OUR FIRST MEMORIES

       I've pondered this before .......... when you think of it, are the
       earliest memories  you carry now, really what you experienced - or are
       they mostly what you were told by your parents - over and over - and
       now they SEEM to be your real memories.   Think about it!

       You may have had these 'memories' from  when you were a very tender
       age. Claiming them as your own only seems reasonable, seeing they're
       so vivid in your memory for so long without question of their origin.

       But.....taking into account the great imagination a young kid has,
       its not hard for me to concede that my very earliest memories - as
       real as they seem now - may not have been my genuine recall at all!

       I firmly believe that stories related enough can create very real
       memories for some.  I know that my earliest memories come to me in
       black and white and I only have memories in colour of events from
       the early seventies......as we got our first colour TV around that
       time and most photography was black and white till then also,

       I guess my mind could have been somewhat "indoctrinated", I dont know.

       I relate the memories I carry today that I am absolutely sure (???)
       are my own.

            Oh well - lets just go with what I think I remember!


       HOSPITAL....
       I remember a hospital bed in a ward (Sydney Hospital). I didn't
       know at the time, but I was dying from pneumonia but saved by
       a new wonder drug - an early type of penicillin (sulphur?) I think.

       I remember being in bed at night in a dark ward with a light shining
       from (yon) dimly lit doorway opposite and a nurses station to my left
       in the centre of the ward.....which was also faintly lit.

       I remember hating needles (and do to this day).

       I have a deep feeling of loneliness (probably missing my mummy) and
       remember looking forward to daylight so I could get some attention.
       Anytime was a good time to get attention - and to this day I haven't
       changed my opinion of that!

       Visitors? I don't remember any except my mum and she was there all
       the time - except in the 'dreaded' night.

       I remember the nurses giving me a large metal blue and red toy truck 
       full of lollies while I was there, and taking it home with me.
                      (Empty of lollies of course!)

                  According to my mum, I was 4 years old!

       I told my mum that story and she said she couldn't have known what
       it was like in hospital at night and she never told me that bit.
               (I make my own deduction on how I knew that!)
                             -----------------


       SCHOOL.......
       I went to the Blackfriars School just off Broadway in Sydney
       and was in what was then called Class 1 and then Class 2.
                             Simple isn't it!

       I had two very good friends - Keith Laxton and Bill Gill.

       I vaguely remember demonstrating on Bill, the " bend over,
       put your hands back between your legs" trick I had seen some
       older kids play.

       So impressive and simple. They grabbed the subjects hands from
       behind and seemed to pull and their subject did a full somersault
       and landed back on his feet.

       All I remember was poor Bill landing on his face and the ambulance.
       Bill had a broken nose and me......I was in big trouble.

       Bill remained my good friend for many years after but I never forgot.
       I'm sure he didn't either, but he never mentioned it again.

       Keith was from what was considered then, a well to do/posh family,
       certainly by our standards.

       Whatever made Keith "adopt" me as a mate I'll never know now. His mum
       was a very down to earth and extremely nice lady with a great smile
       and sense of humour.

       I accompanied them to many places I could never have hoped to go
       otherwise - and I was treated to many happy times.

       Keith's dad (his mum's name was Rita) had passed away recently then.
       They used to own Laxtons Motor Funerals at Glebe Rd and they often
       took me along to their dairy farm  (at Windsor I think it was).

       On these occasions we were chauffeured by a driver called Charley and
       I remember him having a great sense of humour too.

       I still remember drinking the fresh milk as it poured into this big
       collector vat and the smell of the dairy itself seems to accompany
       these thoughts after all these years.
                              ------------------

       BROWNOUTS......
       I remember the lights would go very dim during WW2 ("Brownouts" they
       were called) - and during one of them a PMG (now Australia Post) Van
       hitting a power pole in our street and the bright flashes from the
       live wires as they flashed and "writhed" on the pavement, as if in
       agony.  Mum locking the gates and door so we couldn't go out near
       the danger. So we went upstairs and looked out the front window!

       There was this drunk guy staggering along putting his feet everywhere
       unintentionally, except on the live wires and people yelling at him
       to watch out. He waved to them and just kept on wobbling along the
       street and out of sight.

       I think now, had he known the danger and tried to tread carefully,
       he probably would have been fried to a crisp.

                                 -------------
       SIRENS......
       Some nights the sirens sounded (as they often did) and I remember
       mum putting my brother and I under the kitchen table and piling
       cushions on the top and all around us.   There wasn't much room under
       there when she had finished so she sat on the floor near us, sang and
       told us stories.     Much later I found out that one night a Japanese
       sub had lobbed some shells in from offshore, and on another occasion,
       a Jap midget sub followed a Ferry through the boom nets at the Sydney
       Harbour Heads, and torpedoed warships and a harbour ferry went down
       in the melee.
                                 -------------

       HOUSES.......
       Many people who owned houses near the central city of Sydney area
       rented them out and moved away from the coast for safety when WW2
       broke out. When the war finished they tried to evict their tenants
       to move back, but some sort of law was made that as long as the
       tenants paid their rent, they couldn't get them out. Sort of a "white
       feather" penalty for those deserting their post I guess.

       If your outgoings exceed your incomings - your upkeep will be your
       downfall.....especially if you've found other ways that can  add to
       your own misery.  So a lot of these houses changed hands very cheaply
       because of the poor return from them.

       Most sold to the people who lived in them because they were not a
       viable investment for anyone else, so those who "stuck to their post"
       were rewarded it seems.

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

                     "Things aren't what they used to be"
                       ... and what's more - thank goodness.

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


       Where I grew up, people didn't have to sell the house to live in a
       more expensive area.     If they stayed where they were long enough,
       inflation  made their area more expensive anyway.

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

       THE FERRY.....(during ww2)
       I remember being on a harbour ferry at night and the lights being
       dimmed as we passed by "The Heads" with the bands playing on board and
       everyone singing along as we went either way.

       The dimming of lights was so as not to attract the attention of any
       enemy submarines that may have been in the area and so help guide them
       into Sydney Harbour.  As ferries would enter this "zone" of travel,
       ferry captain would announce this on the loudspeakers and request all
       smokers to put out their cigarettes. The lights onboard would then go
       dim for a few seconds and come back on for a short time before staying
       dim until it was safe to come on again

       On board the ferries were grey lifebuoys lined up near the outside
       seats - and overhead on some as well.  The lower lifebuoys were covered
       in small burns as they were very handy for smokers who wanted to stub
       out their cigarettes at the appropriate time.

       This particular night, the lights had gone dim just as my mum was about
       to try to stub out her cigarette anyway.  When they flashed back on
       momentarily, mum was shocked to find she was about to stub her cigarette
       on a mans grey trousers.

       All mum could say was .... "I'm sorry - I thought you were a lifejacket!"

       I hope that man has read this page - as it may explain what caused that
       young woman to babble that out to him over 70 years ago.

       (I didn't laugh - I don't recall having a sense of humour at five!)

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

       THE YANKS....
       American Army convoys seemed to be everywhere, (they were just a
       part of the furniture to us and had been there as long as we could
       remember).  I remember them rolling along Regent Street - they seemed
       to go on in a never ending stream of trucks  packed with men and
       equipment. We would cheer them madly as they passed and the 'Yanks'
       would throw us coins. At first we thought these coins were  good to
       collect, but discovered a whole new dimension when we found they were
       'spendable'.

       To see an American soldier wandering around on foot though, was not
       as common as American sailors - who were everywhere......always it
       seemed, with lots of girls tagging along to 'help' them spend the wads
       of never ending money they loved to flash - and spend.

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

         * You can lead a man to slaughter, but you can't make him think.

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

       BRAWLS......
       There were the ever present pub brawls mostly involving locals and
       American servicemen which the police mostly seemed to ignore.  These
       HUGE MP's would career up  in jeeps.    Sailors and soldiers alike
       would flee in all directions to escape them as they would wade in
       with sickening ferocity - boots, batons, rifle butts - anything.

       I saw a big brawl at Central Railway Station one day where the MP's
       drove their jeep into a mob to break them up.   There were bodies
       laying everywhere. I remember marvelling how quickly the racing jeep
       stopped and stalled after hitting the packed brawlers with its siren
       still screaming.    There was a stunned silence, then the loud cries
       of agony from the injured, the wailing of the ambulances and flashing
       of lights and the blood everywhere.

       I was sent away in tears by a policeman. I had nightmares about it
       for a while after.

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

       TRAFFIC POLICE....
       There were few sets of traffic lights I remember. In the city, at all
       major intersections were 'traffic cops' - policemen with white domed
       tropic type hats matching the steel dome on the road in the middle of
       the intersection - and long white gloves.

       They would direct the traffic and I would sit for hours watching the
       different styles each had developed in signalling and the deft way
       they moved back and forth in the passing flow of vehicles.

       I would marvel how close cars and trucks flashing past came to them,
       yet I never witnessed one being struck, though I guess it must have
       happened at the odd time.   (Never at the "even" time)

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

       THE FRUIT MARKETS........(Haymarket)
       Nearby to where we lived were the fruit markets and Chinatown, as
       even then it was known. We used to go there often, mostly when they
       opened around 4am and the men would give us fruit and vegetables
       to get rid of us. We thought this was very generous of them, but
       looking back I suppose it was because they were so busy and didn't
       want us underfoot because it was dangerous for us to be there with
       the trucks and frantic movement around there.

       My uncle Harry ran the Egg Board markets there but I dont remember
       him giving me any eggs to take home. Probably he knew I would have
       dropped them anyway!

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

       CENTRAL RAILWAY........
       Sometimes we would go to the Central Railway Station interstate
       platforms to watch the people arriving and leaving, some with huge
       piles of baggage while others appeared to have very little.

       There were happy and tearful partings and reunions which I tended
       to get caught up in emotionally just watching, but I couldn't let my
       mates know or see this, or they could have thought me a 'sissy'.

       I wondered endlessly where all these people were going and coming
       from and why it was all necessary, what it would be like to travel
       and what were the places like they'd been or were going to.

       Not that I wanted to go with them. I was quite happy at home with
       my 'mummy'. (I didn't tell my mates that either!)

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


       RAILWAY SQUARE...........
       Railway Square was that section where Broadway and George Street
       seemed to merge, adjacent to the tram loop, Glaciaerium and the
       underground Wembley Pool hall next to (nearly) Marcus Clarkes
       and Central Railway - on the top side of the "square clock".
       (phew.....easier to draw a map!!!)

       In the middle of all this (fiveways - six including the rail ramp)
       was the tram shed strip complete with underground coin operated
       toilets with attendant - where I guess the term "spend a penny"
       was often used. Outward trams would stop there and those that
       didn't continue up Broadway or Regent St., would go around the
       "loop" and come back and pause on the opposite side.  They would
       then either go down George or Castlereagh Streets.

       The "loop" was a favourite stopping point on our way home from a
       night out in town.  For many years there was a decommissioned
       tram on the footpath there that was turned into a kitchen with an
       over the counter takeaway.  We would stop and join the queue for
       the delicious "Zac-a-bag" fried chips they served up.  I remember
       after a few years when inflation finally caught up with them and
       prices rose to eight pence a bag - the bags were reprinted with the
       name "Gabacaz" that had us wondering if those were those the only
       seven letters their printer owned (?).

       "Gabacaz" being "Zacabag" spelt backwards, was a great excuse for
       us larrikins to stand in the queue facing away from the counter or
       to walk up backwards and place our order.

       I know it must have worn thin on the owners good sense of humour.



       RAILWAY SQUARE CLOCK.....
       Towering above Central Square (to me it seemed anyway)  was this huge
       clock that seemed to dominate the skyline.  It would chime once on
       the half hour and peel to the time every hour. Maybe it went every
       quarter hour as well, I'm not really sure now.

       On the odd occasion the face of it was cleaned.   I would be riveted
       to the spot, watching  the men hanging off ropes with buckets and
       long handled mops as they moved across the face, brushing as they
       went - like ants on a plate.

       Boy was I easily amused!

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

       CUSTOMS.......
       Most people had no refrigerators,  most people we knew anyway.
       They had  large ice boxes that looked like one.  A large block of ice
       was placed in  the top section which cooled the food stored below.
       I remember that every few days the ice man would deliver the ice and
       place it directly into our ice chest.

       We had a wood stove in the kitchen and a wood fired copper  in the
       laundry. Mum had two cast-metal irons, which were heated on the wood
       stove.  She would pick them up with a thick rag around the handle and
       wax the bottom so they slid easier when she used them.  The clothes
       she was going to iron were sprinkled with water and rolled up a while
       before she ironed.

       The scrubbed white wooden kitchen table (it had to be - to show
       cleanliness). The copper in our laundry was fired up (wood which I
       got regularly from the local Tooths Brewery in my "billy cart" ).
       The copper had two uses - to boil the washing which was prodded with
       the 'pot-stick" ( it went all hairy after a lot of use and another
       had to be made) - and for boiling the bath water which was bucketed
       to the bath for use.  Before we got too big,  Mum used to bath us in
       the copper or 'cannibal pot' as it was jokingly referred to as.
       Most people we knew had a copper.  The "posh" had gas bath heaters.

       The toilet was outside at the end of the back yard. People then would
       have burst into uncontrolled fits of laughter, disbelief and probable
       outright disgust had it been suggested toilets be inside the house!

       The man on a wagon selling fresh pairs of rabbits.  Biscuits were
       weighed from big tins  and sold in paper bags. The milkman also came
       in a horse and cart and delivered your milk in bottles depending how
       many empties you left out or any note left by you. Shops sold milk
       to you by filling your bottle or jug from big 10 gallon cans from
       their counter.  Butcher shops had huge wooden chopping blocks and
       carcasses hung up behind the counter, sawdust was on the floors and
       meat was wrapped in one sheet of white paper with newspaper around
       that. Fish and chips were wrapped the same way.    At the bakery a
       dozen was always thirteen (a bakers dozen!).

       The pubs closed at 6pm ( the "six o'clock swill") and it was a race
       to see  how many they could get down before the dreaded " all out
       gents please" signalled an end of the days 'quaffing'.

       There was the bottle'o who made his living collecting empty bottles,
       mostly beer, which he paid tuppence (2 cents) a dozen for. Us
       kids nabbed all the soft drink bottles because they were worth
       tuppence EACH. There was the rag and bone man who collected anything
       and if he paid you for anything you knew it was worth a lot more.
         (You see - I am repeating what I heard the adults remark then!)
          Nearly all these vendors came around in a horse and cart.

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

       AIR RAID SHELTERS.....
       Concrete air raid shelters were dotted around the place but no one
       wanted to go  into  them for fear they might be seen as cowards.
       (Mind you, if we had been bombed they would have been more popular!)
       Everyone was generally friendly with a few noticeable exceptions and
       people appeared to be very nice and protective of women and children.

        I saw men fighting - and five minutes later having a beer together.

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

       THE SATURDAY MOVIE MATINEE.......
       It all seemed so normal.   If us kids had a fight it was  the
        done thing to get it out of our system,   then forget it.
       Also - if one of our mates didn't have the money for the Saturday
       'arvo movies, we'd all pool our money and off we'd all go.

       It didn't seem so much fun unless we all went together and of course,
       we always got downstairs seats (cheapest) and as close to the front
       as possible was the best seat - next to the aisle so you could get in
       and out the fastest. Kids with more money and those who didn't want to
       mix with riff-raff sat in "The Gods" upstairs

       None of us could miss the next episode of the weekly favorites like
       "The Perils of Pauline", " the Masked Avenger"," Zorrow", Hoppalong
       Cassidy", " Roy Rogers", "Tom Mix", Superman" etc.    Miss a "Tarzan"
       movie or any of them would have been a mortal blow for any of us.
       Roy and Dale Rogers singing "You are my Sunshine" , with everyone's
       favorite horse Trigger, stamping his hoof to the tune (well, we
       thought it was Trigger counting and dancing anyway!).

             (I remember us crying when we found out Trigger had died)

       My really, really favourite movies were ones with the "Dead End Kids"
       in them because I identified so much with their poverty and mateship.

       With mainly black and white movies and such low tech "special effects"
       the standard presented to us, we enjoyed ourselves then every bit as
       much as the kids today - probably more, because what little we had
       then we made the very most of it and thoroughly enjoyed it to the full.

       Funny now when I think about it, how much our habits changed in such
       ways of taste and behaviour in such a short time as we got older and
       sitting up the front was replaced by sitting as far up the back as we
       could get (the "Passion Pit"  with our girlfriends and how quiet 
       we were then by comparison!
                               -------------------

       CLOTHES......
       I used to wear clothes that mum altered for me to wear as my brother
       grew out of them and I actually looked forward to them as mine became
       too small for me.  I actually thought I was a "big boy" if I wore clothes
       that were too big for me or that my big brother used to wear!


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

       END OF THE WAR.........
       One day while at school, our teacher came running into the room and
       told us we were to all go home as the war was over.

       Well that was a mistake if they thought Keith, Bill and I were going
       home so early.  The school was only 100 metres from Broadway and
       there was a lot of noise coming from there, so we decided to go and
       see what it was.

       Trams were rollicking along the tracks with people hanging out
       and the drivers were clanging on their clangers (horns I guess you'd
       call them now)  and confetti and paper was everywhere.

       People were hugging one another and either cheering or crying and
       obviously very happy.  We joined in and couldn't understand why
       people kept giving us all these coins, lots of them too.  As we
       counted our "loot", we hoped the "war" (whatever that was) would
       finish everyday.  We'd never had so many cream buns, lollies and
       drinks in such a short period.  I remember being very sick that
       night and mum being very concerned.
                              ---------------------


       HOME FROM THE WAR.......
       Mum and I went to the local shop to get something or other and
       I remember coming back to the lane that was between our place and
       next doors house. There was my Dad in his soldiers uniform,
       sitting on his kit bag, waiting for us. "So good never felt so good".

       We played cricket in that lane as we grew up.

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

       CLOTHESLINES...
       Everyone had clotheslines that consisted of galvanised multi strand
       wire, fixed loosely between two fixed points (about 3 to 4 wires)
       so you could reach it to hang the clothes on. A long prop pole was
       then hooked under the middle and lifted the washing up in the air.
       When the washing was dry, this was removed which lowered the lines
       so the washing could be reached again for removal.

       From time to time these wire lines became rusty and had to be replaced.
       The new wire came in a roll and seemingly had a memory ie...... when
       it was unrolled it wanted to roll itself back up again!

       The way to overcome this, was to tie one end to something and walk
       away as you unrolled the wire.   When you got to the end you got rid
       of the loops by twisting in the opposite direction until the wire lay
       straight on the ground.

       Then it was able to be used and easier to handle.

       As most back yards around the inner city were very small - about six
       metres by ten metres long, and as the rolls of wire were about thirty
       metres long - another site had to be found to do this. The safest
       place was the nearest park, however most people did it in their side
       street with someone either end to warn any drivers that this was in
       progress.
                                (carrying on)

       SUPERMAN ...........
       One day our neighbour next door decided he would do this and for some
       strange reason, without any help.  I was there with nothing to do so
       I offered to watch at one end. He told me I was too young to do that
       and he could manage.

       And he was doing it ok.   Unrolled it, untwisted it and was in the
       process of rolling one end back onto his arm when a mail van flew
       around the corner and down our street.     The loose end caught up
       under the van as it swept past.

       I remember my neighbour watching the wire slack take and tighten.
       Then he became airborne for a long time before hitting the ground at
       the same speed as the truck "towing" him.

       He was dragged right to the end of the street before someone stopped
       the van. He was badly hurt and I rushed to help but was told to go
       home by a man already there.    Probably didn't want me to see the
       injuries my neighbour had sustained.

       He recovered ok, but I will always remember the closest thing to a
       real live SUPERMAN takeoff I've ever seen.

                               ------------------
       NEEDLES......
       Vaccination was the duty every parent fervently pursued in the forties
       and early fifties from what I can recall.  Infantile paralysis - alias
       poliomyelitis ...diphtheria, whooping cough, TB (tuberculosis), smallpox,
       tetanus (etc etc) and any related boosters -   were all standard shots
       administered by an army of needle wielding ......in many cases amateur
       ........ medics who 'pondered not' the virtues of sharp instruments or
       compassionate administration of painless shots in the arms or other
       to us little "treasures".

       I dont remember exactly which immunisation it was against - but for
       this particular one, my mother had me jabbed five years in a row and
       was then told it was only required the original once.

       When the nurse told my distraught mother,  her guilt ridden conscience
       could only have been relieved with a belief in reincarnation and a
       firm knowledge that I wouldn't need inoculation for my next several
       lives!

       The poliomyelitis (SALK needle) vaccine we got was later given to my
       kids as a painless oral dose - and I swear the kids reacted and tried
       to reject it with the same vigour as we did the needle version. When
       our kids got shots it was of triple antigen and far less often.......
       though I'm sure it was just as painful each time.

       It was only here that I realised the tears and anguish my mother must
       have felt as she offered us up for our shots way back then.

                               ------------------
       RACIAL INTRO.....
       We lived a couple of doors up from an aboriginal family. They really
       had a complicated lifestyle compared to most of us in the area......
       and of course.....this was all explained by ......." they're abo's".

       But apart from the fact they were two or three times more boisterous
       than  average,  they didn't get up to anything much different.

       I used to play with their kids a bit. I was never told to stay away
       from them, but their family told them to stay away from us and none
       of us kids could understand why.

       After the war there were a lot of immigrants arriving, and us kids
       had no problem mixing with their kids.  Our oldies had a few words to
       say about them and their "disgusting food", but we found these kids
       OK despite this.

       Funny thing, THEIR parents were feeding the same line of resentment
       to them, as ours were to us.  So I guess,  where two groups wouldn't
       try to get along, sparks had to fly, and they did.

       Some did try, but they were treated as outcasts by both sides, because
       there seemed to be no middle ground acceptable.  The refugee adults
       were looked down on by our adults and they in turn were looked  down
       on by the refugee adults.

       In the end of course, this attitude from our "elders" flowed on to us
       kids and  drove us apart.  In the closeness of our area,   we became
       distant.  Yet those of us remaining unaffected still mixed freely and
       still got on well.

       And so racial tensions were passed down to kids who wouldn't have
       "known" it otherwise, except for 'adult' influences.

       Although my parents had their words on the matter, they always made
       ALL kids welcome at our home and always responded to their parents
       greetings  (if  not  their  food!).

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

        TEDDY BEAR.....
        My mother used to call me by her pet name - "Teddy Bear".  It didn't
        worry me at the age of six - I was used to it.  When I was a real
        small kid, she had to sing to me, to make me eat my food:

                        "Teddy Bear sat on a chair
                         Eating plumb and pear
                         This is queer said Teddy Bear
                         The more I eat
                         The less is there"

        And the sucker I was for pretty women - I was putty in her hands.

        She'd wave the spoon around in front of me like it was an aeroplane
        and I was so busy laughing and joining in, down went the food and
        everyone was happy.

        By the way, I was told this feeding time story - its not from my
        memory, but I can picture me (minus any wrinkles) happily doing it.
        I do remember mum singing the song to me later, when I was sick or
        when she related my past to me (and to all and sundry!).

        So, tiny me had tiny friends and we used to visit our tiny selves.

        How cute we must have been (yawn)

        Mum calling me Teddy Bear all the time, meant my friends did too.
        And when I visited my friends homes, their parents did too, because
        that's what their kids intro'd me as.

        Then this... (I was there - really!).
        Mum and I were walking somewhere or other, when we came across a
        friend with his parents. He and his parents greeted me as usual.....
        "hello Teddy Bear - we haven't met your mummy - we're Timmy's parents
        .......... PLEASED TO MEET YOU Mrs. BEAR !.

        That nickname (Bear) stuck with me till my early teens, where it
        thankfully died a natural death (with a little help from me). I never
        disclosed it to any of my new friends as I grew older and never heard
        my childhood nickname applied to me again.

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

       WAR SURPLUS......
       After the war (WW2), there were a lot of old warehouses around that
       were once used for the war material storage and they seemed to just
       sit there forever unattended. So it seemed to us. And it appeared no
       one owned them.

       So we in our infinite wisdom decided to see what was in them. They
       were poorly secured and we could gain entry quite easily by squeezing
       through big flexible double wooden doors (mostly) that were easily
       breached.

       What a treasure trove of trivia we found. Gas masks, food ration packs,
       aluminium pots, pans and tin billy-cans, junior sized shovels (?), tin
       hats, back packs, gaiters, oilskins etc etc.....and best of all.......
       44 Gallon(200 litre) drums of silver liquid (mercury) that you couldn't
       wet anything with - and wouldn't seem to stick to anything......but by
       experimenting, we found that rubbing it on pennies (copper coins), they
       miraculously turned silver and we could pass them off as two shilling
       coins.

       That was until we were caught and given the mandatory painful "boot up
       the *.* ".

       Then there was this box with two wires and a handle that could be
       wound with its own handle( a meg tester!). Now if you dont know what
       a meg tester is then the full impact of our escapades with one will
       escape you.

       I can assure you we discovered the hard way how it worked before we
       perfected the many ways we could make a nuisance of ourselves with one,
       but this was our favourite:
               Around the local park where most of us went to play (swings,
               razzle dazzle, monkey bars etc.) were steel rails.   Sort of
               a fence to show the park boundary and keep our push bikes out.
               (Which it didn't do anyway!)

               We wore heavy shorts and were insulated, so the girls with
               their lighter clothing became our target, as they sat on the
               steel rails.

               We'd connect up the wires to the rail, well away from where
               the girls sat (usually their bare skin touching the steel they
               sat on) and we'd  wind the handle madly.

               Great spectacle as they jumped, screamed (as it seemed all
               girls did anyway) and rolled their eyes. They woke up to us
               after a short while, but it was so cool while it lasted.

               I remember us getting desperate for victims, so we did it to
               some unsuspecting teenage girls one day.

               They belted us up!.

               And we discovered that not all girls were ladies.

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

       WHEELBARROWS.........

       We used to have wheelbarrow races down the local street hill. This
       was called Balfour Street and went from Meagher Street next to White
       Wings flour factory, down to Tooths Brewery and the Wunderlich Tiles
       display on Broadway. Before we graduated to bicycles, our main hop
       was our trusty wheelbarrows, made by us from boxes with a fixed rear
       wooden axle and a swivel front for steering, with large old ball
       bearings for wheels. They fairly flew downhill but around corners
       they tended to slip because of the bare metal bearings in contact
       with the bitumen. Us more practised and daring won our races around
       about the corners. Crazy as it may seem, a good racer was highly
       respected by his peers then,  and I was good! (just ask me!)

       continuing with:

       THE RACE.....
       So it came to be one day I was challenged by the champ from up near
       the Darlo (Darlington) Post Office.  Well they had some steep hills
       up there but no corners like the dog leg in Balfour St., and to make
       it more to my advantage, we marked the run off hard right of the
       downhills left bend and then hard left again.  And it all looked most
       impressive marked out with World War 2 surplus paraphernalia!.

       And I knew my "home" course backwards.

       The word had got around of the "world champion showdown" (I made
       that one up because even second best was good in case I lost).

       Even lots of adults turned out to watch. For about 400 metres down
       the track they were lined up to watch and most were cheering on
       the local champ (me - and I remember milking it for all I could at
       the time).  Simple rules - first to the bottom of the street wins.

       Well, he lost it on "the bend" and spun out and I crossed the line
       with him still picking himself up on "the bend" behind me.

       What a poor sport!  Just because I said he wasn't second best in the
       world because he didn't finish - he wanted to belt me up.

       Just as well they held us apart or he would have found out I was
       world champ at fighting as well! (I knew I was a legend!)

       And  the adults seemed so happy about it all (it was a Sunday
       afternoon).... they promptly started a "two up" game in a side lane,
       had a fight amongst themselves - which the police came and broke up.

       They all went home, seemingly pleased with their days entertainment.

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

       ETERNITY.......
       There was this person who used to get around the place - all over it
       seemed - writing the word "ETERNITY".  It was written in chalk on the
       pavement, near corners usually.   Everyone (adults) used to say "what
       beautiful writing - wonder who does that". Well us kids knew (?)because
       we saw the man doing it one day and having nothing to do as usual, we
       followed him from a distance.

       He would have been most upset with us had he known we were rubbing
       it out behind him as he went!    (I have much to answer for!)

       Much later in life I learned this man's name was Arthur Stace and
       the story goes that at the age of 45 he experienced a religious
       revelation at the Saint Barnabas Church off Broadway (in the area
       I grew up in and where I started my "stage" career!) that set him writing
       this word on the pavements of Sydney (and other places?) for the rest
       of his able days ..... for at least his next 30 years in fact!

       When I think about it, our actions of destroying his writing was
       tantamount to vandalism.  Sure the next rain shower would have washed
       it away ......but I have the opinion that nature has the only right
       to destroy any beauty she is offered by man.

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

       BEA (Bee) MILES.......
       Another notable character around Sydney in the 40's and 50's was a
       rather large nomad lady (something like a modern U.S. 'bag-lady')
       known as Bea Miles.

       This woman - imposing and frightening to us younger generation - would
       wander the streets of Sydney and close suburbs wearing large bulky
       clothes and with all her worldly goods packed into a swag over her
       shoulder.  She would march down the centre of main roads and other
       thoroughfares with cars, trucks, buses and trams piled up to a walk
       behind her as she strode along seemingly oblivious of the situation
       or abuse directed at her.

       Many times (twice I witnessed) she would be near a taxi cab with the
       passenger leaving and the door open....and Bea would jump in. Apart
       from the fact that her odour was almost overpowering, she had no money
       and refused to leave the cab unless they drove her somewhere or other.
       Of the twice I saw her do this - one time the driver turned to his
       left and used both feet to eject her before she could close her door
       and drove away at speed.  The other time it took two policemen, one
       large truck driver and the taxi man to get her out.....and they were
       none too gentle about it either.

       It was said at the time and I have read since, that Bea Miles was well
       educated and came from a well to do family, but somewhere along the
       way had gone off the rails of sanity because of a love affair or
       something.

       Bea Miles could recite many of William Shakespeare's works verbatim.
       People would pay her to do so and many an actor was scolded and
       corrected by her.  She would sleep anywhere....from bus shelters to
       stormwater drains all over the area she wandered.

       Anyone who ever saw Bea Miles could never forget her.

                                 -----------

       FIRST DANCE.......
       I was in 4th class (9yo) at Cleveland Street School.  Our teacher was
       Mr. Chapman and we really loved him dearly. As a matter of fact we
       probably would have willingly died for him.

       Which was probably why we gave in so meekly when he suggested he
       arrange a (sissy) dance lesson with the teacher of the girls class 4.

       Mr. Chapman (Chappo') said it was good training for when we got a
       bit older and became young men (us?).

       So the big night arrived and we all congregated at the school gym
       where it seemed everything from athletics to craft shops were held.

       We boys occupied the north wall - pretending we'd never seen a girl
       before and the girls sat down along the south wall - looking like
       they wished they'd never seen us at all!

       But in the spirit of all willing civilised species - male and female
       (and that covers most of us) we soon got into the mood of things and
       had a lot fun (both camps).  It was at this dance I first noticed the
       strange habit of the female having to be in charge of any moment they
       share in and the strange habit of the male allowing her fantasy to go
       on unchecked.

       So strange this ritual - because if even our best mate had tried such
       blatant domination of any one of us, we would have unhesitatingly
       punched him out.

       Poor old Chappo was in stitches (while the girls teacher wasn't looking
       of course) because she was obviously very Victorian and walked around
       handing out balloons she had blown up that each couple had to put in
       between themselves...... "to get used to correct distance - for dancing
       with decency".

       This poor woman teacher blew up a balloon for every couple dancing
       which with our class and two others amounted to around 50 balloons.

       I remember how red faced and flustered she was between blowing them
       up, tying them, handing them out and then watching them fall to the
       floor or bust......blowing up replacements or chasing couples around
       re-issuing them and checking us all out fervently.

       Apart from all the laughing,   I for one thought this lady  magnificent
       and had the girls classes been chaperoned by any other lady, my first
       dance may not have been anywhere near as enjoyable and funny as it
       turned out to be for all of us.

                                 -----------

       SMOKING.......
       We used to collect cigarette packets we found and make collections for
       swapping and playing "closest to the wall" by flicking them.

       We'd go "bumper shooting" which was collecting "dougheys" or cigarette
       bumpers, peel out the tobacco and roll a new cigarette from them.

       A packet of cigarette papers was far cheaper than a packet of tobacco
       or "tailor maids'".  They made us feel sick to puff on but the "trick"
       to looking "tough" was to suck in big breaths of smoke ( mostly air
       at first) and try not to turn as green as you felt.   Easy (gasp!)

       And so we learned to smoke like the grown ups did. Everything they
       did had to be OK to us.  Except giving us "the boot" as punishment
       when we were caught!

       But in a way we came to expect this if we ever went too far.

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

       THE PINE TREES.....
       One day mum took us to San Souci for a picnic at by the shore
       of Botany Bay, with friends or family... I cant remember which.
       Botany Bay was not polluted then and was very popular with families
       because the relatively flat water was ideal for younger kids to play
       in and there were no dangerous rips to contend with.

       Dad was away at the war.....whatever that was!

       We seemed to be there for awhile before there was a big uproar
       up on the esplanade from the beach. Everyone was in a hurry to
       leave, including mum with us.

       As we got onto the esplanade, there were men their yelling and
       police confronting them.

       Mum whisked us away and onto the electric trolley bus going to
       Rockdale Station.

       It seems that these huge Japanese Pines had been planted along
       the esplanade over 50 years before and these guys hated the Japanese
       so much, that anything Japanese - even these beaut trees - had to go.

       That's how otherwise normal people can act under the stress of a war.

       By the way, they were stopped before they did too much damage
       and the trees are still there today.  It would be hard for me to
       imagine Sans Souci without them.


                          ---------------------
       I was standing near the chicken display food chest at our local          
       Burpengary Coles Supermarket.  A lady was inspecting the contents 
       and she was accompanied by an obviously and disinterested man
       who obviously would have been happy to be somewhere else.
 
       The sign there surprisingly displayed "RSPCA APPROVED" which to 
       me was odd enough... an animal society advising us what was safe
       for us to eat (?). 

       The lady said "Look Alfred - these chickens are Free Range...."

       Without batting an eyelid, the disinterested husband replied.....
       "Not any more they aint!" 

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


       As I write at this, I am approaching my 77th birthday and although
       I have previously concentrated on funnies and events that occurred
       much earlier in my life, some later notable events have come to pass 
       as well... and this one deserves noting too.

       I was showing an elderly couple the Eumundi Cemetery page on
       my computers net connection.  My mother, father, wife and
       eldest daughter are buried there. The lady was "computer shy" and
       had never been on the web before.  I'd showed her how to
       scroll through the list as it was her very first time using a
       computer.  She knew quite a few of the people on the list that
       were buried there too.

       I explained to her it was a link to the cemetery....

       Her husband and I left her to pore through the list while we
       retreated to the kitchen to chat about other things while I
       made us all coffee.

       On top of the cemetery page the lady was poring through was
       a link to an icon service for "smileys"..... graphical and talking
       "smileys"... (little icons that talk to you)"........

       Back in the study where the lady was engrossed in the web site
       (and alone by herself) ......... one of the talking "smileys" 
       suddenly started calling out eerily "hello, hello" to draw attention 
       to itself and to show the user a promo link to click onto.

       Her husband and I, in the kitchen, were suddenly confronted by this
       distraught, white as a sheet lady who was visibly shaken.

       She told us there had been someone calling out to her from the
       cemetery and she didn't know who it was or what to do - so she
       turned the computer off at the wall to get away from them.

       It took some fast talking to calm her down and explain that the link
       I had mentioned to the cemetery was not a direct one and it was a
       talking "smiley" and not a ghost she had heard ..... and although she
       put on a brave face and laughed along with us ... she wouldn't take
       up my offer to re-connect her to the cemetery site again.


          (I dont get too many new "funnies" to laugh at these days!)


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


©Ted Middleton 2007.

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