First Dates and Concrete Bras

First dates and concrete bras

Gerard Oosterman
Gerard Oosterman

I don’t know about you, but first dates have a habit on infringing on memories as nothing else will. The catastrophes of life certainly include my attempts at romance many years ago as a just arrived migrant family’s son, looking even nerdier then now, although slightly younger. On top of having a strong guttural accent and no car, the hopelessness of my situation can well be imagined by some of you.

My wheels at the time were a Lambretta scooter. I was also the proud secretary of the Parramatta Scooter club, motor bikes not allowed. My position of power though allowed me to get my brother to come on a few ‘treasure hunt’ trips on his single cylinder Norton 500cc motor bike. I soon found out that my chances of dating a sheila would improve greatly if I had a car. This is where my 1949 Ford Single Spinner came into being. It was light blue and had leather seats back and front and used oil almost as much as petrol.

I had already found out through bitter experience that just to get a girl to dance was fraught with difficulties. There were so many men and so few girls willing to dance with nerds and reffos. The Ford V8 had to achieve what Dutch panache could not. The trick was to let it be known that you had car. The fifties and sixties dance places in Sydney were the Trocadero in George Street, which is now a gaudy cinema complex, and Vic’s Cabaret at Strathfield. Both had different bands and ambiences. It was also the period of TV serials Bonanza and 77 Sunset Strip. In one of those there was a character called Little Joey or was it Cookie, who was forever combing his hair while posing at a rakish angle to the movie camera. There were thousands of pretend Joeys, Cookies and James Dean lookalikes and the competition was fierce.

My trump-card was the Ford V8 and, I tried with copious Brylcreme bouffant coiffure, to emulate a mixture of all three of the TV stars. As I was already 6ft I could not be ‘little Joey’ but with a little practise, might just convey a hint of mysterious masculinity and excitement.

The Pride of Erin was the only dance ensuring blokes of at least getting one dance in. The multi mirrored ball hanging from the ceiling was throwing fascinating effects all around, and as was the norm then, sheilas with bee-nest hairstyles and hooped skirts with steel ironed petty coats holding them out, budding breasts safely encased in conical shaped concrete bras shackled at the back with rustproof buckles (pressed against a lucky hand when dancing), would be coyly seated on one side, and shiny eyed, horny and well brilliantined blokes on the opposite. No matter how the girls twirled and swirled while dancing, no body parts would ever bounce up and down or move, perhaps, just in case male desires would get aroused unnecessarily or even involuntary. Bras and other attire would resist the pesky hand even of a Houdini.

This Pride of Erin was a dance whereby partners would change at every swirl or so, hence refusals by girls were kept at a minimum. You would have to be legless if you did not get a dance in.

My Waterloo had arrived.

The band struck up a cheery “What’s the Matter with Kids today?” Everyone rushed forward and I got a ‘yes, please’ at the request for a dance. After changing with different girls I got one with a friendly smile and kind look. I only had seconds, so, suppressing my accent as much as possible, and flicking my hair back with practised Cookie nonchalance, asked for a date the following Saturday. Unbelievably she agreed.

That Saturday I turned up with a brand new Van Heusen shirt and polished Ford V8 and after a thorough inspection by a very large father we drove off for a drive to Gosford, taking in culture and the home place of William Dobell at Wangi Wangi, also inspected Woy Woy, a fascinating place then. The previous week there had been a Willy Willy at Woy Woy and for an unfathomable reason I included the devastation and mayhem there on our itinerary. She was very quiet but kept saying, ‘oh, how nice’, interspersed with ‘thank you’, which at least was something. It was a difficult day, and I took good care, going up any steep hill, to take it easy on the V8 not wishing the burning of oil and blue smoke to spoil things.

At the end of the day and drive, I took her back to her formidable dad and she thanked me generously again. There was not an encore, ever.

Years later having outgrown the Trocadero, Vic’s cabaret, Brylcreme and the Ford V8 I decided to go to Europe and get a proper job. I went to work in a bank but escaped about four months later and went to Austria where I met my present partner on the ski slopes at Lienz, in Ost Tyrol, Austria.

A lucky and very fortuitous break?

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