Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Growing up in Australia Pt 2.

I've decided to just let the memories flow, hoping that an idea for Sharon's TIF Challenge for February, see sidebar link, will crystalize.

Mum and Dad had applied for a NSW Housing Commission house and eventually in 1962 around Easter we moved to Lurnea, a south western suburb of Sydney near Liverpool. The new estate had few facilities to speak of. There was a brand new primary school, a red wooden telephone box on the corner of our street called Bare Avenue and a general store not far away. The major shopping centre, if you could call it that, was at Liverpool, a 30 minute bus ride away. We had an old Volkswagen car for Dad to drive so Mum and the kids went anywhere by bus. I started the new school in year 3 and it was a culture shock. The school at Bexley had old fashioned wooden forms with a seat that lifted up attached to a desk with a hinged lid and old smelly inkwells. The new school had seperate tables and chairs, and the plastic inkwells were all new. I remember struggling to write neatly with pen and ink, and using a blotter to avoid smudging your writing with your hand.

Our new house was fibro cement with a fibro cement corrugated roof. There were 3 bedrooms, a lounge room, kitchen and dining room combined, laundry with a copper, bathroom with a gas heater and wonder of wonders, a shower over the bath. The dunny was still up the yard though, but at least here it was a neat metal pan with a cover and a seat on a neat concrete floor in a fibro cement toilet building. Our old loo at Bexley had a wooden seat, and splinters were quite common. There we had a vertical plank toilet building with cracks which you could peek through if you wanted to spy on someone. The new loo had a solid wooden door with a lock and key. In the photo I'm in our bare backyard in 1963 with my brother Glenn, we were 9 and 4.
The "Sani Man" or night soil man, used to visit once a week and take away the full removeable pan, leaving a fresh empty one under the cover. They wore special leather capes with a cap attached as they hoisted the cans on their shoulders, I hope they got danger money because if you had guests or a party, those cans got quite full sometimes. Dad sometimes had to dig a hole in the backyard to siphon out the dunny can if that happened, it was a health hazard! I always dreaded going out to the loo in the night on Sunday in case the Sani Man came while I was enthroned. And we'd leave a bottle of beer out for him at Christmas and in exchange he'd leave a humorous printed seasonal poem, I wonder if anyone still has some in an album somewhere? Eventually the sewerage line came through our street, and we had a really deep pit in our yard as the junction and inspection pit was on our property. We could only afford to have one toilet though, so it was put in the out building.

We didn't have much of a garden in the beginning, when the estate was established they just threw the clay from the road up onto the footpath and front yards. Some people got in the rotary hoe man to dig it under, but Mum did it by hand so she could plant a few things. We never had a lawn like some people, just what grew when someone gave us a few runners of grass. Sometimes neighbours shared cuttings, we were all uprooted from inner Sydney and shipped out West so we were in a similar situation. Mum had 2 more boys, the last when I was 12 years old. By then Dad was spending pretty heavily on drinking, so Mum had to go out to work to help support us. The boys were looked after by neighbours until I got home from school when I'd take over. I learned to iron, cook simple snacks and clean the house to help mum out.

I remember when the Beatles came to Sydney in June 1964, I was in 5th class and had to make the decision whether to be a Rolling Stones fan or a Beatles fan, you couldn't be both, LOL. I still like their music, while the Stones never quite did it for me.

On the 14th of February 1966 Australia changed to decimal currency. Long gone were our farthings (1/4 of a penny) and florins (2 shillings) but now also the ha'penny (half a penny) penny, shillings and pounds. Instead of 24 shillings to a pound and having to work out complicated sums, everything was in multiples of 10. It did take quite some time to get used to, and shop signs, newspaper advertisements and eventually TV advertisments all continued to show prices in both currencies for quite a while.

I started at the one year old local high school in 1966, about 2 miles away. In the early days I'd catch the school bus, but by fourth form (year 10) I was walking with friends to school. Most of my friends went from my primary school to the local high school although quite a few others also came from surrounding areas. My husband was at primary school a year ahead of me, I was aware of him as he famously dressed up as a flapper girl once in a school fete parade. His mother made a wig from a dyed cotton mop head, and put fringeing on a black shift. He fooled his male classmates for quite a while, VBG. There are no photos, unfortunately.


coral-seas said...

I have really enjoyed reading your memories. I hope you are going to write some more. Has it given you any ideas for the challenge?


Doreen G said...

Great reading Christine and I can understand where you are coming from.
I was born and raised in Tasmania but the stories are the same-mine are a bit older thou.
It is amazing what we can remember when we set our minds to it.

Anonymous said...

I am younger than you but I can still remember visiting my aunt and uncle (in the 70's!in Wollongong) with the outside dunny and pan - we used to HATE going to the toilet there - especially when it was full - we were always worried we'd fall in. And it was dark, and covered in ivy which housed big spiders (bigger in our imagination). thanks for the walk down spooky smelly memory lane!!

Dianne said...

I loved reading your "loo" story!! (LOL) My grandma, had a loo about a mile away from her house with a huge hole in it. I was always scared I might fall in!!!