The War Effort
When we could afford it, mom would have a man come in and dig a big hole down the back for our rubbish. There were no rubbish pickups then. When we could not afford it, and that was most of the time, Reg's billy cart would hold the rubbish for the week. Then on Saturday morning, I was consecrated to take it to the tip. The first time this happened, I was not very happy to be wasting my valuable time towing a heavy billy cart of rubbish to the tip.
After unloading the first load though, and looking around, I quickly changed my mind. It had become apparent to me that this really wasn't a rubbish tip; it was a two hundred yard long treasure trove. Something like an open-air Aladdin's cave. There was so much really good stuff; I had the billy cart refilled in no time at all. This was equipment I could use one day. But halfway home, a terrible thought crossed my mind, would my mother like my treasures? Moms could be a little trouble at times. Would she see in all of this what a man of the world like me could see.
I sneaked the billy cart through the bush at the back and stowed the treasure in the old dunny. This went on for many weeks. The old dunny was bulging at the seams. One day mom went to the old dunny, she opened the door and like a big box of pirate treasure everything cascaded out. It was something like being caught with your pants down I guess. Mom knew exactly who to point the finger at without asking anyone any questions either. Moms are psychic. I went through it all (the treasure that is) showing her the merits of all the individual bits and pieces but she wasn't having any.
'It's bloody rubbish!' she states (that hurt me to the quick).
'No more grizzling and moaning. Get it all back to the tip by next weekend.' She glared at me at this stage and said slowly.
'All of it.'
At school the next morning I was complaining to Alan Manton (Alan was the same age as me and in the same grade). I was telling him how a mother that knew everything was completely blind to the merits of such great gear.
'Yes I know.' Said Alan.
'My mom found all my gear that I had been collecting. I put it all under the house but she still found it. I had some of the best stuff you've ever seen.'
I was thinking that Mrs. Manton must have X-ray eyes or something. I had been to the Manton's a few times swapping comics and couldn't think of a place that matched the tip in so many ways. As if to read my mind Alan said.
'I just don't know how she could have found it. She took me for a walk around the house and pointed out every piece I had. Then she told me.'
'If all that rubbish is not gone by time I walk out here again, I will wring your bloody neck.' And then she says.
'There is a birthday coming (always was at the Manton's), yours.' She said.
'But there might not be any party.'
Alan looked bit harassed at this stage and I was horrified.
'She wouldn't stop your party, would she?'
'Too right she would, so I cleaned up the whole backyard as well as under the house.' Says Alan.
Monday mornings were assembly mornings at school, so as always, the national anthem was sung first while holding your hand on your heart. Then Fitzgerald (the Headmaster) gives a little pep talk probably to get us excited about school for the next week. I was already excited about school so I didn't have to listen but suddenly something Fitzy said caught my ear.
'Anything rubber, old tyres, hot water bottles, anything like that.' He was saying.
Like a bolt of lightning, I had a really exciting vision. The tip!
'This is for the war effort.' Fitzy went on.
The next Saturday morning Alan and I were doing our bit for the war effort (what was the war effort?). We had started to collect old pieces of rubber, two very old perished hot water bottles, one bike tube and a couple of other rubber pieces. We had put them in a heap near the road but somehow we had got sidetracked. We both had our heads down and bums up admiring something when someone, clearing their throats, disturbed us.
'You two boys, get out of that filthy place at once. Come here.'
We both looked up. Mrs. Henderson was standing on the road that ran the full length of the tip. Mrs. Henderson was one of oldies brigade in our district. The older group of ladies reckoned that if our moms weren't around, it was their job to keep young noses clean and pointing in the right direction. The old ladies have a communication system that was frightening. Many a young lad returning home at the end of a productive day found out his mom knew already if he had strayed a little. All this information was compliments of the old brigade. So when Mrs. Henderson said.
We downed tools and trooped out to talk to her. She was waving here walking stick and had a disgusted look on her face.
'What are you boys doing in a filthy, smelly, germ ridden place like this? Speak up!' She says, waving her stick again.
'Well, Mrs. Henderson, we are helping the war effort by collecting old rubber.' I said.
I pointed to the tiny heap of rubber. Mrs. Henderson looked at the pile and her whole demeanour changed.
'Well, my goodness. That is very commendable. You boys going to all this trouble for the war effort. I must apologise.'
She gave us both a big smile and a pat on the head. I thought for a minute she was going to kiss us. But not wanting to get to close in her Sunday best, refrained (thank the lord). So off went Mrs. Henderson with a smile on her face and at peace with her world. We got back to the war effort.
It must have been a couple of weeks later, after school; mom had commandeered me to help her carry the shopping. I was dragging my heels about 20 feet behind when she met Mrs. Henderson. They stopped for a chat and I got a bit closer hoping Mrs. Henderson wouldn't dob me in for being at the tip. Just as they were about to go their separate ways, Mrs. Henderson bobbed her head around mom and said.
'And how is Robert today?' She was smiling ingratiatingly.
Not waiting for a reply, she says to mom.
'What a fine boy Robert is Mrs. Oliver. You must be very proud of him (Mrs. Henderson is a very astute and perceptive lady).'
But Mrs. Oliver is completely taken by surprise. If Mrs. Henderson had said.
'That boy leaves a lot to be desired.' She probably would have agreed.
'Huh ... Robert ... Robert who?' She says frowning slightly and looking at me in bewilderment for a second. Then catching herself, she says.
'Err, yes Mrs. Henderson, we are.'
Mom kept peace for about ten minutes after that, then could not stand it any longer. She swung around and confronted me.
'What have you been up to now Robert?'
'Nothing mom.' I said, trying my best to look like a lovely boy.
The very next week old Mrs. Wilson and the Mrs. Taig stopped mom up the street and both commented what a lovely boy I was (The old ladies communication system was working very well). At home mom was talking to Reg about it. She didn't have a clue what was going on and nor did Reg. Alan on the other hand got no accolades for his sterling efforts. I reckon the main reason for this is on one could recognise individuals in a mob like the Manton's, so he missed out.
I must admit, I went out of my way to be nice to all the old ladies after that and they in turn would fawn all over me (much to the disgust of Mrs. Oliver). Alan and I continued to do sterling work at the tip, but mind you, it was all for the war effort (what was the war effort?).
Shades of the war came to our little street late one night in the early part of the war years. A lady that lived not far from us was having trouble getting tyres for her Chevrolet sedan. Rubber products of all sorts were diverted for war use only. Her car was parked in her garage for a while. Then one day she had a lucky break. Someone put her onto a friend of a friend who was dealing in black market goods. In no time at all (and having paid double the usual price), she had a new set of tyres. About three weeks later, her car was parked in the street as usual, overnight. At about 1 AM in the morning, the whole street was awakened by the terrible noise, shouting, banging and roaring of big engines.
All the Oliverís, including mom, had their noses pressed to the inside of the lounge windows that gave a great view of the whole street. Two huge army trucks with cranes on the back, and big spotlights, backed and fronted up to the car. After a couple of soldiers had checked the tyres, the car was lifted front and rear, off the ground. Another two soldiers removed the wheels and put them onto one of the trucks. If the boot had been locked. It would have been jemmied open because one soldier had a bar ready. They took no notice of the poor lady who by that time was weeping profusely standing on her nature strip, watching it all. When the wheels were off, the car was unceremoniously dropped to the ground. No chocks or anything nice like that but straight on the ground.
The mob took off without a backward glance. It took the local garage man a while to borrow some spare wheels to run the car to her garage. Mom was talking to the lady about a week later. She said the soldier in charge of the operation had told her she might get her wheels back, but not the tyres, they were stamped DoD, Department of Defence. She never got her wheels back and didn't want to stir the pot too much because she could have been charged with handling stolen property.