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These recollections are by Ross Smith, written when he was only 86 years old; the same young man who subsequently went to war in New Britain; as related elsewhere on this website [read more...].  We learn about the development of the skills that later saved his life and those of others in his platoon.  We also get a sense of what it was to be poor in pre-war Australia; and the continuity of that experience from the earlier convict and pioneering days from which our Australia grew.                   *

Many of Ross' recollections relating to corporal punishment and the rural pursuits of young boys still applied when I arrived in Australia as a child in 1948. 

Our milk and bread still arrived by horse and cart; the milk being measured from taps on the back of the milk cart into pint, quart or gallon jugs carried to the householder's milk container by a running milkman; his horse moving to the next house undirected. 

Although we had an indoor toilet and a refrigerator, many of the neighbours still had the night-cart and ice box; and relied on the 'dunny man' and ice-man.

In semi-rural Thornleigh I too had an air-rifle as well as a very effective catapult (shanghai) and various home-made spears and bows and arrows.  Several of my friends had .22 calibre rifles that we took rabbit hunting. 

Our teachers still handed out 'six of the best'.

While some of Ross' recollections are confronting remember, in mitigation, that rabbits and cats are feral pests in Australia [learn more...].  Rabbits are often in plague proportions and unconstrained cats predate on native animals and birds. 

There has also been a big change in our attitude to animals.  When I was a child, stray, unwanted and injured animals were routinely shot, drowned or taken to the vet to be 'put-down'.  These methods were regarded as humane.  While wanton cruelty has always been illegal, the concept of anyone spending thousands of dollars on a sick pet would have been shockingly antisocial, when many parents were struggling to feed their children. 

The reversal in this social norm, when pet animals are treated like children, and people are frowned upon for 'putting a pet down', is quite new in Australia; within my lifetime.  And pet cats are much better managed today.  Unless specifically kept for breeding, pet cats need to be RFI tagged and neutered; and not let out at night without a bell. 

In the following story the page breaks and headings are added by me.  I have also moved some content around into these sections. Some spelling and punctuation has been corrected.  But otherwise it is exactly as Ross wrote it.

 

Richard

 


Recollections of Childhood

by Ross Smith

 

To those of my children and grandchildren who have read about some of my experiences in the 1939-1945 Second World War, I will now at the prompting of Jordan, write down a few little highlights of my life as a young child, say between the ages of eight and 15 years. 

Some of you who are faint-hearted may find some of the things that I did a little disturbing but I am not going to pull any punches otherwise there is not much point. 

I want to tell you what I did and what I thought about during those tender years that we all go through but first let me tell you about the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1933. 

Amid great pomp and ceremony all the dignitaries of course were there, the premier, all his cronies, the police, the army, people of importance from other countries of course were all there.  They strung a ribbon right across the entire width of the Bridge and the honour of cutting it was given to the then Premier of the time, the Right Honourable Jack Lang.  At the given time he was given a pair of gold scissors and he then readied himself to cut the ribbon but it was not to be; without any warning a Captain de Groot of the New Guard came charging across on his mount, drew his cavalry sabre from its scabbard and with one mighty blow cut the ribbon.  He had stolen Lang’s thunder; of course he was immediately arrested and later charged.  The ribbon was immediately rejoined and recut by Mr Lang, but it will go down in history books that Captain de Groot of the New Guard opened up the Sydney Harbour Bridge ‘just for your edification’.  After that there was only one thing in everybody’s mind and that of course was to walk over the bridge which 1,000 did including me and my family. [Read more elsewhere on this site...].

Okay, so much for the bridge, now let me tell you about me.

 

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Travel

USA - middle bits

 

 

 

 

 

In September and October 2017 Wendy and I took another trip to the United States where we wanted to see some of the 'middle bits'.  Travel notes from earlier visits to the East coast and West Coast can also be found on this website.

For over six weeks we travelled through a dozen states and stayed for a night or more in 20 different cities, towns or locations. This involved six domestic flights for the longer legs; five car hires and many thousands of miles of driving on America's excellent National Highways and in between on many not so excellent local roads and streets.

We had decided to start in Chicago and 'head on down south' to New Orleans via: Tennessee; Georgia; Louisiana; and South Carolina. From there we would head west to: Texas; New Mexico; Arizona; Utah and Nevada; then to Los Angeles and home.  That's only a dozen states - so there are still lots of 'middle bits' left to be seen.

During the trip, disaster, in the form of three hurricanes and a mass shooting, seemed to precede us by a couple of days.

The United States is a fascinating country that has so much history, culture and language in common with us that it's extremely accessible. So these notes have turned out to be long and could easily have been much longer.

Read more: USA - middle bits

Fiction, Recollections & News

Peter Storey McKie

 

 

My brother, Peter, is dead. 

One of his body's cells turned rogue and multiplied, bypassing his body's defences. The tumour grew and began to spread to other organs.  Radiation stabilised the tumour's growth but by then he was too weak for chemo-therapy, which might have stemmed the spreading cells.

He was 'made comfortable' thanks to a poppy grown in Tasmania, and thus his unique intelligence faded away when his brain ceased to function on Sunday, 22nd May 2022.

I visited him in the hospital before he died.  Over the past decade we had seldom spoken. Yet he now told me that he often visited my website. I had suspected this because from time to time he would send e-mail messages, critical of things I had said. That was about the only way we kept in touch since the death of his daughter Kate (Catherine). That poppy again.  

Read more: Peter Storey McKie

Opinions and Philosophy

Six degrees of separation, conspiracy and wealth

 

 

Sometimes things that seem quite different are, when looked at more closely, related. 

 

Read more: Six degrees of separation, conspiracy and wealth

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