Ian and Blanche

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3.1.5 Relations and Friends

Ian and Blanche maintained close ties with the Gittins family. Throughout the 30s they attended a family get-together at the old Gittins house almost every Sunday.John, Maud and Charlie, about 1942

Blanche’s sister, Ethel Miniter, was another regular attendee. Despite her dwarfism—she stood about 3’10"—Ethel always seemed to be in a good humor. She even claimed advantages in her short stature, explaining her success in croquet—a game she played well—by saying that her necessarily compact swing left little margin for error.

Ian and his brothers-in-law indulged their shared interests in fishing or hunting, for example going after perch in the stretch of the Gordon River near the Schleuter farm or taking shotguns after the wild duck that flocked to the salt lakes near the Gittins house. Only Mick Miniter declined field sports, preferring a quiet read of "The Bulletin."71 

In the late 30s, Ian and Blanche and John, Maud and Charlie Gittins started taking joint annual vacations, renting the cottages belonging to Bert Box in Emu Point, near Albany. The cottages were located at the right center of the photo, a view from above Oyster Harbour. For Ian and his brothers-in-law the big attractions were fishing for whiting in Oyster Harbour and for bream in the clear waters of the King and Kalgan rivers flowing into it.

Emu Point, as it looks todayAt first the fishermen’s pleasure in the river was spoilt by an annoying problem: their hooks often got caught between the rocks of the shallow riverbed, and they wasted a lot of time trying to retrieve their tackle But Ian found a neat solution. Instead of simply throwing back any undersized fish, he corralled them in a holding pool. Then, when a hook happened to get stuck, he threaded the other end of the line through the gills of one of the little fish and tossed the fish into the river, where it was constrained to swim to the fouled end to release the hook.

In the 40s the pub72  became a particularly convivial social center in Tambellup, and in that setting Ian got to know people with backgrounds different from his own. One contact of this sort led to a lifelong friendship between Ian and Blanche and Tom and Joan Alford.

At Happy Days, a tea garden near Albany, about 1944. Blanche, Joan, Tom and IanIt would be hard to imagine two Australian couples more dissimilar. Tom was not a farmer but a railway ganger, a work-crew supervisor responsible for the maintenance of a stretch of the line near Tambellup. Unlike Ian, Tom was a risk-taker. While fishing off the rugged south coast of WA, he scoffed at the ubiquitous warning signs KILL WAVES KILL, even after he narrowly escaped death when a wave swept over the rocky ledge he’d been fishing from moments earlier. Joan also lacked any background in farming, but the contrast with Blanche did not end there. Unlike Blanche’s flat, gritty style of speech, Joan’s was low-pitched and melodious. While Blanche habitually stood with her feet firmly planted as if to withstand a sudden windstorm, Joan posed with one knee bent to show off her svelte figure. Perhaps the biggest difference between them was that Joan was a devout Roman Catholic, a faith that Blanche privately considered "tommy-rot," observed by "a lot of blooming silly mumbo-jumbo." Despite these differences, however, the two couples enjoyed each other’s company and in the early 40s they came to share family vacation trips to Emu Point.


Continue reading: 3.1.6 The War Years


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

3.1 Weathering the Depression (1929-1945)

3.1.4 Chronicals of the 30s

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3.1.5 Relations and Friends

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3.1.6 The War Years


Footnotes:
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71. Australia’s leading political and literary publication.

72. At that time under the management of Mr. and Mrs. Colin Smith.