Sunday, 1 October 2017


By Dave Wheeler

   I began writing this yarn on the 16/9/17 and I have rewritten it because after first publishing it I learnt more about its subject, Miss Jean Bowmaker. For that reason I began to have some empathy for her descendants who may not share my tongue-in-cheek sense of humour in the way I had previously examined their ancestor’s life, which all began from some postcards I picked up many years ago. 
    It’s not that I’m a person who lacks empathy; its just that when I first wrote this post I did not think I would receive further information on Jean as I did not think her life could be traced with such relative ease. And although the net is an amazing thing, when I refer to how the information was gathered with relative ease, it was relatively easy for me as I received most of the information as a result of the efforts of Anne Cameron, an administrator of the Facebook group, “Old Canberra’s Northside Group,” who knew exactly where to look on the net.  Thank you Anne.
     To begin the story, it was in late 1969 while still at school, my old mate, Mick Catanzariti, and I placed an ad in the Canberra Times and went into business removing people’s rubbish. I would have just turned 17.
   We used a ute and a trailer, and the money we made from the venture was excellent, as there was not a lot of competition. Life was much easier before the Coalition and Labor adopted the idealogical disease known as neoliberal economics, a failed ideology that would have made Menzies and Chifley roll in their graves. In that era people could afford to pay others to remove their rubbish, and there were no dump fees. When I tried removing rubbish 8 years later I got very little work and soon gave it up.
     If we found anything within the rubbish we were removing that was of interest or value we would, without any problems, decide between us who would keep what. One day while removing rubbish from a garage we found within a box of papers three old postcards. Even as teenagers we could see they were of historical value, although neither the cards nor their stamps were worth much monetarily at the time and they're still not worth much. Mick must have kept something else of value from the load because I ended up with the postcards.
    One of the postcards was sent from England in 1917. The sender, on leave or in preparation for his all-expenses-paid WW1 holiday to the Western Front, must have been the husband of the receiver. I can’t remember all of what he said, but I do remember him stating that he'd just done a course on the Lewis machine gun. I gave that postcard away to a collector many years ago. 
   Although my life does not revolve around historic postcards I  don't like to see those sorts of items thrown out, and it gladdens my heart when I see them in the hands of someone who takes a serious interest in such things.
    Another of the postcards I gave to my younger sister, Louise Lyon, several years ago. I could not recall its details when I began writing this post other than it having been addressed to someone living in Canberra. 
    I’m at a stage in my life where I prefer to have fewer possessions, and like me my sister does not have a passionate interest in historic postcards and is also decluttering, so I’m not sure she really wanted my gift. I would have also given her the remaining postcard, but I couldn’t find it at the time. 
     I did however, find the remaining postcard a few weeks ago and I had a good look over it, which is why I am writing this post. It was sent from Newcastle, NSW, on the 1st of September 1939, and addressed to Miss Jean Bowmaker of 13 The Crescent, Mosman, Sydney. The postcard was written by a bloke named Don
   I presumed that Jean, in 1939, was probably a teenager or a young woman living with her mum and dad. I was also however, aware of the possibility that she may have been an older self-sufficient spinster living in her own house. It should be remembered that Australia had a glut of young sheilas after WW1 due to our having around 60,000 of our young men in their prime killed in action during that war. That was a huge number for a country that had a population of only 4.75 million prior to 1914. And there were probably another 100,000 plus young blokes who returned from that war who either died within a few years of returning and/or could not be considered husband material due to them suffering irreparable physical and/or psychological injuries.  
    I have taken a google screenshot of the Mosman house where Jean lived, below. It would be worth a fortune today in that area. As the house appears quite old I presume it’s the same house she was living in, in 1939. I hope it's heritage listed.
According to Google maps the white house above is number 13 The Crescent, Mosman, Sydney. It was the intended destination of the 1939 postcard that was addressed to Miss Jean Bowmaker and sent to her by Don.  

  The photo above shows the front of the postcard that was sent from Newcastle on the 1/9/1939 to Miss Jean Bowmaker at her Mosman home, by Don.

  The photo above shows Don’s message to Miss Jean Bowmaker within the postcard he sent. 
   If you could not read clearly what Don said to Miss Bowmaker in the postcard it was as follows:
Dear Jean,
   Uncle Charlie and I are staying at the George Hotel, Newcastle.
I am sending you a few glimpses of Newcastle. Hope you like them.
With love from,
     I was aware that if the house was owned by Jean’s mum and dad she may have left her home to get married or find work sometime after 1939, but in the hope that a relo still lived in the house I returned the postcard to Mosman on the 18/9/17, addressed to Miss Jean Bowmaker or the current owner of 13, The Crescent, Mosman. 
    I have heard nothing back from the Mosman address despite my putting my name and address on the back of the envelope as well as within my accompanying letter. I also included my email address. So it now seems the house is no longer in the family and its current owner/s is/are in possession of Jean’s postcard.
   After deciding that Jean's house is probably no longer in the family I began to wonder if the other postcard I had given my sister was in any way connected to Miss Jean Bowmaker. 
    I had not been conscious of the name of the addressee of the latter postcard when I gave it to my sister, but the name Bowmaker triggered a memory from the recesses of my mind which reminded me that the name of the Canberra addressee of the said postcard was also connected in some way to occupations associated with the English archery industry hundreds of years ago. 
     I said to myself, “Is the postcard I gave my sister addressed to a person named Archer, Fletcher, Arrowsmith, Alabaster, Bowyer, Butt, Stringer or Bowman? “Wait a minute!” I then said to myself, “Could it have been addressed to a person named Bowmaker who lived in the Berra? Maybe a Miss Jean Bowmaker?” And, I continued to ask myself, “Had Miss Jean Bowmaker moved to the Berra some time after 1939?”
     There was only one way to find out, so I rang my sister, who was unsure of where she had placed the said postcard, because, as I have said, her life does not revolve around historic postcards, particularly those she may have reluctantly accepted from her brother.
    She eventually rang back, having found it, and lo and behold, the addressee on the postcard, which was sent from Wangaratta, was Miss Jean Bowmaker, and it stated that Jean’s address was the “Acton Guest House,” Canberra. 
   The message within the card was probably written by a bloke named Alex, but it could have been Alec, as the writing is not very clear. There is no date on the postcard, so I attempted to date it by way of its stamp, which is one showing Henry Lawson. I don’t know a lot about stamps, but my googling led me to believe that the stamp on the postcard that was sent to Jean while she was living in the Berra was printed in 1949, so it would have been posted sometime in that year or not long after. 
     Okay, I thought, it seems Jean had moved from Mosman to the Berra. And as she was living in the Acton Guest House in the 1940’s and was still a Bowmaker, I suspected she had found work in the Berra, probably in a public service department, and was single at the time. 
  Above is the outside of the postcard addressed to Miss Jean Bowmaker while she was living in the Berra at the Acton Guest house, probably in 1949 if my dating of the stamp is correct.
   Above is the content of the postcard that was sent to Miss Jean Bowman while she was living in the Berra at the Acton Guest House, probably in or around 1949. 
   If you were unable to read the message within the postcard that was sent to Jean in Canberra it is as follows:
Dear Jean,
  This doesn’t seem to have much space, but it has a lot of pretty photos! I arrived safely and have been eating, sleeping, shooting at the rabbits, and have even been chopping wood, but not too much. I have had 6 beers since arrival, which isn’t too bad for me. The weather has been almost perfect except for some rain yesterday.
   I’m leaving here Sunday morning and am bringing my mother and father up for a couple of days so will still be a good boy for a while.
   I’ll see you when I get back.
Love from,
  UPDATE 4/10/17
  With much thanks for the enormous amount of assistance I received from Anne Cameron, the previously mentioned administrator of the Facebook group, “Old Canberra’s Northside Group,” it has been established by way of the “Warringah electoral roll, that Jean’s parents’ address in 1936 was 13, The Crescent, Mosman, as would have been Jean’s, and that their names were Theophilus and Auburn Bowmaker.
    The following Trove newspaper link will show that Auburn, Jean’s mum, received a consolation prize of 2/6 for her pumpkin batter recipe in 1944.
   It has also been established that Jean was a stenographer when she began living in Canberra in 1947, see the link below showing she passed an exam.
   It has also been established that the year was 1949 when Jean lived at the Acton Guest House, which means my estimation of the age of the stamp on the postcard was correct. See Jean’s name on the link below which gives a list of the borders in the Acton Guest House in 1949. It also states that she was a stenographer.
   By way of another link I was to find that Jean’s dad, Theo Bowmaker, worked at the Sydney mint prior to serving admirably in WW1. While involved in the terrible battle of Polygon Wood in France he received a serious wound to the back of his leg and was then returned to Australia and his job at the Sydney mint.  
    Theo, like many others who served during WW1, told a fib about his age in order to be accepted. He said he was 33 when he enlisted but was in fact 39. 
   Given that Theo was a WW1 veteran I deduced that Jean must have been young when she was living with her parents in Mosman at the time the 1939 postcard was sent to her. 
   And it seemed that the postcard I gave to a collector from a soldier on leave in 1917 was in all probability written by Theo Bowmaker and sent to his wife, as the Sydney Mint roll of honour indicates that Theo had been trained in the use of the Lewis machine gun, and I can distinctly remember the writer of the postcard stating that he had done a course on the Lewis machine gun. 
   See the first link below which takes you to the Sydney Mint roll of honour. You will have to scroll down a couple of pages before you come to the details about Theo. 
   Thanks to Graeme Rossiter for supplying me the link that follows the first link, which will take you to Theo’s war service record.
 UPDATE 5/10/17
   I received another message this morning from Anne Cameron, who gave me two important links. And I am very grateful for her efforts. 
    One link was to the NSW BDM register which indicates that Jean was married in 1958. The other was to a 1995 newspaper article and photo which features a lady who was probably Jean Bowmaker, although she was of course using her married name.
    And when combined with some previous information that Anne sent me I am now led to believe Jean is no longer with us, having departed this world in 2005. I also believe her husband left us several years later. 
      It has also however, been established that Jean and her husband had children. 
     I have not published Jean’s married name nor have I said where she lived most of her life or where she died, just in case her children would prefer she was not publicly identified.
      Now that I know Jean had a relatively long life I will say that I hope it was a happy one.

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