Five Ways to Remember: Haute Cuisine

Proust could have done it.  He would have remembered every taste of boiled swedes, or cheap oatmeal he had from the days before he even would accept a cup of tea.  All the awful healthy flavours which were not in the race with lemonade and marshmallows.

Sometimes when the leaden soldiers were not battling well my brother and I would have a go at peanut brittle, Bulgarian Rock or even marshmallows.  Most of our efforts were not worth keeping, although peanut brittle & Bulgarian Rock were hard to dispose of.  They had an indestructibility that even our scones lacked.

Mother was probably collecting the rents or playing bridge.  She accepted our beginnings of haute-cuisine with a great deal of grace – so long as we consumed or gave away the delights and washed up after the mess.

We didn’t seem to be pushed around too much to household chores – maybe we kept to a minimal area – easy to clean.

Yet it was laid down that on Sunday morning, mother was taken tea and toast to her bed three floors up where she read the papers in luxurious ease.  Occasionally she would borrow a “Truth” which would be hidden under a cushion later.

On the way back from Union Street the warmth of the meal tucked under my armpit released urges which the smell of chips rendered irresistible. I never knew how many chips I pilfered on the way home from the newspaper bundle.  Doubtless the greasy paper contained the latest news of the attack on Passchendaele or Gallipoli for all I bloody well knew – or cared.

Five Ways to Remember: Haunted House

Somewhere just down from King’s the chemist, was an empty house which should have been haunted, but was not.  It was cracked and all the cracks weren’t just the hairline things you see in the footling little walls people build these days.  These cracks had the nobility and the vigour of the Mississippi River network.  From the front gate which had even then long since been locked into rusted immobility, it was never used, seeing that there was no fence attached to it and one really did not have to open the gate to an estate which was not inhabited, anyway.

From the locked gate, locked so irrevocably that even St. Peter could not have opened it against the sole remaining erstwhile staunchness of the fence its opposite style member had parted with the things in it. It spread the non-fence demarcated by chick weed and pee-the-bed.

Am I still alive in Paddington?  I have lost the contact.  The stream of sub-consciousness is receding from awareness. – I am not remembering – I am not helping my childhood or my sons.  If I put it down, it is out of my system, – the agonies, fixed – classified, not to be endured again, exhibits.  That much of the effort sucked from the memory – one less thing in the bucket.

What in that crazed house must be written down and commented upon from the memory of our blood?  Windows awry, concrete cornucopias adrift from the brave façade.

Sunflowers growing through the gasbox and behind the windows a suggestion of life becomes sometimes the grey sun drapes were not so fixed as there had been a week before.  In the garden the long johns wart bent and withered in its maturity: the paspalum only just held its own with the buffalo because Glenmore road was kind in buffalo and greeted it.  It grew in such great clusters as only a motormower salesman could envisage.  Not that it was in any danger then, for the only pair of hand shears within blocks was regularly borrowed for the necessary training of the tiny lawns at Waverley Cemetery, wherewith monstrous regularity, our neighbours made their abode.

I’ve had this house – It hasn’t come to life—I have started off to say something and it has died in my throat. I don’t like that house now – It is not amusing, and if I think of it, I feel pretty near like it looked.  Some other day we will both go down to Glenmore Road and throw a stone at its memory.

[W.E. Pidgeon c.1971]

Five Ways to Remember: Meals at Trelawny

You, that is if you were under forty and were a guest at my grandfather’s table, were not allowed to laugh outright or for that matter, even giggle. If you were under thirty you had to wear the mask of a sphinx no matter what clean clerical joke was cracked.

It always seemed a little odd to me that on the seventh day there had to less humanity in the house than there was on the other six.  Not that is to say that there was much fun and games for the young from Monday at 1 am (if you were up) till Saturday 12 mid. during the week.  It was just that if you felt like smiling on the sabbath you just daren’t.

Bill and Jack Pidgeon in the backyard of their home at 290 Glenmore Rd, Paddington, c.1915

Grandma who always wore a great collar which was distinguished by its height and purity of whale boned lace, always saw fit to give my brother a good clip under the ear whenever he passed.  Why Jack never learnt to pass her underneath the table or beneath the throne she held court on is still beyond me.  Not that Jack did anything very much. Being four years older than I, he couldn’t sense the danger of just being around.  I suppose his Eton collar and the fact that he sang in the choir sort of gave him (falsely in his own view) an air of sanctity which Grandma always failed to discern.

The clips on the ear Jack always earned for the little things he might have done or even thought of doing, but never had the hardihood to do.  For the things I would have liked to do Jack got two clips.

So it was that Jack always smothered up in a neutral corner when Grandma was around.

Grandpa was beyond all this.  He just sat and ate and ate and bemoaned his lack of appetite.

His theatrical indifference to food never seemed to dim his awareness of what was going on or off the plates to the right and left of his august presence.

One dreadful 1st Sunday before Pentecost our hired help foolishly skidded her meat  and peas on his lap.

If this girl ever had a name, that is immaterial.  Today she is probably wrestling under the name of Big Chief Thunderplate or another latin alias.  Although young, she had an extraordinarily powerful jaw which was never really clean shaven.  The mole, which on another face would be called a beauty spot. remained untrimmed.

A few weeks after she tipped her Sunday dinner on the lap she went completely to pieces & either stayed out on a tram or sat on a gas box till 10 pm.

[W.E. Pidgeon]

Five Ways to Remember: Grandma’s Funeral

Wep’s maternal grandmother, Isabella Garrick White, nee McRitchie (1853-1924), c.1916

[19 September 1924]

WHITE .—The Relatives and Friends of Mr. JOHN WHITE, Master Builder, are kindly invited to attend the Funeral of his late beloved WIFE, Isabella Garrick, which will leave her late residence, “Trelawny”, Gurner-street, Paddington, THIS FRIDAY, at 3 p.m., for the Church of England Cemetery, Waverley.
CHARLES KINSELA, Funeral Director,
‘Phone, Padd. 694., 143 Oxford-street. Sydney.

WHITE.—The Relatives and Friends of Mr. and Mrs. JOHN A. WHITE, EDWARD C. WHITE, HARRY F. WHITE, Mrs. T. J. PIDGEON, Mr. and Mrs. S. E. PATERSON are kindly invited to attend the Funeral of their late beloved MOTHER,- Isabella Garrick Whlte, which will leave her late residence, Trelawny, Gurner street, Paddington, THIS FRIDAY, at 3 p.m., for Church of England Cemetery, Waverley.

WHITE.—The Relatives and Friends of Mr. D. MCRITCHIE, Mr. ROBERT MCRITCHIE, Mrs. R. THEW, Mrs. F. CROWE, Mrs. J. MCRITCHIE, Mr. and Mrs. McLEAN, Mr. and Mrs. E. CARR. Mr. and Mrs. CAMEREAUX, Mr. ROBERT MACKEY, and Mr. JAMES MACKEY are kindly invited to attend the Funeral of their late beloved SISTER and AUNT, Isabella Garrick White, which will leave her late residence, Trelawny, Gurner-street, Paddington, THIS FRIDAY, at 3 p.m., for the Church of England Cemetery, Waverley.

Family Notices (1924, September 19). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), p. 7. Retrieved February 6, 2023, from

WHITE.— September 18, 1924, at her late residence, “Trelawny,” Gurner Street, Paddington. Isabella Garrlck, dearly beloved wife of John White, and mother of William, Frederick, Thlrza, John, Edward, Harry, Percy, Isabella, and Blanche, aged 71 years.

Family Notices (1924, September 19). The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW : 1883 – 1930), p. 6. Retrieved February 6, 2023, from

Grandma was dead.  It must have been in the morning sometime in December [sic] because I was given some money to go to the pantomime down at Tivoli. What the pantomime was about, or its name and its impact on me remains securely forgotten, rotting away in some remote and atrophied cell of the brain.

Amy Rochelle could have been the Principal Boy. Principal boys were always girls anyway and Amy Rochelle boarded with us once.  So maybe a little boy was sent off to see the big girl boy he knew while the family went about the duties attendant to the proper care of the dead.

Funerals were always a big occasion in those days. Uncles, aunts, cousins, even down to the fourth remove would congregate at “Trelawny” while the men went off to do the right thing at Waverley Cemetery, the women busied themselves in the preparation of sandwiches, tea, fruit cake and the inevitable port wine to refresh the returning mourners.

Glasses of the ale too were served under the dancing shadows of the grape vine trellis to the convivial grievers.

All those garrulous relatives, complete strangers flushed out of obscurity by death mingled in monetary bonhomie and parted till death again did them join.  I suppose there were extra trams on these great days – no one had a car.

It was 1924 when “Trelawny” first housed a motor vehicle.

Uncle Sep, a devastatingly handsome and successful dentist had married Aunty Bella.  They lived at “Trelawny” and looked after Grandpa White.

Somewhere along the line, the old dray, the buggy and the mad town (carriage) had been sold to more rural folk.  The old carriage house was taken over by the Dodge.  Uncle Sep’s friends had successfully updated and hard-sold him into switching from trams to a car.  I was appointed car-washer and mechanic. Like all young boys, I knew more about cars than it is possible to know.  I was constantly tuning the engine from perfection to imperfection. If anything was right I’d fix it.

L-R: Bill’s mother Thirza Pidgeon (nee White), Bill Pidgeon (in car), Sep Paterson (Bill’s dentist uncle), Ted Paterson and his mother, Isabella Rose (nee White) and possibly Sep’s brother with Sep’s 1924 Dodge Brothers Four Door Tourer car

Still we used to go so far as Windsor or Katoomba at speeds of up to 45 mph and have picnics on the running board  safe from bull ants and other bushland horrors.

I learnt to drive it like a kangarooish motion. All very safe for the streets were as vast and “unencumbered” as the only hazards on the Nullabor Plain.

[W.E. Pidgeon]

[In 1925, Wep was employed as a Cadet Newspaper Artist for the Evening News and Sunday News, after his dentist Uncle Sep “armed with forceps and needles ‘intimidated’ his patient”, editor of the paper, Marmion Dart.]

Five Ways to Remember: Grand Plants

That tuck-shop and residence opposite the school gate has not changed its shape in sixty years.  The weatherboards and the paint of what is left of it are still as they were when the Thomson widow ran it.  Of course it had to all come back in a gush of memory.  Nowhere else in recent years have I seen the small sunflower stretching in glory to the face of being.  Only here in the weedy ground have I seen the remnants of old time proliferation of sunfire blaze. Everywhere, sunflowers bright like the burst of color of coreopsis in bloom along the north shore line.

Long ago, before Van Gogh made the big ones commonplace, we as small children would stare up to the swaying sol six feet above and with a face as big as a soup plate – bending over the fences to radiate a joy to small children in the shadows of the lanes.  Sunflower and chokos over bore the tattered fences – the sunflowers were gay – we got sick of chokoes and chops.  The little sunflower plants had leaves like the feel of a cat’s tongue, raspy on the skin the loving tactile semblance of a sedge tooth file.

There used to be the depths of night shaped into gramophone horns adorning the more neglected lanes. With our bited dogs we passed the convolvulus bells with siren tendrils clutching at our throats.  In the twilight, the vibrant blue weeds of our back yards. I never remember ever seeing a frangipani or hibiscus or any other modern exotica.  There were scents of the evening – perhaps we were too young to notice the small white jasmines or the occasional tuberoses. Red geraniums, yes everywhere in little window boxes – not children’s flowers at all – very adult.

Arum lilies and cannas yes (mostly around the semi detached) -seemed to lend a glory to the necessities of human functions.

Who was not enabled on the way back from the out-house by the soft lick of the lily leaves and a fairy touch brush across the face of the asparagus fern?

My Grandmother had grape vines which bore somewhat edible fruit.  She had too, a sturdy clump of verbena shrub. Somehow this seemed to go along with her personality extremely well.

On Sunday afternoons after being let out of Sunday School we would aimlessly roam around the cabbage patch (fenced off of course) past the manure bin through the carriage paint shops (as those sheds were called) all mucky & soiled. A good fistful of verbena leaves crushed up in smelly hands.  How those verbena leaves reminded me of Grandma.

Just like carraway seed cake.  You’d have to have been born in 1860 to have acquired a taste for that.  Sunday afternoon tea was a bloody trial. Carraway seed cake and Sao biscuits, or Thin Captain. Perhaps we were given lemonade – if we had been, the occasions have left no impact on my junior memories.

Only one other plant ever impressed me.  Grandpapa’s glossy tree on the 3’ x 4’ lawn in front of “Trelawny”.  Grandpapa used to sit on the gas bar during the dusk  and note the comings and goings of the locals.  Everyone was on foot just like in a communist city. This tree, or shrub, was not more than three times taller than I. Looking from underneath its leaves were dull and undistinguished but from the verandah they were miraculously transformed bright green and glossy as a cerebric glaze. It was a very formal affair & impressive but never to the day has it had a name or a signature of being.  Perhaps it is still there – I should look again.

Trelawny (1896), 11 Gurner Street, the home of Wep’s grandfather, John White, master builder and Mayor of Paddington at the cnr Gurner and Duxford St Paddington, c.1920

[W.E. Pidgeon]

Five Ways to Remember: Bishop Gaslamp Lighter

From round Goodhope Street and down by McCaffrey’s (or was it Stoddard’s) place he would come in the settling mist. It was colder and darker in the early winter. We had ceased play, even old Warder had given up his dismal barking, his sniffing at the old cast-iron lampposts. Huddled in anticipation of the new world, we awaited his coming. Mr. – I cannot dredge up with name but to us, he was a real mister, almost a bishop.

His silhouette against the last gas lamp he had lighted, greater, closer and bigger in the full dusk – until he greeted his tiny congregation. With his crook he would pull on the light. Down Hoddle Street and up around to Lawson Street we followed. The admiring flock, the bishop of the young and the lighter up of the lamps existed only for our particular joy and wonderment.

Always the shadows marched east from Goodhope Street. It didn’t matter whether it was winter or summer, those shadows marked the creeping end of day, finally to engulf the short valley of Hoddle Street with twilight yet leaving to the last moment the repossession of the golden light on the school and the tips of the terraces on the odd side of Glenmore Road.

Sometimes we children were quick and naughty enough to anticipate the elderly lamp lighter – yet mostly we seemed to follow him in a religious rite of observance to his ritual motions of the crook which brought the gas to light on the corners of our territory. We followed the soft effulgent glows so far as Cascade Street and called the ceremony a day, or better speaking a night.

Crickets and cicadas gave the drone notes to our shrill childish cadenzas as we marched back to a wash and something hot to eat.

[W.E. Pidgeon]

Five Ways to Remember: Dinkim My Brother Jack

Bill and Jack Pidgeon in the backyard of their home at 290 Glenmore Rd, Paddington, c.1915

My brother was always doing things for me. He always let me have a first go at the washing-up or do the messages, and he even let me carry his hymnbook back from church. Whenever there was a Smoko in the saddlery next door he (being acuter of hearing than I) used to relate the least blue of the speeches.

This affectionate solicitude became irksome on the evening of Mother’s Party. In 1916 people didn’t have radios and had to make their own noise. You’d never think to look at our old house now, with its ten or twelve rooms and gas-ring jobs, that one Surgeon-Commander, one Lieutenant (army) , and one Captain (army) and one widow and one spinster could have all fitted into one of its rooms.

A Commander, a ‘cello, a Captain, a flute, a Lieutenant, a tenor, a spinster, soprano, and one widow with piano and such accessories as chairs, epergnes, and aspidistras will fill any 10 x 11 room.

Well about 9.30 p.m. when they were all blowing and scraping, big brother helps his bleary-eyed junior out on to the top staircase redoubt.

From which impregnable post big brother helpfully launched me down the stairs into the midst of the ‘cello and the “Picardy Waltz”.

This slight-of-foot earnt brother no acclaim. Me, being small enough to be priggish, basked in the subdued uproar and was fed with cakes. I was not offered ale. Big brother, God Bless him! was rebuked and awaited in the cold and seedy hours my hand outs of leftovers.

Three or four years later I narrowly missed cutting his throat – he had begun working for a bank in Newcastle.

[W.E. Pidgeon]

Five Ways to Remember: Cousin Georgie

Cousins were just as natural as fleas to me. I seemed to have millions of them and they were all up and down from my level. Somewhere or other, it seemed impossible to find one who added up to my number in the elementary scheme of things in those days. Nowadays, everybody is supposed to be your cousin and the world is full of do-gooders obsessed with piddling and no-one has the entrée to that bunch of cousins, those fabulous characters who seemed to have been born of chimera and who would bust the world apart for a zac which would have bought them a gospel in the times, I speak of. Not that those days were any better than that. Amongst the many cousins, I had – it seemed as if I had collected them, doesn’t it? – I can assure you that they were all foisted upon me before and after that auspicious Thursday in January, 1909, when I joined the galaxy – the Milky Way of cousinhood. The Pluto of my planetary world was of course gargantuan cousin, Bill who was expelled from his mother’s orbit in a 14 1b craft, in the very month in which I, also, was sputnicked into this horrendous space.

Now there was an older cousindom led by relative John, who was always cleaning himself, and could not leave dirt well enough alone. There were girl cousins to kiss and others to tease. And on Sundays at Church, you could find out from the Common Prayer book, if you could marry, the best looking one or not, even if you weren’t allowed to wed your grandmother; not that I had secret thoughts and passions and Freudian longings for that austere Scot who dominated, with a carbon steel rod, the cohorts and regiments under her command. A strong type, my grandmother in recollection; always in black or maroon.

Wep’s maternal grandmother, Isabella Garrick White, nee McRitchie (1853-1924), c.1916

Buttoned up in front, practically from the boots and with a surging pacific swell of a bosom breaking into a stiff-necked white collar of foaming frills which the white bones of the past paraded around the throat and were confronted by the indomitability of a North Head chin. One could hardly call it nestling. There was perhaps, branded, would be better, upon the black and unyielding bosom, my sole idol. A massive gold snake curled and entwined upon itself in convolutions such as only Laocoon himself has witnessed, all bestudded with diamonds and rubies and lights of flashing green and folded scales, like Baal, turning and re-entering upon itself, swallowing, digesting, illuminating and fascinating; a viscera of an emblem; a Europhobus tortured in gold; Heavy too! To top it all, beside the pin attached, it had a chain with a second mooring – I do not know who got it when the old lady died, I would like to see it now – but it doesn’t matter; I can still see it heaving on the waves of that Gaelic breast.

Wep’s uncle Percy Rowett White (1887-1918) and grandmother Isabella, c.1916. Percy played for the Eastern Suburbs Rugby premiership team before enlisting in 1916.

It is funny how you seem to lose your place in this memory story. Here I am choc-a bloc with cousins and I am off on Grandma. Anyway, I did not really need to consult that old Common Prayer, because the girl cousins got away, and I was left with the paragon of all cousins, Georgie. Now, Georgie is to be likened in this day and age to a hydrogen bomb in the ten-megaton range. Not that he was ever dropped whilst in my care by me; I had too great a sense of responsibility towards humankind, ever to have made that unchristian like gesture. Georgie was a dear sweet boy, as harmless and benign as an unfused bomb as long as you kept him in your own bomb bay, all was well with the world – which means in those far off halcyon times, 290 Glenmore Road, Paddington. But if the area door was not thrice bolted and key withdrawn, the back door nailed in and the chimney flue bricked in – well, one had had it!

Percy Rowett White and son, George Edward White (1913-1979), Wep’s cousin Georgie, c.1916

Now Georgie, as a son of Uncle Percy, who often got kicked in the “deaf and dumb” when playing league with Bluey Watkins and who won his corps heavyweight boxing contest on the way to France was a two-man man and an inaccurate ikon to puling little weaklings like myself. He married a robust dark and to my eyes, passionate almost gypsy. Perhaps too much alive, like a femme fatale, for the rest of our somewhat reticent family group. Georgie equaled the equation.

Cousin Georgie’s mother, Miriam Elizabeth White, nee Moyle (1887-1963). Following Percy’s death in the war, Miriam remarried in 1921 to George Henry P. Church and the family lost touch.

Several times Georgie stayed with us and no-one could have foreseen such nuclear reactions as he could make out such an elemental meal as warm sop with pepper and salt. Don’t ask me the recipe for that sop. It is to go into the appendix to these writings. His sop with water added to the milk seemed to grant my cousin a superhuman sense of well-being and omnipotence. In no time at all, (that is if we had left unguarded a door), a bevy of tearful neighbours would be wailing and bemoaning, the scourge that had befallen over the district. Infantile paralysis was a non-sequitur compared to Georgie’s descents upon our precincts. Unbattered, unbloodied and unbruised, Georgie alone was serene. Neighbourly eyes and noses hammering on his inborn bricklayer’s fists had left him unmoved, or to be more precise, only mildly delighted with life as it came.

Georgie lived for the day, and each I suppose was good. One of the best, I guess was the afternoon I took him to West’s Picture Show in Oxford Street. It was probably one of my worst. I could have put up with paying for him in the ice-creams. I could have put up with his throw-downs and crackers during the show, but when he hung his feet up on the ears of the boy in the front of the pictures, I lost their interest. I cannot even dredge out of the past, the name of that picture. Maybe there was no picture at all. All I could see was twenty Darlo kids ready to tear Georgie apart, and not to make much of it, me too. Now that I think hard, nothing seemed to come of it except that I was the first to exit and lay awake that night in fear and trembling and in youthful hope that Georgie’s chemistry would become less fissionable.


[W.E. Pidgeon]

Five Ways to Remember: Cinema

There was one night and it was wet and cold and nobody seemed to be wanting to have anything to with anyone else in our household.

So far as I can recollect everyone was getting on each other’s G strings. That is, the G strings of two boys and one adult woman. Mind you in those days there were no shocking/psychological overtones when the G string were played. You could hammer them all you wanted, and if the discord fifths and sevenths and the halfs and ninths beat forth, it didn’t much matter. It was all out the window screaming to insignificance in the narrow ways of dear old Hoddle St.

But this night our pulses were crook, the temperature was down and the radiator was round the bend. I don’t know what occasioned this melancholia unless it was the chops.

Mother, after dutifully fitting us out with grilled mutton chops and mashed swedes heaved her customary sigh. God knows why she sighed because we always had grilled chops. That is, at least to my recollection, although to be strictly honest I do remember haricot mutton a couple of times during my life in Paddington.

Of course, up at Grandpa’s place on Fridays they always had fish. What’s more it always seemed to be bloody garfish. Mum and Jack and I used to invariably eat at the old man’s on Fridays and it was always me who had to go up to the flaming fish shop to get the flaming stuff. I couldn’t stand it! It was not fair to small boys to have to hang around all the old trouts who were hopping in for their chop of Lenten (and Pentecostal and every other Holy Day) fish. I was always last in the queue, even if I had started in the front, and it vexed me no end. But; In my knickerbockers (or poop-catchers as they were called) I was, even if stood back distinguished as the snottynosed grandson of the ex-mayor of Paddington, and there was always plenty of garfish for John White, who was my grandfather.

GARFISH! My mother made it look as she enjoyed it. Grandpa obviously did, despite the way I imagine it had been cooked. Jack and I used to have the horrors. Nothing but wretched hair-like bones without the semblance of flesh to bless the name. Little needles which stuck in our gums and between our wonderful new teeth. And the chips – well, somehow we could stand the chips – a bit cold and greasy by the time we picked the odds and ends of the classified advertisements off them – perhaps I should never have complained about the chips.

However, things weren’t as bad as all that on Fridays, especially when I could see my love on the way home with her hot greasy parcel smuggled neatly in the crook of her lovely skinny arm.

But this day I began about. It wasn’t a Friday, and I don’t know why I keep on talking about Friday. Why Fridays have suddenly become so important I don’t know – it could have been a Friday, or then it couldn’t because obviously we were at Grandpa’s, and it couldn’t have been a Saturday because we weren’t allowed out, and it couldn’t have been a Sunday, because the pictures weren’t on. What’s all this about pictures – who mentioned pictures? Oh yes, such a poor blizzardly night and much meagre chops. It must have so dispirited our mother that in response to our half-hearted request to go to the pictures she agreed. Of course I was too young to realise how happy she must have been to allow us to go after we were not supposed to have asked.

God knows who did the washing-up in those days – I don’t remember, must have been someone. It must have been your grandmother because we had willow-pattern plates and we had them for a long time, much longer than if you or I had been attending to the chores.

In those days such labours as I am speaking of were performed in a kitchen, not on the patio or sundeck. In our kitchen there was mostly stove. It jutted from its murky corner like an altar. Gas pipes convolved round its massive sweaty chest. It sported an asthmatic griller on which our mutton chops were eternally sizzling and spitting at the leaded walls.

All across the mantlepiece over the defunct fuel stove which was full of books and ancient newspapers and dog soap and boot polish, was the most Pidgeon-like embroidery in American cloth you could ever wish to see.

Most kids these days have the misfortune to live in functional houses. Harry Seidler and his butterflied mob of glassy-eyed ascetics ever worry about us kids? How in the hell can you ride a scooter behind the stove, or find somewhere to drape a newspaper cut in jaunty symmetry? There are those pallid marble mantlepieces which crumbled in boy made pieces into the inevitable and unmerited rubble?

We had a sink too. It was in a far corner. Our kitchen was huge and this corner was always dark and one could never really tell whether the tap was on or off unless by listening. The tap was close to two feet above the sink, and if one had the mind to, would have served most adequately as a shower. I can’t recall what the sink was made off but it always had washing-up about to be done, or halfway done, or about time it was done. It was just that somebody always seemed to be dirtying something. Either the fish and chip ware or the Shelley or the Royal Doulton – because, mark you, we sometimes had our little graces.

All this is a far cry from getting up to the brand new Five Ways picture show, a temple of beauty and joy for well-nigh ever. Brother Jack who could cope with anything had no preferences as to what he would like to see. Just to be around and eye the girls was his modest happiness. I, being less earthy, prayed shut-eyed grimly for a shipwreck and the Robinson Crusoe act. My call was heard and the Admirable Crighton was duly wrecked to my great thanksgiving but what that fellow got up to later on in the picture was not in the good man Friday tradition. Still, I got my wreckage and didn’t grumble. What with the hail doing a Cozy Cole on the tin roof and the frantic screechings of the shutters being hauled to, my cup was full of joy.

Pearl White lay her limpid neck on the railway track and Miss Withers dithered. Miss Withers, at the piano, gave with a Chopin Polonaise and breaked into “Hearts and Flowers”. Miss Withers, very alone, down in the front, at the mercy of the filmy hooves, lonely played all the heartbeats of silver love.

Ben Turpin rolled his crossed-eyed orb. Marches, mazurkahs, scherzos, cadenzas, scales, glissandos, a whole Hammond organ full of tricks jounced from the isolated knuckles.

I suppose there must have been only about a hundred people in the picture palace for times were hard and if you didn’t have a few pounds weight of old newspapers or a half dozen empty bottles to sell to the greengrocer you were a gone goose for dough. Today it is different because everybody is well off and sits at home watching the TV for thirty bob a week.

Anyway, there are these hundred people, a hundred and one counting Miss Withers banging away at the goanna, and all of a sudden, in the middle of the Ben Turpin picture this character starts to laugh. He (the character) is as poor as a St George’s Church mouse, but he laughs. Why?

Don’t ask me, except it is Ben Turpin. But anyhow, he laughs and you think he hadn’t a care in the world. He was in the last row of the cheapest seats which had set him back ninepence.

He trumpeted on the tonic chord of Eb major, got into all the arpeggios and fluted into A sharp enharmonic and then did a swift roll on the drums. Miss Withers had stopped. Mr Cheapseat kookaburraed to thirty-six points of the compass. He had the audience wet. They streamed stitchfully past the paralysed Miss Withers into the roaring exitful night.

I would like to draw that laugh for you. None of your swivel-nosed giggles for him. From the soles up, laughed he.

Not a soul was saved.

[W.E. Pidgeon]

Wep’s sketch of that laugh has not been found, if indeed it was drafted. However, the following cartoon gives suggestion as to what he would have intended.

c. 1927
Signed lower right
Possibly published in the Guardian or Sunday Guardian newspaper

Update: Cartoon rough identified

From the soles up, laughed he.

Five Ways to Remember: Ettie

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.

[W.E. Pidgeon]

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