Childhood Memories

We were living at Crafers when Mum died but I have no memory of our move from there. I have a hazy recollection of briefly living at Upper Sturt but I am not at all clear when that was - perhaps it was immediately after leaving Crafers.

            My earliest clear recollections are of living at Kensington Gardens, at the corner of North Terrace and Myall Ave., not far from the home of Uncle Bob & Auntie Leila Thomson and our cousins Colin & Meg. I assume that it was about this time that Mum's sister, Auntie Jessie, came to look after us. At this time she was in her mid twenties and not married. She stayed with us until she left to marry Uncle Ken Mellor. My clearest memory of this house is that there was a creek or stormwater drain running through the place and under North Terrace into the grounds of the Penfold Hyland home opposite. This was a favourite place for us to play. Doodie Penfold Hyland, who was somewhat older than us, used to play with us there. Colin was the same age as the twins and Meg was younger but we used to play with them from time to time also. Other Thomson cousins lived a few streets away (they were our second cousins, their father Jim, who was a Master at St Peters College, was Mum's cousin.)

            It was while we were living at Kensington Gardens that I started school at Marryatville in 1921. It is my recollection that one of the Thomson cousins ( Alex who was a year older than me) took me to school with him, but one of his younger sisters, Genevieve Allen, who has lived in England for many years, claims that Alex did not go to Marryatville, but to a small private school. If that were so he probably took me to Marryatville and then went on to his own school. Another younger sister Mary Marsh lived in the South East and Lloyd knew her there. She died quite a few years ago.

            I am not sure when we moved to Rose Park but it was probably in 1921 or 1922. We lived in Watson Ave. Close to Rose Park School and the congregational Church. We were probably there until about the time; Auntie Jessie got married. She was married in 1925 but I think we went to live with Auntie Sis & Uncle Charlie at Arthur St., Prospect North. We went to Brand Rd. School and had lunch with Grandma Badger and Auntie Nance at their home in Gladstone Rd. Just behind the school. Uncle Arch and Nancy & Helen also lived there( Auntie Nell died in 1917 when the girls were even younger than we were when our Mum died.) . So there were 5 children there for lunch each day. Auntie Nance always read to us while we were having lunch ( old stories such as Mrs Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch).

            I don't remember much about Dad's business activities in those days. One venture was running the chocolate stall at the Norwood picture theatre with one of his friends, I am not sure how long that lasted but it can't have been for very long. It was Dad's friend from this venture who persuaded me not to start smoking until I was old enough to decide for myself. I think this contributed to the fact that I never did take up smoking.
It was at prospect North that our association with the Methodist Church began. Uncle Charlie had been a Methodist home missionary before he was married so we all went to Prospect North Church and Sunday School. In those days the Sunday School was very large and soon afterwards the anniversary services were transferred to the Prospect picture theatre. It was there that I first sat for a Sunday School exam, for which I remember learning the 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians by heart. (If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. Ed)

            I was in Grade 4 in 1924 and the twins were a year behind me. My first teacher there was a lady, Miss Slater, who made quite an impression on me, but all I can remember now is that she threw an inkwell at me one day when I was misbehaving ( it must have been empty as I do not remember getting ink all over me). It was a long way from Arthur St to Brand Rd and I was often running late and remember having to run most of the way. ( I don't remember whether the twins did the same). I did the Q.C in 1927. Earlier that year Dad had gone to the West Coast to sell Overland cars and took Neil, who hadn't been well with him. They lived in a small boarding house at Port Lincoln and then at the end of the year Dad came back to Adelaide and took Lloyd & me to Lincoln to be with them. I think it was on that trip that I was first allowed to drive on my own. Dad & Neil stayed at the boarding house and Lloyd & I slept in a tent in the backyard of the Shroeder family , who had a boy, Mort, my age and a number of other children including a baby. Port Lincoln was a good place for catching fish so we spent most of our leisure time fishing. There is one incident I remember well. We were fishing near the end of the jetty when Neil stood up to tighten his belt but fell over backwards into the water. He came up like a drowned rat and not long afterwards a great big stingray came along right where he had fallen in. I began High School at Port Lincoln High in 1928 but at the end of second term we all returned to Adelaide by ship. The depression hit the farming areas in S.A. earlier than elsewhere and selling cars ceased to be a profitable occupation.

While we were away Auntie Sis & Uncle Charlie had moved from Arthur St. To Lower North Rd. Ovingham. I went to live there and transferred to Adelaide High. I hadn't done French at port Lincoln and had to start from scratch in 3rd term. However, I managed to catch up reasonably well and went into the top second year class in 1929.

            On returning from Lincoln, Dad began a series of farming ventures, the first of which was at Bradbury, which is south-west of Mylor in the Adelaide Hills. This place was on a small creek that probably ran into the Onkaparinga River, but while Dad was there it had stopped flowing and comprised a chain of pools. There were fish in the pools and we used to catch them by bailing out a pool. The twins went with dad and finished primary school at Scott's Creek School. As far as i can remember they probably only stayed there until the end of 1928 and then, when Auntie Sis and Uncle Charlie moved to Belair, we all moved there with them. Our first house at Belair was off the main Rd. On Serpentine Road at the foot of a steep hill. There was a fair amount if land so we were able to keep a cow, chooks, ducks, etc. But this wasn't very profitable either. So Dad's next move was to Montacute on Fifth Creek. At first he used to go there on a daily basis by horse and cart. One day Lloyd goyt up early and went for a ride on the horse, it tossed him and he came home holding a badly broken arm.

            Living in what was then a small village with only one shop, a small primary school, two churches (Anglican & Methodist) and a large National Park within easy reach was very pleasant indeed. We knew everyone in the village and developed long-lasting friendships, some life-long. During the holidays we did a lot of walking in the Adelaide Hills, occasionally as far as Mt. Lofty summit. Our favourite spot was the railway reservoir in the National Park where we went swimming in the nude in the hot weather. On the other hand, there was the disadvantage of frequent bushfires, particularly in the National park. There was no bushfire organisation in those days. When there was a fire, someone would ring the Church bell and volunteers would roll out. We were often called out in the middle of the night. The local policeman, Constable Huxley, (Hux), did a very good job in organising the volunteers. Hux also played in out tennis club and was very popular with the local residents. I can remember one day at work when I had been fighting a fire for most of the night before, I could hardly keep my eyes open they were so sore.


            We all played tennis when we were at Belair. Dad was quite a good player and was captain of the Belair team in the local competition for quite a few years. There was an old tennis court at the top of Serpentine Rd. And we were allowed to play there as often as we wanted. The twins often played each other and the games were closely fought. When they did a bad stroke they would take it out on the racquet, hurling it into the netting at the back of the court. Later on the families of two of four friends, the Wrights & the Martins bult courts of their own, They often; played tennis on a Sunday afternoon and invited me in with them. Auntie Sis didn't approve of Sunday tennis so I often went there after Sunday School and played in bare feet with a borrowed racquet in the hope that Auntie Sis would not know. I also played in the local competitions on Saturday afternoons after I started work. In those days we used to work on Saturday mornings so I used to change into my tennis togs at work and go straight to tennis.

            As I was already at Adelaide High when we moved to Belair I was allowed to stay there but the twins went with the other kids in the area to Unley high. We used to travel to school by train, the Unley kids got off at Mitcham and I went on to the city. The carriages were the old dog boxes with a separate door into each compartment. There was one occasion when I had taken a football home after sport and was bringing it back the next morning. We were in a compartment with a number of other Unley High boys and it was decided to have a game with the ball. We closed all the windows and began throwing the ball about, Neil was standing in front of a window and when the ball was thrown hard at him he went backwards and stuck his bottom through the window. When this happened we were approaching a tunnel, so we swept the broken glass into tunnel and opened all the windows, hoping that the broken window wouldn’t be discovered. However some Unley High girls in the adjoining compartment heard what happened and reported it when they got to school. The first I knew about being reported was when i was called to the headmaster's office and asked to explain. As I was the oldest of those involved and had brought the ball it was natural that I would be held responsible, so Unley High rang Adelaide High and asked them to deal with me. We had to pay for the broken window and promise not to play such games again.

            It was with two of my Belair friends (John Wright & Keith Martin) that I first ventured into car ownership. Between us we bought an old Rugby buckboard for £10. When Keith's father heard about it he went mad and made Keith pull out. John and I kept it for a year and made quite a few trips in it..We also learned quite a lot about cars in fixing it when it broke down. However the most frequent breakdowns were when we ran out of petrol or had a puncture. On one occasion I think it was Lloyd who was with me when we ran out of petrol right in front of Government House gates. I had to leave Lloyd with the car while I went for petrol. Needless to say we created quite a lot of interest from nearby pedestrians. At the end of the year when the next year's registration was due we couldn't afford to pay it so we sold the car for £13.

My next vehicle was a motor bike which I rode to work in the city. There was a narrow space between two buildings on the other side of King William St. where I could park it all day. It was handy for riding home after lectures at the Uni instead of waiting for the next train to Belair. One year during my holidays I rode the bike up to Barmera ( about 230 kms ENE form Adelaide on the Sturt H'way, towards Renmark) to visit Mum's youngest sister, Auntie Bernie and her husband Vic.[Beatrice Victoria Cullen]. The Browns {Don's Auntie Effie, Dave's younger sister}were living at Eudunda (about 150 kms due West of Barmera) then so I called on them on the way and then went to Morgan and along the northern side of the Murray. Most of the roads were dirt and so badly corrugated that the battery fell out from between my legs without me realising it had gone. The bike stopped, of course, so I discovered what had happened and had to go back to find the battery. When I reached Barmura the bike stopped again and I couldn't get it to start. Fortunately I wasn't far from my destination and Vic heard what was going on and came to investigate. We put the bike on his trolley and went back to their house that way. The next morning we discovered that the timing chain had fallen off. It was just as well that this didn't happen halfway between Barmera and Morgan as I didn't have a clue as to how to adjust the timing.. I was able to get it fixed at the local garage.

            I haven't mentioned yet about Uncle Charlie's sisters, Auntie Beat and Rene, coming to live with us. Auntie Beat had been looking after her parents in the family home at St. Peters and when they died the home was sold and the aunts came to live with us while we were at Serpentine Rd. It was when we were there that Auntie Rene died. {In conversation with Uncle Bill shortly before his death he confided in me that Rene's death had been caused by complications due to a pregnancy and that it was widely considered that Dave had had something to do with it.} I'm not sure when it was decided that Auntie Beat would move in with Dad and the twins and keep house for them.{Auntie Beat stayed on with Dave for the rest of their lives}

            One amusing incident that occurred around this time related to ducks we boys had raised earn some money for Christmas time. Uncle Arch had an office in the National Mutual building in King William St. And some friends had agreed to buy a few ducks from us. We put them in a crate and loaded them into Dad's buckboard and Dad drove us to the city. He parked on the opposite side of the street from Uncle Arch's office so we had to get the ducks across King William St. There was a lid on top of the crate byt we hadn't fastened it on properly and while we were crossing the road the ducks got out and caused quite a traffic hold-up. A couple of them got under trams and newsboys from up and down the street were trying to get them out. Uncle Arch and some of his friends had seen it all happen from his office window. They were so amused that they paid us for the entertainment as well as for the ducks.

            I'm not sure when it was that Dad and the twins moved to the Range, but it was probably in 1932 or 1933. This property was at Montarra on the hills above Willunga on Range Road, a few niles from where it comes out at the top of the Willunga Hill. The twins had left school after the Intermediate and worked with Dad on the property. They were each employed, for some of the time at least, by Norman Brookman who owned a large neighbouring property. I had stayed at school, doing the Leaving in 1930 and the Leaving Honours in 1931 and 1932. Most of those who wanted to go to University did the Leaving Honours twice as it was only in very exceptional cases that someone got a bursary on their first attempt. Right through the Christmas holidays in 1932 I had expected to get a bursary to take me through the University. Only 12 of these were awarded in S.A. at that time and I was the next on the list. It was generally expected that one or two of those ahead of me would surrender their bursary to either train as high school teachers (the Teachers College would only accept for High School training those who had been offered a bursary or return to school and try for a higher position next time. In 1932, however, no bursaries were surrendered, so I enrolled as an evening student and looked for a job. A week later I began work with the Commonwealth Bank. I had enrolled for an Arts course but then transferred to Economics which I thought would be more use in the bank. Working in the day and studying at night did not give me much time for other activities. I spent most of my holidays with Dad and then returned to Auntie Sis when I resumed work.

            Until 1937 I had never been out of S.A. bur early that year I was invited to accompany Auntie Grace and two of her sisters to Geelong to visit some of the Thomson relatives there. Uncle Bob had made a car available to Auntie Grace and she had obtained a driving licence at the age of about 60. However she did not want to do all the driving so I was given the chance to go with them, which I gladly accepted. I can't remember now how much of the driving I did but I expect it was the greater part. It was a wonderful trip including a drive along the Great Ocean Road, which I didn't visit again until we did the trip in our own car many years later.

            Following my graduation at the end of that year the Bank transferred me to Sydney and from then on I had fewer opportunities than ever to spend time with the family.

 

 

 

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