I have a friend who has a dollar note, sitting in a frame on his wall.
When asked. “
Why do you keep this note?”
His answer is, “It was part of my first ever pay packet.”
My experience with money has been different. For a start the first money I saw as coming from my job, as opposed to payment I received in exchange for my time helping out as I grew up, was given to me – or so it seemed. My first payment wasn’t even cash. It was a paper cheque with my name on it. As payment it was practically useless because I couldn’t buy anything with it until I had paid it into a bank account.
I was handed my cheque on a Thursday morning. The nearest bank was about 2 kilometres from the college I attended. The bank would be closed by the time I finished lectures if I did not rush off to the bank at lunchtime. So, at lunch time I scarpered off to the bank. And so did my class mates. (All accept John who always had a £10 note (our largest note at that time). John got so used to flashing his £10 note – only to be told – “It’s too big for me to cash luv. Have you got anything smaller?” He made money out of having too much. When going to a dance – it might have cost 2/3d to gain entry – he would say, “ I have only got £10 can you pay for me?”)
I chose the Commonwealth bank in Moorabool St Geelong as my bank because it was the nearest bank I knew of in this new city. (To start an account today you have to provide a list of items that certify you are who you are.) I had none of those hassles. I had the cheque. I knew my name – possibly I had my driver’s licence. Within a few minutes all my money was in the bank. But I needed some of that money to buy the things I needed for the next 14 days. How much?
I had no idea. (My accommodation and my food was paid. It formed part of the allowance I was paid, but it was never shown as a separate amount. My cheque was for approximately £11. 4. 6p ((I am only certain of the £s I was paid a fortnight after expenses.))
How much. I didn’t need much. I didn’t drink. I had no transport costs to pay. I didn’t have to pay for utilities. Perhaps I could go to the cinema, treat myself to a coffee, buy other treats.
“ I will need £2.”
So I withdrew £2 in cash. (Within a year or so the banks insisted the cheque clear – at least 3 working days – before I got access to the money the government paid me to learn.)
I left the bank with a bank passport in my name. It showed how much I deposited and another entry showed how much I had withdrawn. The final column showed how much money I had in the bank. Any money I had, apart from the cash in hand was always in the bank. Once I had spent my £2 if I wanted more I could only get more going back to the bank between 9 am and 3pm on a Monday to Friday (excluding holidays). What a pain that became.
I have always hated carrying cash around. Yet if anything was needed the only way to buy it was to have cash at hand. If I wanted to go home (I didn’t) I needed cash to buy a train ticket. I attended church. To give to the service of the church I needed cash. Fortunately I was well, but if I needed a visit to the doctor, or dentist I had to have cash with me. The money in the bank didn’t count because unless you planned beforehand how much you might need you couldn’t get access to it after banking hours.
So I soon discovered the benefit of having a personal cheque account of my own. This meant people would trust your signature scratched on a piece of paper was worth what you said it was.
Cash was needed to go to a dance, or pay for a meal, but visits to the doctor, or dentist – when you were unsure how much they charged could be paid by cheque. Providing you had sufficient credit in your bank account. Sometimes you would read about a person who had deceived another by passing a worthless cheque to them. You would read stories like that in the newspaper yet it possibly happened only once to me – if it happened at all.
The truth is no one but a crook would pass a worthless cheque because no one used credit to buy things. They used their own money, or they borrowed money from their bank – knowing they would have to pay it back £ by £ each month as the agreement stated. Or they did as most people did and they went without until they could buy what they wanted for cash.
In 1966 Australia adopted a whole new currency. In time we got used to handling our new cash. In 1969 the banks introduced instant credit. Anyone could go to their bank and the bank would give them a Bankcard with up to $500 of credit. We didn’t because we were accustomed to paying by cash,or cheque, for the things we wanted.
The banks were on to a good thing. They continued to profit from Bankcard until Visa Card and MasterCard took over their business. Interest rates on credit cards rise, even in these days of near zero interest charges. Pay day lending, and other forms of instant credit, are available almost everywhere. People are addicted to credit.
The Covid 19 crises has now almost killed cash. Many stores now require people to use plastic cards to pay for their purchases. People with cash complain their money is legal tender and must be accepted as fair exchange, but in fact the stores have the upper hand. It turns out – so long as they display their terms of trade – they need only accept electronic forms of payment. The purchaser cannot insist they accept cash. Go figure.
That chap with the first $1 he saved now finds we have moved from paper$1 . As if nothing will ever change. It does. Cash is no longer king.
Fifty-eight years ago I bought Mortheus. (It would be a neater tale if this was the sixtieth year but I have no control when these stories emerge from my subconscious mind). The original Morpheus was the son of the mythical Greek God Hypnos – the god of dreams. Like the drug morphine – driving him induced a dreamy slowness. Hence the name I gave him was obviously relevant as he was a sleepy Ford.
It was fifty-eight years ago, in 1962, when I walked into Ansett Motors in Hamilton and asked if I could take a test drive in the old banger they had on their second hand car yard advertised for sale at £80. The 1950 Ford Prefect was painted in a slow green colour – lighter than the colour used in the attachment. This colour meant it was camouflaged wherever it went. This green machine was the fast back model. (Most Australian motorists preferred the model with the short boot.)
The car was higher that it was wide. It was blessed with a tiny motor to drive its rear wheels from a three speed manual great box. (As only my brother-in-law Bill Woods could say, “it couldn’t pull the skin off a custard.” In fact it was more like a green box with wheels than a sleek motor. Yet he was mine. (He was the first car I owned outright. And according to the registration papers, he came with, I was the third owner.)
Ford boasted the post war Prefect had a top speed of 60 mph. I preferred to dive it at 35 mph (just under 60 kph – oh on the odd occasion I might have forced it to race along at 80 kph. ) I never drove it any faster than this even, in top gear, I was fearful it would break. The good news for me was, I rarely had to slow to the 30 mph speed limit in built-up-areas when driving.
Like many cars its age it was mechanically basic. For instance when driving at night one had to go to the back of the car, and pull on the taillight switch – to turn the single tail light on. When it came time to park the car, it meant one had to take the return trip, and push in the button to switch off the light. All too frequently I left the taillight blazing and when I returned the battery was too flat to turn the starter motor. Fortunately the car came with a crank handle one turned by hand. (The motor compression was so poor it was not too hard to crank it a couple of times to get it going. It only became a nuisance if I left the light on the whole weekend and I drained the battery.)
The car also had very poor headlights. This meant it was hard to see the edge of road on low beam. Reflectors and blinkers had not made their way to cars of this age. Some cars had a car radio but Morpheus was not into that sort of thing. No heater. No seat belts. No electric windows. No GPS. Nothing but a very basic set of wheels.
Common to all driving back then, one used hand signals to indicate a change in direction, or to stop. To do this you wound down the driver’s window and popped your arm into the traffic in all weather and signalled your intention. (The car had little arms fitted to each front door column so it was possible to indicate a directional change without doing this – but they were illegal to use here in Australia. They were of no use when you planned to stop and therefore you still had to indicate whenever you stopped so I suppose the reason these little wings were illegal made sense.)
I did have trouble with the narrow body of the tall car in the first couple of weeks I owned it. I was driving on a corrugated gravel road in some forested area and the car was hard to control so I gently slowed. The car was still bucking about on the rough road when I came to a sharp bend. The car started around the bend and then it fell over. I was on a road I didn’t know in a forest and the car was on its side. I climbed out, unhurt, and lifted it back on its four wheels.
The car seemed undamaged except for a dent on the rear top corner of the body that I latter attacked with a hammer to attempt to straighten it out. I didn’t, but I lived with the damage while ever I kept the car. After the weekend I took it back to Ansett Motors . They diagnosed the front end had worn bearings and the front wheels acted independently on the rough road. (Today it would not have passed the safety check required in a road worthy test. Therefore no fault of theirs was accepted and I paid for the refurbishment of the bearings.) After that experience the car drove well on gravel, however I was aware the car was top heavy and too narrow to ever turn too sharply.
As if driving a car until it flipped on its side was bad – I found the windscreen wipers on this car it’s worst feature. Rain was a constant companion on the western district roads that first winter. Unless I was cruising along on a straight stretch of road the windscreen wipers could not keep up with the rain. (All cars had to wait some time before they had multi speed wipers). In the Ford Prefect they were one speed -except and until – the vacuum pump that drove them ran out of vacuum as it did when accelerating. So if you had to change up the gear range and accelerate the vacuum driven wipers slowed, or they stopped until vacuum built up in the exhaust system again.
Fortunately I was smart enough to get a girlfriend. Jennie was her name. With her help I never had wiper trouble. If they began to slow down she reached under the dashboard and grabbed hold of the wiper linkage and moved her hand back and forth under the dashboard and maintained the rhythm. In time I thought she needed some recognition and I found the right thing.
Next time Roy Lewis, a salesman of millinery products visited her family – as he often did. (His sideline was to on-sell the cigarette allowance the company gave him as part payment, to family members at a discount to the retail price. He sold so much I doubt they were all part of his salary package) Among the feathery treasures Roy carried he had a case of imitation birds. (Difficult to describe a fake cotton wool bird as a bird – sufficient to say they were lifelike.)
I got one for Jen and fixed it to the dashboard just in front of where she would sit. I called it Evol much to the dislike of Aunt Gertrude, but Jennie and I shared the meaning hidden in the name Evol as an innocent joke.
The thrift of my Scottish blood determined my choice of Morpheus because I couldn’t afford anything better and it was cheap to run. The car, at its peak, would drive thirty-five miles to a gallon of fuel. I drove her a long way in the months I had her without the trouble previously mentioned.
I think we were better organised in those days. If we wanted fuel we had to buy it before 5pm Monday to Friday, or on Saturday mornings. All other times if you ran out of fuel it was your bad luck. The only exception I can think of when maverick businessman Ian Sykes started his own petroleum company. XL petroleum. ( in my haste to complete this article I cannot find a easy reference to his company) XL had an after hours automatic bowser on Highway 1, just west of Colac. Here you could buy petrol in 2 shilling amounts. One gallon of fuel was around 3 shillings in 1964.
Morpheus was my other companion for the next eight months or so until I upgraded to a 1956 Hillman Minx.
Twenty percent of the century you were born into has gone. In that time the little child has learned so much. Tell me, what have you learned that makes you now an adult?
Is it the sense of fairness you picked up playing sport? Was it the value you gave to your team mates when you played? The friends you spent twelve years at school with day after long day will drift away on their own journey of life. Think of them.
What did you learn from the classes you took that you will never forget? Was it the ability to understand the lessons your teachers gave? From this point on you have to make sense of what you heard, what you read, and what was left unexplained. in doing so – become yourself.
What lessons have you learned from the places you have called, “My room”?
Is there one thing your father has said to you you treasure? What about your Mum? She has been with you all they way. Waking you up, getting you ready for school, cleaning up after you. What have you learned from her you prize? Have you told her?
I do not want your answers. They are things for you to think about in the depth of the night. Not that you have sleepless nights now. You will one day – and on those occasions you will have time to think of what your family means to you.
These are your salad days. With luck, now you are in the most wonderful bloom of love. You are soaking up: the music, the art, the culture of your day. I am most grateful that you are experiencing these days. Our lives are better when we can think about our good days. Some days are grey days. Days when there is no sun. No matter how much we long for things to improve they just seem to get worse.
You will have days like that. Everyone does. We never think we will, but we all do. Birthdays are good days to reset our mood. They are days when we can aim for the moon. If we miss the moon, it’s not bad. Life is just different than we imagined. The best part of birthdays is you get a chance to hear from those who love you. We, your family, love you. Have a happy day.
If one day you remember anything I have written here. This is my point. Live today, (tomorrow, and the forever days ahead) one day at a time, because that is how we make what is to become ourselves.
The old photos you find in a box in the attic might be rubbish. You will only know if you take a look. You know what I mean I hope. The fuzzy black and white ones, the faded colour ones, came from long ago. The machinery you see in them seems unbelievable, yet it was as new as fresh paint when the photographer took the picture. The same can be said about the people. The clothes they wore, and the hair styles are different to yours. So much so everything looks old.
In another place you might find a book with old photos stuck to the pages. That is how people kept in touch with their past before the digital age. (You might have to look up the meaning of the digital age – things seem to change so fast). At first it might seem hard to see anything you recognise in the scenes, for example, if there is a photograph of your house – take it outside and compare the scene with your surroundings today, it is likely as not much will appear the same..
The children you see in the photographs grew up. Luckily most of them lived long lives. You know that because the photo of that girl “Grace”, that boy “Albert” are the same people we can see in this thirtieth birthday snap, see Grace here, and the old fellow with the walking stick is Albert. We know that because his name is on the reverse. (The names in your photos will be different. The challenge is to find their names, it might be fun).
This could become a little history game. You could try and guess what work they did just by looking at your photos. That would become a sociology game. You can learn some science, or some geography just from photos. If you take this far enough you can learn about obsolescence and how Kodak, the name most people used to capture their photos, died in capitalism’s nirvana.
My writing is like that box of old photos. Some ideas are stuck together. In other essays the point of the story is lost. I am hoping you might find a glint of something before it is trashed.
She wrests rusty orb
Forgotten in lost concepts
I am gathering some of my writing into a book to be released in 2021. I imagine the readers of my book are as yet unborn. Here is my proposed prologue. The reason for writing the prologue is to explain Cassandra’s prophecies are minute, like diamonds..
Our experience of life has an internal, and an external expression. When thoughts are recorded we are enabled to “see” the invisible thoughts of the individual. Whatever is produced need not be earth shattering. As this piece illustrates.
As the artist and the subject, you can’t judge what’s important or what isn’t. You have to leave that to others. Do you think that Beethoven could have told you that the 5th and 9th symphonies were going to be really important and the 6th and 7th weren’t going to be? No, he was just Beethoven doing his Beethoven thing.
Just as well. The world would be poorer without Beethoven’s music. I can’t choose as they all have a place in my life, but The Pastoral relaxes me.
Can you read about the life of a person by looking at their face? When you sit in a public space and you look about do you wonder who the people around you are? I do, and I search their faces to see what I can make of them from looking. None seem to notice my inquiry. The odds are if they are sitting they will not be doing anything else but looking into the screen of their phone. If they are on their feet they may be on some purposeful mission but many will be blissfully unaware others share the space with them.
In 1888 the child who became my grandfather was born. The rumour is he was born into the home of a public servant in the municipality Governor Phillip first called Rose Hill. By the time he was born it was called Parramatta. His parents names are an unanswered question to the family. Some members of the family have attempted to research his past but no one can yet claim certainty they have the whole truth for he was abducted as a child.
His abductor was the woman he grew to love and whom he called mum for about a third of his life. She was his nurse until she stole him away from his family home and disappeared into the neighbouring state of Victoria. She eventually settled with him in the forests of Gippsland. I am uncertain when she left New South Wales and whether she was married or not. Mrs Hartman was indeed married at some point to Mr Hartman. She continued to work in service to other families and Grandpa worked as a timber worker in the forests around Woori Yallock. The work he did in the isolated forests was to cut down trees. The timber he cut became railway sleepers used on the rail tracks that spider-web like spread across the state from Melbourne
Eventually she became a legitimate mother to other children but she was not my grandfather’s natural mother. I know this because he eventually changed his surname back to the name of his father. The truth emerged when he announced, to his parents, he was getting married. His mother confessed to him his past was not all he knew about himself when the Banns to his marriage was announced.
A fit young man, because of his work, he won the first underhand wood chop at the Royal Melbourne Show as Alex Hartman. He won many more magnificently ornate pieces of Victorian silverware in other similar competitors. By the time his firstborn child, Evelyn my mother, was christened as Hartman-Mason, he was entirely uncertain of his past. Known to everyone as Alex he had also recognised he was born James Fredrick Mason. He fathered seven more children and by the time the last, the twins, were born he had dropped the Hartman altogether. My mother, on the other hand was Hartman-Mason until she married. At that stage her wedding certificate named her Mason.
The life of a labourer is difficult. Like many of his kind during the Great Depression this fit man, just past his fortieth birthday, could not find work locally. It meant leaving home early on a Monday morning with something to sustain him and rough sleeping each evening after an often fruitless search for am itinerant job. By that stage he had qualified as a power monkey as the person in charge of blasting with explosives. This meant he did get a job, for a period, working on the Great Ocean Road at some stage.
Later on he returned to full time work in that job at the Cave Hill lime mills owned by the family of David Mitchell. Father of Nellie Melba.
Despite his hard physical labour he was a man who weathered the ups and downs of fortune. One of the downs was the compulsory acquisition of some land he owned near the road to Lilydale. Government policy at the time was to acquire whatever property they needed without paying the actual market rate. Thus the acquisition was a big blow to his financial security.
At another time land he had purchased for development was sold before it was exploited to assist a son, imprisoned in Bruma by the Japanese for three years during WW11, resettle on a Returned Soldiers Property in the Mallee. This was a further setback that he did not dwell upon.
The old man I knew as a child taught himself to swim in order to qualify as the local swimming pool manager. He built himself a shed. He pottered about with bees and chickens. He loved the twice daily paper and magazines deliveries. He was a big strong man used to his own company until he was hospitalised with a brain tumour in the last weeks of his life.
At one stage, many years after his abduction, he did get in touch with his Sydney family. Their response was, a child was abducted many years ago, however we don’t want to know you because you could be an imposter. With modern science it would be possible to easily prove my relationship with the other family today. I could not be bothered. No one in the extended family has an inclination to restart that search today. We all prefer to remember this tragic story as an interesting anecdote in the life of a relative.
He died on 3/9/1965. Today a stained glass window in St John’s church Lilydale is dedicated to the lives of both my maternal grandparents.
The person sitting beside you on the train. The one you see at the bus stop. The noisy person next door – has a life with a history. Mostly it will be mundane. The colour of a life is not always easily seen. To discover the interesting roles another plays allows you to appreciate the unseen life.