Posts Tagged ‘Korea’

The Frugals have gone.

April 18, 2018

Image result for Early wooden barrel Westinghouse washing machines

Our washing machine in Australia.

 

Do people still know anyone who is frugal? History tells us that in the past it was normal to be frugal. The Frugals wore clothes till they worn out and kept the best for church or funerals. They darned socks. Does anyone still darn today? A needle with woollen thread was used till the hole went. You don’t throw stuff away because it has a hole, or because it becomes unfashionable. The frugal gene in Australia really became embedded after WW 1 followed by the great depression of the late twenties/ thirties. Generations of frugals would switch off lights not because of saving the environment or global heating but because it saved money. The best way to survive was to become a frugal.

The period during and after WW1 meant the decimation of many Australian males which left an almost doubling of young females keen to find husbands. However, to add to the misery of male shortages it was also rare for females to work, and earn an income. Females just did not work on payable jobs but slogged away at home on the scrubbing board and darning socks.  I know this because that’s what was done in my family, although we, even while still in Holland, managed to have an electric washing machine; an early Westinghouse. That was in the early fifties, when economies started to grow and blossom, making people better off. This electric monster of a washing machine with its oak steel-hooped drum was shipped over to Australia after Mum and Dad decided to migrate there. It was admired in the whole street and worked ceaselessly for many years. It was another proof of sensibility and ardent frugality.

It was perhaps the Korean war and after the Vietnam war that the frugals were starting to loose their grip on domestic frugality. The expenditure on useless consumer gadgets started to raise its ugly head. This was followed by ‘easy terms’. Everything was obtainable through easy terms. It thoroughly corrupted my Mum who foolishly bought a Sunbeam electric frying pan on ‘easy terms.’ Dad followed with buying a B/W TV for an enormous amount of money to be paid over three years. Can you believe it?

Even so, frugality somehow survived. It was the hippy movement with Hair that desperately tried to hang on sensible frugal living with the urge to resist mindless consumerism, but that was overcome by Governments and the invention of huge public hoardings, urging us to buy Instant Coffee with 43 beans or Lovable Bras that could ‘lift and separate’,  nurturing spending, and corrupting us in the belief that the endless buying of things just for the sake of buying was good enough and gave lots of Happy to the chagrined.

All this of course is what happens today. During the previous epoch of frugality, houses, kitchen and bathrooms were not seen as items to be updated. Appliances would last forever. Now, the last of the Frugals, look on in amazement, and disbelief  how the baby boomers hurl themselves into four wheel drives and build monster MacMansions. Do they really come from the same gene pool. How did this happen?

The surplus of women after WW1 meant that those that missed out snaring a hubby, started the frugal movement with many sharing meagre incomes and bitter loneliness by living together, mostly in a non-sexual way.

However, as always the pendulum swung the other way with the arrival of tens of thousands of single men enticed by gloriously coloured Australian Governmental advertisements to work the mines in Australia in the forties till the sixties. Many of those from Europe still enjoyed rock solid and well entrenched frugal genes instilled too by same wars and economic depressions. My parents,  even though Dad did not have blond or blue features nor single, did have a knack for the butter to be spread thinly and for his children to always switch off the lights leaving the room.  We worked ‘over-time’. Over-time paid ‘time and a half’, Sundays paid double. I liked working on Sundays. Mum would be most generous in her Papal dispensational discourse for us not having to go to the obligatory Sunday church and earn double instead. We saved to white knuckled bones and pooled our moneys. It was enough to get into our own home within two years. Proof of frugality that paid off.

There you have it. Since WW1 and within, at best three generations, frugality now has swung to rampant consumerism throwing all caution to the wind. To the present generation, darning socks and the Singer sewing machine, they are relics many would not know about, nor the delights of unknitting an old jumper and re-knitting the wool into a pair of slippers. All gone.

The young and good consumers complain how difficult it is to get into the housing market. Yet, they feel it a normal right not to go without what they regard as essential; the café breakfast with avocados, the overseas holiday, the latest Apple iPhone. I have yet to see a young girl on the train with threadbare jeans sewing them up or knitting.  Where are the young knitters to save for a house?

The last of the Frugals are now shuffling into retirement homes. Some brave souls you see driving around, all bald, knock kneed or grey, having hitched a caravan to the SUV, travelling around Australia, whooping it up, perhaps for their very first time.

I remain amazed.

Only the lonely

February 8, 2017

 

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But where are the people? This was very often a question asked during the time we had foreign students living with us. We lived in Balmain. It is a suburb which many Australians would classify as having medium to high density living. We always look back with fondness of the twenty years we lived there. It is the place where our children grew up. So, how come this question; but where are the people?

The foreign students came from Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Germany with a couple from Holland. The question has to be looked at from the perspective of living in cities. Australia right from the start understood it had space.  Space was lacking in England, especially in the big smoked filled cities. Thus the suburban block here was soon to be seen as desirable for people to be housed on. At the beginning, people lived in terrace houses joined together forming complete streets. Balmain was one of those earlier suburbs of Sydney with streets of terrace houses. Parks were everywhere and it still felt very spacious.

However, the foreign students came from cities that were teeming with people. They would form throngs on the streets. I am sure that those that have been to Asia understand there is a huge difference between density of people there in cities compared to here in Australia. It were those people on the streets that the students were sorely missing, even in inner city Balmain.

My parents soon after arrival in 1956 went to live in western Sydney. Real Estate agents and blocks of land were the main topics of conversation amongst the migrants.  We too were swept up into saving a deposit for our ‘own’ block of land.  There was no real understanding of the social consequences in making a choice of where to live.  To be near a rail-station was desirable but as for other desirable needs, it just wasn’t about or questioned. Migrants had a need to have a roof and security of an income, all else was secondary. It was like a fever. One got caught up in the frenzy of making a new life. It was all a bit puzzling for my dad. He was different.

The street that my parents ended up living in was like millions of suburban streets anywhere in Australia. There were people living in houses but you would rarely see them. It felt achingly lonely. Sometimes a curtain would stir or a car would drive by. For me it was deadly, spiritual dehydration. Sure, the petunias and rockeries were plenty. Rosellas would be screeching and flying about and then there was cracker night. This was a yearly event with bon-fire on the street, somehow mysteriously related to Guy Fawkes or something. It was an occasion for neighbours to meet up. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guy_Fawkes

All this in response to having read a lecture by Hugh MacKay. He is a well know social commentator. “The State of the Nation starts in your Street.”

http://theconversation.com/hugh-mackay-the-state-of-the-nation-starts-in-your-street-72264

It seems to fit in what is happening with all that card swiping and waving at poles. We are forced to dealing with less and less people. Banking is done silently in front of an ATM. People buy food on-line and sit at home all sated and possibly overweight. The steel posts at rail stations. Most work will finally be done by  steel posts and robots. Soon we might go to bed enjoying the icy embrace of a steel post or with a rotating robot with a waving of cards giving consent to heaven knows what sexual delights

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I don’t know what can be done to liven up lonely suburban streets. My mum did her best and was fearless in her search for social contact. It was difficult. All those Venetian blinds and that obsession with privacy. A sign of change is that most people now prefer an apartment close to the city. People do seem to want to live close to each other, able to walk to shops and work. People need people.

We shall see!