Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Harrow Rd House

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A 2008 photograph -courtesy Google Earth - of the Alcorn residence "Arundel" Harrow Road Bexley NSW

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A Walk Through The Rain

Alcorn brothers, Sidney & Franklin(white hat)
early 1950's
Franklin's daughter, Joyce, continues her story:

"Dadda had quite a lot of work to do for the Council of Churches, which position he held for nine years. As secretary of the Council he was the first protestant clergyman to dialogue with a Catholic Archbishop. This was a most newsworthy happening. The wheels of change grind slowly, we know, after someone starts moving the cogs. Just sixty years, almost to the day, after that meeting, the Roman Catholics joined the World Council of Churches.

Also as secretary of the Council, Dadda was on the board of Rradio station 2CH which closed each night with a Christian epilogue. Many of the clergy filled that roll as did Dadda, who also had to fill in unexpectedly. Once again he came home on a midnight train with no bus running to take him that extra mile.

Though I tend to think of Dadda now as being perfect, he really wasn't quite so. He did tend to enjoy teasing people with his tall tales and he was an absolute terror for leaving anything he was carrying - umbrellas, books, parcels and brief cases - in trains and buses. On arriving home there would be much scurrying to the telephone to try to stop the articles before they had been taken to Lost Property. The railway and bus conductors, being well settled in their jobs for years, did their best to hold Dadda's lost property at Rockdale. He'd tell the tale against himself that once he left Frankie, as a baby, on a shop counter. A tall tale?

He did get into serious trouble the day he arrived home minus his overcoat. He'd given it to a poor chap who was very cold. That type of action seemed to poor Mumma to be carrying Christianity a little to far. She worked very hard keeping us all impecably dressed. She sewed, she repaired, she dry cleaned, she turned collars and cuffs and old clothes into new. Parson's stipends were very low and if enough coins didn't get into the collection plates on any given Sunday, so bet it, my parents just had to make do.

The Hurstville Church of Christ was Dadda's next call after nine years at Rockdale. We didn't have to move house, he simply caught the same bus to Church, but travelled in the opposite direction. Very convenient, except that the travelling time was twice as long, if not longer. Both Frankie and I were married in the Hurstville Church.

Dadda joined the army in 1941 as a Chaplain. He performed Frankie's marriage whilst in uniform. However, although he had retired from the army before I was married and was without a parish at that time, he was granted permission to conduct my marriage at the Hurstville church.

The army years were a big step up for my parents financially. They were able to save some money so eventually bought the house in Harrow Rd, Bexley, which had been their home for many years and in which many couples had been quietly married.

Dadda's first assignment was to the Internment Camp at Hay, NSW (see links below - LF). We know he gave much comfort and love to the men there as we have a collection of poems, stories and paintings of gratitude (see future posts - LF). He continued to correspond with the friends he had made at the camp after they had returned to Britain or Europe. He learnt much from those men as he heard their stories of imprisonment and loss.

When Dadda came out of the Army there seemed to be no Church of Christ available to him, certainly none was offerred. My parents never discussed the reason for this with me, but I know there was disappointment.

In need of work, Dadda took a public relations job with "Hammondville", a Christian village being built for the needy and elderly. When his role there was finished he became a social worker and lay preacher for a Presbyterian church in the inner city of Sydney.

My father and mother both put their hearts into working for the less fortunate, who always had a special appeal for them. The work could often be very frustrating though. They would fit folk out in decent clothing so they could apply for a job, or attend a funeral and so on, only to hear a week later that father, brother or uncle had sold the clothes to buy beer, even at times prawns to accompany the beer.

Feeling the need to have his own flock again and still no parish being offered by the Church of Christ, Dadda went through the necessary procedures to become a minister with the Congregational Church.

Dadda believed that, as a Christian minister, he should live as Christ, putting others first, doing without himself to give to those in need, no matter what race or religion they belonged to. I felt, though he never expressed his feelings to me, that he wasn't his happiest away from the Church of Christ with its emphasis on evangelism and full immersion baptism. He must have gained peace in his disappointment, though, as when he died in 1958, the nurse who attended him told us she had never seen anyone die so at peace with God and man.

There were many dramas throughout Dadda's ministry, some our own but mostly those of other folk. We had very happy times together as a family, Christmas and birthdays always very special without a lot of money being spent. Holidays up the Woronora River in a shack belonging to one of the parishoners was always very relaxing. None of us minded the earth floor, the hessian which separated the rooms or the two mile row for provisions. Rowing lessons for Frankie and I never forgotten! There Dadda taught us to swim overarm, as it was called, and Mumma showed us her favourite style, breast stroke, strokes that no doubt saved their lives during a sailing disaster in Bunbury WA, during a conference outing. Visitors from the Anne St Church, along with those from the Alcorn family - Sid, Elsie, Norma and cousins Percy and Len - are well remebered as very happy events, a joy to all.

Some people walk through the rain. Others just get wet. Franklin and Lily Alcorn walked.

Suggested links for further reading

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

An Introduction

Franklin Edwin Alcorn was born at Boonah, Qld, on July 8 1891. A man whose only vice was tobacco, he died of cancer at Rockdale, NSW, on December 8 1958.

What follows is an outline of his life written some time ago by his daughter, Joyce Favelle.

"Franklin Edwin was the 7th child of William and Elizabeth Alcorn. After reading Ivan Alcorn's biography, I now know for sure that the 'telling of tall tales' really was and still is an inherited gene. So I'm pondering on the stories of Franklin's childhood and youth as told to me by my mother, Lily.

Were they tall tales? Was he pulling Lily's leg or were they fact?

For instance, were all the children of William and Elizabeth thrown into the dam on their farm at 4 years of age and told to swim out? Not one of the 12 children drowned in that dam in Boonah, so perhaps it was a fact.

Did Frank preach his first sermon as a lad standing on a box under a tree? Did he have to find his own way from Boonah to Melbourne Bible College as best he could, working on properties as he travelled for food, a bed, perhaps a lift to the next town or property?

Did he introduce himself to Lily on a St Kilda footpath by raising his hat and saying 'Good afternoon'? A rather forward approach for those days. If so, Lily must have cheerfully answered, being also rather forward.

I'll now refer to Franklin Edwin as Dadda, which will come more naturally.

When Dadda graduated from the college (the above photograph was taken at about that time, 1915. LF) he was given the Church of Christ parish in Brookton, WA. The church had been built for the Baptist churches in 1909. It is now , as I write, a place of worship for the Calvary Presbyterian Church. Still standing, it was a well built brick building with a baptistry. The manse in which my parents lived was a small wattle and daub house, next door to the church.

Being established with an income, Dadda sent for Lily who travelled across to Perth by ship, taking much luggage with her, including her piano. Frank and Lily were married in 1915 and settled down very happily in Brookton.

While in WA, Francis (Frankie) was born in 1920 and Jordan, who only lived a few days, in 1922.

The Anne St City Church in Brisbane, as far as I know, was Dadda's next appointment. Whilst there he was secretary to the Gypsy Smith Evangelical Campaign, which experience probably equipped him for his secretaryship to the Council of Churches in NSW.

I was born in Brisbane in 1924, and in 1927 we travelled to Sydney by ship where Dadda was to take up the parish in Rockdale. I should say Dadda and Mumma, for the parson's wives were a very real part of the team in that era.

FE, the name by which many people referred to Dadda, was a dedicated evangelist believing in full immersion baptism and also in the pastoral care of his congregation, his 'flock'. He travelled many miles by bus, train and shoe leather to pray with and tend to the needs of his people. He was not a yes man so had his critics; but he refused to neglect his flock under any circumstances.

The phone rang constantly and many knocks on the door came late at night and in the early hours of the morning, most of those ordinary appeals, some quite extroardinary. There were many requests for a marriage on the spot.

I well remember young Hilda knocking on the door at about 1am. 'Could the parson please go home with her and talk her father into letting her into the house.' She'd arrived home later than expected so her father had shut her out. Of course, the parson went home with her even though she lived about a mile from our home, in an area known as Bexley Gully.

Another extroardinary request came from a parishoner who lived in Sutherland, eight railway stations away from our Rockdale. 'Could the parson please come right away?' The lady's son had been doing odd jobs with a circus and he'd arrived home in the early hours of the morning with an elephant, which was now in her backyard. Life was never dull, quite full of the unexpected."

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