When I was a kid, this time of year was usually spent at the beach.
We would pack up the car and make the two and a half hour drive down the Pacific Highway – one lane way each way – to the Gold Coast. These days you can make the journey in about 50 minutes down the eight lane freeway.
A two and a half hour journey would mean that we would have to stop half way for a comfort stop. My mum always said that I knew where every public toilet was along that highway. Dad would make jokes about my “Japanese bladder”, (probably highly politically incorrect now) referring to its tiny size. I would retort that the size of my inner bits was not my fault and could he please pull over soon.
The best place to make the comfort stop was Yatala, a tiny town famous for its pies. These were the quintessential Australian pies – flaky pastry, yummy meat filling and just the right size to be held in small hands. You could have a pie with peas added. The man would neatly slit the pastry top and slide in a spoonful of gloriously mushy peas. Yum! Dad had his pie with a good dollop of tomato sauce on top. He called it ‘dead horse’ using the rhyming slang commonly used by men of his generation. Consequently I refused to have sauce or ketchup added to my food right up until I was in my twenties; the thought of dead horses immediately rising in my mind whenever I lifted a bottle of the stuff.
Back on the road, we would head for Currumbin, the best beach on the coast then and, in my opinion, today as well. My Auntie Iris and Uncle Harry lived in a house on the hill over looking Currumbin Creek. Mum and dad would be accommodated in the spare room and my brother and I had beds on the covered verandah. Lying in bed, you could hear the crash and swoosh of the surf. It was wonderful.
Days were spent on the beach slathered in coconut oil and zinc cream. With the red – well, strawberry blonde actually – hair and pale skin of my Irish heritage, I could only spend a short time in the sun before I became lobster red. Peeling skin, the odd blister and the inevitable freckles were also a part of my summers. Look at that picture! Wow! Cool swimmers!
We were lucky to have been brought up in the fifties. We were allowed so much more freedom than the children of today. Sure, our parents watched over us, but they also allowed us to have adventures of our own, out of their sight. We learned to take risks. We learned what risks were acceptable and which risks would result in injury or embarrassment. We could let our imaginations wander into special worlds of wonder. We ate things we probably shouldn’t have eaten – sunbaked worms, ants on crackers with Vegemite, wild mulberries or guavas. We did things we probably shouldn’t have – climbed all over the machinery at the sand works on Sunday when there was nobody else there, walked (jumped) over the railway bridge because someone told us there were no trains after three o’clock. We built cubby houses and tree houses and figured out how to weave banana leaves to make mats and fans and how to use a pulley to get water up into the tree. We drew treasure maps and buried things so we could come back for them next year. We jumped around in the ocean under the watchful eyes of the Surf Lifesavers and slurped drippy ice-cream cones afterwards as we walked back to Aunty’s house.
It was wonderful. For two entire weeks, our lives were completely disconnected from real life. We were on holidays and there was no better feeling that that!
Sometimes I wonder how we ever survived our childhoods. Everything we did then would be considered wrong or super dangerous now…and I guess some of it was dangerous but, as I said, we learned risk management from doing those things. Believe me, you only have to have one near miss jumping across the railway sleepers on a bridge high above an estuary to realise that you shouldn’t be doing that. Did it once….won’t do it again. Not so with the hand-powered wagon – a two person flat decked wagon with a sort of see-saw apparatus that you pushed up and down to make it move – not sure what the real name for them is – that we took for a spin up and down the spur line. Wow! That was fun…would do that again in a heartbeat.
I had a lot of fun when I was a kid…..and somehow survived. 🙂