Just in case my last post has you thinking my brother was a saint I wish to share with you one or two of his escapades, to which I’m not sure a girl of my then tender years should have been exposed.
First, a misadventure that started out with the best of intentions. I was about eleven years of age, so it was 1966. We didn’t have a car, and rarely travelled in one, until my brother bought a duckegg blue 1953 750cc Renault that he named Celeste. One evening he came home from “wherever” and, on impulse, offered to take me for a ride. I was already in my night clothes, a funny old pair of pyjamas with a very torn and tatty cotton brunch coat on top.
Off we went in the car and all was fun and excitement and novelty until it broke down. No matter what he tried, my brother could not get the rear-engined Celeste to go again. Abandoning her for the night, we travelled home on the train to the closest railway station, followed by a thirty minute walk to our house, me all the time looking like some raggedy Anne and drawing stares, and my brother becoming increasingly embarrassed and uncomfortable. I wonder if anyone thought he was abducting me? No more impetuous night-time rides for me.
Late in 1967, my last year in primary school, my brother turned twenty-one and received an inheritance. It wasn’t a fortune, but it was enough to buy a brand new car. For weeks the house was littered with glossy car brochures, until he finally settled on a Toyota Corolla, Diana Olive green in colour, registration EST-372. It was a manual. For years after I could always recognise when he was approaching home. We lived on a corner at the top of a long hill. At the bottom there was a little S-bend, requiring a change down in gears before gunning it up the hill and rounding the corner into our street where the driveway was, another gear change. For reasons that had to do with me having grown into a rebellious teenager who didn’t behave the way he wished 🙂 I learnt to recognise the sound of that little Toyota’s gear change the moment it entered the S-bend, and quickly jump into bed, playing possum, pretending as if I had been home and asleep for hours.
My brother’s friendship group had a twenty-first birthday ritual. Each received their own personal pewter beer mug inscribed with everyone’s names. This was the crowning reward for several years of dedication to the art of drinking, and all the hi-jinx that went with the lead up to “coming of age”.
In Australia, it was/is legal to go to the pub at eighteen, and as soon as this group was old enough to do so, signs started appearing around our household. The local swimming pool tendered up one that was placed on our outhouse toilet. There was no sewerage in our area at the time, the “Sano Man” came once a week and swapped over the pails. I wonder what he made of:
Use after 10pm not permitted.
Children must be accompanied by an adult.
The Spanish-themed Grande Villa Hotel offered its ornately shaped “Gentlemen” sign that had previously hung on its convenience door. That was installed on my brother’s bedroom door, and whenever he wished to exclude me from the gathering he would invite his friends to “Come into the Gentlemen’s” and close the door in my face.
When my brother and his mates were behind the closed door in the “Gentlemen’s” room, they would get on with a drink and a smoke and some liberal swear words. “Crap” became one of my favourite expressions.
They had the good grace not to bring the empty cans and cigarette butts back through the house, these simply went out the bedroom window and in to the geranium bush below. Years later that poor bush died, and in its last browned off moments handed up a plethora of rusted cans and decomposing cigarette filters.
You remember Gunner Loo from an earlier post? He had a Vauxhall Viva or Wyvern or something like that. That is, he did have, until the day that he fell asleep at the wheel as he was driving over the bridge crossing the pipeline that provides Sydney its drinking water. This pipeline ran at the back of our street. We lived one side, he the other, about a ten minute trip, max. It was a very, very, short bridge, probably not even six metres (twenty feet) long. On each side was a pedestrian walkway, protected from the road by a simple mesh wire fence.
A side story:- The quickest way to the railway station and main shops was via the pipeline, shown in the below photo. In my childhood, we kids would frequently walk along the tops of the pipes, which were not then impeded by pedestrian bridges as shown here. Rivets hold circular bands in place, you can just make out some sets on the left-hand pipe. We’d use these as toe and finger grips to climb up, and leap from pipe to pipe just for the heck of it. On the odd occasion we lost our nerve, one could also slither underneath, but that was even scarier, because you were likely to encounter another slithering animal down there in the dark and dank.
Gunner Loo had been at a drinking session at our house, and he may have only been ducking home to collect more beer. Whatever the purpose, it was at the precise moment he entered the bridge that Gunner Loo fell asleep – he just fell right asleep – veered off the road and crashed straight on in to the mesh wire fence. He is probably the reason Australia then introduced drink-driving laws and random breath testing.
We had a big side yard, but immediately at the rear of the house was a smaller one containing a few peach trees and an orange tree. The demise of the Vauxhall sparked an idea for a great use for this area. The guys pulled the vinyl front and back seats out of its remains and snuggled them under the trees. Then they decided nighttime lighting ambience was needed. They scouted the district for road work lanterns. While they were at it, they brought home the barricades and warning signs too. I am not sure how the guys got an entire cement-footed stop sign transported home, I imagine they all just grabbed hold and hauled it away.
When all laid out under the fruit trees, this provided a comfortable area for night-time lounging.
Years later, when my husband and I occupied the old house for a time, we found all this paraphernalia still stored underneath (the house was raised on footings and walls bricked in). I can’t remember how we dealt with it. Perhaps we snuck out at night and put the Public Works property back where it came from.
When my brother got a steady girlfriend this larrikinism slowed down, and when he married at twenty-five, although he retained his mates, there was no more of this kind of behaviour. But it had been a wild ride for some eight years or so.
I’m forever indebted to this motley gang because as it turned out, I found my career niche in Shipping and Logistics: supply chain management, international transport, container management, warehousing – all that typically male-dominated, blokey stuff. I had no trouble with the banter, sledging, and straightforward language that occasionally turned blue. It’s little wonder I felt more comfortable in this dynamic and fast-moving world than in any other which would have required more tact and diplomacy 🙂
My brother never lost his obsession with cars and often owned two or three at a time. They were always well used and he never spent a great deal on them. He was fond of unusual classics or sporty types. Such as the American Ford LTD whose front end was so long the carburetor drained going up a steep hill. He justified these purchases as investments, and every so often I gave him the lecture on appreciating versus depreciating assets. Knowing his wife would not drive them, when he passed, my brother left me “whatever cars he owned at the time“. Luckily for me, the two turned out to be relatively new, a fifteen year old Toyota Lexus, which was a smooth ride but inhaled petrol, and so I had to sell it; and a white 2012 BMW convertible 120i. Continuing with the tradition of naming vehicles, she is Tamara Grace, inspired by both Tamara Lempicka and Grace Kelly. I toyed with calling her Isadora, after the dancer, but I thought that was tempting fate too far. As it was, if she wasn’t white, I wouldn’t have toyed with Grace either. Readers “of a certain vintage” will get my drift.