A New Web Page has been created for Manilla NSW. It is easy viewing with more pictures and information.
All on one page it includes: Main Street, Homes, Railway Viaduct, Weir, Museum, Bridge, Palais, Park, 1964 Flood, Manilla Show, Primary School Heritage Day, School Photos 1950s-1960s, Lake Keepit Waterskiing, River Walk, and Pictures from the Past.
If you are searching on Google, you need to type in Manilla NSW Blogspot for the direct position.
(Google does not recognise Blogspot in their search engines. Microsoft Bing Does.
So if your searching in Microsoft Bing, you will see it on the first page (normally).

The following story is the inaugural 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 growth period.
        These are excerpts of a more detailed story where the entirety of events growing up in the 1950/60s is curently being written.
 I wrote this web page story in 2013 and in November 2019 the book structure commenced, with original pictures in colour and black and white. It also has numerous graphics pertaining to the story. I think you will like the more detailed story.
* It will be a story and picture book.*  The book has reached nearly 200 pages so far.

For some idea, click on this Link and
scroll down to the 'Profile Section,' for more detail. Then select an article.

In 2013 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 and contemplate the past years. My next trip is planned for October 2022. 

"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. (>)

Manilla Nsw Australia Facebook Link : https://www.facebook.com/Manilla-Nsw-Australia-1675967382689460/timeline/

I have created a new format page for Manilla NSW in what's called blogspot. 
Its easy on the eye to view and has other pictures. I think you will find this layout and pictures informative.
The link is:

(If you have a social sharing aptitude on the internet, you can share the above pages on Facebook, Twitter, and Email)

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 without.

 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 possible.


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 well-being, rather 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) 

Link: click here

"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 only about 72 square metres in size (12 metres long x 6 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 size.

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 enough.  I put a thermometer outside once and it rose to 120 on the old scale (49 degrees C)

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 weather. 

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 lot louder.

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 1950's.


 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 thrashed about.

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 hot bath.

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 - Love.

 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 finches.

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. (pic left) 


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 transistor radio.

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 have fun.

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 waited.

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 the bottom.

Even at that young age our natural survival instincts were in operation.

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 home varied 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 now.  It 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 times at 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 mental retardation.

Chores at home were 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 night was 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 night.

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.



The Saturday Afternoon Matinee at 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 up.

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 screen!

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 whipped  and 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.

The 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.


Sex 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.

 Initially ‘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, that were always new and exciting.


 Shoes 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.

It was 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.


The 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!


Marbles was 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 1950’s.

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.

Church 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 Scouts.

I remember 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 the coast.

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 water.

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.

There 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 again. 

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 area.

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 they did.

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 it.

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.


The Manilla 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 Mainilla Show.

Sideshow alley was a favourite for everyone especially us young ones.

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.  All 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!

Click here to see pictures and information about the 80th Manilla Show 2014.

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 main street.

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 told!

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 heavy flag.

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 community today. 

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 today.

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 their loungeroom.

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.

Click here for photographs and information about the 1964 Manilla flood. Or this Link

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 15.

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 Australia, and it is my home town.

                  Me above, circled.                      
          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 Logan
                More School Photos 1957-1961 .... Click here                        
Motorcycle born in 1985 and still going strong.
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                  Copyright Mitch Ezyrider Australia (>)                                      
        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, Geoff Martin. George Harley - Inspirationalist and Scout leader to the youth of Manilla NSW.