Ian and Blanche

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3.2.4 Neighbors

Moree, about 1948. Daisy, Ethel, Mae, Gwyneth and ErnieLike Alexander and Sarah, Ernie and Daisy Fairweather came from Victoria to find prosperity in the 20s on good land near Tambellup. Unlike the McRaes, however, the Fairweathers did not throw away their money on extravagant vacations. Instead, they put their profits back into their farm, "Moree," and by the end of the decade they were in a position to ride out the depression in comfort and financial security. Posed with his thumb hooked in the armhole of the waistcoat he wore summer and winter with a gold watch chain looped across the front, taking delicate little puffs at his curved-stem briar, Ernie was the very picture of the well-to-do country gentleman.

Unfortunately, Ernie and Daisy allowed their success to confirm them in a narrow and self-centered view of the world, and they inculcated their beliefs in their three children. Betty, Jack and Les grew up in the belief that it was wrong to leave the farm except on urgent business, and in particular marriage was out of the question. "They’re only after your money"—they were told that so often and from such an early age they came to believe it. If confronted with a contrary fact or opinion, the Fairweathers invariably respond with an airily dismissive "Poof!" followed by a falsetto whinny—BI-HI-HI-HI-HI!

Ian and Blanche had characteristically different reactions to the Fairweathers. Ian was nettled by Ernie’s complacency, and was for ever trying, unsuccessfully, to deflate it—as for example in a discussion of ping-pong. "Ping-pong," opined Ernie with a an upward-projected puff of pipe smoke, "is a game for weaklings." Not, he seemed to imply, for strong men such as Jack, Les and himself. "Oh yeah?" Ian responded with some heat, "What about Jack Dempsey?91  Jack Dempsey plays ping-pong!" To which Ernie riposted, "Jack Dempsey? Poof! BI-HI-HI-HI-HI!" Thus went yet another round of debate to Ernie.

Blanche’s feelings went out to the Fairweather children, whom she saw as virtual slaves to the farm. She was scornful of Daisy and Ernie for exploiting them, turning them into "real country bumpkins" and "hayseeds." But this didn’t stop her from getting an occasional smile out of the Fairweathers’ oddities. One such oddity was their eagerness to let it be known they were on a first-name basis with very important people such as Katanning bank managers, "bigwigs" as they called them. One day Ernie happened by just after Blanche had heard on the radio a report of the death of one of her favorite singers. As she handed Ernie a cup of tea Blanche said "Richard Tauber just died." Ernie, not having the faintest idea who Richard Tauber might be but thinking perhaps he was a bigwig, replied "Tch! Poor old Dick!"

On one occasion, however, the Fairweathers’ unusual view on life served them handsomely. As Blanche put it, "I laughed at Mrs. Fairweather, but in the end I laughed on the other side of my face."

Daisy mentioned that she and Jack, planning to take the train to Melbourne, were taking the precaution of packing in their luggage a couple of demijohns of rainwater. "Rainwater?" Blanche asked. "Yes, dear, rainwater," said Daisy, and went on to explain that any other water, such as the water they have on the train, is liable to contain "wogs". The outcome was that, somewhere between Kalgoorlie and Adelaide, the train broke down totally and stood baking in the desert sun for a day or so before the relief train arrived. Soon everyone was suffering a shortage of water—or almost everyone. "Yes, Blanche," said Daisy, "it was such a blessing that we’d had the foresight to take along a little bit of our good safe water to drink. And Jack even had enough to shave!"


Continue reading: 3.3 Riding the Wave (1946-1975)


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3. Ian and Blanche (1929-1975) Blanche (-1988)

3.2 Vignettes of Life on Gilella

3.2.3 Farm Routines

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3.3 Riding the Wave (1946-1975)


Footnotes:
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91. World heavyweight boxing champion.