Monday, September 17, 2012

Inventive Genius - an article by "Young Dig"

In America, “Ricochet” Rogers would probably be called “the inventingest man ever.” In our particular section of the AIF (Australian Infantry Forces), he was labelled with a variety of epithets.

The “Affair of the Colonel’s alarm clock” did not make him over-popular. The Colonel, who was of a progressive nature, ordered “Ricochet” to rig up a modern system for sounding Reveille, and “Ricochet” did so, with the above-mentioned clock, and an old public address system, and various other odds and ends.

After a few mornings of this, the unit was ready to go to any lengths to get a bugler. However, "Ricochet’s” popularity was restored when the clock suddenly refused to go off at any other hour other that 0700 no matter how persistently it was set for 0630.

Soon after this, it was reported that “Ricochet” was working on a new type of machine-gun. His researches abruptly ceased, however, when he sent a volley through the wall of the Officer’s mess. He told us sadly that the officers lacked “true scientific detachment.”

His interest in things mechanical lapsed for a time, but he concentrated his attention effectively on other matters. The excellent “rum” he made is remembered to this day.

When he tired of that, he tried a spot of practical joking and, for his manifold sins, was given the job of batman (assistant to an officer).

One fine day in Libya, his officer irritably told him to decorate the dug-out, and relieve the horrible monotony. So “Ricochet” procured a small but venomous snake and an empty Chianti bottle, put the former in the latter, and placed them on what served as a table. What his officer said and did provided “Ricochet” with material for a most amusing one-man, one-act play, which he performed for us at the earliest possible moment.

But that Nemesis, which was never very far behind him, has caught up with him at last. He was working on a projectile to explode mines at a distance by means of a peculiarly toned whistle. Unfortunately, he wasn’t far enough away from the one that did go off.

Latest reports from the hospital say he is near recovery, and is working on a revolving stage – for the operating theatre.

“Young Dig” (AIF)

The cartoon from the article "Inventive Genius" by "Young Dig" ( Ray Davie/ Jock)
                                    Cartoon drawn by Les Dixon.

Unfortunately, this article also has no date/place of publishing, but once again I would estimate it to be in the 1944-45 time frame. Les Dixon was the cartoonist at Smith's Weekly from 1942 to 1949 which may indicate where this story was first published.

Hope you enjoyed this amusing little anecdote.


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Removing Libyan Dirt - a short story

Hello family and friends,

This is the first article pasted in Jock's black book. Unfortunately, there is no date or place of publication.
I can only guess it to be in the 1944 - 45 time frame as later articles in the following few pages of the book were dated then.


When "Snowy" and I landed in Alexandria, after several months in the desert, we were carrying a penalty of three pounds of dirt a man. So we hailed a gharry, and made for the Turkish baths.
At the entrance we were greeted by an obsequious being who conducted us into a great hall, where several squatting Arabs stared curiously at us. Thence we ascended a stone stairway, and walked along a short passage to a small, quiet room, furnished with carpets, curtains and two beds.
Upon each of the beds lay a decorative - too decorative - dressing down, and by their sides, a pair of wooden clogs. "Snowy" shied at sight of the dressing gowns.
"You do yourself well, don't you, George?" he remarked to the Arab.
That person obviously understood nothing "Snowy" said, but inclined his head, flourished a dirty hand, and said,  "Quias, George?" (Quias - good)
"Yes, quias, George" I told him. "Now imshi, while we get undressed."
 "Imshi?" the Arabic inquired, an oily smile spreading over his features. "Yes Imshi," I repeated and the Arab went.
We quickly undressed, and donned the clogs, and the gaudy gowns. "Snowy" poked his head out of the door and an old Arab with a wizened, wicked face appeared almost at his feet.

A drawing from the article, by Les Dixon.

"Come, George," the Arab said portentously, and beckoned us after him down the stairs, across the hall, into another small room, in the centre of which was a steaming pool of water, surrounded by a low stone ledge
The attendant indicated we should sit on this ledge and rather gingerly we advanced to it, just as gingerly felt it and to our surprise, it was not hot. We sat down. The old man went out, curtains fell across the doorway, and silence fell on the room.
Minutes passed, while we sweated. Lord, how we sweated! I could feel it running into my ears, into my eyes, down the bridge of my nose, and I looked over at "Snowy" and saw he was losing just as much dirt and weight as I.

I was calculating just how much I could afford to lose, when a horrible scream ripped through the silence. For a second we stared at one another, and then, with one accord, sprang to the doorway, parted the curtains, and looked out. No one in sight. So, after a minute or so, we returned to our sweaty meditations.
Then - again that dreadful scream, followed by sounds of a scuffle, running feet, silence.
"Snowy" looked at me apprehensively. "They wouldn't dare to attack Aussies," he said, without much conviction. What was there that an Arab gone berserk wouldn't attack? We sprang to our feet as stealthy footsteps sounded outside. The curtains was flung aside, and the wizened chap stood there.

"Come, George," he said impressively.
"What was that noise?" I demanded. He shrugged his thin shoulders.
"Man burn," he explained. "Magnoon" (mad). "Come" he said. We followed him across the hall, to yet another small room.

"Wait!" he said to "Snowy", and "Snowy" obediently waited outside, while the wizened man commenced the final part of the business. He gestured to me to lie on the stone shelf on one side of the room, then whipped out a small block of what looked like wood, and began vigorously to rub me.

RHYTHMICALLY back and forth over my sweating flesh he went, until great rolls of grey dirt began to come off my skin, and a luxurious feeling of peace came over me. What heaven it was after those bath-less months in the desert!
It was over too soon, and it was "Snowy's"  turn. I donned my gown and clogs, and clip-clopped up the stairs to the first room we had visited. Presently "Snowy" appeared, rosy and cheerful. "Brings th' muck out of ya'," he remarked happily.
We dressed slowly revelling in the feeling of cleanliness, while the obsequious one re-appeared and hung about, waiting for "bucksheesh". "Snowy" and I took no notice of his sycophancy, and sat down to have a smoke.

We were sitting there quietly, when the horrific scream rang out again.
I looked at "Snowy". "Snowy" looked at me. Together we got up, gave the obsequious one twice as much "bucksheesh" as he expected, and hurried out

That scream still haunts me -

'Young Dig' (AIF) 

'Young Dig' was one of the names Jock used to sign his articles and stories.. he often did not use Ray Davie, particularly in the articles about war time.

I have no idea if there is truth to this story... it certainly sounds like it could be factual!
Until next time,


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Rough Notes on Rough Times

Hello dear friends and family,

This long article was written by Jock in 1998. It is about his life in Kapunda, South Australia when he was a child. It is not the oldest article written by Jock but I thought it was best to start with an article about Jock's early life.  I think you will agree that it sets the scene perfectly.


Rough Notes on Rough Times

Perpetrated by Raymond Thomas Davie.
July-August 1998.

The 150–year old town of Kapunda is close to the northern end of the Mt. Lofty Ranges. You get advance notice of Kapunda’s hills as you approach from the south. The road dips down to the River Light, named after Colonel Light, who laid out Adelaide. The Light is arguably the longest river wholly in South Australia, though it is no match for the “Mighty Murray”. The Light flows after copious rains, then reduces itself to a sulky chain of ponds.

The road rises steeply from the river, swings right and continues its way upwards, though less steeply than before, and a mile or so from the river arrives at the end of Main Street. Here it does a slight dip, then rises without enthusiasm until it arrives at the place which nobody seems to call “The Five Ways”, though there are five streets.

Main Street swings slightly to the left and continues more or less evenly as Mildred Street. To its left, Kapunda Street does a slightly more generous swing to the left. The old Prince of Wales pub sits between the two streets, with a small garden and a soldier-on-a-pedestal war memorial before it. The names of several chaps I knew back in the 1930s are on the memorial as having made what in those days was called “the supreme sacrifice.” There are several Giles - three of them brothers. Another brother, Colin, survived but still died relatively young.

In the Thirties’s and before, my grandfather conducted a wheat buying and superphosphate selling business in Kapunda Street opposite the pub.

Once the pale yellow three–bushel bags of wheat were unloaded via a whippy timber plank, Grandpa would take the farmer selling the wheat across the dusty white road to the cool of the pub “parlour”.

The massive Clydesdales - sometimes as many as 12 in a team - which had hauled the wheat at pedestrian pace from distant farms, would be left to swing their huge tails at flies that landed on their rumps, to occasionally stamp their iron-clad hooves, and to release occasional torrents of piss into the gutter.

In those days of the 1930s most wheat was hauled in horse-drawn vehicles - small blue-painted “English” wagons, larger yellow “German” wagons, or vast “tabletops” holding as many as 120 180 lb. bags. A few farmers were wowsers, drinking nothing but water or cold tea, but most liked a few glasses or schooners of West End beer. My grandfather originally kept pace with them until his friend Doc Ridell said, “Tom, you've got to get off the beer”. Which led to the publican saying whenever Grandpa took one of his farmers to the pub, “Whiskey, Tom?”  The local nickname for Grandpa naturally became Whiskey Tom.

Next to Grandpa’s store was a greengrocery run by a World War 1 Digger called Stan Wright, a silent, thin man who liked a drink and ran a flat horse-drawn lorry that he used for his deliveries of cauliflowers and cabbages and dirt-brown potatoes. The horse’s light hooves went clap, clap on the hard white road, and for accompaniment there was a light rumble of the lorry’s iron-shod wheels.

Stan’s odd little shop with the door on the corner of Kapunda Street and Clare Road is now apparently a meeting place for returned people.

One gained Clare Road by swinging hard left from Main Street, with another green–grocer’s on the corner of Main and Clare. The people who ran this business were called Geue and were Seventh Day Adventists or something of the sort. They were more up-to-date than Stan Wright; looking serious, they delivered their fruit and vegetables with two tall Chevrolet vans.

Clare Road eventually reached the town of Clare and its vineyards, but it could also lead you to all sorts of little country towns like Tarlee and Riverton and Burra Burra and Balaklava (not Balaclava as in the Melbourne suburb).

But in Kapunda itself Clare Road was quite a busy street, well, sort of - especially in the section before the railway crossing. Here were the gloomy old Council Chambers for the Town Council (as distinguished from the District Council with its offices in Main Street). The two councils have amalgamated to become the District Council.

The new Council offices are at the south end of Main Street near the police station (which has relocated from its old site near the moribund copper mines.)

Back to Clare Road. Close by the Council Chambers was the handsome home of Leslie Noke Tilbrook, proprietor of the now-defunct weekly Kapunda Herald. The venerable “rag” was taken over by a Tanunda paper now trading under the name Barossa and Light Herald. On the same north side of the street was a modest house owned by Eric Jeffs, a World War 1 VC winner, a gentle man and a part owner of Jeffs Brothers flourmill at Fords a few miles south of Kapunda.

One night early in my life I was called out into North-South Whittaker Street where my grand-parents lived (at no.1) to see a large fire - Jeff’s Bros. flourmill burning to the ground. The mill transferred 20-odd miles south to Gawler.

Further down Clare Road was the home of a decent old chap usually called “Shaky” Pascoe, for obvious reasons. He was a retired farmer, had written a small and not very successful novel called “Crushed Hopes”, and was a leading light in the Methodist Church.

Still on the north side, but past the railway crossing was the more or less modern home of the proprietor of Poysden’s garage in the Main Street, in those days a flourishing enterprise. Clare Road continued up the hill, and a mile or so further on passed what was universally known as the “Clare Road Cemetery.”

The cemetery’s caretaker was a chap called Goedecke, who did not take up permanent residence in a grave until he was 88 years old. His son Roy was a contemporary of mine. When Roy reached a certain age (possibly the statutory school leaving age of 14), his Dad gave Roy a job at the cemetery. But Cliff Shearer, the headmaster of the local High School, persuaded his Dad to let Roy stay on at school, and Roy ended up in the Taxation Department, as it was then called. Naturally Roy was “good with figures” but had some difficulty with English because, as Lena Cohen, the English teacher, pointed out, his terminology was Germanic rather than English. (Though Roy was born in Australia and his forebears probably came to this country about 1840).

There was a strong Germanic influence through Tanunda, Kapunda, Eudunda; it is probably somewhat diminished today.

Now back to the east end of Clare Road, where the Methodist Church (now the Uniting Church) dominates the skyline. The church and its adjacent Sunday School are as plain as the old Cornish miners who were probably the first parishioners.

It stands a few metres off Clare Road in the cleverly named Church Street, and in my day the only other features of the street were an ancient graveyard and a small house, and on the opposite side of the street, two tennis courts, and beyond them the manse with its concomitant stiff-necked parsons, one of whom wrote a popular book (popular among Methos, anyway), on the evils of gambling.

The tennis courts have vanished and the site is now occupied by houses.

Further down the hill is the handsome house, once owned by the Jericho family, but now owned by Ray Ryan, who started at the High School when I did. I understand he spent his working life in the railways.

On the opposite corner is the former Milde house, once owned by Bert Milde, manager of the local Eudunda Farmers Co-operative store, Kapunda’s biggest shop. Bert managed to scratch himself on a rusty nail and died. I tried to give solace to his brown-haired, brown-eyed daughter Iris. She was a bosom friend of Joan Shakeshaft, who lived next door in a house dripping with cast–iron lace, one of Kapunda’s marks of affluence.

Iris’s older sister Betty was cashier at the Co-op Store and spent her working days in an elevated enclosure with wires leading to the grocery side and the haberdashery side of the store. If you went to buy groceries from people such as Bill Hitchens or Bill Truscott, you would hand over your money and that would be placed in a wooden container along with the account, the counter hand would pull a small lever and the container would speed along the wire to Betty, who would give change.

Incidentally, Bill Truscott would have been a cousin of Betty and Iris since their mother was a Truscott. Another Truscott was mayor at one stage; I think he ran a garage.

Back to Clare Road. Hard by the railway crossing was “Plumber” Carlson's house. Alf Carlson, not surprisingly, was a plumber, and he built the only new shop I can remember being erected in Main Street in the 1930s. He eventually went off to Whyalla to make his fortune plumbing the place.

I can't remember much about the rest of that south side of Clare Road.

So now we are back at the “Five Ways”. This time we turn right from Main Street into South Terrace, which is more north and south. Nowadays it is tree-lined, but in the 1930s it was as bare as the bum of a bull. Here was Kapunda’s largest industry, Hawke’s foundry, run by the Rees family. (Patricia Rees was a contemporary of mine). The foundry struggled along for more than 100 years, to vanish in fairly recent times.

Opposite was Green's house. Tom Green was an old man who made his fortune working in an asbestos mine a few miles out of Kapunda. He had a magnificent garden, where he spent most of his time. His wife made superb chutney and talked of “saucepins”. Their son Len had a mechanical bent and established a “Ham” radio station nearby. The mast blew down in a high wind, and Len apparently gave up his broadcasting career.

My grandparents’ house backed on to the Green's house and fronted onto a small section of Whittaker St. Its side was in Jeffs Street, and its other boundary was occupied by the smaller of two Lutheran churches in Kapunda. In fact, my grandparents’ house had been built in 1864 as the manse for the church, which was then owned by a small sect known as the Primitive Methodists.

A view of no. 1 Whittaker street (2005), Jock's childhood home in Kapunda, South Australia. 

The Lutherans conducted one sermon a month in German. On summer Sundays the small - paned windows were open. My elder uncle (Clarrie) had served in France in World War One, and on at least one occasion threw bunches of unripe grapes through the windows. He remarked, “that bloody language has caused enough trouble in the world.”

Each pane in the Windows cost 3/6d. I know, because I broke some of them while practising cricket. I would then walk down to the Main Street monumental mason premises of Mr. Weckert and there, watched by marble angels, I would present the bullet–headed Germanic man with 3/6d, and he would accept it, so far as I can remember, in complete silence. I knew Edgar and Clem, two of his sons, both pleasant fellows. I understand that when one of them enlisted in one of the Services during World War Two, the old man disowned him.

My grandparents’ house was well-kept, with a small rose garden, another garden in which columbines bloomed, and fine grapevines. The Ladies’ Fingers grapes were especially opulent, with vast numbers of leaves, enough to make a canopy for shelter from rain and sun.

The house was of brick and stone, with an attached fibro kitchen and a bathroom that in winter seemed only a few degrees removed from Antarctica. There were three bedrooms, a sitting room complete with organ and mock–Chippendale chairs, and an all – purpose room, usually called the dining room. Here my two uncles – Clarrie and Les (usually called Bob) - and their wives - Stella and Winnie - would sometimes gather at Christmas and eat turkey and ham and plum pudding and drink the “ stone ginger” that had been kept in the cellar (reached by stairs from the kitchen)

Jock at his old home, no. 1 Whittaker street, Kapunda.South Australia, 2005.
The Lutheran Church is next to the house.

Heating came via three fireplaces and a large black kitchen stove on which sat a large metal “fountain” with a small spigot that delivered hot water. Some of the details of the house would interest seekers after memorabilia - the large timber and metal telephone in the hall, one or two of the fireplaces, the solemnly -ticking clock, for example.

Electricity was connected to the house in the 1920s, which I understand, was when it came to the town. The switches in my grandparents house were brass, but I thought them inferior to those in the Greens’ house next door, which were push–button.

After my grandfather died in 1944, (Grandma had died in 1938), the house was bought by the pastoral firm of Elder Smith & Co. It's now owned by an Englishwoman named Jill, who loves it and is restoring it. The local (Elder’s) manager, Bill Symons, had apparently liked the house for some time. When I knew him he lived far up South Terrace, and used to roar down the Terrace in a Morris Cowley car and then down Main Street to the solid little office at the corner of Hill St. Iris Milde, whom I mentioned earlier, worked there before moving to Adelaide with her mother and sister.

I used to attend the Methodist Church to practice my shorthand, and Bill Symons would hurry in, always alone, and take a pew. There was always plenty of room, except at anniversary services and the like.

The Methodists ran a relatively flourishing parish, though they probably trailed the Lutherans, who incidentally required men and women to sit on opposite sides of the church. The Anglicans, Congregationalists, Baptists were all struggling in those days, but the Catholics built a new church in 1938; it has been described as a small cathedral.

The same description might be applied to the Baptist Church, which has two soaring towers and a vast basement. It is now a museum.

On a Sunday summer evening one might hear a veritable symphony of the bells. There was the solemn “dong” of Christ Church of England, the less solemn “dong” of the Congregational Church, the tinkle of the Baptists, and the urgent “ding”, “ding”, “ding” of the Methos. The Catholics, Lutherans and the Salvation Army were silent.

I don't know who rang the bells except for the Methodists. A contemporary of mine, Ross Rankine, known as “Tink” Rankine, did the job for four pound a year, and also pumped the organ. Once or twice I rang the bell - with a stirrup that would have fitted a horse. Then knack was to use small strokes of the foot.

While we're on the subject of buildings, I should write more about Hawke Brothers foundry and Ned Nerlich’s garage. Both were timber and corrugated iron construction almost worthy to be preserved by the National Trust. The foundry worked off and on - after all, it was the time of the Depression

Now and again one would hear metallic bangs and hums that mingled melodiously and occasionally with the squeals of pigs being slaughtered behind Cunningham’s butcher shop in Main Street.

Ned Nerlich was by way of being a miniature tycoon. He lived at the fire station, he ran the weekly moving pictures in the Institute in Hill Street, and he ran his garage on the corner of South Terrace and Mildred Street. He sold Shell, Texaco and Plume (Mobil) petrols.

Alas, that magnificently idiosyncratic timber and iron building has disappeared and in its place is a neat, utilitarian BP station,

Incidentally, one day when I was passing I saw a large-wheeled black buggy-like thing that I learned had been Dr Blood’s and was probably the first motor-car seen around those parts.  Probably it came to life not so long after Daimler and Benz built their buggies in Germany.

Blood was the first doctor and Mayor and fathered 20 children.

Kapunda had its share of characters, some of who were only marginally notable, but whom I knew by sight. Like Cunningham the Butcher, who ran two shops, Branson the baker, who made superb fruitcake (great with cheese), Gropler, who ran a bike shop with peculiarities (sometimes when I took a bike to be fixed he would be making a coffin).

Sometimes at night I would hear a hammering and know someone had died - the other, ghostly coffin - maker could be at work a few hundred yards from where I lived. I never found out who he was, except that he worked for dear old Miss Day, who kept a furniture shop in Main St.

Incidentally, between the coffin-maker’s workshop and where I lived was a mammoth Moreton Bay fig tree that soughed harshly in the wind. This belonged to “Bumper” Thomas, who kept one of the two barber-shops in Main Street. Hard by the fig were several tall pines that made a softer, more soothing sound that came and went.

They were in the handsome property belonging to the Robins family, who owned the flour mill half a mile down Whittaker Street. There was an old man Robins and two maiden daughters, and they would pass our house in a bolt-upright style of Morris Cowley car. The mill, that apparently eternal building, has vanished and it is roaring voice with it.

Opposite the mill was a small old building that had once housed a maker of horse drawn vehicles such as “traps”, “buggies”, or “jinkers”. There were two blacksmiths - Linke’s in Mildred Street, and Brock and Radloff just off South Terrace near Ned Nerlich’s garage. B & R’s was in yet another timber and corrugated iron building that appears to have formed part of a defunct foundry. All have vanished.

Vanished, too, is the “Co-op” (Eudunda Farmers co-operative) replaced by a “convenience store”. Gone is Shakeshaft the Tailors, as is the other tailor, “Smokey” Trevena’s.  Trevena’s the boot-repairer is also defunct.

Various other establishments came and went, for example, a little battler who repaired watches and took photographs. Sid Oates also took pix - at his home at the top of Crane St. He ran a shoe shop next to Hitchens the grocers, who went under many years ago. Bill the son took a job at the Co–op.

Then there was the Sikh who appeared one day like a djinn from the “Arabian Nights”. I could never figure out what he sold; the main adornment in his shop window was a model of the Taj Mahal. He vanished one day, probably in a puff of smoke.

Another battler was Freddie Arbery, an Englishman who started off making and selling soap and possibly other items around Kapunda and the Barossa. He kicked on and copped the job of librarian at the excellent library in the Kapunda Institute next to the “Herald”. He later became Town Clerk.
Then there was Mrs. Holmes, who sold excellent brown bread, Dolly Vardon chocolate and penny lollies, and “Feewee” Smith the chemist (F. I. W. E. Smith). One of his sons drowned in the River Light. His daughter Edith was a friend of my mother, or so I was told.

“Feewee” had his main shop, complete with huge flasks of coloured water and an atmosphere of alchemy towards the south end of Main Street, not far from the dilapidated old Coffee Palace with the pepper-corn trees outside, “Dib” Hambour’s flourishing drapery shop, Morrison's the barbers (nine pence for a haircut, with a view of a poster advertising “Turf” cigarettes thrown in), and the handsome old National Bank.
My Grandma, that petite and gentle old lady, used to visit the bank occasionally for a conference with the manager, Mr. Johanson. The bank is still there. ( the bank can be seen in the black and white photo further down).

Now and again “Feewee”, or maybe his son Elford, would reopen another chemist shop at the north end of Main St. One of my raffish friends, Jake Rawady helped to clean the shop before one of the periodic reopenings and found some cheroots. He presented one to me, and I was happily smoking it in the locker room at the High School when the headmaster came in and hauled me into his office for six quick cuts of the cane.

Many years later, when he was deputy head of a big Adelaide school, he caned a boy and the father punched him. I wrote to him expressing my sympathy; he was an excellent headmaster, much better than his predecessor, whom I punched after he had hit me. Ah, fame! All the town heard about it.

In those days, the enrolment of the High School was less than 50. For most of the time I spent there, there were four teachers - the headmaster, Cliff Shearer (the cane man), Lena Cohen, who taught English and Latin and French, Phyllis Clark (Commercial subjects), and Keith Traeger.

Subjects like Indonesian or Mandarin were unheard of, but the basics were there - English Lit and Expression, Economics and Economic History, History, Geography.

There was no sports master; Cliff Shearer was more interested in mathematics. Still, we had sport of a sort… some Australian Rules football, a little soccer, and of course cricket. The girls had basketball and a cricket look-alike called Vigoro which employed a bat of generous width.

I found cricket especially interesting. It was played on a sloping field with massive Morton Bay fig trees on one side and an olive grove on the other. Cows occasionally grazed there, and if a speeding cricket ball hit a cow’s dried turd the ball was likely to speed away into the stratosphere.

The pitch was of concrete. Coir matting was available, but it was seldom used for house matches. The lack of matting seemed to give the ball extra speed, especially if the pitch happened to be wet. Then you would hear a fast ball fizz as it hit concrete.

I knew the sound quite well, for it was my fate to open the batting for Kidman House. The captain of Hughes House was Murray Rosenthal, who was older than most of us and a fine athlete with respect for Tim Wall, a fast bowler who played for South Australia and Australia. Wall took a 22-yard run, and so did Murray Rosenthal.

To see “Rosey” steaming down the hill and know that all that stood between me and that hard ball was a rather small bat is something that has stuck in my memory. Miraculously, I made quite a few runs against “Rosey” - something that used to irk him.

But on one occasion my fellow opening batsmen, Murray Smart, asked if he could have the honour of receiving the first ball. I gladly agreed. It was relaxing to stand by the other wicket and hear Rosenthal thundering up behind me. That first ball seemed to strike the pitch with the speed of light. A milli-second later it struck Smarts “family jewels”, and he collapsed writhing on the pitch. I don't remember if he went off or continued his innings. Perhaps he batted on - after all, he was the son of a policeman.

Probably the best of the slower bowlers was a rough-hewn but kindly youth called Normie Thomas, the eldest of a sizeable poor family of boys…. in those days most families were poor. Some were simply poorer than others. In primary school days, the extremely poor boys had no shoes. Nobody had much pocket money.

The most celebrated student to attend Kapunda High School was probably Colin Thiele, who became a high school teacher, the head of a teacher's college, and the author or compiler of 90-odd books - fiction for children and adults, as well as factual works like “Heysen of Hahndorf”, which was about the painter Hans Heysen.

Thiele was about a year older than I, a pleasant, kindly fellow who travelled each day from a farm outside Eudunda. He cycled three miles to Eudunda Railway Station rain, hail or shine, and arrived at Kapunda at seven in the morning and departed Kapunda at seven in the evening train. He later developed severe rheumatoid arthritis. There was one curious point about Colin - he had a strong German accent, and I understand he did not speak English until he went to school. This sort of thing was not uncommon in that area. The South German people who arrived in South Australia in the 1840s often preserved a strong German culture, especially those on farms, like Colin.

Colin was a thoughtful slow bowler, but less effective than Normie Thomas, who was killed in World War Two.

The schoolboy cricketer I particularly remember was  
Colin “Tosser” Brennan, a farm boy who was no Bradman, but who would gleefully hit a cricket ball further than any of his peers.

The High School building had been built for A. H. Greenshields, a Scot who came to Australia in 1864 at the age of 53 and built a successful drapery business in Main Street before Kapunda began a slow decline and lost many of its citizens. The Greenshields house had large grounds with fine gardens and apparently employed at least a dozen servants and gardeners.

"Eringa" the old building which is part of the Kapunda High School. (photo from Google)

The gardens were still there in the 1930s, with handsome old trees that included a rough foliaged “Monkey-puzzle” tree and a Canary Island pine. There was also a large, dilapidated glasshouse, now vanished.

In the 1930s the dwelling, with its rooms of various sizes, housed all the classrooms. There was a large “First-Year” room that had apparently been a drawing room (it would probably be called a “lounge room” today), a smaller “Intermediate” room (formerly the dining room), a still smaller “Leaving” room across the way (once a bedroom), and the large Physics Lab. (formerly several bedrooms).

Then there was the “domestic science room” (formerly the kitchen), and various rooms like the “typing room (a former breakfast room), the locker room (once a bathroom, the principal's office (once a sitting room), teachers room (formerly the butler's pantry), one or two other rooms, and a large basement (apparently where the servants dwelt).

The handsome entrance stairs opened into an expansive foyer with a tesselated floor and a fine skylight. This area is now carpeted and serves as a reception area. The building in its two-acre grounds was given to the S. A. Education Department by its second owner, Sir Sydney Kidman (better known as “The Cattle King”), in 1922.

Nowadays classrooms are spread throughout the grounds and the enrolment is close to 400, with kids bussed from surrounding areas.

When the property was owned by A. H. Greenshields it was known as “Lanark House” after that part of Scotland where he originated.

Kidman called it “Eringa” and it is still known by that name

“Eringa” is probably the grandest edifice for miles around, though “Anlaby” Homestead a few miles north would probably put it to shame.

There are several other sizeable and handsome houses around Kapunda, most of them sited on hills and probably erected last (19th) century, when the town had some pretensions to a muted sort of grandeur.

When I knew it in the 1920s and 30s it was rather a dowdy, dispirited sort of town. This was partly due to the Depression and the drift to Adelaide that had been going on for years. Relatively few children obtained jobs in Kapunda, and the jobs that were available were mainly blue–collar.

To walk down Main Street any week-day but Thursday (“Sale-day”), was to see few people and shops innocent of customers. At night the place retreated into itself except on Friday night (“late shopping”). At the week - end, though, there were the moving pictures in the Institute in Hill Street. The seats were simply chairs which could be removed or moved when there was something else doing in the main hall (with its underground supper room). The first picture I remember seeing was called “Wings”, and it may have been the first talkie – or maybe there were sound effects.

Main Street Kapunda, South Australia (2005). Photo taken by Ray Davie (Jock).

I also remember seeing “ The invisible Man”, starring Claude Rains. I think this was a “talkie” but an early “Ben Hur” may have been the first silent.

It was said that the film distributors tried out their films on Kapunda. Most of the films were by 20th Century Fox, and many seemed to be comedies starring Slim Somerville and Zasu Pitts.

The film I remember most was called “If I Had a Million”, and the distributors held a competition for an essay on what one would do if one had a million dollars. I won four tickets, more than anyone else.
The Institute was a squat and graceless building, but for me its value lay in the excellent library (much better than the High School library, which dwelt in a smallish cupboard).

Once or twice a month I would make haste to the library and would be sitting on the steps waiting for Freddy Arbury the librarian to appear at seven o'clock. The object of this exercise was to grab the new copy of “Chums” or “The Boys Own Paper”, two English monthlies long since defunct. I can still smell the heady scent of paper and print.

These were steps up from the comics such as “Rainbow” or “Tiger Tim’s Weekly”, both English publications. My first piece of fiction was published in Rainbow when I was nine years old.