Vera’s Christmas present from her father in 1906 was a special album to store picture postcards. Collecting them was a craze – they were cheap to buy and post, and with mail deliveries twice daily plus one on Saturday they sometimes landed in your letterbox the day they were written. Before the telephone, scribbled messages arranged visits, sent birthday greetings, exchanged news or simply kept in touch.
Vera became an assiduous collector and the first album grew to several. Apart from the postcards she received in the mail, she gathered plenty of others, their colourful images sometimes embossed and personalised.
To encourage buyers, cards were printed in series: ‘faces’, garden flowers, animals, stage celebrities, sporting personalities, tourist spots and local landmarks. Vera had a run of photographs of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and, towards the end of her collecting days, people and incidents connected with WW1.
Her regular correspondents included her brother Leslie, numerous uncles and aunts, Sunday School teachers, school friends and neighbours Annie Norris at no.2 and the Masseys at 4 Ferry Rd. Vera and her friend Grace in New Zealand exchanged the latest cards.
Vera was born on 9 July 1901 at Glebe, the daughter of Ida Venette Haigh (1875-1959) and Walter John White (1875-1919), a printer, who married in 1899. She and Leslie, two years older, attended St John’s School on the corner of Glebe Point and St Johns Rds.
The family were at 74 Forsyth St before moving to 6 Ferry Rd (in Richmond Terrace) where they lived from 1907 to 1915 when they relocated to 453 Riley St Surry Hills. Here Walter, aged 43, died of heart failure on 4 April 1919.
In 1924 Leslie White married Leonora (Lena) Maud Chilton; they had a daughter Audrey. Leslie died at St Vincent’s Hospital on 7 March 1931. Vera’s father and brother were buried in Waverley Cemetery.
In 1936 Vera married Voltaire Robert Heath, a Queensland-born fitter turned timber worker. The couple lived at 214 Grafton St Bondi Junction where Voltaire died on 17 December 1960 and Vera, intestate, on 20 July 1971.
During the Second World War, Vera’s mother Ida White was one of the 900 members of the Sydney Diocesan Churchwoman’s Association who volunteered to help at the hut and canteen in front of St Andrew’s cathedral, where meals and recreation facilities were provided for servicemen on leave.
Sources: NSW cemetery records; NSW electoral rolls; NSW online registry of births, deaths, marriages; Sands Directories; Trove website.