27 Sep The lives we lived – Stories from Uniting Starrett Lodge
The residents of Uniting Starrett Lodge in Hamlyn Terrace, have written a book of tales and titbits about the times they grew up in. In The Lives We Lived they write about the adventures they had at school and as teenagers, life during the war and the depression, and – with the wisdom of experience – they look back on their proudest moments and deepest regrets.
The book isn’t just an entertaining look at pieces of Australian history though. Through writing it, the residents have been able to remember and reflect on their lives, and to hear one another’s stories.
Below are a few extracts*.
Norman Clark (pictured above)
Marilyn Monroe came over from Japan to visit the American soldiers in Korea. The Australians heard about it, and about 20 of us decided we would go and see her. We had to walk about 10 miles – we marched into the American camp and found out where she was going to be and waited at the steps she was to come down. We were the first soldiers she ran into and she asked us what part of America we came from. We told her we were from Australia and she said she didn’t know what part of America that was. She asked our names, and we told her.
We also saw Terri Moore, but she was asked to leave Korea because she didn’t wear enough clothes. Marilyn was a very beautiful girl – it was very exciting meeting her.
After the concert the rest of the boys went back to the camp, but I stayed around longer and hitched a ride back on a helicopter. I got in trouble for that. When a helicopter arrives back at camp the guard comes out to welcome whoever gets out of the helicopter.
I was in school during the Depression. I had no shoes. I had to walk two miles to school. I hated every minute of it, I walked with my brothers and sisters. Grandma took the family out in the sulky, shopping or visiting.
We only had bread and jam for lunch, or bread and dripping wrapped in newspaper. We were very poor. I remember at school one day a girl gave me a Vegemite sandwich to hold while she was playing a game, and I said ‘thank you’ and she said, ‘I didn’t give it to you, I wanted you to hold it.’
Vegemite was a luxury for me so when I thought she gave it to me I was very happy. I was very unhappy when it turned out that she didn’t give it to me to have.
My first job was in England, in an old house with three stories – the squire lived at the top of the street, and he owned a lot of property. I was 14 and I didn’t really like house work, but there was vacancy for domestic help and my mother said I should apply.
So I was employed as a house maid; I wore a brown dress with a lace collar. I was a tweeny maid between the cook and the cleaner, and I had to sleep there even though I only lived down the road. I had to get up first and make tea for the staff. I shared a room and I earned 10 shillings a week. I had to scrub the front steps on my hands and knees. The dining room table was huge and I had to set the table.
I only spent two weeks there; my mother knew I wouldn’t last long because I just didn’t like house work. Looking back I should have stayed there. I would have learnt a lot. I was just fascinated with the house and was really only there for a stickybeak.
I later went and got a job at a lolly factory.
When my mother died my father married again. My step-mother was a very nasty person and she wouldn’t let my brother and I go out. We would sneak out and go up the lane and eat lots of fruit off the tree. When we came back our step-mother would be waiting for us to give us a belt around the bottom and the legs.
I didn’t have a social life. When I was working I caught the train, and one day there were no seats on the train and a young airman offered me a seat. We became friends and he asked me to the movies. I agreed, and when he picked me up he said he didn’t have much money – he said we could go upstairs where there was no chocolate, or down stairs were we could have chocolate. I chose upstairs. And I ended up marrying him.
*Extracts edited slightly for clarity.
The Lives We Lived is available to purchase for only $15. To get your copy, contact Vicki Sanchez on 02 4393 8800.