Memories from an Old Wooden Box



“It is only in the world of objects that we have time and space and selves”

T.S Eliot


Just recently with the encouragement of my partner, Lorelle, I decided that the self isolating COVID 19 crisis afforded me an opportunity to cull and tidy my study, hundreds of books, CDs and LPs (many are originals from the 1960s/70s) and my wardrobe.  This initiative also includes sorting through many cartons of old papers, newspaper and magazine clippings, photographs and other documents.


During this process I discovered, in one of the storage containers, an old wooden box that I had long forgotten.  It is a box that I made many years ago when I was a schoolboy.  It is rectangular in shape, about 30cm x 20cm with a depth of about 10cm.  In it I have stored, actually stuffed, many items of memorabilia, including letters from a variety of persons and organisations.


One may well ask: “Why would a man in his seventh decade have a wooden box full to the brim with objects from bygone days?”  A wooden box that he has transported between residences in states and territories for fifty years or so.  Maybe, just maybe, it has allowed me to touch the past.  Wherever I have lived the box has been stored away out of sight until such time as I have moved once again and its journey has continued with my own.


For the first time in many years I opened it up to examine its contents.


As I sorted through the forgotten box, it quickly became apparent that its contents reflect much of who I am and the experiences I went through.  They represent a chapter of my life which has helped to develop me as the person I am today.  They share and play a huge role in the story of my life.


Some might call it all junk that should be discarded, thrown out with all other dated and irrelevant rubbish.  But now that I have travelled in my mind back to the past with and by these objects, throwing them out is not something I can do without feeling a sense of loss.


It has dawned on me that objects of memorabilia are a very clever way of linking and reminding us of certain events in our own history.  Whether it be a birth, death or marriage, the winning of an award, a sporting or educational achievement or some other memorable happy occasion, an object or artifact can show and prove it happened.


An examination of these objects in my box brought back memorable days and good times, mostly of my teenage and coming of age years.  As I study them, I am transported to the exact moment where I received a particular object and I relive it, if only for a brief moment.


Among the many badges and old coins (pennies and sixpences) are badges and lapel pins representing either a membership or being player or both, of a club or sporting organisation (e.g. North Hobart Football Club 1971).  The gold map of Tasmania lapel pin probably represents a moment in time when I was having a love affair with my former home state and I put it in the box in a fit of nostalgia or homesickness.  I don’t recall ever wearing it on the lapel of any of my coats.


I have a collection of Scanlen’s chewing gum sporting cards with photographs of former VFL footballers and cricketers, mainly from Australia, but also England and the West Indies.  The cards tell of the youthful love and passion that I had for football and cricket and my desire to play both Test cricket for Australia and VFL football for St Kilda, or any club that would have me for that matter.  Every young country Australian boy’s dream.


Scanlen card legend No 27 is the former Geelong great, John Devine, the much revered senior coach for the North Hobart football club during 1967-1971.  I have now given this card to friends and neighbours, Christine and Brian Schultz.  Christine is Devine’s niece and Brian is the brother of former Essendon player Graeme Schultz.


Scanlen card No. 5 is Collingwood’s Des Tuddenham and card No 25 is former Tasmanian and St Kilda great, Darrel Baldock.  These cards remind me of St Kilda’s famous one-point win over Collingwood in the 1966 Grand Final and the fine game played by another Tasmanian, John Bingley, who successfully restricted Des Tuddenham’s impact on the game.


As I look through these cards, memories continue to swamp me.  There is South Melbourne great Max Papley taking a one-handed pass and Bob Skilton shown kicking long, as are Bob Pascoe of North Melbourne, Charlie Payne of Essendon and Fred Wooller of Geelong.  Bill Brown of Richmond is shown on the run picking up the ball with his right hand. Both Gordon Collis of Carlton and Hassa Mann from Melbourne smile at me as do John Nicholls and Sergio Silvagni from Carlton.  There is the fantastic Hobart boy Ian Stewart, formerly of St Kilda and Richmond and the great drop punter Bob Murray from Fitzroy and Kevin Rose from Collingwood.  Scanlen card No 9, is Brian Dixon, formerly of Melbourne who, in my first ever Melbourne Marathon in 1986 from Frankston to Melbourne, ran next to me for the last 4k along St Kilda Road and whom I couldn’t shake.


My cricket cards include former Australian greats Peter Burge, Ian Chappell, Norm O’Neill, Wally Grout and Alan Davidson.  There is Garfield Sobers and Lance Gibbs from the West Indies and John Edrich, Geoff Boycott and Brian Close from England.  Looking through them all, I am immediately transported back to a time of idolatry and sporting love and passion, of a boy’s dreams and desires and of innocence.  Of particular note is Scanlen card no 39, former test opener Ian Redpath who I often see at Kardinia Park during the summer months watching the Geelong Cricket Club play as I often do.


Three ostentatious surfboard necklaces remind me of a time when I had a fascination of becoming a cool surfie and of the music of the ‘Beachboys, of ‘Jan and Dean’ and the ‘Surfaris’.  The necklace with a pair of stomping feet attached remind me of stomping at Maroubra with “Little Pattie” and the music of Col Joy and the Joy boys.


Other objects include an invitation to the Independent Girls’ School dance at the Polish Club featuring then popular Hobart bands “Clockwork Oringe” and “Emphasis” and a membership card to “Caesar’s Halo”, a local Hobart teen dance spot formerly also known as “The Spook Club” and “Humpty Dumpty’s”.


There is also my first ‘Provisional Licence To Drive A Motor Vehicle’ No. R11579 issued on 1 August 1969. To get this licence took ten agonising lessons followed by a very nervous driving test around the city of Hobart with a big, burly policeman sitting in the back seat of the learn to drive vehicle and my instructor in the front passenger seat.  It reminds me of my high state of anxiety and nervousness causing me to stall at the lights in central Hobart and struggling to complete my three-point turn and hill start on the steep streets of Glebe and the Hobart Domain.  I thought I had failed but the Gods prevailed and I passed.


Another object in my box of allsorts is a drawing of Fred Swift, a former fullback for the Richmond tigers, kicking off as we used to term it.  I think it was done for me by my Dad’s cousin Ray Cotton who was a bit of an artist of sorts.  I presume a Tigers supporter.


The box also contains a used “You’re in good hands all the way when you fly Ansett –ANA” airline ticket from Launceston to Melbourne return dated 20th October 1967, I think for an end of season football trip.  I also found an unused TAA 727-Jet postcard.


There is a memento of my very first time in hospital – a get well card from friends.  I was hospitalised for a few days after hurting my hip playing my first senior game for the local Swansea Football club against St Helens.


One of the treasured items I came across is a letter from H J Heinz Co. Australia Ltd in Dandenong VIC dated 10th December 1964.  It advises a ‘Master Allan Barden’ that he had won a “full size willow bat autographed by Australia’s famous captain Bob Simpson” with his correct and neatest entry in the State.  Actually, while I may have gotten all the answers correct, it was my school teacher Auntie Berry who helped me win by filling out my entry in her very neat handwriting.  My father accidentally broke my treasured bat playing cricket but that is another story.  Filed away with the letter are two newspaper clippings of the 1964 Australian cricket team that had won the Ashes in England that year.


The many letters from my first real girlfriend hold nice memories and represent a memorable time and chapter of my life.  Mum used to take great delight when finding one of my girlfriend’s letters in the letterbox, exclaiming in earshot of anyone in close proximity that there was “another perfumed letter for Allan”!


There are also letters and cards from various friends and acquaintances I haven’t been in touch with for many years. There is a 1964 letter from my cousin Michael who left Tasmania in 1970 and now lives in Leeds, England. I last visited him during August 2019 to attend the now famous Ashes Test Cricket match at Headingly Oval in Leeds. The loss was disappointing and I was angry with Tim Paine’s captaincy in the last sessions of the day, but a boyhood dream was fulfilled.


There are two 179 EH Holden badges which, in the mid-60s, kids used to steal from cars by leveraging them off with a screwdriver to put on their belt buckle.  Levi Strauss jeans and a 149 or 179 belt buckle were quite the thing at one point.  It pains me to admit that I can’t remember if I stole the badges to be one of the crew and cool, or if they were given to me.  I like to think it was the latter.  I was usually too “chicken” and afraid of being caught to do anything unlawful.


Once upon a time I applied for a job at the Hobart Mercury and in my box I have kept two letters from said establishment; one informing me “that following interview, my application is under consideration”, the other, thankfully as it turned out, advising me that I hadn’t got the job!


My box has many other objects which, now having delved through its contents, I am in decision mode about what to keep and what not to keep.  For example, why am I keeping a June, 1968 receipt from the MLC insurance company, a June 1968 Royal Hobart Hospital “Inventory of Patient’s Property and Wearing Apparel”, a February 1968 receipt from my then dentist, I also have lay-by receipts for items of clothing, in particular football apparel, from R.W and J. Morey and Morris’ store in Swansea, Tasmania.  Why am I keeping these?  I cannot remember and I think I should toss them out.


For a moment in time the personal objects in my box captured my emotions and sparked thoughts that words can’t adequately describe.  They have helped me revisit and visualize some of my past and see some events as something tangible or relatable.  They have made me realise that in our lives objects create symbols or memories that are important to us. Thank you COVID 19 for being the stimulus!


My advice to anyone who may be considering dispensing with objects and memorabilia from their past is to be very selective and think carefully about what you might choose to discard. You might be throwing out some of your life!


Now where was I?  Oh yes, the LP collection and then the books.






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  1. John Butler says

    Allan, I really enjoyed this.

    May have to consider rummaging through my own study.


  2. Fenton Jones says

    Lovely piece , Ned . So many memories . Don’t chuck anything !!

  3. Colin Ritchie says

    Fab read Allan! Treasured memories! Obviously we are around the same age Allan, and I think it was a passion with kids from our era to collect things. I know I have a few boxes with my treasures in them, and your story has inspired me to seek them out. We have recently downsized into town and the garage is full of boxes waiting to be gone through and sorted so I should do that. The mention of Charlie Payne reminded me of a song the Essendon supporters would sing each time Charlie marked or kicked a goal. ‘What’s his number, what’s his name, number 7 Charlie Payne’. Cheers.

  4. Enjoyable read Allan.

    Nostalgia. Going home. Powerful emotions in these.

  5. Frank Taylor says

    Nice one Allan.
    Thanks for sharing.

  6. Peter Clark says

    You have inspired me Allan. Looking in my old wooden pencil box (a high school Woodwork job) I found a few items that bring back memories. The stub of my 1969 VFL Grand Final ticket, a bail (must have been souvenired), a Mount Buffalo Chalet pencil etc… but no footy cards. They will turn up one day.

  7. Allan Barden says

    Peter – I look forward to reading your piece. Actually when I started taking notes to write mine, it was amazing how the memories flowed. I’m also looking forward to Colin Ritchie’s piece about his treasured items.

    Cheers chaps.

  8. Great yarn Allan…Ive got a similar box from my teen years learning Woodwork. In the end I had too much stuff in mine and switched to some sturdy cardboard ones…but has almost the same kind of thing as you did…Ive been doing the same thing and found a pile of old footy records from the sixties…most have my mother’s handwriting where she added the scores to each player, plus of course- rushed, plus the scores at the other grounds…I think I’ll have to get rid of them eventually.

  9. Allan Barden says

    Murray – think twice before tossing those 60s footy records in the recycle bin. You might be the only one, or one of few, who have those records.Your local heritage centre/historical society etc might like them.

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