Thursday, October 7, 2010

My Dad

My Dad was a bajillion feet tall when I was little and it was a shock to realise he was shrinking from his lofty 6 feet by the time I was hitting 20.
He went walkabout when he was demobbed from the RAAF after WW2.
He just couldn't stay in suburbia or inner city South Melbourne (Montague to be precise, a suburb that's disappeared into surrounding Sth Melbourne).
He upped and left, did, in no particular order, waiting in the dining room of Parliament House where he met mad-as-a-cut-snake former PM Sir Billy Hughes (he was playing billiards by himself with silly giggles and a running commentary), decided Dame Enid Lyons' family were rude, ignorant bumpkins (for ignoring the cut-crystal ashtrays and using the dinner plates and tea cups to ash and put out their cigarettes) packed apples in Batlow (bloody lovely fruit, according to Dad), picked fruit in Mildura (he loved the climate), planted trees in the Snowy Mountains (he lived in a wooden hut through a snowy winter with a big old wood fired range they had to light to have any heat/cooking facilities and town was a 2 day walk each way and relied on rabbits for meat), painted and replaced roofs in Adelaide (the water made awful cups of tea but he liked the girls), walked into Holyman House in Melbourne (which was travel agents for TAA at the time) to book a flight to Tassie only to be ignored for 20 he walked out and didn't get to Tassie until 60 years later.
A few years of that saw him back home, finishing his apprenticeship, getting up to mischief with his mates and bobbing up in parties where he'd toss firecrackers down chimneys for a lark, playing football, baseball and cricket for his beloved Sth Melbourne (aka Swannies aka Blood Stained Angels) and barracking for Port Melbourne (The Borough) in the VFA on Sundays.
He fought and killed Japanese in the islands of New Guinea yet he defended them to his mother-in-law when she did her drama queen act; she made the grand gesture of smashing a lovely plate Dad had won at the RSL raffle because it had "Made in Japan" on the back and her son had died on the Kokoda Track.
"Those bastards killed my son." she justified.
"And how many of their sons did we kill?" my Dad replied.
He only in recent years admitted they were not allowed to take prisoners and that they had to shoot the enemy, then watch as bulldozers buried them in mass graves.
He had to get drunk to open that dark box.
He was underwhelmed by the comment of painter Clifton Pugh's biographer last year that what they did was murder - pity the silly woman never stopped to consider that other WW2 boys were alive and listening.
He taught me to not give a fat rat's clacker about the colour of the person's skin or their accent or what religion they worshipped but to judge the person by their actions.
"Actions speak louder than words."


  1. War does terrible things. My first hubby had nightmares for years after coming home from Vietnam. He couldn't be anywhere near fireworks and we all had to be very careful to make noise when walking up behind him. If we came up silently and tapped him on the shoulder, he'd turn around already punching. We couldn't shake him awake either, he'd come up punching....He drank a lot trying to forget.

  2. He must be very proud of you. So sorry to hear of your troubles - but your post is a great way to commemorate your dad.

    Take care

  3. Jayne, Jayne, Jayne, Jayne, Jayne - lots of hugs, love. Just caught up on your (and your Dad's) doings (and the medical not so doings) and wish that the grand man you paint above is strong enough to rise above these trials.

  4. Very moving. Could be entitled A Fortunate Life, which is not quite as it reads. The hatred of Japanese seems to have disappeared now, thanks in part to blokes like your father who could see the bigger picture.

  5. Oh - we cannot even begin to imagine what our soldiers go through, can we?? People like your dad are my heroes - they may not always do the nice jobs, or the popular jobs, but they follow orders to keep their country safe. We have a lot to be grateful for...

    Hope your Dad feels chirpier soon.

  6. I bet your Dad knows my Grandad, because they grew up together in the very same area... barracked for the same teams... Swans and POrt Melbourne... my grandad is 85 and he is still about. He loved growing up there :)
    MY other Grandad was in New GUinea, he had the upmost respect for the people who lived there. He too had demons that were buried deeply. War sucks and it irks me that our young men and women are going through heartache overseas in a different war.
    I loved reading about your Dad... and he is an amazing man for all the things he has done... hard work, that is what our Grandparents were bloody good at!

  7. *hugs*

    Beautiful to read, Ro. Your love and admiration for your Dad shine through.

    And what an awesome teacher he was. :-)

  8. Jayne -- lovely story of your Dad. I can feel your love for him in your writings. -- barbara

  9. Sounds like a very full and interesting life your dad has had... no wonder he's such a character now!