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.