Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A Vintage Tale From the Snowfields

A model wearing a stunning creation from a Vogue Knitting Book c.1960.
My mum and dad met at a party in Falls Creek in the Australian Alps in the Winter of 1957.  Mum was on the second week of a two week holiday from her flying duties at TAA.  The first week she had flown down to Tasmania to stay with a boyfriend she had met on the ship going over to England. She was an absolute goer from the sounds of it and as soon as she turned 21, she left Melbourne to live and travel around the UK and Europe in the early 1950's and had met Michael on the way to London.

Mum had gone to the second week of her holiday in Falls Creek with a broken heart, as Michael had made it quite clear to her, he didn't want to get married until he was 30, some 4 years away.  Mum kind of read that to mean....It's not that he doesn't want to get married, he just doesn't want to marry me. Mum also couldn't stand Michael's mother, who was controlling and dominated her son.  Mum knew she could never put up with that, even if she had read the situation incorrectly with Micheal.  Either way mum knew it was over and she was devastated.

Loving the lace up ski boots and skis with tie on  safety strapes
Nursing a heart broken, she headed off for the second week of the holiday, to ski in Falls Creek Victoria. It was mum's first ever experience on skis.  She was staying at Diana Lodge with two other hosties and said they learned to ski on a bottle of vodka.  In those early days of skiing in Australia, you would take most of the day to walk up the mountain with your skis on herring bone style, have your picnic lunch at the top and ski home for the day.

They used to walk up the mountain in groups singing the Mickey Mouse Club song, which was big at the time.

Later they had a piece of equipment called a nutcracker which you wore around your waist like a belt and you would clip it on to a rope tow. Similar to one of the tows you find on the beginner slopes today. Although most have now been replaced by magic carpets....such is the luxury of 21st century skiing.  

In those early days the nutcracker tow was all there was.  There were no chairlifts or t-bars until about 1960, when a private lodge owner built a chair lift in Falls Creek.  There was also another chair lift built in 1963, with its starting point between Jindabyne and Thredbo on the Alpine Way with a restaurant at Charlottes Pass, as its top station.  It ran during the 1964 and 1965 ski seasons, but  due to operational problems caused by the weather, it went into receivership there after. 

The Chairlift From Thredbo to Charlottes Pass with a view back to Charlottes Pass
The Thredbo to Charlottes Pass Chairlift
The chairs had protective colourful fiberglass canopies with viewing windows, which the occupants could pull over themselves, as it was terribly windy out on the main range.  In its day, the chairlift was often described as the longest chairlift in the world, but was actually two connected chairlifts.  

This photo looks like it was taken in 1964. One of the biggest snowfall years on record, owing to the fact the chairlift has been dug out.
Mum and dad rode that chairlift, but it ceased to operate after the 1965 ski season, because it was considered unsafe.  There was a major incident where the wind blew some of the chairs off the pulleys and people were injured. It was incredibly difficult to rescue them, as the terrain between  the two resorts was widely inaccessible.  There was also the risk of freezing to death on the chairlift, as it was so exposed out on the main range.   

A map of the chairlift running just belowThredbo to Charlottes Pass
All photos sourced from WikiSki

The bottom station for that chairlift is still there today on the Alpine Way and occupied by the NSW National Parks and the Dept of Works.  As I child, I remember some of the towers of the chairlift still standing, but they were taken down more than 30 years ago and the bush has all grown back over now.

Now back to my mum's broken heart.

After a week with lots of socialising to douse the pain.  Attending a party in a different lodge every night, mum met my dad on the last night of her holiday.  Mum said she could not have cared less about meeting anyone else, as she was pining for Michael.  My dad very sweetly saw mum and the other two hosties she was holidaying with, off on the bus the next morning and mum thought nothing more about it.

About 6 months later at lunch time in Sydney, they were walking in opposite directions down George Street.  They bumped into each other and arranged to meet up again.  The rest as they say, is history.

Mr Beach House always says nice guys finish last, but luckily for all of us, that was not the case this time.

And here's my dad posing for mum in about 1960 at Falls Creek.  My parents fostered in me a love of skiing and the mountains, for which I will be eternally grateful.  My love of the lifestyle has taken me to many resorts around the world for both work and play.  One day I shall get all those photos out and tell you all about my exciting times in ski resorts, but that is for another day.  This story is about my parents and how they and their peers pioneered modern skiing in Australia and what they wore doing it.  You can see my dad had his nutcracker belt on in this shot.

In those days it was unusual to wear a parka or a jacket when skiing.  It was just lots of layers under a big thick woolen jumper, which repelled water and snow because it was wool and water resistant.   Mum said with a laugh, they were all warm enough with all the exercise and chasing each other around the slopes and ski lodges. 

Apres skiing was where the fun continued.  There was a party in a different lodge every night in those early days, as there were very few commercial entertainment options in the resorts if you could call them resorts at all.  Mum said all the lodges also had their own ski guides and instructors assigned to guests as well, because there was no organised ski school as such..  They were exotic European young men, who worked on the Snowy Mountains Scheme in Summer and became sexy ski instructors in Winter.

My mum was an avid knitter, taught to knit by her father.  Her mother, my grandmother was a fantastic knitter too and I am still in possession of some precious jumpers and cardigans both mum and my grandmother knitted for me over the years.

I came across these pattern books recently and thought they were gorgeous.

It was such a stylish era.  Skiing was as expensive then, as it is today in real terms.  Clearly, it was essential to look the part on and off the slopes.

My mum knitted this for me as a teenager and I remember I loved wearing it.  Mum had the same one knitted for her by her mother in the 60's.  Black and white check and hounds tooth were big here in the mid 1980's as well.

I still have a version of this cardigan in red with green trim at the back of a cupboard.  I love the detail on the pockets.

Mum said it was all pretty rough compared to today, but they had alot of fun looking fabulous and working it all out together.

So there you have it.  How my mum and dad got together.  I think it was meant to be, but then again I would.

Oh and if you like the home comforts of the 21st century, you might like to enter my Jamie Oliver Philips Home Cooker giveaway here.
Today I am linked up here


  1. That's hilarious and sweet all at the same time......all in one woolly and daggy (in the best possible way) package ;O)
    T xx

  2. PS. If you get the chance check in on Sonia (Life, Love & Hiccups).

  3. I so love this post! Fabulous story and also the gorgeous vintage ski gear just made it for me!!! xx

  4. What a great blogpost!I loved the photos and it was so great to hear of your parents story!The knitted pullovers are amazing!AriadnefromGreece!

  5. What a great story and I love all of your pictures. Hugs, Marty

  6. I love those sort of meeting stories - makes you believe some things re just meant to be :)

  7. You know, I've never been skiing/to the snow - and as a person who grew up on the snowfields you probably find that shocking! However, I found your recount of how things used to be fascinating - everything from the fashion to the sexy young European ski instructors! They alone would have been worth a trip to the snow ;)

    As for the love story, I believe in fate. So I would have to agree that it was destiny that brought your parents together on that snowfield and then had them bump into each other on George Street ❤

    You're welcome to link this post up for Flashback Friday tomorrow xxx

  8. such a sweet story- love all the knits!

  9. great story and loved the pics! i remember those knitting patterns. my mum used to make us ski gear and knitted jumpers like that. i first skiid in 1964! i met my partner in the ski fields as well.

  10. Great story - similar to that of my parents. Our mums were very courageous and adventurous setting off to travel the world in those days I reckon. What halcyon days they were.

  11. Love this story, what a yarn! Hahaha. I really enjoy these vintage stories, and this reminds me that I need to ask my Mum if she'd mind me posting old camping photos from the 1960's, priceless. Spookily, I've just bought some wool, ready to knit another scarf. Yes, it's that chilly!!

  12. What an amazing love story! your mom looks so pretty. meeting after 6 months of 1st seeing each other is the best part of the story. :)

  13. What a great story! I met my husband because I took a trip to the US after having my heart broken by a young man in Melbourne. We've been married almost 25 years.

  14. Oh, what a gorgeous love story! Imagine walking down George St and bumping into each other again! It's meant to be! Love the ski fashion photos too! Very hip!


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