Last Thursday afternoon I received a call from my doctors receptionist, to tell me that some tests he’d had made were back and he wanted to see me by tomorrow (Friday) at the latest as he was going away for a few weeks. So an appointment was made for 12.45 pm, he was shutting up shop at 1.00 pm and wouldn’t be back until the 12th January. I couldn’t get there any earlier I had to take my dog Coco for a run in the park then deliver him to OrangeDogs in Lilyfield,(http://www.orangedogs.com.au/) for a beauty treatment and then go to the supermarket with the War Office, while Coco was being pampered.
We were up shaved and showered, (the WO didn’t shave) and out before 7 am and romped around the park for half an hour then off to OD for Coco’s scheduled 8am appointment.
As we had a bit of time to spare and the car was a disgrace we drove to the car wash about 5 k’s up the road from where we were and went through the car wash and the War Office did the honours and vacummed the inside after which we headed for the supermarket back in Leichhardt, and arrived just after opening time and for the next hour or so I was pushing the trolley around, losing the WO every now and then and we eventually got back to the checkout.
Why am I telling you all this rubbish? Hopefully it’ll fall into place! :roll:
By the time we left the supermarket and went to the chemist’s ( pharmacy for my Yankee chums/buddy’s) it was way after 10.30, so the War Office called up Orange Dogs to see if our Coco was ready and he was so we went and got him straight away, which saved me the trip of going home then back out again to get him then, back out again to the doctors! See I told you it’d fall into place, it’s starting to come together now. Of course Coco looked beautiful, Corinne had done a great job on him and he looks very sweet with the little red bow on his collar.
Well we got home a bit before 11.30 and I had an hour before I needed to leave for my appointment, I decided to go a bit earlier and pick up a couple of things I’d forgotten at the first supermarket and some fresh bread rolls from Bakers Delight for lunch and the War Office had something she needed me to get from the newsagents; so I toddled off around midday, parked in the doctors buildings car park and walked to the shopping plaza to pick up my rolls etc.. I then dragged myself back to the doctors building got there about 10 minutes early and flopped down, exhausted! Is it any wonder? I hadn’t stopped except for a few minutes since before 7!
My doc called me in five minutes early, he’s a good bloke never keeps a patient waiting anyway he asks me how I was naturally enough and I said “Doc, I’m buggered!” when he asked why I told him all the rubbish that I’ve already told you, and he said well being anæmic’s not going to help. That’s what he wanted to see me about. So he prescribed some tablets for me and I told him I already had them and hadn’t been taking them as they made me crook, and he told me that I have to take them. Then he got onto the subject of a colonoscopy again, I’d been putting this off for some years now so he fiddled around on his computer for a minute or so, then told me that he’d just faxed off the referral, gave me an envelope and told me to ring on Monday to confim the appointment so it looks like I’m stuck with it, the colonoscopy that is!
Well he finished up by telling me that I was in great shape, I told him “You got to be kidding” and he said no way I was in great shape for a man of 80 and he hopes he’s half as good as me when he turns 65, and there I was feeling like I had one foot in the grave and the other on a banana skin waiting for somebody to give me a shove.
Before leaving I asked him who I should go and see if I was dying whilst he was on holidays and he with a nice big grin made the catholic sign of the cross and said that I now had no worries he just taken care of that, and I said much good it’ll do me I’m an atheist so he did it again still grinning. I’ll sue him if I die whilst he’s away and his blessings fail.
Not so sombre
After the last post that I made this might be the time to do one that is not so depressing and probably won’t be a long. You’ll gather from the main heading that this will be about Frank Sinatra. I was going to title this and God came to town, but I’m sure that would have upset some and been labelled blasphemy, however true it was!.
And the time was March of 1959.
Naturally we had to go to see Sinatra again, the first trip he made to Australia left much to be desired through no fault of his own, but I’m not getting into that here.There were to be only two concerts for Melbourne the first was scheduled for the 31st March, and we were fortunate to get tickets for this performance, and what tickets they were. We were to the stage left in a raised section no more than 8 or 10 rows from the stage itself; this was very close and we were just slightly above eye level looking right down upon the stage, perfect.
This time Sinatra was to be accompanied by an American group led by Red Norvo with additional Australian musicians filling in. The program consisted of a young Australian female vocalist by the name of Diana Trask, when she appeared on stage Joan exclaimed “I know this girl”, and she did; Diana Trask had been a pupil at the Presentation College Windsor at the same time as Joan, she was two years behind Joan but they’d met through the music classes there. After the tour Sinatra arranged for Diana to go to America to further her singing career, and she appeared as a regular on Mitch Miller’s “Singalong With Mitch” program. ( for those who may be interested in her http://www.capitalnews.com.au/editorial.asp?editorial_id=1856 ). I’m not sure who else was on the program that night I have the feeling it was Bob Newhart.
As usual Frank Sinatra had some problems with the ‘Press’ on his arrival, who didnt? The Aussie Press Corps at the time were rank amateurs who demanded attention and answers to the most puerile questions, I recall when Noel Coward came to Australia, some clown of reporter put the question to him as he stepped off the plane “and what do you think of Australia Mr Coward?” to which Coward replied ” I don’t think of Australia!” and moved to his waiting car! No doubt about Noel he could put anyone down in a second, poor ol’ Blue Eyes didn’t have the knack. So Frank was getting bad bad publicity in the papers and apparently got a luke warm reception at a concert in Sydney.
But now he was in Melbourne, different kettle of fish!
When the preliminary acts finished the musicians were tinkling away and the leader ( Norvo I presume) said words to this effect, ” well we’d now like you to give a warm welcome to a young singer we brought with us to Australia’ and we all were thinking not another act where’s Sinatra? ” and his name is Frank Sinatra!”
Well did the audience erupt. Sinatra had never played to audiences the size of the Australian ones before and there were several thousand of us and we stood and started cheering and clapping, whistling and hooting and this went on and on for 8 or ten minutes. And Frank? He just stood there shell shocked! He’d raise his hand for quiet so that he could start singing and we’d start cheering and clapping again. Come the finish he just stood there grinning from ear to ear ’til we calmed down when he burst into song for what was the most magical night ever. We sat in awe as he sang to us, remember that this is ’59 and he was right at his peek.
After he’d finished his first set, he spoke to us and mentioned the bad press he’d received and how he hadn’t expected such a welcome and we started cheering again, and he couldn’t stop grinning and we were so close to him, he was sparkling and he finished his little chat by saying ” well those reporters all want to get close and get something for nothing, now you people have paid to hear me sing, Now what would you like me to sing for you?’ or words to that effect and you can imagine our joy and delight as he sang on and on, And we all kept calling out songs but there was just one that he would not perform , I can’t recall now which of his greats it was.
At one stage the piano started to tinkle away and the lights dimmed and Frank sat on his stool and he said ” this song should be sung around 2 or 3 in the morning” and some wag in the audience yelled out, ” That’s okay Frank we’ll wait!, and the audience erupted and Frank’s grin spread across his face, sheer magic. Just one of the many happy calls from the audience all night but for this one Frank didn’t have a rejoinder. :P
I believe the second nights performance was almost as good too, luckily recordings were made of these two nights I recall hearing on our ABC radio many years ago a recording of this concert when they were paying a tribute to Sinatra; and in 1997 parts from both the first and second performances were cobbled together to produce a disk which is still available, I don’t know the quality of the recording, we weren’t so advanced back in ’59 but here is a cut and paste from the blurb that goes with the recording and was made by Red Norvo:
Red Norvo, esteemed US jazz musician and Sinatra’s band leader on that Australian tour, certainly thought so: “I don’t think he ever sang any better in his life. It was very free, right on top of everything we (in the band) were doing. He just melted into it”2. Luckily recorded evidence survives: two inspired nights backed by Norvo’s quintet and an orchestra of local Melbourne musicians, officially edited for release on CD in fair-to-middling fidelity by Blue Note in 1997.
And if you think I’m joking read the following reviews :D
My year of shame!
I intended to call this post something along the lines of ‘Back to the grindstone’, which is/was perfectly true; it is however perfectly true that I did much in the first year of my first marriage that on reflection makes this heading most apt! I have the feeing that this will be a much longer post than usual, but that cannot be helped or avoided. Where to start and how and where to finish is causing me some disquietude, the reasons for which will become apparent as this blog unfolds.
When I started back at work after the honeymoon I was literally thrown in at the deep end, I became the de facto claims manager for the, at that time, largest Lloyds of London Insurance Brokers in Australia at the ripe old age of 23 years 3 weeks. I have no idea what my immediate boss the official claims manager did with his time and I really wasn’t that interested all I knew was that I had more than enough to keep me occupied.
The company moved from Collins Street to a small building around in Bourke Street which we took over completely. The Underwriters were given the ground floor and the claims department took over the entire first floor with the addition of Mr Bucknell the Director taking the large office at the front of the floor. Mr Latham took one of the remaining two large offices on the floor, both of which were windowless. The second one of these two I installed my two typists/secretary’s. One Margot Devereaux ( I’m pretty sure that’s how she spelt her name (I’m going back well over 50 years now) she was my first secretary a lovely young lady from Perth, everything that one could want and my second one who’s name I cannot recall was a very large Jewish lady, who frightened the living daylights out of me. She was a maniacal worker, she could never get enough work. She demanded and got a new Olivetti Electric typewriter, these were a pretty new machines back then, and I had a job on my hands keeping her surplied with work.
Mr Latham did have plenty of typing for her to do but what it was I never bothered to ask or find out, I was just happy that he found work for her, I’d never come across anyone like her before or since. She was frightening!
To make things easier for me the company supplied me with a new type dictaphone thing, unbelievable, it was quite huge about the size of a portable grammophone and I actually recorded to reusable disks, I would take this machine home with me on a Friday night and spend the weekend dictating letters to London, the Solicitors, Hedderwick Fookes and Alston, Melbourne, ,and our clients wherever they may be! Besides having to cart this recording machine I also had a rather big suitcase for want of a better word jammed packed with claim files. A very large proportion required pretty well just stock letters of which I had many, I only had to add a few details, but many especially to London and to our Solicitors required much more thought. And come Monday mornings I’d stagger back into the city on the tram lugging my recording device, plus the disks for Mrs.”Kerfoops” to keep her busy for an hour or two; and my suitcase full of files which she would need. I was one very busy little boy and I relished and loved it! Idiot!!!
And what was happening in my new marital state? I am ashamed to admit that I gave very little if any thought to it, I shan’t try and hide behind that I was too busy, I cannot recall ever caring. A new bride/wife a beautiful young woman in full bloom in love with a selfish uncaring husband and quite pregnant! The morning sickness left, how or when I don’t know, I suppose it’s fair to say I’d lost interest in the pregnancy. I was of no use or help to Joan, I never went with her to the doctor or the hospital. I left it all to her, she made all the arrangements and made a booking for the Queen Victoria Womens Hospital for the birth of the baby, she had been born in that hospital and wanted to have her baby there too.
I had no idea what she was going through physically or mentally, she must have wanted to talk about what was happening to her I wouldn’t know I was in my own selfish world, and did she ever complain to me or show any signs of being mad or upset? Never. In the three years or so that we had been together we had never fought or argued, not even a small tiff! Looking back this doesn’t seem natural or even possible.; and now here she was pregnant with a husband who didn’t have a clue as to what was going on and what he should be doing. And it gets worse!
You may find it hard to understand but, she asked me one weekend whilst I was working away on the correspondence if I would dictate some of the work to her and she would type the letters for me, as that way she could keep her hand in with her shorthand (she was like greased lightening) and her typing. So the following week I brought home in addition to my usual load a supply of stationary and secretary notebook courtesy Margot D. and gave her some dictation. She was as happy as Larry.
We rarely went out during the pregnancy, our weekend movie went by the board I was too busy, I was earning every penny that I got and then some, I was getting top money and was probably the highest paid 23 year old (which entitled me to the full adult wage) in the Australian Insurance industry, but don’t ask me what I did with the money, I have no idea. I’ve never had a clue as to how to handle money. The only time I’d ever saved any money was when I went into the “Nashoes” and I saved my pay, (there wasn’t much to spend it on) so that I could buy myself a car when I came out. Other than that I’d never saved or had any inclination to do so, I couldn’t see the point of it, nobody ever told me that it was useful to save or why it was, so I just went ahead and enjoyed spending. Completely irresponsible! I haven’t really changed that much. The amount I was earning I should have saved quite a lot and put it to some use like normal people and put it down on a house, especially now that I had a wife with a baby on the way. It never occured to me, and Joan never suggested it or if she did I never heard her. We really should have been quite comfortably off, but I didn’t know about buying houses and I suspect that I didn’t want to know.
So the months of 1958 went by and Christmas was upon us and Joans time was near, the baby was due in late December and I was having a jolly old time at work, gifts of wine and whisky started appearing for me from solicitors. clients, car repairers thanking me for my efforts in and on their behalfs during the year. Mr Latham of course got nothing it was well known his aversion to alchohol so I got the lot. Christmas that year fell on a Thursday so I had a long weekend without work, Sunday 28th Joan went into labour, and off we went to the QV, I was told that it might be sometime before the baby came and to call back later not to stay. So off I went!
Monday still no sign of the baby so off to work I went and quite honestly forgot all about Joan in hospital and there didn’t seem to be much doing in the way of work, several/many businesses closed down for a long break at that time of the year. So I toddled off to see old chums in the business and have a late Christmas drink at lunch time, when I got back sometime late in the afternoon there was some commotion going on in the office, the hospital had been trying to locate me, the baby had been born after 36 hours of labour and the father was nowhere to be found. I think I was half tanked, I have no recollection of going to the hospital of seeing my wife and our new baby. My mind is an utter blank!
The events of the next few weeks are lost/missing/buried deliberately/ accidentally I don’t know which from my memory, I have no recollections at all to my everlasting shame.
How Joan stayed as she did, she was at the time happy and serene, she’d got a daughter and the daughter was going to have blue eyes, Joan had wanted a girl with blue eyes and a son with brown/hazel eyes, with a thoughtless selfish individual like me I’ll never know. Not once did she accuse me of neglect, selfishness or any other fault. And there is still worse to come!
I was as much help and use as nothing when the baby came home. I knew nothing whatsoever about them and wasn’t particularly keen to learn. The baby was named Claire, for Joans great aunt Claire (Kay) who had raised and educated Joan after her mother had deserted her for American servicmen on R & R in Sydney NSW, and Elizabeth for no particular reason other than Claire Elizabeth seemed to go nicely together.
It soon became apparent that babies are dirty smelly little creatures, I shall never forget the first time I saw Joan change Claires nappy (diaper for my Yankee chums), I threw up and almost fainted, I’d never seen anything so vile in my life, the shock was horrendous, and Joan was amused. The first few weeks passed slowly the late night feeds and nappy changes , the baby crying, I was not very happy, I had not expected this, then again I don’t know what I expected.
Joan was breastfeeding Claire and I wasn’t particularly impressed with this most natural of human functions, and for a while everything was fine with the baby, but after soe weeks of this Claire would start crying quite heavily and it got to me and I’d start yelling and screaming at Joan to keep her quite, I wasn’t very nice I assure you, I could not understand what was going on and the babys crying was getting worse and I was getting worse by the minute. It came to a head, it was not Joans fault, but she lost her milk, I don’t know if it was caused in any way by my nasty attitude but it would not have helped. And we were babes in the woods ourselves, Joan had not much idea either I had absolutely none and we had nobody to turn to and ask for help. Claire was getting worse and crying harder.
So time to bite the bullet.
Joan had no mother sister of friend who could give her any help or advice on what was wrong with her baby. Only one thing left to do. We went over to Sunshine/Braybrook to see my mother and ask for help.
My mother took one look at the baby who she had never seen and declared “She’s hungry” with that soeone I don’t recall who, might have been me or my sister went to local shop or chemist whatever and bought a jar of “Farex” my mother prepared some and then started feeding Claire (she must have only been 6 or 7 weeks old at the time) a small spoonful at a time. When she finished she went off into a nice deep sleep and peace came upon the earth!
I look back on this time of my life with complete, utter shame, how and what I’ve written above reads I know not but I have not got the fortitude to read and check, so I shall leave it just as it is and hope for the best.
The Honeymoon Express
In an earlier post I mentioned that we had decided to go to Surfers Paradise via Pioneer Bus rather than fly, so we could see the country. Big mistake. We’d had a few trips away on Pioneer and they were great, but we’d never been out of Victoria and 5 or 6 hours in one of those buses was fine we were now going to be in one for the best part of two days, stopover in Sydney at the half way mark, then another bus the rest of the way, and the rest of the way was further than the first leg; hour after hour after hour and in ’58 there wasn’t the highways that we now have; it was the old Hume Highway to Sydney and the Pacific Highway to Queensland.
Highways? For the most part they were just two lane roads, one up / one down no video’s or movies back then just the crackling local radio stations along the way coming in and dropping out and all playing the same thing. The Top 8 or Top 10, and what was top of the hit parade in Australia in April 1958? Just click on the link below and enjoy :P The first couple of times it was played we sang along as did most of the fellow passengers, but it started to pall after then, I can’t recall hearing anything other than those hit parades for the length of the journey and only that song it was number 1 on the hit parade.
We had rented a nice apartment not too far from the beach and we would have had a very enjoyable time but for an unexpected inconvenience. Morning sickness; and did it hit Joan hard, it started just two days after the wedding, probably exacerbated by the bus trip but that’s just guessing on my part now; she was vomiting badly and going through all types of hell and I didn’t have a clue as to how to help her, she never complained once. As the morning wore on and the sickness wore off we did enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of Surfers, it really wasn’t much more than a large village back then.
The mornings were spent being sick the afternoons relaxing evenings dining and the nights sleeping and so the honeymoon came and went we didn’t mix with anybody we just wanted to be alone and enjoy our time together quietly, before hopping onto a Pioneer bus for the horrendous trip south which we were not looking forward to and back to reality which I was looking forward to. And if you want to know what was still top of the pops on the way south, just click on that link again and enjoy. :o
This might strike any sensible person as strange or even odd but never during the whole time of the engagement or wedding preperations did we ever give thought to or think about where we were to live once married. Unbelievable! But just as true as I’m sitting here reminiscing and writing about the past. It never crossed our minds until we were on our way back to Melbourne, and it was hilarious. It was almost as if we imagined on arriving back in Melbourne that I’d go home to Sunshine/Braybrook and Joan to Albert Park just as we did when we’d been a way for a weekend, but now we were married and it dawned on us that we had nowhere to live. Truly I am sitting here shaking my head still at the sheer naivety/stupidity of two supposedly intelligent young people. :roll:
Naturally we needed somewhere to stay on our return and our choices were not large until such time as we found a flat/apartment of our own, either Albert Park with Kay or Sunshine with my parents. The decision made, we opted to throw ourselves onto my parents doorstep. Bigger mistake!
The expectation and hope that my mother had accepted and learned to live with fact of ‘her baby’ having gone and got himself married was short lived and what with the evil woman who had stolen him from her clutches now in her home, peace could not and did not last long.
In some unwarrented rage my mother accosted us walking through the passage from the bedrooms to the living room and I can’t recall what was said but my mother struck Joan a vicious open handed smack to her right cheek which sent her reeling.
My immediate reaction? I swung hard and struck my mother a similar blow but I think much harder, she bounced off one wall and across to the other and screaming out to my father “Stan! Stan! ” all the while looking at me, holding her cheek where I’d belted her so hard; my father came ambling out to see what was happening and why my mother was calling him ( my father never seemed to be in a hurry about anything, had a great temperament) and my mother cried “he struck me!” looking at me I think with real fear, my dad looked at me and in his quiet voice said “why did you strike your mother son?”
I replied ” She struck my wife amd my wife’s pregnant!”; he looked at his wife and said quite quietly and gently ” Serves you right!” and went back to his chair and his newspaper. Perfect justice, done in an instant! In that instant my father rose in my esteem never again to be second in my filial duty.
Joan and I left immediately, the next day we got ourselves a small flat in Armidale