‘Growing up in regional Australia taught me how to tough it out as an adult’

Nov 23, 2018
Stockton is 25 minutes from Newcastle, New South Wales. Source: Pixabay

There’s plenty of history available about Pirate Point aka Stockton, Newcastle New South Wales, and although the early days pre-1900 or so were probably a little rough, growing up there in the 1950s and ’60s as a young kid was pretty amazing.

It was amazing, in fact, that as kids we were probably a little spoilt compared to kids of the same age in other suburbs around the country.

Why? We had unlimited access to a river, sand dunes, an incredible surf, a great culture of local sport, good schools and a community that really seemed to actually like and support each other!

Stocktonites knew that their place of choice to live was special. Originally an almost one-hour drive up and around Hexham to come back down into Newcastle, was offset by a two- to three-minute ride in the passenger ferry or a five-minute (give or take) ride on the punt, which was opened in 1952, specially designed for vehicles.

In 1972 a bridge was built across the Hunter River making access to Newcastle by car a bit easier for those who worked there. Unfortunately, the vehicular ferry ceased operation around that time.

Yet, as a kid I’d have to say we were spoilt — not in the the classic sense of being let free to do whatever we wanted, far from it! But things like ‘make sure you’re home before it’s dark’ made it a trusting relationship between parent and child, and the locals. Also, ‘make sure you don’t get sunburnt or your father will be cross with you’!

The words make sure were often used by mothers in those days, well my mum Lucy in particular, as a way of transferring some kind of responsibility to my sister, Barbara, and me.

Did it work? I think so! The fact I’ve spent my life realising I’m the one responsible for my own actions probably says a lot about those early days!

The other great thing about growing up as a kid in Stockton were the friends you made, some of whom I still have today. It’s quite different to some so-called friendships I’ve made and lost since becoming an adult!

Learning all about girls was a pretty good too. I won’t mention any names, but I was definitely infatuated  (in love?) with the daughter of one of my primary school teachers, and the local twins were also good sorts.

However, the best long-term education I could ever have had was from my mum and dad – Wal and Lucy.

People thought we were rich because Dad had made a great — albeit risky — investment in our land and subsequent largish house opposite the beach on Mitchell Street back in the early ’50s.

As an accountant, my father was no big risk taker, but coming from a family of seven kids, he knew what it was like to have hand me downs so most years for birthdays and Christmas we got secondhand toys — surfboards, train sets and more.

We didn’t care though. In fact we loved it that we actually got something we really wanted.

The other big lesson I learned related to food. If we didn’t like or want what was served at mealtime we didn’t have to eat it. Instead we were sent to bed and it would be saved for the next day, often with Dad saying (a probably now politically incorrect comment) “Think of all the starving kids in Biafra!”.

Knowing our boundaries — right from wrong — understanding respect and the fact that we are helped by helping others, a motto from one of the charities mum was involved with, was a pretty fortunate upbringing, as far as I’m concerned.

No, it certainly doesn’t make me perfect. Far from it… but it did give me a solid, albeit old-fashioned, background to draw from to help others. Thank you Stockton… and thanks Mum and Dad!

What do you remember about your upbringing?

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