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The bike

 

Just about all the kids in those days used to either walk or ride on their pushbikes down to the local cinema to see the ‘flicks’.  One day they ran a serial and after the first episode we were told to go home and write an essay about it.  I didn’t bother but my sister Beryl did and she came first out of about 1,000 entries.  Her prize was a six month pass with a friend, mum made her take me instead of a friend, which infuriated her. 

Not long after that they put a jam jar in the window of the cinema shop on the corner; the jar was full of peas.  The person who came up with the right number of peas in the jam jar would win a pushbike which was also on display in the window.  All my mates had a pushbike except me so I raced home, secured a jam jar and started filling and counting the peas into it.  Mum said, “Rossi you don’t do it like that, you do it like this”.  She put a round scroll of paper inside the jar and said “now Rossi you count all the peas around it”.  When the moment of truth came the following Saturday, the manger got up on the stage and said “the winner of the Malvern Star pushbike is Ross Smith”. I raced up onto the stage and he said, “hold it son, it’s all yours”.   I was, of course, ecstatic.  I couldn’t ride it; I had to push it all the way home.  Good on you, mum! 

Yes, they didn’t come much poorer than we were, sometimes the ‘rabbito’ would come calling “rabbito, rabbito”.  If you went out he would sell you a pair of rabbits skinned and gutted for two shillings (underground mutton).  The skins when dried out he would sell to Akubra.  It was a hard way for him to live but it did give him a good financial return and as always money is the name of the game.

Sometimes at Christmas my uncle Bill would take us down to Jervis Bay in the back of his truck. Mum had a 8’ x 10’ duck tent in which the four of us (mum, my two sisters and me) slept on the ground – although they made up a ‘Queensland bunk’ for mum; two supported uprights at each end with a longitudinal pole along each side covered by a big chaff bag about 6’ x 3’;  quite a comfy arrangement. 

But the best of all was the fishing.  In those days the fish were more than abundant.  Every morning when we woke up the first thing we heard was the crashing of the waves onto the beach and the absolutely beautiful smell of fish being cooked everywhere, and I mean everywhere, not like today. 

One morning I remember walking along the beach and I saw a launch with three men fishing in it using hand lines.  After about an hour it came into the beach where I was; it was a 16 footer.  They did not have maybe a basket half full of fish; the whole boat was full of fish almost overflowing and they were very selective of their catch.  No sergeant bakers, parrot fish, nannygai or other rubbish, they were nearly all snapper, morwong, bream, flathead, yellow jackets and other of similar quality.  They said “here, son, would you like a couple” and handed me two beautiful squire, which I immediately took home to mum. 

I can’t imagine any better holiday than that.  At that particular time the two loves of my life were fishing and shooting; outside of my own family of course.

Every Saturday arvo we all went down to the local cinema to see the ‘flicks’.  Mum would always give me sixpence to go in and a penny to spend.  One of my favourite shows was Frank Buck in ‘Bring ‘em Back Alive’; a real African adventure. 

 

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