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From a generous donation to recreating history!

Written by Denise Chapman (Curator, Access and Engagement) and Tracey Parnis (Marketing and Communications Coordinator)

As we wrap Christmas at the Mortlock up for another year, one of the many highlights was the recreation of a much-loved family Christmas photo taken in 1955. This glimpse into Christmas Day in Lower Mitcham for the Murray family and neighbourhood friends came about through a generous donation of toys and games.

In April 2021 we met Susan Coin (nee Murray) who generously donated toys and games from her 1950s childhood, and that of her brother, Grantley. These were the keepsakes Susan’s mother, Edna, had especially saved at the family home, built under post-war restrictions in 1947 and only recently sold. Most were received as Christmas gifts from their parents and other relatives. Susan’s memory is that toys were given at Christmas, and it was mainly clothes for birthdays. They never received gifts in between these occasions. A selection of the toys was featured in our Christmas display during Christmas at the Mortlock.

Display cabinet with 1950s toy and games.
A display of 1950s toy and games, kindly donated to the library by Susan Coin.

Also included was a photograph taken by Peter Murray, Susan and Grantley’s father, on Christmas Day 1955, at Holme Avenue, Lower Mitcham. The sky was bright blue and the temperature in the mid-30s when this colour slide was taken. Pictured below are the Murray family children and their neighbourhood friends, from left to right: Anne Bonnett, Stephanie Ainsworth, Christine Ainsworth, Rosemary Atterton, Susan Murray, Andrew Atterton and Grantley Murray.

Seven children posing for a photo in front of a house, holding their Christmas toys
Photo: Peter Murray, 1955.

Fast forward 66 years and all together again apart from Anne Bonnett (now Robson, far left of original photo) as she lives in NSW, the precious memories of that day were recreated as everyone took their spot. The group had reconnected with each other, shortly after Susan donated the toys to the library.

Six people standing in front of a large Christmas tree in the Mortlock Chamber.
Pictured from left to right: Stephanie Ainsworth, Christine Ainsworth, Rosemary Atterton, Susan Coin (nee Murray), Andrew Atterton and Grantley Murray. Photo: Toby Woolley, 2021.

Christine Ainsworth, who is holding the doll in the original photo (3rd from left), brought that same doll on the reunion day. She is second from left in the 2021 reunion photo.    

Much has changed for the Holme Avenue friendship group over the years. They mostly keep in touch using social media, but donating the toys stirred the nostalgia and was part of the impetus for the group to reunite – a miracle under the circumstances of COVID. The saying goes that a picture tells a thousand words, in this case they are words of the love of family and reconnecting friendships.

We thank Susan and her family for their generous donation to the Children’s Literature Research Collection and thank all the group for their enthusiasm and willingness to recreate the 1955 Christmas Day photo.