Stories from my grandad: PART I

For those of you who know the famous Peter Thompson, he hardly needs an introduction. But in case you haven’t had the pleasure, let me set the scene for you. My Grandad is many things, but in my mind he is first and foremost a storyteller. A great storyteller. And the key to a great storyteller is a fact checker – enter my gorgeous Grandma. Grandma has kept him accountable and kept him in line when he felt the need to take creative license with his stories.

Some of the other hats Grandad has worn is Dad, Grandad, Greatgrandad, entrepreneur, manager, public speaker, wood turner, friend, traveller, fixer-upper… the list is actually endless. Through these many hats, he has taught me a lot. As my Dad pointed out, he instilled an immense sense of pride in each of us and allowed us to strive and work towards excellence. I think this is where I developed crazy high standards of myself, because my Grandad believes I can do anything I set my mind to. I’m very grateful for this gift.

Memories of my Grandad when we were young include sitting and listening to his wild and crazy stories from his boarding school days in the Blue Mountains and being terrorised by Brother Malackey, to growing up in Corrimal, to driving a wooden caravan across the Nullarbor plain and getting stuck in a sandstorm.

Born in 1936, my Grandad has seen a lot, been through a lot and created a lot. And he’s created, well completed, a book of writing prompts. Towards the end of 2019, Grandad was diagnosed with cancer, an awful disease which he is bravely and strongly fighting. I knew I needed to capture some of his famous stories so I gifted him a book of writing prompts which he kindly gifted back to me for Christmas.

A few years ago, my Grandad wrote a blog post for a uni assignment, so I thought it was time to bring him back to the blog with some snippets of his stories, and his life.

Grandad… you’ve got too many stories to fit in one blog post. So while I busily type them up and craft them in a way that captures your adventures, cheekiness and energy, I thought I’d begin by sharing some of my favourite things about you and Grandma. I’m lucky I’ve had 26 years of knowing you both, though I don’t think anyone could have predicted my first beer would be before I learnt how to talk (see image above).

Here are 26 things I’ve learned from and love about you.

  1. It’s perfectly acceptable to drink wine that comes from a cask
  2. You can get by with just one eye (though using a gun made by yourself and your brother is not advised)
  3. Learning is fun and cool
  4. So is running fast and looking after your health (I’m still waiting on my pair of golden spikes for winning the 100m dash in my age group)
  5. No matter how far or wide you move, your parents will always track you down and come for an extended visit
  6. It’s important to stay on top of technological advancements so you can Facetime and avoid email scams
  7. October Sky is the best movie ever made
  8. Little Beach and Shoal Bay Beach are the best on earth
  9. Marry someone you’re still obsessed with 65 years later, and deeply, madly, truly in love with
  10. Being a storyteller is a great thing to be known for – it brings people together
  11. Master the art of listening, especially if you end up with a storyteller (see point number 10)
  12. There’s nothing quite like a nice cup of tea and a biccie
  13. Be careful helping someone off the couch, you might just pull them onto the floor (I still can’t stop laughing about that one Grandma)
  14. You can’t get rich off of spock found in the depths of Cooper Pedy
  15. Something as iconic as the Warrnambool kiss can never be forgotton
  16. Travel far and wide, take lots of pictures
  17. The most traumatic thing you will go through is being stuck at preschool ‘All Day Mumma, All Day’
  18. Gifting someone one of your pens is possibly the best gift I could give
  19. Pickles belong on burgers – even though Grandma is willing to dive across the room to pull it off
  20. No one has a better memory than Grandma (except maybe Elly)
  21. Travelling around Australia in a caravan is the ultimate adventure
  22. There’s nothing Grandad can’t fix
  23. Shepard’s Pie is the ultimate comfort food
  24. Asking questions and being curious is a great asset to have
  25. It doesn’t matter how many days or months, you’re always there for a cuddle and to listen to my stories
  26. That above all else, family is love and love is forever

So, Grandma and Grandad, thank you for taking the time to write down some of your stories, I know you’re still busily one-finger-typing the rest of your memoir, just as I’m busily typing out your stories (watch this space). You’ve been so generous with your storytelling so I thought it was my turn to remind you of how much you mean to me.

‘The Media.’ A Guest Post by P. Thompson

In 1836 Samuel F.B Morse, an American artist, Joseph Henry, a physicist and Alfre Vail developed an electircal telegraph system relying on “on” “off” pulses. The “Morse Code” was born. The most common emergency sequence in the world is S.O.S (save our souls) and is still used today. The code is º º º – – – º º º It was used a lot during WWII, then after, all the post offices used it to send telegrams around the world.

Oh media, how you have changed. During the 40’s, we still used wind up handle phones, to turn rings would get the exchange the operator would ask ‘your number please,’ then they plugged you through, that is if you both had paid to have a connection, and then when you finished you rang off.

Telegrams, the text message before mobile phones
Telegrams, the text message before mobile phones

So now all has changed, when you see young people, children, adults, everybody is staring at the things in their hand and are transfixed; the mobile phone/computer is here. Is it good or is bad? The answer is… it depends on who’s hand it is in. The good sides, it can be used in emergencys such as accidents, breakdowns, rescues, to send nice messages (especially happy birthdays) and quick information (such as who invented the Morse Code).

The bad sides. Some use it for bullying, people can be influenced to do bad things (for example ISIS recruitment), it can be very distracting (driving a car), very bad manners in others company, possible eye strain (more glasses for children) and less activity (leading to obesity).

But we still call it progress!

My wife and I have four children, twelve grandchildren, eight and a half great grandchildren and we love them all. We’ve created a family, so we love it that we’re able to keep up to date with Adelaide’s life. We have them sent by email and we read them in awe, as she covers numerous topics. Grandma always says ‘come on, read me the blog.’ We love reading them, especially when they relate to early times in Australian history.

As time marches on, we hope if nothing else she keeps writing her blogs.

P. Thompson

*****

This is a guest post by my wonderfully thoughtful, helpful and talented Grandad. Over the past several weeks, Grandad has been helping me with my BCM240 blogging assignments, beautifully retelling his great stories from when he first got a TV, what life was like back in the 40’s and 50’s and various thoughts and perspectives of the media. Thank you so much for your time, expertise and storytelling, I appreciate and value every minute we spend together.

My amazing Grandma and Grandad
My amazing Grandma and Grandad

Elocution is Dead: Impacts of the Internet

Satellites, ISIS and elocution are not some of the first things I usually think of when I think of the internet. But they sure are to my Grandad. Building on my Grandad’s experiences of television in the home during the 1960’s, naturally the next step is to discuss the weird and wonderful internet to find out what sparks Grandad’s curious minds.

Satellites are a cause for concern. Source
Satellites are a cause for concern. Source

To engage in a more collaborative research practice I started by asking my Grandad what aspect of the internet he was interested in or concerned about, which immediately sparked conversation to flow. I must admit I was quite surprised when he immediately said that he noticed the GPS in his new car receives information from a satellite owned by the US military, which raised multiple questions of security and privacy.

“If they took the satellite away, what would happen?”

This is a very appropriate question, given the changing nature of the internet and technology. As Grandad said ‘people run businesses and rely on the internet in their everyday lives,’ so if anything were to happen to a satellite, a server or network, what would we be left with? I don’t know the question to the future of the GPS and our reliance on technology, but here is a brief history of the GPS and the military’s involvement.

I then asked what concerned him about younger generations use of the internet as he has grandchildren between the age of 10-16. ‘I’ve already noticed that the internet has affected young people’s spelling, reading and speaking properly. Elocution is dead.’ He is extremely worried about the effects of being addicted to the internet and games, again, I’m sure many parents and grandparents resonate with these concerns.

Concerns with teenagers and their devices. Source
Concerns with teenagers and their devices. Source

However, it isn’t all doom and gloom for the internet. Yesterday, my beautiful cousin gave birth to a healthy little boy. She lives in Queensland yet in a matter of minutes, a picture was posted on Facebook and my grandparents were able to look at their beautiful new grandchild. This is one of the reasons that Grandad thinks ‘the internet is a terrific aid for anyone wanting access to information, to keep in touch with loved ones far and wide, and allowing people to run a business from home.’ Further research explains that ‘older citizens able and willing to use the internet to communicate with their families and friends, and to maintain their independence and personhood.’ (Xie, 2003), the main reason my Grandparents are online.

I think the general public is quick to assume that older generations are a bit behind when it comes to technology, and whilst Grandad admits to being a little confused with some technological process, I think they’re a lot more knowledgeable with technology than we’d like to admit.

Next time I’m visiting, I’ll definitely be more observant of when, how and why they use the internet. I believe to engage in more collaborative ethnographic research, I could do a cross-comparison of Grandad’s versus my internet habits and see what similarities and differences we have. Something I would be interested in doing in the future.

So, Grandad would like to leave you with some words of wisdom regarding teenagers using the internet in the home.

“You must use the internet in common rooms so we can keep an eye on you, and if you don’t like it then too bad. We’re only trying to look out for you.”

***

The following video explores how social media is affecting the youth of today.

The following video takes a light approach to whether or not the internet is making us smarter or dumber-er.

For more information on collaborative ethnographic research, check out the following posts

BCM Alison – Ethnographic Research and its Value https://ambcm.wordpress.com/2015/08/16/ethnographic-research-and-its-value/

Flog My Blog Was Already Taken – You’re Never Alone With Collaborative Ethnography https://flogmyblogwasalreadytaken.wordpress.com/2015/08/17/youre-never-alone-with-collaborative-ethnography/

References

Xie, B 2003, ‘Older Adults, Computers and the Internet: Future Directions’, Gerontechnology Journal, Vol. 2, No. 4, http://gerontechnology.info/index.php/journal/article/viewFile/gt.2003.02.04.002.00/288

A License for Television: Memories of Television in the Home

“I thought we were Kings and Queens…” – Grandad

Imagine a device that made you feel like a king. Well that’s how my Grandad (Peter Thompson) felt when he first acquired a television set from his older brother.

Wind back to the 1950’s and you have my Grandma and Grandad, just married, and living in Kurri Kurri, NSW. When the TV came to Australia, people from the town who couldn’t quite yet afford one, would flock down to the ‘Harvey Norman’ of the time, and crowd around these mystical TV’s in the shop windows. Grandad inherited his brother’s TV set after moving to Perth for work, and only had to pay off a few remaining instalments. After lodging an application for a TV license down at the local post office (yes, you had to have a license for a TV) and installing the ridiculously long antennas on the roof, my grandparents had a TV set.

Source. Vladmir Fedotov, July 15, 2009. CC License: Some rights reserved
Source. Vladmir Fedotov, July 15, 2009. CC License: Some rights reserved

It was 1956 and the first images were broadcast from Sydney and Melbourne. Because they lived 150km away from Sydney, the signal was never reliable, so Grandad, being an engineer, developed a theory. Whenever the signal would cut in and out, him and my Grandma’s brother, Ted, would climb up on the roof, and spray the antenna with water, finding that it would help them get much clearer reception (turns out there was actually no benefit of doing this, but at least they tried).

“The A-Bomb Goes Up” – The News

Source
Source – For more historic events in South Australia, click here

The footage of the A-Bomb going off was actually welcomed by my Grandad. He shared similar views that as long as we had nuclear weapons to fight of Communism we were safe (refer to the Domino Theory through South East Asia). In hindsight, we see how irresponsible nuclear testing was in South Australia but the TV set that broadcast these images brought hope to a lot of people who had just survived the Great Depression and World War II, and were in need of some security and hope.

I am very close to my Grandparents, and some of my fondest childhood memories were spent in their loungeroom. Where the walls are covered with 50 plus years of marriage and their mantlepiece displays a family of children, grandchildren and great grandchildren they have created together. I remember Grandad making us watch one of his favourite films, ‘October Sky,’ and it was rather fascinating winding back the clock and discovering what it was like when a television set was the hot talk of the town.

So this post is dedicated to them. For feeding me countless sandwiches and biscuits whilst we sat under your watchful eyes that have seen so much change.

Grandma and Grandad
Grandma and Grandad

***

Further Information

Visit the National Film and Sound Archive website for similar stories regarding the first regional broadcasts of television in Australia. It is an indepth and insightful insight to the people who experiences the first broadcasts in regional Australia and broadcast stations that started up in regional centres like Orange, Bendigo and Toowoomba.

The following website looks at the 50th anniversary of NBN (the regional broadcast station for Newcastle where I grew up). It looks at how news and advertising broadcasting and production has changed throughout time.