Five Ways to Remember: Church Hall

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.

[W.E. Pidgeon]

Notes:

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.

IN AND OUT OF SOCIETY . . By Wep, The Australian Women’s Weekly, 9 Feb 1935, p21

Five Ways to Remember: Butching

This butcher fellow was only an employee in one of the two butcher shops in Five Ways. He was very very helpful. If I asked for a set of brains of a sheep (or perhaps of an idiot) I got them always large and soggy. He was about as obscure with his dirty jokes as the people I know now.

Harry Edgar White, c.1905

Uncle Harry had a bag full of meat – a Gladstone bag full – not of good quality but still meat. It was 1917 sometime, Uncle Percy had been killed in France (1). Perhaps only Grandpa White. The kids needed meat, otherwise Uncle Harry would hardly have gone to all those shenanigans to get it. He got around saying little against the Railway strikes. He said little against anybody. I suppose that’s how he got it. Meat was hard to come by. Possibly he was the only pink in the white White household. True Blue rinsed White our family, circumspect and unquestioning, we ate the red red meat.

It’s not much good trying to tell you what a butcher was like in the bad old days and just after I started running messages for two families for a penny a day, I got to recognise meat when I saw it. Dead that is; and off a lawfully killed scrub goat or bobby calf.

Uncle Percy, did I mention Uncle Percy? No, it was Uncle Harry, he was the longest thinnest one of all. You never knew, anyway, any of them. Harry or Percy, Uncle for sure, had, round about nineteen sixteen or seventeen, a work bag one day, full of meat. Quite full, enough to do all the White family a meal, and there were plenty of Whites in Paddo then. Modern social science calls for an extended practical education, but one peep in that old Gladstone taught me one aspect of it for life. Never had I imagined that such seemingly warm and jovial people as my uninhibited relations were, could be sustained by those unpalatable and revolting slabs of meat – perhaps it was the meat strike which had affected their discrimination.

Afterwards I took much notice of the old butch shops. It might seem Dickensian to you but they were a source of wonder and colour in my youth. A butcher really butchered in those days. The shop meat and fat, blood, sawdust ferns, running water down the windows, lights (or lungs to you) in buckets, livers on hooks, brains in the head, tails in the hair, yards of sausage gut skin, smiles, plastered down hair and credit too. None of your prefabricated T-bone steak or short loin chop which extends from tail to neck. No plastics – no prices.

[W.E. Pidgeon c.1974]

Driver Percy Rowett White, October 1917

Notes:

  1. Percy Rowett White enlisted 5 Sep 1916. He died from wounds, 24 April 1918 at Amiens, France.
  2. Freddie Thompson and Son, Butchers, Glenmore Road
  3. George Low’s Butcher shop, Glenmore Road

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]

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