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Memories of Harry & Annie Wynn (nee Mills)

By Wendy Hooper nee Sherwood

The house where my maternal grandparents Harry and Annie (nee Mills) Wynn lived no longer stands. It was demolished to make way for a medium density housing development. It had been a Federation style weatherboard home situated on the top of a hill in Greenacre Road South Hurstville. The original number of the house was 63 but this changed to 81 with the sale of a dairy and subsequent sub-division. The house displayed its name in a glass case black and gold letters, on a white background ‘Hillcrest’. The land on which the house stood was large and the house itself occupied only half of the frontage. Remarkably in the back yard was an air raid shelter with duck-boards on the floor and bench seats on either side of the low and narrow doorway. My first memories of visiting the house were during the Second World War. I have no idea whether my grandparents had the shelter constructed or if it had been a whim of a previous owner. I cannot imagine anyone anticipating the need for such protection prior to WW2.
There was a small narrow room at one side of the house, which served as my grandma’s sewing room. She was a trained dressmaker and I believe took in sewing to supplement the family income. She also sewed for the church fetes and repaired linen for the local hospital. One of my earliest childhood memories is of sitting with my grandmother in this room one night and watching search lights in the sky. The windows themselves had panes of coloured opaque glass in each corner and I was intrigued by the play of light on these panes. The formal living room of the house was seldom used. It contained a dining suite, heavy and highly polished, and a Pianola, which I was instructed not to touch. On the mantle shelf above the fire place stood a clock and a pair of delicate figurines of a shepherd and shepherdess, which are to-day in my possession. The house had two bedrooms and across the back was a long narrow room called the ‘breakfast room’ with furniture for casual eating and dining, and a ‘wireless’. The only music that I can recall hearing in this house was ‘Gilbert and Sullivan’ and occasionally if my Auntie Marg. and Uncle Bob (Mc Kimm) were visiting, the player piano was pumped into action.
In the back garden of the house stood a substantial shed in which my grandfather kept his tools of the trade. I remember his beautifully soft, meticulously clean paint brushes with which Grandpa would sometimes tickle me on the face. The shed smelled pleasantly of linseed oil and turps. In this shed Grandpa once fashioned me a fishing rod. In the water barrel, which stood under a drain pipe beside the shed he floated a number of leaves, ‘fish’ for me to catch. I can’t recall having any toys at this house. Once I picked a small bunch of flowers to present to Grandma. She was not pleased and I was reprimanded for picking the flowers without permission. I don’t think that Grandma liked children very much. She did however love her husband. She once took me to where Grandpa worked as a painter and decorator. Even at my young age, I could tell by her smile how happy she was to see him.
Grandpa Wynn worked at Anthony Hordens Department store, which sold everything from fossicking equipment to high fashion. Its motto was ‘while I live I grow’ and its emblem an oak tree which grew on ‘Razor Back Mountain’ a rural area south west of Sydney.
I was not quite 6 when Grandpa Wynn died. I remember visiting him at his home towards the end of his life. I was keen to hug him. This was deemed inappropriate and I was bustled out of the room. He died at ‘The Home of Peace’ hospice. My mother who was expecting my sister at the time was distraught. She loved her father. He was a gentle well -mannered man, always neatly dressed even when working.
Grandma had never seemed to have had a happy disposition which, of course did not improve with the death of Harry. She took in a boarder, a young man school teacher. During one of my visits to Grandma I attended the primary school where this man taught for I seem to recall about two weeks. My visits to my maternal Grandmother were infrequent and cut short by my attacks of ‘homesickness’.
Grandma never spoke to me about the families which she and Harry had left to come to Australia. In adult conversations I do recall mention being made of
Ted (her brother Edward) Louie (her sister Louise) and Jesse (her brother James Jesse). My mother Trix (Christine) Sherwood was in contact with her cousin Jesse’s son George. George used to post back copies of ‘The Times ’to us in Sydney, most of these remained unrolled and fed into the fuel copper on washing days. George’s attempt to educate the colonial cousins were, I guess not appreciated. My brother Peter continued contact with George from the 1960’s when he lived in England. They entered into an ill fated business venture together. Peter has remained in contact with George’s widow and children. Ann Mills, Vivien Graville, Michael and Sean.
I often wonder whether my Grandma’s seeming unhappiness was a result of depression, which seems to have afflicted other family members, or if she had never adjusted to leaving her family of origin and country of birth.
Her death from breast cancer was prolonged. Whilst visiting her in hospital a Doctor told my mother that Annie was a brave lady who had agreed to experimental treatment which hadn’t helped her but might help future suffers.
She died at the ‘Home of Peace’ where Harry had died ten years previously. It was just before Christmas and a group of carol singers were singing in the hospice gardens. I like to think that she died whilst listening to the carols.

Wendy Hooper
January 2009

Owner/SourceWendy Hooper
Linked toFamily: WYNN/MILLS (F000154)

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