The past fascinates me. I could spend hours looking at old photographs, wondering what life was like, what was going on the head of the person captured in that moment. Did they think the same way as me, or were their thoughts dictated by the time? Do we only think the way we think because of the way we’ve been brought up, what surrounds us and how life is in contemporary society?
The photograph I chose for my blog banner was taken in Scarborough, Western Australia, in February, 1956. The 16 year old girl in the leopard print bikini, pictured in the centre of the dance floor, is Patricia Grey. On the Chronicle Scarborough website, she tells her story behind the photograph and how The Snake Pit was the place to be in those heady days of rock and roll. The story of Patricia Grey inspired me so much I had to set part of my book in this time and this place.
The new wave of popular culture in the 1950s rebelled directly against the desire for stability after the Second World War. Youth donned leather jackets and studded belts, greased their hair, hung around in milk bars causing trouble, and they listened to rock and roll. Bodgies and Widgies roamed the streets, breaking the law and being violent. Or so the contemporary newspapers lead us to believe.
But what interested me the most was: was the young girl photographed at the Snake Pit really a part of this rebellion? And if so, and to what extent? Did she consciously choose to represent the ideologies of the time, or was she simply a young girl enjoying herself, with her own dreams, perhaps insecurities, a family waiting for her at home, homework and / or boyfriend troubles; perhaps she was was merely wondering in this moment what she was going to have for dinner? How much of what what was going through her head, at the time the photo was taken, could the average person today relate to? And how much was rooted in the past?
The crux of the matter, however, is that this girl had a story. We all have a story and it doesn’t matter what time we live in, we are all alike to some extent.
When my grandad died some years ago, I was devastated; not only at his passing, but also because the stories of his life disappeared with him. Yes, family members and friends that were close to him had heard these stories many times but, once he was gone, the memories could never be related the same way. And when these same family members and friends eventually die, unless we have related the stories to someone else, the stories will cease to exist completely. And it made me so sad; it still does. From something… to nothing.
I can see the attraction in writing memoirs, although I would much rather explore the concept of recording the past in other ways. Hence my book and its themes of history, storytelling and uncovering what’s been forgotten. I’ve also set my book in a place I used to live. This is partly because the area is familiar and therefore easier to write about, but also because I have considerably enjoyed researching the history of Scarborough and how it used to be.
I’ve discovered places no longer standing, like Scarborough’s Luna Park; I’ve learnt about the development of Scarborough beach from coastal bushland to seaside town; I’ve realised some of the places I’ve stood in, were there long before I was born. It turns out a takeaway kebab shop I’ve frequented, called Peters by the Sea, was actually built in 1954 and has oodles of history. They used to sell fish and chips for just a shilling.
I intend to continue this topic and write a series of blog posts on the history of my local area or areas of interest to me. We will explore the past a little and find out what has been before us. Let me know in the comments if you also find this interesting, and please share with me any of your own discoveries of the past 🙂