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‘Planes, trains, automobiles and a tank: Tales from my adrenalin-charged youth’

Jun 10, 2021
Gay's first car was a yellow Volkswagen. Source: Getty Images

Do you remember your first car? I do! I got it in my 30s. Of course, there was the family car, but I didn’t drive. Then came the love of my life, a beautiful bright yellow Volkswagen. I got my driver’s licence pretty quickly after that!

Things were different back then when it came to safety. There were no seat belts. There were no capsules for new babies either. My babies were in the base of the pram that unscrewed and tucked into the back seat. It did a bit of a rock and roll as we went around sharp corners.

My older two were perched on the back seat. Back then, the VW had a little luggage box behind the back seat. My four children loved every drive we took in that little car!

Occasionally, it used to stop at the lights. I remember having to jump out of the car with an old shoe in hand so I could bash the motor and get it going again. It was a bit hairy in traffic!

My VW came to a sad end, and it was unpleasant for me too. On Christmas Eve one year, I’d been sitting at the traffic lights when there was an almighty *thump*. I’d been hit in the back, right where the motor was. An elderly driver and his wife were out on the road, when really they shouldn’t have been. He couldn’t see very well and his wife told him when to turn left or right. She forgot to tell him to stop that day though…

My husband had always wanted to take the Indian Pacific train from Sydney to Perth with the car perched on the back. We’d been left with some money, so off we went.

What luxury! We had our own attendant, a lovely private cabin, afternoon tea was brought to us for our delectation. Have you ever taken the train? I remember eating well in the dining car. It was really gourmet, fine dining, restaurant quality.

Bed time was a lot of fun though. We’d come back to our cabin to find the bunks had been dropped and were ready for us to just climb in. My husband would fall asleep straight away, but I would sit up looking out the window and all the little towns we passed along the way. That was until we passed a railway gate complete with people in their cars. They could see straight into the train and me peering out of the window. I waved.

The first person in my family to fly was my aunt. It was so long ago!

I was eager to get flying. For my 50th birthday I flew to Disneyland, something special. Everything with the flight was going well and I was incredibly excited about the journey. Then turbulence hit! People were reaching for sick bags, children were howling, my husband was sleeping (again) and I loved every minute. I am a bit odd like that.

My aunt and uncle lived in a hilly area of Traralgon, a town in the east Latrobe Valley of Victoria. The government of the day ‘stashed’ a few tanks on their property. My cousin and I swarmed all over it, even though we knew we’d get into some serious trouble if we were caught.

I found the door on top was easy enough to open. My poor cousin, Peter, just about had a fit as I slipped down head first but he soon joined me. Inside there were buttons for all sorts and a chair that turned. What heaven for a couple of kids! I discovered that one of the wheels made the big gun move. That gave us a fright and we soon realised that maybe what we were doing wasn’t something we should be, so we got out.

No sooner had we climbed out of the tank, then the damn thing started rolling down the hill … My father’s car was directly in its path. I prayed so hard that it would stop and God mustn’t have been busy that day because roughly two feet from the car that tank stopped moving. I’ve never forgotten the value of prayer.

Do you remember your first car?

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