25. 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

  • Click here to go to Home
  • Click here to go to this post online
  • 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

 

 

24. 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

  • Click here to go to Home
  • Click here to go to this post online
  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series