Boiled lollies and threepenny bits

Betty Richards is a vibrant 92-year-old. This Christmas, she will sit down to a lovely lunch with her adult children and grandchildren. But back in the 1930s, the special day was very different. She shares her memories.


When I was a child in the 1930s, on Christmas Day, Mum, Dad and I got up very early, dressed in our Sunday clothes and walked to the station, which was nigh on two miles away. We changed trains at Flinders Street in Melbourne CBD and then went on to Williamstown, where Mum’s family all congregated. Gran had nine children, so, with them and their spouses plus 14 grandchildren, it was a big party with lots of chatter.

I was an only child, so meeting up with my cousins was a big plus for me.

Although this was during the Depression, the adults always made sure each child received a present – it was either a book, perhaps a pair of socks and always a bag of boiled lollies.

We all looked forward to the Christmas pudding, which was Gran’s speciality, and it always had threepenny coins in it. Gran made sure the children always got one each. I think she made sure to tuck one in each serving before they were passed out.

If the adults got one, they handed it back to Gran who put it in a jar the shelf above the fireplace for the following year.

As it was school holidays, I stayed on with my grandparents for the whole time and enjoyed visits to the nearby beach with my cousins.

Gran never went shopping, so each morning she would give Grandad a list and off he and I would go. Gran never liked Grandad eating aniseed rings ,which he loved, so while we were out, he would buy them and share them with me, telling me not to tell Gran. It was our secret.

On Christmas Day itself we dressed in our Sunday clothes. Some poor children only had two dresses – one worn one day, washed the next and rotated.

I mostly had hand-me-downs from an older cousin. She was short and fat and I was tall and skinny, so even though it was before the time of minis I was in one!

I was never unhappy, even though we lacked material goods, as I knew I was loved by both my parents.

I lost my dad when I was 14. I still try to remember things I shared with him, but I’m now 92 and some memories are dimming.

Enjoy every day. Happy Christmas.

What are your memories of Christmases past? Were they much simpler than your celebrations today?

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