Journals

Endless Waiting – Journal Entry 18th April 1978

I’m in Yeppoon, sitting at a table in front of a small cafe that’s shut. It’s rather dark here, a few metres away, maybe 10 or 15, a hot bread sign keeps flashing, giving the illusion of movement and the bulbs make a clicking sound as they go on and off. Around and around the hot bread, hot pies, cakes and pastries board they seem to move. Click, Click, Click, around and around. I’m using the light from the sign and also light from the glassed and refrigerated drink stands in the shop at the back of me. The headlights of passing cars occasionally flash in my direction, brightening the table for a few seconds. There are two young girls sitting at the next table. It’s very quiet in this corner. The Strand Hotel Motel across the road has a few drinkers. I wonder who bought the hotel at the auction a couple of weeks ago?

As usual, patients are hanging around waiting for the doctor to arrive; and, as usual, he is late. How long will his patients remain his patients? Especially when there are more punctual physicians in town.

Quality is an interesting concept. The Bororo people of Brazil, according to Levi-Strauss, have it. Quality in cooking, yes, but what about the kitchen? Should that be tidy and aesthetically pleasing before one starts or can one produce good food on the one hand and have a mess in the kitchen while producing quality food? No. Quality does not or should not occur in patches.

The garden is taking shape. What do I have to do tomorrow?

  1. Plant zucchini – the plot is ready
  2. Finish removing the grass from the path
  3. Tackle the strawberries
  4. Plan the plots near the duck pen
  5. Peas – plan their plot

There’s too much on the list for tomorrow.

We’re sewing too. List of sewing jobs:

  1. Cut out hats – D-hats
  2. Patchwork for blankets
  3. Make some green hats

15th Jun 1978

Thursday is People’s Day at the Rocky Agricultural Show. It is about 12:30 pm and I’m sitting near the Radio 4RO booth. Mum and Barbie are playing the lucky envelope stalls. Lots and lots and lots of people at the show today, such a collection of humanity, but mainly homogeneous because this is the heart of Central Queensland. A country town. A few foreigners are around and one Vietnamese family obviously enjoying themselves. First, they had a hot drink. Two rows of stalls later they were buying pluto pups for the kids. Money is changing hands very fast at some stalls. One-way traffic from people – mainly children – to the stall holders. Actually, most of the stalls seem to be doing well, except perhaps the ear-piercings and some of the religious stalls.

I would have loved to have spent more time at the poultry section. I always get carried away by some of the beautiful birds – this time by Doblo’s Indian game fowl and some bantams. Maybe in a year or two, we’ll have a few different breeds. I must find out the name of the largish bantams that looked like Doblo’s birds. People and paper are littered on the lawn about me. It’s lunch-time so more and more people are dropping on the grass, more chip bags are flying in the breeze.

The show seems to offer everyone something to their liking. Competitors get competition, young lovers get excitement and fun and children seem to enjoy themselves the most. The high cost of rides and darts don’t seem to worry them and neither do the plastic prizes. The wind has come up again, cold and biting. The man at the kite shop is flying an eagle kite made from black and white plastic. It looks pretty from here. All the children watch. Nice smell of steak somewhere nearby. A loudspeaker calls people to try lucky envelopes at the sub-normal children’s stall. Suddenly people are rising from the grass, they all dust off their bums before heading off.

17th Jul 1978

At last, a place in Yeppoon where a person can sit on a Monday night and enjoy a hot cup of tea or coffee. I’m having chips with my cup of coffee. Can’t decide whether to put sugar in the coffee. It’s dog obedience night. Dusty went without a backward glance. She was either eager or resigned. No use struggling.

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

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  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series
  • Added my mother’s sister Barbara to the family tree. As Barbara was dependent on my grandmother, both Barbara and Grandma joined the Emu Park Family.

Cyclone David – Journal Entry 12th Dec 1975

Dear Jean, here at last is my letter as it was written before and after your telephone call.

Thanks for your letter. We will not be coming to Melbourne for the Christmas holidays, Johnny cannot get away, though we may manage the odd week or weekend in the bush. Sayang*.

I was looking forward to visiting Melbourne for several reasons – the main one being because it contains your family. There is a paper mill I would like to visit and learn to hand-make paper. Actually one buys a kit (you may like to get one for the kids: The Mould & Deckle Papermill, 221 Canterbury Road, Heathmont VIC 3135). And, of course, I wanted to see the shops. Heard a lot about them.

After minding our own business for two years, Johnny and I are right in the middle of community participation. He is out tonight attending an A.A.P.** meeting, to get the best deal for Emu Park in particular and the Capricorn Coast. Last night he attended the Emu Park Progress Association meeting where he was told that we would at last be getting a community hall. Emu Park had been without a hall for many years. The old hall was burned down by a firebug. This firebug had a temper; whenever someone insulted him, he burned a building or two. He set fire to the school. They caught him one day with a stolen bicycle in hand and lots more under his house. They tell me he was Welsh and an incorrigible thief. He died in a road accident and his body and car were stripped before the police got to him.

We’ve started Meals on Wheels (M.O.W.) In the beginning we thought it was all a big mistake; we only had two customers. However, when we served our first day’s meal, we had seven customers. In a month’s time we were up to ten and then sixteen, by which time we wanted to drop some. Now we are at a manageable amount.

We’ve also started a group called MATTARA to keep an eye on people, especially old and sick people living on their own. We get taps mended, supply transport when needed, look after gardens, etc. Yesterday we had our first social afternoon-tea and sing-song because of Christmas. Sounds dreadful, but we all enjoyed ourselves, and the homemade cakes and jams we offered as prizes were really appreciated. Some of our clients were housebound and had not seen their friends (also housebound) for a long time. By bringing them together, they were able to catch up on news and gossip. Our oldest person there was 82. She had been in a home for over 15 years. As she wanted to spend time here, the Community Health people boarded her with a woman in Emu Park. This was her first two week holiday.

Our most dramatic case to date has been cleaning an 82 year old German man’s house. His house was condemned long ago, but the Council won’t pull it down until he dies. A strange man Fritz. And Emu Park left him alone. He was a first class carpenter and boat builder. He drinks, is excessively independent and has an enormous golden Labrador which knocks him into hospital at least once a month. When in hospital he accuses the staff of keeping him away from his dog. To get back to the house cleaning: the M.O.W. volunteers complained about the overflowing urine bucket in the kitchen doorway and maggots on the floor, not to mention the egg-smeared dishes laid ready for the day’s meal. So on Sunday, four MATTARA women gird up their loins, put perfumed masks over their face and attacked Fritz’s house. Fritz helped by burning the rubbish. He only cooperated because he had been told to do so by the Community Health Nursing Sister. To give you an idea of Fritz’s present state – he doesn’t know what day of the week it is, forgets to switch off his kettle, lays lighted mosquito coils on boxes of matches and lights a pipe that is not there.

Back to the housecleaning for Fritz. Right in the middle of all this filthy, stinking, dusty and seemingly hopeless job, a neighbour (who bought Fritz’s house and land) came in to tell us what interfering do-gooders we were and why the hell hadn’t we asked her to help. She continued to tell us that everyone knew she helped Fritz, that Fritz wanted the house filthy anyway and why couldn’t we leave it so. We apologised for not knowing she helped Fritz. What else could we do? She went to meet with the President of M.O.W., who was mowing his son’s lawn at the time. The President had seen her going into Fritz’s house so he was ready and pointed out that Fritz was a health and fire hazard! To do the woman justice, she returned to us and apologized.

Much later, Fritz was asked how his rooms came to be so clean and with eyes twinkling behind small, round, steel-rimmed glasses, he replied, “It rained.”

CyclonePic

19th Jan 1976

Today we are expecting Cyclone David. The wind is blowing at about 60 knots. The trees are trying to touch their roots.

The M.O.W. President and I delivered the meals because we wanted to warn the clients that we might not be able to get to them tomorrow. We offered to do any shopping they might need. All of them were prepared except old Fritz. He was in bed when I went in. The Blue Nurse was there and also the woman who cleans the house. The women were worried about him as the wind was blowing the rain right across to his bed. Fritz wasn’t bothered, he was hungry and wanted to be fed right away. Couldn’t get out of bed, he said, because he had no pants on. That was true, I saw that a couple of pairs of dirty shorts were soaking in a bucket in the kitchen.

This afternoon, a MATTARA volunteer will check on Fritz and take him to her house if necessary.

22nd Jan 1976

Very few people on the Capricorn Coast slept on the night of the 19th. The winds at our place were horrific because of the pine trees; and we were well away from the eye of the storm. Very little damage at Emu Park, just a few old, unused houses had the roof ripped off, and some toots (lavatories) found their way to the middle of the street. Had the wind been just a little stronger…

Apart from a wet study and a few broken branches, we thrive at Phillip Street. The kids are getting ready for school – which starts again next week.

Christmas was very wet, but most pleasant, playing with the kids’ toys. New Year or thereabouts was hectic because of visitors. We haven’t been on camp as yet; much too wet where we want to go.

Lots of love and a great good 1976 to you all.

Footnotes:

*Sayang means ‘Too bad!’ in the Philippines.
**The Australian Assistance Plan (A.A.P.), provided regional funding for local projects and social welfare programs. Ref: Local government and the Commonwealth: an evolving relationship, Research Paper no. 10 2010-11, Dr Lyndon Megarrity, Politics and Public Administration Section, 31 January 2011, Ref. The A.A.P was set up by the Whitlam Government in 1972.

 

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

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  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series
  • Footnotes have been added
  • Cyclone “David crossed to the north of St Lawrence. It passed over Gannet Cay. Winds unroofed 30 buildings in Yeppoon. The breakwater at Rosslyn Bay was destroyed along with yachts and trawlers. Wave recording stations at Yeppoon recorded a peak wave height (Hmax) of 7.6m.” Ref: Capricorn Coast Storm Tide Hazard Investigation For Livingstone Shire Council Final Report, 105201cw/ Revision 3, Connell Wagner Pty Ltd, 28 May 2003, Ref

 

 

Meals On Wheels – Journal Entry 5th Sep 1975

Went to see Steve McL at the library about visiting people in the community. She is interested in lending large-print books to old people and doing activities with young people.

Those interested should help with Meals On Wheels (M.O.W.) to have contact and a raison d’etre. One or two women will be organisers and contacts. Lectures and films could be shown to help educate and entertain helper groups. We decided to meet next week to sort out the committee and roster for M.O.W.

A few of our potential recipients:

Mrs A is psychotic and almost everybody avoids speaking to her. She grew up in Emu Park. Horse-whipped her kid once and he is now middle-aged, an alcoholic, collects antique furniture and will not do anything for this woman. He hates her. She is completely un-loveable, very much the grand lady.

Mr B lives in a caravan and seems to have no-one except the people who own the weekend home whose garden he maintains. Very lovely, going blind with possible kidney trouble.

Mr C has a senile wife. She interferes when he cooks and he doesn’t get much sleep. An old friend helped by taking his wife out for a drive while Mr C had a sleep or went for a walk. His wife is now in a home. It’s very sad but he is a different man after regular sleep.

We called a public meeting. Priests, representatives of various organisations, a social worker and a community health nurse were all present. The chairman was good, everyone was in favour of Meals On Wheels. A very successful meeting.

6th Sep 1975

The school fete is on and it’s a cold and windy day. No rain though. In the morning I went with the kids to help at school. Everyone was rummaging at the White Elephant stall. Much excitement among the kids. In the afternoon there was a very good crowd. During the speeches, various people traced the history of Emu Park School. I worked in the tea stall.

In the evening we had dinner with Margo and Norman. The discussion centred around how to find out what the Aboriginals did around Rockhampton. Norman to find out what is needed. Margo to help with homework at One People of Australia League.

15th Sep 1975

Meals On Wheels started. Many did not want to get meals; hope they change their minds later.

16th Sep 1975

“What do you think of the kedgeree, Gareth?” I query.

He says, “Oh, the flavours don’t go well together. Those flavours don’t go well with the tomatoes.”

There was a sad incident on Sunday. Got a call from the neighbour about Mr E.

Mr E was expecting a meal from M.O.W. – kept looking out for it and getting quite agitated. When I called by, he walked down to the vehicle and peered in. It was 1pm and all the meals had been delivered. So the neighbour, kind soul, made soup and put it on a tray with cold meat, bread and a sweet. She walked the food across to Mr E’s house.

Mr E’s house was a shell and barely liveable. A strong urine smell was everywhere, especially in a room which seemed to serve as a kitchen, dining room, bathroom and latrine. The latrine was a blue plastic bucket. Meat was rotting in the frying pan; near which was a lump of dripping and over 15 egg shells, egg cartons and egg smeared plates. It was absolute squalor. Empty jam jars and dirty towels lay strewn on the benches and floor.

The house was described by some as “the funniest in the street” and the occupant has always been a mystery. He has no friends, speaks very little English and people suspect he knows more than he lets on.

Strangely, Mr E has a lovely golden dog, called Laddie, who is in prime condition. He spends most of his time at the pub. Every afternoon the pub people tell him, “The Meals On Wheels people are going to your house now.” To which he downs his can of beer, scoots out, races along the street, gets home and sets himself at the table. Some days he eats a slice of bread while waiting.

Mr E has a round face, youthful complexion and a freshness about him. His eyes give nothing away. He is 82 years old, lights a pipe that is not there, puts burning mosquito coils on top boxes of matches and drinks a lot of beer.

Mr E loves his dog Laddie. He is regal and seems to do you a favour by just being and allowing you to do things for him.

3rd Oct 1975

The Welshman was a smoothie, very charming with the women and drank heavily. He would offer to help with some job around the house, look around and then steal. Usually timber, paint or some other building material.

One day he was drunk and announced, “If anyone annoyed me, I’d burn their house down, just like that, no messing around… wouldn’t be the first time either.”

He was suspected of having burned down the community hall, the school and even a second community hall. He was Master of Ceremonies (M.C.) at six-penny dances that were run to pay for the community hall. But one night he arrived drunk so the people refused to have him as M.C. That was the night the community hall burned down.

Letter to The President of the RSL

[Emu Park, October 1975]

We need your help! Not your money! A group of local people have organised MATTARA* to seek out anyone in the community needing care; not medical care, not charity, just contact with other members of their community.

Some elderly folk are fit and well, others have helpful relatives or neighbours. Some, however, lead very lonely lives, others need practical help in small but important matters. Some, for example, have weak eyesight and cannot even read a newspaper; some are too frail to catch the bus and need to be taken shopping for necessities. Others have electrical fittings which are faulty and deteriorating. The main need on their part is for a little human contact and on our part to be able to find out when help is needed.

Younger people, too, may run into temporary difficulties and may need similar kinds of help. We do not seek out any specific age group, just people in need of care.

We have no doubt that your organisation will wish to share our concern and we shall greatly appreciate your nominating one of your members to join our group – not necessarily for visiting – advice of those needing care will be of tremendous assistance.

[Eight members were listed, including my mother, with three as contact people]

A meeting will be held at the Library on Thursday, 30th October at 7:30 pm. May we welcome your representative then? If unable to attend please telephone to convey your willingness to help us.

%%%%%%%%

*MATTARA – an Aboriginal word meaning ‘hand of friendship’

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

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  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series

Three Rivers Camping – Journal Entry 12th Aug 1975

Muchlater

The Three Rivers is a camping area located 18 km north-east of Byfield. It was only accessible by four-wheel drive. Byfield is 67 km north of Emu Park.

Tuesday, 12th Aug 1975

We set off for Camp 5 at 4:30 am. Got bogged at 3 Tracks. Chopped down a stump that was in the way and then got bogged at McNevin’s Crossing. Winched ourselves out; then the winch broke or maybe it disconnected. Made it to 3 Rivers by 9 am.

Carried our stuff over rocks to Camp 5. The packs were heavy and it took 45 minutes. After a quick rest, we returned to the Rover and had lunch while Johnny packed more gear – mainly food and utensils. I had thirty pounds of canned food in my pack, just part of the week’s supply for five.

The tide was high so we had to go over the hills. It would have been a pleasant walk but for our heavy packs:

Marcello had a surfboard.
Gareth had fishing rods.
Karen had kerosene and fishing bag.
Johnny had a very heavy pack of food.
Gita had a heavy pack of food.

Crawled to camp at 1 pm.

Johnny had to make two more trips. The rest of us set up tents and had the fire going for coffee and evening meal.

End of the first day at camp.

Oh yes, I was given a piece of driftwood for my birthday by Johnny.

Wednesday, 13th Aug 1975

Decided to spend the day at camp recovering. It was an ideal camp – low, well-vegetated hills and a medium-sized waterfall with lots of pools at the bottom; lots of firewood nearby for the campfire; many Pandanus trees and three coconut trees. The sand cliffs to the north of us were many coloured – white, orange, yellow and cream. There was a family-sized beach, about ¾ mile long, with rocks at each end.

Went exploring the rocks on the north end of the beach to see what the next bay looked like. Discovered it would have taken ¾ to 1 hour to walk over the rocks. Returned home over the hills because the rocks were too slow to cross.

Attempted a rather steep climb, almost came to a bad end. A gnarled casuarina tree saved me; crawled up the hill and headed for home camp. Crossed wooded areas, dark and mysterious and still; expected wild people to tear me apart. Returned in time for breakfast.

The family went fishing after lunch. Caught the evening’s meal, and a few oysters.

Thursday, 14th Aug 1975

Went to 3 Rivers to repair winch. Washed my hair and explored rivers while Johnny worked. Located ferns, eucalyptus and banksia to take home. Collected driftwood and soil. Ate oysters after lunch.

Returned to camp at high tide. The waves were white and rough against the dark jagged rocks. Many of the rock shelves looked like sets from a spooky film, they had holes, and streaks running out of the holes – as though something horrible had dripped out.

The walk back over the hills was most pleasant this time. Many shrubs were in flower; such strange shrubs with such strangely beautiful flowers. There were many cow tracks – most useful if you don’t know your way over the hills.

The day ended with a rowdy game of Brag and garlic fried peanuts.

Friday, 15th Aug 1975

The kids decided they’d like to spend the day at camp. We had planned a visit to the next beach – possibly an hours walk over the hills.

The sky was overcast, a wind was blowing and so the trip was postponed. I went oystering for two hours, determined to give the family a feast. What a lunch today – oysters fried in oil and vinegar, canned ham, cheese spread, jam and biscuits.

It rained from lunch onwards. So we stayed in the big tent, and read, played cards and had dinner there too. 10 pm and it is still raining, lightly now.

It is a pity it rained all day. Found some white clay and yellow clay. Would have liked to have looked for the sources. Finished book on Coasts & Life on the Seashore.

Saturday, 16th Aug 1975

Found large quantities of grey, white and yellow clay – mainly grey. Looked for four-wheel drive tracks on the hills behind camp. Found them, so Johnny and Marcello brought the Rover to Camp 5! Tremendous, we won’t have to carry our things back to 3 Rivers.

Wildflowers were in bloom on the hillsides’ hardy vegetation, they have to withstand wind and grow in relatively poor soil, so they are low-growing and they flower early.

Didn’t catch fish – caught oysters though; discovered a bed of large-sized ones. Gareth and Karen picked smooth pebbles and bits of glass.

Sunday, 17th Aug 1975

Set out, after an excellent breakfast, to explore the next beach that was ½ an hour over the top of the hills.

Passed a creek with palm ferns growing by the sides, a bush turkey’s nest and Queensland umbrella trees.

So many different trees and shrubs, cool glades of low-branched trees and springy grass. Good cattle tracks to follow. Had to climb one steep hill.

The beach was exciting because it was there, uninhabited and waiting to be explored. Marcello found a glass float straightaway. We picked a ferny coppice, with a creek running through, to have our lunch. In the meanwhile, there was plenty to see and possible treasures to be picked up.

Quite excited by the beauty of the beach and the blue-green glass float. So we decided to press on to the next beach which was another 30-minute walk over the hill. The rocks were impassable in parts.

This time, Karen found a small stoneware jar; shipwrecked with a small mouth. And Marcello found another glass float (a small clear glass one), a cow skull and a wooden packing case. Gareth found a tube that he used as a telescope and a small plastic fishing reel. We returned to the first beach for lunch. After lunch, Marcello caught two big bream. A third, enormous,  according to Marcello and Karen, got away with his line.

The return journey took a while because we went well out of our way. It was slow too because we had no cattle tracks to follow and so had to crash through bushes and over fallen dead trees.

Hot fish curry and oysters for dinner.

Learned many games of Patience over freshly fried peanuts.

Monday, 18th Aug 1975

Took some stuff to Rover. Collected ferns, pandanus, banksia, yellow sand and a few pieces of driftwood. Marcello found another glass float, his 3rd. Shifted more stuff to Rover in the afternoon. Kids played ball near Rover while I collected more plants.

Usual game of cards in the evening. High and dramatic tides, up to edge of beach, lovely moonlight. Cold.

Tuesday, 19th Aug 1975

Packed. Left at 8:30 am. Rough journey to 3 Rivers. Riding along paths at an angle.
Bogged in one of the 3 Rivers!
Water gurgling away, Rover at 45 degree angle while we winched it.
Winch broke, but Rover was out by then.
After several tries, we make it over the sand dunes.

Next excitement was a fire. Right at McNevin’s Crossing where one could get bogged very easily, and where we wanted to have lunch. Fortunately, someone had laid branches to make a neat road across the bog. So we crossed easily and drove fearfully away. The fire was too sinister to encourage loitering.

Oh yes, between Camp 6 and 3 Rivers we had a flat tire. Had to stop several times to tighten the wheel.

A mile away from home, we ran out of petrol. Filled up from the jerrycan and cruised home at 3 pm.

Lots of mail and eggs to greet us.

 

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

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  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series

Back Home to Australia – Journal Entry 17th Nov 1973

Muchlater

We returned to Emu Park from the Philippines and our family bought a beautiful Queensland home set on the top of a hill. We could see the ocean in the distance through a row of fully grown Norfolk pines.

Beloved,

I dreamed of you last night. You returned without your beard. I was very surprised. The dream is easily explained, I had shown your R.A.F. photograph to Gareth.

Thank you, my love, for your letter of the 11th received today. We bought three chooks, frozen, from Benn’s.

Quite a day. We went at 6am to the beach; the pup ran around and Gareth rode his bike. We won’t go tomorrow because the pup is sick. We may have overfed him and carried him around too much.

So then we came home from the beach and did some housework (or homework as Janine says). And then about 10am the Svendsen kids came and we all went to the beach again to eat cake and watermelon and to swim.

Left them at their house to get ready for Cinderella, a play by the Junior Little Theatre. We went home, had lunch and then went to the Daltons.

Sue left on Thursday. Benjamin was not well and she thought she’d keep him quiet at home. He gets rather excited here.

Oh darling, all the lettuces have gone to seed.

It’s fun having the Rover to drive.

About Blue, the pup. Do you like the name? Well about Blue; Marcello is in charge of him and it’s the funniest thing – Marcello cleaning Blue’s pooh! And his vomit. Mig is also very fussy and protective over Blue. He stayed in the car with Blue in case stray dogs attacked. Won’t give us much time with the pup. At the moment they’re asleep together. Poor Karen, she wants a pup now. Anyway she’s waiting for her kitten. Gareth and I are to look after Blue when Marcello is at school.

Johnny, I love you. Things are strange without you.

18th Nov 1973 – Night

The Raos called. I was asleep, the kids were at the beach. However, the Raos returned after visiting the Fullers and stayed till 7pm. It was very nice. Rao’s parents separated when he was 4. He lived with his father till 8 years of age and then returned to his mother. However, he was always away from home and only spent one year living with his mother. They told me lots more things. They send $100 every month to Rao’s mother.

I’ve unpacked our files. Found the Curry chapter. Finished The Thousand and One Nights. Wrote out cheques. Felt quite important doing so. I’m working at your desk.

The kids and I now sleep in the main bedroom. Not Marcello though, he has Blue in his room because Blue plays at night and bites our toes and tugs our hair! Pity, I enjoyed sleeping in the study.

Don’t know what happened to that crate of apples. Railway strike was on a couple of days so don’t know when the plums etc will arrive.

End of a whole week without you.
I love you my love.

Your
Gita

WastpaperBasketPoem
Poem by Gita Nov 1973

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

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Philippines Snapshot – Journal Entry 2nd May 1971

Muchlater[Our family stayed in Sydney for another year and then spent two years in the Philippines. Unfortunately, there are no journals for this period so I have included the few letters my mother sent from the Philippines. Martial law was introduced to the Philippines by President Marcos in September 1972. This prompted us to return to Emu Park in 1973.]

2nd May 1971

Yes, we’d be delighted to have Mark. Leave him with us for as long as you like. A holiday in the Philippines and the countryside would do him a world of good. Manila is a pleasant city and the countryside in Luzon is magnificent. We haven’t had the chance to visit any of the other islands. The best thing is the people, diverse, very able and friendly in a person to person fashion.

We’ll send him back to you speaking Tagalog.

7th May 1971

So we are here in the Pilipinas. Magandang umaga po = Good morning Sir or Madam.

What have I to report? Nothing very much really. So terribly ordinary – like ordering furniture, looking for kapok and buying fish and coffee beans. We went out to a Welcome to the Philippines Dinner last night and it was all wrong, discreet and rich. I felt sad although the view was good. An 11th floor Sydney view without water and two nice bits of meat spoilt with too much food beforehand. I drank lemon and soda, longing for a cigarette.

We have a fish pond in the tiny garden and we have stocked it with fish. Lost all the guppies because they swam away forever through the outlet pipe. Bought more – very expensive. Anyway, a stupid price for a guppy. Especially guppies given to disappearing down the drain.

Was it hot when we arrived! Man was it hot. Port Moresby was an adventure. A slow roast at 325F. This machine [IBM electric typewriter] sticks at a certain place and all the keys are different for each golf ball and I have a chart which I don’t look at and so get things wrong. My reflexes are all wrong too, I press to get a semi-colon on golf ball courier 72 and I get an N with a curl on top of it. I ask you, how does one disguise an N with a curl on top of it to look like a semi-colon? Life is very difficult.

We have one maid and seem to have difficulty getting another. That’s because Johnny would like a mature woman who is able to cook Pilipino foods. These golf balls are the end and I feel so hungry, it is 1.30pm and I’m waiting for Johnny to return.

We have a betel leaf creeper in the garden and alas and alack, poetic justice and whatnot, I burnt my mouth trying out a betel-nut-lime chew. The lime being wot you whitewash catacombs with.

Can I think of nothing else but food? Yennyway, the place we are in is good. It’s going to rain presently and so things will cool off. Got to type a long paper for Johnny now – wish me luck. I will be at it all weekend if this letter is any guide. So bye for now. Maybe I shall have something worthwhile to say tomorrow.

15th May 1971

So wot to report. I’m sitting in the kanteen of the Philippine Women’s University drinking black instankoffee, facing a notice which says:

PLEASE REPORT
DISCOURTEOUS PERSONNEL
TO THE MANAGEMENT (Establishment?)
IMMEDIATELY

This reminds me of a super one I’d been saving for you. On a noticeboard somewhere I read:

UNAUTHORISED PERSONS
DON’T READ THIS

Alas, nothing below the arrow.

Which brings to mind (though I fail to see the connection) of hundreds of wooden carvings for sale of a fist with the middle finger (extra long) sticking straight up. Wot significance? Dare I ask? Whom?

People here are great. Mostly smiling and bursting into song now and then.

There’s this market filled with 2” by 2” shops (I exaggerate very little) selling ready-made dresses. Thousands and thousands of 2’ by 2’ shops and everyone (der women) wears dresses, she said sadly burning herself with the instakoffee.

Why yam I drinking koffee at the kanteen of the Phil. Women’s Univ.? Because I am waiting for a 9am to strike so that I can present myself for the dance course I am attending.

We’re being taught by der famous Bayanihan dancers. Them dat goes round the world many times. They are good. We’re a mixed class – mainly school teachers and young kids. Every Saturday the Bayanihan dancers put on a show and this Saturday, tomorrow, we will go to see them.

It is now Saturday and I’ve returned from the dance performances and am copying out what I wrote in my notebook to you. We have learnt three dances so far. Jota Canitena, Pandanggo and the well-known Tinikling. There are no fs and vs in Tagalog by the way and c comes out as k; pity me, am I not mixed up already?

There seems to be a natural grace about everybody and the students don’t look awkward learning the dances. I feel like a bluddy giraffe.

The first dance I can only just do, the second needs practice because we’re supposed to balance a glass, with burning candle inside, on our head and a glass (mit said candle) on the back of each hand and dance and smile and look graceful.

17th June 1971

Thank you very much for your letter. It came as a great relief to me because I was worried. I had visions of the three of you in a Nepalese jail gnawing on dry powroti.

You could keep up your reading at least can’t you? When Anna is asleep? I should be the last one to ask that question – I would like to do so many things but what happens? I get side-tracked and end up doing very little. Are we not frail?

It is good to be in Manila but it will be better when we get out of to the Provinces – when we can speak Pilipino. We are here initially for another year, but would like to stay on for another year.

Let me know when you know your short-term and long-term plans. Maybe.

Oh hell, are we not all insecure? That is, most of us don’t have very much money, don’t know where we’re going etc. etc. and all that. This is not much help is it? But above all, don’t worry, it is killing, I know.

The kids are fine, the moves upset them a little initially and then they make friends and enjoy themselves till the next move. Gareth is three now and talks and talks.

I’m using an IBM electric typewriter and when I change the golf ball type I don’t know where everything is and get the queerest things when I want a question mark or say a simple comma.

I had better stop and post this to you soon. Give Anna a big kiss for me, maybe I’ll see you someday. Give my regards to Minoru.

Use the Australian address, it is much quicker.

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

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Arrival Story – Journal Entry 1st Sep 1970

[My mother’s story version of arriving in Australia.]

Gita’s arrival at Brisbane airport was dramatic and foolish. She has flown straight from Kathmandu, the youngest child in a sling on her back, the two elder children clutching at her skirts, big bags in her hands. One child had a Nepalese drum – at the sight of which the Customs officials sighed and took a tight grip on themselves. Gita was dressed in a short thick black cotton sari. These were the sort worn by women in a particular Nepalese tribe to show off the tattoos on their calves. She knew the fumigation was coming and hoped to add to the dramatic effect in retaliation. But Gita didn’t have tattooed calves.

All this was quite stupid. There was a reporter who sensed something and wanted to take photographs. The reporter had noticed Gita exchanging a long intense, slightly smiling glance with Johnny who was waiting outside the customs barrier. Johnny, in his typical cool manner, continued leaning against the pillar, glanced at the reporter and quietly drawled that he had better not. The reporter was a middle-aged Australian, short and plump, a disappearing race of understanding country reporters. He must have sensed tragedy, fear, who knows what, so he didn’t argue but stood by Johnny and watched until Gita was through with Customs and had greeted Johnny with one word, “Hello.”

Gita was taken straight from the Third World into a two-storied wooden house on stilts in a very small coastal village of Australia.

Immediate differences in cultures came fairly quickly one after another. White labourers working on the roads – a strange sight to someone coming from a colonised country. Vendors calling in motorised vehicles. The postman driving to your post box was hard to get used to at first as Gita assumed all postmen walked with heavy bags on their shoulders. There was hot and cold piped water in the house, separate bedrooms for the children, supermarkets in the nearby city and many clubs for people – especially women.

Women called on Gita to invite her to join the CWA, the National Fitness Club and the Bowling Club. She went on to the school tuckshop roster.

The neighbours were a little slow in making contact, they didn’t know what to make of this bizarre family dumped in their midst – two dark-skinned children who talked Gurkhali to each other in a low voice, one small blue-eyed baby boy, one large blond blue-eyed man who smoked a pipe and one South-East Asian woman.

Johnny suggested that Gita make the initial calls on neighbours, first to the couple living on the right and then to the couple on the left. Later they came, a little ashamed of themselves and not quite looking Gita in the eye. They told her what day was garbage collection day, and about milk, bread and newspaper deliveries.

Life in Emu Park was still at the stage where neighbours called on newcomers to welcome them and make their entry into the community as easy and pleasant as possible.

The earliest encounter with the Queensland dialect was when a young lad called with a message from his mother.
“Do you have any spice in your fridge?” he asked politely.
“Oh, no,” replied Gita, “I don’t keep spice in the fridge, I keep them on the shelf.”
A puzzled look came into the lad’s eyes and he almost backed away.
“Mum asked if you have spice in your fridge,” he repeated.
Gita repeated her answer and so it would have gone if the lad hadn’t changed his wording.
“Mum says if your fridge is not big enough, she could keep things for you in her fridge.”
Pretty soon they sat down to tea and biscuits.

It took Gita several years to get over her horror at having people spell words for her over the telephone. The a’s and i’s were hard to differentiate and her English wasn’t all that good either. One man jovially told her it reminded him of Peter Sellers, which surely was a chicken and egg question. On the other hand, Australians were surprised at Gita speaking English at all, and made such remarks as, “How is it that you speak straighter English than we do?”
“I’ve never spoken to one of your kind before,” said a taxi driver in Sydney, “I really enjoyed that.”
And another man asked, “Are you a school teacher?”

On the whole, Gita was mostly absorbed in Johnny and their new life together. Johnny concentrated on Australianising his new family as fast as possible. Gita’s attitude to that was pretty easy until she took the children to a cafe in Sydney where they stuck their fingers into everything and generally behaved so oddly that they soon attracted the attention of the other eaters. It didn’t take very long for the kids to learn to handle knives and forks and say excuse me and please and thank you. Life became a little less conspicuous.

Ah, the freshness of those early years in Australia, despite Johnny and Gita’s fear and sorrow.

The year was the late nineteen sixties, Australia was riding high, beef was expensive because of the export prices cattlemen were getting for their beasts, minerals were being dug up and shipped out at good prices and employment was plentiful.

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

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  • This closes the chapter on the early years in Emu Park. Our family then moved to Neutral Bay in Sydney, Australia.

The Opening of Emu Park – Journal Entry 31st Aug 1970

When it is considered how the early residents suffered from enervating fevers, which required a healthy and bracing climate to restore people to their former vigour, it is remarkable that the townspeople were so slow in obtaining access to a seaside resort.

How Emu Park was first discovered is not very clear, but it was certainly not much known before 1867.

About that time, four men took a trip to the coast for fishing and shooting. Three of them were Messrs R Hewitt, A Matthews and J Phillips. The identity of the fourth is not known at this time.

Mr Matthews owned a small vessel with which he traded between Rockhampton and northern ports. It is quite likely he knew something about the bald hills, that now form Emu Park, from sailing along the coast.

Mr Matthews, by the way, was the brother of the clever actress and singer Miss Julia Matthews, who, when asked her nationality on one occasion, said she was an amalgamation. Her father was Scottish and her mother was Irish. She was born in England and brought up in the colonies.

Mr Phillips was the father of Mr H Phillips, fruiterer on East Street, and he came to Rockhampton in 1861. He worked for the Bulletin proprietor, Mr R Ross, who owned Cawarral station. Those connected with the station must have known of the existence of what is now Emu Park, but did not make that knowledge public.

The party of four referred to above, were found fishing and shooting by Mr Ross who summoned them for trespassing and disturbing his stock. He had them fined. It is supposed that one of the four men wrote to the Government.

As the people of Rockhampton had made an application for a township on the sea coast, a commission was formed and consisted of Captain R M Hunter and Messrs T Macdonald-Paterson, James Atherton, William Pattison, Henry Jones, William Davis and probably one or two others.

Mr R Sharples, who had previously been to the coast, was asked by Captain Hunter to go with him. The reason was that the Captain had a different opinion from the other members of the commission, and believed that the bald hills, from which they were looking, were to the north of Cawarral Station. The others thought the hills were to the south. The party was thus split in two, each going its own way on horseback.

The upshot of it all of this was that what is now Emu Park was discovered and reported on to the Government. The first land sale took place in about 1869 or 1870.

A considerable time elapsed before any buildings were erected there, but people went to the locality for picnics and on holidays. They camped under the trees in what is now the Botanic Reserve.

Emu Park was generally considered to have been discovered by Mr Hewitt. He evidently had a hand in it as the town was first named Hewittville.

A large number of emus and marsupials in those days were to be seen in the combes of Emu Park, but they were soon shot off by so-called sportsmen from town, whose only idea of sport is to destroy.

Mrs R Pearson was induced to put up a boarding house at Emu Park in 1871, and Mr J Brown, who took great delight in the place from the very start, also built a house.

Mr Alexander Grant built on the side of the hill above the Grand Hotel. Where that hotel now stands was the site of Mrs Pearson’s house. Mr E Macaree also put up a cottage. A mail coach was run every week for some years by Mr R Hewitt, the return fare being £1.

Very early in the history of Emu Park, Captain Little built a cottage not far from Tanby Head, known as Tanby Hall. It was a lovely spot, but decidedly lonesome. Captain Little is dead, but he has a daughter living in Marlborough. In about 1873, the late Mr P Downer built what is now a portion of the Emu Park Hotel, and after a year or two he was succeeded by Mr Hugh Fulton. Since the advent of the railway, which was opened on the 22nd December 1888, the picturesque little township had considerably increased in size.

Mr Morris was the first man in Emu Park (perhaps 70 years ago) to go to the islands in a dinghy and bring back oysters and fish. He sold them in Emu Park. He then bought a small boat called Annabel and then later bought a boat which he named Crete (because he was a Cretan) which was large enough to carry about 40 passengers. He took people on cruises and fishing trips.

The passengers on the Crete would go over to the Peak Islands on weekend trips, find turtles that came ashore to lay eggs and turn them on their backs so they wouldn’t run away during the night. The next morning they would set the turtles on their feet again, scramble on the turtles’ backs and get a free ride out to sea, jump off the turtles and swim back to shore again.

The history of the Crete is a fascinating one. It was made in New Zealand, originally a sailing boat, and was owned by a man called Lucas who lived on South Keppel Island. Apparently a convict from New Zealand managed to escape and came across to Australia in a boat, landing in Yeppoon. People believe that the Crete could well have been that boat, which was subsequently sold to Lucas, and that got beached at Emu Park sixty years or so ago. It was sold to Mr Morris who repaired it and used it for his fishing trips. Later on, Mr Morris fitted a Wilson engine onto the Crete. The boat sits on land and will probably never be put to sea again.

The Pine Beach Hotel was originally a boarding house and Grand Central was the name of the hotel which is now Mrs Mac’s newsagency. The Old Imperial Hotel, which was between Blue Bird Cafe and Green’s Hardware Store, burned down in 1925. There were a total of four hotels in Emu Park: the Riviera, Pine Beach, Imperial and Grand Central.

Mrs Large’s shop was originally a post office, facing onto Patterson’s Street. Beggs owned it. Jimmy McDougal, Ronny McDougal’s father, rented it for a shop after the post office shifted to its present building.

The cafe next to Mrs Large’s shop served meals and sold groceries. Patterson seemed to have been the original owner. Then a series of people owned it, but one man committed suicide over the shop. Apparently he was losing money and one day in desperation he cut his throat in one of the back rooms of the cafe. About that time a family of Greeks were waiting on his doorstep to see whether he would sell his shop to them.

Mrs Mills’ house used to be a Haberdashery run by a Miss Henni Powers. She also sold soft drinks, biscuits and lollies and was very popular with the children.

Leight’s second-hand shop was once a grocery shop run by Mrs Mills’ father, Matt Rhine.

Mr Mills, Mr Billy Mills’ father, owned what is now Buehows. They sold groceries and served afternoon tea.

 
KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

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  • My mother interviewed many long-term residents as part of her research into the history of Emu Park.

 

 

 

Holiday Goat – Journal Entry 24th Aug 1970

[First part of a letter to a friend. One footnote added.]

Would you have time to dash off a few(?) illustrations for the manuscripts attached? I’m sending one manuscript by the man* to give you an idea of the sort of drawings we have in mind – simple and childish.

What do you think? If you are busy just read the stories and send them back with suggestions if you have any. There is another very long story the man has written, for children, which I would very much like to be illustrated by you. I have yet to type it. That too I shall send in a few days’ time; don’t worry if you can’t do the drawings – at least read it and tell me what you think of it.

We move to Sydney in six weeks time. Got the job with the consultancy firm. We’re looking forward to the change. Will report.

The two weeks August holidays were spent in a house on the beach. ‘Twas good. The man worked and the children played on the beach.

We lost our goat, much to our delight and slight guilt on my part. It was like this: I borrowed the goat as a pet for the children because we don’t like dogs or cats in the house – not that the goat was allowed in the house. She came in once and peed into our coffee cups. At least, we thought, the goat won’t follow us around and she will eat grass. No problem. Alas, the goat thought she was a dog, followed us about, ate the duck’s feed every chance she got, slipped to the neighbour’s garden every chance she got and was generally a nuisance. So when we went to the beach house, we let her loose because we were away from people. She followed us everywhere – even when we went to look at the moonlight on the sea. One day she was gone. Don’t know whether she followed people walking along the beach or whether the dingoes got her. I tried – honestly I tried – offering her to everyone I saw, but no luck.

I heard a good story the other day. There was an old man cleaning the garden of the beach house when we arrived for our holiday (just two miles from our house). A nice old man. His name, I learnt is Ollie. His surname is Collie, so people call him Ollie Collie. He drank too much at one time, went off his head and was put in an asylum. He was let out after a while. Some time later he had a fight in the pub with another guy and this Ollie Collie stood up and announced, “I’m the only man in Emu Park who has a certificate to say he is sane.”

Footnote:

* man refers to Johnny. He wrote short stories for us when we were young children.

Updates and Links

  • Addition of poem to Journal Entry 17th July 1969
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Public Speaking and History – Journal Entry 28th Jul 1970

Muchlater

Many months later, the following year.

Goodness knows what
the date, round about
28th July, 1970

My dear Cynthia,

Thanks for your letter – it makes good reading. Your life is not exactly dull. Goodness knows what news I can give you to come near the cake and pot story.

The weather, yes the weather is always a good starter. Had rain today after a long dry spell. Things were really dry and crisp, but not as bad as out west. Out west is a drought and has been for the past so many years. You hear stories of people selling out their tiny farms and looking for steady jobs. The wool industry is packing up. American meat standards are shooting up – you probably know that most of Australia’s beef and mutton go to America.

What else – general house cleaning and cooking etc. is held on Thursday; this is something new I’ve hit on and a friend who is deaf, or very nearly, comes and helps me. She is so quick in everything and usually pitches up with bunches of freshly plucked herbs and aubergines. Then at 11am more women pitch up and we have a yoga session together, then lunch. Quite pleasant and then I have a fairly clean house.

I’ve been for a Forum meeting – public speaking for housewives it seems. It was good. Very nice to see most of the women take the rostrum and deliver short speeches. Even I got up and said a few words. I was told that I should have prepared my speech by the critic. Told her I didn’t mean to speak but couldn’t resist after hearing a couple of remarks made by previous speakers. “Wot to do,” I said. “If I feel strongly about something,” I said. “Stay quiet?” I said.
“Oh no,” she said. “You don’t have to,” she said.
“Then you’ve probably frightened other women from speaking off the cuff,” I said.
“Oh I hope not,” she said. She (the critic) was a very attractive spinster who worked on a farm during the day.

Then there is this discussion group I seem to have attached myself to. They are a gang of rather rich housewives who think up a subject, get some expert to talk on it and ask questions to get a bit of general knowledge. The meeting tomorrow is on Child Psychology.

I’m also trying to get a picture of Emu Park’s history. Started 80 to 90 years ago. This is the place we live in. It is fascinating. Will probably send you a copy of what notes I put together if and when I do so. In the meantime, I interview the old folk who have lived all their lives here. Remarkable memories some of them. Not much history I grant you, but the men who were here seemed to have had character. There were seven oystermen in 1912 and bags of oysters in their shell were sent out by rail practically everyday. Now only private oyster picking takes place and that too very little.

About 60 years ago a prisoner escaped from New Zealand on a sailboat and landed in Yeppoon (12 miles from here). He either sold or used the boat to go to the coral islands to get fish and oysters. However, this is mere conjecture. He sold the boat to a guy who owned one of the islands and who then managed to ground the boat in Emu Park. A Mr Morris (an oysterman) bought it, repaired it and called it The Crete. He made money by taking people to the islands and back. Many people even got married after such a trip. As many as 40 packed into the boat. Overnight visitors to the islands would catch lurking turtles, turn them onto their backs and when ready for a ride would turn the turtles right way up, hop on to them and be taken out to sea. Imagine a beach full of turrrrrned turrrtles.

In between all this speaking to people I’m trying to learn to make tarts, play the guitar (yes, still), swot up my arithmetic and keep house. Wot a life. Johnny goes to Sydney next week and to Canberra the week after for interviews. Let’s keep fingers crossed.

I got on to a farm which sold me avocado pears. My word Cynthia, I ate them till they came out of my ears. The season is just about over now – sadly enough.

People have been very kind to me. They always give me things like strawberries, and cabbages, and lettuces and clothes for the kids. Living it up?

Much love from all of us to all of
you.

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