In the days before fast food outlets, refreshments were packed to take on your journey. I can remember taking my grandmother, Myrtle, on a road trip with my two young children in tow. We were taking her to visit her sister in New South Wales, the year was 1997.
She bought with her a red picnic case that held two thermoses, a china tea set, tins full of sandwiches and fruit. My children were aged eight and ten, we would stop often. I would take the children for a walk while she stayed with the car, at 90 years of age she wasn’t too keen on going for long walks, no matter how short they were. By the time we returned she would have peeled and cut up fruit and arranged the afternoon tea, it was quite magical. It was something that she had been doing since she had been a young mother.
Photographer unknown, Traveller’s stopping at a Road side picnic; circa 1927, New South Wales, Australia [W009]
Her daughter Judy remembers travelling as a young girl going on holidays with her parent’s Lincoln & Myrtle and her brother Warrick. Judy remembered the last trip that they all took together.
They had started early in the morning before the sun had risen leaving their warm beds. Lincoln, their father ushered Judy, and her brother Warrick to the back door, the sound echoing as their feet scuffed across the linoleum floor. The air was brisk as they slid into the back of the car onto the cold seat. She pulled her teddy bear with its articulating arms closer to her body. Judy could see her mother, Myrtle's figure through the open kitchen door as she bustled around in her apron under the bright electric light packing the last of the contents of their red picnic case. It held tin boxes laden with fresh sandwiches, flasks of hot tea and a bottle of cold water for the kids.
Every few hours they stopped during their journey on the side of the road to take refreshments. Myrtle spreading a small cloth on whatever flat surface was available, often on top of a blanket on the ground. Myrtle carefully arranged the chosen refreshments in careful proportions for each person not wasting, spilling or dropping a morsel from the picnic set. Judy released from her cramped confinement in the rear seat ran off amongst roadside trees to stretch her legs. Sometimes Warrick followed her but mostly he liked to stay near the car. The paddocks were lush and green this time of the year in the middle of winter. There weren’t many trees other than those on the road verge or the occasional single file of pines that created windbreaks along the barbwire fence lines. Judy crouched down and fossicked in the rubble but was cautious not to disturb any bull ant nests.
“Judy. Judy. Judith. Where have you got too? Come back to the car this instance,” shouted Myrtle
Judy sprang to attention, dropping her stick and began to make her way back.
“Why can’t you be more like your brother? Come along now, have something to eat. Your father wants to leave in a few minutes," Myrtle continued as Judy got closer.
“Now Myrtle she’s just full of energy,” Lincoln said as he winked at Judy “After all you don’t want them both to be carsick, do you?”
After a quick bite, it was back in the car and off again. The long drive was punctuated with storytelling and singing. Judy’s favourite song was “There's a hole in my bucket” but she also liked “Old MacDonald Had a Farm”. There seemed to be a never-ending list of ditties and songs. Lincoln told stories as he drove, and they’d play ‘Eye Spy’, it broke the monotony of the journey.
Many years later Judy would repeat the whole process herself with her young children.
Photographer Christine Filiamundi, Judy setting up family picnic during a road trip, c.1962, on the road between Bateman’s Bay, New & Benalla, Victoria, Australia. [W038] From Left Judith Todman, Sandra Williamson, Mark Williamson, John Palmer Williamson
Sandra also carried on the tradition during her own car trips.
Photographer Jessica, picnic on the way to Opera in the Outback, 1997, South Australia
The red picnic case in the foreground is the one that Sandra’s grandmother used when she travelled. Sandra’s friend Yumiko is holding one of the matching thermoses that were part of the original contents of the case.
Nothing like a bit of refinement for an afternoon tea break while travelling.
Sepia Saturday: Using Old Images As Prompt for New Reflections – Prompt 526