FROM THE CITY TO THE BUSH, PART TWO, the journey continues.


I must relate a final City school story, and while I intended to include this experiment into “criminal activities” later, it seems that it was clearly educational. You see a warehouse on the Woolloomooloo dockside contained comics, and hundreds of them, they were rejects from the printing presses with over run colors and other defects, however they were readable simply awaiting re-pulping.

A small gang of local boys, OK, me included, became aware of this goldmine and on occasion relieved the legal owners of the reading matter, OK the front door was by-passed, but, no damage was caused by our incursion and only good value literature was removed. Sold at “The Tech” for a half penny each the gang slowly prospered from the sale of comics very popular at the time, THAT IS UNTIL GANG WARFARE breaks out in Woolloomooloo.

We believe a rival gang had also discovered the bonanza; unlike us they were prone to pinch stuff of value like tools and useless things like kerosene lamps. One of the members who attended “Darlo” came to the attention of the police and fingers were pointed in the direction of my gang.

AS such this person “Dobbed”, imagine all the boys in school lined up with the local Sergeant from Darlinghurst Police Station walking up and down in the company of the informer.

Looking down the line I could see this little pimp pointing to some of the kids, now as my gang mates are slowly being ID’ed the penny drops, we are in trouble. Finally, there are six or seven boys being addressed by the Sergeant and being told to appear at the Darlinghurst Police Station that day. We did, and convinced the Duty Officer of not stealing useless stuff, we were asked to return to school and control the mob, end of story except that tolerance to informers is unacceptable.

Importantly, in my early days city life was never far removed from the bush, I have outlined in the preceding city schools that I had attended and you will gauge constant movement occurred in the years leading up to and commencing work, but we will get to the bush soon.

This section will outline some of the experiences we may well call extra-curricular, IE; they did not happen at school. If it’s OK we will call this period;


Well the cradle has got me concerned, the earliest memories of “My Town” will have to be 34 Bayswater Road, Kings Cross in Sydney or (Potts Point), the building was (3) stories and was situated on the right hand side as you proceeded down Bayswater Rd. to Rushcutters Bay from the “KINGS Cross”. It is conceded that my father Denis Payne Farley owned the premises, (open) to conjecture; however, during the war years this place became an official ‘Billet” for American Naval Service Personnel.

Now while I can reliably suggest we lived there, my age would have been 3, 4, and 5? What I do remember is walking hand in hand with two Officers to a small convenience store at Kings Cross and being treated to “real” COKE, pink ice cream and cinnamon chewing gum, the original tastes still linger.

Impossible, improbable, maybe mum told me and I can see the images as she described, boy, the memory may be vague but the taste still remains strong, like toast, see later, Kings Cross can be the essence of FROM THE CITY TO BUSH. Incidentally, Grand Ma Isabella Lovegrove / nee Menzies managed these premises before moving to 112 Palmer Street Woolloomooloo just down the hill, heading west.

Situated at the top of William Street not far from the “W’LOO” this area known as the “Cross” has many childhood memories, adolescent memories and adult memories, most I can relate, some the censor will cut.

And by the way dear reader I was christened at St. Canice’s Catholic Church, Elizabeth Bay? 31st May, 1945


Electric trams and buses were an integral part of suburban Sydney, as a kid I was intrigued by the conductor poles becoming disengaged from the overhead wires and the driver or the “fares please” man relocating the pole, sometimes a bright blue flash would

Toast Rack Tram
Toast Rack Tram

erupt as the pole touched the wires, the driver got behind the rotary switch and off would go the tram or trolley bus.

One particular tram was called a “Toast Rack”, you boarded this tram from running boards along the side into small cabins, and in winter the wind would blow right up your skirt or your pants, (which ever style of apparel suited the wearer).

Many cities still have this particular type of conveyance, San Francisco comes to mind, same bells too. The conductor would negotiate the running board collecting fares, a job not for the faint hearted, the tram derived its name from looking like a toasted bread rack, this brings me to a story in relation to the:


A paper boy was I. Working out of a small paper shop in Woolloomooloo adjacent to Plunkett St. School, JohnFarls sold papers during the time we were in Town, and I guess 12 through 14 / 15 was the time frame. Now a little Jewish man named Eddie Berry was the paper man and store owner and he hired boys to sell his wares.

The paper “run” was quite vast and encompassed the W’LOO docks, Garden Island Naval Base, (HMAS Kuttabul). The Famous Harry’s Café De Wheels, the hotels and business houses, (funny business or other, I was young not that young). You would stand on busy street corners, the cry was “Sun or the Mirror haain pa” and wait for it, jump on and off trams that rattled around the streets, particular William Street.


OK, the latter was quite dangerous and fraught with OH&S contingencies, although this had not been invented yet. You see it was frowned upon for the paperboy to board the tram; you did not pay the fare! The conductor became quite irate and was prone to use the number 12 boot. This presented a plan of attack similar to guerilla war, as the people boarded the tram and the steel wheels begun to roll a small boy complete with papers and a small leather pouch around his waist would nimbly jump the tram, always at the opposite end to the conductor.

A paper boy becomes quite deft at flicking papers under a person’s arm or into a waiting lap, exchanging collateral and disappearing at the speed of light, several pieces of tabloid could be sold before the conductor realizes your presence and you made good your escape, followed by “piss off you little bugger”. Judging from the reaction of the passengers I swear it was accepted practice and a game of cat and mouse, however kids, don’t practice jumping on or alighting from a moving tram.

Hence the “paper boy and the conductor” concludes, except to say that if you went up the hill you caught the tram back down, incidentally, at a predetermined point you were in the oppositions zone, we acknowledged our areas, we were honest if nothing else.


Must point out that Eddie was a very generous man and fair to us boys and protective to his charges, the paper “runs” were divided into sections, some more lucrative than others and as a consequence you would rotate week about to share the spoils. Spoils means; two to three pounds a week including tips, this was a splendid wage in the early ‘50’s for a boy, as an apprentice later on a comparison can be described.

This is ‘flash’ Harrys café de wheels.

woolloomooloo Harrys
A tourist and locals attraction, ‘Harrys Cafe De Wheels’ 

Protection was a word used to describe our Jewish boss Mr. Eddie Berry, however in relation to the W’LOO protection meant something different, we won’t go here. Suffice to say the dock areas were a little rough and tumble with, let’s say, a population of hard working class, hard drinking class and sometimes, ah, suspect people. On the whole most of the people were honest and hard working citizens and needed the docks for employment, things have changed radically in recent times,

Woolloomooloo has become very cosmopolitan and trendy, so be it. Anyway, nobody touched the paperboy, even in the very tough pubs that dotted the area, THE BELLS, THE MACQUARIE, THE ‘FRISCO, THE OLD FITZROY, THE TILBURY, A LATER ADDITION THE WOOLLOOMOOLOO BAY HOTEL, (, these days some scoundrels will do you for a dollar.


I guess the highlight was finishing school, racing home, changing into paper boys clothes, oh by the way, constant reference is made to paper boy, apologies to you girls I guess there were paper girls I just never met one. Old pants, old shirt, a thick leather belt around your shoulder to hold up to 30 papers and the till, a leather money purse on a belt, standard wear.

Down to our Yiddish boss, collect your papers, counted of course, given Gods best wishes and some change, counted of course, by Eddie and off on your rounds. Well I have described the trams, how about this week we do the pubs and offices, the Sydney Eye Hospital and one or two selected corners.

OK here we are at the Eye Hospital, around 400 meters’ from the shop, we walk into the main foyer and quietly inquire if anybody would like the evening news, sell a few and proceed to wards and rooms on upper floors, now my humor will remain latent at this stage for obvious reasons, although, you will realize a person can read perfectly well with one eye. We take leave of the Hospital and proceed to the hotels that have been described.


The pubs in the W’LOO were “wharfies” and locals and sailors drinking holes and places to unwind, unique names for sections of the hotel included the Public Bar, the Saloon Bar, The Lounge Bar, the Ladies Bar, loosely described as the Sows Pit, the Sheila’s Bar, the Hen’s Parlor, (I prefer Ladies Bar). Beer was served in Schooners and Middies and Sevens also known as Ladies Waists, back then segregation was practiced hence the separate bars.

See, girls what you have done, whacko. Me and you will circulate among the patrons and give our war cry and sell papers and detect odors’ that emanate from strange lands, a hand on the head, a pat on the back and pick up more papers, next pub please, next corner, now we will circulate a couple of times go back to the shop and count the money and go to my place for meal, AVAGOODAY?

This then was the inner sanctum of Woolloomooloo, a place where George and Tony and Nick and Spiro and Sergio and Tony’s sister lived and Arthur Yip lived? And you sold papers here and lived. Sorry you could not make the wharf run next week and the Naval Station run, buy a pie from “Harry’s Café De Wheels” and have a good time, well there you go but don’t go yet.


The W’LOO docks were constructed inside a cove, the “Finger Wharf” was a double sided affair in the middle of the bay, on the eastern side was mooring for Passenger / Cargo vessels just like the Finger Wharf and guess what, you know that a promise of reading matter is required by the passengers and crew.

At the northern end is the great Garden Island Naval Base HMAS KUTTABUL and its only access by land, the huge moving dockside crane was a landmark, (it’s called the ANVIL), it indicated a bastion, a landmark that people recognized as a place where our proud naval ships resided, it made us safe and secure. Many times I have returned to Garden Island at the pleasure of the Commonwealth Police.


At knock off time and shift change at the “Island”, hundreds of workers would leave and enter the Naval Base, a veritable gold mine for Eddie and the boys, my week commenced at the gates selling splendiferous amounts of papers in a short time, reloading and depending on the vessels in the harbor brushing past the Customs Officers and boarding a Passenger Cargo Liner.

“All right follow the drill” says Eddie, “don’t accept small parcels to bring ashore, keep to well lit companion ways, don’t go into crews quarters, I want you back here safely”. We followed directions to the letter, upon mounting the gang way a Bosun or suitable officer would direct us to the dining saloon, possibly there would be 30 or more people enjoying a meal, and then the galley and the crews quarters, (escorted!), and yes some of us were approached to take small parcels ashore,

Maybe I could have made a fortune selling watches, the Custom Officers never searched the paperboys bag, or may be the parcel contained? But that’s ok; across the road from no.2 Dock was the Herald Office and the scene of the infamous “Comic Book Gang Wars”. I was malevolent in media and culpable in comics.


Have you ever heard of the Woolloomooloo Police Boys Club, Mrs. (Miss) Sylvia Chase, , the boxing lessons, the judo classes, and the basketball teams, the LIBARY? Can I take you through my period at this club and indicate appreciation for the Coppers and the people who had the time to assist young blokes and an occasional girl. The organization is now called PCYC, it saved!!.


The Woolloomooloo PBC was the first of its kind, however, there were to become many such organizations and they exist to this day, they essentially offer a safe haven for boys and girls to learn stuff and enjoy outings in the company of the men and ladies in blue and volunteer minders. The club was situated in the old lockup Police Station just up the road from the docks and was frequented on many occasions by my mates and myself.

The premises were opened, as I recollect, on most days and until late evening, some days we sold papers and rushed to the club for the great activities, many hours on the weekend were also spent ditto. Now I am a lover not a fighter and we were taught the (noble) Art of self-defense, I prefer the clinches of the person you love.


Boxing and other body contact sports is daunting, and by the way, a very notable and much revered Aussie media person made a comment to the, well, negative, George Negus if you haven’t lived it don’t knock it. And so, all my lessons in boxing and judo and wrestling gave me a flat nose, I got some in on a ratio of 3:1, the one was me but I soon learnt to protect myself and learnt the skills of talk first and belt later.

The great Jimmy Caruthers was a former member and patron of our club, as were other notable sporting people, the operative word here is sporting, and not many academics came from Plunkett St. or the Club and apologies to you guys and girls who reached year 12, having said that, you would still be on my team,

Woolloomooloo still rules, you bloody good thing, even you John Laws, and who is that other bloke, Gladiator, yeah Russell Crowe, you are all part of the history, hey Russ I played football for South Sydney, they were my team until a move to the Northern Beaches, John Laws I have spoken to you.


Enough of the patronizing, because the greatest person who ever come out of the docks was a gorgeous motherly person / women, her name is Sylvia Chase. Someone will say the description is somewhat sexist, you’re very wrong because she was the person all us boys called; elegant, magnificent, stunning. Could be a problem here, we did not know the meaning then of the preceding words, I do now.

The history of Missus Chase leaves my story in the back blocks and I told you ordinary bloke is me, not the trademark. Mrs. Chase must have had an extraordinary compulsion to assist young blokes elevate from being, shall we say, uneducated or literary negative, for myself her “Black Books” gave me hours of reading time and discussion with the dear lady. “Black Books?” for many years I had a couple of the library books from the PBC that were not returned, I am guilty of a heinous crime your worship. Explanation needed no doubt.


I am not into history because this is supposed to be my story; the Sylvia Chase story has taken precedence in my mind, as well it should. The books? The incredible woman acquired, bought, borrowed, obtained books from all over, she paid for out of her own money the major proportion of the stock, she spent hours placing a cover of a black vinyl material over the books and hand writing the book description in white paint.

You want a book? See the best librarian in Woolloomooloo. The present tense and the previous are very awkward in the context of life things; I hope you have / having a reasonable trip, do find reference to; Mrs. Sylvia Chase, (au). I know now her full story. Her story is good; I have only given a snapshot of this great lady.

Confession time rears its ugly head, remember the “Comic Capers”, for a time we would leave the W’LOO PBC in the late evening and raid the Herald Office for negotiable items, and this is contrary to PBC principles. One scare is enough.

And so I repented.


There but for the grace of God go us all. During my time in W”LOO and between trips to the bush so many boy’s own stories occurred, what about St. John Young’s Crescent and the Kindergarten, about 200 meters from the “Truant Officer”. On occasion we would offer a community gesture and help the carers look after the little kids. WE would assist in cleaning things and picking up the toys, on occasion escorting the kids on walks in company with the teachers.

A notable dilemma arose, you see this pervert had been seen on the precinct causing a great deal of concern to the principal. CENSORED………. At this point details will be removed from the record, suffice to say the person was sorry for his incursion.

I know your dilemma, but don’t hold me guilty of rich stories and sometimes bawdy dialogue, I can tell you that the journey has only just commenced and I repeat that memory is sometime a failure, indulge me, 99% is true.


Not far west from 112 Palmer Street was a School for the blind people. They had a wonderful building and a playing field they used for sporting activities like ball games, like cricket. A bunch of us kids would go on weekends and holidays to play with the “unfortunates”, we initially believed a superior position.

Then a realization exploded, try hitting a wicker ball encasing a tiny rattle. With two good eyes there is no problem, over a distance of 20 yards and only the sound of the tiny bell to guide you, YOU hit the ball, only you can’t see the ball only a sound. I won’t speak for my friends, but appreciation for an unfortunate condition became my motivation.

You would stand in the field and yell, “Hit it here”, not surprisingly the cane ball was struck well outside your reach. While we are on the subject of cane, the blind school people used to make many wonderful items in cane sometimes applying a coat of varnish for preservation, as boys we would help out and feel proud of ourselves.


Mention was made in an earlier chapter concerning the W’LOO BATHS; in fact the correct name was THE DOMAIN BATHS, al la Andrew Boy Charlton however they were situated on the western side of Woolloomooloo bay, and yes they were as described Spartan. AKA; Corporation Baths, Fig Tree Baths, Farmers Baths, Domain Baths, Andrew “Boy” Charlton Baths.

If you proceeded north from the baths you reached the area of Lady Macquarie’s chair almost on the point.


Farm Cove on the left and W’LOO BAY to your right, look left and see THE Opera House ‘SAILS’, the misty vision of an edifice not built yet, see the panorama of the wonderful harbor and the “Coat Hanger”, look over right and take in the Finger wharf and the W’LOO docks, there will be passenger / cargo ships alongside, a little north is the Garden Island Naval Dockyard and that great crane mounted on railway lines.

Several gray vessels will be moored alongside the docks as well there will be a naval ship high and dry in the graving dock or dry dock. Many sailors and civilian workers and waterside workers are observed going on about their business, years later I found myself inside this facility going about my business as well.

Looking behind, you would observe the Domain and the Art Gallery and The Botanical Gardens great places to walk and observe, in the near distance is Sydney CBD, the great tower is called the A.W.A. radio tower, situated at Wynyard it is the tallest structure in town. I am having a vision of going there in the future.

It seems to me some memories come back by association, describing SYLVIA CHASE for some unknown reason reminded me of another famous but “infamous” lady from WOOLLOOMOOLOO. I don’t intend to dwell on the “TILLEY DEVINE “ saga.

An older friend suggested that if you lived in ‘THE LOO’ YOU WOULD HAVE KNOWN her. He was wrong; I knew of her, she lived in the same street. She never touched my family. Many memories of my W’Loo contain tragic events, I am not a Journalist, I won’t need sensational repartee.

Somewhere mention of ‘Red Light’, running errands for the girls is mentioned, nod nod, wink wink. Everybody knew Tilley, she was reported to be an intellectual person. You have noticed my reference to good people and fringe people; Woolloomooloo is no different from any Metropolis. She was a naughty lady, she never did me wrong.

But right now let me tell you about 112 Palmer just up the road. Grand Ma Isabella Menzies bought the two story premises around 1945 / 6; the description of the building was loosely that of a residential or tenement, it was a TERRACE HOUSE; you could call it a boarding house. We lived here on and off for many years, Grand Ma would let out rooms to working people and it was a place where the “boys” that is her sons, my uncles, would stay after returning from the war.


Eventually they would leave and go their separate ways, but I can remember great times in their presence. On notable occasions two of Uncle Chris’s war buddies would visit and, “Jimmy and Ernie were their names and singing and drinking was their games”. Ernie would play his ukulele and Jimmy sang, always, “Open the door Richard”.

This story needs vision and sound so without these mediums imagination will have to do. Right, picture the front door of a 22 foot wide rustic two story building; there is a small verandah with wrought iron railing and on the 2nd floor a similar full length verandah with this priceless railing of cast iron. Two steps were needed to alight on the front verandah. You were greeted by a door with dark glass panels, on your right was a polished knob of brass, go on pull it, hear the tinkling of a little bell inside the house?

Jimmy stood outside and would knock and jingle, Ernie was inside and would commence to strum his ukulele and sing these words; “Open the door Richard, open the door and let me in, open the door Richard, Richard why don’t you open that door?”, over the top of his singing Jimmy was acting the part of, (forgotten), however he was berating Richard for not opening the door, mainly because he was pissed.

He would speak loudly in an inebriated tone; “Hey Richard open that dammed door it’s cold out here, what’s that, yeah I know I am drunk just open the door”, and “come on it’s your buddy don’t be so mean”, and so on while Grand Ma and everybody were laughing.

If I had done my homework maybe I could have supplied all the words, any how the entertainment culminates with Ernie still singing inside and Jimmy still knocking and loudly exclaiming; “come on Richard open that door, who’s that?, not you again you old bat!, bag your head, what you say?, of course I’m drunk again, Richard the old bat is calling the cops, Richard open up that dammed door it’s really cold out here”.


We had an old wind up GRAMAPHONE, 78’s? I still have one, anybody remember; “IT’S YOUR LITTLE RED WAGON AND IT KEEPS ON WAGON ALONG, the tune is implanted in my mind.


What did the boys drink? I guess my age would have to have been seven or eight, I was the sometimes runner with a Billy can and a shilling and run up the hill to the corner of William and Palmer, the WILLIAM HOTEL no less, climb onto a bar stool and ask the bar person to fill her up and so I would return with a billy can of cold draught beer, occasionally allowed a tiny sample, incidentally, some change may have been offered out of the shilling, I have forgotten.

Might stick with money things, we had coal gas supplied to the residential, a rather bulky gas meter was situated near the communal gas stove into which you inserted a penny, and when you cooked the tiny needles in the gauges would turn indicating how much you have used.

We had a wooden ice box into which you placed a block of ice as needed, delivered by a man in an ice truck. The milkman delivered milk and ladled an amount into that same Billy; there was a coal man who would bring coking coal in the winter months, sorry, latter prices forgotten.


OK, I have described the facade of the premises; you will appreciate these tenements / TERRACES were very narrow and had common walls to the next place, rows of terrace houses made up the street, in fact half of inner Sydney.

Upon entering, a narrow hallway lead to the back of the house, there was a front room and back room to the left along this hallway, also in the hallway the gas stove and the icebox. At the end of the hallway to the right a set of steep stairs led up to the front room and a smaller room.

A lady named Marie resided in the small room, she was always pleasant to me but seemed always sad, she had a photograph of a Naval officer beside her bed, I was to find out later he perished on the ill fated H.M.A.S. SYDNEY off the coast of Western Australia. She lived with us for some time.

Down stairs to the hallway and leading up another set of stairs was a large room at back of the house. Uncle Chris and Uncle Alex shared this room for some time; to the left hand side of the landing was a tiny room where I slept quite often.

Returning downstairs you made your way past another small room as you proceeded down the back yard, on the right was a laundry complete with a large copper boiler and big gas ring, this was the precursor to the modern day washing machine, and you removed the clothes from the boiler using a round stick.

There were two cement tubs for soaking clothes, to the left of the laundry was the bathroom containing a large cast iron enameled bathtub you filled from the copper tub, sometimes shared.


Now folks, right down the back yard was the inimitable dunny, flushed of course, complete with the compulsory Choko vine and the local paper torn into small pieces and hung on a piece of string, finally the fences of corrugated iron and the high back gate

dunny and the choko vine
dunny and the choko vine

with a double door allowing Uncle Chris to drive his, wait for it you “Bikies”, his 1940 model Harley Davidson, all black, manual gear change, horse saddle leather seat motor bike complete with “Outfit”, all black and beautiful, that is except for the silver stuff. Must continue with the “Bike”, Chris loved, I loved, and Grand Ma hated this wonderful thing.

This bike was stripped more times than Gypsy Rose Lee; its components caressed more than mother does her baby. Some days, the small backyard was covered with bike parts, the components were cleaned, re-assembled and a bright and shiny black Harley with sidecar re-built. That bike produced some memorable experiences.

112 Palmer St, for some time, or on and off was the center of my universe, every morning Grandma at some ungodly hour could be heard scraping burnt toast in the side drain under the “Boys” upstairs window calling; “Boys, breakfast is ready”, the usual sounds of “OK Mum” could be heard from young men awakening for the days work, me, because of the small confines stayed in my small room until a respectable hour, the burnt toast? I can smell it to this day, can you?


Grand Ma was a slight person, she was born on the land, she spent much of her younger years on properties that Grand Pa Ambrose and her owned, (my genetics?), (Lovegrove website), they sold “Rosedale” and took up Hotels in the Hunter Valley proving to be a disaster, Ambrose was embezzled out of a considerable sum of money causing financial problems they never recovered from, Grandma found herself one out with the “Boys”, hence Bayswater Road and Palmer Street, the latter purchased by hard work and a frugal existence.

She managed Palmer St. by working as a cleaner at several of the Companies in William Street. She never owned a handbag, her purse resided between her breasts on a piece of string. The piece of string was attached to her bodice by a safety pin.

At any time there were could be as many as nine people residing at 112, at least three boarders and the family. The communal cooker, a small oven and 4 gas burners got a thorough work out in rotation; some of the tenants had small single burner napha? Cookers to heat water for a cup of tea or warm soup and other stuff. On occasion everybody was invited to a Sunday lunch, times were tough; don’t know who paid for what it came out in the wash.




SORRY PEOPLE THIS CHRONOLOGICAL DIATRIBE MAY SEEM HIGHLY indecipherable, I suggest that the Translator may have some problems.

FROM THE CITY TO BUSH, PART ONE, the journey commences.

So what is “FROM THE CITY TO THE BUSH”, well it is Just a cryptic condensed biography of an ordinary Australian, please excuse the Aussie slang.

My Preface:

Generally, a Preface is customary in written works. The author writes it, and it will outline the contents there in. I am reticent to analogize. However, to put it in A nutshell,

Me my raft and my Galah, from the city to the bush
Me my raft and my Galah, from the city to the bush

this book of propinquity and crappy poems is hugely self-indulgent. The writings and “Bushy” stuff is derived from, and emanates into, a rhyming Aussie vernacular. I understand absolutely zilch about writing poetry, full stop. Sometimes I cogitate this is good thing, if one gets over awed with the science of correctness, one may despair.

My speaking voice will quite often stray into this slang, be that as it is, I am sometimes known to speak “proper”. It is important for me to “tell it like it is’’. I would like to describe these written words as a narrative and roaming words addressed at you the reader.

Essentially and importantly, the impetus to write these world-shattering snippets came from a particularly tragic accident in January 2008. Motivation to write a poem came from this sad event, it happened on (our SES) patch. Within a matter of weeks I had penned several other hugely received works of great note. And yes, I say all this with ‘tongue in cheek’. I had never written a poem before.

The format is largely chronological, but regrettably you will have to work out the time frame. You will ascertain that the poems sort of follow an Aussie young bloke’s life, but are from the City to the Bush, and back again. Writing becomes an obsession, I was obsessed, the works are not brilliant, and they will irritate and antagonize some. The term; “cultural cringe” springs to mind, I too sometimes have this feeling, but change? No way. Constant editing and re-arranging words is my scene, but never altering the essence of the poetic narration.

It is important to note that all my poems are based on factual experiences, and while some may stretch the imagination, or seem stretched, the truth is / will be; “been there, done that got the T-shirt”. And you know what? I’ll tell you what, don’t care who you are, where your from, I’ll bet you can relate to the inert and sometimes poignant hidden stories. My web pages are full of narrative from a 79 year old bloke, lots could have come from a 79 year old lady.

Read well these incredible propinquity, I am just a bloke sitting at the table in the corner. I am just a grain of sand on Brunswick Beach. I am just a no-body. I live the life of a bachelor, every brick in my flat has a name. But I wager you will see right through me, regards john f.



Here are some facts and ground rules for you to contemplate;

  • The entries are largely “lifted” from my web pages.
  • This self indulgent and egotistical chronology is not chronological.
  • Every word, every Poem is as near the truth, as I will let you get.
  • Some trivia; I have been a Volunteer/ Emergency Service Volunteer for 44 years.
  • More trivia; Love me kids, me extended family, (they brought me up). Me bike, me camera, Brunswick Heads, anywhere I have been.
  • Still more trivia; My Mum’s ashes reside with me. She has asked me to scatter ‘Her’ at her birthplace, (‘Woolun’), New England), and Bega / Tathra. Her problem was; “will my parts ever join up”, her words not mine!!
  • As mentioned; my grammar and ‘Aussie’ strine and vernacular are intentional.
  • As mentioned; my poems are traditionally “Bushy”, sometimes obscure and cryptic.
  • I was 67 years of age before BDM, (Births Deaths and Marriages), discovered my original Birth Registration, and at considerable cost. Thank you MARTINA from BDM for your diligence and friendly and helpful participation, love ya.

And so, dear reader, THESE ARE EXCERPTS FROM THE BIG PICTURE, that is, poems and abridged ruminations, read on this obscure saga.


The two City schools I attended are dead set in the inner city, that’s Sydney Australia no less, let me commence with the inimitable Plunkett, (Plunko), Street Primary School, Woolloomooloo, line of sight three kilometers to Sydney’s CBD, and arguably the closest

Plunkett Street School Woolloomooloo
Plunkett Street School Woolloomooloo

school of any importance in “My Town”.

I am suggesting that “Plunko” was my initial introduction to greater intelligence, and not the least to becoming streetwise and City oriented.

For those of you familiar with Sydney the “LOO” is the area roughly bordered by William St. to the south, the Woolloomooloo docks and Garden Island, (HMAS Kuttabul) to the north, (Cowper Wharf Road), Lincoln Crescent to the west, and Brougham St. to the east.

The area was not what you would call a playground for the innocent, we are talking about a population of struggling citizens doing stuff to get a meal on the table, and some took shortcuts while the majority was salt of the earth working class.

At no stage would you have got any impression of my political leanings so you may as well know I am center left of the middle of the right dead set Social Democrat, I can’t be all bad because I follow Manly RUGBY LEAGUE FOOTBALL CLUB and before that South Sydney, regrettably both teams are now known as the “silver tails”.


None but multi-denominational, racial but multi racial, ethnic but who gave a rats, blacks whites yellows and that was only the day wear, blacks whites yellow and they were the original colors, religious but who gave a rats, working class kids, now your talking, co-educational that’s good.

Our parents never discussed quasi-political and religious uneasiness in our presence we all came from the same womb and lived in the same country, what has happened in the ethnicity SENSE out there parents?

My school friends must be pondering the same question, there were many cultures and creeds but we hung out together, played sport together, visited each others homes. Some of the kid’s parents had little or no English but there was always a smile and Shalom, G’day bloke, Bon Journo, ‘Ella mesa’, Yasous or other suitable greeting stuff.

As a boy growing up, “you can take the boy out of the city but you can’t take the city out of the boy”, and in my case of course the reverse applies.


I can’t remember the exact year of commencing at the dock side school, guess 1944 is close, and we would have been traveling back and forwards from god knows where and at this stage lived with Grandma Isabella Lovegrove at 112 Palmer Street just up the road.

Probably visited Plunko a couple of times before being introduced to Darlinghurst Junior Technical School, mind you all of the other schools are interwoven. Now “Darlo” had the misfortune of being similar to the previous, the big difference was some of the boys (and girls) were shaving.

In relation to the girls, “Darlo” was a segregated school and we were separated by a low fence and we were subjected to home science experiments in the form of lock jaw. And well you might ask!

Wait, must relate the first day at Darlinghurst, you see somewhere between primary and high school, when we arrived back in Sydney and although I had progressed to the upper level mum had enrolled me at the “Tech”.

The big day arrived and my thoughts revolved around, “no way, not another bloody school”, soooooo I wagged it.


So here I am sitting in a park just off William St, near College St. down from the Museum and I am minding my own business and quietly contemplating the hole I have dug, “bugger me I’ll run away can’t she give me break, there’s bound to be bullies only now there getting bigger”.

Remember streetwise? This bloke sits down on the bench alongside and attempts a conversation, “no school today son? You must be on holidays lucky boy”, now I know where he’s coming from, bloody pervert. OK, I can out run this guy so why not string him along, “no mister, just waiting for the other school kids so we can go the Museum”, replies, “and what school do you go to son? Seems your teacher should be here”, yes well he was getting pushy.

Well anyway the conversation continued and retreat was imminent, UNTIL this dude says, “I would like you come across road to the Child Welfare Department for a little chat”, and here I live locally, how did I miss that?

Oar More Got, (say it phonetically). This man really was a Truant Inspector and the long and short was being marched all the way to “Darlo”, met the Headmaster, reprimanded and led to my new classroom where we were greeted by Mister……., he was the biggest bully who drew breath. However, more later.

So here’s the more later, as I took my first step into the confines of year seven my cynical impressions of “Darlo” were shattered by several voices; “its Farls, hey where yer been” and “ Plunko rules, great to see you”.

Yes you good thing, many old friends from Woolloomooloo made up the class of 1952 and here’s the rub, logic is my strong suit, it never dawned on me that the nearest High School in location to “Plunko”, IS, and as dramatic as it seems my basic impressions indicated I did have friends. No hesitation existed during the ensuing three years in returning to Darlinghurst Junior Technical School.


OK the girls of “Darlo”. You will remember reference to girls during my journey, there’s always a girl in there and well there should be, you see girls can be an important element of society if you let them view their opinions. Many girls of the opposite sex will have progeny as is their wish, sometimes a boy child slips out there. To all of the girls in my life let me inform you that at the special time where you let me be a part of your existence I gave it my best shot, AND NOW I have dug the biggest hole in this foray of life things, BUT REMEMBER FOLKS ‘tongue in cheek’.

Some girls that have shared my life have names similar to Shirley, Robin, Alison, Cerise, Denise, Dana, Lorna, Julie, Hinemoa, Jillian, Charlie, Capuchin, (fair dinkum),

Lockjaw is a nasty thing, the reference first came about from the girls and their Social Sciences, and means Home Sciences, read; “how to look after the home ‘cause that’s your lot”. “Darlo” was being wound down from a segregated school to eventually being a girl’s school and the young ladies would experiment on the boys using various recipes.


The most notorious being a compilation of sugar and flavorings to form a toffee encased in a party cup, AS an excuse to chat up the girls, boys would gladly accept the incredibly rigid sweet and politely sink their teeth into the mess, first problem, the opposing molars would meet separated by a film of unbelievably adhesive vacumatic qualities, this my readers formed the basis for “The lock jaw Syndrome”.

I know that further description is not necessary, later I formed the opinion, largely accepted by the greater medical fraternity including Orthodontist’s, (stumped the spell checker), as a conspiracy to silence boys and promote a “spin off” to the generation of income.

Incidentally I sat next to a boy of Asian extraction his name was Arthur Yip, you out there old friend, remember the racial thing? Sports days are following.


Playing sports was mandatory at all of my schools; at least it was in the sense you got out of the classroom. We had a choice of many activities, soccer to rugby, rugby league, cricket, and swimming in the warmer months. There was baseball, basketball and rounders and athletics, most sports were team oriented but allowed for individual excellence.

Me? I was a team player then and I am a team player now. Regrettably I carry into my senior years with less than attractive feet, you see a lot of football has past water in my time, and I am the average player, if a try was awarded its because Farls fell over into the in goal area with the ball, my feet? Never wore football boots for most of my career couldn’t afford them.

Managed to have a go at most sports, about average in the main.


I maintain the above comments made about “Racial Terms” came from sports participation and nowhere better place to start than my City Schools; an example will be the team game of rugby league.

The HammerHead Crane, Anvil, Woolloomooloo

Sometimes when the ethnics allowed me I played “hooker”, please forgive memory loss, George was prop and Greek, Nick was prop he was Greek, Sergio was Lebanese and resided in the second row with Tony who was Italian.

The lock was Jewish, the wingers were Jewish, ’cause when they got the ball they could run fast and find two other balls, (sorry), the inside backs were sometimes Asian, selected for their ability to manage.

And so it goes, on and off the field we were friends. OH, on the bench were guys with excellent suntans, these were the original AUSSIES, at an appropriate time when the opposition seemed to have the upper hand their job was to re-address the status quo.

Plunkett Street Primary and Darlinghurst Jnr. Tech. won some games but mainly we lost because the other schools had bigger ethnics and black blokes.

There will be somebody out there who can substantiate my claims, (15+) nationalities at one time were enrolled at “Plunko” and probably as many up the “hill”, whatever, where did the acceptance for who you are get to, it really can’t be that bad, can it?

And reference to wogs and chinks? Well, in our school days using these derogatory words got you a bloody nose.


Now swimming for public school pupils was a buzz for us city kids regrettably we found the environment less than Spartan, our Harbourside pools were largely unfiltered, un-cleansed, un-sanitized, un-homogenized, unheated mistreated and were downright nasty places to cohabit, nevertheless the ROSE BAY BATHS, (Red Leaf), RUSHCUTTERS BAY, and BALMAIN BATHS while leaving a lot to be desired were the venues for swimming sports.

However, in relation to Woolloomooloo, one must not forget the inimitable, sometimes grotty, ‘Corporation Baths’, or Fig Tree Baths, or Farmers Pool, now known as the Andrew ‘boy’ Charlton Pool, Google it. As kids from Plunkett St. we swam, sometimes walked in this pool.

We are talking about the greater SYDNEY HARBOUR basin, correctly described as the most beautiful place but the cesspool then for everything that lived and died.
These harbor side pools had a protective barrier of wire mesh allowing the swimmer to negotiate a shark free course while dodging the flotsam and jetsam from this great place;

I will leave your imagination to the likely objects that could be encountered, not pretty, any body from a big city harbor? You will know what I mean.

I guess that if I had an Olympic medal you would have to put up with bragging rights, and I don’t so you are spared. As close as I came was in the noble art of fencing, saber/SABRE was my forte’.


Saint Mary’s Cathedral is a splendid edifice not far from our place; a school friend introduced me to the fencing school situated in a hall on the eastern side of the great church.

Our fencing coach was a teaching Brother, he was an excellent exponent of the art, I very quickly learnt the skill of attack and parry and the rules of engagement, and a short time later became school champion using sabre. I found an aggressive streak in me and applied it vigorously, that is until a visiting team of Austrian champions were invited to demonstrate their skills to the assembled school.

These men and women were thermodynamic, my word for; they would not stand still long enough for you to get a strike, most of us got one or two in and then they were gone. Their favorite pastime was to allow you to have the attack position, that’s when you have the right to cut and thrust.

Very deftly your attack was dodged exposing your back to the full length of their saber, they struck fast and hard, boy that smarts. Looking resplendent in my white canvas coat and long sleeves and a long glove to protect the entire arm, my fine mesh helmet and my prized sword, white thigh length pants and “Volleys” you addressed your unfortunate adversary.

THE GREAT DUNLOP VOLLEY. (A worthwhile digression).

I was way down the track in my yarn, about 1968 in fact, when I realized some people use another word to distinguish their personality. My description of the fencing saga

The Famous Volleys, you can't kill them
The Famous Volleys, you can’t kill them

included the term “Volleys”, some people associate this word as ‘footwear’, they will be very wrong, it is a term that donates a being, a symbol of how you ‘stand’ in society.

Me Volleys.

You have no right to live on this earth if you have not had the pleasure of being a “Volleys” person. Nobody will enjoy the peculiar and personal aroma of their person unless they are a “Volleys” identity, you will have moments of pleasure with your body that only the “Volleys” can unlock.

OK, this may seem like nepotism and a parochial approach to life, you are bound by certain laws of society, I will tell you if you want recognition and acceptance, if you want to be seen and the essence of your being graciously accepted by all concerned be a “Volley Person”.

Remember my words of wisdom; He who says, “what’s that smell down under?” should vote Labor, or should wash their feet, it not the “Volleys”, it’s the person”. And remember, the Volley was invented the year I was born I was destined to be its friend and worshiper.


Standing with one’s leading foot pointing at the opponent and your other foot at right angles, one addressed the assembled group at the other end of the ‘Piste’. At about ten paces stood the antagonist with his seconds on either side, your seconds stood beside one. NOW are you ready for what follows?


You acknowledge and salute the fencing party thus; one held the saber in an upright position close to your face. Pointing your saber downwards you addressed the opponents second on your left, he is the second on the right of the opponent, secondly you acknowledge the opponents second on your right, he is the second on the left of your opponent, right?

Thirdly you address your own second, on your left first and your second, you are on his left, next, right? Fourthly, one addresses the only person left, he is the one directly ahead,

The Dunlop Volley
The Dunlop Volley, not just a shoe

the one in the middle of his left and right seconds, you know that he is the one because he has a sword, you raise your saber to an upright position in front of your face then point the sharp end at his face and gallantly sweep it away making a “Zorro” sound.

And finally if he is still awake the unfortunate does likewise, now if you are left handed? I continued with this sport for some time and just like most things found other interests. Alarmingly, I have an idea I may have plagiarized, these can’t be my thoughts!


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