A few days before Christmas I checked the two large suitcases I was taking up to my parent’s house into the checked baggage department at Central Railway Station. I was moving things up to Noraville preparing to move in with them while I worked out my options for the future. As always I walked up the other end of the gorgeous station to the cafeteria to get a pot of coffee and a sandwich. While I was there I heard a voice saying “Kate” at the top of her voice. Turning around, I saw my school friend Ann, I had not seen her since I left nursing two years before. We were so excited. She had just got off the train and told me she was working at Paddington Women’s Hospital doing Obstetrics training. I filled her in on my news and we caught up on our families. She told me she had been on holiday to Surfer’s Paradise and met the love of her life and she knew straight away. I was so happy for her, she was mature, happy and following her dream career. Eventually though I had to get my train and we parted ways, but both with contact details for the future. I had never lost touch with her as mum and I always went to her parent’s house for a piece of Christmas Cake and a glass of port. As we did with Stuart Cameron and the Cadogans, our wonderful neighbours from Gorokan.

I caught the bus to The Rock Pool where I ran into Linda, my friend from school and nursing. She was home from Darwin for Christmas and her birthday. So exciting to see her so happy and indeed content. She came over to see us at Noraville and invited me to her 21st in January. She sat on the floor and made me show her all the clothes I had brought up and insisted on the long white dress for her 21st. It was very pure looking however when it was on it looked a little like Sonya McMahon’s dress as it had splits right up to the thighs.

While up at mum’s after Christmas I invited my teenaged cousins down to celebrate the New Year and to explore Sydney for a week. My flat mate was away so the girls could use my bedroom and I could sleep in his, it was a really luxurious flat with plenty of room. They raced around getting ready, while mum and I were visiting them in their home in Lorne, in Maitland. I had asked my aunt if they could come and assured them I would look out for them. One of the girls taught Sunday School at the local Anglican Church and their parents had brought them up very well, and they trusted me. It was a wonderful feeling.

Once they were packed we piled into the car with mum and headed for Noraville. The girls quiet with excitement in the back. Once back there we stayed for the night and then headed to Sydney the next day. The girls ordered take away Pizza and tried all sorts of different foods. Ann met up with us and we went dancing at The Top Of The Town Nightclub in Kings Cross. Ann looked stunning as did my cousins. Ann and Jayne immediately were invited to dance and as always I was not. My other cousin was not either so we danced together. I admired Ann’s openness and ease with chaps, I was still uneasy with strangers who were men. Especially in packed clubs etc where body contact was considered the norm.

I took the girls to Rodney’s new hair salon to get their hair cut. Louise became a blonde Cleopatra and Jayne a tousle haired faery. Just such an amazing experience for them. We walked around Centrepoint for hours to get the girl’s outfits for New Year’s Eve. Louise immediately agreed with me that the white cotton fitted boiler suit in the window of one boutique was just her. It was perfect on and she was quietly delighted. Jayne was much harder to please, being very slight and unused to expensive choices she was overwhelmed. I told her I had stunning dresses and sandals she could borrow so we had a final trip to my favourite Italian styled coffee shop at the back of Myer and then caught the train to Edgecliff and walked home.

New Year’s Eve we pampered ourselves while we had pizza, mine without cheese, and then we dressed. Jayne borrowed my newish Italian leather wedged sandals and one of my maxis. Louise wore her boiler suit. Their hair was outstanding, I knew I had to keep an eye on these two girls in the huge crowds at the Opera House. Jayne was only 16 and Louise 15, it was quite a responsibility, especially with the migraines I had twice a week. Though I was determined not to show any discomfort in public, with my hostess training it was easy. Ann met us and we all headed to Edgecliff Station. And then on to the Opera House. It was a wonderful evening though Jayne found the sandals too high to walk in for too long. I encouraged her to go barefoot. She was stunned at the thought then delighted! We had to watch for broken glass etc but I took my red high heeled sandals off too to show her anything was possible in the big city.

An unforgettable evening for all of us and one that left me with a shocking migraine due to the noise and crowds. We managed to get home and then the next day started our New Year by going back to our parent’s homes. Mum and I always visited Auntie Shirley weekly and she loved seeing us but this time, the look on her face as she looked at her daughters, so chic and stylish and beautiful, was unforgettable. And she hugged me for so long and cried. As did I.

Linda’s party was not long after, her family and a few friends at their home and I remember having lots of chats with her dad. He always loved my outfits and styling. Afterwards I slept over as I had so many times in the past, snuggled under the granny rugs crocheted by Linda and Kaye’s grandmother. I felt safe and so at home.

Ann then had her party, we all went to a restaurant with her family and a few close friends. She opened her presents there, I gave her a gold Oroton Mesh cigarette case as I had seen that she had a wallet to match. I slept over afterwards, it was like being at school again. Ann always read several chapters before turning her light out. I read two and liked to go over what had happened that day. We chatted, we laughed and talked through the walls to her sister Helen and her lovely parents. An unforgettable experience of being with my second family right through school, different to New Years Eve but no less unforgettable.



We moved into a short term lease on the main road in Toukley. Dad went back to work and we adjusted to being back again. I saw my friend Linda almost daily. She was so happy I was back, as was I. One Saturday I joined her to keep her company while she played golf. This was a new experience and neither mum nor I knew much about it. The golf club was interesting and being the daughter of major business owners in Toukley she was well known. Her family were also very involved in the Catholic Church. Unfortunately I wore medium heeled shoes which were not suitable for the golf course. I padded around in my stockinged feet, feeling really stupid, but fascinated at seeing Linda in a different light.

My sister found a job very quickly in a factory in Wyong sewing clothing and my father set me up with a hairdressing apprenticeship. Just like that. No discussion, no consideration of my finishing my School Certificate the next year. Basically told to toe the line. I had learned how to cover my feelings and also my facial expressions by then. I did not want to go do an apprenticeship. It meant being stuck at home another three years. No nursing, no career, no travel possibilities. After a few days I waited until dad was in a good mood, or at least not looking angry, and I asked him to let me go to school. I told him I had the uniforms already and I could get a job to pay my own way at school. I flattered him, I did whatever I had to do to convince him that he would not regret letting me go back to where I belonged, where I needed to be. He eventually agreed though he repeated his mantra of me moving out as soon as I found a job and turned 16. In a little over a year’s time. He had always said this, he had left home at seventeen himself to go to England to work.

It was so fabulous to see my friends and teachers again. And strangely, a little like in sixth grade, I became very popular with some of the older and slightly younger boys.
Graeme Berry had a much older girlfriend who had already left school so he was much easier to get on with. My friend Stuart Cameron was the same as ever, very easygoing and funny and popular.

By Christmas we had moved to a small rented house in Noraville while we waited for our huge new home to be built. It was quite a hike to the bus stop and on the way Stuart and his younger brother joined me and also Sharon Bull. Along with another nice girl at the top of the road who was unfortunately shunned as she was short and extremely obese.

I sat with her and developed a friendship based on study and encouraging her to socialise more. She was very difficult socially and became quite possessive of me. Another friend on the bus was Denise Lethbridge, a friend of Sharon’s, a quiet deep sweet girl I liked immediately. Often the bus was standing room only so I got to know other students from different years. One afternoon Stuart’s brother surprised me by patting me on the shoulder from behind and asking me where I had been for five months. I said “around the world” and immediately felt so stupid. I quickly said we saw our grandparents etc and that is how the ship we were on went there and back. He smiled and we gradually became firm friends. He was a year younger than Stuart and I thought it ironic that he really liked me and I really really liked his brother and he was not interested in me. That I could see anyway. Another interesting thing that happened was that there were several girls doing their HSC on the bus. By the time it got to Toukley Bridge the bus had emptied out a bit and I often sat with them. One of them commented several times that by the time we reached the bridge all the light had gone out of my eyes, my face. They were right I was much happier at school, it was my salvation.

My friend Alison brought a letter from James in Sydney to school for me. He had an address now so we communicated back and forth. I also made a new friend Ann who lived in Wyong. We had already been friendly as were in Advanced Needlecraft together and English and History. The old circle of friends were a bit put out however Ann and I won them over by sitting with them for lunch half the week. The other days we sat way across in the bushes near the road. Lovely and peaceful there and we spent our lunchtimes looking up at the Senior boys and wondering what it would be like to make out with one of them. Nothing was off the table conversation wise with Ann, she was witty and much older than her age. Self sufficient, she had worked in a newsagent on Saturday’s for many years. We were both prolific readers, I was known to prop a book on the taps as I washed up, I also read at the table as there was zero conversation at our home over meals. We both decided we needed some Sex Ed so we read every Harold Robbins book and were a bit surprised about being kissed down there. The idea of kissing a penis seemed far more reasonable to me anyway.

By the end of the school year we were finding it difficult in our tiny house. It was so small my sister and I had bunk beds in our parent’s bedroom. Not much fun sleeping like that at fifteen. My sister was always out with her friends and often slept over all weekend at her friends houses. My brother had a tiny room to himself. I spent Sunday’s at the beach with anyone from school who was out at Soldiers Beach. After school I spent a lot of time at Ann’s house in Wyong, I adored her parents and her younger sister Helen became a firm friend too. We often saw Glynis and Llewelyn and their parents, our neighbours from Gorokan and mum’s brother’s family visited often, as we did them in Maitland. We checked in on the building of our new family home often, and impatiently.

My brother started school at the new Catholic Primary school attached to the new Catholic Church at the end of our road. He found it very hard, had never really had playmates, so he did not know how to make friends. It was a difficult year for me at school in certain subjects. English and History etc I flew through. I read historical novels voraciously. I was a tad obsessed with the Cromwell era. With King Charles 11. The letch. I actually had fantasies about being one of his mistresses. The main issue I had was in Technical Drawing. I was given no extra help at all or work to catch up on.

The year before I had struggled with maths and I asked the lovely fatherly teacher if he could help me. He smiled and said he was wondering when I would ask. He gave me work for home and one lunchtime a week he brought his lunch in, as did I, and he tutored me, truly a gifted teacher. His biggest gift was the one of giving of himself. We really liked him as a class and had for years. This last year at school I was up to date and had finally lost my knee jerk reaction to anything new in Maths. I always worked it out, but usually after fretting for half the lesson. Now we had a wonderful female teacher and I think she helped me in some way with this. I usually had at least ten minutes left each lesson and as we were allowed to read I brought out my Alistair Maclean books. Our teacher was really excited and told me he was her favourite author. We chatted at the end of each lesson and we exchanged books that we had not read yet. She was a joy.

Socially it was a fun time and I had some nice clothes from the trip to wear to parties. Lots of spin the bottle which seemed a bit tame after my experiences on the ship with the sailor and hairdresser. However I was not uncomfortable and enjoyed the games. During the weekends I babysat to earn some money and I sewed, took in repairs and made clothing.

At some stage of the year we moved into our new home. It was two story and had four bedrooms. My sister and I had to share a room and she was very particular about me keeping to my half. She was rarely in there all night though because as soon as dad left at 4.30 am she would quickly run and get into bed with mum to keep her company. I liked having our room to myself so did not have a problem with it, just thought it a tad bizarre. During the year she moved down to Sydney to become a cadet nurse at Rachel Forster Hospital in Darlinghurst. She came home on her days off, bringing lots of girl friends who were studying to be registered nurses. They spent their days off driving from beach to beach in various Volkswagen’s, talking to surfers and smoking copious amounts of dope. Dad helped her buy a Mini Minor, she had learned to drive years before and loved this car, was so proud of it. Dad also bought an off road bike which the nurses used to use and also take my young brother out on.

Across the road from our house was a vacant lot with a lot of scrub. My brother set fire to it with matches and it took off straight away and the Fire Brigade was called. Mum and dad were told to deal with him but nothing happened. Just a brief shake of the head from dad. If it had been one of us girls we would have had bruises and that would be the least of it. Sometime during the year dad thrashed me again, same thing with the knickers. I could not work out what I had done wrong, was clueless.

Ann and I went up to Newcastle for her to apply for a nursing course once she turned seventeen. While up there we met up with a young man who had formed the Neil Diamond fan club. We went up to Newcastle to discuss this several times. Ann was flirtatious and got on well with him. She had a different social life to me as we were on the coast. Hers involved smoking and long walks by Wyong River with lots of locals. Each Monday I would ask how her weekend was and what had she done. It was nearly always the same and then one weekend she said she had sex for the first time. I was stunned, she was so matter of fact that I thought she was joking, especially as she normally told me every detail of her exploits. She was not going to talk about it. Just said it was okay and would get better.

Half way through the year we were tested by Vocational Guidance. Mine came up as only one option. To be a Computer Programmer. I was stunned as computers were huge mainframes, I had seen them on television. Ann was recommended several career options. The rest of the year went quite fast as we prepared for the School Certificate. A week or so before we sat it my Needlework teacher suddenly asked if there were any advanced students in the class. Ann and I and one other girl put our hands up. The usually kind sweet natured teacher shouted at us that we should have told her. That we had not covered the whole syllabus. Bit late then, we were on course for completing our formal outfit, which went a long way to our points. Most of the girls made quite formal gowns. I however chose a Vogue Designer pattern of wide legged pants with a calf length floaty vest in white crepe. It was complex in its simplicity and I was enjoying the challenge immensely.

The exams were not difficult for me, I had a little trouble in Science as we had an appalling teacher. Technical Drawing I had absolutely no clue what I was doing so I left the room with my drawings incomplete. Later that day I was surprised by how many boys came over and asked if I was okay and they were so sorry I was not well enough to finish. I let them go on thinking I had been ill.

Stuart arranged a dance at the end of the year in a hall in Wyong. Ann and I danced to Deep Purple, and other heavy rock songs. We chatted to friends of all ages. Ann, Linda, Coral, Carol, Stuart and many others were staying on for their HSC while the majority were leaving for Technical College etc. There was not a lot of work in our area so training was the best way to get ahead. Or staying at school. I was pleased I had made it to the end of this year. Mission accomplished.


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Early High School Years

Because of not sitting exams due to my dad’s work schedule I was placed in the middle of the first year of classes at Wyong High School. There were grades down to F and I was placed in 1C. This was well below my level in English, History, Maths, Social Studies, everything really. So the first year there was a bit of a challenge for me. One of the brilliant things about it though was that I met one of my lifelong friends, Linda. We had moved to a rented house in Toukley when we returned to the area and my mum was so excited as her GP used to rent it before us! Linda had attended a Catholic School so she was new to me however we met at the bus stop in year one and became firm friends. Others to become firm friends during early school years were Coral Davies and Stuart Cameron. Others from my primary  school I stayed in touch with outside of school and indeed sat with were Alison Blackford, Jennifer Passlow, Carol Dennis, Francine Fordham and some boys whose names have escaped me.

This was the year so many of us girls started our periods, there was a definite aroma in the air as in those days we were not encouraged to use tampons. We had Physical Education I think it was called weekly. Talking about deodorant and developing bodies. Definitely no sex education in school though. That was done by the council I think and held in Town Halls. If I remember correctly I went with Linda. I went to most things with her as mum was stuck in with a toddler and Linda’s parents were very conscientious about her schooling. Rightly so.

This was the beginning of a long period in my life of trouble for me with my menstruation. I used to get nauseous, cramp terribly and pass huge blood clots. Some as long as my little finger. I had to go to sick bay to Mrs Walsh, who was in charge of the girls, every month. First I would get a three day migraine and the cramps would set in for almost the whole six days. The clotting for the first three days. I was mortified on so many occasions to have heavy flooding come through on my grey pleated school tunic. One solution my mum had was to get me plastic Modess knickers, but only two pairs. I soaked them overnight but they still reeked. I can see why girls schools were so popular back then as this was really primitive and almost barbaric. The boys all knew when we had our periods and mocked anyone who had trouble with them. I was not attacked about this though as perhaps they could actually see it was agony for me. Mrs Walsh, once she had established I was not a whinger like some or a wagger like my sister, was the essense of kindness. She showed me how to curl up in a fetal position, she would get me hot water bottles, she mothered me while she waited with growing impatience for my mother to pick me up. Usually we had to wait until Days of Our Lives had finished. She lectured my mum on many an occasion about taking hours to get to me.

I loved sports and obviously hated gymnastics and swimming which required turning my neck repetitively. We also did cross country running, down by Wyong River. I have no idea how we did not get lost. I cannot remember any specific teachers from year one but once I moved into 2nd year high school and was put up to my correct grades I loved my teachers and enjoyed being challenged. Mr Cassidy was my favourite English teacher, and not just because of his teaching. He used to wear the tightest pants and I was obsessed with the bulge in them. He was awfully good looking, it was late sixties, mini skirts and flares were the rage. He liked me because I spent most afternoons up at Toukley Library where I read a lot of non fiction. I had read the biographies of Marilyn Monroe and he often brought her up in class as English covered Drama in those days. I knew everything he was trying to ask the students, most of whom were way behind me in reading skills. So I became his pet, which was uncomfortable for me as it drew my attention to him and his tight pants. He told me he was marrying his fiancé and her name was Kathleen.

One class I adored was Technical Drawing. In 2nd year we were allowed to pick our electives and Linda and myself and one other girl were the first females to enter the boys club of TD. To begin with it was a wonderful class but like most things good in life it had it’s painful qualities too. For safety the teacher put us girls at the front three drawing boards so he could see us. Of course that allowed all the boys to carry on behind us. Behind me actually. I do not know why they chose me, maybe because I was not fat in those days, Linda was very attractive with an amazing personality but had a weight issue then and the other girl so non descript that I just cannot remember her.

It got so I absolutely dreaded the class as the boys directly behind me, Graeme Berry in particular, used to grind and jerk their hips right behind where I was standing. I was afraid to bend over or turn my back. He had his clothes on but it was frightening. I would turn around and look at him and he still kept doing it to my face. Well to my groin. I had never seen this behaviour before and only had to guess at what the boys were doing. Obviously I knew it was sexual and I did feel threatened and humiliated. The talk was even worse. About what they wanted to do to me from behind, one after the other. And from the front, if they could get my legs open.

At some stage I decided to wear my underpants for days on end. I was not sure when this was but it was while living in Toukley as I put them to be burned in the incinerator. Unfortunately mum found them and freaked out. My sister started shouting at me calling me a filthy cow and other words, and poor mum asked me if I used toilet paper to wipe myself after I peed. It was not that I was dirty, I bathed every day and was very careful about deodorant and clean shirts etc. I believe it was a reaction to the boys sexually harassing me, absolutely hounding me.

Bless her heart Linda was a true friend and had a heart to heart with me and told me I stank. I told her that I knew and that I would fix it. She asked if I used a deodorant and I simply said I needed a different one. It worried mum but nobody thought to query why I should start to stink. Except for the best friend in the whole world.

Perhaps something had alerted the Tech Drawing teacher as he suddenly moved us girls to the drawing boards at the back wall. I only got hounded if I approached other boys desks. Most of the boys were brilliant. The ones on the right side of the room were exceptional and admired my drawings. My other elective was advanced sewing, I had always been able to draft patterns up and follow graphs so TD came naturally to me.

At some stage of 2nd year mum took me to the doctor about my periods. He prescribed Buscopan tablets and often gave me injections for severe period pain. They helped but only with the cramping and pain. I came to dread my monthly menstruation but somehow survived it as I now had the tablets to take at school. Mrs Walsh would give them to me with a hot water bottle and rub my back. Most of the girls hated her but to me she was an angel. Another one placed in my life to help me I believe, like my next door neighbours in Gorokan when I was in Primary School.

From 1st year my friends and I went on Saturday nights to the movies in Wyong. I would have already spent most of the day at Linda’s watching Countdown on television. We would go walk around the shops and Linda was allowed to have a weekly treat of cakes from the cake shop. Her mum was very strict with her about her weight. We bought different magazines, Dolly and others and read them from cover to cover. I usually went home for dinner then met her at the bus stop. Unfortunately mum made my sister keep an eye me on the long walk home down Canton Beach Road where we lived. It was pitch black and we had usually seen vampire movies, P would disappear and jump out ahead of me and scare me to death. I ended up running home most Saturday nights.

Around 3rd year we started going to parties, and once there we were supervised from a distance by a set of parents. Music and friends and dancing and spin the bottle was good clean fun. Except I had Graeme Berry to kiss. He just loved snickering the bastard. The bottle often stopped with him. He was a big, well developed boy who looked years older than 15. I looked older or acted older but was very uncomfortable around the boys after the TD thing. And Graeme’s idea of a kiss was a deep pash. As it was called then.

We also went to the beach all the time, after school and at weekends. One afternoon I wandered away from Carol and other friends and was caught in a rip. I just could not get out of it and actually was drowning. I had my hand up in the air and very soon a surfer came over and laid me across the surfboard and took me to shore. He was older than me and lived a few doors down, I actually babysat his toddler sister at times. He promised not to tell mum. It seems I got on well with boys who were older than me.

I had a job down at Canton Beach in a corner shop where Stuart’s mother actually worked. The money kept me in material and patterns. I also made money by sewing lavish pantsuits and dresses for my friends. The librarian’s daughter at Toukley especially. There were few parents who had two incomes in those days and she always gave her daughter heaps of spending money. I remember she pulled me up on a loop I had made, one of about twenty, that had frayed a bit already. She was a perfectionist and am glad she had a good eye as I totally missed that faulty loop.

Halfway through the year mum and dad decided we were going back to England to live. I was quite upset. My sister did not seem to mind as by then she had left school. She had gotten into a lot of trouble for wagging school and my dad’s solution was to take her out at fifteen. She was really happy working in a supermarket and did not realise what not having a school Certificate would mean until later. Mrs Walsh told me she wished she had never raised the issue and said if she had known dad would react like that she would never have rang home and she would have supported my sister more.

My dad not only took her out of school, he humiliated her terribly. She was very self conscious about having buck teeth, had backed out of having them fixed in 1st year in Inverell and my dad punished her by not having them fixed at all. He was very hard on her. Quite unnecessarily nasty and domineering. She had finally grown her hair long, dad would not allow it until she was fourteen and her hair was the most glorious copper pennies colour. It was her pride and joy. Her only redeeming feature she thought, though I found her ability to have fun and be carefree a wonderful thing to be. Anyway, Dad was absolutely vile when he told her off and pulled her out of school. He grabbed her beautiful long hair and said if she did not get it cut off he would hack it off. He made my five year old brother and I witness all this and told me to shut up when I tried to stand up for her. She went to a hairdresser who did a modern Carnaby Street sixties bob. Very fashionable and she looked very pretty. Dad was not happy.

My friends, too many to count now, took me out to the movies to say goodbye. They all banded together and bought me a leather and fur Kangaroo bucket bag. The most beautiful thing I had ever owned. It was very very hard. I loved my life there, if I could have I would have loved to have stayed with Alison or Linda until I finished school. But there was no discussion. No consideration of my schooling. And I was a really good student. It was all about getting to the UK before September so that my brother could start school there.