Coal Trucks & Wagging School

August 17, 2015 at 12:30 am | Posted in Australia, Catholic Church, Discipline, Family History, Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, Memoir, Transport | 5 Comments
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When we lived in Dapto, we went to the local Catholic school, St John’s, where Sister Cecilia ruled with an iron rod. Then Dad got a job working on a new concrete bridge for Huntley colliery at Avondale, a few miles from Dapto. They needed a watchman to keep an eye on supplies, so Dad moved our caravan out there.

St John's School and convent

St John’s School and convent in the early 20th century

It was dairy country between wide swathes of forest, in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range, below the Illawarra escarpment. We camped next to a creek, from which we drew our water. The grocer in Dapto would bring a regular order out to us each week, and we would also go to town on Saturday mornings when the shops were open. Dad bought Mum a Baby Brownie camera from McGovern’s Chemist shop.

I loved the general store run by JG Fairley. They had a wonderful contraption for dealing with money. The shopkeeper would put the docket for purchases and the customer’s money into a brass container. He would pull a cord and the container would zoom along a wire up to the cashier’s office on a mezzanine floor. The cashier dealt with the money and gave change, which he sent back in the container to the shop assistant. No money was thus kept in the public area of shop. This process never failed to enthral me. Waters in Wollongong also had these contraptions.

My older brother was nine when we moved out to Avondale, and he loved nothing more than going into the bush with his mongrel terrier, Patch. On their rambles, they would find snakes and kill them. It wasn’t unusual for Mum to come back to the van to find a four-foot red-bellied black snake stretched out in front of the door. She was never amused. Peter led us three younger girls astray too.

We were several miles away from town, with no chance of getting a bus to school and Dad couldn’t take us. But we were right near the road that led down from the coal mine in the steep hills above. Some of the trucks took their coal to Tallawarra power station to the south east, but others went north, through Dapto. Dad arranged with one of the truck drivers, Charlie Keys (who only recently died: RIP), to pick us up on one of his morning runs from the mine and bring us back on an afternoon return run. It was a great adventure for all of us, sitting high up next to Charlie on the huge wide leather seat.

This photo taken about the time we were going to St John’s, though none of us is in it.

This photo taken about the time we were going to St John’s, though none of us is in it.

Peter decided one day that he didn’t want to go to school. Obviously, he couldn’t wag while we three girls went and possibly got him into trouble. So he persuaded us that playing in the town park was a much better option than school. We had quite a few days off school before Mr Shipp, the newsagent, noticed us hanging around the streets and dobbed us in to our parents. I remember that green leather belt Mum used as punishment for major crimes, and she doled it out in good measure that day. I never could accept though that Sister Cecelia also gave us a hiding in front of the school. Two punishments for the same crime seemed unfair. But I never wagged school again.

When the job on the bridge was finished, we went back to Reed Park in Dapto. Not long after, the unwelcome attentions of the farmer from Avondale on my very attractive mother led to Dad looking for an alternative place to live. He bought a block of land on the shore of Lake Illawarra at Albion Park Rail, and moved us and the caravan onto it We loved life there, but I have never forgotten the wonderful time we had living out in the bush at Avondale.

(c) Linda Visman

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Paddling Peter’s Canoe

May 18, 2015 at 12:00 am | Posted in 1950s, 1960s, Australia, Discipline, Family History | 14 Comments
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I wrote this story a few years ago about one aspect of my childhood – a combination of where I lived; what I wanted to do; what I wasn’t allowed to do; what I did do; and what I was punished for doing.

We lived right beside Lake Illawarra when I was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s. We played cricket on the shore outside the back yard (into the water was six and out), explored its shoreline and adventured in its casuarina forest. Several fishermen plied their trade in the deeper waters, catching mainly bream and mullet, and prawns in season. At night, the lights of the prawn boats and waders looked entrancing from our bedroom window. The lake wasn’t very deep in our bay, but we didn’t play in it because you sank to your ankles in sticky black mud when you walked in it.

ErnThompson &boat Dapto Abt1956 001

Dad with one of his boats. About 1955

In his spare time, Dad made boats for sale out of plywood. My older brother Peter wanted a canoe, so Dad made him one. It was flat-bottomed and had both ends enclosed on top. There was a seat at the centre, so Peter could put his legs into the front section for a foothold. For safety, because none of the family could swim, there was a small outrigger to prevent it tipping over. The craft was painted black and so was the paddle Dad made for it. Peter could now paddle off across or around the lake on his own adventures.

I was three years younger than Peter, about nine years old. A tomboy, I was jealous that, because he was a boy, he could have a canoe and go off on his own, whereas I, being a girl, couldn’t. One day, I decided to take Peter’s canoe out on the lake for a short paddle. It was just to see what it was like. I didn’t see why I shouldn’t: I would be careful; it was easy to paddle; and I didn’t even think about the possibility of capsize – Peter never had so it wasn’t an issue.

I carefully and quietly pulled the canoe down to the water’s edge, then pushed it out and climbed in. I began to paddle away quickly, so that I wouldn’t be seen from the house. I followed the shoreline to the south and, as I got into the swing of it, my confidence grew.  Deciding I didn’t have to go back straight away, I set about enjoying myself – just for a little while. I was sure nobody would miss me. So I paddled on, imagining myself as an intrepid explorer searching out new lands. Then decided it was more exciting to be Hiawatha, paddling down a raging river in his Indian canoe. I had a wonderful time, but eventually knew I must paddle back home.

canoe_outrigger

An outrigger canoe

I had not realised I’d been out a couple of hours. My absence and that of the canoe had been noticed. Mum was waiting for me and she was in no mood to be understanding. I had been disobedient and, in spite of the canoe having an outrigger, she, fearful of water herself, had been afraid I would capsize it and drown. As soon as I’d put the canoe and paddle away, I got the sharp end of her tongue and a thorough hiding with her green leather belt. Then I was sent to the room I shared with my two sisters.

As I’d been approaching home in the canoe, I’d noticed that I was developing a headache. After I went to my room, it got worse and worse. Soon I was throwing up violently and feeling terribly weak. It had been a warm sunny day and I had been out on the water for some time. We only wore a hat to church – we had no others. As a result, I had developed sunstroke. This was a natural consequence of a few hours in the sun, but, to my young Catholic mind, it was really God’s punishment on me for disobeying my parents. The illness I suffered, and my own guilty conscience, were much more effective than any hiding Mum might give me, and I was never again tempted to take Peter’s canoe out on the lake.

Linda Visman

A to Z Challenge 2015 – Reflection

May 5, 2015 at 3:00 am | Posted in A-Z Blogging Challenge 2015, blogging, Discipline, Reflections | 17 Comments
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A-to-Z Reflection [2015]

I have completed my second A to Z Blogging Challenge!

cheerleader

I have posted 26 entries through April with one of my poems for each A to Z entry, and I have enjoyed the experience a great deal.

I cannot think of a negative regarding the Challenge itself, but I have a lot of positives to report on my own participation:

  • The day before the Challenge began, I had intended to pull out. I thought it was too much for me to handle, and that the stress would be too much. Then I had a great idea – I would use my poetry for the entries.
  • I finally learned how to schedule my posts so that I could get them up on my blog a few days ahead of time and thus have some days in reserve in case I couldn’t make it on the day the post was due.
  • I strengthened ties with some blogs I follow and who already follow mine. Some did not do the A to Z Challenge, but they faithfully followed my posts. Among them are:
    • QueasyPeasy – QP and Eye, who writes on several different themes, and in this year’s A to Z, wrote posts mostly on her travels;
    • Frederick Anderson – Author, who writes a great blog and tells wonderful stories;
    • Our Rumbling Ocean, where I am finding out a great deal about South African bird and animal life and flora;
    • Baz – the Landy, who is a mountaineer who also loves travelling inland Australia and posts some great photos of the country.
  • I made some wonderful new blogging friends along the way, and have found great new blogs to read and to share. Among these are:
  • Even though many of my regular followers didn’t join the Challenge, they were quite engaged with my A to Z posts, and commented onthem regularly.
  • The number of my blog followers increased, and so did the number of visitors each post received. Views on my blog numbered 1,509 in April, where the usual monthly views are around 700-800 – so, a nice increase. The best week saw 485 views. These stats are small compared with many other A to Z-ers, but for me they are very satisfying.
  • My poetry had more exposure than it ever has before.
  • I completed the Challenge!

One problem I have had is nothing to do with the Challenge, but with my Gravatar. Somehow, about the start of the Challenge, the link from it changed from my wangiwriter wordpress blog to an old website I used to have years ago. I have still not been able to correct this.

I’d like to say thanks to those on the A to Z Challenge Team who dropped in on my blog and commented. It was lovely to see you and know that I was seen as one of the Challengers.

Thanks also to the organisers, who must be delighted with the steady increase in participant numbers each year.

I will certainly be taking the Challenge again in 2016, but I will start getting ready for it earlier than I did this year.

Here are all my posts for the 2015 Challenge:

A is for Answer

B is for Black Dog

C is for Crossing the River

D is for Dirty Fingerprints

E is for Embrace the Good

F is for First Touch

G is for Going Grand

H is for Haiku

I is for Imagination

J is for Justice

K is for Kangaroo

L is for Lost

M is for Mowing the Lawn

N is for Never-ending

O is for On the Rocks

P is for Petrol

Q is for Quinzaine

R is for Rivers of Life

S is for Snow Angels

T is for Time

U is for Unconditional Love

V is for Valentine

W is for Writers’ Block

X is for … X

Y is for You’re In There, I Know It!

Z is for Zephyr

Linda Visman – wangiwriter

Getting into a Blogging Routine

January 11, 2015 at 10:39 pm | Posted in blogging, Discipline, Writing | 5 Comments
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My friend, also named  Linda, blogs at Queasy Peasy, and she is much more disciplined than I am. Her latest post, 2015 Blog Plan, has at last stirred me to action, and I intend to have a blogging plan of my own.

I actually devised a routine at the start of 2014, but I never even started it, let alone stayed with it. My plan was for three posts a week: Memoir Monday; Wildlife Wednesday; and Freestyle Friday.

I did manage to complete the whole of the April 2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge, and intend to join that again for this year. I have also joined Cee’s Share Your World challenge, and have managed to post every week since I began it in August 2014.

So I have proved that I can rake up the discipline if I want to. After all, if my friend can do it working four days a week, then surely I can when I am retired! I just need now to make a marathon commitment, not just a sprint. And I need to be organised enough to include these blog posts into my already fairly busy schedule.

I intend to join Queasy Peasy in what she is calling her Monday for Memoir. I will continue to post weekly to Cee’s Share Your World. And I will do my best to post an entry each week on Australian flora and fauna (especially from my area) under Wednesday Wildlife.

Now I just need to work out how to make a banner for the memoir and wildlife posts. My friend did tell me how to do it a couple of months ago but I forget now. All right, where is that notebook I wrote the name of the program in?

Linda Visman

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