VERNA INGREY JARVIS (1917 - )
An essay by Catherine Edwards, age 14, written as told to her by her Grandmother in 1991
Verna Ingrey Jarvis, born 5th May 1917 at Beechworth, the third child of Frank and Lillie Jarvis. The eldest, her brother Maxwell Alan born 1911 is still alive, her sister Roma Gentle, born 1915 died in 1975. Her parents met and married in Beechworth where they lived their full life spans. Before she was born her father bought "Wongrabel", a large family house, with a wonderful garden and a tennis court. The house had so many doors they called it "The Rabbit Warren".
Both her parents were loving, caring, christian people. Her father was undemonstrative, but she soon learnt she could twist him around her little finger, so she would go to him with her special requests. He was a carriage maker by trade, but was a self made business man, owning and running a garage and hardware shop, a bicycle and pram shop and running a hire car service. Her mother was very demonstrative and caring but firm - they didn't question or disobey her.
They always had a "live-in-maid", but her sister and she still had to do their share of the chores. Clearing the meal table, assisting with dishwashing, polishing the cutlery every Saturday and cutting newspaper into neat squares to hang in the toilet. When they reached their teens, her sister baked every Saturday morning and she was sent into the sewing room to do the machinery tasks. However, many Saturdays her mother would take them for long walks in the bush. She gave her appreciation of nature and also literature
Life was not dull by any means. Her home was always invaded by friends. They spent many nights playing bridge (winners had to buy snowballs!). They always had a car, so had many picnics and trips to places like Mt. Buffalo. She remembers waiting at the gates on the way up - one car at a time only permitted on the road. When she was in her teens she sometimes went skiing with her brother and some of the many young men who were always at her house. "Sunday nights, after church, we would all cluster around the piano and sing anything from Gilbert and Sullivan to hymns". She now realizes she had a wonderful childhood - "financially we were very comfortable" - but she thinks not spoiled.
She attended Beechworth State School, both primary and secondary levels were held in the one building. She always loved school therefore could offer no criticism. By today's standards it would be considered "boring", lacking all the excitement and "extra curricular" activities, however, it was a school much respected for it's academic achievements.
They always walked to school and came home for lunch, through all weathers - even the odd snowy winter day. They had "playmates" until they became music pupils; then she would have to practise violin and piano.
In summer there were always hoses to be shifted at set intervals. (No sprinklers with timing systems then!) She remained at school until about the month after she turned sixteen. The school only taught to the end of tenth form when one sat for the intermediate certificate. A few pupils who attended the school took part in activities but studied for the leaving certificate by correspondence. She later passed her leaving certificate, then matriculated with seven subjects. She was captain of the basketball and hockey teams. She also played tennis in a Saturday church competition.
She wished to become a teacher, however, she was too young. Soon after turning sixteen she took a temporary job as a telephonist at the local post office and held that position for nine months until a permanent appointment was made.
In August 1934 she received her long awaited appointment to begin as a student teacher in Yackandandah. After Easter 1935, she was transferred to Beechworth primary school where she taught grade two and then grade four until the end of 1936. During these years she had to pass many student teacher exams, give regular "crit.' lessons and take complete responsibility for a class of about 50 pupils. She also played piano for all school activities.
In 1937, she attended the Melbourne Teachers College, living with 16 other girls in a hostel in Royal Parade - a very busy, hard, but wonderful experience where she made her very dearest friends. During this year she played violin in the orchestra for the College play, performed for several nights in the old Garrick Theatre which then occupied the site of the Entertainment Centre. She also played at a concert in the Melba Conservatorium - two highlights of a dull life.
1938 saw her relieving in many schools. She worked in: Toombullup East, Merriang Estate, Myrtleford, Mansfield and Alexandra. She then applied and obtained a permanent position at Toongabbie. She taught 58 pupils from grades prep. to three. She remained there until her marriage.
Of her romantic life there was much she left unsaid. Her first really important "date" was to accompany her "current" heart throb, a student from the Melbourne teachers college to their annual ball at St. Kilda. She was fifteen, wore a green chiffon dress and put her hair up!
She met Howard Edwards, when he came back to work in the bank at Beechworth just before Christmas 1932, and married him at Prince of Wales Park Methodist Church, Northcote on 6th April 1940. They had purchased a neat little house in Hartwell, which they were fortunate to be able to furnish very well.
Their first child, Barry Noel, was born on 24th April 1941, a premature birth; so she was permitted only to take him home if accompanied by a mothercraft nurse. Barry just slept and slept, but made steady progress. He was followed by three other children, Trevor; born September 4th 1944, Bronwyn; February 7th 1953, and finally Harvey on August 30th 1955. Trevor was found to have a spinal tumour, which after several operations left him a paraplegic. He never attended school, but she taught him by correspondence. He was greatly loved by everyone, and died at the age of thirteen. "As a family, we owe much to him - he drew the family closely together, and his wonderful attitude was a lesson to each of them". He was a strong influence on their lives - Barry becoming a doctor and Bronwyn a physiotherapist. Harvey was too young to remember him.
They left Hartwell in 1955 to live in the bank premises in Cheltenham, where Howard was the manager. The manager's wife in those days had to socialize - she was constantly providing morning and afternoon teas for both clients and staff, so had a lady help five mornings a week. They made many fine friends there.
They moved to North Balwyn in 1960 where they have lived ever since. Life changed dramatically for her - no one home except herself in the house all day. She did a lot of gardening, and joined in all the church activities, school tuckshop, helping with meals at Carlton, mending at the Boy's Home, and such. Later she became involved with the craft at the Eva Tilley Home for Elderlies and that involvement has grown with the years, being a Board member and taking office with the Auxiliary.
She certainly remembered the Melbourne Olympics although they did not go. The aura of excitement spread everywhere. The war of 1939 - 45 is very clear. Her brother and closest friend were both in the Air Force. Her two closest girl friends married during the war; both husbands in the forces. Sadly several very clever young men, whom she taught in her first year of teaching, were killed while piloting planes. "One could not forget the rationing; the blackouts, the many sad people and the fear when Japan came into it."
The depression did not affect their standard of living, although she knew her father lost a lot of money, because he would not refuse to supply groceries to people he knew would never pay for them. "They've got to eat" he'd say. She does remember the endless number of swagmen who used to come to their door, begging. They frightened her.
Her attitudes to today's children; she thinks many are very unaware of the wonderful opportunities offered, of the easier living and such, and accept all as their due; even treat them with contempt. However, she still has faith and believes there will be many fine adults grow up among us. She believes her childhood offered much less in material ways, but they had much less to contend with and thus it was an easier and happier road.
Politics bore her to tears. It's a "dog eat dog world" and "she's alright Jack". She finds it hard to sort out the sincere from the insincere, so lazily doesn't really try.
Lastly her hobbies - not very interesting - so she says. She enjoys handcrafts and when inspired writes very good poetry. She says, "You could hardly head this my "My Brilliant Career", however I am proud of my achievement - my children and my grandchildren, all eight of them and am sincerely grateful for such a bounty!".
Balwyn, North 3
EDWARDS (Howard) Harvey 2
EDWARDS Barry Noel 2
EDWARDS Bronwyn Joy 2
EDWARDS Howard Stanley 2
Eva Tilley Home 3
JARVIS Frank 1
JARVIS Lillie 1
JARVIS Verna 1ff
Melbourne Teacher's College 2