…and the festivities are over I must admit I’m a bit of a party pooper when it comes to Christmas, New Years Eve & Australia Day celebrations.
Thankfully they now are for the next 10 months or so over ,then it’ll all start up, again.
Not having that many more; if any, to look forward to, I was kind of reminiscing on the times I’d actually ‘celebrated’ New Years Eve/Day, and I couldn’t think of any; in fact I could only remember two, and they really weren’t celebrations.
The first was New Years day, Monday 1st January 1951, nothing happened on the Sunday the 31st December, we, my dad, brother and I, all went to bed early. We had to get up and go to work on Monday.
No such thing as a ‘Public Holiday’ back then, just another day at the office; literally for me at any rate, my dear ol’ dad would have been slaving away, over his anvil, in the blacksmiths shop, at the Beckton Gas Works; just as he’d been doing for the previous 25-30 years.
Being the largest gasworks (over 500 acres, had it’s own wharves and owned 10 or 11 colliers and space to store 250,000 tons of coal) in Europe it was of immense interest to the Jerrie’s during WWII, who’s Luftwaffe took great delight in bombing the place. I won’t bore you with any stories. Today at any rate.
But I digress, but not before adding some pictures which I downloaded from Google; except for my dear ol’ dad. The bottom picture is of the blacksmiths shop circa 1925 so I imagine DOD is in there somewhere!
My New Years day was no different from any other day, I watched for Douglas Bader to come roaring into Great St. Helens, ( Church c.1210 AD) in his Morgan, top down. He’d clamber out, and toddle off in the direction of St Mary Axe.
He drove in most days and naturally to a 15 year old boy he was a hero, and just a glimpse would make my day.
Come lunchtime, I went off as usual , alone, to the Mecca Restaurant; where I’d have a three course luncheon, for the princely sum of 2/6d. It was the best food I had in those days.
It cost me nothing really; every Monday morning first thing, the lady pay-mistress would go through the office, giving out the weekly supply of ‘Luncheon Vouchers’ to every member of the staff.
Naturally the ‘Senior Staff Members’ didn’t eat at the Mecca Restaurants, they went to the up market ‘Slaters ‘ ( think that was the name) chain, where they’d have to cough up another half crown or more for their lunch.
Well come the end of my lunch, when the waitress came with my bill, and I signed and paid with my docket, I was given a receipt and also a little bronze medallion on which was inscribed:
“Welcome to the first day , of the first year of the New Half Century”
Kind of odd really, but as you see, something that’s stuck in my memory these last what is it, 68 years?
My second memory is of New Years day 1954, just 3 years on, and happened in Victoria.
Of course, here in Australia, any excuse for a public holiday is grabbed with both hands, and never let go!
I was working for the Royal Insurance Co. back then and my best mate, Doyley asked what I was doing on NYD, and suggested we go for a drive out bush.
Doyley was from Kyneton, in the country, and he’d taken me out into the country a couple of times. I had the car. Doyley had driven the thing home, when I bought it, as I didn’t have the first idea how to drive.
The car I bought, I wrote about, with pictures some time ago strangely enough entitled “My first motor car”! How’s that for imagination? This blokes going a long way!
And whoever it was said, “and the further the better” can leave now!
He gave me a lesson in how to drive, and a couple of months later, I thought it might be an idea to get a licence, so he came along as my driving instructor, that was fun, I remember that well, and the copper who put me through the test?
Anyway to make a short story longer, we, (he Doyley), decided to head out after work on the 31st, and come back on the Sunday; work on Monday. I had no idea where he was taking me.
I did most of the driving, and being hot, we had the air-conditioning going full blast!
The a/c in my vehicle consisted of a handle, which if swung clockwise, caused the windscreen to open up from the bottom out, allowing the hot wind to blow through, but as he was taking us into the hills it was pretty good.
How long we drove, I don’t know, my car a 1939 Morris 10, that denotes 10 HP, it developed 40 BHP, wasn’t the most powerful vehicle on the road, and, climbing up through, and into the hills/ mountains, we didn’t break any speed records.
What we did for food I don’t recall, it must have been a bit after 1800, ( I’d started using the 24 hour clock in ’63) when we left Sunshine and headed out, being a Friday night and Doyley being a good Catholic lad, we probably stuffed ourselves on fish and chips, “a coupla pieces of flake and a bobs worth of chips thanks mate”.
With nothing but trees, and darkness all around, Doyley suggested we stop where we were, and get some sleep, then press on in the morning. We were to sleep in the car, what we drank I don’t know, neither of us was averse to a beer or two, but we didn’t have one of those new Esky things, to keep it cold,
Must have had something with us though, middle of summer? Hot!.
Awake at dawn, stiff and still tired, have you ever tried sleeping in a small Morris Saloon Motor Car? We kind of staggered out of the car, and there before us, a beautiful stream running swiftly, which is understandable, we were quite high in the Lower Victorian Alps; not that I knew where we were at that time, and the water was icy cold and pure.
The water was to damned cold to strip off and jump into, so we cleaned ourselves up as best we could, and then Doyley pointed to a house, just about opposite where we’d spent the night, sleeping uncomfortably, in the damned car. My car was not too popular with me by this time,
Doyley suggested we go knock on the door, see if we could get some breakfast. “You got to be joking” says me, or words to that effect. ”We can’t go just knocking on someones door asking for food”.
“We’ll give it a go” says he, and over he goes, me lagging behind, and he hammers on the door, and some bloke answers, and Doyley says something, and the bloke invites him in; I’m still wary.
This bloke calls out to me to come on over, and come in; so still a bit nervy, I toddled over and went into this bush cottage / house, and there was this blokes lady, cooking away on one of those giant wood fired stoves, the biggest frying pans/ skillets I’ve ever seen, never seen anything close to them since.
She turned and asked if I’d like some fresh fish for brekkie; how could I refuse, so out comes another of these big pans and she tossed in a packet of butter, must have been a pound, and then popped in two beautiful freshly caught mountain trout, still with their heads on into the pan, I gave thanks that they’d been cleaned, and I tucked right in when this strange lady served them up.
The best fish I’ve ever had, I’ve always loved fish, but there’s never been anything to compare to those two fresh mountain trout, cooked in a big pan of butter, for a New Years Day breakfast.
To cut this short, seems that we were expected. This bloke just happened to be a cousin of Doyleys, and they had decided to have some fun with his New Australian, Pommy Mate. Me!
Nothing was given away until, after I’d feasted and was sitting there suddenly; embarrassed to hell; and the three of them burst out laughing.
So there you have it; the only two New Years Days that I can remember, out of the 84 I’ve lived through,