The firing of the shotgun and the commotion in the street resulted with Frank being put in a police paddy wagon. My parents were interviewed . They must have told police of problems they were having with Frank’s violence. The incident with the scissors was considered serious enough and culminated with Frank being taken away to Callan park for assessment. Callan Park was a mental asylum situated close to the City in very large park like surroundings. It consisted of many double story Georgian old sandstone buildings. It had a very high wall around it and looked intimidating when approached from the front. It would be Frank’s main home for the next fourteen years. He was diagnosed as suffering from schizophrenia.
A sigh of relief was washing over our family. The children came home from school without the fear and expectation of another shemozzle or explosion of anger. We could sit around without skulking away in our rooms, out of troubles way. Dad and mum were happy that Frank would now get care and attention from experts in a place designed for people with a mental illness. A cure or some form of action would be initiated and Frank would get back in charge of a life and return home soon. That must have been my parents fervent wish. And, surely not one that could be seen as extravagant?
My memories so far are from between fifteen and twenty years of age, so the atmosphere and family life then lived is from that period which since has clocked up another fifty years. And yet, it will not let go of me. What is this compulsion and why can’t this episode let go of me? Is there a link somewhere that explains those events of much further down life’s river? Were Hansel and Gretel’s white pebbles of this period strewn already then? Will an answer be there when the trail has been followed to the end ?
It has to be admitted that my view of Australia hasn’t always been so benign and lofty as they should or could have. I have spent far more years here than anywhere else and am a naturalised Australian, born in Holland. So why at times, the chagrin? The naturalisation ceremony and oath were taken with swearing allegiance to the Queen of England, which I thought odd as I could have sworn we migrated to Australia. But, the cup-o-tea and the S.A.O. crackers with ‘tasty’ cheese ( Salvation Army Officer) afterwards were welcome. It was a mass naturalisation ceremony at the Sydney Town Hall. It was a period when cinema goers were slowly starting to refuse and stand up for the National Flag raising and Save the Queen anthem before the movie. Some cinemas had a Hammond organ rising up majestically from below the stage. A Liberace like suited and war medalled bedecked man would belt out this Anthem. It did not help and soon no one stood up anymore and this little irrelevant ditty was dropped. Oddly enough, Australia today still prefers the monarchy to a republic. If ever there was proof of being a bit miffed about Australia. Just contemplate that little contradiction!
The initial stay of my brother Frank at Callan park was short lived. My memory of the first visit to Frank at Callan Park asylum was when the brother to brother recognition was first starting to melt and flee. It was a pitiful sight. He was so dishevelled and had trousers that were not his. They were for someone twice his size and without a belt. He could only walk by holding his trousers with both hands. The warden unlocked him with a large bunch of keys hanging from his belt. No chairs for visitors, no visiting areas. Just a large court-yard with no trees.
The demented and the declared insanely inebriated patients standing there as if all hope was now held by the unyielding surrounding stone wall, spoken to in gravelled voices. Frank said he had been held in wet bed sheets for hours. Later on we found out that that method was common to restrain patients. He was so very much not there and must have been heavily pilled up. I asked were his clothes were. Mum had brought some oranges which she peeled for him. Frank smoked a cigarette from a packet that dad had brought along…Was Frank going to be lining that court yard and become part of the stone wall? Mother had tears and dad was numb with shock but had to drive home with much silence in the car.
We could not get over that visit and the sun wasn’t shining much better with Frank not at home. The nightmare of Callan Park courtyard and the bunches of keys hanging from the wardens belt wasn’t acceptable, the wrapping up of Frank in wet bed-sheets. This was 1960 not 1860. Frank soon came home again.