Teenage Traveller in the 60s

I’ve been to possibly 20 different countries  and up through Central Australia maybe 6 times but last year was the first time I made it to Tasmania. When I was a teenager I never thought that would happen.

My first year of College I was delighted to discover there was a Travel Cub,  each year a trip was organised to somewhere in Australia and the rates were good. I joined the club and we had a great trip through the Snowies to Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane. I’m not sure I’d relish a bus, whoops coach, trip like that these days but it was fun then.

The following year somehow I managed to become responsible for organising the annual trip. Tasmania was the favoured place. I hand balled the job to Mum, she loved talking to people on the phone and organizing things!  The Art lecturer, John Bell, had previously organised trips to Central Australia and he was doing it again that year so two trips were happening. I thought about it and decided I’d go on the Central Australia one because I was absolutely sure I’d never tackle such a trip when I was older. Tasmania would be fine at any age.

The Tasmanian group stayed in Motels etc but the Central Australian group travelled by coach with a support, “Grub Truck”.  We slept in tents most nights although I do remember sleeping out under the stars at least once. That was the night after we went through Coober Pedy. Why would I remember that after almost 50 years? Because I bought some lovely dried apricots in Coober Pedy and really enjoyed them BUT  that night I had an urgent call. It meant getting out of my sleeping bag fast, in darkness, trying not to trip over any of the cocooned bodies lying about on the ground as I raced to find a “secluded spot”.

In 1965 there was no acknowledgment of Aboriginal land rights or even place names. We camped at “Ayer’s Rock” and climbed to the top to admire the views then visited “The Olgas”, I decided not to join the climbers instead I  stayed at camp and helped the cook.  After Ayer’s Rock we went on to  “Kings Canyon” travelling through Ernabella Mission lands.  People intercepted the coach and told us we had no right to be there,  somehow  we had “strayed” from the right road.  At Kings Canyon we walked all the way to the end of the canyon, some of us swimming and gasping in the freezing cold pool before climbing up to the cave in the end wall.

I’ve been back to all those places again but now I know the Aboriginal names, Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Watarrka and I respect the spiritual significance of the places to the Aboriginal owners. I don’t clamber over their sacred grounds anymore.

You didn’t know that about Nana did you?

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I belong in a History Book

When I think of steam trains I think of ladies wearing long dresses and holding parasols, boys in knickerbockers, men wearing suits, ties and Fedora hats. No way do I think I belong,  “in the picture” but I remember Steam Trains.  Mum and Dad owned some shops and flats at Henley Beach, just next to the Ramsgate Hotel and I’d often go and keep Dad company when he was doing maintenance there. The property was built on a sand dune, the shops fronted onto Seaview Road with the flats above and behind, the dune sloped down to Military Road at the back.

I remember being on the sand dune which was planted with Pigface, looking down to a scooped out section where Dad parked his car and across the road to the station. Trains would come in from Grange, drop off the passengers then slowly continue along to the water tank. They’d fill up then come back because Henley Beach was the end of the line. When I think about it now I can’t imagine how the engine got to be at the front again, there certainly wasn’t a big turning loop. In 1957 the station was closed and the terminus was at Grange.  Now, at Henley, there is a Police Station instead of a railway station and a big block of flats where the water tank was.

Every Christmas holidays I used to go and stay with Aunty Mavis in Port Pirie. Once Jayne and I both went in a plane but every other time it was by train. It’s amazing to me now that I went alone when I wasn’t even a teenager but someone put me on the train at Adeaide Railway Station and Aunty Mavis met me in Pirie.  The train stopped at Bowmans Station so people could go and buy snacks and drinks.  There was always a crush of people at the counter and I was frightened that if I got off the train it would leave without me.

 

You didn’t know that about Nana did you?

The steam train went right down the middle of the main street in Port Pirie.

The steam train went right down the middle of the main street in Port Pirie.

Not to be Trusted

I went to school Primary School in the 1950s, the days before trendy backpacks. Girls carried little cases and young boys had little leather backpacks but nothing like the modern ones. Older boys, if they were lucky had kitbags. I think maybe kitbags and long pants went together!

 

Inside the cases and bags there were no flash drink bottles, insulated lunch boxes, MP3 players, mobile phones or “tablets” even if they belonged to big Year 7 kids. Things you might have found in a case or bag were some doogs (marbles), skipping rope, piece of string to play “Cat’s Cradle” or a ball. There would probably have been a reader, maybe a homework book and most kids would have had lunch in a paper bag. I can’t remember ever taking my lunch, Mum always gave me money to buy it from the little shop beside the school.

The little shop sold all traditional lunches, pies, pasties, sausage rolls and I guess sandwiches.  In my last couple of years at Primary School they introduced Hotdogs and they were very popular. Coke must also have been available because I remember a particular incident concerning Coke.

When we were thirsty we used to go to the taps at the troughs and drink the water from our cupped hands. Nobody wandered about with little Fruit Boxes or pop top bottles of drink. One day our teacher must have felt an overwhelming need for a Coke because she sent me to the little shop to get it for her. On the way back the urge to taste it was just too great.  Everyone else was in class so I took a sip through the straw then realized it would be lower than she expected so I topped it up at the water trough. She drank her Coke and said nothing but I was never asked to get her a Coke again.

 

You didn’t know that about Nana did you?

Music -Moving On

As I drive about the roads or walk around the Shopping Centre I see so many people with wires coming out of their ears I think it must be a new wave of robots and at any minute one of them will stutter to a stop as their batteries run out. Although you and your parents have grown up thinking that’s the normal way to listen to music it hasn’t been for me.

The first music I heard, apart from Dad whistling or singing, would probably have been on our pianola. If you weren’t a piano player you could buy special paper rolls which had little holes punched into them. The rolls fitted into the pianola and you had to continuously pump foot plates to play the music, it certainly built leg muscles. The gramophone was another way to play music you liked. There were big black 78 rpm records that scratched easily so you had to be very careful putting them on and placing the needle down. Ricky and Mike used to torment me playing, “If You Knew Suzie” on ours.

In about 1960 Dad bought a second hand radiogram, it was in a big wooden cabinet and that played the “modern” 45 rpm and 33 rpm records. You could hear songs on the radio and buy the records. The 45rps were only small with usually one song on each side and the first one I bought cost 10/- or about $1. We didn’t have many records so most of the time I listened to the radio, it was a big unit plugged into a wall socket. I used to stand with my ear pressed up against it listening to the latest pop songs. Grandpa was deaf and I always played the radio quietly but that didn’t stop him demanding to know why I, “listened to that rubbish!”

There were radio programmes where you could send in requests and I remember requesting a song Dad loved and we all sat and listened to that one. Maybe it put Dad’s life into perspective, it was called “Life Gets Teejus Don’t It?” and it always made him laugh.

After record players came tape recorders. The first one I had was a big reel to reel player, you had to thread a brown tape through the heads from one reel to the other. I bought that one when I was first earning money and remember my legs turning to jelly because I was spending so much. After the reel to reel tape recorders came cassette players, CD players and then the MP3 players you plug into your ears today.

Radios have changed a lot too. I was at secondary school  when transistor radios came in, they were so small you could easily carry them around and listen to the music you liked without interference from “oldies”. I was so excited the day I saw a big Fordgeys ad in the Sunday Mail showing transistors just like I wanted and for a price I could afford. After school the next day I rushed straight to Fordgeys to buy my “trannie”. Beside a big board showing the sale price were not the nice little ones I’d seen in the illustration but big, heavy lumps of things. Only the big ones were at the advertised price, the small ones were much dearer. I was devastated. I left the shop vowing to never, ever set foot in Fordgeys again.

You didn’t know that about Nana did you?

 


You can move the cursor over a graphic to see the caption.

 

 

The Wash Tub

I grew up in the era of Sunday baths. There were five kids in our family and there is no way each of us had a clean bath full of hot water so it must have been rather murky for the “last man in”. The baths were on Sunday so we were fresh for the new week. I don’t remember any smelly kids at school so presume we all smelt as bad as each other! After playtimes forty active kids had to create quite an odour, especially in summer.

Having a bath on Sundays didn’t mean we became grotty gradually, we were always playing outside and often in the dirt. One school morning I was all dressed ready for school when Mum noticed my dirty legs, they must have been beyond cleaning with a face washer because Mum made me stand in the washing machine. I have no idea why there would have been soapy water in it at that time of the day but there was.

The washing machine was a big, cylindrical tub on castors with a wringer attached. The wringer had two rollers which you could swing over the centre of the tub or back to the edge. There was a metal plate on the end that you hit to separate the rollers.

Mum never  ever had what you would call, “lightness of touch” and even if she did have, dirty knees need a bit of scrubbing to clean, I suppose.  As I stood in the soapy water her enthusiastic scrubbing caused me to overbalance and I dropped down into the soapy water. I was soaked and needed a complete change of clothes before I could leave for school but I guess my legs were clean!

You didn’t know that about Nana did you?

This is a similar washing machine though I remember it as much bigger. As a giant child gobbler in fact!

This is a similar washing machine though I remember it as much bigger, as a giant child gobbler in fact!

It’s Christmas Again

To me Christmas Time is Family Time, I know that isn’t the same for everyone but I’ve been lucky and almost always had family close by. I still remember the first Christmas I spent away from my immediate family. For years every Christmas holidays I’d been going to stay with Aunty Mavis in Port Pirie but I always left home after Christmas Day. Aunty Mavis owned and worked in, “Pirie Art Florist” and when she was old enough my cousin, Barbara, also worked there. I think I would have been about 14 the year I stayed at Barbara’s house so I could help look after her little boys and that year I was already there before Christmas.

On Christmas morning everyone was in the lounge room, I heard the excitement but I stayed in bed. I felt totally out of place. Christmas morning was all tied up with Mum, Dad, my brothers and sisters. I had no idea what to do. Eventually someone came into the room and said, “Aren’t you ever getting up?” I was embarrassed but I did get up and go into the Lounge Room. I was given a present and when I opened it I was shocked and delighted, it was a manicure set in a pale blue leather case. I’d never seen anything like it and it was such a “grown up” present. I felt proud that they thought it was right for me.

You didn’t know that about Nana did you?

manicure-set

scissors

The weird thing about the photos is that I can’t find my leather case just now so I’ve used an image from the web and the scissors are missing. The one part of my set that I’ve always used are the scissors so although they’re looking rather old at least I can to take a photo of them.

Cheese and Jam

Today I made myself some toast with cheese and jam and was immediately reminded of a long car trip with Dad and Mike to Western Australia.  As part of the Soldiers Settlement Scheme Dad had been allocated a property at Jerramungup but before he accepted it we had to check it out.

The distance was about 2442.5 kms or 1517 miles and 1200 kms of that was unsealed. Long sections were corrugated or had potholes filled with “bulldust” which was like talc and if you didn’t spot the slightly pink colour of it and hit the hole the result was a bone jarring “whack”. We were in a 1954 Vanguard, Spacemaster and I don’t know if any cars at that time had Air Conditioning but ours certainly didn’t. Because of the dust you couldn’t have the windows down but even so it still managed to find its way inside the car and we were travelling in December, the Australian summer.

What has this to do with bread and jam? Well, Dad was keen to get to Jerramungup as soon as possible so the only stops were unavoidable ones and more often that not lunch stops didn’t fit that category. I sat in the back along with the food supplies so it was my job to make lunch as Dad drove along. The easiest lunch to make that way was cheese and jam on bread.  One day though Dad fancied sardines on bread but while I was balancing all the bits and pieces on my lap Dad hit a pothole and the oil from the sardines spilt onto my nice new pants. I cried. Dad decided maybe we could stop for lunch then. Back home when Mum asked how the trip had gone Dad told her I “got a bit moody one day”!

You didn’t know that about Nana, did you?

Mike and me with the Vanguard.

Mike and me with the Vanguard.

There was no caravan, camper or tent, I think there might have been camp stretchers but don’t remember.