when i was 8

When I was in 3rd class my family moved to Adelaide from Sydney.  It was very exciting because we flew.  No-one I knew had ever been in an aeroplane.  We lived in the ‘satellite town’ of Elizabeth.  This town had been purpose built for immigrants and factory workers in the neighbouring Sunshine suburb.  My father went there to open a factory.

The house was a double storey in a cul de sac with a patch of grass in the middle of the cul de sac.  In the backyard there was a concrete fishpond which we used as a swimming pool. It was all of 18 inches deep but it was fantastic fun.  Sometimes there would be 10 kids in it.  The local hairdresser’s name was Thelma and she always wore elaborate beehive hairdos.  We used to imitate these hair styles by spinning around under the water until our hair all twisted up.  We called this ‘doing a Thelma’.  I loved the year we lived in Adelaide, it was the best place to be a kid.  It seemed to be always summer.  I can’t remember anything but sunshine.

Elizabeth in the 60s was new and shiny.  It declined somewhat later but I believe it is now on the up and up.  We had a town centre and then the suburbs circled out from that centre.  I remember going to the pool and the pictures with my sister and brothers.  We used to walk to save the bus fare for Jaffas that we then rolled down the wooden picture aisles whenever anyone kissed in the movie.  Mothers didn’t come, the pictures were full of kids on a Saturday afternoon.  Also the pool. We walked to the pool and home again and we had to take my little brother with us or we couldn’t go. I was 8, my sister 9 and the brother about 5 or 6.

My mother didn’t drive anyway so everywhere we went we took the bus or walked.

At school, if the temperature reached 100 degrees Fahrenheit we would be sent home.  Many a day we sat there willing the thermometer in the classroom to reach 100.  I’m guessing the teachers were just as happy to see it get to 100, too.  It must have been awful to have to teach kids that were hot and sweaty and not at all interested.  I remember coming home one day and Mum was lying on the black and white floors tiles in the kitchen trying to stay cool after having drunk all Dad’s beer.  Maybe she was just pissed?  She used to put the washing on the line and by the time she had finished the first things would be dry.

Mum hated Elizabeth, the heat, the house, the lack of family.  I think she cried so much that in the end her mother, my grandmother, left her Sydney eastern suburbs flat and came on a bus to Adelaide to look after us kids and be company for Mum, who promptly got a job in Adelaide.  Luckily, Mum was an only child so we didn’t have to share Gran. We loved having our Gran at home, she baked all day and there was always afternoon tea with something delicious to eat.

It was also my Gran who took me to the doctor’s when I fell at school and cut my eye open. They didn’t bother to tell Mum until she came home from work.  I still have the scar.

It was also my Gran who had to be there when they came to take our dog away to be put down.  He had dreadful eczema and used to rub his back raw under the fence rail.  Mum and Gran lied to us for weeks, telling us Butch had a girlfriend up the lane and he had been home for his dinner, didn’t we see him?

We always drove back to Sydney for Christmas and sometimes Easter too.  This involved 4 kids, Gran, Mum and Dad and the dog and the cat and all the stuff crammed into a Holden or Ford or Valiant for the trip.  Dad was the only one who could drive and we did it in 2 days.  Mum used to sing to keep him awake.  Dad used to get annoyed at our fighting or whinging and we would have to have an hour of quiet.  Gran taught us sign language.  Sometimes we wouldn’t be able to find a motel or pub for the night so we would ‘sleep’ in the car.  The cat was in a cardboard box in the back foot well and Mum used to hit it on the head with a rolled up newspaper if it put its head up out of the box.  The dog would be on someone’s lap with its head out the window.  We used to fight for the front seat in the middle, it was the best seat in the car.  It was one of the only times that we were allowed soft drink which was carried in a red metal esky with a bottle opener on the side.  Oh the excitement!

Adelaide came to an end after a year and a bit and we all packed up and moved to Melbourne for Dad to set up another factory.  What a difference Melbourne was to Adelaide.

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