I saw a curious thing last Sunday. Since Canberra presented us with cold blustery day we paid a visit to the National Museum of Australia.
The large main hall of the museum now houses a number of “big objects” from the collection. These include vehicles that are well travelled. One very Australian story held my fascination – the saw doctors wagon.
This large trailer is brightly painted decorated with geegaws, tools, family photographs, and hand made signage that served to advertise Harold Wright’s mobile home and workshop.
In Australia during the Depression of the 1930s, unemployment levels reached to over 30 per cent and many people survived by becoming itinerant workers, travelling from town to town to get work.
The wagon started its life in the 30’s as a horse drawn vehicle, but as times and the economy changed the wagon was refurbished and enlarged, fitting it onto the chassis of a truck, and towed by a tractor.
Named the Road Urchin, the wagon travelled throughout north-west Victoria and New South Wales for 34 years, housing Harold Wright, his wife Dorothy, daughter Evelyn and dogs, cats and chickens!
As a travelling blade sharpener, Harold Wright made little money. Apart from reflecting a family’s itinerant lifestyle what fascinated me about this vehicle was all the scrappy bits and pieces the trailer was decorated with accompanied with the sense that each item was probably picked up on the road and probably had a story attached to them.
I wanted to hear what it was like when the trailer moved as I am sure it would have rattled as it made its way around the back blocks.
Interspersed between tools, knick knacks and gee-gaws were photographs of family and friends.
Also dotted all over the wagon there are handmade signs many clipped from newspapers and modified to suit the message.
If the story intrigues you on the Culture Victoria website there is a short film about Harold Wright, his life and you old footage of the vehicle being driven.
I came away from my visit feeling this country has been home to some strong individualists indeed.
You can visit the National Museum of Australia website to see more photos and read about the Saw doctor’s wagon
Most of the photo credits go to Jerry Everard (my dear husband). The good ones are his and dodgy ones are mine!