TEAM QUEEN: Jacaranda Queen Emily Causley cuts the cake at the Jacaranda Afternoon Tea with her 1947 counterpart Claire Smith.
TEAM QUEEN: Jacaranda Queen Emily Causley cuts the cake at the Jacaranda Afternoon Tea with her 1947 counterpart Claire Smith. Adam Hourigan

Rare film peeks into the past

AS RARE colour footage of the 1947 Jacaranda Festival celebration played out at Grafton's Schaeffer House Museum, memories came flooding back for former Jacaranda queen Claire Smith.

Jacaranda festivities have always been a huge part of life for Mrs Smith (nee Steffenson), who has called Grafton home since 1936.

The restoration of the old film reel, commissioned by its owner Rod Jackson, unearthed about 13 minutes of - among other things - folk-dancing in Market Square, marching at the Grafton showground and the arrival of 1947 guest of honour, the Governor of New South Wales Sir John Northcott.

That was also the year Mrs Smith was crowned Jacaranda Queen.

She recalled the jacaranda trees in Market Square had grown just enough to meet in the middle of the park and create a natural canopy over therevellers.

"I remember in the showground all the boys were lying down to make the tree branches of the jacaranda and the little girls danced around them in their colourful dresses to make the petals," she said.

"I was talking (about it recently) and one man piped up and said: 'I have something to say about that; the showground was covered in bindi-eyes!' "

Reflecting on the differences between this year's crowning and her own, Mrs Smith said the post-war atmosphere was still prevalent in celebrations at the time.

Commodities like butter, sugar and material were still in short supply, and to get the material Mrs Smith needed to make her event dresses she had to source spare ration coupons from people's books.

She only has two casual photos of her frocks and originally hoped the restored footage might have been able to shed some light, but alas the queen was nowhere to be seen.

"(The footage) was mainly walking in amongst team things on the showground," she said.

"It's wonderful that it was found. He has so many more and most have no names."

The one glimmer of hope comes in the form of another reel marked Caltex.

"In talking to Mr Jackson, I said I knew of another film that was done for a petrol company," she said. "The previous year's queen, Vois Schwinghammer, and I had to walk down a street in South Grafton picking jacaranda blossoms from an avenue of new trees.

"There may be something in it. We'll see."



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