Jackie Trembling

Jacqueline (Jackie) Trembling (nee Edmonds) was born in Bristol, United Kingdom on 17 December 1940. She married Norman Trembling on 29 February 1964 and they had two children, Julie and Linda. Jackie did her hairdressing apprenticeship in the late 1950s. After her marriage to Norm they emigrated to Australia and arrived here as “Ten Pound Poms” on 9 June 1965. This is her story:

Jackie decided hairdressing was the career for her when she accompanied her best friend to the hairdresser when she was about 14.

“My friend’s hair was straight so it was in plaits and it was the first time I’d ever been in a hairdressers. I went with her when she had her plaits cut off and I thought it looked interesting. Her mother put a home perm in that night and she came in to school the next day a mass of curls which we thought looked lovely. I then thought hairdressing was something I would be able to do” Jackie was impressed with the transformation and began her hairdressing apprenticeship. “My indentures are 6 February 1956 so that was when I started. It was a five-year apprenticeship in those days. I did a month’s trial. That was 1956 to 1961. Basically the first few months you were the cleaner-up/laundry lady. It was quite nice to get into the salon to sweep the hair up actually because most of the time I was downstairs making sure the washing machine was washing the towels. I wouldn’t say it was really what I thought it was going to be but once you got “hands-on”, once you were shown even to shampoo – you think “Oh you just rub the hair” but she used to make us not get froth on the palms of our hands. It had to be on our fingers. In those days the ladies were leaning over, there was no back basins. They were leaning over a basin.

“I reckon it was two years and I hadn’t picked up scissors. You spent a lot of time handing things to senior girls because there was about nine staff – four or five seniors. There was an apprentice, she was ahead of me by about two years. She was doing more colouring, rinses, things like that. She had a more interesting type job. I was melting up the soft soap for shampoo. “You could leave when you’d done your three years. By then you were doing people’s hair sometimes. You could earn money for your employer then so you weren’t classed as a senior hairdresser until you’d done your five years. You were what they called “improving” after you’d done your three year’s apprenticeship and then it was two years “improving”. I left in the November as my five years would have been up in February so that was the start of backcombing and teasing and beehives and all that sort of thing were just starting to come in. Up until then it was basically finger waves and things like that – close to the head type styles. Not so full at all. It definitely wasn’t a lot of backcombing, not when I started. My employer had people in there having Marcel waves done with the iron and she still had three regular ladies that liked their hair that way. It was a mixture of late 40s styles and 50s. It wasn’t until 60s hair came that it really altered to straight fringes, “Cilla Black” type look which even people with naturally curly hair tried to achieve, including myself. And French rolls those sort of things. Another – you used to swirl it round on top all teased – solid – it wouldn’t have moved if a hurricane had blown it. It wasn’t hair spray, it was lacquer in those days.

“I enjoyed it. It’s not some job you’re doing that you never see the finished product. When you’re actually doing people’s hair you change them – it’s amazing! It never ceases to amaze me how you can really transform someone just with a haircut even – just a simple sort of thing and yet they are frightened of change and so they stick along with the same old thing and then they suddenly want a change so you change it. I got a lot of satisfaction out of seeing someone come in with daggy hair and going out looking great.” In 1965 Jackie and Norm began the process of emigrating to Australia. Jackie’s sister had emigrated to Melbourne in 1957 and her letters encouraged Jackie to follow her. “We used to get letters at Christmas – her saying about picnics on the beach and there was us freezing to death over around the fire and you thought – “oh how lovely”. Other than that I didn’t really know a lot about Australia at all really. I was expecting to see a lot more kangaroos everywhere than what you do. The day they left was very sad for the whole family. “I must admit I had very big doubts that night. We had to leave at 3 o’clock in the morning. My brother drove us to the station and my mother-in-law came to say goodbye. She had a teddy that my husband had had when he was one and she brought it with her to give to my daughter. She changed the blue bow to a pink bow and we were saddled with this huge big teddy and the baby in the carry cot – like a pram and we bought a set of wheels so that we could push it. We had two suitcases and everything was coming by sea. The train was packed because it was Bank Holiday. “When you’ve got past that awful goodbye at the station. I’d never seen my brother cry until then. He was very upset and so was I. I think I was upset seeing him upset but then once you’re actually on your way – the train was packed. We were in the corridor sitting on our suitcases trying to keep out of everyone’s way with this baby between us and this huge teddy – panda it was – it wasn’t a teddy. It was a black and white panda. “We’ve got friends that we’ve known since then. They were in a compartment and their little girl was asleep on their lap and she was two, three days after we all arrived in Australia. She was asleep lying nicely with her hand under the chin she looked a picture of innocence and I remarked to my husband “that was the model they used for cherubs” because of her beautiful blonde curly hair. In the hustle and bustle of getting to Victoria Station because our train comes from Devon and Cornwall in the west country and goes to Paddington and had to get from Paddington to Victoria station to get a bus to the airport at Heathrow. And at Heathrow we saw this little girl running away from her parents as two year-olds do. And my husband remarked “there’s your cherub” and then she came over to look at the baby. They were Sheila and Ken Edwards and the little girl was Ira. We got talking and it turned out they were emigrating as well and on the same flight – 12 o’clock. We were all four of us born the same year. We’ve been friends ever since. I think for the fact that we shared the same adventure.”

Jackie had very positive first impressions of Australia.

“We thought it was great – coming from an English summer, it was like summer again – bit cool at nights. We came to Sydney and we were in a hostel for six weeks. That wasn’t good but it was only supposed to be temporary thing until you find something. We bought an old car – paid 25 pounds for it. We got here on the Wednesday and I think my husband started work on the Friday. We only had a day to get over that – deaf thing. The flight made my ear funny and I couldn’t hear too well for a few hours when we first landed – we didn’t know if it was day or night. Once we got over that and he got into routine of going to work again. It wasn’t treated like a holiday any more. We drove around and saw a bit of Sydney and quite liked it but I did get homesick. I missed my family and I had my older sister in Melbourne and that first weekend that we were here she and her husband and children drove up to meet us. It was a long weekend and I hadn’t seen her for nine years. At the time 1965, there was plenty of work and she said “come to Melbourne, come nearer to us”. So my husband got a job with TAA and they flew us from Sydney to Melbourne and she found us somewhere to live. They lived at St Albans on the outskirts of Melbourne and we stayed there for about 10 months but I can’t say I really liked Melbourne though my sister loved it so it was no good me whingeing to her because she liked it and was settled there and thought I was a bit soft in the head because I didn’t. “We corresponded with Sheila Edwards and she sounded so happy in Brisbane. She said “come up here – bags of work. Norm could get a job” So we piled everything into this old car and drove up here to Queensland and we arrived a year to the day that we’d all arrived in Australia – we arrived in Ipswich at their house. Ken was away working. Once we came to Queensland, I never looked back. Something about Brisbane, I liked it. It seemed “familiar” whereas – Sydney and Melbourne to me were like London, busy and bustly and I wasn’t from London so I liked the slower pace in Queensland and we found the people were fantastic.”

(Jackie Trembling was interviewed in April 2002).