Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Youth: What every young cowboy needs: a Chinese air rifle. What could possibly go wrong?

In the old Clayfield Shopping Centre was the Clayfield Toy and Hobby store. Owned by a WW2 vet (he was a radio mechanic in the Pacific) and his lovely wife. Many times he repaired punctures on my bike, supplied a cornucopia of accessories for it as well as selling me flying balsa models and the magic Taipan Glo Plug engines to power them. Herb's shop was an Aladdin's Cave for this young man.

And.. he sold air rifles.

Chinese made and beautifully finished with magic wooden stocks.

Now in my last year at primary school, John Montefiore had a daisy air gun. WOW! Wouldn't I like one of those!

So come my grade 8 year, I decided that target shooting with an air rifle would be just the ticket! Even mother thought it would be OK as her older brother had one as a kid. Good one Uncle Bill!

Down to Herb's magic shop and he has them. $13.75 they cost. So I put one on laybye (still have the card somewhere)  and started saving money. A few weeks later.. it was mine! However, in QLD back then while you didn't need a gun licence, you had to be 17 to own a gun. So Herb delivered the gun to my mother! I still can see his little VW Beetle parking outside our house and him walking up the front path to hand the box to mum. She handed it to me and said.. "Don't shoot yourself.. or anyone else!"

Inside that box was this magical gun wrapped in grease proof paper. Beautifully oiled and ready for action.

How much fun was this? Loads of fun!

So let's try it out.

Under our house I had built a rough shooting range with the target mounted under our front steps. As the steps were made of cement, the pellets could not travel any further and cause harm. An old "Dandy" ham tin mounted on a board upright, housed a small kerosene light to throw some light on my target. With a box of Marksman Pellets.. it was show time.

A box of Marksman pellets. Let's try this sucker out!

And with the fullness of time & with instructions from older brother Viv, I came to be a good shot with that gun.

So.. Bruce Vaughan my old mate came to acquire one as well.. as did Russell who had a Russian made air rifle.

This went well.. until we got bored.......

So we would take our guns down to the back of Nudgee Road to give them a real try out. There was all manner of old crap left over from the war still there. Old signs, various bits of tin etc.. all good targets for the likes of us! Bruce and Russell would tie their guns to their bikes; mine had a sling, so over the shoulder it went as we peddled along the back streets of Hendra.

Can you imagine doing that now?

Three teenagers riding along with rifles on their bikes?

Straight to jail; do not pass go!

Around this time my mother had an issue with cane toads that were invading our place. No problems mum.. I'll shoot them.

So I stood over a toad and aimed straight down onto his head... bang!

Pellet away... bounced off his skull and came back to hit me in the forehead! Jesus! Could have lost an eye! So a different approach to aiming was devised and every night around 9:00 PM I would be out the front. Mum would hold the torch and I would despatch the toads with a little lead poison! Some nights we would cull 15 or 16. These days I get around 1 toad a night.. and no air gun!

But back to the 60s....

So one lazy summer's Saturday afternoon I am at Bruce's house and we are looking for something to shoot at! (We had tried phone books, drink cans, bottles, plastic models.. you name it.. we shot it!) On the outside wall of their work shed was a small blackboard.

I carefully drew a target on it in chalk and then took aim... fire!

Bull's Eye.

Followed in a heart beat  afterwards by a scream of pain and then Bruce's Grandfather appearing out of the shed holding his neck! Shit! The pellet went right through the wall and hit him!

I was in big trouble!

Mrs Vaughan wouldn't let me take my gun over there for a month after that!

We also went to brother Viv's place at Clear Mountain with our guns.. but he would drag out his Hornet and taught us how to shoot with it! A real gun! Much more fun than an air rifle. I still remember shooting the side of an old tin shed at Viv's with the air gun. Take aim, fire.. lower the gun and then wait for the clang of pellet against the side of the shed!

So what happened to that gun?

Well as my interest in motorbikes, girls, cars, girls, motorbikes and girls took hold.. it stayed all wrapped up in an oiled cloth under my bed. And then one day when I was about 17 or 18 my old school chum Charlie Cleator asked me if I still had it.. cash changed hands and it was gone.

Poor old Charlie died 10 years ago this June.. and whenever I think of him.. I wonder where that gun is now!

I could use it on those toads!

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Youth: 1972, a favourite year with the promise of tomorrow coming on strong!

So in early 1972 I am 18 and cruising around in my 1964 XM Falcon. What a car.. 50 MPH in first gear, 90 MPH in second.. and that was it. Fordomatic 2 speed auto transmission you see! Come late January of that year my good mate Ken Brand suggests a week of playing up in Kings Cross, Sydney. So we load our gear into his Torana GTR, surely one of the most desirable cars for a young bloke back then and point it southwards.

As I type this the memories come flooding back. Climbing Cunningham's Gap in the GTR with Ken treating the road as a competitive hill climb. Me somewhere south of Tamworth dragging an E Type Jaguar at over 90 mph. Dangerous you must be thinking? Yep! Surely was but somehow we lived to tell the tale.  The week in Sydney was amazing.. but I really cannot talk about it here. I can mention that I caught up with Bruce Vaughan my old school mate. He was on a RAN ship which happened to be in dock.. so we had 15 minutes on the wharf with him one night!

Back in Brisbane April comes around quickly enough and with it my first company car. A virtually new Escort 1300 which was surplus to requirements at the shop with staff changes etc. I loved it. And with that car I joined the Ford Escort Car Club of Qld which went on to become the Ford Car Club of Queensland. New faces and friendships soon formed. Geoff Gay, Ray and Bev Clarke, Ian Abercromby, Geoff Frohlich and also caught up with old primary school, high school and Scout mate; Peter Scott. Plus many others.

My 19th birthday arrives and the talk turned to national service and the then government conscription of young men by ballot of birthdays for military service. I did not want to join the army. No way! I had enough trouble with my time being structured by my apprenticeship. In third year and having to go to technical college 2 nights a week was enough for me.

And then somebody mentioned Gough Whitlam... from that July night on I was transfixed whenever he appeared on the TV. To this young man he appeared to be so different to other dreary politicians of the time. I was captivated.. my mother was too and my father spent many evenings at the dinner table trying to convince both of us that Gough was not a good choice to lead the country.

Then the adverts started on the tube.. how could so many show business people have it wrong I asked? The election day drew closer, Kay came into my life and it was to become a real Indian Summer for me. Drives in the country (when I first discovered the Lion's Road into Kyogle), Friday nights at Lennon's Pacesetter's high up over Queen Street and Saturday nights at the drive-in movies. Life was sweet.

On election day the Ford Car Club had a barbecue on at Graham and Caroline Cherry's home at Acacia Ridge. A hot discussion was the election of the ALP Government. Geoff Gay thought it would be bad for business. I was a whole lot more optimistic than that....

By 1974... Kay and I were over (actually over by March 1973) and..well Gough wasn't doing so well. He called a double dissolution election to get Medibank up and ran the slogan.. "Give us a go and we'll get the job done!"

He lost seats, but won and Medibank was born. I voted for him (my first ever time voting) and... by 1975 it was all going downhill so fast. Now I was "Technical Sales Rep" for the business and I watched how our business and so many of my customers too were affected by horrendous inflation and a scandal wracked cabinet that showed us a dysfunctional government in its death throws.

Fraser and his team blocked supply.. it was all over! And I have written about that elsewhere on my blog. As I didn't believe (and still don't) that the end justifies the means, I voted ALP on principle.

Looking back on the Whitlam experiment.. my only comments are to quote Gough himself from an ABC documentary...

"What can you say? What can you bloody well say?"

So 1972 was a year that started out with so much hope and promise.. it ended for me at least with that magic Indian Summer... which was a prelude to turbulent times in Australian Politics.

And as for Gough himself.. well I have met him and photographed him and he is amazing. His intellect is awe inspiring no matter what your political bent. He certainly was a giant in Australian Politics and you have to wonder about some of the pygmies who have followed in his foot steps.

My brother Max likes to comment on the colour of the card in my pocket!

So another of my favourite years put to bed....

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Life: One of my first loves:

1969.. one of my favourite years and I had a couple of objects of desire that focused all of my attention. And they were.. not in any specific order.

1. Julie Vanek.

2. My astronomical telescope.

3. The Holden Monaro 327 GTS

4. The Suzuki TS 125 Stinger motorcycle.

So as I said.. the above list is not in any order of preference.. but there you have it.

Julie was at my school the day I started and I thought she was good stuff! I guess in today's parlance I would have said she was hot! But sadly, like the Monaro 327.. well she really was beyond me.. but I kept on keeping on!

And then one day, not long after Neil walked on the moon a group of us were standing outside the shop where we would go each day to buy lunch (now Katrina Christ's Studio) and this red motorcycle went past. And it went past ever so fast! With a trail of blue smoke from its exhausts and the exquisite sound of two cylinders firing every second stroke!

I turned to Alan White and said something like.. "What the fuck was that?"

Julie said to me.. "What did you just say?"

Mmm.. "What the heck was that?"

Ignatius chimed in with.. "It had a Suzuki badge on it I think!"

That very same afternoon after school found this young man in Mayfairs in Adelaide Street, in the heart of the city.

You see, Mayfairs were the Suzuki dealer back then.

And there on the showroom floor I found it!


The Suzuki TS 125 Stinger.

A twin cylinder two stroke motorbike that looked to this 16 year old like it came out of a Bond Movie.

God.. how could man design and build a machine so beautiful? The salesman told me it would do 75 MPH and with an optional hot up kit 100 MPH was possible.

I sat on it, I twisted the throttle, imagined me and Julie heading to the Gold Coast on it on a sunny Sunday morning.. and I wondered how I could get one into my life.

The fact that I couldn't even get a licence for another year was irrelevant.

Give me this bloody beaut bike mate! I just have to have it!

That night I showed the Suzuki brochure to my parents.. a very frosty negative reception indeed.

"Why do you want a motorcycle?" my mother asked.

"Freedom!" I yelled back!

"But you are free now," said my Dad.

"Gees.. you two just don't get it.. it's the ability to go where I want, when I want to!" I said as I went back to my room to stick the brochure onto the wall.

"You will be mine" I said the next day as I dressed for school whilst admiring my new toy!

Here is what this two wheeled freedom machine looked like back then.... (Except mine was going to be candy apple red!)

My ideal freedom machine in 1969.

And so it came to pass.. that I never ever owned one.

Like Julie Vanek, and the Monaro GTS, the Suzuki TS 125 was not to be mine.

No.. somehow by the time I was 17 I owned a clapped out 1963 Black Mini 850.

My less than ideal escape machine. Blew as much smoke though!

Oh dear!

And some days even now when my mind wanders.. I wonder if there is still one of these classic motorcycles out there with my name on it.

After all.. it could / should have been my first real love!

(Sorry Julie)

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Photography: By the time we got to Woodstock...

I heard about it on TV in 1969. Nearly 45 years ago... and today I found this image. Sweet memories of youth.


Well I came across a child of God, he was walking along the road
And I asked him tell where are you going, this he told me:
Well, I'm going down to Yasgur's farm, going to join in a rock and roll band.
Got to get back to the land, set my soul free.
We are stardust, we are golden, we are billion year old carbon,
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.

Well, then can I walk beside you? I have come to lose the smog.
And I feel like I'm a cog in something turning.
And maybe it's the time of year, yes, and maybe it's the time of man.
And I don't know who I am but life is for learning.
We are stardust, we are golden, we are billion year old carbon,
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.

By the time we got to Woodstock, we were half a million strong,
And everywhere there was song and celebration.
And I dreamed I saw the bombers jet planes riding shotgun in the sky,
Turning into butterflies above our nation.

We are stardust, we are golden, we caught in the devil's bargain,

And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Life: So just what has been the greatest invention ever?

My old dad loved gadgets. Now he didn't go and seek them like his errant son. But if somebody came to his office and stuck one under his nose? Well out came the wallet. And out of the wallet came a 10 pound note!

As a young 12 year old I used to marvel at the shit.. er I mean stuff he brought home.

Like the bottle of "Russian Hair Restorer". Now this was in the days when the west and the east were well and truly divided. So nobody had any idea just what was going on over there in Moscow.

Except for the salesman with the bottles of the wondrous elixir. You see it wouldn't grow hair, but it would turn your hair back to the colour it was when you were twenty one. Now at 67 my dad had greying hair and thought that black hair would be nice.. like he had in the army when he was in Poona.

So after dinner he carefully combed it through his hair and wrapped his hair in a towel.. which according to the instructions was only to be removed after a good night's sleep.

The next morning.. we sat him at the breakfast table with shaving mirror in hand and unwrapped his noggin.

To reveal..... the best head of coloured hair you had ever seen.

Except it was ginger in colour!

But he didn't learn. He was a naturally astute man who didn't suffer fools gladly. A less charitable person might say he was intolerant. I guess he hadn't read that line from Desiderata... the one about the dull and the ignorant, for they too have their story.. or something like that.

But gadgets.. well next was the pyramid made of blue plastic. About 24 inches each side at the base. Keep your razor under it and the universe or whatever would keep it sharp. Now for a man who studied chemistry at University.. well he was sceptical but gave it a try.

The cigarette papers all over his face two weeks later proved testament to the efficacy of the blue pyramid. Well for keeping razors sharp anyway. Mum hung it upside down on chains and planted ferns it it! Not very Egyptian!

Now not long after this came the French made razor blade sharpener. An amazing thing that had a removable cartridge that you fitted your razor blade in and then it sort of moved back and forwards over this three sided leather strop. Apparently it did sharpen razor blades very well indeed. Good one dad. He once commented on how it looked like a miniature Guillotine.

How very French!

As he grew into old age.. he often said that so and so was the best invention since sliced bread. Funny thing was he hated sliced bread. He loved to cut his own and put giant slabs of butter on it!

One day when I was an apprentice auto electrician he rang me from work (he was still woking in his 70s... a man ahead of Joe Hockey) and told me a guy was trying to sell him a trickle battery charger. The man told him he would never have a flat battery if he faithfully hooked it up each night.  I pointed out to him that since his HR Holden, all of his cars had been fitted with alternators including his then XY Ford and he had never had a flat battery since. "My son the auto electrician and his 3 auto electrician brothers say I don't need one. Good day to you Sir" I heard over the phone. Good one dad.

When I was about 11 he came home late one Saturday with a rifle. Mother was stunned. It seems it was to shoot sharks with. Part two of the story was it came with the small wooden launch he bought that was moored at Victoria Point. The "Tammy Two" came into our lives. Powered by a mighty marinised Fiat petrol engine.. this floating collection of wood worms holding hands was dad's pride and joy. How did he buy it? Well a guy came into see him trying to flog a boat compass.. he was down on his luck you see. So dad bought the compass.. and the boat it was fitted to.

Around 3 weeks later the MV Tammy Two had a new owner. Thank God! I was terrorised by the smell of fuel every time we opened the cabin.

Now what about Ron's son the village photographer?

Well I used to think that a dishwasher would be great idea. I hated drying dishes in mother's kitchen. Really hated it. Then I thought that air conditioning would be a good thing. Well done Dr Carrier. And of course trail bikes. Thank you Mr Yamaha for the DT1. The bike that invented a  whole new form of recreation for this young man. As I grew up I gave thanks for oral contraceptives .. should be used at every conceivable moment.

The mighty DT1. Because somebody wanted to take a short cut!

And then you have to add Jumbo jets to the list.. just love the 747 although I will always love the 707. Classic 35 degree wing sweep. And what about the Beatles? Magic musical invention that was! Calculators, computers (Love my MAC. Try a Mac and you'll never go back) digital cameras and the list goes on.

Oh yes.. sliced bread. The prodigal son loves his sliced bread. The internet, the quartz watch, (although I love mechanical watches) electric carving knives, power steering, mobile phones, smart mobile phones and iPads.. the list is endless. My home is full of gadgets as is my shed. You name it and I probably have one.. or two... or more. As a late friend of mine, Merv Davidson used to say, "I bought a new coffee machine today.. well we only had 3!"

So after 60 orbits of the sun and over halfway through number 61, what is my favourite gadget of all time?

Well feast your eyes on this.. no more arguments in our bathroom!

I have learnt from past mistakes!

My squeezing the toothpaste tube in the middle was one of the reasons my first wife left 30 years ago!

She made a new plan Stan, slipped out the back Jack.. see she had the 50 ways to leave but also 125 reasons to leave!

And one of the 125 was that I squeezed the toothpaste tube in the middle!

True story!

So readers.. I give you the greatest invention of all time..... the toothpaste tube squeezer!

A real marriage saving invention!