Sunday, May 10, 2009

Harry & Olive continued

After their marriage in Toorak, Harry returned with his bride to Mulwala.Prior to his marriage he had surrendered his open-air 'office' and purchased the premises of the old Commercial Bank building in Melbourne Street, Mulwala.The front room acted as his stock room, and the rest of the building was used as the Oakley home.
Olive did not fall pregnant for over three years after her marriage, which is not really surprising considering her age. She was 35 when she married and 38 when she fell pregnant with the first of her two children.
Harry Gordon Oakley was born on March 16, 1908, at 27 Murray Street, Prahran. His father, Harry Meabry Oakley, was noted on his birth certificate as being a 45 year old commercial traveller born Shropshire, England, and his mother Olive was aged 39 and born Ballarat.
Olive would have given birth in Prahran both to be close to her family and to take advantage of expert medical care to be found in the city...she was an older first time mother, and it was quite possible that complications during labour may have occurred. Her husband Harry was away for long periods at a time with his work, so Olive would have been comforted with family around her.
In late Summer of the following year, 40 year old Olive Oakley fell pregnant again, and my grandfather, Norman Meabry Oakley, was born on November 15, 1909,in the Oakley home at Mulwala.
The two little boys completed Harry's and Olive's family, and with Olive's father Henry Bishop, who had moved from Melbourne to live with them in the early years of their marriage, the Oakleys lived a happy life in their Melbourne Street home.
Harry continued to be away for long periods with his business, and it was mainly his wife who saw to the running of the household and raising of Gordon and Norman.
Harry's travelling drapery business proved to be very prosperous, but finally extended droughts, floods and economic depression after the Great War combined to cause the collapse of the business,and it was sold to pay Harry's creditors.
Although Harry's prolonged absences from his family would have been hard for both himself and his wife and sons, he obviously loved the lifestyle.One story of an encounter that Harry had with a black and white ringed snake near Corowa, NSW, came to me from Mrs Judith Laging, a daughter of Olive Oakley's cousin Ivy McCallum Robley.
Harry was driving his horses and wagon near Corowa when the horses shied at a snake on the road before them. Upon investigation Harry discovered that it was a reptile with very unusual markings-black and white rings as opposed to the usual brown snakes which were run of the mill in the area. He looked around and found an empty bottle in a nearby drain on the side of the road, and tried to coax the snake into the bottle. This dangerous feat was accomplished with the help of a stick, and with the snake in the bottle Harry then had to turn his attention to a method of preserving the creature.Luckily a bottle of metholated spirits was in the wagon, so he started to tip the liquid into the bottle, an action which was not appreciated by the increasingly angry snake. It propelled itself up and out of the bottle to escape its firey liquid grave, just missing Harry's face as it thrashed around for relief and freedom. The bottle was put to another use and smashed across the snake's back to put an end to its Harry-inflicted misery. The act of securing another bottle and preserving the snake in metho was easier on the second attenpt, and the prized specimen continued with Harry on his journey. Ivy Robley recommended a scientific home for the rare beastie, and it was donated to the National Museum in Melbourne. The following letter acknowledges the receipt of the doomed snake.

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