A trip to Melbourne was an exciting outing that I looked forward to for many weeks. A bus to Ferntree Gully, then electric train to Melbourne was full of interesting things to see. It was terrific. To have both mom and me dressed up made me feel sort of important too.
I talked before about Mrs. Hanna having a fox fur. Well, mom had one too. Moms poor fox fur must have been a bit long in the tooth. He looked decrepit, with a motley fur and button eyes. But he was the only real fashion item that mom had. So it went everywhere across her shoulder.
Once the train reached Melbourne, it was both exciting and scary for me. So many people, cars, huge buildings, it totally confused me. I hung on to moms hand for dear life (if I would let go, I would have been swept away by the crowd). I asked every ten minutes if she was sure she knew her way home. The big shops were interesting though, I had never seen so many wonderful toys in one place in my life. The escalators were just brilliant. Also, those spring loaded boxes that whizzed overhead were amazing, they could keep me interested for hours. It was very different at home, I had a walking range from Lysterfield to Sassafras, Monbulk, Sherbrooke, Clematis - all were places I got to at one time or another. My mother was never really interested where I went and never asked. If I wanted some sandwiches, all she would say is.
'Be home in time for dinner.'
I now have a granddaughter who is seven years old. She is not allowed down to the end of the street without supervision.
For a boy of seven I could, and did, walk twelve to fifteen miles round trip in a day; alone most of the time. The trips to Sherbrooke forest were different; I always went with a friend, either Alan Manton or John Stone, another boy from my class at school. This was because it was a lot of fun in the forest. A campfire lit in the concrete surround provided, with sausages to cook and bread to toast and tomato sauce. What a banquet for a couple of hungry boys (even though I never got the hang of cooking sausages properly, they were terrific anyway). We would walk up to Sherbrooke one-way, then home another. This was always the best and most interesting. When I was on a walk by myself, I very rarely got through the walk without being pulled up by one of the older folk.
'Are you lost son? Does your mother know where you are?' or
'Where are you off to?'
I ways always polite and happy in a way because I always knew the older folk were keeping an eye on me.
The trips to Lysterfield were with my brothers and usually about four or five other boys. They were friends of Reg or Tony, so every one was older than me. Lysterfield was usually an overnight trip. Saturday mornings we were busy packing the two billy carts (Reg and Tony's). With the billy carts loaded, with a huge tarpaulin folded, and tied on the top of one, we were ready. It did not matter to anyone if it was raining. That was just part of the whole and the whole was just a terrific time. The tarpaulin had ropes tied to each corner. These ropes were tied to trees, about three feet from the ground. Under the tarpaulin, every body bunked. It was very important on rainy nights to be first under because those on the outside got wet. Wet and windy nights were worse because everyone got wet. Eats consisted of canned food only (for the Oliverís), baked beans, spaghetti and Irish stew (all good stuff like that). With a large loaf of bread thrown in.
The night campfire with everyone sitting around it was a magical event. Night noises like foxes howling or wild foxes screaming would make the hair on the back of my neck creep. I would sneak a little closer to the fire. Tall tales came to the fore here with Tony as usual hard to beat. The huge eel that he hooked not far from here. It was over nine feet long he said and broke his line like a piece of cotton. John Bland came face to face with a huge black shape with yellow eyes that were on line with his (could have been one of Maybelle's relatives, I thought). It was too dark to see it properly he said but it looked like one of those werewolves in the movies (if I sit any closer to the fire, I am going to get burnt). Then the raunchy ditties like Bill's. Ta ra ra boom de aye, May West had twins today sucking her tits away had everyone rolling on the grass with laughter. Reg crept off, then burst into the group screaming. That had everyone running in circles screaming too. Everyone but me. I was paralysed with fright.
The next morning, a different menu for breakfast. Irish stew, spaghetti or baked beans (that's one of Reg's funnies). A slow packup with lots of skylarking. Then a slow trip home with a lot of stops. Stone throwing at a tin in the scrub. Launching little wood boats in the creek in New Morris road and trying to sink them with stones.
The main objective in those days was to enjoy every minute of the day. I think we always obtained our objective. One weekend trip Tony and Bill had seen a sow at the pig farm (about half a mile from where we camped). She had a huge litter and they reckoned she wouldn't miss one. So while we packed up they took off to find her. The rest of the group headed home.
Even after a slow trip home, we still beat Tony and Bill by about three hours. Reg and I got home as the rain set in. Tony and Bill finally arrived, wringing wet and nothing in hand. According to Bill, they followed the sow for about an hour through the bush before they saw an opportunity to grab a piglet that had wandered from the group. Bill had a hessian bag and they popped the struggling little fellow into the bag. The piglet was squealing but they didn't worry, he couldn't get out. But suddenly, through the scrub, travelling like an express train came mom, screaming with rage. Up the nearest tree they went like rockets. Mom was not too happy about all this. She pawed the ground, chewed big chunks of bark off the tree and the screaming was terrible. To make matters worse, drizzle started. They decided to let the piglet go, so they dropped it to the ground. But mom didn't go, she wanted blood, theirs. An hour went by and it was raining heavy. Mom had nearly stripped the bottom of their tree of bark. Suddenly, as though a switch had been thrown, mom jus wandered off. They waited awhile, neither of them wanted to meet her again, she was terrifying. They had both lost interest in having a pet pig.
My trip to Clematis was perhaps the longest straight walk that I tackled with John Stone. We organised the trip during the week and had sandwiches ready on Saturday night. John borrowed his moms watch so we could split the day up evenly. An eight o'clock start ensured we had fours hours walk up and four hours back, with half an hour for lunch. That would get us back at four thirty. That calmed the itchy feet for a few weeks.