My Dad’s advice as a young girl saved my life 13



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Once upon a time (well, all stories start like that or they did when I was growing up a long time ago) we lived in the Tasmanian Lower Midlands. Dad and his father cut sleepers for the railway and my brother and I would go to the station to see if a KKD had been sidelined to be loaded with sleepers and taken away.

We always felt happy to see one as it would mean there might be something special for us.

Dad warned us about a local person and said he had a tomahawk in the sugar bag he always carried and would cut our heads off if we upset him.

Jackie lived with his family who all had a reputation of being strange and today Jackie would be known to have special needs. The term used those days was much more blunt and to us, frightening.

One day at the station he had a tobacco tin full of coins which he scattered on the ground. My brother ran to pick them up for him and he ran at him. He probably thought my brother would take them but he was just being helpful.

He chased him until Barry scaled over the railway gates.

We never told dad as we would have been told to stay away from the station

A few weeks later I was going home to my grandparent’s house. I was living with them as we’d recently moved from Butler’s Gorge (another story for another time) and my parents had moved into a tiny two room house (just two rooms, not two bedrooms)

I saw Jackie walking towards me with that sugar bag swinging from his shoulder.

Being about nine I made an ill considered decision to get through into the paddock and hide behind some scrub. All obvious, of course, to Jackie who stopped and stared in my direction. He was muttering unintelligibly and I was sure I would be killed any moment.

Then Mr Ken Devine appeared with his horse and dray and told him to get on and for me to go home.

Once again I didn’t tell my family in case they thought I’d upset Jackie in some way.

Mr Devine obviously didn’t tell them either.

After that I always went home from school along the railway line. My point is we constantly thought of Dad’s warning, as bloodthirsty as it was. 

Perhaps too much information but perhaps, if children were given some frightening warnings and not just told not to get in cars or accept sweets it might have more impact.

Do you think scare tactics work for young children?

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Val Monaghan

I was born on the 21st January 1938. I am retired and widowed with 3 adult children and 5 lovely grandchildren I have lived in the same address for 58 years. I have had a varied working life, including ticket and showcard writing until 1973 when I changed to commercial cooking. I last cooked on the Windeward Bound, a brigantine around 6 years ago. I write a lot of verse about all sorts of subjects. I enjoy gardening, reading and having good friends visiting.

  1. Val I have no idea what the answer is, it is a terrible problem that is not easily solved and perhaps you are right

  2. I had the fear of God put into me as a youngster. It certainly made me think twice before doing anything risky – about the action and also the consequences.

  3. I believe children should see the world as a beautiful place and not be afraid.Putting the fear of God into them can have long term consequences and give them nightmares.Some parents use a story to get the message across.

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  4. I had fear instilled into me as a child about stranger danger. On a few occasions during my childhood I was approached by strange men (offering me a lift in the car or being followed) and because I was warned I managed to stay safe by doing whatever I could to do so. I think your Dad did the right thing Val.
    I like you did not report these incidents at the time for fear of getting into trouble, which is typical of how a child thinks.

  5. It’s about ongoing education, with constant reminders for kids until around 8 – 10yrs they don’t really grasp these things like stranger danger and road safety before this age. we need to use a form of gentle brainwashing for want of a better word. I dislike scare tactics.

  6. That story reminds me of the book/ film to kill a mocking bird. I believe kids should be taught many lessons pertaining to their safety. It’s when more freedom is given we teach them the dangers with more detail I also believe in acting it out with them it give them more courage with danger including bulling.

  7. Reminded me of an encounter I had when I too was about 9. Family were staying at a beachside B&B… like an old rambling hotel. This is way back. I was walking between rooms when man approached me and asked me to go into his room. I was very naïve and didn’t know why as a very shy little girl, I had the courage, but a sixth sense told me to say no and I scarpered. I didn’t ever say anything. I didn’t really understand until I grew up how my life may have changed so drastically (or ended) with a different choice.

  8. I tried to take a balanced view with my two boys when they were little: Basically, I told them that most people were good people, but a few people are very bad people and you cannot tell which is which just by looking at them. I tried to impress on them that they should never go anywhere with someone other than their parents without checking with us first.

  9. Unfortunately, these days, so much electronic media…….film, television, computers, games etc., I’m sure confuses children. They have difficulty separating true life & fiction. Scaring them, may not have any impact.

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