Way back when, Wednesdays

Out there on my own

International Women’s Day 8 March 2018

 

It’s the early 1970s. Imagine being thrown out onto the street by your family because you became pregnant – they no longer wanted you. You only had the clothes you were wearing and some loose change in your pocket. You were homeless and you had no way to support yourself. There was no Parenting Benefit in existence at this time.
In the edition dated 25 August 1971, the North East Leader, a Messenger Newspaper told one woman’s story, which highlighted the plight of young unmarried mothers. In a special report, made up of two articles on pages 1 and 3 the Leader sought to raise awareness of the financial issues, condemnation and social isolation single mothers experienced. A new South Australian organisation called ‘The Council for The Single Mother and Her Child’ could offer these girls help.

Unwed mothers

We have all heard the horror stories of young unmarried women being coerced or forced into giving up their babies for adoption during the 1960s. Children were also put in state run institutions such as orphanages. The Commonwealth Department of Social Services was created in 1939 and became fully operative in 1941. However, the Government did not introduce a supporting mother’s benefit for single mother’s pension until 1973. From 1942 in Australia, a single mother could only receive a small pension if she had been married and was widowed, deserted by her husband or divorced. You were also entitled to a benefit if you husband was in prison or a committed to a mental hospital, Seeing the lighter side, A history of the single parent pension in Australia.

“In 1973 supporting mother’s benefit was introduced for single mothers not entitled to widow’s pension. The new benefit was payable after a six-month waiting period, during which time the States remained responsible for the single mother’s income support under the Commonwealth-State cost-sharing arrangements introduced in 1968. The supporting mother’s benefit was extended in 1977 to single fathers, including widowers and divorcees, and renamed supporting parent’s benefit. The six-month waiting period for this benefit was abolished in 1980 when the States withdrew from the Commonwealth-State cost-sharing arrangements.”  Australian Bureau of Statistics

Unfortunately the Australian Bureau of Statistics does not hold data on the number of babies born in South Australia in 1971 but“1500 illegitimate births” does seem quite high for the population of South Australia. So you might think that having a baby ‘out of wedlock’ was not uncommon. However, Society viewed an unmarried pregnant women as having loose morals.

Birthright

A woman seemed to experience most of the shame, rather than the father of the child. It could also be difficult for the mother of an illegitimate child to find a man to marry her and adopt her child as their own. Living together in a de-facto relationship was socially unacceptable. Unless your family were willing to support you financially and emotionally, a single pregnant woman faced some tough choices.

Sometimes a girl’s parents would insist on a young couple getting married as quickly as possible before her pregnancy started to show – what is known as a ‘shotgun wedding’. This was an attempt to not only hide the unplanned pregnancy or at least regain some of the respect that their daughter had lost by getting pregnant. The girl’s boyfriend was basically threatened by her father and told to take responsibility for the baby! Adoption was a common choice. The girl was supposed to move on with her life, when in fact she would always be dealing with the loss of her child. It should be acknowleged that some  fathers also reluctantly lost their children to adoption.

Legal abortions were not readily available. Never an easy decision for the mother, abortion was legalised in South Australia in 1969. Abortion was only legal if performed in a hospital and it was deemed by two medical practitioners that continuing a pregnancy was detrimental to the physical and mental health of the mother or if there was a substantial risk that the child would be seriously physically or mentally handicapped if it was born, Abortion Law in Australia  Frightened women also sought out illegal abortions, putting themselves at risk of infection and death.

Some brave young women did decide to keep their babies. At least ‘The Council for The Single Mother and Her Child’ was in existence in South Australia to help supply them with baby clothing, and support with finding accommodation and employment. A single mother would have received a child endowment payment as the Commonwealth Government’s Child Endowment Act of 1941 had introduced the payment of weekly sums to mothers of children under the age of 16. But it would have been very almost impossible for a single woman to find somewhere to live with a baby and no other income. Day care centres and government subsidised childcare are a modern invention. A woman would have had to leave her child with relatives and friends or pay somebody she knew to look after them while she was at work.

Note also the small article printed on page 3 about the organisation ‘Birthright’ which was trying to establish a branch in Tea Tree Gully to assist widows and their children. Living on a widow’s pension was not easy either.

Most sole parent families still live on low incomes and those on Centrelink payments face a high risk of poverty. “Unemployment among sole parents is generally about twice the rate across the whole workforce. The reasons for this include their responsibility for caring for a child alone, together with low educational qualifications and the need to live in areas where rents are low but jobs are scarce (such as public housing estates). Many of those who do have a job are vulnerable to unemployment because they work in casual and part time jobs.” Fact sheet: sole parent payments

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Way back when, Wednesdays

The fast and the far-fetched

Every now and then, the Adelaide media report on some unfortunate car driver who has misinterpreted road signs, taken the wrong lane and become stranded on the tracks of the O-Bahn busway at Hackney Road. If you drive a regular vehicle onto the O-Bahn tracks instead of a specially modified bus, a car pit mechanism situated just before the Hackney Road tunnel will tear out the oil pan on the underside of your car’s engine.

On the front page of the edition dated 12 July 1989, the Leader Messenger reported on a somewhat eccentric plan for the Sunday preceding the Australian Formula One Grand Prix. Formula Holden racing cars and even a Formula One racing car would drive down the O-Bahn tracks to the Paradise Interchange, then travel on the road to their destination at Tea Tree Gully. Not only would this event promote the car race and the busway, it would bring out local residents and tourists to the City of Tea Tree Gully.

Formula OBahn

Aside from having to lift the racing cars onto the tracks by crane to avoid the pit mechanism, there are some obvious flaws in this plan. Saloon cars and especially a Formula One racing cars are incredibly expensive to manufacture. Each Formula One car is worth approximately $2.6 million in material costs. The engine of a Formula One racing car is an example of engineering excellence. A steering wheel alone can cost up to $50,000 (http://autoweek.com/article/formula-one/why-do-formula-one-grand-prix-cars-cost-so-much). It is highly unlikely that the Grand Prix Office and Holden would risk damaging these precision vehicles for such an exercise. Would the width of these cars’ axels and the wheels even be the same as the span of the O-Bahn tracks?

There is no indication in the article of who devised this plan but as the saying goes, somebody thought that it like a good idea at the time. A week later on 19 July 1989, the Leader Messenger reported on page 1 that the State Government had vetoed racing cars driving on the tracks for safety reasons. Transport Minister Frank Blevin stated that racing cars driving on the tracks would be dangerous for O-Bahn commuters and “put ideas in other people’s minds.”

Grand Prix cars

If you did not experience the Grand Prix it began in November 1985 when Adelaide hosted the last race of the Formula One championship season. This was the time before the Adelaide Fringe, Womadelaide and the Clipsal 500. The Formula One race showed that Adelaide could stage a world class event. Over 200,000 spectators attended the four-day event.

The atmosphere in the city was exciting and you could easily hear the roar of the car engines (I remember my fellow Adelaide Uni students imitating the noise for fun). There were tourists visiting from interstate and overseas. The slogan ‘Adelaide Alive’ was used on promotional materials and merchandise. There were flags flying and posters promoting the race were displayed everywhere in the city centre.

Adelaide Alive

At the glamourous Grand Prix Ball, fans paid $400 for a ticket to dress up and mix with drivers and pit crew, while being entertained by Australian and international artists. Ordinary people held their own grand prix themed barbeques or parties while watching the action on television.

The colourful yet challenging street circuit ran through the east parklands and Victoria Park Racecourse. The racing drivers praised the street circuit. Their cars could reach high speeds of over 322 km/h along the fast wide straights and they needed all their skill to maneuver around the twisting turns of the hairpin and chicane.

During the era of the Formula One Grand Prix, Adelaide was privileged to watch drivers from all many different countries compete, such as Keke Rosberg, Michael Schumacher, Nigel Mansell, Nelson Piquet, Damon Hill. Spectators experienced the rivalry between speed demon Ayrton Senna and the tenacious Alain Prost. Many people had little prior knowledge of Formula One before the race was held here but it did not matter as you soon became familiar with the various car manufacturers and racing champions.

Adelaide continued to hold the Formula One Race until 1995. In 1996 the race moved location to a circuit in Albert Park Melbourne, following negotiations between the Head of the Formula One Constructors Association, Bernie Ecclestone and the Victorian government.

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Way back when, Wednesdays

You spin me round

Hills Hoist at Myer.png

On page 18 of the edition date 18 July 1973, The Leader Messenger advertised a sales promotion for the Hills Hoist at Myer in its feature Tea Tree Plaza News.  Did you know that not only was the Hills Hoist a revolutionary invention but that it was created in Adelaide?

When her washing kept falling off a propped up clothes line, motor mechanic Lance Hill created the first ‘Hill’s Hoist’ for his wife. He built it in the back yard of his home on Bevington Road, Glenunga in 1945.  Mr Hills was not the first person to come up with the idea of a rotary clothesline.  Gilbert Toyne of Geelong had patented four rotary clothes hoists designs between 1911 and 1946.  In 1925 Toyne had designed a rotary hoist with and enclosed crown and a wheel and pinyon winding mechanism.

On Lance Hill’s original structure metal ribs spread out from a central steel pole. He strung rust-proof wire between the ribs, on which the clothes could hang. Lance Hill invented a way to raise and lower the height of the hoist and he attached a handle to make this happen. You could hang the washing on the lines with the hoist set to your height, then wind it up higher. Combined with the rotating square structure, this feature allows your washing to dry more effectively in the wind.  His design was so successful that Hill’s neighbours started putting in orders and he happily manufactured the hoists from scrap metal in his shed workshop.

In 1946 Lance Hill and his brother-in-law, Harold Ling, established the Hills business in Glen Osmond.  They bought some army surplus trucks to make deliveries. Lance and Harold opened a factory at Edwardstown to manufacture steel tubing in order to create a quality product at a reasonable price. Demand was high, even though the hoist sold for 11 pounds, which in 1948 was twice the weekly wage. Hills then expanded its operation to include the manufacture of other laundry products. Lance Hill was awarded a patent for his Hills Hoist in 1956. Renamed Hills Industries in 1958, the company exports its range of clothes lines around the world. The Hills Hoist is listed as a National Treasure by the National Library of Australia.

In recent times, with the rise in construction of medium density housing in Adelaide, such as townhouses, there is usually only room for a pull-out clothes line. Let’s hope that we will continue to see the Hills Hoist as an iconic fixture in the Australian back yard.

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