Before Recycling Became Trendy

Before Tree Changes, came City Changes.


My parents moved from the country to the Big Smoke in the 50’s.

It was pretty hard having no family around.  And when they bought a block of land not many neighbours either.

Dad used to get up and leave around 4.30 to get to work by public transport and Shanks Pony – walking on your own two legs!


My Dad died last weekend.  He was 86 years old.


Dad and me.

My Dad liked to grow things.

And he made Awesome BillyCarts.


When we lived in Sydney in the Suburbs, he worked a lot.  On a lot of weekends too.  But when he didn’t work on Sundays, we’d go off to church with Mum in the bus.  But on the way home I would call out ‘There’s Daddy.’  And there he was in his wearing his oldest clothes, not always matching because he was colour blind, walking home from the tip.  With some pram wheels, often.  And anything else that could be useful.

Sometimes he took us with him – I stood on a bull ant’s nest one day – happily I don’t remember it.  But I did slow them down having short legs and all. And there wasn’t much time left for making things if he waited till we got home from church to start out.


He made the boys a billycart.  I don’t think it had brakes.  Not ones that my little friend and I could use anyway.  And it could be oversteered so that it jack knifed and shot you out like one of those fighter pilots, at great speed straight at the tar.  There were a few accidents before he modified the steering and put sides on it………….and then there was a huge amount of whinging.  Because it is not cool for older brothers to have sides on their billycart and modified steering.  So back to the tip he went.  And my friend and I had our very own billy cart.  Thanks, Dad.

Dad recycled all his life, long before and long after it became trendy.


He loved to grow things.  We had a huge backyard in Sydney.  Dad used to play cricket in the backyard.  Usually every kid for miles around was there.  Mum wasn’t too keen on the broken windows.


We had chooks at the back with plum trees.  Used to sit there eating them until you felt sick in plum season.  The little yellow and red jobbies, not the huge blood red ones, or yellow ones you get today.  And sometimes they were more tart than a lemon.

Dad grew lots of vege’s too.  Before Organic got trendy.  Before herbicide sprays were invented.   The days of washing your fruit and veg – not to wash off the herbicides, but to make sure you weren’t eating the bugs crawling in there!

I remember when I was  a teenager and he came home with some stuff someone told him about that kills bugs.  And weeds.  And lasts for 10 years.  Sad how those things catch on.  He also brought home some seeds for Beginni’s – had no idea what they looked like grown, or how to cook them.  They would be zuchinni’s or courgette’s to you.  Pretty tasteless they were, boiled up.


Dad didn’t like his food messed around.  He would eat tomatoes by the kilo.   Raw, why ruin a good vegetable (even if it is really a fruit.)

When I was little my Mum used to make gravy, and without gravox.  But she used to add just a dab of vegemite, gives it a good colour and tastes just a bit better.  Dad hated Vegemite.  So if he was hanging in the kitchen she couldn’t add it.  And he would complain about the taste of it, and say ‘You’ve put that Vegemite in it, haven’t you!’   It was a family secret from Dad.


Dad worked hard and learnt a lot of skills in his life.  He worked for the waterboard.  They wanted him to become a foreman, but he couldn’t read and didn’t like to tell them.   He tried to learn but it was too hard.


He worked in the demolition business – blowing things up and pulling them down;  and then he worked in building – putting them up again.


He finally taught himself to read  years later….reading the form guide to have a bet on the gg’s.  When he was dying and he wanted to get out of bed he said ‘Out, out, O-U-T, out!’  It made me remember all the times I’d left him notes.  Short ones, because he’d only read the first bit to get the gist of it!   He didn’t go to school till he was 9 yo.  Because it was so far from home.  He didn’t like it, so he took the horse and went home.  I hear that his brothers and sisters wouldn’t take him again!


He taught me to drive – the brave man!  And ferried me around many a time before I got my licence.


He drove around Australia.   My stepmother couldn’t get him to slow down till Esperence, W.A.  He was determined to see how far he could get in a day!


When I wanted to get my ears pierced he said ‘It’s worse than going to the dentist!’  But he took me in anyway, when Mum said yes.


He taught me to knit because Mum was busy doing the washing up.  We could only do plain and purl, Dad and me.


He helped me with the kids when it got all a bit much.  Although he used to turn his hearing aid off when we arrived.  We were so much better with the sound turned off 😉

He made Pa’s chippies and the kids loved them.  Shallow fried in a pan in butter.  My daughter took note of how he did it so we can make Pa’s chippies at home for fun.


Dad grew some grapes and he made some wine.  He wasn’t much of a drinker.  He’d buy a 6 pack of beer when they were having  about 30 people for Christmas……the 6 pack was for the visitors, not him.  He couldn’t imagine there’d be more than 6 people who’d want a beer.  Bit like imagining people wanting to eat garlic and cooked tomato really, just not right.


We’re going to spend a day in the garden here.  I just don’t do the whole big ceremony thing, even without 20 hours driving involved in it.

We’re going to get some grapevines.  Some ornamental ones, for colour;  some real ones for grapes.  But we’re not going to make wine out of them Dad.  It’s can be quite expensive to make……and let’s be honest here…………homebrew is just not noice!


And if the birds leave us any grapes to eat, we’ll think of you when we eat them.







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