Time capsules


When my children’s primary school celebrated 100 years, they buried a time capsule with items relevant to that period. My hometown did the same celebrating 150 years. The idea is that sometime in the future the time capsule would be opened revealing a glimpse of life in a bygone era. Who needs official time capsules when you had a mother who lived to 88 years who saved things from her own, my father’s, their parents’, grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ generations? Recently, in the discovery of things she kept, my siblings and I were transported back to the everyday life of those eras. The main image I have is life moving at a slower pace than today.

Here is a snapshot of those times in Australia:

1850 – 1914
(from records of my parents grandparents, and my father’s great-grandfather)

• Travel internationally by sea, knowing that you may never see family again.
• Travel otherwise by steam-train or foot
• Correspond with family internationally by letters sent by sea.
• Correspond otherwise by letters and postcards sent ordinary mail.
• Calling cards to let friends know days you would be home
• Homes with lace doilies, embroidered tablecloths, silver treasures and afternoon-tea with home-made cakes and scones served on special crockery
• OR a tougher time of life in the bush or regional farming areas with no electricity, phones, sewerage or hot water
• A few treasured photographs
• Autograph books and sketch books recording friendships
• Reading books

1914 – 1945
(This era spanned the two world wars and the depression in between. In those years my parents grandparents aged, my grandparents were young adults, my parents were born and grew to young adults)

• Travel mainly by steam train, bus or foot, some early cars
• Travel internationally by boat, later by air for those in military
• Correspond internationally with family by letters sent air-mail
• Correspond otherwise by letters, postcards, or telegrams if urgent
• Write by dipping a pen into an ink-pot
• Autograph books, Diaries, Birthday books
• Ladies wore brooches
• Electricity in houses but no hot water, phones, or TV. Wireless became popular.
• Pounds shillings and pence
• Elderly aunts and parents were financially supported and cared by family, not the state
• Not much in the way of unemployment or sickness benefits (my grandmother wrote about this in her letters and memoirs)

1946 – 1965
(my parents up to middle age, me – baby boomer – as a young child)
• Main travel by steam train, electric trains in Sydney
• International travel mainly by boat. Later some travel by air by ‘before-their-time’ aunties.
• Increasing use of cars, electricity in homes, hot water systems, sewerage, telephones, refrigerators, wringer washing machines, radio, B&W TVs, tape recorders
• Communicating by writing letters ‘back home’ or by those at home to those away.
• LP records
• Clocks you had to wind with a key. Watches you had to wind. Alarm clocks.
• Addressing unmarried ladies as “Miss”
• Pounds, shillings and pence
• Copying by carbon paper or by duplicating machines with that messy purple stuff
• Pen and ink-pot, then fountain pens, then ‘Biros’
• Knitting, crocheting, sewing, home-made clothes, boxes of buttons
• Girls and ladies wore dresses, hats and gloves
• Men wore white shirts and thin black ties, boys wore shorts
• Cut Chrystal vases
• Box Brownie cameras
• Slide nights
• Family get together with 24 cousins
• Community bonfires
• Community festivals, parades, and annual shows
• Scouts, Girl Guides, choir, sport and other community groups
• Libraries
• Scrabble, cards, dominos, cribbage, ludo, draughts, monopoly
• Grocery, other stores where you had to the counter and ask for what you want
• Supermarkets from about 1960 onwards
• Back yard vegetable gardens and chooks
• Home-made food including apple pie, trifle and custard
• Roast dinner every Sunday
• Fish and chips every Friday
• Chinese takeaway
• The ice-cream man delivering paddle pops and ice-cream in bricks
• 1/3 pint milk served every recess at school
• Milk, bread and papers delivered to the house
• Collectibles in packets of breakfast cereals

1966 – 1985
(generation X, me as a young adult to the birth of my first two children)
• Cheaper air-travel
• Diesel then electric then double-decker trains
• Two-car families
• Photocopiers
• Transistor radios, CD players
• Automatic washing machines
• Dollars and cents
• Calculators
• Movie theatres where only one movie would show at a time
• Drive-in theatres
• Colour TVs
• Cassette tape recorders
• Hand-held ‘computer’ games
• Instamatic cameras
• The first take-away food shops from 1970s onwards

Can you add to this list?


Image courtesy[SalvatoreVuono]:FreeDigitalPhotos.net