|The School Ball.|
|The Prowling grounds.|
( From Onya Bike Part 2)
A more accurate title would have been Nelson St. Black and Golds, as it was sacrilegious to barrack for anyone other than the mighty Tigers.
Summer and winter the nation's national sport made an appearance on the streets of Annandale along with a combination of handball and tennis made possible by the brick wall of the Beale piano company.
Young Maureen’s dad was a keen cricket follower up until..........well, read on you’ll see.
At 3:30pm. school would be over for the day and all the kids would gather together in the street for the daily cricket match that generally got underway around 4:30pm. It was quite common for up to 18 players to be in attendance. Two sides would be picked and the rules were spelt out. The wicket was the telegraph pole below the chalk line drawn horizontally approximately 70 centimetres from the poles bottom. Any ball hit past the Russells’ front gate was four runs, as was a ball hit beyond the O’Briens’ on the opposite side. Over any ones front fence was six and out. Everyone got a bowl which back then was an eight ball over. Maximum number of runs per person was 30 then compulsory retirement was enforced. The match was to last until almost complete darkness or unless more than 4 mums called their offspring for dinner. The ball was actually a tennis ball despite many protests aimed at having a fair dinkum six stitcher as the game ball. As stated previously, there simply was not a traffic problem back in those good old days. A car would pass by at a rate around 7 or 8 vehicles per hour. Occasionally the local police car would drive past and we would be given a friendly wave and a warm greeting by the wallopers within. Many of the neighbours would come outside and watch the match from their front yards offering tips and encouragement to both batsmen and bowlers.
Every now and then a dispute would arise and someone would do a huge dummy spit and storm off home, but the following arvo they would be part of the team again, bearing no hard feelings. The matches were always trouble free until it was decided to use a real leather cricket ball one evening. The two vehicles that ended up with whopping great dents in their doors were not the problem, but when the ball smashed through the O’Briens’ front bedroom window and came to a sudden stop slamming into Mr O’Brien’s gonads whilst he was having an afternoon nap, that’s when it became nasty. If Maureen’s dad was able to run he would have shed the blood of many a cricketer. As it was he couldn’t even walk and one hour later his eyes were still watery. The cricket matches were postponed for two weeks or so but continued with the tennis ball as the preferred choice of missile.
About one hundred metres down the street towards Parramatta Rd. there was a large flat red brick wall that was part of the Beale piano company’s factory. A full size tennis net was painted on the wall and the footpath and street were laid out to represent a tennis court. Many an afternoon and on weekends I would be down there smashing the ball up against the wall for hours on end. It was quite common for singles and doubles matches to be arranged as this was a very popular spot. Back then there was no such thing as a tie breaker and advantage sets were the order of the day. I can recall one advantage set ending at 42-40. After a hard days play one was always guaranteed a good night’s sleep later on that evening. When I was a member of the Glebe Police Boys Club, I made it through to the singles final and won the doubles championship, partnered by my good mate at the time, Bill Bowery, who went on to play Davis Cup for Oz. I feel I should point out that I beat Bill in the singles semi final to reach the final. Because of this I was a very difficult opponent and won many more games than I lost and I earned the respect of the majority of players.
" God I'm crook. "
Every fine Sunday morning at least two dozen of the Annandale mob would travel by tram to our favourite beach, Bronte. We would always camp on the grass alongside the dressing sheds, listening to our new fangled transistor radios, having several dips in the surf and getting sun burnt to buggery, before boarding the tram for home at around 6pm. It was a hard life, but even all those years ago, someone had to do it. When the American Fleet sailed in for a visit we would be on board bludging their long and strong plain cigarettes off the crew members. I remember smoking 4 Camel fags in the city and leaving a multi coloured trail of chunder from Park St. to Pyrmont Bridge Road. Thank God for the old toast rack trams that enabled one to perk without leaving ones seat, but the conductor was forced to quickly move upwind on his narrow tread board on more than one occasion. It would not be a pleasant feeling for any conductor fumbling for change in his leather bag wrist deep in technicolour yawn as the tram attempted to break the land speed record between Glebe and Annandale.
Every now and then we used to enter the Harold Park Raceway through loose fence palings the morning after a Friday evening race meeting. We would pick up thousands of discarded tickets and stubs off the ground and when our sugar bag was almost full we would return to some ones home and spend the rest of the day looking for live tickets that could be cashed in at the Totalisator the following meeting. You would be surprised how many punters discard perfectly good tickets. Admittedly there would be a few weeks when we would bomb out financially, but on other occasions we would get one of our older mates to cash in for us and he would be given his percentage. There were more than several occasions when we were able to cash in more than 25 quid i.e. 50 dollars. Today, that sum would be roughly the equivalent of a fortnights salary. Back then it would be split 4 or 5 ways. No parents were aware of our little caper.
The pursuit of happiness
Some weekends would be spent wandering through the local swimming pools eying off the females of the opposite sex. As we were all beginning to go through puberty, whatever that was, the pursuit of the gentle sex became extremely popular. One or two of the guys would approach a small pod of bikini clad sweeties and something along the lines of, “Hi! Do you come here often?” would be spoken, or maybe something really original like, “What’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?” It took quite a while for the thickheads to realise this was going down like a lead balloon and a more original approach was required. Jim, whose vocabulary almost matched that of Jeff Fenech, must have read his first book without pictures with word balloons, for he swaggered up to a coconut oil saturated gathering of scantily clad darlings and spoke the following beautifully constructed sentence, “Forgive me for intruding girls, but my good friends and I were completely overcome with breathlessness and almost struck dumb whilst noticing your physical beauty and would deem it a great privilege if you would permit us to join your friendly little group.”
“What did he say?” asked Jeff.
“I haven’t got a clue,” replied Owen scratching his head.
I simply stared into space completely gob smacked and unable to speak. It was almost like a Shakespeare lesson at school, we were all highly impressed.
The girls obviously had never heard anything like it and were visibly moved by this magnificent piece of oratory. All of the young ladies faces lit up with smiles and the tall long haired blonde, who we assumed was the leader of the shapely pack, rolled over onto her back, sat upright and in an extremely ladylike way answered Jim’s almost poetic question when she exclaimed, “Fuck off dickhead,” and gave us the two fickle fingered salute. Owen looked her in the eye and said, “Sorry to have upset you sir,” then we wandered off to locate another flock of birds to harass.
A fair memory
During the last three years of high school we were forced to become the partners of the equivalent female class in the girls school nearby. The first two years I drew the same partner, it was Mama Cass. The third year I got lucky with the absolutely gorgeous blonde, long haired Sandra, what a darling. The first time I saw her in the girls playground it was love at first site. She aroused feelings in me I never knew existed and at times was responsible for the more common physical affliction experienced by those beginning that frustrating journey through puberty, whatever that is. I scrubbed up pretty well that evening of the ball and Sandra took my breath away. Outwardly she appeared to like me and was very impressed when I was one of the few blokes who presented a corsage to their partner. Her mother was extremely impressed with my gallantry. Little did they know it was all my mother’s idea despite me poo pooing the whole thing. I guess Mum knows best, in this case she certainly did. We danced the night away and at the southern entrance to the school hall there was a foyer out of sight of the dance floor. Sandra and I would peel off into this area for a quick snog every now and then and would reappear in the Pride of Erin or such, one lap behind the others.
Most of my classmates were more than surprised after the ball when Sandra would always call out to me when walking to the shops at lunchtime. The two of us became very close and an intimate relationship developed quite rapidly. We never dated or even hung out together, but our relationship for quite some time was indeed a serious one as we would quite often swap our used chewing gum.
When school finished several weeks later, she disappeared from my life and I never saw her again.
A fortnight after school had ended several of my former classmates and I returned to complete our unfinished woodworking projects. No longer bound by school rules and regulations in regard to dress and hairstyles etc. we certainly had transformed our physical appearance somewhat. I was sporting a flat top with longish hair brushed back either side to form a ducktail at the rear. My unfinished project was a tea trolley that was to be my mother’s Xmas present. It required a further visit to the school workshop before it was finally completed. All it needed was a set of castor wheels to be screwed onto the four legs and it would be ready to be used. Another good reason for re attending school was to try to catch sight of my gorgeous Sandra who lived nearby, somewhere up Mullens St. Alas, no such luck, she was destined to remain merely a fond memory. For some strange reason my mum did not appear to be too impressed with my masterpiece, so two or three extra sheets of plywood were sawn and fitted and the tea trolley was miraculously transformed into a dog kennel put to good use by Paddy and almost a year later by the legendary folk hero, Tojo.
More on life as it used to be at Bits and Pieces.
Use link.......... Bits and Pieces
More on life as it used to be at Bits and Pieces.
Use link.......... Bits and Pieces