For Ruth Apps ( born in 1926), coming of age in Sydney in the early 1940s, boyfriends were supposed to be introduced and marriage was an expectation.
We did a lot of sewing and that type of thing, what we called fancy work which was embroidery. Once I went to school—I was in an academic school—there was very little time for hobbies as such. There was a lot of study to do. We had an enormous number of assignments to do. After I left school I went back to this fancy work to get my glory box ready for the boy that I was ultimately going to marry.
You started off at a very early age and you started off with just a box—a wooden box—and into it you gathered tea-towels or cups and saucers, anything to do with your house. Later on then you got—generally for your twenty-first birthday—you were given a camphor wood box, which was your glory box, and into that went all the sheets and towels and dinner sets, that embroidery that we had slaved over. I’ve still got embroidered table cloths which my grandchildren think is hilarious. But all those things were saved up, waiting for that boy to come along. It’s quite a different attitude now but then you had your eye pinned on that white knight in shining armour and you had to have all that household goods ready for his pleasure (laughs).
I was working in the city in Clarence Street in an office. On this particular afternoon I had to stay back. The cables had come in from overseas and one of my jobs was to decode the cables. I had done that and it was about a quarter to six. I lived at Hurstville so I used to get the train from Wynyard to Central and change trains. So I got on at Wynyard, got off at Central and I knew there’d be a train to Hurstville waiting and I had to climb up the stairs, and I was racing up the stairs and the train was in. I jumped on the train and the guard pushed the bell. In those days the guard was accessible to the passengers. Oh, this handsome man of my dreams came in—he was the guard—and I said, ‘Oh, thank you for holding the train, guard.’ And he said, ‘Oh, I couldn’t have let those fairy footsteps miss the train.’ He said, ‘May I sit down?’ I said, ‘Yes by all means.’ We chatted on and off all the way to Hurstville. I got home and said to my mother, ‘Oh, I met this gorgeous guy.’ She said, ‘Were you introduced to him?’ I said, ‘Well, no, I don’t even know his name.’ So she thereupon delivered a lecture about nice girls don’t go out with boys who are not introduced.
The next day I didn’t have to work back but I waited so that I could catch that same train. I had to walk very slowly and I did that for the rest of the week. By the end of the week I knew his name and all about him. He said ‘I’ll give you a ring.’ We exchanged phone numbers which was very naughty. He rang me and that was it. We went out together for two and a half years before we were married, but there was never another boy in my life after that.
Credit: Ruth Apps interviewed by Frank Heimans in the Australian generations oral history project, ORAL TRC 6300/52, National Library of Australia. Recorded on 11 and 13 April 2012 in Sydney, New South Wales.