Although the Top Five Most Mentally Sexy Dads have been chosen there are still another over 100 Dads who are being celebrated through this competition (see here). Every one of them has their own story and I thought it would be a great thing to learn a bit more about some of them.
Going by comments I have received, Jack C (86 year old father of fourteen children) has been one of the competition favourites. Although all the men who have entered have displayed courage and strength in their willingness to buck stereotypical trends to support and care for their families, they are doing it in a time where there is at least some level of support and acceptance. Jack C’s willingness to hang out washing, change nappies and take a hands-on role with his children back in the 1950s shows great courage and a real strength of character.
I wanted to learn more about Jack and so I arranged to meet with him and his wife Monica at the modest three bedroom home where they raised all of their children.
I took a Dictaphone around and had a chat to them about what it was like being a Dad back in the fifties and sixties, what kind of Dad Jack was, and how the modern Dads of today compare. Here is some of what Jack and Monica had to say:
Q How were you involved with your family when you were young? Were there distinct roles and tasks for men and women?
Jack Well, there was but I did everything; I used to do the washing and mopping. I’d change nappies and change the kids… with 14 kids it was a bit of a necessity.
Monica Yep, he’d walk the floor with the kids back then too and get up in the night to settle them.
Q So you were like a modern Dad back in the fifties and sixties. I’ve heard Dads who were raising their kids in the seventies say that they wish they’d had the time with their kids that a lot of Dads get today. So Jack must have been considered a bit unusual back then.
Monica He was, yes. Most of the men back then wouldn’t lift a finger when it came to housework. My friends always used to say, “Wow, how much do you want for him? We’ll buy him. He’s a good husband.” (Chuckles)
Q And what about your children? Did they see anything unusual about it? Did they notice that their Dad was doing things around the house that other Dads didn’t?
Monica I don’t think they took much notice because children didn’t hang around inside at other peoples houses then. Today they’re inside at their friend’s houses playing computer games and seeing what the adults do but in our day they’d be outside playing all the time, making up games.
Q So you as parents may have been outdoors more often than parents these days as well?
Monica Oh yeah, I can remember we’d make up some morning tea and Jack would walk along the back creek with them…
Jack Yeah through all the long grass over there…
Monica …and see how far they could go.
Q With such a big family it would have been pretty exhausting for you both?
Jack Oh yes. I didn’t drink or anything then. And didn’t go out except to work. I worked on the wharf full-time and had a part-time job at a local pub as well. So it was straight from work and back home and then into the family work as well.
Q So, Jack, it sounds like your hands-on approach gave you a lot of time with the kids, despite the time you spent away from the family?
Jack Oh, I would’ve liked more but I had to work double shifts at the wharf fairly often to get the money in…
Q So is there anything about raising a family back then that you would have like to be different?
Jack There were a lot of the modern conveniences that both Monica and I would have loved back then. Washing machines, home telephones, dishwashers… all those things would have saved a lot of time and left as more leisure time together. The workload was bigger back then just doing simple things. You know, you had to have open fires and chop your wood and clean the ash and these days we just flick a switch to make the house warm.
Monica To do the washing we’d have to boil up the gas copper and throw all the clothes in and then stir them around…
Jack …then you’d have to get them out and put them in another tub and then ring them all out.
Q And you did all that for the clothes of fourteen kids!
Jack Yep, and you used to scrub them up on a wash board.
Q Oh yeah, I think I saw Rolf Harris playing one of those once.
Jack Yeah, (laughing). Well, everyone had those back then. We didn’t have a car until the early sixties so we’d just walk everywhere… or take a tram if we were in a hurry… even with shopping we’d just take all the kids. Around Reservoir there were no roads or anything. There were just dirt tracks. The winters back then were pretty rough and that was hard, walking with the kids through the mud and rain.
Q What was great about being a Dad back then that perhaps modern Dads miss out on?
Jack Well, parents were very involved in the sport of their children, their children’s schools and churches. You know, these days everyone has a car and they buzz into school and take the kids and buzz off again. We’d walk up to school to get the kids, you know, if it was raining we’d be taking up their coats and we’d stay and talk with the teachers and find out what they were up to. Community was very important.
Monica I have grandsons and I see what Dads these day do and they remind me a lot of some of the things Jack would do. I think a lot of women would have liked their husbands to be that involved.
Q Jack, what was your involvement when Monica was going through labor and childbirth with your 14 kids?
Jack Dads were left at home basically. They had no involvement at all. We were living in North Melbourne when our first boy was born and we had to walk to the hospital in
Monica I can still remember… we had four boys and then we had a girl. Jack was getting a lift to work with his workmate, Bill. I was in labor so they dropped me off at the hospital on the way and then kept on going to work. Coming home – he didn’t get a job that day, he got appearance money – Jack called in to see how things were going and the girls told him he had a baby daughter. I remember Bill said to me later, “He came out with this stunned look on his face and told me he had a baby girl and when I asked how Monica was he just looked at me and told me he’d forgot to ask!” (laughing)
Q So, what are your thoughts on the changing family roles for men and women these days? I don’t suppose you would have seen many stay-at-home Dads or women working full time back in the fifties…
Jack No. But I can see the value in it. Women can have very well paying jobs these days and can often do better then men and, you know, some women just want to work…
Q And some Dads want to spend more time on the home front too…
Jack Yep. I can see the value in it. Just wasn’t done back then.