When we had a car, Dad would make a weekly trip to the dump, regardless if we had something to dump or not. ‘Another man’s trash was another man’s treasure’ Dad would say, and off to the dump we would go.
Thrilled to be going, my two brothers and myself, would clamber into the back seat of the old, 4 door, black Vauxhall, arguing about who would have a seat next to the window, no air conditioning of course, and no seat belts in those days, (no shoes on us, either I might add)
Mum would opt to stay at home. I imagine this was ‘her time’ to have a well-earned break, as the three of us would have been a handful most days and it was Dad’s turn to ‘enjoy’ our company. She would wave us off, watch as Dad backed out of the driveway and then she would shut the gate to keep our family dog in the yard.
The dump was the supplier of the makings of our first billy cart, our first bicycle, wood and wire for pet cages, bricks for an incinerator and the occasional sheet of tin.
Hours were spent, lifting things off the top of other things, yelling in excitement and asking Dad to check out if what we found would be any good for the latest project.
Once our collection was complete, we would jump back into the car for the drive home and clean up for lunch, before a start was made on the newest invention.
The chook house was made out of an old ply tea chest, a few old broom handles for the perches and old kerosine tins (cleaned of course) for laying boxes. After the house part was complete, Dad erected a fence around it, from old chicken wire and steel poles we had found, fashioned a gate from what was left over and declared it fit for chicken habitation.
Dad’s Mum, ‘Grandma’, ran a boarding house in Fortitude Valley. Grandma kept Bantom chickens in the backyard of that very small block, in a pen that Dad had obviously made, as it was nearly identical to the one he just completed for us.
We were gifted a white Bantom chicken that we named ‘Alice’. Alice was placed in a hessian bag and nursed, ever so carefully, by our youngest brother, all the way home.
Alice was the sole occupier of the chook pen. It was several weeks before Alice laid, but eventually, she did. Malcolm, the youngest used to sit with Alice in her chook house for hours on end sometimes, waiting for the special day an egg would appear. Finally, the day came, the egg was carefully cupped in the palm of Mal’s hand, and walked up from the backyard, past the mango tree and Hills Hoist, and up the back stairs. It was with great excitement; that the first egg was presented to Mum. On presentation of said egg to Mum, Mal exclaimed with some conviction, that the reason why Alice took so long to lay an egg was because she was pregnant!
The billy cart Dad made was a magnificent piece of Australian home handyman ingenuity. It was fashioned from old pallets, mower wheels, nails, wire and a larger ‘steering’ wheel from something else he found about the place. A brick attached to a length of rope was used as the brake, thrown over the side to slow us down. Many a fun afternoon we had, riding in that death trap, down the hill of our street.
Our bicycles, fashioned form ‘dumped’ bits and pieces were put together by our cleaver Dad.
Mine was all different colours until it was finished and finally painted red…red makes it go faster. My two brothers’ bikes were painted blue and white, and white and blue…a little different for each so they felt special.
Those carefree days in the 60’s, were all about being outside and with our newfound transport, we were allowed to venture away from home (it wasn’t that far when you think back) on streets and roads that had significantly less traffic than now. We cycled over hill and down Dale, explored the surrounding suburbs, visited friends, and had the inevitable accident.
One memorable accident, that I still bear the scars from, involved my youngest brother Mal. Coming home from our adventure, we lost concentration when an unexpected car was coming up our hill when we were riding down at full speed. I was yelling instructions for him to stay left, Mal obviously had two lefts and went right, in front of me! I slammed on the brakes, and over the handlebars I flew, landing very heavily on the bitumen. Dad heard the commotion; and came running to see if we were okay.
I was lying on the road, winded from the fall, my mangled bike on its side. Mal came away unscathed. I, on the other hand, did not.
Let’s just say a lot of skin was lost, gravel rash is not pleasant and iodine painted on open wounds hurt.