My favourite photograph
Recently, I accepted the “52 ancestors in 52 weeks” challenge #52Ancestors. Each week this year, we will be given a topic or subject to write about as part of the challenge. I missed out on week 1 when the topic was “start”. Here, in week 2, I’ll be combining “start” with this week’s subject “My favourite photo”.
When I was a child, I was raised by my mother and her eldest sister, and a whole lot of extended family including aunties, uncles and cousins. Aunty Carmel (Carmel Cross nee Hill) was the oldest ‘girl’ in a family of 11, and mum (Lorraine Hill) was the youngest, which meant that there was a 23-year gap between them. Aunty Carmel was widowed when I was 10, and my mum was what was known back in those days as a “deserted wife”.
Aunty Carmel had an extensive collection of old family photos, and my love of family history started by spending long hours just staring at those photographs, which in those days she kept either in the cutlery case (more about that soon), or in what we called the “hot water cupboard”. I was an only child, and at every opportunity, I would ask Aunty Carmel to bring out the photos.
The photo I’m writing about today, is of Aunty Carmel as a young woman, and her brother Frank, or “Tiger” as the family called him. One of the reasons I chose this photo is that today, 15 January 2018, would have been Aunty Carmel’s 105th birthday. Aunty Carmel passed away in 2012 at the age of 99, in her own home where she was still living independently.
All of mum and Aunty Carmel’s brothers raced motorbikes, and in this photo you can see Uncle Tiger kitted out in his racing gear. The photo was taken at Kingston in Logan City, and Aunty Carmel had ridden there on a motorbike with her husband-to-be, Jim Cross. A woman in trousers would have been a rare sight in those days.
In 1939, Aunty Carmel and Uncle Jim won a 16-hour motorcycle observation trial, which was 16 hours of continuous riding from Rosewood to Gympie and return. They competed in the race on a Harley Davidson 730cc “outfit” (motorcycle and sidecar). Navigating from the sidecar, she was the only female competitor in the race. First prize was a case of silver cutlery which had been donated by J. Groom. The presentation was made by Mr Wacker, the grandfather of the current owners of Morgan and Wacker’s Motorcycle Shop in Brisbane. That case later became the place where beloved family photos were kept. When she passed away, I inherited the wooden cutlery case.
After completing the 1939 race, Carmel and Jim rode back to Toowoomba where Jim had a couple of hours sleep before riding back to Brisbane on the Monday morning to go to work. All up, he covered about 800 miles that week-end on a rigid frame motorcycle.
They featured in a newspaper article in The Telegraph on 9 October 1939.
Aunty Carmel’s stories of the ‘motorbike days’, inspired me to become a racer myself. In the 1970’s I raced flat-track, moto x, and junior speedway, and my love for motorcycles and motorcycle racing continues even today (Go! Valentino Rossi). Her strength of character certainly influenced the person I am today. Happy Birthday, Aunty Carm.
Jacqui Rose Brock DipFamHist