Five Ways to Remember: Chappies and the Home Brew

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.

[W.E. Pidgeon]

Notes:

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)

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: 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