ADOLESCENCE

        I have memories of when nothing was higher than sitting on dad's
        shoulders.... and nothing more comforting than mum's hug.

        Sadly, I will never know those feelings again.

         Whoever can look back with pleasure on his past
               existence, can live twice.
                                 (Read somewhere and remembered!)

        My first school was "Blackfriars" at Chippendale in Sydney.
        For the first two years it was my everything and I remember these
        times, albeit sketchily, with fondness and a  sense of innocence
        and security.  My first grounding for personal friendships sadly
        came to an abrupt end there as unfortunately, because Blackfriars
        School had only year 1 and 2 classes, year 3 was a restart seemingly
        from scratch at another school, as I progressed through "the system".

        Parting from the only friends we ("babies") had ever known was a gut
        wrenching and tearful end to an era for all of us,  not only for
        the tearful goodbyes we experienced,  but the uncertainty the
        following year seemed to promise at an unknown environment/new school.

        We couldn't understand at the time what geographic placement meant
        in relation to what school we next attended. And the ways of the
        world, like job transfers of our parents, divorces, remarriages,
        adoptions, economic pressures and plain old death itself never
        entered our uncomplicated little minds as we wondered why another one
        of our tiny mates just seemed to disappear without warning or further
        contact.

        I was enrolled at Cleveland Street Primary school. My mate Bill
        went there too,  but we'd lost Keith who was sent to a  private
        school.  His mum moved away and we didn't see him after that.

        Settling in to the new school was traumatic for everyone I suppose,
        all the kids there probably felt the same as I did. It was "foreign"
        to me.

        It took some time, but we all settled in eventually as most kids do.

        I was 'smarter' than most (yeh, right....!) and soon established
        myself as "leader of the pack and champion of the weak" !!!

        Unfortunately they all feigned "weak"....and left me to protect them.
                     (And I thought I was smart!!)

        What an exhausting job I'd created for myself.......

        I must have seen too many episodes of Superman. I didn't wake to
        the futility - despite the pain that accompanied my self assumed
        role.  Even my larger mates hid behind me - and boy, were there
        some big sour kids in those other classes as well.  And I'd never
        heard that saying " Never fight anyone ugly - they have nothing
        to lose!"

        I'd like a quid (two dollars buys a lot less today) for every time I
        gave up "little lunch"  to sort out someone for picking on a "mate"
        of mine.

        I "earned a degree in "Creative Suffering" (many times over!)

        The times I was dragged before the Principal or just sent home to
        change into a clean uniform.......

        I should have been locked up for my own good - but did  I learn
        anything from my experiences?.......no......I  just  read sayings
        that went like this:
       "Its not the size of the person in the fight, but the size of the fight
        in the person"  (Same idiot wrote "the bigger they are ........ !!)
        "Courage in danger is half the battle" (Plautus B.C. 254-184).....
          .......and we all read about the "courage of Plautus didn't we!

        I used to read those sayings - and I REALLY believed them!!

        If I was beaten by anyone at school, I felt driven to go back and
        have another 'go'.  One guy  I fought four times before getting the
        better of him.  Probably the only good that came out of all this
        adolescent nonsense, was the determination that explained some of
        my "qualities" in later years....(ie. how obstinate I could be!)

        In retrospect, there probably wasn't really that much danger .....a
        bloodied nose .....dented pride .....what damage could two little 7-13
        year olds do to one another in a 'fist' fight.

        Nonetheless it was all very real and  "oooh sooo important" to us all
        at the time.

        Mum always stood by me.  She would tell the teachers I had been
        brought up and told never to run away from a bully. I knew as long
        as I  said  I was being picked on, she would always support me
        to the hilt.  You could just about see the consternation in the
        principal's face sometimes as he weighed up the alternatives of
        either caning me or sending a note to mum ....which he KNEW I would
        always give to her.  He seemed reluctant to do either because either
        way mum would be there to see there was no way my complete honesty
        and innocence was compromised or misinterpreted!
        (If ever there was somewhere the flame of motherhood burned much
         brighter ...... it had to be in my mum)

        The principal used to sit me down at times and tell me how I should
        let others sort out their own problems  and how I was wearing myself
        to a frazzle, to the point that one day I wouldn't be able to defend
        myself even (?).       When it got a bit much for him he would turn
        in desperation to a note to mum and suffer the consequences of how
        her poor little boy was being picked on and "I am raising him to
        be a man - not a wimp".

          Footnote:
          There was never any doubt that I loved and respected my mum, but it
          wasn't till much later, after she passed away, that I realised just 
          how fortunate yet undeserving I was for the blessing she had been
          upon my life. The fact she cannot be replaced will never leave me.

                                   -----------

                 
        After the first year our "pecking order" had been determined - and as
        we settled down to observe the antics of the new intake of class 3's,
        things seemed to abate on our front, much to the relief of the
        principal and teachers alike I'd imagine.

        Several times the Headmaster furnished me with bags of lemons off
        his own tree to take home for mum.        Probably to stay in her
        good books.         (Lemons to sweeten......?)

        Mum had that knack of being able to cut people down to size with
        her tongue - no bad language, just a sharp and ready reply.

        "And what the bloody hell's it got to do with you, nosy"   being her
        favourite.   I dont know if it was mum's shock value or her "delicate"
        choice of words" that worked so well for her.

                Anyone who knew mum, boasted of no disputes with her.

        The principal was wary of mum..........
                                  and as always, I was glad she was on my side!

                              ----------------

            "Men are what their mothers made them".
                 Emerson (1803-1882)
                                   (And I thought I was self made!)
                              ----------------

        I listened to my mum. She was my strength.

        One day I went to school and for some reason  or other, mum didn't
        have my sports outfit ready and that day was PE (physical education)
        afternoon.   She gave me a note to give to the PE teacher, which I
        genuinely forgot to  take.

        This is where I  found a poor reputation for behaviour reflects on
        your other fields of endeavour    (those who have endeavours anyway!).

        Now I loved my sports, probably because I could hold my own at near
        anything I tried then and I enjoyed any  challenge.  I told the PE
        teacher I'd forgotten the note and mum would not want me to do PE in
        my good uniform.   All this was discussed in front of the class.

        Well - he didn't believe me and must have thought I was trying to be
        smart,  so he ordered me to carry on PE in my school uniform.

        Now as much as I desired doing as I was told to stay out of trouble
        with him,  I had to weigh up who I was most fearful of upsetting,
        him or mum - and naturally it was mum .......so I refused.

        He must have thought I was being deliberately insolent and flew into
        a rage, lost his temper and backhanded me.

        I  stood my ground only because I was rooted to the spot in shock
        and terror. I wanted to cry, but my whole class was looking on.
        I knew I was out of my depth but was still obstinate enough to
        decline again.      The teacher grabbed me and shook me violently,
        demanding I do as I was told - and pushed me backwards.

        I retained my physical balance despite this, but my mental attitude
        reversed and I now saw the PE teacher as a threat to my person and
        indeed that "stranger danger" I'd been warned of so often.

        I was so mad at being embarrassed in front of all my mates as his
        intimidation on  me was over the top.  Mum had always ingrained into
        me that I was equal to anyone.          (Struth.....)

        Maybe she didn't mean adults as well here - but I took her word for
        it.......literally.

                   "Doubt whom you will, but never yourself".
                                            Bovee (1820-1904)
                                             (and my mum too)

        ** (info) Most kids in the school had a school case that was made
           out of a lightweight brown fibreboard, but my parents couldn't
           afford a lot of things, and these cases were relatively expensive.
           Also, they didn't last much more than a year  with the harsh
           treatment dealt them by young 'kids from hell', so my dad made
           me one of plywood, which was durable, but real heavy. I had it
           for several years and every now and then dad would sand and
           varnish it so it looked good all the time.   The first year I
           carried it always with my right hand, and at the end   of the
           first year my body leaned naturally to the right and my right
           arm  was 3 centimetres longer than my left.     (Honest!)
       (The following year I carried it with my left hand and was cured!!!)

        ............Back to the PE teacher.

        As he moved toward me again. I could think only of defending myself
        .....maybe it was self preservation that took a hold of me as I
        drove upward with my home made weapon....er....school case and it
        was really travelling as he moved toward me at the  same time.

        It caught him flush on the chin and down he went.

        The whole class was cheering me on as I dropped the case and jumped
        on him.    He was a grown man, very fit and much bigger framed than
        I was, but  quite groggy from the blow from the suitcase.  I rained
        blows on him in blind fury for the embarrassment he'd subjected me to.

                    Was I an angry little anal or what.

        Another teacher appeared on the scene and hauled me off him and up
        before the principal. The still groggy PE teacher was demanding that
        the police be called.

        "Assault", "expulsion", "disruptive" - were just a few words he was
        using to overawe me.   And I was scared stiff, but tried not to show
        it.          My mum was called and  arrived in the midst of it all.

        Cripes was I glad to see her.

        Here was a policeman - very imposing, the PE teacher wanting to prefer
        charges and me (terrified!)........ a huge hullabaloo going on .......
        and in came someone better than the cavalry ..............my mum.

               "There is no friendship, no love, like that
                            of the  parent for the child".
                                        Beecher (1813-1878)

        (Thank God for mum.   To this day I remember how elated and relieved
        I was to see her)

        First she wanted to take apart the teacher for laying a hand on her
        "baby".  When the policeman denied her this small pleasure, she wanted
        to counter charge the teacher for assault on a minor - and reiterated
        that under the circumstances I was acting as directed by her and my
        retaliation was a defence mechanism bred into me, etc. infinitum ....
        ........(yawn!)

        Boy, when mum had something to say in anger, no one interrupted!

        Well, mum was too much for all of them ..............the principal,
        the PE teacher, the witnessing teacher AND the policeman.

        I think they would have all thrown in and paid her to go away.

        It was agreed all charges both ways be dropped, I have the rest of
        the day at home for mum to deal with me and the PE teacher apologise
        to mum and I.      Also - that my dad did not visit the PE teacher
        as would have been mandatory in any situation an adult hit someone
        else's kid.

        I remember my dad was most upset and "stewed" for ages on that point
        as he waited in vain for another excuse to bring him to school.

        Several times after that, mum kept him in the dark, as she knew
        things could have got nasty had he become involved.

        I was 13 at that time.  I never had anything but fair treatment
        from the PE teacher afterwards... and in fact - I developed a
        healthy respect for him.

                                 -------------

                  Have you noticed how parents want their kids
                   to sit down and to sit up at the same time?

                                   -----------

        At Cleveland Street School the inner grounds were quite small
        and the public park outside was used for our playground.
        In the park was the  old  Exhibition  Building  that  was
        used,  I believe,  for an expo', many  years before.   I used
        to go in there after school at times and marvel at the magnitude
        of it and all the glass (mostly broken) right around the roof and
        sides.   It was later pulled down and a public swimming pool and
        ice skating rink built on (or near) the site.

                Across the other side of the park from the school was the
        Coronation Playground where many of us went after school to play
        sports.  "Paddle Tennis" and basketball being two of the most popular
        at the time.

        I later captained a soccer team there - we were enthusiastic but
        not real successful .......well, maybe hopeless is a better word.

        In the centre of the park they started to excavate for a new rail
        link tunnel, which was going to be called The Eastern Suburbs Line.

        As kids, time can go by very slowly ....it seemed to take up a lot
        of fenced space and not much appeared to be happening.( idiots?) - it
        was all happening underground, right? ..........Der.....! )

        The adults too were critical - and some wag erected a sign,
        " Wait here for the Eastern Suburbs Railway".

        That sign was left there for a very long time as I remember.

                           ------------------------
        I remember when .....a dollar was worth eighty cents.
                           -------------------------

        As you turn left from Regent St. Chippendale into Cleveland St.
        you cross a railway bridge heading east. You pass the start of
        Botany Rd. and to your left there was a church.  I think it was
        called  St. Barnabas.

        It was here I got my first taste of what it was like to be dressed
        in uniform and be part of a team.  I joined the BOYS BRIGADE.

        I was around 7 to 8 years old and so pleased with my sponsor (my mum)
        for making it all possible.

        I dont remember exactly what we did or what most of the activities
        were there, but when I remember that name - Boys Brigade - I have
        deep feelings of great comfort and mateship from that group.

                           --------------------------

        I used to get two bob (20 cents) a week pocket money. A trip to
        the "bughouse" (Broadway Theatre on Broadway) for the Saturday
        arvo matinee, left me little for the rest of the week. Mum would
        slip me a 'deener' (ten cents) at the odd time without dad knowing,
        but there was a limit.    I never seemed to have as much as some
        of my mates even though I supplemented this by selling barrow loads
        of firewood from the local (Tooths) brewery.

        As an eleven year old I was now "too old" to keep doing this.
        Selling firewood was for kids (!)......................
        so I presented myself to the local paper shop in Meagher Street
        Chippendale and offered my services as a paper boy.  And I remember
        how I really couldn't understand why the owner didn't immediately
        grab a lad of my "obvious" ability!

        He told me he had enough boys at present and a few on his waiting
        list.  No worries. I let all the boys know I was looking for a start
        and to let me know when they required some time off so I could
        fill in for them.

        A couple of days later one of my friends asked me in the morning
        to  report him as sick so the paper shop owner had time to arrange
        a temporary boy for his run.  Very few people had home telephones
        then and most local messages were delivered by word of mouth.   My
        friend knew I was dependable and would surely deliver the message.
        (heh heh!)

        I reasoned (an 11 year old) that if I gave the paper shop owner
        the message straight away, another boy would be called in.
        So I conveyed the message at 3.30 in the afternoon, which was start
        time for the  newsboys.

        And the owner was delighted when I said I could break all my "other
        arrangements" and do the run at such short notice.....!

        I must have performed well because another boy was leaving his run
        a few days later and the newsagent asked me did I want the run
        permanently.  He told me also that he knew  all along about the
        "late" message I had given for my sick mate and I had to promise
        him I would always be straight with him in future!  (And I was)

        I earned a lot of money from tips, selling papers in the two pubs
        that were on my corner, which was the top of Meagher St., on the
        corner of Regent Street. One was the Gladstone Hotel (still there)
        and the one on the other corner is gone). This was the 'prime site 
        run'. The trams turned into Meagher St. between the two pubs.  
        I had learned to "scale" them to sell papers, which meant some 
        paper boys further along saw their clients getting off with a paper 
        under their arm.

        I had perfected moving dismounts from the trams all loaded up with
        papers and had great delight seeing the women turn white as I did it.
        I had learned to do this watching a man who sold papers in Broadway
        opposite St Benedicts church, named Billy (and with much practice.)

        Quite a few times men would give me money to do it at speed, to
        show  their mates it could be done, or as a joke to frighten the
        ladies.  Added to my wages, that were based on how many papers I
        sold, I could  earn up to two pounds odd (four dollars) each 7 days.
        Wow you say!     

        To put that amount in retrospect .....my dad had a really well paid
        job and he brought home around twelve pounds ($24) a week, so this
        was a significant amount for a young boy to earn at the time.
        $80 to $100 in todays value by an 11yo.  Not too shabby!  

              I never missed a day in nearly 2 years working (for the man.
         at that paper shop - and I remember when telling him I was
         leaving, he said I was the last boy he would expect to ever grow up.

                        (And I never did Mr. Berry)

                        ---------------------------

        Selling papers five afternoons a week, Saturday morning and
        afternoon and Sunday morning cut me out of a lot of activities
        with my mates.  I was quite happy though because I could afford
        a lot of things that I couldn't before.

        From my earnings, I gave my mum half and bought a Healing two
        wheel   bicycle  on 'tick' for ten pounds.   One pound deposit
        and ten bob a week.     After eighteen weeks I owned it and
        proceeded to 'doll, it up a bit.            Ladies handlebars
        for comfort one week, then a speedo, a rubber "ahoogah" horn 
        instead of the mundane old bell, a chromed "genny" (generator) 
        and light, Sturmy Archer gears etc. etc.  Pretty soon I had one 
        of the best push bikes around and much envied.  And now I could   
        save on bus and tram fares and go a lot more places with my 
        "bikey mates" that I couldn't go to before.

                        (Going "ape" was my favourite place)

        Good stuff.  We rode for  miles, just for the heck of it.
        Selling papers gave me a freedom that I'd never known (in my whole
        twelve odd years!).

        Like anything else I became interested in, I couldn't rest until
        I was pretty good at it.  (Which didn't necessarily mean I was good
        ........just that I THOUGHT I was!)

        So I  spent many hours in the park by myself, falling off the
        bike  regularly,   until I taught myself the basics, like wheel
        stands,  balancing without moving, riding backwards,  skidding
        sideways, jumping obstacles, 45 degree riding, sprinting, mounting
        and dismounting on the run and any other absolute "necessary" things
        no sane bike rider could afford not to do.

        I watched others, watched a 'Movietone News' clip about trick cycle
        riding at least 10 times, and asked a lot of questions at bike club
        meets.

        There was only one other boy in the area (Max),  who could ride
        as  good as me - and you guessed it - I didn't think he could!
        We were mates, so Max was OK and not seen by me as a hurdle to
        overcome for my own egotistical satisfaction.

        I was the only boy around with two rear wheels - one for the
        gears,  which I used if we were touring and one for fixed
        wheel, for trick riding when I was showing off (which I did
        often ................ without fear or shame).

        I was only ashamed of my outrageous behaviour on days that didn't
        end with a "y"!.

                            ---------------------

        By the time I was 15 I was playing lots of sports and had other
        interests too   .......but nearly all my mates were still just
        "hanging out" mostly.

        I  still saw them most nights, as it was important to be "one of
        the boys" still.
                            --------------------

        We used to go fishing all night and our favourite "go" was to catch
        the last ferry to Cremorne Wharf and just fish there all night.

        When I say fish......I didn't like fishing at all. As a matter of
        fact,   I didn't even like eating fish because of the mandatory
        bones hazard  when you ate it.

        Fishing was marginally better than sleeping I reckoned.

        But I went anyway because my mates did and it was something to do.

        Most times I didn't take much notice whether my hook was
        'baited' or   not and I wasn't real interested in the finer
        points of what didn't matter to me anyway.  But I sat there with
        "the best" (fishermen are all the "best") and managed my share of
        the beer ......mainly for the medicinal purpose of  warding off the
        freezing and the cold I usually got anyway..........that I wouldn't
        have had to  deal with if I hadn't gone fishing in the first place!

        One particular night, we'd been settled in for a while, my mates
        had laboriously  dragged in a few 'tiddlers' - and as usual I had
        nothing.  The temperature  was freezing......  and I was moving
        around trying to get some  feeling back to where I'd last felt
        my feet.

        One of my mates noticed I'd just thrown my line in with no bait
        on  the hook and they were making their usual jokes about me and
        how no one could expect to catch fish without bait, etc. etc.

        I felt a bit  sheepish being 'caught out' (again) and threw back at
        them that I didn't  worry about the tiddlers and I was just waiting
        for the big one to  come along - and I didn't need bait ......I
        was so good .....etc.etc. (and similar type rot we spoke then)

        I'd barely finished saying it when BANG .......my line was hit.

        At first I thought my line must have fouled a passing harbour ferry,
        but on careful perusal - couldn't see one as I held onto the pier for
        dear life to prevent my skiing across the harbour dragged by whatever
        relation of "Moby Dick" I must have inadvertently hooked.

        Anyway.....to cut a long story short (and that's difficult for me)
        I landed a  flathead I swear was near a metre long (now I'M talking
        like a fisherman!)  and about six times heavier than the wharf
        itself.

        I looked around for somewhere to store it and saw eight or ten
        mouths open so wide, that any one of them would have held the
        fish easily.  I was so cool (I thought) ........and the rest of
        the night was mine .....and did I milk it for all it was worth!

        Till this day......I still think of that fish and wake myself up
        in the middle of the night - just so I can call myself a liar!

                              ----------------------

        We go through two definite "stupid" related stages as we grow......
         at school where we think we're stupid if we're clever,  then
         in our late teens where we think we're clever if we're stupid.

        There was in our area an older group.

        We stayed away from them as they were much bigger, they mostly rode
        motor bikes .......and we were in awe of them anyway.

        One Sunday afternoon as I passed the  paper shop corner, I could
        see this local bruiser grabbing at a girl I knew.  Not being in
        my nature  to mind my own business, I walked up to him and told
        him he should leave her  alone.

        The next thing I knew, I was on the ground with him standing over
        me yelling, "I'm pretty good on the king hit Teddy - I'm pretty
        good on the king hit".   Why he said it over and over when I heard
        him  the first time I couldn't understand .....and I would have been
        the first to agree with him anyway!

        I went to get up but my legs didn't seem to work, so I had no
        alternative but to "sit it out" as the saying goes. Only a nut case
        would have got up anyway.    (God how I tried to though!)

        I had never experienced such a feeling of helplessness before.

            * * *   Experience is something you don't get ... until
                       just after you need it.  (too right)

        A mate of mine waited for the big bloke to  walk away and came to
        help me up.

        I was consumed with rage ......this wasn't fair I thought (welcome to
        the real world Ted!)

        When I did get to my feet I wanted to go after the big bloke, but I
        was told by a man who saw it all, to calm down and walk around for
        an  hour or so - to stop shaking and recover.

        Good advice I found.

        Meanwhile the girl had run off.

                 "A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, ....
                          but he is braver five minutes longer".
                                             Emerson (1803-1882)
                   (Five extra minutes of agony I guess)

        My dad had given me my first watch,  a "Duke Maximus",  which I
        was wearing at the time.     I was very proud of that watch and
        took very good care of it.     So I walked home and put it on top
        of the fridge and walked out again.    My mum saw me walk out and
        asked me if I was ready for dinner. I mumbled something like "back
        soon" and left.  A couple of minutes later she  saw the watch on
        the ice box and grasped what must be on.

        She grabbed my brother and they went looking for me.

                         "What we have to learn to do, we learn by doing".
                                       Aristotle (B.C.  384-322
                                        ( Yeh ......that simple!)

        Meanwhile I was looking for the big bloke ( Sprat** was his nickname)
        and found him in the park in Balfour Street with his other bigger
        mates.

        Not one of my mates was game to come and back me up, so I was alone,
        yet I was so mad, that fact never crossed my mind till later.

         (And here's me now saying - only an idiot moves without thinking?)

        I recollect the grin on his face as I called him out ......and he
        told  me he'd been waiting a long time to teach me a lesson.

          I dont think he thought the wait was worth it a little later.

        I was surprised what a big slow easy beat he was.  After only a
        minutes or so it seemed (doesn't time fly when you're enjoying
        yourself) he was down for the first time.

        After I had put him down a third or fourth time - he stayed down.

        He wouldn't get up and pleaded "you wouldn't hit a man while he
        was down would you Teddy".   I was so mad still, I laid on the
        ground next to him and continued raining blows on him as he
        screamed and even cried.

        (I was astonished then disgusted with him for this to say the least)

        One of his pals, "Fat B**", who it was said had never been knocked
        off his feet, grabbed me and was trying to pull me off Sprat**.

        He was telling me "come on Ted, he's had enough" and to stop.

        At that moment, my mum and brother arrived on the scene - and all
        my brother saw was me in a fight with two big blokes.  I saw him
        hurtling into the fray........ but unfortunately Fat B** didn't.

        Fat B** lost his "no knockdown" reputation there and then and had
        to be helped up along with 'Sprat**' , who everyone there said I
        had "cleaned up".

        I was a mile high and felt it, but I'd reckoned without my mum.

        She looked at me with Spratty's blood all over me and thinking it
        was  mine, cried "my baby - my baby"  and grabbed and hugged me.

        What a sad and embarrassing end for one's moment of triumph......

        Mum apologised to Fat ***  for mistaking his intention toward
        me and roused on Sprat** for picking on a kid (me ?)

        And brother Bob.... with his immeasurable grasp of public relations
        and how to show compassion.... wagging his finger and growling what
        would happen to the next bloke who laid a hand on me.

          (I was HIS punching bag and not theirs he must have reckoned)

        While all this was going on I was looking for a hole to crawl into
        so I could cry with complete frustration ......as I wondered if
        anyone would ever remember my effort in the whole thing.

        But that was mum...... we were always going to be her "babies".

                             ----------------------------

                             "Almost anything is easier
                                to get into than out of".
                             ----------------------------

        * * * There's nothing wrong with kids that reasoning wont aggravate.

        I found that reasoning was seen as a weakness and an 'opportunity'
        to take advantage of, by the majority of kids I grew up with.

        Not that they were any different to most kids - just open with their
        feelings, spontaneous in their actions, quick to react and adept
        at seizing on someone's moment of weakness.

        Also ... they weren't  real good at reading situations properly!

        I had a difference of opinion with a mate of mine one time. He
        evidently thought my telling him I didn't want to argue with him
        anymore was a sign of weakness.

        He wouldn't let it drop and he pushed me.

        This was my mate who I'd known since dot.   I tried to calm him
        down but he wouldn't stop and in fact, got quite serious.

        I dont know if I'd heard this in a film, the radio, or somewhere
        else, but I told him, "Take out your teeth and ruffle your hair,
        you're gonna get a hiding".       And he got one.

        It was agreed by all my mates (and even him later) that he deserved
        what he got.

        Not so the girls - who thought he was a "Hunk"

        They never let me forget what I had done to "poor *****".

        And even if ***** stuck up for me about it, they would swoon
        and say how nice he was forgiving me so easily.

        Females.....


                          --------------------------

        We graduated from the matinees on Saturday arvo, to the more
        "grown  up" Friday or Saturday night picture shows.  We
        always went in a   group like all the other "gangies".

        This way we seemed to have more fun as we all tried to outdo
        one another.

        Naturally we bumped into  other gangs, but seeing the way  some
        had their fun, was like a red flag to a bull for me... and more
        trouble .....  because no way did I see damaging telephone boxes
        or slicing up train seats as fun OR an action to be proud of.  So
        when I saw that going on I made sure there was a 'blue' or pursuit
        of the ones involved.

        Most of those types of blokes were pushovers anyway.   They had no
        backbone  for a fight and took out their frustrations on something
        or someone that couldn't strike back at them.

        I bet the majority of them grew up to be thieves, wife beaters and
        general nasty types toward the helpless.

                              ----------------

                    "You can learn a lot just by watching"
                    (I could sit for hours and watch people)
                              -----------------
        The only thing wrong with sitting around doing nothing is you never
        seem to know when you're finished ......but I never considered that
        learning from watching was a "nothing".

        It was fascinating ....the big  differences from one person to the
        next, just by short observation - and the longer you look or the
        better you know people ......the bigger the difference can be seen.



                        * * * "Seek and ye shall find"

        We would hang around 'The Cross' (Kings Cross or "Kings X")
        because there was plenty to see and do there.   It was fun.
        Something different was always happening and mostly it made
        us feel like the big kids we really were.

        (We made bigger spectacles than an optometrist could have.)

        We especially liked Woodsies (Woods) lane where all the 'pros'
        hung  out in house doorways.         You'd see all these guys
        trekking up and down looking anywhere but at the "merchandise"
        and you "knew" this was their first time there.

          How did we know this?         Cause we did it our first time!

        At the odd time I would borrow my work (12volt )siren on a Friday
        after work and we'd roar around the corner of Woods lane in our car
        late on a Friday or Saturday night with it blaring.

        We'd near die laughing as the lane cleared with people running into
        themselves and into walls even.  Doors would close, lights would go
        out and it suddenly became another 'Sesame street'.

        We saw these blokes we knew from Marrickville one night and they
        decided they'd try it by careering around the corner honking the
        horn, flashing the lights and yelling "Stop - police".

        Only the 'first timers' looked to be mildly startled as the wiser
        ones stopped the Marrickville blokes and belted them up .......along
        with denting their car as well.

                         Now that's entertainment.
                         ------------------------

              "The customer was always right..........."

        We tried anything to stir up the natives of the Cross.  One
        time we went into a strip club  in Macleay Street and were
        bored and irritated by the 'crow' they had on stage.

        The only part of her that wasn't wrinkled was her teeth.

        Nothing like the "lynx" in the photo outside that we had paid
        "good" money to gawk at.

        We noticed  there were signs up all around that said the premises
        were protected by Wormald, which in those days meant fire sprinklers.

        So we went into the toilets and held a cigarette lighter under one
        of the sprinkler glasses until it went off.

        The show was on and no one seemed interested in using the toilets
        at that particular time ..............(Bunch of perverts!)

        Well the whole lot of the sprinklers went off in the club and
        the alarms quickly followed.  The patrons and staff rushed the
        exit and everyone was screaming so much,  even we started to think
        we were in danger!

        The fire brigade came - no fire - and we were rapt when the fire
        chief told the owner that he would have to pay for the false alarm
        as there WAS no fire.

        Teach him to take money under false pretences from us "decent"
        people!

                               --------------
        * * * "Death defying acts are carried out for free by dumb people"
                               --------------

        At one stage our playground was Kings Cross. Given our age then, it
        was both entertaining and educational .....and we were the most
        attentive and willing students there.

        Occasionally some of us wanted to go home "early" - around 2 or 3am am!.

        Never wasting an opportunity, sometimes we would split into 2 groups.
        One the 'hunters' and the other one the 'hero's'.

        We would prowl a quiet spot for our 'victims', who were sailors
        from naval ships docked at nearby  Rushcutters Bay.

        The 'hunters' would swoop on them (no more than 2 sailors was best)
        yelling what they were going to do to them.  Then we 'hero's' would
        casually 'happen along' and put these dreadful hoons to flight - and
        at the same time 'save' the  sailors.

        (The "put to flight" hunter group continued on home from then)

        The sailors were always so impressed and grateful to us "heroes"
        for saving them - they would invite us back to their ship for (free)
        drinks there was always plenty of free food etc.

        Sometimes we were invited back for a tour of their ship with a
        friend the next afternoon.   And anyone we took back for the free
        guided inspection ( ie. any girl),  was always impressed  with
        what great guys  the sailors told them we were, fearlessly rescuing
        them from a pack of hoons.

        Neat eh !.............BUT.........

        --------------
        "when what you're doing aint doing so well - it's usually what you
         aint doing so well that's doing it"          (me 1995)
        --------------

        One time it didn't go to plan.  That night, we saw this mob of
        about   ten  guys going at a couple of sailors.  There were
        three of us in the 'hero' unit and we confidently charged in
        yelling so our mates would see us and run ....but they didn't run?

        And they weren't our mates !.

        They turned on us and the 2 sailors ran away and left us to it.

        We did the only thing we could and got the wall behind us so
        they couldn't surround us.    From there they could only get
        us from the side - but they were too dumb.

        They were just starting to separate us as our 12 man 'hunter'
        pack arrived.

        The 'unknowns' were on the end of a hiding,  before running off.

        We laughed our heads off at the complete mess we had made of our
        'hunters & hero's' game.

              The old story - If you fail to plan,  plan to fail.

                           -------------------------

                         As is a tale, so is life: not how long,
                                   but how good is what matters.
                                   Seneca (B.C. 3-65 A.D. )
           (Yeah, OK for Seneca to say.   Notice he died of old age)
                           --------------------------

        I was walking along Broadway one night with two of my mates and
        three girls.      The   girls were in front of us looking in the
        shop windows as we talked about "boring stuff" (like  footy, cars,
        etc. etc.).

        A mob of guys were walking toward us and stopped to chat up the
        girls.         I told them the girls were with us.

        This blond haired bloke told me the girl I was with was his sister
        (she wasn't) and what was I doing with her.

        The old story - he picks a  fight by making an ass of himself.

        We went around the back lane and left the girls and our mates on
        Broadway and got into it.

        This bloke was good (turns out he was a prelim. boxer, down from
        Newcastle).  He even told me what punch he was  going to deliver
        .......and kept his word too!

        Now as much as I found it an admirable quality to let people know
        what you're going to do and keep your word into the bargain.....
        I still couldn't adapt to the intermittent pain I suffered...... or
        let this prancing bloody upstart ruin my good street record of respect
        that had taken me years of pain to acquire.

        He was getting quite cocky as well.

        I noticed that he would mostly feign with a left and throw a right
        ........very effectively ......which was no fun being on the end of.
        My shoulder was stiff and very sore as I had injured it the day
        before at football (No excuses!) and it was  probably giving me
        more pain than he was.  Anyway, it was all hard going and my limits
        were starting to become clear to me ....you know, my options were
        becoming less "glaring".

        I knew I had to do something desperate.

        As he feigned left again, I brought my boot up to where I figured
        he would sway to, and as hard and fast as I could launch it.
        If I was  wrong,  I tipped my hand, exposed my intentions and.....
        I land flat on my back into the bargain if I miss.

        Sure enough, he leaned into my boot and hit the deck (bitumen) with
        a thud.  (Close one)

                    "Experience is not what happens to a man. It's
                         what a man DOES with what happens to him".
                                          Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)
               (...and when you're desperate.... you really 'DOES'.....)

        The light wasn't too good in the back lane, so he didn't know what
        had hit him.  Naturally I danced around putting on a show and telling
        him to get up (all the time hoping he wouldn't).

        He sat there just staring at me. (I'd  known the feeling before)

        Then he put out his hand and said "I dont want to fight anybody
        that can hit that hard".

        You cant imagine the relief I felt.     That lucky strike with my
        foot was the last throw of the dice for me and I knew it.   Luckily
        he didn't.
           (Not exactly a fairy tale - but it felt like it at the time)

        I helped him up and he was a bit wobbly on his feet.  We shook hands
        and returned to Broadway, where he apologised to the girls and we
        all went on our separate ways.

        I'd scraped through another one !

        Footnote:

        About a month later this same guy rescued me from a pack in
        Glebe Rd. and actually became a mate with us.  Lucky I  never
        mentioned my 'boot use' that night to any one. I know  a couple
        of my 'good mates' would have been happy to "sink" me.

                             --------------------
        * * *I cant remember which woman it was who drove me to drink
             but I never did have the opportunity to thank her for it.
                                   I wrote that.....
                                           (after I read it somewhere!)
                             --------------------

        One night in a pub I was drinking with a mate.

        The pub "Neanderthal" picked  on him while I was playing darts so
        I dropped my darts - flew in and landed three  fairly decent blows
        to his head and stepped  back - to give him room to fall ......but
        he didn't!    (Bloody spoilsport!)

        I remember he had squinty eyes that definitely required much make up
        for better results....... and he'd forgotten to shave his forehead
        ......well ....you know the type.

        I backed up to the wall as he lumbered at me like "the gloom & doom
        buggy" and I remember he seemed to have labored heavy breathing
        (maybe he fancied me?) .....and the thought crossed my mind I wasn't
        going to have any more fun tonight.

        He threw a punch that would have been quicker if sent to me by
        ordinary mail.

        I ducked to one side - and he connected with the tiled wall.

        I swear ..... THREE WALL TILES FELL OFF AND TO THE FLOOR!
         (and Tooheys Brewery shares fell 600 millimetres......!)

        I am convinced to this day I would have needed a mallet in my hand
        to hurt him.

        This mountain of a bloke stamped around, tears of pain streaming
        down his face, and blood running  from under the armpit where his
        damaged hand was parked.....
        (Come to  think of it, they only found two of the wall tiles and a lot
         of powder when they cleaned up later!)

        I remember looking at the wall and thinking that was very nearly
        the fate of my face. ( Yeah, I know .......big loss! )

        Then HE decided that because of the prevailing special circumstances
        - i.e. his hand was broken - he was unable to continue with the
        current melee in progress between us.....and therefore HE apologised
        and recognised the necessity that we now shake hands with no hard
        feelings.      (He actually spoke like that!)  Astounding.

        I wasn't worried about shaking hands with him, because I had his
        (still good) left  hand in mine (actually his enveloped mine) and I
        knew his right hand  was  useless.  (I couldn't see any risk !!!!!!)

        An ambulance took him away, the whole pub breathed a sigh of relief
        as my heart slowly slid from my mouth and went back into my chest
        cavity.

        Turned me off my beer for nearly ten minutes it did.

                               ---------------
                  * * * Told ya smokin' made me look tough.......

        A bloke walked up to me in "Darlo" (Darlington) one afternoon and
        asked me for a smoke. I didn't have any on me but didn't want
        him to think(?) maybe I was holding back, so I said sorry I dont
        smoke.

        That was the last thing I could remember until over an hour later
        when I woke up at hospital with bandages around my head. The nurse
        told me they thought I had been clobbered with a house brick and I
        was reported by a passing car as laying half onto the road with
        blood streaming from my head.

        "Oh" she said as I was walking out - "come back in a week to get
        the stitches out wont you".    Yes maam!

        My biggest concern at the time was how long it was going to take
        for  my hair to grow back where it had been shaved for the stitches
        and how come "pretty people" like me have to suffer!.

                                 ---------------
               * * *  "No one is ever old enough to know better".
                           (I think this was written for blokes like me?)


       One of my mates had this German Shepherd dog who used to howl
        when it heard music.

        One night we were coming back from the pub at Liverpool towards
        Milperra Bridge. We had just negotiated Devils Elbow without any
        problem, and were heading up the straight stretch of Newbridge Rd.

        The dog was howling along with the music on our radio and we were
        rocking from  side to side in our seats and singing.  I dont know
        what the song was we were singing but guess what?

        No .......we didn't roll over .......... but might as well have.

        I remember the world seemed to spin the trees....first away and
        then back toward me. There was a roar from the engine, the sound
        of breaking glass, a whole lot of 'thump' sounds and the dog
        yelping in terror.             Then absolute silence.

        I felt like I'd left my body at home in my other clothes.

        I had a ringing in my ear and a rick in my neck as I got up from
        the  gravel at the side of the road and walked back to the leaning
        car.     (I never even considered checking myself immediately
        because I knew I was invincible!)

        (I didn't use their correct names here)
        Garry was laying a couple of meters away with a dazed Mike
        on top of him and groaning "get this bloody body off me you bastards".
        Dick was laying at the rear of the overturned car and we weren't
        sure if the car had rolled on him at the time. We rushed over to
        check on  him just as he slowly sat up making eerie ghostly sounds
        and we retreated backwards.   Much to our relief, Dick was foxing
        and burst out laughing at us.

         Devils Elbow was notorious for rollovers with the "stupid" and the
         "unwary" (not us!).  We had overshot the bend and slid into a ditch
         at the side of the road which had "dislodged" most of from inside
         the car.

        Several other  bodies were picking themselves up all around.

        And the dog?   He was busily eating the remains of the fried chips
        we'd been eating before we ditched (and growled at us when we talked
        about picking them up from the road!).

        Apart from a few bruises, everyone, including the dog were OK.

        The car wasn't (write off!).

        It was great.... just being "one of the blokes" !

        Footnote:
        If I can make one observation about my personal mental condition.
        I never once considered at the time that I or any of my mates were
        ever anything but in full control and it never occurred to me that I
        could very well have ended as a "grease spot" on the road - before,
        during or after the "near roll over".

        Well, I guess you have to survive your youth to appreciate how good
        it is to grow old.

   end  --------------------

©Ted Middleton 2005.

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