The following story is an account of particular aspects of my life
while growing up in Manilla during the years 1955-1964. Of how life was
and my personal observations and feelings regarding this particular
These are excerpts
of a more detailed story where the entirety of events growing up in the
1950/60s will develop in time, and produced in a book. I wrote this web
page story in 2014 and in November 2019 the book structure has
commenced. Which will be in a handy A5 size, with original pictures in
colour and black and white. Together with graphics pertaining to and
relevant to the story line. * It will be a story and picture book. *
For some idea, click on this Link and for more detail, scroll down to the
'Profile Section,' and select articles with pictures.
2014 it was a happy and also an emotional story to write, as I had
buried this part of my life until a few years ago. Why? I don't know. I
do know now it is important for each one of us to capture our childhood,
ie. write about it, no matter how painful/emotional it may be. I can't
remember my childhood in Manilla as painful. I remember it as happy, and
life of adventure, a growth that I can now see as significant. But why
didn't I write about it until 20 odd years after my parents died? That
is something I am starting to understand and will write about in the
future. The one thing I do know, when we capture our childhood through a
narrative our whole life delivers more meaning and understanding as we
reach deep into our psyche and find ourselves in a different
perspective. It is sad my parents cannot read and be part of this, my
journey. They would be happy reading this story. Which is one of the
reasons I return to Manilla frequently.
"We never realize what we
miss, until we miss what we should have realized."
This story is Copyright protected-No part of
this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or
transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical,
photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the written permission of
the author. (>)
** This is
a lengthy page - If all graphics don't load please hold down Ctrl and
Part 2 of
my story deals with: 1. The mind beauty of owning a
push bike in the 1950s/60s. 2. The fun
of billy carts. 3. The diversity of
sports and how one finds their way in
life. 4. Take away food. We had food and a take away was a luxury! 5.
Music. Ah yes, remember Del Shannon,
The Zombies, The Nashville Teens, the 45rpm records? ...and ofcourse,
The Beatles! 6. The Christmas Holidays
and waiting for Santa! The weir...our life of freedom! 7. What really
did it feel like living in the country?
My insightful thoughts.
Growing up in a small
country town is a lot different to the City - especially if money is
short. For this reason growth had to do with creativity and initiative,
as it wasn't what you bought but rather what you made or created in
life. I was given a lot of freedom to explore, but also discipline.
Arrival and Early Growth
I arrived in Manilla with my family in 1955
and left Manilla when I was 14-15 years of age.
I look back now and find it was an adventure for growth, a simple
existence without the many distractions that young people have today.
I now also believe that the distractions and
'entertainment' for the
young today, prevent natural growth - preventing an inner natural energy
to grow. The man-made distractions today are driven from profit desires
rather than ethical standards. Questions need to be asked in these
areas to ameliorate more affinity with an altruistic state - the impetus
for self-regulating standards, achieving a more sublime and idyllic
ethos for our young (and mature) species. Considering the increasing prevalence of ADD, obesity,
autism, and mental
health deterioration and coupled with the need for more materialism.
Materialism doesn't create more happines or well-being - paradigms of
our society need to be re-evaluated.
Manilla in the 1950's-1960's provided this
natural growth, a simplicity that enticed an inner belief in ourselves -
towards inner spiritual creativity that produced inner freedom. The 1950's and 1960's was also a period of
virtual full time employment. A time where people prospered, when
housing was affordable and people could look forward to a future of
personal growth. This is in sharp contrast to today. Thus a
necessity for each person to ask critical questions about their
lifestyle, and change to benefit their psychological well-being, and,
for future generations in Australia. Life is not about what is 'out
there' but rather what is 'in there' - within yourselves.
We didn’t have television, microwave, computer, mobile
phones, music players, DVD’s or anything of that nature. Credit (debt)
cards were unknown. If you didn't have money to buy something you did
We had one
small radio in the lounge room which my parents listened to and didn’t
have a telephone until later. I wasn’t allowed to use the telephone as
it was only for necessities. We did have one small car and this was
protectively looked after. My
mother used to make a lot of clothes for me - swimmers, school uniforms
etc. She was very creative with her sewing machine. The sewing machine
was operated by her feet on a swivel peddle and this used to move the
needle up and down in the machine.
We had to be creative and productive, and also make our own
fun from the natural surroundings and with other young persons in the
street or further away. The only personal luxury I had was a push bike, the odd presents on birthdays and Christmas
and other imaginative created ideas documented on this page.
Without shopping centres, internet or TV,
there was no limitless external
entertainment distractions like today. We woke up in the morning, looked
outside, and we decided what we wanted
to create in our day without the external choices of today confusing our
brain with unlimited options.
The push bike was a serious necessity for independence and
to travel around Manilla. It had
to be bigger than me so I would grow into it. There wasn’t enough money
to keep on buying bikes as you grew taller.
I had to keep it clean, oil the chain, fix punctures,
adjust brakes and maintain it to a standard so it would operate. If not
you didn’t have a bike – and you didn’t want that to happen. It was the bike or you walked.
Picture below shows the local picture theatre "The Palais."
Which is one consideration of why we didn’t have a young
obesity problem in the 1950's-1960's that is widespread with the young
today. We were continually on the move, providing our body with natural
feel good endorphins created from within by healthy mind
and body activities.
Other provided entertainment in Manilla was the Saturday
afternoon Matinee at the local picture theatre, the milk bar, the weir
for swimming and as time progressed, sport and the cubs/scouts. Country
Manilla - our own utopian lifestyle.
Basically you couldn’t really afford to buy anything much so
you had to make it, or do without it. As one got older it was possible
to do the odd lawn mowing job and earn 50c per hour to be able to save
up for something you wished to buy.
Many businesses closed 1 hour for lunch, cash registers
were not calculators: change was given via a mental calculation and shops
closed at 12 noon Saturday for the weekend.
There were no expectations in life. Unfortunately today, over many
years of media and social influence, people have been primed to believe there are
‘expectations’ for living today - A need for more materialistic gains
and entertainment. During my years in Manilla there were no
expectations, which meant we didn’t want for anything – just enjoy what
we had or create our own individual specialities in life.
We first lived on a farm called Hillside, outside of Manilla, with relatives,
where we used to catch the bus to school each day. As a young fella that
was pretty scary. After staying there for a little while to ascertain
what the possibilities were in town, we then moved into a single garage
in South Manilla in the area known as Southbrook.
In the middle of the garage hung a blanket where my parents
slept on the other side. These were basic amenities with no fridge or
sewage and I don’t think we had electricity either. We
did spend one Christmas there and even though money was short my parents
did buy presents for their children.
During this time in the single garage, we were not familiar
with the wildlife in Australia. I
remember walking down the street to go home from school, and this
particular magpie kept swooping down on me – scared the life out of me!
We now know, it was the breeding season and it happens each year. My
father didn’t know that and thought it was a rogue bird and needed
fixing.So he borrowed a gun from a friend,
waited until the bird had rested on the roof of the house over the road,
took aim and shot it.Looking back now I thought if he
missed, it would put a hole in the roof but he was a good shot. It
certainly fixed my problem with the magpie.
Eventually we bought a block of land in River Street, set up
a small caravan on the land, and lived in the caravan until the house
was built. How we managed there I don’t know. In those days caravans
didn’t have showers or toilets so we must have used the neighbour’s
bathrooms to keep clean. You just had to make do with whatever was
Building a Home in the 1950's-1960s versus today.
Our house was built and was small by today’s standards, yet
in the 1950’s-60’s houses were affordable. The repayments on a home loan
were only 25% of the weekly salary. And where houses cost approx. 3
times the yearly salary. This would mean today, if you earn the average
of $70,000 pa the house and land price should be $210,000. During this
time one wage earner could afford the repayments of a home loan.
To be on the same prosperity
field as the 1950's-1960's requires weekly earnings today of $1800.00 for a
$300,000 home and $2,400 per week for a $400,000 home. In addition
savings for a deposit, and costs, need to be $40,000-$50,000
These financial living standards today are unacceptable.
The financial establishment is promoting mythical delusions where
financial profits take precedence over personal well-being. There is no
balance between economic stability and well-being. Change is necessary, otherwise the future for generations to come
will not have prosperity, well-being and peace of mind.
It should be
remembered that the most basic needs for humans is housing and food. And
both are unaffordable within the current economic climate.
Over the last 30 years part-time work has doubled and the realities are the majority of the next generation will
only have casual or part-time employment. Today only 5% of our workforce
earns over $100,000. The average wage is $60-$70,000 per annum where 50%
earn less than that amount. With new house and land packages valued at
approx. $400,000+ the majority of wage earners cannot afford a home and
struggle to pay rent on these home prices.
Question your perceptive reality, gain more knowledge, and take part in reform so
serious questions are addressed by governments for a paradigm change.
Your children and grand children deserve a better home future.
Our future generations will not have mental stability.
Today 1 in 4 are taking anxiety/depression medication.
It is not surprising a large proportion of our
population have mental health problems - a hidden reality.
Growth needs to be focussed on mental
than solely on, fiscal policy and GDP,
for prosperity to flourish in Australia. I remember Australia as a
country with contentment and hope for the future with virtual full time
employment and housing affordable, rather than daily
survival with stress that many contend with today.
(Australia's growth of Home Unaffordability 1950's-2013)
"All great truths begin as
blasphemies" - George Bernard Shaw
"Man everywhere is dangerously unaware of
himself. We really know nothing about the nature of man, and unless we hurry
to get to know ourselves we are in dangerous trouble" - Carl Jung
After travelling from the country, to a garage and then a
caravan, our house in River Street was finally built. It was a rectangular fibro house
with a metal roof, lounge and open fire with a chimney, a kitchen (where
my father built all the cupboards) and two bedrooms. One bedroom was
turned into two rooms, where my father built a double sided wardrobe in
the middle. There was a bathroom with a bath, a small laundry near the
back door and an outside toilet just adjacent to the back door with no
sewerage connected. The sewerage truck would come around weekly or
fortnightly and change the full can with an empty one.
The house was probably only about 80 square metres in size
(12 metres long x 7 metres deep) with no garage and situated between a house on the left and a vacant
block of land on the right. But it was home and a lot bigger and better
than the caravan. The block of land was large - possibly a quarter acre
In the bathroom a scary thundering wood chip water heater
was attached to the wall and would pound away at heating the water that
flowed through the tank and then into the bath. Little wood chips were
put in it, lit up and this small enclosure would cause it to pound away
like a souped up car idling with a defective muffler. And this was just
3 feet away while you sat in the bath. I thought one day it would
explode and hoped I wouldn’t be in there if it did.
Bath times weren’t exactly exciting. Because of the shortage
of hot water the bath could only be filled up about 4-5 inches and you
couldn’t take long to wash yourself as every other member of the family
used the same water.
The outside toilet wasn’t exactly exciting either. There was
no electricity connected and no lining on the interior walls. Spiders
could set up home in the frame work and snakes could have crawled up
under the door. With the higher than normal grass in the vacant block
next door you just didn’t know what animal life lived in there.
During the day you went in the toilet with caution, had a
look around first and if all ok, sit down to do your job. And don’t stay
in there long as the smell kept on idling its way up to your nose from
the can below. Night time was worse. Although you had a torch, there
were still dark areas and you always wondered whether something could
have crawled under the door and be waiting curled up on the other side
of the can. I tried to avoid night time toilet trips or sneaking out to
the lawn area to give it a bit of a spray. Once a bit more money came in
it was lined and a proper door was fitted.
The windows were timber and both used to slide up and down. My
father eventually built fly screens for the windows and doors and that
upset the fly population ‘cause they didn’t have a feed with us at meal
times. The mosquito population grew thinner also without sucking blood
out of us at night time. Laying in bed at night covered up with a sheet
listening to the buzz of mosquitoes was annoying and itchy after they
bit. Some sucked so much out if you hit them it left a blood splosh on
the skin. It was always a continuing fight with the flies and mosquitoes
before the screens went up.
The walls weren’t painted for a while as there was no money
for paint. They were made out of Masonite – a brown smooth colour on one
side and rough on the other. So if you didn’t like an interior house
that was all brown – tough.
There was no air-conditioning or fans on the ceiling. The
only cooling mechanism was if the wind blew and that wasn’t often
put a thermometer outside once and it rose to 120 on the old scale (49
I can still picture my mother going about her tasks with
sweat pouring off her face, with her continually wiping her face. The
hot Australian climate in the bush was a big contrast to English
At night time it remained hot and I used
to try and sleep outside – but the mosquitoes were a problem. So inside
the house was always the safest place to sleep even if it was hotter.
My father rigged up a mosquito net under the choko vine
enclosure once and he used to sleep there sometimes. The other way was
to leave all the windows and doors open at night and wait for the breeze
– if it came. Houses weren't locked in those days. You could leave them
unlocked and would still be safe.
Our corrugated iron roof provided a
natural soothing mental freedom at night - when the rain fell you used to lay there and listen to it falling
on the roof - it was quite relaxing. I guess in those day we
didn't have much insulation in the ceiling so the sound was a
It was still home and to us luxury and at least I had my own
room .... Freedom.
During these early times I got to know the other kids in the
street after school and the weekend.We used to be at each other’s places
yards and houses on numerous occasions creating our own fun. At one time
we decided to get dressed up and hold a pantomime for the parents.
A life of free spirits in the country town of Manilla in the
The backyard of our house consisted of a variety
of activities. The yard was large, close to a quarter acre block, with a
large vegetable garden and a large chook run with at least 12-20 chooks.
It was called a chook run because it was big enough for the chickens to
run about. We had a small garden shed (built by my father) a bird Avery
for budgerigars and finches (see pic left) a long handmade clothes
line (not a rotary hoist), a handmade timber swing set, and a back fence
which had a gate that led out to the back laneway. The laneway was
wide enough for cars but we used it a lot to walk to school and go 'down
town'. There were a
garden beds in the front of the house with a path to the front door
while the rest of the block was covered with lawn - kikuyu grass.
We had lots of vegetables growing similar to a market
garden, and I had to weed them on numerous occasions. I didn’t really
like that job but it was part of my ‘chores’. We couldn’t afford to buy
vegetables so my parents grew them: Potatoes, corn, carrots, lettuce,
cabbage, radishes – everything.
The chook run was built by my father and had a hens nest
made out of timber and a corrugated iron roof. A sort of home for the
chooks so they could roost in at night and other boxed sections for the
hens to lay eggs.Some eggs were collected for eating,
while others were set under the hens and we waited for the chickens to
hatch. Once hatched, they were fed a mix that looked like mashed weetbix
with warm milk.This was until they were large enough
to eat wheat and any other scraps left over from meal preparation in the
house.And once they were big and fat enough
they were killed, plucked, gutted, cooked and eaten.
We had our own supermarket in the backyard!
I was taught how to look after the chooks and then catch
them and do the kill, firstly watching my father running around the
chook run to catch a chook with a long piece of wire with a hook on the
end. He used to hook it around the neck of the chook and haul it in,
with the chook kicking and screaming at the end of the wire. Probably knew what was
going to happen!He got hold of its legs while it still
Eventually it gave up and its body hung down limp.
He selected a wood chopping block from the wood heap, laid the chooks
head and neck along the top, picked up the axe, carefully aimed and
‘bang’ it came down and the head was cut off with blood squirting
everywhere. He hung onto the legs for a while, while the chooks body
went into spasms of uncontrollable nervous twitches, eventually settling
down. In was then placed into a bucket (metal) of boiling water and he
would plug out the feathers and eventually take out its innards.
All this was a fascinating education in self-sufficiency.
Eventually I was given this same job. I caught the chook,
laid its head along the chopping block, picked up the axe (heavy bloody
thing for a young fella) and ‘bang’ …… and nothing happened.The chook was very upset with part of
its neck squashed.It just
started to swivel around and be completely agro about this intrusion
around the neck area.
My Dad said to me: “You have to hit harder son.Take it up higher and bring it down
with some force”.Well, yeah ok Dad, but you see I’m only
little and this axe is a bugger of a heavy thing to lift it up with
one hand.So I tried again, higher, and then
‘bang’ - it worked.The twitching of the chook without a
head, at this stage, was more forceful than I had anticipated. I had to
hang onto it with both hands, almost resting my body on it to control
the spasms and relentless twitching.
This bloody chook had more strength than I thought. I
thought if it got away I would watch it run around and I’d have to chase
it without a head!
All the time I was watching the
blood squirt out of its neck at close quarters to my body. And it was
going everywhere. I must have been splatted at some stage. Eventually it
settled down to a peaceful life in the cosmos and ready for a boiling
This is how we learnt in those days. There were no Coles or
Woolworths with packaged meat in our town.It was either the butcher for the red
meat or breed your own chooks for the chicken meat.
It was also a ‘hobby’.Feeding the chooks, making up a nest
area, let them sit on their eggs (and placing more under them). It was
interesting to note while putting eggs under them, or checking to see if
they had hatched, the hen was quite calm and let you look underneath. It
would cackle a little, look down and up at you, asking "What are you
doing, I know what to do?" but generally was naturally mesmerized to a
state of hypnosis within this natural act, and calm and content to care
for and love this natural process of evolution - just like all mothers
should do: hug and provide a child with "love-indoctrination."
Not solely prepare them for the
world out there, but to hug and love - this undoubtably prepares a child
with a 'love-belonging' and the security to enter the 'out-side world
with more confidence. Just like mother hen and her chicks. When they
hatch the chicks still seek hugs, warmth and security under mother hen
until they feel strong enough to venture further away. Over many weeks,
they slowly venture further away from mother hen until they find their
own mental strength and confidence. This is a lesson that should be
learnt and acknowledged as a necessary ingredient for all children -
Watching this process has a
calming influence as it involves us with nature - we are one -
intertwining with natural life and not 'things'. Rearing the chicks and taking care of them got you
involved in the natural process of evolution and growth. I also got some
bantams (small chooks) and a friend also had bantams.So we used to go to each other’s place,
compare notes, build houses for them and breed them.
The same applied for the budgerigars and finches. Watch them
sit on the eggs, watch the young hatch out of shells, look after
them until they grew stronger and found a mate to make more budgies and
A bit different from the sex education I got at the
Methodist Church Hall on Tuesday night, but on a similar obscure wavelength.
With only 1 radio in the house in the lounge room it was
rather difficult to have some freedom with the dial and find out what
else was available than the ABC News and the Argonauts on Sunday nights.
There’s only so much you can take with the Argonauts – it really wasn’t
something I got into. And well, the news – it wasn’t that interesting
for me in those days.
After a while I found out about “The Crystal Set” where I
could make my own radio without batteries or electricity. Its an
ingenious piece of machinery consisting of a diode, a telephone hearing
piece, a wire to earth and a wire aerial outside.It only worked with a telephone hearing
piece or certain types of ear plugs.
So I got a diode, drove a piece of plumbing pipe in
the garden just outside my window, ran a piece of wire from one end of
the diode to the plumbing pipe, one piece of wire to a strand of wire I
hooked up on the gutter for the antennae, attached the wires of the
telephone hearing piece and I had my own radio.Admittedly it only picked up 2MN but it
was better than the ABC.
Then I got to find out some people were not using old
radio’s and just keeping them in the garage or throwing them to the tip.
I was able to get a large cabinet with a radio inside it that stood on
the floor in my bedroom.It was about 3 feet high. I improved on
my antennae system running a longer wire and higher up on the roof from
the chimney to the other side of the house.This enabled me to turn the dial to an
amazing range of nearly 5 radio stations.Some had strong signals and then faded
out, some just continually faded in and out.But you persevered and found some fun
in listening to more than the Crystal Set could offer.And it was better than the
radio in the lounge room because now I could do and listen to what I
wanted - the freedom of independence.
In the late 50's early 60’s, I was earning a little money doing lawn
mowing and gardening around town and with the radio I had found some
stations that played music and some of my friends had records and radio
stations they could listen to from Sydney. Now
some of this music was interesting and uplifting. It was a new way of
communication and in many ways exciting. It was good listening at home
but I got to thinking it would be good to have a radio to carry around
and listen to it anywhere.The transistor radio was the way to go.
There was one I saw in a local shop that from the advice I
got this AWA Radiola transistor was fairly strong and could pick up
stations in Sydney.In Sydney, well that was something of
interest – the ‘Big Smoke’.The problem was it cost about 13 to 15
pounds - the equivalent to approximately $30. At this price, and
considering I was only earning 50c per hour doing lawn mowing and
gardening, I would have to work 60 hours to pay for it.So I put it on layby and gradually paid
it off and the big pickup day arrived - my own transistor radio.The battery was a quarter the size of
it and fitted in the back of the radio, a reasonable heavy radio but
with a handle strap at the top for carrying.
It was always a big night when I could tune into Mike Walsh
at 2SM Sydney and listen to all the current music hits of those days.
Admittedly he faded out at times if I didn't have the transistor facing
the right way,and some nights I couldn’t tune in to
him depending on the weather, but it was a big improvement on my last radio.It went everywhere with me. I carried
it on the bike down town, walked around with it.My own music collection wrapped up in a
I still have that transistor radio today.
The Namoi River Weir was the centre of all water sport
activities.Nearly everyone went there as there was
no swimming pool at Manilla.
The weir wall stretched from one side of the river to the
next and water was continually flowing over it. We used to go down the
bank on the southern side, slip down to the concrete edge to the top of the
wall, walk across through the flowing water to the other side and dive,
bomb or jump off there nearly all day at the weekends and the holidays. You couldn’t dive
off the southern area as it was too shallow. There was a slip stream
beside the northern wall so we used to climb up near that to the wall
top again and keep on doing this all day.
At the bottom of the wall, where the water fell, there was a
small ledge that we could sit on. The idea was you had to dive further
than the ledge to avoid a massive headache. Some other young ones didn’t
know this area and I remember one boy got a blood rush as he stepped
onto the wall, took a running jump and dived off the southern end.Well, that was a shock and we waited to
see if he was going to be ok. He surfaced in a dazed state and blood
running from a gash to the top of his head. I think he was rescued and
taken to hospital.
The weir wall was generally good on most days but if we had
a lot of rain more water used to flow over the wall and make it
difficult to swim back to the ledge. This was always a bit of a pain
‘cause you didn’t really want to work that hard - you just wanted to
On the bank area families used to bring their picnic
baskets, ground blankets and have lunch. After lunch we all had to wait
45 minutes before we entered the water again as we were told we would
get cramps and maybe drown.Well, we didn’t want to drown so we
Near the bank area you didn’t want to stand in the water too
long as you could feel the catfish having a bit of a nibble at your
legs.But they weren’t as bad as the leaches.
There was always a problem at different areas of the river where the
leaches used to attach themselves to you and start to suck blood.It was annoying and sometimes
irritating as you reached the bank, sat down and proceeded to pull the
leach off your skin, stretching it until it let go, leaving blood
dribbling from the wound.
Further down the river someone had attached a rope to a
branch high up in the air. Don’t know how they did that.They must have been Tarzan.This big thick rope was always popular.We used to run from the bank and swing
as far in as you could and let go and splash down into the water. The
other way was to run as fast as you could sideways with the rope in your
hands and project yourself off the bank.This made you swing in an arch so you
attempted to land again on the bank from where you started. If you
didn’t do it well enough you could either: (1) Smash your feet and legs
into the protruding willow roots on the banks edge or (2) Smash into a
tree trunk as you swung around towards the bank again. So you had to
make some decisions before you entered the bank area: (1) Am I going to
make it or should I let go now in the water or (2) I have to make sure
when to let go, is the water is deep enough - so we didn’t hit
Even at that young age our natural survival instincts were
Further down the river was the little weir.This little weir
had a smaller wall
that used to catch the water and then flow over it onto rocks and rapids.
Just before the little weir there was a large area on the bank that used
to be kept mown and tidy. This area was used by our school on sports
days. Our swimming sports days. We all used to walk from the school and
do different swimming sports in this area.And then walk back to the school after.
I used to go fishing by myself and on some occasions with my
father at night time.One of the areas at night time was just
below the little weir on the Namoi River. This weir wall was small
compared to the swimming weir, with water flowing over it your feet could just about touch the rocks
below it if you sat on it.From here was the rapid area where
water used to flow over rocks towards a deeper and calmer area in the
river – where the fish were. The bank was gravelly and level beside the
water and is where we used to sit and fish at night time. It was also
peaceful as you continually listened to the water through the rapids
moving towards the calmer area where we fished.
We didn’t fish with rods. It was with a line wrapped around
a circular plastic holder or just a piece of wood. You attached a hook
and sinker to the end of the line, attached your worm bait, and tried to
throw it as far as you could to reach the deeper river pool area.The line was then attached to a piece
of flexible willow branch, stuck in the ground, about 300-400mm in
length with a bell attached to the top.When the fish took the bait the bell
would ring and you would pull in your fish.
Some brought kerosene lanterns to provide light at night
time for hooking the bait on the hook or repairs to the line after it
got snagged on a tree root under the water. You had to be quiet so the
fish wouldn’t know anyone was there so they could just concentrate on
looking for our tasty worm food underwater.
So here we were patiently waiting holding our lines, or
waiting for the bells to ring, and then pull the fish into shore, put it
in an esky, bait your hook again and throw the line out once more.
We used to be there for a few hours at night fighting off
the mosquitoes as the same time and then off home to put the fish in the
fridge. The best fish were catfish and the bigger they were the better
to eat. Once pulled into the bank you had to be careful to grab it in a
certain way as catfish have spikes.
I used to go fishing by myself a lot. There was an area just
off a small bridge near the showground where I used to wade over some
rapids to the island in the middle of the river and throw a line in.I caught a lot of carp fish the first
time I fished and proudly took them home only to be told we couldn’t eat
them as they had too many bones.
Fishing by yourself provided an opportunity to experiment
with different techniques and bait. I used to go to a dirt bank area
over the road from where I lived near the river and dig up worms and
witcherigrubs. Witcherigrubs are small fat white grubs that when you put
the hook into them all the puss used to squirt out. I tried to put the
worms and witcherigrubs onto the hook so they would still wriggle and
move about to catch the attention of the fish.
Another type of fishing was ‘crawbobbing’.This was when you used to go down to
the river bank with a piece of string with a piece of meat attached to
the end of it, and a bucket, to catch crawbobs. Called yabbies elsewhere.
The idea was to throw this small length of string with the meat attached
into the water and watch to see when the crawbobs would grab it. You had
to wait until it grabbed the meat firmly with its claws, slowly pull it
to the bank, and then either wank it out of the water with it hanging
onto the piece of meat or slowly reach down behind it, trying to make
sure it didn't realize your arm was there. You had to grab it in the body
behind its head and claws. Once you grabbed it, it was then put in the bucket.
One of the problems was its claws were going in circular motions looking
at biting you and you
didn’t want them clamping onto your fingers as it hurt like hell. The
result was you took them home, boiled up some water, and threw them in
there alive to cook. I cannot remember what they tasted like but it was
fun trying to catch them.
Going fishing in different locations was interesting,
creative and the hours seemed to mould together - you didn’t realize how
long you were away. It was fun and occupied a lot of time.
Discipline at homevaried from home to home. Some children got
the ‘belt’. Others didn’t.I did. This discipline was similar to
the cane.You had to do something really wrong
to be subjected to the belt and I can’t even remember what I did wrong
was the leather portion of the trouser belt I was hit with and not the
buckle part.You had to lay over the side of the
bed, pull your pants down with your buttocks facing up and your father
used to strike you across the buttocks more than once – maybe 3 times.
Sometimes it was on top of your underclothes, depending on how he felt
at the time. I remember him saying to me: “This hurts me more than it
hurts you.”Yeah, right, Dad!Yet, in those days it was part of a
discipline method and we accepted it – well sort-of.
Today it would probably be classified as abuse and probably Docs would
be called, the family investigated, and maybe children taken from parents, and the children
offered counselling and anti-depressants. But I look back now and I feel it didn’t do me any
harm. This could be disputed by academics in the learned fields of
psychology and psychiatric medicine, where anologies would be debated.
It remains a complex field and various references will be discussed in
my book "Growing up in Australia in the 1950's-1960's."
Jill Ker Conway sums up the ethos of the 1950's: "Everyone knew the most
important gift to a child was an upbringing which would toughen him
(her) up so as to be stoic and uncomplaining about life's pains and
ready for its reverses."
Meal timesat home were a family gathering and one had
to abide by certain fundamental habits and guidelines. Sit up straight,
elbows to your side, hold the knife and fork correctly, eat with your
mouth closed and don’t talk while eating and the news is on the radio,
and when you are finished put the knife and fork in the proper position
on the plate.Remembering to, importantly, eat the
vegetables and then everything on your plate.If you didn’t, then you must have
eaten something before tea time and next time don’t do it ever again. If
you were still hungry you filled up on bread and jam or mashed potatoe
on a slice of bread.
We had to stay at the table until everyone
finished and if meal times coincided with the news, the ABC news on the
radio was on.Then it was off to bed by 7.30pm each
night. Organised and consistent behaviour that was meant to teach you
manners and discipline in life.
Today they would call it ‘controlling’ and
taking away a child’s freedom of choice.Big questions need to be asked in this
area, as a child’s frontal lobe is not developed (and not fully until
age 28) for reasoning, analysis and control. How can a child develop
organised behavioural patterns and discipline without guidance, if this
frontal lobe is inactive? The
child can’t..... So no wonder there are a lot of children hyper active (no
self-control) and on medication for ADD. Welcome to the current world of
illicit and licit drug taking which ultimately creates emotional and
Chores at homewere a necessity if you were to live with
some harmony in our house. One of the other chores I got was to mow the
lawns. We didn’t have a catcher on our mower and was simple in design - no
electronic whiz-bang operations.A side attachment threw the grass out
onto one side. To make it easier to rake up the grass cuttings you were
taught to start in the middle, work up and down and out so the grass
cuttings would fly towards the middle.Once finished on the outer reaches of
the lawn you had to work to the inside again and gradually force all the
grass towards the centre. Then rake it up, put it in a wheelbarrow and
place it on the vegetable garden for mulch or in the chook run for the
chooks to scratch about.
Cracker nightwas a street community affair held on the long weekend in
June.An older gentleman with a wooden leg, who lived over the
road, used to prepare all year for this night. He gathered up tree
branches, logs and other combustible items and piled them up for a
bonfire just down near the river. And it was a big bonfire!
The flames used to reach high into the night sky, with the flames
crackling all the timber logs and tree branches; lighting up the sky and
the surrounding paddock area near the river bank and willow trees. We
couldn't stand close to the bonfire as it was too hot. So we stood in
awe at a short distance of this amazing light spectacular. As the flames
died down we could venture closer and warm ourselves from the cold
Fireworks were set off with the likes of sky rockets
- placed in a bottle, lit and flew high into the air and then 'crack,'
it used to explode giving out different lighting effects - sparklers, spin
around crackers and more, with the odd big bunger. Big bungers were
powerful.The adults used to get a reasonable size tin, put the
bunger under it after it was lit, run away, wait, and ‘bang’.The tin used to fly up in the air. Someone nearly got hurt
one night so they didn’t bring them anymore.
Different fireworks were purchased at the local store, in either
packets or individually. There were rows of little 'bungers'. Each
bunger was attached to a longish string about 1 to 2 metres long; hooked
up on a timber horizontal fence and lit at one end. We used to stand
back and watch each bunger 'crack', and light up, like a gun going off,
and they all went off along the string line one after the other. Another
was a twirl firecracker. This used to be nailed in the centre on the
fence and lit at the end. It used to twirl around sending sparks and
lights and crackly sounds into the night giving a light display that
surely scared the rabbits into their burrows!
Sparklers were good. They were about 3-400mm in length - like a
piece of wire, with sparkles fused to the wire. We held it at one end
and a parent lit the other end. It used to throw out all these bright
white sparkling lights and we used to run around shaking and twirling it
around in the night sky to give a more spectacular effect.
Once the fire died down a bit, the washed jacket potatoes came out and
were put in the embers to cook and eat later.
When cooked they used
to be put on a plate, a cross cut along the top to open them up, some
butter was placed in the potatoe and we used to sit on a blanket on the
ground with a small spoon and eat the insides of the potatoe.
You never forgot a ‘Cracker’ night in River Street Manilla and always
looked forward the the event again the following year. It was a
community street event where families got together and enjoyed the
country spirit of belonging. Just like the Manilla Show and Christmas -
we looked forward to these yearly events.
Afternoon Matineeat the local
picture theatre was the entertainment day of the week for us young ones.
They used to show the news first, which was old news and then other
features that related to war successes by the allied troops against the
enermy. These were always in black and white. Followed by serials (like
“The Lone Ranger and Tonto”) and then the main movie. Serials used to go
on for a number of weeks so you had to go each week to see what happened
next. I used to get 25c a week pocket money in those days. It cost 20
cents to get in the theatre and the 5 cents was for a packet of fruit
tingles at half time. You never had money to pay for a girlfriend, so
she had to try and prise money out of her parents to go.
The picture theatre
had a 6-7 foot high steel folding back security fence at the front
entrance which was chained and padlocked. We used to wait outside the
front until the owner unlocked this security and then buy tickets at a
ticket box near the entrance door. There was always someone waiting for
your ticket so you didn't sneak in.
There was a time
when we young ones got a job by taking the tickets at the door. But that
didn't last long as when the older boys used to arrive they used to buy
two tickets for 4 and the other two used to barge past us at the door to
get in free. So the owner had to put adults on the door.
There was upstairs and downstairs at the theatre. Upstairs cost more so
we went downstairs. As I got older sometimes we went upstairs when it
was a 'free' night. But it was always with hesitation as you didn't know
who was up there. You see, the older boys used to get up to no good, and
throw jaffas downstairs and because it was dark, no-one knew who it was.
So the owner used to come up and asked them all to leave if no-one owned
The main hesitation
about going up stairs was
the older boys threatening to throw the
younger ones over the edge. They used to drag them to the front and hold
them over the ledge to scare the life out of them. The other thing they
used to do was stand up on the seat at the back and put their hand up in
front of the projector so you saw this hand silhouette appear on the
We used to know the owners son and at times, if he could swing it,
we used to wait outside near the side door and he would swing the door
open so we could sneak in, and close it quickly so his father didn’t
see, or hear the loud noise of the door opening and closing. Yeah,
he did, and sometimes he didn’t say anything.
Pictures were always G rated on Saturday afternoon. That’s why I
was allowed to go by myself. It was when Debbie Reynolds and Tony Curtis
portrayed a clean living lifestyle while Marilyn Monroe and James Dean
showed us what it felt like living on the fringe. And the big
productions like “The 10 Commandments” and “Ben Hur” were popular.
And we can't forget "The Dam Busters"!
Not forgetting also the cowboy and indian movies! Cowboy and
indian movies were so popular that the local general store (McKenzies)
used to have cowboy and indian outfits with guns and holsters. The guns
were pretty inventive as you used to be able to buy a roll of 'caps'.
These caps used to be placed inside the gun, where you pulled the end
out towards the firing arm. When you pulled the trigger the firing arm
used to pull back and then fire down on the cap and 'bang' - a load gun
noise came from the gun. Remember Davy Crockett?
Yeah ok, I was a cowboy fan in my young tacker days, and used to
wear my outfit at home and go around the house playing cowboy and
indians with the locals, shooting each other and falling over pretending
to be dead!
So much inventive fun in those days compared to today - the young
ones now stuck inside playing video games and whatever.
Other movies with PG rating were the “Carry On” movies.
I was a little confused sometimes about these ratings and which I could
see and not see. It was ok to see the “Carry On” movies if my parents
took me, yet I could see G movies like “The 10 Commandments” by myself.
It was something I questioned even in those days.
“The 10 Commandments” was acceptable because they were religious
type movies and it was hoped we would learn something that was
religiously significant. But how could it be significant watching slaves
being whippedand speared, people being thrown to the lions and eaten and
others screaming and drowning in floods and water? Not forgetting the
"Nuns Story" where they were put through a subserviant life, when, from
my point of view at the time, life was meant to be happy and fun.
The “Carry On” movies had sexual connotations and it was believed
that if we saw these movies by ourselves (and shockingly, with a girl!)
we would be corrupted.But it was alright to see the movie with my parents as I
wouldn’t be corrupted.Errrr …. Right, yeah, ok!
So this ‘censorship’ era was a bit confusing.
As I got older I eventually was allowed to advance to picture nights.
But only if it was PG. Not A. (But sometimes I swung it so they didn’t
know! Arr yes, a picture night with Bridget Bardot and Marilyn Monroe was definately
refreshing!) Compared to today though, these movies were reasonably tame in the
1950’s, early 60’s.
Other movies were “The Bridge on the River Kwai”, “Rebel
without a cause” with James Dean. Then the movie ‘Psycho’ arrived and everyone was scared!
The thing one remembers about these venues is not just the movies or the
theatre itself but the aroma that the theatre offered. The smell of the air fresheners, chewing gum taste, a mouth full of Fanta, the
aroma of a girl, rolling Jaffas down the aisle - and listening whether
you got it right and it rolled all the way down the front until ‘ping’
it hit the front stage. It was not just about the movie but the feeling
of the event at that moment in life.
The Manilla picture theatre, with its basic timber floors, was packed a
lot of the time and the centre of other events in Manilla in those days
also. I remember a hypnotist was performing there once and got people
out of the audience to do unusual things on stage.
Unfortunately The Manilla picture theatre is not there anymore.
Picture nights at
the Commercial Hotel.
hotel decided to hold picture nights in the back parking area. My father
didn’t really drink because it was an additional expense we couldn’t
afford but this was an opportunity to experience our own Manilla Drive
Inn. The proprietor set up a projector on the back verandah, constructed
a screen on top of a small store shed at the back fence and we all used
to drive in, park evenly in the park area and watch the movie of the
night. I used to drink a squash and eat Smiths chips - it was
different and a great way that diversified our night time entertainment.
Education’was a hit and miss affair. One stumbled
from one experience to the next.
You found out things as you progressed with your life.
‘sex education’ was when your parents took you once to the Methodist
Church Hall at 7.30pm on a Tuesday night, where someone up front
explained the ‘reproductive organs’.From here parents were given a small black and white
booklet with line drawings of the ‘reproductive organs’ -One book for the boys and one for the girls.My father gave me the boy’s book and said something like:
“There you go son, this will explain most of what you need to know”.There was no mention of feelings, sensations and pleasure,
but it was a start I guess.
As time went by I saw and experienced advancements on this
booklet.I remember seeing a man in a pair of speedos very visibly
aroused talking to a woman at the Keepit Dam Lake.There were heaps of people there and they both seemed to be
oblivious to the visual I was seeing.I mentioned it to my Dad at home later and he said: “Yeah,
these things happen and you can’t do much about it”.Right, yeah, ok Dad.
Another stage was when I was a ‘cub’ in the scouts.‘Cubs’ were small, young person’s just joining the
‘scouts’, where you then advanced to the ‘scouts’ after a certain age,
and then the ‘senior scouts’.The senior scouts were very secretive, had a locked up room
where you could only access via a ladder, and didn’t really want
anything to do with ‘cubs’.A friend of mine advanced to the scouts just before me and
knew a senior scout.He was able to get access to the senior scout’s room and
asked if I would like to go. We climbed the ladder, entered the room and
“Whoaee!” - There were lots of different things on the wall but the
ones most visible were naked posters of film stars.Now this was an extreme advancement on the booklet given to
me of the ‘reproductive organs’!The posters most striking were of Jayne Mansfield with her
upper body assets exposed in provocative posers, and in addition, other
parts of her anatomy …. “Whoaeee”.Now this was more ‘educational’.
As one grew older, the older boys started to talk about 1st
2nd and 3rd base.I found out that this was when you went out with a girl and
whether she would let you reach 1st 2nd or 3rd
base – a touching method of communication generally enacted at the far
back dark corner area of the picture theatre. It was important that the
young ones get to the theatre first and take up all the seating area in
this region. If not, older adults could sit there and you wouldn’t be
able to reach 1st 2nd or 3rd base, as
they would catch you and probably tell your parents.
Third base was the ultimate and apparently not many girls would
let you do this I was told. And that is where it stayed. There was no 4th
and 5th base. It was like, end of story – so much for the
Methodist Church Hall and the ‘reproduction organs’!!
For the uninitiated 1st base was to touch the upper
portion of a girl on the outside of her clothes, or, inside if you got
lucky enough to slip your hand down inside from around her shoulders.2nd base was on the outside of clothing, or
underclothes (if they wore a skirt) within the lower region. 3rd
base was inside the clothing of this region and different exploratory
methods were explained to me using the 'finger method'.... I'll leave that to your imagination...
This innocent play of
theatrical intimate communication between boy and girl became the growth
area of sexual education and entertained hormones for not just the boys
but the girls also. Holding hands was one thing, but 1st 2nd
and 3rd base were the next steps for understanding, in some
way, our ‘reproductive organs’.The next stages after 3rd base were just unknown
for a young fella growing up in Manilla. And in the late 1950’s in
Manilla this type of intimate communication was revolutionary and a lot
better than the teachings at the Methodist Church Hall!
Eventually we became more daring and I remember a young girlfriend
I was attracted to. We were at her house within a small open enclosure
just at the side of the house, each sucking on paddle pops.There was a point in our ‘communication’ where she reached
3rd base with me being in a daring exposed standing position
while she sat on a chair in front. She seemed fascinated by the view of
this excited region and started to manipulate and explore it with a
paddle pop stick, mesmerized by the twitching movement she was making to my
excited area. I was getting ready to suggest another method of
exploration, something a
bit softer than
the paddle pop stick …. when her mother
walked around the corner and caught us!
Well, the shock quickly removed the blood from my face, and
another bodily organ also!She sternly told me to go home, dragging her daughter by
the arm and forcibly striking her continually on her buttocks with an
open palm up the footpath into the house.I could hear her wails as I stood a little frozen to the
ground before I left. A number of thoughts were going through my head,
“What’s going to happen now?”, “Will my parents be told?”, “What will my
parents do?”. So I sheepishly walked home wondering “What now?.
Well, nothing really happened. It was like, the family knew it
happened, but it didn’t happen.And I remember thinking “Mmm …This is interesting”.
The reaction also shocked me in another way. I
was told to go home and she was being punished!Why?It was later that I realized, in the late 1950’s, young girls
should know better and don’t do those things and young boys don’t know
better and do these things. As we grew older we eventually were allowed
to go to the pictures together and all was forgiven.
Arrr yes, nature has provided us with an amazing combination of
natural ingredients that give us ultimate pleasure through our feel good
endorphins ... a process that is not exclusive for youth .... it just
gets much better as the years go by.
Growing up in Manilla was the introductory stage and provided different perspectives of growth,
were always new and exciting.
were something you wore at school, when you went to church, out at night
or to some 'occasion.' Outside these areas it was regarded as ‘play
time’ for us younger ones and bare feet ruled. So I generally went bare
footed. This built up a resistant on the soles of my feet similar to
leather. Walking and running on gravel roads, footpaths, scrub areas and
sealed roads didn’t become a problem – one had already grown a natural
hardy sole on each foot. Yes, the odd ‘bindy-eyes’ and stone chips broke
through the sole, but that was just natural – and you just pulled them
out and went on your normal way.
important the push bike had rubber pedals for ease of peddling in bare
feet. A shirt, swimmers (which my Mum made) and a towel over the
shoulder and off we went to the river weir for swimming and fun. If you
got thirsty you just drank the river water. However, when you came a
buster off your bike, skin and flesh would be grazed and that was
painful.But if wasn’t long before you were back riding your bike
like nothing had happened.
There was the odd occasion where thongs were
worn but they got in the way and also slippery when they were wet.
Looking back now it was lucky we didn't have more injuries. In
particular snake bites, as we used to get about around the river banks
stepping over willow tree roots and long grass.
Yeah, snakes were always a reasonable concern
in grassed areas. I remember once being under a willow tree near
the bank of the river. It was pretty isolated, dense and enclosed.
Sitting there quietly with a friend we heard a rustle in the grass just
beside us and out slid a snake. Scared the life out of us and the snake
got a shock also as we all went in opposite directions at lightening
speed. We never went to that area again.
Cane at Manilla Central Primary School provided a discipline technique that
brought one back to the realities of what happened if you did not behave
yourself at school. If you did something wrong at school (and this was
determined by the mood of the teacher) you got
the cane. This could have been 1 or 2 or 4 or 6 canes – depending on the
severity of the ‘wrong doing’.I didn’t get 6 but remember the odd 2.I remember the one’s that got 6 and they were not very
happy boys after the event and some did cry. There was no consideration
for any biological/mental disability - if you misbehaved you got the
cane. That is how they treated any form of left of centre behaviour.
One boy got the cane 3 times in one day and the cane wasn't reserved
just for the boys. A top female athlete in my class got the cane a
number of times for not putting in full stops or crossing her 't's' !
This discipline used to be implemented by the teacher who was rostered
on ‘cane duty’ for the day. You were sent to his office or room, stood
outside waiting your turn, called inside, asked what you did wrong and
he would decide how many hits of the cane you would get. This would be
reported back to your parents by the ‘note’ method.
The cane could have been about 1 metre long, flexible and up to
10mm thick at the holders end. The things that went through your mind
was whether he could aim properly. Like, you hoped he wouldn’t hit you
on the wrist.But they were careful and took aim, resting it on your hand
first, rising it up to a reasonably height and then striking it down
with considerable force. Some teachers used more force than others. One
always wondered about teachers that used to take it right back over his
head before striking it down – does he have good aim and what mental
problems is he having today to do this. So you hoped he wasn’t a cranky
old bastard on the day or you suffered more.The other consideration was what part of the hand he would
hit you. On the open palm or the tips of the fingers.I could never work out which was worse. You would have to
hold your hand out fully stretched at a slight down angle. The teacher
would hit you on a slight downward motion. This way it would slightly
slide off your hand without, hopefully, breaking any fingers. Being hit
on the tips
of the fingers produced an amazing strong stinging pain that made it
almost impossible to hold a pen when back in the classroom.Being hit on the hand made it a bit easier to hold a pen
because you held it with your fingers.
Today it would be classified at abuse.I didn’t see it that way.This was a form of punishment that brought you in line
pretty quickly and made you consider making that mistake, or others,
again.I don’t think it did me any harm later in life. But at the
time it was scary walking up to see the teacher!
a popular game everyone played at school. Generally by the boys but I
remember a couple of girls being pretty good at marbles. The boys that
lost to the girls didn’t like that.
You used to draw a circle in the dirt in the playground and place
your round marble or marbles in the centre. Depending on what the rules
were of that particular game. At the
outside of the circle you would rest your hand on the ground or near it,
take aim with another marble placed between your thumb and first finger
and fire it at the marbles in the centre. Different boys had different
techniques and some techniques were very good – shooting a marble
outside the circle with one shot. The better you were at firing the
marble at the centre the better a result and the result was when you
knocked a marble outside the circle - it was yours to keep. If your
‘shot’ marble stayed in the circle you had another go at a selected
marble to knock it out of the circle.
Some blokes were so good they had large bags of marbles and this
was a status symbol of how good you were. A big winner on the marble
circuit!All marbles were different colours and made of ‘glass’.
Marbles was a very popular game in the 1950’s.
The School Bell
was a responsible chore given to different individuals that had a
watch and proved themselves responsible to ring the bell at a given
time, right on time.Some rang the bell too early or too late and they never got
the job again. The bell at 11am signalled the time every one came out
for recess to have a bottle of milk that was delivered in small crates.
It was important that everyone had milk for health and strong bones in
The bell was normally on a pole about 2 metres high with a steel
chain hanging down that used to fit around a pulley and as you pulled it
the bell would move and ring.There were also a number of particular times you could pull
it. Maybe 3 or 4. And
the ones that got carried away with the number of pulls, we used to
listen in class and laugh. He used to smile as we came out, but he got
into trouble and was never given the job again. I remember standing
there with my hand on the chain, my eye on the watch, looking at the
second hand moving around, until the big hand reached the 12 position
and then I would ring the bell.
That bell at Manilla Central Primary School is still there today.
was an important part of family life
for many.On Sunday’s we used to have to get up at the ungodly hour
of 6.30am to get to church for the 7.30am service.Geez, I was always told Sundays was a day of rest and here
we are getting up with the sun!And I had to do it.Nicely pressed white shirt and shorts, socks pulled up to
the knees and a white hat.This was to shade you from the sun after you got out of
church. In the summer temperatures rose up to 40 degrees and more, and
the parents used to stand around talking before we went home.Shoes had to be polished to an exceptional shine, inspected
by a parent before wearing them, and if not quite right, you had to
polish more. One had to look nice for church, others, and the minister.As you left church the minister used to shake your hand and
say hello to everyone.
You got the know the hymns and the prayers. We were provided with
our own bible and confirmation book,and had to listen to the ministers sermon with great
interest, as after it, at home, you were asked what he talked about and
what you had learnt from it.The sermon was very important.It supported a guide towards a better spiritual life with
God and not to worship any other earthly beings. And that seemed to be
my problem at times.
My parents must have been uptight after one sermon as when I got
home I had to take down the poster of Sophia Loren from behind my door
(I never realised they saw that. I’d put it behind the door, how
did they find it there!)Just as well it wasn’t Jayne Mansfield from the senior
scouts room!And other posters on the wall. I was classified as
worshipping something less godly and needed to know this was not right.
After a week or so, the posters went back up again and life moved on.
Let’s face it, Sophia Loren was worthwhile idolising behind your bedroom
door. When the door was closed!
After church the Sunday papers were bought from the local newsagent,
where I was given the comic section where the life of 'The Phantom' was
popular. Then it was ‘whoaeee’, and ride down to the weir.
When I got old enough my parents thought it would be good
for me to join the Cubs. So I was provided with my uniform, badges,
socks pulled up to the knees with special tags attached, and a small
peak cap and went off to the cubs on a week night at the local scout
hall. You were taught different techniques of sustainability and
importantly in those days, got you out of the house and involved with
other young persons so to mentally and physically grow. It was an organised
event with particular methods of rules to follow.Eventually, when I got older, I moved up the rank to the
George Harley and Mady deSmid as the leaders within the cubs and scouts
at Manilla while I was there. George and Mady introduced myself and many
young males to different
aspects of life and taught us
a lot and continued to provide this community service for many years
after I left. They were an integral part of many young
males development in Manilla and I look back now with appreciation.
Without their involvement and guidance many of the young boys in Manilla would have
missed out on this opportunity in life, that was important to our personal development.
Scouts events were more advanced than cubs. I remember once we were sent on a
treck at night time to North Manilla, had to follow a map and compass in
the dark to the large weir wall, cross the wall and then camp on the
other side for the night. A tent was already erected there for us.
We had backpacks on with supplies and with torches, trecked through
paddocks of grass, animals, climbing over fences and eventually we found
our way to the weir wall. To get to the wall you had to carefully slide
and climb down a bank area to a concrete ledge before stepping down into
the dark water flowing over the weir. It was on this ledge that we took
off our shoes to walk over the weir wall.
Now this was tricky and bit scary for us all. I remember a lot of
talking and wondering and then some “Come on, we gotta do this, don’t be
a pussy”.It was tricky and a bit scary because there was more water
flowing over the weir than normal. The things that went through your
mind was – one slip and your over the edge - would you drown or survive
in the dark water?
So with the deeper water, more rapid flow and a slimy top
to the wall we all gradually stepped down to the water. I remember
particularly keeping to the far side up river and slowly, slowly, with
one step after the other, with the fear of blood running through your
body, your breath almost stopping, walking to the other side.I was so happy to reach the other side on that
night!We never did it again.
Scouts provided other events also. I was given the opportunity to
travel to southern NSW with a group of other boys and our scoutmaster.
We would camp in different places along the way, so my parents bought me
a better quality sleeping bag that was warmer on the colder nights down
south. We travelled to Katoomba, and then to Canberra and visited the
War Memorial, travelled through Cooma and all the way down to Tathra on the
far south coast. This is where we got the real life experience of what
it was like to surf. Some hired a surf board, others just body surfed.But this was a new and exhilarating experience – staying on
We stayed at some army barracks in the mountains once.Some went out with the scout master while a couple of
others with me stayed back. Not a good idea. There were much older boys
there and they wanted to scare us ‘bushies’, and they did.They started to let off big bungers (fireworks) outside and
then started to throw them inside, until we closed the windows,
locked the doors and dived under the beds to take cover.Now these big bungers were dangerous at close quarters.They would blow your eyes out if they landed that close.
That was a night we were glad the others got back.
Money was short on the trip so it was decided one night we would go to the
drive in.With 3 in the front and 4 of us in the back of the cabin
ute covered up in blankets and tarpaulins.We got through the gate, backed the vehicle up, opened up
the back and we all enjoyed the drive in movies that night.
Cubs and scouts also used to have a "Bob a Job" once each year to
raise money. We used to go out in our uniform and knock on doors of
homes and offer to do any type of job for a 'bob' or shilling or 10
cents. The occupants could pay us more, which they did on occasions, but
some didn't. The good jobs were washing a car or chopping wood - simple
jobs where we got paid within a reasonable time. I remember
we used to avoid messy yards as we thought we would be there for a
couple of hours and only get 10 cents! So we targeted homes where we
knew the person or a tidy yard to do the job reasonably quickly and move
onto the next job. There was a couple of places where we did a lot of
work and only got paid 10cents - which we didn't like at all. And so
made a mental note of never going there again next year!
Cubs and scouts were an integral part of many young persons lives.
Disipline, participation, activities, learning and a fun aspect were all
rolled into one and became an important contributor to the growing life
of a young person in Manilla during the 1950's-1960's.
My father got to know the milkman who had a speedboat and wanted to
water-ski. Although we didn’t have money to pay for water-skiing my
father repaid the milkman with work on the boat, groceries from the
garden, and other
things.Water skis were too expensive to buy so my father bought
some marine ply, cut them to shape and after soaking them with water,
gradually bent them up as water skis.He primed them, glossed, painted graphics on them and added
many coats of clears. At the start he made feet holders out of rubber
tubes of tyres and attached them with bits of carefully cut out timber and
screws. He bought ropes, made handles and created the ski ropes.
Eventually we had trick skis and an oval shaped ski. He created his own
water ski factory.
So we used to pack the esky and picnic goodies up into the Anglia and
later the Holden, and
head out to Keepit Lake river area. In the early days we used to ski
in-between rows of trees and back to shore for a change over. Never fall
off near a tree because you didn’t know how far the branches were under
I enjoyed water skiing. Was taught how to get up out of the water on two
skis, then one, and keep balance to go back and forwards across the
wake. Later in life I did a lot of barefoot water skiing.
There was one time where a few cars went to the lake with a number
of boats. It was decided that we would all pack in the boats and go to
another area to ski. Unfortunately all could not get in the boat and I
was given the task of sitting on the front portion of the boat – tied
down.Tying me down was apparently to stop me falling off and
going under the boat and being cut to hundreds of pieces.
were 2 worse parts for this ‘adventure’. (1)
When the boat started off there was that much weight in the back of the
boat I would
almost touch the sky. Like riding a bucking bronco at almost right
angles, and (2) When the boat got going it had to keep up a certain
speed to stay level and all I could feel is the wind and watch this
water rushing under me – very quickly.I was glad when that was over and was never given this job
The government then decided to build a dam so here was an
opportunity to build the “Ski Gardens’.Working bees were organised to cut down and clear all the
trees which then would provide a large area for water skiing. During
this time there were sheep, snakes, lizards and bird life around this
It was one of my many lessons with animals in the bush and what
happened to them if they got sick and started to die. There was one
sheep that had fallen over, with its eyes open, alive, and gradually
being eaten internally by ants.It just laid there blinking , accepting the inevitable.A thought crossed my mind at the time – why don’t they
shoot it?And to this day I don’t really know what happened – maybe
Lizards were everywhere.You cut down a tree and lizards would come out of the
woodwork.I caught one and brought it home as a pet.Keeping it, at one time, on my head under my hat.
This was where we got our pet galah.A nest of funny looking birds without feathers (when they
are young) with their
mouths open looking for food, fell from a tree.So we took it home, fed it mashed weetbix or similar, and
it grew to full size.It would sit on your shoulder or hand enabling us to carry
it around.You had to be careful putting your mouth close to its beak
area though.It would make all the right, “I’m ok” sounds and then,
wham, it bit my father on the base of his nose one day.After a few shakes of my father’s head it gave way but left
a large gash and a lot of blood.
The dam was built, the river flowed, and the dam filled up and the
“Ski-Gardens” were created.Appropriately named after a general meeting of the ski
club. Then some on the committee got the idea that it was a good
commercial enterprise also … People could come out and pay to ski. There
was to be no compromises so my father resigned from the committee and
that was the end of our skiing adventures.
It got at him a bit I think, and at one time he took me down to
the river, hooked the ski rope onto the back of the car, got me to go in
the water with my ski, and off he went hurtling down beside the river in
the car, with me skiing down the river. It was only a short run though.
The trees on the bank put a stop to that.But we gave it a go.
And so our water-skiing adventures came to an end.
After water skiing it was a case ‘what could
we do now?’ as I was getting older. A friend and local school teacher
called Mike Lister, had started golf for juniors at the
Manilla Golf Club, so it was suggested I give it a go. Yeah
right! On the first tee I was shown how to hit the ball and after 3 or 4
air swings missed the ball completely. I finally got the hang of
There were no grass greens at Manilla - all
sand. Sand mixed with an oily substance where you had to rake a smooth
section towards the hole with a metal scraper. And today the sand greens
are still in operation.
My first and only clubs had rusty parts with the chrome coming off.
They were a gift from another golfer who bought something better. My
golf buggy was made by a local welder and my father. He got a round small
bag with only one small pocket at The Golf House in Sydney one day and
brought it back for me. It had no supports so it was possible to
swash it down to a plate size. Although it didn't look anything like the
other golfers had, but it was all he could afford and it was a start.
Then the big day came when one golfer said he had an old bag in
the club we could have. Out it was dragged from the storeroom, in a
dusty and sorry state - but it looked like a 'real' golf bag. So I took it home, washed it
inside and out, polished it up
and it became my pride and joy 1st genuine looking golf bag.
On golf days and after school I used to tie the buggy with bag and
clubs intact, onto the back of my bike and pedal off to the golf course;
it’s wheels turning 100 times faster than the bike and trying to keep
up. Many times I used to play golf after school in just bare feet. Eventually
I became fairly good at this game of golf, got a certificate from
school, and ended up playing in the men’s competition at the weekend.
These were the days when Palmer, Nicklaus and Player ruled.
Golf balls were expensive and I used to go to the dam where the
adults hit over on the weekend competition. On many occasions they
didn’t make it to the green and ‘plop’, in the water it went. I waded
around in the muddy water with a more muddy bottom, in bare feet, and
hunted for those lost golf balls via the ‘feel bare feet method’.It became an enterprise after a while, as you only need so
many golf balls yourself. So I used to sell the good ones for a cheaper
price than new and build up my finances.
Golf also became a family affair with my mother and father taking up
golf and I still remember my father going to the course at night time,
getting on the tractor with its headlights on and mowing the fairways
before an event the next day.
Show was a big event on the Manilla calender and we younger ones always
looked forward to it. It was possibly the biggest event of the year where entertainment
used to come to town - for everyone. I reckon everyone went to the
Sideshow alley was a favourite for everyone especially us young
In those days you had the boxing tent with the contestants lining
up on the front stand area, with the drummer beating his drum, and the
spruiker asking anyone to have a go and make some money. There was the tent where there was the tattoo lady, the hairy lady, the dwarfs
and other interesting looking people.
this was pretty dramatic and entertaining for us country
people of Manilla. It was like another world entering our town.
You had the Cha Cha, the Ferris Wheel, the dodgem cars and the throw
around in a circle horses to ride. The smell of the petrol fumes of the
dodgem cars, the taste of the fairy floss and dagwood dogs (even if you
did get a fly in it sometimes!) The body and mind thrill of the rides,
the dust and rubbish on the ground, the noise of all the people, music,
rides and the sound of the bell as you shot the ducks down to win a
prize - It was the atmosphere as much as the event.
This is where you could meet a girl and spend some time
with her if you were lucky enough for the parents to allow her to be
with you.As you got older they were allowed to go with you, with a
strict time limit on when to return.
In the ring were all the normal exhibits like the horse jumping,
the stock displays and ribbons presented and one thing that is not held
at shows today – the trotters. The two to four trotters used to line up
at the starting end and take off around the perimeter of the oval,
swishing past the spectators leaning on the outside fence.They were so close, the roar of the hoofs, the panting of
the horses, the sounds of the whip cracking gave you the freedom and
some understanding of what it was maybe like to ride a trotter. Today it
would be a OH&S nightmare!
The Manilla Show is always a big local event in the year.
Anzac day was always a special remembrance day in Manilla
and the main street used to be shut off for the march.
As a cub and scout we were dressed up in our official gear,
meet at a particular point to march in front of the ex-servicemen
that followed behind. My father used to get dressed in his suit and
medals and proudly march on the day also. Many spectators used to line the footpath in the main
street and watch the marching ceremony.
The piped band lead the marching
with the major up front yelling commands and twirling his mace. Followed
by a number of pipers (bag pipes), the snare drummers rattling off their
distinctive sound, and the heavy beating sound of the bass drums. The
sound echoed up and down the street and together with the in time
marching boots of the returned soldiers we all progressed through the
We had to march in a particular way, swinging our arms in
time with our feet movement and try to keep up with the big strides of
the men - but we couldn't! Many times
you had to do a bit of a skip so everyone's left foot moved forward with
everyone else's left foot. And you had to do it right otherwise you were
If you were selected you were given the job of carrying
the cub or scout flag out the front of your group. It was a matter of
putting a belt on where a pouch was attached to the front where the flag
pole was inserted. You were taught how to hold the pole. Like, one hand
up high and the other at about waist height. The top and bottom hand
were held under the pole. This was so to keep it steady and if a breeze
came up you had some chance of controlling the flag. But if a big breeze
came your way you were pretty much buggered 'cause it was a big and
I think I remember the girl guides and brownies marched also and
as you got older it became a source of visual attraction after the march
to work out which ones we were keen on!
Manilla prides itself on remembering the soldiers that did
not return. I remember it as a major event of the year where it was a
pride event to get dressed up in our uniform and be part of something
that was important to the town of Manilla. And it is still an important consideration for the Manilla
I still remember being in the
Ex-Servicemen’s Club with my parents on numerous occasions in the
evening. (I had a lemon squash) At, I think, 8pm or so the lights
were lowered (without warning) and a sign lit up on the wall. You knew
straight away you had to stand and listen to "They shall not grow
old...." and at the end say ‘Lest we Forget’.
But it wasn't just about remembering the fallen ones in war
where there was a procession in Manilla.
When someone died in Manilla it was also a remembrance
event. I remember a seemingly endless line of cars making their way through the main
street to the cemetary and everyone had to stand still as they went past
as a mark of respect. This is the only time I ever saw a continuous line of
cars in Manilla and you knew it was a funeral. Only one car every now
and then was the norm, and it was peaceful to know it is still like that
When I went
to Sydney for the first time and stood on the footpath watching car
after car go by I asked: "Is there a funeral on?". Yeah, they laughed....
During my growing up years in Manilla there was an exchange
program with the Hurlstone Park Ex-Services Club and the Manilla
Ex-Services Club. It gave the young people at Manilla an idea of what
Sydney was like and the city young people an idea of what country life
was. This exchange program was great. I wouldn’t have known things about
Sydney if I had not participated.
The idea was a family would take a young person in for a few
days in the year and the same family in Sydney would take in a young
person from Manilla. We had two exchanges in our house and I can
remember 1 home I went to in Sydney.
When they came from Sydney a bus was hired and we used to
travel out to different country destinations around Manilla.I even found out more about the
country. Three places I remember we went to were a shearing shed, a bee
farm and a saw-mill, but there was a lot more.
Some of these city kids were pretty ‘hip’ and extroverted.
They knew all the latest fashion, dance steps, movies and television
shows. Geez, we didn’t even have a TV.But my parents thought it would be good
for me so they sent me off to Sydney.
Their house in Sydney was a bit more modern with more modern
conveniences. At night we young used to lay on the floor with a blanket
in front of the TV while the adults sat behind us. Eventually we went to
bed after 9-10pm, which was quite liberating for me.
They took us up to the zoo, a ferry ride and places like
Luna Park. I remember it was all pretty ‘cool’ and took some photos but
never got the urge to go there to live. I thought it was too full on.But that changed when I went there at
17 years of age.
1964 was my final year in Manilla – and the unexpected
happened.Manilla had the big flood on the 14th
January that washed
away one house and damaged many.We had 7 feet of water go through our
house which left many things ruined with water and mud. I remember the
next day and my mother entered through the back door and completely
broke down crying. It was a very sad day with 9-10 years of progress
lost or ruined.
Our house nearly disappeared.It was just sitting on the foundation
supports and moved slightly. One house did go down stream and the house
over the road had a large tree wedged in through the front window into
The afternoon before, the water was very high in the river
just over the road.We could see it flowing from our house.
Everyone was worried. Then the water started to creep up the road and
that was when we had to put everything up high in the house.I stayed outside and put things on the
garden shed roof and moved other things higher.It made no difference – everything
disappeared. The chooks, budgies, vegetable garden – everything gone
outside. The inside of the house was mud soaked leaving 4 inches of mud
on the floor.
I look back now and think if it was my house, it would have
been hard to adjust to losing so many personal belongings over a 10
year period. Actually, it probably would have been pretty hard to take
and I look back now and wonder how my parents coped with that situation.
What could my parents do now? Well, we just had to clean up.Fortunately the whole town got behind
everyone in our street and other places and came to move, clean, shovel
mud, hose down and generally get things out of the houses and outside.The weather was hot so a lot of things
dried quickly.My mother’s photo appeared in the local
paper while she cleaned the inside of the house.
And a few months later my father got a promotion in the post
office and we moved south to Bega. They were 40 years of age and I was
And when I turned 40 years of age they died within 6 months
of each other. It's sad they are unable to read this story today
and be recognised, in life and print, as a positive contributor to a young
person's life in Manilla. In particular, that our simplicity, and less in
life, actually adds more to one's life
as it gives the brain time to critically think, without the many many
external materialistic distractions of today. Today those years have
shaped me to understand another life. My parents were always lovingly
devoted parents, family orientated and to be able to holistically
combine a childhood with adulthood brings a sense of belonging in life.
The one thing I do know – they always called Manilla home in
and it is my home town.
Manilla NSW Primary Central School 6A
1962 Back row L-R: Jim McDowell, Tony Bull, Keith Urquhart, David
Ross, Doug McClelland, Warren Mathews, Russell Parker. 2rd Row L-R:
Brian Reid, Brian Lynch?, Stephen Cotton, Roy Hall, Me, Will Gardiner?
Garry Weatherall? Ron Ghys, Brian Davis. 3rd Row L-R: Marion Stewart,
Gaye Tomlinson, Cheryl Cooke, Judy Hall, Wendy Dowe? Kay Porter, Lee
Hawkins, Deyonne Slattery. Front Row L-R: Margret Campbell, Denise
Pillon, Marilyn Tillman, Gay?Forward? Jane Huggins, Robyn Bryan? Annette
Bell, Allison Brasen, Vera Bushby. Absent: Jeanette Bell Teacher Noel
Manilla NSW Central School Primary
1950's-1960's - Grant Harrison, Noel Watts, Jill Bignall, Glenn Harley,
Gail Akers, Lynette Perry, Stephen Carter, Robert deSmid, Denise Smith,
Avril Selkirk, Rosemary Richman, Reg Church, Graham Wolfe, John Collier,
Graham Bell, Noel McMillan, Peter Hatch, Greg Weatherall, Susan
Rogerson, GeoffMartin. George Harley - Inspirationalist and
Scout leader to the youth of Manilla NSW.