At the State Library, we are always busy sleuthing and looking for things in the collection, and on occasion, we find something other than the expected. This note to a teacher fell out of an old textbook donated by the Glenelg Primary School. The box of donations contained many texts and other instructional books ranging in date from 1901 to 1968.
The note says,
I wonder if you would mind getting some one to put Wendy, on the city bound tram, after school. I shall meet her at Wayville stop, we are staying with Wendy’s Aunt, and I am unable to get down at the time to meet Wendy, so if you would be so kind, I would be much obliged. I have put her fare in her case.
Thanking you for your trouble
Mrs McCleve[?] McClure[?]
We thought the note was such a charming example of how people communicated everyday information in a bygone era and how a teacher was trusted to attend this matter without question. Also, the script is cursive or ‘running writing’ which many people are no longer able to use or even read.
Being a curious bunch at the State Library who love a mystery, we wondered who wrote this note. All we knew for sure was the first name of the child, Wendy, and that the note had fetched up at Glenelg Primary School prior to 1968. It was difficult to decipher the surname of the person who wrote the note. So, what to do?
The State Library is chock full of resources, not least of which are our staff. We asked around the Library to see if anyone could identify the surname on the note. The consensus was that it looked like McClure. The clever folks in the Research and Discovery team then found a listing in the electoral rolls of a Mr Richmond and Mrs Violet McClure living in the Glenelg area in 1952. This is interesting, but this alone wasn’t enough information to know if this was Wendy’s family. We needed more facts.
With the possible first names of Wendy’s parents, we searched Trove, the National Library of Australia’s digital resource for Australian newspapers, seeking any relevant reports or family notices. Our search returned a notice in the Chronicle newspaper under ‘Approaching marriages’ for Violet Gertrude Midmer and Richmond James McClure on 28 December 1935:
Internet searching turned up a family history website called Stemmata, created by a distant relative of Richmond McClure. There is a page for Richmond (known as Dick) and Violet (Vi) McClure stating that Dick McClure worked for the Post-Master General’s department and that he and Vi had two children, one named Trevor. The name or gender of the other child was not known by the family historian. Also posted on the web page were two photographs, one showing Dick and Vi together and one showing Vi with her son, Trevor @ https://m.sites.google.com/site/stemmata/richmondhope/alicehope2/richmond-james-mcclure
But we still didn’t know whether the other child was Wendy. We used Trove again to try and find a birth notice for Trevor or Wendy, but could not find a birth notice up to 1954, which is the cut-off date for digitised Adelaide newspapers. So, if Wendy was born after 1954, or no birth notice was placed, or the machine-readable text was difficult for the search engine to interpret, there are no other reliable sources in the public domain to verify if the McClure’s had a child they called Wendy.
The next step was to fast-forward the lives of this family to see if there were death notices for either parent which might mention Trevor and Wendy as the children.
First, we used the Savill Index to funeral notices (which is available on our Guide to Births, Deaths and Marriages) where we found a reference to a funeral notice for Richmond James (Dick) McClure, The Advertiser newspaper, 14 December 1987.
This sent us to The Advertiser on microfilm for 14 December 1987 in which there were notices of the death of Mr McClure on 12 December 1987, naming his children as Trevor and Wendy. Bingo! Surely these are the right people?
In a bittersweet gesture Trevor and Wendy spoke of their father as a steadfast Dad,
‘who gave so much and asked for so little in return’.
The Advertiser, 14 December 1987, on microfilm at the State Library.
Using family notices like this is sometimes the only way to verify a female child, given that many ladies change their surname upon marriage. Without knowing the married name, it can be impossible to find that person in records that are publicly available.
Vi McClure passed away in 2002, aged 90. We searched the Centennial Park memorial search, and found that their ashes are held at this cemetery in Pasadena. According to this listing, both Dick and Vi were residing at Glenelg East at the time they died.
The Library holds other family history resources which could have taken us further down the ‘tram track’ of this story but for now we have enough information to establish that the note to teacher was written by Mrs Vi McClure, for her daughter Wendy, probably in the 1940s or early 1950s.
Whilst this note will not become part of the formal State Library collection, we wished to highlight it as a lovely insight into simpler times. Perhaps it reminds you of the kind of notes your mother or father might have written to your teacher, to sort you out for special arrangements. Parents would most likely use email and mobile phone contact now and would absolutely not entertain the idea of a small child using public transport on their own, especially if it was not possible to receive a confirmation from the teacher. Let’s hope Wendy was put on the tram by teacher and was met by her mother at the Wayville stop.
Written by Denise Chapman, Curator, Engagement