You remember Ettie Rudd? Well Miss Rudd lived in Ormond Street and she had a verandah on her body just like a verandah on the house that was haunted just down the street. This haunted house had cobwebs and dirt and weeds and cracks all over it. And nobody was game to go near it. Except that big oaf Andrew Niminski who lived in a haunted house himself in Cambridge St and, whose father made wicked cigars. Well to tell the truth Andrew N. was no closer than Glen Street which was a block away and scared off the ghost boy, enough for Ettie to sell the house.
I remember standing outside the fence in Duxford Lane near my Grandfather’s house and it was under the peppercorn tree that spread over the lane and to where I was hearing from. I remember hearing inside the Churchyard or more, precisely the men’s Thing inside the Churchyard, many things that should never have been said – at least, in That place – if you didn’t want to be struck by lightning, or possibly by a great enormous fireball.
But I suppose a well-directed shaft of lightning would have to be more just, if it has to come, than a fireball, because Goodness knows what a decent sized fire-ball would have done to the innocent as well as the wicked around those parts.
In the twilight you could see clearly through the cracks between the palings and the air was warm enough to encourage the dawdling over the relievings and speakings that went on in that unholy place. But, now I come to remember I didn’t hear anything that provoked the lightning when I was a boy. Perhaps it was the hot early evening that made me think of thunderbolts and hellfire – I have forgotten what the sweaty grown-up choir boys said that night. If it was bold I don’t suppose it matters much now.
I tell you what I do remember, and what is more, never expected to tell of to a small boy of my own, is that I was about your age, and if I can carry on with a sentence which is about what I am trying to remember so long ago it is that, that night, after I had heard my big brother in the church thing, when he shouldn’t have been there and was supposed to be at home looking after me who shouldn’t have been there listening either, is that I remember standing on a chair and big woman was sticking all of the top part of her body in front of my face, and on it, it had a piece of string with a cardboard C on it.
Don’t ask me how it happened. But somehow or other brother Jack and I were all dollied up and were back in the Church hall. It was guessing night of the suburbs and was a very social do. Well, I didn’t know what the old suburb was and before I could think it up my brother Jack started playing the piano bang in the middle of the stage. “Rachmaninoff’s Prelude” (I always played the first two chords better myself). Anyway he finished it and got a lot of claps. I was proud of Jack but he looked silly shy in his great celluloid collar and Grandfather was shoving him behind the lousy old tinkly piano past the ferns and aspidistras and off to the stage into the wings which led to the Thing.
I was waiting for Jack outside the Gents and we both went up to the cake and sandwich department. This cake and sandwich place was way back in the Hall and was pretty dim under the forest of paper Easter daisies and Xmas bells and concertina-ed what-nots and long coloured streamers like we used to send our soldiers off to the war with. The cake and sandwich Mecca was guarded by a very fierce churchwoman, who stood us in a corner.
Ettie Rudd, a powerfully built friend of my mother’s, sang a very strong song. I think it was a female Invercargill March. My mother smiled and kept on talking to the fellows who worked in the saddle factory underneath Bull’s the grocer’s shop. I didn’t like these characters, I suppose I was jealous, and I am glad that horses were dying out in Paddington, although I had nothing against horses, or lampposts either, because they were to die out too. I liked them both really well, and Sharkey’s old dog “Barker” who used to inconvenience the people who leaned on lamp posts. Gas lamp posts were a joy for the young. We climbed up them in the daytime and put them on … in the evening we climbed up and pulled them off. Professor Brennan, who lived opposite our place in Glenmore Road liked that. Not that he was ever capable of doing it himself, but he liked us doing it.
Anyway, I was supposed to be telling you about the woman with the big C on a string on her bosom. Well, the bosom, though ample, had nothing to do with it. C on cord… CONCORD! Real clever.
After that I don’t remember much. It was an awful party for boys, even if it was held in St George’s Hall, Five Ways, Paddington, about 1917.
Duxford Lane, now known as White Lane after Wep’s grandfather, runs from Duxford Street, immediately behind John White’s property (Bill’s grandfather) through to Broughton Street past the rear of St George’s Church.
Ethel Stewart (Ettie) Rudd (1878-1953) of 32 Ormond Street. Ettie Rudd was the daughter of a well-known contractor of 32 Ormond Street, Mr Henry Rudd. Ettie never married and lived her entire life in the same home. Presumably her father, Henry Rudd and Wep’s grandfather, John White did business together at times. (1898 ‘SOCIAL ITEMS.’, Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 – 1931), 15 April, p. 3. , viewed 07 Aug 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article109650568)
Ettie may well have proven an inspiration for Wep’s propensity to draw large women in his satirical cartoon strip “In and Out of Society”, which he drew weekly from 1933-1949. A faint pencil sketch on one of his drafts for this story shows a small Wep standing on a chair in front of large Ettie Rudd.
It would be about 10 o’clock in the morning and there was nothing to look forward to all the live long day. It wasn’t a Sunday because every Sunday morning at 8.30 am brother Jack and I had to fetch the Sunday papers and make hot-buttered toast and tea (Goldenia) served on a tray with serviette to Mum who was earning a Sabbath rest and chewing the cud about the terrible post-mortem over who mucked the six no-trumps the night before. Of course, some weekends she’d be on top of the world when she’d sent Emmy Johnson down for three and to collect 1/6 into the bargain. But still, Brer John and I had to front up with the hot-buttered and tea, no matter what.
Seems like I’ve gone off orbit again, because it obviously wasn’t Sunday I was complaining about: certainly couldn’t have been Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday or Friday for on those days I was nailed to an ancient, stained yet well carved desk, now an antique piece at the Darlo Public School where I learnt the three Rs and lots of buried wrongs. I had graduated from Glenmore Road Public School, mostly to bask in the penumbra of my brother’s brilliant pass in the Q.C. (In those days there was no confusion as to what a Q.C. meant. You had earned by sweat and corporal punishment the distinction of a Qualifying Certificate and no one for a moment would have considered you as a Queens Counsel (a legal upper-crustiness known in those days as a King’s Counsel)).
As I have said I was always at school on week days, toasting on Sundays, so it must have been on a beautiful Saturday morning that the bottom of the world was right there in the back yard of 290.
There it was, right bang against the ficus and the droopy cosmos growing out of the cracks in the back wall.
The ficus hadn’t been trimmed since Grandpa had lopped it six months before. All its trailing tendrils had branched out in one fierce endeavour to repossess what was left of our backyard. We had to grope our way through the oozing sap and he figs to find our way to the old dunny even in the high noon.
It just so happened that Big Chappie had to go to the semi-detached about 10 a.m. this Saturday morning just after the first World War. This is not to impute that Big Chappie had never been there since the Archduke Ferdinand had been assassinated at Sarajevo – or that she had never been there on a Saturday morning at all. It was just that a conjunction of astral bodies had brought us together in our respective backyards on that particularly august day when she had felt a fundamental need.
In a superfluity of easement and goodwill she had asked me to join her and Little Chappie in the preparation of their witches’ Sabbath brew.
The Chappies homemade hopbeer was renowned, even held in a sort of numinous awe by the more holy of the fraternity around the corner of Hoddle St. and Glenmore Rd. Of course, I knew the brew was on; I could smell the ficus and asparagus ferns, the pungent aroma of those hops boiling madly in their huge cast iron boiler, big enough to stew Jack and his beanstalk and the giant too. Three of us sat in sanctified convocation before the warm and fiery salamander of a stove, the cauldron bubbling and wheezing over the flames like Stephenson’s Rocket. Big Chappie’s spectacles misted and glinted in the hoppy steam. Bubble, bubble, boil and bubble. Little Chappie heaping sugar on the encrusted and blackened spoon which I held timourously over the flames, the sugar boiling like treacle and poured splutteringly into the depths of Chapman’s Easter Special. And a toast with a bottle of the last vintage to celebrate the birth of the new. The Kind is dead, long live the King!
In all fairness to Chappies, they weren’t out to defraud our Customs. It was just that some brews had the edge on others – some were pretty innocuous and rather like Good Friday Showtime stuff, alright for polio victims or the Deaconess. Others had something of a wild Bachanalianism in their forthrightness – a quality which unleashed the springs of effusiveness and loving-kindness. A week later there would be shrieks and giggles when consumption began and bottles and plates of hot dinner passed back and forth over our fence interminably on the Day of Rest. Ah, those dear Old Dears!
Footnote. It is not denied that time and memory lend enchantment to one’s recollections; nevertheless, apart from the remembrance of a memorable occasion of the absorption of some litres of Munich Oktoberfest beer, I have yet to recall so favourably a brew which was all things to all men (and women). CHAPPIES’ could be drunk, supped like pea soup or served sliced – but in any presentation was always unforgettable. I regret to say that the recipe and its creators have long since passed away.
Emma Johnson, 52 Glenview Street, domestic duties, 1913 Electoral Roll. Also Nils Edward Johnson, Labourer and Lee Howard Johnson, Traveller (a ten minute walk from 290 Glenmore Road)
Mary Emma Johnson, 463 Oxford Street, Saleswoman (a 16 minute walk from 290 Glenmore Road)