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.