Early Years, Poetry
Our farm was located at Dixons Creek only about 90 kilometers from
One of the more memorable cars we had in those days was a Grey, that was it’s make not it’s colour, tourer which we called Dolly Grey for some obscure reason.
Dad had got this car as payment for shearing some sheep for a neighbor, one of the tricks this old girl pulled on us was to bolt down a hill when the handbrake failed, Mum just managed to pull Merle out before it picked up speed and headed of through 2 fences and into a dam at the foot of the hill.
During this period I became aware of things about my Dad that made him special, he had as a young man learnt by heart an enormous range of poetry, mainly Banjo
Some others he laid claim to writing himself, at least one of these is definitely his work, “A letter to Fred.” see previous post.
He also had a huge range of sayings that were used in the most everyday situations, “For two pins I’d”, followed by something he estimated the worth of at two pins,
“A man oughta,” this would be followed up with something he thought should be done.
Our excursions in Dolly Grey or some other wondrous vehicle were usually accompanied by honks on the horn and frantic waving and shouting of “G’day George” to every approaching motorist, as a young child I could never work out how come they were all named George.
About this same time I became “Hobo Bill from Broken Hill, never worked and never will” so I use this in my defense and as the reason I’ve never been overly fond of work.
This was the era of “gas producers” these produced gas that was a supplement to petrol, which was rationed severely during the war years and for quite a while after the war.
The gas producer was a charcoal burning small furnace that fed the gas from the burning charcoal into the carburetor as a fuel.
Cars of this era had “running boards” on each side which is where the gas producer was located, I’ve never researched the number of fires started by this system, but I’d think there would have been lots.
Gas producers were the source of some of Dads income for quite a few years, the charcoal used in them was produced by burning wood in an airtight container so that it became charcoal instead of burning away to ash.
So our scrub land was gradually cleared and the timber converted to charcoal, as well as this the bark from black wattle trees was used in the leather tanning industry, so our wattle trees were skun before burning.
During this period of petrol rationing motorists were issued with “petrol tickets” in a ratio of so many gallons per month dependant on the size of your car and the importance of its use.
Perhaps not the ideal time to enter into the “garage” trade, no service stations then, but with his now developing sense of timing Dad talked one of my uncles into a joint venture garage.
Petrol didn’t cost much at that time, but you had to have petrol tickets for every gallon you bought, they in turn could only buy petrol from the oil company to the value of the petrol tickets they had.
To eke out a little extra from their meager supplies of petrol they added about one third power kerosene to it, while this certainly wasn’t super grade petrol, in the unsophisticated cars of the day it did a reasonable job.
Things went along alright until there was the inevitable mix up as to who was to mix the shandy of petrol and kerosene, and to one eventful load of petrol they both added in the one third kerosene.
For the next couple of weeks they were kept busy getting customers cars going and spreading stories about how you just couldn’t trust those oil companies!
Perhaps needless to say the garage era didn’t last for long, but I would venture a guess that the sale of this business to someone else was probably the start of his career of successful trading.
Bus Driver / Backyard Dealer
This was the time when he moved to
He made fairly regular visits to Dixons Creek when he had time of from work, one of these visits coincided with Merles and my birthdays which are 2 years and 4 days apart.
Mum had told us that Dad would be bringing our birthday presents with him, and hinted strongly that they would be the bush bikes we so dearly wanted.
Dad arrived in due course and with great ceremony gave us presents off such little consequence I can’t even remember what they were now.
Seeing that we were a little disappointed Dad suggested a walk down the road to brighten us up, without much enthusiasm we set of down the road.
A short way along the road Dad suddenly unearthed 2 brand new bikes that he’d hidden there on his way home, our birthdays took on a brighter hue, with money as tight as it was these bikes would have represented a huge sacrifice by our parents.
Dad managed somehow to get a job with MMTB driving a bus, while he was probably a competent driver; he knew nothing about
They should have put him to work driving trams as these had to stick to the tracks and at least he wouldn’t have got lost.
After a test drive which he obviously passed they kitted him out in a uniform and sent him out with another driver to learn the route, again this went fine while he had someone with him.
Come the first day when he was on his own, and had the extra worry of picking up passengers, he suddenly found that he was in a street totally unsuited for a double decker bus, his passengers were beginning to ask him where the hell he thought he was going.
Eventually, with the directions of some of his more patient passengers the bus was maneuvered back onto the right road.
The trip to the terminus which had been supposed to take one hour had in fact taken two hours and had the “braid”, bus talk for inspector, scratching his head about how he’d missed checking this bus in on the previous run.
In his usual style he managed to bluff his way through this sort of situation on pretty much a daily basis while he gradually learnt his way around the city and the MMTB.
He did make mention of the occasional “CMEE”, shorthand for a call to the office, notice from the “braid” for what he considered insignificant things like picking up passengers between stops and waiting for passengers who were running late.
After being reprimanded for this he was next called in to explain why he had made an express run through several stops, “so I wouldn’t be late arriving at the terminus, which seemed to worry you when I was here last,” was his answer.
About this time Dad began buying and reselling used cars, while probably not strictly illegal this was a practice that was not smiled upon at the time, used cars had a “pegged price” and were not supposed to be sold above this price.
However because of the shortage of cars, due to World War 2, people would pay whatever they could afford to get a good car.
The trick at this time was being able to buy cars to resell, this was before the days of used car dealers, most of the cars that were for sale in Melbourne were advertised in Saturdays Age newspaper.
The Age would roll off the presses at about on Saturday, so Dad used to line up with about 30 – 40 other eager buyers to scan the advertisements then head off to try to buy a car.
Because everyone was reading the same description there was of course a bee line made for the cheapest or best sounding cars.
While he did manage to buy some cars this way, he often had to rely on public transport and was beaten to many, or he would not be able to talk the seller into a price he could afford.
It was while contemplating what he could do about this that he noticed the military police knocking on the door of the house next door, they asked if he had seen a man of about 30 around there as he was AWOL (absent without leave) from the army.
While Dad knew the man as George Peters he said no, he hadn’t noticed anyone like that around the place.
George turned up at the door with a bottle of beer for Dad later and explained that he had a hiding place behind a false wall in his shed, as Dad was a tea-totaller George got his beer back and he and Dad became good friends.
This friendship was to go a long way towards solving Dads car buying problems; between them they devised several schemes to help capture the buying market.
One scheme involved George getting a flying start and putting notices on the doors of likely sounding sellers houses saying “Shift worker sleeping do not disturb before 8am” this gave Dad a reasonable chance to be first caller at about 6am.
If the seller had already found the note he would sympathize and soundly berate anyone who would stoop to put signs on other people’s doors.
Another ploy that was pretty successful was to run a couple of false advertisements for popular cars with a bit of a catch like “needs new hood and side curtains” or “needs 2 tyres.”
These were always in an outer suburb but were attractively priced and drew the opposition away from the real bargains and gave Dad a better chance to buy.
When it came time to sell a car if Dad was having trouble getting a buyer to decide, he would give George a signal to come into the fray, George would approach from a distance having jumped his back fence.
He would interrupt the conversation by asking about the car and indicating that he was interested, Dad would tell him not to be so rude that the other chap had first offer on the car, this was often enough to convince a hesitant buyer that he’d better move fast.
There was a model in the Ford range in 1936 which had a V8 engine with lots of go and mechanical brakes with very little stopping power.
Dad was demonstrating one of these one day to a nervous customer, he demonstrated it’s power and on being asked about the brakes he said see that bit of paper on the road up there, I’ll stop the car right at it, he nearly did too.
As they moved off again a car stopped suddenly in front of them Dad gave the brakes everything they had and was surprised to see they stopped just in the nick of time. Taking advantage of the situation Dad said, “see that, they reckon these cars don’t have good brakes,” “never mind that,” said the customer, “just drive me back to that piece of paper on the road please.”
One of my cousins relates a tale of Dad driving her and my aunt through town when they were on a visit from the country, they were somewhat nonplussed by Dad honking the horn at everyone and yelling G’day George to all and sundry.