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Well worn rolling pin and grater. Curtin Collection. Photographed Renee Doropoulos 2010

Housekeeping was austere in the Curtin household, as it was for others during the 1920s and 1930s. Many Australian adults had vivid memories of depression in the 1890s and the early 1930s, and the unemployment that greeted returning soldiers after World War I.

Food was simple and everything was cooked at home. There were no processed foods in Elsie Curtin’s pantry. Floor coverings were recycled as they wore. The family had no car, no refrigerator and no washing machine until after the war. Ice was delivered to the icebox near the bathroom door.

Elsie used a hand-operated sewing machine to make children’s clothes and do the household mending. The back fence toilet was supplied with squares of newspaper on a hook for use as toilet paper, and John Curtin used pages from old telephone books to wipe his cut-throat razor while shaving.

Next: Coping with the weather

  • A_common_kitchen_utensil.jpg
    A common kitchen utensil
  • Curtin_famly_tea_set.jpg
    Curtin famly tea set
  • Dining_room_and_table_1998.jpg
    Dining room and table 1998
  • Elsie_made_excellent_pasties.jpg
    Elsie made excellent pasties
  • Grapevine_growing_in_backyard_JCPML00382-35.jpg
    Grapevine growing in backyard JCPML00382-35
  • Plate_knife_and_fork.jpg
    Plate knife and fork
  • Rolling_pin_and_grater.jpg
    Rolling pin and grater
  • Well_worn_utensil.jpg
    Well worn utensil

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