Digital Photograph - Balwyn RSL Senior Marching Girls Team, Balwyn, 1969. Rosalie is third and Christine is second from the right in the front row.
Source: Museum Victoria
A photograph from 1969 of the Balwyn Returned Service League Grenadels Marching Girls Team has reconnected two best friends who fell out of touch for almost three decades.
Rosalie donated the photograph for the museum’s Biggest Family Album and it joined Collections Online when it launched in late 2009. Christine found the image almost by accident. “When I scrolled down and saw who donated it, I nearly fell off my chair,” she said. The comments left on the page show that the two friends reconnected online within four hours of Christine finding the image. “I can't believe how many memories that had been in storage for years have come back like it was just yesterday.”
Rosalie and Christine met in the 1960s as teammates in the Balwyn RSL Marching Team. Marching arose in the 1940s as a popular pastime for Australian girls. It involved a series of disciplined drills and synchronised formations. “We did practice every Friday night and Saturdays at the RSL in Balwyn Road,” recalled Christine. “My mother had the arduous task of looking after the uniforms and then eventually took home everyone's boots so that they would be 'perfect' on the day. We won a number of Uniform medals, of which Mum was very proud.” Despite stringent guidelines about uniform length, the photo shows the two girls in the front row with the shortest skirts. “We would have pulled those up,” said Rosalie, “and I remember Chris’ boyfriend standing off to the side.” The snapshot caught Christine in mid-chatter. “When my daughter saw this, she said ‘Mum, you have not changed, you’re still talking in photos!’”
Growing up in conservative Melbourne suburbia in the 60s and 70s, marching made Rosalie and Christine the envy of their peers. “Back in those days, we were allowed to do so much more than our friends. It gave us a social life.” They spoke of marching performances for television, Moomba and the Royal Melbourne Show and of of bus trips to interstate and regional marching competitions funded by bottle collections and lamington drives. They made their debut together and were bridesmaids at one another’s weddings. Rosalie has an album full of photos showing the pair in outfits they made themselves – “we’d whip up an outfit and wear it to a dance that night” – with serious 60s make-up and haircuts – Chris with a sharpie crop, Rosalie with long mod locks.
Rosalie stopped marching not long after she left school and began working as a secretary. Between work, marriage and children, Christine and Rosalie saw one another less and less. “Our lives just went off in different directions. I had two boys 15 months apart, and I didn’t have any disposable income,” explained Chris. Rosalie added, “we didn’t see each other for 28 years, but we’re not going to lose touch again.”
Since the introduction of comments on many museum web pages in 2009, visitors have left hundreds of questions, shared stories and made welcome corrections. In many cases, MV has little information about collection objects and visitors have helped us document collections better. Rosalie and Christine’s reunion is not the first; earlier this year, an aunt and nephew were reunited through an information sheet about a migrant ship.