Growing: A Memoir

It’s about innovation

In time I found that there were other reasons for staying in Melbourne. In any case my mother Phyllis Caldicott had left him because, “I didn’t need him anymore.” Their lives had been shattered following the trauma of my brother Paul’s sudden death in 1957 and they both wanted to start a new life. His search for family after he sold his business took him to Sally & John’s farm in South Australia, where he found no comfort and easy way of life for his declining years. There he found [that] nobody who lives on a small farm in an irrigation settlement on the Murray has a carefree life of ease, so he returned to his surrogate family at Carlton and friends-about-town. The South Australian interlude was so brief that I didn’t know it had occurred for some years. Business frequently took me to Melbourne from almost the first day after our move to Sydney in 1962, so I called on him at least once a month, except when I was overseas. Our meetings often fell into a familiar format-a lengthy soliloquy during which he told of slings and arrows etc. [The] standard dissertation, not that it had any consistent detail, story line or theme, except fate. I had come to recognize the format, since childhood, and I was familiar with his habit of never answering a question. I don’t ever recall him joining in a conversation or discussion with anybody; certainly he never encouraged any exchange or debate, even with our mother. Looking back he seemed to suffer from depression or rather he was depressed most of the time at home. To make matters worse he would take a position and that was that. In a way it was a compliment that he talked to me at all. Since early childhood, in Melbourne until we moved to Sydney in 1962, he never spoke to me except to give an instruction, and no doubt the change came about because he had aged and began to doubt his infallibility and immortality. “Fate” was now set against him. Besides Judy and I paid his bills so he never missed an opportunity to retell his story. When he had finished I would sometimes ask if he was “feeling better”, to which he would say a quiet, “Yes!” and often cry. So here you are, dear reader, a story from the luckiest man alive with no guarantee of accuracy, a work of fiction.

There have been many occasions when I had to produce evidence of my birth and, like most people in Australia the easiest way is an “Extract of Entry” from the State Registrar General’s office, in my case the State of Victoria. In 1998 I became interested in obtaining a copy of my “Full Birth Certificate” and found it shows that I was “born on 16 April 1930 at The Womens Hospital, Carlton, Victoria, Australia, son of Phyllis Elsie Pearl Caldecott da Silva and John Lewis Edward da Silva, Laborer, no other children”. The “Informant” was not my father but a certain W. McColl, Carlton, Authorized Agent. Several things are unusual, perhaps not even fact. The spelling of Caldicott with an “e” instead of the “i” indicates that my mother was not involved in registering my birth as she was particular. This is not an uncommon mistake because many family members of the Caldicott clan in Australia scribble the surname with an “i” that looks like an “e” especially if they don’t take the trouble to add a “dot”. I assume a member of the hospital staff, perhaps the Almoner, registered the event which means that my father was not present. Unusual in Australia at that time. Maybe he didn’t know how, perhaps they had no friends or relatives nearby and if the Hospital Almoner acted for them it [was] maybe that they didn’t have enough money, or prospects to hire a priest or lawyer to act as their agent. Father’s English was poor all his life. Self taught to speak and read English and proud of it. Perhaps he was out of town. The anglicized given names, João Luís, Eduardo in Portuguese have not appeared on any other official document, including his Australian Naturalization Certificate in 1954. John Lewis are to be expected but the Edward is the only reference that I had or known of from the past. In the process of meeting as many members of his, and his siblings’ families the only reference [to] Eduardo we have found is the name of a grandnephew, Eduardo Brites. Certainly neither he or my mother ever signed my Full Birth Certificate or even indicated that they had seen it. Thirdly my sister Sally was born 4 years before, on 12 June 1926, so the parents had another child that the informant did not know about. I am sure that Sally and I share the same parents though she was not able to find a birth certificate when she applied for her first Passport in the 1970’s. This I learnt in 1995 when Sally had a holiday with Judy and me in Honolulu. By this time our father was deceased and our mother was old, forgetful and in a Nursing Home and we had found in previous discussions that she had few memories, or chose not to tell, of anything from the 1920’s. She died on 18 September 1996 almost 90 years old.

My earliest recollections include the house we lived in at 630 Hampton Street Brighton. My parents must have moved there after February 1932 as we have a School Photograph of Sally and the rest of her class at the Rathdown Street State School in Carlton that year. I have few records of family, Phyllis, John and Sally’s doings before I was born. I believe my dad was gardening for the “well to do” residents of Brighton by 1930, as my mother often told the story of an event which occurred when I was 6 weeks old in the winter of 1930, when I developed Whooping Cough. I was taken to Nurse Bryant’s Private Hospital in Hampton Street because she knew him. In those days before antibiotics (no Penicillin, or its derivatives) serious infant infection cases were put in an Oxygen Tent to keep them breathing. Apparently we had no money, and medical insurance was unknown, there was no free medicine, few public hospitals, no unemployment pay and few jobs for foreigners. Especially those who couldn’t speak English “correctly”. My parents were desperate. They didn’t have enough money to keep me in hospital let alone hire an Oxygen Tent. Desperate dad, on his bicycle, pedaled to the house of one of his customers. The result was that the Mr. O’Hagen paid the bill. For many years every time “The Dog Sat on the Tucker Box Nine Miles from Gundagai” song came on the radio Mother would say “Jack O’Hagen saved your life”. Father always viewed that event as fate. Today we may attribute the infection to being born in a huge public hospital that served the poorest people in the oldest industrial and working class areas to the immediate North of the City of Melbourne.

Parents and big sister Sally are part of my earliest memories, they were always there, especially Mum and Sally. Father was almost never there as he came and went every day, goodness knows where. Eventually I came to realize that he was “self-employed”, a nice way of saying that he had no job. Other men had jobs, professions or businesses but my dad was out of work. Every day he rode off on his bike with his gardening tools, including his lawn mower, strapped to the frame, and most days he brought home some money, a few coins, which he gave to my mum. He looked after the gardens of Brighton folk who could afford part-time help. As I got older, while I was still very young, he would sometimes dink me on his bicycle to the jobs of the day, presumably when mother was working and Sally was unavailable to mind me. He had a few customers who would not object to him combining baby sitting with gardening. I got to know the most loyal and kindly of those over the years, to 1939, and was surprised to find some had kept in touch with him right up to the last months of his life. He died alone in a public hospital bed about 1:00am on 19 January 1977 leaving no money, no will and little else but clothes in the cardboard Globite suitcase which accompanied him from his hostel suite on his last journey. Up to the last time I spoke to him, a few weeks before his death, he was very proud of his gardens. As a small boy I remember that his customers’ houses had the most beautiful flowers and the best kept lawns in the street. That’s how he grew his client list.

Probably my earliest recollection is that I enjoyed running away from home, so I had a reputation for adventure even before I went to school. The constables at the local Police Stations knew where I lived before I did. I remember happily eating a meat pie while one of the Bobbies set off on his bike to our house in Hampton Street and returned with my father, on his bike. We had no car or telephone in those days so that’s the way people and messages got around. I don’t remember any more about that occasion but I do recall that whenever my father took me out it was always on his bike. If mother was with us it was in the pusher, bus, train which was much more fun. “Us” usually included big sister Sally, because Dad worked every day, except Sunday, and even then he was seldom home during the day. Mother also went to work most days and Sally looked after me. In today’s terms we were latch-key kids. No doubt there was discussion about my habit of wandering away from time to time because Sally was invariably told to make sure you, “don’t let him out the gate.”

Home was a 4 roomed weatherboard cottage on the corner of Union and Hampton Streets. Two bedrooms, kitchen and sitting room each with a window onto either the front or back verandah. It had no running water inside and the bathroom, without toilet, was an area at the end of the back verandah behind a flimsy wooden screen. It had a galvanized iron bath, painted white inside, and a cold water tap. It wasn’t much but it was better than the rest of the row of decrepit weather-board and corrugated iron cottages, remnants from Brighton’s early colonial days. As we were on the corner at the end of the row we paid the highest rent, 75¢/week. Thus we had neighbours on one side only, as the back fences separated our row of shacks from a horse paddock which had access from Union Street. I have no recollection of how we came to be living at 630 Hampton Street Brighton. I assumed we had been there forever, however I now know we must have moved there in the early 1930’s because we recently found a photograph of “Grade 2, Rathdown Street State School, 1932” in Carlton which shows my darling sister Sally in the front row. The black & white picture doesn’t show the shining cream and pink colouring of her skin but there is no mistaking her strong face and pretty curly hair. We must have settled in Brighton after February 1932 at which date I was 1year & 10months old. We have other old photos of the four of us in Fitzroy Gardens, a public park near the city end of Carlton, an inner suburb of the City of Melbourne, dressed in our Sunday best. I am in my mother’s arms or being assisted to stand by my father. It looks like I was trying to walk. Sally’s name is also a relic of our parent’s early life together. Her given name is Carrie Maria, the former for our maternal grandmother and the latter for our paternal grandmother. The story goes that we lived in a boarding house in Carlton, where the occupants gave my sister the nickname “Sally” after a popular song of the day about a happy little girl.

Dad, or Peter, as he was called, was very proud of his gardens as they had the most beautiful flowers and the best kept lawns in the street, and he would say to a prospect, “Ask about me at 27 Church Street where Mrs Smith lives.” During the Great Depression many unemployed family men worked for local councils for “sustenance pay”, a government program for the unemployed. Sufficient to say that “Susso” workers, like Mr. Murphy next door, were almost at the bottom of the social ladder and street gangs in Brighton, and everywhere else, would sing cheeky songs to the repeated refrain…”We’re on the Susso now/Can’t afford a cow/We live in a tent/Pay no rent/We’re on the susso now!” etc… Whether my father was too proud or because, as a foreigner, he was not entitled to Sustenance Pay he found other work to keep his family. After the 1929 crash they had no money, he had no job, income or means to support himself, pregnant wife, daughter and another kid on the way, me. He worked at any hourly labouring or piece-work job he could find. Like most Portuguese of good family he spoke English, with a thick accent, well enough to work privately at bargain rates, and in time found plenty of odd jobs and gardening from the well-to-do of Brighton. I believe he started the activity while they lived in a beach suburb on Port Philip Bay, South of Brighton. With two small kids they would have been unwelcome in the Carlton Boarding House so they moved into Mr. & Mrs. Spunner’s small timber house at Mentone. My parents started a flower shop near the railway station in the beachside suburb of Frankston however the business collapsed as unemployment rose and consumer confidence plunged to its lowest point, in 1933. Small-time shopkeepers went broke all over the suburbs from the summer of 1929/30 to the end of 1933. The Spunners were elderly and their children no longer lived at home. I thought they were ancient when we visited in the 30’s. They were probably much younger than we are as I write in the year AD2000. I think we must have lived with them from 1928-1929, moved back to Carlton for Phyllis’s confinement at The Women’s Hospital and finally settling down in Brighton after 1932. We kids called them Miz and Farv Spunner and Phyllis kept in touch with them for some years, taking us kids to visit them occasionally. We would walk to McKinnon Station to catch the Frankston-line train to Mentone. My memory is that they lived alone and were very kind to us. The association proved to be lasting with Phyllis, and close with Sally who kept contact throughout the rest of Farv Spunner’s life. He became President of the Royal Life Saving Society of Victoria which was a joy to Sally as she had become a lifesaver during WWII when few young men were available. Sally was a champion swimmer at school and took up Life Saving in the summer of 1941/42 before she was 20.

Exploring around the neighbourhood was my favourite pastime, “running away” was what my parents called it. I guess it came from curiosity, an infant manifestation of “Being There”. In time people knew me as “that little boy”. “What’s your name? Where do you live? Does your mummy know where you are?” To which I would say “Yes!” probably before I knew that “yes” was some kind of commitment. The police constables at several local “Stations” knew me and where I lived and were no doubt surprised by my distance from home. They were always kind and when I was very young they would feed me while one [of] them got my father to take me home. The next best thing was “going out” which meant that I would be taken on a visit or errand by one or more of the other three members of our family, or friends. Whenever father took me out it was always on his bike, a breathtaking adventure sitting on the handlebars with the wind in my face. If mother was with us I would be in the stroller and the adventure would include travel by bus, tram or train, which often involved strange new places and much more fun. “Us” included big sister Sally, 4 years my senior.

Dad left home before we kids were awake and usually returned for the evening meal and often much later. Sometimes he would return after we were in bed, and we would wake-up and listen in, even if we were not allowed out of bed. Sally and I slept in the small back bedroom which opened directly onto the kitchen. Mother went to work most days, Monday-Friday as a waitress at Miss Kirkum’s Primrose Tea Rooms in The City so Sally was in charge and responsible for keeping me “out of mischief”. For my part I didn’t know what mischief was. In time I got the general idea and was always surprised that mischief to adults was often the fun thing to do. However as I spent much time alone I made my own decisions, in much the same way as any other young unsupervised creature would; I was developing into a feral boy, and Sally continued to be told to make sure you “don’t let him out the gate.” Gate? Who needed a gate when I could, for preference, climb onto the back fence and jump into the paddock. I am well aware, even now, that I was often a problem, “not every day, just most days,” they would say. I won’t go into details here anymore than I would have at the time.

  • “Where have you been?”
  • “Nowhere.”
  • “What have you been doing?”
  • “Nothing.”
  • Who did you see?”
  • “Nobody.”

Eventually Sally took me to school at Wilson Street State School, Kindergarten, before I was five. My first teacher was Miss Clay who seemed to me to be the oldest person in the world, perhaps the oldest person who ever lived. My main recollection of that first day was that I wet my pants. I never did like that school but I did like the red brick Gothic building which was probably the first State School building in Brighton. It had large, many-paned windows with warm fires in the classrooms during the cold Melbourne winters. Because of our 4-year age difference Sally and I were never in the same building or used the same playground, though we attended the same school on two occasions. The State schools usually had separate buildings and other facilities for several grades of Kindergarten, Junior and Senior classes; we kids called them Babies, Little and Big School. When I started at Wilson Street school my beautiful red brick building was allocated to the infants, kindergartners. Sally walked me to Wilson Street School until I was about 8, and by then fiercely independent. About this time she won a Scholarship to Cora Lynn Girls School, a State of Victoria secondary school for girls who would be in service or other paid occupations. She also received a bike from mum, a prize for being such a good scholar. I was promised the same on the same conditions but never received it, because I bought my own bike before I was old enough to sit the exam for the adjacent boys’ secondary school, The Brighton Boys Junior Tech.
Sally was like a mum to me and what a trial I must have been to her. We were never taken to school by either parent and we always walked, rain, hail or fine. Our trails to school, before we had bikes, were by the most direct route which involved crossing vacant blocks, horse paddocks, parks, playing fields and other undeveloped land as well as streets, paved and unpaved. Melbourne is 38+ ºS latitude so the winter days can be frosty, with occasional snow, sleet or hail, when it’s not raining. The grass was often covered with sharp slippery frost: what fun to run, slide and skid on to keep the blood circulating in our chilblained toes. On frosty days most small boys arrived at school with wet feet which meant shoes and socks were put to dry by the fire. I can smell that winter school room as I write. Big boys rode bikes and took delight in skidding and swerving their rear wheels across the frosty grass and, if possible, spraying a mixture of frost, mud and water over younger kids and girls. On rainy days we wore wet weather gear, Sou’westers (hats like fishermen used to wear at sea) and groundsheets buttoned around the neck. Groundsheets were standard issue to the A.I.F (Army) in both world wars and could always be bought cheaply from Military Disposal Stores, both new (Army rejects) and used. I can’t recall what Sally wore on her feet but I usually wore boots, or used shoes brought home by Dad from one of his “jobs”, as we always called his clients’ residences.

I was very young when I started school, probably because my parents believed I needed more supervision than Sally was able to provide. I don’t remember any of the other kids or any other teachers at that school, even through to my leaving in 1940, but I clearly remember the beautiful kindergarten building with its central assembly hall onto which the classrooms opened. The rooms had glass windows and doors which gave access to the hall with its many skylights and high clerestory windows, and daylight flooded the whole interior. Wilson Street must have [been] laid out in colonial days as it had several government and institutional buildings. The Brighton Town Hall, the district Police Station, The Brighton Orphanage staffed by Anglican nuns from the Convent next door and, nearby, diagonally opposite the school grounds, was a solid red-brick Gothic Anglican Church, [the] name escapes me. As mentioned, our Kindergarten classrooms were warmed by open fires and the children were delegated to carry in sawn logs from the stack outside. We also had a vegetable and flower garden to one side of the building where we tilled the soil during horticulture class. We boys ended up with mud to our armpits. What did we do? I can’t remember but I did return to the Kindergarten School in 1946 when I was working weekends, as a carpenter, for a firm that was involved in restoration and repair of the central assembly hall, and recall finding it as beautiful as in my days in Miss Clay’s Babies Class.

My gate to freedom was on Union Street which T’d into Hampton Street, thus it was a pair of gates to the outside world. The gate to the backyard was the smaller of a pair; in effect a narrow access door to our private garden. Inside, brick paved paths led to the back-verandah steps, the Wash-House, Lavatory and pigeon Aviary, beyond which was the wood yard and chopping block. Actually our yard was a fine garden with head-high split paling fences on three sides and the back verandah the fourth side. Beyond the brick paving, and in the centre, was a small lawn surrounded by beds of flowers and vegetables. The back fence was another way out for me, as it was easy to climb onto the woodshed roof and jump into the horse paddock behind, a perfect exit for an agile boy. Hampton Street was a long, straight North-South road from Brighton through Hampton to Sandringham: three suburbs named after Royal Palaces in The Old Country, as my father called Europe. Point Nepean Road ran diagonally North-South through the Bayside Eastern suburbs of Melbourne to places unknown, far to the South of my experience. It was a main highway with statues and landmark buildings every so often. Nearby stood a statue of Tommy Bent (Sir Thomas Bent), a 19th century politician. His bronze likeness stood on a high, granite plinth in a square at the start of Hampton Street facing East across Point Nepean Road. In his right hand was a bronze rolled document and the left hand was held palm-up with the index finger pointing the same way as his substantial belly. The palm usually held an empty beer bottle, and occasionally, on the index finger, a condom hung swinging in the breeze. No doubt left by waggish locals after a midnight climb. There was little respect for statesmen during the days of the Susso road repair gangs.

The square was shaped like a draughtsman’s square with Hampton Street the long side and Point Nepean Road the hypotenuse with Bay Street forming the short side. Tommy Bent was thus a prominent landmark on the main highway from Melbourne to Gippsland on Bass Strait. Union Street was the first street South and crossed Point Nepean Highway forming a larger triangle most of which was the horse paddock behind our yard. Our place was one of 3 semi-detached wooden shacks with corrugated-iron roofs. A brick drain [ran] between each, just wide enough for me to squeeze between the houses. The roof gutters overhead practically touched. Mr. & Mrs. Murphy were next to us with their large family of kids, the eldest of whom was married when we lived there and the youngest was a babe-in-arms. How they all fitted in I never did know because I never got past the kitchen. Quite a defeat for inquisitive me. In the next house [was] a very sad old couple, Mr. and Mrs. Scammell, who didn’t encourage me but let me in if I was polite and behaved, which meant doing what I was told. The fourth house from our corner was a much bigger timber house, with an inside toilet and bathroom and five good-sized rooms. The front garden was much bigger than ours and it had a driveway to an old shed at the back fence. A Dressmaker and her aged mother occupied it and they made clothes for mother and me. The fifth and last house, before the corner garage overlooking Tommy Bent’s statue, on our side of Hampton Street, was occupied by Mr. & Mrs. Cadell, an elderly couple who lived in semi-squalor without even electric light. The house had few windows and these were covered by heavy, net curtains with half-drawn blinds. It was so dark inside I found it difficult to see any detail. Mrs. Cadell usually stayed in the kitchen, the only room with a window without blinds. She would sit at the kitchen table and look out the window to the backyard and the horse paddock beyond. I recall her as a silent presence as I never heard her speak when I was there. Mr. Cadell, on the other hand, was an interesting personality whom I cultivated and spoke to whenever I saw him in the street as he would usually pay me a penny to take his hand and walk him across the street. He was blind. It’s hard to look back and imagine their life in those days, [with] no TV, radio or telephone; he had a crystal set with earphones and there were no recorded books or newspapers. I guess my primary interest was the penny: in today’s money 12 pennies equaled a shilling or 10¢. Although less than one cent it was real money in the 1930’s.

In time I realized that father didn’t like being poor, perhaps he wasn’t brought up that way, and though he got used to being penniless it made him unhappy. I could never understand what made him so difficult and by the time I realized that he was born to a life of privilege he was no longer with us. For my part what we were was what we were. I was curious, happy, well fed and knew my place in our household, the neighbourhood and the wider community. We certainly never had the arguments, problems and the resulting constant fighting of the Murpheys next door, though father would explode occasionally. All the households in those small wooden shacks were poor and complaints about “bad times” were the constant subject of adult gossip. I can’t remember having any major complaints and accepted that some of my activities would occasionally cause a negative reaction. I adored my mother who was the most beautiful woman I knew. She and I were delighted with each other, and constantly expressing our mutual love and devotion to each other. When we went into “Town”, as the business and entertainment district of Melbourne was called, and when she went to church, she always wore her “best” and I was pleased to be in her company. Only the people who lived nearby were aware of our poverty in goods, money, cash and spending terms, as Phyllis always exuded confidence and wellbeing. I believe that Sally and I were more aware of extreme cash shortage than even our father.

We knew the money was running out when we were not allowed to have even small things we liked. Sweet rolls and Lemon Bread from the horse drawn baker’s cart which called every day, except Sunday. The big test came at the end of each week, especially in the summer. Mum & Dad would sit on the back verandah steps on Saturday evening, facing the cool evening sky, enjoying the long twilight and smoking cigarettes. After Tea and a bath, they would count their spare coins after putting away the rent and similar monies in mother’s cocoa tins on a high shelf in the kitchen. They would carefully decide what the weekly treat would be, if any. I say coins because any transaction that I recall from those days was paid with coins, even the rent and the collection in church. We kids never handled folding money. On a good day Sally and I would walk to the Lolly Shop across Point Nepean Road with the correct money and buy exactly what we were sent for. The most expensive treat was 4 Neapolitan ice-cream slices and 2 tailor-made State Express cigarettes. The shopkeeper would take down an open red packet of cigs, take out 2, close the packet and return it to its high shelf. The 2 cigs were rolled, ever so carefully, in a twirl of paper, often newspaper, making a cone [of] which [the] open end was sealed with a twist. Many people bought tailor-made cigarettes in ones and twos or more, but less than a packet, in those days. I suppose a lot of other people were broke too. When we were broke our parents rolled their own, [licked] the edge of the paper and [lighted]-up. Sometimes we would be sent to buy “the makings” and if things were tough the tobacco was fine cut. If things were reasonable we were told to get ready-rubbed and we got a halfpenny each for our trouble.

Pigeon Pie was another signal that our parents were really broke. Many houses had a flock of homing pigeons and our loft was on the washhouse roof above, actually an extension of, the [Water Closet] at the end of the garden path. The pigeon Aviary was made out of scrap timber and pre-loved rusty chicken-wire found materials. In fact every scrap of found wire netting was brought home and collected in a corner of the woodshed, even if it wasn’t lost. Dad caught, bred and trained any birds that found their way into our captivity. They became ours because they were fed and found mates with which to pair. The best of his birds, with desirable characteristics, would be sold to collectors who called at the house. Dad had a way with birds, cockatoos, galahs and other parrots, magpies, canaries, love-birds, finches and, of course pigeons. When the latter were needed for the pot he would put on old clothes, including an old felt hat, and sprinkle granular material into the cage to attract the birds from the loft. You can bet that when we were hungry the birds were also, so no grain was sprinkled. When all was buzzing to a gentle cooing he would climb in to the cage and, as quick as a flash, while grabbing, cracking and wringing necks, dead birds would collect at his feet, ten to twenty as needed. Out he would step, bundle them into a hessian bag and take them to the woodshed where they were plucked and decapitated on the chopping block with dispatch. Mother would clean and gut the birds in the wash-house, cook them in the kitchen and serve them as pie, soup and filling for sausage rolls and the like. They were a lot of work for little meat but saved the day when there was no cash.

Everyday clothes were hand-me-downs and knits were usually made from balls of “unpick”, as in, “I got two balls of ‘unpick’ from that big man’s sweater,” mother would say to nobody in particular at Tea Time. It was her way of thanking father for bringing home an old pullover from one of his jobs. All four of us would accept anything offered by more affluent neighbours, acquaintances: “Finders-Keepers” stuff. To my knowledge there were no relatives to cadge from in the whole State. Of course there were Customers, owners and managers of places where our parents worked including the “Tea Rooms” where Mother waited during the city lunch-time rush. Miss Kirkum was the owner/manager and I loved her the most of the other women, apart from mother, who worked there. She sent us presents via mother and gushed all over me when we called in to see her during the school holidays. Dad’s customers were generous, offering him anything in the process of disposal; [and] parents of Sally’s and my friends, who probably knew more about our circumstances than we kids, were also generous. Of course I collected everything that I could find, or reach. Mother carefully checked-out anything that came home. Old clothes, chairs, boxes, pieces of fabric, bottles and newspapers were saved for later sale to the Bottle-oh who came by with horse and dray. All manner of things were turned into items of value.

Brighton was originally settled as a beach resort on the East side of the bay facing the setting sun, a Riviera-like town a day’s journey by coach from Melbourne, the Capital of the Colony of Victoria. The best families built huge mansions on large subdivisions sold off the original Dendy Crown Grant (More than 5,000 acres). Great fortunes had been made during the Gold Rush which started in the Colony in 1851. Melbourne, with its secure Port Philip Bay, rapidly developed into a Shipping, Trading and Banking centre and stayed the financial capital of Australia for the next 100 years, until the Pacific telegraph cable and jet aircraft created a new money centre in Sydney. Dendy’s Crown Grant area developed quite early because the Royal Brighton Yacht Club was founded about 1857, so there were enough gentry around for that. Needless to say a small boy could find plenty to do and plenty to find, especially during the hot summer months when school was out. Even during the Great Depression there were wealthy families still living in great houses. [However] by the 1930’s many of the original estates had been subdivided to provide smaller, but still-grand (to me), residences for friends and family members. Quite a few were Dower Houses for widows. Dad’s customer group were several generations from the residents of the bigger houses who usually had their own full-time staff. Some even had live-in staff including chauffeur-gardeners. Father’s customers, though still affluent by my standards, paid him by the hour.

Many found objects came from things that were thrown out by the chatelaines of the big houses around about. If Dad noticed a garment or item left in the street for the “Rag & Bone Man” or his trade competitor, the Bottle-oh, he would put it on his bike and ride or push it home. People who hired father usually had a garage or shed and would often put stuff out for disposal. Father would say, “I think my wife could use that if you do not want it.” As often as not it would be given because everybody knew we were broke. Father was a good gardener and they did their best to help the handsome young man and his attractive wife and children. Sometimes, say after a spring cleaning, the lady-of-the-house would put the castoff things in a corner and when father arrived for a day’s work they would say, “Peter, would you please dispose of those things in the garage.” We were always known as Big Peter & Little Peter though his original given names were João Luís. Of course he would dispose of the things by taking the loot home. All of us wore hand-me-downs and if something could not be used because it was the wrong size, say, to fit a smaller child than me, the youngest, there was always the Murphy tribe next door. They had lots of kids. Mother would send me into “Missus Murph”, as we called the mum next door, who would accept most anything that Dad had brought home and which our family could not use or sell. “What’s ya got? In or out?” she would say to her large brood of children or any kid holding open the screen door to the kitchen. “Don’t let the flies in,” [went] the refrain. “Thanks luvie we can use that,” Missus Murph would say to every child who called offering hand-me-downs or gifts sent by friends, neighbours, the church or local charities. “Want a piecie?” She would say to any kid and “Wanta cupa?” to adult visitors. That was Mrs. Murphy’s way of offering friendship or reward to any and all. A piecie was a slice of bread spread with dripping. Because of the size of the Murphy brood the dripping in a big jam-tin stood with the loaf of bread on the kitchen table all day and every day. Nobody was allowed to say no to a Missus Murph piecie. “Not good enough for the likes of you?” [would] be her reply to a refusal.

Though we were neighbours we had little in common, except that I was a persistent wanderer, allowed into their house (intruder perhaps) and, always, the messenger from next door. Mother went to Anglican Communion about once a month and Matins every Sunday, to the end of her days. In Brighton, 1932-1962, she attended St Lukes Bay Street where Sally and I attended Sunday School. The church was at the top of the hill West of Tommy Bent’s statue and its congregation was substantial in both numbers and the collection. Mother’s contribution was never less than 20¢ and whenever she could afford it 40¢, that is, two washed-clean and shiny florins. She always made sure they gleamed on the collection plate. The most influential minister when I was young was Father Winter, who later became the Bishop of St Arnaud. As well as Sunday School, Sally and I did the usual children Anglican Church things including Confirmation, first communion and both Sally and I married our spouses at that church. The essence of the teaching was “doing good” and being good which was [a] rather complex mixture for me as we were about the poorest kids in that congregation and I was by no means the naughtiest boy, and though Sally was probably the best girl she wasn’t always recognized as such. On the other hand the Murphy kids, their friends, relatives and camp followers were best avoided on a Sunday or any other Holy Day. They didn’t attend our church or State School as they went to the Catholic Parochial school and church at the corner of Point Nepean Road and Centre Road. There were a lot of rag-tag kids in that school, who made me look and sound quite toffy, so I always avoided that vicinity on Sundays or week days when they were in session. [Any] time for that matter. They were tough kids, difficult to placate or escape from without getting a belting. Strange, considering that their mother had a heart of gold, that the Murphy kids could only be described as furies. I had no idea how Mr. Murphy fitted into the household because the only time I was aware of him was when I saw him in Susso Road Gangs.

The best thing about our town was the beach. Eventually I found that there were many beaches, all the bayside suburbs of Melbourne. My earliest [recollection] of Brighton’s beaches was Bay Street Beach which was at the Western end of the main shopping street of Middle Brighton and Tommy Bent’s statue was at the Eastern end. Not a nice beach, as there was no sand or breakwater so it was often rough. Father’s early morning swim was at Bay Street Beach, the nearest beach to our house, to which he would ride early in the morning before going to work. Occasionally, usually at mother’s insistence, I would go with him. He would dink me on the handlebars of his bike. “Teach him to swim” was the plan. After the first occasion, and to my disappointment there were others, I decided that the beach was uninviting, the water too cold, the waves too rough, the bottom too rocky; and the wet shivering trip back home on the handlebars was gruesome. However these excursions showed me that beaches had many attractions, places to explore, and I went there as often as possible to explore on my own. During the school holidays I would ask mother to give me a cut lunch so that I could spend the whole day at the seaside, especially in the summer. I would wander for miles on the sand, in and out of the stretches of Ti-tree covered dunes, and at the edge of the sea I would jump from rock pool to rock pool. There were cliffs to clamber, waterfront parks and private gardens. [There were] piers, baths, Yacht and Sailing Clubs and even the famous Brighton bathing boxes to explore. My Portuguese genes had and still have the wanderlust and in time I got to know Port Philip Bay intimately, from Corio Bay to Portsea, and continued to arrive unannounced at houses and encampments of friends and acquaintances, clubs and beaches, for the next twenty years.

“Wandering-off”, in the sense of “Now don’t go wandering-off!” — the usual admonition of the minder of the day — was my favourite pastime before I was fleet of foot, so at about 6 years old there was no stopping me. At about the age of 4 I was familiar with every house or other premises within a few blocks of home and by the age of 5 I knew several routes to school. I would wander into houses and gardens, sheds and garages and must have been known to more neighbours than I knew. In those days people didn’t lock their back doors or outhouses and the majority of women stayed home. That I liked, because I soon learnt that women were more likely to make me welcome and offer refreshments, a drink, usually cordial, and a biscuit. Thus houses occupied by women and girls were more fun, no doubt because I experienced [less] rejection from them; besides I had been trained by Sally, mother, Missus Murphy and her daughters and my teacher Miss Clay. My favourite little girl was Peggy King who lived at the top of the hill in Ferguson street. Quite a way from home but familiar because Sally had friends, [were] the Kemp girls in Blanch Street, which connected Union and Ferguson Streets. I suppose I got tired of Sally’s friend’s house and first wandered off at a very young age and found Peggy King with her beautiful blue eyes and wavy blond hair. After that I would go there on the way home from school until her mother decided that the hugging and kissing had gone far enough and we literally lost touch, in fact the whole of Ferguson Street was out of bounds. Besides she didn’t go to Wilson Street State when she started School. However, out of bounds or not, I continued to wander and lose my way to places that led me to Ferguson Street. We lost touch before I was 6.

“Can we get a car?” must have been a question at one time, or maybe it never was. I was too aware of the constant need for money to pay rent, buy food and count out change for something from a shop. I was about 8 years old before I handled paper money. A penny would buy a bag of broken biscuits from the grocery store at Blight’s Corner, as we never served whole biscuits with cordial in our house — as other mothers did – [and] anyway the usual snack was bread and milk. My clothes had always been worn by somebody else or [were] homemade. Except that Miss Docker, the dress maker, made me a knickerbocker suit for “best” and which I wore when mother and I were photographed at a studio in the city. I believe an interstate relative sent the money for that luxury. Even the things that mother made were made from unpicked garments acquired from wherever. Worn pieces of cloth were used for hankies, washers, dusters etc. Sweaters were knitted from wool “unpicked” from knitted or [crocheted] items brought home by father and saved in a basket of coloured balls. There was always wool to be wound, mending, and baking and cigarettes to be rolled. Coins were collected every night, I seldom saw bank notes, and saved in old cocoa tins labeled “rent”, “electric”, “milk” and others.

It was most likely that it was always apparent that owning a car was an impossible dream. That didn’t stop me from drawing cars and taking every opportunity to sit inside one. Putting my head in the window to smell the leather, petrol and fumes was [to] be part of another world, and to sit in the driver’s seat, heavenly. The dials and controls, hand breaks and knobs were explored to the chorus of “don’t touch that, don’t turn that” by anxious owners and garage attendants. The father of one of my friends actually had a car with a cigar lighter mounted in the wooden dashboard. The best cars in Brighton were driven by chauffeurs. Some of them understood and let me look inside, or even sit in the driver’s seat and smell the leather seats and the unique odor of a clean and spotless interior. These men, when getting air, oil, water or petrol at the garage down the street (‘service station’ in today’s lingo) carried a big polishing cloth and wiped everything that was touched by themselves or [by] anybody else. Look, huff, burnish and wipe. I watched as they checked every detail, bought more than one jar-full of motor spirit, opened the bonnet, funneling clear green oil from a measuring bottle into the motor. Water in the radiator, air in the tyres and the two spare wheels, which were fixed into slots on the front mudguards. Their cars were big with lots of room in the back seat and when all was finished I would stand and wave from the footpath after the driver signed a book and wiped off the last-minute smudges before taking off with a flourish. Oh to have a job like that.

One day, in 1936, I wandered into a semi-detached house in Edgar Street where I met a small boy and his mother. This street was an alternative route to school, a detour, but not a large one, in which lived quite a few boys of about my age. It crossed over an open storm-water drain and so provided a short-cut through several backyards. Brighton had many such attractions, [but] I digress. The small boy, 2 years younger than me, was Peter Hein, whose mother made the most delicious tomato sandwiches, [and] who had the best collection of toys of any boys that I had found. As he grew older the toy collection grew, especially his Meccano Set, which was several times the size of the set I eventually acquired from one of father’s ladies. Another attraction was that the boy’s dad had a beautiful big green Pontiac Motor Car and he worked for the Atlantic Ethyl Motor Spirit Co. He owned the best captive car in my collection. Peter and I became friends and he also attended Wilson Street State School, but as I was ahead of him we didn’t see much of each other at school. To prevent confusion when I was at their house his mother called us Peter No.1 and Peter No.2 (I was No.1) and we [were] called by those labels by the Hein parents and his German grandmother whenever we were at their house at the same time. Because I started school early and Peter [Hein] started late, we were 3 classes apart as young children, but because I was an adult matriculand ([anyone aged] over 21 in those days) when I entered the University of Melbourne, I graduated two years after him. A lot happened over the years and we remained friends and kept in touch though we lived thousands of miles apart at times. We are parents and grandparents and both had careers in engineering. He and his wife Helen attended Phyllis’s funeral in 1996 and his mother died in 1998; both fathers died many years before their wives. I knew many boys at school and met many others while hanging around the streets and beaches of Brighton but Peter [Hein] is the only one that remains a phone call away, though we don’t see each other for years. I think that’s because we have never seen each other as competitors. Unlike many urchins, like me, who were scroungers on the make, supplementing family incomes, his life was never like that.

The most important and regular contribution delivered to my mother was kindling, “off-cuts” of wood for starting fires. Cooking at Hampton Street was done on a one-fire-stove, there was no gas or electric power, though we had electric light. The fire heated the top and the oven of the black cast-iron stove. The top had several round cast-iron covers, which could be removed, and there were also dampers which could be open or shut to increase or reduce the heat or direct it to the oven or different tops. There were several heavy cast hand irons parked at the back of the stove top which were used for pressing shirts and other items on the kitchen table. A large black cast iron kettle, kept full of water, was the hot water service for all purposes. At night the stove was banked and all the dampers closed in the expectation that it would remain warm until morning, and hopefully [still] have coal which could be huffed and puffed into life so that a hot breakfast could be cooked before dad went to work. Kindling was kept in a box in the wash-house and everybody was expected to check the kitchen box before going down the garden path to the toilet. “Why didn’t you bring back some wood?” was a constant refrain. First thing in the morning the fire was stoked and kept alight all day. If the house was left empty, as it was when mother left for work, the dampers were shut and the fire banked. As well as cooking, the stove was a source of hot water for making tea, washing-up, washing faces and hands and bathing (except on Bath Night) and heating. The sitting room also had a fire, which used the same chimney, and was lit every evening for six or seven months of the year. Another fire was under the copper in the wash-house which was set to boil water for the weekly wash (Monday) and bath night (Saturday) and [some] special occasions. We also bathed on Monday after the clothes were washed, dried and ironed.

Fuel for these fires was in constant demand and we never passed a piece of old timber, or a broken branch after a storm, without picking it up and taking it home. Woodmen with horses-and-drays equipped with scales clip-clopped about calling out their wares, offering sawn logs, Mallee Roots, kindling, briquettes and coal for sale. People with cars could go to Woodyards with their own bags or boxes and [buy] fuel by the Hundredweight or Half a hundredweight at a time. The yards had a greater variety and could supply sawn logs to suit open fires. My best source of firewood off-cuts were the Box Factories, two of which were within easy Billy-cart distance of our house in Hampton Street and another a bit further away. Discarded off-cuts could also be found on construction sites where I would also find nails, screws, bits of metal, ends of rope and other “useful” scraps of fabric or things left lying around. Should I forget to give the bits to mother she would always find them when she washed the clothes. Boy’s pockets were always full of stuff. Not just me but at least 50% of the boys of the neighbourhood competed for the pickings.

Scraps and chips (of wood) were seldom fought over but the big money items, like bottles, could be sold for cash and were considered the province of big boys who would deal with the competition. Small dago and reffo kids had no rights when it came to the most valuable bottles: beer and soft drink. Bottleoh’s paid 2 pennies for a Marchant’s Lemonade bottle complete with its screw stopper. This was real money as $1 was 120 pennies and the rent at 75¢ a week represented 45 Marchants bottles. [Needless] to say Marchants Lemonade was drunk only by the affluent, it was THE brand. The bottle yards also bought scrap metal so we kept our eyes out for old taps, lead flashing or bits of copper pipe. I soon learnt that [a] boy’s society reflected their parents’ from the way they dressed to their prejudices and, like me, I am sure that they paid careful attention to the opinions expressed by their elders and betters at family gatherings. I was a small dago (non Anglo Saxon) and like the Susso or reffo kids had few rights or available benefits. I was fair game as my parents knew few people in our town when I was very young. I learned to fight and flee and to avoid team games which I found were an excuse for dealing out a legitimate thrashing, at school or anywhere else. At a very early age I found it was best to make friends with kids who tolerated me, i.e. whose parents tolerated, or even encouraged, me and my unusual parents. Ginger Meggs was alive and well then as now as were Tiger Kelly and all the other characters of that comic strip which reflected a stereotype Australian boyhood.

Point Nepean Road, The Highway, was a commercial and manufacturing corridor running diagonally through Brighton with residential housing to the Eastern and Western sides. [On the] East side was employee housing which eventually became orchards and market gardens, and the Western or Bayside had, in general, better and bigger houses, to mansions on the waterfront. Likewise the Highway-fronting buildings had service [businesses], shops, hotels, Steam Laundries, bakeries, picture theatres and bus stops while places like box factories, which were dirty and dusty, were generally reached by back lanes. I came to know the ins and outs of a wide variety of small industrial enterprises. The one I loved the best was an Automotive “Coach Builder” and filling station on the corner of Bay Street. Actually the body shop wrapped around the service station and was probably one business. This enterprise was of great interest to me and over a period of some years I got to know the operation in detail: what a magnet for a small boy. It was busy with more tradesmen at work than any other place [I] knew. Even more than the railway siding at Middle Brighton opposite the station, where most of the workmen were laborers loading and unloading rail-wagons.

Vehicles started as a bare chassis, no doubt supplied by dealers. Dodge was the radiator badge I remember most clearly so those chassis were probably imported from the U.S.A. They came with black-painted steel frames supported by the suspension, complete with wheels and brand new tyres. The differential [drives] and [transmissions], which connected the rear wheels to the gearbox and engine, were in full view. Immediately behind the engine and dash, a wooden box was mounted and used as a temporary driving seat for a man to use the steering wheel and pedals, to guide the incomplete vehicle around the factory when it was necessary to move it from one place to another. The bare chassis would be driven South on Point Nepean Road from the docks at Port Melbourne, and on arrival it would be guided into the factory from the highway. On completion the shiny finished buses, vans or other custom-built vehicles would be driven into Hampton Street. Most of the time the “Out” doors were open to the gaze of passers-by, including me. Inside the factory, around the walls, were benches with tools, machines and supplies for each trade.

The new bare chassis would start with the body builders; wood workers who were rather like cabinetmakers. They worked right by the great sliding doors of the Hampton Street entrance, which had a footpath crossing where, in full view, were band and circular saws, planers, routers, borers and drills which were driven, screaming and buzzing, by the noisy flapping and whizzing overhead shafts and pulleys. The body builders worked to beautifully detailed plans and full-sized drawings of curved wooden joints and connecting pieces. Curves were laid out on timber blanks and carefully cut on the band-saw. These curved knees were the elements that shaped the corners where the beams joined the sides, to back and front and around the scuttle, which supported the windscreen. They painstakingly created the frames that supported the beaten metal cladding that reproduced curves shown in the plans and drawings. I would spend hours watching the framework and body grow on the chassis; buses were the best because they took longer to build, major creations which could be endlessly admired. The framework was beautifully fitted, bolted, clamped and glued then contoured with rasps, spokeshaves and different grades of emery paper, until smooth-sanded, and with seamless joints ready to receive metal panels.

Endless hours were spent watching workmen to the background noise of the sharp “ding-ding” of the panel beaters, with the occasional shouted instructions from the foremen. There must have been a boss, an owner or manager, probably in an office somewhere but not obvious to me, who would be sure to shoo me away. Strange how I have no [recollection] of a busy boss-figure in that workshop. It seemed that these skilled tradesmen needed no other direction than the plans spread around the benches, floor and chassis. Frequent reference to the plans was required and consultation with Panel Beaters who had many different-shaped hammers and anvils; some of the anvils fitted into holders on the benches, rather like father’s shoe-mending last. Some of the anvils were held in the palm of the beater’s hand and some were floor-mounted and required a beater and a helper or two to contour the bigger panels. Hammer-on-steel-sheet-on-anvil gave off a most satisfying metal-on-metallic sound, a ding or clang. Every sound was different and at a different rhythm; the smaller the hammer and anvil the higher the pitch and faster the rhythm. They were an orchestra and I could feel the interaction of the men with each other as they hammered away at their task of the moment. Panel beaters also had a large assortment of hand-operated Rollers, rather like the wringer in the wash-house, which provided three-dimensional contours to the sheets. Small sheets for corners and compound curves, and large sheets for the big sections along the side of a bus, say, and medium large sheets for doors.

Coachwork doors, with their wooden-framed and complex locking and window winding mechanisms and elegant shaping were a work of art on their own. Each section was carefully fitted, corrected, clamped and, finally, welded, soldered, nailed, screwed and fixed with brackets and other hardware into their final positions. Then sanded and filed, with and without the metal panels, until they operated like the doors of a Buck Rodgers space ship. Finally the completed, but unpainted and door-less chassis was pushed or driven, with a man sitting on the box to steer, into the next area of the shop. Some of the paneling must have come from the Dodge Company that supplied most of the chassis, for example the engine cowling and scuttle that covered the space between the engine compartment and the windscreen. Of course the radiator had the Dodge emblem, or the emblems of other famous automobile manufacturers. Most of these latter emblems were on repair jobs although I can’t remember any other brands in that shop.

The Edmondson house in Union Street was between Nurse Bryant’s Hospital on the North Eastern corner of Union and Hampton streets and Nurse Holland’s house which also faced Union Street. Jacky’s dad had a dark blue Ford sedan so I was familiar with that brand. It was very shiny with lots of chromed trim and unique snails eye rear “stop” lights. Mr. Hein, Peter’s dad, had a Pontiac which I loved and wondered why it had such a strange name. No doubt [a] non-Dodge chassis would appear but never [a] Ford or Pontiac. “Why was that?” I would wonder but [I] never knew the answer because there was nobody to speak to over the din of the panel-beaters’ hammers, and I was never allowed inside. Occasionally, craning to see something of special interest, I would step inside the big doorway and peer around, only to be shooed out again. That never worried me and I remained as inquisitive as ever unless threatened. Sometimes, especially on cold days when a wintry Sou’Westerly wind whistled around the corner and down the street, the great door would be rolled shut. The only way in was through a small hinged door set in the bottom panel of the big door, through which the men bent low as they stepped over a high sill, as high as my chest. Then it was time to go.

The filling station at the corner was so arranged that cars could drive in from either the highway or Hampton Street. The attendant would hand-pump the required quantity of petrol. The red splashing “motor spirit”, as it was called in those days, would surge at each stroke into a large glass jar mounted on top of the pipe work, cocks and supporting frame, which connected the hand pump to the tank under the concrete driveway. What an evocative word was “spirit”, and one petrol company advertised their brand as a woman with flowing red-blond hair and another with a horse with wings. I found out that Peter’s dad worked for the company that distributed Atlantic Ethyl with her wavy hair flying in the slipstream, so I was able to get pictures of her to paste on brown-paper book covers. In one class at school we studied Greek and Roman civilization and came to be aware of Mobil Oil’s Pegasus, the winged horse, which implied that their product would enable the driver to travel as free as the air. “That will be Two and six (2/6) sir.” (25¢), the attendant would say after the buyer indicated how much petrol was wanted. No good pumping if the driver didn’t have enough money. The attendant would set a pointer against the calibrations on the side of the glass jar and everybody would watch as the red liquid rose to the mark. Nobody asked for “Five dollars please” or “Fill ‘er-up”. No automatic computation in those pre-calculator days when “mental arithmetic” was taught as a subject at school .

As mentioned the highway formed the far side of the Tommy Bent “square” which was not quite parallel with Hampton Street so, in effect, the body-building works including its associated filling station occupied the whole of the side of the square near home. On the highway side of the filling station there was another large sliding door. This second door led to the upholstery shop where the seats were installed, upholstered and the interior of the coachwork was completed after painting. Whenever the side door was open I would stand in wonder and watch and listen to the whir of the sewing machines and the hammering of lining onto the interior wooden framework. This area of the factory smelt of leather, a rich, heady smell which implied luxury and the best that money could buy in seat and interior covering. Other materials were used for linings and finishes, plush velvet fabrics, and leatherette. Much canvas lining was also used, but the leather looked the best, felt the best and smelt the best. I would get small leather off-cuts and carry them about in my pocket for days. The time I liked best was after the painted body, without any interior fittings, was moved from the main factory to the upholstery shop. The body and its chassis would be backed out under its own power with much shouting and waving. Traffic would stop and the driver, sitting on a box where the driver’s seat would eventually be, would slowly steer the incomplete vehicle around the corner and into the huge side doorway. Ample time to case the upholstery shop, time to step inside the doorway and grab leather scraps while everybody was busy with the complex [maneuver] of getting the newly-painted vehicle out, around the corner and into the finishing bay without scratching the new paint work. This was an event worth waiting for. [It] seemed like weeks before I would witness the next move, however by frequently checking progress I tried to anticipate a move and be there in time to miss nothing.

In 1937 the worldwide Infantile Paralysis Epidemic, as we called polio, arrived in Melbourne. All schools were closed and we studied by correspondence, supervised by our parents. Rather, some of us were supervised, and in our case I suppose Sally was the one who worked at the formal lessons, helped by mother because Dad was never involved with our schooling. I can’t say that I ever did any homework at either primary or secondary schools. During the plague we were not allowed out on the street without mother and then only for short walks. Our main contact with other kids was to shout across Union Street and perch on the back fence shouting to the Edmondson kids and keeping note of the occasional car. I don’t remember how long were we kept away from school, and as we didn’t get Polio we didn’t know how effective the program was. The daughter of one of Dad’s well-to-do-clients contracted the disease and survived but with a twisted leg and thereafter walked with a limp. I never saw her in her plaster cast but the gruesome reminder, covered with writing from her family and well-wishers, was stored in their garage until I lost contact with them. Their elegant house, in a beautiful garden, had hot water piped to [the] many bathrooms, [and] was a bright, white, sunny single-story bungalow with 3 reception rooms and hall connected by glass-paned double doors which could be opened for a large gathering. It made a great impression on me especially as I was invited to the daughter’s birthday party on a couple of occasions. In 1992 I learnt that one of my cousins in Lisbon had contracted polio and she, too, fifty five years later, still walked with a limp.

As a child I frequently had a runny nose and red eyes caused by, what we came to call, an “URTI”, an Upper Respiratory Tract Infection. It may have been related to the Whooping Cough I had as a baby. In any case it was probably more serious during one winter because our family medico, Dr Giblin, recommended an operation to remove my tonsils, whatever they were. What was infection anyway? Dr Giblin carried out the operation at Nurse Bryant’s hospital across the street and the anesthetic was chloroform. I have a vivid memory of the procedure, my recovery at home, and the Doc bringing ice-cream while I was in bed recovering from a very sore throat. I know it was spring time, probably November, because the money for the operation Phyllis won on The Trump, the horse that won the Melbourne Cup that year. I think it was1937, if not it was the year that my mother won £7/0/0 on the favourite. Can you imagine a time when a Tonsillectomy cost $14.00?

The best time of the week when I was little was Saturdee arvo, when Sally took me to the matinee at the Hoyts Picture Theatre by the North Brighton Railway Station. Sally loved pictures too but found me a bit of a trial. Today the child minder is TV. In the 30’s it was Saturday afternoon at the flix. There was no reluctance on my part to going there with my big sister because we seldom sat together and Sally was responsible for making sure that we came home together. We liked different things at the Pictures. Sally would sigh over the mushy bits and would sometimes get quite upset or impatient with the parts that I liked. So we agreed not to sit together. This had another advantage as I insisted that I buy my own ticket. This way, I was often able to keep both pennies: the cost of admission and the penny for lollies. When I was very small I could squeeze in with a crowd, without buying a ticket, and when I was bigger I would go to the rear of the building and crawl inside through a trap-door under the stage. Two pennies for lollies! What riches! Once inside I could get a Pass-Out and go in and out as often as necessary. If I got caught and Sally found out about it, by some miscalculation on my part, she would say, “He’s my brother and he has just lost his ticket,” [while] I played “The Dummy”. These were the days before TV so “The Pictures” (“PICHERS” in the colloquial) was the escapist entertainment for kids. Our PITCHER THE-ATA had a Wurlitzer Organ which was elevated on a car-hoist ram while being played by a man in formal clothes. If the big boys in the front row disapproved of the music they would throw screwed-up pellets made from lolly and chewing-gum wrappers. The Matinee was usually a double feature with cartoons and a serial. [My] favourite characters were Donald Duck, Popeye, Flash Gordon , Hopalong Cassidy and Laurel & Hardy. Can’t remember Sally’s favourites, except Shirley Temple, and the rest were mush. Sally had a peaches & cream complexion, beautiful, with a commanding presence, even as a child: flashing eyes and a ready smile, as the occasion demanded. Tall for a girl, slim and with a mass of dark Shirley Temple hair, curly with quite a lot of red. Nobody could refuse Sally when she set her mind to it. On the way home from the flicks I would be spoken-to with the usual admonition, “Oh! You’re awful.” No doubt I frequently was. After such an exciting afternoon and after eating the usual rubbish I guess I frequently had a headache and couldn’t eat my tea. She was not the only person who found me a nuisance but Sally wouldn’t let anybody else tell me what to do, that was her job! I was frequently in trouble of some kind and because I was always the smallest in my peer group or in class at school I was invariably on the receiving end (the flip-side of starting school a year too early). The downside of Saturday “Afternoon” were the usual fights between gangs of boys, in the front section of the theatre. I was never a member of a gang because I was too small to be of any use. My approach to power situations was to flee or, if caught, fight until I could flee. If Sally saw somebody taking a poke at me she would step forward and demand, “Leave him alone.” If the perpetrator was too slow or too intent on the process to desist immediately, Sally would step forward repeating herself while delivering a push, shove or an ear ringing slap, at the same time. She could change in a flash from charm to fury, handy at Saturdy Arvo Pichers.

Hurlingham Park was a large playing field on Point Nepean Highway and the grandstand was a great place to forage for beer bottles, besides Ferguson Street T’d into the highway right opposite the stand. Thus I had two reasons to find myself there on scrounging expeditions. A third fascination was a trio of related businesses at the corner of the highway and Ferguson St. They were in three tall sheds. Each had a loft inside and they extended a long way to the rear where each had a pair of back doors to a fenced yard with a gateway to a back lane. I could see the layout from the street and the lane but was never allowed inside any of the three workshops. One was a Blacksmith who made horseshoes as well as tools and [repaired] iron gates, railings and fittings for horse-drawn traps, drays and wagons. But the most exciting thing those two men did was shoeing horses. The heat, smells and the compound ringing sounds of the blacksmith’s forge was irresistible and would draw me to watch whenever I was near, though another plan may have originally been in mind. The dirty, grimy Smithy was also an attractive place to be on a cold winter’s day in Melbourne, but it’s neighbour, a Coach and Wagon builder, was a place to be when the day was clear, dry and windless. These were the days when the beautiful horse-drawn carts were embellished with the finishing touches ordered by owners and buyers. The bodies were hand-painted and -decorated by painters and craftsmen, artists, no less, in the open doorway in good drying weather. Baker’s carts were my favourites as they usually had scenes of wheat-harvesting surrounded by bound sheaves of wheat. The artist worked quickly with several brushes and a palette of enamels and he drew the finest of lines with a white feather dipped in a pot of paint. In time, I collected feathers from my father’s aviaries to give [to] the painter who encouraged me and was less likely to shoo me away. The third shed was a Hay-and-Corn Merchant who probably owned the three buildings, he certainly acted as though he did, and would have no truck with me so I ceased to be interested, besides there wasn’t much action inside a Hay-&-Corn merchant’s shed. These businesses were doomed by the increasing number of cars and trucks, though some of the trucks still had wooden bodies and used the services of the Coach Builder’s artist.

Brighton had many old mansions of which Hurlingham, at the top of the hill in Union Street, was one. No doubt the original Hurlingham Park included house, garden, stables and park as one estate. Some large houses had been turned into flats and rooming houses, some were private hospitals and some had aged occupants who lived in a few rooms, and kept the rest locked. They Created a little home in a big house which cost less to maintain and heat in the winter, and many still had interesting gardens fit for exploration. Of course, there were quite a few that were still beautifully maintained, usually with servants caring for both house and grounds. I never got far with those estates because the hired help would shoo me out and threaten me one way or another. Anyway, the big houses whose occupants had fallen on hard times were always more interesting. I didn’t know we were having The Great Depression, as in my view times were normal and had been this way as long as I could remember. The nearest great house was now a private hospital, a conversion from an elegant two-[storey] residence surrounded by bungalows on lots subdivided from the original estate. It was run by Nurse Bryant, her husband, a Walter-Mathau character who was the oldest man I knew, and daughter Mina Bryant. The two women, as usual, were always sweet and kind to me as were the female staff. Mr Bryant never made me feel welcome, though he saw me almost every day, whether he liked it or not. The 30’s economy started to pick-up in 1938 and the Bryant’s Hospital was sold to a developer who built 3 luxurious brick houses on the site, the best of which was the corner house which he kept for himself. It was the one on the corner opposite our side gate. I should complain? Never! Now I had 3 more houses to explore and 3 more families to investigate. The Bryants retired to a small but beautiful old house with a large tangled garden in nearby Roseberry Avenue, one of my favourite streets because it T’d into Ferguson street near Peggy’s house. Almost 10 years later Nurse Bryant was midwife to my mother at the premature birth of my brother Paul at our home at 7 Elizabeth Street East Brighton. That, too, is another story.

My early impressions of our suburb was of North Brighton though all of us, friends, family and acquaintances and the habitués of Bay Street, always referred to it as Brighton. My wanderings didn’t take me to Brighton proper until I discovered the Town Hall and the town centre of the original estate after I started school at Wilson Street State. Originally, about 1840, Brighton was defined by East-West boundary lines which eventually became North Road and South Road. Boundary Road was named after the western boundary of the estate and the shore of Port Philip Bay was the natural boundary to the east. It was a private estate of more than 5,000 acres of native bush bought, sight unseen, as a Crown Grant, in England, by an English gent by the name of Dendy. The Colony of Victoria was granted independence from the Colony of New South Wales in 1851 and BushRangers were eventually eliminated as a hazard to travelers. By the time we lived there it was urban and crossed by three north-south suburban electric railways, two electric tramways and several main highways. Before the railways were laid, the land had started to change from scrub to market gardens and orchards and an upper-class Bayside Resort Town was surveyed a day’s coach-ride from the City of Melbourne, the Colonial Capital of Victoria. One of the first grand mansions built on the Dendy estate, in about 1842, was commissioned by J.B. Were, a founding merchant and banker whose family [business] is now a Stock Broking House. As far as I know their house in South Road is still in the hands of their descendants. By the 1930’s many grand houses in large grounds still survived, and to me the best of them were by-the-bay [overlooking] the beach. By the time we moved to Hampton Street, many had been sold for subdivision or turned into rooming houses, hospitals, hotels and flats. The number still occupied as private residences had been greatly reduced, though there were still more than a small boy could explore. By the turn of the century steam trains and horse drawn trams had greatly reduced travel time from “The City”. Later, sealed main roads such as Brighton Road, Cochrane Street and New Street (where we lived when James was an infant) had greatly reduced travel time from Melbourne. After WWI, electrification of rail and tramways had cut travel time to North Brighton to 20 minutes and the internal combustion engine did the rest. Thus, the pattern of development changed, and before the 1929 crash Brighton had become a dormitory suburb for City workers. Bosses and executives also traveled to town every day, some drove or were chauffeur driven, some commuted in first-class carriages but most traveled 2nd. That was quite normal in those days when all of Brighton was 1st or 2nd class. During the 19th century churches, schools, clubs and social institutions arose to provide for the families who spent the summer at the beach and the winter in their East Melbourne Town Houses. During the 1920’s, before the Great Depression, most Brighton people had become full-time residents, but still retained town houses where they preferred to stay overnight in the city, say, after the theatre. The most affluent still retained town houses. Many other Brighton Toffs maintained smaller flats as City Digs, or used clubs, cooperative apartments and some still-owned grand East Melbourne residences and or country houses further afield than Brighton. In short, during my “wandering-off” childhood this fascinating neighbourhood was a treasure house for my penchant for

exploration and mischief.

Horse drawn carts, usually driven by small time peddlers, delivered many household necessities. Milk came daily in horse drawn floats and there were Bakers’ carts, Icemen, Market Gardeners and Fruitos’ wagons calling daily, as few people had refrigerators. There were many other types of wagons which could be heard clop-clopping around the streets shouting out their cry. Bottle-oh! Rabbito! with ringing of bells to draw attention to the day’s offering. First-class households would expect them to drive into the back entrance and discuss produce or wares with the cook. Our Mothers and children would meet them in the street to bargain for fruit, vegetables, make sure the Iceman called on hot days, and to assess and sample things on offer, including medicines and stationery from the Rawleigh man. Occasionally I would get a gift of an apple or an apricot especially if I had been instrumental in achieving a sale. I would rush off to call mother or Nurse Bryant out to see the wares. I was a cockatoo and expected a reward. Though horse and cart traders were still common, the major firms, except the breweries, had changed to motor trucks and vans as had bus transport in the late 20’s.

The local Red, Brown and Green bus routes ran, in general, East-West, crossing the generally North-South train and tram lines (street cars as Americans called trams) which formed a grid of public transport throughout the South-Eastern suburbs of Melbourne. The nearest train line to Hampton Street was the Sandringham Line, which had stations in our town at North Brighton, Middle Brighton and Brighton Beach. East Brighton was served by the number 64 Tram which had its terminus at the triangular junction of the Nepean Highway, Hawthorn and Centre Roads. Beyond the South Western part of the Dendy Estate a municipality called Bentleigh had been created and named after the famous Sir Thomas Bent, [and] it was no longer a part of The City of Brighton. The Frankston Line electric railway had stations called Bentleigh and McKinnon on our nearest East-West bus route, on which we sometimes traveled. Thus the original tiny town centre surveyed for Dendy had become Middle Brighton, and had the first Anglican Church, St Andrews, where James was Christened. It’s now a restaurant. Brighton Grammar School was founded for boys, Firbank for Girls, the Brighton Town Hall is no longer the centre of Local Government, another change which one wonders if it is for the better? Brighton Yacht Club (created Royal Brighton Yacht Club before Federation) and other establishment institutions have also changed. However the street layout is virtually the same and is even more exclusive and affluent without factories.

When we lived at North Brighton workshops and businesses lined Point Nepean Highway, and East Brighton where mother bought her house, was a semi-rural area. Long before the ’30’s and through the (WWII) years, 1939-1945, the eastern half of Brighton, beyond Hawthorn Road to Thomas Street and further, to Boundary Road, was still mainly farms, market gardens and orchards as well as horse and cow paddocks. Elster Creek and tributaries drained the land and, with their tree-lined banks – mainly European trees, elms and pines planted by rural property owners from Dendy’s day – wound their way to the bay. It was a paradise for an inquisitive boy and almost as interesting as the seaside. As well as birds, frogs and tadpoles to catch there was plenty to eat, fruit trees in the orchards and carrots in the market gardens. If I had a penny for the bus to the beach that was my first choice, if not, East Brighton, to Hawthorn Road, was an easy walk a few blocks along Union Street. When we moved there in 1939, I already knew more about the area than the rest of the family and couldn’t believe my luck. I thought ‘[How] did mother know that was a favourite haunt of mine, and my friends?’ We especially enjoyed the semi-rural properties during the winter when the creeks were in flood and it became an adventure park. Most of dad’s jobs were between Hampton Street and the beach so we were less likely to meet adults who may see us or report on our activities. Though he had his eye on several developments of luxury houses, which were built on sections of the original Hurlingham estate between Hawthorn Road and the highway, I never knew him to have a job east of Hawthorn Road.

As the economy improved Dad reckoned that if he could meet the owners of the new villas before they moved in, he could lay out the gardens as well as [provide] long-term yard maintenance. By the time these houses were finished, in 1938, I was the busy delivery boy from Mewkill’s Pharmacy. As it turned out, two of these beautiful houses not only had gardens being developed by my father, but the occupants were also Mr Mewkill’s customers, so I got to know those two elegant houses and some of their occupants rather well. Both families were of Italian background and both stayed in our lives for many years.

By the time I left home in 1954, just before Judy and I were married, our family was almost an institution. Father laid out and maintained gardens and took care of the grounds and fed his clients’ dogs when they were away on holiday. Mother sold eggs and dressed chooks from our chook yard. She also sold hand-knitted sweaters to order. Early years, say 1934 to 1939, have left countless impressions, although those years are only 5 of 72, about 7% of my life to date. Of course my parents and Sally were my principal minders, so I will try to put down some of my recollections of these three and their influence on me. I never knew what they expected of me, as a child, or later for that matter, as they spent very little time training me with a plan in mind. They would comment on what I was doing if I was naughty (assuming they knew) but rarely at other times. I was an enigma because I wasn’t interested in the things they did. However, as I gravitated from class to class at school there never was an objective, such as planning to pass certain examinations [or] develop a skill for which I had an aptitude. School was a place where lessons were attended as directed by the teachers. There was no suggestion to study music or writing or to play a sport that suited my weedy physique. I think I knew my interests and aptitudes but I can’t recall any attempt to identify them [for] my parents or anybody else. I had three parents/guardians but no coach. I went about my life as though they didn’t exist, though I grew to be wary of my father’s presence and learned to assess his prevailing mood when he was at home. He was always doing something, mending, making, reading, and never invited me to participate. In the evening he would read, listen to the radio or to overseas news on his Crystal Set. When he had his head-phones on he was not to be disturbed. He was subject to great rages, I never saw him hit anybody when in a rage – any formal corporeal punishment [meteed] out to me was done with due ceremony – but he was prone to smash things.’ Handle with care’ was the unspoken rule when we were at home together, though mother could be quite glib and provocative with him.

Dad usually left early and returned late, thus I may not have seen him for two or three days at a time. As long as he lived I never had a conversation with him. I grew to not even ask him the simplest question, as his two-word conversation-stopper was almost always his preferred response: “That’s stupid.” When he was in the house I stayed outside. If he was in the backyard I would move to the front garden. The only time that he physically beat me with his belt was at the behest of my mother, who couldn’t bear to hit me even when I was really naughty. I can remember only 3 occasions when that happened, usually because I had done something that mother considered to be fundamentally wrong and should be dealt with as “capital punishment”. I can’t remember anything specific but there were other occasions when she gave me a talking-to because I must have committed a serious breach, but [it] wasn’t worth bothering my dad about. Really naughty but not capital. I also recall having my face slapped on two or three occasions by my mother. In the main I had a happy life as a boy, with infinitely more good days than bad.

I suppose my earliest recollections of father was at say age 4, in 1934. My father was then a 29-year-old immigrant who had arrived in Australia with a friend, Jack da Costa, in 1924 or 1925. Have in mind that Sally was born on 12 June 1926. The story goes that the two young men, about 18 or 19, crewed on a voyage from Durban in East Africa to Dili in East Timor via Australia. When the vessel left Melbourne, Peter, as he was always called, stayed behind. Thus “Big Peter” and “Little Peter” were the names used by my mother when she stood on the back verandah and called us at meal times. She had a musical voice that carried well for a block or so. The most consistent, observable and influential factor in Dad’s life was the Carlton Football Club, one of the first major clubs of the AFL. He told a story about attending a match on Carlton’s home ground on his first Saturday in Melbourne and after that he followed that team’s fortunes until he died in 1977, by which time he was an Honorary Life Member. Father was young, tall, dark and handsome – fit and vigorous – and in his going-out clothes he was groomed to the last hair. Six days a week, except when Carlton was playing, saw him leave home for work as a self-employed gardener. He would carefully tie all his tools, including the lawn mower, to his bike, a heavy load, and pedal off to his first job, as early as the client and climate would permit. He was strong, and would need to be to handle the heavily-laden bike. On occasions, in a moment of frustration, we would experience his strength when he would smash something. He was like a ticking bomb.

He and Phyllis were carping about something one day when he picked up a loaf of bread from the kitchen table and threw it with such force that it smashed clean through the back door. Mother’s only comment was a quiet, “Very clever!” The hole in the door stayed until father repaired and repainted it. I remember that and another similar incident very clearly, when he and Phyllis were in contention. Suddenly he raised his bike above his head and smashed it to the floor. Spokes and bits of wheels sproinged in all directions, we all jumped with surprise and left as quickly and as quietly as possible, leaving him to survey the wreckage. As usual I can’t remember what the discussion was about. He spoke English with a heavy accent all his life. His eldest grandchild, Christopher Cromwell, said, when he was delivering the eulogy at my mother’s funeral, when he was a child he had difficulty understanding John Lewis, his grandpa. I was surprised because I never had any trouble understanding my father’s remarks. He made no attempt to use Australian idioms and never used a curse word or slang expressions and was formal in his approach, even when shouting or smashing things. All who came into contact with him were expected to understand what he was communicating and what the English word he was using at the moment meant to him. He was uncompromising to the extent that if he wasn’t understood he would complain of “the listener’s stupidity” and walk away or change the subject.

His English reading ability was excellent and almost every day he would read a newspaper or magazine and occasionally books. Always in English, though he kept an English-Portuguese Dictionary near his reading chair. I have his last Collins pocket dictionary, 1970 reprint, and three “Little Blue Books” that he probably bought in South Africa before his departure for Australia. He brought home all printed matter he could lay his hands on: discards, gifts and found books from his customers and acquaintances. He would say, “[My] children would enjoy those books …comics etc.” We received many magazines; my favourite subjects were Aeroplanes, Boats, Buildings, Sailing and Popular Mechanics (an American magazine) frequently came home. I also saved any books and adventure stories, especially on the South Seas. Catalogues from overseas as well as imported comics, which were too expensive for us to dream of buying, were treasured. Many of his clients had a place, in the garage or laundry, where they saved odds and ends for “Peter and his family”. When I was with him on a job I would hear the lady of the house say, “Peter would you dispose of those things in the ….” They knew that he was very proud and would not accept charity. As soon as a pile of reading matter appeared we kids would go through it, smooth and fold newspapers into 3 piles – his, hers and ours – with only the most cursory examination. We kept books for years, some were in our library when we sold it in 1997. Magazines and Comics stayed for weeks, [with us] finally swapping the comics with other kids in the neighbourhood or at school. The Rocket and Film Fun were special treats from England and we even got old issues of Yachting from England and Saturday Evening Post and Life from America on occasions. We enjoyed these exotic periodicals and never thought about how out-of-date they must have been by the time we got them. How long they must have taken to get to Melbourne, by ship, in those days, and at what cost? Looking back I now realize that dad had a special relationship with a family who had an import/export business and, as they had 2 or 3 sons, the comics probably came from them. Mother read the ladies magazines and father read all the newspapers. Sally cut out all the pictures of The Royal Family after mother had finished with the glossies, and all newspapers ended their days as fire-starters or were sold to the Junk Yard or Bottle-oh or their ilk. A Billy cart full of carefull- tied papers would be sure to bring a few coins.

Where dad came from was a constant puzzle to Sally and me, especially to me as I would often be asked about him by acquaintances. “You don’t want to know about that,” was his standard reply, so eventually we put together our own folklore, in order to have ready answers when questioned. Not that we had many questions in the 30’s, when emigrants from Europe were everywhere in Melbourne and suburbs. Refugees from fascist regimes were most numerous, and most people would take my father to be a Musso Reffo, as people from Italy were called. Inevitably I found substitute answers from mother so my Portuguese folklore story was used until we started to get letters and photographs from one of Dad’s sisters years after WWII, and that is another story. It’s quite probable that my answers to inquires about him would vary from time to time and questioner to questioner, or even [to] repeat questions from people, such as the Pharmacist, Mr Mewkill, whose chemist shop was the one nearest to our place. In the end friends stopped asking and I was happy to let the subject drop. It was to be many years, a lifetime, before I knew any real facts. I now realize that mother probably didn’t know the real facts either. Even our questions about his place of birth were unanswered; he would always refer to it as “The old country.” He had his secrets, and no doubt reasons, but these things were shrouded by impenetrable silence which meant “None of your business.” And that was that! He could be very tough, days or weeks with never a smile, completely without warmth and carefully formal with me in his heavily accented English. Not that he wasn’t affectionate with mother, on occasions, and often with Sally who was his “Princess”. However with me he was macho, man to man, and never familiar even when I was very young. He seldom, if ever, addressed me by name or introduced me to anybody except, “This is my son.” And never “This is my son Peter.” Verbal communication at home was usually a command, “do this”, “do that”, “be home by 5”, “don’t touch that”. Frequently, in response to a question that he couldn’t or didn’t want to answer, he would say, “Ask your mother.” He never gave me a penny, and his response to a request for money, perhaps when he was giving Sally a few coins in my presence, was always, “Ask your mother.” As I write I can hear him now saying to my mother, “What’s wrong with that boy? Why does he ask so many questions? Why does he read so much? What is he writing for? Why doesn’t he go outside and kick his football?” A regulation AFL junior ball, of course. If the subject of my being called dago, or beaten by big boys or gangs, came up, he would advise attack with a stick, brick or other weapon. I knew, from experience, that anything but bare knuckle fight would only lead to ambush, usually on the way home from school and that would mean facing a gang alone. Although he didn’t agree “Fight and flee” was the best plan for me.

In 1972 I met his widowed youngest sister Maria Nazaré da Silva Davidson for the first time. I was on a business trip to Johannesburg and a weekend visit to Lourenço Marques in Mozambique was arranged for me before I returned to Sydney. We became friends and corresponded for many years meeting, again, 20 years later in Lisbon when Judy and I spent some months there in 1992, when we were checking our da Silva family tree. By then Maria Nazaré was living in Johannesburg with her daughter, son-in-law and family. They had escaped from Lourenço Marques in 1975 when daughter Rosemary was pregnant with their second son who was born shortly afterwards in Johannesburg. They still live there and Rosemary and husband are now grandparents. I recall that I had overheard my father on occasions talking with snackbar customers about South Africa. I recall that it was his position that all colonial governments in Africa would lose power to the native peoples.

“Even Mozambique would be taken over eventually” [he] would say, “but only after South Africa.” He was right about the collapse of colonial governments but wrong about the timing as Mozambique was taken by the Frelimo in 1975. Some of my cousins had three hours’ notice and some stayed and lost their lives; all of my father’s immediate family got away, as one would expect of the family of The Commissioner of Police. His mother died in 1923 before he left home, his father in 1926, of his three sisters the eldest died in 1946, the middle one and her family left to live in Portugal in 1964, and the youngest Maria Nazaré got away with her daughter Rosemary Brás and family. Rosemary had a son born in Lourenço Marques and a second born in Johannesburg in March 1975. I understand that my father’s view of the world was that the British knew the best way to govern and both he and Maria Nazaré desired to have English spouses and live in English-speaking countries. She gave me some letters and papers left to her by my father or perhaps by her father; one item was a farewell letter to my grandfather in Lourenço Marques written by my father in Australia. Father says, “Lourenço Marques, 8 de Abril de 1926, Meu querido pae,” The letter never reached him because The Commissioner was killed in a motor accident that January. Of course I was touched to receive these [saved items], all those years [later], [and given to me in 1992 by his sister Maria Nazaré]. My dad grieved about not seeing his father again for the rest of his life. Life is like that, This is no place to discuss 1992 matters, however it is sufficient to say that father obviously had no intention of going back to Africa or Portugal. [Why] would he after Mussolini, Salazar, Franco and Hitler showed the world what madness could do. He never left Australia and died in 1977, aged 72.

Sally and I were closest in those Hampton Street days until about 1938 when I was 8 and Sally was 12. Until then we always shared the small second bedroom which was entered from the kitchen. Sally no longer wanted to be a Boy Minder and I was in complete agreement with her, probably for the first time. Big changes had come into our lives; I was puzzled about Sally’s changes but glad of it. My life changed because I wanted money of my own and decided to become a newsboy selling newspapers at Middle Brighton Railway Station. Father hit the roof at the idea, “No son of mine etc…..” and destroyed my prospects by threatening the Bay Street News Agent if he took me on to be a news boy. That summer (1938/39) I became Messenger Boy for Mr Mewkill, the Chemist. I was asked to “work” after school and Saturday, also Sunday morning after church. I don’t remember how the offer came about but I suspect that Mr Mewkill, in his duties as a Warden of St Lukes Bay Street Brighton, got to know the young Mrs da Silva, a dedicated churchgoer, who may have asked if anybody had a job for her boy Peter. The money was great, 50¢ per week, and I was allowed, nay! encouraged, to ride the boss’s Malvern Star Bicycle. I often thought that I would work for free, just to get to ride the bike. How did I get such a wonderful job? Being not in the least philosophical I didn’t ask, besides what good would it do me to know? I delivered medicines, took the takings to the bank on Saturday mornings, collected parcels from the Railway Station and traveled by train to Spencer Street Station in the city to collect Mr. Mewkill’s urgent telephone orders from Wholesalers. I paid 20¢ a week to mother for board so we were both happy, father still didn’t like it but couldn’t threaten a warden of our church, so for the time being he said little. The housewife customers were kind and friendly and often invited me into the kitchen for a biscuit and cordial. I got to know a lot more houses and even more about houses with which I was already familiar.

Eventually, probably after the commencement of WWII, September 1939, I worked full-time during the long summer school holidays for the vast amount of $1.25 per week. My board to mother increase to 50¢ so I was acquiring financial independence and accumulating real riches! Summer, being Christmas time, resulted in lots of small presents from customers, some gave me coins as tips. Also I often worked quite long hours, delivering gifts ([typically] gift-wrapped chemist shop items like perfumed soap, Eau de Cologne etc…) for extra cash. Mother was delighted with the increased board and extra-happy because she felt that I couldn’t get into mischief while working for Mr Mewkill. The pharmacy was an agent for the State Savings Bank and he suggested I open an account, so I had my own Bank Book. How I loved that job!

All this made me feel very grown-up, and Sally and I campaigned to get a separate bedroom for me. By the end of summer of 1938/9 I was sleeping on the back verandah behind hessian bag curtains, which Dad had nailed up to keep the weather out. There is no doubt that Sally’s complaints about sharing a room with her brother influenced mother to look for a house with three bedrooms to rent or buy. Mother was busy as she was a waitress at Miss Kirkham’s Tea Rooms in Bourke Street in the city of Melbourne at lunchtime on business days, and on Friday evening at supper time. Of course I was also a working man but I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to influence the choice of a new house. I don’t recall when the house search started in earnest, but I became involved, usually on Sunday afternoons. What fun we had, mother and I, on those excursions, all within walking distance of our house; we never travelled any other way. Dad fished most Sundays which meant we had the best feed of the week as fishing was the most successful thing he did, as far as I was concerned.

I am sure that he didn’t agree with time spent at church or Sunday School, as he was anticlerical and embarrassingly outspoken whenever the subject of religion came up. He referred to priests as “Parasites” and made sure to be absent on Sunday mornings when we three went to St Luke’s. I should care. I preferred him to catch fish, and would never comment on his opinions, though I always listened carefully even to the extent of eavesdropping. Sally had “Girl things” to do after Sunday lunch and went to Dancing Class on Saturday morning, the movies in the afternoon, then Church and friends on Sunday. Work, earning money, house-viewing and the beach were the most interesting pastimes for me, and none of them included Sally, who preferred girl things, which were a waste of time. One beautiful sunny Sunday I decided that Sunday School was also a waste of time, and as we walked up the hill to church I told Sally that I wasn’t attending and asked her not to tell Mum or Dad. Ignoring her objections and references to the penny for the collection, off I went down Bay Street to the beach. I returned home in time for Sunday lunch, almost a religious observance in our household, celebrated by roast shoulder of lamb and veg followed by apple pie with whipped cream. Nothing was said about Sunday School and in answer to the inevitable question, “Where have you been?” I provided my usual, “Nowhere…” reply. From then on I was free.

Mother was happy when I agreed to be confirmed, after which I would go to communion on a fairly regular basis. I guess that satisfied Phyllis’s belief in the benefits of Holy Church, she was inclined to a preference to High Anglicianism, and her devotion was far in excess of anything my father would have countenanced, had he been asked, but he was probably off fishing that day. Besides it was important to Mr Mewkill that I should be seen to attend church. Conformity was still considered to be important in the thirties. Ultimately this delivered a free day for myself, no school, no pharmacy and no Sunday School. I had a lot of exploring to do as my mother kept looking for a house to buy “before the war started”. House inspections and discussions with property owners and builders were probably significant in developing my interest in Real Estate. The end of the house search came to me as a surprise and, without inspection, assistance or approval from any of us, Phyllis bought a cottage a couple of blocks to the East of the highway, Point Nepean Road, to the North of Union Street, for $1,600 on $100 deposit. The transaction was arranged by Mr O.S. Edgar, a nice old (ancient to me) gent who was also a member of [the] St Luke’s congregation. We moved in that summer, probably before Christmas 1939.

Father’s fishing was a life of his own in which we three Aussies didn’t participate; come to think of it there were many other activities that we didn’t share: the races, the spinning mill, the pub and other recreations that I didn’t know about for decades. We would hear about his success as a fisherman by listening to his angling-pals discussing results as well as friends and neighbours. The tone would be,”As for fishing, Peter’s success is unique.” An envious multitude would gather on the pier to watch him reel in fish at a great rate while discussing his success. In the summer we three would meet him at a spot, with lunch, and if I saw a gathering out on the jetty I would also go out and watch, saying nothing. Fellow fishermen would say, “Yes! Peter makes his own rods.” Which was true but he would not speak or acknowledge such comments. His rods were made to catch garfish, whiting and flathead, which were the varieties he, and therefore we, enjoyed. Observers couldn’t believe their eyes. Though I might say that he didn’t have a bumper catch every time he went out.

I loved to watch him making rods, though I was never allowed to touch anything. During the week he worked at the kitchen table in the evening after tea, carefully splitting selected new canes, which he got from a Chinese peddler. He thinned one end with a succession of knives and razor blades and finished the raw cane by hand into an octagonal section over its entire length. He liked to have four or five new rods of different flexibility and length available at any time. The finest rods could be bent into a full circle and when he had achieved the required flexibility he would proceed to the finishing stages. The newly-finished and -sanded canes were varnished and left to dry overnight in the warm kitchen where the one fire stove was. It was alight when anybody was home and banked when the house was empty and at night. We rarely saw the varnishing process because he did that last, after wiping up every particle of dust before wielding his brush, just before retiring. Sally and I were bedded down in the small room off the kitchen which we shared until we moved to Elizabeth Street. Mother would always read to us at bedtime and as soon as I was asleep she would steal out, closing the door behind her. We weren’t allowed out of bed to watch late rod-making but sometimes I was tolerated for a short time, so long as I didn’t ask questions.

Next morning the dry rods were put high up out of my reach before he left the house, with all his gardening tools, lawn-mower included, tied to his bicycle. He begged, bought or bartered reels from the more well-heeled fishermen he met, some of whom were gardening clients and others met on the jetties and piers at the Eastern seaside towns of Port Philip Bay. He fixed the many metal attachments – ferrules, reel clips, line fairleads and other fittings – with fine, multi coloured silk thread tightly wound and varnished between layers. The handles were built up with cedar and cork strips, painstakingly cut, fitted and adhered to the cane with silk thread and many coats of varnish. The rods were works of art and as his reputation as a fisherman grew so did the demand for his rods. He also made his own floats and sinkers and designed the fabric rolls, sewn by Phyllis with pockets for every accessory, into which he carefully slid the rods before strapping the roll to his back for the motorbike ride to the day’s fishing spot.

Father was always called Peter, I can’t remember when I learnt that it was not his given name, which was João Luís (though my birth certificate, obtained in 1999, records my father to be John Lewis Edward da Silva). The story is that he was introduced to Phyllis Elsie Pearl Caldicott, the cash-register clerk at the Cafe Latin in Collins Street Melbourne, as Peter. His old friend, Jack da Costa, with whom [he] associated all his life and with whom he traveled from Lourenço Marques, always called him Peter and so did his fishing buddies. In 1992 in Portugal, Judy and I learnt a great deal about my father and his family which indicated that even my mother knew little about him. One item was that “Jack’s” name was Joaquim Françisco da Costa Jnr, so Jack was a nickname too. My given name and my mother’s choice was Peter, so in my father’s house or his presence I was “Little Peter”. I grew to dislike the handle “little Peter” and “little brother” never thrilled me either, especially as an introduction by Sally. As with most questions that intrigued me about my father, I found at an age so young that I can’t recall, I would rarely ask him about his background. He was a very taciturn man who said little, unless aroused, and then he said too much, too loud and with a deprecating delivery. I guess I learnt more about him while listening to his conversations with others than anything I received from him first-hand. He was his own worst enemy, a bridge burner. He overcame this to some extent when he became the successful Snack Bar proprietor John da Silva. Customers would ask him about his background and his responses, which I would hear, while washing dishes out in the scullery on a Saturday night with Peter Hein, were always fanciful fabrications designed to silence the customer, make him laugh and spend more money while feeding and pleasing him. In time everybody seemed to know John at the Snack Bar. On countless occasions while we lived in Melbourne, up to 1962, I would find myself responding to, “So you’re John da Silva’s son?”

“The secret to Peter’s success is the bait he uses.” was another saying. Father concocted his own Bait and wouldn’t use anything else. Getting bait was an exercise in silence and when he occasionally took me it was only to show me how to be a fisherman, rather than invite my participation in the ritual. After tea before a fishing Sunday he would ride his bike to Albert Park Lake, occasionally dinking me on the carrier over the rear wheel. His bait-catching equipment consisted of nets and hessian bags. He made his own nets from fencing wire, from his store of found objects, carefully bent around a bucket to form a circle with two straight ends for binding the ring to a stick. Phyllis would sew fabric netting, from her store of found objects, into a cone which was slipped into the wire loop and sewn into place by hand. The edge of the net was protected with canvas or other heavy reinforcing, also hand-sewn into place, so that the net would not get caught on an obstruction, tear and loose the catch. The straight ends of the fencing wire were tightly bound to a prepared handle long enough to reach the bottom of the lake near the shore. [The] length of the stick was quite critical for maximum efficiency when maneuvering around the darting prey.

By the time we got to Albert Park Lake it would be dark and he would select a spot reasonably close to a street lamp by the path around the lake. He would dredge the lake near the pool of light for small shrimp, about one inch long. A byproduct was yabbies which were also collected. Each net-full would be carefully picked over and, after throwing out the flotsam and jetsam, the shrimp and yabbies were carefully put into the wetted hessian bags. I guess I was unwelcome baggage on these trips because I would invariably fall asleep and have to be carried up-front as he pedalled home. Certainly I was not invited often nor wanted to [go] (I recall that I didn’t mind) as I usually ended up wet, cold and miserable. On our return home the kitchen table would be covered with newspapers and the contents of the bags dumped onto the kitchen table under the light. Shrimps would jump everywhere and the yabbies would scuttle, drop onto the lino floor and try to escape. Occasionally we would find one days later. We would collect the yabbies and mother would throw them into boiling water on the old black one-fire stove. We would eat them, hot, cold, spiced or with tomato sauce as a snack as soon as they were cool enough, and if there were enough we would have them later for another meal. While yabbie activity was going on father turned the shrimp into bait. All foreign matter was removed until there was nothing but a pile of damp, gleaming, wriggling transparent creatures. He would then mix them with handfuls of rolled oats, bran or sawdust, depending on what was available. Sometimes, when our parents were particularly broke, there was only sawdust and that was because I always got a bag or bucketful from the box factory, where I would take my Billy cart and fight other kids for free kindling rights. “Don’t forget the sawdust for Dad’s bait,” mother would call out as I reluctantly made my way out the back gate. She did not approve of wasting porridge on bait and barely tolerated the use of bran, which also had to be bought and paid for. The bait was then put into one or two wet hessian bags and stored in a cool spot under the house until Sunday. He seemed to know the exact odor level required to attract fish. If for some reason the bait was left too long it would be buried in the back garden as fertilizer; nothing was wasted.

Shrimp suited his light-weight lines and his preference for small sweet fish, like Gar and Whiting. Many hooks were tied onto filament lines at intervals and, with the hooks, floats and sinkers, were a system known only to him. Each tiny hook was baited with a shrimp or two, depending on availability, and he would work several rods at any one time. His way of fishing was a continuous activity. Baiting, casting, minding and checking the rods, unhooking fish and stowing the catch was busy and demanding. He would choose a spot as far from other fishermen as possible and set each rod so it would not tangle with others. He liked to get to his favourite spot early so that he could stake his claim, with minimum competition, to the best sea-grass bottom. He would dive between the rods as soon as he noticed a nibble and work each line so as to hook as many fish as possible with each cast. An audience would often gather when the action became frantic; they couldn’t believe what they saw.

The ubiquitous hessian bags, now soaking wet with sea water, would fill up and spill over. I recall one occasion when he returned home with the lining of his greatcoat slashed and the space packed with fish. We had no refrigeration so the catch had to be dealt with immediately on arrival. We kids pitched in with our parents to process all at once, as it had to be cooked and distributed that evening. We had a Coolgardie safe, which evaporated water and kept the contents cool in the summer. It could handle fish for one meal by the next day; the rest had to be cooked and eaten that night. If there was too many fish we kids were sent around the neighbourhood with pots full of fish to share the catch. Next door were the Murphy family whose father was on “Susso”. They had lots of kids and were always broke and in debt to the rent man and shopkeepers. There were four houses in our row, including us, who were always hard-up: Murphys, an old couple, and a middle-aged spinster with her ancient mother who died before we left Hampton street. Our parents were young, handsome, vigorous, and they felt somewhat responsible for the occupants of the other 3 houses in the row. On the day that he tore the lining of his great-coat and filled the void with fish, [it] was an inspired way to get the huge catch home, while riding pillion on Wally’s motorbike. None of the 4 row-houses had a refrigerator so, after the first distribution, the fish left over were taken by Sally and me to the better-heeled neighbours: Edmondsons, Nurse Holland, Nurse Bryant’s Hospital and other neighbours in Union Street who always gave us something in exchange (Fruit, vegetables or best of all, money). By then it would be quite dark and past our bedtime. Back home we had a feast, no matter what the hour as we kids were starving, in anticipation, by then. Phyllis would stoke the fire, melt the dripping, make the batter and start frying as the pile of headless, gutted garfish grew. When there were no more fish to clean Dad would take over the frying and Phyllis and Sally (I was never a good clean-upper) would clean the kitchen and set the table for our feast. “Get out, Leave it alone, you make too much mess” left me free to be the lead taster and sampler; I was good at that and love fresh fish to this day.

Dad no doubt planned his fishing excursions around the availability of transport. His usual driver pal was “Wally” who had a hare-lip and a strange nasal accent, probably caused by a cleft palate, and was so unusual that I remember him clearly. Mother always referred to him as “Your lame dog.” As in, “Is your lame dog picking you up tomorrow?” Wally was a keen fisherman who owned a motor bike and a leather jacket which I swear was never cleaned. Occasionally another man, who drove a 20’s tourer (like the 1924 Dodge “Snowliner” that Judy and I borrowed from Dick Humphries for our honeymoon in 1955), would arrive. I suspect that father preferred Wally because he didn’t talk much. By some mysterious system, known only to the fishermen, the pre-arranged transport would appear early [on] Sunday morning and roar off with Dad on the passenger seat wearing his huge fishing overcoat, felt hat and wicker fishing basket and precious rods slung across his back. The whole kit was kept in the outhouse down the backyard when not in use. These trips must have been carefully preplanned to go “down The Bay” to a favoured place, say, Frankston, Mordialloc or even Mornington, and rarely Sorrento. If the first stop wasn’t fruitful they would ride to another. Phyllis would pack food for a long day, say 14 hours. On occasions when the arranged transport did not show he would not waste his precious bait, and rode his bike to Middle Brighton or Brighton Beach pier. A bad-tempered start was to be avoided so we kids would keep out of his way on no-show days. We had no phone.

Occasionally, in the summer, we would arrange to meet father and his transport pal for a day at the beach. The motor bike would roar off with the two men at crack-of-dawn and we three would follow by train after mother returned from early communion at St Luke’s. Everything was carried in bags as we walked to McKinnon station on the Frankston Line. Quite a hike but necessary because the Brighton Railway Line took us only as far as Sandringham Station or Black Rock Tram Terminus from which there was no public transport to Mordialloc or Frankston, where Dad would meet us. Going was OK because there was lots to see but coming back was a nightmare for mother with overtired children dragging their feet, me especially. I much preferred Brighton Beach or Middle Brighton Beach but Dad didn’t. Too many day-trippers, so we went there only if father had no transport. Kids and no transport was not a happy combination. James and Matt inherited the wicker fishing basket, and when we sold the Hopetoun Avenue house Christopher Cromwell gathered the basket and the remains of Dad’s fishing gear for his sons, João Luís da Silva’s great grandsons.

As I write about fishing I realize that it was, along with many other things, doomed by The War. Even before WWII started there were door-to-door checks for “Enemy Aliens”. We were subject to scrutiny and J.L. da Silva’s presence in Australia was “Officially” recorded by the Federal Government Manpower Authority, probably for the first time. As a result of the first visit to Portugal in 1992 we know he was in South Africa in May 1925, and because of Sally’s birth he must have been in Melbourne by September 1925. It’s almost certain that he had not planned to reside in Melbourne, his port of entry, but may have intended to have a good look at Australia. [After] leaving Lourenço Marques he, and his two friends, had a good look at [the Republic of South Africa]. The reality is that he did stay in Melbourne because his new and beautiful Australian lady friend, Phyllis Elsie Pearl Caldicott, preferred Melbourne and was soon pregnant. Eventually he must have been influenced to stay by Sally’s birth and associated family responsibilities. Citizens of Portugal, England’s oldest ally, were never considered Enemy Aliens. The outcome for the Brighton da Silva family was that “Manpower” requisitioned him to work at a wool-spinning mill in Point Nepean Road, one of those small factories in the industrial ribbon along the highway. Their specialty was woollen yarn and, with the threat of war, yarn for Army, Navy and Airforce uniforms became the order of the day. His private “business”, gardening, was classified “Non-essential” and there was no argument or appeal. The factory was a union shop classified “Essential Industry” which operated 24 hours a day. Father had never been a union member in his life and his political opinions were to the Right rather than the Left, thus he was allocated to night shift, and Saturday and Sunday rosters. Of course he was paid penalty rates for those shifts. Petrol rationing stopped the Bayside fishing trips and Wally was called up. Mother was delighted as this was his first regular job in the 13/14 years they had been together. Probably his first real job, as the evidence is that he never worked when he lived in his father’s house in Mozambique. Though he joined two Safaris that I know of on a Paid basis. For most of the war Father slept during the day. That’s enough on father at this stage, needless to say that he taught me a great deal, mainly about what not to do!

By this time mother had signed-up for her house and the additional income was to make the payments secure. At first father hated the Elizabeth Street, East Brighton, house which only intensified his inscrutable and remote nature. How could he be unhappy about having a house? [There was] no landlord, a toilet on the back verandah and an inside bathroom with a gas bath heater. Bliss! To me the house was a huge step up the ladder and I spent every spare moment improving the house and working with mother to improve the garden. For some time, probably a year or two, father would do nothing around the house and grumbled about the restrictions brought by the war. For the first time he had an opportunity to get out of the jobless rut, be a home-owner, and cease the relentless drudgery of manual labour. Still he wasn’t happy and we didn’t understand. The problem was that we Aussies had zero appreciation of my father’s background and had been dead for 13 years before Judy and I became aware of his family background, affluence and [the] station [in life] to which he never returned.

Our mother, Phyllis Elsie Pearl Morgan Caldicott da Silva, was very proud of her heritage and as early as I can remember we were told countless stories about the Morgan and Caldicott families, with most emphasis on her Caldicott paternal side. “Our family came from England in the 1840’s,” she would say. “You are as Australian as any of those bully boys. When did their family arrive in Australia?” As long as I remember she conducted regular correspondence with her father, [William Henry Caldicott], and two of his sisters, Auntie Vic and Auntie Elsie. Victoria Caldicott Shaughnessy was the youngest of WHC’s siblings, about the same age as Phyllis, and Elsie Caldicott was the eldest of the surviving sisters. Will (WHC) was the eldest of the 12 adult children of his parents, Robert Saunders Caldicott and Elizabeth Hayward Caldicott of Adelaide. His business R.S. Caldicott & Sons still operates in the Adelaide Market. WHC was big brother and the eldest of 30 grandchildren of [Robert Henry Caldicott] who died in 1905, just before Phyllis went to live with her grandfather in the [bosom] of that large and substantial South Australian family. Aunty Elsie Caldicott never married and lived in India for much of her life; she was a dedicated Church of Christ mission nurse. We also learnt about Grandma Morgan and her daughter, Carrie Morgan Caldicott, WHC’s wife, and their son and daughter, Uncle Bill and Phyllis. Carrie’s sister Gladys Morgan Richardson, and their brother Vincent, too. These stories of my mother’s family were a daily diet constantly fed by letters from her many relatives, especially Auntie Vic and grandpa. On the other hand, we heard practically nothing from our father about his family though we now know that he corresponded with two of his sisters until his death. He discouraged all discussion about his family with the response, “You don’t want to know anything about that.” Of course I wanted to know and now we even have a letter in my father’s hand written to his father from Australia and dated 1926.

Prior to the war Sally and I met few of our relatives, most lived hundreds of miles away and travel was too expensive for us. Those we did meet came to the Hampton Street house when visiting Melbourne, so they were not impressed. Before the war virtually all travel to far places in Australia was by train and/or ship. Interstate car trips were few and the only person we knew who flew on interstate business was Jacky Edmondson’s father who travelled by air to Tasmania because he couldn’t stand the sea trip across Bass Strait. Apart from cost, travel meant a long time away from work so there was no attempt, to my knowledge, to visit our relatives. Occasionally mother’s close relatives would visit and I remember her Grandfather, my Great-grandfather, arriving at Hampton Street once, by car. “Gosh! How come?” I thought, but forgot all but the image, as it never happened again. Though RSC, as he was always known, died when I was 20, I never met him again because it was during 1954, 2 years after his death, before I made my first visit to Adelaide. As noted Phyllis was a most attractive woman which clearly shows even in old sepia photographs of the early 30’s. There is a portrait of the two of us. I am a small boy, obviously enjoying the experience, but I don’t recall the sitting. There is another of me on my own, a little older which I remember very well as I am wearing a suit that was made for me by a dressmaker neighbour in Hampton Street. Mother loved me dearly and was frequently demonstrative and I loved her too, she could do no wrong and was certainly the biggest influence in my life because she encouraged me in anything I wanted to do, even when she may not have liked the idea. Not that she ever promoted an interest, idea or goal except a passion for reading.

Phyllis was brought-up to be a lady and was well coached in deportment, elocution, music and piano and went to secondary school. The only certificates I can recall were for music, what grades I don’t remember. I still have her music folio. She never talked about her school days so she may not have enjoyed school. Her mother died when she was 6 years old and her maternal grandmother, Grandma (Carr) Morgan, who lived in the same street as her father, looked after Phybbie for a while, but it appears that she could not cope and died soon after. In the meantime [Phyllis] may have gone to live with her other daughter, Auntie Glad Richardson, and there is a theory that she may have gone to live with her son in New Zealand. I believe that Grandma Morgan’s companion helped to care for Phyllis for a while but eventually [Phyllis] was sent to South Australia to live with her paternal grandparents, and her father’s brothers and sisters. In those days (1912) the only practical way for a child to travel by herself from Sydney to Adelaide was by ship – sailing ship – more than 1,500 miles down the East Coast, through Bass Strait and via the Southern Ocean to Adelaide. Of her grandparents, Robert & Elizabeth, 12 surviving children, 5 sons & 7 daughters, 3 sons and 6 daughters still lived with their parents. Phyllis’s father and her uncle Len lived in Sydney. She was 4 years younger than her youngest aunt, Victoria (Vicky) [and they] became firm friends and confidants for the rest of their very long lives. Phyllis returned to Sydney to be brides maid at brother Bill’s wedding and never returned to live in Adelaide. Vicky married a country school teacher, Tom Shaughnessy, and they didn’t meet again until the summer of 1947/48, though they corresponded frequently. Vicky died in 1994 and Phyllis [in] 1996. [They] both had 2 sons and a daughter, their eldest sons were both christened Peter and their younger sons, both named John, never married and died young. Her grandparents’ household was very busy and Robert Saunders Caldicott was a successful businessman, a pillar of the Church of Christ and active in community affairs, a kindly man, well-loved and -respected in the close community that was Adelaide in the early years of the 20th century. The last time I visited the Adelaide Markets, say 1986, I noted that the sign, R.S. CALDICOTT & SONS was still prominent. Phyllis lived with the RSC family until she returned to Sydney in about 1923.

Stories about the South Australian Caldicott families were a constant part of my earliest [recollections]. Mother would take every opportunity to tell stories [and] sing, and would sit on my bed and read to me at bed time. Sally too, I presume, as we slept in the same room though as she was 4 years older I seem to recall that she had her own bed-time reading. There was no TV in those days and we didn’t even have a radio until one evening father walked home pushing a big polished wooden box on his bike. It turned out to be an His Masters Voice radio complete with the HMV horn. It worked, but with a quavering, scratchy sound, which was probably the reason why his customer gave it to him. Eventually, we bought a console radio which was in the sitting room. Mother enjoyed taking us on outings, walks, movies, train rides, visits to museums, [and] art galleries. We were also taken to see the Duke & Duchess of York, later King & Queen of England (and Australia), and other special events. I remember an excursion to a great sailing ship docked at Port Melbourne and a little red aeroplane at Essendon Airport. [Both] of these must have been in the mid 30’s and I will check up on them when I get time and access to Aussie records. We spent a lot of time with her and very little time with my father. Naturally I got to know what she couldn’t tolerate and reserved discussion on such matters. I was an indifferent student at primary school and had no idea of secondary school, let alone what alternative schools were available in Brighton. I think my parents assumed that I would get guidance at school, as [Sally did], which was not the case. I didn’t know anything about High School. I didn’t even know there was such a place when I was 9.

As with most young kids the biggest influence in my life, until I started work as a messenger boy in 1938, was my mother. If we needed anything we would always ask her as I knew that my Dad would give me nothing. Sally was encouraged to ask father for some things but both mother and I knew that was barren ground as far as I was concerned. As I got older, say 5 or 6, both Sally and mother made my clothes, except “best” which were made by the dressmaker a few doors away. As long as I can remember Sally was an excellent knitter, though mother always knitted my socks. Mother also played games with me, in particular Chinese Checkers, Drafts, Fiddlestix and any other board games that arrived for Christmas or Birthdays. She also taught us to play cards, 500 and Patience, and took us to church though I was such a fidget she didn’t encourage us to stay for Matins. Sally and I would first go to Sunday school together and meet mother afterwards for the church service. Eventually Sally and I both sang in the choir, she for longer than me because when my voice broke the ChoirMaster encouraged me to sit with the congregation. By then I was leaving home with Sally and going off by myself rather than to Sunday school or to church services. I guess mother knew but it was never discussed. She was very sweet and kind to me and as I started to earn my own money I used to buy presents for her and promise that one day I would look after her in beautiful surroundings. Throughout her life her most consistent recreation was reading; she listened to radio when it came to our house in Hampton Street and watched TV when they bought their first black and white TV in 1957, however she devoured novels all her life. We used to go the Oxford Lending Library together and for a time she read Murder Mysteries. I too liked “who-dun-its?” and would read one most rainy weekends but my real interest was books of discovery.

I floated through classes at Wilson Street State School without remembering any teachers or other kids in my class. Actually, I do remember the teacher on my first day and a boy by the name of Smythe who lived in a nice house on my way home. I don’t remember his parents so I guess I didn’t get asked in, although we walked that far together. I remember going to a School Fancy Dress Ball at the Middle Brighton Drill Hall. Sally went as a fairy – wand and all – and I went as a Sandwich Man. Mother made both costumes, and as I didn’t get a prize I never went to another event of that type. Eventually we started to hear about secondary school, High School? I didn’t know there was such a place when I was 7 or 8 when Sally began to talk about leaving school. She was a good scholar and her teachers wanted her to apply for a scholarship to Cora Lynn (the girls’ Junior Technical School) in Cochrane Street, Brighton. By then, to her great joy, she was not minding me and was engrossed in her studies to get a free place and a promised bicycle as a reward. I think her biggest reward was that she would no longer have to put up with me. She had done a sterling job during my early school years taking me to school every day, at least until I was about seven years old. That stopped when Sally left Wilson Street to go to Cora Lynn and even after that she would look out for me and did her best to prevent me from getting home too late. She was like a mum to me until we moved from Hampton Street, Brighton, when I was 9 years old, just before World War II. Both of our parents worked hard at any job they could get and when they didn’t have a job they worked twice as hard trying to get one. Sally took me to school from my first day, which I remember vividly, and brought me home again. We lived at 918 Hampton Street Brighton and walked to the Wilson Street State School. In fact we walked everywhere and I don’t remember that either parent ever walked either of us to school.

Dr Giblin and Nurse Bryant, who were favourites of mine as they were always kind and helpful over many years, attending the birth of my brother in 1946 and our sons in 1960 and 1962. No doubt they always got paid but-slowly on occasions, but we were loyal patients, especially of Dr Giblin for about 30 years. He lived with his wife and family in a big old house on the corner of Hampton Street and Marriage Road. Most medication was administered, and cuts and bruises attended to, by mother or Sally if mum wasn’t at home. Nurse Holland had a Visiting Practice where she drove her own car to make house visits to patients, often [the] elderly who were usually confined to a family residence. I am sure that her rates were high and her [ministrations] were of an equivalent high standard. Occasionally I would see her car parked in the street or in the driveway of the best houses in Brighton. No doubt she and I both liked the same grand residences, to which we both had access: she by invitation and me by stealth. The garage on the corner of Hampton and Bay Streets scrupulously cared for her car and she always dressed in impeccable driving garments worn over her nurse’s uniform. Her first car was a two-seater Electric Car, the make of which I can’t recall; it was silent, small and polished to a gleaming shine. I walked around it a thousand times without ever touching it and when Nurse Holland came out the gate she would shoo me, or any other kids, away with a word and a wave of her hand. I never rode in any of her cars and never went inside her house or front yard though the gate was never locked. Her message was clear, “Be off with you; naughty boys.”

I suppose everybody knew that it was no use calling on Nurse Holland in an emergency if the car wasn’t there. The housekeeper would not let anybody wait inside the house with the bright brass plate on the high brown-painted fence surrounding the lot. People would depart or leave a message or go to Nurse Bryant’s hospital two doors away, where there was always somebody to listen, though a long wait had to be endured on occasion. My best medical story of Hampton Street days was the day mother chopped the top off her finger while cutting kindling for the kitchen stove. She and I were the only ones at home, I think we had been out and I don’t recall where Sally and dad were. Mum was chopping and I was gathering the chips into the scuttle when suddenly she let out an ear splitting shriek. Blood was everywhere and quick-as-a-flash she ran screaming out the side gate across Union Street and straight into Nurse Holland’s place, seeing the car outside the high gates. Following as fast as I could, I found Nurse attending to my mum as I burst through the door. Nurse Holland immediately asked if I had brought the top of mother’s finger with me. My answer was, “Oh no the magpie ate it!”

I never had any fun at the dentist, or rather the many dentists I was taken to when small or took myself to from 1940 until we moved to Sydney. I recall as a kid my first dentist was over a corner tobacco shop in Bay Street. He polished my teeth and probably drilled my first cavity with a treadle-operated drill, something like a manual sewing machine. It was murder and the slower it got the harder he pressed. I hated that place and eventually I was taken to another dentist in Bay Street on the corner of Male Street, [just] beyond St Luke’s [Church of England] towards the railway station. The practice was in a large Federation-style stucco-brick house painted a cream colour. The corner room nearest the two streets had a bay window with café curtains so pedestrians could see the modern surgery equipment. From the street one could make out people being tortured, so I thought, by Mr Breidhal the dentist. He hurt me so much on the first visit I refused to have anything more to do with him. Later I found out that Judy used to go to him too as he was a relative of her Aunt Ethel. The next dentist was in Chapel Street, [Prahran], near a close friend of my mother’s. I would be taken to the dentist and Phyllis would leave me there to have tea with her pal. [Sometimes] she would collect me, if not I’d walk to the friend’s flat, slowly to look at as much as possible. Chapel Street was always fun as it was one of Melbourne’s most popular shopping streets served by Tram, Train and Bus routes. Prahran Station was on the Town-to-Sandringham line, so it was handy for us when we lived in Hampton Street. This dentist lasted until we moved to Elizabeth Street, by which time mother had ceased to work at Miss Kirkum’s Tea Room and trips to Town were on the 64 Tram.

My last dentist in Melbourne was at Balaclava Junction where both the 64 and 67 Tram routes met on the way to the city. He was the best dentist and I stayed with him until we left Melbourne for Sydney in 1962,:about 22 years. Actually, the dentist got too old and sold his practice to a woman, [something] almost unknown in those days. Such changes were common in the Medical world due to the shortage of civilian medicos caused by WWII. In fact, as I knew from working for Mr Mewkill, most suburban Doctors were elderly. The young were either in the services or working in the huge Repatriation Hospitals (euphemism for war wounded) built in all the large cities, near Medical Schools. Large numbers of women entered Medical Schools for the first time as the military call-up got under way in 1940, so by 1948 many Doctors, Dentists and Physiotherapists in private practice were new female graduates. She was the best and kindest, [and] even asked “Am I hurting you.” What a strange thing for a dentist to ask! Balaclava Junction was only 3 Tram stops from the Dean residence. I didn’t get to know them until 1952, but I got to know a lot about the district as a result of visits to the Dentist. At the corner of Balaclava and Hawthorn Roads, opposite the dentist, was Balaclava Memorial Park where I would wait if too early for my appointment or hang about before catching a tram. One icy-cold winter morning I experienced my first snow fall, a rare event in Melbourne.

My best friend from school days is Peter Hein who is two years younger than me. His parents moved from Sydney in 1936 when he was about 4 years old. Neither of us can recall how we met but his mother used to tell the story about a small boy, a little urchin, [who] used to arrive uninvited to play with “Your little boy.” My explorations led me into other people’s houses, gardens, sheds, garages and anything left unlocked. In the case of the Heins it was Peter’s super toys that attracted [me]. Besides, his mother must have enjoyed seeing me, I reasoned, because she would always include me when she fed or provided drinks to her little boy. His mother was Edna, and his kind father was Fred and eventually the “Heins at Edgar Street” came to mean a great deal to me and still do. I will never forget them, but I must not get ahead of myself. The other children with whom I was pals in the 1930’s were Peggy King – previously mentioned – Jack Edmondston who lived in Union Street opposite the horse paddock, and Johnny Fawcett.

Jacky lived with his parents and two elder sisters in a house that had a common side fence with the Bryant’s Hospital. Following its demolition, their side fence became the boundary with the three residences in Hampton Street. Mr Edmondston sold shoes. I guess he was the wholesale agent for several shoe factories as Melbourne was a centre for the trade. When I first became aware of them Mr [Edmonston] had an “A” Model Ford car and one day he had a brand new Ford, the V* model with the “Snails Eyes” rear stop lights. I was most impressed.

The Fawcett-Le Rossignol family lived in Hampton Street in the centre of the row of 3 built on the site of Nurse Bryant’s Hospital. Johnny [Fawcett’s] parents lived there in high style with their two children, a boy and a very young daughter and Mrs Fawcett’s mother Mrs Henry, who occupied the front bedroom when in residence. The parents’ bedroom was at the back of the house and, looking back, I realize that it was originally designed for the use of a live-in cook, house-keeper. Johnny was younger than me though in many ways more mature, after all to me they were high society. There were a lot of attractions about the Fawcetts as they had a car and would take me with them on occasions. Their big lounge room had a Pianola, radio and record player, and on occasions mother and I would be invited to Johnny’s for afternoon tea. His Granny, Mrs Henry, attended the Anglican church of St Luke’s in Bay Street opposite which she had a big 2-storey house where Johnny’s mum, Mrs Fawcett, grew up. I think another of Mrs Henry’s children lived in it and I now realize that the old lady, Mrs Henry, probably kept rooms there. They had relatives in Geelong where Johnny would go for holidays and sometimes kindly invite me. The Geelong relatives were connected with the Wool Industry and we boys loved to go to the huge wool sheds and climb up inside to the tie beams, under the rafters, and, after scrambling around up there, find the most advantageous launching place and throw ourselves down into the piles of shorn fleece. I can smell the all-pervading lanolin odour as I type. Eventually we moved to East Brighton, I changed to Gardenvale Central School, before attending Brighton Junior Tech, and started work full-time before my 15th birthday. I can’t be sure of the primary school that Johnny attended, [it was] probably Brighton Grammar, but I clearly recall that he went to Wesley College because he was killed by a car crossing St Kilda Road in 1947. That was the year that I survived a broken neck and Mrs Fawcett was one of those who called to commiserate with my mother in January ’47, while I was still in Sydney Hospital awaiting the outcome of my survival ordeal. The Fawcett family were pleased that Johnny was accepted at Wesley and was due to start the 1947 school year in February. He didn’t complete his first year. Following his sudden death the two mothers shared a heart-rending afternoon tea at our Elizebeth Street house. I couldn’t handle any more trauma and hobbled away to a cowardly distance.

Returning to the end of the Great Depression. By 1939, I was learning a lot of things and enjoying the responsibility of working part-time at Mewkill’s Pharmacy and helping my mother house hunt. Of course I was still at school at Wilson Street State School where my days were not memorable, dull and a drag. In my last year there, 1940, when I was 10 years old, I remember being 33rd in the class of 35. Funny how the number 33 made it easy for me to remember that 3rd last place, not good, and I remember little of those years. In that last year I learnt about adventure. On Friday afternoons, in the last term of my last year there, 5th, 6th or 7th grade, Free Reading was the last period of the week, during which we were encouraged to select any book we liked from the class library, a grand label for a cupboard full of hard-covered books, perhaps 100 or so titles. Each week I read the same book with the intention of reading it cover-to-cover. It was “The Book of Discovery” by T.C. Bridges. Maybe it provided me with a connection with an Iberian world about which I had no knowledge from my father. By the end of the year I had read it several times and still didn’t have enough of it. Eventually I talked my parents into buying a copy for myself. I loved that book and hope it got a good home from the book shop that bought our library when we sold our last house in Sydney, [but] that’s another story. I was spellbound by the stories of the conquistadors and Privateers and Cortes’ story in particular. How I wished to visit those places one day.

Memory is a strange thing, as the only significant incident that I recall from that momentous year, the beginning of WWII, was the kitchen table covered with papers and forms. I don’t remember any lea- up or follow-on to the occasion. It was probably a weekend of form-filling resulting from my father’s discovery by government investigators. Sally and I must have discussed the phenomenon. What’s going on? What are they doing? What are they arguing about? It appears that during the weeks [and] months of rising tension in Europe the Commonwealth Government set up a Manpower agency to record who was in the country. A major objective probably included finding potential Enemy Aliens. Father’s strong accent made him a sitting duck for investigators. Even I knew that he was not an enemy alien because I had often read his passport – Portuguese – because it was in the private drawer in their bedroom. Of course I was familiar with the contents of such a place but I couldn’t talk to him about the passport because that would tell him that I had again been in his drawer. That always produced fireworks. Wonderful collections, which only got me into trouble; and big trouble when I buried his coin collection in the back garden. It turned out that the authorities knew nothing about father so he had to fill in a great number of forms. It seems that he had never registered with any government agency, Local, State or National, since his arrival in Australia in 1924. After his death my research led me to believe that he arrived as a member of the crew of a ship bound for East Timor and the vessel left Melbourne without João Louís da Silva. It would be a matter of no consequence as Phyllis would do all the paperwork and he would go fishing! The biggest task was making up and submitting Income Tax Returns for the years 1924-1939. It must have been achieved and his residency accepted because life went on and mother’s plan to move into a house of their own was accomplished that year. The whole enterprise was memorable for a 9-year-old boy who had never seen his parents do any more paperwork than write a shopping list.

Dad started to get a few clients in a new area off Hawthorn Road, two of these families had Italian names and had acquired newly-built, fancy houses which required gardens created from scratch. The Missoni house was a white wedding cake with lawns and flower beds in profusion around the boundary and around the house. [The] man of the house was young and handsome with a small black mustache and a kind smile for me. One could hear a woman’s voice but I never actually met one. The young man would always come to the door and sometimes he would be in his pajamas. When I delivered something, either from my father or Mr Mewkill, I was occasionally rewarded with a tip, but never if he was wearing pajamas.

I don’t think I ever knew the name of the other family but their impact on our life was much greater for all sorts of doggy reasons. Their house was at the top of the same street as the wedding cake where it connected with Hawthorn Road, and being two-storeys it was twice the size of the other job and had a two-car garage, almost unheard-of in our area. Dad designed and landscaped their land allowing for a fenced-off yard and kennel for their huge Irish Setter called Tom. When father worked there he would let Tom have free run of the garden so they became good friends. The parents and their two children would go away for months on [occasion], leaving an elderly housekeeper to look after the house. Father would attend to the garden and outside of the house, dog etc, and at the end of the day pedal off home, having put Tom back in his yard. I suppose Tom missed the family and children or just fell in love with Dad. One evening, at dusk, dad arrived at the Elizabeth Street house, and shortly after Tom was scratching at the back door. Dinner was ready and, as it was winter – cold and dark – it was decided that Tom could stay the night. The huge animal had tea with us and contentedly slept the night on a rug on the back porch.

Some time that momentous year of 1939 mother bought her cottage in East Brighton from Mr O.S. Edgar, £800 financed on a £50 deposit ($100). We moved, though I have no recollection of the actual move out of 918 Hampton Street or [the move that took us] into 7 Elizabeth Street. The two streets are 4 blocks apart, West along Union Street from Hampton Street and one block East of Hawthorn Road. It was a 2-bedroom timber house of a standard design financed by the State Savings Bank after WWI, ’20’s vintage, say between 10 & 15 years old in 1939. New in comparison with the tiny, 2-bedroom cottage up ’til then. My space was a sleep-out at the back, originally built as a verandah but now sheltered from the worst of the weather by canvas blinds. I was overjoyed to have a place of my own which was outside the house with an entrance from the back porch. The new house was a palace after the old [one], with a WC on the back porch sheltered from the weather. No more running down the path beneath wet and dripping garden shrubbery on those cold, sodden winter days in Melbourne. We also had an inside bathroom with running water and a gas bath-heater over the plug end. I thought its rooms were huge, grand spaces. [Even] the family room had a fireplace and the kitchen a pantry and running water, even a sink.

Summer, school holidays from December 1939 to February 1940 was a time to explore my new territory while working for the Mewkill Pharmacy. The new neighbourhood was fascinating because beyond Hawthorn Road and the South bank of Elster Creek was terra-[incognita], where Market Gardens, Orchards and Dairy Farms started. However, the lure of the beach continued because school was closed and the lazy days of summer stretched out to February when the drudgery of school started again. Of course we were further from the beach and the Bay Street shops but there was a short-cut through Landcox Park which provided a direct link from our back fence to Tommy Bent’s statue. Besides, the new house was perfectly situated on the Brown Bus route to Middle Brighton Baths via Bay Street. Charles Street crossed Elizabeth Street so there was a stop one block from our house. Of course we could walk to the beach, and often did when we didn’t have the penny bus fare, but the Brown Bus was quicker and better on a scorching hot Melbourne summer’s day. We kids were expert in finding pennies, even when they weren’t lost, as it was often said we would “beg, borrow or steal!” to get the fare, at least one-way. Not that I would have a penny left after a day at the beach but I found it was still possible to get the bus back home. Middle Brighton Baths was the terminus and on arrival the bus would empty and take on a crowd. Summer Sunday afternoon would find a crowd [awaiting] the arrival of the bus so I would mingle, being on my own, and [find] a suitable grown-up couple to get on with. In the scuffle, push and shove I could usually squeeze on board for free. Walking could be fun and a challenge using my Short-cut technique. I would imagine a straight line from Middle Brighton Pier to Home and bee-line my way over back fences, down driveways, into school and drill-hall grounds, across paddocks and parks. On [occasion] I would arrive home late, perhaps long after the mandatory check-in time of 5:00pm. If dad was home there would be a fuss and I would plead “I had to walk ‘cos I didn’t have a bus fare.” [But] if it was only a concerned mother there would be relief, hugs and kisses and a promise never to do it again. What could I say?

The biggest change of all was that our parents had a regular income for the first time in their married life. “I bought a house in East Brighton for £800 Vendor Financed on a £50 deposit. Mr Edgar had tried to sell me that house for years” Phyllis told us that story a thousand times. We four settled down for the duration, and to enjoy the financial stability; but not Dad. War restricted him in many ways, and to our surprise made him very unhappy. For a start, petrol rationing restricted fishing at his favourite haunts and Joào Luís Ribeiro da Silva, the son of a Commissioner of Police, found he didn’t enjoy the menial work of a factory hand on night shift under a shift foreman. Although being a gardener was not an ideal life, he was his own boss. A handsome macho young man whose clients were ladies of substance who took pride in having beautiful gardens. After 10 years away from home it may be that he was missing the comforts of his father’s household supported, as it was, by a substantial stipend and the perks of high office in the colonies. We now know that he wrote to his “Beloved father” on 8 Abril 1926 the year Sally was born. In those days before air mail it might have taken a year to arrive in Mozambique, via London, and finally to Lourenço Marques, but arrive it did (I have the original given to me by his sister, Aunt Maria Nazaré Davidson in 1992). How long would a reply take? Maybe he had hoped that once he was married and settled his father would provide him with some benefits. Anyway things had changed since he had left home as his father was killed in a motor accident in January 1926, before the letter was written. Did he ever get a reply? Probably not, as Maria was only about 11 years of age and her mother had died in 1923, before João left home. I believe that she found the unopened letter and kept it safe for her beloved brother. Little did she know that she would have to wait 70 years before delivering it to somebody: me! She was the youngest of five siblings and my father was the eldest.

Anyway, war had started and there was even less chance that he would have access to money from home. His family background – his brother-in-law became Commissioner – would make him familiar with the fate of foreigners without proper papers and he was experienced in the ways of Portuguese bureaucrats. Thus he accepted the spinning-mill job allocated to him and knuckled down to the work involving production of thread for military uniforms. At least it was “Essential work” and thus he was unlikely to be called up or sent to a labouring job building roads in the outback. He had plenty of experience of watching others do those sorts of jobs in the African “never-never”.

Here he was in 1940, a strong, handsome, fit and athletic young man of 35 who would never have chosen to work night-shift in a woollen Spinning Mill, so it was not surprising that his nature changed. He went from being remote with others to becoming objectionable at the least provocation, not just with me but with neighbours and no doubt with people at work. I can’t remember ever meeting any of his workmates as friends; I doubt that he had any except his fishing pals. As usual I did my best to keep my distance and not provoke an outburst. He was most unhappy. He argued with the Air-raid Warden, Mr. Coffee, who lived up the street and refused to dig an air-raid shelter and got involved in continual disputes about our black-out arrangements. In private we had to listen to his ranting about “their” ignorance of the world and “How do they think that the anybody could bomb Melbourne?” Listening to him carry on, while at the same time being aware of the sacrifices by the young, and not so young, men of the Caldicott clan, it became clear that it looked like being a long war.

At the new address the block of land was much larger than at the old row-house in Hampton Street. As well, it felt much more spacious as the adjoining land on all 4 sides were vacant blocks. South and North were vacant as were the blocks on the opposite side of Elizabeth Street. To the rear, Elster Creek flowed at an angle so [with] our back fence [provided] a triangle of semi-private space facing a dead-end street on the other side of the creek. Thus we had no next-door neighbours; what a nice quiet change after living next to the Murphy’s in Hampton Street. I soon got to know the streets around our house and had a fair idea who lived where and, as usual, I was very interested in the dads who worked at home. A few doors away lived Mr & Mrs Coffee and their beautiful daughter, about my own age. He was almost my ideal home handyman and for both reasons I spent as much time with them as the parents permitted. [The] daughter also came to our place to see the canaries and other pets. The best workshop was at the rear of a big old house in Landcox Street. I don’t remember their name but they had several sons, one about my age who probably introduced me. The North-side fence of their land was the South-side of the access path connecting Landcox Street to Landcox Park, and the rear fence to the West also separated their land from the park. Their father was a Glazier who did quite a lot of simple repair jobs but the work that fascinated me was the repair of, and new commissions, for Stained Glass Windows. New works created from full-sized drawings created by others – Artists, Architects and or designers – were secured to the huge table in the shed; he would bend, cut and solder the lead-light beading as required. He had wonderful glass cutting hand tools and worked with clear and coloured glass, plain, polished, sand-blasted and rippled glass of many different grades. The shed was flooded with natural light, sky-lights and windows, and each time I entered it had a different character depending on which glazed panels were standing, awaiting collection, around the walls and windows. The most beautiful works were church stained-glass panels, usually repaired but occasionally new commissions. [He] had a contract of some kind with the Anglican Churches. Some years later, after I had started at Brighton Tech, I realized he was no longer there; perhaps he had gone off to war.

In response to a government mobilizing for war, suburban home-owners were entreated to grow food on every available square inch, [and] Phyllis was determined to do her share. Father would have nothing to do with that, “…ground is too gravelly. Nothing will grow…etc” was father’s response, so Mum and the kids started digging and planting and making a big mess as she had no experience or knowledge of gardening or farming. Eventually, after many arguments and acrimonious refusals father got involved and eventually took over the garden. In time he turned the property into a glorious, miniature self-supporting kitchen garden estate. Early in the war rationing coupons were required for shop-purchased items and our garden became an important food supply. Mum started a chook yard by buying day-old chicks which were cared for in a box in the kitchen. The population of fowls grew and a chicken run arranged at the Western end of the back yard with a coop at each end so it could be divided into two: [one] for layers and [one for] birds for the table. We sold eggs, boilers and roasters, chickens plucked and ready-for-the-pot. We acquired the first of many fine, strong young roosters so that we could grow our own day-old chicks. We incubated fertilized eggs and [nurtured] the chicks, all of which endeavour took place in the [warm] kitchen-family-room. Father also grew flowers [and] planted an orchard, and mother sowed the seeds of herbs and vegetables, then thinned and planted to get optimum production. We always grew more than we needed so we sold fruit and vegetables, fresh and bottled, salted and preserved, jam and chutney. She and Sally also knitted and crocheted jumpers and baby clothes, gloves and mittens, socks and scarves, tops and skirts and even full dresses. Because ration coupons went further if garments were hand-made the Brighton gentry would provide the wool and the pattern and the da Silva women would knit, make-up, attend fittings etc, and charge accordingly. They were much in demand and always had a waiting list. These were the days of cash-only – credit cards didn’t exist – it was a cottage industry and as we had no telephone there was much walking, running and biking around to complete transactions, ask and answer written notes, questions and answers, and making appointments for fittings. Sometimes there would be several customers calling at once, especially at weekends and after school when Sally would be at home, [and] much tea was drunk.

At the beginning of 1940, the “phony war” – as it was called – was the attitude to the war in Europe, but as the year progressed the young men started to disappear from civilian jobs. They were needed in Africa. I was still at Wilson Street State School and would walk to-and-fro every day. Family cars delivering kids to school didn’t exist for most State School kids and there was no direct bus route from East Brighton. Also, petrol rationing had started to bite, and even though many people had stockpiled 4-gallon tins of petrol in their garages there was little unnecessary personal car travel. I didn’t have a bike and Sally was already attending Cora Lynn (Brighton Junior Tech School for Girls) so I was on my own. On days when I got out early, and knowing that nobody would be home – mother worked in town at Miss Kirkums café until about 2:00pm – I would call into the Hein’s house in Edgar Street on the way home and stay awhile (for afternoon tea) if possible. It was a tough slog in the cold, wet Melbourne winter – not that I knew any other – [and] in any case I recall that school-year being quite difficult. I was 10 years old, small for my age, and it was a long walk each way, with a plentitude of bullies, gangs and running the gauntlet. I was sick of Wilson Street and probably caused a lot of trouble to parents and teachers. I was wasting my time and probably making my views known.

The London Blitz started in September 1940 and people were very depressed and apprehensive after reading the newspapers and seeing the Newsreels. In those days most Australians had relatives, friends or family servicemen in England or on their way. Evening radio broadcasts spread the gloom and at that time of the year the weather didn’t help. Brighton Beach was cold and wet, the weather changeable; no sun, no beach, no swimming was no good as I dragged my feet to school. Eventually the year passed and I was allowed to sit the entrance examination for Brighton Tech, “Not accepted”, ten years old was too young. After 3 years at Tech it was assumed that boys would be apprenticed, and in Victoria they couldn’t be indentured until 15 years of age, so it was suggested I go to school elsewhere and “Try again”. The only bright spot was that I was working at the Pharmacy and making money. I couldn’t get there fast enough. [When] Mr [Mewkill] finally closed the shop door and disappeared out the back to have his Tea in the residence behind the shop, I would walk, in the dark during the winter, the four blocks home. It was amazing how we got used to the Black-Out: no lights from the houses and all the street lights were shrouded. Things brightened up after break-up, the Christmas Holidays started and summer – the longest day 21 December – gave us twilight beyond bedtime and, best of all, I was employed all day at the Pharmacy.

As the summer of 1940/41 waned the school question hung over me for a decision. What to do? I couldn’t conceive of repeating a year, especially at Wilson Street, so it was suggested by somebody, maybe Mr Mewkill, that I could attend Gardenvale Central School. Central Schools provided the first two years of the High School curriculum with the traditional emphasis on Art, Language and other humanities which could be useful to a boy whose heart was set on a technical, maths, science, trade secondary school. Also Gardenvale School was close to home, in Landcox Street, next to Elizabeth Street, a few hundred yards instead of miles, and I might get to like History, Latin, French and similar subjects. I still had the Pharmacy job after school and on Saturday, and it was obvious that I enjoyed the work and might even have liked to become an Apprentice Pharmacist. I enrolled and spent 1941 at Gardenvale Central School where the most lasting impression was an appreciation of Latin and French and a dislike of art classes. Meanwhile, without any help from me, the phony war was over and the adult population of the world plunged Australia [was] deep into the ultimate stupidity and madness of WWII. Thousands of young men were shipped off to Africa with the potential to endure another Gallipoli, while we were subjected to the propaganda that “it was all for the best”.

Father was working at the spinning mill and also looking after the garden of the big two-storey house in Hawthorn Road as well as developing our own yard. That family had gone away for a long time and the old housekeeper couldn’t look after both house and garden. As the days turned into weeks Tommy, the red setter, who was now chained up unless Dad was working in the garden, became more unhappy and one day broke the chain, jumped over the high fence and found our house, where he stayed for the duration. I pleaded for him to stay and eventually his owner arranged for mother to be paid for looking after Tom. The huge dog took over our house and made pets of us all – allowing us to dine at his table – and he slept in the porch outside my sleep-out door. I don’t recall how long he was with us but it must have been a year or two. He became a great friend and would follow mother around the house and garden all day, never letting her out of his sight. Gardenvale School had two or three hundred children in two campuses in Landcox Street one block to the West and kids would stream past our front fence on their way home. They referred to my mother as “The dog’s Mother”. Tom would kick up a big fuss whenever kids opened the gate to get at the big, old nectarine tree – laden with ripe fruit – in the side garden. At the first sound of school kids skipping, shuffling, walking and talking near our front fence, Tom would lope around to the front porch and lie on the mat with his huge head resting on his front paws, watching. At the first click of the garden gate latch he would open his eyes and as soon as a child entered Tom would stand up and bark: a deep sonorous WOOF! The kids would call out, “The dog’s mother is coming,” and scatter at full speed. Nobody ever got hurt and Tom indicated his pleasure by standing on his hind legs, paws on mother’s shoulders, swishing his huge plumed tail from side to side while hanging his long wet and dripping tongue out to indicate his pleasure and enjoyment.

Eventually the family returned and Tom was happy to return to Hawthorn Road, though he often came to visit. The family also had a Fox Terrier pup which had come to grief and had two paws crushed by a car, so after a vet had put his feet into splints and bandages, father brought him home and mother nursed him back to health, as good as new. He became “Little” Tom and both dogs knew their names when Big Tom visited. In the end Little Tom – Tommy for short – became my dog and never returned to Hawthorn Road, even for a visit. Phyllis had nursed him back to health and he was thereafter devoted to her; however, going out with me was more fun and, given the choice, unchained, he would immediately get to his feet if he detected that I was preparing to leave. He would lie on the back porch, ever watchful, and trail me outside and into the street in a flash. He had to be chained up on school days because he was impossible to catch once he was outside the gate. Because of his devotion I considered Tom to be my dog, but the reality was that I was his boy and he was determined to be part of any adventure my day would bring.

Life went on, the war got worse and showed no sign of “being for the best.” In the meantime I never lost my desire to attend “Brighton Tech” and so during November 1941 I again sat the entrance exam and was accepted for the 1942 school year on a fee-paying basis. [But no scholarship, no bike! On 7th December the bombing of Pearl Harbor started the Pacific War, America mobilized and Australia faced hugely escalating risks. The Newsreels at the Pictures clearly portrayed great and unprecedented changes to our way of life. Events rushed into our lives at a daunting pace as the enemy advanced. Radio broadcasts into homes and newspapers provided associated news, politics and stories of terror and destruction. The papers were full of vivid pictures as were the News Reels (no television in those days). The most dramatic news was that General MacArthur was on his way from the Philippines to take up residence in Australia. Great news for certain the Yanks were coming. I knew all about the USA as I had watched pictures at Hoyts Centre in Bay Street, Middle Brighton, almost every Saturday for as long as I could remember. American movies, Cowboys and Indians, Flash Gordon, Buck Rodgers, cartoons and countless other flicks as well as Movietone News. Apart from all that we read everything we could about the USA. On school holidays we visited the Newsreel picture theatres in Town which showed news continuously for as long as Mother could stand it, a favourite treat on a Saturday afternoon. Thus I knew about the Empire State and Chrysler Buildings, other skyscrapers, automobiles, aeroplanes, Boulder Dam and countless other monuments to American enterprise. Sally knew about the movie stars; by the time I was 10 she was a very mature 14-year-old young lady. My preferred American magazine was Popular Mechanics and I would beg, borrow and steal to get a look at any issue. Of course we also saw a lot of English pictures and J. Arthur Rank’s man with the big gong was as familiar as the 20th Century Fox Search-lights, besides English comics like “The Rocket” that Dad used to bring home from the Solomon family, a special treat. The most vivid images of the News Reels were those of The War, England, North Africa and America as the war spiraled out of control.

The whole of Australia was awaiting the next move from the USA as mobilization was stepped up for what was expected to be a momentous year for us: [War] in the Pacific. I don’t recall any specific personal plans but I was looking forward to working full-time during the Christmas, New Year and the summer school holidays of 1941/42. As in previous holidays I must have roamed around the bayside beaches and angled for as many trips to Town as our mother could arrange. We weren’t the only kids doing that as the City of Melbourne swarmed with kids of all ages during any holidays, visiting museums, galleries, city picture theatres and pantomimes. The Australian summer included Christmas/New Year and the Australia Day holiday celebrating the arrival of the first fleet on 26th January 1788 ([called] ANA Day at the time). Factories and mines would close for repairs and refurbishment and rural lay-off, after the harvest, would bring agricultural workers, farmers and squatters South to the cities to buy, and take mum and the kids to the seaside. There was time off for dads and working mums, too. Sure it was wartime but Australia was a long way from Europe or even the Philippines which were invaded by the Japanese. There was news over-load but life went on in Melbourne where the impact of events never had any real destructive change to the physical landscape. No bombs were dropped nor guns fired though the news media and the call-up of young men told us that the future was unknown.

For me it was a time to work – how I enjoyed working – and I was determined to keep my job at the local pharmacy. After all, my bank account was growing and I had an important investment in mind. The biggest impact on my life was that petrol rationing had severely restricted my use of the pharmacist’s beautiful Malvern Star bicycle, though he still let me use it for deliveries. However, he now needed it at other times as he carefully saved his petrol ration for really important trips. I was no longer allowed to take the bike home or use it for every errand. Close-to deliveries were now done on foot. Besides I had not received a scholarship to the tech school, as had Sally, so I would not get a bike from my parents. That was the deal and the outcome was as expected because I was never a good or willing pupil; but I had a plan. During the Christmas-summer time holidays I was hired for the whole day and paid 12/6 a week including Saturday mornings. Now if I had my own bike I should get additional money for bike-hire, also it would enable my boss to have his Malvern Star available and save precious petrol coupons. To me the momentous decision was to buy a bike with my own money. Australia was moving to full wartime mobilization, suddenly young men over 18 volunteered for active service and shortly after they were called up for medical inspection. The workforce changed almost overnight and suburban houses, schools and churchyards were asked to dig air-raid shelters. Petrol rationing affected all the people, especially those who owned a motor car. During 1942, people started to put their cars up on blocks, especially if they had more than one, and in that way they had more ration coupons per car. Mr Mewkill had a small Austin and even he, as a pharmacist, found he had very few ration coupons for the car he garaged behind his shop, thus he encouraged me to acquire my own bike. I was busy working after school, Saturday and holidays and often after church on Sundays. The effort was for more money and may have impressed the Bike Shop owner to sell me a full-sized man’s bike for $6. At the time Mr Mewkill also bought a Ladies Bicycle for his wife. The greatest change in my life was my horizons expanding. I appreciated the value of mobility on the occasions when I took advantage of the pharmacy bike for my personal use. Now I didn’t have to ask.

Moving into a new neighbourhood means contact with new people whom one sorts into protagonists and antagonists, or perhaps, at the age of 11, those to be with and those to avoid. The rest of the population are under observation and handled with care, in my case. I have never been big and strong for my age nor have I ever been physically aggressive. I would rather be friends with a new acquaintance than anything else, though I do tend to assume the other person is interested in my circumstance of the moment. I have learnt to listen for some time before making that assumption. I have never been interested in team sports. As I grew into my teens I found my athletic pastimes and sporting interests to be swimming, ice skating, skiing, tennis, sailing and even Judo. Not that I had tried all of these activities at 11 when most of my spare-time summer activity was at the bay side beaches, and the nearest to Elizabeth street was at the end of North Road. Summertime, Christmas holidays, a job, a bicycle, a beach: what more could one want?

The beach at North Road was waiting to be discovered. I already knew the area because of the beautiful houses [and] mansions set in that handsome tree-lined street: [clipped] lawns inside the fences and on the “Nature Strip” between the roadway and footpath. In 1942 it was also a great place to swim, with a wide beach, clear water and sandbars beyond the jetty. Yes! [A] jetty to dive off into deep water, sailing club and life-saving club. I gravitated to the Lifesaving Club which was encouraging kids and school age youth – both boys and girls – to join because most of the young men had enlisted or been called up. At this time that’s what war meant. The club males were mainly 10- to 18-year-olds and then a gap to 40’s and on to grandparents. Mr and Mrs Ducker and their two grown daughters lived across the road in a beautiful big house, [and] their son was in the army. Ducker Snr was a life member of the Royal Life Saving Society and the power behind the club. We swam, marched and fooled around on the beach in our age groups. Built human pyramids on the sand and did our best to get girls to join. As with other prewar, mostly male pursuits, the world found that females could be lifesavers as well as young men, or better.

The Royal Life Saving Society launched a nationwide program to recruit women and girls and our grandfather-figure, Mr Ducker, his wife and daughters, talked to us individually about getting female relatives to join the volunteer organization. We were asked to bring our sisters, cousins and friends to the club to become Life Savers. Somehow I felt that this was a great milieu for Sally and though I would never admit it, I missed not having her around. I brought up the subject with the family one mealtime. We already had a connection with the Royal Life Saving Society as the Spunner family at Mentone were members of the society. They were great friends of Phyllis and João in the late 1920’s and we occasionally took the train to visit them at their little house at that beach-side suburb further down the line. They had lost their son in WWI from which they never recovered. After the 1929 crash my parents were broke and without work and somehow the Spunners took them in with their small daughter, Sally, as boarders. In a way my parents, probably my father, were surrogate [children]. Mr Spunner eventually became a life member of the Royal Life Saving Society and worked tirelessly for safer beaches all his life. The idea of Sally joining the North Road Life Saving Club was talked about and not sat upon. Even Dad, who was always worried about Sally going out on her own, did not say NO! Almost unheard of. Sally was hesitant: “I don’t want to join any club that has little boys like Peter as members.” She and I talked about it again before the next weekend and she agreed to come with me, “Just to have a look.”

Sally and I rode our bikes down beautiful North Road beneath the branches of the huge street trees and between the imposing houses on both sides of the street. It was [a] sunny Saturday afternoon, my work [was] done for the week, and [it was] when I knew the big boys would be practicing beach drills and marching in costume. She took one look and joined as though it was all her own idea. Soon she was running the place, sprucing it up, getting her girlfriends to join, organizing dances, raising money for new equipment. The club became [spic-and-span] with clean floors, washed windows, scrubbed and scoured changing rooms, and the membership grew. Sally was already a good swimmer from her School Sports days; I can see her now on the high diving platform at the Middle Brighton Baths. At the life saving club she became the best of the women long-distance swimmers. She became the lady champion of our club; however the main job of the club was to have people pass proficiency examinations and tests to satisfy medallion requirements. Sally became a leader in these endeavors and even I received a Bronze Medallion, with her help. Sally was my “Drowning Victim” in the rescue section of my test so I had some active assistance instead of at best a “dead body” or at worst a “Struggling non-swimmer” which could happen with an unsympathetic partner. As I was the smallest kid I was in demand as a victim and knew how to act the part – being Sally’s brother members would try to include me – however the only team event where I was welcome, as an active participant, was that of top man in the Living Pyramid. Eventually I got tired of being the pipsqueak life saver who was always being dropped from a great height, and so I joined the North Road Sailing Club. That introduction to sailing developed into another – my – story which I will tell in proper sequence; Sally’s story about Lifesaving is her own.

Winter was another matter and the dominant sporting interest in our house remained the Carlton Football Club, and like it or lump it we usually went to the Carlton match, home or away, on Saturday afternoons. I grew to dislike everything about the cult of Aussie Rules. When I was very small I was dressed in footy garb with CFC embroidered on the front of my Navy Blue sweater and the number of my parent’s favourite player stitched to the back. The rest of the outfit conformed [to] black shorts & footy boots, and long navy blue socks. My parents were thrilled with the look and Sally was envious because girls simply didn’t wear such things in the 30’s. “OK!” I used to think and as Dad liked it maybe we will get together, but it wasn’t enough because I didn’t join a team or even show interest in kicking a footy in the street with other kids. Also my job interfered with the spectator aspects of the game, especially when an away match meant an early start and I didn’t have time to do any work at the pharmacy. That caused a hip-pocket wound and Mr Mewkill didn’t like it. I also detested watching footy from the hill – the cheapest tickets. [We] would always get to the ground early so as to get a position near [the] goal posts, so by the time the game started we were packed in by the boozey, farty, pissy, male mob. I loathed the smells mixed, as they invariably were, with sweat, hot meat pies and tomato sauce. Especially those rainy days during the long cold Melbourne winter. Not a pretty picture? I had to get out of going to the footy.

Father slept during the day and, in our mutual desire to avoid each other, discouraged enquiry into his background. Occasionally I would ask a question and as ever, I got the same reply as I had as far back as I could remember, “You don’t want to know about that.” How intriguing for my inquiring mind? Little did we know how the world was about to change and would never be the same again. The days of innocence were over and whatever future father had in mind outside Australia was now unattainable. However everybody had a job, there were no more Susso Gangs and everybody in the community had money and many worked side businesses. As well as his night-shift job at the spinning mill dad was also a commissioned representative of a local SP Bookmaker’s “Place Card” venture. There were times when he had too many customers – say at Spring Race meeting season – and he wasn’t able to get around all the old dears, [the] punters, who wanted to place bets. The printed cards were delivered early in the week, perhaps over two days, but all the stubs and money had to be collected as late as possible before the race started on Saturday. Now I had a bike he would give me a list of addresses and expect me to collect about half of his commitment. All sorts of things could go wrong, which didn’t matter if the favourites didn’t win, which invariably meant the punters lost their money and the Bookie had a big win. When things went OK I got some extra pocket money and the Bookie was happy. The Bookie lived in a nice brick house with his family in a better neighbourhood than us and he had a car and no trouble getting coupons. I suppose his work was classified as essential service. Sometimes I had to take the money there on a Friday night or Saturday morning. I knew little about the whole process but I did know when somebody wasn’t happy. Unhappy players could be the punters, dad, the Bookie or one of his big teenage sons who could be very unhappy. At times I was unhappy because I felt threatened. After a few weeks of involvement and feeling that this was not for me, I quit. I wanted work that I enjoyed and now I found myself involved in something that, at best, I wasn’t enjoying and at worst was threatening. Father wasn’t happy when I told him that I wouldn’t “do” any more place cards but, eventually, he gave up working for any Bookies too.

After all, by 1942 we were a busy household. For a start we had a big yard with chooks, fruit trees, vegetables and birds. Dad liked birds and bred several varieties. Apart from the fowls for the table and eggs we had beautiful birds, bred in separate large aviaries: canaries, finches and lovebirds. The small birds reproduced in large numbers which he sold while keeping the best birds, classified by colour and productivity. We also had two white, Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, two pet Magpies, as well as the wild Maggies that came to scavenge, and two Major Mitchell Galahs. The large birds attracted others from wild flocks and if dad was around he would try, and often succeed, in catching some more for sale. He often delivered one of these larger birds to somebody and would ride off on his bike with a suitable cage or a chained cockatoo gripping his shoulder pad. Next to the garage, rather workshop and wood shed (because there was no car), there was a fishpond for goldfish, which he also bred and sold. The problem was that wild birds would eat the stock so he covered the pond with wire mesh to keep the short-billed birds, seagulls and hawks, from taking the fish, but we still had trouble with Cranes poking their long beaks through the mesh. [Ultimately] he had to place fine insect screening over all.

That summer 1941/42 flashed past and the Pacific campaign was anything but pacific. I don’t remember many dates and don’t intend to detail the many momentous events of those years. Interested readers, especially the young, should read about the horror of, the history of, those days of, fifty to sixty years ago; while we oldies will never forget them or our slaughtered young men. General Douglas MacArthur, following the fall of the Philippines, arrived in Australia during my early days at Brighton Junior Technical School, a place I came to know intimately during the next five years while the world all but shook itself to pieces. The first period for the three years of my course was a Social Studies class: who knows what the planned syllabus was meant to be. The subject I remember was the study of the progress of the campaigns to the North, as news broke on the radio and in the daily press. The loss of the Philippines was catastrophic enough but events engulfed friends, family and neighbours, as they lost the flower of our communities. Recruitment proceeded at a shattering pace. I turned 12 in April, watched and listened as the war changed our lives and drowned us in tears.

In the past Australia’s wars were in Europe and Africa, distant places from whence casualties never returned and news, and especially wounded, arrived at a stately pace after a two-month voyage by sea and to the great joy of those who waited, hoping to see their men again. This war advanced on Australia at a shattering pace. Gargantuan and mad-man-made catastrophes cascaded over our meager armed services and the Japanese swept South in an unstoppable series of attacks and occupations. The kamikaze blitzkrieg. Singapore fell, to an enemy that ended British Imperialism there, as an interlude to the occupation of Indonesia and the Australian Territories of Papua-New Guinea. What next? Darwin? It was beyond our experience and comprehension. It was both brutal and dynamic, a time when the impossible was happening. The Federal Government collapsed and was replaced, which had no impact on me, though we wondered what would become of us. Of course the USA was now in the Pacific War and Australia’s hopes were high as we waited. We boys and teachers, the whole population, got behind the war effort and the radio was on whenever we were home and not asleep. Each news flash brought a new catastrophe.

Into this atmosphere MacArthur arrived during my first term with a stated, and much discussed, determination to stop the enemy and obtain their surrender. How? He had no army, and had been employed by the Philippine Government. Before I started at the new school all the young and fit male teachers had been replaced by recalled retirees. [That] was a surprise to me as I had expected the best and brightest instructors, even the Sports Master was an antique who had trouble standing up. It was clear that some of them didn’t want to be there and made their feelings understood by stressing that we boys should get behind the war effort and teach ourselves. They were old and to me the oldest man I had ever met was Mr Toperwein, Head Master of both schools: boys and also girls at Cora Lynn, next door.

As I write I am reminded of E.B. White of the The New Yorker who was recalled from his retirement farm in Massachusetts. On arrival he wrote to his brother, “The New Yorker is a worse madhouse than ever now, on account of the departure of everybody for the wars, leaving only the senile, the psychoneurotic, the maimed, the halt, and the goofy to get out the magazine. There is hardly a hormone left in the place.”…From Ben Yagoda’s “About Town”.

It was the same in Melbourne in 1942, though I can’t say that I knew what a hormone was in February 1942, still aged eleven. The atmosphere was much same at school, a bit of a madhouse, though Australia had declared war 2 ½ years before, in 1939.

Life became most complex with the bombing of Darwin and the bloody campaigns of PNG, Battle of the Coral Sea and more engagements and war stories, horror, torture and bloodshed too numerous to list here. The very young are immune to things outside their personal experience so much of the news hardly impinged on us boys, including me. Not that one could be unaware as we still went to the pictures where Movietone News showed vivid images and we studied “The Front” every school-day morning. The newspapers were full of the doings of General MacArthur and the declaration of “The Brisbane Line” which was to be the limit of the expected Japanese invasion. We, and I, observed the rapid growth of the might of the USA military in our country. Melbourne was the HQ of the Australian Army and Airforce and Sydney the Naval Fleet HQ. It seemed that the streets of staid old Melbourne [were] overrun by US Servicemen. I still had my weekend and school holiday job at the pharmacy. Mr Mewkill was too old for military service and dad’s job was even more important as more and more armed forces uniforms were produced. I settled down to the get the most out of the next three years – 1942, 43 & 44 – when I expected to graduate with the Sub Intermediate Certificate, whatever that was.

Sally was in her final year at Cora Lyne, 16 years old and very much “Big Sister, Head Prefect, Captain of Sports and at year-end Dux of the Girls School”. She was the Principal’s – Mr Toperwein’s – pride and joy and he never missed the opportunity to speak to me, “Pull your sox up, straighten your tie, write neatly, clean your boots.” And worst of all, “Why can’t you be like your sister?” Sally was a charming and disciplined young woman who was planning a career in the commercial world next year when she would be OUT of school and working in Town! She was perfect as well as prefect, a hard act to follow. Besides, her mother was one of the most productive and popular volunteer workers who met at Cora Lynn to use their extensive facilities to sew pajamas for the wounded and hospitalized returned service men. Every hospital in the country was crowded with wounded, maimed and dying men who needed pajamas. At the end of her volunteer afternoon “Mrs da Silva” also took home wool and waxed twine to make [socks], sweaters and camouflage nets. Phyllis was also a hard act to follow. At home the pace of war-work didn’t slacken. Sally and mum knitted and we all worked at making camouflage nets. The net loom was hung by the back door, from the kitchen to the back porch, and the rule was that nobody could go out that door without tying at least three loops of netting. As the toilet was on the back porch the door got a lot of use, especially in the winter of 1942 when mobilization was accelerating and our house was a way-station for visiting young male relatives. Their mothers would tell their sons, “Now when you are in Melbourne go and see cousin Phyllis and make sure you give her your ration coupons.” Well coupons were important but to their delight they found Sally and her wide circle of girl friends.

The first year was my best year as shown in my school report. I enjoyed Maths and Science subjects. The Junior Tech School curriculum was three years and forms A-J in each of the first two years: 9 levels as there was no form (I), which indicated one’s academic performance. In my first year I started in 1D and had a move up to 1A by year’s-end. Second year I started and finished in 2B. In third year there were fewer levels as many boys moved to Senior Tech Schools, or High Schools. Because the main emphasis was practical Trade skills 3A was reserved [for] Fitting & Turning, [and] manufacturing trades. 3B was Plumbing & Sheetmetal, Maintenance and Plumbing trades and 3F was Carpentry & Joinery. [These] forms had Higher and Lower levels, and I was the former. At graduation I received the I.T.C. as Higher Standard, which was the best I could hope for. My worst subject was English in which I never got higher than 73% and [my] lowest was 51% (highest class average in those 3 years was 78% and lowest 51%). The English Master was an elderly Mr Green with whom I never had any empathy and I found it hard to forgive his selection of me as Portia when we studied Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice.

The class rooms had long desks and long forms, without backs, to sit on, thus the boys sat in rows with an aisle down the middle and a similar space around the four walls of the room. We faced the blackboard and the master lectured from a raised platform on which was a long demonstration bench with cupboard doors front and back and an aisle between the bench and the first desk. This arrangement was quite different from the other state-school class rooms I knew where pupils sat two to a small desk. We always sat in the same [positions], in alphabetical order of our surnames. Thus I was established at the first class on day one in the second row from the front and for the first two years the person next to me, on the left, was Bruce Cottle. He was the last of the “C’s” and I was the first of the “D’s” and we became friends, quite unusual for me, and we remained so through years 1 & 2 after which his parents moved him to another school. The person on my right was usually a Davies or similar name and they changed several times during each year as the three-year course progressed. I never knew any of them. I visited Bruce at their nice house in Middle Brighton on occasion as the Cottle home was nearer the school than da Silva’s at East Brighton. We were quite a distance in the opposite direction which didn’t matter to me as I had a bike. He walked to school. Occasionally I would visit his place where the household included mother, an aunt and a big brother. I recollect them being kind to me. There was a father too but I can’t remember if I met him. [Before] the war he had been a merchant or trader but his business, with the East, had collapsed and by 1942 he had a job which didn’t pay as well. They had to move into a smaller house and, like many people who couldn’t get coupons, they sold the car and took the boys out of private school. For convenience they obtained a house near the railway station and settled down for the duration. Just another war story.

The metro area of Melbourne was in flux as hostilities turned into a real war. Nothing brought it [to] the notice of the population more than the bombing of Darwin by the same naval force that [had] bombed Pearl Harbor. Families from the Northern towns and settlements suitable for an enemy landing were shipped South, usually mother and kids with the men enlisting or staying to fortify the area against an expected invasion. The main population centres were Darwin, Cairns, Townsville, as well as the fishing and pearling hamlets of the Northwest, some of which were bombed, and the sugar mill towns of the Northeast. Those not yet bombed were expected to be prepared. South they came to Schools like Brighton Tech, boys from Darwin told vivid stories of the bombing and evacuation, “You have seen people killed?”, we would ask. Space was made to train boys in metal-working and other useful, war-effort trades. Boys were allowed to start work at 14 years of age in those days and many chaps, big for their age, started earlier. The grandson of a neighbour, a huge hulking kid aged 12, got a job training to be a plumber. By the end of the war, in 1945, he was in business for himself and making a fortune. 1942 was the year when humanity swarmed into the Australian cities and suburbs. European refugees [who] had started to come to Australia from Italy in the 20’s and from central Europe in the 30’s now arrived from everywhere. Thousands of enlisted and new servicemen added to the transient population and before the year was out the forces of the United States of America arrived to show us the American way. How we needed them!

Of course many Australians enlisted at the declaration of war in 1939. I guess my Uncle Bill, mother’s brother, was one of those. Like his father in 1914, he was really a bit too old to be shipped overseas but, after basic training, he found himself in Africa. His father’s arrival in France in 1915 follows a similar line. Would Bill come back badly wounded like [at] his father’s return from Europe? Off went Uncle Bill with thousands of others to the Northern Hemisphere. From 1940-1946 so many family members stayed with us at Elizabeth Street, East Brighton. I don’t recall who they were, the dates of their [stays], and will never recall as many haven’t survived the intervening 60 or so years. However l will never forget that I spent hundreds of nights on the couch in the family room when my bed was occupied by a visitor. That sofa is now (year 2000) in Robyn Garners house in Brisbane. The Caldicott mob had hundreds, if not thousands, of descendants of those who arrived from the UK in the 1840’s. They produced lots of male cannon fodder for both world wars.

It was in the 40’s that I met and got to know my Caldicott cousins and uncles and, best of all, [I] met my grandfather William Henry Caldicott of Gladesville, a suburb of Sydney, from whom I have my given name William. I also met his brother Earle, a grand uncle from Adelaide who, like my grandfather, travelled on wartime business. Sons of these brothers and other siblings (they were 2 of 12 who survived to adulthood) came in uniform, entertained, enlarged and recounted many tales of family life during the war years. There were a few cousins in the Melbourne metro area but I never saw them as the inference, from my parents, was that they were unfriendly. These young men from Adelaide and Sydney, who stayed with us, were happy to have the opportunity to travel at government expense and delighted to find cousin Phyllis and her family friendly and hospitable. They had heard about her for years as she had lived with her uncles and aunts in Adelaide as a child [from] the age of 6 to 16. We had a lot of fun and I couldn’t help thinking, at the time, [that] they were fit and well, fancy-free and about to depart on the adventure of a lifetime. I was too young to think ahead and wonder how many would pay the ultimate price.

For me these were the best of times and I was happy. At last I was attending the school which I had tried to enter for two years. I had a bike, a job after school, money, a room to myself and best of all I had a dog, Tommy, or Thomas Aquinas as my mother called him. Many years later I discovered that Thomas Aquinas was a patron saint of Portugal, so I guess I had a Portuguese dog, but to me he was a very smart Fox Terrier that followed me everywhere. And now I had cousins calling, talking, giving me presents and taking me out. The attraction was my beautiful sister and her girlfriends and my role was “gooseberry” and my presence was a condition of my father’s acceptance of these young men escorting Sally, and the other 16-year-old girls, around town. Towards the end of 1942, Tobruk was recaptured from the Germans by the British and mother, probably advised by her father, awaited news of her brother as it was expected that he had been with the large contingent of Australian troops in the African campaigns. As the war progressed and we became older, wiser and shocked by the carnage, by the end of hostilities and after demobilization things were different, we kids were adult beyond our years. Besides I was 16, Sally was 20 and, unknown to each other, we were independently planning our futures.

First year of school continued with ups and downs. I was good at what I was good at and not so good at the rest. I never did my homework at home, because I was busy at the pharmacy after school then listened to the radio, with the family, after the evening meal. I did the minimum amount of “home work” before assembly at school. I would find a room or place behind the hedges at the back of the school ground, if the weather was OK, otherwise I would find an unoccupied classroom and scribble away. Wednesday was Sports Day; I avoided team games and the team captains were happy to support me in the practice. Sport was compulsory so I had to do something or spend the afternoon in detention. I had enough of dreary, dull detentions without wasting a half-a-day out of school. I persuaded my mother to write a note to the principal specifying Swimming in the summer and Ice Skating in the winter. There was extra expense in these sports which she agreed to pay: entrance fee for the Middle Brighton Baths and entrance and skate hire at St Mortiz skating rink at the St Kilda Esplanade. Real “Cool” as kids say these days. The school had no skating team – only an ambition which wasn’t realized while I was there – and the Swim Team Captain, for some reason, didn’t mind supervising me, provided I kept out of mischief. Difficult, but manageable, within his tolerance level. The years rolled by with the support of the Maths, Science, Draughting and Woodworking Masters though, for some reason, the boy’s-school principal and Mr Toperwein continued to express disappointment in my achievements.

I was too busy to worry about what they thought, though I did have trouble with Tommy because he probably thought I was neglecting him by going places on my bike and leaving him at home. He was suspicious of my preparations and on [occasion] impossible to find so as to chain him in the backyard before I departed. He would lie in wait, hiding, and then follow me at a distance, making things difficult but not impossible when working as a delivery boy but, sometimes, he followed me to school. I would attempt to shoo him away and ride faster so he couldn’t keep up, [but] even so he would turn up at assembly, [disrupting] the march into class by running alongside our form. Sometimes he would sit at the back of the school ground and watch to see which class room I would go into after assembly. Always he wanted to come inside and would make such a fuss outside the door that the teacher would tell me, “Take that dog home immediately.” I would miss the rest of the class and get a detention too. I enjoyed that school because I learned so much, my favourite subjects being Algebra, Calculus, Science and Solid Geometry. I wonder if schools teach these subjects today? It was a Boys-Only school, separated from the girls grounds by a corrugated galvanized iron fence which was much too high for even the tallest lads to see over. Along the section between the girls’ tennis courts and the boys’ bicycle sheds the iron had many peep holes, no doubt pierced by sharp steel implements hammered from the boys’ side. Nobody ever saw anybody creating these holes but as fast as the school maintenance people repaired the fence, more appeared. By the time I attended the school no attempt was being made to repair the holes, but prefects would impose a detention on anybody using them.

I didn’t like many of the boys, because I had a strange name, a non-Anglo Saxon appearance, and a cultivated Sydney accent courtesy [of] my mother. I was different, and frequently needled by bullies. Nevertheless I enjoyed the school, the lessons were challenging, the curriculum introduced us to logic and new computational ideas, scientific experiments and methods, and the boys taught me to fight and flee. First year ended with my position in class changing from 1st in 1D to 14th in 1A. Another lesson; it’s more difficult to stay on top in the top form, though smaller classes – average size 22 pupils – was ten less than I was accustomed to at other State schools, and probably helped me to learn a lot. My bike “Pegasus” enabled me to explore Brighton while travelling between school, home and pharmacy and customers, which helped me plan summer holiday excursions with Tommy. The great pleasure of final exams was the end-of- the-year Summer Holidays, a chance to earn money, receive Christmas presents, celebrate the new year and spend days swimming in the Bay, exploring the sand dunes and poking around the wharves and yacht clubs.

School classes stopped in the first week of December, as spring turned to the heat of summer. Official school closure, after exam results were published, occurred about the middle of the month when I started full-time work and the hectic days at the pharmacy through Christmas eve. On days off, like Boxing Day, mother would cut and pack lunch in my bicycle bag and off I would go, without Tommy, promising to be home by 5 O’clock. For years my favourite haunt was Middle Brighton Pier: thoroughly explored, alone or with other ragamuffins, long before its present extant [form] with [an] added stone breakwater. We small boys were always exploring the lower deck with its many areas dimly lit by cracks in the wooden slab walls. Room-like enclosures opened onto landings. In the early days of the settlement, before the road from Melbourne was safe [and] when contiguous suburbs didn’t exist, a lot of merchandise and passenger traffic arrived by sailing boat. The landings were there to provide berths for these vessels and [for] the convenience of passengers. The other forbidden attraction was the Yacht Club yard, the hard standing area between the Club House and the high solid-brick wall on the boundary between the yard and the sandy beach. The yard was secured by heavy wooden gates, which were locked at night, [and] that were closed across the slipway at night. On cool to cold days with Sou-westerly winds, we would lie on the beach in the sun against the brick wall which provided shelter. On hot North-wind mornings we found relief from the sun in the shade of the wall, at least [until] midday. If the Dingy Shed, which housed the Cadet Dingy fleet, was left open by Juniors we would slip in and explore the building and access the yard, and [have] other adventures. Some boys might climb into yachts, lockers and other facilities which may be left unlocked. I was always on the lookout for old copies of sailing magazines and other reading matter on the subject of sailing and would pick through the rubbish to find them. Summer was the best time for these adventures because the seaside was unpleasant in the wet, cold winters of Melbourne ([though] the winter had the advantage of few people to tell us to “be-off you You young $%&*@!#!”). The days tumbled one after the other and suddenly it was early February, school, daily assembly and homework were upon us again.

In 1943, Grandfather was informed that Uncle Bill had survived the Siege of Tobruk – only just – and would be sent home after release from whichever hospital in England, wherever that was. Information like that was restricted but we at least believed that he was alive. He was probably in the battle that took that important port from the Italians in January 1941. In March that year Tobruk was isolated from the main British forces to the East and the Germans laid siege, finally taking the city in June 1942. Of course we didn’t know where Bill was but we did follow the campaign and because we had heard nothing from him, we supposed that he was still in North Africa. The Germans took 35,000 Allied prisoners, perhaps he was one of those. Sometime in the next year or two Bill came to stay with us and we realized that he was a very sick man. Bill and his wife were divorced and had no children so I suppose mum, his sister, offered to look after him and aid his recovery, however he returned to Sydney and died soon after (1946). He had survived as one of the Rats of Tobruk, who, after the disaster of the fall, survived being prisoners of war until their remnant numbers were freed by the British in November 1942. He had two or more years in hell and couldn’t talk about the experience, in fact he couldn’t talk about much at all.
He was the eldest and sister Phyllis the youngest of grandfather’s children by his first wife Carrie Morgan Carr Caldicott. After her death when Phyllis was six and Bill fifteen, Phybbie was at first looked after by Grandma Morgan after which grandfather sent her to Adelaide to live with her Caldicott grandparents and the extensive Caldicott clan in South Australia. We have a hand-coloured studio portrait of her, aged 6, sitting alone on a piano stool. She stayed in South Australia until she was 16, when she returned to Sydney to be bridesmaid at Bills wedding. We have another studio photograph of that wedding party, a group of bright and beautiful young people full of promise. Bill left his insurance policy to Phyllis.

Other Caldicott relatives continued to appear at Elizabeth Street through 1943. That winter we met the tall, dashing Able Seaman Peter Greville Caldicott Shaughnessy for the first time. Aunty Vic – Victoria Eileen Caldicott Shaughnessy – was the youngest of my Great-Grandfather’s 12 surviving children. My grandfather was the eldest, so Vicky and Phybbie were of [a] similar [age] although they were a generation apart. Hence Peter Shaughnessy was my mother’s first cousin but only a year older than Sally. Aunty Vic was second only to my grandfather among my favourite relatives so we were delighted to meet him and even more delighted to find him such an entertaining and engaging young man. The 1943 photograph of the “Two Peters” in the back garden of Elizabeth Street shows us both with beaming smiles. I’m wearing his RAN sailors cap and no doubt wishing I too could be in the Navy, [despite ebing] five years younger and feet shorter than the 6 ½ foot, 18-year-old sailor. Peter eventually married Joan Rowland, one of Sally’s close friends and bridesmaid, following active service, hospitalization, life-threatening experiences, illness and adventures that are another story. Peter (Shaun) will appear again in happier times.

Grandfather must have been in his sixties when he began calling on us at Elizabeth Street, so I wondered what brought him to Melbourne at a time when travel was strictly rationed. I recall he indicated that he was too old to enlist but not too old to work as a volunteer, which he did in The Civil Construction Corp, an organization that built infrastructure for military use. Anyway, he’d come to Melbourne from his residence in Sydney, Gladesville: remember that name. His brother Uncle Earle would also stay with us on [occasion], he always said Grace at the dinner table and took a long time to get to the point. Many years later John Bishop indicated that the record shows there was no W.H. Caldicott in the CCC during the war: a mystery? Howard Caldicott, one of grand-uncle Earle’s sons, also stayed during the war when he was in the Air Force at the RAAF base in Tocumwal, NSW. One pay-day two H. Caldicotts met for the first time, standing together, in the “C” queue. Actually there were three Caldicott first cousins in the queue that day. They were Howard and Harry, sons of the brothers Will and Earle. [The] former was my grandfather, father of Harry, and Jack Anzac Caldicott, Harry’s brother was the third Caldicott in the queue.

It was cheaper and easier to get passes for travel from Toc to Melbourne than [to] Sydney, so Harry’s wife Mary and baby daughter Janette lived in Sally’s bedroom for some months (I slept on the family room chaise, now at Robyn & Glen’s house in Brisbane, and Sally slept in my room). Part da Silva war effort. Harry would get the train to Melbourne whenever he could get leave and stay with us. I recall an evening when Howard was there too and they had a good laugh and pantomimed the circumstances of their first meeting. Jack never visited us at 7 Elizabeth Street East, Brighton, as he often went to Sydney on official RAAF business and could arrange leave there with his sons and wife Phyllis. I would eagerly listen to Caldicott family stories told by the parade of relatives who entertained us and added to my badge collection. Howard’s brother, Murray Caldicott, was another of Uncle Earle’s sons. With the mixing of these young men and Sally’s girl friends romance was in the air so Peter Shaughnessy wasn’t the only South Australian to find a Melbourne wife. In 1943 I was 13, Peter S 18. Howard 19 and Murray 22 were typical of their friends in uniform, who were always made welcome and fed by my parents. They came from camp, base, ship, local and interstate and mother, especially, did her best for them all. I envied their uniforms and badges and wore their caps and hats for photographs. It was a terrible time, especially for the older men. Uncle Bill was 41, half brother Jack was 27 and Harry 26, all of whom enlisted early in the war. There was much loss of life, dreadful wounds that maimed for life, and inescapable sorrow, but I sure enjoyed meeting all those happy jokey blokes.

What did I learn at school? I can’t remember anything in particular that year. MacArthur as the Supreme Commander [in the] Pacific was vigorously confronting the enemy and recapturing control over PNG and the Solomon Islands, albeit with great loss of life in taking that country’s main island of Guadalcanal. Judy and I visited the island about 40 years later and found the main airport runway on Guadalcanal was [still] as [it was] left by the Americans. [Rusting] tanks were still bogged in the sands of the beach and the sun reflected, through the clear water, off the shimmering aluminium of Japanese Zeros, fighters downed in the harbour. What I did enjoy about school that year was that Sally had left and I was no longer constantly reminded that I was her little brother. The constant traffic of Service Personnel brought many opportunities to increase my collection of military badges and insignia. As a result of the large number of Italian prisoners of war taken by the Allies in the North African campaign, there was an abundance of coloured ribbons and rosettes. However MacArthur’s United States Marines had the best badge of all and were the highest swap currency at school.

Grandfather’s job, CCC or whatever, was demanding and leave was rare, granted about every six months throughout the war. The round trip was thousands of miles by road and train, as all air travel was reserved for priority defense reasons. Travellers required government passes and there were seldom enough seats, so people sat and slept anywhere they could. The only road/rail link from The Northern Territory to the rest of the nation was via Adelaide and, from there, by train to Sydney via Melbourne. Grandfather would leave the train in Melbourne to stay a while with his daughter and family, as did every other travelling member of the extensive Caldicott clan, mainly enlisted men on their way to defense establishments or on leave. Grandfather visited the family, at the seaside, at every opportunity. Father and Daughter, Phyllis, remained close all their lives, mainly through their constant correspondence. [There was an] endless stream of letters and photographs from the time she went to live, in Adelaide, age 6 or seven, until after WHC returned from WWI. Phyllis lived in the residence of my Great-grandfather Robert Saunders Caldecott (RSC) the patriarch of his large family, mainly in South Australia. RSC’s grandfather Alfred Jolly Caldicott (RJC) had settled in Adelaide in the earliest days of the Colony of South Australia. Grandfather’s letters were always full of news of the doings of the Caldicotts of [South Australia] and discussed, in minute detail, whenever he was in Melbourne. On the other hand the family of my father remained a mystery, nowhere recorded, and rarely discussed even when his friend Jack da Costa visited.

My favourite visitor was grandfather, William Henry Caldicott, born 1881, the second child and the eldest of 12 siblings who survived infancy. My great-grandparents Robert Saunders Caldicott and Elizabeth Hayward Caldicott were married for 51 years and Elizabeth had 17 children. Their first, Robert Hayward, was born in 1880 but died at the age of 2 years so my grandfather Will grew up as the eldest of 12, the youngest of whom, Peter Shaughnessey’s mum Vicky, was born when grandfather was 21. Grandpa was my ideal man, kind, interested in everything I was doing and [he] hand-wrote clear and informative replies to my letters, each letter starting with, “Your ever welcome letter of…(date)…to hand.” When we went out together in Melbourne he would suggest, “Take me to your preferred place on a day like today.” [And] off we would go by public transport: who had cars in those days? He would take me into a fruit shop (he, like his father and brothers, was in the wholesale fruit business) and buy a couple of choice peaches or other top quality fruit. [He] introduced me to tropical fruit, mangos and [pawpaws], which had been unknown to me. Out of his pocket he would produce a pen knife and a clean napkin, [and he would] expertly slice and peel each piece, and while eating he would discuss quality, ripeness, price and matters of interest with the shop keeper.

He had a way of introducing me to ideas and things which I would think about long after he had departed. He was a Mason, a member of the Labor Party, a Justice of the Peace and, unlike many, he could talk about his [First World War] experiences without rancour. He was exposed to German poison gas in France, and never quite recovered. Though he had difficulty inhaling and exhaling and constantly gasped for breath, he never failed to answer my incessant questions. We would walk for miles around the esplanades, beach-side parks and piers, my favourite spots, talking, slowly, discussing and debating man-to-man all the while. My choice of places? I even took him to St Moritz Ice Skating Rink on the St Kilda Esplanade. When he stayed with us he always brought ration tickets which he would give to my mother saying, “You are feeding so many young fellows and you need coupons.” He would also bring hard-to-get items like nylon stockings for Mother and Sally and her friends. He was a big influence in my life because he took an interest in my studies, [my] pharmacy job, what I read, [and my] ambitions and pastimes. We remained friends and corresponded until the day he died in 1962.

The year wore on and when the Christmas holidays arrived I returned full-time to the pharmacy as if I had never been away. I greatly enjoyed the change of pace, delivering to customers, collecting parcels from the Guard’s van at North Brighton Railway Station and travelling by train to the wholesale chemists in the city, near Spencer Street Railway Station. I was also doing the banking at a branch in Glenhuntly Road, Elsternwick, [which was] quite a long ride with the takings in my bicycle bag hung over my shoulder. My own bank account was increasing and I became Sally’s private banker as she was paid fortnightly and [was] always out of money before pay day. She and I still kept each other’s secrets and were both rapidly maturing.

Australia slipped into 1944 with a feeling-good approach about the continuing struggle with the Axis countries, and why not with the USA fully committed and growing in strength daily. Australian land and air forces were routing out the enemy and securing PNG while MacArthur was bringing supplies and men into Australia and the many, recently secured, Pacific islands. The Japanese Aircraft Carriers were now out of range, bombing of the Austrailan mainland had ceased. It was obvious that the Americans were amassing stores, men and materials for the next big push. Everybody talked about and had [an] opinion on what would be next. School Social Study periods were still dedicated to tracking the war in all spheres and Movitone Newsreels in all the Picture Theatres showed dramatic pictures of Australian and American troops in PNG. MacArthur’s troops secured strategic bases in New Guinea. They captured the Admiralties and New Britain while simultaneously securing the Solomons following the capture of Guadalcanal. So there were still a lot of casualties as the Australian forces continued the difficult jungle patrols to mop up pockets of resistance. Little did we know that Japanese soldiers would continue to holdout in PNG into the 50’s because there was no general surrender in the Melanesian Islands. Japanese military communications were destroyed so every contact with the enemy, even after their commanders had retreated or been killed, had to be handled as a mopping-up operation. Gruesome, high-risk missions for platoons of Aussie diggers.

Meanwhile this was to be my final year and I had no other plans than to get a job as soon as I could. I knew that the minimum legal age for leaving school was 14 years, so why not? What else was there to do? I couldn’t enlist and so continued with the next best war effort, the North Road Life Saving Club on Saturday afternoons and Sundays. [However] during the winter Sally and I were still expected to attend Carlton Footy matches, “Unless you are working.” Come to think of it, the edict was probably because I, like most 14-year-olds on the loose, was prone to “mischief”. Who, me? Why, I was still working at the pharmacy [as] delivery & messenger boy, bottle washer, window cleaner, floor & street sweeper, pill machine operator, mortar & pestle hand, storeman and child minder when Mrs Mewkill was out for a short time. If it were to be a long time out she would get one of the local girls to babysit. They had two small boys, the elder was another Peter. Occasionally I would be asked to take Peter home for the afternoon, and my mother or Sally would do the actual babysitting while I got the pay. Mrs Mewkill found it difficult to manage Peter plus a babe-in-arms without Mr Mewkill to assist, [and] I sympathized with her as Peter was active and mischievous. In short, I would do anything asked of me provided I was adequately compensated. Thus my job enabled me, by the time I was thirteen, to be working most footy afternoons.

In Europe the Allies were making exciting advances, Rome was taken, then the “D” Day landing was successful and, of great importance to Australia, the might of the USA Pacific Command invaded and MacArthur’s return to the Philippines was expected any day. His forces bypassed many Japanese strongholds on the way North and Australia held its breath. In retrospect, it was a brilliant strategy as he leap-frogged islands and so cut off enemy lines with few losses. All of this involved men, and more men, in great numbers, “cannon fodder” [was the expression] in days gone by, [although] a term no longer used. For us it meant an endless stream of young servicemen in various stages of training and duty, from enlistment to discharge, [who] called at cousin Phyllis’s house. So many young men, friends and relations, rich and poor, plain and handsome, with much in common. Most were strangers to Melbourne, in uniform, and hoping to have a good time, perhaps their last. At fourteen, I realized that a lot of the activity was motivated by the presence of beautiful and charming Sally and her girlfriends wanting to be pleasant and patriotic. The Saturday night dance at the Caulfield Town Hall was the event of the week and only a short tram ride away. There was always plenty of food at the da Silva residence so what could be better than Dinner and a Dance while on the last Saturday evening of their leave?

Father was very strict with Sally and wouldn’t give his permission for her go out with a boy, or anywhere by herself, especially at night. However the regular Town Hall dance with the Police Station on the other side of Hawthorn Road, and the Life Saving Club dance, were considered safe as she would be with a group of young ladies that we all knew. Dad also knew the Life Saving Club parents and the cops, and I was a member the NRLSC. Occasionally, father would let her go to a movie as long as they were in a group, and especially if I was one of the party. Neither Sally nor her beau would want me around so I was usually bought off with, say, a ticket for a different show. They would dance at the St Kilda Palais de Dance and I would have a ticket for Luna Park or the Palais Pictures; there were lots of things to do on St Kilda Esplanade, especially on a summer evening. The scene was wartime, leave from camp, a pretty girl and a dance or show and they didn’t want a young brother being the gooseberry. I can’t remember what happened to all those young men but Sally’s photograph album (1941-44, now in my archives) are full of pictures of couples, weddings and groups of girls and young service men, some names I recollect, some faces I don’t recall. [But] I look at the images of family members with fond fellow feeling and good memories. I was, on the average, five years younger than most of the lads, they were men and I was a boy, but they didn’t talk down to me and I enjoyed their presence and tried not to be a spoiler. A few of “those boys” are still alive and grandparents today. Of Sally’s Kodak Baby Brownie snapshots of 1941-1944, different faces stand out; those who hadn’t yet faced hostile fire and those who had passed through the horrors of the valley of the shadow. Uncle Bill looking 20 years older than his years was dead by 1946. The albums also have pictures of New Guinea or Papua entitled, “Dressed up as native Police boys March 44 Love Andrew XX” and “Oh! For a nice girl. A tropical Moon, love Mick.”, “Some chaps at a training camp.” I don’t remember any of those names. What a waste!

School was at bursting point as new boys started in ever-larger numbers to be trained for the war effort, to work for manufacturers of arms and weapons. We were encouraged to apply for trade qualifications and Apprenticeship Papers and lock into the work force as soon as possible, usually on one’s fifteenth birthday. Employers were encouraged to release eighteen-year-olds from their indentures so they could enlist into the armed services at 18, and even 17. Girls were encouraged to learn commercial skills. When Sally started work at 16, in 1942, she found the only males at work were Office boys or managers over 50 years of age. Clerical and bookkeeping jobs were done by women and girls, even in government departments, like [the] Dept of Supply where she was rapidly promoted. There was no letup in the push to get military production up and its distribution carried out in an orderly and rapid way. The demand was insatiable. Classes became too big and couldn’t fit into the rooms so it was a surprise to find, at the commencement of the 1944 school year, foundations for a new wing were underway. I was pleased to have this practical demonstration of “how to construct a building” available at my pleasure. I spent every free moment watching the elderly carpenters measure, cut, hammer etc. [As] my final-year course was “Carpentry and Joinery”, I am sure that it helped me to learn about the trade. The head of woodworking, Mr Kinross, and I became good friends. [He] seemed to be about the same age as my grandfather and although he couldn’t favour me in class he was always available for a talk at other free times. Occasionally I would visit him at his house, near the pharmacy, via a [minor] detour on my way home, to watch him in his workshop: not as good as the one he had at school but nevertheless a superior set-up and my ultimate desire for my home. He was always making something and I am sure that he fulfilled many paid commissions, there was such a shortage of capable wood-workers in those days. This obvious demand also strengthened my desire to be a Carpenter. I soon got to know the men on the job, both the for-me’s and the agin-me’s, and because I was curious about the Architect’s and Engineer’s plans and drawings I was invited into the hut by the foreman, Mr Stan Begg. I passed my final exams at the Higher Level and Christmas holidays from school came around for the last time, so I thought, and off I went determined to get a job at the end of my commitment to the pharmacy and the Mewkill family.

I can’t remember what I did that summer but the photographs in Sally’s album show a happy-looking kid with a happy-looking dog. It’s no use asking Sally what I did because she is now in 24-hour care at a hostel for [Alzheimer’s] patients. I do remember that I wanted to start work as a Carpenter’s Apprentice but realized that at the start of the school year, February 1945, I was not yet 15. To my surprise I found that the adult population of my world decided, “because of your small size, slight build and under age,” so they said, including the teachers at Brighton Tech, it was recommended that I repeat a year. My view, which was “Not again!”, wasn’t sought and the whole idea was anathema to me and I felt let down and even Carpentry & Joinery repeated was not attractive. I tried a couple of weeks in the Plumbing & Sheetmetal forms but found the class-room subjects, like maths, science, Tech drawing – that were common to the building trade – were repetitive and boring. I knew that stuff! One last choice was still open: Fitting & Turning.

I was encouraged to try F&T, after all that was the most important trade in the manufacture of shells, bombs, artillery and countless other steel components. Not that I was interested in those things but I was smitten by the aircraft industry, [and] read “The Aeroplane” magazine from England whenever I could get my hands on a copy. I also made model aircraft and models of most of the current fighter planes hung from my bedroom ceiling. I thought F&T might help me get a job associated with aircraft but my original, and only, strong interest was a job in the Building Trade. I agreed to try that, as the least evil of the only alternatives presented, but I wasn’t happy. By this time first term was about three weeks old but I caught up quickly, then I had to face my first workshop period in a strange and foreign place that smelt of machine oil, cutting fluid and the residue of vapours given off by metal turning. The instructor was a retired and ancient short and stocky man who went out of his way to explain that he was an ex-amateur boxer; I soon understood why! I was way behind the rest of the class and was expected to get ahead as fast as I could with almost no instruction in the fundamentals of the use of metal working tools, which I had never used before. During a discussion of the problems I was having he suddenly smashed me in the face with his closed fist. Needless to say I was surprised and stunned, quite literally, and when I got my wits back I could see the rest of the class trying to hide their grins and, in a moment, which seemed like an eternity, I turned and walked out the door. Outside in the calm air I wandered off in the direction of the new extension and found myself talking to Stan Begg. He offered to employ me as an “Improver”, starting tomorrow, provided my parents agreed by filling out and signing a form he handed over. Off I went home and after some discussion and [getting] my mother’s signature, father didn’t protest too much. Early the next morning I was back at the school, empty except for the building site and feeling “remote from all that”, and started work. By the end of the day the boys and the school accepted, with some envy on the part of the boys and ignored by the masters, my new status as a full-time worker. At last I had found the best way to have the School crowd out of my life.

Work was interesting, hard and long as we started at 7:30am and worked through to 5:00pm with half-an-hour for lunch and two short “smoko” breaks, mid-morning and mid-afternoon, when I had a mug of tea and [a] snack from the copious lunch bag prepared by mother. The foreman banged an old wheel, hung outside his shed, with a hammer to start and finish the breaks and the day. He never fraternized with us during the breaks, though I was in and out of the office a hundred times a day running messages and being available to people delivering supplies, answering the phone and being at the beck and call of anybody and everybody. My name was “Ay-U!!” and I also had the job of boiling water and filling the men’s Billies for their tea. The year progressed as I ran from daylight to dusk, and nightfall too during Melbourne’s long cold and wet, or frosty, winter (black about five o’clock in the afternoon). Recalling such an exciting time has got me ahead of myself. On my 15th birthday, 16 April 1945, I was presented with Apprenticeship papers and a letter to my parents telling them of the legal contract that they and I would enter into on signing, with my employer R.L. Garrett & Son, Builders and Contractors.

I can’t remember if the firm was incorporated or a partnership. R.L. would occasionally visit our job though it was clear that he didn’t have an executive position or much to say. [He] was an elderly gent, nicely dressed in a suit, collar and tie and though he looked a bit like the Head Master he didn’t know my sister. He would wander around, take a look, say a few things to Stan, then get into his car and drive off. He was there one lunch-time when I was eating and reading a book. As my father would say, “What is he reading?” or “Why is he reading?” Mr Garrett Snr asked the same thing so I closed the book and gave it to him to peruse. He flicked through it, handed it back and walked away. About a week later my Mother asked me what book was I reading when Mr Garrett came to the job. I couldn’t remember because I would take a different book every day, if I could; I was a voracious reader. Then she showed me an R.L. Garrett letter which let her know that I had been reading a book which could harm me and influence my Christian beliefs and mental development in a detrimental way. “Well! What could that be?” she asked. The puzzle was eventually solved for us both as it was a book, one of a set of two, that my mother had given to me, one for Christmas and the other on my birthday. They were “The Book of Science” and “The Book of Life” which, with T.C. Bridges’ “Book of Discovery”, I kept for over 50 years and read countless times, but not after my teens. The volume I had been reading on the day of RLG’s visit was “The Book of Life” the basis of its proposition was Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. My mother replied that I had her permission to read the book. I don’t think he ever spoke to me again though I was sent to do repairs at one of the fundamental bible churches he supported in the Brunswick-Coburg suburbs.

After V.E. Day in April 1945 I realized that Stan had his own business and was building small houses on his own account in the Brighton-Sandringham area where he lived, with his wife and two small children, a boy and a girl. Rationing was gradually changed to allow building of private houses as the war-in-the-Pacific moved towards its close, though each new job had to have a permit from some government bureaucracy. He personally worked on the jobs at weekends and holidays while subcontracting various trades, [though] not Carpentry. He also surveyed and [pegged] the site himself and I accepted a job whenever he offered a day or two at the weekend when he needed somebody to hold the tape, surveying and leveling devices, [or with] helping with the line, pegging and putting in hurdles for the foundations and stumps. In fact anything that was asked of me. When he was doing a one-man job I would dig stump holes and help with rough carpentry tasks like nailing plates to stumps or adjusting supports for studs. I was paid 12/6 a day ($1.25) as much as I got for a week at the pharmacy. And on occasions on a two-day weekend I got as much as I earned for 5 days at Garretts. After a while Stan was moved to the Estimating Office at Brunswick probably because the firm was bidding on a new project. Brunswick was as far North of the City as Brighton was South.

I soon learnt that changes of personnel were frequent in the construction industry, especially in this period of severe labour shortage. I got on well with Stan’s replacement, Colin Bell, and worked with him on his private jobs too, eventually. The booming War-Time economy in Australia was full of opportunity for tradespeople and many worked weekends for themselves or a second, third, whatever employer. Towards the end of the year I was moved to a big Hospital project near the city where I worked for Rupert Johnson, the Foreman with a “hard as nails” reputation. It was a much bigger contract, huge by the day’s standards, and my “dog’s body” duties were much the same as I had at Brighton Tech. I still had to boil the water and fill the tea billies, [and] order and collect lunches. Even though I was the youngest of three apprentices at the site I was the one in the office helping with the book-work. That was unusual. I asked no questions about the matter and found out why, eventually. It was a big site, big enough and important enough to have its own Shop Steward. Hospital construction was a never-ending task for several government bodies as casualties continued to arrive in the cities from [the] field and smaller hospitals in the North, and from troop ships from the ends of the earth where Aussie casualties were treated before returning home. This addition to Prince Henry’s [Hospital] was a huge Nurses Home, designed to attract the best and brightest.

My lunch-boy job included taking the orders and money to the nearest pie-and-sandwich shop and, just before the tucker gong was rung, I would return to collect the orders. Timing was critical as the men didn’t want cold pies and kicked up a fuss if they had to wait a second for their feed and billies. The smoko shed was the ancient remnant of a large factory that occupied the site next door to the hospital. It was fitted out with long benches for the men to sit on, eat, talk, argue and [chayac]. The boiling copper was outside so they would crowd around to be first to collect their billies and food orders. Billies were filled using a dipper, a jam tin nailed to a stick, by me and an old labourer who was in charge of the smoko shed. [He was an] antique toughy able to handle the arguing and joking, each-to-his-own-mood, crowd. The old bloke’s real job was to deal with arguments, frustrations and inevitable dissatisfaction should something be wrong. The boss knew that a 15-year-old apprentice carpenter could never handle the aggression that a disgruntled building worker could deliver. About 50% would order something from the shop and about 80% would collect a billy and they had 30 minutes to eat, drink and have a smoke. With up to one hundred men on the site there were always complaints so it was a frustrating daily undertaking full of complaints, arguments over money and any number of variations. Sometimes I would get a pat on the head and a penny for my trouble. That job didn’t teach me much carpentry but it sure taught me a lot about people: my fight and flee rule of life still held good. The best part of the hassle was that the lunch-shop owner was pleased that I brought the orders to his place and not the shop across the street and I usually received a hot pie or an ice-cream for my trouble. Not that I was without lunch which mother made for me, to order. [It] was simply that I was always hungry.

Every day on the hospital job was a learning experience, though I hesitate to mention many things that I learnt. The Foreman had buying responsibility for several jobs in the Southern districts of Melbourne. A truckload of dry bricky’s sand would arrive at our site with a slip from the nearby weigh bridge. A quantity would be tipped off for our job and while the driver was in the foreman’s shed one of the labourers would be assigned to hose down the truck, making sure that the sand soaked up as much water as possible. After refreshment the driver would take the truck back to the weigh bridge to get another slip for the next delivery. I wondered out loud about this practice one day, and was advised by the skilled and experienced hose wielder that it was better not to see such things, and safer still not to talk about it to anyone, not even him. We apprentices had fun because our indentures protected us from unpleasant practical jokes usually played on other young hands, especially on big sites. We were expected to learn and bound to attend night school, 4 nights a week, to learn how to be first-class tradesmen. The small villa jobs taught me a lot about the joinery part of the trade as we, in those days before factory mechanization, made most joinery items on site, such as cabinets, doors and window frames.

Looking back on those days I realize that I must have worked on at least ten different sites during the years 1945/46. As far as I can remember I worked on two large projects, the hospital job and the Naval [Ordnance] Stores which were two vast single story buildings, cathedral-like spaces with heavy-lift gantry cranes inside, built to house the largest naval guns of the RAN. I guess they were spares to replace damaged guns during a refit. I have a vivid memory of the project because the numerous factories, bunkers, design and office establishments, all dedicated to producing explosive raw material and devices, covered hundreds, perhaps thousands of acres. I recall being there in the winter so it was probably 1946 and the war was over though Australia stayed armed as part of the occupation force in Japan. [Also] the PNG jungle was still a dangerous place with many pockets of Japanese, isolated snipers who had not received the order to [surrender]. The last pair of snipers to be captured, if I remember correctly, was in the 50’s. In 1946 MacArthur was still in charge, but by now resident in Japan, [a latter-day] Shogun, and the USA was most concerned about the Civil War in China, so these Maribyrnong facilities were still being expanded and our firm had won the huge project.

We started work at 7:30am and as the job was in the far North of the metro area I had to leave home at about 5:00am. Mother would wake me with breakfast-in-bed, [and] then nagged me to get dressed and out of the house on time. I would leave home in the dark and ride my bike to North Brighton Station in a mad dash to catch the 5:30am to Spencer Street Station in the City. Being wartime and [with] petrol rationing there was little traffic so the Electric Train could be heard, almost felt, as it rumbled and vibrated while picking up speed after leaving the terminus at Brighton Beach, two stations South. Peddling hard and with an ear cocked I would estimate the effort needed to beat the train before it crossed Bay Street. As it slowed to make the Middle Brighton stop we, by now a band of workers, had to win the contest before the roadway crossing gates closed thus stopping all wheeled traffic. On occasions some of us missed the crossing gates, but [were] able to squeeze through the pedestrian gates while wheeling [our] bikes as these were the last gates locked by the Signalman before the train slowed to a stop at the platform. A few cyclists would miss both gates and have to stumble and jump, bike frame on a shoulder, down the steps of the underpass, then a few slippery steps to stagger up the facing steps, then a last gasp push up the ramp to the racks onto which we would throw our bikes, [and] chain and lock [them] to be sure they would be there after the return trip 12 hours later. Those wet Melbourne winters, streets hidden by wartime blackout, freezing cold damp winter fogs or drizzle swirling around, would see us soaked running and jumping apparitions, flinging ourselves, lunch bags swinging into the packed and odoriferous 2nd class carriages. [At] that hour all were workmen who would be docked a penalty if we didn’t clock on before the gong was struck at the job.
At my station passengers would be seated, huddled in winter-weather gear and would accept rookie travellers with disdain at each stop. Newcomers would plunge in shrouded under skewed rectangles of army ground-sheets to push and squeeze [their way into] a position. In the wet slimy waterproof fabric they/we looked like bedraggled giant fruit bats swaying, grabbing and grasping overhead swing straps, [and the] supporting poles and rods [supported] the luggage racks. At the industrial stops closer to town there were some departures but the only people with seats were those who had won the fight at the Southern stations or had managed to grab a seat from a departing passenger. Petrol rationing had eliminated almost all private transport so trams, trains and buses were packed. Trams were notorious for the crowds of men, tip-toe on running boards, stretched and hanging onto any available hold as the cars rushed past stops, ignoring stranded and waving figures. Trains were required to stop as listed in the Railway Timetables, [but] of course some trains were express at [peak] periods.

As our 5:30 from North Brighton stopped at industrial stations on the outskirts of the city standing passengers would push and shove, dive and squirm to occupy vacated seats. Sagging onto a bench they would shed their wet top garments, first and especially the ground sheet, even though wet, could be made into a small packet and got ready not to impede scampers, like me, who had to cross two platforms to get a North-bound train. The explosives factory was at Maribyrnong, in those days an open far-Northern area on the outskirts, beyond civilization. With many others I had to get to the Pasco Vale Line platform at Spencer Street, one of three central, multiplatform, city stations which were all under cover and dry. The Maribyrnong Tram Line, which terminated at the Explosives Factory, passed over the Pasco Vale line at Ascot Vale station where I got out, walked up a long hill to await the Tram to the [ordnance] job where the car would empty. Then there was [a long] walk through the huge campus with armed M.P.’s guarding each gate, check point and building. Then into the job changing shed where we would hang our travelling duds on hooks and nails, clamber into boots, Bib & Brace Overalls and warm sweaters if we were allocated to an out-door task, especially if it was high above the ground. Even in fine weather it was cold up there. Time to get a breather after we clocked on before 7:30am.

I would sleep quite a lot both ways, sometimes passing my stop and eventually wake as a result of rolling over, because the carriage would empty leaving nobody to keep me upright. Once awake, and after working out where the train was on the line, I would have to plan what to do, and remember the easiest way to cross over the line, without a ticket and without getting killed, and so get a train back. Of course I would be without a ticket and often without any money, especially at the end of the day. I would watch for inspectors and hardly ever got caught, though sometimes I had to jump off the returning train to escape, then run like mad to a carriage the checker had finished. [Over-shooting] a ticketed stop was a time-consuming exercise and, worse still, it could be expensive if I had to buy a regular ticket and, worse, pay a fine. Naturally I travelled with a “Worker’s Weekly” ticket, the cheapest of all, which meant I shouldn’t travel between 8:30am and 4:30pm, or rather I shouldn’t be caught doing so. How I hated working in the Northern suburbs in general, and I especially hated working at Maribyrnong. Apart from the hours of travel, it was a restricted, top-secret military establishment, where everyone was watched every minute of the day. To me it was five months in gaol and influenced my strong aversion to government employment. I had chosen the job because I worked at Brighton but I learned that a Brunswick employer meant the bulk of work they bid was in the Northern Suburbs which I found to be quite inhospitable. Most of my fellow employees were from the Brunswick, Coburg and further North districts, and to them Brighton and bay-side suburbs were alien, and therefore, so was I.

My lunch which I brought from home, as prepared by my mother, was ample and satisfying and I never had to stand in a queue at the canteen. [The] books I read on the train were different, and the cloths I wore were too. I had a pair of tan leather golf shoes that my father had acquired and were too small for him. He probably got them in payment for a service or an item of fishing gear and [they] were of a quality we could never have afforded. Though they cost me nothing they were tokens of envy. Also they didn’t like the way I talked, and would mimic me; my mother tongue was a reflection of the way Phyllis was taught to speak by the tutors hired by Grandma Morgan to teach little Fibbie to “speak like a Lady”. My work mates would mimic and tease me but were quite upset to find I didn’t react, hardened as I was to peer-group taunting. After work I always [got] off to a flying start because if I didn’t catch the 4:35 tram from outside the factory gates the journey to Brighton Tech, for night school, took a good deal more than two-and-a-half hours and I would be late for night school. At the knock-off whistle we would make haste for the change room, lock our tools away, change from our steel-toed work boots and overalls, slip into our shoes, trousers, jackets and over-coats then [head] off out the door. There was no time to pause and wish each other “Good-night!” Some of the blokes would go to the pub but even when there was no night school I headed for home. One night I found my shoes were full of saw-dust and worse still nailed to the floor. Of course there I was still struggling to get free as the rest of the team left our changing shed happily laughing as they lit their smokes and made their way out the door. I missed the connecting tram, the shoes were never the same and neither was I. I had just turned 16 and was quite experienced by similar teases in the past, and would be in the future. I added them to my memory and never forgot a good deed or the other kind, for that matter.

I can’t remember when we moved to Brighton, and my parents never discussed it, but it appears to [have been] about 1932; who remembers specific events before age two? Thus the only place I recall as a very small child, was Brighton in general and the Hampton Street local in particular. We moved to Elizabeth Street, East Brighton, in 1939 and I lived there until my marriage to Judy in 1955. Thus the City of Brighton part of the Dendy Estate (founded about 1840) was my happy hunting ground, especially as the first house Judy and I owned, bought off-the-plan, was near the Western boundary of Dendy’s land. My detailed knowledge of the area grew as I worked on jobs and played in the bayside suburbs. Thus, following my marriage and before we moved to Sydney in 1962, I lived within the boundaries of the Dendy Estate for thirty years, from 1932 to 1962. Of course I came to know the area intimately, as only a venturesome boy would, and due to my membership in Life Saving and Yacht clubs, I never considered living anywhere else. Thus my knowledge of Melbourne and suburbs is concentrated in that Bayside, swimming and sailing culture of Eastern Port Philip Bay.
The descriptions of streets, creeks, fields and waterfront are embedded in my memory by layout [and] locale. Parks, buildings, schools, houses and shops are vividly recalled. Happy wanderer that I was, walking, running, swimming and sailing, daily living as child and adult. I loved to watch men at work. Why wouldn’t I develop an interest in Real Estate? Unlike Hampton Street which is miles long, Elizabeth Street is 5-blocks long North to South, parallel with and between Hampton Street and Hawthorn Road, though 4 blocks from the former and one block from [the] latter. It tee’d into Union Street and North Road, the Northern boundary of the Dendy Crown Grant. The two “T” junctions at each end were hill-crests and between flowed Elster Creek, diagonally across the rectangular street grid for miles. In the established and elevated areas Elster creek flowed underground but [was] open to the sky for long stretches, especially in low, flood-prone areas near the sea. Several tributaries flowed into the creek on its way to the Bay at Elwood beach. Further back towards its headwaters in the high land it was underground in large pipes and tunnels, another adventure site. From Hawthorn Road to the Bay fences lined both sides of the stream. Our rear fence was one of those which led to the creek and [that was] an invitation to adventure. Thus the Northern boundary of our block was longer than the Southern because Elster Creek crossed the street grid diagonally behind our chook yard. At the lowest point between each end of Elizabeth Street, a bridge crossed the creek about half-way between our place and Union Street.

At the top of the South-end hill behind a high fence on the Southern side of Union Street facing down Elizabeth Street, sat the huge bulk of the Hurlingham mansion, built about 1850. (Must do some research on that.) Elizabeth Street may have been the original carriage-way from North Road to the ornate iron entry gates of Hurlingham. Possibly the gardens of the house extended from the coach entry to North Road, [and] the Camphor Laurel trees lining Elizabeth Street may have been part of the formal landscaping to the house. When we lived there the trees were quite mature, and I suspect Hawthorn Road was much newer than the entry to Hurlingham and may have been created about the same time as the old Brighton Cemetery was laid out. Adam Lindsay Gordon’s remains were interred there in 1870, so that end of Hawthorn Road may have been surveyed about 1860. Thus it’s quite possible that Elizabeth Street was a drive at that date. Most of the houses in the street were [built] no earlier than 1920 except one or two small cottages by the horse paddock, which was still used and was at the lowest point where the creek ran. They may have been gate-keepers’ cottages. Although Brighton was about 8 miles from Melbourne, the suburban seaside area developed quite early, perhaps as much as 100 years before the end of Hawthorn road was subdivided after WWII, say [in] 1946. After all, Moorabin House in South road was built in 1842 and Hurlingham may have been [of] a similar vintage. The Brighton Yacht Club, later Royal Brighton, was founded in 1857, so although these [hypotheses] are speculative they could be tested easily by checking the subdivision of the Hurlingham estate. I found Brighton to be an enchanting area to live in and explore.

Joinery, Carpentry and building in general [became] a major interest after my indenture papers were duly completed on my 15th birthday. As well as working for Garrett and going to Night School, I worked at modernizing my parents’ house at every opportunity, and also accepted weekend jobs with any small builder who was prepared to accept my starting rate, 12/6 per day ($1.25). Stan Begg regularly used my services and the Leading-hand from the Tech School extension job, Colin Bell, also paid me to work with him at weekends. Colin had contacts with the State Department of Education, so he was asked to Bid on major repairs and small extensions to State Schools in the South-Eastern suburbs. I also made wooden garden furniture which I sold to neighbours. My specialty was a garden lounge with wheels at the head-end and wheelbarrow handles at the foot. They could be ordered with canvas or timber-slat supports and when customers chose canvas my mother sewed the fabric. In time half the houses in Elizabeth Street had my creations in their gardens. Stan built new houses, which in those days meant making much of the joinery as well as roof- and wall-framing on-site. I had no trouble with roof angle cuts as my best subject at Brighton Tech was Solid Geometry. One of the most interesting of these Saturday jobs was to replace the wooden floor in the assembly hall of the Brighton State Little School. It was a sentimental journey for me, as it was the first school I [had] attended, in 1935. That Assembly Hall had seen a lot of traffic and so the tongue and groove floor boards were almost worn through at high traffic spots, [with] only 2mm of wood left in some places. The boards were beautifully made from Kauri wood, a hard oily timber with high dimensional stability and water- and wear-resistance. Excellent for floor boards and readily available until the 1920’s, but rare in the 40’s. We were replacing very old and hard-as-iron, 3′-wide, 1¼”-thick Kauri boards with standard, 4″-wide, 7/8″-thick commercial hardwood. I wonder how those new boards [have] stood up to the wear and tear of children’s feet in the 55 years since. The original boards were laid about 1875 so were about 70 years old when we replaced them in 1945. I doubt the replaced boards lasted 30 years of pounding kindergartners, however the building has probably been demolished by now and replaced with standard Vic Ed Dep heated and air-conditioned sheds.

Hand-tools were steadily acquired, as I desired a full kit, like the old chippies who carted their treasure chests from job to job, usually by public transport. I bought many second-hand items as new tools required ration coupons, and imports required a special [license] from Customs. My heart’s desire was a Diston saw and a Stanley “Nailer” hammer, which were made in the USA so I became familiar with the bureaucratic nightmare of obtaining a wartime import [license]. The process was complicated by restrictions that limited apprentices to a certain range of tools each year. An officially-defined sequence that matched some kind of dossier of competence, measured by progress at night school. Naturally secondhand-tools shops proliferated and sold new and pre-loved tools from many sources. In Bay Street, opposite St Luke’s Church, such a shop was operated by an ex-carpenter who found many things that I had to have. We got on well and he would look out for items of desire. He would leave messages to me in the form of cryptic notes, in the shop window – he couldn’t ring because we didn’t have a phone – and even if we had he didn’t. Very few people did, and they were an affluent class who had phones in the 30’s, in the Great Depression. Anyway getting a phone connected was almost impossible during the war and the rationing after-years. As was everything else in the category of “Yer can’t have it.” There were ways to get around “the system” but our household was never in the “home phone” category.

There were always dozens of jobs to do around our house, most of which needed timber, plywood, fibrous plaster and asbestos cement boards. Not to mention nails, screws, bolts and glue, paint and varnish, all difficult to get in 1945, except by scrounging. Second-hand tools were one thing but used nails were found before they hit the ground. Every house I knew had jam-tins full of bent nails. Scraps and off-cuts of all these basics were collected and every day I would squeeze something into my Gladstone Bag and lug it home. If I was at a job within bicycle-ride distance I would look for anything the boss would let me take and I would stop for anything I found lying by the side of the road, even if it wasn’t lost. I collected every bent nail discard as well as screws and hardware of any and every variety no matter how old, dirty or covered with paint. Our garage never had a car in it but it was the bike shed and my workshop. In it we had 3 bikes – Dad’s, Sally’s and mine – a workbench built by me with both wood and metal-working vices, racks for tools, and all manner of lengths of timber stored in the rafters. Over the years 1945 & 46 I enclosed my sleep-out, lined it and fitted windows and a lockable door to the rear lobby. I made built-in furniture including a fold-up drawing board which eventually became the most essential fitting. I had only the vaguest idea of what I might use it for at the time of construction. Windows were bought from the Second-hand-building-materials yard on the corner of Point Nepean Road and Milroy Street. Plaster lining for walls and ceiling was made-to-order by the Fibro Plaster factory in Bent Street into which Edgar Street, where Peter Hein lived, tee’d. Wooden Venetian Blinds were made-to-order by Mr Kinross who was my Night School teacher. The weatherboards removed from the verandah wall of the house were added to the collection of timber in the garage roof space. What style!

I learned a great deal about other trades and embarked on refurbishing the inside of my parent’s house, untouched in the 20 years since it was originally built. Home comforts for the family were installed, [as well as] hot water in the kitchen and bathroom and a slow combustion stove to warm the sitting/dining room in the winter. We also painted the inside and, more importantly, the outside of the house, which hadn’t been done since mother bought the place in 1939. Big changes were on the way, known and unknown, at least to me. Sally and I were informed one evening by our mother, who was 40 years old, that she was pregnant. I was delighted and Sally was disgusted and so that’s how we found out the reason why our father was a changed man. No longer the disgruntled factory worker but contented and considerate of his wife and unborn child. He became busy at home when not at work and, because mother didn’t want to be in the football crowds, he and Sally would go to the football together every Saturday during the winter of 1946. At home he completely remade the yards on all four sides of the house. A huge project which he pursued with vigour, creating the most beautiful garden in the neighbourhood with ornamental rockeries, paths, flower beds, lawns and a raked-gravel driveway [leading] to the garage. People came to look and admire and enjoy the latest burst of colour as each variety flowered in turn. I had more than enough to do inside the house, so the garden was his project alone, and we continued our distant relationship with little, if any, change.

Apart from the huge change that takes place in a household when a birth is pending, Sally and I were working full-time and felt very grown-up. [We] each had our own circle of friends. Our main common interest was the North Road Life Saving Club: her interest was growing and mine was declining. We always paid board to our mother every payday and father’s steady job continued, even though the war effort showed signs of decline. Obviously there was a lot more money in the household, [and] visitors were always welcome and well fed. Sally and I had our own interests, after all she was 4 years older than me and her pals were 20-year-old girls who giggled about boys all the time, and my friends were other trade kids who could help with plumbing and electrical things, as well as my tried-and-proven pals Peter Hein and Johnny Fawsett. Interstate family members still in the Armed Services continued to visit, even though the surrender of Japan took place in September ’46. What a celebration that was! Our young servicemen had more weekend leave and were planning peacetime careers. Cousin Sally, who was a ready-made go-between, promoter and introducer to her friends, was in great demand. By year-end many men had not yet been demobilized from the services, because Australia was participating in the occupation of Japan, and the crisis in Malaya called for R.A.A.F. personnel to remain in uniform; big tasks for a small country. I was saving for a trip to Sydney in the expectation that travel restrictions would be lifted by Christmas and, unknown to me, Sally was also planning interstate travel. Everybody in the country seemed to be planning trips, both within Australia and overseas, once wartime restrictions were lifted. In the meantime I was working north of the city, far from home with not a second to spare. I left home in the half-light of dawn and got home long after dark from “Tech”(night school). Weekends were fully occupied working for small builders and pulling the house apart and putting it back together.

On the morning of 23rd October 1946 I awoke early to find Nurse Bryant in the house looking after my mother and my new baby brother who had been born that night, some weeks [premature]. Father wasn’t at home, no doubt because he had been working night shift, so Sally had probably been sent to get the midwife. What excitement, while I was sound asleep at the back of the house. I can only remember the shock of finding my brother in the cot which I had made for the new baby, in my parents’ bedroom, and the excitement of the very recent event. I have worked out that it was a Saturday morning, which was why, I thought, I had not been awakened early by my mother to get me off to work. There had been no time to get mother to hospital. I can’t recall any reason why the baby was so premature however her brother, Uncle Bill, the Tobruk Rat, had died a short time before on 10 August that year and that would have been a shock. Because John Paul was so premature we were not allowed to handle him for about 5 weeks but he grew rapidly and was a responsive and lively infant in no time. Of course he was spoiled by the other four adoring residents who vied with one another to satisfy his every whim. By the time I left for my holiday in Sydney we were delighted by the change in my father’s disposition. He had become happy, contented and besotted as if Paul were his first-born. Truly a blessing had been brought into the world.

December was upon us and, as expected, travel restrictions were eased and my reason for travel, to visit my Grandfather, was accepted so I became the happy owner of a return ticket to Sydney in a sleeper carriage. Such luxury for my first trip away by myself. I had saved every penny I could so that I would have money to spend while staying at grandfather’s house at 2 Bernard Avenue Gladesville, off Wharf Road. Every suburb in every Municipality on Sydney Harbour had a Wharf Road, as that was the way people travelled to and from the city in the early days. I was so looking forward to the trip. I thought I knew the names of all the famous places in Australia’s biggest city, including the locations of all the skyscrapers. The AW. Building was 14 storeys high and on top was a steel mast on which was mounted the highest radio aerial in the Commonwealth. On the last Friday afternoon before the summer holiday lay-off I collected my pay, including [a] holiday bonus, from the paymaster. It was the last day at work for almost everybody in the building trade, as is still the culture [for] many industries in Australia. I locked my precious tool chest and carefully stored it in a safe place in the back of the big shed at Garrett’s yard in Brunswick. Safer there than in the garage at home, which was usually left unlocked when I wasn’t there. I wouldn’t need it for the next two weeks in Sydney, besides it was very heavy as it was one of the best carpenter’s kits on the job, and it would be an exhausting task getting it home by public transport.

That weekend was spent finishing off my weekend jobs and calling on my builder friends to collect any money owing before the holidays. With a new baby in the house and no car, nobody saw me off and so on Sunday carrying my bag I walked to North Brighton Station to get the train to Spencer Street Station. At Spencer Street I carried my luggage from the suburban platform area to the “Country Trains” platform where the Spirit of Progress was to take me to Sydney. As I had plenty of time I sat on one of the benches and watched the arrival of the “Spirit of Progress”, the most modern steam locomotive in Australia, Victoria’s pride and joy. The benches on the “Sydney Platform” were famous, colonial-rustic – made from [the] branches of trees – [and their] legs, backs and armrests were sanded and polished natural forks with timber seats, painted green, lovingly maintained and polished to a smooth gloss finish. Eventually I settled down in my 2nd Class sleeper compartment and ate my way through the dinner that mother had packed for me. After dark, with nothing more to see outside I did a tour through all the carriages checking out each type and noting the clothes and luggage in each carriage, dining and observation cars. I talked to the guards and anybody who would talk to me. My first journey into the country by Steam Train by myself, and what a super train it was. On returning to my sleeper I pulled down the bunk, got into bed and slept, while gliding through the night, till morning I thought. About midnight I was woken by the noise of platform attendants calling out that we had to change trains. Oh yes, I was warned about this, “Change trains at Albury”. Our train had pulled into the platform and on the opposite side was the New South Wales Railway train to Sydney. In those days each State still maintained the different track gauges developed by the sovereign colonial governments. We transferred by walking across the platform with our luggage, in our pajamas, to the NSW narrow-gauge carriages. These ancient carriages were a big come-down from the elegant modern steel carriages of Victoria Rail, also the bunk was at right-angles to the direction of travel and the old wooden carriages rattled and shook and rolled head-to-toe because of the narrow gauge. The trip was now mainly sleepless, hot, deafening, sooty and smelly. Finally we arrived at Sydney [Central] hungry, headachy, hot and bothered, tired and crotchety.

Grandfather met the train and took me to his business near the markets at Ultimo, we had lunch, and by the time the taxi got us to Gladesville the rest of the day was a write-off. Cousin Keith, another, younger grandson was staying there [as was] Auntie Joyce, my mother’s half-sister. I met Nana Ethyl, as my grandfather’s wife wished to be known, had dinner and went to bed. The next morning we awoke early and Joyce, Keith and I went for a swim at a neighbour’s enclosed river-side pool. It was an idyllic spot, clear cool water and the promise of a hot summer’s day. In I dived without a thought except, “How perfect, beautiful and carefree.”
I awoke as from a deep sleep aware that grandfather was beside the bed, smiling. He always smiled and listened, and made one feel that what we were talking about was always the most interesting subject he could imagine. Grandfather took a deep breath. He always took a deep breath before he spoke. Probably because he almost died from a German poison gas attack when he was [with] the A.I.F. Army of the Somme during the [First World War]. Grandfather said, “You gave us quite a fright,” [and] we just looked at each other. I lay there immobile. Why immobile? Probably because discomfort and pain swamped me at the slightest movement. It seemed every day was the same, and how many days is lost in the past. Even the pain is now only a memory except the recollection of constant pleading for pain relief, morphine injections. Grandfather came every day, always pleasant and cheerful in his quiet and concerned way.

As well as grandfather there were nurses and doctors coming and going and I began to realize that I was prone, in traction, in pain and could hardly talk, although there was nothing wrong with my hearing. I was in deep trouble. Traction was applied by strong collars around my neck and ankles from which [cords] ran over pulleys to weights hanging over both ends of the bed. All I could see was the cove ceiling high above the Spinal Ward in the old Sydney Hospital in Macquarie Street. Would I ever get out? Would the pain ever cease? I constantly pleaded for morphine, “Nurse a needle! Please!!” How long could the agony go on?

The all-but-fatal dive was remembered, not of hitting the water at entry or hitting the bottom. The memory of being unable to move or breathe while floating face down in the water was there. As if in a dream I recalled voices becoming more and more anxious as Joyce perceived, and I gathered, what was wrong. Her instruction to Keith to get help and her holding my half-floating body so that I could breathe. I recall seeing the ambulance attendants clambering down the steep path cut into the cliff-face and wondering how they could get me up alive. The last thing I remembered was being strapped, immobilized and supported, to the boatshed door, which they took off its hinges. After that there was no recall from the moment that I, [on] the door, was moved ever-so-slowly and carefully. They probably put me out.

It seemed that a moment later I awoke to find smiling grandfather looking into my eyes. “You gave us quite a fright,” [he] said. I listened and learnt that I had been “out” for ten days. “Where was I? Where had I been?” We arrived at Sydney’s Central Railway early in the morning where [I] was met by family and taken to grandfather’s Parramatta River residence. I thought it was probably a Friday afternoon because the next morning cousin Keith (Jack Anzac’s eldest son) and Auntie Joyce (Phyllis’s half-sister) said let’s have a swim before breakfast. Off we went to a riverside rock pool where the first dive was a disaster. Concussion, C5 fracture and almost drowned. There was no recall until grandfather said, “You gave us quite a fright.” Actually the broken neck happened on Tuesday 21 December 1946, the longest day of the year, especially for Will and family, though I don’t remember much of it. I will call my grandfather Will because that’s the way I think of him, although I never called him [anything] but Grandfather until the day he died in 1962. Will he was, as Nana Ethyl would say, “Will you’re not listening to me.” To which his reply was “Yes m’dear.” Whenever he was home, she was talking and he was reading the newspaper. Although I had only met Nana Ethyl for a few hours the happy habitual exchange was embedded in my brain.

As the days wore on I realized that I was immobilized, paralyzed and tied to the bed in traction. I recall little but the vividness of grandfather’s smile. He always smiled when we were together, perhaps 20 times in my 16+ years, but the letters – always signed, “Your ever loving grandfather” – were reassuring and meant that he would always [be] there if needed. So there I was and there he was, needed. It is said that it took 10 days to regain consciousness but that was never discussed until I was back on my feet, much later. Actually I didn’t learn much detail until 1981 when I went to Prince Henry’s Hospital at Randwick for examination by Neurologist Dr Lethlean, one of a collection of specialists to whom I was referred and who examined me in great detail following a serious collapse when I was about 50 years of age. He talked about my problems and summarized the diagnosis, “As we age everybody’s nervous system deteriorates by a small and often increasing percentage per annum, say 3% pa at this stage of your life. You presently have a reasonable nervous system for a man of 65. You will begin to notice significant deterioration at say, 70 years of age.” The Neurophysicist to whom I was referred said, “You are a Control Engineer so think of the feedback from your sensors, touch, sharp, hot and cold [are] having significant time delay. Take care not to assume that your body is obeying your commands in real-time, if at all. Take care and observe what you are doing at all times.”

Subconsciously I worked things out for myself through years of trial and lots of errors. Of course I didn’t need 48 years to work out that I needed all the help that I could get. How long the excruciating pain lasted is not remembered, nor is the actual pain itself. I remember the experience, the slightest touch of, say, a fly landing on a hand was pain of screaming intensity. Though I soon found out that my screams had no volume, I heard in my brain but nobody could hear me with their ears. All pain since those days is measured against that reference, none equals such recall. Will came every day, talked and smiled, and I eventually felt like living again. One day the traction apparatus was removed and I was carried by an army of wardsmen, nurses, doctors and technicians to a room where large quantities of plaster bandages were being prepared, soaking in huge troughs. Several attendants held me, naked and immobilized in a sitting position, on a marble bench. A gauze body tube with armholes was slipped over my torso, cut and snipped to fit. I swam in and out of consciousness while my body was wound in heavy wet plaster bandages. From the bend of my thighs to the top of my head, leaving openings for arms, face, crown and ears, I was wrapped while my head was held, pulled up and back, as if it were to be pulled off. While passing in and out of oblivion, I though the wrapping would never end. When conscious I could feel the plaster setting-holding-suffocating. The band across my forehead was made tight, like a fitted helmet. The youth in the iron mask, the victim, held by relays of hospital staff until the plaster set enough to support the head tightly, so [that] it was held back all the time. I have no idea how long it took. Eventually I was returned to a prepared bed, a prison. In time I awoke. I had been “out” for a long time, unconscious from exhaustion, anaesthetic and morphine injections to ensure immobility until the cast was solid. As it turned out, it set like concrete, in which my helpless lump of humanity, connected by tubes for elimination purposes, re-considered [its] desire to live. I learned how to live the life of a tortoise unable to turn or nod my head, entombed for almost four months.

The days merged into a continuum of waves of half-consciousness; of excruciating pain, then a morphine release, sleeping, dozing and awaking and waiting for the next wave of pain, from which I slowly emerged. Grandfather (Will) would be there sitting patiently beside the bed, smiling, talking to get a response, talking to stimulate mental processes. No doubt the old man’s heart was in his boots, [no doubt he was] sick in his stomach and fearful of the final outcome. During his early visits, even more than the constant ministrations of doctors and nurses, I realized that this was my only road to life, though immobilized and at dire risk.

Treatment was in the hands of a specialist, the famous Mr. Renault, an honorarium at Sydney Hospital, in private practice an orthopedic surgeon of great repute. He would come and see me, perhaps twice a week, with a huge entourage of Doctors, interns, sisters, nurses and orderlies. I was “exhibit-A”. As soon as he found a spot that I could feel he would put an irritant near it to remind me to work the spot. A major activity was to push a spring-loaded board at the bed-end, set up to press against my feet. The bed was tilted so that if I didn’t push I would slip down, tangling my tubes, with my knees in the air. I became motivated to move and tried to work that board for hours every day. My hands were softly wrapped in cotton wool inside specially constructed cages which were hung from scaffolding, contraptions and supports overhead: an integral part of the bed structure. It became my universe. I knew every detail and could identify the slightest change in any setting done while I was out-to-it or asleep.

It was also the system which held the pulleys, weights and straps when I was in “Traction” before my torso and head [were] set in plaster. The bed and apparatus would not have looked out of place in a medieval torture chamber except that, but for my hands, I had no feeling. Without the cage and cotton-wool protection I couldn’t stand the faintest touch; a fly walking across a hand would make me scream with pain. Scream was what I did but my voice box was so weak that I made hardly more than a sigh. Looking back I can imagine the staff, from top to bottom, thinking “the sensitivity of his hands indicates a good chance of recovery”. I suppose the bed was deliberately less than comfortable, so that I was encouraged to fidget to find some comfort, especially as feeling returned to some extremities. Gradually I became not quite paralyzed, [my] fingers moved but could not grasp, at the ends of arms that I could not lift. My right foot had some movement but my legs had no strength.

When I was in Sydney Hospital, at first expecting to die, I would wish for things I couldn’t have such as the ability to urinate and defecate without help and of course I wished to be without screaming, wracking pain. [And] when he wasn’t there I wished for my grandfather who always had a smile. I remember it was an effective wish because he came every day, and the other wishes required such a lot of constant effort, work and the ministrations of nurses. When I came to but could not move my arms, hands or fingers, I wished somebody would read to me. How I missed reading, always my favourite pastime. Uncle Harry, grandfather’s youngest son, the younger of Phyllis’s two half brothers, would come after work and read French language textbooks to me. That caught my imagination. Why? I don’t know but I always wanted to learn a foreign language.

We got to know Harry when he was in the R.A.A.F., during WWII, in the early ’40’s, and his wife and infant daughter lived with us for many months at 7 Elizabeth Street. When Harry was granted leave from his Airforce station at Tocumwal, NSW, near the Victoria border, he would make every effort to get to Brighton. [He] was a pleasant, kind man and we got to like him. When, years later, Sally and John Cromwell visited them, in the ’80’s at Gosford, she mentioned my “thanks” for those times but he denied remembering. Why? I don’t know but I trust my memory and I am still grateful that he was so good to me when I needed so much help. He was 80 when he died in 1997 so probably had a touch of “oldtimer’s”.

In time the pain lessened, though it has never quite left my left hand, and faint feeling returned to my limbs. I felt born-again with a baby’s abilities from my 5th cervical vertebra down. The from- swallow-up things worked OK except for my racing mind thinking about my family and my future. I became famous in the ward as the one broken neck of the usual Christmas Holiday Sydney, surf-and-sun-slips batch that survived. Our score that year was 5 cases, one recovered. Other patients, shuffling or in a wheel chair, would visit and talk, some having been in the ward for a year or more. Spinal ward patients wanted to recover and get out of hospital because most, except those who had been concussed, could think straight and usually got very depressed, as few recovered in those days, [in] 1946. At first the specialist was pleased that I had pain and then pleased that I regained some feeling. He drove the staff hard for success. Physiotherapists came, pushed and tugged feet, fingers, hands, arms, legs and provided things to grasp and handles hanging from the contraptions over the bed. Every waking minute was spent in trying to move something. The minutes stretched into hours and days into weeks. In time a wheelchair was provided and though I couldn’t walk my arms worked in a floppy sort of way. I could propel myself around even though I couldn’t get in and out [of it] unaided. Eventually, with lots of help, we found nerves and elimination muscles which gave me enough control to use a bottle and pan, but [there was] little feeling or sense of touch. These bodily changes, especially the gradually improving elimination control, became the greatest achievement of my life, though I never became as proficient as I was in my youth. I’m still alive and able to write this, perhaps the only one of the occupants of the Sydney Hospital Spinal Ward, that year. Most importantly, I no longer wet the bed every night, though I haven’t had a good night’s sleep since 1946.

The bed to my left was occupied by “Sapper”, a soldier who had received a serious spinal injury when on duty as a ship was being unloaded. I seem to recall that a heavy object fell on him. He was an entertaining and happy young man, strapped in bed with his lower back and legs held by a bed scaffold. When I had visitors a screen was [set up] isolating him from my visitors, most of whom gathered on my right side. Sapper was most entertaining when awake, though he seemed to spend a lot of time asleep. The nurses enjoyed caring for him and he was complimentary, flattering and curiously intimate, I thought. One night I awoke, aware of male and female sounds in the dead of night, wordless but expressive. Though I was an innocent I became acutely aware of the nature of the engagement. I never discussed my assumptions with Sapper or in [any way] indicated my awareness, in even the remotest way, to any of the hospital staff. In the light of day I would look at the way he was hung from the overhead contraptions and [think], “How are they managing?” Repeat performances occurred, in fact my first awareness may have been a repeat as he was an old hand when I first became aware of his presence in the ward. In my concrete pajama top I would lie awake and listen and wish I could see the whole performance as they were obviously having great fun!
The top-heavy wheelchair, with its driver wearing a heavy stone singlet, would occasionally skid out of control and dump its driver onto the polished terrazzo floor. A spinning concrete barrel with protruding arms and legs flopping about. The first time it happened there was pandemonium in the ward and panic in my mind. What damage was done? It was probably the result of “no damage” that caused the nursing staff to decide that this one could be saved! After my first big crash they got to work with renewed enthusiasm on my legs and feet. I have remained interested in the technology and know several unrecovered Quads who can barely move a finger. By today’s standards, 55 years later, the best facilities in the nation were at Sydney Hospital and were primitive. However the dedication of those carers, helpers, pushers and pullers, feeders and wipers, catheter and enema wielders, who drove me and each other to try once more, was that of top notch professionals. A year later I flew to back Sydney and hobbled into the ward to show the results to date, [to] thank them for their efforts and leave presents and flowers. Not one of my team was still employed there and nobody, not even the patients, could remember any of my wonder women. However I am still on those feet and although substantial deterioration continues I write as an independent grandfather with a loving wife, two sons and four grandchildren. As an orthopedic surgeon said recently, “The hand of God was upon you.” Aided by Auntie Joyce, now no longer with us, so many years ago when I was 16 year old.

I got to enjoy the wheel chair; after all I had memorized every wrinkle of the peeling ceiling in the ward, which revealed, in my mind, fanciful charts of continents and oceans in an unknown world. With the wheelchair I could see different things, and exercise arms and hands. The hospital was old with lots of 19th-century architectural folderol. In my wheelchair I could move around our floor, the huge Spinal Ward with its work rooms and the annex that held patients who had suffered concussion as well as spinal injury. Quite a few of these patients were in cages to prevent them from getting out of bed and hurting themselves, or others. They seemed to like me in my concrete casing and especially enjoyed the sight of me falling out of the wheelchair. They would grunt and gurgle with joy and rattle their cages as though asking me to do it again. I also had many visitors. Relatives, friends, lookers and busybodies. Peter Hein and his mother had travelled to Sydney about the same time, [during the] summer school holidays [that went] from the week before Christmas to the end of January. We had agreed to meet on a certain day and time at Circular Quay as his mother, Edna, had arranged to take us on a sight-seeing trip on the Harbour. At the appointed hour, when I didn’t show, they telephoned my grandfather who told them the story and of course they wanted to come and see me immediately. I don’t remember their first visit so I may have been in the coma, but 50 years later I was having lunch with Peter at the [Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron] and he confided to me that that first visit was the greatest shock in his life. I certainly must have made an impact because we didn’t have a phone and grandfather didn’t tell my mother about the accident until Mr Renault indicated that, “it looks like he will survive.”

My first visitors would have been Grandfather’s family and the Heins. I was still in traction when I came to. As mentioned, Grandfather was there, I was in excruciating pain from my hands and aware that I was strapped into a condition of immovability. I drifted in and out of consciousness while doing my best to attract the attention of a nurse when coherent. I must have been a problem but they could not spend all day with me. It was a huge ward with beds on both sides and a very high ceiling with large smooth-[molded] cornices between wall and ceiling. I spent a lot of time examining it. Nurses walked rapidly from case to case all day, I had a button but couldn’t operate it, and even though I thought I was shouting my head off my voice was barely above a whisper. Nothing worked, not even my voice box. At night the moans and groans and exclamations of the patients created a background miasma of sound as they competed for attention. Not the least of those wanting attention was that happy boyish Sapper.

Apart from the pain in my hands I had discomfort from the catheter and drip system draining my bladder. My head worked fine and my olfactory senses reminded me that I was lying in the toilet. Urine odor [became] a constant reminder of my humanity for a long time to come; one becomes accustomed to wet pants and beds. The visitors don’t. It didn’t take me long to be aware of their discomfort. The tubes could be pulled out of my body so easily, and leave me in a bath of you-know-what. Visitors would sit on the bed and even though I would plead with people not to sit down they would say, “Oh it doesn’t worry me, I just want to be near you.” And similar platitudes. If grandfather was there he would stay in control but at other times accidents would happen then the nurse would come, called by a visitor, and fuss and fume over the mess. Apart from mess caused by pee-paralysis there was Pooh-paralysis which caused even greater pong problems as pent-up pressure made it essential for a nurse to operate the enema while I remained connected to the rack. Not an attractive picture. Things got better after I was cast in concrete. [At] least they could, with pulleys and ropes, get my arse into a convenient angle for attack. There were many incentives for me to find the nerves and muscles that allowed me to take my place in polite society and, in time – some years – I devised a system management routine, never foolproof, that was practical. Even today Handicapped people have many problems which can’t be discussed openly. In the USA there are more toilets available especially for the handicapped, especially for wheelchair-users, but still not enough for me.

I have kept the first letters received from my family in Melbourne, [from] Mother, Sally and Dad and also one from Edna Hein telling me about the flight home. They had delayed their return to help me accomplish the journey safely. My first aeroplane flight, on 22 January 1947, if I remember correctly, was a great bonus because I had never flown and in normal circumstances I wouldn’t have been able to get a ticket. A lot of strings had been pulled by my grandfather to get four seats so soon after WWII when civilian air travel was still restricted. I needed two seats, one behind the other laid out like a bed, and no doubt Will paid for the lot. On arrival, and with difficulty, I climbed aboard the bus at Essendon Airport, which Mr Hein met at the Franklin Street Terminus. It had been a horror ride and I don’t think I traveled by bus again until after the cast was finally removed on 14 April 1947.

Mother was waiting fearfully, moving in and out of the house onto the front verandah, constantly checking baby Paul inside, getting into a state as the trip from the airport had taken much longer than expected. She thought something [might] have happened, “perhaps they have taken him to hospital.” When the car pulled up outside the fence at 7 Elizabeth Street we thought she was going to faint at the sight of me, she couldn’t get down the steps. What a shock to see the gross stumbling figure with its skeletal arms and legs sticking out of the barrel. Because my head was bent back, held rigidly in the cast as far as it would go, I was facing the sky. In order to walk and see where I was in relation to the many hazards, [around] and to find things to hang onto, l had to bend at the waist, angling my body forward to see ahead. The apparition was a stumbling grotesque with floppy arms, hands, feet and legs. My poor mother’s mind was racing, “How can we look after him? What of his future? Will he ever have a job?” And also knowing that my carpentry and building ambitions were over. Grandfather had passed on all the details provided by Sydney Hospital. So the expense, time and study of my Carpentry Apprenticeship now was a write-off. For better or worse I was back with the family. [My] mother’s new baby, John Paul, was 4 months old and had been weaned. Although he was premature and needed the perfect food, mum had lost her milk the day she opened grandfather’s letter telling her the prognosis was that I would survive and to expect that I may be in a wheel chair for life, starting when? Perhaps as late as 35. Treatment was transferred to the Alfred Hospital and our 70-year-old neighbour Pa Tishler would take me there in his Citroën, leave me, visit relatives in Prahran and return for me much later. The main result of those trips is a lifetime aversion to public hospitals and their outpatient departments.

Summertime in Melbourne, cast into the hottest shirt that one can imagine. No one had air-conditioning, and in fact the sealed unit which made residential AC practical had not yet been invented. Looking back at a long career in Mechanical & Electrical Engineering it seems that nothing had been invented. My usual dress – not counting the cast as it was as much a part of me as my head – was shorts and sand shoes, and if I went out I would wear one of my father’s shirts to cover my barrel chest. Summer dragged on and I sweated profusely and by the end of February the tight cast had loosened appreciably as I lost even more weight from the heat [and from the] decline in muscle tissue, and I stank like a polecat as I had not had a bath since December. When visitors came, and we had lots of those, from concerned friends and neighbours to sightseers, we had tea in the garden or on the verandah and I would sit down-wind of the guests. Whew! [Eventually], by the middle of March, I had become a bony skeleton. The only ablution [available for] my torso was to be wiped with a Methylated Spirits-soaked cotton cloth wrapped around a flat stick which was inserted between my skin and the inside of the cast. Mother performed the treatment twice a day before visitors, or [at] meal times if there were none.

The daylight hours were passed in as much movement as possible and Paul was my constant companion. Tommy didn’t approve. I guess he couldn’t stand the hospital smell of the cast and the methylated spirits which disguised my body odor. He never objected to perspiration in the past as he would happily lick my sweaty flesh and wag his tail when I was working around the house in previous summers. He was unhappy because I didn’t ride my bike [anymore] and miserable that I was a slow cripple. I walked leaning forward, while slowly dragging my feet and supporting the heavy plaster cast with sticks. The lean was caused so that I could see where I was going as my head was forced back by plaster construction. The plaster helmet, an integral part of the body cast, bent the cervical vertebra backwards forcing the cracked vertebra together while [they mended]. I was a sight and the dog refused to be seen in my company. We, Paul and I, meandered around the flattest streets in our area every day. [At] 6 months old he would be in his stroller which was a great help as my walking frame. We would shuffle across our street in to Alexander Street, to Hawthorn Road where the single track tram line was being duplicated. The new stretch of line was under construction for the 4 months I was in the cast and the workers came to know this curious pair of brothers. I watched progress and got [to] know the construction process; from excavating the trench, building the bed, laying the sleepers, spiking the rails. [But] best of all was the welding to form a continuous rail from North Road to Point Nepean Road Terminus. The freshly-sawn ends of the rolled steel rails were laid on the sleepers, inserted into foundry moulds which fitted over both ends forming the junction. A dry mixture of iron and aluminium (metal) powder was poured into each mould and when all was tamped and consolidated the filled [mold] was heated from the outside with an acetylene flame until the mixture of FeAl powders spontaneously ignited. The fierce exothermal reaction melted the iron to a liquid and as it cooled the rail ends bonded and after cooling, grinding and polishing, finished to form a continuous addition to the tram line. We had fun on those daily shuffles in those summer days from January to April. Of course we also developed a strong fraternal bond which lasted all his life. At the age of eleven he was killed by a drunken driver. I think of him almost every day.

Early in April Pa Tishler drove me to the Alfred Hospital where the original cast, badly bent, battered and bereft of any last remnant of the original padding, was cut off with bolt cutters and replaced by a new cast. First they shaved me, as my beard had started to choke (the man in the iron mask) then an arduous and exhausting day followed, during which I fainted several times. Finally it was finished, and I was propped up to dry. They phoned Pa who came and delivered the sullen mess back home. A few days later, by which time the concrete had thoroughly dried out, I was no longer in danger of catching pneumonia, as the cool Melbourne autumn was well on the way. I was unhappy and had time to examine the Alfred’s handiwork. My neck didn’t feel quite right and was not correctly supporting my head and I came to the conclusion that my head was skewed to one side. Now I really objected to the thing and the hospital staff agreed that it should be looked at and an appointment was made for an examination on Monday 14 April 1947. I believe they too were concerned about my crooked neck and possible complications so once again the bolt cutters came out and the cast came off. An examination was conducted, tests [were] made, movement [was] observed and I became more confident during the process. In the end I insisted on being left without it. If I could suffer the crooked head without ill effects, I didn’t need the bloody thing any longer. Pa Tishler arrived with his curious Citroen and with “thank-you’s”, “Take care!” “Farewell”, I never returned to their clinic.

Two days later I had the best birthday celebration of my life. Free at last. My legs soon got used to the feeling of lightness and I [reveled] in a sense of great relief because, in my weakened condition, the cast had felt like a ton-weight on my shoulders. I resolved never to discuss the matter with anybody, the casts had been destroyed, I had refused all offers of plaster autographs and destroyed all photographs. Well, not all, because Christopher Cromwell told me that Sally had kept one and it was in her family album. After Sally moved into 24-hour care John Cromwell sent the photo to me and we had it copied. To my surprise my face shows happiness. Mind over matter, in front of the camera and the sheer delight at being alive. For my birthday father took my photograph by the fish pond. In my new long trousers and with a new sweater, my size, I look 100%, though holding myself rather stiffly.

My first thought was that I must get a job and make some money. Dr Giblin, our family Dr and dear friend of three generations, said apply for a clerical job in an office. I landed a job as a mail-room boy in the Sun Insurance Office, “founded 1720”, in Market Street in the city. They paid me every week, and so I was launched. My biggest difficulty was the problem that I wasn’t potty-trained and, worse, the mild Gastroenteritis I had when I left hospital was now a chronic indisposition. Sulpha drugs and a strict diet prescribed by Dr Giblin, mainly stewed, sterilized apple, eventually put things right. It was a slow process in those days, pre-antibiotics. Travelling from home to work required a detailed knowledge of available toilets, allowing plenty of time and no long walks. I took the No. 64 tram [on] Hawthorn Road and got off when I could not control myself any further. For months I would have three stops to town and three stops home again. I always had wet pants and kept a spare pair of underpants in my brief bag or overcoat pocket at all times. I still have trouble.

All these problems were countered by the great joy of having money again – payday was what the week was about – and I started to add to my savings account again. After a few months I was promoted to the “Policy Room” where the completed foolscap-size contracts were bound into hard covers in numerical order, then into cross-referenced ledgers which listed the holder alphabetically by name and also by numerical sequence. After a period of months the contents of the binders were bound by professional Book Binders and stored on vast shelves from floor to ceiling, about 20 feet above the floor. On all four sides of the room there were two library ladders on wheels and rails and we clerks had to climb to get the volume called for and replace each volume after use. We were up and down the ladders all day; each book weighed about 10 kilos. All the senior clerks had done the job in their youth and none were promoted until they had served in the Policy Room, it was considered a privilege to be asked. My problem was that the exertion resulted in accidents of elimination, and my nice new job turned into a nightmare.

Another health care problem was now urgent: toothache and decay. Many Saturday mornings were dedicated to the dentist at Balaclava Junction who developed a plan which took about two years to carry out. The problem was that I had not properly cleaned my teeth since December. Early [damage] had been caused by the traction collar causing me to grind my teeth night and day when they couldn’t be cleaned at all. After I was shrouded in plaster I could open and shut my mouth but as I was still paralyzed I couldn’t feed myself and the nurses didn’t clean my teeth properly. By the time I achieved wheelchair freedom I could hold a toothbrush reasonably well but the plaster around my face prevented easy access. In short I did a lousy job of tooth and gum care for months and by the time I was free of cavities and had achieved a healthy mouth I had lost about four teeth and the rest were filled with amalgam. The next problem was that my feet were becoming increasingly deformed because they were the last appendage to receive any physiotherapy treatment. By the end of the day I was in pain so Dr Giblin sent me to a Collins Street foot specialist by the name of Mr. Foot who prescribed attachments to my shoes which were made by a Little Collins Street Prosthetics [maker] by the name of Mr. Barfoot. By this time I was working at [Leighton Irwin & Co] at the other end of Collins Street. This was a long and expensive program which meant that all my shoes had to be remade, and [they] wore out very quickly. Little did I know that I would still be in the hands of these people, now called Podiatrists, throughout the rest of my life, though the most effective device for saving deformed feet is the Automobile. Thank heaven for Henry Ford! However the best therapy was and still is Hydrotherapy which started while I was in Sydney Hospital and continues to this day. [It’s] called swimming.

Because I was working I could not use the Public Hospital system and as I improved I needed many medical consultations with specialists. I realized that a better job with prospects for promotion was essential. I needed more money just to keep paying my medical bills. Those were the days when there was virtually no government assistance for non-wartime injuries, wounds, or medical conditions. Medicare had not yet arrived. My next job application was to become a print-room boy in a draughting office. At the interview I carried a presentation folio of my Brighton Junior Tech Solid Geometry drawings, calculations and school report as I was always No.1 in that subject, occasionally No.1 in Maths and also Science. The General Manager, Chief Engineer and the Chief Draughtsman were unanimous in wanting to hire me. The position was in the huge South Melbourne factory of Electronic Industries Ltd, a large public company controlled by Mr Arthur Warner of Brighton, later Sir Arthur Warner, remember that name. On my first day I was given a task on the Mickey Mantle Radio assembly line. After a couple of hours I almost fainted with pain in my spine and, of course, I had no dexterity for the task of fitting a collection of minute gadgets into each chassis as it moved down the line. I told the foreman that this wasn’t the job I applied for and if I couldn’t go to the Print Room I wanted to leave the premises. To my surprise he came back with another man who took me there and I started work without further ado. The first priority of my duties in the drafting office was to copy transparencies onto Dyeline paper. It was also my job to look after the copying machine and to have it ready at all times to satisfy requests for urgently-needed production drawings. I soon found that everything was URGENT. When there were no drawings to be copied I would lean over the chief draughtsman’s board and tell him, “I can do that, I want to do drawings too.” The model shop outside our door made prototype electronic devices, which consisted of vacuum tubes, capacitors and resistors mounted on chassis which also held transformers, switches, relays, terminal strips etc. There were no transistors in 1947. These items were mounted on various standard chassis, for different devices. The drawing office also had the job of redesigning their successful prototypes for mass production. What fun wandering about the building getting ideas from designers, tool makers, testers and heavens knows who else? The most interesting project was plans and specifications for the manufacture of a new idea, a Radio-Telephone for use in the [Outback]. The finished device was transportable, in that two strong men could easily load it onto a truck or aircraft. Nothing like today’s mobile phones.

I worked for [Electronic Industries Limited] for over a year in three of their drawing offices in different industrial suburbs of Melbourne, during which time I met many interesting people. John Rafferty, chief draughtsman in the Engineering Division and his wife, Lucy Secker the keyboard artist with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, became lifelong friends. She also taught at The Conservatorium of Music; I wondered what on earth that was. They are now in their mid 80’s [and] have not forgotten those distant times when they were generous personal tutors to me. They introduced me to a whole new world of art, music, dance, philosophy and the wonders of intellectual stimulus. They were just what I needed to get me out of myself and take my mind off the endless physical difficulties that hampered my every movement and every moment. John also suggested that I do a “Diploma”, whatever that was. He told me where to buy a syllabus and where to enrol in my course selection. He never tried to influence my choice of study but I had heard enough, and without the least knowledge of what it was about I visited the “Tech” after work, before going home one day, and discussed enrollment with the staff in the Admissions Department. I received literature on the The Melbourne Technical College, Associate Diploma of Mechanical Engineering; it’s now RMIT. They must have done a good job of convincing me of the benefits because, as well as the descriptive literature, I came away with application forms, cost estimates, course timetables and book lists for each subject in my first year. The 1947 academic year was still in progress and at their invitation I wandered around the campus and became committed to starting night school in February 1948. I had coffee and a sandwich at the Caff and talked to a couple of students who told me I could borrow the text books from the library across the road. Admissions hadn’t told me that!

Thus I was [led] to one of the greatest finds of my student life. Across La Trobe Street, on the corner of Swanson Street, was the National Gallery and Public Library of Victoria with its magnificent domed reading room, with its grand complex of buildings and endless corridors to which Sally and I had been taken many times over the years of childhood. What I now learnt about was the Lending Library which was entered through a back door in La Trobe Street. I found on presentation of my Tech enrollment details I was allowed to take home four books at a time. If there was a borrowing charge I can’t remember what it was so it must have been small. In time I used the main reading room quite a lot as it was ideal for study, especially for exams as I found difficulty at home where I was constantly interrupted by, “If you’re not busy can you do something for Me?” [my] mother would say. I was always happy to do things around the house, but needed quiet time for study too. I was the only member of our family who had experienced tertiary education, and they couldn’t conceive of my need to work quietly. After all, I didn’t appear to be busy! We had often visited the Gallery and Museum during outings in town with my mother but I had no idea that the Lending Library existed. I don’t remember the duration of the loan but it didn’t matter as I consumed books at a great rate, was never overdue and had become a regular borrower long before I started borrowing text books. John and Lucy had introduced me to both music and philosophy so I read the lending library’s collection on both these subjects. The 64 tram took an hour from the Alexander Street stop one block from home to The City, so if nothing more I had two hours’ reading a day. As I had always had a great love of sailing I was overjoyed to find the complete collection of Uffa Fox books published by Peter […]. These and other books on sailing were consumed at a great rate throughout the summer of 1947/48.

I was moved to the drawing office at Eclipse Radio at City Road, South Melbourne, which manufactured, among other products, the Monarch Radio Gram, a top-of-the-line product which had the same innards as all the other console radios sold by Home Craft Ltd., another subsidiary of [Electronic Industries Limited]. Uninspiring work but the girl Commercial Artist who did the advertisements for glossy magazines and I became friends. The Chief Draftsman, Garry, an Austrian gent, didn’t like me, probably because Margery did and so he may have tried to get me a job at another office. Garry was a nag and a whinger in the classic Aussie [mold]. Nothing suited him about me; he would even imply that my dirty fingernails were dirty, “waddya mean dirty! they have always been like that.” [Besides], who could enjoy drafting manufacturing drawings of wooden boxes finished with, “Rose wood stain and high gloss clear Duco.”

The next location and project with [Electronic Industries Limited] was in the drawing office of their Dry Battery Co., a subsidiary of EIL. Unknown to me, I was selected by Rupert Long for a special assignment in a new drawing office run by John Rafferty at the battery factory in Leicester Street, Carlton. A new part of the city for me, within walking distance of Melbourne Tech, where I was to start night school in February 1948. Handy for me as Dr Giblin had suggested that I try to swim every week all the year [round]. Easier said than done in Melbourne’s icy winter. While at EIL South Melbourne I discovered the YMCA heated pool in the basement of their Australian Headquarters at Yarra Bank, where I swam two or three times a week. At the Battery Co. I started to swim at the City Baths at lunchtime and realized that it was next door to Melbourne Tech and at the No. 64 Tram Terminus. At Carlton everything I needed was at hand. During exploratory walks I soon found the Women’s Hospital where I was born and Rathdown Street where Sally was at school in 1932, all within a block or two from Leicester Street.

Rupert Long supervised the setting up of the new factory including the extrusion press, the first of its kind in Australia, which was on its way from the USA. No doubt he had ordered it on a recent trip to America where he had visited many dry battery plants. He had been, and was still, the GM at the South Melbourne plant where I started and learned that he was the authority who said that I didn’t need to do the stint on the assembly line. I knew none of that until I met him at the Dry Battery Co. The best thing about the job was that he wanted me to work on Saturdays, at penalty rates. During the week I worked for John Rafferty doing regular work. I have a photograph of me sitting at my drawing-board, facing a cork board covered with work paraphernalia and a modern art reproduction, from a colour print magazine, of a head of Beethoven. In that office I met Max Kirwan, another junior draftsman with whom I had some things in common. He grew up at the Brighton Orphanage so he knew the suburb that I loved and called home. He was also a “recovered” C Quad who had broken his neck in a horse-riding accident while working on the Orphanage Farm. Thus we also had that in common but once [it was] established we never really discussed it. [He] too was a good worker, saver and obliging to his boss, John Rafferty. We occasionally bush-walked together as both enjoyed the bush but found it difficult to keep up with regular hikers and refused to discuss our handicap with others. One day he announced that he was leaving to study Medicine at Melbourne [University]. He had organized a scholarship and living allowance; I didn’t know of his interest in a medical career or even where he lived until after he graduated and was a married man with children. We then stayed in touch for many years and I wrote and told him of my first visit to Perth, in the 60’s, where he practiced as a specialist Anæsthetist. I enjoyed dinner with him, his wife and kids at their house. His practice was a good specialty for him because he always had a pronounced stammer. After that we sometimes saw each other on my occasional trips to Western Australia. The last time we met was at 158 Hopetoun in Vaucluse when he came to dinner and stayed the night. The last time we spoke he told me that he was divorced and his wife had custody of their kids. I wonder what he is doing now?

On Saturday Rupert [Long] would turn up with his note books full of sketches, bundles of photographs of machinery, and with his personal directions we had a fairly complete scheme for the manufacture and layout of every contrivance to mechanize the assembly of 1.5V dry batteries. I knew about these things because there was a Dry Cell factory in Bay Street Brighton in the 30’s. Fascinating to me, as it was the dirtiest, slimiest, most chemically stinking place I knew. I never went inside but I often watched from the double doors if they were open when I was passing. How could those people bear to work in such a place? Obviously it would be much better to manufacture such items under healthier conditions [than] those poor people who worked in the Bay Street plant. It was my job to produce working drawings so that the model shop at South Melbourne could make prototypes. Interesting and familiar work and all at penalty rates, yippee, great and a good fit with my ambitions to afford the additional living costs incurred by being the owner of a sailing boat. Gadgets and things were devised from the scraps of ideas and I began to understand the production and manufacture of Dry Cells in a mechanized plant, devised by Rupert and me. Gangs of men would come and assemble the creations delivered from the model shop. There was a great deal of cutting and fitting of things and endless adjustment. Each element was tried separately and with others to find errors, problems and blunders caused by plain old-fashioned ignorance, and mistakes. Rupert would take the endless stream of drawings, with their inevitable change notices when issued anew, to the model shop. In the end, if there was an end, the drawings and specifications were stored and archived at EIL South Melbourne. I was happy, though not everything worked perfectly. [The] team seemed to accept my limited skills and experience, and the change to my bank balance was miraculous. Eventually the big press arrived, the mechanical handling system [was set up] and I stayed long enough to see the early trial runs that tested the line and demonstrated that extruded zinc battery casings could be filled, sealed and labeled by my contraptions. Debugging the system was not my job and would be supervised by the new Production Manager and his staff. John Rafferty left, the drawing office closed and no doubt the automated plant became part of the assets of a new venture. Besides there was no more overtime or weekend penalty pay and I wanted another drawing office job.

Ten years later, I found Rupert setting up a TV tube plant and won an order from him to manufacture steel casings for another EIL production line. He and I never discussed the Leicester Street plant as he never referred to it in any way or made comparisons to the current project. I assumed he found my work acceptable and [I] concentrated on making him satisfied with the work at hand. He was a good customer, accepted our deliveries and paid our bills, at least while I was in that job.

The biggest event in 1947 was Sally’s 21st Birthday party, which was a dance, held in a hall rented for the occasion at Elsternwick, near the railway station. She chose the band, decided on the dance program, invited all the guests, mother catered the food and father bought the booze. My biggest worry was that I couldn’t dance and my semi-paralysis would be obvious for all to see. So great was Sally’s love of Ballroom dancing that she taught dancing several evenings a week. That way she was able to get training from the best instructors, and at the same time improve her style and get paid. “Come over to the Dance Hall where I teach and I will get you dancing in no time!” she invited. Obviously she didn’t understand my problem. Sally also introduced me to Live Theatre and I will never forget the first performance of the musical “White Horse Inn”. In turn I took her to the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and sat in the stalls at the Melbourne Town Hall, when by myself I always sat in the Organ Gallery for which a ticket cost 25¢.

Legal majority was 21 years in those days, [and] changed to 18 years [in] about 1973? Such matters had never bothered me as I was virtually self supporting from the age of 15, had my own bank account from 8 or 9 years of age and by 16 I chose and bought my own clothes, arranged my own recreation time and neither parent questioned my decisions. Sally, on the other hand, was not allowed to go out at night with a young man without father meeting him and granting approval. He seldom did. Sally almost always went out with her girlfriends, in a group, and returned home with a girlfriend who lived nearby. Father admired things English but deep down his approach to his daughter was that she was a chattel and must do as she was told with respect to male friends. Of course mother wouldn’t put up with any of that crap. Old Iberian laws and attitudes with respect to women were met with her ultimate weapon, ignore, total silence and a change of subject. He may have been the eldest son of a Portuguese Commissioner of Police but in Australia that meant nothing as far as mother was concerned. For a quiet life, and father’s generosity with dress money, Sally complied. [After] all she didn’t meet her ideal until about 1950. By then she was 24 and living in South Australia, 600 miles from papa.

During the last few weeks at Eclipse Radio I spent most of my time studying the yachting magazines looking for a class of sailing boat that I could build as I couldn’t imagine being able to afford a second-hand boat, let alone a [new] one. I didn’t care what [the chief draftsman] Gary thought as I was also looking for a new job which would look kindly on my desire to become a qualified professional engineer. In answer to an advertisement in “The Age” I had an interview with the senior engineer in a Collins Street architect’s office. I don’t remember the negotiations but to my sheer delight I was offered a job as a junior draftsman in the Building Services Department, [at] $14/week: a fortune. That was during the summer of 1947/48. I don’t remember what I told them about my apprenticeship but I did have a lot of examples of my work in my folio. I was accepted as a trainee who would undertake the Mechanical Engineering Diploma at Melbourne Tech and if I passed my exams they would reimburse my fees and costs on presentation of exam results, evidence of acceptance into more advanced grades and receipts. That was a real bonus to me as I was not only already enrolled but I found the costs were higher than I had budgeted. It also taught me the importance of financial book-keeping and at the end of each year my claim for fees was never refused by Cronin the nit-picking office accountant. I already knew the senior job captain, but didn’t realize that until after I had started work at the offices of Leighton Irwin & Co. Pty. Ltd., Architects and Engineers, 7th Floor, 400 Collins Street, Melbourne. [What] an address[!] Little did I know it would be the object of my professional life for the next 10 years.

Thus at 18 years of age, not a majority in those days of 21-years-to-manhood, but near enough for me to make my own decisions, I had metamorphosed from a crippled youth in a plaster cast, imprisoned á la “man in the iron mask”, a scraggly, scrawny, stumbling secondary school dropout, to working at 400 Collins Street. For professionals it was “The Street” in Melbourne and I was of the firm of Leighton Irwin & Co Pty Ltd., the principal of which was Leighton Francis Irwin (d) who [became] a brilliantly-successful young Melbourne architect after he returned from WWI. I had long known his name as it was carved in the stonework of his winning design for a War Memorial at Brighton Beach. That was the start of his successful Architectural practice. The PW&JA da Silva family investment company, Irwin Industrial Pty Ltd, was named to honour that wonderful man. “God knows why they hired me!” I thought.

The truth was I was eager, [and] willing, to attempt anything asked of or suggested to me, productive and, at £7/0/0 ($14.00) per week, I was CHEAP. I guess they though, “What have we got to [lose]?” Always I tried to [keep] John Rafferty’s advice in mind: “Smile, look eager and no wise-cracks.” The office gave me lots of challenges, the chance to get two diplomas from RMIT, and paid all fees as I passed each exam. Later they allowed me time off to get a degree, without pay, but paid an hourly rate for every ¼ hour I spent in their office, asleep or awake. They also paid a week’s vacation for a honeymoon as a wedding present, [and] Judy came too. After my final exams [in] December 1956 I returned full-time for the princely sum of $4,400.00pa. Such wealth, such riches. In order to secure “inspection assignments” for the office, I needed a car that could drive to remote places like Bendigo, Ballarat, Casterton, Coleraine and Hamilton in the West and Wonthaggi and Leongatha in the East. I can’t remember all the places where we were the Architects & Engineers for Hospitals in Victoria, let alone Australia. Looking back, the reason why they accommodated me was simple: they wanted me to stay.

Night school at “Tech” was a revelation. I learnt so much and found I continued to enjoy learning, met lots of motivated people, other adults (we were all treated as such by the teaching staff, even me, not yet 18 when I started there in February 1948) many of whom were ex-servicemen. I think I took 3 subjects in that first year, which meant two or three evenings a week. Classes started quite soon after work and [it] was a rush to get there on time. As I wasn’t good at walking, let alone walking fast, I caught any tram outside the office in Collins Street, changed at Swanston Street to any tram going up and got out at La Trobe Street. I walked one block up the hill to Bowen Street which ran the length of the campus with buildings on each side dedicated to the different Departments. Each subject was taken in the building that housed the department. The style of [building] ranged from High Victorian Blue Stone Gothic Revival, fancy brickwork and timber Federation, steel & concrete Art Deco and post-WWII stark utilitarian concrete brick & pipe. [RMIT] had started as The Working Men’s Collage, in 1883, a clear distinction from The University of Melbourne, [which was] founded thirty years before in 1853 and, in my day, always referred to as “The Shop”. The Southern gate to [the] grand [Melbourne University] campus, originally 40 acres, was a short distance to the North from the Battery factory along Leicester Street so I was familiar with it. How I envied those who were able to attend as undergraduates; little did I know that I would be a student there in 1954. Esteemed as Victoria’s only university it was light years beyond the aspirations of most Tech students and would never consider part-time students or, heaven forbid, “Night School”! I didn’t know how people gained entry to study there.

Because I was taking Mechanical I didn’t take Electrical Engineering classes at Tech however my [Electronic Industries Limited] experience gave me a basic appreciation of electronics. The Electrical Engineer in the Irwin office helped me to specify systems such as Public Address and patient headphone systems. My interest in classical music had developed to the stage [where] I had to have a record player in my room and wanted to buy [one]. Lunchtime window shopping indicated that I would be better off building my own outfit. Collins Street was a quality shopping street and an interesting stroll at lunchtime so I knew new prices and thought about 2nd-hand, as usual. Two blocks down the hill towards Swanson Street, Beecham’s Auction Rooms was a magnet, a place where things could be acquired at prices I wanted to pay. I had plenty of opportunity to stand among the bidders as it was on the way to or from the office. If I was out on a visit to a Job Site, such as the Women’s Hospital, a long-standing [Leighton Irwin & Co] client, I would stand in for a minute if an auction was in progress or go in and browse between sales. I learnt much about auctions, which has stood me in good stead all my life. One day I noticed a console radio with a flat roomy top, just right for my purposes. On enquiry I found that the item would be put up for bidding at a time that wasn’t too inconvenient. The next day found me awaiting my lot to be put up, I bid and in an instant it was mine: Bang! [Down] came the hammer to the “young gent”. It was mine for 25¢. John Rafferty did the honours with his little car, and that’s another story. To my delight I found the radio sounded fine so the next weekend Peter Hein came over to help. We cut a suitable hole in the top, mounted a windup turn table and clockwork motor, from an old gramophone I had bought second-hand from my tool-seller in Bay Street (a link with my pre-dive past) that cost next to nothing. We mounted a new pickup head and arm, a BSR from England which cost the earth; I wanted a new ,well-balanced arm for the new, precious 78rpm records I had yet to buy. We found the amplifier grid, by trial and error, then with a bit of solder and a variable resistor courtesy [of Electronic Industries Limited], the job was done. My best birthday present that year was a recording of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony from Peter [Hein].

Tech dominated the hours away from the office as I found my way around the numerous departments on each side of Bowen Street. Most buildings had basements which held equipment and testing machinery for lab work and experiments. There was no architectural plan or design, it had grown like “Topsy” and buildings were not interconnected. Floors were at different levels so to get from one lecture to another, students had to climb up or down stairs to Bowen Street, enter another building, [then go] up or down stairs to the room for the next class. People with time on their hands strolled, gossiping with friends and would get in the way of those racing like mad, dodging and darting from one side of the pavement to the other in fear of being late for class or lab work. Hazardous for me. Whew! In a class in my first year I sat next to a returned soldier who was not well, [who] introduced himself as Tracy Hatch, the older brother of a primary school friend Bob, whom I hadn’t seen for years. Tracy told me Bob was studying Law, whatever that meant. Tracy and I met every week during those night-school years and sometimes had a beer together although we never introduced each other to our families. I helped him a good deal with his Tech studies, as he adjusted to civilian life.

One evening as I was making my way to catch the 64 tram home a student overtook me, easy to do, and introduced himself as Dick Humphreys who had been at Brighton Junior Tech during the truncated 1945 year that I barely started. We had been in the same class and hadn’t seen each other since. I barely remembered him. As we got near Swanson Street he saw a 64 tram coming and off he went like a gazelle calling out to me to jump aboard. I watched it sailing off down the hill with Dick standing on the running board waving; as if I could run and jump onto a moving tram-car. I caught the next No. 64 home. We met again the following week and after that we usually travelled home together, he would get off at Glen Ira Road Caulfield. I arrived at Tech from Collins Street and he worked at the family car-repair shop opposite the Camden Theatre in Hawthorn Road, Caulfield. He was keen to ski and I didn’t want to sail in the Melbourne winter so I was susceptible to the idea. His elder brother was a member of The Melbourne Walking Club and they had a Hut & Ski Group whose members also liked to ski as well as Bush Walk, and had ambitions to build a Walking Club Hut at Cow Camp on Mt Buller. By now I was a pretty good handy-man carpenter, so I was in demand. There were some necessary fundamentals to be put in place. First I couldn’t walk, so I was never going to qualify as a member of the MWC. Secondly we both needed skis, stocks, boots and suitable water- and wind-proof clothes, and above all transport. Neither had prospects of getting our parents to foot any bills for walking club, school fees, equipment etc. so we had to plot and plan to solve our funding problems!

Although I continued to swim regularly, Life Saving had ceased to be a practical activity as I could no longer walk properly let alone march or run or make human towers on the sand, important training activities in any Life Saving program. At North Road beach there was a VS Sailing club which participated in the racing calendar for that class, so I joined and met Kevin Davis, who owned a VS and lived with his family in a flat next door to the Life Saving Club. I knew his elder brother Lloyd who was about Sally’s age and also a member of the Life Saving Club. I recall that he took her out once, and never again – strange I thought – until one day she said that “He was too possessive.” Kevin slept in the garage with all his boat things including lots of back numbers of sailing magazines. What a treasure trove and an ideal set-up I thought. He had a regular crew and was a keen racer though I sailed with him occasionally as a substitute. I found that crewing on a VS was too strenuous for me and decided that I would have to own and skipper a sailing craft as deck work, especially fored’hand, was quite impossible. After all if one can’t walk properly, an activity which could be done while sitting or lying down might be the answer for me. I also visited other sailing clubs along the Brighton-to-Black-Rock beachfront, and eventually found [that] the Sandringham Yacht Club sponsored VJ’s – Vaucluse Junior sailing boats – which had become very popular throughout Australia, having been commissioned by the Vaucluse Yacht Club at Watsons Bay, Sydney in 1930 to a design by Sil Rohue. VJ’s were raced at all levels from Club to National Championships. One of the [Electronic Industries Limited] junior draftsmen at the Battery factory was Rex Lethlean, who lived near us at McKinnon, and because he too had started Tech night school and also traveled on the 64 tram we maintained our acquaintanceship though I no longer worked for EIL. One day at their house I met Malcolm McKillop, a VJ owner and Sandringham Yacht Club member, who lived next door. Life is full of lucky breaks, especially if one takes heed. Malcolm was a Joiner by trade and his beautifully built VJ, Sarli, was beyond compare. Although I was not an active sailor or boat owner, as [he was], I had all the right words, from reading other peoples’ yachting magazines and the Uffa Fox books from the library.

Occasionally I sailed as a standby crew in the VJ fleet at [Sandringham Yacht Club] but nobody asked me to crew permanently, so I was getting the message that having my own boat would be the best entrée to a pastime and a sport while seated or prone. Malcolm invited me to crew on Sali for the 1949 Easter Regatta: fares and accommodation free for the four-day holiday weekend! The sail from Sandringhan to Frankston, 25 miles in a tiny sail boat, took all of Good Friday, we raced Saturday and Sunday and returned home on Easter Monday having spent 3 nights on the beach in sleeping bags. A bit rougher than I expected, [but] at least it didn’t rain, and I remained enthusiastic about owing a VJ! Build or buy? After comparing prices for new, secondhand and DIYs, and talking to Peter Hein, who offered to help build a boat and crew [it], I decided to buy a “V-Jay” kit, complete with “Salton” sails, including spinnaker, by mail order from the licensee, as advertised in the sailing magazine “Seacraft” in Sydney. Cost £150/0/0 ($300) from my own bank account, without telling anybody at home until the deed was done. Such wealth and decisiveness!

Leighton Irwin and Co Pty Ltd introduced me to a new world, the milieu of Consulting Engineers, Architects, contractors and clients. An exciting and professional performance that took place long before the building trade became involved. We designed and detailed and supervised the construction of Hospitals, among the most complex of buildings in those days. LI&Co. were the architects for the Nurses Home I had worked on when I was apprenticed to Garrett’s, and it was on site I met Clarence Armstrong, a senior architect and senior job captain of the firm. We swapped notes about the time I held the end of the measuring tape for him, while the foreman observed the process while all the time referring to his marked-up copy of the plan. The foundation for the building was a massive raft because the site was once a quarry, complete with reinforcing rods protruding skyward where columns would be formed and poured. They were to be the major supports for the floors of a multi-storey building. All that was needed for the contract to proceed to the next stage was the Architect’s Certification. It suddenly struck me that [Clarence] realized that a major group of reinforcing rods for a critical central column may be incorrectly located. The foreman, too, had perceived that about the same time, [and] his head and neck had turned red. A telltale sign to me. He was a big man with a huge beer belly and an explosive temper. He was visibly controlling himself. [Clarence] was a slim, bird-like man with white hair, oblivious of the coming storm. I was instructed to drop the tape and leave. I never heard anything about the matter again, though I observed the daily procession of people who re-measured, and drilled holes for, and set new reinforcing rods in the correct location. [Clarence] used to muse about, “what brought forth the comedy of errors which ended in such an obvious and expensive blunder” How would I know?

My seat was by a window on the Eastern side of the drawing office, with a cast-iron hot-water radiator under the window, at the bench on which my drawing board was mounted. A perfect location for me, as at that time I was still incontinent and after changing in the toilet I could clean up, put on my spare up’s, wash the soiled [ones] and hang them on my radiator under the bench. In an office like that there were no secrets but we were ladies and gentlemen. Ask no questions and be told no lies suited me, as I never discussed my problems with anyone, not even my mother. I was far more interested in my career. I didn’t know what a career was but I knew that this was the best deal I ever had and I would make it my career. We wore smocks in “The Office”, and on my first day I was presented with a roll of brown fabric and a paper pattern, and informed that there was enough material to make two smocks, and the cost would be deducted from my pay. Mother or Sally made them allowing for me to grow a little and bulk up a lot. I still looked like a concentration camp inmate in my birthday suit; my Shaughnessy cousins referred to me as the Belsen Horror. I spent 10 years in that firm and never needed to have another smock made.

[Leighton Irwin & Co] occupied the whole top floor of a building of eight levels: ground plus seven floors. Originally it was a two- or three-storey, typical Melbourne blue-stone colonial building, circa 1870. It had been modernized, though the lower floors were still solid blue-stone, by Leighton Irwin himself, perhaps in the early 30’s, and the result was a reinforced concrete, rather [Art Deco], modern building. Our floor was mostly drawing offices separated by partitions, plaster below, glass above waist [height]. Every second partition had a large square hole lined with acoustic board in which was mounted a wall telephone and, on a pass-through bench, a binder with rings held sheets of ruled paper headed “Daily-Diary” with a space labelled “Today’s Date”. Against the partition were high benches with drawing boards at a convenient height to work standing, or [seated] on a high stool. Everybody sat on The standard office stool when working at the board, even the Old Man Himself. Writing spaces between drawing boards were used for reference books, [and] job and client files. A long table of normal height with chairs [was] in the centre of each area. Everybody could see everybody else. 6-8 people in each large office and 2 or three in half-width offices. A team of about 30 with three office girls, accountant and Leighton Francis Irwin himself – Tony to his wife – snoozing in his private office.

The senior Design Architect was John Griffen – Griffo to his mates – one of whom was me who worked in a small glass enclosure which held a desk and two drawing tables. [Tony] would occupy one of the boards and poke away at sketches produced by Griffo when a new commission was under discussion. Griffo and his wife Poopy had two small boys and they lived in a house on stilts in Hampton Street, Brighton. For some reason I was occasionally invited home so we had some rapport. There are countless Griffo stories built around his strong opinions and impulsive actions. The standard office stool mentioned was an 1830 design made of wood, [with a] turned and dished seat, and the four turned legs were dowelled-and-glued bored blind holes. About fifteen inches from the floor four turned rungs were dowelled into the legs. The stools were identical but each one had its own elastic characteristics. Some had acquired wire tensioners to prevent the rungs from popping out of their leg sockets. There were three in Griffos room, [and] two for LFI’s board so he could invite people to sit while playing with sketch plans. One stool was quite wobbly and [Griffo] would get cross with it and bang away to make it more sturdy. One day it got the best of him so he grabbed a leg by one hand, opened his door with the other and flung it to the floor with an almighty crash. The whole office ceased working, talking or scratching and in the silence we looked up to see old Tony stepping carefully around the heap of fire wood. Griffo was still at the door and [Tony] said in his quavery, old-man’s voice, “Now then Griffen you will have to pick-up all of that!” Of course Griffo refused so I picked up the bits and disposed of them. Needless to say they came home with me to be glued together and I still had that stool when Judy and I sold our Vaucluse residence in 1997, nearly 50 years later.

My first tasks were “Services-Schematic” layouts showing the many services required in a hospital project. Hot & cold water, waste water, sewer, vents, steam, sterile water (piped condensate from the Boiler House), oxygen, nitrous oxide, master clock systems, public address, power and light, whatever. My boss wrote specifications which defined these services, including ventilation, exhaust and occasionally air-conditioning. I would receive a draft copy of the specification and dye-line copies of the architectural drawings, with coloured pencil lines showing the probable runs for installing the different services. Sheet-metal duct sections were defined, pipes were sized and specified, and drawings were produced showing how the services would fit into the never-big-enough-volumes provided by the architects. I learnt a lot from discussion and debate between the qualified seniors, architects, structural engineers, services engineers and equipment designers. Every problem had to be resolved before working drawings were finalized for the client, and before calling tenders. For me it was a dream vocation. Finally, Services were drawn in coloured ink, matching the pencil colour of the drafts, on transparent copies of the architectural drawings. It was all very professional and I wanted to be the best Junior Draftsman in the firm.

During the summer school holidays of 1948/49 the Shaughnessey family, Auntie Vic and Uncle Tom with John and Wendy drove their Willey’s Knight from South Australia, camping on the way. Vic and Tom’s double bed was in the trailer; at most stops John and Wendy slept in a small tent. They arrived at Elizabeth Street after New Year. Vic and Phybbie had to TALK, they hadn’t met for almost 30 years, though written correspondence and exchange of greetings had been conducted unbroken throughout their years of separation. They were close friends, near in age, in the [Robert Saunders Caldicott] household and many family photographs show them sitting each [side] of my Great-Grandmother, Elizabeth Caldicott. I didn’t know what was going on at the time but worked it out some years later. One Saturday morning Auntie Vic handed me three matinée tickets to the theatre, which she knew I liked, so with John and Wendy we went into town for the day leaving the adult women to plot to their hearts’ content. We had a great day, lunch at my favourite place Russell Collins, the program was the full-length ballet Swan Lake which we all enjoyed, and drove the household crazy with continuous whistling and humming until they drove off home. Certainly I couldn’t dance and neither could the Shaughnessy kids, but the music and images were with us [forever]. That would be the record I must buy next pay-day, but to my surprise I had to find a way to get the complete set without breaking the bank. The family wasn’t interested so I was forced to lay-by; they were quite right of course as I played it incessantly until I knew every note. After which I didn’t play it for years, besides 33-1/3 became hi-fi in no time and the old 78’s were hardly ever played.

My musical education was progressing under the guidance of John and Lucy, from reading biographies of the great classical composers, borrowed from the Public Library, and from attending concerts. Initially I would go with John to the Symphony Orchestra subscription concert when Lucy was performing, and later I would go on my own, or with Malcolm McKillop whose family were amateur musicians; he played the Bagpipes. One night I was given Lucy’s ticket and found that it wasn’t John sitting next to me but Joy Richmond, a piano pupil of Lucy’s. It turned out that piano was her second instrument and her primary was the violin, which she was studying at the University Conservatorium. Like me she was a very busy person, [and she was] about my age, and we started to go to concerts together. Our friends and families considered us a pair, though we had never discussed any kind of permanent arrangement. I especially enjoyed attending performances and following the score with her. Eventually, I would buy the compact Penguin Scores of the more popular works, my favourite things like the Bach Cantatas. They lived in a pleasant, roomy house near Hurlingham with three spacious reception rooms that could be opened into one entertaining space. Her father was a well-known woodwind player so there were frequent rehearsals at their house and an endless stream of musos practicing, making reeds and arranging gigs. Mrs Richmond ran a well-organized message centre, in that pre-electronic age. I enjoyed the ambiance. If Joy wanted to go to a performance and thought I might enjoy it she would phone me at the office to make arrangements, as there was no phone at our house. In turn I would leave messages at Ménage Richmond, where the phone was the management device that ran their lives.

When Peter [Hein] and I started work on the VJ from plans and instructions that came with the kit, the large marine plywood sheets were almost beyond us, me especially. The largest piece was the deck, which we fixed to the inside studs of the garage wall, to reduce the extent of bends and creases, probably the result of mishandling during transport from Sydney. We wouldn’t need the deck until last because the hull was built upside down on frames. The principal sections of the hull, deck, sides and bottoms were cut from the long sheets, which solved the problem of [handmade] joints. We bought the timber for the frames as specified in the instructions. Later VJ’s were built without internal frames as fantastic glues, fibreglass and other material technologies were developed. The latest and best in 1949 were casein glues and rubberized water-proof caulking. Peter [Hein] and I pored over those plans for weeks before we started, making sure we had all specified items, fittings, copper nails, whatever. The kit was so long arriving that we thought it had been lost or stolen. In time we found the supplier had received more orders than [expected], so they satisfied the huge Sydney market first. Then it was found that the carriers had more work than they could handle. The shipping arrangements were by lorry to the railway then railway to us, [and] by lorry at the other end; three different carriers, all set up to lose consignments.

Eventually Peter & I turned the VJ kit into a sailing boat, with occasional help from Malcolm [McKillop], who thought we were slap-dash. Can’t remember how we got it to Sandringham Yacht Club, probably in a borrowed truck from the Humphrey’s Body Works, and in due course my boat was launched, rigged and first sailed on a cold, windy, overcast Melbourne November day. The photos show Eroica with the lion rampart on the sail, the heroic symbol and name must have suited my mood at the time. With the well-known themes of Beethoven’s 3rd symphony banging away at my brain we learnt to sail her. Although I had crewed on other people’s boats many times in the past I had never been responsible for the tiller before. After numerous capsizes we eventually got the hang of it and the following weekend Peter’s father, Fred Hein, came down and took lots of photographs with his beaut camera. During the 1949/50 season we raced in the Sandringham Yacht Club VJ fleet without winning an event. One of the best skippers raced Eroica one day, lost the race and pronounced my pride and joy a dud!

On Ladies Day at Sandringham I invited Joy to crew for the Ladies Event at the regatta, as was the custom. She had never been to any Yacht Club event, let alone a Ladies Day race in a tiny racing boat. She turned up dressed in her best sporting duds including a heavy brand-new Fair-isle sweater with a turtle neck to keep out the cold. The wind was icy that afternoon so she was pleased to be suitably dressed. She also had a new, neat hairdo that would survive in half a gale. She had sailed with me on a few occasions, was physically strong, as violinists need to be, and we assumed that she would [acquit] herself well – might even win – and thoroughly enjoy the day. We sailed out to the starting area, to see and be seen, the real purpose of any Ladies Day Regatta. “There’s Jock Sturrock’s new 22-Square-Meter Sue Anne with his beautiful daughter, namesake, in the cockpit.” “Don’t just sit there, go to weather as we tack!” and over we went with Joy holding doggedly to the leeward shroud. I swam around the capsized craft looking for the crew when a head bobbed up in the centre of the mainsail, floating on the water. When she finally came to the surface all she could say was “Oh my hair!” Of course we missed the start and returned to the boat ramp where she climbed out like a drowned rat then stood, with her sodden sweater now a heavy ankle-length garment [and] with her sleeves covering her hands [hanging] to her knees.

Christmas holidays 1949/50 I flew to Mt Gambia and was met at the aerodrome by Uncle Tom and Peter [Shaughnessey] who took me to the pub and got me drunk. The two-week holiday season with the Shaughnessy clan in South Australia was a lot of fun from the first day to the last. On arrival at Glencoe I discovered the parents were in charge of the village, two-room (South Australian) Primary State School. Being holidays there were no pupils so we had the run of the place. School House and residence were two substantial, typical Mt Gambia limestone buildings with painted galvanized-iron roof, sheds and annex, also a tennis court. No electricity, so after dark it was Coleman petrol lamps in the dining room then in the sitting room where we read until bedtime. Measured by the first of the young’uns who fell asleep to the hissing of the lamps, usually me. Then hurricane lanterns or candles to light the way to bed. I can’t remember how many bedrooms in the house but I do recall that John and I slept in a double bed. John had Cystic Fibrosis, called Bronchiaretica in those days. During the night he would cough and Auntie Vic would slip quietly into the room to help him breathe, roll him over, head over the edge of the bed, then she would slap his back and quietly say “spit” until his tubes cleared. I got used to the performance and after a couple of nights didn’t even wake up.

A few days of shooting ([I] have the photograph of the three of us, the “Glencoe hunters”, holding trophies of the chase: it’s easy to see why they called me Belsen) and tennis with some of the local girls, none of whom wanted me as a partner, “What’s wrong with him?” They would say to which, “Nothing” was the standard reply. We had a few days at Beachport, on the Southern Ocean, so cold, and camped by Lake George, very salt. We swam, walked and shot duck out of season and one fell into the centre of the lake. The water was very salt, thick and had a strong “chemist shop” smell. The Shaughnessy spaniel wouldn’t retrieve, “You call that water?” indicated the pooch and wouldn’t budge. I was unanimously volunteered by the Shaughnessy clan, including the dog, so in I went. Anyway I was the best swimmer. The water was almost thick enough to walk on, certainly it was impossible to sink. I got the duck which Vicky cooked and we ate that evening. Judy and I were watching a movie on TV recently, can’t remember the name, an Australian film [starring] Bryan Brown about discovering the wreck of an ancient wooden sailing ship in sand dunes? At the first scene showing the seaside township where most of the action is centered I shouted out loud, “that’s Beachport in South Australia.” After the movie we carefully read the credits and sure enough it was Beachport. I have only been there once and obviously the image has remained with me for 50 years. In the street scenes I kept expecting to see John or Wendy, Peter and Tom or Vicky step out of the doorway of the bakery. John died suddenly on 6 April 1952, aged 20.

By the Australia Day break, club racing events had not recommenced – still the case to this day – and as the construction industry is slow at that time of the year the office wasn’t busy, so I added a few extra days [to my holiday], [And] because Peter [Shaughnessey] wasn’t available, Dick Humphriys and I sailed down to Balcombe Beach just for the adventure. In those days the area was quite undeveloped, except for the Army Camp, but at that time [it] was [a] barracks for ghosts. We slept in sleeping bags in the scrub, ignoring the “No Camping” signs. As the only land transport was to walk we would sail back to Mornington for provisions and [explore] the harbour behind the Schnapper Point jetty. In the Mornington Sailing Club we found a cheerful bunch of yachties who were using the assembly room as a dormitory, a practice accepted by the members. We couldn’t take advantage of the hospitality this time because we had left our kip and supplies at Balcombe Beach, besides we had only come prepared to buy bread etc. and had just enough for that. We sailed off back to our camp into a dying breeze and eventually darkness as we drifted South. We tried to identify house lights, lights at the Army Barracks, but couldn’t make out any landmarks so we started to paddle East. Was that East? We caught sight of an occasional flicker of light and deduced that [it] must be at the road bridge over Balcombe Creek, [but] the problem was that the tide had turned, and it runs quite fast there as the Port Phillip tide funnels out through The Rip into Bass Strait. At every flick of light we paddled harder, the sails were still up as we tried to catch every zephyr. As night wore on the flashes of light were less frequent and we felt as if our eyes were sticking out on antennae like snails’. Eventually, in the inky blackness, the centre board softly touched bottom and we [leapt overboard] with great joy. Dragged the boat up on the sand just North of Balcombe Creek Bridge. It was about two (2:00) am, we were almost too tired to search for our sleeping bags but eventually found our camp and [without] a word, turned in. [What] a night.

Tech started again in February 1950, [involving] enrolling, timetables, organizing lab work groups, buying text books and stationery and the thousand-and-one details including, [inevitably], renewing acquaintances. Dick Humphreys had spent the summer rebuilding a 1924 Dodge Tourer which had been housed since the start of the war in an old shed, a chook-house. He and his brother found it to be in excellent mechanical condition although it looked an absolute mess. The hood and tyres were completely rotten, and it was part of a deceased estate. The owners finally agreed to sell it for £10 ($20) provided the Humphrey boys removed it at no cost. Somehow they got it to the backyard of their parents’ house in Caulfield, where Dick worked on it every spare moment during the summer holidays. It finally got on the road fitted with rerolled wheel rims, to suit the smaller-diameter tyres of post-war cars after the wooden spokes were cut down and the latest high-traction tires fitted. A new Tourer Top was professionally fitted, courtesy [of] the family panel-beating firm, and all repainted a shiny green with characteristic painted lines and trim. Dick’s ambition was to become a top-class skier and “Snow Liner” was to transport paying passengers to the soon-to-be-built Walking Club Hut at Mt Buller in the Victorian Snow Country. He estimated that he could have 6 or 7 paying passengers @ £7 each round trip. He had sailed occasionally on a Sunday and was now keen to work in partnership to make our own skis and get organized for the winter. Who? Me? Well I thought about it and promised to consider the idea. My biggest worry was knowing that [my] legs may not hold up and I had no intention of discussing my problems with anybody. Both Peter and Dick knew my background but they kept my secret, as I expected.

The sailing season progressed, we raced every Saturday and didn’t win a race so we were a bit down-hearted and didn’t enter the Easter Regatta at Frankston. The three of us enjoyed sailing but a VJ could only take two blokes. We decided to spend Easter at Mornington. Dick drove Snow Liner down with plenty of camping gear (food and booze) and Peter and I sailed down and secured a place at the Mornington Sailing Club. Thus we had a car available for getting around town, luxurious camping gear and, best of all from both Peter and Dick’s point of view, the former would get to sail and Dick wouldn’t have to worry about another experience like the Balcombe Beach episode. We three met as planned, sailed and explored, drank beer with the other Yachties and their friends, and had a great time. On Saturday afternoon a sublime small keel boat with a five-pointed star and a number on its sail swept into the anchorage behind the Jetty. It was love at first sight. I was like Mr Toad. We examined her, talked to the skipper and crew and found that the Star Class was based at Royal Brighton Yacht Club. That was that! After Easter I sold Eroica, and looked for a Star boat. Peter and I spent the rest of the season in Virginia II, International Star Class Association boat number 2966. We became Junior Members of RBYC and became committed to the 11 District Star Fleet. I was elected secretary as I was the only member who owned a typewriter, by grace of [Leighton Irwin & Co] who had replaced it with a post-war model.

Dick was still keen for me to Ski and join the Melbourne Walking Club so I researched Skiing, going once more to the fountain – [the] Public Library – for books on skiing in general and skiing in Australia, and came to the conclusion that if I could strengthen my climbing ability I might have a chance. My biggest risk was walking down stairs, hills and slopes so I reasoned that I wouldn’t have to worry about that as skiing was a “Downhill” sport anyway. I found skiers sometimes strengthen their legs and knees by climbing stairs. Well, I could do that when going to the office and reduce the going-down risk by taking the lift when leaving. The next problem was estimating how to afford expensive imported skis, gear etc. and Virginia II [the new Star Class yacht] too? Dick explained that my carpentry skills would enable us to make our own skis from Spotted Gum bent-blanks which could be bought from The South Melbourne Steam Bending Co. Yes, truly, there was such an enterprise, a 19th-century throw-back. We acquired blanks and during many weekends we carved, cut, gouged, planed and chiseled the blanks into reasonable skis to suit our different sizes and [weights]. The family of one of my new [Royal Brighton Yacht Club] friends was the biggest manufacturer of Stainless Steel products in Victoria, [and] he provided cut, drilled and countersunk edges for both sets [of skis]. Boots were heavy-weight Army boots from Disposal Stores, which we strengthened, to take the force of the bindings, and waterproofed. Our only imported items were the Kandaha Bindings from Austria. The finished Skis, stained and varnished, looked most professional. My mother knitted heavy-weight crew-necked sweaters and sewed hooded and zipped jackets which we soaked in a waterproof solution, mainly bees wax and kerosene, which were hung in the sun on the clothes line outside for some weeks. What a stink, whew!! Australian-made cane stocks completed the kit.

Virginia had been stowed on the hard standing at [Royal Brighton Yacht Club] for the winter, [with] sails stored at home, equipment stored in our RBYC Shed: no more sailing until the 50/51 season opened in November. We started skiing on day trips to Mt Donna Buang and Lake Mountain in June 1950, after [the] Queen’s Birthday weekend: so far so good! I skied about once a month, sometimes at Mt Buller, sleeping in the burnt-out wreckage of the old Chalet, [which was] only practical if one could get a spot under the bent, rusty roof-iron next to the fireplace. The brick and stone chimney/fireplace was all that remained standing on the site. After the second trip we decided to forget about Buller unless we could book a bunk at one of the handful of Cow Camp huts. We stayed one weekend at the Postal Institute Hut and another at the Ivor Whittacker Lodge, [but it was] too expensive. Later that winter I worked on the Bull Run Hut where Nick Lotkowitz, another Caulfield and Melbourne Walking Club pal, was a member. On fine weekends Peter and I worked on the boat. The rest of the winter was study, work on my parent’s house, swimming at the City Baths and attending as many concerts as I could, cadging free tickets from my musical friends or sitting in the Organ Loft for 2/6 (25¢) when I had to pay my own way.

At [Leighton Irwin & Co], department heads had been lobbying the old man for some time, maybe years for all I knew, to set up a pension plan for senior staff, Superannuation as it is known these days. Of course I was not involved in either side of the debate but was aware that tension was increasing and a deadline was agreed for decision by the Shareholders, whomsoever they may have been. At 20 years of age I was not aware of the outcome, except that my boss resigned as did my friend [Clarence] Armstrong, the senior architect from [my] The Prince Henry’s Hospital apprenticeship days. His departure wasn’t important, so “they” thought, as there were many architects in the firm, but my boss’s departure was different because it made me the defacto Chief Services Engineer of [Leighton Irwin & Co], not to mention the Building Services Department. The managing partner, in the office next to the Old Man, talked to me in confidence about my intentions, and although I regarded my ex-boss as a good friend (though today I can’t remember his name) who had hired me into this happy situation, I indicated that I was delighted to accept the salary increase offered. I agreed to stay and do all the work and would welcome the new qualified engineer as my new boss when and if he came aboard. I was happy “they” were happy and I learned to sell my mistakes so that the firm was not out of pocket. My best friends in the risk management inherent in my designs and contract supervision were the contractors. They seemed to be happy to help me in every way. There were fewer queries about my expenses and I learned the importance of meticulous itemization of every detail in my time sheet. I became aware [that] the managing partner was pleased and Tony [was] also, as they discussed my client visits with interest and asked questions. [Those] two, at least, were reading my time sheets and noting who called, by phone and in person, from the receptionist’s records. How fortunate to have that experience after only two years in the office and while so young.

After the thaw, in the Mountains, the Humphreys brothers suggested that if I worked on the Walking Club hut to be built on a leased site at Cow Camp, it may lead to my being granted equivalents towards the Club’s “compulsory walks” precondition for membership. The Hut and Ski Committee blokes said they would vote for me. That spring, before the Sailing season started, I worked many weekends on the new hut. I don’t remember if I qualified for membership but the photographs in my album recall those arduous weekends. I enjoyed the people, seeing the Australian Alps, and for the first time I became aware of “The Snowy”, the background to Banjo’s writings. We drove through Mansfield on every trip to Buller and Jamieson on occasion, when we had time. Of course I still wasn’t sure that I could physically handle the activity and watched constantly for that episode which showed I had gone too far. I was on the edge the whole time I was in the High Country, cautious about carrying heavy timber on my shoulders, without revealing my condition.

That November was the start of the 1950/51 season in the Star Class at [Royal Brighton Yacht Club]. Virginia had been repainted and made ready for the racing and we also planned a Christmas Holiday Port Philip Bay cruise to Sorrento where the Humphreys family had a holiday camping site, where they and their young friends spent as much of the summer as possible. The racing consisted of regattas at different clubs and on the Saturdays between the major events there were club races between RBYC and Royal Victoria Yacht Club from Hobsons Bay, [which is located] on the other side of the main shipping channel, on the Western side of Port Phillip Bay. The early part of the season was typically stormy, developing into calmer breezes during January and February then slowly deteriorating into stronger winds as [autumn] developed about April. Every week we had repairs to be completed before the next race. Fittings to be mended and sails to be sent to the sailmaker and collected before Saturday. Neither Peter or I owned a car so public transport and shank’s pony was the order of the day during the week and bicycles at [the] weekend. We would encourage sailmakers to deliver to the club on Saturday morning and tended to use the services of those who would. Peter had access to workshops, at Swinburne Tech, where he was doing an Engineering Diploma, for repairs. Looking back I find it hard to believe that we could get it all done without a car. We were Junior Members, in those days 21 was the age [of full membership], so it never occurred to us to want a car. It was different for Dick, as his family was in the Motoring Business and we borrowed his car as often as possible. Peter’s father had a car [he] needed for his job. On the other hand nobody at 7 Elizabeth Street had a car until Peter Shaughnessey came to live [there]. Most of our RBYC pals, sons of the well-to-do, had cars so we became experienced in the fine art of asking transport favours, among other things.

The Goodings family, John, Georgette and Simon, aged 6 months in a Moses basket, came into my life at the office Christmas tea party of December 1950. We were instant pals with gorgeous Georgette and jolly John, [the Leighton Irwin & Co] Sydney manager (and smiling Simon) whenever they were in Melbourne. Though we didn’t see much of them until [the] da Silva family moved to Sydney in 1962, when we became close mates from day one. Georgette says she met Judy at that party but I don’t remember that as Judy and I didn’t get together until Geoff’s 21st birthday party on 29 October 1953, though I did invite her to RBYC Ladies day at the commencement of the 1952/53 season.

Christmas holidays, 1950, Peter and I and Morris Barton, a junior among the [Leighton Irwin & Co] architects, joined the crew for the trip to the Humphreys’ lair at Sorrento. We had a weeks’ supply of food and bottled beer for us and everybody else. No such thing as canned beer in those days and, as we three were all under 21 – drinking age – we had accumulated the liquid supplies over many weeks. This was going to be the holiday to remember for all time. The weather was typical of the Port Phillip after a Souwesterly change overnight. A strong breeze giving us a hard slog to windward until we got [past] Ricketts Point. We tacked out of the harbour towing our dingy and hard-on the wind beat to the West into a lumpy sea hoping to lay Ricketts Point. Eventually we tacked to check the lie, there was a sudden sharp “CRACK” followed by the sickening sound as the rig collapsed. We were smothered with wet sails and the tangled wire, rope and mess of rigging. Nobody was hurt but it took time to sort out in the lumpy sea, the bilge was full of water and, worst of all, we had no steerage-way as slowly, inevitably, we were blown towards the rocks of the Sandringham Breakwater. The scene was shifting in slow motion while the boat rocked with every passing wave. Slowly we straightened out the mess while signaling frantically for a tow to safety behind the breakwater. Eventually aid arrived, just in time, and a line from the motor boat was cleated to our bow and made tight with moments to spare, in fact we were pushing Virginia II’s transom away from the rocks with one of the dinghy’s oars, frantic that the next trough would drop her hull, CRACK!, onto the rocks. We had left the yacht harbour at Brighton at about ten in the morning and got to an unoccupied mooring in the Sandringham yacht harbour [at] about five in the afternoon. Safely secured and at the first pause of the day we opened three bottles of beer, pulled a roast chicken apart and sat down to plan, what’s next?

After stowing everything in as safe and dry manner as possible we rowed ashore, secured the dingy on the Sandringham Yacht Club hard standing and managed to hitch a ride to Royal Brighton about midnight. The three of us collapsed on the floor of the locker on a bed of old sails and boat covers and slept like logs. Next morning we found a helpful member with a nice big seaworthy motor launch to take us back to Virginia, then our good Samaritan towed us back to RBYC where we winched Virginia onto the slip and I ordered a new mast. After cleaning up everything Peter went home, Dick arrived in a jalopy, and with Morris the three of us drove down to Sorrento to drink our beer and eat our vittles and celebrate New Year’s Eve. Morris left to return to the city by train and Dick took me back to [Royal Brighton Yacht Club] to take delivery of the new mast. Peter and I put the rig back together with the latest stainless-steel fittings, [which were] lighter and stronger [than what they replaced]. Examination of the break indicated that it was only a matter of time before it failed, so I was lucky that it happened on holiday and not in a race. The new mast was a great success and the repairs to the sails were, in effect, a re-cut, which improved our performance. In my photo album I have a splendid photograph, taken by a professional yachting photographer, of the start of the Star Class event at the Royal St Kilda Yacht Club regatta, January 1951. Virginia II is in the lead. What a feeling.

In March 1951 cousin Peter Shaughnessey came to live at 7 Elizabeth Street after I built a sleepout for him on the front verandah. He had a job offer from Scott & Furphy which required him to complete his studies at a Melbourne tertiary education establishment. We had wanted to enclose the area for some time with a view to opening [it] into the sitting room and turning the space into a dining alcove. Peter soon fitted into da Silva routine, [and] his humorous disposition and war stories were enjoyed by the family. Not that he enjoyed the war as his discharge was for disability. I think he contracted TB during his service [with the] Mine Sweepers in Indonesia. At times he was not well but Phyllis fed and fussed over him and he added to our household. Besides he had a small Standard soft-top car.

The Easter Bayside trip in 1951 was in Virginia II to Mornington and, in order to get a good mooring site, we sailed the boat down early in Holy Week and left her to look after herself. Dick collected [us] sailors and on Good Friday the three of us returned in Snow Liner. As before we bunked in the Sailing Club and joined the party. Saturday was a great sailing day and we took lots of photos of Virginia II doing racing tacks inside the breakwater. Sunday also was a good sailing day but a Sou’west change hit just as we came in that afternoon. We could see it was going to blow like mad overnight and hoped it would be over for the sail back to Brighton the next day. Easter Monday dawn saw it blowing half a gale and by afternoon it was a full gale with waves breaking over the Mornington Jetty like it wasn’t there. The boat was secure, so we left her there and went back home. Next weekend Peter wasn’t able to sail back with me and as I didn’t want to go it alone I asked Jack Hardy, a new recruit in the [Leighton Irwin & Co] Services Department. He was a Returned Serviceman, R.A.A.F., [and was] married with a baby. His wife was a sweet girl who agreed to lend him to me provided I brought him back in one piece. Diligent Dick drove us down, we rigged-up and headed North with a big sea under us from the Easter Gale. Virginia II flew over the waves and we were making fine time. I handed out the lunch and proceeded to eat my share when I realized that Jack wasn’t hungry. He wasn’t hungry and didn’t want to steer while I bailed the bilge so I had to do both and eat my lunch as well while he hung over the leeward side and relieved himself of some quantity of whatever. Eventually we swung into the Brighton yacht harbour where Peter, by prior arrangement, had left the dingy on the mooring. I rowed Jack across to the pier, returned to collect the daggy remains of two weeks away – sails etc – and rowed ashore to be met by a happy, hardy and cheerful Jack Hardy. He talked about that trip for years. The last time I met him they had 8 children and he hadn’t sailed since Easter ’51.

After 16 April 1951 I became a senior member of RBYC and was admitted to “the bar”. My friends gave me a wild 21st birthday party and some wonderful presents, the three I remember were Capn John Illingworth’s Offshore, Uffa Fox’s Sail and Power and a wall Barometer which [had been] left in Florida. This was also the year that Trials would be held for Sailing Classes for the 1952 Olympic Games to be held in Finland at Helsinki in the Northern summer, July/August ’52. The exciting thing for us was that the Star Class Olympic trials would be held in Melbourne in the 51/52 season on Port Philip Bay. The Star Class blokes, at [Royal BrightonYacht Club], and also at Royal Victoria at Hobsons Bay, were a great help, sponsors no less, and they watched out for Peter [Hein] and me and helped us get started. I also became aware of a RBYC member by the name of Ken Roy Caldicott who was a prominent Sydney-Hobart yachty who crewed on the Commodore’s yacht, WORAINE. I never spoke to him about my mother’s Caldicott family though I thought I noticed him observing at me on occasions. I now believe, since the publication of All Variety and Change by [my]cousin John Bishop, that we were related and Ken was a descendent of Alfred Millwater Caldicott of Templestowe, Victoria who was 1st cousin of [Robert Henry Caldicott], my Great-great-grandfather, from whom Peter Shaughnessy and John Bishop are also descended. I had wondered if [Ken Roy Caldicott] knew of our kinship, I think he must have. Ken’s sister Badie Caldicott married Russell Ivor Evans, also a member of RBYC, whose Father had designed the Federation Flag. Thus Ken was my 4th cousin, our common forbears being John & Sarah (Payne) Caldicott 1768-1846. Ken is now deceased so we will never get to discuss the family. I guess by now most, perhaps all, of the Woraine crew circa 1950, have passed away. During my years of sailing and membership at RBYC I came to realize there were few secrets in that small community, especially from those of the “old” Brighton establishment. Certainly the head barman at the club, Bill Secker, knew as much about me as I did, as his sister was married to my friend John Rafferty; talking of sponsors, Bill was another who kept an eye out for me.

[Leighton.Irwin & Co] eventually got a Services Boss, Major James Crichton Ferguson, Royal Marines, Retired. We got on OK, Jack Hardy didn’t and left to Join W.E. Bassett etc., the Consulting Engineering firm Peter Hein joined on graduating from [the University] of [Melbourne] in 1955. Eventually both Peter and Jack became partners and directors of Bassetts. I [learnt] a great deal from Fergie and although we were aware of the work each was doing, right up until I retired in 1988, over 30 years after I left [Leighton.Irwin & Co], we made no attempt to keep in touch. My memory is full of Fergie stories and this is no place for them. However here is one, typical of his dash and crash approach to solving problems. Being British he was addicted to baths and after spending most of the day cleaning his car, packing and getting ready for a long weekend away, he went upstairs to [bathe] and dress before departure. His dear, sweet and devoted wife, Irene, herself having been ready for some time, had the bath ready and waiting. By the time he was ready to immerse [himself] he found the water was still a little too hot for his liking, [and] turned the tap on but no water ran. Irene had told him that the water had turned off after she had filled the bath. In due course they drove off for their weekend away. Returning on the Monday evening they were surprised to see water seeping out the front door. On opening the door they found the bathroom tap still running, a waterfall coming down the treads and flowing quietly down the [wallpaper] of the ground floor from the sleeping quarters [upstairs]. It was months before I or anybody in the office heard about the flood.

It was a classic Fergie crash and dash from which I learnt a great deal. Lessons resulting from unexpected, unplanned outcomes, accidents resulting from unchecked actions. My work in the office continued to develop, especially as I was learning engineering principals at Tech and a newly graduated University of Melbourne BMechE, by the name of Bill Kerr, joined the company and clearly demonstrated to me, in a friendly way, the benefits of higher levels of tertiary Engineering education. The point being that empirical solutions should always be tested against careful analysis. I thought a lot about my inadequate secondary education, for a professional engineer, and one day while browsing at Beecham’s Auction Rooms, I noticed two sets of The Encyclopaedia Britannica were to be auctioned. We should have one of those at home, I thought, so on the day of the auction I found myself bidding for a Moroccan Leather bound set, which sold for £1/15/0 ($3.50), far above the amount of cash on me at the time. The second set, Linen bound, was knocked down to me for 12/6 ($1.25) so I phoned [Peter Shaughnessey] at work and arranged for him to bring his car into town the next day and cart the 25 volumes home. The weight of the books and us two was almost too much for the little bomb but we made it. Eventually, when Judy and I sold our library at Hopetoun Avenue, the Britannica was bought for $50. My 21st Birthday dinner given by the [Leighton Irwin & Co] boys was a great success though Morris, Bill and I drank too much beer and were tossed out of the restaurant. Not unexpected as we were purported to be mischievous and classified as the office musketeers. As for me it was a relief to have Fergie taking the brunt of client complaints and the boss not only didn’t reduce my pay but actually increased it. As I had survived the office for more than three years, I knew more about the jobs and clients [than anybody] else so things were still looking up. Tony Irwin was a very nice Grandfather to work for.

Sally and John Victor Cromwell of Mypolonga, a Murray River irrigation settlement in South Australia were married on 19 May 1951 at St Lukes, Bay Street Brighton. They were introduced by Auntie Vic Shaughnessy who lived in [Mypolonga]. The Shaughnesseys ran the local school and had become friends of John’s parents, Hilda and Victor. After their honeymoon in Victoria, John and Sally set up house in [Mypolonga] and helped Victor farm the family property. They had five children, [a] son, twin daughters, [a] son and [a] daughter and are now great-grandparents.

Earlier in the year The Melbourne Walking Club Hut and Ski Group decided to have a ski tour of the Bogong High Plains. The plan was to cross-country ski the Snow Pole Line through Pretty Valley, set up a base camp at Cope Hut, ski the slopes near the hut and also cross-country ski to other huts in the High Country, visit the occupants and check [out] the several snow-pole lines. Subscribers were solicited and as Dick wanted to participate he suggested that I could, at the first stage, contribute a share to the purchase of canned food and other provisions to be stored in the hut during the summer. I certainly didn’t want to hike from Falls Creek, where the road finished, carrying heavy loads of provisions over rough and rocky tracks during the summer. OK thought, I will sign-up so long as I don’t have to do the provisioning walk. Especially as I was committed to the [Royal Brighton Yacht Club]’s support of the Star Class Fleet that summer. I put in my share and thought that would be my total commitment if I [decided] not to go. When the time came, I was persuaded to go though I was concerned about missing two weeks of a six-week maths course in the winter term. Statistics, compulsory for the Mech. Eng. Diploma. Well, I reasoned, maths was my best discipline so I’ll give it a try. At the height of the Ski Season we drove Snow Liner up the Keiwa Valley past the SEC Hydro Electric settlement at Mt Beauty to Falls Creek where the road finished. In those days there was one hut – modest accommodation – and a ski tow, [but] no lift, and for comfort most skiers stayed at Mt Beauty and drove to Falls Creek each day. Mt Bogong and The Staircase Spur towered over the mountain vista, and the weather was deteriorating.

Other members in cars and trucks arrived on the appointed day and we all strapped skins onto our skis. We dressed for dirty weather, strapped on our packs [and] off we went. After a couple of hours of single-file slow cross-country skiing, we were following the line of Snow Poles, some of which had fallen, there were no tracks to follow in the fresh snow, just the poles. I thought, “How much further? Why am I doing this? What if my left leg gives out? This is what you get for not being frank with people and bullshitting about one’s capabilities!” Cope Hut appeared through the white-out and all our problems were solved, for the moment. Greenhorns, like me, were allocated upper bunks and the old hands, who knew what to do, the lower bunks. That suited me and into my bunk fully clothed to lie down, whew! That night the dirty weather became a blizzard and by the morning we were completely snowed in. Ski Tour? Out of the question! We had 5 days during which we played cards, told stories, ate our provisions and got our water by thawing out lumps of snow. The back door opened to a steep slope that protected the stack of firewood. The space filled with snow on the first night of the storm. We tunnelled into that for clean snow for water for stew, tea and occasional warm water [armpit-and-crutches]. The front door opened against the wind and promised a view down the slope into the valley when the weather cleared. In the meantime the gale whipped anything that slipped from one’s fingers into swirling white oblivion. Useful for the disposal of the contents of the toilet bucket while it was impossible to get to the outhouse.

By the time the storm abated we were all eager to get out and ski. Dick and a like-minded group took off on a visit of two days’ cross-country skiing to the Rover Scout’s hut. I dedicated myself to mastering the slope below our hut. The air was still very cold and frosty though the sun was bright and conditions were fast. Too fast as I hurtled down the terrain and as I turned to stop to prevent me from getting too far from the hut I fell, rather somersaulted, and landed with my left ski pointing 180° from my right ski. The left knee hurt and while lying in the snow I slowly and painfully got both feet free of the bindings. The leg throbbed and hardly accepted any weight, [and] eventually I got back into the hut with no further plans to improve my down-hill technique. During the next three days, [I had] the help of one of the Walking Club members who was a Doctor, retired, [and] happy to mind the hut and work on my knee while everybody else was taking advantage of the fine weather. Everybody but another old bloke, Bill, who liked to cook and busied himself with repairs to the hut. One afternoon the Doc was outside burying some of the human soil revealed by the thaw when a party of skiers came into view. In order to be hospitable – important High Plains etiquette – he rushed into the hut and threw a handful of tea leaves in to the boiling water in the iron pot hanging over the fire. The next day after all the blokes had disappeared again the Doc asked me, when we were sitting down to lunch, how I enjoyed last night’s dinner? We discussed the stew as it had a distinctly different taste and texture. Like three [conspirators] we agreed not to tell the rest that the difference was tea leaves. I failed Statistics that year and Dick gave up Tech to concentrate on skiing and his Motor Mechanic business.

My parents bought the Snack Bar in Glenhuntly Road, Caufield, near the Camden Movie Theatre in Hawthorn Road. They bought it with a bank loan against a mortgage on the house and a guarantee by my Grandfather Will Caldicott in Sydney. I phoned him a few times at Gladesville from the Hein house as we didn’t have a phone. I helped my mother with the legal details and bank negotiations. The business was a great success, the loans were paid off in quick time and they bought a car and got a phone at home. Father was at last was his own boss, in seventh heaven and working like a demon. We all worked at it. I helped out by looking after Paul in the evenings, so that the proprietors, John & Phyllis, as my parents came to be known, could work at the shop together when the crowds came out of the Camden Theatre at 11:00 o’clock at night. Father was never again called Peter. It had become too complex and Phyllis wanted only one Peter at home so Peter Shaughnessy became Shaun and father became John. Also on Saturday nights when Peter [Hein] and I both worked at washing up it was better to have father addressed as John by the numerous regulars who greeted him with a cheery “Hi John!”

The folks needed a car but new cars were still hard to get and could only be acquired by paying a large cash deposit which was held by the dealer until delivery, often for a year. They needed a car and needed it now to make it easier to get supplies at the best price and to have transport after hours, [since] closing time was 11pm on Sunday and 1:00am on Saturday. [They] needed to be independent of taxis. Dick was asked to help! In Caulfield he found a 1935 Hudson straight-8 which was owned by a well-to-do Doctor’s widow. She had owned it since new and [it] was always chauffeur-driven. [It] had been a present from her husband and [had been] bought at the 1935 Motor Show in Melbourne. She still lived in the same 1930’s house, with the chauffeur’s quarters over the garage. In 1941 the chauffeur enlisted and the car was put on blocks until the end of petrol rationing, [in] about 1948. I went with Dick to look at “Bertha”, as we always called the car, paid cash and drove it home. I was the only driver until my mother got her license after about 14 lessons, not that she was ever much of a driver but at least she had a license. John never drove a car in his life and Phyllis became his chauffeur. That beautiful car, almost vintage, did sterling service until 1962 when Phyllis came to live with us in Sydney. It never gave us any trouble except the starter pinion sometimes jammed in the ring gear and that was dealt with by keeping a tire lever in the boot; more later.

That winter Dick fixed a tow-bar to Bertha, we borrowed a trailer from one of the more affluent Star blokes and towed Virginia II to the workshop at Elizabeth Street for an extensive refit. We planned to enter the Australian Olympic Trials, not that we expected to win, but [rather] learn as much about Star Class racing as possible because the trials were the chance of a generation in Australia. As the owner of VIRGINIA II I was approached by Jock Sturrock, a member of [Royal Brighton Yacht Club] and Australia’s first yachting Olympian, for the original VIRGINIA’s tiller, and I was happy to return it to the original owner as we were planning to make a longer “racing tiller”. Jock bought Virginia in the USA on his return trip to Australia after a visit to England; there he had decided that the Star Class was his choice for the coming 1948 London Olympics. Thus Virginia was the first Star boat in this country. Sturrock with Len Fenton, another RBYC member as crew in Virginia, were awarded Bronze medals at Torbay (where the London Olympics sailing events were held). The historic games, the first after WWII – 1940 & 1944 being cancelled – and the medals, made a hero of Jock, who died in 1999 at Noosa on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland, where there is a street named for him. He was always kind and friendly to me and, years later, after we moved to Sydney, we would occasionally meet in the Squadron buffet and lunch at the Club Table.

The 1951 Christmas holiday was a round-trip to Portsea, South of Sorrento, on the Eastern side of the Bay. We had a relaxed time with no breakages and paid a visit to the Irwin’s beach house, to their startled surprise, though their son-in-law, Reg Grouse, wasn’t [surprised], as I had mentioned to him that we might call. We could see the party having drinks on the terrace overlooking the beach so we dropped anchor and Morris and I swam ashore, noting the look of disbelief on Tony’s face. We had a drink, swam back, weighed anchor and sailed away as it’s a high-risk anchorage. Portsea is the last settlement before Point Nepean, the Eastern headland opposite Point Lonsdale on the Western side of The Rip, the aptly named entrance to Port Phillip Bay. A day spent inside the heads is to experience tidal rips as fast as 9 knots, so it’s essential to have local tide tables on board.

November was the start of the season, and after a few dismal defeats in club races, new sails were ordered: two mains including a light weight “bag”. We had problems with some of the new stainless-steel fittings which [we] reworked or remade, Peter taking full advantage of the Swinbourne workshops. The hull was polished some more to a mirror finish and we used every race as a tuning exercise. Tactically, we benefited from a compass and gimble from [Peter Shaughnessey] and reworked every item to reduce weight. Phyllis made us Japara boiler suits which streamlined our kit and kept out some [of] Port Phillip’s icy water and weather. Our best race was a ghosting day and we used our light-weight bag and won. The champion team was devastated and threatened a protest and disqualification and no more light days. Well!! We, who were their best friends, now stunned and a little hurt, slunk off home. A storm in a teacup because the rest of the races that season were almost Storms’l conditions and they won the right to represent Australia and we came nowhere, 4th actually, [which] was the same as [coming] last. At Helsinki Australia came nowhere because the winners all had synthetic sails which did not shrink in the cold, wet summers of the Baltic Sea. All the Aussie boats had cotton sails and didn’t appreciate that the technology had changed.

Through [the] 1951/52 sailing season I came to the conclusion that I would never graduate part-time from Tech, I was doing too much, paying little attention to my studies and becoming aware that the diplomas were not enough to get a top job. Young University graduates, like Bill Kerr, were plainly better-equipped to think and I envied their research ability. If they didn’t know the answer, they knew how to develop a solution from scratch. There was another problem in that my brother Paul needed looking after in the evening when my parents were making money at the snackery. I decided to sell Virginia II, give up skiing, enroll at the Tech full-time and work part-time at Leighton Irwin & Co. I applied for a Commonwealth Scholarship with Living Allowance, a relatively new Federal [Department] of Education program. The syllabus I devised, after discussion with Melbourne Tech, [the University of Melbourne], [the] Commonwealth [Department] of Ed. and [Leighton Irwin & Co] would [allow me to] achieve, in two years, two full-time Associate Diplomas, both MechE and ElecE, and [permit] entry into 2nd Year of the [University of Melbourne] BMechE Degree. Provided I could pass everything on schedule. I didn’t tell [Leighton Irwin & Co] about the University part, because I knew my boss and the “Old-man” wouldn’t approve of the extension. My parents said I could live rent- and board-free at 7 Elizabeth Street as that would keep me home and studying and [also] solve the [problem of] Baby-[sitting] brother Paul every evening, except Tuesday, when the shop was closed.

Between February [and] March 1952 Virginia was sold and I made no plans to sail or ski for the next five years. Only I knew this. Babysitting Paul enabled and encouraged me to concentrate on my studies. Peter [Hein] and I both worked as slushies at the shop on busy Saturday nights for extra money. How many million hamburgers did we make and sell during those years, not to mention the crockery we washed for the “Eat-here” set. As a family we were being successful in business and I enjoyed being a full-time student. During term holidays I worked at [Leighton Irwin & Co] and so I had adequate funds. I didn’t starve and Paul enjoyed my surrogate fatherhood. Joan Rowland, a friend of sister Sally, had been a part of our life for many years. As Sally’s bridesmaid she would have met [Peter Shaughnessey] this year, if not before. As it turned out they were seeing a lot of each other and at some stage became engaged, changing our relationship with her from Sally’s dear friend to family. They would watch over Paul when I departed to work at the shop – rush hours [were] 8pm to midnight on Saturdays. [Peter Shaughnessey’s] Navy stories and laconic one-liners made these dinners light-hearted and spirited, Paul would throw his head back and laugh his small boy squeal. Especially when Phyllis and João Luís were at the shop. Dad never had a sense of humour and probably considered laughter out of place at the dinner table. Alas, we never took a flash photo of Paul grabbing the tablecloth to save himself from tipping over backwards in his high chair, and pulling [the] cloth and all the dinner dishes off the table as he slowly sank to the floor. We were all helpless with laughter. Such a happy time, they were courting and were married on 20 June 1953, [and] in effect they had the house to themselves on Saturday and Sunday evenings, as the latter became my night out.

On my first day at school at the first period of the week I met a young fellow, and his mates, and got talking. [His] name was Geoff Dean. They were stunned that I was 22 and just “starting out”. [Little] did they know that I was already a graduate, a PhD from the U of HK (hard knocks). “Gosh you’re old!” one of them offered; what could I say? Geoff would be 20-years-old on 29 October that year and some of his pals were as young as 18-year-old High-school leavers. I was the oldest full-time student in almost every day-time lecture and lab class. I wouldn’t say that I was discriminated against but most people, including my mother and Joy Richmond, thought I had a screw loose. As usual I didn’t offer any explanation and changed the subject by asking a question. I had sorted out every detail of the complex set of classes needed to achieve my first objective of two Diplomas and University entrance for the 1954 academic year. An example, from my Elec Eng program I had to pass Elec Eng 1, Elec Eng II, Electronics 1, Electronics II, Elec Eng IIIA and Elec Eng IIIB in 2 years instead of 4 years – or 3 years at best – thus I found myself doing courses in parallel instead of [in the mandated] prerequisite sequence. Each Department Head took me through the “WE can’t do that!” speech so I became quite skilled [at] dealing with their objections, [and] in the end they agreed to my 2-year plan. In order to get entry into University I had to pass a High School subject: Matriculation English (Expression for mature-age students). Most people pass it at 18 and some, [like] Judy’s cousin Trish White, at 17. [However] as I left secondary school at Sub-intermediate [level] I hadn’t. Because I would have an extraordinarily complex 1953 timetable, I decided to do the English class in 1952. Unknown to me that was a fortuitous decision, because the English lecturer was John Rossiter, a self-employed part-time teacher with political ambitions. Like most of the staff with whom I was working, Rossiter was intrigued and decided to help, above and beyond the call of duty. His class, which was [in the] late afternoon, included many mature-age evening students who were doing the course to help their careers, unconnected with a regular syllabus. He usually asked me to speak and suggested that I join the Debating Society, [with] the result at year’s-end I passed with flying colours. It was the last year of teaching for Rossiter because [the] next year he was elected representative to the seat of Higinbotham (which included Brighton) in the Victoria State Parliament.

Public transport was still my method of travel although Phyllis had Bertha and [Peter Shwughnessey] the Standard and though they didn’t mind lending me a car at the weekend they used them during the week. Also, living at home meant that I was travelling to Tech on the number 64 Tram, so I saw Geoff and his pal Charley Pugsley more than the other fellows in first-year lectures. They both lived in Caulfield, near the Hawthorn-Glenhuntly Roads intersection. Apart from tram travel Geoff knew Dick Humphries and they both knew my parents, especially my father, [from the] da Silva snack bar where Charley [Pugsley] was a favourite of Dad’s. In July 1952 there was a great downpour in the Elster Creek catchment area upstream of Elizabeth Street; in the 13 years we lived there we had experienced three or four floods but nothing like this. Over a week we watched the rising water and wondered if Mr. Edgar’s prophecy, that the creek would never flood No.7, was still good. Four new houses had been built since the end of the war and we wondered how the flood would [affect] them. Actually, the Tishler’s house was the first new house built in Elizabeth Street since we moved in, though [it was] not as high off the ground as us, [and] they were on the high side away from the flood. The tragedy was the last of the four vacant blocks built on our South side was a modern brick house whose owner “built the best house in the street”. Father had told him it would be flooded unless the floors were at least on the same level as ours; he knew better and built! His wife was now distraught as the water rose a foot higher than their new floor boards. We had taken the precaution of parking the two cars in the street but our floors weren’t under water and we had, as usual, all the flooded neighbours to tea, including the new ones from next door. The other two new houses were opposite and as they were designed and constructed by a Building Contractor they were even higher than number 7. The one on the corner of Alexander Street was bought by Mr Forbes York-Rattray, an accountant whose wife was a happy young woman who became a friend of [my] mother’s. When my parents needed a bean counter Mr Rattray became their accountant and filled the same function for Judy and me until we moved to Sydney in 1962. I often wonder if Elizabeth Street still gets floods.

During the year the Art Department occasionally had exhibitions, showings of paintings and sculpture, fashion shows, concerts, usually recitals by gifted students, and even plays. Most Engineering students would call [in] to see what’s what, the Art Dep had more girls than any other [department, and] so why wouldn’t they? Geoff was intrigued that I enjoyed classical music and suggested I might enjoy a Sunday night Musical Evening at the Dean house in Glen Eira Road, a stop on the No. 64 East Brighton Tram route. Easy; as Sunday night was my free evening off I went. We had a good time, Geoff played the viola, somebody played the piano, Robin Gray the cello and there were other instruments and singing, a fun evening. The Deans had a nice family home with glass double doors opening [up] the dining [room], living [room] and hall into a large reception area, a much less crowded musical evening and not as much booze as I was used to at similar occasions. I met the Dean parents and probably Auntie Reba too and a pleasant evening was had by all. It was a bit like the Rafferty/Secker musical evenings, but a younger group and I don’t recall any professional musos. I was smitten by a photograph of Judy on the hall buffet. “Who is that?” I am reported as saying. “That’s my sister!” said Geoff, “and she is engaged and unavailable.” My reply was quoted for many years; “Well I’ll fix that.” I don’t remember but that’s the folklore.

Early November, at the start of the 1952/53 Sailing Season, I had nobody to take to the [Royal Brighton Yacht Club] Ladies Day so I asked Judy Dean, and though diffident, as she was still engaged, she agreed to come. After all it was a Saturday afternoon and I had to work that night, as usual. Judy was a smash hit with the sailing crowd, “Didja see who is with Dada?” the blokes were asking. Judy brought her bright blue eyes, wore a full white skirt, high heels and carried a furled umbrella, after all a Garden Party at the beach in a Melbourne spring could deliver all four seasons in 3 hours. I asked her out a couple of times after that and was knocked back, however I lurked in the background.

John and Sally’s first child Christopher John had been born on 13 June 1952, [and] I was both uncle and godfather when next we got together. 1952 had passed in a flash, I enjoyed the experience of full-time study, making up for lost time as my last full-time school year had been in 1944. I had passed everything, except Statistics, which had become my bête noir, and I was determined to fix that during 1953. I spent the summer school break, December through February, at [Leighton Irwin & Co] and enjoyed myself hugely, the work, play and pay, which I saved as best I could. During the summer I had time to loiter around Bowen Street calling on Tech staff and Department Heads, and was able to arrange to tutor some classes at Melbourne Tech during the coming school year. I lined up to teach Draughting and a grade 1 math subject. There was no midsummer sail around the bay and no plans for an Easter sail either. Full-time School was in reality full-time work.

The 1953 syllabus was busy and my timetable was heavily oriented to the Electrical Engineering studies in which I hoped to do well so as to leave the Department feeling they had done the right thing in breaking so many prerequisite rules. The Elec Eng III subjects had to be taken as night school classes because I had other lectures, or lab, when they were on during the day. I also had an accumulation of laboratory work resulting in endless reports. I will never forget the Mech Eng III lab testing of a Ford V-8 engine that almost killed Charley and me, and perhaps some others. The engine was driving a dynamometer load, a dozen or so readings were being taken at different revs while at full throttle. We got to overload revs, suddenly there were three loud bangs like a ricocheting shell, the V-8 wildly accelerated and vibrated to the edge of self-destruction. The man on the throttle let go and switched off the thundering engine, we stood still, looked at each other, white-faced, hearts pounding: OO-er!! What did we do? The fan had lost a blade, somebody found the folded and beaten remnant on the floor and as we studied the three holes it had made in the concrete walls and ceiling we were thinking “What if?” Miraculously no one was hurt and as we looked around in the deafening silence we realized that everybody in the building was pushing into the lab. We composed an interesting set of Reports for an experiment with a rocketing finish.

The debating society members didn’t want me to leave and I didn’t have time to continue, I was strapped. One of my friends in that group was a Colombo Plan student, Bala Subramanian, an ethnic Tamil who was doing Economics or some other thing with lots of free time. In the end I got out of the Debating Society, but not before one of the girls from the Art Dept talked me into writing an article on sailing for one of the Tech College magazines. I took it as an English composition assignment and to my surprise it was published. Joan and [Peter Shaughnessey] were married on 20 June 1953 and I was [Peter]’s best man and was presented with a gimbled and damped compass for my trouble. I still had many sailing friends and was still a member of [Royal Brighton Yacht Club] so I went there as often as I could get away, to sail, drink beer and enjoy the company. Peter [Hein] was now 21 and [had been] admitted to “the bar” and so we continued to meet there and catch up with sailing pals. Paul always wanted to be with me whenever he saw me in casual clothes, or when going on an errand in Bertha; I loved him very much but the age difference was great and I was aching to be independent. One day we were helping a friend rig up his brand new Payne-Mortlock canoe on the beach outside the RBYC yard. The result was Paul and I were featured on the front cover of “Wild Life and Outdoors”. How I would have enjoyed a sail that day but as I was child-minding and had lots of swat for the year-end exams I had to decline.

Towards the end of the year Geoff asked if I would like to join his friends in celebrating his 21st Birthday on 29 October’53; the party was to attend a show as guests of the Deans. I found myself sitting next to Judy and although we both remember that to be the start of our romance, my infatuation had started on Ladies Day after my interest at the musical evening. This time we arranged our next meeting while in the theatre and neither of us can remember what show we saw. Judy’s family and in particular her mother Beatrice Kewish Dean thought the evening was a great success.

I dreaded the last evening class at the Maths Building when we were to receive the results of the Statistics Examination. [After] all [of us] were settled the lecturer addressed the class. As before, it had been a six-week course taken in the evening, I didn’t know the lecturer or the examiner as they were both part-time staff. After a bit of introduction he mentioned my name and I thought “Damn, I’m gunnah fail again.” And he went on saying…”and I don’t know how Mr da Silva could have squandered those marks and finish with a score of….98%.” Well of course I was No.1, after all I had sat the examination three times.

Graduation night arrived, a Tuesday, the snack bar was closed, dad was minding Paul so I drove Phyllis and Judy [to] the top end of Collins Street where the presentation was to take place in a hall opposite the Occidental Hotel, where we dined. It was a scorching-hot night, the hotel dining room was not air-conditioned – few places were in 1953 Melbourne – and after dinner we had to move Bertha to another spot to change parking meters as we already had a chalk cross on our tyres. I cranked the engine. Ding! The telltale sound of the ring-gear locking onto the starter pinion. Bugger and in my best, and only, suit! A rare but annoying occurrence which we corrected by skillful manipulation of a tyre lever, kept handy in the boot, just in case. Freeing the gears could be a dirty job especially as the night was hot, the engine was hot, dirty and greasy and the light was poor. Sweat was running down my back, my suit pants were sticking to my legs and bum and as I jerked the lever my pants split up my crack from the crutch to the belt. We moved the car and struggled inside while I carefully squeezed the torn edges into my crack and gripped. Taking small steps I made it to my designated seat in the front row while Judy and Phyllis found a place with a good view of the stage. I was called fairly early and climbed up the short flight of steps to the stage and stood waiting my turn. There were to be a lot of awards that night and I was able to spend a few moments making sure that the torn edges of my suit trousers were securely stuffed into my bum crack. White underpants flashing between navy blue trouser edges would be too embarrassing by far. Suddenly I was aware that I was being called, and the speaker finished with “and Mr da Silva’s 23 credit passes is a record!” All the bright faces in the audience were suddenly focused on me, halp! I shuffled forward, made a stiff bow without directly exposing my backside to the throng, then with small sliding steps across the stage I crept back to my seat and sat down. When it was all over I didn’t stand up until the audience started to make its exit, with the usual confusion as graduates introduced family groups and apologised for blocking the way out. Nobody said anything about my pants, though Phyllis and Judy were in [stitches].

Everybody in the office congratulated me and I was welcomed back. What with the final-term teaching pay-cheque and the expense reimbursement for passing, I was rolling, so Judy and I reserved a table at Mario’s, “The” Melbourne Nightclub in those days. We had dinner at the Florentino in Collins Street, [which was] run by the Missoni family whose gardener [my father had been] in the 30’s, [when] I was the messenger boy from the Chemist shop in the early 40’s. Of course we were in evening dress; black tie was [de rigueur]. After our first dance we flopped down into our banquette and to my surprise among the party in the next booth were John Rossiter and a friend. We were invited to join them. I quickly whispered to Judy “don’t call her Mrs R.” We were introduced, just Christian names, sat and chatted, drank their Champagne, and danced into the small hours. After the last dance we were invited to their favourite spot on Albert Park Lake, where my dad [had] netted bait in the 30’s. We sat on the bank with refreshments and more Champers. Thinking back on the events of 1954 Rossiter was probably celebrating his election to State Parliament and no doubt enjoyed the company of a young voter from his electorate.

After Christmas and the usual slow-down in the construction industry, [Leighton Irwin & Co] were happy that I had promised John and Victor Cromwell that I would go to Mypolonga, with another student, and help with fruit picking in their orchard that summer season. Bala, the Singhalese student, had been keen to visit an Australian farm and was willing to pick – perhaps he had prior experience, either in Australia or at home. Why not, I thought, more or less along the lines of “Guess who’s coming to Dinner”. I should say that in the summer his complexion was so dark he made me look like a [blonde]. Besides, Bala had promised to help me find cheap digs near the University for the 1954 academic year. He was very experienced in that field, where I had no knowledge. We didn’t have money to squander on the train, let alone fly, so we caught the train to some place on the Western side of Geelong, probably Grovedale, and hitch-hiked. Our first ride was to a turn-off on the Great Ocean Road where, within minutes, another car stopped. The occupants were a couple of portly English blokes of indeterminate age and not much hair. My photograph album of the day shows the four of us under the road sign “STH AUST BORDER” holding jugs of beer. I dare say somebody from another car took the picture in exchange for a similar favour. The provenance is “Fred & Chief”, pleasant company who stopped only for meals and petrol. We slept at “Mac’s Hotel” Portland. Photograph of a wonderful three-storey 19th-century building on a corner with cast-iron balustrades and columns [on] all three verandahs that faced the view of the waterfront. They took two luxury rooms and we took the cheapest twin with no bathroom; there were very few guests. As I look at the tiny photographs, I can’t even remember who took the shot of the hotel or when. I suppose Bala or I had a camera. No dates and not much detail but one thing that triggers my memory is that I am wearing my [Royal Brighton Yacht Club] semiformal yachting blazer, [and] slacks with shirt and tie, no doubt the club tie with fouled anchor and crown. I think Fred and Chief were probably ships officers on vacation, or on their way to join a ship in Port Adelaide, certainly they weren’t interested in ocean vistas. The next day we farewelled our gracious drivers at Murray Bridge, phoned the Cromwells at [Mypolonga] and waited by the road bridge across the mighty Murray to be collected by somebody from [Mypolonga]. “You were quick,” was John’s opening comment.

There are thousands of “Bala stories”. He was an experienced, travelled and mature young man who had come to Australia with his own agenda, never discussed or even admitted to. After 1954 I never saw him again though friends would occasionally [indicate] that he had been seen somewhere. At the time of the [Mypolonga] visit he had been in Australia for some years – at least four – so nothing surprised him and he always gave the impression that he forgave all accidental and deliberate discriminatory barbs. Life wasn’t meant to be easy on a farm in an irrigation settlement on the Murray River; it was HOT, dusty, sweaty, thirsty and physically exhausting. Certainly more than I could handle. [My] daily prayer was “Never again.” I was struck by the intensity of the work, hard back-breaking work, yet the experienced locals said how well the Cromwell orchard was laid out. We stood, all day, on the tray of a horse-drawn dray, which was led around the trees continuously. Backwards and forwards across the rows of trees, working the orchard from the road to the irrigation channel at the top of the rise. Backwards and forwards we tumbled, with a basket slung around the neck while balancing, avoiding branches and eye-poking twigs, ever watchful for and picking ripe fruit. Apricots and Peaches mainly which added the fine hair to the dust and insects on our sweaty bodies; especially irritating is “peach-itch”. Bala was astounded that white Aussies could and would work like coolies. Who else would put up with this grind? How right he was, in retrospect a great risk to my unstable spine.

Apart from me, Bala’s only friend, his very best friend was Horry, a happy male of mixed ancestry who enjoyed Bala’s company above all others’. Horry was the only one to cheerfully ride in the car with Bala when he was learning to drive the old unlicensed tourer – without a top – that was the farm’s off-the-road-transport, usually used for taking feed to the cows. The only thing wrong with Horry was that he never said a word, for he was a dog. Nothing upset Bala, at least it wasn’t apparent to me; his ready smile dissolved the embarrassment I frequently experienced when Aussie antagonists, intentionally or otherwise, would pause dumbfounded by Bala’s educated, foreign-accented but correct English. His grammar was old fashioned, but he made it clear, “No! I’m not from a mission. I’m from Ceylon, a Colombo plan student, here to study at the University of Melbourne. Yes, thank you I would enjoy a beer.” However some publicans would say, “Now look here Jacky you know it’s illegal to serve beer to Abos!” The last I heard of Bala was that he married a blond Aussie girl and was teaching Math. He’s probably retired by now and changed his name to Bill Smith. He had a happy few weeks at [Mypolonga]; I just picked, ate and slept or lay in the shade and read. I didn’t have energy for anything else and my over-extended physique vibrated continuously. Bala never refused an invitation to go anywhere at any time. All over the district people would say, “Have ya seen that blackfella staying at the Cromwell’s?”

Thirty-five years later Masaru, a recently graduated nephew of a Japanese business associate, had a similar experience when he stayed at the Cromwell property at Mypolonga. Though he was never mistaken for an aboriginal. By then, our native people were legal Australian Citizens, with all the rights and responsibilities of any other Aussies. A lot of laws had changed during those years, but many individuals have never changed their opinions.

On our return Judy indicated that my new persona as Black Beard was undesirable, so it went as soon as I got home. I quickly returned to [Leighton Irwin & Co], they were pleased to see me and balanced their disapproval of my University plans with a mountain of work, and an invitation to come to the office at any time on the same basis as before. Thus I was able to convince [them] that it was all for the best in this best-of-all-possible-worlds. The trip to South Australia was a success, the money was good, I didn’t spend anything, and I returned to my heart’s desire, my waiting lady who, like me, had missed the other enough to commit to engagement. I was in love for the first and only time and decided to get a ring now. A local jeweler in Hawthorn Road designed a ring with a large ruby with a small diamond [set] each side. [It] looked great, [the] estimated cost [was] great, [but] my budget was not. By this time I wanted it and after some discussion he suggested I call again in a few days. On my return he showed me a beautiful ruby which met budgetary constraints, well it did have a small flaw but would suffice until I made some money. I had to have it to finally claim the affections of my dear Judy. She was thrilled and that’s what mattered. I was still living at Elizabeth Street and most anxious to secure my place – reading engineering – an undreamed-of adventure at the University of Melbourne. Judy and I announced our engagement and celebrated the event a few months later at the Dean house with many friends and both families. We made plans to marry on the Australia Day holiday weekend, 1955. From the moment of my return, organizing the year’s work and study was critical – from [the point of view of] both entry requirements and finances – in all the excruciating detail that the many bureaucracies involved can throw at a defenceless acolyte. First call was to the Federal Education Dept for another scholarship. They said the rules relating to Commonwealth Scholarships with Living Allowance prevented me – because I had gained two diplomas with their support – from receiving another for the University of Melbourne; unless I wanted to study for a degree in, say, Architecture.

In those Days University fees were extremely high, and because there were no part-time classes, as at the Tech, the only way I could read engineering for the next three years was to attend day classes and pay the fees. A shattering revelation, and so I went to John Rossitter for advice. We had a chat, he congratulated me on my engagement, [and] I left wondering what we had discussed, [but] a few days later I received a card in the mail inviting me to lunch at Parliament House. On the appointed day I found myself waiting in the anteroom in the stately Blue Stone building at the top of Bourke Street. Rossitter strolled in and conducted me to a table in the most magnificent dining room that I could imagine. Made Mario’s look like a doss-house. I was introduced to the Minister of Education whose name escapes me, after all I was in a state of shock. To this day the only thing I can remember was the cream, gold and blue of the architectural details of the Corinthian columns, ceiling beams and features of that marvellous huge chamber. Do people really live like this? Perhaps the Emperor Julian! Within days I received a letter in the mail inviting me to take advantage of a State of Victoria Free Place at [the] University of Melbourne and to present myself, with the letter, to the Bursar. That was that! Simple! Post haste to the Bursar’s office in one of the university’s beautiful 19th-century sandstone buildings where I enrolled. In the course of our discussions [the Bursar] presented me with a huge bound file and invited me to peruse it at my leisure, but by a certain date, and select any of the Bursaries, prizes, grants, gifts etc relating to my course. He promised to do his best to get any not yet taken and applicable to one such as me. Thus I acquired resources to buy books, instruments, and [cover] fees as well as [securing] several cash awards which, with the free place, in effect added hundreds of pounds (£) to my financial resources. All on condition that I had no repeats. John Rossittor remained a friend for life and the last time I saw him was in Hunter Street, Sydney. I recognized him walking towards me up the hill, though I hadn’t seen him for 20 years, so I stopped, and as he got closer he held out his hand and said, “Hello Peter!” I was aware he had recently retired, his last appointment was Agent General for the State of Victoria in London; we exchanged notes for a few minutes and went our separate ways. He died in Sydney.

The next step was to move into the digs in Footscray, which had been leased by five students, including me; Bala was the go-between with the landlord and had arranged the whole deal. We were all at [the] University of Melbourne or Melbourne Technical College at the top end of town and the house was close to both train and bus transport. The bus was a 3d (2½¢) fare to school so fares were 5¢/day. So the tenor of our lives that first year was penny pinching. At Engineering School I had friends and acquaintances, Geoff Dean, Charley Pugsley and Peter Hein were old friends. Geoff and Charley were 3rd-year Elec Eng and Peter [Hein] was 4th-year Mech. Because of my special 1st-year exemption and Associate Diploma graduate status, rather than a graduate with a full Eng Dip, as were my three friends, the school enrolled me in 2nd year. To counter the requirement that I had to do 1st-Year Chemistry, I was exempted from the weekly ½ day Drafting class. I already knew more about that than any of the tutors and it gave me time to slave at Chem Lab work. The requirement to do detailed experiments and submit 100% correct lab reports for Semi MicroAnalysis techniques was intellectual torture and hard labour. It occupied every spare second of time for the whole year and I still detest Chemistry. The other subject that caused me trouble was Physics. [The] Tech Engineering Diploma had a subject called Physics I, which wasn’t much different from Physics III at Brighton Junior Tech. The university subject was sub-atomic and unrelated to Galileo and Newton’s thoughts about Physics. This was all new and although the subject was quite demanding I enjoyed the taxing process of learning a completely new concept. The lecture theatre was in the Physics Dept – unfamiliar territory – and it started at 8:30am sharp every Monday. The problem was that I spent Sundays with Judy and sometimes I didn’t get to Footscray until the small hours. On the other hand had I been living at home I would never have made the lecture at such an early hour. Living in digs near the university had some advantages.

New friends were, in order of age, Gunars Priede, Lucien Polak and Trevor Tiller. [Gunars] married to a childhood sweetheart, Nancy, who was also a Latvian emigrant. They escaped their homeland, travelled separately across Europe and met again before sailing to Australia after the war. He had enrolled in [a University of Melbourne] Mech Eng course two years before but after 1st year had to take a year off to earn enough money to continue full-time study. He needed money as he had a mother, wife and three children to support and lived in a tiny 19th-century terrace house in North Melbourne. He was the only first-class honours graduate in our year, by which time he and Nancy had 6 kids. Lucien [Polak] was Polish-born and after the war was repatriated to the West from Auschwitz. He and his mother found each other in France after the war and migrated to Australia with his stepfather. They were the only survivors of a large extended family arrested by the Nazis in Warsaw. He completed B Elec E (Hons) but left Australia to study at the University of California, Berkeley, before our graduation ceremony in April 1957. He still lives in Berkeley, [and works] as a professor. Trevor Tiller and I read a similar set of courses in 3rd and 4th year as we were both ambitious to achieve something in the Building Services Industries. Trevor’s family had commercial interests in refrigeration and air-conditioning and he had worked in the family company during school vacations and later during University [Vacation]. All three of these men were full-time 2nd-year students who, like myself, accepted the others as busy blokes with a lot of demands on their time. I was the only one to be doing 1st-year work. Mature fellows with little time to spare, but time for each other in an uninvolved way. Lucien and I were two years younger than Gunas and Trevor who entered University straight from secondary school. [Trevor was] the youngest by four years. Trevor and Gunas are retired and still live in Melbourne.

The subject that caused me some difficulty was a 1st-year course called Maths I, an Arts Dept pure maths subject based on a Cambridge University syllabus. Very abstract and delivered to a huge audience, not just Eng I blokes. First-year Engineers (Greasers to the University student body) numbered about 150, as all 1st-year Engineers plus students in other disciplines had to pass Arts Maths I. Another distraction, as in Physics I, was the presence of young women, which always excited the Engineers. The weekly lecture was in one of the largest Arts Faculty Theatres, tier upon tier of seats, the back-top row seating about 80 students, virtually all Greasers. However, I always attempted to sit front-row-centre. [Though] the shortest row there were usually vacant seats which afforded the best view of the black-board, rostrum, lecturer and [there was] little diminution of sound. I was one of about five engineers with the same plan. As to the subject, many of our men considered Maths I far too abstract for Engineers. On the other hand the Arts Maths Dept lecturer enjoyed an almost Newtonian philosophical approach and would have probably preferred to lecture in Greek or Latin. The text book was Hardy’s Pure Maths published by Cambridge University Press, Newton’s alma mater. My book acquisition prize meant I had my own copy from the beginning and I enjoyed the weekly lecture. Of all the lectures attended during my 3 years this experience was the closest, in my estimation, to the life of a Great University. All males were addressed as “Mr.” and all females as “Miss” no matter what was going on. Many students would not buy an expensive imported book, using library copies [instead]. Some fellows could be difficult and disruptive and would try to make the lecturer’s life miserable. He was mature, experienced and as tough as any British India Army Colonel, and would have delivered the order FIRE! without a second’s thought, if in command of such resources. His knowledge of the subject was profound, and his delivery was as if he was reading from Hardy, even the author’s habit of printing quotes from the works of long dead philosophers would be passed on for our benefit. He never referred to any book, just his notes, for the day’s lecture. After all, this was grade one; anybody who didn’t enjoy the sheer beauty of the propositions under discussion may leave, saving time and money, as university is not for them.

Apparently every year the subject started the same way, tension mounted, some students becoming stroppy, but as the year slipped away tensions declined in time for the rush to examination. These characteristics were not exclusive to maths lectures. The class would eventually settle down, some to pass and others fail. I only did the subject once, so I don’t know if our year was the most unruly. The lecturer was in the habit of entering after most people were seated, when he would snib the door, ensuring that latecomers had to enter from behind the top tier where there was a door and a projector station with a control panel. I always entered at the lowest level and climbed to the lowest available seat. [Clambering] down the steep steps of Lecture Theatres was an avoidable risk and I had no desire to make an exhibition of myself. One morning a group of fellows stacked chairs inside the double doors used by the lecturer. At the moment he started to enter somebody switched off the theatre lighting and he inevitably knocked over the stack of chairs. At the moment of the loud crash all the lights went on again and several hundred male voices declared a goal scored. He got to his feet in silence and made his way to the centre of the rostrum and asked, in his most controlled voice, “Who admits responsibility for THIS?” Deafening silence! He repeated his question a couple of times, answered on each occasion by a buzz from the students. Then he asked the person to his right in the front row, “Were you responsible?” Answer “No!” He stood his ground and asked each person in turn until he reached about the half way mark, all this was done slowly and deliberately and half the period was lost. His notes [remained] unopened. Suddenly one of the men, who had previously denied responsibility, got up and said, “I am responsible!” By this time the orderlies had cleared away the chairs. The culprit’s name was taken and the senior orderly escorted him to the Dean’s office. The Colonel was still in command and the year progressed as if nothing had happened. None of the engineers got distinctions or even good marks so I suspect that the sinner was a Greaser. Of course I was concerned about my low mark but then everything about my first year was tough. University ways were very different from Tech, we were there to read the course and study was our own responsibility. Lab work and [the] resulting reports were compulsory and due on time, lectures were optional. “Do come to my lecture, if you have time Mr. Smith,” was the ultimate threat. In those days, [the] University of Melbourne was different from Tech Colleges and other post High School teaching establishments. Students could no longer expect to be taught, subjects were “read” and examinations sat to assess the depth of a candidate’s knowledge. All the first-year students I knew were intelligent, each with a way with words, however many seemed to lack the intellectual curiosity without which education beyond the secondary level has no meaning. In short university was taxing, exhausting and also worrying, however as a learning experience it was outstanding. I was glad I had come. After all having been tops in Math and now finding my marks average was perplexing, but it didn’t affect my interest in mathematics. [Eventually] I took Maths II and a new subject called Engineering Math III in my final honours year.

Judy and I were together every weekend and spoke on the phone during the week, until the [Postmaster General] cut it off. One of us had collected the money for the phone bill and then spent it on whatever. A sharp lesson in communal living, after which Judy would write letters each day,[and] Geoff would get them to me by pinning the envelope to the notice board outside the Dean’s office at the entrance to the Engineering building. Of course I would read them, with difficulty, while awaiting the start of the first lecture. Sitting in the front row the fellows would crowd behind and attempt to read over my shoulder while creating a hubbub to distract me. I would get to Glen Eira Road late on Saturday afternoon; we would have dinner together, sometimes with the Deans and other times at Elizabeth Street. I had to be at the snackery by 9:00pm for my slushy stint in the scullery, that £2 note ($4) was eating money for the week. I usually spent Saturday night at the Deans’, sleeping on the dining-room floor. We usually spent Sunday together and if I had a lot of reports to complete Judy would accompany me to Footscray, cook tea and return to Caulfield quite late. Not the ideal way to conduct an engagement but in the circumstances the only way. The ever-pressing need for money resulted in work at [Leighton Irwin & Co] whenever practical. Judy’s parents were quiet, stay-at-home people who made me feel welcome at all times and after the initial rush, at the beginning of the academic year, they gave us a pleasant Engagement Party; must have been a Tuesday evening because both of my parents attended. We were very keen to get married but I didn’t want to bring forward our date for the following January holidays as I found that University “Life Wasn’t Meant to be Easy.”

As well as study we had an active social life. [The] centre of affiliated student associations was the Student Union which had outstanding facilities for our use, including a large dining hall called “The Caf” where I had lunch most days. My usual luncheon menu was Pie or Pie & Veg, with or [without coffee], base price 10d (8.3¢), and the most expensive combination was 1/3 (12.5¢). The bus fare each way was 3d (2.5¢), another 5 cents per day; the rest of my weekly budget of $4.00 was squandered on high living. As well as “The Caf” there were other distractions, a large card room, several billiard and snooker tables, and a theatre for films and shows. End-of-term dances were held upstairs in a large ballroom. [As] well as The Union there were plenty of places to go to around the campus and town that I never knew existed. Melbourne Tech had nothing like these facilities, nor a student body so dedicated to High Jinks, after all “Town” was available to them too. However the Role-call at lectures at Tech was a deterrent to skipping class to play, that did not exist at Uni. Many of the well-to-do-students simply had very little time for lectures. As well as the “Union”, The Conservatory of Music and Faculty of Arts had cultural [entertainments] of their own as well as providing scores of women students per engineer. Sports were also taken seriously, more [seriously] than classes, especially by students in the residential Colleges around the sports grounds. Sport-supported athletes were rare at that time but many students ranked a “Blue” or “Half Blue” higher than “Honours”. The University running track was used for events during the Melbourne Olympic Games in 1956, my final year. Most dances and many Dinners were Black Tie affairs and as I had previously hired such a rig for the only formal occasion I had attended, I didn’t have dinner togs. The Myer Emporium rose to the occasion of the first formal of the university year and offered complete outfits for £15 per enrolled student. Of course I didn’t have money like that to spare, nor did Charley or Geoff who arranged for the three of us to charge [the cost] to his mother’s account. So Bea’s Myers account copped the lot. We all paid her back.

Later in the year Harry Dean died at home of Cancer of the Liver after a short and traumatic illness for Bea and her children. Judy and Bea nursed him to the end, Judy’s Auntie Reba and Auntie Edna, wife of Bea’s brother Noel Kewish, helped, but nothing could be done to save her Dad. I continued with my studies and kept out of the way. Bea was devastated and didn’t recover for years, if at all. She died 25 years later “of a broken heart” Edna said. Geoff also took it hard and I did my best to encourage Judy to look to the future and our life together. Nursing Harry was a very difficult experience especially in the final days when he couldn’t be left for a moment. In his last few days he and I had a talk, as far as he was able, and I promised to look after his daughter and do my best for Bea. A very sad experience which we all remember.

During 1954 I was driven by Course Requirements, lectures were not compulsory but essential, as all lecturers emphasized that exam questions would be from the lecture notes. This was quite different from Tech, where examinations had to conform to State requirements. My Tech study habits had been to examine the published papers of previous examinations, and assess which questions were set most frequently and which topics never appeared. This technique didn’t work with the [University of Melbourne] as lecturers moved on and engineering, itself, was undergoing rapid change due to new analytical techniques and materials. The transistor was released to the public domain in 1948; material sciences made possible jet engines for civilian use. Suddenly the Rankine Cycle for energy transfer was considered practical for mass produced propulsion and other energy conversion systems. In Civil Engineering, pre- and post-tension systems were changing the construction industry. [The University of Melbourne] installed its first computer system at that time. Atomic Energy, another energy conversion method that held great promise, was under study and engineers were building reactors. Looking up past examination papers was no longer useful. As solving problems from first principals had drawn me to University so, after a narrow escape in Maths I, my resolution for the rest of the course was to study the fundamentals and expect anything. My first year/second year combination was satisfactorily completed, [with] no supplementary or repeat papers to sit as examinations were passed, to the surprise of some of the faculty. Some of my friends didn’t pass and Charley [Pugsley], for one, left [the University of Melbourne] as he lost his scholarship and had no money of his own. [Charley had] won the Kernot Medal at Tech, equivalent to Dux of the Full Time Diplomates. At UofM, student associations seduced him and he was Editor of Farrago, the student newspaper, [and] the Dean of Engineering [acknowledged] Charley’s contribution: “Mr Pugsley gained a First in Farrago but failed Engineering.”

By year-end I was broke, and plunged into the professional life of [Leighton Irwin & Co] with gusto and a willingness to work any hours and do anything they wanted. I needed money for our impending wedding on 29 January 1955. As study was over for the year I moved back to Elizabeth Street and we planned to find married-student digs, post honeymoon. As December approached we partied, played and danced the days and nights away, a happy time for us, however for the Deans there was the lingering sadness of their loss and the sudden discovery that Bea had no money. Harry’s business was loaded with debt and its sale realized very little. Judy had a good job and was a great help to her mother and Geoff had a vacation job but the most serious money problems were yet to be exposed by the accountants and probate. In any case we decided to go ahead with our wedding plans before the Uni Year commenced.

Judy and I opened a joint bank account, [and] to establish that our marriage would be completely open in every way we both had cheque books and deposited what we could. Most of my income came in the form of cheques from [Leighton Irwin & Co], Book Prize refunds, Expenses refunds and Tech lecturing fees at term-end, three times a year. We were married at St Luke’s Bay Street, Brighton, on 29 January 1955, the same church as [was used for the] Sally and John Cromwell wedding, and where we two siblings [had] attended every Sunday during my childhood, certainly up to age 9 which I always felt marked my move to self sufficiency. My churchgoing fell off from 1940 and after 1947 it never recovered, though I have always retained a sympathetic attitude towards the [Church of England] and still enjoy the ancient rituals and services derived from the King James Prayer Book and Bible. Our marriage ceremony was conforming. We were married on a Saturday and Judy’s cousin, Trish White, was Bridesmaid and Peter [Hein] was Best Man. Geoff gave the Bride away and the wedding breakfast was enjoyed by all at the Dean residence in Caulfield.

The Australia Day holiday plan gave us a one-week Honeymoon, each losing only 4 days’ pay. To our joy both our employers paid our wages for the days we were away. Dick Humphreys lent us his newest 1924 Dodge, which was a coupe tourer that had replaced Snow Liner in his affections. Judy and I drove to Geelong for our first weekend so that I could show her the Australia Day Anniversary Regatta on Corio Bay. We stayed the first two nights at an old but charming Private Hotel. Late [in the] afternoon we drove to Geelong in a hot, dry north wind, a typical Melbourne mid-summer 100°F scorcher via the Werribee plain with the setting sun burning through our brains. [The] car was unbearably hot and nobody was talking to anybody. Who had air-conditioned cars in those days? After the sunset we stopped for a roadside café meal, hungry and dying for a drink. We finally arrived at our lodgings hot, sweaty and sticky all over, asleep on our feet; it had been a long day! “Yes we have a reservation for two nights for Mr & Mrs da Silva.” said the reception clerk. Sounded strange being called that, we probably had “Honeymooners” written all over [our faces]. Our room was on the top floor, hot and under the eaves and the bathroom was down the hall, around the corner, “please mind the steps.” The suit-cases weighed a ton, [there were] no porters on the staff to help, [and] I was exhausted when I finally dropped them on the floor of our room. Later on when scratching around, we found several bricks among the clothes. Must have been loaned to us by some of our “friends”. Whoever they were I roundly cursed them with distaste, thoughtless because the people who had access to our cases knew my problems. Damn!

Breakfast was served in [a] dining room furnished with large round tables seating about eight diners. We joined a Western District cocky, his wife and three or four children, they had harvested a bumper crop that season so they were celebrating with a holiday by the seaside. We talked about our plans for the week’s vacation. “Has Mrs da Silva been to Apollo Bay before?” he asked. I looked around thinking, “What could have induced Phyllis to turn up here?” I heard Judy answering and that’s when I realized that she was to be known as Mrs da Silva from now on! After breakfast we wandered down to the wharf to see the grand yachts and their crews, Acrospire was the largest with a 9-Meter rating, and old Joe White at the helm. We strolled around while all the time I described the competitors and lectured on their chances in The Advertiser Cup race. Judy was patient and attentive to her first of many yacht race dissertations. A typical Honeymoon day out. We probably had lunch down by the famous Geelong Baths and made our way back to the car late-afternoon after a long day. We were tired and looking forward to a nap before getting dressed for dinner. Damn! The car wouldn’t start, so Judy, who couldn’t drive, sat in the driver’s seat and steered while I pushed. Still wouldn’t start and I was about washed-up when a couple of muscular drunks lurched over and offered to push. Judy was relieved as she had been panic-stricken with the thought, “What do I do if it does start?” The heavy helpers heaved us at a good clip when I remembered Dick’s security anti-theft switch wasn’t on, so with a flick under the dash the car took off with a roar, leaving the two blokes flat on their faces in the middle of the road. We didn’t stop!

The next morning we drove to Apollo Bay where we stayed in a small pub above the fishing wharf where we had reservations for 3 nights; the plan was to use it as a base to see the countryside. Our first glimpse of the area was the drive down Wild Dog Creek Road from the western district highway to the Great Ocean Road. That was the wildest drive either of us had ever been on. Somebody who told us we would get the best views of the trip recommended it. The problem was that we saw very little of the view as there was nowhere to stop, no scenic lookout down the valley, and the road was barely wide enough for one car; let alone two. We couldn’t take our eyes off the road as we switched back and forth in and out of the gullies while the gradient got steeper until we passed the halfway mark. Nobody lived on that road and no doubt it was closed from time to time during maritime storms. We didn’t use it on our return to Melbourne. On the first night at Apollo Bay I awoke having dreamed that somebody was breaking into our room. I sat up in bed, heart pounding (twin beds for God’s sake) trying to focus on the source of the noise. Switching on the light found Judy standing on her bed against the wall banging furiously and ineffectually at mosquitoes, which she said were bothering her. She put on insect repellant and eventually got back to sleep. This is how we became aware that Judy’s very presence was enough to completely protect me from insect bites. From that day I can’t remember ever having insect problems, at home or away, if Judy is present.

We awoke dog-tired and went down to breakfast and restored some energy, walked around town, 2 blocks each way, then down to the fishing wharf where I had a good look at the boats alongside. Close inspection [revealed] that fresh boiled crays could be had for 2/6 (25¢) so we bought a big one and took it back to the hotel bar for morning tea. Well, Crayfish and stout for two was a most restorative snack. We discussed trips with the locals and decided on an afternoon drive to Port Fairy, looked at houses for sale and the entrance to the port and were not surprised that it never became a major entry to the Southwest coast of Victoria. Shifting sandbars were always a hazard. The weather was wet, not at all like summertime and we found, no matter where we went, the only sun was West of Cape Otway. On Wednesday morning we left Apollo Bay, drove over the range and stayed on the West side for the rest of the week. Loch Ard Gorge looked inviting so we left the car on the cliff top and made our way down to the narrow beach at the foot of the cliffs. Hot sun, clear inviting water, but togs left in the car; we were completely alone so we stripped and swam in the cold Southern Ocean, but not for long. We started the climb to get a sheltered sunny spot to dry-off, lay down and made ourselves comfortable. After a few minutes Judy said, “That sounds like girl’s voices!” We looked up to see a busload of girls in school uniforms scampering down the cliff about a minute away from our snug, a few feet off the pathway. We sprinted, bent double, to the cave we’d undressed in and pretended not to notice anything unusual as the girls filed past. We saw a TV documentary of those cliff-tops a few weeks ago, just 46 years after that most embarrassing moment. Embarrassing for Judy but not for the girls, they seem to enjoy their day.

Saturday night on the way home we stayed the night at The Grand Hotel Geelong to celebrate our first wedding anniversary, First Week of marriage. A very extravagant decision but, as it turned out, a fateful one. We reserved a table for two in the main dining room and after a rest, shower (and shave for me) dressed in our best. Wedding dress for Judy and jacket, collar and tie for me then down to the dining room. It was quite late and few diners were left, perhaps six couples. We were escorted to a table near another couple who kept looking at us as we examined the scene, while talking and laughing as Judy read the menu to me, as she still does. We ordered, sat back to enjoy our drinks feeling very pleased with each other, probably hand in hand. A voice said, “Would you care to join us.” from the nearby gent. Judy had probably been twinkling at him, so we moved to Jim and Pop Donald’s table for the first of many happy occasions together over the next 45 years, after which we kept in touch with Jim by phone. He is 90 this year having become a widower two years ago, sad but he still lives by himself at Palm Beach. Jim was Godfather to Peter James and gave Stephanie away at their wedding on Watsons Bay, and also spoke, at Matthew’s request, at his wedding breakfast at Dunbar House at Watsons Bay. The Donalds were wonderful friends, always inviting us where they thought we might benefit. Their advice was always frank, friendly, pointed and open when asked and never offered when not. On rare occasions when we did not follow their advice and our actions were for the best they would say something like, “You were right about that da Silva.” Nobody ever had better friends. While at breakfast this Sunday morning the phone rang, “You get it, it’s probably Ron Jones again.” It was Margaret (nee Donald) who told me that Jim had died, “Last Monday.” Over my shoulder I asked Judy to take the phone as I choked and couldn’t talk.

On our return we lived in the Dean house, Judy and I slept in the second bedroom, which had a sleepout-verandah, which I planned to use as a study. One thing we learnt on our honeymoon was that Judy should learn to drive. The Deans had two cars and a motor bike but only one driver, Geoff, so we decided that it was time and in order to save money it was agreed that I would teach her in Harry’s Singer Sedan. A few blocks from the Dean house going East along Glen Eira Road is the Caulfield Race Course so we devised a route that Judy could practice [with] without being bothered by the need to give way to traffic from the right. I sat in the passenger’s seat and we practiced diligently with terror, tears and trauma for a few weeks and got nowhere so we invested in a Driving School. There she had about two lessons and had no trouble getting her license. I was dumfounded! What was different? Well! Judy said he taught me what the clutch was for. I didn’t know that it disconnected the wheels from the engine.

The idea of our presence in the Dean house was to help Bea recover from her bereavement and help support the household. Geoff slept in Judy’s bedroom and Judy and we student blokes came and went at different times so Bea frequently had company during the day as well as in the evening. Things worked out very well, especially when I was still working at [Leighton Irwin & Co] but once the university year started Bea’s sorrow gave me much distress and at times I found it difficult to concentrate. I took to working at the State Library, under that wonderful dome, where the staff were expert at “SILENCE PLEASE”. My biggest study problem was at week-ends and holidays when I didn’t need to go into town. First term holidays [in] 1955 saw me determined to find other lodgings so I bought a house at East Bentleigh. Bought? “YOU WHAT?” Said Judy when I phoned her at work just to keep her informed. “Well I paid a holding deposit of £10 on a two-bedroom house yet to be built.” said I, and described the development at 20 Edinburgh Street, one of a development of 150 almost-identical dwellings on land originally within the Dendy Crown Grant, which had been Market Gardens. “Total price £4,250 and should be finished before Christmas.” The next step was to find the money; by now I knew the world was full of money and the secret was to find “who” would lend to Judy and me. I was confident that we would be accommodated but the first thing was to move to temporary accommodation. It was essential to separate us from complications that may have diverted me from a successful 3rd year. We rented a furnished bed-sitter in a big old house in Surrey Hills, an inner-Eastern suburb with a railway station a block from the house. Nothing but work was my objective and I needed Judy, couldn’t do it without her, and wanted to pass with flying colours.

The Surrey Hills house was owned by Austrian migrants, mature people to us, probably 40 with a child, [an] 8- to 10-year-old, obnoxious, overweight boy who ignored his father and bullied his mother. We rented the front bedroom, bed-sitter from Freddy’s mother. The boy was a belligerent Ginger Meggs character who would get up early in the morning, and appear at his parents’ locked bedroom door, opposite ours. He would bang the door with his fists and shout at the top of his voice, “Get bloody up! I want my breakfast.” Eventually his mother would appear and say, “Freddy (with a thick Austrian accent) mine Darlink” “Vazz iss id due vandt?” “Mine darlink!” His response to the doting European mother of this tough Aussie larrikan invariably would be “Where’s my bloody breakfast.” Apart from these three and us two at the front of the house in the silk department there were nine other adults in various dungeon-like rooms and alcoves. Each bedsitter had a kitchenette allocated for the tenant’s “exclusive” use. We were two of thirteen adults and one child in that old, wooden, decrepit house. The floor of our bedroom sloped so much that we had to put bricks under one side of the wardrobe to keep it vertical and prevent the mirrored door from slamming. Our stove was in the passageway to the owners’ kitchen, a tiny room where the Lady of the house produced schnitzel for her family. Freddy’s response to this most favourite of Viennese dishes was, “I don’t want any of that bloody foreign stuff, I wanna a pie and sauce!!!” Freddy’s mum was a diligent and thrifty housekeeper who rendered fatty off-cuts of meat to produce lard, and as a result the passageway, where our stove was located, was a little odoriferous on [occasion]. One day as I was heating soup I noticed her place a plastic bowl on her stove, just inside her kitchen doorway. She had been rendering, and picking up the pot with protective stove mitts she poured the hot liquid pork fat into the plastic bowl. In an instant the plastic dissolved, collapsing immediately and spilling the hot liquid fat over the stovetop, down the [stove’s] face, onto the floor, out the door to soak the hall carpet all the way to our stove. I took my soup and stole away into our bed sitting room. She spent every spare moment for the next few weeks attempting restoration.

During the day the house was empty except for me and Freddy’s father, of a once-wealthy family in Austria, who spent his days painting. Gloss white house-paint from gallon cans, suitably thinned to make brushing easy, was splattered over everything. He slopped away off-and-on all day working from a ladder, painting what was there, covering the dirt and dust of years and generations of flaking paint without any preparation. Runs, splatters and drips were never removed, the house was, in effect, a work of modern art. He obviously enjoyed being home by himself and didn’t disturb me as he had almost no English. His wife worked at her employer’s premises and Freddy was at school, bliss for us both. Canterbury Station was less than a block down the street so I would start running when I heard the train leave the prior station. One day I ran without taking the time to turn off our gas stove leaving a simmering pot. On my return, six or seven hours later, there on the stove was our little pot, bent and distorted with a thick coating of black amorphous carbon inside. The gas had been turned off in time so no other damage was done but I heard the story several times, “…you could smell the burning mess out in the street…” It was a very convenient place for us both as it was only a few stops to Town. Engineering Maths Prof. Freddy Syer also lived nearby and he organized a few gardening jobs for me to earn some extra money. I did a few of those but found the money too low, the activity too athletic and I was better off doing extra hours at [Leighton Irwin & Co] than ricking my back pulling up weeds. Thanks, but no thanks!

The faculty asked third-year engineering students to indicate their fourth and final year subject preferences. They also wanted to know which students intended to attempt Final Honours. I indicated Thermodynamics and Eng Maths, which meant that my Thesis would be on one or both of these subjects. The only other student to enrol in Thermodynamics was Trevor Tiller, and of the handful of students who indicated an interest in Eng Maths III, Gunars Priede was the only one I recall. Overall I think the number of finalists was to be about 25 out of an original 1st-year enrollment of 125, at least that was the number of engineers in the infamous Maths I class. From 2nd year Gunars, Trevor and I had a tendency to work as a threesome for projects that required team solutions. At this distance I don’t remember the projects, not even which subjects they were in, but I do recall we were still working together during 4th year when Judy and I were living at Edinburgh Street, East Bentleigh. My mind is almost a complete blank, except for Thermodynamics, as I try to remember what I was doing during 4th year at university in 1955. Geoff was repeating after the setback following his father’s death. We discussed that recently during one of his trips to Mayfield House in year 2001. The two Dean cousins who died early that year, Max Whiteside, Ursula’s husband, and her sister Cecily, had us reminiscing about the Deans. Geoff told us that their father, Judy and Geoff’s uncle Sir Arthur Dean, helped him after Harry died, as Geoff’s scholarship was revoked because of his 3rd-year repeat and Arthur’s £100 gift helped pay fees. Judy and I had not realized just how destitute was Bea after Harry’s death.

Eventually we found that none of the regular banks would lend money to a penniless student whose wife might get pregnant at any time, especially as they had only one income: hers. The manager of the bank across the road from the snack bar was very impressed by the da Silva family, he knew we had worked as a team to make the business a success and that the bank loan had been repaid quickly. He was impressed that I was passing but couldn’t get the bank to budge on a loan so he introduced me to an agent for the Temperance & General Insurance Company. An interview was arranged first with the agent and later with a loan officer in the City. The loan officer examined my application form, which showed Judy having a very significant salary of £18/week, but “What if Judith gets pregnant?” was his first question. “We have no such plans at this stage!” I assured him. “Do you realize that we will charge you the very high interest of 5.5% p.a. for a first mortgage” “Can you afford this huge interest bill plus a collateral insurance policy with this company?” then “Where will you get the deposit?” I had already arranged that with Phyllis who agreed to a second mortgage documented by her solicitor and formally signed, sealed and delivered. It was repaid, principal, interest and costs within a year of my graduation. With all the money lined up, 1st Mortgage from T&G Insurance, 2nd from Phyllis and our capital contribution of £8/10/0 ($17) we signed on the bottom line and our first house was in sight. Progress payments to the developer would be paid directly by the [Temperance & General Insurance Company] and the deposit from the 2nd Mortgage secured number 20 Edinburgh Street. Our bank account was left with a minimum [ba;ance]. Judy then pulled her masterstroke and asked her boss for a raise, and to her delight he increased her salary to £25/week: the equivalent of the adult male wage. “That husband of yours influenced you to ask for this!” he said. Who me? We could now save and comfortably plan to take up residence before Christmas 1955, by which time I would be working full-time at [Leighton Irwin & Co], at least from the last week in November to the first week in February 1956. By the time we moved in all the houses in the street had been sold.

Living conditions at Surrey Hills were public and primitive and we yearned for change, to get away for a weekend. We planned a first-term break in May and took a trip to Jamieson in the foothills of the Victorian high country, just before the winter snow brought out the troops of skiers and prices rose. I wanted to show Judy Mt Buller but this was the most we could afford until I graduated. At least we could get a view of the mountains in this remnant of the old colonial town, which would soon to be under water as the Eildon catchment filled behind the new dam. As we had no car it also had the advantage of being reasonably close to the railway. Accommodation was cheap before [the] Queen’s Birthday long weekend – the traditional start of the ski-season – and we had the pay from my 1st Term Melbourne Tech teaching assignment, as part-time teachers were paid three times a year. We stayed in an elderly, two-storey 19th-century wooden pub from the Horse and Buggy days of the Gold Rush. Jamison was Kelly-Country and the most important, imposing and substantial building in the much-reduced settlement was the courthouse, the Police Station and Goal being the only other stone structure. The small groups of buildings were a shadow of the town’s former self when the diggings were in full swing before the turn of the century. There were walks, tracks winding through the bush, around abandoned mine shafts, and over waste heaps to remind us of the hurley-burley days of digging for gold. We were warned of the dangers of falling into a shaft, especially as there was nothing to guide us through the scrub. We experienced no catastrophes and were always within earshot of the roads, the bush was sparse with no giant trees as in most Victorian Eucalyptus forests, as the miners had cut them down and covered the landscape with inhospitable spoil.

We had three days of our own company though one of the bedrooms was occupied by a mature to old bushy with a new girlfriend who provided raucous entertainment when they went to bed at night and came-to in the morning. Quite good vaudeville entertainment came through the old wooden partition walls. We were served breakfast-in-bed each morning and, on the last morning, which was a Sunday, we awaited the bus to Mansfield, where we would get the train to Melbourne, in the down-stairs saloon. Local folk were collecting for their usual Sunday morning (illegal) drink, following the service and communion. We were included in the chatter and they suggested that Father O’Riley could drive us to the station, as he held his last service for the morning, there. “You will have plenty of time to get the train.” The priest arrived, in a hurry, partook of his usual Sunday cheer and, bundling us into his big black Mercedes sedan, zoomed out of town, talking non-stop. It was a hectic ride, the Lord was on his side, he knew the road like the back of his hand and had only one more service to hold and [was] looking forward to an important Sunday dinner meeting. The trip was memorable and we thanked him profusely, pleased to be alive and ready for the train ride home.

Throughout 1955 I continued to work at the Snack Bar on Saturday nights, and we frequently visited our construction site on Saturday afternoons. Usually Phyllis would drive Paul and us out to East Bentleigh. The developer was building 150 almost-identical houses at separate sites in the same locale including about 20 on the North facing side of Edinburgh Street, one of which was ours. The whole district was a construction site, on those blocks not owned by our developer, [and] others were building similar cottages, some smaller, some larger but all in the style of the day. The other building organizations varied in size from “Owner-builders” with one house in mind, small-time Spec. Builders, as was my Grandfather in the western suburbs of Sydney, to big-boy developers. Most were brick though Dick Humphries built a timber weatherboard dwelling about three streets to the North. Another friend, Andy Burston, built a similar house in the same area a couple of streets further away from Dick’s place. Every Saturday, couples, wed or committed, families and parents too would be there checking out their future homes. We got to know some of the people who had already moved in, on the other side of our street. We also met our next-door neighbours to the East [and] West. It was exciting for everybody and Paul would run in and out of the partly-constructed houses, over fences, piles of bricks, stacks of timber and heaps of sand and screenings. We didn’t go every weekend but Paul would pester us to drive Bertha to Edinburgh Street to check on progress. He would be 10 in 1956, a happy competent young person looking forward to celebrating his first decade, an anniversary year for us both – his birth and my survival – and hopefully [I would] successfully sit my final exams. Judy and I were thrilled and looked forward to a rosy future, what could stop us now?

In due course I passed 3rd year and we moved into our first house. Judy had fun specifying the colours and ordering a pink marble mantelpiece over our living room open fireplace. We coined the phrase “Do the dumb blonde act” which was our code for her to take over and confuse the subby or main contractor while we contemplated the problem at hand and possible solutions. Tradespeople were intolerant of any dithering by me but would put up with anything rather than upset my beautiful young wife who would [be] locking them into submission with her big blue eyes; looking into their innermost thoughts. Our first contract completion negotiation was a lesson in life. Site visits increased as we, working together, pressed for December completion, [as] we had already given notice to Freddy’s mum. Suddenly the Christmas holidays were only days away and we realized if we didn’t get possession in a day or so we would be homeless until the end of January because of the construction industry summer shutdown. Judy and I were working at our busy day jobs; Judy’s firm had its busiest day of the year on Christmas Eve. Paul & Phyllis came to the rescue and motored around in Bertha, literally got both lots of lawyers out of Christmas parties, hand-carried contracts and personally-delivered cheques for settlement. No cheque, no keys, were the seller’s terms. Without their day on the road as couriers we wouldn’t have been able to move in until February 1956.

We had a house but very little furniture. Judy had a foam-rubber mattress acquired at a discount from her employer, Clark Matting and Rubber Ltd, and I made a base in the workshop at Elizabeth Street. Two small bedside chests of drawers and a coffee table for the living room were made from Judy’s desk. The pantry door from the Elizabeth Street house became a sofa for the living room by the addition of a comfortable seat of foam rubber. The latter was a collection of off-cuts glued together and held in place by a leatherette cover, made from remnants sewn together by a friend of Judy’s who sewed such things professionally. It was supported by two fruit boxes, which accompanied a gift of oranges from the Mypolonga orchards of the Cromwells. Those were the days when fruit boxes were robust and beautifully made from timber offcuts at most sawmills. Later the boxes were needed for storage, so a cane furniture-maker friend of Judy’s attached six legs and a backrest; it looked very smart. We gathered a collection of chairs from the hoarded excess in our parents’ houses and these, with our bedroom door on two trestles made from scrap timber, furnished the dining room. A brand new pink bedsheet was the tablecloth for our first dinner party. We owed dinners to so many people who were curious to see our new house and wondered how we managed to get it together.

Judy’s boss gave her enough pale grey rubber tiles to cover the floor of the pink kitchen which we laid after I hand planed and sanded the unfinished floor boards. That was the single most difficult job for me and took many hours. I also made built-in robes and storage units in the bedrooms and kitchen. Old sheets from our parents’ houses gave us privacy until Judy made the curtains. Café curtains with scalloped tops hung from rods that I fixed between the window Jambs in kitchen, bed and dining rooms. Because the living room windows had much lower sills she planned candy-striped, vertically-pleated curtains with a heavy white lining facing the garden. Judy set her heart on her ideas for the curtains, designed them months before we moved in, and planned how she intended making them. The pleated curtains were particularly difficult. From the moment the builder started to set the window frames into the brickwork Judy calculated the material required and lay-bye’d the fabric, tape, lining and had it all paid for by the time we moved in, a day or so before Christmas, 1955. The living room became the curtain-sewing workshop once she started, until finished. Settling in took all our spare time, except for parties, during the summer holiday season, and because we were both working this took up most evenings, weekends and public holidays. No sailing that summer, and as we didn’t have a car or telephone we carefully planned every weekend, and because Edinburgh Street was out in the sticks most people wouldn’t come unless they could hitch a ride. Thus we had transport available through friends and family happily collecting people, food and things we needed on the way to see us. Workdays, and later university days, meant a walk to the Mackie Road bus stop at the end of our street. Bus to the railway station, train to Flinders Street Station and, for me, a tram ride to The Shop. Usually an hour-and-a-half each way for me, equaling three hours of study at best or catching up on sleep if I managed to get a seat. I always planned to study both ways.

A garden was always important to me because lawns, trees and flowerbeds surrounded the Elizabeth Street house, a part of my life since I could remember. Both display and utility plants provided flowers for the house, produce for the table and attractive colour year-round. Judy and I had our own ideas about plants and layout and sketched out numerous designs on graph paper before finally committing a plan to drawing paper. This became our master plan and showed, to scale, flowerbeds and borders, the placing of each type of tree and shrub and variety of flower. We worked to this plan while we owned the place. The family gardeners – my father and Auntie Vic from South Australia – were always critical of our approach but we stuck to our layout, and completed the garden over time, but not before first term started. It was important to get things tidy and easy to maintain with winter wet weather in mind. There was no toilet inside the house though there was a cupboard-sized room off the laundry which would house the [Water Closet] pan and hand-basin, when the Melbourne Metropolitan authority decided to connect us to the Metro Sewer System. The builder installed a Septic Tank in each backyard topped by the “little house” and accessed via a short path to the laundry door. Melbourne winters are cold and wet, frosts don’t last through the day, and snow is very rare but everything gets wet from the cold, drizzly rain. The ground stays wet for weeks. In short we had to get the back yard drained and organized during the summer because I would have no time for such things with the academic year in full cry during the winter term.

I nearly burnt the house down that first winter. I would try to get home before Judy, light the open fire in the living room and have hot coffee ready. It was usually starting to get dark when she left her office in town and by the time she got off the bus at Edinburgh Street to trudge up the road in the blackness of a winter’s night, not infrequently wet and windy too. She usually wore heels and because the council had yet to provide footpaths it was a walk up the road avoiding the occasional car. The lights would be on in the porch and front windows to make her homecoming warm and welcoming after that last struggle up the street. We were in the kitchen one such winter evening when I noticed a flickering light out of the corner of my eye. I rushed into the living room, a burning log had rolled out and flames had started to lick up the candy striped curtains and heat had melted a section of the couch cover. I smothered the flames and on examination the damage was only noticed by Judy and me. The cane back and legs were already planned for the couch and the design [was] modified to cover the charred, blackened cover. The curtain needed some repair and we had no sewing machine so, like [we did for] the original production, [and] that meant hand sewing and a lot of time, [so] she decided to do it when she could take a few days’ vacation. Before the planned day I bought a treadle sewing machine for £5 ($10) and arranged for it to be delivered on the Monday morning. “Oh no,” she told the delivery man, “that’s not for me, you have the wrong address. My husband would have bought an electric machine.” In the end she accepted it, made the curtains and many other things, and eventually a new dress to wear to my graduation. It was the first time she’d used a sewing machine, and worked from The Vogue Dress Making Book.

The back yard had to be laid out and correctly drained before we did anything with the front garden or the rest of the block. The driveway and the future garage were on the high side of the block, not that there was much slope as No.20 was almost at the top of the hill. During the first winter we found out where the excess from the water table ended up, at the end of Edinburgh Street where it joined Mackie Road. By the bus stop a turgid swamp waxed and waned through the winter well into spring. Our street was paved though many in the area weren’t, and we also had concrete curb and gutter into which ran our roof’s rain water, kitchen and laundry [silage]. Nice for us but awful for the folk at the bottom of the hill. Our septic tank was on the low side of the backyard, just a couple of metres from the neighbour’s identical facility. During the work of grading the backyard to the natural slope, towards the back fence and the East side, the whole yard was dug-over to remove a vast accumulation of rubbish. Weeds, self-sewn saplings, builder’s rubble, paint cans and off-cuts of every imaginable variety including timber, reinforcing rod, brickbats, lumps of concrete and broken tiles. We had decided to plant fast-growing nitrate-producing things thus cultivating the soil for the lawn to follow. No use seeding a lawn until the ground was prepared and rid of competing naturally sown seeds from the many weeds. We planted Chinese cabbage, carrots, potatoes and tomatoes and produced a bumper crop of everything, to the extent that we couldn’t eat it all. Our friends and family, as well as us, were sick of Chinese cabbage and we couldn’t give it away, but we sold boxes of tomatoes to my parent’s snack bar and got the lawn planted by the end of the summer. The front garden was planted with peas and progressed at a more leisurely pace, which didn’t matter as the concrete driveway from the front gate, plus paths to the front and back doors, were in place, included in the original contract.

By the start of first term we were well organized, familiar with the train, tram and bus timetables, and I was ready for my FINAL year. I knew with part time work I would be extended and sometimes exhausted. Notwithstanding all that was going on I was happier than I had been for years, perhaps ever. Judy was my ideal: sweet, young and ever-helpful and eager to support, work and party and she rapidly improved my appreciation of art, literature and theatre. She liked to dance, made me laugh and learned how to cook – within our restricted budget – and [entertained] our friends. I ceased to concern myself about ongoing physical problems and began to think about our future, all the final-year students were doing that. Writing to prospective employers thinking and discussing cadetships and travel. Peter [Hein], with his new wife Helen, went to work in Canada and New York before returning to Australia. I would love to do that and imagined “nothing could stop us now”. My view of the future was that I was most fortunate. I resolved to pass, work hard and would seek to make the most of any chances. As we moved into 1956 I was, as [was] all of Melbourne, optimistic in that Olympic Year. I loaned £10 to the Royal Brighton Yacht Club, a large sum for us as our weekly budget was £3/10/0. It proved to be the best investment I ever made. We saw the same [phenomenon] in 2000 when Sydney was the Olympic Host City. I knew that the year would be a do-or-die marathon and with my darling Judy [I] looked forward to the first day on campus that February.

The details of the 1956 academic year are lost to me. Except for the end, it’s the year I remember least. I spent a lot of it riding in public transport, usually reading and, often, sleeping. I am sure that Judy [has] much the same recollections. Peter Hein had left university to join W.E. Bassett & Partners, and Geoff, Lucien, Gunas and Trevor Tiller were my pals for projects. Gunas never had time or money for parties and it seemed that Nancy was always pregnant. The end of [the] first term dance that year was great fun for the final-year blokes; it would be the last for us except for those who would repeat. We knew what we faced; it was expected that only about 25 of the original 125 would get through the four years without a repeat. The ball was to be fancy-dress and Judy made ours – she was the Easter Bunny, wearing my white jappara yacht-racing cover-all with suitable ears, whiskers, tail and necklace of radishes. I was a naughty St Trinian’s schoolgirl wearing one of her [Methodist Ladies’ College] green tunics, boots, stockings dyed green and with a three-day growth of beard. All [topped] off with her school hat with blond rope braids attached. Her MLC tie was arranged in a suitably rakish style with the sleeves of my white shirt rolled above the elbows. I won the Best Dressed Boy prize and Judy won the Charleston dance competition prize. No surprise as she always won, but only Geoff and me knew that among the rowdy crowd there that night, and I still have my prize, a pair of [University of Melbourne] cuff links.

I recall that Gunas, Trevor and I did some project teamwork because we used to meet at Edinburgh Street. By final year Gunas and Nancy had six children, how did they manage? I knew I couldn’t cope with all that. Trevor wasn’t married and lived with his parents. Judy and I had no kids and no immediate plans so our place was the obvious choice for putting our Project Reports together. We could work all day uninterrupted; an endemic problem in the Engineering School’s drawing room where most teams worked on projects. We didn’t have a phone, nor did Gunas, but Trevor did and had constant interruptions when working at home. Trevor’s family had several cars so I guess he chauffeured Gunas to and from our place. I did all the drawings and graphics, as I had the famous office stool plus a drawing board and drafting machine also borrowed from the office, and was the most experienced draughtsman. Gunas did the math and calculations, tables and mathematical conclusions. He was a wizard at such things covering page after page of mathematical logic with never an alteration and explicit to all but the most dense. Trevor would write the report as he had the best English Lit. Grammar and no spelling mistakes from his private school. Of course we all had to agree with each other’s work and sign off each section of the project. I can’t remember the subject and the only thing I can remember is the pace of completion and how much I learned from the other two members of our team. Gunas’ work was quite outstanding. [In] my working life, I can’t recall any other person who could prove a proposition with such speed, accuracy and quality. What a shame I can’t remember what we produced!

Gunas and I both took Final Honours Math but Trevor didn’t. Trevor and I both took Final Honours Thermodynamics but Gunas didn’t do that subject, in fact Trevor and I were the only Thermodynamics students in ’56. Our lecturer and examiner was […] who eventually became Vice Chancellor of Monash University. Trevor and I had great fun with our thermodynamics lab work, and our thesis was drawn from numerous experiments while operating and analyzing the performance of the [University of Melbourne] Engineering Department’s Meterology Laboratory’s heat pump air-conditioning system. I seem to recall it was the only Heat Pump operating in Australia. Exam season arrived as expected however the Math paper was unexpected. About ten people sat the paper, [and] of my friends Gunas was the only one there. “Twenty-one questions, answer as many as you can.” As usual all work, including side scribbles had to be done in exercise books provided, no paper may be removed from the room. Question 1 was obtuse, I scratched away at it and so passed the time, and I made an attempt at about half the questions. After it was over Gunas and I talked and he seemed happy with the outcome. This was the first Eng. Math III examination ever and the new Department head John Read set the paper, so there were no precedents. I could only hope for the best. From post-mortem discussions with other students it seemed to me that my papers and lab work were among the best so I felt pretty sure that the only problem would be Maths.

Read had been head of the Math Department at Melbourne Tech, in effect my boss when I started work there as a part-time teacher in 1952. When I sat Tech Maths I in 1948 he was at Melbourne Tech and in 1956 I was still working there but Read had left. He wrote one of the standard textbooks on Algebra, which was used throughout the State of Victoria. It was a surprise to me when he was appointed to take over from Freddy Syer and I congratulated him on the occasion of our first meeting at the university. He had known me for years, however the 1956 final Eng Math paper told me that I knew nothing about his professional background and little about mathematics at his level of expectation.

The due date for the publication of graduates arrived and we crowded around the notice boards searching for names. I slowly came to the sickening realization that my name was not there. “God almighty that bloody math paper!” I though as I walked deliberately back to the Engineering buildings. Eventually I found Read and told him of my disappointment at not finding my name on the Notice Board. “It should have been because, the Faculty passed you with Honours 3rd Class because of your outstanding thesis on the Heat Pump, and your many contributions throughout the course.” I immediately left and caught the tram to Flinders Street, train to St Kilda and railway tram to Royal Brighton Yacht Club where I cadged a ride in a course official’s motor launch to enjoy the last Sharpie Race of the Games. Rolly Tasker, a good friend of mine, a sail maker, had an excellent chance to be the Gold Medalist that day as he had only to complete the course ahead of his rival to win the regatta. It was an exciting race between the two protagonists but Rolly hit the last rounding mark and had to be satisfied with the Silver Medal.

During my final exams The Olympic Games were played out and I missed out. Melbourne was full of visitors, as was the university, especially during the lead-up. New swimming facilities had been built in the grounds for training purposes and the athletics field had a new running track, for both events and training. John and Sally with Christopher and the twins arrived by car from the farm to stay at Elizabeth Street. They had expected me to be available to show them around, especially to the yacht races, but found they were on their own, except for Sally’s friends, and the Shaughnessys at Templestowe were expecting their first born. The snack bar was going full tilt feeding the wandering multitudes drifting around the Metro area so our parents were busy, and not very interested. After the games Melbourne felt empty, the academic year was over, the student body dispersed and those of us who had no plans for further study had to report for work. [Leighton Irwin & Co] had lots of things for me to do as the Engineering Dep. was understaffed on the expectation that I would pass. Little did they know what a close call that was! We leavers made the round of farewells to fellow students, tutors, lecturers and professorial staff; I personally had to thank the Faculty Members for my Pass. I made sure to visit Professor Henderson, Dean of the Engineering School, who invited me to do part-time postgraduate work on Automatic Control Theory. I didn’t want to but couldn’t say no and agreed to call on him around commencement time for the ’57 Academic year. Lucien left for [the University of California, Berkley], and the rest of my pals started work asap. Before returning to the office in Collins Street I made a call and personally discussed Salary, especially with Mr. Irwin as I knew his agreement was all that mattered. In his office we agreed to £2,200pa, I had planned to ask for that and when he agreed without a second thought I realized there should be room to renegotiate in the not-too-distant future. Next Monday, late November 1956, was to be my first day as a working graduate engineer.

Judy was still working herself to a standstill at her sweatshop advertising job and I had developed a real concern that she would get sick. Besides there was nothing in that job for us long-term. I had some unconsolidated thoughts about our future. Our own Consulting Business, overseas experience, investments and other ideas for owning a businesses. It was time for her to stay home, stop thinking about what her boss wanted and think about what we wanted. We both needed a rest from her job. First we needed a car, the one Dick Humphries had recommended a few days before was a good deal and available now. Some weeks before I had asked him to find us a bargain but as we had no money in the bank I wasn’t sure if we could buy [it]. Dick knew my dad, as the Humphries Body Works and The Snack Bar were only a few steps apart, and the Body Works Boys were good customers. Unknown to me he convinced father that the two-cylinder Jowett Bradford utility was too good a deal for me to miss. When I arrived to inspect the car late on the Friday afternoon the stage was set. After discussing the money problem I said to Dick, “OK I’ll talk to dad but don’t expect miracles.” I walked into the Snack Bar, before opening time, dad pulled £150 in bank notes from his pocket and said, “and I want it back just the way I’m lending it to you and don’t tell your mother.” That was a first for me! All we needed was two seats, four wheels and the utility body was convenient for carrying furniture, plants for the garden and building materials for the garage we planned to build with our own hands. Well, it would do even though the cabin body had a wooden frame [that was] cheesy with dry rot. The wood screws holding the door hinges were for show. The doors were OK when shut, the engine, transmission and suspension were in first class order and it went like a sewing machine.

Christmas 1956 was quite a celebration, Judy had resigned from her job, I was free of Academia, we were able to see more of our pals, especially those who had not been students and we had seen little of during my years of study. Everybody wanted to celebrate with us that summer so we attended parties, dinners, concerts, the theatre, a general gad-about and I was sailing again, crewing on other owners’ yachts. Our Christmas present to us was our first refrigerator, no more half-melted blocks of ice on the back step but cold drinks for our guests all summer. In our neighbourhood our closest friends were Von and Don Cameron who lived just around the corner where Edinburgh Street “T’d” into the cross street. His father owned a Stock Broking practice in the finance district near the [Leighton Irwin & Co] office at 400 Collins Street. They were a quiet couple, recently married, who didn’t like big parties so we would go out together as a foursome in their beautifully maintained Riley Motor Car, a far cry from our Bradford Bomb. Occasionally we had dinner at the Yacht Club. Don’s parents also became friends. Mr. Cameron lived at his city club during the week and they owned a substantial house, “The cottage”, in a beautiful wooded garden in the Dandenong Ranges where Mrs. Cameron Snr lived all the time. Cameron Snr also had a country property near Rutherglen, a small town and shire on the South side of the Murray River in the North of Victoria opposite New South Wales. The district was noted for its vineyards and boutique wines. We visited their residences on occasion, got to know both parents who were always kind to us, and the relationship continued after we left Edinburgh Street to live at Sandringham. We also visited Val and Andy Burston who lived nearby, and Dick and Elena Humphries who were halfway between us and the Burstons. Paul was obviously happy that Judy and I were happy and much more available than before, after all five years of full-time study was half a lifetime to a 10-year-old, and no doubt he presumed that we could do more things together, sailing anyway.

Early in 1957 we became aware of the decline in attendance at suburban Picture Theatres. The huge crowds that packed into the Snack Bar at interval and after the film at the Camden Theatre dropped away as more households bought TV sets. It was still a profitable business, though eventually it was severely affected by the introduction of Colour TV. My parents faced the changes in their business with some concern but it was never a matter of dire importance because Phyllis wanted to spend more time with Paul, especially as Judy and I and also Peter and Joan Shaughnessy were unavailable to look after him on Saturday nights. Besides the Shaughnessy’s lived at Templestowe, a long way from Brighton and Joan was expecting their first child, Jimmy John, my godson. Paul was now at Gardenvale secondary school, in Landcox Street, a block from the Elizabeth Street house. He was a delight to my parents. Big Bertha (the car) was in demand to transport Paul’s year footy team to matches with other schools. We were delighted to see my parents’ relationship improve: Paul was, in effect, the first and only child of affluent and independent parents and all three enjoyed the rôles. I was very busy at [Leighton Irwin & Co] and Prof. Henderson’s Graduate work loomed on the horizon; my heart wasn’t in it but I didn’t know how to get out of my implied debt to the Dean whose Faculty had awarded me a “Pass with Honours”. I was still a member of the Star Class and getting more involved with [Royal Brighton Yacht Club] affairs. There was also the garden, the Edinburgh Street house, the developing interest in investment with Don Cameron and an embryonic consulting practice. Judy had time to be a housewife and recover from the feeling of guilt caused by her resignation from her retailing job just before the summer rush. We were busy and having an enjoyable social life.

Although Judy was a creative housewife she wasn’t content, she missed the cut and thrust of business, the company of others, the solving of marketing problems and the art of attracting buyers. She would meet me at the front gate as I turned into the driveway and talk me to a standstill. She was so keen to be in business and I knew that she would devote her whole being to its success, even if it weren’t ours. We eventually agreed to “Alexina Originals” a business financed by us that could be developed into a home decorating enterprise. We needed a workshop and a delivery van. In our backyard, at the end of our drive, we had allowed space for a garage so we set to and built that post-haste. We worked together as owner-builders, digging foundations, laying bricks, and erecting rafters, beams and battens. We did everything except hanging the front shutter door and trowelling off the concrete floor. We bought a vacuum cleaner with attachments, which turned it into a spray-painting gun. She had great success with painted wastepaper bins and her first production of sprayed and hand-painted bins and canisters were given away as presents. Family and friends received personalized WP Bins for hatched, matched, birthday, and teaparty occasions and when the quality and production improved she started selling Alexina Originals Tole Ware to gift shops. Now we had to get rid of the bomb and buy a professional-looking delivery van.

From a conversation at the bar at The Royal Brighton Yacht Club we were offered a Ford Thames Van from Len Fenton’s firm. A perfect vehicle for job inspections as well as Alexina Originals. His family owned Melford Motors, the big Melbourne Ford dealer. They were very wealthy and made substantial contributions to several entries for the 1948 Olympics in London. Len was the other crew member of the Star boat “Virginia” that Jock Sturrock skippered to take the Bronze Medal for Australia at Torbay, where the Olympic Yachting Events were held. My one common interest with Len was that at one time I owned “Virginia II”. “Ford 10/7 Thames van Cheap! If you have a trade that goes,” said Len. If only we could find a way to keep the doors from falling off our [trade-in] when the salesman took it on the inevitable test drive. The doors wedged tightly in place when closed and the cab held together because the body sagged into a vice-like unit due to the soft spongy nature of the wooden frame work, [which was] riddled with dry-rot. We had a look at the Thames Van, it was ok, almost new, better than OK and offered to us at a ridiculously low price. “Len must like me,” I thought. We spent most of the night before the appointment “to trade” at the Humphries auto body shop doing a “Pop-Rivet job” on the Jowett body. It held together so long as the doors were opened gently and held (lifted), until closed again. Judy and I practiced the movement and became so skilled that we could open and close the doors smoothly without the slightest risk of them dropping. We worked very late with strips of body steel, pop rivets, putty and quick dry Duco. The next morning I drove the car to work, after which Judy and I met and drove to Melfords. As we approached the showroom we saw the Thames Van parked outside at the top of Swanson Street so I parked behind it and went inside to see the salesman while Judy waited in the Jowett.

He took my cheque, we signed the papers, exchanged keys and stepped outside for the test drive. I opened the door with a flourish, he slipped into the driver’s seat and I closed it after him. Off he went with Judy in the passenger’s seat, around the block, and quickly returned. As they stopped I stepped forward, opened the door with another flourish and closed it after him. He agreed that the little Ute went like a sewing machine, no problems, and pronounced himself happy. Judy and I stepped into the Ford and zoomed off up the hill, when I noticed in the rear-vision mirror the salesman saunter up and open the door. As he let the handle go to slip into the driver’s seat the door fell off. At that moment he was lost to our view.

The van was a beaut little vehicle but it would stop suddenly at the most unlikely places for no rhyme or reason. It would cough and stop when moving forward on the change to green, or at a stop sign. Some mornings it would not start at all. “So that’s why it was cheap?” said my motor mechanic pal Dick Humphries. Well he and I worked on that bloody van for months following every maddening stop. After eliminating every other possibility we decided, one Saturday afternoon, to completely dismantle the fuel system. Everything was taken out, part by part, tank, fill pipe, fuel feed to the engine, and each item was cleaned inside and out. Finally, a square of black plastic sheet was found floating, part submerged, inside the fuel tank. It had originally covered the hole for the fill pipe to [protect] the interior of the tank from the bitumastic black paint sprayed on the outside for rust prevention. It exactly matched the unpainted square around the hole, and must have been pushed into the tank when the fill pipe was originally installed on the assembly line in the U.K. That car had annoyed the first owner out of his mind and none of the Melford Motors mechanics found why it just stopped at random. After that it was a wonderful car and still an absolute bargain, thanks to Dick [Humphries]! Len and I never discussed either car even though we would meet once or twice a week for the next five years, until [our family] went to Sydney to live in 1962. I used the car for inspections, was paid mileage and the country hospital clients thought it was “so practical” and would introduce me to local dignitaries who sat on their Hospital Committees. Judy also used it as a delivery vehicle for her Alexina Originals hand decorated house wares business.

Graduation Day was a sunny Saturday April 1957. My B. Mech. E. Hons was presented by Judy’s uncle Sir Arthur Mr Justice Dean, Chancellor of the University of Melbourne. Other family members there were my parents John & Phyllis and their youngest son John Paul da Silva, Judy’s mother Beatrice Kewish Dean, her sister Auntie Reba Kewish and brother Uncle Keith Kewish with his wife Constance who came all the way from Nambour in Queensland for the occasion. Judy’s brother Geoff was also there to collect his B. Elec. E Degree and also [present was] Trish Dean White, the cousin who was bridesmaid at our wedding. Countless photographs were taken on that happy autumn day, everybody in the Engineering camp seemed to exude the spirit of “thank goodness”, me included. We new graduates congratulated each other, discussed jobs and plans, all were working at a career job of some kind, even those who desired something better. I had started to write overseas to engineering firms which interested me, I was on the lookout for a job in the USA and now, with a copy of my degree, I began writing to US corporations. Geoff had already made arrangements to work for Vickers Group in the UK and soon disappeared overseas for several years. Lucien and others had already left the country. Judy and I had been married for more than two years and others like Brian and Maureen Fitt had married soon after their successful passing of their finals. They were both awarded degrees that day.

Don Cameron and I began an office car-pool which was handy for our wives as both Judy and Von were anxious to have the use of a car, especially as we now had the comfortable little Ford Thames. Don obviously enjoyed the trip into town with a pal during which we endlessly discussed [blokey] things, including buying and selling securities. He worked at the fixed-interest exchange on the Bond Floor and occasionally saw opportunities to make money out of consolidating Odd Lots. After some months Judy and I were about £300 ahead which enabled us to repay the last of the money borrowed from Phyllis in 1955. Judy had given them one of her Alexina Originals waste-paper bins for Christmas and so we naturally talked about that venture. We were having difficulties obtaining undamaged large ice-cream cans of the type retailers ordered when buying ice-cream in bulk for their refrigerated cabinets. These cans were a standard type made by Gadsden Containers Ltd for all the bulk ice-cream producers. Don suggested his Dad might mention it to one of his friends on the Board of Directors of Gadsens. I talked to Mr Cameron who sent me around to his friend’s office in Queens Street and a few days later I was at the loading dock of a Gadsden’s plant collecting a van load of new ice-cream canisters at a fraction the cost Judy had been paying!

Through the Gadsden folk we got to know of another firm who manufactured all manner of tinware; “Tole Ware” was Judy’s brilliant upscale name for the many tinplated sheetmetal items. Alexina Originals was launched, now we had to spray-paint the base colour before the decoration was applied. All very well, but I was the spray painter and my finish did not attract orders from the High Priestesses of the “House and Garden” temples of taste. One day Judy told me about a call on Jay Rainey, doyenne of Toorak. She carefully held up the best Alexina Original WP Bin, beautifully decorated, laid an equally beautifully manicured finger nail on one of my least noticeable paint runs and said, “I could stock this as a second! When your painter can do better we will look at your things again.” Judy decided that Alexina Originals couldn’t afford a second-rate Spray Painter so we looked through the classified advertisements in the local newspaper. One of them offered to “visit your workshop, look at the wares and meet you.” On the arranged day Byrnsie, a wiry little man, [a] WWII Returned Soldier who moved his limbs in a strange way, turned up on his push-bike. Clearly he understood what she needed, they clicked at once and suddenly Alexina Originals had a line of Tole ware gift items with a first class finish. They worked together for years, until we moved to Vaucluse in 1962.

I can’t remember how I met Andrew Wilson, it was probably through the Star Class Association, I may even have become Secretary to the 11th District Fleet again, certainly I was still a Yachty at heart and keen to get a berth for the summer of 57/58. I regularly called into Brighton and Royal Victoria, the only two clubs with Star Fleets, to look at new boats, and meet new owners as well as for a drink, a snack, and a gossip. Andrew had recently acquired a Star (can’t even remember its name or number) and had heard I was ready to race again and he was happy to have a crew [member] who was an experienced Star Boat sailor. He was an only child of mature parents who lived at home in an Eastern suburb and worked in the family business at a factory in Collingwood. Because of these locations it was natural for his boat to be slipped at Hobsons Bay. He and Judy seemed to get on well and the three of us had a long weekend early in the winter hiking across Telegraph Saddle to Sealers Cove at the foot of Wilson’s Promontory. It’s a rugged swampy walk, no stroll in the park. As Andrew puffed and trudged up the last dune he called over his shoulder, “there’re a troop of naked scouts on the beach.” As I joined him he shouted out to the scouts, “There’s a girl with us.” Their reply, “Girls don’t hike to Sealer’s Cove,” was cut short by Judy’s appearance at the crest of the sand dune; general panic followed. We returned to the camp site where the Ranger told us, “Few women do that hike, it’s used by the army to train commandos.” Andrew wanted to do the walk and drove us the 160-mile round trip in his car. It may be that he was descended from the namesake of the great rocky headland that is the most Southern point of the Australian mainland. Judy ultimately introduced him to her cousin Trish whose parents lived near his parent’s house. He wasn’t short of money, had a nice new car, unusual for a young man in those days, and his father drove a huge, conspicuous, one-of-a-kind Bentley soft-top touring car. No money was spared in preparing the boat for Andrew’s first season of racing with the Stars.

On 21 September 1957 my brother Paul and a friend from school were killed while riding their bicycles in Milroy Street, East Brighton. It was a Saturday afternoon and I was at Royal Victoria Yacht Club working with Andrew on his boat. As usual I phoned Judy before departure to let her know that I was about to drive back to East Bentleigh. My opening to her “Hello” was “I am leaving now.” And her reply was “Paul has been killed.” I felt the earth rock and said, “I’ll come as quickly as possible”. At Elizabeth Street I met the Police with my devastated mother, with Judy in attendance. Father had gone out to be alone and eventually opened the Snack Bar for the usual late Saturday night, he and I had the relief of having something to do as the police took me to the undertaker’s to identified the body. Some task! Thus commenced the long period of [mourning] and the experience of intense grief of both families, each overwhelmed by the death of a much-loved son of promise. That morning Paul had asked me if he could go with me to Royal Victoria and I had told him it was a refit day and inappropriate.

When I got home that night two families, neighbours, were grieving for their lost boys, killed that afternoon by a drunk driver. It is said that there is no detachment from the death of a child and [the] intense physical agony. I had now experienced both and after the bliss of my new life with Judy I felt that nothing could touch me again. Not so! The funeral service was crowded and the school families, teachers and friends turned the event into a progress. The Melbourne newspapers covered every detail of the action in those pre-breathalyzer days, the four parents had no privacy for about a year. The young driver was charged with Manslaughter and pleaded not guilty. The ensuring investigation, trial, appeal and not-guilty verdict was not based on any scientific evidence and the police did a thorough job, however the young driver’s father was a magistrate with impeccable legal connections. The matter had become public property, not that either parent cared about the result as far as the driver was concerned. What they wanted was their boys but being bereft they prayed to be left alone in their grief. The mothers recovered painfully and terribly slowly, the fathers never. My father’s fits of depression became worse and after my parents separated, perhaps before, he returned to a lady who had been one of his customers in the ’30’s. Occasionally I would take them to dinner when I had free time on a business visit to Melbourne; it was good to see that he was close to another human being. The other father never recovered his equilibrium and committed suicide within a year or so. The birth of our two sons was a factor in Phyllis’s recovery. Judy and I have recently met Thelma again, the other boy’s mother, and her second husband on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland where they now reside. She, like Phyllis, who outlived her beloved boy by almost 50 years, will grieve until the day she dies.

Phyllis couldn’t stand being home by herself at Elizabeth Street and took to spending most of the day, including the evening meal, at Edinburgh Street; Judy was very caring. On 4 October 1957 in the clear smog-free air we stood in our backyard to wonder as Sputnik crossed the night sky, the Space Age had started, miniaturization, the transistor, would change the world for ever, Paul would have been part of that. There was no family Christmas dinner at Elizabeth Street that year so my parents invited Judy and me to a Christmas lunch at a hotel at St Kilda, a rather sad affair for us as we tried to be part of the cheery crowd of revellers. Father cried and Phyllis sat with a cast-iron visage. One bright spot was the birth of Rodney Cameron to Von and Don. They, like all our friends, relatives, workmates at [Leighton Irwin & Co], university people and yachting buddies, had followed the trial in the press. Living in a Gold Fish Bowl was sickening, in particular being introduced as “….Peter, whose brother was killed by that drunken driver”, especially at the office. To please Prof. Henderson I put in a year, after work, on the Analogue Automatic Control Project. My supervisor was a Tutor who was not remotely interested in me or the brief from the faculty, [and] as a full-time employee of the School he spent much of his time promoting changes that would eliminate my influence and interest. It occurred to me that, unknown to him, he was on my side. At the end of the academic year I suggested the university get in touch with me when they had sorted out the scope of a modified brief. From then on the main reason for visiting the campus was to use the wonderful new indoor swimming facility. As a graduate I had lifetime access for free, a better and cheaper facility than the City Baths in Swanson Street.

Life had become complex, sad and unhappy especially as people kept asking me how we felt. [How] could I comment on the morbid depression that engulfed us? How are your parents? Endless comments on the driver and details of the legal process were offered. We had no interest in that process and wanted to be left alone. There was little privacy and the recovery process was stalled by the corrosive trauma. We couldn’t talk to or face the other boy’s family who were fighting their own demons. Judy diligently worked at her business and early in 1958 I took on some private consulting, unrelated to the architecture, [and] at the same time I ploughed into work at the office. Perhaps my boss didn’t like the drive of this more mature me, though I was still referred to as “young Peter” by many of the senior people, including Fergie. Working from my study in Edinburgh Street I designed a new factory for the Humphries family who introduced me to the owner of a building on Point Nepean Road, [and] I did a similar extension for him. Another design project was an automated Tenter Dryer for a new venture floated on the Melbourne Stock Exchange, Elastic Webbing Ltd. Their advantage over the competition was an automated Jacquard loom which was programmable – by pegboard and relays – the most advanced technology in Australia. The Bakery in Hawthorn Road near the snack-bar expanded and moved to a much larger site in a recently-created Industrial Zone to the East of Boundary Road, not far from Edinburgh Street. There they installed new high-speed Bread-making machinery from Europe which they wanted to automate. Judy and I would go there at 4:00am when they were in full production; I would sketch, draw and dictate comments at the same time and she would take notes as I rattled away ideas for automating the plant.

Don and I continued to car-pool most days and I bought shares in a new Cigarette company float, called “Rothmans” and researched Timor Oil Ltd in his father’s office, occasionally on a Saturday. Now, 45 years later, it’s Australia’s newest Off-Shore-Oil province. His son Rodney was born that year and one night we two couples were celebrating at dinner at Royal Brighton Yacht Club it become apparent that Don was not well. Our friendship continued but we saw less of them and gradually he stopped going to the office. [He] had Bright’s Disease.

Our income had grown to the point where we felt that we could afford to live closer to the beach and the yacht club which [led] me to a Saturday morning auction of a house in Hampton Street on the opposite side from the house of my earliest memories. Eventually the bidding was between me and another bloke who added £20 to every bid I made so I stopped at £2,180 and it was his for £2,200. As the crowd started to clear an elderly man walked up to me and asked “would you like to buy a house like this just up the street? In fact a better one” I said yes and he suggested that I follow him in the van. [We went about] half a mile South, past Cluden Street where Judy and I wanted to buy a house when Harry was still alive. (We asked both the Deans and my parents to lend us the money. Both pairs of parents declined in the nicest way, after all we were not even married.) The Old Chap’s house had been the home of a dairyman way back when and was on the same side of the street as the Hatch family home. Rather than discuss the matter in the street he invited me to his house, a neat, new brick bungalow with a garage for his polished new car and a happy-looking wife of a similar age. She [brought] tea and cake and we discussed the deal. The house had a protected tenant, he explained, which meant that the landlord could only charge a controlled rent and could not evict the tenant unless the owner had nowhere else to live. All sorts of possibilities came to mind as we talked, as we wanted to move from East Bentleigh.

I told him that we were interested but the situation was that we had no spare cash and it seemed it would be impossible to get finance for a house occupied by a protected tenant. The upshot was that he would provide 100% finance with interest at 5.5% and monthly payments of interest only until we occupied the house. Sounded good to me and so I drove Judy past the house, discussed it endlessly over a week or so, sketched out a development plan using the existing house as a core, and when we were quite determined about what we planned to do we told Mr. Old Chap: yes! The tenants always paid on time and I personally hand-delivered interest payments, about the same amount, each month. By this time Phyllis and John, almost demented by their loss and Bea, still not recovered from Harry’s death, were never consulted before or after an investment, not that we hid anything from our parents. By the time of this transaction Bea had sold her beautiful house in Glen Eira road and bought a house like Reba’s in Wattle Tree Road, Armadale. Like Reba’s house the interior was rearranged to have a tenant rent the rooms on one side of the hall. Thus she became financially more secure but [was] still a tragically bereft widow.

In the office I was working on a big industrial project in NSW which was a major challenge to me as I had never designed a heating system for a large, high area of open space. I discussed several different solutions with Fergie and the Design Architect in the Collins Street office. Presumably these documented alternatives would be discussed with the client, their architects and engineers and recorded in the Office Daily Diary as usual. Fergie and I decided on a solution and we proceeded, completed the details and I presumed the Sydney Office sent the client the usual invoice for preliminary plans. One day I was called into Mr Irwin’s office and made to feel very uncomfortable and to blame because the client had indicated that my design did not suit their requirements and the account was returned. I explained that all was done in cooperation with Mr Ferguson, and I presumed that any time spent was committed with his approval, after all we had worked together for seven years. Irwin was mad, I was the fall guy, and he must have known that I had never visited the client or met any of their representatives. Fergie had personally gone to Sydney and was introduced to the client’s representatives in the company of John Goodings, the boss of our Sydney Office. Clearly the office was more concerned about upsetting Fergie than young Peter. That evening, after 10 years of rewarding work, I left 400 Collins Street in an unhappy frame of mind.

Our Christmas/New Year summer vacation of 1958/59 was a trip in the Thames Van to Sydney, taking the long way via the Princes Highway around the coast. I rigged up the van space as a camper which allowed us to stop and [sleep], eat, swim, sight-see and explore whenever the locale looked interesting. In Sydney we stayed with Aunt Joyce, who saved my life in 1946, and Uncle Fred, visited Grandfather and Nana Ethyl, Uncle Jack and Aunt Phyllis, ate oysters and drank home-brew for breakfast and had a wonderful time. It was the first holiday of our life together longer than a week and especially pleasing was the performance of our super little Thames Camper. We celebrated our third wedding anniversary and the fifth year of our first meeting. It was a chance to discuss Paul’s death with grandfather and pass on our observations of my parents’ relationship, not a pleasant duty but done in response to grandfather’s questions. With Joyce and Fred and by ourselves we talked endlessly about the future while coming to terms with the present. We returned home refreshed and ready for anything.

While in Sydney we made no attempt to contact the Sydney office of [Leighton Irwin & Co] as I had a close relationship with the Goodings family and sensed that I was fated to leave the firm. Certainly I knew that John Goodings didn’t blame me in the same way as Mr Irwin [had]. Besides, a visit and inevitable discussion on the project may [have rekindled] office politics as Fergie and Goodings didn’t get on. On [my] return to the office I felt that my interest had taken a steep dive, and started to think about other employment, my own business perhaps. I was open to suggestions.

Those were the days when the Banks were open on a Saturday morning and our “family” bank was the South Caulfield Branch just around the corner from the snack bar. The manager there was a great help to my parents and to Judy and me, too. He had guided me to the insurance company that financed Edinburgh Street and also financed our honeymoon overdraft without question. When I took Mrs. Judy da Silva in to meet him on our return from Apollo Bay he pushed a statement across to me while he chatted to my wife. It showed £75 written in red ink; those were the days before computers-printers and the rest of instant database displays. Statements were prepared in the branch, hand-written in black and red ink using steel-nibbed pens and inkwells. I gulped and slid it across to Judy who said, “Isn’t that nice somebody has put all that money into our account.” I promised to fix it asap and explained the colour difference to my darling while the Bank Manager looked on. So much for having separate cheque-books. Thus it was my habit to visit The Bank on a Saturday after a trip away, it being the only day I was likely to be in the area as it was a long way from both [Leighton Irwin & Co] and Edinburgh Street.

Our garage had become the Alexina Originals studio, store-room and factory with no room for the van, so we built a two-car [carport] at the front of the house as we were beginning to feel the need for another vehicle. A looming complication in our life was Phyllis’s increasing depression with no sign of any relief. I suppose we were feeling rather desperate as, one night, when we [were] having dinner with John and Lucy, we must have aired some of the ways that the situation could be alleviated. Mother was still spending every moment she could at our place. Perhaps she hoped we might ask her to live with us? The subject never came up at that stage, but another alternative was to open a shop and split the shop-lady time between Judy and Phyllis. We got round to asking mother what she thought, putting it to her that the increased income would be a help to all of us. While this debate was going on, Lucy phoned and said that there was a newly-vacant shop available near the Sandringham Railway station. I knew the location well as I was Confirmed in 1944 in the Parish Church next to that little old shop. In short we agreed to take it. Phyllis would work in it one week and Judy the next. We then decided to sell the house and move into the residence over the shop. Before we completed the move we decided to [sublet out our house in] Edinburgh Street just in case the Gift Shop idea was a financial failure. We painted the shop, stocked it with Alexina Originals Tole-wear and our wedding presents (for [example] we received about a dozen sandwich trays), and any other items we could get on credit from wholesalers. Within a few weeks Phyllis was much happier. [We] constantly told her that she was essential for the shop’s success and asked her if we could call it “Miss Phyllis Caldecott HOME ACCESSORIES”. Being opposite the railway station made for an easy trip to and from the office. About the same time we realized that Don Cameron was very ill, [and so] there was no more car pooling.

One day the bank the manager called me into his office and asked if I was interested in working in a small, but adequately-financed Engineering Works at Spring Vale. I guess I was in a susceptible mood and agreed to meet a Mr Ross Rampling who would explain all to me. Ross was an Insurance Agent for the company that financed Edinburgh Street, and brother-in-law to an ex-airline pilot [David Strachan] who owned and managed the engineering company. Apparently the bank and the family of the pilot’s wife felt it was time that their growing engineering business needed to be run by a young qualified engineer. Preferably one who would stay with and grow with the business. To cut a long story short an offer was made, Judy was introduced, we discussed the matter over a few weeks, [and] came to agreement on salary and benefits, which resulted in my joining the outfit. They were all plausible and persuasive people. With regret I resigned from my 10-year-plus association with Tony’s office as I no longer had a [confident] relationship with its Chief Engineer and most of all I needed a change from being “Young Peter”.

The rest of 1959 was busy. I worked with a demoniac frenzy to take my mind off the devastating and depressing events following Paul’s death and the deteriorating relationship between my parents. Our visits to Elizabeth Street were important to them but tense for us and frequently acrimonious. Judy and I watched Phyllis and João’s marriage crumble; they didn’t comfort each other and couldn’t be influenced to do so. As is frequently the case we, the younger generation, had never been invited to discuss our parent’s relationship though we were with them often and made an effort to cheer them up. I suppose we assumed that they would recover when their sense of loss diminished and the press stopped featuring the driver’s legal defence team, neither family being represented in court. Ultimately Phyllis recovered her sanity but not her happiness but my father, hampered by his “Fado” nature, depression perhaps, never recovered and eventually died at 72, a sick, sad and lonely old man having lost the only person he cherished and everybody else but me; another story in 18 years time.

On our part we threw ourselves into making Edinburgh Street comfortable and couldn’t have been busier with our careers, Judy with Alexina Originals and me with my new 24-hour, 7-day-a-week, 110% effort to earn myself a stake in the engineering business. We each had our own transport, Judy had taken over the van and I had exclusive use of a utility belonging to the factory. Judy and I continued our active social life, particularly at weekends and evenings, much of which involved staying in touch with our friends of an older generation: the Donalds, John and Lucy Rafferty and Trevor’s father, Bert, and stepmother Ina and her family. In particular Ina’s sister Olwyn, who had also become a friend, sharing an interest in antiques with Judy. Friendship with this group continued all our lives, and theirs too. Moves, sickness and old age with the inevitable sometimes intervened but life goes on, as well I knew.

When I was still working in the city, Jim Donald asked me to have a drink at the Savage Club in Gresham Street, a distinguished gentlemen’s club in an old two-storey 19th-century building, probably originally a grand residence. It was in a small street in the old section of colonial Melbourne behind 400 Collins Street, where I worked at [Leighton Irwin & Co.], and opposite the Mitre Tavern where we office lads used to drink on a Friday after work. He told me that he was about to take a senior executive position at a Victorian Public Company [Marfleet & Weight] and wondered if I would consider an approach to work there in the future. “Of course!” I said, without giving it a second thought. We had a chat and a few laughs; Jim, as always entertaining, going out of his way to introduce me to fellow members as they trooped into the bar on their way home. After an hour of gossip we went our separate ways. Eventually I read about his new appointment in the Press and although Judy and I frequently saw Jim and Pop socially the subject was not discussed until we confided to them that I was planning another career move.

In the meantime at the Engineering Workshop the turnover increased greatly and the gross margin likewise. The business was acquiring new customers and a wider range of clients as my interest in system design opened up new opportunities. The Managing Director of the company was the ex-airline pilot, the bookkeeper was his elderly maiden lady aunt and I was the Manager. We built all manner of things, such as columns and beams from hot-rolled steel sections. We also received orders for structures built from aluminium extrusions. Complex fabricated products in steel; aluminium, copper and brass, including architectural features were manufactured. Our interest was always in the higher-margin contracts with separately-bid design services, rather than competing with the big manufacturers of “OpenWeb Joists”.

After about six months I realized that my biggest problem was controlling expenditure. Our overhead expenses increased rapidly and I realized that the increased cash flow was a great temptation to the MD to spend outside normal business discipline, and possibly ethics. The Bookkeeper also became anxious which was a worry because I was sure I could trust her though her great personal affection for the MD tended to protect him from my inquiries. Nagging doubt started to affect my relationship with the boss and I was aware that his wife, who was also a director, was concerned about the business [as well as] personal problems which were affecting their marriage. After all, I was hired because the company expenses were out of line and the business needed growth and new customers. I had not yet been made a director so I didn’t attend board meetings, but I received the bookkeeper’s reports and realized that I could not influence the inevitable outcome.

I began planning my departure and discussed the matter with Jim Donald, Bert Tiller and other close and discreet friends. We let everybody know that I wanted to work in a “Commercial” organization where I could learn more about Managing and Marketing Engineered Systems and Services. My personal preference was in the application of high-tech automation devices, sensors, miniature relays, pneumatics, hydraulics and associated analogue controllers because I believed that they fitted the Australian labour environment. In this I was ahead of the market, however I knew that I had a lot to learn about the who, what, why and where of Australian industry before the how became important. I had decided that consulting was not my future and worried that I may not [have been] able to cope with another physically demanding job. In the back of my mind, unspoken of even to Judy, was that I would be in a wheelchair long before retirement.

We had been awarded a major contract for mobile steel structures for a car assembly line, operated by one of the big international car manufacturers. This business was important to us because model changes every year meant repeat business. The refit of the line and its associated industrial complex had to be made within the two weeks of the usual summer vacation, December 58/January 59, when the assembly-line hands were on holiday. All work at site had to be completed during the shutdown. Many contractors, including us, were involved and on site from the first day of the changeover. I have never had such a stressful job experience before or since. I was supervising and coordinating about 20 employees working on the project at our plant and at the assembly line while making sure we kept out of the way of other contractors. I drove back and forward, about 12 miles each way, several times a day during the design stage and at least twice a day during installation. [There were no] fax or computer networks to transfer the inevitable change orders; I was designer, manager and courier.

Late one afternoon between Christmas and New Years Day I was speeding along Point Nepean Road returning to our works when I noticed two young women in floral dresses, in a two-tone Holden car, trying to pass me. I turned quickly into a familiar side street and they sped past but presently I noticed them again on my tail; they came alongside and held a Police ID card to their window. I stopped; they stopped and told me they were giving me a ticket for driving at 90 miles/hour in a 30 mile/hour zone. They asked me to get out of the vehicle and produce my license and asked me if the Ute was mine to which I answered, “Yes!” The papers in the glove box showed that a corporation owned the vehicle so [I was asked]: “Why did YOU say you owned it? Is it a stolen vehicle?” I then realized that I was only wearing shorts and boots as it was a stinking hot summer’s day as only Melbourne can produce when the North winds blow. After a long discussion they accepted that I was a person of substance driving my employer’s Ute and working on a major refit at the local Big Car Co. Ltd’s plant. A summons was served on me to appear at the Magistrates Court at Cheltenham a few weeks later. The company sent its solicitor in my stead, the MD said I didn’t have time, the fine was £100, a huge amount, and I found myself without a driver’s license for 6 months. Afterwards the solicitor offered: “Just as well you didn’t appear, you might have got a £200 fine and lost your license for 12 months.” “Well!!” I thought, “I doubt if the old Ute could do 60mph let alone 90mph!!!” So much for his ability to defend anybody.

It was a long six months as Judy and others drove me to and from work and everywhere else. In a way it was not so bad living at the shop, a few steps from Sandringham Station, as it was important to keep details from Phyllis who was easily traumatized at the mention of speeding cars. Each evening Judy would wait until Phyllis left the Gift Shop before driving out to the factory to bring me home. The last thing we wanted was to have her discover that I had a serious driving offence. The local suburban newspaper’s front page described the Magistrates Court, the appearance of our solicitor was a feature of the story, which mentioned me by name, noting my non-appearance. When our Brighton-Sandringham friends and acquaintances commented on the article we asked them not to discuss it with my parents. We never found out if Phyllis knew and assumed not as she never referred to the matter in any way.

In the end I spent about a year at that job and after leaving we lost touch with the principals; however we heard sometime later that the firm was declared bankrupt, [and that] the MD and his wife [had] separated and divorced. We made no enquiries and never saw them again. During the time we lived over the shop Judy had a miscarriage, suddenly loosing the fetus one night. I was awoken by a piercing scream. [It was] terrifying for us both. Miserable, sad and bereft as we were, the experience didn’t appear to cause long-term complications though we were both in a state of shock for a while.

We had lived through a period of great stress, in a 20s semi-slum building. Two rooms over the shop, bathroom and toilet downstairs and back-lane access from the night-cart days. We had not realized what the effect would be in such a situation, with too many stairs, and cramped quarters. However the enterprise had the desired therapeutic effect on Phyllis who recovered her desire to live and eventually identified so closely with the business [that friends, family, the customers and even herself in old age]. She lived to be 90, by which time she believed she was the sole proprietor. Judy who? The whole venture proved to be a success beyond our wildest dreams and calling it “Miss Phyllis Caldecott Home Accessories” was a stroke of brilliance. The shop became one of the major outlets for Alexina Originals and people came from all over the metropolitan area to buy Judy’s unique creations.

When the lease on Edinburgh Street expired we did not renew, our tenant vacated and we moved back to our cozy little house and garden in East Bentleigh. In the meantime the girls [approached] and stocked other lock-up shops in different locations in the Sandringham shopping area on the beach side of the station. We no longer needed a shop with a residence which we now detested, and didn’t renew our lease. The search for a better location resulted in Miss Phyllis Caldecott buying a 25 year lease from the Victorian Railways (we thought 25 years would be more than enough). The new premises attracted a turnover about twice that of the original shop on the other side of Bay Road and little did we know that “Miss Phyllis Caldecott” would trade, under the original owners, the two Mrs da Silva, for almost 38 years. The return to Edinburgh Street was not without sadness as Don Cameron had recently died in great distress; he did not survived to see his son Rodney walk. We, Judy in particular, kept in touch with Von, who had never believed that Don’s affliction would be fatal. We kept in touch with and visited Don’s sad and depressed parents who had known for many years that Don would not make old bones.

Sometime in 1959 I joined Marfleet & Weight Ltd. where Jim Donald was Managing Director. My job would be in a new department, not yet created, to develop new business. It was obvious that I had arrived a little earlier than planned so I started in the Estimating Department at the Abbottsford machine shop on the Eastern side of the city. The department was run by a brilliant but crippled engineer, Mr. Slucki. He told me he was born into a Jewish family in Poland and after many vicissitudes [had] migrated to Australia some time after WWII. When I was in his department he was in his 50s, with a young wife, also Polish, and an Australian baby son who was the delight of his life. Mr. Slucki – I never called him anything else, not knowing his given name – and I were instant pals and he taught me a great deal about estimating [machines] and fitting times.

In order to learn as much as possible about the individual machines I came to spend most Saturday mornings on the shop floor at Abbottsford. There was always somebody working overtime who would let me in, and as my interest grew I got to know many machinists. I learnt a lot about each machine-tool, how the work of machining could be broken down to suit the available auxiliaries, the time it took to perform functions, the time it took to set up the most automatic and time-saving arrangements and other things too numerous to mention. I also made friends with the machine operators and the Shop Manager. They were impressed with my willingness to learn on the shop floor. That was important as, apart from JD, I was the first graduate engineer to be employed by the firm and some of the staff were negative towards a University graduate. Inevitably I was soon dealing directly with customers, visiting their offices and production plants, bidding for repairing, modernizing and the construction of new production facilities.[Marfleet & Weight] had been used by a Swedish Pulp and Paper machinery designer for many years and competed with other machine shops to build machines to their designs. This work introduced me to most of the large Pulp & Paper producers in Australia and New Zealand and Judy and I began to attend APPITA (Australasian Pulp and Paper Industry Technical Association) conferences in both countries. Similar business involvement with the big mining corporations involved us with the Institute of Mining and Metallurgy.

Years before, when at [Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology] night school, I joined the Institution of Engineers as a Student Member and later, after graduating from the [University] of Melbourne, I transferred to Graduate Member. When working at [Leighton Irwin & Co.] Judy and I occasionally attended weekend conferences which Jim and Pop [Donald] also attended. Jim had been an active member since the 1930s and he strongly influenced me to attend the reading of papers and conferences. We – Judy and I – also attended regional meetings of The Institution of Engineers in Victorian country towns and [met] local dignitaries who sat on Hospital Committees. I seem to remember that we visited the Bendigo Ordanance Factory together. Judy even danced on the conference table at the Grand hotel in Ballarat late one night with Major General Risson, a Fellow of the Institution, and Chairman of the State of Victoria Tramways Board. He arrived late, resplendent in full dress uniform of the Australian Army, as he had dined with the local Defence Chiefs on his way to our meeting. Full of the joy of life he sat down at the huge dining table, pointed to Judy and in the fruity voice of one accustomed to command said, “I must meet that woman.” It was later that night when he and Judy danced on the table to the applause of those “stuffy old engineers”. We had fun and with Jim and Poppy Donald we met the movers and shakers of heavy industry and, over the next 40 years, we got to visit many places, plants and people around the world.

Apart from the conferences which helped me meet senior people I visited factories and industrial plants where I got to know purchasing officers, plant managers, department heads and influential engineering staff who designed and specified equipment for their own special needs. Much of this work was highly confidential [and] patented, specifications were [copyright] and contracts for unique equipment could only be obtained if the client trusted the supplier’s representative. [At almost] all of the sites I visited plant worked on and contracts won were related to improving productivity, enhancing quality and improved safety practices. Automatic controls were always discussed, usually suspect and often misunderstood. There were no computers in those days. Amplified feedback systems were common in some processes and analogue control of power actuators was familiar, but manual operation and remote manual control was the norm. Because of my personal interest in the field I got to be known as a person who would have an opinion on the operation of a customer’s production facilities. Occasionally I would meet an acquaintance from [my] other [spheres of interest] including sailing, university and places where I had worked over the years. On one of these visits I met Tracy Hatch again after quite a few years and he helped me get a few contracts. He knew of my interest in automatic control from our Melbourne Tech days and we kept in touch while we lived in Melbourne.

As I sit here pecking away I recall many projects with great pleasure and a few that taught me much about contract management that one doesn’t learn when working as a consultant. The plant owner wants a job that works as specified and expects vendors to make suggestions, advise on variations and changes and is usually most grateful if he gets a superior job as a result of suggestions from the contractor. The person who suggests an improvement that had not occurred to the specifying engineers is most likely to get a repeat order. I always tried to be that person. On the other hand, ignoring constituents who were not consulted during the planning and writing of specifications and proposals [usually] caused the few big contract disasters I have experienced. Unions, neighbours, competitors, politics, public servants, government and others can cause [the] complete collapse of a project. One outstanding system [was] estimated, designed, [and] bid and after passing all tests was paid for and profitable. Although successful, complete in every detail, it never replaced the existing installation because union agreement had never been received. Ultimately the equipment was sold, dismantled piece by piece and shipped to another country where it was re-erected and commissioned and worked like a charm for the new owners. The senior executive responsible in the huge customer organization shot himself!

To celebrate Christmas ’59 and to invite friends, whose hospitality we had enjoyed while [we were renting Edinburgh Street], we decided to have an “Open House” on Christmas Eve. It was my job to bring home the beer so I called into the pub on Victoria Road, near the [Marfleet & Weight] office, bought the booze and packed it into the passenger side of the front compartment of the Morris Oxford sedan which replaced the previous company’s Ute. Everybody was invited and Judy planned to have plenty of fork food so that people had enough to eat and not worry about dinner. Planning to be home early so I could help Judy get ready for our guests ,I left work before the rush. The most direct route from Abbottsford to East Bentleigh in those pre-freeway days was to follow the railway line diagonally across [Melbourne’s] North-South grid, crossing from the North side of the line to the South side between Kooyong and Tooronga stations. I was familiar with the route. The main East-West road into which I did a left turn before turning South to North Road had a boom-gate, which was lowered under the control of a signal-man who looked down on both the road and railway from a shed over the crossing.

The gate was on its way down and the signal lights were flashing red as I slowly turned left, taking care not to tip-over and break any of the bottles of beer. In a flash I was hit by another car [racing] under the moving booms. Bang! They banged into my front driver’s side guard and crash went the bottles, several [shattering]. I pulled over to the curb as the driver of the other vehicle pulled up with a flourish about 30 meters ahead. He was a vigorous young man who shoved his head through my open window, smelt the beer, pulled the keys out of the ignition and ran off shouting to his blokey mate “drunken driver! Drunken Driver!! Phone the police!!!” I sat and waited while they danced a war dance and got themselves excited. Eventually a Police Car arrived with two uniformed men one of whom took details from the other driver and one from me. The beer smell pervaded the air. “Have you been drinking?” he asked. “One glass in the pub where I bought the beer for our Christmas party tonight. I am on my way home to East Bentleigh.” He took me up the street to a straight section of the white concrete curb and asked me to walk along it. No breathalyzers in those days. “OK!” he said, then “are you related to John da Silva at the Snack Bar near the Camden Theatre?” We talked about the family for a bit and as he handed me my keys he said “Drive on.”

I parked the car in our front driveway close to the side fence so people couldn’t walk around the side with the ding in the guard, took the beer out and got on with the party as the early birds had started to arrive. By the time the Humphreys arrived it was dark, so I asked him to look at the car which had been bought through him. By this time Phyllis had arrived and we were concerned that she may be in tears if she knew, so Judy kept her in the kitchen and we went out front to examine the Morris. After much struggling we still couldn’t get the bonnet open, not even Dick with all his background and skill. One of the other fellows came out, Charley Pugsley perhaps, and said, “Have you tried the latch?” Then stuck his fingers under the lip of the bonnet and squeezed the latch and presto! [It] opened. Were our faces red? Some months later I received a letter from a “Clerk of the Court” to present myself at an inner city Police Station on a certain day and swear an affidavit. What was that about? It related to a conviction of a party who had been charged and convicted of Dangerous Driving resulting from ignoring a Red Light on a Railway Boom Gate.

By this time John Ross was the [Marfleet & Weight] corporate finance executive; we had got to [know him and his wife Kit] after they came from Sydney. During the months of business development activity I saw quite a lot of John and we also met [him and his wife] at dinner at the Donald’s. Kit and Judy got on well together and Kit asked us to a TV viewing of Princess Margaret’s Royal Wedding of May 1960, probably because we didn’t have TV. Since purchasing the Hampton Street house Judy and I had discussed [the tenants’ departure] without success. However now that Judy was again pregnant we wanted to plan a bigger house. I talked to John Ross about consulting a solicitor and he suggested the [Marfleet & Weight] solicitors, a revered old legal house, [about] the problem and they assured me that they could have the tenant evicted in no time. They wrote their letter of demand to the tenant whose solicitor replied that they had no chance on the points raised and demolished my solicitor’s arguments with a few well-chosen words. I received a bill for their advice and when I implied that the advice was no good they explained that the tenants’ solicitor’s letter “Had some merits and if I wanted to proceed they would be delighted to further assist.” Their account remained an outstanding debt; so I paid it and never darkened their door again.

Some time later, early in 1960, when Judy’s condition was becoming more obvious, Jim and Pop asked us to their seaside house at Merricks, on the Western side of Westernport Bay overlooking Philip Island, for a long weekend. Early on the Sunday another couple, perhaps a little older than the Donalds, arrived for lunch and the six of us had a happy un-birthday celebration with light entertainment provided by Judy, assisted by the vino. Not an untypical Sunday lunch with the Donalds. The other guests were Beryl and Cliff Hart. He was a solicitor in his own practice in the city and in planning to retire soon had sold their family home and built a two-bedroom, low-maintenance house in Kew. Over lunch we talked and gossiped with the remote detachment of the young with Judy entertaining the mature gents in her beguiling way. The Harts told us of their plan to spend six months in France during the European summer. They described a beautiful place, the name of which has escaped my memory, where they stayed on previous occasions for a much shorter time; on this trip they planned to explore the whole district. Cliffie said, “Jim and Pop were telling us that you were thinking of renting for a short time so that you could sell your house and get possession of a protected tenancy.” With no more than momentary eye contact with Judy we understood the purpose of the occasion. I said we would be delighted to mind their house in Kew while they were away.

20 Edinburgh Street East Bentleigh sold within a very short time and the day after the Harts left 51 Rowland Street we moved into their beautiful little house. They had a week’s stay with their Daughter and her family in Sydney, so we confirmed our move before they departed overseas. We moved our few items of furniture; some were stored in the garage at Elizabeth Street and some in the back sheds of Bea’s place in Armadale. A filthy old Victorian dining room table presented to us by the Pugsleys, and used by Judy as a work bench in the garage at Edinburgh Street, wouldn’t fit anywhere so we parked it in the Hart’s carport. Their house was a small gem, a little bigger than Edinburgh Street but with every convenience one could think of. The land had been subdivided from the grand garden of a large 19th-century stately house from which the Harts saved as many of the decorative trees and shrubs as possible. Some were left where they were and others replanted in wide garden borders around all four boundary fences. This created a dense planting of flowering shrubs and trees around [the] house. Narrow flower gardens were planted against the house itself with lawns filling the space between the paths and the curved and contoured borders. Every window of the house had a view of the borders so the house was most pleasant and livable. It was also handy to my job as we were only a mile or so from the [Marfleet & Weight] Abbottsford machine shop.

As soon as we could we proceeded with the eviction of the Hampton Street tenants. They refused to move and we applied for our day in court. On the appointed day we met outside the courthouse, tenant and camp followers with his solicitor plus me and mine. As we walked up the steps the two solicitors stopped and had a brief discussion, signals were exchanged, my solicitor called me aside and said, “He’ll go for fifty quid from my trust fund.” I said, “Done!” The tenant signed the prepared documentation and I gave our man a cheque for £50, a fraction of the fee from the learned but ineffectual legal house that worked for [Marfleet & Weight]; that was that! Except that the old bloke died a few days later. We drove down to the house to see his widow and family, Judy now looking more than somewhat pregnant. They didn’t invite us in but Judy was made to “feel awful” and in the car in the way home she assured me, “I could never live THERE!” Oh well? We had a few months to find something [before the Harts returned from Europe and wanted their house back].

It was pleasant at Kew and we were able to entertain in style. Peter and Helen Hein returned from New York to live in Melbourne and came to dinner one night. We talked about our professional experiences and our plans for the future. I thought they had left Australia for ever as they seemed to enjoy working in New York. They had been away for about 3 years and he returned to the offices of W.E. Bassetts and Partners where he [had been] offered a job before graduating. Thus he worked at [W.E. Bassetts] after leaving “The Shop” and apart from the sojurn in North America he never worked for any other firm and retired as the senior partner. On the other hand I had no idea with whom I would be working for the rest of my life but knew it would be associated with Automation and Control. Judy and I enjoyed their company and Peter and I would occasionally meet in town for lunch. He also invited me to the project where he was site manager, a new Power Plant for a huge industrial site. On another occasion he and I attended a lecture given by GORDON BROWN, Professor Emeritus of [Massachusetts Institute of Technology], formally of Melbourne, Graduate of the Workingmen’s College (which became The Melbourne Technical College and later the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology). He [had] left Australia in 1926 to attend MIT where he remained dedicating the rest of his life to the science of Automation. His textbooks were my bible and his talk was inspiring. Unknowingly his philosophy was the same as mine – no doubt influenced by his books – but most eloquently defined on that evening. He Died 23rd August 1996 the day of Phyllis’s cremation.

Phyllis also enjoyed the Hart’s house and came every Sunday after church. “What a nice part of town in which to live”, she thought. Of course she had heard Judy’s version of the Hampton Street story and without reference to us bought a block of land at Ivanhoe, overlooking the golf course, in our names. Neither of us wanted to live so far from Brighton. East Bentleigh was too far let alone Ivanhoe. [Perhaps it was] because it was not far from Peter and Joan Shaughnessy’s house that Phyllis liked it? They were living at a big development in N.S.W. where he was the Site Engineer for his employers, the consultants Scott & Furphy, at the time. Perhaps Phyllis thought that she might sell her Elizabeth Street house and get a unit near us at Ivanhoe and Shaun at Templestowe. I didn’t need to get involved because Judy didn’t like Ivanhoe and when the agent worked that out he was only too pleased to on-sell the land to another buyer at a price that resulted in a substantial profit, returned Phyllis’s deposit. [At] her request the net profit on the sale [was handed]to us. We added it to the pot for a new house in Brighton, not that there was any rush at this stage, little did we know!

Peter James da Silva was born at Padua House, Brighton, on 23 July 1960 where Dr Giblin, my childhood doc of whom I was fond, attended Judy. Thus James, named in honour of Jim Donald, first lived at 51 Rowland Street, Kew, Victoria, where he became the centre of attention for us, Phyllis, our many friends and relatives. To display our heir we gave a champagne Baby Bathing Sunday brunch on an [icy]-cold winter’s day; the formal invitation invited people for Breakfast at 11.00am. The entertaining area – [the] living-dining room – was heated by a large open fire which soon ran out of fuel so rather than break up a successful party we chopped up the Pugsley’s table, in the carport, and sacrificed it to the occasion. Our guests were greatly entertained by the six great greasy old legs blazing on the hearth. A good time was had by all. We soon realized that the distance from the Sandringham shop, the yacht club at Brighton, [and] friends and family, were a serious handicap at times. Thus our resolve to be on the Southeastern shore of Port Philip Bay was strengthened, putting aside any thought of living in the Kew-Ivanhoe-Templestowe district.

While the Sandringham thing was going on I had my first season of serious sailing since 1951, in a 40-foot sloop by the name of Ramova owned by Bob Mercer of Young Court Brighton, a few [streets] North of Royal Brighton. How I enjoyed that great summer of serious yacht racing after having been deprived [of it] since the summer of 50/51. We won the trophy for our class with the highest points score for the season; this was living. Following a long tradition of the club – about 100 years – a [prizewinner’s] dinner and smoke night was held [in order] to present the trophies. My work with the Swedish consultants resulted in a strong friendship with two of their engineers, Carl-Eric Gidloff and Rangenar Johanssen. Carl-Eric was married to a beautiful blond make-over of Ingrid Bergman and had no time available for men-only dinners. Ray, as we called him, was a bachelor who never said NO! to a piss-up. It is said that Schnapps is mother’s milk to Swedish lads. Each winner was allowed to invite so many guests and as all of these Swedes were keen yachtsmen in their own country I suggested to Bob that I invite Ray. It was a big night, everybody drank too much but what did me in at the end was that the crew of winning boats had to drink their cup full of Champagne. We had the biggest cup and a small crew, plus guests, to empty the trophy. A long night ended with cigars and to this day I have never smoked a second, anything. The drive home was a nightmare, Ray drove, “You’re too drunk,” he said as he bundled me into the passenger seat like a sack of dirty laundry, more or less unconscious. An anxious Judy awaited the car.

[The following section is] Judy’s story, as I don’t remember it.

Time was getting on and I was worried, [we living] so far from the yacht club. I’d left the outside lights on and [I] scampered to the door to thunderous knocking near midnight. A red-faced Ray stood swaying on the step clutching my semi-conscious husband. [At] the moment I flung open the door he slapped Peter across the face, doubtless to stop him from relapsing into a comatose state. I immediately whaled into Ray and dragged Peter’s dead weight to a face-down position diagonally across our bed. He mumbled, “I told Ray he could sleep here” and threw-up. Ray asked for the bathroom, and passing the open front door I could hear the car motor still running. I found the car away from the curb, lights and engine on, both front doors wide open, hand brake off and in manual gear shift in neutral. Later I learned from Ray that he drove all the way from Brighton to Kew without getting into top gear because he couldn’t find it. I drove the Morris into the car-port, made up the couch for Ray, got a towel and sick bucket for Peter then sat on a kitchen chair to feed my first-born child. I had been out of hospital for three days and was still trying to develop a routine to accommodate the feeding and tending needs of this dependant mortal. I was still feeling less than robust myself.

[Back to Peter.]

The next day was Sunday, Phyllis came to lunch or rather to play with our 10-day-old baby boy and I lay around all day afraid that I wouldn’t die and [be] made to live with the sickness and headache forever. After 3 days I had a lightly-poached egg. I never again attended a Yacht Club Smoke Night.

We had been at Kew for two or three months when we received a phone call from Cliffie from France telling us that Beryl was ill and they needed to return earlier than planned. We had been studying “The Age” classified advertisements and were well aware of the location of the houses in which we were interested. There were plenty of houses for sale in the district bounded by North Road and South Road and between the beach and New Street, but few in our price range. On the Saturday, after the phone call, we stepped up our house-hunting and on our way to look at an “Open House” we left James in his “Moses” basket with Bea and then drove down New Street. Slowing down before the railway crossing to stop at a Stop Sign at the Junction of Centre Road and New Street gave Judy time to look around, [and] suddenly she said, “There’s a nice house for sale which we might be able to afford.” It wasn’t on our list but we got out and had a look. [It] was love at first sight: a small, old, slate-roofed colonial with lots of potential. We decided to knock on the door and meet the occupants; there was no answer so we crept around the side into the back garden. Everything was old: the paint work, rickety timber laundry, stables and garage, access to which was via a back lane to the next side-street to the South. Even the lawn was ancient buffalo grass where the planting had grown to about 3 inches above the gravel path. Much like my grandfather’s lawns in Gladesville. A remnant tennis court enclosure on which very tired wire hung limp and neglected from the black unpainted and sagging rails. The court was set long ways across the back garden so the lot was quite wide and deep. The last match played on that court was probably pre-war.

We peered in all the windows, found the sashes closed but unlocked and quite empty inside, not a stick of furniture, photograph, ornament or picture to be seen. The rooms were clean and swept and not a speck of rubbish remained. We opened a back window and I climbed in and opened the back door for Judy. The only item inside was a wall telephone in the rear lobby, which we found was still connected. While Judy inspected I went outside to make a note of the agent on the “For Sale” board and their telephone number. Back inside I phoned, half expecting to find nobody there late on a Saturday afternoon. A man answered, I told him where we were and asked him to tell us about the house. He talked about the Misses Merryweather’s deceased estate and the heir’s best price and arranged to meet. We didn’t look at anything else that day, or ever again, and couldn’t get that gem out of our minds. Following vigorous negotiations over the next few weeks 110 New Street Brighton was ours for £5,000/0/0. [We] phoned the Harts in Sydney and told them that we were ready to move.

From the title we determined that the 110 New Street building was about 90 years old when we moved in, [and] although made of timber it had been well-maintained and [was] quite sound. The original house had 4 rooms with a central hall to the front door and a verandah across the whole of the front. A flecked blue carpet was laid wall-to-wall through the four front rooms and hall before we moved in. We planned major alterations for the rest of the house and didn’t have time to fool around with that before the Harts returned. James was about a month old when he moved into the nursery which was the North, warmer, side of the front rooms, opposite the study with its matching window at the South end of the verandah. The living room was behind the study and our bedroom was behind James’ room. The other thing we did before moving in was to have a plumber install a modern flush toilet in the bathroom. The original toilet was in the laundry outside which became a handy out-house in the back garden. All five major rooms had fireplaces and the porch area between the bathroom and the hallway was a glazed-in sunny spot, facing North, outside our bedroom door.

At Abbottsford I was well established as the assistant to the Director for Development, Dennis Ebbs, a quiet, pipe-sucking elderly gent who was an old pal of Mr. Weight the Chairman of the Board. To my great surprise he one day told me that he and Fred Hein had been apprenticed Fitter and Turners to the same employer and they had both moved to Melbourne from Sydney the same year, 1936, the year I met the Heins. Just another “Small World” [story]. The next time I met Fred we discussed his connection with Dennis Ebbs which was news to me, however it appeared that he had talked to his old mate about me when I first joined [Marfleet & Weight]. I have often found you never know who knows what and who! It pays to always try to have your boss and customers think well of you and try to keep out of trouble. As well as getting new business from existing customers I started investigating other companies in related businesses and arranged licensing transactions with overseas heavy equipment builders.

It was a marvelous assignment, as a company like [Marfleet & Weight] could do business over the whole range of Heavy Industry plant. As I saw things, it was a great opportunity, as Australia in general and Victoria in particular had been involved with mining and metallurgy since the gold mining days of the 19th century. An important occasion was when I was asked to meet with the Alcoa people from the U.S.A. who were considering a vast new industry: the production of Alumina in Australia. I was one of the [Marfleet & Weight] staff attending and was fortunate to meet with senior Americans at the offices of Western Mining Ltd in Collins Street. It was heady stuff, the magnitude of which quite swept me away. I guess that meeting was the turning point for me as it was the first occasion I attended an early meeting to plan the creation of a new venture of such magnitude. Little did I know that I would be working for suppliers to this industrial giant from Pittsburgh for the next 20 years, and more? What I did realize after the meeting was that this job would be fun, challenging and in an ambience of continual learning, which would last me the rest of my life. [This] was the way to career satisfaction.

My interest in APPITA was aroused by a few Scandinavian prospects, one of which was Boving Australia Pty Ltd for whom Ray and Carl-Eric worked. A small world story is a day in the 1970s when Granny – as Phyllis was known after the birth of James – stepped up to the bar in an hotel in the part of Norway known as “The Land of the Midnight Sun” and ordered a gin and tonic. A very Pukka gent whose first three words revealed him to be English County said, “Hello Aussie where are you from?” Eventually they got around to exchanging names and he said, “I knew a young engineer by the name of da Silva when I lived in Melbourne in the 1950s!” Gran declared in her inimitable way, “That’s my son Peter.”

My desire to get into automation projects led to an order from Boving for a new design of Control Valve for automatic filling and emptying [of] ballast tanks on bulk carrier vessels. We had a contract for heavy machinery at the loading point for these new vessels and I became involved with the Ship Yard. Because [Marfleet & Weight] had previously manufactured larger butterfly valves to [a] Boving design, I talked to my pals and arranged for them to visit the Ship Yard and look at the Ballast Tank opportunity. Boving UK designed the valves which [Marfleet & Weight] manufactured, first a prototype for testing which passed OK. The order for a large quantity for two ships was received from Boving, manufactured, installed and the first ship was launched and on its first voyage [when] all the valves failed. The failure was a complex design fault so Boving redesigned the valves, we made a new set of prototypes, different and more rigorous tests were specified which the new valves passed. In due course the ship was refitted, the new valves were faultless in operation and everybody was happy. I doubt Boving made any money on that contract but they did have a new product. Perhaps the Englishman remembered that stormy time.

[In] a life of experiences in the Baltic countries a famous Swedish inventor, who owned a large yacht, controlled another licensing target of mine whose head office was in Stockholm. He came to the antipodes, with his son and daughter-in-law, for an APPITA conference, [and] I was introduced [to them] and invited them to the [Royal Brighton Yacht Club] having previously arranged a sail in Bob Mercer’s boat. The day was perfect, after which I took them home to meet Judy who was looking most attractive with her “new mother glow” and beautiful boobs for feeding our new baby. Judy had arranged dinner at a good Middle Brighton restaurant and a grandma baby-sat. Judy was, as usual, a gracious, generous and marvelous hostess though, as usual, she never knew about the deal; all my customers who met her loved her, including Ray. Though Judy would say, “Don’t leave me alone with him!” We both enjoyed good times with interesting and intelligent people from all over the world. Many of them became life-long friends who preferred to do business with me no matter with whom I was working. One of the companies we investigated in my new job was Gibson Battle, which was established in the early years of the 20th century. To me one of their most interesting activities was their Mechanical Handling Systems, in particular those developed for the production of newspapers. Australians like newspapers and I felt that these installations would, like other mass production processes, benefit from automation technology. I got quite enthusiastic about the idea and started to feed information to Dennis, and when the opportunity arose Jim Donald expressed interest. Before I had time to present a report there was speculation in the press and suddenly, to me but not to the brass, [Gibson Battle] was a subsidiary of [Marfleet & Weight].

Jamie, as we called Peter James, was Christened before year-end at St Andrews Anglican Church, a beautiful old Blue Stone edifice built about 1870, about the same time as 110 New Street and a few steps away. His namesake James Donald was Godfather and Judy’s cousin Patricia White, Godmother. The ceremony was earlier than we had planned but Gran was adamant that we had waited long enough. She was then upset because we forgot to take photographs and to placate her [we promised] to have a photo session at St Andrews [the] next Sunday afternoon. The fine old church was gutted by fire before the week was out and so the photo session never took place. Joan Shaughnessy, a staunch Anglican, recently told us that the interior has been rebuilt as a restaurant. A propitious coincidence was meeting John Rossiter in the Centre Road shopping strip. [This was] not exceptional as we found he lived nearby and was our Member of Parliament for the state of Victoria, [and] we invited him to our 1960 Christmas Eve Open House. This was a period when Gran was at the Gift Shop almost every day and was glad to get home to Elizabeth Street for a rest. Dr Giblin came to dinner on [occasion] as his wife had died and he was a lonely stoic however he continued to practice. The Raffertys came to admire the new baby and [we] explained the planned alterations to the kitchen and dining room. Judy’s brother Geoff was away for about three years – 1959-60-61- working for Metrovic in the UK. I seem to recall that he was not around for Christmas days 1960-61-62, so he missed three Australian summers though he was back at the time of Matthew’s birth in August 1962.

Christmas Dinner 1960 was celebrated at New Street with our three remaining parents and Auntie Edna and Auntie Reba as well as the new family member Jamie da Silva. I can’t remember if the refurbished dining room was finished, not that it mattered as most of our summer luncheons devolved into garden parties in the afternoon shade on the lawn behind the house. That area, [the angle] of the “L”-shaped house, was an ideal garden area with access to the dining room through the rear lobby and the bathroom, for the ladies. The gentlemen used the facility in the old laundry behind the kitchen. After a few months a wide archway was cut between the living and dining rooms, a much bigger area and ideal for summer parties. All five original rooms had fireplaces, and after the alterations were finished we had sufficient firewood for two winters. The original housekeeping rooms consisted of a kitchen, flower room and scullery [of] which [the] outside door to the flower room was sealed. We then removed the internal walls and created one kitchen, and cut a doorway to the back yard opposite the old laundry and wood shed, which we continued to call the stables. Slowly, as money became available, the kitchen was fully equipped with lots of cupboards, washing machine and trough, dishwasher and modern stove with a rotisserie and oven. We poured a new concrete floor to smooth the waves out of the floor, in effect creating a new support structure for all the appliances and cupboards. Judy loved it and spent most of her days there with dear, wonderful and entertaining Jamie.

Getting back to Christmas dinner 1960 with the three old ladies and my detonator-Dad, a ticking time bomb. He was always a risk, as Phyllis and I both knew, as there could be an explosion at any time which usually occurred in prolonged gatherings he attended. I never could predict the timing but Phyllis could, as she was prone to strike the match. Bea and Reba sat on one side of the table with John Lewis at one end, Judy and Phyllis were in the kitchen serving the chicken and trimmings, Phyllis carved and I served the wine, Jamie was asleep in the nursery. We all sat down. I’m sure that Reba and Phyllis, who had attended their respective churches that morning, and were sitting each side of Dad, said grace to themselves. All was contented murmuring as each tasted the food until suddenly JL shouted, “You ‘ave given me da bloody arsh ‘ole” in his heavy Portuguese accent. Reba almost bit the end off her fork, Bea said “Oh!”, Phyllis with her Mona Lisa smile said nothing but stretched out her fork hand and transferred the Parson’s nose to her plate. I was delighted to see that her sly sense of humour had returned; we hadn’t seen that for over three years.

It was a Saturday when Jamie was still quite small that he started choking. Judy called Dr Giblin only to be told he was out fishing. At [the] point [when] he became very quiet and made a small sound as though he was gasping for breath and Judy noticed his colour was changing to blue, she called me. I got the car out, rushed him to a small private hospital on the other side of New Street about two block North. I had often noted it on my way to and from the yacht club so I zipped down the street, and as the car stopped, as if in one movement, I grabbed Jamie from Judy and rushed him inside. The people were very professional and quickly filled a tub with cold water, throwing in some crushed ice as we undressed our boy. I will never forget his shivers on immersion, by the nurse in the presence of the Doctor. When we left home his temperature was 105ºF, his face was almost black and Judy was giving him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. After the cold bath his colour returned and he recovered quite quickly. We took him home having learnt an important lesson, “Never rug-up a child with a high temperature.” The Doc said. Of course we would rather not have had the need for such instruction and in time we new parents became more experienced and competent, although one of our Family Doctors in Sydney used to call us, “The Saturday da Silvas”, [as] by then we had two little boys.

The house was a short block from the beach and opposite our front gate a narrow path gave us convenient access to Kinane Street, a short dead-end street that ran from The Esplanade to New Street, reduced to a paved footpath from the railway line. Walking from New Street the path stopped at the railway crossing with a locking gate at each side of the track. [Their] latches were operated by the signal system so if a train was coming the gates couldn’t be operated from outside the right-of-way. Most people would hurry from New Street so as to get across before a train came. [Not] so if James was in the stroller as he loved to experience the excitement of the clattering train and clanging signal bells. Almost every day Judy would take the boy to the Ti-Tree-covered dunes and beach across The Esplanade. This is the point where the famous Brighton Bathing Boxes have been since Colonial times; they’re still there. Along the North side of Kinane Street there were two houses, one facing New Street and the other, a grand residence, [facing] Port Philip Bay. Both of their blocks of land backed onto the railway line. When the settlement at Brighton Beach was established, long before the railway existed, New Street was probably the original access provided by the developers for horses and horse drawn vehicles. The sand dunes probably extended to the bay side of New Street, certainly our land was very sandy though modified by decades of garden cultivation and lawns. When we cut the door openings for the living room to the dining room and kitchen to the outside, the cavity space between the studs contained quantities of sand. In particular the outside kitchen wall had several feet of hard packed sand, almost half way up the wall, probably seeping in between the overlapping weather- boards. We didn’t disturb any of this material, almost sandstone, as it was dry, good insulation and solid support for the new door jamb.

Judy had always been physically active, an athlete and dancer in her youth, and now having recovered from Jamie’s birth she was again the vigorous young woman who was the bricklayer’s labourer when we built the garage at Edinburgh Street. There was no stopping her so we decided that we could create the double-door-sized archway between the dining and living rooms without hired help. I started the process on my own. I measured and drew the opening on the living room side and started cutting; I had no electric tools in those days, and slowly sawed through the timber-lath-and-plaster wall. It took hours to accomplish, as I had to frequently change saws, blunted by the gritty plaster, and use hacksaw blades at places where nails had to be cut through. Eventually the plaster and timber rectangle was detached, hanging but barely supported in the opening. Judy balanced the heavy rectangle on the dining room side while I jimmied, crow-barred and banged away with a mallet, carefully edging the block free of the opening. Slowly we moved the heavy chunk of wall on edge, walked, bumped and wriggled it through the two door- ways and across the lobby, along the path until we let it crash, a cloud of super fine dust flying in all directions as it collapsed onto the lawn. A most satisfying end to a long day. I was a little concerned that the old timber structure of what was once an external wall might sag or worse. However I was reassured that it held up without any movement after I had completed the cut. I might say that the four rooms of the original house had 12-foot ceilings so there was a substantial beam-like section of wall above the 7ft-8in-high opening. In any case, for good measure, we supported the suspended section of wall above with a strong structural timber jamb. Eventually we covered the dining room floor with heavy [Masonite] and black-and-white faux marble vinyl tiles.

A very pregnant Elena Humphries came to stay with us while Dick was away on a pre ski-season working bee, as she didn’t want to stay at East Bentleigh on her own. I recall we had our “new” dining furniture – [a] table and chairs – as I have a vivid memory of her at dinner one evening. The black-and-white marbleized vinyl tiles meant we needed some elegant dining furniture but, as usual, we were out of money. I looked up “Tables-Dining” in the classified advertisements in The Age and was attracted to “Tyes Bargain Basement” in Bourke Street which was quite near Pelegrini’s Bar and Bistro, my favourite lunch time, dine-by-myself, hideaway in the city. It wasn’t good enough for treating customers but was perfect for me, [with] good food, [and was] quick at the counter and cheap. I still consider it the best restaurant food I have eaten in Australia. After lunch one day I sauntered down to Tyes and never having been to the place before I was astounded to see high-quality, old, second-hand items on sale. The New Furniture Showrooms upstairs evidently traded-in beautiful old furniture for Tyes’ cheapjack modern furniture.

I bought a colonial cedar table and a set of eight late-Victorian chairs and a chaise lounge for a total of £18. They were quite beautiful in that old house. That night the three of us were seated at the new dining table at the end of the room with Elena on the long side facing the bay window. There were no curtains as we had a brilliant planting of tall flags between the house and the high boundary fence. Suddenly Elena screamed at the top of her voice; I nearly choked, “What’s wrong?” I asked thinking she was about to miscarry. “There is a wild animal out there!” she replied waving a pointed finger at the window. I looked out expecting, at least a big dog? It was a sweet little Ring-Tailed Possum with huge shining eyes, hanging by its tail from the low guttering over the Bay Window. After she quieted down she explained that there were no wild animals in Sicily where she was brought up and she wasn’t used to such creatures. “Yes!” – while processing the unspoken thought flashing through my brain – “just wild people!” The dining table top was polished for us by Burnsie, who was still working for Alexina Originals, and when 158 Hopetoun was sold we got $2000.00 for it at auction. Later Judy bought two more dining chairs at auction, for 5/- each ($1.00) which almost matched the others. They all had upholstered leather seats so we had a set of eight dining chairs. After Bea’s death we sold the Carver chair and the Ladies sewing chair for $100.00 to give us space for some of her handsome furniture.

Early in 1961 I was transferred to Gibson Battle and given the job of “Assistant to the Managing Director”. I had a secretary (PCs didn’t exist) and a company car. The offices were in North Melbourne which meant I could drive to work, North along the suburban beach-front roads and bypass traffic converging on the city; [there were] no freeways in those days. My job was to be the eyes and ears of the [Gibson Battle] MD, who had come to the organization from outside and reported to the [Marfleet & Weight] MD, James Donald. I didn’t know anything about him, his previous associations and background, however I assumed that our friendship with the Donalds might need handling with care. I was to be responsible for [Marfleet & Weight] group sales until further notice. I worked closely with a wonderful old gent by the name of Harry Press who had been with [Gibson Battle] since the dawn of time and held the position of Chief Engineer. Judy and I were happy to sell the Morris Oxford and faced the future with enthusiasm.
I set to work to grow the business as fast as I could. Why shouldn’t I, after all my income was now more than twice as much as my finishing salary at [Leighton Irwin & Co], plus [I had] car and [an] expense account, all probably worth three times my income of only three years [earlier]. Judy’s half-share of the Gift Shop plus her Alexina Originals net [income] was a good deal better than her last job and she never regretted having her own business. Of course the money was a source of great satisfaction to Phyllis who was now getting little from the Snack Bar and she and John slept in separate rooms. Although they still lived at Elizabeth Street they rarely met and when they did they seldom spoke. My father was still depressed and haunted by his demons.

That winter I worked on Bob Mercer’s boat with the rest of the crew until he sold her to a mature banker, Neil Blackwell, General Manager of the Bank of New South Wales in Victoria. Bob had talked about building a new boat designed to compete in the next Sydney—Hobart race. After the sale and transfer to the new owner the rest of the crew left, intending to stay with Bob in order to be considered for the Hobart race. I wanted none of that and so I helped Neil and his son get Ramova ready for the 61/62 season at [Royal Brighton Yacht Club], which he had joined. At 110 New Street we had a concrete footpath crossing from the road [that had been] laid by the Brighton Council, [and] a gravel drive and a new front fence were added and a carport built for the company car and Judy’s van. We could step into the carport from the front verandah relieving us, especially when carrying Jamie, of struggling up the back yard in the rain. We could now think about re-creating the back garden and perhaps we would plan to build a new house further back on the site. Judy was also intent on having another baby to be born two years after Jamie. What could stop us now?

My job was most interesting, active and full of opportunity, although 1961 was a recession year as well as a Federal Election year resulting in the government being returned with a majority of one. We were pleased that we sold Edinburgh Street, Hampton Street and the vacant land at Ivanhoe when we did because house prices dropped through the ’61/62 financial [years]. [There] were quite a few new houses sold at [a] substantial discount. Vacant land prices plunged, especially in East Bentleigh, and several developers were wound-up. I suppose the construction industry was in trouble for a while but the immigration program continued and within a few years all those houses, subdivisions and more were sold. Hamersley Iron and other major mineral developments created huge growth in Australia’s export markets. Minerals replaced primary produce as the largest export earner and as a result Mechanical Handling firms like Gibson Battle were faced with new opportunities. Have in mind that when we were studying mineral production at University in the 1950s the export of Iron Ore was still banned by law, as the conventional wisdom of the day was that Australia had barely enough Iron Ore to satisfy its own steel-making needs. Lang Hancock’s iron ore discoveries in the remote Hamersley Range were announced in 1961, and though it took time for the politicians and the mandarins of the State and Federal bureaucracies to catch up, ’61 was an exciting time for us. In such under-populated locations as Hamersley I could see that mechanization, automation and mechanical handling would be a growth industry for years to come.

Open House Christmas/New Year 61/62 was great fun as it had been a successful year with substantial orders from new accounts. A major order from a large mining company, which had never been a customer before, was received that very afternoon so the Open House became a celebration of sorts with congratulations from all the [Marfleet & Weight] and [Gibson Battle] staff who attended. Our Swedish friends had introduced us to paper advent stars, [and] we hung one in Jamie’s window facing the street [from] Advent Sunday, and [also] Dahlakarlia Horses. Christmas to New Year was one long holiday. As business and schools got underway again following the mid-summer break we attended an Institution of Engineers Conference at Cooma sponsored by The Snowy Mountains Authority, a Federal Government organization rather like a small [Tennessee Valley Authority] with a large number of Engineers. Judy was carrying Matthew and had started to show, so I drove sedately from Melbourne to the Barbara Motel via the Hume and Ovens Highways to Bright—Omeo and onto the Princes and Bonang Highways to Cooma. A roundabout route but it gave Judy a chance to see something of the Mountains in the summer time. She [had] last visited the area when she stayed at the Mt Buffalo Chalet in 1947. Accommodation had been arranged by the Authority so all the bureaucrats had the best accommodation and we private enterprise types were allocated steerage. To our delight the Donalds and Don and Dorothy Macintosh, of Sydney, friends of the Deans, were also allocated to The Barbarous, as we referred to the motel ever more. Notwithstanding the primitive accommodation we had a good time, with Pop and Dorothy checking up on Judy who spent most evenings in bed at the Barbarous, while [the] Donalds and Macintoshes looked after me.

Friday afternoon, not long after the Cooma trip, the [Gibson Battle] MD asked me if I would transfer to Sydney to manage the N.S.W. branch. My boss was the sort of man who expected his requests to be agreed [to] first and discussed later. I had come to observe that employees who said “No” often had no second chance as he always had an alternative plan. Even to say something like, “Judy has convinced me to stay in Melbourne” would leave a lingering doubt in his mind, which could be a major handicap when another promotion was under consideration. We settled the basics of salary, allowances, car, and 6 months rent paid by [Gibson Battle] and free transport [for] our worldly goods.

When I broke the news to Judy she sat on the floor in the dining room and cried for three hours. She had spent the day painting large galloping blue horses high on the white kitchen walls and was even more attached to the house than when I [had] left for work that morning. During the weekend we talked endlessly about the opportunity, [and the] change in direction, and decided not to tell anybody about her negative reaction. The truth was that I had thought seriously about living in Sydney many times, apart from anything else my grandfather [William Henry Caldicott] lived there and I had loved him from the first letter I received from him, even before we met during the war. He was my ideal. Living in Sydney was in my mind in 1946 and again in 1958 when we drove there in the Thames Van, though I didn’t tell John Goodings. By Monday morning Judy was happier with the idea and the only extra thing I asked of my boss was that the company pay for a trip to Melbourne each month because Judy planned to stay in Melbourne until after Matt’s birth.

We had a lot of connections with Sydney. Phyllis was born there as were Peter Hein and his parents. So were the Donalds, Kit and John Ross and my boss at [Gibson Battle]. They all talked to us about places to live in Sydney but when Kit said, “You must have a look at Parsley Bay!” it stuck in Judy’s mind and mine too, for some unknown reason. It had an atmosphere of mystery, a perfumed place of great beauty, inextricably attractive. My boss suggested Brighton-Le-Sands as the nearest residential suburb to the office. In any case he wanted me to go immediately as discussion was rife in the company and the Sydney office had no manager. My secretary asked me if she could work for me in the Sydney office. [It] transpired that her husband was about to leave his job, and she and her two sons missed Sydney so she seized the day. I was pleased about that as the previous Sydney manager had already left and his secretary [had] resigned before I arrived. My Melbourne secretary was at work in the Sydney office before I arrived so the arrangement was ideal. Pregnant Judy remained at New Street and organized its rental and also supervised the move with great care; she had plenty of time. She had the carriers take every item, old paint brushes and bits of stick, then moved herself and Jamie into Bea’s house by about the end of June.

About the end of February I was in Sydney on the job, living at the Royal Automobile Club, a reciprocal arrangement as a result of my membership at the [Royal Automobile Club of Victoria]. The poker machines drove me crazy but I didn’t want to rent a unit until I knew more about Sydney suburbs. One Saturday I had a look at the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron, thinking I may be able to arrange reciprocity, [and] it was love at first sight so I phoned [Royal Brighton Yacht Club] from my office (trunk calls of this distance were rare in those days). The Club Secretary sent me a formal letter of introduction to the Squadron. I introduced myself to the Squadron Secretary and was invited to stay in the House as a visiting member; I still use that House Account number forty years later. Over the next month the staff made me feel very welcome. My early morning call was a cup of tea in bed, brought by an elderly housemaid, then breakfast at my own table in the dining room with the Sydney Morning Herald brought from the library. Home was never like this.

One thing led to another and I found myself sailing with the Jubilee Class. I had thought of buying a Star boat but the club that sponsored the class in N.S.W. was at Pittwater, [which was] too far away for me. My ideal was to own a Dragon but I couldn’t afford that, at this stage, so the Jube was the best choice. I knew the class and its design as it was originally commissioned by [Royal Brighton Yacht Club] to replace the many boats destroyed by a cyclonic storm in the Jubilee Year of the State of Victoria, 1935 I think. In due course I was given a copy of the list of members with the implied suggestion [that I should] start to gather the names of those who [would] agree to propose and second me for membership and [to] get to meet another five sponsors. The first name to leap out of the list was John Goodings, as John was a pal from [Leighton Irwin & Co] who I had first met with his wife Georgette and son Simon in 1949. I hadn’t known he was a member, however I phoned him, we had lunch at the buffet and before we left I had the names of ten people we both knew, including John Anderson-Wood who was on the committee. I had met him about the same time as the Goodings because his firm was Quantity Surveyer for [Leighton Irwin & Co’s] N.S.W. work; we recalled how I had helped John [Anderson –Wood] when he visited Melbourne on a Rachel Forster Hospital development. Thus I had people to propose and second me whom I had known for over 10 years, and my name was duly sent to the Selection Committee.

During the first weekend in Sydney I had visited Grandfather at Gladesville. [He] had sold his business in the city, retired and [now] spent his days pottering around the house [although he] continued to be active in his Lodge. He and his wife, Nana Ethyl, lived in contented retirement, though she still addressed him as “Will” as in “[You’re] not listening to me Will!” when he sat in the dining room reading the newspaper, as always. Joyce and Fred were licensed to sell Intoxicating and Spirituous Liquors and lived at their pub in the city. Uncle Harry and wife Mary still lived in Willoughby. I didn’t see Jack and Phyllis or their son John or Harry and Mary’s daughter Janette ever again. Though, at the time, they seemed pleased that Judy and I would be living in Sydney and I was most impressed by my Grandfather’s vigour; he was 83 years old and looked 70. A week or two later I received a phone call from Joyce who told me Grandfather had a stroke and was in hospital. I went out to see him immediately and found him in bed in a private room. He looked OK but his Doctor told me that he was difficult and if he didn’t take care he could experience another stroke. I pleaded with him and I told him that his daughter Phyllis was on her way to see him and not to do anything to disappoint her. Phyllis arrived the next day and grandfather was thrilled, as she hadn’t been back to Sydney since 1923. Driving to the airport for her return flight she asked, “What will happen to me?” It had never occurred to me that she was in the Sydney equation as she and my father had a nice house and two businesses if she wanted to run Miss Phyllis Caldecott by herself. [After] all she was only 56 years old and very vigorous. We talked and I realized that my parents were on the verge of separation so I told her that if she moved to Sydney she could have a home with us. I came to realize the idea had been with her for a long time. As a small boy I would promise, after my parents had one of their frequent rows, that I would look after her. It was the only way I knew to cheer her and get a smile. Grandfather died within the week, after getting out of bed against Dr’s orders. Uncle Harry was sole [executor] of [William Henry Caldicott’s] estate.

Harry was the only son to survive [William Henry Caldicott], he died in 1997 and was survived by his wife Mary. The eldest son [WRRC] died [in] 1946, the same year he almost lost his eldest grandson and [JAC] died in 1962 by his own hand, the same year as [William Henry Caldicott]. Of his two daughters [Phyllis Elsie Pearl Caldicott da Silva] lived to a greater age than most of her family (1906-1996). Her husband [Joao Luis da Silva] [predeceased] her in 1977. The younger Joyce, born in 1925, died in 1979, aged 54, survived by her husband Fred Cooksey who died in 2000. Joyce saved my life. Thus the only surviving sibling or spouse of the children of [William Henry Caldicott] at the time of writing, 2002, was Harry’s wife who was known to be still alive in 1999.

While resident at the Squadron I found a modern seven-story building of furnished one-bedroom units at Kirribilli, [named] St Neots, which was walking-distance from the club. It had a full-time manager, in an office in the lobby, with whom I negotiated a six-month lease paid by the office. I didn’t want to live alone in a flat where I didn’t know anybody in the building, as I had no desire to get involved in any social life except that relating to work, for which I would use the Squadron as allowed by the committee. The building manager became aware that I had physical problems and kept his eye on me. When I needed a Doctor he recommended Dr Fisher at Neutral Bay so the arrangement was ideal. Yes! He was to become our good friend and one and only Frank Fisher and his beauteous wife Penny and their four children. I needed a young Dr confidante who would follow my chronic indisposition, as I could not expect to see Dr Giblin again, except for the birth of the new baby. I also wanted to be near the Squadron – in order to get to know the rules and customs, committee members, boat shed staff (by now I knew the House staff), and boats – and to be close to the office at Zetland.

Frank’s practice was at Neutral Bay and he and Penny lived nearby. He made a great difference to the quality of my life, [teaching] me how to manage my problems. He was a young, energetic man with a flair for diagnosis who introduced me to some excellent specialists, Physiotherapists and anti-inflamitrant drugs, some of which proved to be quite toxic and are now banned. So I was a guinea pig? So I’m still here though some have fallen. After the season ended I decided to buy a Jubilee and race with the class on Saturdays, provided I was elected to the Squadron. By the end of the 61/62 season I bought “Chrunest”, originally built for the owner of “Palmers” a chain of retail stores. Chrunest was named after his children, Christine, June and Earnest. June ultimately became a life-long friend of Judy’s so we always thought the boat was destined to be ours. The seller was Rex, a friend of John Wood’s, who had commissioned a new boat, a small sloop, clinker-built, which was to race as a new class [the] next season.

Things were progressing in Melbourne and needed some input from me on my once-a-month visits though the girls were well in control. Jamie was in his element with four doting females catering to his every need, Grand-uncle Noel was taking photos of him and Uncle Geoff had returned from England and was living at Bea’s place. Notwithstanding all the devotees he wasn’t spoiled and had a calm and happy nature, [and was] a great joy to us both as well as the two grandmothers, grandaunt Reba and the rest of the family. On one occasion I discussed Phyllis’s plan to move to Sydney with my father whose only comment was, “I’ll not leave Carlton.” Meaning his AFL football club. Elizabeth Street was on the market and the Snack Bar was put in John Lewis da Silva’s name. The shop and the Railway Lease sold quickly to an eager buyer by the name of Miss Schmidt, who did not want the name as she felt that her name would improve the business. That suited us as Phyllis and Judy contemplated another “Miss Phyllis” business near our new residence, wherever that [would] be. The valuation of the business was assessed by the agent based on its turnover.

Sometime later we received a threatening [solicitor’s] letter claiming that the turnover of the business was substantially less than declared during the negotiation of the sale. On one of my trips to Melbourne I took the letter to Cliff Hart in his office and asked for his help. He suggested that he contact Miss Schmidt’s solicitor, refute the claim, and tell him that we will produce evidence supporting the original valuation. Cliff asked for the shop tax return but the assessment had not returned from the Taxation Department and he spoke to Mr. Rattray about it. It was then that I found out he had asked for, and received, an extension of time because he wanted to speak to me about many changes caused by the move to Sydney. In due course our returns and assessments showed that Miss Schmidt had the best of the bargain at the time. Phyllis and Judy asked many of their loyal customers if they still favoured Miss “S” with their business. The usual answer was something like, “She is never interested in us, all she wants is a sale and the stock has changed so much there is nothing there any more. We wish you would come back!” Cliffie passed all this on to Miss Schmidt’s solicitor and her threat came to nothing. She paid Cliff Hart’s costs.

Three things absorbed my weekends: trips to Melbourne, working on Chrunest, and house hunting. We decided to buy Judy a sedan car to replace the van which was not suitable for a Mum and two small boys. On my last trip to Melbourne, before she moved with her brood, I attended an [Australasian Pulp and Paper Industry Technical Association] ding where a friend told me his wife wanted to sell her deluxe Hillman Sedan which was almost brand-new. He was a dealer in fine paper who drove a Rolls Royce and lived in an elegant house in Toorak. He got to tell me that he needed to go to Sweden to clinch a paper deal and his wife was going with him and intended to buy a Volvo, after which they planned to tour around Europe before returning to Australia with the car. When Gran sold Bertha she had bought a Hillman – of the same size but a standard model – through Dick, so we knew the offer was a good deal for Judy. On my return trip I drove it to Sydney.

House hunting was complex as I had to understand a completely different Real Estate market and everybody had a different idea of “the best place to live”. I made notes on a street map of the Metro area throughout that first winter, locations visited, asking prices and Y or N for, suitable or never, to be looked at again. In deference to Kit Ross I started with a trip to Parsley Bay with one of the salesmen, Bruce Williams, who knew where it was. His family owned the Williams Windmill Co. and he had lived in Sydney all his life so it was explained that the Vaucluse area was one of the most expensive residential areas in Australia. Meaning “bums like you don’t live in Vaucluse!” He volunteered to show me around the Woollahra area [the] next Saturday, which we did. After that trip I was on my own using the Sydney Morning Herald as my guide. Eventually the chart was shaded in with different colours so that I could target open houses and locations while talking to sales agents on the phone. I needed to focus on “preferred” areas.

Being winter I soon discovered that South-facing slopes could be very cold even in Sydney. Unlike Melbourne, which is rather flat and at an elevation just above sea level, the topography of Sydney metro area is a series of rock ledges with steep inclines so that the level of the residential areas varies from sea-level to about 900 feet above in the Pymble district of the North Shore. The steep cliffs of Sydney’s topography, many with high-rise apartments on top, create shaded Southeast slopes as I learnt from living in Kirribili. The lawns at the Squadron, pleasant on a sunny afternoon in the summer, were now very cold, and because there is little soil cover over the sandstone the water table oozed to the surface. I found those lawns to be damp throughout the winter months. My map soon acquired a hatched-in area of North facing slopes, unshaded by tall buildings, which became my sole search area. By the end of July I had found nothing that we could afford and I was now looking at “Handyman Special” and “Vacant land” advertisements. My new Squadron pals would say, “Vacant land in Vaucluse?” or “Vaucluse? Where are those suburbs?”

I was still looking for a place to live when time ran out. 110 New Street had been let, Judy was living at Bea’s house, the carriers were on their way with our household goods, Matthew was due any time and the six months’ company-paid rent was almost over. The owner of St Neots, who lived in a huge four-story house on the waterfront next to the Squadron, also owned a block of four flats across the street. It was a Federation building, pre-WWI, so the rooms were probably spacious but old-fashioned, [and] that would appeal to us but not to everybody. The St Neots building manager told me about it and arranged to show me the vacant ground floor unit on the corner of the small street that gave access to the Kiribilli Ferry Wharf. Tenants had vacated after being there for many years; it had not been advertised because it was cheap. I jumped at it and signed a 12-months-plus-an-option lease. I had the wooden floors sanded and polished and Judy’s new stove – with a rotisserie which we imported from England, from her beloved kitchen in New Street – installed in place of the discarded antique “[Kooka]”. The vast number of tea chests containing our odds and ends were delivered to work and stacked in the store where they could be left long-term as [Gibson Battle] owned the building. They took up little floor space, besides it was being extended to accommodate increased business. Back in Melbourne, Matt was in a hurry so Geoff drove Judy to Padua House just in time though Dr Giblin arrived after Matthew. All this was unknown to me until I received a telegram from Granny at the office early [one] morning saying, “Your Dragon crew is now complete.” I twigged by lunchtime. Judy arrived in Sydney by air when Matthew was ten days old just before the first day of spring.

We were together again. [It] was bliss especially as we were not sharing a house with Bea, Geoff and those who lived on the other side of the hall at Wattletree Road. The weather was kinder than Melbourne and having her new stove pleased Judy and her cooking lifted my spirits; it had been a long six months. Within days Judy, Jamie and Matty met my super Sydney doctor Frank Fisher and she started to find her way around town in her new car. She was pleased to have the Hillman rather than the van as she found Sydney traffic daunting and the Harbour Bridge, and its associated access roads, confusing. Everybody else knew where they were going and the first time Judy drove over The Bridge she had to pay the toll three times as she crossed back and forth while learning how to get on and off the ramps. Dorothy Macintosh showed her areas of Sydney that she liked, even as far as Avalon overlooking Pittwater. Don and Dorothy owned two blocks of land with a magnificent view over Pittwater to the Tasman Sea and beyond. In order to get the Northeasterly panorama from all the rooms they had built their house across both lots. I was pleased that Judy was doing her own exploring because I was more than busy at work, getting to know people and trying to win our first big mechanical Handling project in N.S.W. for a South Coast Coal Mine a site that induced many automation problems.

I had started to look for a shop to rent so that Gran would have something to do when she got to Sydney, [and the] preference was for a shop with a residence where Gran could live. Very difficult to find in Sydney. A typical tough Bondi agent suggested a lock-up dressmaker’s shop in the Vaucluse Shopping Centre might suit, as the tenant wanted to retire. I had looked at dozens of shops and it was the best position in the Eastern Suburbs so far, and I quickly settled rent and a one-time cash payment to the Protected Tenant [as] “Key Money” as it was called; not part of the lease. A bit dubious I thought, especially as both the Agent and the dressmaker asked me not to talk about it. The deal was done subject to Judy’s approval, which she was happy to give the next day. The storeroom and toilet was down a very steep flight of stairs so I seldom got down there. Dear Auntie Joyce painted the “Miss Phyllis Caldecott” sign to be hung over the footpath and Judy got their business under way with stock left over from the Sandringham shop. Miss. Schmidt’s rejects were bound to be best sellers.

As things settled down my research for our residence began anew and soon after I read a two-line advertisement in the Saturday Sydney Morning Herald for vacant land in Vaucluse and a telephone number. The agent, Wilfred Allen, described land on Parsley Bay and as we talked on the phone he invited me to drive over and talk face-to-face, after which, if I [was] still interested, he would arrange for me to have a look. I jumped in the car and drove to the address he gave, an old wooden colonial house on the water front at Watsons Bay, just before Green Point, little more than a shack but on a very valuable piece of land. Wilfred was a frail old gent, [in his] mid 70s, who lived there with his two adult sons. The front of the house faced Southwest over the Harbour so visitors from the street entered through a side door, though it was obvious that the family always used the kitchen door. The house was a treasure trove of original paintings, water colours and drawings by Australian artists, especially Norman Lindsay. The first hour was spent admiring his collection and talking about the artist. This was many years before “Sirens”. It appeared the land advertised was a recent Battleaxe subdivision on the Parsley Bay reserve with [a] Hopetoun Avenue address. “Go and have a look at it,” he said and described 110a Hopetoun Avenue which had been subdivided from a Mrs. Bennett’s land to accommodate a two-storey brick residence for her son and his wife. Before work started the son had a heart attack and died, his widow stayed where they had been living and Mrs. Bennett decided to sell the land to a family who would be a “good neighbour”. Mrs. Bennett’s daughter-in-law was Wilfred Allen’s niece and the old lady “wanted to sell without Real Estate Agents and their prospects walking all over the place!”

I parked in Hopetoun Avenue and walked down the steep car entrance to 110 which was one of two substantial houses at the bottom. After subdivision the three lots shared the driveway and all three had access to the Parsley Bay recreation reserve through rockeries on the park boundary. Most of the new block, number 110A, in was much lower than the pathway at the bottom of the drive and from a distance appeared to be a small quarry to the left, South, of the end of the driveway. It was a wet day and as I inspected it started to pour as it does in Sydney. Rainwater was splashing, rushing and gushing down the drive and through the gardens of the houses in Hopetoun Avenue, about twenty feet above Mrs Bennet’s entrance. I sloshed the last fifty feet to a convenient spot from which I could view the vacant lot. The lowest point of the land was about ten feet below, which was about twenty feet above the lawn at the Parsley Bay reserve, thus there was no water lying around. I didn’t mind, it’s always good to study a prospective real estate purchase before signing a contract when it’s raining, especially in Sydney. The next day I called Wilfred and Judy came with me to meet Mrs Bennett. The three of us talked in Mrs B’s sitting room with her sister Dee-Dee attending but saying nothing. Mrs [Bennett] and Judy gossiped while I looked around. I can’t remember what they talked about but I do remember a vigorous black-haired man, with a large moustache and three small boys trailing behind, walk energetically down the driveway to inspect “our” lot. That afternoon I called Wilfred who said that Mrs [Bennett] had agreed to sell to us for £6,100.00. “OK” I said and arranged to meet him at his office in town to collect a contract for perusal by Mr Robert Nicholl, a solicitor recommended by Jim Donald.

Within eight weeks of her move to Kirribilli Judy became very ill and was diagnosed as having a large ovarian cyst. That meant major abdominal surgery and quickly. [It] also meant a high probability of loosing her milk. In Melbourne Phyllis had sold her house and wanted to come to Sydney to help Judy. [She] decided she should stay in our flat and look after the boys and me. The next day I flew to Melbourne to find Gran ready to depart – her car was packed, ready to go – and my father didn’t come to see us off. Sadly I had to leave behind many of my boyhood treasures, in my room and the workshop-garage of Elizabeth Street, [as] we no longer had access. We got onto the Hume Highway and before we had gone far it was quite dark. It had been a big day, I was tired and doing most of the driving so we stopped at a motel at Holbrook and had a sleep. We got away early in the morning arriving at Kirribilli that evening.

Next day Judy went to hospital for the operation and Gran took over so I could go to work. The operation was a success: the Cyst was the size of a melon [and] she lost her milk and Matty went onto formula. Gran was working short hours at the shop and the boys were spending each day in a day-care centre. When Judy came home she moved my mother into the main bedroom, the boys slept in the enclosed balcony off the living room and Judy and I had the small bedroom out the back. Not quite how I had planned our abode but that’s the way Judy wanted it. When she felt strong enough she and Gran took a week on—week off at the shop; the arrangement stayed for the rest of the time we lived at Kiribilli Wharf and indeed for the next thirty years. Judy was very pleased with Frank Fisher’s surgery which was so skillful that she had almost no scar. Important to a slim, gorgous young thing who wanted to look stunning in her swimmers on Parsley Bay Beach.

Bob Nicholl Snr suggested that we get the 110a Hopetoun Avenue Lot surveyed before we sign anything, “After all the site has 23 sides and better to agree on your pegs than those that may have been put there by anybody! You will avoid future disputes.” He must have had a premonition as it turned out to be excellent advice. In due course I delivered the contract and the 10% deposit to Wilfred’s office which was in [an] old, two-storey colonial sandstone building near the Stock Exchange in the city. That beautiful stone building was demolished and the site integrated into the sad modern Lend Lease, Australia-Square complex. Allen’s Property Office was up a wide timber stairway at one end and as soon as I went in the front door I knew I was in the right place as framed Lindsay drawings guided me up the stairs to his office. It turned out that he knew Bob Nichol Snr and as we talked he told me the story of his treasure trove of paintings.

In the 1920s Wilfred was a successful real estate developer and collector. He was a great admirer of Lindsay’s work even though it didn’t sell well in those days. “For years whenever Norman came to town, usually because he was short of cash, he would come and see me with a drawing or two. I almost always bought something and because he was always short of money they were too cheap to refuse.” As I got to know my customers I would sometimes take people inside to view the collection, until the building was demolished. Bob Nichol and Wilfred Allen are long gone, the house on Watsons Bay was still there when we left Gibsons Beach, however Wilfred’s heirs had long departed and it was owned by an eccentric friend of Judy’s who had a lifesize silver-painted camel in the garden overlooking the waterfront.

I needed a surveyor who would look after my interests so I asked John Anderson-Wood, a Squadron member who was a Quantity Surveror, if he could recommend one. That’s how we started to work with Ross Hardy, of Hardy, Bushby and Tyson, another member of the [Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron] and a pal of John [Anderson-]Woods. The firm surveyed and pegged that site and every other survey job we needed in Sydney for the next 30 years. Mrs Bennett agreed to the new pegs so we signed the contract and, in due course, after receiving the money from the buyer of 110 New Street Brighton, we paid the balance of the purchase price. Judy and I planned a new house, which could be built in stages, and asked John Goodings if he would draw up plans to submit to the Council so that we could get bids for the first stage. By now we were rather short of cash – after all we had paid more for a vacant block of land in Sydney than we had sold house and land for in Melbourne. Now we had to find a way to finance progress payments to a builder and construct the new house before we could get a normal first mortgage. During the bidding process I was showing a builder the site early one morning.

[After] the others left Mrs Bennett stepped out of her house. She stood beside me and asked quietly if we needed any money. I thought, it must be obvious that we needed money, can this be true? What is the catch? Mrs. [Bennett] continued almost without catching her breath, “Well I have your money and I don’t need it so I would be happy to lend it to you on a first mortgage basis at 6% pa, for 5 years, payments of interest only on a monthly basis.” Our financing problems were solved and I was sure I could repay the loan in that time or, in the worst case, refinance. In my most ingratiating pose I humbly said, “Yes; thank you!” In time we learnt that Mrs. Bennett was the daughter of Walter and Eliza Hall. Walter was one of the original partners who developed the Mt Morgan Gold Mine in Queensland, perhaps the richest mine in Australia in the 19th century and their trust in Melbourne became one of the worlds great Medical Research Foundations.

Over the next 10 years 110a Hopetoun Avenue developed from a vacant block into a pleasant two-storey residence with the master bedroom and bath, kitchen, dining and living rooms, study and sewing room upstairs. Downstairs at the garden level was Granny’s bedroom and an “L” shaped bedroom for the two boys, [and a] laundry and bath. We had direct access to Parsley Bay Park with its netted swimming enclosure and jetty. Plus parking at the front entrance for three cars, a dingy, a Hobie Cat and trailer. We lived there until 1972 when we sold it for $66,000 and bought another house, on Gibsons Beach, at 158 Hopetoun Avenue for $74,000. But I am getting ahead of myself and must return to 1962.

During the next 12 months we built enough to move into 110A so we didn’t take up the Kirribilli option for a second year; which upset the owner. Though we did much to improve the flat, such as painting walls, washing and cleaning the stained Federation timber features inside by sanding, restaining, varnishing and having the floors polished, he insisted that we buy a new gas stove to replace the 1920 vintage “Early [Kooka]” we threw out. In the end we installed a new gas stove, a modern equivalent, so I wouldn’t be seen to have a public argument with a neighbour of the Squadron. As it turned out, that was unnecessary because when he eventually applied for membership he was blackballed. So I wasn’t the only one who had been trodden-on by this aggressive man.

During the winter of 1962 I worked on Chrunest, [and] collected 3 other blokes as crew for the 62/63 racing season. Though [I was] not yet a member , [I was] a [Royal Brighton Yacht Club] visitor and the owner of a yacht on the Squadron Register [so] the club became my home away from home. Towards the end of the year I was elected a member so this year, 2002, I will have been a member for 40 years. 1962 was an exciting year as a Squadron member [because] I had a “ring-side” seat, so to speak, to the first challenge by an Australian yacht club for the Americas Cup: the Squadron/Packer challenge with Gretel for the “Old Mug”. I also won £20/0/0 in the Squadron draw as I think I was the only person to predict that Gretel would win one race. Long before the race a TV crew interviewed me when sitting in a bridge chair on the Squadron verandah. There I sat alone on a quiet afternoon, when unknown to me the TV crew arrived. The camera rolled while I, unprepared and without rehearsal, recorded [my pontification] on the regatta, which was about to start at Rhode Island. On that occasion I again forecast a 4-1 result. As it turned out Gretel was the only 12-Metre challenger to win one race until Alan Bond’s 3-4 win in 1983. Friends and family and not-so-friendly acquaintances from all over Australia saw that interview and offered a variety of comments on my performance. Though some of the comments were less than complementary most of the Squadron fellows accepted my views. It didn’t hurt a bit though I never appeared on TV again.

At Kirribilli we lived almost next door to the Squadron so we used it a great deal. The new house was under construction, the flat too small for entertaining and [for] the constant activity associated with racing and maintaining our yacht, Chrunest; so the elegant club facilities were [the] ideal extension of our household. Our comings and goings, friends, relations, visitors and business associates meant a busy life. Judy was quite exhausted for months following her operation so we attended Squadron functions and entertained visitors at the club house while Gran entertained herself with the boys. It was marvelous therapy for her and she blossomed.

At the office things were going well as far as business was concerned. [The] building [extensions] were completed on time and business expanded at a faster rate than planned. I eventually found that the company was undergoing rapid change of which I was unaware, [as] Sydney was far from Head Office. We seldom saw the Donalds because Jim’s wife hardly ever visited Sydney and Judy seldom visited Melbourne, besides I didn’t report to him. I [was] surprised and delighted when he phoned me. [He] was in Sydney for a few days and wanted to see the office. Judy was not available so I asked him to dinner after his visit to the office. We seemed to past muster at his inspection following which we had dinner at a restaurant in Elizabeth Street, Redfern, before I took him to the airport at Mascot. He went out of his way to let me know that he may be kicked upstairs and was sorry that we had elected to move to Sydney. That was a surprise, as we had thought he not only approved but had promoted the idea: oh well, as usual dinner with Jim was an entertaining and informative experience which left me plenty to think about. The next time the MD [Gibson Battle] came to town I asked him for a raise, because the business had grown and the cost of living in Sydney was much higher that we had been accustomed to in Melbourne. His response was to [criticize] me for building a house in Vaucluse, [which he said was] “too expensive by far”, though he knew nothing of our financing arrangements or our plan to build a house that was designed to be expanded over several years. His recommendation was that we should buy a cottage at Brighton-[Le]-Sands, which was not one of the preferred suburbs on our map of Sydney. Besides it was none of his business.

We moved into 110A Hopetoun Avenue early in the winter of 1963. I don’t remember the date but we installed gas heating and built no open fireplaces. We cleaned our last one when we moved to a warmer climate. After a while we found that we didn’t need any heating at all so we turned off the pilot and didn’t use any gas heating for five years, by which time our blood had thinned and we appreciated the “new” method of heating. After a few months with no response to my request for more money I was starting to think about a job change when I received a note and a newspaper cutting from my old Tech friend Tracy Hatch. It was an advertisement for Marketing Manager for Bailey Meters & Controls Pty Ltd, the Australian subsidiary of a British company which held a license from The Bailey Meter Co of Wickliffe Ohio, U.S.A. Tracy’s note simply said, “Looks like they need you.” Without thinking much about it I mailed a resumé following which I had several interviews including meetings with the MD and Chairman of the Board. An offer was made. Well, what to do? Without telling my boss that I had an offer I asked again about the salary increase I wanted [to assess] his response. Perhaps he wants me to leave? I thought; so I accepted the appointment. A few days later I phoned him and the next day he arrived in Sydney. My memory from this point is quite blank with respect to work until I was well into the Bailey job. The sequel is that within a few years there was a Palace Revolution at [Marfleet & Weight] which saw Jim Donald’s resignation to join a new Commonwealth Government organization, The Pipeline Authority, and Geoffrey Johnstone replaced Jim as MD of the Marweight Group. So I had made the best move and was pleased to be out of that.

Bailey was a completely different company, and therefore a new challenge, because it’s origins [were] based on [the] original research, manufacture and development of Automatic Controls. The founder, Dr E.G. Bailey, a friend of Thomas Edison, had been Chief Engineer of Babcock and Wilcox, itself an advanced technology company of the American Civil War period. In Australia the Chairman of Bailey Meters was the MD of Babcock Australia Pty Ltd, [as] those companies had strong bonds going back 100 years. As [a] Hospital Services Engineer with a special interest in boiler-house controls I had become familiar with Bailey devices and frequently specified them by brand. However my new job was to help Bailey grow by developing the non-steam-raising markets. Bailey’s biggest market in Australia was the Power Generation Authorities and it was understood that the existing staff would continue to cover those customers. I reasoned that the biggest industrial customers for Process Controls would be Steel, Pulp and Paper and Sugar, all of which had substantial steam raising capacity, most were Babcock customers and would know Bailey. Thus started my long love affair with B.H.P., to which I had sold Heavy Engineering Equipment during my [Marfleet & Weight] days. Of course I continued my close association with and membership in [the Australasian Pulp and Paper Industry Technical Association] and also [with] the Institute of Mining & Metallurgy. But the Cuban Crisis thrust me into the Sugar industry which was changing rapidly as it expanded to meet [increased] worldwide demand. By the end of my employment at Bailey Meters we had delivered systems to 32 Mills.

Another interesting function of the job was that I had Marketing responsibility for both Australia and New Zealand, [and] I had never visited our ANZAC neighbour and was looking forward to the challenge. I quickly made friends with the Babcock band and made sure that I was on the spot whenever their Sales or Engineering personnel were calling on a site where there was the imminent prospect of [a] major new Steam-Raising plant. The big industrial sites in my territory [were] in Pulp & Paper, Sugar, Steel and the Petrochemical complexes. I would make sure I met influential people at plants and head office if new steam-raising capacity was in the planning stage. At Bailey I travelled widely in Australia and New Zealand and got to know places like Tully, Tokaroa, Kwinana, Burnie, Port Kembla and Whyalla, and many more. My first visit to New Zealand I was thrilled to travel on a BOAC Concorde, the last leg of a London to Auckland flight. Another memorable trip was with Jim Donald: first class in the special train, with a dining car, that travelled a quite different and more scenic route to Newcastle than the old two-lane road. Judy and I got to know and entertain the design staff of the big boiler makers at our new house at Parseley Bay and we also started the practice of inviting a senior couple to attend an evening of dance at the Australian Ballet and dinner. In that way I was able to keep myself up with the travel plans of the Babcock boys and others. I even made a trip to London at the same time as a senior BHP engineer.

Designing systems for sugar production resulted in extensive knowledge of North Queensland especially during the “Wet” as the mill staff were too busy from May to November (in the “Dry” as the winter is still called North of the border). Wet season flying was both exhausting and exciting as the flight crews kept out of the way of tropical storms and skirted around the fringes of cyclones. There were no covered Jetways in those days and the small, high-winged turbo-prop aircraft would park at a safe distance from the terminal which often meant a sprint to the arrival or departure gate while getting soaked to the skin within moments of stepping out into the weather. It took all day to fly to the airports serving most mills. There were no jets serving North Queensland in those days and connecting flights from Brisbane were usually in Focker Friendships. These aircraft were quite safe but very bumpy as they swooped around during the descent while the pilot looked for a break in the low clouds. The weather was usually turbulent as I usually called on the mills in the wet season.

It was stimulating to be travelling and meeting skilled professional people with an international outlook while on the lookout for business opportunities. I recall those early trips to the almost far North of Australia with great nostalgia. I don’t remember exactly when I first went there but I do remember the excitement of the Weipa Bauxite discovery in the 1950s, [which was] a decade of change for me as well as for Australia. Meeting and marrying Judy and the heady experience of full-time study, and graduating from the University of Melbourne. The reward was to be doing design work for some of the largest public companies in our part of the world. While at [Gibson Battle] I had been able to convince some of the senior engineering staff of the Consolidated Zinc group to give me a contract for one of their corporate family, the smelter at Port Pirie. Those were exciting times, [the] late 50s and early 60s. I never went to Wiepa though I wanted to, however all the major capital development was completed before my Queensland site visits. I was reminded of my Con Zinc success each time I saw the small flying Boat, with a pusher prop, at Cairns airport owned by the Bauxite mine. It served the senior engineering and administration staff on their trips to the East coast of the Gulf of Carpenteria. Cape York is such wonderful country to scan from the air. I recall seeing a good deal of it that way during the ten years from 1963 to the 1973, [at which time] the Mining Boom collapsed after the change of government in December 1972. The size and sweep of Queensland is majestic, and [it is also] under-populated which was also apparent from the narrow, two-lane, at-best dusty roads. I did a lot of miles in Toyota Land Cruisers and for the first time I saw Barron Gorge. In the late 50s I worked on that HydroElectric project in the Estimating Department of Marfleet & Weight Ltd. Later on I worked on much larger Hydro, Francis Turbine casings for the Snowy Scheme and remember thinking what a toy was the Barron Gorge job. I wonder if it’s still in service?

The railway crossing over the top of the gorge was quite an experience. Judy has a photograph album of a trip her Auntie Reba made in 1925 when she travelled there and back from Melbourne to Mosman by train with her father, who was a well-known editor. He had been invited to attend a conference on the subject of the development of North Queensland. Among the pictures is a photo of Maroochydore, or rather the small steam boat in which the party toured the Maroochy River estuary. I studied the statistics on Maroochydore when Judy and I moved there in retirement and noted the population in 1930, the year of my birth, was 300. The settlement wouldn’t have look like much in 1925, talk about “Development”!

Getting back to 1963 when I joined Bailey Meters and Controls at their Australian factory at Regents Park in Sydney’s West. At last I was in an automation company and because of the Cuban Crisis sugar was king. Bailey business was international and high-tech for the day, a completely different firm from anything I had [been at] before. It was also a new challenge. I arranged trips to convince Mill Engineers to use Bailey Controls as they [strove] to be more efficient while, at the same time, increasing output.

At that time the mills could sell all they could produce and it was said that the Sugar Farmers drove around their properties in Rolls Royce cars with their dog in the back seat. The most southerly mills were in N.S.W. and the most Northerly at Mosman, just above Cairns, 32 in all. At sunset one evening I was driving my rental car South to Townsville when I hit a horse. It was a typical sugar-farming district road, one-lane [and] paved and the cane grew higher than the car, right up to the pavement. I was doing about 15 miles per hour, the horse didn’t see me and I didn’t see it in the twilight. It stepped out of the impenetrable high cane of the field, saw my car and in fright leaped high in the air and landed on the engine bonnet.

The car sagged on its springs, quickly came to a stop, [and] the animal rolled off onto the other side of the road. In the meantime the tropical twilight vanished, the horse stopped kicking and I was standing in the silent blackness of the night. I could hear my heart pounding. The car was very bent but [driveable] and one headlight worked so I poked along until I came to the main road South. [Not] a soul passed or dipped their lights to offer assistance. Of course I was concerned about the Rental Car Co response to their brand-new car being turned into a junk heap. I was also concerned that the owner of the horse should be notified, and concluded that I must report the accident to the Cops!

On entering a small settlement I noticed the blue outside light that indicated a Queensland Police station and residence. I stopped and climbed the stairs to the porch high in the air above the normal flood level. I peeked through the insect screen door and could see a TV winking inside. In response to my knock a small girl answered the door and on my enquiry ran inside and shouted over the loud speaker, “There’s a man to see you dad!”

The officer was a typical huge Queensland Policeman in off-duty garb, [with] bare feet, shorts and blue singlet. In answer to his “Waddaya want?” question I described the accident and to my surprise the response was almost total silence. My eyes were getting used to the Pitch-black of the Tropical Night and I thought, “what is he doing stepping across to the balustrade?” “Well!” he said as he swept his arm across the yard below and in a tired half shout he said, “They’ve all hit horses.” In the dim light I could see the yard was full of smashed-up vehicles.

By the time I joined Honeywell in 1965, where I had wanted to be for at least ten years, Bailey Meters had on order or delivered systems to 30 Mills. As mentioned before the Dutch-built Focker Friendship aircraft were the mode of travel during the Wet when I made most site visits. [None] of the Engineering staff had time to sit and talk in the pleasant, mid-year, Dry season when cutting cane and the crush was under way. Thus I saw a lot of the coastal area of Queensland in flood between rainsqualls as my aircraft swayed and surged as we landed between the Banana Plantations.

During 1963 I sold the Jubilee “Chrunest” and bought a half share in Norseman, a Dragon Class Olympic Yacht, in partnership with another ex-Jube owner. We both wanted to participate in the selection regattas for the Australian Yachting Team for the 1964 Games. Dragons and 5.5-metre yachts were the classes sponsored by the [Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron] which would be responsible for conducting the Dragon Racing for the ’64 Games. I guess I was hooked on Olympic competition after the Star Class races at Royal Brighton and wanted to experience the excitement again. It was decided to hold the regattas on Botany Bay and so dragons from all over Australia [berthed] there during much of the 1963/64 season.
BHP, as the largest industrial public company in Australia, was always my main target. Their workforce was huge by Australian standards – more than 100,000 employees, almost all unionised – and [they were] usually the biggest business in any town or district where they operated a mine, mill or production facility. They had the largest non-government office staff in the city of Melbourne where BHP’s Head Office was located in those days. Furthermore they had the largest private fleet of ships and the largest Ship-Building yard, at Whyalla in South Australia. Sugar was fun but BHP was the ultimate challenge in Industrial Automation. BHP had used Bailey controls in their steam-raising boiler houses for many years, [and] building on that relationship went well. I also knew many senior engineers at the Whyalla Ship Yard from my work on ballast valves and other contracts from my Marfleet & Weight years.

I hadn’t been to Whyalla since we had moved from Melbourne and I received a friendly reception as a Bailey bloke on my first call so I planned regular calls in my calendar and their staff came to see me in Sydney. Business developed in a satisfactory way and some of them came to know Judy and our family when travelling to N.S.W. for vacations; 1964 flashed by in a blur. From this distance – over 40 years [later] at the time of writing – I can’t recall details such as names, contracts, people or processes but I do remember meeting the South Australian Manager of Honeywell at a motel one night. As usual I arrived at Whyalla late, checked into a motel and went immediately to the dining room for a snack and a drink before retiring and there I discovered a table full of my customers. One man was unknown to me and my friends insisted that I join the group. We got on well and when the bill arrived I picked it up and charged it to my room. [Only] then was it revealed that the stranger was the Manager of Honeywell’s Adelaide branch operation.

Some time later I was sitting in my Regent’s Park office when I received a phone call which, in short, was an invitation to join Honeywell at their Head Office at [Surry] Hills, an inner city suburb quite close to our house in Vaucluse. I was keen, but I couldn’t tell them that, and with Christmas and the summer holidays of 1964/65 only a few weeks away I didn’t want to jeopardize arrangements recently made to swap houses for the holiday. I had wanted to work for Honeywell since I first met Bob Warnock, their representative in Melbourne when I was with [Leighton Irwin & Co]. I even asked him for a job after I graduated in 1957 and was told that they didn’t employ graduates. The summer holidays of 1964/65 was upon us and to complicate matters Judy and I had agreed to swap houses with old friends who lived at a Bayside Suburb on Port Philip Bay. I had lunch with the caller, who I had never met, heard about the job and agreed to get in touch when we returned from Victoria at the end of January.

Christmas came and went during which I didn’t feel well; we put that down to [my] being overtired. I certainly felt that way but we had a commitment so with the boys in the back seat Judy and I drove to the house at Seaforth Beach on the South-eastern shore of the bay. The next morning I got up feeling quite bilious and blacked-out in the shower, the next thing I remember was coming too in a hospital bed looking into the face of a doctor who asking me. “Are you a Hemophiliac?” Sometime later I came [to] again to find Judy and her cousin [Ursula’s] husband Max Whiteside preparing to inject me with a horse syringe full of Gamaglobulin. “You have Hepatitis!” Max said.

Far from meeting the Honeywell people in January negotiations started some time after I returned to work during May, very thin and exhausted. The summer sailing season had been a disaster for me as I had my first sail in the New Year in April, after the season had finished. My Dragon partner, who had been sole skipper for the series of [the] Olympic Regatta, decided to build a new Dragon with all the latest details and the fastest hull, as such a boat may have [had] a better chance by the 1968 games. I bought him out. While recuperating Judy and I had learnt to Play Bridge, bought our first TV and I became a regular borrower from the Woollarah Library as I studied a number of subjects.

The Bailey people welcomed me back with open arms: they had paid my salary into the bank in the usual way for the whole 20 weeks. It was a relief to be back at work though I was still unwell and taking quite heavy doses of a Penicillin derivative which kept me close to toilets at all times. It wasn’t until June that I again took up negotiations with the Honeywell people. Meeting with Honeywell directors over the following months resulted in my most satisfying period of employment. I didn’t want to be disappointed again so I felt that I [couldn’t] take too much trouble with such important negotiations this time. I started with them in their [Surry] Hills Office early in November 1965.

Most Honeywell executives in the large economies were remote and had little interest in small subsidiaries, such as Australia, though I can’t speak too highly of three – two Americans and one Australian – who encouraged me. The result was 22 years of pleasure, achievement and an insight into the world of International Business while being a contributor to the Australian economy and technology. I was able to expand on my education and experience more fully than ever before. Although Honeywell was a big part of my life it was much less a part of our married life as parents and partners. Our sons were growing rapidly [and] school took up a lot of time. Judy and Gran were partners in business and we also had other business interests. A larger house attracted many visitors so we entertained community, extended families, friends and business associates. Though I enjoyed working in the Automation, Control and Computer sectors of the rapidly changing world of Honeywell little more will be said as it had little impact on Judy and my life.

During my time at Bailey Meters I had met a young engineer who was working in the Engineering Department of the Sydney offices of a customer. On my first day at Honeywell I found that he was now working there as a Sales Engineer in my department. Eventually we found we had a common interest in Real Estate and both wanted to develop a property portfolio. We discussed the market, got to know more about each other and started to look at Sydney buildings from an investment point of view. My interest was always speculative and his was development [and] at the same time we were both extending our houses. James and Matthew were growing and needed more space, as we did and their Granny [did] too. The house at 110A Hopetoun developed and [I] did much of the work, using the know-how from my years in the building trade. Peter Daly sometimes came on a Saturday and assisted when there was a two-man task. We got to respect each other and eventually dedicated most Saturdays from May to September (winter months) to identifying property of interest to us. Bob Nicholl Snr and Jnr helped us with client finance. The 1960’s rushed by. In 1972 the “It’s Time” election and subsequent upheaval brought our partnership to closure as family and the education of our sons became our prime concern.

As far as I was concerned “It’s Time” had become “It’s Time to sell up”, batten down the hatches, lend our proceeds at the high interest rates prevailing while avoiding high costs by borrowing as little as possible. Perhaps a bit conservative [but] I needed a pause to stop and think about the needs of our family of five. Peter Daly went onto bigger and better things and never looked back. We are still friends, both now retired far from each other and with different interests and at different stages of family life. He and Diana have two children in their teens and Judy and I have four grandchildren, two of whom are in their teens.

By the mid [1960s] we were well established in Hopetoun Avenue Vaucluse and our sons were at Cranbrook School having started at the Cranbrook Kindergarten at St Peters church at Watsons Bay. At age 3 James was the first to go in 1963 and Matthew followed in 1965. They eventually graduated from Cranbrook at University entry level. During their 17 years there Judy and I were involved in school affairs and encouraged the school to take into account the new technologies derived from integrated [circuitry] and later, microprocessors. We were also concerned about the threat of drugs and encouraged the school to improve parent awareness. We also learnt a lot about our boys and their needs and helped then to find independence as early as possible. By the time they were into their final years the legal majority for Australian residents had been lowered from 21 to 18 years. They looked forward to making their own decisions.

Judy and Gran’s business in [the] New South Head Road Vaucluse shopping strip was a successful transplant from the Sandringham venture. We had a shop near home, [at] 110A Hopetoun Avenue, while identifying a more suitable property to own. There were too many fruit shops in the street and we knew one of them was tenanted by a failure. In time the owner, who had trouble collecting rent, put the building on the market and Irwin Industrial Pty Ltd bought it and offered the tenant a new lease. In the end he left without notifying us and we found the interior had been vandalized so extensively that nothing could be done but to build a new building. Typical of Sydney the land was very steep on a corner side street and the Council zoning allowed a two story structure behind the New South Head Rd façade. The Mesdames da Silva wanted the whole ground floor to be a big shop, the maximum allowed. Following several submissions to the Council we settled on allowable site cover and we decided on a four-storey structure. Facing the shopping street we built a two-storey shop and residence with a suite of offices below entered from the side street which also provided the entrance to the 3-bedroom residence [we built] over the shop. The lowest level was a Garage and Workshop opening onto the carpark at the rear of the site.

We finally moved into the new shop at Easter 1972. The shop sold anything and everything for the houses of the Vaucluse Ladies and other customers who came from all over Sydney. It was a great success and the space not used by the shop was rented out. We had felt that Gran would like to live in the flat but she didn’t want that, even though James and Matt now wanted separate rooms. The success of the new shop lifted our spirits, especially me as I was always concerned that I may become incapacitated and was well aware that my spine would not improve. Doctors, [Physiotherapists] and a whole range of other specialists kept me going. Judy enjoyed having her own business and income as I never knew when my condition might deteriorate more rapidly. We never talked about such matters or discussed my problem with Gran or the boys. [It was] a prudent policy [also to make] sure that my condition would not be a factor with my employers, customers or fellow employees.

Early in 1970 I was enticed to join a Mining Syndicate run by a group of blokes who called themselves “Armpits” or a name like that. I had got to know one of them in 1962 when I was working in Sydney and living at [the] “St Neots” furnished apartments. After Judy and the gang arrived our two families developed a familiar relationship over the next 8 or 9 years, [and] in the process [we met] several of their friends socially. I was invited to attend the inaugural meeting at the home of the geologist member of Armpits one Saturday afternoon. He was new to me as were several others and in a convivial atmosphere I became interested and involved. I had the engineer-corporate manager role, the geologist was another essential professional as was the prospector. The rest were Accountants, Lawyers, Doctors, Dentists and camp followers. We were together for 3 years during which time the balloon went up only to be pricked by the collapse of the Mining Boom within 5 years. Faced with a small profit or a large loss I departed within 14 months.

In the beginning we were full of enthusiasm and convinced we could make a fortune as the mining boom got into full swing. Among the collection of Mineral Leases put together by our Prospector and Geologist were Antimony/gold leases on the Mitchell River about 150miles West of Cairns in North Queensland. I was particularly interested in the Antimony Leases mainly because the Prospector considered them to be capable of an immediate cashflow. We started developing a mine during the 1970 dry season and things certainly looked promising. Each month I would visit the mine to improve my knowledge and to encourage the Prospector to stay on site, so I would make the long [trek] by air from Sydney to Cairns and [on to] the mine about 150 miles inland. Of course I had to tell Honeywell what was going on as I was spreading myself across their needs and [also] increasing [my] responsibilities with the Mining Company. The Honeywell people said that was OK by them and no matter what happened they expected I would continue to be of value to the big “H”.

By the end of the dry season we felt confident that we were on to something. Of course the news leaked out and the listed shares went through the roof. I was worried as many friends started to buy because they wanted to believe more than I knew: “What do I know about Antimony?” I would ask. The largest Antimony mine in the Western World was at Gravelotte in the Transvaal, [Republic of South Africa]. Obviously they knew how to find and process a Stibnite/Quartz ore with some gold content. I wrote to them and suggested we should discuss developing the Australian mine together. At the invitation of Johannesburg Consolidated Investments Ltd. (JCI), the major shareholder, I was invited to visit Johannesburg and their Antimony mine to discuss the matter further.

Judy and I usually held a fancy dress party on 12th Night, so the earliest I could arrange to leave was 7 January 1972 and that year all the guests dressed in an African theme. I wrote to my Aunt Maria, father’s youngest sister – because she always sent greeting cards, [and cards for] Christmas, Easter and my birthday – at Lourenço Marques in Mozambique. [Johannesburg Consolidated Investments Ltd] seemed keen to get to know me and went out of their way to impress me. They certainly did the latter. I dined in their boardroom, [and] was taken underground and shown in some detail three separate mining ventures. The first adventure, for me, was being taken down into the depths of Elsburg Gold mine near [Johannesburg].

For all my mining experience in Australia I had never experienced such a vast, deep mine with so many men underground. In response to my queries they said that Elsburg employed less than a third of the underground miners [than] the deep platinum mines. At the Antimony mine at Gravelotte I experienced my first casting as a Portuguese. While following my guide underground I was, to my surprise, addressed in what I now know is Mozambique pidgin Portuguese. I asked the Afrikaner guide what was being said. He explained the man was a Mozambique native who had risen to be a foreman and by diligent saving was a person of substance with 8 wives. His family lived in Mozambique and he [returned] home for six months every few years. The foreman too had assumed I was from [Lourenco Marques], so I must have looked like [someone from] my father’s family.

My third adventure was to observe the sinking of a new shaft for an extension of the Gravelotte mine. Three large Afrikaner supervisors and I climbed into [a] kibble, a large welded steel bucket. The winder driver put his machine into gear and suddenly we were airborn a few inches. The wooden deck opened below and we descended at speed down a black hole into the depths of the earth. All the time the kibble was spinning as the steel cable unwound from the drum. We stopped with a noiseless bounce, the bucket stopped spinning, the lights were blinding and the noise deafening. After we stepped out the kibble was lowered to the bottom level where a loader quickly filled it with muck and the winder took the load to the surface. Above the drilling noise the supervisors explained what was going on and the kibble returned empty. I got back in with two new men and my guide [and was] then whisked back to the surface [where I] stepped out to terra-firma. For these underground excursions I had to leave all my clothes in a locker in changing rooms at the surface. Standard underground safety garb consisting of a clean boiler-suit, [socks], boots, helmet etc. were issued to be [worn] underground and on returning to the surface everybody showers and all garments remain in the change room to be laundered. All used water in the facility is recirculated and reused to recover every particle of mineral, particularly gold.

Apparently I passed their test and as a gesture to reward my attention, time and trouble they offered to show me anything else that I may want to see before my return to Sydney. I had already thought about visiting the Kruger Game Reserve, on the Mozambique border, and my aunt. They offered to show me a wild game reserve and deliver me to Lourenço Marques. More importantly they gave me a letter offering to do an assessment of the BigA leases for which privilege they would pay all their own expenses and pay us a $250,000 fee. I couldn’t believe my luck, thanked them and departed for the game reserve and home via [Lourenco Marques]. “Good grief!” I thought, “What did I do?”

I was flown in a small [Johannesburg Consolidated Investments Ltd] aircraft to a private landing-strip and introduced to Mala Mala estate where I stayed for a few nights. I arrived in time for lunch, really a brunch as it was late morning, followed by a briefing on planned activities, [and] entertainment for the guests, including me. Following an adequate meal we were encouraged to go to our huts to snooze until about 4pm. We then had coffee and sandwiches after which we were taken to a hide to observe the game. The seating arrangements in the vehicles were completely enclosed in a wrap-around, strong welded-steel mesh. Before leaving camp we were asked to order drinks to be served in the hide. We arrived in the dark having been told not to talk or make any noise.

When we were settled in comfortable chairs in the hide, looking through a slot into the now pitch-black night, our drinks were served and we sat in the dark, silent except for the hardly-audible clink of ice. Suddenly the tension rose as we heard bones being crunched and, as slurping started, a lion lapping up the blood, the floodlights went on. Out in the bush almost close enough to touch, we thought, the huge beast had its head in the belly of a deer carcass secured to a tree. Not a sound was heard from the long row of guests’ heads, sipping at their glasses. In the background hyenas circulated, fidgeting, pushing and shoving to determine which of their number would get the first shot at the remains after the lion had finished. We left, herded expertly and politely into the vehicle, while our guides made sure that nobody put as much as a finger outside the mesh. In the meantime younger lions appeared and moved to the head of queue to [wait] for the dominant male to leave. Would anything be left for the now almost silent hyenas? Not a laughing matter!

It was quite cool by the time we arrived back at “camp” about 11pm where dinner was being served at tables set around a huge log fire. A sumptuous repast was served with all the right wines and the entertainment was traditional African. I left the party about 1am, quite exhausted. We were awoken about 6am and after coffee and refreshments we were taken out in specially-made open four-wheel drive vehicles, with a sharpshooter carrying a rifle sitting on out-riggers at each corner. Some hours were spent looking at Africa’s animals; we saw rhino, hippo, lions, giraffe and many varieties of birds. I do have some photographs but I wish I had kept a diary of all I had seen.

Suddenly the driver, who had been on the radio, asked us to hang on as [he] turned the lead vehicle around and headed home. He explained that he had to get back across the river before the bridge was washed away. The “dry” had broken overnight and the river separating the camp and airstrip from the open veldt was in flood as a result of seasonal storms upstream. He estimated that we had only a few hours to get on the safe side of the river. At daylight the next morning I was taken to the airstrip and on the way I was shown that the bridge and the foundations on both banks had been washed away overnight. Steady rain was falling by the time we arrived so we sat in the car to awaiting the ‘plane. They were anxious because the grass strip was getting wet and soggy. The aircraft landed, immediately turned around and taxied for take-off before stopping by the car; the engines were not switched off. I was hustled aboard for immediate take-off, my luggage was thrown in after me and take-off commenced as soon as the door was shut. It was touch and go but the plane was airborne and I was on my way to Lourenço Marques. They were practiced; obviously they had done it all before.

At the Polana Hotel I was made welcome and phoned Aunt Maria who told me how to direct a taxi driver to her apartment. I had time for [a] walk in the luxuriant gardens and [a] swim in the beautiful pool, [and] also confirmed my flight out for the next day. Maria Nazeré da Silva Davidson, a widow, lived by herself in a pleasant apartment and worked at the local branch of Barkley’s Bank. Her servant “girl” lived in a shed in the grounds with her children. We were collected by her son-in-law Antonio Bras who took us home to collect Rosemary (née Davidson) and then to a seafood restaurant where we ate freshly grilled “green prawns”; delicious. The next morning waiting in line to clear immigration before boarding I became aware of a fuss between a young Indian man – Peter Sellars voice – and a clipped official Portuguese voice from behind the one-way glass. “Pay the departure fee if you want to enter the gate area.” The Indian was almost in tears as he had “NO MONEY”, so I gave him the amount and off he went. My turn. “Yabba yabba yabba” he said in Portuguese as I posted my passport through the slot. In reply I said in my University of Melbourne careful English, “I don’t speak any language but English.” “What!” said the voice, “A da Silva who doesn’t speak Portuguese?” I assured him that was so, paid my money and through I went. Inside the Indian gent thanked me profusely and explained that it was difficult to leave [Lourenco Marques] with any money after a week’s holiday. Apparently in the days of Apartheid non-white South Africans found that [Lourenco Marques] was a happy place for a holiday with no colour bar.

During the 1972 Dry Season two senior geologists from [Johannesburg Consolidated Investments Ltd] turned up in Sydney and I took them to our Antimony leases in Queensland. It was all Dry flying as the mine was shut down during the worst of the Wet. As usual I chartered a single-engine aircraft and pilot from the Cairns Aero Club, [which is just] four posts and a flat tin roof. The JCI men had never been to Australia before and enjoyed the flight. In those days – minutes after take-off from Cairns to the lift over the escarpment on the coastal updraft then the rest of the way, at 1,000feet or less – civilization disappeared in minutes. Our landing strip was [one that had been] bulldozed out of the bush, sloping sharply down to the river so every landing was at the risk of a bath. Every take-off was critical because the engine had to pull the plane uphill as well as take off. The pilots could estimate the weight of humans with some accuracy but all equipment was checked with scales and taken or left behind as required by the pilot. The casual Australian approach was abnormal to the [Johannesburg Consolidated Investments Ltd] blokes as I usually slept outside in a sleeping bag, I will never forget the clear nights: being a city dweller I had never seen such stars. There was no segregation and they were startled to find that we left the plane with the doors open, to keep it cool, and [had] no armed guard. In [the Republic of South Africa], they said, the bush people would strip it to scrap in hours.

This is as far as the mine story goes because much of it is business and involves many people and [is] irrelevant to my personal adventures. However, to proceed to a suitable end, I can tell some bushy tails about concentrating the “as-mined ore”. Have in mind that at the beginning of 1972 gold was US$35/oz and by the end of 1973 it was US$300/oz and at the same time the Australian dollar changed from A$1.1/US$ to A$1/US$1.49.

In order to sell the Stibnite concentrate we eventually designed, built and successfully operated a flotation plant to concentrate the Stibnite (with much retained gold). The plant was built at the abandoned Herberton mill just South of Mareeba as the crushers were in good shape. The tailings, with their retained gold, were collected in a suitably-arranged dam. I have often wondered if the tailings are still there and muse on today’s values, [especially] as gold prices are rising again and A$=0.5US$ today. In any case, by December 1972 I was divorced from Armpits, dedicated to Honeywell and reorganizing our investments to better face the new political reality. The mine ran out of money when the mining boom crashed in the days of the Whitlam presidency. Interest rates went through the roof and the capitalization of our listed company collapsed. (Do laugh at this point even if you don’t agree with the politics.) It was fun though expensive fun and I was pleased to change direction without significant financial damage.

Flying to Herberton from the Cairns Aero Club was another adventure as there was no airstrip, public or private, [and] my pilot would buzz the plant until we saw the foreman’s Holden drive out the gate. No wireless telephones in those days. We would fly low over the racetrack and buzz the brumbies off the grass inside the rails then up and around again to land on the Racecourse as the manager or driver arrived to collect us. One day we landed at the huge airport built at Mareeba by MacArthur’s forces to support the Bomber Squadron sorties during the war. Occasionally, when time permitted we would go to Herberton by road in a trusty Toyota Landcruiser and so became familiar with the rainforests (now a tourist attraction) on the way.

Nothing remains the same in this world. We assessed other prospects – everything was for sale in those days – and visited some of the famous old claims. I remember Mungana and Chilligoe especially and others as far North as Coen. I couldn’t rush around like that now. Eventually I sold the whole output of the Herberton Mill to a Japanese processor after meeting their agents in Tokyo and London. After some tough bargaining related to the gold content we were paid in full for the Herberton output. Though it wasn’t enough to save the venture.

During the Antimony Mine days Judy and I had two great Great Barrier Reef holidays, the first to Dunk Island, named by James Cook RN, and other islands offshore from Tully. The other trip was to the Capricorn Group, staying on Heron Island. We flew to Dunk from Townsville, where I had a good pal and Automation customer at the Copper smelter, and then by helicopter to Heron from Gladstone – not named by Cook – where I was involved in automation applications at the Aluminium Smelter. We flew in on different days, Judy from the South and I from the North. After arriving I heard that Judy wouldn’t get aboard her chopper until she had put on her flippers. She was the talk of the Island for quite some time. Queensland is so big; Australia is so big that it’s impossible to sound credible when our Florida friends ask questions about home. I have experienced Americans who don’t know that General MacArthur spent some years in Australia and don’t believe that the Japanese bombed an Australian city. “Where is Darwin anyway? I didn’t know Australia was in WWII.” Some say!

On the way to Nadi in the year 2001 Judy was entertaining the gent in the window seat beside her, and when she got up for a walk he took up with me. Strange to relate he lived at Herberton and in the course of conversation I found that he too knew my Prospector pal with whom I had travelled far and wide to inspect opportunities. Like me he hadn’t seen him for some years, thus we were mates and talked for the rest of the flight. He told me that the great airstrip at Mareeba is no more as the runway was smashed up and removed, replaced by farmland. So I was lucky to see the launch facility for bombing the enemy when I did.

Our prospector – about my age and also born in Victoria during the Great Depression – enjoyed the life that had made him well-off. He had a house and a chatelaine companion in Cairns so that coastal town, rather than the mine, was our operational base. His R&R was at home and mine was swimming at the outer barrier of the Great Barrier Reef where he enjoyed fishing while keeping nit in order to warn me of predators. For me it was an incomparable experience and since then, though I have swum at reefs all over the world, I have never experienced coral reef swimming to compare with Australia’s North. From my Cuban Crisis Sugar Days through the Antimony Days I would stay at Hyde’s Hotel in Cairns where breakfast was served on the wide verandah over the footpath. Bedroom and other partitions, even the outside walls, were lined on one side only and many of those lining boards didn’t go to the ceiling or to the floor. Each room had a door to the hallway and another to the verandah and guests didn’t complain about their fellows who took a short cut, by mistake, when trying to find their room in the night.

I enjoyed mixing with the storytellers of the North though, as a TT I was a ring-in, [and] drunkenness was almost compulsory. 1970 was a big year up there and I bought a facsimile of Cook’s report, published after his return to London. The celebrations were over and I felt fortunate to get a copy and in reply to my query about the price reduction the local book shop owner said “It’s 1971 now it won’t be worth that much next year and I won’t be around in 2070.” My nephew Chris Cromwell, an exRAN officer was/is a great admirer of Cook and was delighted to look after the book so has it now, with other items from the 158 Hopetoun Ave library, the bulk of which was disposed of when we sold the house in 1997.

We never did find out how much Antimony was in the Big-A mine and at the end of the mining boom in 1972 our shares had slumped, Armpits bought out my agreement and Honeywell accepted me back with open arms. 1973 I was elected to the Board of Directors of the wholly-owned Australian subsidiary of the U.S.A. parent company and life returned to normal. Which meant that I wanted, needed and would buy a sailing boat for racing: [a] Hobie Cat from the Boat Show.

Ever since we moved to 110A Hopetoun Avenue I had looked at almost every house along the waterfront from Vaucluse Bay to Green Point on Watsons Bay. One day saw Gibsons Beach house for Auction […]