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One man’s journey into an interest in politics

What influences us more in later life than our upbringing? Certainly events can but nothing stays more with us than those early experiences. Some achieve success and believe their success necessitates a change in their political affiliation. But for me my early journey has shaped what I believe in, the way I think about social justice and my world view. I hope you enjoy this account of my first 14 years.

Chapter one
Sensory Reflections of Brunswick

I remember as if were yesterday the sounds, fragrances and sights of the inner suburb of Brunswick in the city of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. It was the place I spent my childhood. Even now, I can almost taste it. I was born in the year 1941 at the Women’s Hospital in Carlton. This is important not because it is my birth year, which is significant in itself (well, to me at least), but also because it was the year that the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour. This dastardly assault led to the USA becoming involved in world war two.

Our name is the most important procession we have, other than our minds of course. Given the name John William Lord, I was christened a Methodist because the Mick’s wouldn’t have me. My mother committed the sin of marrying outside the Church and she probably was pregnant with my brother Robert Philip, before wedlock. One’s name is what gives us individuality and separates us from other members of the human cohort. My mother’s maiden name was Muriel (Madge) Josephine Dorgan (of Irish Catholic origins) and married John Philip Lord who was 22 at the time.

My father deserted my mother not long after I was born. Various versions of the events surrounding my fathers departure, have surfaced over the years but I had never felt any inclination to pursue or investigate them further. However, as I near the age of seventy I experience pangs of guilt and sadness for not investigating my background. All of a sudden, and as foolish as it may sound, it has become obvious to me what the absence of a father can mean to a child and the ramifications of how it shapes one’s life.

My guilt recently magnified itself by the purchase of perhaps the most inspirational book I have ever read. In life, I have learned not to be surprised at seemingly coincidental occurrences. It just happened that when I decided to write this story I was looking through some titles in a bookstore and came across this one. “A Room at the Top” The story of Heath Ducker. It draws some remarkable parallels to my own life.

Perhaps I have been so busy with the everyday tasks getting on with life to be at all bothered with my father. Perhaps I was afraid at what I might discover. He was a chef who later became a police officer and was not a nice man. Or so I was told. Throughout my life, I was never of a disposition to enquire further. It seems strange now that as I approach my latter years that the full impact of not knowing my father has become an issue with me.

My mother was conceived, not with her mother’s husband but with another male with whom she had a relationship while he was away during the First World War. I have no recollection of my grandmother or her fate. Nor do I recall grandparents on my father’s side. I do remember grandmothers husband Timothy Dorgan who was, Irish, and very Catholic. As were all the family. He was as I recall a tailor whose digs were a bungalow at the rear of our small terrace house in McKenzie Street, which ran between Hope and Albion Street’s. I can recall the sound of his voice as he staggered down the back lane after a day at the pub singing “Danny Boy” or some other Irish ditty. He would fall frequently on the bluestone laneway and the stench of his vomit I have never forgotten. He had a birthmark that occupied almost the entire left side of his face but when sober, which was not often he had a sunny nature. He used to press with irons he heated on a stove by placing a wet cloth on the garments he made. No electric irons in those days. He passed away after being hit by a tram in St Georges Road Northcote outside the old folks home where he lived.. I do not know where he is buried.but I suspect it was the Catholic section of the Broadmeadows cemetery.

If what follows seems somewhat vague in terms of memory, lacks clarity or sequential continuity it is because I find it difficult to put all the pieces together. It may all seem fragmented because I believe there are certain elements of my childhood and adolescence that I have chosen subconsciously to bury. Alternatively, it may well be that at this time in my life; my memory does not serve me well. Some events I cannot marry with my age at the time but I don’t think it detracts from my story.

So if my memory cannot put things in order. Where do I start? I have chosen a fence. In fact, a paling fence on which my brother and I stand on its second rung. The fence is at an orphanage in the adjoining suburb of Carlton. We were there because our mother could not afford to keep us. Perhaps I was about four or five at the time but I cannot be sure. Our excitement at her expected visit radiates across our faces but she does not arrive. I can feel the emotion of that disappointment even today. She came the next week and our joy was content.

At around this time my mother met Jim Mackinnon with whom she was to have a de facto relationship until she passed away. I was told that he was responsible for us leaving the orphanage and somehow we found ourselves at McKenzie Street. Although I can remember spending a period, three doors up in an identical terrace house occupied by another family. The mothers name was Sissy, which I have always remembered because of its unusualness. We occupied one small room, me my brother our mother and Jim who became our de facto stepfather. I recall we had one small single burner on which to cook but I don’t recollect ever being hungry. Jim was a truck driver who originated from Orbost in Gippsland, Victoria. He was married with two children Ned and Kevin. Apparently, his wife who was a Catholic would not give him a divorce so he and my mother lived together as man and wife during a period when the practice was frowned upon.

Our little house in McKenzie Street was always a hive of activity and housed an extended family. There was my Auntie Catherine, Mum’s sister and her husband Bert Murphy. At the time, I thought Uncle Bert had a formidable intelligence and I think I got on better with him than my brother. They had a son Bernie and a daughter Patricia and of course, there was Timothy who lived in the bungalow. There was also, what Australians call a sleepout at the rear of the property. All the rooms were tiny by comparison with today’s houses.

The front of the property had a veranda with wooden flooring and my mother washed and bleached the boards more than I thought was necessary. This also applied to the seat in the outhouse situated at the rear of house adjoining the back lane. The bleach she used was so potent that it took ones breath away. A laneway (or sideway) ran down the side of the house and near the kitchen door hung a Coolgardie safe shaped somewhat like a birdcage with a fine mesh covering to protect the meat from flies.

The laneway was also the domain of a Fox terrier whose name was Sammy or Sam, and I remember well its incessant barking every night there was a full moon. The back lane was also, where we took delivery of the ice blocks for the ice chest. In summer, my brother and I would ask the iceman to chip some ice from the edge of the blocks to suck on. He would normally oblige. It was also the delivery point for the man who sold rabbits from a basket attached to the handlebars of his pushbike. We could hear his call ‘rabbits, get your rabbits, rabbits, get your rabbits’ from the far end of the lane and the heads of women would appear over paling fences. Delicious steamy rabbit stew or broths were culinary pleasures to look forward too.

As opposed to the laneway, the front street was where the man with horse and cart delivered our daily bread. The clip clop of the horse’s hooves was a familiar sound on the bitumen early each morning. The bread was always white and in loaves, nothing sliced in those days. Philip’s greedy fingers always managed to chip away some crust from its freshly baked and irresistibly smelling edges and I usually took the blame. It was also from there that we took delivery of our milk but I also think there was a dairy located nearby. I can remember being sent with the Billy to buy a quart of milk one time and loosing the ration coupons which was tantamount to mortal sin. (Butter and milk was severely rationed after the war) When I returned home and confessed to my crime, I copped one hell of belting. On Sunday morning’s it would be quite an event if the Salvation Army band appeared in McKenzie Street. If it did not, we would go looking for it once we had picked up even the faintest thread of sound. It was a time when one could hear the sounds of suburbia with little competition from street traffic.

The rooms of the house were very small. A passageway or hallway ran down the right hand side. Running off to the left were two rooms. The first was a lounge room where Philip and I often played together. Toys were not as I recall in abundance, if there were any they were certainly scant. We collected football cards, and in winter sat in front of the small open fire, and talked about the teams and our favourite players although I think we had not yet seen a game and we certainly had not yet formed any allegiances.

This room is of great consequence to me in another way because it was in this room that I heard music for the first time. The tune was ‘The Anniversary Waltz’ and the American singer Al Joslin sung it. The sound came from a wind up gramophone machine that played vinyl recordings. Every few play’s the needle needed to be replaced. I remember being mesmerised by the sound that came from this old machine. Therefore, my lifelong love of music had its genesis in that little room and I will always be grateful to its four walls and the sounds it encapsulated.

The next room down the passageway was a bedroom and I cannot recall who occupied it. I presume it was a bedroom so my uncle and auntie must have slept there. At the end of the corridor was the kitchen and centre of most household activity. It was there that our mother washed my brother and me from a tub on the kitchen table, and once a week we had a bath in an outside laundry that contained a chip heater to heat the water. The kitchen table brings to mind some instances of unforgettable reminisce. My grandfather had this habit of drinking his tea from the saucer after tipping the contents of his cup into it. This I am told is a very Irish thing to do, but as a small boy I gawked at him with puzzlement. We were not allowed to speak (unless spoken too) at the table and had to ask for things to be passed. If salt was required we would have to ask for it, in the most polite fashion. I once recall reaching for something only to find the knuckles of my hand whacked by a tablespoon that left my hand in pain for the rest of the night. Discipline by today’s standards was draconian, but I think it did give us a solid foundation in manners. Respect for elders was paramount in the upbringing of children of our generation.

Our kitchen was always a hive of activity. It was the area where cooking and eating took place, and conversation transpired, very argumentative and social. On Sunday night’s we listened to the hit, parade on the Mickey Mouse radio set. This was always popular because you could listen to the dulcet voice of Irish crooner Bing Crosby, who usually had half of the top ten recordings. A highlight of Sunday nights in summer was to be sent to the corner shop for a bottle of cold Merchant’s Creamy Soda. We derived much pleasure from the simplest things.

At some, stage a new Kelvinator refrigerator to replace the ice chest arrived and I distinctly remember the radio on top of it. In fact, I can recall listening to a test match from Lord’s in England, although I think it was a delayed broadcast from the BBC. I do remember Don Bradman hitting a century. It must have been 1948. The invisibles tour. I would have been seven at the time.

There was a room at the rear of the kitchen that my mother occupied together with us two kids. Jim would also sleep there when he was in Melbourne. Eventually he moved in permanently. The only two lasting memories I have of this space is firstly of lying in my bed being fed jelly and ice cream after have had my tonsils extracted at the Royal Children’s Hospital. I think my brother had his removed at much the same time. The smell of that dreadful anaesthetic chloroform still lingers .The second is laying on my bed crying my heart out when some people failed to arrive to take me for my first tap dancing lesson. I was destined never to have one but I became a fair ballroom dancer in my teens.

The kitchen contained a wood-fired stove that my mother used to blacken with some substance. I have forgotten its name. The stove was used for all the cooking and boiling of water. One day when I was alone in the house, I noticed that the chimney had caught fire. Panicking I made a quick decision to poor water into it from the roof. I filled a bucket climbed onto the roof and pored its contents down the chimney. It made an awful mess of the kitchen but it put out the flames. I received packet of half size Derwent coloured pencils for my efforts.

We had a small back yard that contained a washhouse made from corrugated iron. In it was a shower, wood chip heater and a copper for washing the clothes and a wringer that was used to rid the clothes of excess water after washing them. It was freezing in winter and unbearable in summer. It was in this room that my mother and auntie dressed prior to going out on Saturday nights. They would put on their best dresses and smother their legs with a tanning cream instead of stockings, which were unobtainable at the time. Well, except on the black market. There was also the sleep out, and I have vague memories of someone being laid to die within its grey asbestos walls. The only other structure was the outhouse, which always had a constant stream of visitors to use the course pages of telephone books cut in half for toilet paper. And of course the odour of chlorine from the constant scrubbing of its seat by my mother.

Uncle Bert was a gardener at the Brunswick gardens and would ride his pushbike home for lunch and park it in the yard. One day Philip and I let the air out of both of the tyres and after threatening to tan our hides, was forced to walk back to work. It was also the space that I remember us nagging our mother for money. We wanted to go to the Brunswick Baths. When she could stand it no longer, she emptied her purse. It contained two pennies and with tears in her eye’s she gave them up. We had our entry fee of a half penny each and enough to buy a pennies worth of scraps from the fish and chip shop on the way home. Buying real chips was something that rarely occurred. It was a moment in time that has embedded itself in my mind. A time when even a simple thing like a swim at the local pool had a measured cost and the cost could be a sacrifice.

When I think back on those times, it brings home the hardship of the period immediately after the war and although only a child at the time, the experiences remain in my memory. There was a shortage of staple foods. We used dripping instead of butter. Few people owned motor cars. We were practiced walkers. Jobs were hard to come by, but there was a feeling of community togetherness.

The streets and laneways belonged to us. We explored every one of them. We had foot races in the street and one time when I had won a race, I ended up with a painful rope burn around my neck. The boys holding the rope at the finish line forgot to lower it. We made our footballs out of newspaper and rubber bands and played end to end in the street. Our shoes were filled with newspaper to cover the holes because we couldn’t afford to have them re soled. We played for hours but were always home before the street lights went out. There was a shop in Hope Street where we bought comic books and exchanged them later. Batman and Tarzan were my favourites but the titles were limited. We often went to the pictures and the Saturday afternoon matinees. Our preferred theatre was the Padua in Sydney Road. Its architecture was modern art deco with a ticket box shaped like a space ship.

For a short time, we joined the cubs. Learnt to tie knots and on the way home stole fruit from overhanging trees in dark laneways. For some reason this adventure had no longevity. Perhaps it was one of those times that we left Brunswick for short periods.

My brother and I set up own business collecting wood chips from the box maker next to the railway line. I can still smell the sawdust on the floor of that factory. We would put the chips in Hessian bags. Fill our Billy carts and go door to door flogging them as fire starters. I think we made some money because I can remember buying kitchen utensils for our mother with the proceeds. In winter, we would kick footballs on the Brunswick oval if we could find someone who owned one. In summer, we lived at the baths. It had an indoor pool and an outdoor fifty-meter with a high diving board. It took some time to muster the courage to jump from the top platform. Every now and then, we would climb to the top, creep on our bellies to the edge and look down on the shimmering surface below. At some period, I became game enough to jump. It may have been the result of a dare but I remember it as being an exhilarating experience. I gained my Herald certificate for swimming in the pool. The indoor pool was always heavy with humidity and smelt with overuse of chlorine, but I think we had more fun in it.

Sydney road was the main thoroughfare that carried traffic from the city up its tram tracks to Royal Parade through Brunswick, Coburg and then the Hume Highway. It was in Royal Parade that as a small boy I became a Republican. In 1953, the newly coroneted young Queen Elizabeth visited Australia. Schoolchildren lined both sides of the parade and were given two flags to wave as she drove past. One was a Union Jack and the other the Australian flag. I stood there in utter confusion. The event I believe was the catalyst in my becoming a confirmed Republican. I would have been eleven or twelve at the time.

Every shop, pub and church in Sydney Road was familiar as were the laneways and the vacant areas along the train tracks. It was there that we played Cowboys, Indians, and any other games we invented. I was fascinated with the attendant at the railway crossing at Hope Street and marvelled at his ability to swing both gates and have the one that reached the opposite side lock in its steel leg at its base into a hole and preventing it from returning.

When the need arose, we visited the barbershop where the bouquet of Californian Poppy was the preferred male hair lotion. No choice of style then, just short back and sides. My mother purchased her cigarettes on the black market at a small tobacconist near the Padua Theatre. At six o’clock on Friday mornings, my brother and I would jump on our bikes and race to the butcher’s to pick up the family meat order. Fresh smelling sawdust covered the floor of the butchers.

There was a Church opposite Blyth Street where we attended Sunday school and were given scripture cards. The Catholic Church where mother occasionally went to Mass was further toward the city. I recall her always placing a handkerchief on her head prior to entering. There was also a Chinese Café on the same side of Sydney Road as the Padua Theatre. It was rumoured that they killed cats there to make Dim Sims. I think we actually believed it.

The fresh whiff of newly laid tan bark under the monkey bars evokes memories of the North Brunswick Primary school. The austere playground occupied a space at the front of the boy’s toilet block where the older males stood at the urinal competing for the highest piss. The playground was where we partook of our morning recess half point of milk. A government handout that in summer was always warm with cream floating on the surface. More often than not, it had turned sour in the sun and was an unwelcome event in our everyday life. It was where I played the bass drum at morning parade and where we raised the flag and sang God Save the Queen and I used to wonder, “what for”. In winter, we played kick to kick and I took many speckies. In summer, it was cricket but it was not as popular with me as football.

I well recall my first day at school standing in the foyer holding my mothers hand and feeling frightened, isolated and threatened. My early memories of school are not altogether pleasant. There were occasions when I suffered with bad eyesight and couldn’t see well. The teachers wouldn’t believe me and it made life very difficult at times. I was later to learn that I had recurring conjunctivitis and it still gives me trouble today.

Two teachers have left an indelible impression on me. The first was a woman by the name of Kay Smith who married Kevin (Skeeter) Coglan a Hawthorn player was at the time the smallest player playing in the VFL. She had a beautiful and gentle nature to which I responded well. She used to sit at her desk near the fireplace in our bland and chilly classroom that was devoid of personality and speak to each child as if he or she were the most important person in the world. The second was a man whose name I cannot remember but he taught history, which was a subject I liked. More to the point, he was the sports master and nothing was more important at the time.

In class, I had the job of filling the inkwells. One time I remember spilling some onto a cut in my hand and the next day my hand ballooned to twice its size. Writing was one thing that I was attracted too. It was always a thrill to be able to afford a new nib now and then from the shop opposite the school in Albion Street. Shaping letters to form words was an artistic pursuit that never failed to attract me.

I had two friends who I remember most. David Llewellyn with whom I used to meet at the Saturday afternoon matinee and Richard Clements who lived adjacent the school. I would often go to his place after school and kick a football around until it got dark and I would have to run home before the street lamps went out. Dick as we called him went on to play VFA football with my brother at Coburg. We always walked to school. In fact, we walked or ran everywhere. We were always instructed to walk to school on the Northern side of Albion Street because Jews lived on the other side. Such was the ignorance and culture of the time.

There were also other schools but I cannot recall in which order we attended them. Or indeed why it was necessary. There was a stint at Fairfield where my mother looked after an elderly bed ridden woman who was nasty and intolerant. We dared not go near her bedroom fearing she might be some kind if witch. Her husband used to shave with a cutthroat razor and I would watch him from a guarded distance and with fearful childhood fascination. I saw him behead a chook once in the backyard. I watched incredulously as it ran around the yard on its nerves. It was in the same backyard that I leapt from the woodshed roof as Superman. I ended up with a severely bruised ankle. The house was not far from the Yarra River and my brother and I spent countless hours exploring its banks and surrounds. The school was next door with a massive hedge that surrounded it. It was so huge that we were able to play within its interior. At the time, I suffered from hives on both my hands and the inside of my knees and they were always bleeding.

We also spent time in the suburb of Hampton with people we called Auntie Gwen and Uncle Vick although they were not related. Uncle Vic was a returned soldier and I retain an image of him in the washhouse shaving with cold water. He was a prisoner of war with the Japanese and the house was full of mementos from his service. My only recollection of the school is that it was on a v shaped intersection with a playground in the corner where we ate condensed milk sandwiches.

Yet another school was Thornbury State in Hutton Street. My only memory of it was being taught English history in one of the upstairs classrooms by a tyrant of a teacher. It seemed to me that we should have been learning about Australia but Australian History certainly was not in the syllabus.

I cannot recall the duration of our stays in any of these institutions but we always seemed to end up back in Brunswick where at the end of year six my mother enrolled me to attend the Brunswick Technical School. It was a school with a tough reputation. I was aged 13, still in short pants and on reflection not qualified to advance to secondary education. Too many schools and non-attendance for extended periods had taken its toll and I could barley spell adequately, although I had cultivated a love for reading even if it was only comic books. Maths was a mystery and English even more so. The only person who ever took any interest in my education was Uncle Burt but it wasn’t prolonged attention. Therefore, in shots pants, cap and tie I set forth to technical school.

To this day, I can remember with horror a teacher writing the word ‘Algebra’ on the blackboard. He may well have written ‘Spanish’ for I had no idea what the word meant. I didn’t last out the year and was working prior to my 14 birthday. I enjoyed some subjects. A teacher of history was a very talented artist. He would draw with thick chalk on the blackboard. It seemed to bring his lessons alive and I became engrossed in them. Music studies were another subject that I liked but the teacher was such a brute of a man that I never responded to him. He had the most lethal strap in the school and I was often an unwilling recipient of its painful lashings.

It was also a time when my classmates and I were experiencing adolescence and were constantly asking teachers questions of a sexual nature. In the absence of any formal teaching, some tried to answer our enquiries but most were too embarrassed. Therefore, we got by with passed on information from the playground that suffered from gross embellishment and ignorance.

The favourite playground game was ‘British Bulldog’. A rough game where one boy would stand against a wall and another would leapfrog onto his back and then form a row. As the row became longer, the leapfrog became longer and inevitably great masses of bodies crashed onto the ash felt. Eventually the school banned it because it was so dangerous.

In the football season, I was selected in the junior football team. We were to play another team at Princess Park. I did not own a pair of football boots and there wasn’t any money to purchase any. Jim hammered some stops into some old shoes and they sufficed. As I recall I didn’t make a bad fist of my first game considering all the other, boys were wearing the real thing.

In those days schools had a mid year ball. I was very excited about it and the thought that I would have the opportunity of dancing with a girl for the first time.

As the day came closer, I started agitating for a new pair of black shoes to go with my tuxedo that the school hired. I would be the only boy in my form without them I argued. Instead, Jim spent a few days polishing my brown school shoes with black nugget. I did get to dance “The Pride of Erin” with great aplomb and people didn’t seem to notice my brown shoes, although I was very upset at the time. Events like this accentuated one’s position in society and were the birth of my attitude toward social justice.

I also had the opportunity to sing at the school concert and auditioned to sing a Jonnie Ray tune. He was a very popular pop singer at the time and I had developed a particularly good impersonation of him. I was a big fan and could hold a tune. Another red headed boy with a terrific personality beat me for the spot but I conceded that he was better than I was. I continued to sing at many parties until I was about eighteen when my voice deserted me.

At some time during this year, we moved to Collins Street in the suburb of Thornbury and I would catch a tram and two buses to Brunswick to continue school. I think it was at this time I developed my interest in newspapers because I can remember being excited about buying and reading the Herald on the way home. Had I known at the time how conservative it was perhaps I might not have bothered?

And so, it was decided that I should leave school and go to work. (In those days, the school leaving age was 14) I have no recollection of having any say in the matter. Uncle Bert wrote a letter on behalf of my mother. The headmaster had no choice but to accept her decision. I stood in his office and he expressed the view I had potential as a student. I still harbour great shame that because of ignorance and social inequality I missed a decent education. Reading, observation and questions replaced it as my textbooks for life.

In January of 1955 a month before my fourteenth birthday, I started work and my real education began. The memories of Brunswick that I retain as lasting feelings and visual records are mixed. Overwhelming Irish ness lingers. Boozy argument and frivolity mixed with the independence I had for childhood exploration. Some of it I delight in. Some of it I abhor. I determined to be better and not bitter and always to embrace the aroma of expectation. I was to learn the meaning of the word sagaciousness and many others.

Forward to Chapter two

I am sceptical of autobiographical writing because I believe the writer has a bias toward self-interest. Intended or otherwise. It has to do with truth. What does one say about the inner sanctum of one’s soul? Do you shape the truth for the sake of good impression? On the other hand, do you tell the truth even if it may tear down the view people may have of you? Alternatively, do you simply use the contrivance of omission and create another lie .I can only conclude that there is always pain in truth but there is no harm in it.

I have always thought of myself as someone who has experienced the world with thoughtful intensity. Observation, reading and questioning became a substitute early in my life for education. People have said that I am intense and prone to moody reflection. Others have said that I can be seriously funny. Both are true. In my early teenage years without a father, I learned to live inside myself where dark secrets were filed and not given the light of day. It’s a lonely place where I worked things out for myself. It was also a place where I was apt to cry tears that dare not show their dampness. I just suffered alone and got on with life.

Chapter two

My own “Mein Kamph”

Every boy has to find his place in an adult world. A hazardous journey and one of tempestuous ebbs and flows. I have very vivid memories of growing up into my teenage years. Places events and activities. Some happy, even hilarious. Others significant, with wonderful outcomes, and others diabolically unjust and humiliating.

The house at 61 Collins Street Thornbury by any comparison with Brunswick was a mansion. It was a corner house of little architectural distinction but large nevertheless. My bedroom was situated on the right of the front entry to the house, Madge, and Jim’s on the left. The long hallway led to the lounge and kitchen on the left and another room on the right. This room was twice the size of the others and backed onto a laundry. When Uncle Bert and Aunty Cath came to stay with us they used this room and the laundry was converted into a kitchen Further down the hall was another room that filled no real purpose other than being the entry from the back door. In addition, a bathroom was inside the house. Bourgeois luxury was upon us. A veranda ran along the back of the building and beyond it was a garden. There were three exterior buildings. A very large garage where Jim housed his truck, a small bungalow that became Philips digs and another bungalow that served as a storage room. It also had an outside toilet built into a corner of it. Beside the garage was an area where Jim parked the Graham Page. (What now would be a valuable vintage car) It was eventually driven to the Northcote tip and discarded.

We had only lived a short time in Collins Street before I started work with T&H Hunter Pty Ltd. Jim worked as a cartage contractor and owned a Chevrolet tray truck. He collected waste paper mainly from printing companies and on occasions during school holidays I would jockey for him. Hunters were one of his clients and he arranged an interview for me. I don’t even recall if the job had a title. Mr Reginald Cutten esq. asked me a few questions and I got the job. He asked me to write my name and address on a sheet of paper and at the time, I had no idea of the significance of his request. As it turned out, he thought he could judge people by their handwriting. He himself had the most beautiful scripted hand writing I have ever seen. He later showed me exercises to improve my own. In those day’s we always addressed adults or people senior to us as mister. This social habit lasted for many years into my work life and has only been an exclusion of recent times. Many men also used the title esquire in those days a leftover from colonial England.

I have very vivid memories of growing up into my teenage tears. Places events and end happenings. Some happy, even hilarious. Others significant with wonderful outcomes and others diabolically unjust and humiliating.

When exactly we moved to Collins Street I am uncertain …


My thought for the day

”Wisdom is but a reflection on growing older.”


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  1. dickybirdwp

    Very interesting. We are the same age, but our childhoods were so different. More please.

  2. Ella miller

    Mr. Lord, loved reading your story. Brought back manny memories. More please.

  3. Barry Thompson.

    Yes John, please go on.
    A most enjoyable piece of nostalgia. Joseph, you have some competition.
    Skeeter was a teacher at Melbourne High when I was there. I can remember thinking how gutsy he was to take to the football field with much bigger men.
    Thank you John.

  4. Glenn K

    ABSOLUTELY!…..please continue

  5. Joseph Carli

    Barry Thompson..” Joseph, you have some competition.”…: “Let a thousand flowers bloom!” …not competition ; complimentary.

  6. James Mason

    Yes, please go on ‘Mr’ Lord ..

  7. christopher cole

    Thank you so much for this reflection Mr. Lord. Even though I was born in 1955 it dredged up some visceral fond and not so fond memories from my childhood as well – the fibro walls of Uncle Peter’s sleep out, the horse-drawn bread cart, the pissing contests, filling the inkwells,the sawdust in the butcher’s shop, the whack on the back of the hand with the spoon, that very large strap that I was well acquainted with, and so many more – I was able to both see and smell these histories. Your story brought a smile to my face often, and a jogged memory that brought a nostalgic tear to the eye more than once …

  8. Isabel de la Rambelya

    Yes do go on. You have a wonderful gift for reflecting on the past. Thanks for sharing so much of yourself!

  9. Caroline

    A well-written reminisce John, you have a good memory for detail.
    You mention ‘guilt’ and the impact of not knowing your father becoming an issue.
    Do you have the luxury to waste time on guilt at your age? What is guilt and why would the actions of another cause it? You’re not responsible for creating your father nor his actions nor any other person’s actions for that matter.
    The antidote for guilt is gratitude for life.
    Leaving guilt and blame to others to ‘enjoy’, one easy way to enter into the world of gratitude is via appreciating Nature. Some say it’s child’s play but the egoistically-distorted world’s set up to discourage such ease. So what?

  10. jagman48

    Hi John

    Your post brought back so many memories for me. I lived in Fawkner from about 1952 I believe. The place was at the end of the tram line that went from the city down Sydney Road. I remember going by tram one night with my Dad in 1956 to watch the Olympic Games on a television in an electrical shop in Brunswick. I also remember the old Padua which from memory had a big sign that went verticle down the front of the theatre with flashing white lights.

    I remember Brunswick and the markets and full of Italians and lots of strange eating places. Please keep writing so I can remember the old days with you.

  11. wam

    Good story, Lord. Of course you should write the next memories of a very interesting life.

    I can identify with much of your experience, Lord, being born just before the war in the pacific but my dad was a rat of tobruk.
    Those facts did not affect my love for my mum and dad nor in their reciprocation.
    Indeed, I was at high school before the word bastard was used in its real sense and I put two and two together.
    When I confronted the kid, he gave me a hiding but my dad gave me a hug.

    Luck plays a great part in life and I have had more than my share. (I had the paper in the shoes but I had a good pair for sundays and woebetide should I scuff them with a toey or a miss kick of a footie.)

    Your thought is almost spot on:

    Wisdom and truth ebb and flow with age.

    Is it possible, Lord, that your brother’s truth could be different to yours? Would that make you or he a liar?

  12. Christina Heath

    A great read John. Please go on.

  13. Harry

    Lovely, touching story John. Many people have a gnarled family tree. When you grew up the inner suburbs of Melbourne were the home of mostly blue collar workers and further out suburbs were the home of the well to do and the white collar worker. Most people who left the inner suburbs could not afford to buy there now.

    Though I am some 10 years younger than you my family and I (seven of us) came out from the Netherlands in 1960. We settled for some years in Myrtleford as we had distant relations there . It was so backwards at the time, with us living in housing commission house with an outside toilet where the can was collected once a week. We did not have a TV until later in the 1960’s. But it was a great place to grow up , much in the outdoors and I were hardly ever bored, whether summer or winter.

    Though we left decades ago we still visit the area and it holds lot of nostalgic memories for me.

    This a is great country that could be so much greater if we had a more inclusive social democratic government,

  14. Keitha Granville

    Yes, hopefully you shall –

    I have a mind to write down my childhood memories as they wil be so different than any my children will have experiencesd. A wee bit younger than your good self (born in 1953) many of the things you talk about ring true for me – the bottles of school milk (my dad was a distributor for the original flavoured straws, chocolate and strawberry , so I had something to hide the slightly sour warmth of the milk)
    and the bread and milk deliveries. How I wish THAT was still possible !

    A stroll down a long ago memory lane, thanks

  15. Joseph Carli

    “. . . To this day, I can remember with horror a teacher writing the word ‘Algebra’ on the blackboard. He may well have written ‘Spanish’ for I had no idea what the word meant.”

    Et tu?..John!….

    “. . . To the point that when the teacher of mathematics, on one of the first days at the state high school, handed out the slim, yellow covered volume of the three coloured volume set of ; Mathematics (red), Geometry (green) and Algebra, the young Christopher looked down in eye-watering dismay at the hieroglyphics of algebraic symbols on the page…and when the teacher commanded the class to turn to page five to tackle some of the simpler algebraic problems …a situation those students coming from the state primary schools seemed at least familiar with …but to young Chris’ were as mystifying as the giggling of girls..but even more perplexing , because he had never before seen or heard of such twisted logic in those years of religious instruction and simple arithmetic…and for one whose passing scholarly marks reflected more his commanding knowledge of the lives and the suffering deaths of the saints and martyrs of Catholicism, this was “all Greek” to him..

    “Owlgebra!”…he cried in a just too loud voice so that the whole class turned toward him to gaze..”…how long’s this been going on?” . . . “

  16. king1394

    Before you know it you will be tracing your family history, and it looks like there are a lot of interesting people to find out more about. Great insight into growing up in the 40s; let’s hear more please.

  17. John Lord

    Thank you for all your comments. I didn’t think so many would be interested. I think I will move onto the next phase.


    nice john but isnt ‘Danny Boy’ Scottish? lol.

  19. John Lord

    OTMP. It’s Irish . Original name was Londonderry Air. County Derry.

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