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Greetings from afar

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During the First World War the Australian Comforts Fund co-ordinated the distribution of small gifts to soldiers to make their life a little more pleasant.

It was formed in August 1916 and co-ordinated the efforts made by various existing State based patriotic funds. In the field, its activities were overseen by commissioners who held honorary rank as officers. Local Drummoyne Alderman, Mayor and politician, Thomas Henley was one such commissioner who visited Egypt, France and Britain in his work for the Australian Comforts Fund. His own son, Lieutenant Harold Leslie Henley was killed in action on 15 August 1916 in France.

This postcard was distributed to soldiers by the Australian Comforts Fund at Christmas 1916. It was sent by Private Henry George Jeffery to his family in Five Dock. Harry was killed in action on 4 October 1917 in Belgium.

The postcard artwork is by Laurie Tayler (Lawrence B. Tayler), an Australian artist and cartoonist of the period. The gentle humour of the postcard (‘People have been very kind to me in London’) belies the horror of the First World War experience.

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Christmas 1915

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In 1915 Private Robert (Bob) Jeffery sent this simple card from Cairo to his family in Five Dock. It was printed on lightweight paper in Cairo and distributed to soldiers by the Australian Comforts Fund. At home it was lovingly preserved by his mother Margaret Jeffery in an album of postcards and letters sent by her two sons and nephew while serving in the First World War.

Bob was only 15 at the time of his enlistment. On Christmas day 1915 he wrote to his family,’I hope you all enjoyed your Xmas dinner, because I did, I had some roast turkey, boiled cabbage & roast potatoes, also some pudding and the day before yesterday most of us got our Xmas gifts from the Australian Comforts Fund. I got a billy can full of tobacco, cigarettes, cigars and matches, chocolate…writing paper, a plum pudding and a little square box with a dozen postcards… I don’t think I’ll go short of smokes for a while.’

After serving in the Middle East, Bob, like the message on the card, returned to his family in Australia.

Time to get out the reindeer

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At Christmas many houses around the City of Canada Bay are brightly decorated as part of the celebrations, sometimes with extravagant lighting displays.

The photograph, above, was taken in 2001 and shows a man decorating his home in Reginald Street, Wareemba. It was an entry in ‘A Day in the Life of the City of Canada Bay’ photograph competition, held to celebrate the first anniversary of the City of Canada Bay.

The City of Canada Bay was formed on the 1 December 2000 through the amalgamation of Drummoyne and Concord Councils. The suburb of Canada Bay lies midpoint between the two former Council areas so the name was chosen for the new city. The first Council meeting was held on the 12 December 2000. Councillor Michael Wroblewski was elected as the first Mayor of the City of Canada Bay while Councillor Angelo Tsirekas, the current Mayor, was elected as Deputy Mayor at that meeting.

Christmas past

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In 1943, Hycraft Carpets at Five Dock sent a newsletter to its workers on active service during the Second World War, reflecting on the effects of rationing on the home front:

‘Some of the boys have said they would like to be at our Xmas party, but we did not have one last year, and this year we are not holding one because we can’t get the food for such a party, nor any decorations, nor entertainers… We certainly miss the yearly party, but will make up for it when you all come home. However, the Government have come all over generous, and told us we can each buy [450 grams] of bacon at Xmas!… Sydney presents a strange sight these days with all it’s queues… we even have to queue for potatoes at Five Dock.’

This contrasts with the photograph, taken a few years earlier, of McIlrath’s Grocery, 189 Victoria Road, Drummoyne when both food and staff were in plentiful supply for the Christmas season.