Sydney 1976

I found a room in a luxe place in Rose Bay, it had blue velvet flocked wallpaper and lots of chandeliers. Not really my style but clean and in a secure building. A friend from training school had nowhere else to go and shared my mattress there. Everyone thought we were gay, which was funny as she was extremely religious and left a few months later as the lifestyle did not suit her. Eventually though we all moved out and I shared a flat in Waverley with Judy, an older hostie from the flat who used to be a hairdresser.

I had been going to the Edward Beale chain of hair salons in Melbourne and then in Brisbane and finally in the city in Sydney. They regularly did model’s hair for advertisements. There I met Rodney Skepper the incredibly talented manager. He asked me to do a hair show for him at the Hilton where he cut my Purdie hairstyle and added an owl type peak at the front. Incredible precision cutting. After the show he brought me home and kissed me passionately and belched in my mouth. Then he went off to gargle and looking sheepish, went home. I had to crew the next day so Edward Beale himself cut the owl peak off. Crooked, Rodney’s work of art. I rang him and he was so upset. He tidied the fringe for me and we started going out. As with a lot of male hairdressers he was well ahead of his time, a metrosexual. We made love on our second date, had a great time going to movies and meeting each other’s friends. He was seriously funny. I always stayed at his place as was uncomfortable at mine with Judy there. No boyfriend, with a big sister hangup. First time I stayed over she met me at the door and hugged me and called me a dirty stop out. She liked him a lot and went in to get her hair cut by him regularly.

Rodney picked me up from Noraville in his Porsche. Mum was very shy but Dad came back early from work to meet him and loved the car. My nickname was “springy pom-pom” and Rodney was a lot of fun. I loved him. After several months he got funding from backers in Melbourne and while he waited for his salon to be opened he cut hair in his home. Judy came to get her pageboy length hair done and in front of us both called me a boy because of my shorter hairstyle. Rodney, who I had never heard a nasty word from, told her tartly that I had a perfect oval face and could wear my hair in any style. Hostesses used to introduce me to people as the one with the hairdresser boyfriend, however I blow dried my own hair, not an easy job with my geometric cut and thick hair.

Eventually Rodney was going to Melbourne regularly to meet his backers and working erratic hours to get things going at his new salon. He expected me to fit in with him but my own schedule also needed fitting around. I did not like going for a quick shag. I felt it demeaned me. So I broke up with him.

During the year I saw a top Professor at The Women’s Hospital in Paddington for breakthrough bleeding. When he came into the waiting room he beamed at me in my Pru Acton shirtdress with splits up to the thigh on each side, the one Rodney loved diving headfirst under and had me laughing hysterically. The Professor said to the room first in best dressed and pointed at me. Apart from Prue Acton I loved Trent Nathan clothing, and sometimes Vogue designer patterns to make my own clothing. The Professor put me on straight oestrogen due to the severe period pain needing treatment. He knew Dr David Bennett I met during my previous job regularly gave me buscopan shots . However a consequence of the Oestrogen was that the migraines worsened, horrifically.

One day I was going from the Hostess lounge down some steps and literally flew through the air, landed on my feet minus one shoe. I had guys saying nobody had ever fallen for them quite like that before. While I was laughing one of them went to get my shoe and others picked me up and brushed me off. I then thanked them and on the way back I took the escalator and I suddenly looked up and recognised Stuart Cameron from school. With Trent Nathan who he assisted. After lots of hugs and kisses and oh my gods from Stuart I found out they were to be on my next flight. I told them I would see them soon and when on board offered them a complimentary drink. My crew leader was married and in her thirties and far more sophisticated than I and gave me the idea.

I met up with my old trainer Gail a lot, we were so close Shirley said people were saying we were gay. Seriously. One day a Qantas board member praised me on a flight. Said I looked perfect and even better had handled a really difficult situation with the cast of Jesus Christ Superstar very well. And he gave me his card asked me to seriously consider Qantas as a career pathway.

Some highlights of that year were ABBA coming to Sydney. We also heard in the Hostess Lounge about this amazingly beautiful woman on a flight with Lee Major. The girls said she dazzled she was so beautiful, though she seemed shy. Daryl Summers was a favourite passenger as was Sky Hooks Shirley Straughn. Red was also on board but I did not like him at all. He got right in my body space and ogled me up and down as if he was going to eat me or something. It was horrid. However I got so many praise letters to my superiors from these people and others that I got told off for working above the team.

One memorable flight was when One Flew Over The Cookoo’s Nest was released here. I was in the front gallery securing everything ready for takeoff and knew someone was taking their time in the First Class Toilet. Eventually the door opened and I smelled marijuana and Jack Nicholson came out, smiled cheekily and moved into the cabin. A little earlier I was waiting for passengers to board and observing the top of my shoes when I realised there was a pair of men’s shoes in front of me. I looked up and Michael Douglas loomed into view. He was smiling, tired looking but friendly.

During the flight Jack monopolised my attention. He was aware of everything that was around him, especially me! He asked me if I was aware that after I asked passengers if they would like a drink I lowered my eyes. Each time. I said I was not aware of that. He said he adored my hair cut. Said it made me look cheeky. Was I cheeky? I said my boyfriend would know. He smiled and asked me about my life. My flight partner said she would take care of the passengers to give me time to concentrate on talking to him. I also tried to talk to Michael Douglas who was charming and said he had been listening and had not been able to get a word in. I told him my 11 year old brother loved Streets of San Francisco, as did I and he signed a coaster for my brother. So did Jack, along with a lot of cheeky looks. Eventually Jack asked me if I was frightened of him, as he quite liked that. I said not at all, unconsciously lowering my eyes as I said it damnit. He was charming, cheeky and fascinating, I was so glad I had a boyfriend at the time as am not sure what would have happened otherwise.

During the middle of the year I went overseas to UK to see my grandparents. I arranged to meet Rodney over there, I had missed him and we had reconciled as friends. While over there I babysat my young cousins Anna and Emma. Went around a lot with their mother who was a hairdresser and had married later in life. I also stayed with one of mum’s sisters and regularly went from there to Chalfont St Peter to see mum’s other sister and family. The sister who was there when I was born.

I celebrated my 21st birthday that year. On one leg of the day’s flights the Captain announced it was my 21st and the whole cabin exploded in applause and then sang Happy Birthday To You and various other ditties. We had a get together of friends that evening at my flat in Clovelly. Dad gave me some money for drinks and several school friends came including Stuart and some boys from my Tech Drawing class. Rodney brought several single hot guys and asked me when he left when I was going to bed with him again. I smiled and kissed him and went back inside, alone.

Several of the trainer hostesses I flew with who asked the cabin crew to their rooms for drinks on stop overs stripped naked once everyone had gone and tried to come onto me. I met one of them later when I visited a friend. She loved my thick hair and liked caressing it.

Towards the end of 1976 I met the owner on a Perth flight of several huge fashion shops on the North Shore. He offered me a job as his showroom collection model. I was living in Edgecliff then in a huge art deco apartment with a roommate who was an account executive. The owner of the boutiques came round and brought a whole lot of clothing around for me to try on for him. Then he arranged to meet me at the showroom shop. He brought out a lot of cream cheesecloth maxis with lace inserts. Totally incredible and I tried them all on with only my bikini panties under them. Strange feeling of being covered yet with a suggestion of being naked. I became a bit uneasy as he kept saying how sexy I looked. How the innocent dresses on me cried out for someone to fuck me. I do not know if it was a selling tool or what. I just felt very uncomfortable as when he came over to my place next he would not leave the room when I changed. All I had on were skimpy lace knickers. He helped me into everything and zipped me up very slowly while watching me in front of the mirror.

I knew he was married with children. He again offered me the job and I was tempted but I did not know what else came with it. I was not going to have sex with my boss for a job as I had a great job anyway. A few hostesses warned me I would not like it because they said I would became a piece of meat. But none of them had the experience of an incredibly wealthy employer treating them like their personal possession.

For the last three months of 1976 my migraines set in with a vengeance until I did not have a day without pain. The takeoff and landings were agony and after a lot of thought I resigned as I could not do the job properly while in such pain. I was heartbroken as I loved my life and indeed my lifestyle.


Brisbane 1975

Mum and dad and my brother drove me to Kingsford Smith Airport. We arrived hours early as is my parent’s way. Dad took me aside and had a friendly fatherly talk to me. First one ever. He said this is your opportunity, do not waste it. I assured him I was going to do exactly that. Mum was very emotional but excited and happy too. I kissed my brother goodbye and hugged him.

It was a quick flight and I found the taxi rink and soon arrived at my all female boarding house. It was in Mooney Ponds and was an old Federation house owned by a genteel elderly lady who loved the young company and also the income. I shared a room with a hostess from a few intakes ahead of me. She helped me a lot and showed me where everything was and how to get to the airport for training etc.

Melbourne proved to be very cold, windy and I loved it. It was so atmospheric with its clearly defined seasons and it’s fabulous trams. The shopping district was divine with the best Myer in the country. Parks were lush and museums abounded. I was in heaven. Training school was at Tullamarine Airport five days a week and on Friday nights a lot of us met up in St Kilda to eat and go nightclubbing. We were differing ages and skill sets. One incredibly beautiful girl was an ex Myer buyer. I really perked up at that! Felicity always had a haunted look to her, very thin. She was very well brought up with parents who were doctors.

At the weekends I went shopping, to Art Galleries and parks. I loved the River Yarra and walking along its banks. My weekends were more solitary as most of the girls were based with other hostess in the city. Younger ones like myself were placed in lodging which usually meant further to travel to work and the city.

We had a wonderful training and the only day I missed was due to a migraine. That was ditching training in water etc and that was arranged for me to do with the next intake. I was singled out of our training group three times that I can remember. One was for posture. The trainer said the girls needed to wear better foundation garments so their posture was better. Meaning their breasts were shown to better effect. That was so funny to me as I only owned two bras, one black and one white, to go with each uniform top. She made me parade around showing off my Hestia encased breasts. Felt like a Barbie doll. Only without the blonde hair. Or the long legs. Or the dumb look.

The other time was my at times English accent. I still said ‘just’ in a Northern English way. Hard ju not soft ju and a particular trainer took it as lazy speech. She made me stand in front of everyone on a mock-up aircraft and say just in the Australian way. She kept telling me to talk to the passengers about safety etc and the words on the card had just in them. In the end I simply removed the word from my instructions. Worked like a charm. Not sure the trainer liked it though.

The last time was at the end of our induction when our main teacher/trainer asked us to write a report on how they could better improve the training etc. Mine was read out as outstanding but sounded so harsh and unlike me. I was amazed I was applauded, however I had not thought to disguise my handwriting and the teacher/trainer was not impressed with me as I had critiqued her.

We were given a lovely buffet meal send off and assigned our ports. Mine was to be Brisbane where Ansett put us all up in a hotel at their expense for two weeks while we found somewhere to live. My friend Shirley, a tall friendly brunette with a pageboy haircut had a boyfriend prior to training. He lived in Dandenong and drove her car from there to Brisbane for her and she broke up with him when he arrived, right on the spot!

So Shirley from The Dandenongs, Judy from Adelaide and I shared a house near to Fortitude Valley Shopping Centre. It was three bedroom and brand new. We gradually filled it with essentials only, bamboo chairs, very seventies decor. Next door was a lovely couple, wife a teacher and husband a soldier in the RAAC.

We were assigned trainers to provide us with on the job training and how to manage overnight stays etc. Mine was Gail, a gorgeous reserved, yet with me friendly, hostess in her late twenties. Had a fantastic sense of humour and great patience. She introduced me to her husband and their very wealthy friend who was on the lookout for a no strings relationship. Turned out what I took to be that was not in fact that at all. His idea of no strings was sex in exchange for meals and outings. But no strings. My idea was really a platonic relationship where I shared the costs of outings. There was no spark for me and the last thing I wanted was a full on sexual affair. Plus I was very inexperienced and I did not want him to know that.

One day on an empty run back from Mackay Gail came running down the aisle to the flight deck. One propellor had failed. The Training Captain had stalled the propellor on purpose to induct me on the Focker Friendship. He thought I handled it really well, unlike Gail who shouted at him I just laughed.

We had a lot of fun on our days on Reserve at the airport. I spent my days embroidering, reading and meeting lots of hostesses in the lounge. Finding out who was on their flights was an entertainment in itself. It really did not feel like work, it was a way of life. The girls became family and took me under their wing. I was never called out on a flight the whole time I was there.

One day Judy returned from a flight with tickets to a Leo Sayer concert. He had been on her flight with his road manager etc. The concert was fantastic, we went backstage and met everyone. Judy went out with the road manager for most of the time she lived in Brisbane. Judy was a very unusual girl, she said housework was beneath her and refused point blank to do any, it was annoying. We saw where it came from though when her father came to stay. He was even worse, an insufferable snob. My sister popped in for an afternoon on her way through to Cairns, it was unexpected and she loved meeting all the pretty girly girls. For once it seemed we met on even terms.

We mixed a lot with our neighbours, exchanged meals and went shopping together. Eventually though Judy decided the lifestyle was not for her and resigned. Our lease was up at the same time and Shirley quickly found a room in a flat in New Farm. I stayed next door with our friends who were really happy with the rent money I gave them and the company for Carol when Jack was away with his Army duties. It worked super well until Carol’s mother and aunt came to stay and saw me as some kind of threat or intrusion on the marriage. They were vile and I did not want to be the cause of fights between Carol and her mother so I moved into a singles complex.

There were radio announcers, account executives and all sorts of successful singles living there. I made friends very quickly with Janice who drove an open topped sports car. We had a wonderful time together. Had great philosophical talks with a talk back radio announcer who lived next door. The only real problem was the woman I was flatting with was an embittered woman in her thirties. She was really put out that I was dating a Captain fifteen years older than me, ex military and very sexy with blonde hair. I went out and about with him for several weeks. He visited me regularly at the flat and we had some seriously sexy moments while keeping our clothes on. Mum was sending knitted wedding dress patterns within four weeks.

He arranged to have us team up on flights on several stopovers up north. On the first night we had dinner and he walked me back to my room. We started kissing and making out. This time taking our clothes off. He was beautiful. We fondled each other and I really enjoyed it but when I held his erect penis and he tried to enter me I started shaking. Uncontrollably. He stopped and wrapped me in a blanket and asked what was wrong. I could not talk about the rape, it had felt like it was my fault so I said instead that I was a virgin.

He held me and stroked me through the blanket and said that my first time should be with someone I really love. Not just a boyfriend to have fun with. It’s what I had believed before as well, being terribly old fashioned. He got me to put my nightie on and he stayed with me that night, cuddling me until I stopped shaking. He was so sweet and precious, but I did not love him.

Within a month we had gone our separate ways. I did have to watch one chap, a Senior Flight Engineer who showed everyone his vasectomy card as evidence that he could have lots of sex and not get anyone pregnant. The most senior Hostess there had warned me about him as had Gail. He was a bit like the Anaesthetist at Gosford Hospital, he talked to everyone about me. Arranged stop overs so we would both be there with the crew overnight. Loved to have me up the front in the jump seat in the cockpit. Called me The Estée Lauder Lady as I always wore the makeup and Youth Dew perfume. It became my hallmark for many years.

One of the routes I loved the most out of Brisbane was the Milk Run. Up and down the coast of North Queensland, all really short legs on the twin propellor Focker Friendship aircraft. I also loved going to Gove and Mount Isa and we even went to New Guinea a few times though were not allowed off the aircraft as the political situation was too dangerous there at the time. When the new Prime Minister of New Guinea came to Brisbane he travelled on my flight and I was shown on the news, as a hostess was always standing at the bottom of the stairs as passengers disembarked.

When overnighting in Cairns I was by the pool in my skimpy bikini with several girls from other crews when a huge entourage of suited men surrounding other suited men rushed by into a marquee nearby. The girls talked to staff and once they realised it was Bob Hawke in there somewhere they took off muttering about being Liberal voters. Bob Hawke, I was really excited as he was well known in the Labour movement as being someone to watch for politics in the future.

One of the very officious suited men came over to me, though there were several TAA hostesses sunbathing nearby, and asked if Bob could possibly speak to me. I adjusted my bikini pants, feeling very self conscious and said of course. They got me a cold drink and Bob Hawke came over and chatted about his daughter who wanted to be an air hostess, and could I truthfully tell him about the life. We had a long chat, a lot of laughs, he asked about my family and was generally totally charming. I enjoyed the chat so much and was glad to have been able to help. His daughter did indeed go into Ansett in the next intake.

We did not have many Sydney overnights so when I did get one I rang mum to say we were in Kings Cross and we chatted for a long time. The next morning there she was with my little brother at the hotel door. Shirley had arranged it as she was my flying partner for the month, so we all had breakfast together. This was a HUGE thing for mum. Train. Taxi. Without dad. My brother was goggle eyed at the bars and the scantily dressed prostitutes wandering home.

We took a lot of football teams to their away games and award ceremonies. One nice player for Brisbane asked me if I would attend the award presentation dinner etc. We had a fair bit to drink as it was a long evening and as I was not scheduled on until the afternoon I could indulge. The next day I woke up up with semen all over my sexy sage green nightgown. I remembered then. And it happened again the next night too. Once I had a few drinks I was not shy or scared or in any way trembly. I gave back as much passion as I received. It was not love but it was something, and I felt empowered because I chose the man.

A jarring moment though was my being woken by security the third morning there, they proceeded to search my room to try to catch me out with someone. Obviously the semen stained nightgown had given me away. I was very, very angry at their intrusion and let them have it.

Eventually my Sydney transfer came through. And it was timed so well as my English Grandparents were there. I arranged my holiday for over Xmas to have time with them and to find somewhere to live. It had been an incredibly full 1975.











Waiting Game

Mum had a huge operation and lost a lot of blood. My friend Ann later told me she was told to prepare theatre with the necessary instruments etc for a really high risk patient. She was surprised at the resuscitation equipment that was needed and knew this was going to be a risky operation for someone. Then mum was wheeled in and she was stunned. It never showed though, my mum never forgot how my old friend, one of my best friends ever, had looked after her. She said Ann was so tender, so kind, so professional. She said Ann promised her she would be okay, that she would look after her. And she did though I did not see Ann again for some years.

My mum’s previous Pulmonary Embolism nearly killed her and they always expected it to happen again. Mum never knew, apparently when she had her gallbladder out the same preparations were made. Denise Lethbridge also told me about it years later. Mum really suffered a lot with her surgeries and arthritis and her “nerves” and was never 100% in good health.

Dad drove my brother and myself to visit mum in the evenings at Gosford Hospital. As soon as I walked into her shared ward the first time I saw James who I knew from Terrigal. He waved and after mum got a bit tired I went over and said hi and recognised the patient he was visiting as one of my girlfriends I used to know from around Terrigal. She gave me a huge hug and was so pleased she had seen me as I had basically disappeared from the pub circuit. James and Jennifer were together which was wonderful, though her having miscarriages was not. They were so perfect together, and gave me their phone number.

Dad rarely said anything at the hospital, in fact mum and dad rarely spoke in front of their children so it was always a strain to visit mum as I did most of the talking. I found myself going back into nurse mode very quickly and helped mum get comfortable and introduced myself to the other female surgical patients. Some of the staff were girls I had worked with and some I had gone to high school with. It was all very familiar.

Once mum was home it was hard to get her to relax and recover. Nothing I did was done the right way. She tried to do the washing which was downstairs. I decided the time I was there would be an unpaid job and tried to get things into a routine to suit mum but she slipped into a really deep depression. I managed to get my brother off to school in the mornings and be ready for him after school. Mum filled her day with watching Days Of Our Lives and The Young And The Restless. I used the time to read or sew. I also drank a lot of coffee to fill me up as I needed to lose the ten pounds I had put on because I was not using up the kind of energy I had been using up with nannying and nursing. The weight came off with long walks to the beaches and down to Canton Beach and to the shops and library at Toukley .

Mum was recovered physically but emotionally was another thing. It took all my tact and love to cope with everything. I was beginning to feel despondent myself. Seeing my nursing friends, an old boyfriend having moved on and all living their lives made my own seem empty by comparison. I knew I could have a great trip with Daphne and family early next year but I wanted a proper long term career.

I applied to The Navy and also answered a full page advertisement in The New Idea for Ansett Air Hostesses. One day just after I had applied I was walking back from Jenny Dixon Beach and as soon as mum saw me she came outside and told me three Naval Officers in a Jeep had been to see me! They knew that an older school friend of mine, Narelle Halverson had been in the Navy and that she had told me a lot about it. Mum was so excited, she said they looked fabulous in their uniforms and came in for a cup of tea and the tea bread I made especially for dad. At the same time I heard back from Ansett to go for an interview in Sydney next month.

I chose to go to the Ansett interview before I went on with the Navy. Mum was disappointed, though she thought I would not get in with Ansett. The interview was in a hotel near Hyde Park and I walked through the park afterwards on the way to shop in Myers and Centrepoint. It had seemed to go well, they seemed more interested in how happy and jolly I was than anything else. And how I would respond to people who were not pleasant to me. They actually scorned nursing, as if it did not matter the demeanour one used on ill people.

Once inside Centrepoint I went to see Daphne and Des in their shop to let them know I might not be able to come back. I remember saying to Daphne that I wanted to do something important, to have a career. She said that I was important to her and to Des and the children. I was so immature to say that to her and apologised instantly. She understood and we had a lovely long chat.

I heard back from Ansett that they needed me to come in for a second interview. This time I wore more makeup and a figure revealing dress. It was summer so they could see I was the right weight and could hold a conversation. They said they had been a little worried about my self confidence last time but had no issues now and wanted to offer me a place in the next intake.

Cannot even begin to say how excited I was, and even more excited than me was dad. He had been asking me weekly how my diet was going! The next intake was not for four months so I had to let Daphne know I could not come back to them or go on their trip. She said to come for the weekend and I had a lovely time with the children, and babysat so the adults could go gambling in Double Bay again. While I was there Daphne told me my sister had come to see them when I first left them to look after mum. She said some really nasty things about me and said it would be better if she took the job and went overseas with them. I guess I should have not been hurt but I was. She always wanted what I had but we had different personalities. She would not have patience with the children or the adults for that matter. Daphne said she let her have it and told her that I was a friend not just an employee.

So over the next four months I helped mum and babysit my young cousins, including the little toddler, born when I first went nursing. Their mother had just gone back to work hairdressing and mum loved this little girl so much, it also helped her depression to have her there each day. I knitted jumpers for winter for my brother and an all over cabled 8ply camel wool coat to wear in Melbourne as I imagined autumn would be cold. I could have used the camel coat Daphne and Des had given me but I had given it and the bag to my sister when she had gone on and on about how I did not know how lucky I was to have such things.

I did however know that I deserved this opportunity and I was not going to squander it.




I Land On My Feet

I stayed home in Noraville for a few weeks then applied for various nannying positions with families in Sydney. I interviewed with several and decided on a lovely family with three boys under five years of age. The interview was held in Centrepoint Shopping Centre in Sydney CBD as the parents had two fabulous clothing stores there, Shim and Shives. I met the parents there as they had an incredibly busy career and I was offered the job on the spot. The father Des was a little concerned by my youth but the mum Daphne and I hit it off straight away. She intuited I was more mature than my years and knew I had a younger brother who I had half brought up. I really landed on my feet with this position. My recent nursing experience and background in working with children also helped. My sister picked me up at Central Station and dropped me off after introducing herself to the family. My mum had been in touch with her and asked her to look out for me.

They lived out at Dover Heights in a massive art deco mansion complete with outdoor pool and a converted ballroom which was used as a games room. They also had three boxer dogs, a mother dog and two bitches. Unfortunately these gorgeous dogs became a pack when anyone unknown approached the fence let alone the door. When my sister and I arrived Des had locked the dogs securely in the ballroom. I was introduced to the three most gorgeous boys, under five years of age. Stunning looking in the English way with blondest of hair and blue eyes. Totally different in personality. The oldest Justin a sweet caring boy already at Preschool three days a week. Jake the eighteen month old a bundle of mischief and delight. And Jackson, a gorgeous little boy of nine months, a treasure.

I was given a room downstairs and had the run of the house. They were an ultra modern family, really ahead of their time. Des was totally supportive of Daphne who was a feminist. Though he did not do housework etc. Then again Daphne did not do any either. They employed cleaners from a top agency. I cooked the children’s dinner for five pm, they were already bathed and had usually almost finished their food when their parents arrived home at 5.30 every night but Thursday’s, which was late night shopping. Everyone had finished eating but Jake who just loved to try me on over his vegetables. I adored them all but he was so mischievous that I had a special place for him in my heart.

After a little while the agency sent out a young English single mum named Lesley to clean the house. We got on so well immediately that Daphne arranged for her to look after the two youngest on Thursday mornings so I could go shopping. I loved it, catching the double decker bus to Bondi Junction, going into Myer which was amazing compared to the Waltons Store where I had shopped in Gosford. There were lots of boutiques and Italian style coffee lounges. The Mall had not been built yet and it had a wonderfully eclectic atmosphere. Sometimes I took the baby Jackson with me, he was as good as gold and loved bus trips. The bus conductors were really helpful too in getting the strollers off the buses. It was so much fun and so different to anything I had experienced before. I gradually built up a nice wardrobe of accessories from Bondi Junction to match the wonderfully huge camel kid leather shoulder tote bag Daphne and Des gave me as a thank you for the extra babysitting I did once a month so they could go gambling in Double Bay.

In a matter of weeks Lesley and I became firm friends. It was approaching winter and Daphne and Des needed extra sewers to hand sew the leather buttons on their amazing range of kid leather jackets and coats. I asked them if Lesley could come over to dinner with her little boy and Daphne and Des immediately loved her and offered her a substantial amount of extra cash to sew these buttons on in her spare time. I used to go over to her place one night a week and help her with her backlog, sewing being my forte!

While working there I used to go home to Noraville on Saturday afternoons on the train and get the 4.30am train back Monday morning. I was young and fit enough to do it though it was starting to get really cold at that time of the day. Daphne and Des surprised me with a beautiful camel coloured, fitted to the body, three quarter length kid leather coat. The coat matched the tote bag they had given me and was way nicer than the one I had in London in 1970, I still had that but it was heavy and hurt my shoulders. I eventually kept the old suede one at Noraville to use there if a friend suddenly needed a jacket.

Lesley and her son came up one long weekend to stay in Noraville. Her son was a similar age to my young brother and got on brilliantly with him. While mum looked after the children I took Lesley to Budgewoi Pub and from there we went to a friends house where everyone sat around and smoked dope. She kindly said no thanks but go ahead and I was really impressed at how she communicated with all the surfers there. They were mostly from Sydney, some I had known for years who were locals and most were famously reticent. She had them eating out of her hand. Unlike me, who was even shyer with chaps now, or wary would be a better word. Some of the guys were the Sydney surfers who rented a house just down from us and I regularly baked them cookies on a Saturday evening and dropped them around to them. They were famous for their marijuana munchies. And their sweet tooth.

The boys gave us a lift home and everyone was fast asleep. Lesley shared the spare room double bed with her little boy and I had my old bed in my lilac and white bedroom. The next days over breakfast Lesley chatted to dad and afterwards Denise Lethbridge came up and took both boys out on the trail bike and we all had a very relaxed time. It was the first time I really noticed dad so accepting of my friends. Mum enjoyed cooking her fabulous roast meals and my aunts and uncles came over with the cousins. First time in a long time there was no shadow, no feeling of dread or fear there with dad. Lesley actually said your dad is lovely, he just seems starved of communication that is all. I thought about that and realised I had always chatted away to him, until the teen years, when the trouble with my sister started. So I tried to include him in things more and he seemed to be much more relaxed too.

Once we got back to Sydney Lesley’s boyfriend who had dumped her at Circular Quay when they arrived on the ship months before suddenly showed up. I babysat so that they could talk and have some privacy which was not possible in her one bedroom flat at Bondi Beach. He was living at Surfers Paradise and wanted her to move up there with her son to be with him. She decided to stay in Sydney to save money to make a new start there. When we had our regular weekly dinner at Daphne and Des’ we explained this to them and they immediately offered her training as a pattern cutter in their Bondi factory. She proved to be brilliant at this and eventually took over all aspects of the work.

The dinners were fun and spun off my use of my old basic Home Science Commonsense Cookbook from year one in high school. One day after a few weeks of living there I had decided to cook a few meals for us adults and I tried the fruity lamb curry recipe in it. Des came over and tried a spoonful and exclaimed it was a traditional Indian dry sweet curry and delicious. Restaurant quality! So I made Cornish Pasties and many other dishes for us to savour. I bought new cookbooks from Myer Bondi Junction and tried recipes, it was fun and as the children always went to play with their parents once they returned from work I was free to indulge my creativity in the kitchen. We also had takeaway on Friday nights and I was included in family outings to restaurants if I happened to stay in Sydney for the odd weekend.

I was so happy there, I adored the boys and Daphne was fabulous, although I was very wary of Des, not frightened but kept him at arm’s length. No hugging etc and I did not like being alone in the house with him, or his good looking brother who stayed for a few months as was recently divorced. Obviously a reaction to my rape and it’s aftermath though I did not consciously think of what had happened in that house in Gosford.

My friend Linda left Gosford Hospital a few months after me as did all the people who had shared our house. Ann had been sent down to Royal North Shore Hospital for investigation into severe headaches. I spoke to her often on the phone. She returned home after a few days of intensive testing. My sister came over to visit a few times and let us down a lot too by not turning up when she said she was going to. It pissed me off that she disappointed the children.

Over winter the boys had a lot of colds and bugs. Dr David Bennett had started working out of Bondi Junction and he made regular house calls as he could see I could not get all three children to him when they were ill as I did not drive. He had a problem with the dogs. He asked that they were well secured before he came out and no wonder he was nervous. They used to throw themselves in a pack at the glass doors between the ballroom and the sitting room. Dr Bennett felt I was very isolated and had too much responsibility and would stay for a cup of tea and my homemade cake and a chat. When I needed my Pill script I would go in to see him in his rooms in Bronte Road, Bondi Junction.

Lots of reps gave samples of clothing to Daphne and Des, we all had some nice things but especially the boys. There was a knitwear company that made miniature versions of their high fashion sweaters for the boys. Three sweaters in the same shades of blue but different styles. Just gorgeous. The only time I had real trouble clothing wise was when  Des suddenly bought tickets to go to Cairns for all of us. I only had a few summery things with me as had taken my summer clothes back to Noraville. The ones I had not thrown out that is. My tastes changed once I lived in Sydney and I did not have my sewing machine with me to make my new summer wardrobe yet.

Once we were in Cairns Daphne loaned me a short sleeved top and I bought some blouses to wear. It was very hot in the hotel rooms of the family suite so we kept the doors open and while the parents partied downstairs I read while watching the children. We went exploring the region for several days, finding it very beautiful but my overwhelming memory was of the humidity.

Back in Dover Heights it eventually became warmer and the boys had swimming lessons in their huge pool. The instructor was great with them and they really enjoyed themselves. We went down to Bondi Beach a lot as summer approached and met Lesley and her son down there. Eventually though she moved up north to join her boyfriend. We did not feel good about it however as his family who were wealthy disapproved of her. It is why he left her in the first place.

I took Justin the four year old up to Noraville several times. He loved it. Daphne was estranged from her father who lived nearby in Wyong but the whole family picked Justin and I up the first time Justin stayed with us. It was his first sleepiver! Mum loved cuddling Jackson and was quite tearful as she would have loved more children. Unfortunately she had a lot of heavy bleeding and was diagnosed with fibroids. After having a D and C it was advised she have a hysterectomy.

My sister insisted that as she had looked after dad and my brother a few years before when mum had her gallbladder out, that it was my turn now. I did not know how to bring it up with Daphne. I was so upset, I adored the boys and every aspect of my job. It had long term implications for retraining in the garment trade or in fashion and retail. But I had an obligation to look after mum. It was expected that the daughters do these things. It was never ever considered that dad would take time off to do this. We were supposed to look after him. One of the issues for mum was the split level nature of the Noraville house. The laundry was downstairs and it would be months before she could lift washing etc.

Eventually after about five days I brought it up and Daphne said she knew something was wrong. She said no problem, come back when you are able to leave your mum. And meantime they would book the world trip they had been talking about for six months time which should be plenty of time for me to have helped mum back to health again. And I was coming along with them!

I packed and tried not to cry as I said my goodbyes a week later. I loved them so much, even Des, whose weird brash sense of humour had grown on me. Even loved the dogs, though individually, not as a pack.

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Everything Started Quite Innocently


The day finally came when I joined my friends at Gosford Hospital. Linda met mum and I at the nurses dormitory and she told my mum not to worry that she would look after me. It was a lovely affirmation of our friendship and I felt comfortable letting mum go back to Noraville knowing that I was in good hands.

Training was fun and within a week or so I was made the person in charge of my class. The instructors were fascinating and I remember seeing a recently arrived and severed liver, care of the not infrequent road accidents on the Pacific Highway. There was one instructor that always impressed me. She wore a high wimple and was tall and fairly clumsy. Very kind and gentle though.

I loved it when we finally were placed on the wards. My first assignment was the Children’s Ward, not sure if that was because I had a young brother or had extensive babysitting experience but I thrived there. One day I got a dreadful shock when my old friend Francine Fordham was talking to the sister in charge. When she had a minute we had a hug and she told me her little toddler had pulled the electric jug off the counter and scalded herself really badly. The toddler was in a bad state and might even have been transferred as when I came back from Noraville and my days off she was no longer there. Another surprise was our English teacher, the red headed bearded one I had in my last year at Wyong High School. He remembered me straight away and deferred to me immediately in the care and comfort of his asthmatic toddler.

I was then transferred to Women’s Surgical and became quickly infamous for my accidental throwing of stainless steel bowls full of soapy water all over the floors. Everyone would start laughing saying is that Nurse C again? And the ladies would shriek at me to stop making them laugh as it hurt their tummies. I just could not get a grip on the slippery things. We used bars of soap and finished the ladies off with talcum powder. It was a recipe for disaster!

The other little habit I had was of flinging thermometers across the room as I shook them down. The sister would faux sternly say that I was going to have to pay for those if it kept up. I believed she was right and tried harder.

We lived in Nurses Quarters where we had to have a late pass if we were to be out past a certain time. The whole floor were nurses from my intake. I do not think there was one girl that I did not get on with. Margaret who used to work in Katies in Gosford was my intake best friend. And I saw Linda and Ann and a surprising number of girls from Wyong High School. There was one chap in our intake, a lovely gentle fellow with blonde hair. He lodged in a private home.

I regularly took friends back to Noraville if our days off coincided. Mum loved to spoil them and dad was only home weekends so it worked out quite well. We went to Budgewoi pub, which consisted of two rooms. I preferred the darker one, better music and not so much chat. Some of my friends went horseriding with my friend Denise Lethbridge who had left nursing about six months before I started.

She had ended up working in our sister pharmacy in Toukley and kept trying to put me off nursing. My mum had a gall bladder operation while Denise was a nurse and loved her as she was so gentle. She had a boyfriend who she had met while we were out partying one night. Such a lovely kind girl, with the most smashing, loving family. None of us had boyfriends so her boyfriends kept trying to set us all up. Fun. We went to pubs, dances and sometimes parties.

There was a strict order to the way things were conducted at the hospital. Anyone more senior had to get on the elevators first. The day the new intake started was brilliant! However the doctors just ignored this and chatted up any interesting to them junior nurses.  My path crossed a lot with an anaesthetist who was really sweet but everyone knew he was in an affair with a trainee in her third year. She was an officious chilly rather beautiful girl in her twenties. She was especially chilly with me as he decided I would be replacing her before she left the hospital at the end of her training.

I had trainees telling me he told everyone and sundry in surgery that Nurse C has bedroom eyes. And he apparently raved about me. I was not quite eighteen. We had regular long conversations in corridors, in the cafeteria and he was very interested in my future. Assured me it was normal to feel some anxiety about certain aspects of nursing. He said he had been very anxious as well during his internship.

After six months two nurses from my intake Jenny from Bathurst, Margaret from the Central Coast and the male nurse and I rented a house. Jenny had a lot of friends from motorcycle clubs and various pubs and we always had a lot of strange men staying over. All were lovely and behaved like gentlemen and had girlfriends back home.

I was totally out of my element. I tried dope for the first time and LSD twice. Heroin once. Did not like any of the heavy stuff so left the others to it. There was a lot of music and parties. We would invite nurses from the hospital as well. And Jenny invited a lot of the Gosford guys from the local pubs. There was always loud music going on into the night.

When we were short of beds we would double up with the chaps who knew to keep their clothes on and not try anything, and there was always another girl in the room as we had two single beds in each room. One chap had stayed over before and seemed okay and as my roomate was on night shift slept in her bed  or he was supposed to.

At some stage he came over and got into my bed. He started kissing me and I tried to get him to stop. He would not. He was very strong and I could not get him off me. The music was on at the other end of the house and nobody could hear me or the noise he was making.

He raped me but that was not the end of it. I went to work after I had a shower, not telling anyone. I completed my shift though the patients on Men’s Medical said I was very quiet when I did not respond to their morning rendition of I’ll Take You Home Again Kathleen.  So they tried KKK Katie which I had always loved.

I loved the ward full of elderly chaps and the middleaged chaps, they were all so cheerful, so helpful, so kind. Some of them were father’s of my school friends. Another was a young chap who had severe diabetes who had taken me a few weeks before for a night picnic on a beach. So sweet and tender and kind. Nothing like what I had just experienced. Not that anything had happened with him beyond kissing. I was a virgin, old fashioned and intended to stay that way until I married. Or I had.

I became very anxious that the chaps on my ward were going to die under my care. Two died two days in a row from hypertension. I offered to lay them out as I had been very fond of them, they were long term patients. It got so that I was so anxious that I dreaded doing anything new.

The worst of it had been the men turning up at our door. My rapist had told everyone at the pub I was easy. Fair game. And they called me names, drew filthy things all over my wardrobe and windows. It was relentless.

Our yearly exams were coming up and I had to try to concentrate to study. I studied at Noraville a lot on my days off. My period came and I was relieved though I had felt safe on the pill. I sat through several of the exams and in the end I just could not do it. I had to get away. I resigned and asked mum to come get me. I never told her what happened, just that I had to leave. She did not question me, just helped me pack my things in her car, bless her.




The Greatest Gift

I loved working in the chemist and quickly settled in as part of the team of girls and women working there. The pharmacy assistant was a fiery red headed divorced mum in her thirties and we quickly hit it off. She drove to work each day from The Entrance and picked me up so we were able to come into work together. I was quickly put in charge of photography and film and everything to do with that. The owner was not a pharmacist but was very friendly and encouraging and arranged lots of extra courses to help our skills along. I went to Revlon makeup courses and Kodak courses at night somewhere in Lake Macquarie which was only an hour north. We met lots of other girls from different towns and had a lot of fun.

Each year at Christmas the pharmacist gave the staff a treat at the hairdressers just down from us. We had a wash and a semi permanent and a set. My hair was pretty long by then, I started to grow it after we got back from the UK. Never having had a colour before and happy with my own hair we went with a colour wash called Black Tulip. It was very witchy and I upped my lipstick and eye makeup accordingly!

We girls got on very well, the only fly in the ointment was the tradie husband of a woman in her thirties who was our senior. He used to come early every day to pick her up. It was always when either myself or another young assistant was up a ladder getting stock down from high cupboards. It was the days of the minis and we did not have to wear tights in summer. So he got quite the eyeful as we stretched to get the stock. He used to position himself almost right under me, slightly to the side and blatantly stare at my bottom in my undies which were exposed when I reached up. His wife seemed oblivious, as she was to most things, and as we tried to be especially towards her bruised face some Monday mornings. We did not say anything to her, just gave her space and made her extra cups of tea.

As I was single I was assigned all the Public Holiday work and though I enjoyed the extra time off in lieu of pay I did not feel it was particularly fair. It meant I missed the get togethers out at Soldier’s Beach with the extended family. We used to sit at the picnic tables at the top and after lunch go for a walk on the rocky side of the beach. If we felt frisky after our massive meal of cold beef and vegetable pie and pork pie and salad had settled a bit we would go for a swim, running up and down the steps to the beach helped us work off our food. Afterwards there would be trifle and cake and laying around on the grass, chatting with the cousins. And this year was extra special because during the year my mother’s younger brother and family joined us in Noraville. They migrated and actually flew out here. We had met them in 1970 so were thrilled to have more family here to love. My parents rented them a house and I often babysat the two boys and during the day mum had my aunt come over each day to make sure she was not homesick.

Linda and I had such an incredible time in Sydney in February 1972. Her parents had asked mine if I could stay the night before the Led Zepellin concert with her at her grandparents house near Centennial Park. My parents actually agreed and Linda and I walked across the park early to the venue and managed to get right up the front of the concert. I adored Jimmy Page and was transfixed by him and his playing. When the show was over some of the audience were beckoned back towards the stage. Thank goodness I was with her and not Ann as the band were famous for their parties, drugs and groupies. And Jimmy Page for loving witchy looking girls, he was heavily into Satanism at the time.

The work was full on as it was holiday season and until March it was really hectic. Then once school and work had commenced it became very quiet. Halfway through March the Pharmacist said he had to let me go. I was stunned and the girls furious. We used to meet at some of the girl’s homes and they said he had hired me as holiday staff without paying me properly. They were very upset for me as by then any shop jobs had been filled. Mum and dad were annoyed too but I started babysitting again and in the daytime kept active by cutting through the bush to Jenny Dixon Beach, reading lots and also writing things down in notebooks. I also liked to strip off my little sundresses that I had made and bathe naked, it was weekdays so very few people were around to see me.

I was still having problems with my periods, the owner of the chemist had been very understanding about my menstrual migraines and the pain. Used to tell me to go inside and get a cup of tea when he saw me at work. The doctors next door would give me a Buscopan shot and I would do pricing work from a stool until it worked. By then I was almost used to this. But mum said I should not be and took me to a female Gynaecologist in Gosford who said all this talk that the male doctors had told me of it all going away when I had babies was ludicrous. I agreed and told her I wanted a career in nursing, and had done so all my life. She booked me in for a D and C. Mum was horrified as she said I would be interfered with and stretched so no man would want me. Incredible ignorance of the female body and also she knew I had been using tampons since I was fifteen. The extra security of tampons with pads gave me more confidence on my heavy days. Mum thought them dirty but I never looked back after I first got the hang of getting the things in there, though I did have to go to a maxi for absorption. I became quite the expert.

After a few months Sharon Bull who had walked with me from the school bus down the long road to our rented house the previous year popped in to see me. She said she was about to go to Morrisset Hospital to start her Psychiatric Nursing course and her job in Coles packaging meat was available. She said the pay was good, guys were nice and it was only until the intake at the end of the year so I applied and started as soon as she left. Straight away I was treated like a snob, a stuck up bitch too good for them. I have no idea why they thought that, maybe that I did not laugh at their filthy jokes and insinuations. I was the only girl with a lot of males.

But that was not the biggest problem. I had a real reaction to the meat that they got me to repackage. It was usually near it’s sell by date. The butcher would use methods of covering really nasty smelling meat and I had to discipline myself not to retch. The worst though was the pork. It was slimy, especially after being in Glad Wrap for days. Mum used to say she knew when I had been handling pork because my face was white as a sheet when I got home.

The head butcher was a real bastard, he delighted in seeing me suffer. His big thing was saying that he knew that I really needed this job. It would have been so easy to quit and coast for six months until I was old enough for my nursing intake but I had a strong work ethic. I was not staying because I needed the job but to show that bastard he could not hound me out of there. Ironically my old boss left the pharmacy and the girls told the new boss and he immediately offered me my job back. I accepted gladly and within weeks was in charge of lots of different areas in the shop. The girls were saying I would be head girl in five years, but it was the last thing I wanted. In five years I would be overseas nursing or in the RANC nursing somewhere.

I loved doing my camera and film work and increased the sales of Revlon for the pharmacy as well. Linda’s mum said I wore too much smokey eye makeup and lipstick without anything else but I was happy with the look and it went with my then incredible masses of hair. One day one of the older girls Jasmine who regularly bought makeup from me asked me what my last name was as I had told her I had a sister who had been in her year at school. When I told her she looked so stunned that I asked her what was wrong. She told me that my sister described me as a really ugly witch. I joked well I have the hair and makeup but this girl was very upset. She even started popping in on me at home at the weekends when my sister was not there to say hi and have some of mum’s tea and cake.

One of the fun jobs was for me to redecorate the huge front window with gifts etc. I was told I was very creative and it was left completely to me. One day I turned slightly aside to get something else for the display when there was an almighty crack and then a cascading crash of glass shelves with gifts falling down as well. Something made me close my eyes, instinct or fear I do not know. I remember standing there speechless when my boss came across and very carefully extricated me from the shattered glass I was standing amongst. He took me to get a cup of tea with sugar in it and arranged for me to be taken home. I was terrified I would be in trouble however it was faulty fixtures so he was obviously worried as it could have been a much worse outcome. And he assured me insurance would pay for everything.

A much older lady had been hired at the same time as me and she was an unsettling influence on a lot of the workers. She was low in seniority but expected to be treated as the senior, by me especially. She eventually reported me to the boss for being rude. I was simply being assertive and not playing her deferential games. I got into big trouble. And worst of all I was told to go home if I had a migraine and stay home until it had gone. The owner had not agreed with that but I had my instructions. I had a lot more severe migraines now as the gynaecologist had put me on the pill for my period pain. It worked brilliantly for that but I had a solid week of migraines each month.

One day this lady’s husband rang us to tell us she was terribly ill. It was only a month or so until I was due to go nursing and I do not believe in holding a grudge so I asked if I could visit her. It turned out she had developed a kind of Smallpox from a vaccination she had for an overseas trip. She was very upset and weak and worried about how the chemist shop would manage without the two of us. We already had lost one girl to a new baby, though we still visited her regularly at her home. So I asked the pharmacist if he would like me to stay on over the busy period until the next year to cover for her and he said that would be terrific.

Christmas was a lot of fun, by now my newest aunt out here was pregnant with her third child. I met them at the beach after work a lot and continued to babysit. One day my sister came up as usual but this time when she went back asked me if I would like to look at her hospital in Sydney to get an idea of what was involved. She had arranged for me to meet nursing sisters and go to the cafeteria. It was great fun and we really bonded. She drove me back late that afternoon and we were very excited however when she pulled up, dad came out of the house in an absolute fury.

We had not even got up the steps when he launched himself at her and literally threw her down the stairs. She started screaming and he was shouting at her that she was to never come back. And she was never to take me anywhere again or there would be trouble. He shouted at me to get inside the house. He then ran to her car and pulled the distributor out and threw it in the bushes. She was crying and ran to find it and I could not stand there any longer. I said dad she was helping me. She did not do anything wrong and he went for me. I was so frightened as I stood there behind the screen door but I would not shut up. He shouted at me if you do not go to your room now you can go with her and never come back. My brother and mother were crying, it was awful. And I could hear my sister sobbing as she searched for her car part. She had given me the greatest gift that day, the gift of an older sister looking out for her younger sister.

Eventually she found her needed part and drove away. I stayed in my room that night and until dad had left for work and I was ready to be picked up by my work mate. Once there I worked in a sort of a trance, and finally I went outside and stood besides some toilets and sobbed my heart out. My boss came out a while later and asked me what was wrong, when I told him he said you cannot stay out here. Come inside and we will get you a cup of tea. The girls all hugged me and were fabulous and got me to do pricing in the back room. Along with getting me caramel tarts and Rolos to have with copious cups of tea. Over the next few months until I went nursing they also invited me to their homes a lot for meals so that I was out a lot when dad was there. I also went to my aunt and uncle a lot, anything to not face that lonely, unhappy house. It was so beautiful outside yet so empty of love inside. I could not bear it anymore.

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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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