The last stretch of road to Gympie Australia consisted of several miles of washboard dirt track. It was evening. Dust created by passing cars choked me up as I clung to my Mother Maude, blinking through tired eyes as I watched the dim lights of Gympie moving into full view. My Father Eric wrestled with the car as it bounced over rutted roads, urging it on to completion of the journey.
It was June 1939, and while the world teetered on the brink of a brutal war in Europe, which was soon to impact on our life, this two year old was totally unaware of world dangers ahead. I just wanted to get out of that car and the coldness of evening to go to sleep in a warm bed.
By 23rd June, we were established in our first rental apartment. My Father had paid the Proprietress of the Northumberland Hotel two pounds and ten shillings (five dollars) for the night stay while I watched men loading their cars in preparation for their forward journey next morning. I was glad we were not going with those itinerant travellers.
I fell in love with the two young ladies sharing the flat next to ours. They fed me, pampered me, carried me around, and let me watch the children at play in the Elementary School next door. I wanted to start school then and there so I could play with the small plastic cars these children produced from their pockets during recess period.
I shed tears when Eric announced we were moving to a larger place at Excelsior Road. I thought I’d miss visits with the young ladies next door, and daily visits to the Elementary School at recess time. Mother presented me with a plastic car, purchased from Pennies Department Store in Mary Street the day we moved. I forgot the ladies, and the Elementary School children as I eagerly accepted my new toy.
Our house at Excelsior Road was a place of wonder. In spite of winter chills, there were still flowers in the gardens. The flower colours were fascinating, and their smells exquisite. Mother would help me explore these treasures, and point out the dangers to be experienced from ants, bees and thorns as soon as I was old enough to walk around unassisted.
Later as I learned to walk I discovered the yard contained other treasures to be inspected and appreciated. There were fig trees to climb, macadamia nuts to crack, citrus fruit to pick in season, and a giant mango tree behind the garage with tempting ripe fruit beyond my reach. I felt sad watching mangos rot, and fall spoiled to the ground when there were just too many for our neighbours and us to eat.
I remember the road behind our house being tar sealed. The rhythm of the Steam Roller created melodies in my head, and I remember singing in lisping voice a song “The Band Played On,” to the beat of the Steam Roller’s diesel engine.
I’ve some frightening memories of that era. There was a vault under ABC Motors where my father kept his business supplies. The smell of dampness and rubber filled me with apprehension, and I’d tug at my Father’s pants begging to be taken outside when we were there checking business inventories.
My Father was an air raid warden during those war years, and I’d scream with fright when he put on his gas mask for disaster preparedness exercises. He looked like a frightening space creature in this gas mask.
But the occasional terrors of those times would subside when Mother read me an evening bedtime story, and crooned me into sleepiness. The chirp of crickets would complete the day for me, and I’d sleep knowing all was well, and my parents would protect and care for all my needs.
“© Copyright Ian Grice 2011. All rights reserved”