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A step back in time

by Jane Lampe |  | 1 comment

Have you ever thought about how events were decorated, say 100 years ago, before there were florists, event stylists, and event hire companies?

For hundreds of years, there have been big parties, weddings, balls. And I'm sure they were just as beautiful as they are now! But the profession of "event florists" is a relatively new profession, and years ago, event planners and stylists would have really been the luxury of the very wealthy!!

Last week my Aunty Libby sent me 2 photos in a text message. The first photo was of my Great Grandmother, Florence. The second was of an elaborately decorated Lyric Hall in Cowra, not unlike some of the events we've decorated over the last few years!

Florence Louisa, Mrs JP McPhee

I think this is the event in 1935 referred to in the article below.

My Aunt said that Florence had decorated the hall "with a team" may times in the 1920's and 30's. This was way before there would have been a florist shop in town that you could call to get flowers delivered, let alone decorate a hall with flowers, and even before the time of Constance Spry, who I wrote about a few weeks ago!

My gosh, I was so proud to read all about her, and realise that we are so similar. And imagine how she would feel knowing that her great granddaughter did for a living, what she obviously did for the love of seeing beautiful flowers adorning the hall. 

So I did some digging around, and found out a few more details about this particular event in the photo. It was fascinating, and so inspiring. This was an article in the Cowra Free Press on 20 June, 1935. It describes every single detail and makes you feel like you were there. I guess what else did you do before Instagram!!

"Over 200 couples wended their way to the Lyric Hall test night, where the annual Catholic Ball was held under the most ideal circumstances. Everything contributed to the gay affair that the evening proved to be—a fast floor, snappy music and perfect organisation....
...Miss Lucy Kenny was responsible for the charming and novel decorations and received many unstinted congratulations on her artistic effort. Many willing hands helped her in carrying it into effect.
The lovely shade of geranium red was carried out in the large square lampshade topped with black and repeated in the banked salvia, that outlined the gallery and appeared again in bunched effect in the walls.
The same colours were the basis of an alcove that was built on the stage, greenery here playing a prominent part in the decorative scheme. This was Mrs Bassett's charge and it formed a pleasing background to the scheme that was carried out in the main hall.
In the supper room, the tables were delightfully decorated by Mrs J. P. McPhee (ie. Florence). Low baskets of old world blooms, violets, wallflowers and english
marigold lent fragrance and made a charming foil for the intervening tall gold baskets of wonderful icelandic poppies and autumnal foliage. Peach blossoms intermingled in pleasing harmony with a background of fernery in intermittent positions around the room, the arched effect, from which pink streamers drooped, being very nicely carried out. In this too, Mrs J.P. McPhee's artistry was most promiminent.."

Wow, what a sight this must have been to behold in Cowra in 1935. And to think, all of this would have been seasonal flowers and foliage, in the middle of winter, from local gardens, as the markets would have been hours away!! So much work by some really talented ladies. I really wish I could go back in time and ask Florence all about how they worked out what they were going to do. I'd imagine they must have banded together and grown flowers for months in anticipation of these events!

Another event at the Lyric Hall - someone in town must have had a palm tree that was regularly attacked!!

I would really love to know how events will be designed and directed 100 years from now, and what florists, or whatever they will be called then, will think of the way we did things in 2021. I really hope with the same passion and love of nature, and appreciation for beauty that we have now, and that they obviously had in 1935.

If you'd like to read more of the article, you can here. It goes into even more detail about the food, and describes what each and every woman wore to the ball!

Comments (1)

  • Elizabeth McPhee on May 22, 2021

    What a touching tribute to our grandmother, Jane. It’s a wonderful story! I hadn’t seen that very descriptive article you’ve found.

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