This true life anecdote from Mitchell’s Island happened in either 1920 or 1921. It was told to me by the late Rosalie Cardow (nee Mudford) in her ninetieth year.1 The heartbreaking poverty of farming families in those days is hard to comprehend now.2
It seems Rosalie’s parents found themselves unable to afford to raise their expanding family, a situation not uncommon in those days. The parents reached the sad decision to adopt out the youngest child to give him a better chance in life while having one less mouth to feed. The child’s name was Ronald.3
There was no such thing as a Child Welfare Department in those days so it was arranged that the local pastor would be entrusted to find a foster family for little Ron. The parents confided this difficult decision to the other children who were understandably shocked.
The appointed day for little Ron to be taken away arrived. The minister and his wife drove out to the farm in their sulky and were duly entertained to afternoon tea while a search was made for Ron. Unbeknown to the parents, Ron’s siblings were having none of it. They had hidden Ron with a big sister to mind him while the others contrived to look for him in all the wrong places.
Eventually the sun went down and the very offended minister and wife drove away in a huff, never to return. The mosquito bitten children crept home to face their parents, promising to eat a little less so they could afford to keep little Ron.
The Good Old Days? I don’t think so.
Author: Bob Winston of Mitchell’s Island.
1Rosalie Mudford was born Esma Roselia Mudford in 1913. She married John Robert Wells in 1936 and after his death in 1946 married Francis Eugene Cardow, in 1955. NSW BDM, Birth Index No. 21373/1913; Marriage Index No. 15189/1936; Death Index No. 16810/1946; Marriage Index No. 24857/1955.
2 Manning River Times and Advocate for the Northern Coast Districts of New South Wales,‘Hard Times’, Mitchell’s Island, 12 March 1921.
3 Ron was youngest of eight children. Northern Champion, ‘Obituary David Mudford’, 22 June 1946.