My grandmother, Marjorie Park was born in 1905, the sixth of seven children born to Anna Morley (nee Weinert) and her husband Edward Morley. When Marjorie died in 1960 aged 55, her sisters, my great-aunts, Elsie and Vera, stepped into her role somewhat. (Stepping into various roles was not an unusual thing to do in this family but I will keep those stories for another time). Both our parents worked during the week and on many weekends they spent working for Aunty Chris and Uncle Joe in their catering business. Consequently, my sister and I spent quite a bit of time with our great-aunts during our childhood. At one time living with them for several months when our parents separated.
I recall feeling quite bored sometimes especially as I got older. However, for the most part, it was good to visit and the dear great-aunts were always pleased to see us. It was such an integral part of our lives that we didn’t give it a lot of thought. We just went to Aunty Elsie’s and Aunty Vera’s house.
Elsie Morley was born in 1896, which we thought was pretty amazing. Fancy being born in another century! (Now my grandchildren marvel that their grandparents were born last century!) Vera Morley was born in 1907. The sisters had always lived together. Their early years were spent in Stafford Street, East Brisbane. By about 1914, though, Anna and Edward Morley had decided that their large family would move to Kangaroo Point. So, Anna, a very strong and capable woman, purchased the piece of land at 40 Connor Street Kangaroo Point and organised for the building of the house which still stands today. I have no photos of the Stafford Street property as it was always referred to as ‘Stafford Street’, with no street number.
Aunty Elsie was clever and wanted to be a teacher but it was the early 1900s and her father would not allow it as it meant she would have had to do her ‘Western Service’, as it was known. That is, after finishing her teaching course, she would have to teach in a country school for at least a year before returning to teach at a city school. That was just not going to happen. So, Elsie eventually joined the General Post Office (GPO) in Brisbane where she stayed for 46 years commencing in 1915 when she was 18 years old. Elsie was able to progress through the ranks at the GPO as she never married. Women who married had to leave the Public Service. This law was in place until 1966 when the ‘marriage bar’ was lifted. Elsie received the Imperial Service Medal for her services to the GPO and a letter from the Queen congratulating her on her long and loyal service.
In her younger days, Aunty Vera worked as a factory assistant and later a sales assistant in a jewellery store. However, as it often was during those times, she never married and for most of her life she cared for others when they were sick and/or aged. She cared for her father, her brother, her aunt, her mother and later, her sister Elsie. To supplement her funds, Vera took in ironing and went out to clean other people’s houses. She was an expert ironer and was much in demand for her meticulous work. She was also a great cook, and unnecessarily critical of her cooking. Even now, when I complain about a dish that hasn’t quite worked out the way I would want, my family call me “Aunty Vera”. A wonderful, selfless woman, but at the end of her life, sadly, there was no one left to care for her. She passed away in a nursing home. Rather ironic, really.
However, I digress. I want to talk about playing cards in the House of Cards, at 40 Connor Street. This activity was paramount to our visits to the great-aunts. They did not have a television until the 1980s. They just never saw any reason to have one. Their only concession to the ‘modern world’, was the radio. I remember not being too impressed with their choice of radio station, especially as I grew older. So, without playing cards there would have been many very long evenings (except for books) – I loved to read then, as now. But, it was the cards. Elsie, especially, played cards throughout her life. From memory she played Whist, Bridge, Poker, Cribbage, Canasta, Euchre, 500 and on and on. I think, too, it was what people did before movies, radio, television and all the other devices of the present day. I think the world may have been a little quieter. Although, probably not. The noises would have just been different.
Playing cards was fun but we had to play cards strictly by the rules. There were no concessions given for youth. If you played cards, it had to be correctly. If we deigned to touch the cards before they were all dealt, Aunty Elsie would say, “you would be kicked out of the poker school if you did that”. Really? Funnily enough, I use those same words with my grandchildren today because Aunty Elsie was right. If you are going to play, it better be correctly.
Cards have pervaded my life. Not only did we play at the Aunties but also during my childhood family holidays. Later, when we went on holidays with our children, we tried to keep the television to a minimum. When we weren’t at the beach, we were often playing cards. Any game would do, from Old Maid, Snap (Grab) and Go Fish when they were younger to Euchre, 500 and Poker as the children grew older. We also played Patience or Solitaire in various forms when there was no one to play with. I have to admit, even now I play different forms of Solitaire on my various devices.
Now, we play cards with our grandchildren whether on caravan holidays or on their visits to our house. The card games have changed slightly, as we now play Uno and Skip Bo. Although Snap and Go Fish get a pretty good run as well. My son has taught his nine year old daughter to play Euchre which she has mastered and is about to move on to 500. My husband played a lot of cards during his working life too. He worked in telecommunications and so was on the road much of the time. He is a very good card player and unlike me, has a poker face. I think all the grandchildren take after me – no poker faces there either.
So, through the generations, cards have played a significant role in the recreational activities of our family. We have always derived a lot pleasure from our card playing and have many great memories of times shared together. Thankfully this tradition is continuing with the youngest generation and maybe, just maybe the next generation will have as much fun as we have had over the years… playing cards.
Have you had similar experiences with a House of Cards? I would love to hear about them. Once again, thanks for reading!