I was born on the 31st of October. The date was totally without any other significance for me until a newspaper article I read when I was twelve. I knew about Americans and Halloween by then, of course, but had never come across any mention as to its date before. I believe that, in the U.S., 31 October is a public holiday...which is as it should be.
It is possible that when I was born, my mother was under the influence of heroin. As I was born in 1950, it is even probable, considering heroin was in legal use in Australia at that time for things like dental work and childbirth. To this day it is still one of the most effective pain killers ever invented – that reason being why the word "hero" was built into its name, before certain addictive properties came to general attention. Some countries took longer than others to make it fully illegal. Under pressure from places like the USA, Australia finally banned the use of heroin right across the board early in 1953. Mum looked down on things like smoking and drinking, and drugs may as well have been something on another planet. I wonder if hospitals told their patients what anaesthetics they used, back then? Do they now?
I was born in Tasmania, which – as every Bugs Bunny fan knows – is where the Tasmanian Devil comes from. Around the time I came into the world – just before or just after – my Pommy great grandfather died. William Barnes had arrived in Australia at an early age. (Or possibly he was born here just after his family arrived. Dad remembers differently what he was told about this, when telling me the same story years apart. There was a family Bible which would clear all this up, had not my grandfather - before he died - given it away "to someone who was entitled to it". It was not to anybody I have been able to track down.) In later years, Great Grandad told how his family travelled westwards by bullock dray to their new farm in Penguin, and how when – reaching the place where Devonport is now – they waited until low tide and crossed the mouth of the Mersey River over the sand bar. It would be a bit of a problem to recreate that journey in the present day. Around 1890, so that larger ships could enter port, the sand bar was removed. The river mouth has been kept dredged clear and deep ever since.
There is an old diary which explains how cold Tasmanian winters could be. Frost could be found on the ground at midday. (From personal experience in the 1960s – the latest you could find frost was ten a.m., and that only inside shadows.) There is a photograph my parents took in 1952 of snow in Devonport. It was unusual at the time, and has never happened since. When I first heard about the greenhouse effect and global warming, it made sense to me, but although the magazine article mentioned the possibility of a future melting of the polar caps, no upset was created. That waited until the middle of the 1980s, when suddenly everyone and their dog became deeply distressed by global warming, and electricity companies started advertising how you too could help thwart it by using off-peak power.
Quite early on in the piece, my parents moved across the Bass Strait to Victoria.
When my first ride on an aeroplane took place, I have no idea. Air travel is something that has been going on in my life for as far back as my memory goes. One trip I do remember is being with my mother and asking where my father was. She explained that Dad was coming the slow way, by boat, with the car. The reason we did not all make the trip by boat was probably my travel sickness, and so it would have seemed logical to subject me to as brief a period of nausea as the technology of the day permitted. And I was sick on the aircraft. I remember feeling a great deal better by laying on the floor...not that this was a lasting solution. Mum promptly hauled me back up onto my seat, explaining it did not look good for children to be seen laying on the floor. It obviously looked much better for them to be sitting upright, spewing their guts into a paper bag.
In those days the air hostesses handed out free sweets and lollies to the passengers, as the air craft taxied for take-off. This was so people would be chewing as they ascended to regions of lower air pressure, and so be relieving pressure on their eardrums at the same time. It has been a long time for me since air-travel was linked with popping in the ears. One thing that still lingers from those days of sweets on takeoff – airsickness so inevitably followed, that even today barley sugar is mentally associated with vomiting.
This was all in the days before the Bass Strait roll-on roll-off ferry. Large items of freight, like cars, were lifted aboard ship by crane. Consequently – this sort of thing being a major undertaking – one did not see huge numbers of Tasmanian cars on mainland roads. These were also the days before number plates nation-wide were made of reflectorised material (to make it easier for police to read numbers at night), at a time when the plates of different states had some sometimes striking colour differences. Because Tasmanian plates were white with black lettering – as opposed to Victoria's black with white lettering – Tassy traffic tended to stand out. My father still tells the story of a youth crossing the road in front of him, stopping dead in the street to stare at the number plates, and being separated from infinity solely by Dad's application of the brakes.
I remember a little of early life in Tasmania – jogged years later by revisiting old haunts and recalling things never even thought of since they happened. One vivid memory is of seeing the full moon for the first time, big and orange and almost touching the horizon. My parents and grandparents were in deep conversation when this happened, and could not be bothered by a little kid trying to ask what the hell that dirty great thing was out there in the sky! The most I was able to get from the adults was a condescending "Yes, mmm!" from Grandad, who did not even stir from his seat to see what the devil I was on about. Frustration was a major factor of my early life.
There is one clear memory of looking at a picture in a colouring book, the colour inset showing how it was supposed to look, and a fiery determination to make the picture exactly like it. Ve-e-ry carefully I selected the right colour pencil, and being ve-e-ry careful not to go over any lines...went over all the lines and produced a scrawling mess. This was not what I wanted, not what I wanted at all. I tried another part of the picture, determined to get it right, and produced another careful and unintentional mess. Something was horribly wrong here, so I went to my mother and explained the situation as best I could. Her response was to say "Mm, yes, that's very good," and go right on talking to her friend. Poor hand co-ordination, insufficient vocabulary, and indifferent adults. Ah yes, the Golden Days of childhood.
Queen Elizabeth II toured Australia in 1954, and an estimated 70% of the country's population saw her in person. We must have made the move to Victoria by this time, because I was one of that 70%. I was sitting on my father's shoulders, and got to see more than he did through a flag-waving crowd as the the Queen and her husband went past in an open car. (This was in the days before it became fashionable to open up on VIPs with anything on hand.) We kept our flags for years afterwards - until 1967 in fact. They consisted of one Union Jack, one blue Australian flag, and one red Australian flag. (The reason for the two colours was because Australia at that time still had no official flag. It was P.M. Bob Menzies who shortly afterwards torpedoed the red-fielded flag as a national symbol, because red had changed from being the colour of Empire to the colour of communism. The official flag our troops had always fought under had been the Union Jack, and whenever the Australian flag had been flown up to then, it had a fifty-fifty chance of being blue or red.)
Right after we moved to Victoria, we lived for a while in what became the garage, while Dad built the house. In the back yard of that place there was a Hill's hoist. In the 1950s all backyards had Hills hoists. It is like it was compulsory or something. The hoist was always located smack bang in the centre of the yard – never in a corner or really close to the laundry – as if trying for maximum eyesoreness value. Although now I think about it, the parents of my best friend had something a little different at their place. Their clothes hoist was hydraulic! On days when there was no wind, they would turn on a special tap, and the hoist would spin. The wonders of high technology!
My parents were sending me along to Sunday school, even before they packed me off to primary school. At the very first Sunday school, the minister explained how God created the world in seven days. It had never occurred to me before to wonder where everything came from, but it was always nice to know things like this. There were just one or two details which bothered me though. If no one was around to see the world being made, then how did they know how it happened? And if God made the world...what did he make it out of? And if he made that stuff to start with, what did he make that out of? Who made God? And if God was made, who made whoever made God? And who made whoever made God? And so on. Thinking about it, you could eliminate the need for any maker of God, if God existed all the way back to...to what? Using logic, there is no way the universe could start out of nothing, with the result that we do not exist now. How did everything really start? Nobody would tell me. The universe existed, so obviously there was an answer.
There were answers to everything. Sometimes you found out what they were, and sometimes you did not. Non-informative responses ranged from the eternally frustrating "You'll understand when you're older", through "Don't be cheeky" to "Kids, eh?" (the last one actually levelled at your parents). There were people who knew the answers, but they would not always tell you. Ask a minister where God came from, and see where you get. And it was not just the experts who would not tell you what was surely obvious to them. Even your best friend would not enlighten you as to how he could see what you missed. (For instance, in primary school there was a man who sometimes visited and told us stories from the Bible, illustrating them with bits of felt on a felt board. The board was sky blue. On this he would stick a shaped bit of dark blue felt – a distant ocean or lake – brown felt for foreground, and so on, building a detailed picture before our eyes. On the completed landscape pictures of biblical characters would be adhered and moved around as the story progressed. It was fascinating stuff, providing you could get a good seat near the front. The further back, and the pictures fuzzed out totally, and all you were left with was talk about stuff you could not see. People sitting beside me could obviously see the pictures, and even answer questions about them, but when I asked how they did it, all they would say was something as informative as "It's right there!" or "I just looked at it and I saw it." Questions like "But how do you see what you are looking at?" were never answered.)
When you are a little kid, you are expected to be a victim. People are allowed to do things to you, but you can not do them back. If an adult taunts you, it is known as teasing, and is quite all right. If you taunt an adult, it is known as giving cheek, and is not all right. People are allowed to explain away the incomprehensible with a meaningless "It's right there, you can see it." Try the same meaningless phrase to explain something obvious to you but no-one else, and see where it lands you.
All my life, up until 1998, I was short-sighted. (Details on how the new status quo came about are in another article). The teachers at primary school twigged to my eyesight trouble – eventually – and sent a letter to my parents. It seems parents hardly ever notice vision problems in their own children. I remember one frustrating conversation with my father, explaining an encounter with a neighbour I had walked up to, to see who she was. Dad argued that I must have seen her to go towards her in the first place, therefore I knew who she was, and so had no reason to get close. Four years of vocabulary was not sufficient to explain why seeing someone and recognising them did not happen over a distance. This was made more difficult by my not being aware that what I saw was not the same as what everyone else was seeing. All I knew was that people did silly things at times. For instance, there was that incredibly moronic game in primary school when we all went into a darkened room, and a projector cast blobs of light and shadow on one wall, while everyone pretended to see fascinating and interesting pictures. It seemed like a dumb game to me, and it would go on for so incredibly, boringly, long. Nobody twigged, even when a teacher asked "Can you see the baby koala Bruce?" and I replied in bored frustration "There is no baby koala!" She would simply go to another student who was willing to play the stupid game, and say "Ooh yes Miss, it's riding on it's mummy's back!" It was a stupid game to me. Stupid and boring.
When you are short sighted, things can sneak up on you. Things like horses...and elephants. There was the day my mother asked me if I would like to go over to the vacant lot and feed an apple to the horse. What horse? Why, look out the window. See it? "No!" "Of course you can. It's right there." I wish I had a photographic memory. Then I could recall how close that horse was to me before I finally noticed it. All I remember now is the feeling as that huge thing looming above me leaned in and scoffed down the slice of apple from my hand. With the horse there was advance warning. The elephant was a complete surprise. We were at the zoo, when there was a slithering noise from a nearby wall, and I turned to see a trunk sliding along top of it. There was an elephant on the other side, which I had failed to see from a distance, and could not see from this close because of the wall. Just the trunk. I knew what a snake was, but nobody else seemed to be alarmed, so I wasn't either. Peer pressure is an incredible thing. The elephant too was after apple handouts. I do not remember if there was a "Do not feed the animals" sign anywhere. I do remember the elephant gave rides, but that I could not go for some reason like "It's too expensive", "The queue is too long", or "You'd probably get motion-sick."
The thing that finally twigged the teachers to my short-sightedness came the day they brought some trouble-makers from the back of the class to the front where they could be seen. Naturally this involved people at the front being sent to the back. I was regarded as a good student – despite an occasional tendency to regard threes and eights as interchangeable – but promptly became the worst student once at the back of the room. When they called me up to the front of the class, and I suddenly understood something from the blackboard while in transit, did the penny drop. Of course young Bruce Barnes liked sitting at the front of the class. He had to. It was not possible to see what was written on the blackboard from any further back.
At age five I had my first pair of glasses. I still remember
my first sight of the main street of Geelong...in focus.
"Does everything look bigger now?" Dad asked after he came home from work.
"No. Smaller. But clearer."
The day the helicopters went overhead was, I think before my first pair of glasses. They came over, low enough to be visible, one behind the other. They were the most amazing things I had ever seen. I had flown in big aeroplanes, but these were incredible. Something beyond my experience. I took jet aircraft breaking the sound barrier overhead as a matter of course. I could tell the difference between a jet's sonic boom and the sound of blasting at the quarry, even though both could make the the windows vibrate. (This was in the days before noise pollution was invented, so nobody was alarmed.) I decided right then and there that I was going to be a helicopter pilot when I grew up. (In my late forties now, I have piloted light aircraft, and flown in almost everything except helicopters. I have not even been in one as a passenger!)
Do you remember the first time you answered the telephone? Mine is burned into memory. The phone was newly installed, I had seen it used often enough to know how it worked, and I was the only person in the house at that particular moment of that particular day when it went off. As soon as I said "Hello" an excited woman's voice responded with "I'm going to have a baby, I'm going to have a baby!" It turned out the call was for a diagonally opposite neighbour. Have you tried explaining to an excited woman the concept of "diagonal" when you do not know the word yourself, and she can not see any explanatory gestures you are making?
In case I ever got lost, my mother made sure I knew our address and telephone number, to tell a policeman. I can still remember the address – even found my way back to it the last time I was in Geelong – but that telephone number is gone from memory. All I can say for sure now is that it contained alphabetic letters as well as numbers. (The telephone dial had each number sharing with a few letters of the alphabet, and you could dial words. I remember it was possible to read some really bizarre words into some people's phone numbers. Some businesses intentionally obtained numbers incorporating descriptive words. However with increasing numbers of telephone subscribers forcing extra digits to be added, inevitably making nonsense of word-numbers, the practice declined. Somewhere along the way alphabetic characters vanished from Australian telephones altogether, never to return until the invention of push-button dialling and e-mail. Since my first version of this article, even word-numbers are starting to come back, in "1800" numbers.)
The only other thing that sticks in memory from those days is the yellow pages. They were pink. They were actually called "the pink pages". Don't ask me when the colour change happened, or why. (Though it probably had something to do with coming into line with global standardisation. Maybe.)
Something that is completely dead in the water these days is firecracker night. Actually there were two firecracker nights a year, one featuring a bonfire with the effigy of Guy Fawkes in it, and one featuring a bonfire without. For a fortnight or so before the actual night, there was the rare skyrocket at night, and occasional but constant banging of firecrackers during the countdown to the main night itself, when skyrockets, sparklers, jumping jacks, catherine wheels, and double-bungers ruled. Wowsers were against bonfire nights on the grounds that some people always got hurt by fireworks, the noise scared animals, children were so wrapped up with the fireworks they lost sight of what was being commemorated, and kids were just having far too much fun. Okay, so that last one was never actually said, but you could tell it was there. Firework injuries? You heard about them on the news, but they never happened to you or anyone you knew. (Although one time on a cold night in Sydney, it came close. I was wearing a cap with pull-down ear flaps, and it was by fifty-fifty chance that I had the flaps down when a firecracker somebody threw went off against my ear. I do not know what sort of cracker it was, but it felt like a cannon. Talk about having an ear-ring.) As I grew older I lost my fascination with firework nights, and when the wowsers finally won their way over the firework manufacturers, firecracker nights vanished without my noticing quite when it happened.
Anzac Day is the day Australia and New Zealand remember their war dead. In particular it commemorates the World War I battle at Gallipoli, which the Australia and New Zealand Army Corp ended up losing. (The 1981 Peter Weir movie Gallipoli caused much irritation in overseas release, with people who did not know how to pronounce the title. While every school child in this country knows how to say the word, I believe it is not necessarily the same way the Turks pronounce it.) For me it was the day I got to wear my father's medals to school, a tradition that endured through most (or even all) of primary school. (Dad considered his sojourn in World War II as years of his life completely wasted, and preferred to pretend they never happened. He never attended army reunions or Anzac Day marches, and gave me the medals outright. In the 1990s, around the time he discovered the costs of some needed surgery would be covered because of this military service, he started thinking about the past he had been trying to ignore – I guess – because he asked me for the medals back.) The thing I remember most about my first Anzac Day is the kid who was in tears because his father had no medals. What I no longer remember is why. Because his father was a conscientious objector? Because he was in an essential service and not allowed to join up? Because he was 4F? Because he was fighting on the other side at the time? It is just an incomplete detail in my memory, and there is no way for me to check up on it.
Corn flakes in those days went "snap crackle and pop". This was obviously before they pulled the noisemakers out of them and rammed them into rice bubbles instead. Other breakfast foods of the time included Vita Brits, which are a pain to describe to people living overseas, who would know them by a different name. Basically they come out of the packets looking like wheaty bricks, which get drenched with milk before eating. In the 1950s the Vita Brits company assumed everybody had fruit for breakfast, and pushed their product as something to be eaten with fruit. Even the front of the pack showed the contents posing with happy cherries and pears. Not until the middle of the 1960s did they suddenly realise people were eating their product without cumbersome additions, and changed their packaging and advertising accordingly.
My parents had been taught in school that everything was held down on the Earth by gravity, and that if the world ever stopped spinning, we would all fall off. They had both attended the same school with the same teachers, and consequently were taught the same rubbish. Every so often they would discuss things when one of them came across something in print or on the wireless that contradicted what they had learned. You would think this would teach me something. It did not. For instance, when I was very young, I decided to generate some artificial gravity, using the contents of my toy box. Take one humming top, pump the crank to get it up to a high spin, and drop some building blocks on it. My parents told me that gravity was caused by the Earth's spinning, therefore it was logical that a quickly spinning top would cause things to stick to it. The fact that they flew off instead was probably just because the top was not spinning fast enough. (After all, look how huge the Earth was, and how fast it must spin for day and night to be the length they were.) The problem was, the faster the top spun, the faster the building blocks seemed to go when they bounced off. Carefully thinking about it finally led me to the only possible conclusion: I was doing something wrong. Hey I was a little kid, and the grownups were bigger and wiser than me, so it was obviously me who was fouling up.
Einstein was still alive when I was born. His death made absolutely no impression on me, despite my most probably hearing about it when it happened. There was no t.v. then, but we had a wireless. Lots of times there were news reports about the death of some famous person I had never heard of before. Nobody modern ever seemed to kark it, just people like actors who had been big names in the time of silent movies. It was hard to be impressed by deaths of people who had became famous and forgotten about, all back in the prehistoric days.
By the way, wirelesses were called wirelesses and never radios. They were only radios when they provided two-way communication. This was true right up until the appearance of transistor sets. Nobody ever tried to call them transistor wirelesses, so they have been radios ever since.
Having opened this can of worms I will go on to say that baby hens and roosters were called chickens. If you wanted to speak of the adults non-generically, they were "fouls" or "poultry", never "chickens". Nowadays you can buy really huge things labelled "chickens" in the supermarket. I think we can thank Colonel Saunders for introducing the thin end of this particular wedge. And Sesame Street can be blamed for teaching an entire generation to call biscuits "cookies". I'm not sure how the term "candy" crept into the language to the extent it can appear on packets of sweets. Linguistic osmosis, probably.
And before leaving the topic altogether, in my schooldays a thousand thousand was a million, a million million was a billion, and a billion billion was a trillion. Only in America was a billion only a thousand million, and a trillion comprised of a million million. In high school big numbers were expressed with the term "ten to the power of..." or "one hundred to the power of..." or whatever to the power of whatever. These days all newspapers and t.v. and radio say "billion" when they clearly mean 1,000,000,000, and I seem to have totally missed out on when the new values officially started. Did they EVER "officially" start?
Getting back to more mundane matters of the 1950s that concerned me at the time, were the monsters. There were three in our house. They lived in the hot water tank by day, and hid underneath my bed at night...waiting. The funny thing about monsters is that they are totally incapable of penetrating bed sheets. They can get in and out of hot water tanks, presumably by oozing themselves through the pipes and taps, but when it comes to sheets.... The problem with sheets is that when they are pulled up over your head, the carbon dioxide builds up, and you eventually have to surface to breath. As this is just what the monsters are waiting for, it is best done very very fast. The fact that I knew the monsters were imaginary did not stop me from dang-near suffocating myself. If you hear a sound like footsteps going down the hall, it is obviously one of your parents. If you hear a solitary creak from the living room, for no particular reason, who is to say it is not a monster making a mistake in trying to prowl about silently? Anyhow, just why do houses moan and groan in the night, and never once make any of those sounds during the day?
Then there were the other monsters. I did not make them up like I did the family in the hot water tank. These things came at me in my dreams, like Forbidden Planet's monsters of the Id. (A movie I never saw until I was in my twenties, by the way, although I remember posters of its original release, with a sinister Robby the Robot.) The water tank monsters were roughly humanoid, but these other things had been coming at me in my nightmares for as long as I could remember, without any thought or intention from me. They were so vivid that simply waking up was often not enough to get rid of them. It was incredibly dark in my bedroom, when the lights were out and there was no stronger reality to wipe out my imagination. I could tell the difference between what I could see and what I imagined, but on these occasions in the dark, there was nothing to swamp out my imagination, which had free reign. At a science fiction convention years later, Isaac Asimov explained that he could not visualise, which was why most of his stories consisted of two people in a room talking to one another. For him, everything was like a radio play. Lucky him. Me, I had monsters in colour and glorious 3D even before television had started. They were huge, dirty orange things that ranged up to the size of a small car. They were roughly cylindrical in shape, without arms or legs. They moved by extending and retracting spikes from their bodies, something in the fashion of snail's feelers, so that they rolled around. Their heads were located about two thirds of the way along their bodies, and would retract into their bodies when they rolled forward. Their mouths were kind of beaks, and their eyes were faceted like a bug's. All of which comes back to me after all these years, with amazing ease. They afflicted me from the age of about three to six, and I have no idea where all that detail came from. I never told anyone about the monsters in the water heater, but had no qualms in letting everyone know when the cylinder-creatures were running rampant. They scared the hell out of me, and not even bed sheets prevented me from seeing them. The only cure was to swamp them out with reality, and this involved having the lights on. Dad did not like me having the lights on. For one thing it wasted electricity, and for another it stopped me from getting to sleep. (Of course it stopped me from getting to sleep. Asleep, there was nothing at all between me and them. With the cylinder-creatures about, falling asleep too soon was the last thing I needed.) Letting me have an electric torch was another thing that was tried and rejected early on. When the monsters were about, I would flatten the batteries to keep them away. So Dad came up with the tactic of explaining that the monsters were not real (as though I did not know that – what spooked me was the fact they were so vividly there!) and then turning off the light and leaving. Of course, as soon as this happened, GREAARGH! for the rest of waking night, and sometimes into my dreams as well.
Nightlights? They had not been invented then. Or if they had, my parents did not know about them...or decided they used up too much electricity and were too expensive to run...or something. Money was tight in those early days, and my knack of getting every disease under the sun and running up medical bills did not help.
One day my class toured a milk-bottling factory. This was the
only primary school excursion I ever went on, always managing
to be sick the days of all the other excursions. (The only
childhood disease I missed was chicken pox. Having caught everything
else I was certain of already having had that particular disease,
and was quite surprised to come down with it when I was in high
school. But I digress.) We queued out the front, and then all
filed in. (I was standing near the end of the line, while the
teachers and the front of the line were actually inside the doorway.
Remember this. It's important.) Oh, the wonders. Conveyor belts,
crates, great vats, moving bottles, sterilising tanks...we saw
it all. At one stage we had to climb a staircase of metal mesh.
You could see through it to the floor, way, way below, and not
one other pupil seemed to be bothered by height. Cautiously, in
the absence of handrails, I grabbed every pipe and gauge and handhold
I could on the way up, just to be on the safe side. Unfortunately
one of the pipes carried superheated water, so while the rest
of the class toured the really interesting stuff, I got to see
the inside of the doctor's office and have my blistered palm painted
with some kind of gunk.
DOCTOR: "Why didn't you do what you were told, and not touch anything while you were inside the factory?"
ME: "Nobody told me not to touch anything."
TEACHER: "Everybody most certainly was told, before you went in."
ME: "I didn't hear anything."
DOCTOR: "Well you should have listened."
ME: "How can you listen if you don't hear anyone talking to know to listen?"
DOCTOR: (TO TEACHER) "Kids, eh?"
Adults seemed to operate on a different sort of logic from me. There was an awful lot of "You'll understand when you're older" stuff. Most of it you never do understand, for the simple reason that by the time you get older, after all those years you can never remember what it was. I remember this one though. And I still do not know how you are expected to know to listen if you don't hear anyone talking in the first place. It sits in my memory with gems of insight like "Eat your vegetables because there are starving children in India who want them." I am older now than most of the people who said them in the first place, and am still waiting for that strange mental state to kick in where things like that make sense.
One other thing still lingers from that milk factory visit.
SYMPATHETIC NURSE: "Would you like me to get you some ice-cream?"
ME: "No thank you. I don't like ice cream."
NURSE: (STUNNED SILENCE)
I never could understand other kids' obsession with the stuff, and the remarkable contortions they would go through to get it. (Like the kid who bragged how he manoeuvred to get himself a spanking in order to cry so hard his parents gave him some ice cream to shut him up.) The only ice cream I really liked was some mix my mother would occasionally buy and make up. It would emerge from the freezer compartment of the fridge, and would taste like nothing else on Earth. You can't get that stuff these days. In later years I came across a mention of it in a science fiction fanzine, written by a fan of similar years to my own. He remembered the ice cream mix, and how revolting it was, tasting nothing like the real thing. There are more flavours these days, but I still cannot understand other people's obsession with ice cream.
Bread and milk were delivered direct to our doorstep. Leave empty milk bottles and cream bottles out, and next morning...hey, the milk fairy had been. Well, actually there was no danger of believing that. With the bottles jingling in their crates you could hear the milk truck coming half a block away. The baker's van, on the other hand, was different. There was the time visitors stayed with us, and we increased our bread order accordingly. The day they left Mum had to chase the baker's van down the street to change our order back and return the surplus, as the extra bread would have gone stale. (That sort of problem never comes up these days. Bread stays nice and fresh all the time if you stick it in the deep freeze. Even if this solution had occurred to Mum on that day, all that bread would never have fitted in the dinky freezer compartment of our 1950s fridge. Of course back then it was high-tech. Ice boxes had been the rule not all that long before I was born, and were still not totally extinct. There was one at my best friend's house, being used instead of a refrigerator. Alvin Toffler coined the term "future shock". Well this was the exact opposite.)
You could hear the postman coming even further away than the milk truck. Postmen would blow whistles to signal that the mail had been delivered. This also served as a "come and get it" call to dogs. (When the whistles went in the 1970s and the era of the strealth postie began, dogbite incidents underwent a marked decrease.) Australia's population had yet to hit ten million, there were comparatively fewer bills being delivered (because fewer people used credit to buy things) and most mail was personal correspondence, so there were two mail deliveries a day. Well, on weekdays anyway. There was only one delivery on Saturday. Mail redirections were free, something the post office could afford to do, as hardly anyone knew the service existed.
When we moved interstate the days of home delivered milk and bread came to a sudden end. Nobody left bottles of milk at the door of the caravan. Outside of supermaket deliveries, I have never again seen milk and bread delivered to the door. Milkman jokes on the t.v. are my only indication that this occupation is not totally extinct. Suburbia is something else I left behind in the fifties.
In the middle of the twentieth century, polio immunisation was a new idea. As explained to us, the procedure involved killing the germ that caused polio, and inoculating us children with the microscopic corpses. People who caught the live polio germ never got the same disease again, because they were immune. Once our bodies got through trashing the dead polio, we would be somehow immune to the live version too, with the bonus of never actually having had the disease. This was all well and good, but as it turned out the only way of giving us the dead germs involved (a) a hollow needle and (b) our arms. This was no great joke. Came the day they filed all of us past a doctor who rammed the injection into our arms. It was a long queue, and you could see what was going to happen, and how the other kids reacted, like the girl who walked back bawling her eyes out, or the boy who bragged "It didn't hurt". (I was old enough to know you only said this when it really did hurt, otherwise you would not be saying anything.) And when the whole ordeal was over, it was only over for the time being. It was just the first injection in a series. Polio immunity did not take with just one jab. We would have to go through the arm-puncturing business twice more. I was sick on each of the days of the next two injections, but that did not help. My parents packed me, pyjamas and all, into the car and drove me to the school so I could cop the needle again. This as though being ill was not already bad enough.
State governments like to pretend other state governments do not exist. Move interstate – as I found out later in the decade – and you get different text books, write differently (or "Write correctly" as they like to put it, the other states being the ones doing it wrong) and nobody has even heard of your medical record. When I was in high school there was a polio booster – an oral one thank heavens – which caused no end of bureaucratic mucking about because, as I was by then living in Tasmania again, there was no record of my original injections. There were other high school students who were from interstate, but the added confusion with me was that my records showed I was not from interstate, and had been born in Launceston. My explanation that I was a Tasmanian who had been educated in Victoria...and Queensland...and New South Wales, brought dark mutterings and the implication that the whole mess was my fault.
Meanwhile, back in the 1950s, the first animal to live with us in Geelong was a completely jet black cat. On nights when we came home late, and had to unlock the door in the dark, the first clue we had to the cat waiting our return was an audible "thump" on the floor as he dived indoors ahead of us. We summoned up all our creative powers and named him Midnight.
One day, shortly after Dad finished building the house, Midnight had shown up and proceeded to move in with us. This might have had something to do with Mum leaving some food out for him, to encourage him to stay. (Which news came as a complete surprise to Dad recently, when I was telling the saga of Midnight to some relatives).
One dark summer evening, Midnight decided to pay me a visit, in my room. He was outside at the time. Inside, the monsters from the water heater tank were running rampant. Midnight made a physics-defying leap to the top of my bedroom window (kept open a crack that night, because of the heat) and from there to the foot of my bed. There were imaginary monsters under my bed, and a quite real thump of something hitting the foot of it. This made for an interesting next few seconds.
Midnight had a few flaws, such as serenading lady cats (and inadvertently the surrounding neighbourhood) at unholy hours of the night. Whoever his previous owners had been, they had never inoculated him against anything. He became increasingly unwell in later life, with a variety of cat illnesses. Then he disappeared, at exactly the same time as the next-door neighbour's white-footed cat Socks. Two weeks later Socks came back, but Midnight remained missing. It took me thirty years to find out what happened. When my father went duck hunting with the next-door neighbour one day, the two of them took the cats with them. Midnight's problems with his various contagious illnesses ended with a close-range blast from a shotgun. Quick, to the point, and cheaper than paying a vet to finish him off. Socks had no medical problems, so our next door neighbour left him in the country, to go feral or to find some new humans to sponge off. Socks liked things where he had been, so he spent the next fortnight walking home. Once re-ensconced, he spent another two weeks treating the man of the house with contempt. The kids made such a fuss about their cat's return, he was able to live out the rest of his life free from further attempts at feline relocation.
I think I was six when we got a dog...maybe seven. Suzie was a dachshund. My parents had once had their own favourite dog, about whom I have heard quite a lot over the years. Tiger was a bright animal. Tiger was intelligent. Tiger could do quadratic equations in his head. (To hear them talk about him.) Tiger even selected his own owners. He was originally my grandfather's dog, but after my parents married and set up their own home, Tiger became ill and stopped eating. Hearing about the dog's decline, my parents visited. They were told how Tiger would refuse to eat, even if you tried to push food directly into his mouth. My mother tried this, and only just managed to pull her hand back in time to keep her fingers. The dog had mysteriously regained his appetite. So that day Tiger went home with them, where he lived out the rest of his days. I have a photograph of him sitting on a tricycle. The tricycle looks exactly like one I used to have. The way I figure it, my parents were either already buying stuff for me before I was born, or they spoiled that dog rotten.
Suzie's parents were show dogs. Her father was called Black Otto, and won the Melbourne show in 1955, or 1956, or something. It is not possible to check with Suzie's pedigree. That did not survive 1967. Her pedigree name was Staverly Suzette – hence her being called "Suzie" – something less of a mouthful. Her father's name aside, Suzie was a tan colour, like her mother.
In the years since, I have developed the impression Dad was not personally keen on getting a new dog, because none could replace Tiger, but I was lobbying for us to get a dog, and Mum had a few ideas on the subject of what kind. She wanted a short-haired dog, which would be easy to keep clean and simple to spot fleas on. Which is what we wound up with.
Shortly after Suzie arrived, she alarmed my parents by growling at me. She was curled up in the late Midnight's favourite chair, I knelt down and patted her, and she growled. I did not like the way my parents stopped talking all of a sudden, and turned and looked at us. I put my head in close, she wagged her tail, licked me on the nose, and went back to growling. "Well she couldn't have put that more plainly if she'd used words," said Dad. End of tense moment.
As it turned out, Suzie growled at any children who bothered her when she felt comfortable. (Even if she was on their laps, and deemed irritable movements such as breathing. Getting dumped off the lap altogether was utterly intolerable.) She never growled at grown-ups. (Sole exception: When she was gnawing on a bone.) The older I got, the less she growled at me, particularly after I started wearing long trousers.
It was Mum's idea to teach Suzie to beg. She saw a photograph in a magazine of one of the Queen's corgis sitting up, and figured there was no reason a dachshund could not do the same thing. While I held a dog biscuit above Suzie's head – thereby obtaining her full attention – Mum made her sit the right way and lifted her into the right position, whereupon she was given the biscuit. Within three biscuits Suzie was fully trained.
Sometime after I learned to read, I discovered the pull-out comics section in The Sun. There were months of newspapers out in the shed, awaiting a paper collection. I went through them and rescued all the weekly comics. They were even in colour in some of the older papers. (The Sun had recently discovered black-and-white pull-out comics cost less than colour pull-out comics. Another decade would pass before they discovered no pull-out comics were cheaper still.)
All the Superman comics I read were in black and white. This was because the DC titles distributed in Australia were reprinted here by an Australian company, and colour (except on the cover) was a needless expense. They made alterations to the contents too, converting American dollars and cents to Australian pounds, shillings, and pence, and references to "America" as "Australia". Even at the time, I noticed the odd way the lettering looked when prices were given. The reason became clear years later, when I tried writing on dried white paint. (White paint was great at covering mistakes made in ink. Years later the mother of one of the Monkees had the brainstorm of changing the paint formula, patenting it, and marketing the result as "liquid paper". Even more irritating than inventions so simple you should have thought of them, are ones you did think about and did nothing with.) The Justice League of America was rendered simply The Justice League, most likely because it was easier to delete than change. (Sometime around the mid-1960s the common practice of black-and-white reprinting ceased being the rule, and the original U.S. comics were imported intact. For a time all average-sized comics were sold for one shilling – ten cents – regardless of the actual U.S. price. In 1966 the Australian currency decimalised, and shopkeepers tended to sell them for the cover price. And in the U.S., the price of comics had gone up!) All Disney comics were in colour from the start, though. The price on the cover was Australian, but there were no changes to the contents.
Some years ago a child saved his younger sister's life with the Heimlich manoeuvre, after seeing it done once on Benson on television. The media seemed to think this was amazing. It was no surprise to me, however. I remember my parents correcting me one mealtime for using my fork in my right hand. The reason for my doing that was because of seeing Donald Duck do it in one panel of a comic. Later on I beat Homer Simpson to the use of "d'oh" by several decades, because the character of Tabby Cat on a children's programme on the wireless used it. (More drawn out than Homer's, but still an expression of frustration.) Children imitate, and adults by and large are oblivious to the fact.
Some really old comics came into my hands as packing material for some goods my parents received. Some of them were from the turn of the century – I know this due to seeing them reprinted in a coffee-table book many more years along the track. The originals are incredibly valuable.
I do not remember a lot about those particular comics, just some oddities and unresolved serials. A boy and his dog accidentally stow away on a space ship as it takes off for the Misty Planet. (Everyone spoke sentences with their words hyphen-ated in str-ange pla-ces.) Two children take their father's car for a drive and smash through a brick wall into The Land of the Animals, where – with no-one being pleased to see them – they get arrested by a humanoid sheep. (Planet of the Apes came a long time later.) A real puzzler was Black Sambo and the Nigger Boys. I had never met any, but knew there were people with dark skin. There was a story the teacher read to us at school about somebody with the same name, who had tricked some tigers into turning into butter. This was obviously not the same Sambo. This one had lips about half the size of his face, wore patched clothing, and used phrases like "Here we am". If the only difference between black people and us was the colour of our skins, as I had been told, why did Black Sambo talk so funny? (He was supposed to be an adult, yet even I knew to say "are" instead of "am".) Asking my parents did not supply an abundance of answers. He was obviously an American negro rather than an Australian aborigine, and America was different. All the same, they did not really look quite like that. Dad had met an assortment of Americans in New Guinea during the war, and told me that negroes did not talk like that either. (And you had to say "negro". It was not polite to call any of them "black". And nobody in their right minds would use a self-contradictory phrase like "African-American".) So why, then, was the title "Black" Sambo? Talking animals like Micky Mouse did not exist in real life, but even they dressed and spoke normally. (For the most part. Donald Duck never wore pants, but when he got out of the bath he pulled a towel around his waist.) If black people really existed, why did a comic about them have not one but all of them talk and dress funny? "Look, it's only a comic, all right?"
At least with the comics from The Sun I was able to follow continuing story-lines. One of the strips called Frisky was about a rabbit and his animal friends. (It was realistically drawn – although for a rabbit he had an irritating tendency to run when in a hurry, rather than hop – and I became really interested about the time a dachshund puppy entered the story. From the older pullouts, I realised the stories were normally set in Australia. My entry point came where Frisky had just left the country, stowing away on a ship aboard which his kangaroo and koala friends were just being exported. He was then washed overboard, rescued by the Loch Ness monster – who just happened to be passing by on an ocean-going holiday – who took him to land where he was shortly joined by some old friends: a kitten and a puppy – who stowed away in the hold of an aircraft, only to fall out over the ocean when the load shifted, to be saved my the bag they were wrapped in inflating, and a flock of helpful seagulls. In short, just the sort of thing that happened to real animals all the time. And they never got back to Australia until the middle of the 1960s! No child who began reading the story was still a child by the time it finished. Gee I wish that story would be anthologised. Here's one customer already.) Another strip involved the nation's fastest racehorse, called Radish. (Every year the writers had to invent a reason for him to miss the Melbourne Cup.) For me, however, the main draw-card was Brick Bradford and his time top. (Actually, it was Doctor Southern's time top, but he stayed at home and let Brick fly it.) Brick would enter the time top, fire up the engines, and fly into space. The time top would then spin madly (whether it was just the outer shell or if the whole thing was supposed to spin, I could never work out) and take off for anywhere in time and space, with a variety of companions. After setting the controls Brick could adjourn to a place that looked like a 1950s living room, only with a glass dome in the middle of the floor through which the passing pageantry of the cosmos could be viewed. (Oddly enough, the places the time top flew always looked a great deal more interesting than what I could see when going outside at night and looking up). For some reason my parents did not like me rearranging the furniture around an imaginary dome in the floor.
Comparisons can be drawn between Brick Bradford's adventures, and the later British Doctor Who television series.
That's another thing: Television!
I remember when t.v. started in Australia. We never owned a set until 1962, but it was impossible to miss when it first arrived. We were in town, and saw a large crowd gathered around a shop window. People were actually spilling out into the street. There was a t.v. set in the window, and everyone was stopping to gawk. Moving pictures were nothing new, of course, but moving pictures in a shop window?!
Very soon after this, I was with my mother in a cinema, watching an American movie. The main character stopped to look at something on a t.v. in a shop window...and it was a colour t.v.! The Americans already had colour television, and we were just getting black and white? Why mess around with monochrome at all, when colour existed to go to directly? (Largely political I think. At one stage in the 1970s a politician said that colour t.v. in Australia was still at least ten years off, and simply could not be done straight away. Whereupon some t.v. stations announced that not only could they transmit in colour now, some of them already were. In fact, the Australian wool commercial was in colour!) But that was a long way in the future.
The parents of the girl across the street bought a television, whereupon I began to visit her a lot. For many years television was something other people owned, not us, but I still managed to see a lot of it. Aah, memories of those old t.v. programmes. The Mickey Mouse Club, "dedicated to you, the leaders of the twenty-first century", and...well, that's about all I remember from those days. Later, there were other notable programmes. Tombstone Territory: Most memorable for its American pronunciation of "territory". Hawaiian Eye. Steve Canyon. Rin Tin Tin. The Texas Rangers: (From the episodes I saw the stories alternated one week in the wild west, the next week in the present day.) The Third Man: (Ah that zither music, and the shock when finally seeing the movie and discovering Harry Lime was the bad guy. In the series he was a respectable businessman who, once a week, would accidentally come across a war criminal and kill him in self-defence.) The Scarlet Pimpernel: (Each show began with the familiar quotation "They seek him here, they seek him there..." but I no longer remember if they actually used the word "hell" in that 1950s series.) The Count of Monte Cristo. I managed to miss Zorro entirely, despite knowing it existed.
Old television series are still floating around, and reappear in bits every so often, usually on some kind of nostalgia show, or at three o'clock in the morning. A bit more consigned to eternity are the old radio programmes. They were easier to record for prosterity, given the technology back then, but seldom were.
Things like Star Trek and Doctor Who are still winning new fans decades after they were made. Back then the attitude seemed to be that anything old was not all that good. There were no old television programmes because t.v. was too new to have anything ancient, and in any case they were still working on the invention of video tape. (The really old classics we can still see today were either made directly to film, or filmed from the t.v. screen.) A few decades earlier and all movies had not only been black and white, but silent, and cinemas were in no great rush to rescreen golden oldies.
Although we did not have a television, we did have a radio. (Or, to be more precise, a "wireless", which is what reception-only sets were called right up to the transistor age, when terminology suddenly changed, and the word went out with the vacuum tube. It was always a mystery to me why the things were called "wirelesses" to start with. When you looked in the back of one, it was full of wires – those and vacuum tubes.) When you switched it on it took a while to warm up, and then an ear-splitting shriek came out of it until you thumped the casing, whereupon reception commenced.
The first radio serial in my memory is Clancy of the Overflow. For as long as I could remember, it had existed, and when it finally came to an end it was a mildly disconcerting experience. I had quite a clear mental picture of what Clancy looked like, and when Jack Thompson played him in The Man From Snowy River, it was the one irritation of the whole motion picture. The real Clancy just did not look like that!
There was only one satellite in the sky, and that was the moon. Forget that as a satellite relay. Live international broadcasts...well, they did exist. I remember cricket live from England. They sent it via transatlantic telephone, and it kept rising and falling in volume and tinniness, sometimes dropping out of audibility altogether.
Then one day, while changing stations, I came across a story about some kids whose teacher turned out to be from outer space. When he got into trouble, his pupils went for help...in his flying saucer. (One of them had watched him fly it in an episode I had missed, and it did not look too hard). The Australian government tracked them on radar, higher than any aircraft could possibly go, where it was met by another craft. "Picture Mount Everest flying through the air and you have a pretty fair idea." I was hooked with just one episode. It was The Stranger, a serial in part of a larger programme, The Argonauts of the Air.
Each episode of the Argonauts started off slanted towards really young children, with a sing-along and a story often about the Muddleheaded Wombat and his friends, and each successive segment following aimed at older and older children, until finishing off with something like The Stranger. (The Stranger by the way became what was probably Australia's first ever science fiction t.v. serial, in the 1960s, with the occasional impressive special effect.) One of the alternatives to The Muddleheaded Wombat was something I think was called The Little Debbil Debbil. It was something of a relief to me when that finally finished for good, because I had missed the early stories and was never quite sure what I was supposed to be visualising the main character as.
At the core of the Argonauts were contributions from the listeners. Best letters were read out, paintings were sent in and spoken about, and so on. It was an interactive show before the computer age. At least three published illustrated novels came out of the literary segment (Dangerous Secret, The Gold Smugglers, and The Gravity Stealers) chapters sometimes following the segment's host's suggestions, and sometimes not.
When television started, a t.v. version of the Argonauts was tried...and died miserably. Nobody contributed. Television viewers are a breed of watchers, not participators, and this has been true right from the very start.
It is still a mystery why the t.v. version did not use contributions from the wireless version. The radio Argonauts got more letters than they could air, so why not use some of the rejects on the t.v. Argonauts? In the worst case it would have been better than nothing. (For all I know, they may have actually tried this! We did not have a t.v. set, after all, so I can not say for sure).
The Olympic Games came to Australia in 1956, in nearby Melbourne. The closest I came to them was seeing a runner carrying the Olympic torch, as he passed through Geelong. I knew the Olympics involved the best athletes in the world, and was expecting to see someone running as close to the speed of sound as it was possible for a human being to get. What I saw was a man carrying a torch, running even slower than I could. This was all highly disappointing.
I did not find sport all that interesting, but considering such a rare event as the Olympics was actually on our home turf, I asked Dad if we could go. The bottom answer was "No". But the Olympic games would come to Australia again, he said, probably when I would be a real old man of fifty or so. I could go then if I wanted to. Dad was in his mid twenties when he said that, and sure enough I was just short of fifty when the Olympic Games came to Australia again. (In 2000 the Olympic torch passed a few blocks from where I now live. Visiting my father in Queensland at the time, I missed seeing it completely. I will just have to make do for the rest of my life with the first experience...or wait another fifty years or so for the next time we hold the Games. I tried to remind Dad about his "real old man" comment, and if I was, where did that leave him? He did not even remember us seeing the Olympic torch.)
The Sun newspaper had at least one colour cover for the 1956 Olympics. (Colour covers were a major deal for newspapers back then, and this was the first time ever I had seen them do it.) Mum saved it, kept it with other papers - such as the one with the news of Sputnik One - all of which were placed in storage when we moved interstate, and got destroyed with everything else in 1967.
When the first artificial satellite went up, they interrupted a wireless programme to tell about it. "We interrupt this programme for an important news bulletin..." I think the news about Laika, the first dog in space, was initially released the same way. They definitely did the same thing when the Soviets crashed a rocket onto the moon's surface. Later still, when Gagarin became the first man into space, they saved all their information for the regular news time, interrupting nothing.
The wireless told us where and when Sputnik 1 could be seen from Australia. (One of the things they called it back then was "the baby moon". I also remember "Russian satellite-moon".) At the right time we all went on to the front porch, and looked at the sky with the outside lights off. I remember the cold, and I remember a light moving across the sky. There were actually two – one tiny dim light with a bright flashing one close behind. (The next newspaper had an artist's interpretation of the Sputnik on the front page. It showed a sphere with something that looked like a little bucket held away from it by wires, and I wondered if this was what had been flashing on and off. The next edition of the paper had an officially-released illustration from the Russian government, showing things the way they actually looked, without that seemingly-explanatory bucket-thing. As it eventually turned out, the flashing light had been the rocket that had put the sputnik up there, catching the sunlight as it tumbled over and over. In places with a more washed-out sky than Geelong had in those days, the booster was the only thing a great many people had actually seen.) I watched the Sputnik cross the sky until it was gone from view, intensely aware of the fact this night was going to be in the history books of the future. I had the same feeling again during the first moon landing, twelve years later.
Actually the Americans may have beaten the Russians into putting a man-made object into space after all, with a manhole cover! Well, actually, it may have been a concrete plug, or some other material used to help bury an a-bomb for an underground nuclear test. (Check out this link to another site with a more detailed version of this story.) I keep hearing about this as a proven fact, but it is slightly worrying that no exact date is ever mentioned, although two sources have given contradictory years – one being 1958, a full year after Sputnik. All sources, however (even the 1958 one) agree the manhole cover not only went into space before sputnik, but went on to become the first man-made object to leave the solar system.
A little after this – or maybe round about the same time – Dad built a caravan, we sold the house, and all headed for Queensland, lock stock and dog. The idea was that we would buy a new house when we arrived, and live permanently in the tropical north. Until we actually owned a new place, we would be living in the caravan. This would be like living in the garage while the house was being built, only it would probably take a few months – a year, tops. Totally oblivious to the fact it would be 1999 by the time any of us would have a permanent Queensland address, we headed north.
There was a time when I could remember exactly where we were between 1957 and 1961, and why we were there. For one reason or another we went back and forth the length of the Eastern Australian coast in the years that followed, before finally ending up back in Tasmania again, in time for me to go through high school. Now, all the memories of Queensland and New South Wales and Victoria merge into neat packages of one state at a time...and now I am not too clear about things that happened in New South Wales. We were not there for very long in comparison to the other states.
One clue to the yo-yo course of my life in those days are the ferry services. Picking the best interstate route to take with a caravan involved stopping more than once at various rivers, waiting for the drive-on drive-off ferry to come back from the other side. In each case there were chains across the riverbed, which the ferry used to go back and forth by hauling it up and reeling itself across the river. Each time we travelled north-south there were fewer ferries and more bridges, until in the 1960s we could drive the entire distance without interruption.
The old Ford we had in those days had no seat belts. No car did. (Aircraft yes, cars no). The automobile companies liked to pretend there were no such thing as car accidents. (In Forbidden Planet, Robbie the robot asks his human passengers to fasten their seat belts. This raises no eyebrows now, but back then it was a joke-line). The Ford had no bucket seats either – sofa-style seating front and back. Suzie did not like being in direct sunlight. Particularly as we went further north, sunshine developed teeth. Suzie used her begging trick to get out of the heat, then fall over behind me, using me as a sun-shield, brace against the back of the seat, and push me forward with all fours. As I slid forward she would brace her back paws against the back of the seat, and push me with her front paws. This all happened over a long period of time, without me noticing being shoved, until suddenly I would fall off the seat onto the floor of the car. Everyone would look at me in surprise, including the dog (who would be suddenly taking up no extra space on the seat) and I would get back on the seat, and the cycle would commence all over again.
One day, when I was in the back seat and the dog was draped across the top of the front seat, out of the sun, the car backfired. Suddenly Suzie was on my mother's lap, giving Dad a venomous look. Ever wondered what dogs make of cars? If they consider them as inanimate objects that move, or large animals, or something? This incident shows that Suzie realised my father was controlling the car.
Travelling northward, we came across the story of the caravan owner who was taking a shower in his caravan while his wife drove, and fell out. This story has become something of an urban legend since, however check out my article on The Naked Caravaner.
I used to get car sick a lot, which is not something you really need on long interstate trips. One idea at the time was that motion sickness was caused by static electricity. The 1950s is full of cars with little rubber strips hanging from behind the rear bumper bar. The idea was that a metal thread in the rubber strip would hit the road as the car drove along, discharging the electricity into the ground, and preventing car sickness. Dad bought one of those strips, and I could say with total certainty, even at the time, that it did not work. The last time I saw a car with one of those rubber strips at the back was last week. Some ideas are hard to kill off.
I was growing fast. In no time at all I was cracking my head on open overhead cupboards, which I had passed well under when the caravan was being made. Old friends we kept running into would look at me and exclaim "You've grown!" (The most extreme case was a woman who remembered me as a baby, who turned and found herself looking me in the eye...and screamed.) Of course I had grown. What were they expecting me to do? Shrink? Mum and Dad explained that what people really meant was "I'm getting old!" I did not understand what they meant, at the time. I have a better idea now, unfortunately.
The caravan had a shower cubicle, in which a portable toilet was stored. The refrigerator could be run on gas. The stove was gas, connected to a cylinder attached to the towing bar. Despite all the preparations for roughing it, the shower and portable loo were hardly ever used. As it turned out, there were just too many caravan parks with bathrooms and connectable electricity. (I know from old photographs that Mum and Dad had travelled in a caravan before, possibly on their honeymoon, and the caravan Dad built enshrined solutions to all the problems they encountered back then. It was just that things had just changed a lot for the better for caravan travellers in seven or eight years.)
Dad built a separate kennel for the dog, which was carried on the pack-rack of the car. The kennel had two divided sections: Bedding pillow in one, and sand-tray in the other. In Geelong Suzie slept in the garage, and was not intended to be all that much of an indoor dog. That changed shortly after we first started north, and encountered the Mosquitoes From Hell. They were big, but small enough to get through the ventilation holes. Suzie was allowed to sleep indoors until she stopped scratching, by which time she had proved she could behave herself most of the time. It was also easier to shush her at night, when she heard people walking by outside. Having a dog defending its territory is one thing, but is not so hot when "territory" is regarded as extending several caravan lengths in all directions...and you are in a public caravan park. In any case the kennel turned out to be useful as a storage box. Suzie used it far more for sitting on top of during the day, than she ever did for sleeping in.
In one children's radio programme, possibly Kindergarten of the Air, the commentator once made some remark on the lines of "Wouldn't it be nice to live in a caravan? Whenever you wanted to go somewhere, you would just hook your home up to the car, and drive off." Hah! Everything in overhead cupboards has to be taken out and packed for a start, for two reasons. You do not want contents falling out in transit, (and even locked cupboards will open up eventually) and you want a low centre of gravity on what you are pulling. Everything has to be boxed and breakables packaged. Drawers have to be pulled out and put on the floor. Things have to be tied in place so they do not slide around and change the centre of gravity, which you have to get right before driving off. Mattresses are taken off the beds and put on top of everything else. The gas has to be turned off. Once hooked to the car and the connecting cables for the brake lights connected, the front and rear jacks have to be retracted. And when you stop for the night, it's the same thing in reverse.
A caravan park we stayed at a lot in Queensland was the Paradise Caravan Park in Burleigh Heads. It was a short distance from the beach, and the sound of distant breakers could be heard while going to sleep. Whenever we were there we always seemed to be parked underneath a tree full of kookaburras. They were mostly gone during the day and were not so bad at night – just the occasional muted chuckle from overhead – but in the first light of dawn they let you know they were there. And there were a lot of them!
Kookaburras are a uniquely Australian bird, yet the distinctive laugh of one of them can be heard in many a movie set in the African jungle. I have heard of ventriloquism, but his is ridiculous. (The real reason is that an early movie-maker incorporated it into the background noise because the laugh seemed exotic to him, and endless movie-makers since then have used the same bit of sound track.)
The last time I was at the Paradise Caravan Park was in 1988, and as far as I could tell it looked exactly the same as it did thirty years before. Most of the caravans were different, although some of the bigger ones were the same ones I saw being built when we first arrived. Hired out to travellers who did not want to bring their own caravans with them, they were like flats on wheels. Having seen them being towed slowly and carefully into their permanent positions, I would hate to haul them any great distance on the open road. However they passed all the legal requirements of being caravans, and the legal fees paid by the park owner were less than for something the same size without wheels.
Science fiction stories that involve buildings sticking up out of the water always remind me of the 1950s, because I know those buildings will not be sticking up out of the water for all that long. Water has incredible erosive powers. This fact came to my attention with a cyclone somewhere off the coast. It never came ashore – not where we were anyway – but we felt its side affects. For a week it was constantly wet and cold. There was a constant stream of holiday makers from the south going home, not having brought any cold-weather clothing. The coast was pounded by storm-driven winds, accelerating coastal erosion dramatically. I saw two houses being raised on jacks so a truck could get underneath to move them away from an advancing cliff edge. There was at least one other place along the coast where a house could not be moved in time and ended up in a pile on the beach. (I never saw this, just heard about it). The wonderful golden beach across from the caravan park underwent some changes too. When I first arrived you walked across grass before getting the beach, and the closer to the beach you went the more sand was mixed in with the grass until you were walking on the sand alone and that was how you knew you were on the beach. Suddenly the sand was a great deal lower than the grass. There were stone steps leading down to the beach from the grassland. Old people looked at the steps and went "Oh yeah. I remember them!" The sand had built up over the years, slowly burying the steps until people just forgot they were there. One week of storms, and hey presto!
We were walking along the beach shortly after this – Mum, Dad, me and the dog. Suzie hated getting her paws wet. As far as she was concerned, water was for drinking. One very hot day she had put both front paws into a stream to take a drink, but that was an exception. Back in Geelong, Midnight had liked to get into my wading pool after it had been drained, and tread in all the puddles. Suzie's aversion to water was deeper than his. She walked with us, carefully avoiding puddles. At one stage she took a running jump over a patch of water onto a sand bank. Except it was not a sand bank. What it was was a pile of sand-coloured foam whipped up by the storm. Suzie went straight through it, and it closed up behind her, not even leaving a dog-shaped hole. There was the sound of a splash. Soon Suzie came into view with her face streaked with foam, swimming out to sea. Immediately she was clear of the floating hill Suzie changed course and came ashore. Then she immediately put herself as close to us as possible before shaking herself dry.
I have always had a problem with the laws of probability. In Queensland I first came across gum-ball machines. Put a penny in the slot, twist the dial, and a gum ball would drop out. Sometimes, so would a little plastic lucky charm. Except for me. All my friends had scads of the things, but I could never get one. People would get the things just before I used the machine or just after, but one never came out when I was actually using the machine. My inability to strike it lucky defied the laws of chance. After so many tries, not winning at all was stretching things. I still remember a friend saying "Look it's easy, I'll show you," pushintg in front of me, and getting a gum ball and two lucky charms.
"How did you do that?" I wailed.
"I didn't do anything, it just happened. Keep trying often enough and you'll get one eventually. It took me two weeks before I got my first lucky charm."
"Well I've been trying for a full year!"
Mum and Dad could not understand why I was so irritated. I didn't believe in lucky charms, the things were just lumps of plastic, and in any case I did not like gum balls all that much. They could not understand that the point was I was just not getting any.
Shortly after this I did get a lucky charm – a little thing shaped like a kerosene lamp – whereupon the normal flow of probability reeasserted itself on my life. Why the one year glut of bad luck, I do not know. Maybe it is related to the way the funny noise in my car stops when a mechanic gets close.
One year I actually won something at a side show. Throw hoops at a prize, and if the hoop settles evenly around the base of the stand, you win. There was not exactly an awful lot of slack between stand and hoop. I figured that if I threw slowly enough, with as much spin as possible, the hoop might tend to "screw" itself around the base of the stand as it settled. I aimed carefully at a toy derringer – a sleeve pistol with a mechanical add-on that popped the weapon from wrist to palm – and let fly. (I wanted that derringer like you would not believe. It was unlikely my parents would buy me one. For one thing I had never seen anything like it in the shops. For another psychiatrists everywhere were grumbling about toy guns and children, and my parents were unhappy about the number of toy weapons I already had.) The hoop left my hand faster than I intended, bounced off the handle of the derringer, and landed much the way I had envisioned it, around the stand next to it – one holding a butter knife.
I did not even know what a butter knife was, did not want one, and now had one anyway.
Around this time I first made contact with the radio programme Journey Into Space, by Charles Chilton. It is something of a classic now, and I have all three books of the series. It was an episode from the first series, where aliens have dumped the first expedition to the moon on prehistoric Earth. ((BTW: Have you ever noticed the first expedition to the moon always gets hit by a meteor? The first expedition to Mars is usually okay, but the first expedition to the moon always cops at least one meteor, followed by a talk about how unlikely the incident was.))
To oversimplify, what happened throughout the entire series was this:
"Boy it's dark in here. You can't see a thing!"
"What was that?!"
"I'm not sure, but let's spend the next fifteen minutes discussing what we think we just saw!"
"I say, what a great idea!"
I heard one episode of that legendary series, and one only. I was always able to find the local station carrying Argonauts of the Air eventually, but never heard another Journey Into Space until years afterwards. And then it was the exact same episode. Even more years later I chanced upon an episode of the series again. See if you can guess which one!
Somewhere around this time came my first contact with hamburgers. Two shillings got you steak, sauce, lettuce, tomato, beetroot and onion, all sandwiched in a bun. This is closer to what would be called a steakburger, today. Back then the variations of what you got when you ordered a hambuger varied wildly all up and down the eastern coast of Australia. The bun could be a bun or plain bread or even toast, while the contents could include fried egg, mayonaise, coleslaw, and/or stuff I forget now, or exclude anything already mentioned. The only constant you could be sure of anyplace was the slice of beetroot. (Up until much later when the American-based fast food places appeared, anyway. For some reason they were basically anti-beetroot.)
Living in Burleigh Heads put us conveniently near places like Currumbin Bird Sanctuary, the vintage car museum, and the dolphin pool. The main feature of the bird sanctuary was feeding the lorakeets. Sometime in the recent past, somebody had fed a few of the native birds during the season when their favoured nectar was relatively scarce, and they came back in increasing numbers for more handouts. Tourists were found to be willing to pay to come in and be given a metal pan into which a concoction involving bread and honey was ladled out, then have several thousand colourful, screeching birds land on them and fight over the food. Currumbin is still going strong today, as a multi-million dollar wild-life sanctuary. And it all started out as somebody feeding a few hungry birds.
The vintage car museum was actually in easy walking distance of where we lived in the caravan park. After the man running the place died, the museum disappeared. In the late 1980s, when I went into Dream World on the Gold Coast for the first time, I walked into a vintage car museum...and it was the exact same museum. Same cars, same floor plan, same clippings on the wall. Spooky.
What was then the dolphin pool has relocated to Marine World. Going back to that place in the 1980s was a jolt. In the late 1950s the high point of the act was when some member of the public was given a fish and led out onto the end of a diving board. A dolphin would then leap out of the water and take the fish. However simple it may sound, the sight of something larger than a human being rocketing up out of the water straight at you can be a trifle disconcerting. The dolphins were quite used to people falling in. ("You do not have to worry about the dolphin taking your hand instead of the fish. Dolphins will not eat your hand. They will spit it out.") My parents made friends with the man running the show, and while they were all talking one day, in between performances, I approached the pool. I did this cautiously. (One of the dolphins was named "Splasher", for his delight in leaping out of the water as close to the audience as he could, and flopping back heavily enough to drench the nearest rows.) A dolphin surfaced gently, and looked me in the eye, at point blank range, close enough for me to see how the blow-hole opened and closed. It exhaled, and an oily mist puffed out. A few years later, in school back in Tasmania, I had a teacher telling me that whales "spouting" was moisture in the whale's warm breath condensing into water in the chill Arctic air. Wrong. I've seen whales playing off the Queensland coast, spouting on a warm tropical day. It was not sea water caught up in the puff of breath either, the skin and the blow-hole are too smooth for enough water to get caught up. Looking at a scaled-down version of a whale on this particular day proved that, and I could see the oily cloud clearly coming from inside the dolphin. One reason all this sticks so well in my mind is trying to convince this to a teacher years later...and failing.
Over the years I picked up a variety of instances of authority figures getting it wrong, even though they are not supposed to do that. The noise a bull-roarer makes comes from the special piece of wood on the end of the string (it comes from the string itself, whatever is tied at the end), a platypus has to come to the surface to eat its catch (in a glass tank in a sanctuary, I saw one catch and eat its food entirely underwater), camels store water in their humps (a Walt Disney comic The Nature of Things had long ago explained and dismissed that fallacy), koalas do not drink (they did in one zoo I was at). Friends have been able to top me with stories of teachers they caught out in deliberate lies. I never did, however.
Almost none of the children I went to school with in Queensland wore shoes. A number of the ones who did came from further south, like me. One of them, who swore he would never go around in bare feet, I saw out of the caravan window one morning, minus shoes and socks, slowly and carefully making his way over a gravelled path. The reason turned out to be doctor's orders. Like me, this kid suffered from hayfever, and his doctor decided the cure was to toughen him up by taking away his footware. His parents bought this. Fortunately my parents had heard enough weird "cures" for hayfever over the years – some of them contradictory – not to automatically jump on this one to try to cure me. (I kept having bouts of it all through life until about sixteen, when it sort of faded away).
Queensland kids were tough. In my class they had to be. The teacher had one response to everything wrong: The cane. The cane was used for everything wrong, from misbehaviour to spelling mistakes to errors in mathematics. Being innocent of accusations was no excuse, and pointing out you were right was another offense, if she was pretending you were wrong. A constant queue of kids waiting to be caned was common. I had never had any problems with school before, but this teacher was pounding into me just as much as everyone else. I did not tell my parents – not directly. I was suddenly getting punished, therefore I was doing stuff wrong, and did not want to advertise this to my parents, so they were a long time in finding out. However, noting my sudden reluctance to want to go to school, tales from other kids, my stories of things the teacher did to others for little or no reason, watching the daughter of a friend play "school" with me, and other things finally added up. They dragged the details out of me, and swung into action. To my horror, this involved telling the headmaster. School was tough enough, I pointed out, without having the headmaster come down against me too. "No" they said. "The headmaster will fix things. That's his job."
The headmaster swung into action immediately. He headed straight for my class, singled me out, and boxed me around the ears for causing trouble.
There was not a lot else my parents could do. Tell people? Everybody knew. Nobody cared. Toughening kids up was good for them!
Mum and Dad pulled me out of school.
The caravan park was right next door to the school – there was even a direct gate between the two – yet there I was doing lessons by correspondence. Supervising me during the day was a bit of a drain on Mum, and after a while she and Dad became aware there was another perfectly good school in the same town, with good teachers, and after a word with them and some special arrangements, this was where I eventually went.
And this is how a little Methodist boy like me came to attend a Catholic school.
My only contact with Catholicism to this date had been reading the occasional Catholic book. These books were the same as any other, except that every so often the action would grind to a complete halt while the central characters stopped to pray. After this they became filled with the Holy Spirit or whatever – I always skimmed these bits – a solution presented itself, and the action recommenced.
I was exempted from going to mass and doing all the prayers, at least in theory. The desks were mostly triple seaters, and when the other two tilted the seat to kneel to pray, I tended to go down like everyone else. When the others filed out for religious services and I was the only one left behind, the Sister frequently thought I needed reminding I was not being kept by myself as a punishment.
Unavoidably I learned more about Catholic beliefs than I did before. For one thing, I had never come across the concept of guardian angels before, and could not see how anyone could take the idea seriously. Kids got hurt all the time. For example, what had Graham Thorne's angel been doing? (Thorne had been kidnapped and killed because his father won the lottery. It was because of this that newspapers stopped automatically giving the addresses of lottery winners. My father occasionally bought lottery tickets, so what happened to Thorne could have happened to me...which gave me something to think about.) My Catholic friends explained things would be worse without angels, and neither of us budged the other in their beliefs.
Catholics did not eat meat on Fridays. They ate fish. Come again? Are fish vegetables? Once more I asked my friends for clarification. The meat of fish is not meat, they patiently explained. It is fish. What happened to you if you ate meat on Friday? If you were Catholic, you just did not do this. (In the 1960s the Pope officially ended this practice. I think it had been started generations before by another Pope, to help prop up the fishing industry.)
I did not learn about dinosaurs in school. Religious instruction in other schools I attended had been far less intensive than in the Catholic school, but absolutely none of them had raised anything to hint that maybe the Holy Bible was not telling the whole story about the early days of creation. Maybe dinosaurs had been covered on a day I was off sick, or while I was travelling between state education systems, or something. Not that I was ignorant of the word "dinosaur". When we lived in Melbourne, I had heard when vandals broke into the museum and tried to smash a dinosaur egg, for whatever reason it is vandals did things like that. Years later I was leafing through an encyclopaedia at a house Dad was visiting, and came across an artist's impression of a brontosaurus in a swamp. (One theory of the day to explain how things that big could move around was that they waded about in deep swamps, so that water supported their incredible bulk.) I knew the dinosaur egg had been incredibly ancient, but nobody had ever mentioned anything about living things the size of office buildings. I had been spooked by things under the bed when there had been things like this roaming about in real life? "They all died millions of years before people came along", Dad said when I showed him the picture.
I had come across mentions of "millions of years before there were people" before, but that dinosaur picture made an impression, and now I really wanted an answer to something that puzzled me. How did all this fit in with seven-day creation and Noah's flood? I asked around, and the response boiled down to pretty much the same: "Well, (mumble mumble!)" Huh?
In 1959 I discovered Eagle magazine, with its lead feature "Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future". I can be sure of the year, because the first issue I ever bought survived 1967, and I still have it. 6 June 1959, British price 4 ½ pence, fivepence in Australia after including things like shipping costs. Two issues later the price was sevenpence. (Due to moving along the coast at a critical time, I later missed the 17 December 1960 issue, which contained the end of two different serials. A very long cliffhanger later, I eventually found this issue at a 1986 science fiction convention. It cost me $10 Australian. This was a bargain. Around the same time a second-hand bookstore was charging $10 just for the old Sun pull-out black and white comics. And when I was in England in 1979 at another convention, a dealer was charging and getting ten pounds per Eagle.)
With inflation at a standstill, prices were fairly static all through the 1950s. I took rigidity of prices for granted right up until the 1960s, when everything started to skyrocket. For a while I wondered if prices would drop back to normal, or just level off and stay at the new high levels. They kept going up instead. And then my cage was really rattled when politicians on both sides started to talk about "a normal rate of inflation", when back in the 1950s inflation was referred to, when at all, in the past tense.
Now would probably be a good time to drop a list of various goods and their 1950s prices...if I could remember any. A gumball from a machine cost a penny, I know, and sometimes came with a free lucky charm. (In later years I discovered the manufactureres extended the lifespan of their penny product against rising costs by injecting air into the gumball. The way costs were to rise, this solution had a very finite run.) Another vending machine gave a handful of peanuts for threepence...or maybe it was sixpence. A bottle of milk was about a shilling, the same price you could pay for a Saturday afternoon movie matinee. A newspaper was about the threepenny or sixpenny mark, depending on its thickness. With more authority I can state that a paperback novel cost three shillings, as my 1954 copy of The Green Hills of Earth still bears its original price sticker. A normal comic cost one shilling, although some of the really thick Gordon and Gotch b&w reprints of American comics could hit five shillings, which is the most I ever paid for a comic in the fifties. An Australian issue of Astounding Science Fiction cost two and a half shillings.
Not that I bought science fiction all that much – not until the mid 1960s, anyway. My main s.f. fixes were in the comics: Brick Bradford and the Time Top, Dan Dare, Superman, Batman and Robin (who in those days had mostly SF-oriented adventures, despite their reputations as crime fighters), Tommy Tomorrow, and a whole slurry of other DC characters to whom Gordon and Gotch never gave solo titles. Exposure to mainstream science fiction was chiefly through respected novelists like Verne and Wells, (I ploughed through 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea when I was eight, and recommended it to friends who were unable to get past the first chapter) and Classics Illustrated versions of books I had never seen. I was familiar with War of the Worlds in this way, long before laying hands on the actual novel in my high school library. The majority of actual SF novels I read in those days would have been those serialised in the Sunday papers. Hence my introduction to Hamilton's The Star of Life, Roshwald's Level Seven, and Fleming's Doctor No. The last one might not seem all that science fictional, but Bond killing that giant squid with a table knife made a permanent impression on me. (Pity that scene never made it into the movie).
Probably because of all those vivid nightmares I used to have, my parents did not encourage my exposure to science fiction, which in those days was regarded by most people who had never read it as being in the same category as horror stories and pornography. I was years finding out about Dad's flying saucer sighting in 1952 (check out my UFO article), which left him prepared to consider that there might be beings living on other worlds, but as this did not affect day-to-day life and talking about did not affect anything, why bother about it?
Superman was on the radio too, although I never tuned in on as regular a basis as I did for the Argonauts. Just to hear him, it was easier to believe his secret identity. Clark Kent spoke with a somewhat weedy voice, and for some reason when he changed into Superman he would talk to himself about how he was changing his clothes, while his voice deepened until it dropped down to his boots. In the movies and TV, he never seems to bother disguising his voice.
There was one SF serial I latched onto after we returned to Tasmania, and whose name I can no longer remember...just that it had the word "Moon" in the title. The moon was where most of the action took place, but it seemed to be a habitable world with a breathable atmosphere, and as there were things called "time threshholds" all over the place dipping into past and future, it was hard to tell exacly when it was all supposed to be happening. What really hooked me was that once in a while, a regular character would get killed. This made the cliff-hangar endings to all the stories much sharper. And more frustrating when my parents eventually realised what I was listening to after going to bed, and took my crystal radio away on evenings when it was on. When the crystal set finally broke down totally, that was the end of that.
The Chucklers Weekly was another regular comic I started to collect in the 1950s. The oldest issue I had was one I picked up in a second hand store. The Beetle Bailey comic it ran seemed to have been done by a totally different artist. (Mort Walker drew a bit more realistically in his early days, before evolving to the style that appeared in the current issues.) Chucklers held loosely to the same formula as the Argonauts: Try to appeal to as many age-groups as possible. There were strips ranging from a kangaroo (named Skippy, from memory) and his friends, to ones about the lives of rock stars. There were serialisations of novels, such as the latest Smiley books. There was a regular page of jokes. (Hear about Bill Haley's accident? He rocked around the clock and fell off the mantlepiece.) There were the articles I always skipped, about the stars of television series I knew nothing about because we did not have a television. The older I got, there was more to appeal to me when I reread my collection. (One example: An issue with a cover with the blurb "Lookie lookie, here comes..." and a picture of somebody who meant zip to me. Rereading that issue in the 1960s in Tasmania, when television was just starting up there, the picture was suddenly recognisable as Cookie, a character Ed Byrnes was playing in 77 Sunset Strip.)
The Chucklers Weekly was how I found out about my brother. I read about Elvis Presley having a brother who died, and mentioned this piece of news to my mother. She figured this was a good enough opener to tell me about the first Bruce Barnes. (Apparently my parents were not ones for wasting a good Christian name.) He had been born dead, the umbilical cord having wrapped around his neck in the womb. (Years later a science teacher remarked in passing that you heard stories about this, but it could not really happen. However I had a brother who was as dead as if it was true.) "So if he'd lived, what would my name be?" I asked.
"If he'd lived, I'm not sure we would have had you."
My older brother was dead, therefore I exist. If, one day, I write something real profound regarding life, death, and existence, this is where it all started.
When we arrived in Queensland a real estate boom was going on. We looked around, and finally selected a bit of land near a lake. There were no other houses going up yet, although work had already started on a hotel. Dad would build the new house the same as he did in Geelong, but this time we had the caravan, so there would be no living in the garage until the house was ready.
Then the real-estate boom went bust.
We went out to our block of land a few times after that. It was peaceful and quiet, and there were fish in the lake. The girders of the abandoned hotel began to rust away. I suppose we still could have built on our block of land, so long as we did not mind the lack of a few minor details: Things like sewerage, water, and electricity.
Dad gave the land away in the finish, as a wedding present to one of my cousins. There was no question land prices would rise again one day. Australia's population was about 10,000,000 and growing. Australia's population had surged quite suddenly after World War II, when the soldiers returned. (Hey, they were glad to be back home.) When my generation of the Baby Boomers started to hit retirement age, the tropical north would become an attractive place to have an address. When I was in my twenties Dad asked me if I wanted that block of land. He would give it to me. All I had to do while waiting for its value to increase was keep paying the rates. I declined.
During the World Expo in Queensland in the 1980s I found myself in a bus which passed by the place where that block of land was. I did not realise this until suddenly I recognised the lake. I asked the bus driver the name of the area, and we were exactly where I thought we were. It was all suburbs now, with no trace of that hotel they had started to build in the 1950s. I have never checked the land values in that area. The worth of the property may exceed what I would have paid in rates over the years, and if so I have a feeling I do not want to know by how much.
By the time the 1960s rolled around, we were back in Tasmania. As far as it went for my family with the way things were, it was for good.