* this is an undated letter from the 1920s - in the first year or so of Oz's arrival in the Red Cliffs district.
Hope you received my letter on Saturday but feel doubtful as the letter would not reach town until about 11 o’clock & that would be too late for the delivery. I told you in my last letter that I had started graft. I have been picking figs for a couple of days. I cannot say I like fig picking as the figs make your hands very sore. I had my first lesson in plowing yesterday & didn’t do too bad. It is rather hard at first but when you get into the knack it is easy.
We are making a tennis court up here, the next door neighbours are pretty keen so they come over & give us a hand. If you have my racquet you might send it along, that is if you are not going to use it. Last night we drove into the town Saturday night being the late night up here. All the people seem to come in from the surrounding districts & the town is just packed with people. It is rather a nice town; the streets are nice and wide & the main street has nice green lawns up the centre. The band generally plays on Sunday evening & a pretty good crowd congregates. The only drawback is that the roads are not metal but lately they have been putting limestone on. It would be simply awful if it rained much here as a few points of rain make it very muddy.
I met two 21st boys at the boarding house when I was there; they said they had been all over Victoria but couldn’t settle down to anything & when I went down there to see if there were any letters last night they had gone. Well dearest what have you been doing since I left. I can just imagine you dressing up in that pretty frock this morning & going off to church. The Applebys are Methodists so I suppose I will be the same for a while; the Presbyterian is the nicest church up here. I think it has only been built recently; your church is also represented but is rather small I think. I asked you in my last letter to send up my [xxx]. Take a tally of all it costs you, sending me stuff & I will fix up when I come down. Well dear old girl I have nothing more to tell you but long for you every day & only wish you were with me, never mind, we must take the good with the bad & hope for the future.
Au Revoir Sweetest & dearest. Write me a nice long letter like the last.
Fond love Ozzie xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Love to Mother & Kind regards to your family.
Image: Katy Mutton 'Red Cliffs, Early Days' 2015, acrylic and ink drawing on kozo with carbon impression
In June 2014 I was introduced to Bill Rowe on a visit to the Red Cliffs Military museum.
Bill grew up on a soldier settlement block. He and his wife hosted me for morning tea and
told me about growing up on the block. His father served in WWI and settled on a block at
Red Cliffs after coming home. Culture Victoria have a 2011 interview available online in
which he shares many of the same stories as he discussed with me.
Bill said block life was very hard and many returned men were pretty traumatised.
He remembers many suicides out on the blocks when he was growing up, men would drown themselves in the underground water tanks or use a firearm. He himself didn't feel that the
knowledge of this had caused him trauma as a child, just that it was a part of the reality of
his experience growing up on the block. Bill also spoke of the bond in the community - that
families would help each other where they could as there was a lot of understanding
through shared experience. Families would pitch in and assist each other where possible.
Katy Mutton is a Canberra based, Australian Visual Artist whose practice is informed by an ongoing concern around trauma and warfare and how these relate to our cultural identity and history. For more information on her artwork visit www.katymutton.com