Across the railway line was virgin bushland.
Empire Day was big in our family agenda. We got a holiday from school and we built bonfires spent lots of money on fireworks. John and myself went ferreting for trees across the railway line. We dragged them through the drains and the up the street to the front of our house.
We used to meet the public school kids in the drain and have spats throwing stones.
Later, Sam and I took over cutting lugging and carting. The water in the drains was suspect - green and slimy. The trees would get drenched and we would man handle the wet branches.
We were forever coming out in warts, boils sties and other forms of skin problems.
We poached the neighbourhood for empty cordial bottles where we got threepence for their return at the green grocer stores. We also got a penny for each pound weight of used newspaper we sold to the shop merchants who used the paper for wrapping up produce.
Neighbours would contribute to the bonfire. We got their broken chairs; boxes paper etc. Some even contributed a few shillings towards our bank of fireworks.
Bungers were my favourite. Late May in Sydney was cold. The roaring bonfire felt great the heat was intense as it lit up the night sky. The next day was spending scouring over bonfire sites looking for unspent crackers and the sticks of sky rockets. We used these sticks to make kites using brown paper and string.
Aged five I trudged off up the hill with John and Babe to the Regina Caelie Catholic primary school.
I clearly remember Day One - where mums were coercing "cry-babies" to let go of their dresses and go into class.
I could not understand why they were crying - it was an adventure.
We did not have pen and pencils. We had slate boards and crayons we learnt the alphabet practicing and rubbing out and doing it again and again.
Catechism was forced down our throats. I was also recruited as an altar boy.
Off we went to Mark Foys in town to get kitted up in the red caftan white blouse, studs, collars and other tapestries. I do remember the quality and fineness of the material and thought church must be rich to give out this stuff.
Being an altar boy meant getting up in the dark hours of the morning for 7 am Mass.
We would often get there earlier than the priest and go about opening up.
One morning I came out of the vestibule and in the darkness but light by glowing candlelight was a coffin.
It completely shocked me - it was my first encounter with death. I was not ready for it.
The government sponsored a free milk campaign. Each play time there were crates and crates of it laid out in a shaded area of the playground. We could drink as much as we wanted.
We even had flavoured milk in one sustained period.
When summer came, however, it was tedious drinking the hot stuff - which was compulsory.
On a clear day we could see the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
It had only been completed 20 years earlier and the sight of it still sparked popular enthusiasm for its grandeur an engineering marvel.
Those kids fortunate to be taken to the Pylon look-outs would tell all the kids about it. So we looked at it in awe.
At school play-time was superb. Everyone was amazed that I could stand on my head. We played force-em back - kick the ball; mark; 3 steps forward for a catch on the full; kick the ball again.
Cigarette cards were converted to flat objects - for what purpose I don't remember.
We threw bottle tops against the wall with whoever and the nearest had first chance to put them all on the elbow. Then with a swift flick of the arm you had to catch them. Those you caught you kept.
We also played marbles and "piggy-in-the-middle". This was a game where one person was in the middle of a defined space. Everybody had to run from one end to another without getting tagged. Those who got tagged joined the people in the middle in the end it was many against a few.
I did not mind the hand-me-down clothes but the nuns at school ridiculed me because the fabric had faded in on the seat of my one pair of school trousers so I had "holes in my bottom".
I was amazed when I went to a friend's place to see his mother iron a set of three pairs of school shorts.
There were holes in my socks as the leather of the souls had worn through. Amusing now when you imagine a well presented altar boy kneeling away from you exposing his "holy souls".
To top it off, for years I had a green film on my teeth. This was fixed in a single visit to the dentist.
As mum slipped into alcoholism, I slipped into being feral.
Sam and I would go into Woolworths and steal chocolates.
If we noticed that staff were watching us we would bolt directly across busy King Georges Road in the hopeful knowledge that cars would avoid us.
The staff never dared chase. We used to steal comics from the back garage of the local newsagent.
We would also jump over the back yard of neighbours and "steal" from the abundant fruit trees.
Truth be known, these kind neighbours would have given us - everything was in abundance.
Dad owned a big black Buick. I wished he didn't.
At school I was marked as being a rich kid.
Eventually the Buick was gone and dad went looking for work down in the Cooma district as the Snowy Mountains Hydro Electric Scheme was underway.
Dad owed the bank a lot of money.
There was one incidence when I was playing in the back yard.
Out rushed dad. "Wow he is going to play with me".
He went straight past me and over the fence through the blackberry briars and out onto Lee Avenue.
The bailiffs were at the front door.
Dad was a lovable rogue who taught us all the tricks - like going to a public telephone and shouting in the ear piece to leave a message.
He seemed more religious than mum. He prayed at night and regularly went to Sunday church.
He went to the school concerts and was interested in and commented on the religious politics of the day - whatever they were.