Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Dame Mary Gilmore and Book Week 1947

Illustration for "Dogs" by YLLA. 
Literary legend Dame Mary Gilmore visited Wagga Wagga for book week in 1947. She was the Celebrity guest at many of the events she attended during the week long celebration, including such diverse entertainments as a civic reception, opening a flower show, guest spots on the local radio, listening to recitations from the Shakespeare Club, and visiting schools (including her old school at Brucedale).
Dame Mary visited the Wagga Free Library on Tuesday 21 October 1947, at 10.30am. Partaking in a morning tea, she commented that the library had a "harmoniously dignified appearance" , that "the books are well arranged, and there is a good selection of reading."
Book week was a big community event in the 1940s and 1950s. Competitions included book review essays, poetry, dolls in character costumes, illustrations for nursery rhymes, and bookmarks. Dame Mary distributed the prizes at a gala event held at the Plaza theatre, also attended by the Mayoress, Mrs Barrand, and the City Librarian Miss Jean Hay.
Illustration for "Golden Path Adventure" by Mary Gervase.
All these events and their significance show how valued books and reading were within the community. Dame Mary's presence added importance and literary glamour to the week long festival in a very Australian way- though interestingly most of the essays written by Wagga school children were reviews of English and American books. It was a fun and exciting way of involving the whole community in a celebration of what is really a solitary pursuit, and would have been a welcome diversion so soon after the end of the second world war.
Book Week is still celebrated and this week the Wagga City Library has posters from previous book weeks on display downstairs near the large print. These posters from the fifties and sixties are works of art - come in and relive your childhood love of reading and books !

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Leonard Bootes - Drover

A few weeks ago I met Boyce Bootes, the son of Leonard Bootes , the drover in the photograph of 11 June . Boyce came into the library to share his memories and experiences and brought with him some of the photographs he had from his childhood.
Boyce learnt to ride early - frequently thrown but never with any broken bones. He clearly remembers going droving with his family - during school terms he would wait for the holidays then join his family by either train (if the mob had passed Tumut) or the mail car (to Tumut) .
Boyce's most memorable droving journey as a child was when they moved a very large mob of sheep - there were 30 horses , Boyce's six brothers, his mother as cook, and six extra paid drovers.
The wagon in the photograph was literally their house. They carried cooking implements, and there was a dog box under the cart - which was partitioned off to carry up to six dogs, depending on the amount of stock.
Food on a droving trip was a major concern. Mrs Bootes would cook stews and chops, and cakes called "brownies" which were a lot like fruit cake. They also bought vegetables along the way, and took some with them, pumpkin and carrots and potatoes. Whenever they took a mob they also arranged with the owner how many they could kill along the way for meat.
The dogs had shoes for summer and winter if they got sore feet - but according to Boyce summer was worse for damage to the dogs feet.
Len Bootes lived in San Isidore in later years, and kept his droving kit, mostly droving sheep, because he felt the cattle were too hard on the horses. Later on he bought a caravan and ute, and kept droving until retirement when both Leonard and his wife were in their sixties.
It was a real privilege to listen to Boyce talking about his experiences. Having that background information made the story behind the people and animals in photograph very real and moving.