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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Northern Star Australia Bound


We left Southampton docks bound for Australia via Las Palmas, Capetown, Durban, Fremantle, Melbourne and Sydney. Mum had managed to get out and phone her sister in London and two of her sisters came down to see us off. Before we left though they asked mum to stay, with us children, and leave dad. She had no money of her own and was very confused and upset and did not know what to do. They seemed to come to some kind of an agreement though and mum decided we would go back to Australia.

I do not remember Las Palmas but I do remember loving Capetown. I had a little spending money and everyone laughed when I bought postcards and some writing pads. I showed them where it said made in South Africa on the back of the writing pads! Table Mountain was incredible, I loved everything about that stopover.

Some time during the first leg of the trip I met three young chaps who were migrating to Australia. They were in their late teens, early twenties. From the north of England so we formed a really solid friendship, me in particular with the oldest one. He was like a big brother to me while not really being one. His friends were fabulous and funny and all around great innocent fun.

They had a talent contest for the younger children and my brother was dressed up as a Swagman and he won! I was so excited to see him in the parade and it was really crowded in the large area where it was held and I sort of got knocked backwards into James, my friend. I had nothing to stop my momentum until James stepped forward to break my fall. I threw my hands out to save myself and encountered a bit more than I had expected. His rather interesting penis in his cord pants. I had gripped onto it as I did not know what part of him I had grabbed, and it felt rather nice I must say. I apologised while blushing once I realised and of course he said no problem and that he had rather liked it, as I might have noticed. So my first experience of a male with an erection was James, my confidant and friend. Of course I knew he was interested in me but he was lovely and knew my age and also saw how vicious my sister was to me, and mum and dad for that matter. They were enraged the whole trip. When I was not with James and friends I was taking my brother places to get him away from the toxic atmosphere between mum and dad. I even took him about with James and friends.

Sometime during the trip mum saw me sitting with my friends having a lemonade and she knocked on the window and beckoned me out. I muttered something and James said do not be angry with your mum she is looking out for you. When I got to the cabin my sister and dad and my brother were there. Dad screamed at me that I was a slut and various other things. I was totally baffled and really frightened.

He then grabbed me hard and threw me over his knee. Pulled my panties down and proceeded to thrash me and he would not stop. I could hear people going by and so I screamed, it hurt a lot but I did not scream from pain, I hoped someone would come to find out what was wrong but nobody did. I kept screaming so he hit me harder. When he had finished I could not sit. I had huge welts on my backside. Mum is the one who got him to stop, she was crying by then. I cannot remember what my brother and sister did. I was too humiliated to look at anyone. I lay down on my bunk with my back to them and curled up in a ball. My dad went out of the cabin and mum put some Nivea on the welts. She said dad is worried about you with those men. I quietly said we did not do anything, that she knew I would not do anything. That they did not trust me. She just cried.

The next day dad saw me continuing to sew fabric over my plain white bra for the Lua night. I had bought the fabric and made a sarong skirt and painstakingly hand stitched it all. I could have shown it to my sewing teacher and been awarded first prize I took so much care with the work. Dad grabbed it off me and threw it and said and you will not be going out anywhere in that either. I was extremely modest, only ever wore a one piece costume and was already nervous about parading in this costume and he made it seem really trashy, not the clever ensemble mum and I had worked out between us.

I put it away and went out for a walk, forbidden to see my trio of friends. I had nobody to talk to, kids of my own age seemed really immature and there were not many of them anyway as everyone was at school. I just walked around the deck repeatedly, thinking about how much school I had to make up when I got back and how I was going to study hard so I could go nursing and leave home as soon as I could. Eventually I ran into the friend with long black hair and he walked and talked with me a bit and said he would have a talk to James.

My sister was dressing up for the Lua so my mum convinced dad to let me go. She told him I had worked hard and that I was a “good” girl. And I was, only because I was too afraid of dad to be anything else. But he could not stop my thoughts. My mind. He said it’s up to mum what happens then and went to smack me across the face for the look he said was there.  I flinched, his whacks across the face hurt my neck as well as my face. I believe the look was in my eyes and my mind, he could not control that but I decided to hide my thoughts in future from him.

I finished the costume and it was really pretty, I rarely wore yellow but it looked pretty and bright. Mum had found me some yellow coral beads. They did not cover my bra area like the leis others wore but I had nothing there to see anyway. I remember my sister had left me alone over those few days and so it was not as difficult as I thought to parade in the outfit in front of everyone. James and friends cheered as I went by, in a non leering way, they were lovely.

When we reached each port I sent my friends postcards, I wrote them like serials, telling them of the wonderful places we had seen and of James and his friends and the Greek hairdresser who was all over me. And my mum trusted him with me! I was trapped in a lift with him once and he started undoing my lace up bodice of my dress. I left the postcard serial at that point, knowing the girls would be wanting to know what happened next.

On the way back to Sydney we stopped at Fremantle where dad had a good friend, a past work associate. We met his family and had a lovely few days with them. The next port was Melbourne, James and friends and I had continued to be innocent companions and they asked if there was an address they could write to me as they were worried about me. They even offered to help put me up with a nice family somewhere until I left school so that I could then go nursing in Sydney where they were going to be living. I gave them my friend Alison’s address knowing she would be fine with it. She was actually allowed boyfriends. In her actual bedroom. And she was allowed to make out up to a certain point, and no further. She was trusted. I knew she would get it.

At some stage after thrashing me dad had sort of apologised. He said he had not wanted me to get into trouble. As mum had. He wanted me to marry a doctor. And I needed to save myself for him. But he said it like I had done something already with one of the chaps. He did not trust me. Before this I was open and honest with him but I knew I had to play him carefully, until I was old enough to leave home. And I knew I would never, ever forgive him for the shame, the humiliation, in hitting me like that. I was hit to supposedly stop me having sex, yet he humiliated me in front of others by pulling down my undies. It was almost a sexual act. It felt really wrong.

We reached Sydney, I said a tearful goodbye to the boys, James was miserable and worried about me but I told him I had a lot of friends and we would keep in touch. I also said goodbye to the hairdresser, and his wife. And eventually we found our way back up the coast to Toukley.

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Northern Star UK Bound

We were seen off at Sydney by our family and our Gorokan neighbours. Also at the docks was one of dad’s fabulously wealthy work friends. However dad was not at all happy when this man leered at me and asked where he had been hiding me. Perhaps I looked older than fifteen but not by much. Eventually everyone who was not going disembarked and we were moved out into the harbour. Our route was Wellington, Auckland, Rarotonga, Tahiti, Acapulco, Panama, Curacao, Trinidad, Barbados, Lisbon and Southampton.

What  I remember of the journey was mostly dad in a rage. He had rarely spent any time with us since we hit our teens and he had no idea how to deal with us except by threat and intimidation. My brother and I shared a cabin with mum and dad and my sister shared with three other girls in their twenties.

Pretty quickly my sister got to know an older crowd and also hung around with the young sailors after they finished their shifts. Two of them asked if they could take my sister and I horseback riding in Wellington when we arrived. They asked dad and mum and it was arranged without me really being spoken to. My sister had ridden horses quite a few times but I had never been on one before. Wellington is quite hilly and the horses spirited. My horse bolted and raced down around this hilly track. The sailor who was assigned to me was furious that they had not found out if I had ridden before.  He was very angry with my sister and my dad actually and very kind and considerate of me. He was really frightened something could have happened to me.

We loved Auckland and I especially loved Tahiti. I had dreamt of going there since watching James A Mitchener’s Adventures in Paradise on television. And to my absolute delight the Tikki 111 was there. It was truly paradise to me, the markets, the beaches, the people. I could have stayed for weeks. Every time we made port I sent postcards off to my friends in Australia. Sometimes I would find mail waiting for me at various ports.

I also really loved Acapulco and so did mum. She had a lovely time and looked very pretty in the fitted cotton dresses I made her for the trip. They were perfect for the cooler weather. Unfortunately for me dad thought she looked pretty too and so I had to regularly amuse my brother elsewhere while they had time alone together.

Meantime my sister partied and had a great time, though she did have to join us for meals. It eventually started to get colder and we were grateful that mum and dad had taken us to meet our aunt and uncle at Kotara Fair in Newcastle to shop for warmer clothes. I found two gorgeous dinner dresses and some  pantsuits and skirts while my sister had flares and jeans. Very fashionable, she looked fantastic in her new gear.

Some of the sailors thought so too and she used to go to their quarters and drink with them. They were not much older than her. It was fairly innocent though I was pretty naive so maybe it was not the case. Anyway dad created a huge scene by following her one night. He dragged her out of the cabin and then stood shouting in front of everyone that he needed to smell her fingers. To see if they smelled of sex. She was so humiliated and he screamed at her that he could smell men on her. It would more likely have been some of the hippy ladies there in the cabin smoking dope etc.

We spent an awful few days while dad raged at her and everyone. He was only pleasant to people who were not family. It was a pleasure to get nearer to England so we could have some distance from dad and his temper. For some reason though he relented and let her attend a deck party the sailors etc were throwing as a farewell. Only thing was I had to go chaperone her. It was not pleasant. The fellow who had asked her horse riding in Wellington decided it was me he had been after all along and I ended up dancing with him and trying to dodge his hands and his tongue from down my throat when he decided to French Kiss me. It made me feel sick, he tasted of what I think was Gin and garlic and I was having trouble getting away from him. But who was I to spoil her fun? It was not a pleasant evening and it took all my wiles to keep him out of my pants. I really grew up quickly that night.

In London we found lodging in a boarding house. My sister and I were in a dormitory room downstairs with lots of older girls who did not speak English and mum and dad were with my brother in a room upstairs. One night I awoke to see someone rifling through my sisters things. I shouted and the burglar bolted out of the door onto the street. My sister did not stop to think she just shot off after him. I could not believe it, she was out there in her nightie and I think she grabbed her dressing gown and just ran. I made a lot of noise and the girls woke up and checked their passports. Then I ran upstairs and woke mum and dad who were a bit perplexed. Then dad took off after my sister. He found her running down Carnaby Street. It was about 4am!

We shopped for warm outerwear. My sister had her heart set on a black woollen double breasted maxi coat with brass buttons and dad was against it. I wanted one in a different colour. Mum convinced dad to let her have it but I was considered too young. Instead I was found the most amazing suede coat with fringing. It was short too, a mini. If the idea was to keep me looking my age it backfired, I looked quite HOT! I can still see that short coat now, one of the most amazing things ever. Apart from my Kangaroo bag.

Eventually after a week sightseeing in London we made our way to Lincolnshire to mum’s parents where we met lots of aunts, uncles and cousins. And they met my brother for the first time. My mum and dad and sister and brother went for long walks but I just wanted to be near my grandma and grandad, reading and watching them over the top of my books. Eight long years without grandparents, it was so wonderful to have them now.

We then went on to Eire to dad’s family where we had wonderful conversations with cousins of cousins of cousins and with aunts and uncles too. The conversation never flagged and it was so good to see Grannie, my namesake, again. Somewhere along the way though  dad decided we were returning to Australia. Just like that. No discussion. Mum was heartbroken as he would not let her call her family or go to see them before we left. We rented a cabin in Southampton while we waited for a ship back.





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.


In sixth class dad sold the cottage and moved north to a mining town in the Hunter Valley. He was there to help get the Liddell Power Station going. It was a horrid place with a lot of air pollution from the mines. I was always sick with chest infections, ear infections and sore throats. The doctors constantly gave me horridly painful penicillin shots.

It was the first time since I started school that I was by myself but I have no memory at all of the school. My sister started high school that year, and she absolutely hated that high school.  I do remember our Aunt S and Uncle E and family visiting as regularly as before as we were even closer to them there. I loved to be near my mum and aunt on our Sunday post lunch walks but in those days it was very much adults first, children last and my mum would shoo me away. I was a fair bit older than my aunt’s girls and of course my sister would not walk or talk with me and my cousin S did not talk much to girls so I usually just walked by myself.

I liked looking in shop windows, admiring the fashion and quality of the clothing in the few boutiques. I had always been a very good seamstress. I made myself shifts and a skirt and had started on a shift for mum, by hand. I had made clothes for my dolls well before attempting anything for myself. I loved clothes, though I only had a few pretty things. My sister was more comfortable in Levi’s and shorts and as she was a tomboy they suited her.

After six months or so dad’s job assignment was up and he was off to the next one. It was quite a way up north, true country and I absolutely loved it. My school was wonderful, my teacher was a tall male and he was very kind and helpful to me. Particularly with gymnastics. I detested the vault and somersaults. They made me incredibly dizzy for hours afterwards. One day he came across and said that he loved how I tried everything, even if I was frightened of it or felt I could not do it. If only he or my parents had realised it was a sign of a lifelong neck condition that would limit a lot of my enjoyment of life. I did not just not like these things, I really should not have been doing them at all. Ever.

To start with we lived in a house which was set back a long way from the road. We had a long walk to the road and a very long bus ride to school. My sister went even further to Inverell as there was no high school in town. The bus driver was a gorgeous lady, treated us all like her own. Mum however was very isolated, with a toddler it was very lonely for her and she was also frightened to be by herself.

We were only there three months and during that time mum conquered a lifelong fear, learning how to drive. Dad took her out in his ute and as long as she stayed on the quiet country roads she was fine. She might have inspired me to try something as well, I had always wanted to ride a bike, it was a way to escape for a few hours, visit friends. I was always too dizzy and it was the same though I persevered for months, my neck again. Turning to check for traffic etc was a trigger for major vertigo.

Eventually we moved into staff demountable cabins for the beginning of the extremely hot summer. They were spacious and had air conditioners, unheard of in those days. No expense spared for the workers families while they built Pindarri Dam. Mum and dad used to go out visiting work friends and my sister was always out. I babysat my brother while he slept and for the first time I felt a real surge of sexuality. I do not know if it was the previous abuse, or that I was mature for my age, or the attention I was getting from a lot of the workers. When I was alone I took my top off, and my teeney bra, and stood against the screen door and rubbed my tiny breasts and nipples repeatedly against it. I then stood there half naked feeling the cool breeze on my body. I actually hoped a man would see me, half hoped, and had no idea what I would have done if they had. Thank God I was more afraid of getting into trouble with my parents than with a man seeing me like that, because I stopped after a few weeks. They were a very exciting few weeks for me though.

I was told repeatedly not to walk through the bush to the bus stop but I loved the whole country and bush feel. We had regularly gone to rodeos as a family over the years but this was the real thing! However one day I was confronted by a snake that stood up high and swayed its head at me. Tongue flicking in and out. I was petrified with fear but managed to stay very still and then I backed away and ran home.

Towards the end of November the job folded for dad and we returned to the Central Coast. The same way we had gone up there, with my sister and I in the back of the ute. This time dad was stopped by a policeman and sternly lectured. He made me get in the front and my sister stayed in the back.

Once we found a place to live I returned to my old Primary School where I became incredibly popular with the boys I had known for years. It was strange. Even though one of them told me he preferred me without the freckles I now had he said he would like to dance with me at our barn dance last week of term. Mum actually bought me a lovely dress, it had a bit of a cutout at the back, perfectly modest but flattering. I remember it was navy with white and worked well against my tan and freckles. I had a wonderful time at the dance, one reason being that my sister was not there to undermine my confidence. I also had so many boy partners it was dizzying. A lot of them were boys who had shown me theirs and obviously I had not shown them mine years before. They always thought I would and of course, once under the desk they never did get to see anything. Think I was too young really to be a tease. The boys just never learned. Plus I was Irish Catholic with a Victorian mother. Sex was dirty and privates, especially boys, considered really dirty.

We ate lots of toffees and drank squash and one of the really nice popular boys told me he had always really liked me and had missed me. I said I liked him too and went off to dance with another boy. This was very unlike me, though it was probably more like me in UK, flirtatious and funny, not at all uncomfortable with boys.

In the last week of term I was told it was too late to sit exams and as everyone had been graded they arranged for me to go into High School anyway. My parents did not seem to mind I would be assessed differently to the others so I was not worried. We spent a lot of time outside gardening that week and I told the boy gardening besides me to look at the gorgeous spider on my hand. Luckily my teacher overheard and held my hand very very tightly until the richly patterned spider had gone. She then called the class inside, looking very shaken up. She washed my hand and had a good look but it was simply a close call, with a Red Back spider. I was very fortunate, much like with the snake.

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The Good Girl

We arrived in Wyong in late September, and we rented a house as soon as we could and dad started work and we started school. Mum was very sociable and made friends with the neighbours quickly. We attended Mass at The Town Hall where services were held and came to know the Irish priests and nuns. Really loved our Scripture Teacher too. After a while dad bought our first home. A little fibro cottage with a cabin at the side near the main road. We were blessed with the best neighbours ever. Sydneysiders as they were called, who came up every second weekend.

By then my sister and I were not getting on. She had found a group of much older girls and some boys and she used to go into the deep bush behind the cottage all day when not at school. I did not like these friends, did not trust them and dad told me not to play in the bush due to snakes etc. I was happy playing with my dolls, rereading every book I owned.  I read and reread Little Women and Heidi so many times that I  knew the stories by heart. Our school was fun and I loved being able to get away from my sister. As soon as the school bus arrived we would go our separate ways. I was a bit of a teachers pet and over the last years at primary school my sister got into a lot of trouble with the teacher who considered me one of her pets!

Our sponsors lived in Swansea, Lake Macquarie and we regularly visited them. Dad said we had holidays at Belmont every year however I have no memory of that. Though on a visit about ten years ago my dad asked me if I knew where I was and I straight away said the Newsagents our sponsors owned! Dad said to my mum that was incredible and he is right! My parents later retired to Lake Macquarie.

After a year or two my mum’s brother and three children arrived and stayed in the cabin until they settled in the Hunter Valley. It was so wonderful to have them. We frolicked on the beaches and enjoyed being part of a bigger family again. They used to drive to see us every fortnight after church and mum and Aunty S combine home made pies etc to make the most incredible picnics.

When I was ten my brother was born. I remember once dad telling us he had to take mum to Gosford to the hospital which was at least thirty minutes away. It was a false alarm and about a week later we woke up to a new baby brother. Dad had taken mum in the middle of the night to the hospital to give birth.  Both my sister and I looked after him a lot, changed his nappies. I remember asking my mum what his testicles were for. I got the same answer as when I accidentally caught her breast exposed when she fed him. She told me I had a dirty mind and asked too many questions and both mum and my sister shooed me out of the house.

I had a lonely childhood, kept to myself except when at school. My salvation came every two weeks when the Sydney neighbours arrived. Apparently they used to see my face squashed against the glass, waiting patiently for them to turn up. We used to play Ludo, Snakes and Ladders, Twister and card games in the evening. Other evenings they would come into our house to watch television. In the day time we loved dressing up and playing shop in the cabin at the back of our property.

By then Uncle M dad’s brother had arrived. He used to play a lot with me too and had a habit of emptying his pockets of coppers which we divided between my sister and myself. I used to buy writing pads and pencils and write stories, and read lots of books from the library.

One evening dad was really late and mum asked Uncle M to look for him, my sister being a real tomboy by then went with him. I stayed home and tried to keep mum calm and to this day I do not know how I knew to do it or have the courage either, but I smacked her hard across the face because she had started screaming. And would not stop. I believe I was ten. She calmed down and said she was sorry and I kept her spirits up until Uncle M got back and said dad had crashed, they had found him in the bush near Charmhaven. Dad had a drink on Friday nights at the pub there and after that he never went there after work again.

Mum and dad took us fishing at the beaches and dropped us off at weekends, by ourselves, to snorkel and swim at Canton Beach. My sister was in charge of me but I usually ended up on my own. Which was fine with me. I was friendly but cautious and found many playmates at Canton Beach. Mum was very worried about perverts etc, she warned us repeatedly to not talk to men or go off with any male of any age. If only she had known the person I had to fear lived at home and had been molesting me since we arrived late in 1962.

I was such a good girl, it was just the way I was and maybe that is why I went along with it, though I was really frightened and bullied into silence. I tried so hard to stay up, to watch television late. Anything to avoid getting in that double bed with my sister. My mother used to rage at me, slap me, it was obviously mum and dads time and I was infringing on their time. I did not care. I was naughty to avoid what I knew was in store for me.

My sister obviously had been molested by a much older girl and she had somehow found a pack of deviants here.  They used to lock me in the shed at the back and put large marbles inside my vagina. They would tell me to hold them tight, so they did not fall out. They rolled the big marbles over my clitoris, repeatedly. Eventually they put other things up into my vagina. There were bigger boys in the shed too. I do not know if I was abused by them too. I blocked so much of this until my forties, just do not know.

I do remember the long long sessions of masturbation my sister inflicted on me in bed. Did not matter that I cried, or refused, she would stroke me with her fingers and it did feel good.  I hated her but God I liked it. The end result, how sick is that? She would then say her turn and I had to masturbate her. Repeatedly. But the worst part for me, and I do not know why, is that she would make me suck my fingers to clean them afterwards. Someone taught her that, it was so our parents who slept in the same room would not get the scent of sex. It made me retch. When she made me do that, hit me and pinched me until I did, then I knew I was doing something really wrong and that God would see it and strike me down. Well He did not help in any way.

When we made our Confirmation the sisters guessed something was wrong between my sister and I. They offered me a full scholarship to Kinkoppal in Sydney. Mum would not let me go, because she thought the nuns would molest me. How ironic. I told the priest in confession and he gave me so much penance I never raised it again, with anyone until I was in my forties. Eventually Uncle M moved overseas and my sister moved into the cabin. She never touched me again sexually after that but she became nastier, more vicious. I was frightened of her then and still am to this day.