I kept in touch with my uncle Stewart Brown in the years after Aunty Ethel died. In 1994, he was living down at Palm Beach in the old house in Florida Road where Grandpa Slip Carr had lived. He told me that he had some things that belonged to Grandpa that I might like to have. Things like photographs, letters, postcards and other memorabilia. I was interested and promised to come and get it.
I did nothing about it for a long time. Finally, more than a year after we had first spoken, my wife and I drove down to Palm Beach one Sunday morning in March 1994. She took our three girls to the beach for a few hours. I stayed up at the house with Stewart. I remember standing on the big, wooden balcony that faced a wall of trees and vines. You could just make out the sea through gaps in the green. It was hot and the birds and cicadas were almost deafening.
Uncle Stewart ushered me from the balcony into Slip’s old, dimly lit bedroom – the one nearest the front door. When my eyes got used to the dimness, Stuart showed me a big iron trunk, brown with rust. It was filled with mouldy, books, newspaper cuttings, framed photographs, smaller boxes and metal chocolate tins that held more photographs. Apart from the trunk, there was a cardboard box or two with more of this ancient stuff.
Stewart picked out a few things and told me something about them. A dirty bag with a red cross on it held a wad of letters written by family and friends to Slip when he was a soldier in World War I. A set of photographs of Grandma Queenie and her sisters as young girls. One, in a heavy metal frame, of a youthful Uncle Leo in his naval officer’s uniform. Stewart pointed out a photo of Slip in 1940 in Australian Army uniform, with Don Bradman, signed by both men. Stewart said this was one of Slip’s favourites.
I remember my growing feeling of excitement at being given this amazing treasure chest. I will be forever grateful to Stewart for passing it on to me.