As a child we moved about North America a great deal. It was my father’s work that occasioned this. No, not train robbery…that was never work as such…more a hobby. I mean heavy construction, mining, and dredging. Its the sort of profession that whirls managers and engineers from one job to the next and can uproot their families 3 times a year for decades.
Every time we arrived in a new city or town there seemed to be a Welcome Wagon. This would be generally ladies meeting my mother and bringing cake or cookies plus what seemed to be special gifts, but were in reality advertisements from the local tradespeople. In many cases the Welcome Wagon ladies were the wives or employees of the tradesmen. This was in the days before professional girlfiends so there was never anything juicy in the gossip line.
My mother would have them all in, serve tea, coffee, and whatever was in the kitchen at the time. The ladies would introduce themselves and then gently probe for answers – much like Facebook does now. Age, marital status, education, children, hobbies, income, religion, politics, preferred brands of tobacco or liquor, etc. The answers would then lead to additional probes and/or discrete advertising for whoever had filled the Welcome Wagon basket.
I listened to my mother respond to some of this; fence with some questioners, answer others, then supply them with what in retrospect was a very friendly form of obfuscation. I think she would have been good in front of a Royal Commission or Senate Enquiry. It was the time of Senator Joe McCarthy so I think she realised the value of keeping family information private.
In any case it was always the same – as soon as the welcome ladies found out that we were birds of passage, likely to be there for only a quarter of the year, the welcome mat would be rolled up and they would vanish. To be honest, even though I was only about 7 or 8 at the time, I got to be quite cynical about the whole exercise. I got far better treatment from teachers ( and far worse from students ) at the schools I went to.