Peter Leith continues his series about Vanishing Australia, with this ‘lesson’ about the glory box.
In 1948 Adelaide, older women were likely to ask girls as young as 17, “Have you started your glory box yet? How are you going with it?”
At that time, I was still a newcomer to Australia and asked for an explanation from the mature-aged woman who ran the typing pool at work.
She patiently explained that the glory box was where young women accumulated the items they would require when they married. Being a brash and callow youth, I jumped in with, “Oh, a trousseau chest?” Her instant response was, “What’s a trousseau chest?”
When I explained, I was very promptly ‘put right’ and told that the purpose of a glory box was to accumulate and store household necessities such as towels, tablecloths, tea towels and a set of ‘good’ saucepans. It was made very clear to me that there was nothing frivolous or sexy about the contents of the archetypal glory box.
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Having apologised for my ignorance, I hastened to explain that the trousseau chest, as I understood it, also contained essential household linen as well as a girl’s best underwear, frilly nighties and ‘that sort of thing’.
I was then told that ‘that sort of thing’ belongs in the bottom drawer not in the glory box!
A chastened but much wiser young man, I hastily updated my Australian-English dictionary to record, for all time, the critical difference between the glory box and ‘the bottom drawer’.
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I was later to discover that the glory box could, and should, contain kitchen and cooking utensils and even an electric mixer.
This exchange took place more than 70 years ago and sharpened, for all time, my awareness of the ambivalent nature of Australian womanhood.
Has the tradition of the glory box become ancient history? Did you or your partner have a glory box?
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