Review Blog

Sep 04 2014

Our fathers edited by Judy Macpherson Kent and Andrew Collett

cover image

Wakefield Press, 2014. ISBN 9781743053133.
Recommended. Fatherhood. Family history. South Australia's social history. Work in Australia (post War focus). World War II. Suburban life. A school reunion led to the reflections of a collection of former Linden Park Primary students about their fathers. This could have been a somewhat self-indulgent collection of anecdotes; instead it is an amazing look into post-war life in Adelaide when the homes in the inner leafy eastern suburbs around Linden Park were being built and settled by hard-working and 'ordinary' Australian families. The jigsaw puzzle insight into war experiences (as shared with their families) and the impact of the early experiences of these fathers and then their own relationships with their children (born mostly in 1950) slowly reveals a broader picture of social life. I delighted in seeing glimpses of the changes in work and social expectations and the make-do attitudes of those who were rearing children during the 1950's. Children of today will have their own stories to tell of social change through their childhood, but this book shares snapshots through the lens of those who lived this period of South Australian growth and change. I loved revisiting the period when children played freely in their neighbourhoods with classmates, climbing trees, exploring mines and bushland without an adult in sight; riding billycarts and bikes without helmets; being taught to drive by their fathers on dirt roads, and fixing cars in the back yard and going to Rowley Park Speedway; and being delighted with the occasional simple treat from a hard-working man who was often a self-made expert in new technologies. All of this with the rule to be home by 6pm for tea!
This is unapologetically a book about fathers, some of them born overseas, and the war experiences of many of these men adds a wider global history. The silence of some in sharing their own war history speaks loudly of the personal cost of participation in conflict. As the introduction suggests there could equally be a book to follow about the mothers. Obviously a book of this nature is always fraught with the difficulties of distorted memories, however they are our South Australian memories, and it is not told as a history, but as an insight into the ordinary lives of ordinary heroes.
(Note: School students may not connect with this book as a whole, but the individual stories could be used by students of History to connect with South Australia's past.)
Carolyn Hull

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