FROM THE CITY TO THE BUSH, Part Two, the journey continues.
I AM A CRIMINAL, A THEIF, A DESPARADO AND A CRAPPY SPELLAR.
I must relate a final City school story, and while I intended to include this experiment into “criminal activities” later, it seems that it was clearly educational. You see a warehouse on the Woolloomooloo dockside contained comics, and hundreds of them, they were rejects from the printing presses with over run colors and other defects, however they were readable simply awaiting re-pulping.
A small gang of local boys, OK, me included, became aware of this goldmine and on occasion relieved the legal owners of the reading matter, OK the front door was by-passed, but, no damage was caused by our incursion and only good value literature was removed. Sold at “The Tech” for a half penny each the gang slowly prospered from the sale of comics very popular at the time, THAT IS UNTIL GANG WARFARE breaks out in Woolloomooloo.
We believe a rival gang had also discovered the bonanza; unlike us they were prone to pinch stuff of value like tools and useless things like kerosene lamps. One of the members who attended “Darlo” came to the attention of the police and fingers were pointed in the direction of my gang.
AS such this person “Dobbed”, imagine all the boys in school lined up with the local Sergeant from Darlinghurst Police Station walking up and down in the company of the informer.
Looking down the line I could see this little pimp pointing to some of the kids, now as my gang mates are slowly being ID’ed the penny drops, we are in trouble. Finally, there are six or seven boys being addressed by the Sergeant and being told to appear at the Darlinghurst Police Station that day.
We did just that, and convinced the Duty Officer of not stealing useless stuff, we were asked to return to school and control the mob, end of story except that tolerance to informers is unacceptable.
Importantly, in my early days city life was never far removed from the bush, I have outlined in the preceding city schools that I had attended and you will gauge constant movement occurred in the years leading up to and commencing work, but we will get to the bush soon.
This section will outline some of the experiences we may well call extra-curricular, IE; they did not happen at school. If it’s OK we will call this period;
CRADLE TO WORK, or WOOLLOOMOOLOO ESSENTIALS or KINGS CROSS STUFF or GORN FISHEN’ or MOVIE STAR. GRAND MA, PAPER BOY AND OTHER GREAT THINGS.
Well the cradle has got me concerned, the earliest memories of “My Town” will have to be 34 Bayswater Road, Kings Cross in Sydney or (Potts Point), the building was (3) stories and was situated on the right hand side as you proceeded down Bayswater Rd. to Rushcutters Bay from the “KINGS Cross”. It is conceded that my father Denis Payne farley owned the premises, (open) to conjecture; however, during the war years this place became an official ‘Billet” for American Naval Service Personnel.
Now while I can reliably suggest we lived there, my age would have been 3, 4, and 5? What I do remember is walking hand in hand with two Officers to a small convenience store at Kings Cross and being treated to “real” COKE, pink ice cream and cinnamon chewing gum, the original tastes still linger.
Impossible, improbable, maybe mum told me and I can see the images as she described, boy, the memory may be vague but the taste still remains strong, like toast, see later, Kings Cross can be the essence of FROM THE CITY TO BUSH. Incidentally, Grand Ma Lovegrove / nee Menzies managed these premises before moving to 112 Palmer Street Woolloomooloo just down the hill, heading west.
Situated at the top of William Street not far from the “W’LOO” this area known as the “Cross” has many childhood memories, adolescent memories and adult memories, most I can relate, some the censor will cut.
TRAMS, BUSES AND THE WOOLLOOMOOLOO PAPERBOY.
Electric trams and buses were an integral part of suburban Sydney, as a kid I was intrigued by the conductor poles becoming disengaged from the overhead wires and the driver or the “fares please” man relocating the pole, sometimes a bright blue flash would
erupt as the pole touched the wires, the driver got behind the rotary switch and off would go the tram or trolley bus.
One particular tram was called a “Toast Rack”, you boarded this tram from running boards along the side into small cabins, and in winter the wind would blow right up your skirt or your pants, (which ever style of apparel suited the wearer).
Many cities still have this particular type of conveyance, San Francisco comes to mind, same bells too. The conductor would negotiate the running board collecting fares, a job not for the faint hearted, the tram derived its name from looking like a toasted bread rack, this brings me to a story in relation to the:
“PAPER BOY AND THE CONDUCTOR”.
A paper boy was I. Working out of a small paper shop in Woolloomooloo adjacent to Plunkett St. School, JohnFarls sold papers during the time we were in Town, and I guess 12 through 14 / 15 was the time frame. Now a little Jewish man named Eddie Berry was the paper man and storeowner and he hired boys to sell his wares.
The paper “run” was quite vast and encompassed the W’LOO docks, Garden Island Navel Base, The Famous Harry’s Café De Wheels, the hotels and business houses, (funny business or other, I was young not that young). You would stand on busy street corners, the cry was “Sun or the Mirror haain pa” and wait for it, jump on and off trams that rattled around the streets, particular William Street.
OK, the latter was quite dangerous and fraught with OH&S contingencies, although this had not been invented yet. You see it was frowned upon for the paperboy to board the tram; you did not pay the fare! The conductor became quite irate and was prone to use the number 12 boot. This presented a plan of attack similar to guerilla war, as the people boarded the tram and the steel wheels begun to roll a small boy complete with papers and a small leather pouch around his waist would nimbly jump the tram, always at the opposite end to the conductor.
A paper boy becomes quite deft at flicking papers under a persons arm or into a waiting lap, exchanging collateral and disappearing at the speed of light, several pieces of tabloid could be sold before the conductor realizes your presence and you made good your escape, followed by “piss off you little bugger”. Judging from the reaction of the passengers I swear it was accepted practice and a game of cat and mouse, however kids, don’t practice jumping on or alighting from a moving tram.
Hence the “paper boy and the conductor” concludes, except to say that if you went up the hill you caught the tram back down, incidentally, at a pre determined point you were in the oppositions zone, we acknowledged our areas, we were honest if nothing else.
MORE PAPER BOY STORIES? I HAVE A FEW.
Must point out that Eddie was a very generous man and fair to us boys and protective to his charges, the paper “runs” were divided into sections, some more lucrative than others and as a consequence you would rotate week about to share the spoils. Spoils means; two to three pounds a week including tips, this was a splendid wage in the early ‘50’s for a boy, as an apprentice later on a comparison can be described.
This is ‘flash’ Harrys café de wheels.
Protection was a word used to describe our Jewish boss Mr. Eddie Berry, however in relation to the W’LOO protection meant something different, we won’t go here. Suffice to say the dock areas were a little rough and tumble with, let’s say, a population of hard working class, hard drinking class and sometimes, ah, suspect people. On the whole most of the people were honest and hard working citizens and needed the docks for employment, things have changed radically in recent times,
Woolloomooloo has become very cosmopolitan and trendy, so be it. Anyway, nobody touched the paper boy, even in the very tough pubs that dotted the area, THE BELLS, THE MACQUARIE, THE ‘FRISCO, THE OLD FITZROY, THE TILBURY, A LATER ADDITION THE WOOLLOOMOOLOO BAY HOTEL, (http://www.eatability.com.au), these days some scoundrels will do you for a dollar.
WANNA’ JOIN ME IN A ‘ROUND’.
I guess the high light was finishing school, racing home, changing into paper boys clothes, oh by the way, constant reference is made to paper boy, apologies to you girls I guess there were paper girls I just never met one. Old pants, old shirt, a thick leather belt around your shoulder to hold up to 30 papers and the till, a leather money purse on a belt, standard wear.
Down to our Yiddish boss, collect your papers, counted of course, given Gods best wishes and some change, counted of course, by Eddie and off on your rounds. Well I have described the trams, how about this week we do the pubs and offices, the Sydney Eye Hospital and one or two selected corners.
OK here we are at the Eye Hospital, around 400 meters’ from the shop, we walk into the main foyer and quietly inquire if anybody would like the evening news, sell a few and proceed to wards and rooms on upper floors, now my humor will remain latent at this stage for obvious reasons, although, you will realize a person can read perfectly well with one eye. We take leave of the Hospital and proceed to the hotels that have been described.
PUBS, SOME TERMINOLOGY.
The pubs in the W’LOO were “wharfies” and locals and sailors drinking holes and places to unwind, unique names for sections of the hotel included the Public Bar, the Saloon Bar, The Lounge Bar, the Ladies Bar, loosely described as the Sows Pit, the Sheila’s Bar, the Hen’s Parlor, (I prefer Ladies Bar). Beer was served in Schooners and Middies and Sevens also known as Ladies Waists, back then segregation was practiced hence the separate bars.
See, girls what you have done, whacko. Me and you will circulate among the patrons and give our war cry and sell papers and detect odors’ that emanate from strange lands, a hand on the head, a pat on the back and pick up more papers, next pub please, next corner, now we will circulate a couple of times go back to the shop and count the money and go to my place for meal, AVAGOODAY?
This then was the inner sanctum of Woolloomooloo, a place where George and Tony and Nick and Spiro and Sergio and Tony’s sister lived and Arthur Yip lived? And you sold papers here and lived. Sorry you could not make the wharf run next week and the Naval Station run, buy a pie from “Harry’s Café De Wheels” and have a good time, well there you go but don’t go yet.
THE ANVIL, NOW THAT’S A CRANE.
The W’LOO docks were constructed inside a cove, the “Finger Wharf” was a double sided affair in the middle of the bay, on the eastern side was mooring for Passenger / Cargo vessels just like the Finger Wharf and guess what, you know that a promise of reading matter is required by the passengers and crew.
At the northern end is the great Garden Island Naval Base HMAS KUTTABAL and its only access by land, the huge moving dockside crane was a landmark, (it’s called the ANVIL), it indicated a bastion, a landmark that people recognized as a place where our proud naval ships resided, it made us safe and secure. Many times I have returned to Garden Island at the pleasure of the Commonwealth Police.
THE ‘ISLAND’, THE BOSUN, CONTRABAND.
At knock off time and shift change at the “Island”, hundreds of workers would leave and enter the Navel Base, a veritable gold mine for Eddie and the boys, my week commenced at the gates selling splendiferous amounts of papers in a short time, reloading and depending on the vessels in the harbor brushing past the Customs Officers and boarding a Passenger Cargo Liner.
“All right follow the drill” says Eddie, “don’t accept small parcels to bring ashore, keep to well lit companion ways, don’t go into crews quarters, I want you back here safely”. We followed directions to the letter, upon mounting the gang way a Bosun or suitable officer would direct us to the dinning saloon, possibly there would be 30 or more people enjoying a meal, and then the galley and the crews quarters, (escorted!), and yes some of us were approached to take small parcels ashore,
Maybe I could have made a fortune selling watches, the Custom Officers never searched the paperboys bag, or may be the parcel contained? But that’s ok; across the road from no.2 Dock was the Herald Office and the scene of the infamous “Comic Book Gang Wars”. I was malevolent in media and culpable in comics.
EDDIE YOUR OUT THERE SOMEWHERE, SHALOM MY OLDER FRIEND, YOU NEVER DID ME WRONG.
Have you ever heard of the Woolloomooloo Police Boys Club, Mrs. (Miss) Sylvia Chase, (http://www.pcycnsw.org), the boxing lessons, the judo classes, and the basketball teams, the LIBARY? Can I take you through my period at this club and indicate appreciation for the Coppers and the people who had the time to assist young blokes and an occasional girl. The organization is now called PCYC, it saved!!.
THE WOOLLOOMOOLOO POLICE BOYS CLUB.
The Woolloomooloo PBC was the first of its kind, however, there were to become many such organizations and they exist to this day, they essentially offer a safe haven for boys and girls to learn stuff and enjoy outings in the company of the men and ladies in blue and volunteer minders. The club was situated in the old lockup Police Station just up the road from the docks and was frequented on many occasions by my mates and myself.
The premises were opened, as I recollect, on most days and until late evening, some days we sold papers and rushed to the club for the great activities, many hours on the weekend were also spent ditto. Now I am a lover not a fighter and we were taught the (noble) Art of self-defense, I prefer the clinches of the person you love.
BOXING? GOT A COUPLE IN.
Boxing and other body contact sports is daunting, and by the way, a very notable and much revered Aussie media person made a comment to the, well, negative, George Negus if you haven’t lived it don’t knock it. And so, all my lessons in boxing and judo and wrestling gave me a flat nose, I got some in on a ratio of 3:1, the one was me but I soon learnt to protect myself and learnt the skills of talk first and belt later.
The great Jimmy Caruthers was a former member and patron of our club, as were other notable sporting people, the operative word here is sporting, and not many academics came from Plunkett St. or the Club and apologies to you guys and girls who reached year 12, having said that, you would still be on my team,
Woolloomooloo still rules, you bloody good thing, even you John Laws, and who is that other bloke, Gladiator, yeah Russell Crowe, you are all part of the history, hey Russ I played football for South Sydney, they were my team until a move to the Northern Beaches, John Laws I have spoken to you.
MISS SYLVIA CHASE. SYLVIA MABYL CHASE (WEIGALL), M.B.E.
Enough of the patronizing, because the greatest person who ever come out of the docks was a gorgeous motherly person / women, her name is Sylvia Chase. Some one will say the description is somewhat sexist, you’re very wrong because she was the person all us boys called; elegant, magnificent, stunning. Could be a problem here, we did not know the meaning then of the preceding words, I do now.
The history of Missus Chase leaves my story in the back blocks and I told you ordinary bloke is me, not the trademark. Mrs. Chase must have had an extraordinary compulsion to assist young blokes elevate from being, shall we say, uneducated or literary negative, for myself her “Black Books” gave me hours of reading time and discussion with the dear lady. “Black Books?” for many years I had a couple of the library books from the PBC that were not returned, I am guilty of a heinous crime your worship. Explanation needed no doubt.
SYLVIA’S BLACK BOOKS.
I am not into history because this is supposed to be my story; the Sylvia Chase story has taken precedence in my mind, as well it should. The books? The incredible woman acquired, bought, borrowed, obtained books from all over, she paid for out of her own money the major proportion of the stock, she spent hours placing a cover of a black vinyl material over the books and hand writing the book description in white paint.
You want a book? See the best librarian in Woolloomooloo. The present tense and the previous are very awkward in the context of life things; I hope you have / having a reasonable trip, do find reference to; Mrs. Sylvia Chase, (au). I know now her full story. Her story is good; I have only given a snapshot of this great lady.
Confession time rears its ugly head, remember the “Comic Capers”, for a time we would leave the W’LOO PBC in the late evening and raid the Herald Office for negotiable items, and this is contrary to PBC principles. One scare is enough.
And so I repented.
LEAVE OUR LITTLE KIDS ALONE.
There but for the grace of God go us all. During my time in W”LOO and between trips to the bush so many boy’s own stories occurred, what about St. John Young’s Crescent and the Kindergarten, about 200 meters from the “Truant Officer”. On occasion we would offer a community gesture and help the carers look after the little kids. WE would assist in cleaning things and picking up the toys, on occasion escorting the kids on walks in company with the teachers.
A notable dilemma arose, you see this pervert had been seen on the precinct causing a great deal of concern to the principal, a bigger friend and myself formed a collusion and lured the (suspected) offended into the toilets. At this point details will be removed from the record, suffice to say the person was sorry for his incursion.
I know your dilemma, but don’t hold me guilty of rich stories and sometimes bawdy dialogue, I can tell you that the journey has only just commenced and I repeat that memory is sometime a failure, indulge me, 99% is true.
BLIND IS AN IN-SIGHT.
Not far west from 112 Palmer Street was a School for the blind people. They had a wonderful building and a playing field they used for sporting activities like ball games, like cricket. A bunch of us kids would go on weekends and holidays to play with the “unfortunates”, we initially believed a superior position.
Then a realization exploded, try hitting a wicker ball encasing a tiny rattle. With two good eyes there is no problem, over a distance of 20 yards and only the sound of the tiny bell to guide you, YOU hit the ball, only you can’t see the ball only a sound. I won’t speak for my friends, but appreciation for an unfortunate condition became my motivation.
You would stand in the field and yell, “Hit it here”, not surprisingly the cane ball was struck well outside your reach. While we are on the subject of cane, the blind school people used to make many wonderful items in cane sometimes applying a coat of varnish for preservation, as boys we would help out and feel proud of ourselves.
WOOLLOOMOOLOO, A QUICK JOURNEY.
Mention was made in an earlier chapter concerning the W’LOO BATHS; in fact the correct name was THE DOMAIN BATHS, al la Boyd Charlton however they were situated on the western side of Woolloomooloo bay, and yes they were as described Spartan. If you proceeded north from the baths you reached the area of Lady Macquarie’s chair almost on the point.
MYSTIC VISIONS, THE FUTURE.
Farm Cove on the left and W’LOO BAY to your right, look left and see THE Opera House ‘SAILS’, the misty vision of an edifice not built yet, see the panorama of the wonderful harbor and the “Coat Hanger”, look over right and take in the Finger wharf and the W’LOO docks, there will be passenger / cargo ships alongside, a little north is the Garden Island Naval Dockyard and that great crane mounted on railway lines.
Several gray vessels will be moored alongside the docks as well there will be a naval ship high and dry in the graving dock or dry dock. Many sailors and civilian workers and waterside workers are observed going on about their business, years later I found myself inside this facility going about my business as well.
Looking behind, you would observe the Domain and the Art Gallery and The Botanical Gardens great places to walk and observe, in the near distance is Sydney CBD, the great tower is called the A.W.A. radio tower, situated at Wynyard it is the tallest structure in town. I am having a vision of going there in the future.
It seems to me some memories come back by association, describing SYLVIA CHASE for some unknown reason reminded me of another famous but “infamous” lady from WOOLLOOMOOLOO. I don’t intend to dwell on the “TILLEY DEVINE “ saga.
An older friend suggested that if you lived in ‘THE LOO’ YOU WOULD HAVE KNOWN her. He was wrong; I knew of her, she lived in the same street. She never touched my family. Many memories of my W’Loo contain tragic events, I am not a Journalist, I won’t need sensational repartee.
Somewhere mention of ‘Red Light’, running errands for the girls is mentioned, nod nod, wink wink. Everybody knew Tilley, she was reported to be an intellectual person. You have noticed my reference to good people and fringe people; Woolloomooloo is no different from any Metropolis. She was a naughty lady, she never did me wrong.
BUT THIS IS ALL ABOUT 112 PALMER STREET WOOLLOOMOOLOO.
But right now let me tell you about 112 Palmer just up the road. Grand Ma Isabella Menzies bought the two story premises around 1945 / 6; the description of the building was loosely that of a residential or tenement, it was a TERRACE HOUSE; you could call it a boarding house. We lived here on and off for many years, Grand Ma would let out rooms to working people and it was a place where the “boys” that is her sons, my uncles, would stay after returning from the war.
JUST AFTER THE WAR.
Eventually they would leave and go their separate ways, but I can remember great times in their presence. On notable occasions two of Uncle Chris’s war buddies would visit and, “Jimmy and Ernie were their names and singing and drinking was their games”. Ernie would play his ukulele and Jimmy sang, always, “Open the door Richard”.
This story needs vision and sound so without these mediums imagination will have to do. Right, picture the front door of a 22 foot wide rustic two story building; there is a small verandah with wrought iron railing and on the 2nd floor a similar full length verandah with this priceless railing of cast iron. Two steps were needed to alight on the front verandah. You were greeted by a door with dark glass panels, on your right was a polished knob of brass, go on pull it, hear the tinkling of a little bell inside the house?
Jimmy stood outside and would knock and jingle, Ernie was inside and would commence to strum his ukulele and sing these words; “Open the door Richard, open the door and let me in, open the door Richard, Richard why don’t you open that door?”, over the top of his singing Jimmy was acting the part of, (forgotten), however he was berating Richard for not opening the door, mainly because he was pissed.
He would speak loudly in an inebriated tone; “Hey Richard open that dammed door it’s cold out here, what’s that, yeah I know I am drunk just open the door”, and “come on it’s your buddy don’t be so mean”, and so on while Grand Ma and everybody were laughing.
If I had done my homework maybe I could have supplied all the words, any how the entertainment culminates with Ernie still singing inside and Jimmy still knocking and loudly exclaiming; “come on Richard open that door, who’s that?, not you again you old bat!, bag your head, what you say?, of course I’m drunk again, Richard the old bat is calling the cops, Richard open up that dammed door it’s really cold out here”.
We had an old wind up GRAMAPHONE, 78’s? I still have one, anybody remember; “IT’S YOUR LITTLE RED WAGON AND IT KEEPS ON WAGON ALONG, the tune is implanted in my mind.
THE BOY ‘RUNNER’.
What did the boys drink? I guess my age would have to have been seven or eight, I was the sometimes runner with a Billy can and a shilling and run up the hill to the corner of William and Palmer, the WILLIAM HOTEL no less, climb onto a bar stool and ask the bar person to fill her up and so I would return with a billy can of cold draught beer, occasionally allowed a tiny sample, incidentally, some change may have been offered out of the shilling, I have forgotten.
Might stick with money things, we had coal gas supplied to the residential, a rather bulky gas meter was situated near the communal gas stove into which you inserted a penny, and when you cooked the tiny needles in the gauges would turn indicating how much you have used.
We had a wooden ice box into which you placed a block of ice as needed, delivered by a man in an ice truck. The milkman delivered milk and ladled an amount into that same Billy; there was a coal man who would bring coking coal in the winter months, sorry, latter prices forgotten.
IT WAS GENUINE TERRACE HOUSE.
OK, I have described the facade of the premises; you will appreciate these tenements / TERRACES were very narrow and had common walls to the next place, rows of terrace houses made up the street, in fact half of inner Sydney.
Upon entering, a narrow hallway lead to the back of the house, there was a front room and back room to the left along this hallway, also in the hallway the gas stove and the icebox. At the end of the hallway to the right a set of steep stairs led up to the front room and a smaller room.
A lady named Marie resided in the small room, she was always pleasant to me but seemed always sad, she had a photograph of a Navel officer beside her bed, I was to find out later he perished on the ill fated H.M.A.S. SYDNEY off the coast of Western Australia. She lived with us for some time.
Down stairs to the hallway and leading up another set of stairs was a large room at back of the house. Uncle Chris and Uncle Alex shared this room for some time; to the left hand side of the landing was a tiny room where I slept quite often.
Returning downstairs you made your way past another small room as you proceeded down the back yard, on the right was a laundry complete with a large copper boiler and big gas ring, this was the precursor to the modern day washing machine, and you removed the clothes from the boiler using a round stick.
There were two cement tubs for soaking clothes, to the left of the laundry was the bathroom containing a large cast iron enameled bathtub you filled from the copper tub, sometimes shared.
AND THIS IS WHERE THE DUNNY AND CHOKO VINE SPRUNG FROM.
Now folks, right down the back yard was the inimitable dunny, flushed of course, complete with the compulsory Choko vine and the local paper torn into small pieces and hung on a piece of string, finally the fences of corrugated iron and the high back gate
with a double door allowing Uncle Chris to drive his, wait for it you “Bikies”, his 1940 model Harley Davidson, all black, manual gear change, horse saddle leather seat motor bike complete with “Outfit”, all black and beautiful, that is except for the silver stuff. Must continue with the “Bike”, Chris loved, I loved, and Grand Ma hated this wonderful thing.
This bike was stripped more times than Gypsy Rose Lee; its components caressed more than mother does her baby. Some days, the small back yard was covered with bike parts, the components were cleaned, re-assembled and a bright and shiny black Harley with sidecar re-built. That bike produced some memorable experiences.
112 Palmer St, for some time, or on and off was the center of my universe, every morning Grand Ma at some ungodly hour could be heard scrapping burnt toast in the side drain under the “Boys” up stairs window calling; “Boys, breakfast is ready”, the usual sounds of “OK Mum” could be heard from young men awakening for the days work, me, because of the small confines stayed in my small room until a respectable hour, the burnt toast? I can smell it to this day, can you?
FROM THE COUNTRY TO THE “CROSS”.
Grand Ma was a slight person, she was born on the land, she spent much of her younger years on properties that Grand Pa Ambrose and her owned, (my genetics?), (Lovegrove web site), they sold “Rosedale” and took up Hotels in the Hunter Valley proving to be a disaster, Ambrose was embezzled out of a considerable sum of money causing financial problems they never recovered from, Grand Ma found her self one out with the “Boys”, hence Bayswater Road and Palmer Street, the latter purchased by hard work and a frugal existence.
She managed Palmer St. by working as a cleaner at several of the Companies in William Street. She never owned a handbag, her purse resided between her breasts on a piece of string. The piece of string was attached to her bodice by a safety pin.
At any time there were could be as many as nine people residing at 112, at least three boarders and the family. The communal cooker, a small oven and 4 gas burners got a thorough work out in rotation; some of the tenants had small single burner napha? Cookers to heat water for a cup of tea or warm soup and other stuff. On occasion everybody was invited to a Sunday lunch, times were tough; don’t know who paid for what it came out in the wash.