

  1. Russell I was born in 1950 so thanks for your wonderful childhood memories. My stand out memories of Christmas as a child was the year I got a ‘bridesmaid doll’, my elder sister got the ‘bride doll’, and the year I got my first bike. Even though it was second hand, I thought it was the best thing I ever had.

    1 REPLY
    • Hi Wendy and thanks for sharing some of your memories – I don’t know about you (or anybody else our age actually) but now I am in what the demographers delicately refer to as “The Young Old” coterie – which presumably means I am on the threshold of my second childhood – I am recalling memories from my childhood that I had never considered for half a century or more. My conclusion, happily, is that I had a wonderful childhood.

  2. I remember one Christmas I must have been about 6 or 7 seeing a beautiful doll in a shop & asking my mother could I have it she said she would ask Father Christmas I found said doll under my parents bed along with some things for my brothers just before the big day not letting on I still loved that doll

  3. Christmas was the best time of the year We started off with morning mass , then Christmas dinner with all the works, then went visiting all the family we had in the street including our grandparents . Lots of music at grandparents(violins piano and other instruments and lots of singing ) and heaps of Christmas cake and cordial etc. Later we had leftovers and singing as we went to bed . Next day games and more visitors

  4. All my neighbour hood friends were boys and I played with them a fair bit. So one Christmas Santa gave me a cap gun like they had and a bag of marbles too. I loved my friends and their parents were so friendly like aunties and uncles. I loved my bride doll too Nanna made her satin wedding gown.great story Russell thanks

  5. I was born in 1953 and the first Christmas I remember was the year I turned 3 . I got a table and chair set with a pedigree walking doll sitting in her high chair and a miniature pedigree doll (4 inches tall) sitting in her arms. I found out much later that my Dad and Grandfather made the table and chair set and my maternal grandfather made the dolls high chair and cradle. Mum and Nanna made the dolls outfits. I convinced my older brothers to carry all my presents through 2 acres of bush to my grandparents house and set it all up to show them my wonderful presents. To this day I still have the two pedigree dolls. The big one has a replacement wig and dress but the little one is still all original. They are both 59 this month.

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