Five Ways to Remember: B.P. – L.H.

There it was. Irrevocably stated in juvenile chalk marks on the fence in Lawson Lane. Flanked on the right by a swung decrepit gate, and on the left by a battered dirt-box, (or garbage tin). Was this ultimate truth? Within an ill-drawn heart was emblazoned the legend that B.P. luvs L.H. It was quite true. Lois had the moistest. Although young, she knew how to cast a glance. I had determined to be a Sir Galahad to her, and if she had wished to walk down to Rushcutters Bay across the Chinamen’s gardens, I would have escorted her; and I had hoped defended her against such assaults as were common among the lecherous young in those days. I envisaged myself fighting off all the bikies, the “onion mob” and all. Not that bikies as such existed in those days, but they had their progenitors.

It so happened, I was too timid to ask her to walk down to the Bay with me, so my valour was never put to the test. She must have been a jolly good looker, because I was choosy in my devotion. Bolder lovers than myself, used to mate up with bolder and less beautiful girls. She was Maid Marion. Confrontation with her always embarrassed me, such was my excess of modesty and love. Mother complained about the shattered toe caps on my boots, which I had kicked to death in shyness on the gutters of Lawson Lane. (Incidentally, we, Brother Jack and I had outmoded the old button-up boots which needed a button hook and expertise to attach to our sweaty feet. We were now on the modern lace-up boots.)

I had not chalked up that soft affection in Lawson lane. I did, God forgive me, repeat the message on Sharkey’s fence in Hoddle Street. I liked it be known that L.H. was loved. Years later when I was under the shower, I used to think fondly of the girl who parents inconsiderately moved to Bexley or the bush.

Other boys seemed not to be troubled with tender scruples relative to maidenhood. Occasionally, on the way home from Womerah Avenue, (Darlo School), the boys and girls would play hide and seek in the grounds of the Scottish Hospital. Sometimes when someone was extra hard to find, I would be informed by the more knowledgeable R.P. that “It’s no good looking for R.M. He is up E.D.” Even at that tender age, I understood the message and made due allowance for juvenile research. This research, which I am sure was purely academic, could not have led to any ill-consequences. Eight or nine-year olds do not get Ph.D.s or babies. Not all of the residents of Paddington were all as pure in their research. Some adults, accused of selfish and forceful knowledge of those matters relating to the young, disappeared from the social scene.

[W.E. Pidgeon c.1974]

NOTES:

  1. Lois Hoskins lived in Lawson Street, Paddington
  2. Mrs Annie Sharkey along with Frederick William, Edith and Graham lived at 26 Hoddle Street, Paddington, opposite the rear access laneway from 290 Glenmore Road. Annie died 12 June 1920 (Source: Ryerson Index)

Five Ways to Remember: Borrowed Bike

That Niminski boy – he was a boy then, might be older than me now – looks it anyway – I saw him in the street. At least he was in the street and I was in the tram – which was a good thing because once I borrowed his bicycle and because his old man made those smelly cigars(1), he could, or his old man could, afford one.

Now that you have a bike of your own it has all come back to me.

I borrowed my first ride from Andrew but he didn’t know and when I returned the bike he didn’t know even then. I did hear he was looking for a bike beginner with abrasions. As I was going to school in knickerbockers at the time he never found him.

I still don’t know, that after all these thirty odd years I should not have been bold enough to whistle to him from my seat in a fast going Dulwich Hill tram.

[W.E. Pidgeon c.1956]

Graham Pidgeon in the laneway at Northwood, with his new Speedwell bike, possibly for his 12th birthday, c.1 July 1956

 

Notes:
  1. Albert Niminski, Cigarette Manufacturer, 15 McDonald Street; 1926 Sydney Sands Directory

Five Ways to Remember: Dedication

This is dedicated to two small boys and all the terrifying real people who used to live around the Five Ways. If some of the people mentioned are not as real as they should be – it is mostly my fault. I hope I have caused no offence to any one I may have mentioned – through the vapourising of the past they were all helpful in bringing me down to what I am today.

[W.E. Pidgeon c. 1970]

Five Ways to Remember: Prologue

What do you do when you come back? Upsweep the old linoleum? Waste untold hours over the underlays of newspapers bespeaking of the relief of Mafeking or of Bill Lowes £3 suits – the identical to which he always wore to Randwick and exulted places. It all gets as screwy and symmetrical as a Rorshach blot. An accident of happening into which you read what you will or wish. A vortex wherein everything is valid – heliotrope or mid-brown paint – moss or rubber plants – white ants or quarry tiles. Expensively reconstructed pull bell systems or rich men’s electronic sifters of the knocker at the door. Of peeling plaster or blasted sand-stone brick – of a garage where the drawing-room was or a motor bike in the hall? Of the fly door butcher or the bulk meat purveyor? Of the horses pooh collector or the distributors of filth into lanes and alleyways. Of neighbourliness or even of a quorum let alone a collection of devotees of St Georges Church?

Not even good old operatic killings.

There’s a haze of culture and the pensioners manage to get the Labor boys re-elected.

The fish and chip shop is strangled by take-away pancakaries and quicharies and pizza plazas.

Children have nowhere to play in Glenmore Rd School. After hours offers them safety from the traffic. The elegant potters vie with antique shops which trade in boarding-house has-beens.

The old pub you should not have been seen alive in is classified A1 by the Trust.

The Paddington Society who made the realty values cannot raise enough for a home.

Pubs are full of exotic grogs for the dine-at-homers while serving a one beer choice to the old and steady.

Mercedes and Jags clutter the Art Gallery tiny lanes while bombs are dumped in noble streets.

You can buy a sandwich at one joint for 50c. and a counter lunch big enough for two at another for 60.

It’s all getting too bloody democratic?

[W.E. Pidgeon c.1975]

Five Ways to Remember: Preface

Many years ago, my intellectual uncle, Cyril Pearl kindly found me an intact copy of Nathaniel Pidgeon’s journal of his experiences as the first city Missionary in Sydney in 1850 or thereabouts. Uncle Cyril was greatly taken by Nathaniel’s graphic descriptions of that pagan rum-sodden citizenry. Somewhere amongst these oozy woozy recollections of the past, I have interpolated a potted history of the Reverend Nathaniel Pidgeon and a couple of examples of his quite unequivocal prose.

Grandpa White’s family speak, not for themselves unfortunately but only through the errant dark and inexact tunnels of my fading memories. There is no point in expecting either sequence or chronological order in these effusions. If I am over-repetitious, it is because I lack a concentrated mind and was at any moment only seeking the immediacy of past feeling fingers.

None of the faces of memory are recollected now, or seem even meaningful. Such experiences as these shadows cast upon me are the purpose for these remembrances of things past and of no great consequence at all.

Most of the reminiscences of Paddington have been written spasmodically over a period of twenty years. True and what is a dream, I cannot tell, now. All the names mentioned are, or were, realities in the social scene. No offence to any was, or is, intended and I do not think that I have libelled or contemned any identifiable person. Some of the old ancient thinking of Paddington may be revived in the memories of old-timers, who may waste a little more of their time in ploughing through its content. Most people wish to identify themselves to their children and in a hesitant and long delayed way, I have attempted to give them some background of at least one side of their parent’s past. I included an extract from my Pidgeon history to help the rather overwhelming emphasis on the White family, who in my own case rightly deserve remembrance and honour. It is sixty years and a little since I began school at Glenmore Road. Memory has now no alluvial offerings – recollections have been submerged under current problems and there is no more to say, Perhaps one day while I stay at 290 Glenmore Road, something of no consequence will surface. –It will please me.

Now after all these years it seems to be very much a sentimental waste of time. An excursion backwards into nostalgic stations which have neither reality or purpose in the present age.

The unfolding tapes of memory sound off as the bones and vapourising odours of an age of smelling salts and the drifting fumes of alcoholic memories.

Paddy you seemed so much bigger in the old days.

[W.E. Pidgeon c.1975]

The Five Ways to Remember: Wep’s reminiscences of growing up in Paddington

The 5 Ways To Remember by W.E. Pidgeon, Wep’s reminiscences of growing up in Paddington, was specifically written for his sons, Graham and Peter.

Wep first commenced drafting these stories in the early to mid 1950s. In 1975 when Wep could no longer see to paint due to glaucoma and six eye operations, he applied for a Direct Assistance Grant from the Visual Arts Board to publish the manuscript. This was referred to the Literature Board but was ultimately rejected due to insufficient funds. The manuscript remained incomplete. It includes a potential list of chapters or stories, hand written and typed drafts for 14 chapters, an introduction and preface as well as a number of illustration roughs.

These short vignettes and applicable sketches, edited by Wep’s son, Peter, will be published via a series of posts on this blog.They provide an insightful window into Wep’s early childhood and what it was like to be a young lad growing up in Paddington, 100 years ago.

The title, The 5 Ways to Remember is in homage to Five Ways, Paddington in Sydney. Its location is the intersection formed by Glenmore Road with Goodhope Street, Broughton Street and Heeley Street and was the commercial centre of the local community; about 200m from where Wep grew up at 290 Glenmore Road.

Wep’s father Frederick died in 1913 when Wep was only four years old. As a consequence, his early childhood was strongly influenced by his maternal grandfather, John White and the White family. John White, a former Mayor and long time councilor in Paddington was a master builder. He built the row of terrace houses at 290 Glenmore Roadand many other terraces around Paddington including the Paddington Town Hall and a number of railway stations in country New South Wales. John lived a short walk from Five Ways at 11 Gurner Street on the corner with Duxford Street, in a grand terrace house he also built. His home was called Trelawney in reference to the Cornish hero, from where John originated. Upon his death in 1935, the name plaque was relocated to 290 Glenmore Road by Wep’s mother, Thirza where it remained in place adjacent to the front door until only a few years ago.

John White was married to Isabella Garrick McRitchie and they had nine children, seven of whom survived to adulthood; five boys and two girls. Wep’s Uncle Percy was a forward in the Easter Suburbs Rugby Football team that won their maiden premiership in 1911. He died of wounds received at Amiens, France on 24 April 1917. His aunt Isabella Rose was married to Septimus Patterson, a dentist and Captain in the Australian Army Medical Corps during the First World War. It was Septimus who was influential in obtaining Wep a position as a Cadet Newspaper Artist with the Evening News in 1925, through his professional relationship with the editor of that newspaper.

These stories enlighten us about some of the characters that inhabited Five Ways and nearby streets during the war years and early 1920s. Where appropriate, editorial notes have been added to provide context. As Wep himself noted, there is no particular order to the stories; each essentially being self contained. I hope you enjoy them.

Peter Pidgeon, July 2018

Wep’s 1956 Romanian adventure: 27 Nov; On the Lorelie Express past Koblenz

On the Lorelie Express
past Koblenz.
27 Nov 56

Dearest,

While this train is slowing down I will explain that it is impossible to write legibly when it is going full bat. It rocks around worse than a Northwood Bus so do your best to decipher it all.

The Rhine River from aboard the Lorelei Express train travelling from Holland to Zurich; 27 November 1956
The Rhine River from aboard the Lorelei Express train travelling from Holland to Zurich; 27 November 1956

The Rhine! Not so impressive as one would want – give away history and its accompanying romance, leave away the towns, and you have only a moderate river finding its own way to its level. But who can leave aside its Romance. That is the Rhine, surely. Not the great bombed out areas for the really dreary German grey flats & dwellings. The inevitable bare trees – ghosts of the past sit by the edge with their feet in the continuity of time. What’s wrong with the Germans! They look docile enough, but some mad concept is behind their being. Gas chambers, mass destruction – Valkyrie & the rest. It is all there – seemingly invisible, but I am sure just waiting for another prototype to emerge.

Here I fall to sleep.

Sweet dreams my sweet one.
Sweet kisses

Later still on the Rhineland

You ought to think yourself something quite out of the box! Who else gets their man never to rest without worrying about having his missus near him – or wanting her to be as well off as he? I know you are an old dragon, a nagging wretch, a frigid image, a frustrated schoolmarm – but still unique & quite out of the box in all categories. In short, for the practically last time – I am telling the European air – you have a man who loves you – take him as he is.

Still later. It’s dark now, and I have just finished dinner or supper (pork chop & 1/2 bottle very good light claret – midday – had steak & mushrooms & chicken soup & by mistake 1/2 bt. white wine which was very good too. Today, I am eating just what I want & its good for me morally – but not financially.

Outside the rails are slippery wet now & the puddles on the station floor are put like pools of remembrance. I am at Offenbach – and it all gives me a feeling of the Man Who Watched the Trains Go By. There is a more definite feeling of going somewhere into an unknown future when you are on a train & it is dark & wet and you never can tell what will eventuate – like getting into an underground railway system & coming up for air with a completely foreign & new born vision. The sheer immediacy of never having seen moving life in its place – its actually suddenly confronting you as you walk out of the subway is an extraordinary & unique experience. One that I would like to share with you because you would depend on me to know where & why and what – and you could look freely because you know that somehow I would find you your place in that little part of the world and that I would try and look after you. I am writing this better because I am at the eating table – am more comfortable. I might even have some more claret because I feel sentimental – but hope I do not sound too disgustingly so. I need your faith – it is a great help.

Not long ago we passed nearby to Heidelberg. Romantic eh? The Rhineland & its vineyards – but the dull dreary German houses, stodgy – grey – box like & inevitably the same. But the name – and the evocative images (which are always wrong & phoney) – Listen London – Harwick – Hook of Holland – Rotterdam – Kaldenkirchen – Köln – Coblenz – Mainz – Carlsruhe – Baden oos – Freiburg – come off like a string of pearls don’t they? Or a length of Heinz Spaghetti? My darling, I would like you to be with me. Perhaps you would have had greater pleasure than I out of seeing & sensing the different ways of man. I know, fundamentally in my heart that I don’t set a great deal of store on this sightseeing – that everything is really where it is right under your own nose – as it is for the people of Mainz or Brashov – Venizia or Paris – or Brompton & from that matter, Paddington where I first learnt the glories of the visible world. When I used to sit at the top floor bedroom window & watch the sun die in glory over the roofs of the tenements that frinhed the Brougham Rd near the Cross. When the narrow alleys were full of winter smoke from the fireplaces of the poor. And the gas lamp man would round his already completed task of illuminating a tiny corner of the streets. And what of the bamboos, so tall and strong enough for a doyen of monkeys, singing with locusts, & ablaze with the gold & blue of the Christmas & Blue Monday beetles. Yeah? I don’t suppose anything has ever really penetrated me since I was small and in a constant state of wonder. In the castor oil trees, on the fences, smoking bamboo stalks, burrowing tunnels in the school yard banks & reading goggle-eyed the naughty words in the latrines.

Please don’t think I have retrogressed to a second childhood. It is so dark & the train jigs too much for me to read. I find a relief in exploding myself on paper – I have done so little work – none at all – since I left home. I am bottled up & probably need your warm clutch on my creature member.

This really is going too far. If I keep this up, letters will be coming in for a month or two after I get home.

God, when you look out of the window see cars & houses, you wonder how anyone could settle down so far away from Northwood Rd. But I guess it all depends on what is home – your family, I think is home.

I have been thrown out the Spiesenkarten car because the Swiss Customs men are due aboard. I am back now in the rickety carriage with my sole & worldly European possessions.

I look forward to loving you both with spirit and flesh. I don’t think we make a bad pair together.

Your still loving (even at home) husband

Bill

Please come to me now.

 

Caravanning with Wep – 2nd May 1937; Kurrajong to Mt. Victoria, Cox Valley & Lithgow then unplanned return to Sydney and back to Kurrajong

2nd May.

What a chronicle! A month gone and nothing entered.

Left Kurrajong after a hectic Saturday. Doug & Don (the chef) threw a party in our honour at Pumpkin Cottage on the Friday. The 5 gallon keg dethroned after a few hours hard at it. Met the behind scenes life of pub. Myrtle the fertile waitress lusty built, generous flesh, man-knowing painted face, possessing look of lewd pictures. Ethel, Don’s wife, crudity, not his class. Dirty jokes, two girl corpses. Vision of housekeeper appearing clad in irate dressing gown demanding cessation of activities. Needn’t have bothered herself the 5 was empty anyway.

Got away from the Hotel at 4:30 am (4th April) Sunday. Woke to find ourselves in bed in the caravan outside the bar. Blissfully unconscious where Lena had laid us to rest in a dim hiatus of alcoholic past. Woke to impervious demand by Jess that we should get going.  Stagger with sleep and angrily start off after god-damned strenuous cranking of engine. Jess stays in bed in the caravan and travels in sick comfort. She is not well. Dawn breaks somewhere near Bilpin. Drearily drive through a dank and dampish no-man’s land to Mt. Victoria. Jess getting hell from the old trouble. Passes out with strain in the corridor of hotel whilst on way to bath. 4/- for cleanliness; no wonder it’s next to Godliness!

Got to Cox’s river both feeling mighty low. Ate disinterestedly on re-fried pork chops surreptitiously parcelled out to us by Don the previous day. Scraps of chicken gnawed at on way to Mt. Vic. Sad, grey, sat-on, oyster patties, past all human aid unceremoniously consigned to garbage.  Slept fitfully the afternoon. Good painting here. Brown burnt rolling foot hills, lean silent ghosts of once trees stubbed on unshaven ridged earth. She-oak trimmed river gurgles on round rocked ford. Jess restlessly ill wants to go. Get to upper reaches of Cox valley between Rydal & Bowenfells. Am entranced with delicious cool mountain water. Gulp gallons & run with glass for Jess to taste – Curiously kick over fallen notice much faded injunction that “This water is unfit for human consumption.” Speeding vision of all the arses & privates of Lithgow emptying hurriedly into my glass. Ugh! But it did taste good. Jess very bad next morning. Pack up and leave trailer at Lithgow & come on to Sydney. 5 hours slow run. Took her over to Paddy. Left town on Thursday with Dawn and returned to Kurrajong with caravan. Arrived pub at 7:30pm after tiring trip along Bells Line Road. (Thursday 8th April.) Ran from blue water clarity beyond Hartley into great dark battlements belching shot of ice. Past Bell look backward under arch of dark, glimpsing reddened sun. Mists rising out of the blue depthless valley swirl flame like licking cliffs – Red lit. Am amidst a heatless mighty fire, the sky behind a blazing strip squeezed beneath a great warm bottomed rolling vapour dark. Sharp shafts of orange-lit trunks waving myriad bronze green flashing drip-dropping fingers against death purple-blue shadow depth. A great Ziegfield flashy stage lit by crazy aimless spot lights. Lights and darks where they have no damn right to be. Isolated, staring patches of highlight, serpent wiggling lines of coloured mist. All the colours of the mind in one mad finale before the curtain of night. Awesome in its colour psychology, its extravagance. In some vague way, terrifying. Filling the timid alien who has burst willy-nilly upon such recklessness with something akin to fear, relegating him in a great cold Hell! The car leaves hurriedly, the man, furtive, back-looking. Interloper! 30 miles of aloneness-fear, bad grades, slippery road, hail, mud, and unutterable dark. 30 times 30 miles. Cold wet.

They dropped a log on Toby. Dead as dead. Have got to know the Culvers. Often wondered what fearsome predatory brute lurked behind bunches of “No Trespassers.” Called over and made himself known to us, inviting us to bridge at “Fernmount” that night, Sunday. A florid pleasant chappy with rather inquiring habit of looking at you. Sometimes the rigid immobility of staring doll eyes. Cultured, first I’ve struck on the travels interested in art, not as a connoisseur but with curiosity as to the flap doodle of art, its jargon. English ex-navigator & curio up in these parts. Wife also English mannered. David, the son, a 9 year old adult. Father’s face and eyes. Eyes that seem as if expecting you to burst into a song-and-dance or turn into a pillar of salt, or something curious, or just something. A great big lovely chocolate cake for supper.

Invited over again after a few days to Bridge & Bottle party. Turned out no bridge, but much bottle & talk about ground here – abouts and possibilities thereof. Finally offered use of a portion of his ground up from Geoff’s. Quite keen on the prospect of us building a shack on it we could use for week-ends. J.D. has appointed himself official angler to play my enthusiasms re house erecting. A past master of the art.

The more I see of nature the more incredible I find it. Give me mountains for variety. Convinced that an artist could paint anything his errant fancy could devise and nature would not only duplicate it for him but show him as a feeble scribbling child mind.

Saw, during evening, the foothills below as billowing foam crested sea. Crest-capped long waves of earth breaking. Angry waters of land. Is there no end to the possibilities of this scene?

Went to the boat race with Frank Peck. Arrived as it was in progress. Heard it all most comfortably seated behind a pint of beer in the Nepean Hotel. Parked and made way towards river as the crowd broke and flung itself city wards in our teeth.

Getting to know pretty well everyone up here now.

Frank     Jack P.   Queen Anne (Miss Quinnan)

Daddy   Aub        Mr Simpson

Nana     Charlie  Lee Wilson

Lena      Jack H.  Don Donaldson

Bill          Bill Brown            Ede

Don        John D.                 Una

George Van Tright

Ken        David

Dick (skull phantom of the opera)

Ethel

Myrtle  Dorothy

Pat         Geoff

Doug     Mickey

Joe         Bill Walk

Jess has just finished knitting a bootie. Well! Well! How things do ’appen!