Relationships

In mid-1962 Mum and dad moved from Cooma to Canberra - renting a cottage in the suburb of Braddon.
There was a construction boom due to the
move of the Departments of Navy, Air Force, Army and Defence from, Melbourne.

Dad found a niche moving houses from Captans Flat to Queenbeyan and other locations. I worked for him. He was bitterly disappointed about my school result to the point of friction. There was no question of being paid for my labour.

Mum is on the Mend

The best thing that happened in 1963 was that Mum joined Alcoholics Anonymous.

This was because my sister Maureen came up from Sydney and confronted her at our rented home in Braddon.

"Mum, you are an alcoholic! There is a man outside that wants to take you to a meeting.
You don't have to say or do anything. Just listen
".

After some denial and argument Mum went to the meeting.

The initial meetings were at night and were held in a little hut on the border of the inner suburbs of Civic and Turner.

I used to accompany her. We would walk - as we had no car.

Talking was voluntary. Mum was a rather taciturn lady hence not open to telling all in front of a family member.
But I was not backward in telling the group about the destructive impact this had on the family and how proud I was that she was taking this step towards recovery.

It was a speech that I did not rehearse and all the words came out right in a matter of fact way.

It was not easy. She went through the "heeby geebies"; phantom alcoholic remorse and temptation to "get off the wagon". I was now 18 and the youngest sibbling at home. Dad was there - but he wasn't.

Mum went on to embrace the program. She became a proactive member and a frequent speaker.

In 1967 she went on a tour of America, speaking at any opportunity. She showed me a press clipping from a journalist. The journalist scribed about an alcoholic whose actions were much more degrading than that of Mum. But no! Mum said this clipping was about her.

Internally I concurred. I had witnessed the more torrid incidents of her path towards self destruction.

I am fast forwarding to my wife, Carmel, who worked in the drug and alcohol detoxification unit at the Gold Coast Salvation Army. Someone had questioned the low success rate of that program.

But the retort was "that entry into the program gave concerned family members a break from the constant trauma and this had to be measured as a benefit".

Mum died in 2004. Her last 41 years were spent sober.

She was a gutsy lady.

I was fortunate to spent the last 12 hours with her.

While she was in a coma and could not respond, I constantly called her a "toughy".

1963 The Public Service

Why did I join the Public Service? I can say “Because, in 1963, a house fell on Me”.

Dad was busy moving large weatherboard and fibro houses from one site to another.

Sam and I used to help him. We would scramble hands and knees under a house dragging heavy oregon/hardwood timber pieces about 3 'x 9' 'x 9" and set up several platforms on top of which hand jacks would be aligned along the support beams of the house.

Then we would alternatively raise each platform by about nine inches at a time until the end result was the house would be straddled on a set of 44 gallon drums ready for a trailer to be backed under - by Dad

It was back breaking work. Your hands were always getting jagged by splintered wood and we had never heard of the expression Workplace Health and Safety. The beams would creak and moan as they were being contorted. Every strange sound might be a warning to drop the jack handle wand and scamper.

The trailer was custom built. It consisted of two Rolled Steel Joists (RSJ) each sitting on a set of boggy wheels that compensated for uneven terrain - hence the trailer could be inched under the raised building ready for reverse jacking down. The two RSJs were braced by angle iron.

In those days engineering design standards was called "Guesswork".

We both worked seven days a week, I got board and keep and had to ask for money to go to the pictures.

One day we had loaded a huge community hall on the trailer assembly and were moving it from Action Hospital to a site in Yarralumla.

Dad was diving and we had Wide Load escorts. We were on State Circle between New Parliament House and the Prime Minister's Lodge when the building began to lurch. It was simply too heavy. The braces were buckling and the RSJ were leaning inwards. Dad stopped the truck and told me to grab some timber and jack, get under and rig a platform so as to take the weight while we could attend to the braces.

Against my better judgment I did as I was told. There were frightening noises under there.

Then suddenly there was a big bang. I got out just in time - still holding the jack handle. The building collapsed all over the undercarriage. More out of frustration, despair at losing his load and shock, Dad shouted that I was a "silly bugger" and somewhat suggested that it was all my fault.

I remember still having the iron bar handle and gripping it fiercely.

But I dropped it and said: "Stuff this I'm off ... I am gonna gonna go a and..".

"Go and do what?"

"Join the bloody Public Service" as I walked off back towards our home in the suburb of Braddon.

I got home and told mum. She told me to wash up and gave me some money to go immediately to the shops and buy a pair of trousers and a sports jacket so I could go the office of the Public Service.

By the time Dad got home we were still both angry at each other. He said I could join the public service but he wanted five pounds a week board and lodging.

The next day a picture of the collapsed building was on the front pages of the local Canberra Times newspaper.

Caption:

One of the last houses to be removed from Acton proved to be on the heavy side for the trailer which was used to remove it yesterday morning.

A supporting beam shifted and bent as the trailer was moving along State Circle near the South African Ambassador's residence.

Workmen jacked up the home and repaired the damage before there was danger of it sliding off the trailer.

The "workmen" in the picture was dad (standing); Sam, aged 13 (crouching). I was under the house.

The South African Ambassador was none too happy about the big furrow on his front lawn (see foreground)


Mates

I joined up with a group of Old Boys from Chevalier College - Bowral.

Dave Schultz; Bernie Brown; ? Furner. We were all working for the Department of the Navy.

Dave Schultz joined North's Football Club though me. He never got past third grade. But we were mates. He would pick me up in time for him to get to the ground and limber up. I would watch that game and half way into the seconds. Then we would go for drinks and often Schultzie would take me home.

He was a bonza bloke and generous with his ferrying to and fro.

Dave was an only child. His parents purchased a Morris Mini Minor for him.

Bernie Brown went into hock to purchase a brand new MGB sports car.

He was a scrawny pimply faced individual. On a Friday evening we would go to St Christopher's Community Hall next to the cathedral in Manuka for the weekly dance. These fine fellows always scored because they could offer to take a girl home - after dropping me off of course.

On two occasions, I drove up to Surfers Paradise with Schultzie for annual holidays.

We went in his Mini. He drove every inch of the trip. I did not mind. I could concentrate on the scenery. Surfers Paradise was not the place it is today. There was not one high rise - just rambling wooden Queenslanders ready for the scrap heap and awaiting the developer.

There were large stretches of open scrub land between the Strip and Coolangatta.

Beer gardens were the prime source of entertainment. But for 18 year old kids it was the brave new world.

Schultzie did not last too long as a bachelor. He was married at 20. I was his best man.

Another good mate was Theo Cassidy. He was Greek - Cassimatis.

His parents were involved in cafes (and afterwards garden nurseries). They lived in a large house on the street that backed onto the Prime Minister's Lodge in the suburb of Forrest.

Theo had a brother, John, and a sister. They wanted for nothing. Theo had a huge collection of fire arms, telescopic sights knives etc. John had a base drum set up in a spare room.

We would be there fooling around at this house or out rabbit and kangaroo shooting.

The fridge was full of olives and other Greek food which was scrumptious. Together with Paddy Martin we went on a slow trip to Surfers in a Morris 1100 - which had the revolutionary east west engine. The reason it was slow was that all along the Pacific Highway we would call in on Theo's relatives and stay overnight - fishing from a bridge or using spear gun and snorkel.

Theo did not last too long either. He was married by the time I can back from Vietnam.