Left to right: Gran’s uncle Frank; my Grandpa Keith in the 80s; Chief Petty Officer Gordon Johnson and his brother, my Grandpa, Lieutenant Keith Douglas Johnson; Seaman Toby Ingerson, Gran’s brother (Toby wasn’t his real name, I can’t remember what it was, everybody called him Toby).
I visited my Grandma on ANZAC day. I think it was just the order of the day. My Aunt Annette was also there, Gran had a little memorial for those in her family that had served in the wars and we reminisced over tea.
We spoke of sewing and how Gran and Annette never got into it, but my mother started when she was young and used to make her own clothes. During WWII Gran was in the WRANs, she took a class about sewing and drafting (making patterns), which she said was interesting, but she still never really got into sewing.
I asked Gran how she met Grandpa. Gran was 17 and working at Fauldings, a pharmaceutical company, they were protected at the start of the war such that employees weren’t allowed to leave their jobs to join the defence forces. Grandpa had just finished a degree in Pharmacy when the war started and he joined the Navy. On his first Christmas leave in 1941 he stopped in at Fauldings and one of the “lads” wanted to set him up with a girl from the dentist rooms upstairs, but Grandpa insisted that he be introduced to Gran. I think they went out on a double date and then he was soon back onto a ship. They had some contact during the war, but nothing exclusive. When the war was over Gran was working at Fauldings and had cause to call a particular pharmacy where Grandpa happened to be working, so they came back into contact and they went out on a date.
Annette revealed that Grandpa had once told her that after a date or two he wasn’t going to ask Gran out again because she was too “silent”. He walked her to the gate of her house and wasn’t going to ask her out because she had been so quiet, but she finally opened her mouth and said “Well, aren’t you going to ask me out again?” The rest, I suppose, is history.
We spoke about my uni work and talked about how Grandpa would have loved this new age that we have entered. They thought that he would have taken to computers, the internet, Genetics, and all the knowledge that is so easily passed around and the learning that is going on. It was interesting because when I first started doing well in Biology at school I remembered Grandpa, I thought that he must have been helping me somehow, whether it was him or the genes he passed on. It doesn’t seem to be something anyone else got. I’m sure many would shrug it off, say it’s coincidence, and I suppose the fact that we’re not a family of scientists is proof against my theory, but I’d still like to think it’s a part of him that I carry with me.