The good years of Bra burnings and Baby-sitting. (Auto-biography).

Balmain cottage downstairs room

Balmain cottage downstairs room

We moved from King’s Cross to our house in Balmain with all our belongings in the back of our Ford-Zephyr utility. We had bought this utility from Pacific Auction car sales on Parramatta Rd after arrival in Australia. They had a slogan ‘Pacific is Terrific’. They were indeed. You put your bid on the car of your choice that was being driven in front of a podium where a man with a booming voice would announce the cars to be auctioned to the highest bidder. It was fast moving and the buyers were supposed to check the vehicles beforehand. No guarantee was given to roadworthiness. It wasn’t unusual for a car refusing to start in which case the car was pushed by well muscled helpers or sometimes even the buyers with much laughter and shouts of ‘who wants this bomb?’  Helvi came with me and thought it hugely entertaining. I had always bought my cars there and would  go and buy another one if the present car was on its last leg. However, I never had a car on three wheels and bricks like those Dutch Friends had in the timber yard after our arrival, together with a large dog on three legs chasing huge and very fast rats (on four legs). Some time later I worked in a factory where the owner was suspected of having just one leg because there was a strange creaking sound escaping from his trousers when he was walking.

The Ford Zephyr utility was however the car of which I had fantasised so much about back in Holland, when those Dutch friends had written they bought a car that was sometimes a sedan and at other times a truck. I thought then it was a modern American invention whereby with the push of a button a car would morph from one type into the next. Of course, in the meantime I had learnt the harsh realty that truth and fantasy are bad bedfellows and rarely did the twain meet.  In our apartment at Kanimbla Hall in King’s Cross we had a seat made and some bookshelves. We bought a long piece of hard rubber which we had covered with a nice  deep wine-red coloured piece of strong material bought from Artes Studio at Sydney’s George Street. The rubber was cut to size from a Clark Rubber shop. Clark Rubber was ‘the’ place for young couples to get cheap furnishings together with a good range of hiking boots and camping gear, including cast iron camp stoves that used to get suspended from a tripod when camping, in which to cook potatoes or make a stew.

It just took one day to move from one place to the other. Diligent (or foolhardy) readers would have learnt that by that time we had two lovely daughters. There also appeared an article in the Newspaper that a mother from Balmain had set up play groups. This was really a fantastic initiative. It was simple. On given days mothers and young children would meet at a local playground, join each other and the children who would play around on the slippery dips, the round-a-bout and sandpit. The mothers would get to know each other and the children.  I am not sure, but I think that government pre-schools for toddlers below four years had as yet not been invented. The play groups were hugely successful and soon after a baby-sitting group was formed as well. It worked on a point system. Each hour of babysitting for someone would earn a plus point. A minus point would be deducted if own child was baby-sat. It was expected that plus and minus points would balance out within a reasonable time-frame.

Those with good memories would know that, thanks to Germaine Greer, the bra was becoming more and more seen as fashion article of enslavement, a tool to keep them (breasts) propped up, purely for the sake of looks and salivating males. It went further and it was suggested, they were designed together with girdles and make-up, as a ploy to keep women  shackled to the kitchen sink and nappy buckets. It was therefore also suggested to ditch the bra and if a droop resulted, be proud and walk tall. Together with ditching the bra, radical lesbianism was embraced. I never witnessed any bra burning or rampaging lesbians but do remember going to a party held at a professor of philosophy house who insisted all women hang their bras on the door knob before allowed in. They all did and it was one of the more memorable parties in Balmain.

I have been credited in Balmain,  still even today, of having lifted the ban on men not being allowed to babysit. The stranglehold of some women on insisting only men would be allowed to babysit was broken when in all innocence I turned up one evening.  A nervous mother made a hurried telephone call to the secretary and after a while it was decided I could baby sit. The year was 1973.   With my Dutch and Helvi’s  heritage I never even thought that it was solely the domain of women in our home countries to sit on babies.  Anyway, it was different then in Australia. From the early seventies, 1973 to be precise, men were allowed to babysit at each other’s houses. It was a male revolution on par with bra burning.  You can thank Gerard for this!

It was odd that some women felt emancipated by going bra-less and yet thought that it was a bit dodgy for  male friends to do babysitting.

It should be written up in our history books or at least on Wikipedia.

31 Responses to “The good years of Bra burnings and Baby-sitting. (Auto-biography).”

  1. Dorothy brett Says:

    Anither good story gerard.

    Like

  2. Yvonne Says:

    I had forgotten all about Clark Rubber Stores, you could get so much you absolutely needed there, at a good price.

    Good on you, bursting through the glass ceiling of men babysitting!

    Like

  3. Lonia Scholvinck Says:

    BIG SMILE!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. elizabeth2560 Says:

    I do remember cars not starting very well indeed!
    Good for you for baby-sitting! It was still a generational thing that men were not the ones to help with the children. Fortunately that has changed in my children’s generation and the fathers all pitch in which is fantastic.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. gerard oosterman Says:

    It stuck by me that men were allowed to make children and yet were barred from baby sitting. I don’t think it was deliberate but more of a cultural thing. I mean, why can’t men stick a nappy pin around the bum of a baby.?
    I always liked it when coffee and biscuits were provided and a good book or so. Sitting after mid-night earned double points!

    Like

  6. Andrew Says:

    You were a trailblazer Gerard but I wonder whether today men are still permitted to baby-sit. I remember the Zephyr Zodiac well. A long time ago.

    Like

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, there now hangs a thick blanket over anything to do with children. One would not dare to take photos in public anymore, When do you see people still taking picture of their children playing soccer (or rugby).

      Liked by 1 person

  7. rod Says:

    No need to write it up in these less well known outlets, you have written it up here!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. kaytisweetlandrasmussen83 Says:

    A retired friend went to work at a car auction some years ago. He was delighted that they wanted to pay him just for moving a car from one spot to another. I don’t know if that is still there.
    Dr. A babysat our first daughter when she was a couple of months. The diaper (nappy) was secured with a large safety pin right between the legs while the bulk of it gathered on her hip. That was his sole venture into baby sitting. Luckily today’s father’s take a bigger interest in early childhood care.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, in the early fifties and sixties in Australia there was still a stigma attached to fathers seemingly interested in caring for babies/todlers. That was not the case in Holland though. As children, us boys fought tooth and nail to wheel our sister around on the street in the pram.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. stuartbramhall Says:

    My feminist friends in California demanded that men participate in child care.

    Like

  10. algernon1 Says:

    When my youngest was in Year 2 the was a call for parents to assist with the reading classes once a week. I was working for myself from home and thought I could do the 1/2 hour asked for. I told them I wouldn’t be able to do every week but figured I’d be available most weeks. Whilst not unappreciative of the offer the teacher was apprehensive. No other parent put their hand up. I thoroughly enjoyed experience and the teachers apprehensiveness disappeared after a few weeks. So I take your point on the babysitting and it being a man v women thing.

    Babysitting on the other hand was not an issue for men when my kid were growing up. What a difference a decade or so make I suppose.

    Like

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Thanks Algy;
      Yes, even though the Balmain crowd regarded themselves in the late sixties and early seventies as avant garde , things were still stuffy in certain areas. Did we still get up in the cinema for a foreign Queen’s anthem and wasn’t there also flag raisings at school, the cane used at schools, and children by the thousands removed from mothers whose crime it was to be unmarried? Of course sexual abuse of children by the churches was also in full swing. No voting rights for aboriginals?

      Liked by 1 person

  11. bkpyett Says:

    Well done Gerard! Men now certainly have taken a leaf out of your book, as most help much more with children, than they did in the ‘good old days.’

    Like

  12. gerard oosterman Says:

    I wonder if men have also advanced in the laundry basket department? I have been told many men have trouble lifting the basket’s lid.
    I am guilty of leaving socks around the place and sometimes even shoes. It is getting better though.

    Like

  13. Lottie Nevin Says:

    I’d love not to have to wear a bra but I fear that I would fall flat on my face if I didn’t😉 (or worse, trip up!) That professor sounds like a bit of a perve to me – I wonder what the women thought being told to hang their bras at the door? When the time comes for a revolution, I know for sure that you will be leading it. VIVA LE GERARD

    Like

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, Lottie. You can hurl a brick at our Government in my name at any time.
      The professor was just going with the times, His wife was very mini in the breast division and he might have been hoping to observe something a bit more substantial. We men are so lost.
      Some bras in shops and on the washing line are so big you wonder if the owners sub-let them to small Turkish families for emergency shelter?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Lottie Nevin Says:

        Well I’m a 40 F which is like carting a couple of watermelons around. I think the Prof might find out he’d bitten off more than he could chew with mine -Ouch !

        Liked by 1 person

      • gerard oosterman Says:

        Yes, wow! I share your plight!
        The Prof studied a lot. You don’t become a Prof overnight and they were late in the ‘home-ownership’ stakes and lived in an upstairs unit in Balmain.
        Later on in life they managed to get a waterfront place, a large house with the harbour lapping at their lawn. We all became respectable and bra party episodes faded into history.
        Years later we sometimes met in the street and there was just a faint flicker of recognition in each other but never a mention of breasts or bras.

        Like

  14. Julia Lund Says:

    Can you imagine the reaction today if a man told a woman she could only come to his party if she took her bra off ….

    Like

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      The bra thing was in vogue during the period of change, rapid upheavals and emancipation. The bra was just incidental and used as a symbol. Men should have been required to leave all sport talk at the front door and be obliged to talk to women.
      Parties now-a-days are probably conducted through IPhone and taking selfies.
      I would insist on all IPhones left at the front door instead of bras.

      Like

  15. greenwritingroom.com Says:

    I was always very grateful to Germaine. Not having that much to put inside a bra and hating having a band of elastic round my chest, throwing away my bra really was like getting rid of corsets for me. We ran a babysitting circle here and fathers were just as welcome as mothers.

    Like

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Glad to hear babysitting circles were inclusive of males. I remember an ad for bras which ran something like ” Love me in my lovable Bra” “it separates as it lifts”. It was a kind of cross-over bra. I don’t know why that ad has stuck to me.

      Like

  16. Forestwoodfolkart Says:

    Are you going to make an entry on bras or edit Germaine Greer’s Wikipedia page, Gerard? You can, and should! And love reading about the Zephyr as I had one myself, except it was a MkII – loved the cats eye tail lights! Those cars had Style with a capital S…

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Patti Kuche Says:

    You groundbreaking trendsetter!

    Liked by 1 person

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