In 1920 – the dark ages – on the 20th May, my mother Maisie came into the world. The fifth child of May and Bill, she was christened and registered as Mavis but was called Maisie all her life.
Born three months premature, at home, and attended by a midwife, she weighed exactly one pound or 450 grams, suffered a lack of oxygen, wasn’t breathing and had to be resuscitated. There was no humidic-rib or other special equipment and as she was too small to be handled, she spent the first three months of her life at home on a small cushion, being fed diluted condensed milk with an eye dropper. And she survived. What a miracle!
My grandfather, Bill Putsey, was a wood, coal and coke merchant. All his children, Harold, Amy, Maisie and Jack, worked in the business, shovelling coal and coke into bags for sale to the local people. Everybody had fuel stoves in their kitchens for heating and cooking, and chip heaters in their bath-rooms for heating water, so Pop’s business was a necessity for every household, and very busy.
The family worked hard to keep people supplied and the money coming in. During the great depression, Bill Putsey was known for giving many a “half bag of coke” to struggling families with no money. People used to come to his door at night to beg for help and he never turned them away empty handed.
I remember May Putsey as a lovely, gentle lady. As a young mother, with four children around her, she single-handedly cured my grandfather of alcoholism and womanising in one fell swoop. She stood on the back step with all her kids around her, holding a .22 rifle and waiting for Bill to come home from an assignation. She must have been at the end of her tether as the kids cried and begged her not to shoot him so that she wouldn’t go to gaol.
As the woman’s car came to a stop outside the gate and the passenger door opened, Nana fired a shot which went through the side window and out through the wind-screen, both made of Perspex. Pop practically fell out of the car as it roared away and had no other option but to enter the gate! He never drank alcohol again and womanising was a thing of the past!