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Road Trip- Kapunda cars and boys

 

Once upon a time we took photos by cars. Were vehicles more important when we were young? I suspect they were, and now we’re defined by other things: family, houses, work.

Here’s some old photos. Each tells a story.

 

Some friends- Chris, Stephen, Rodney and I bonded while at Kapunda High over a shared ownership, and then, love of the iconic Adidas shoe, the Rome. We became the Romers. There were four of us, and in this snap we’re heading off on a trip in Stephen’s Holden Gemini, but for reasons I can’t recall, Rod is absent.

Of course, we’re all blubbing and bellowing into our hankies, wondering how we’ll cope without Rod.

Yes, well spotted. I’m wearing a Kapunda Cricket Club cap.

Why did they stop painting cars in that particular green?

In 1988 Paul, Mikey, Chrisso and I ventured to Melbourne in Paul’s VK SS Commodore. It accelerated, as they say, like the clappers. We went to the MCG and saw Dean Jones up close, hitting a few in the net. I was keen to see the Australian captain, Alan Border, bat. After some refreshments I wandered down in the bowels of the stadium to use the facilities.

Coming out into daylight and blinking, I looked at the scoreboard. AB had made a duck. It was the last time full-strength beer would be served at the MCG for many a year.

Yes, well spotted. I’m wearing hideous, fluoro-coloured, hyper-coloured board shorts. No, I don’t know why.

In January of 1985 Woodsy, Chrisso, Trev and I drove to Sydney to stay with Stephen and Brendan in Drummoyne.

Yes, Woodsy and I are wearing Adidas Mexicos shorts, which for humanitarian and visual arts reasons are now banned.

On the way we stopped in West Wylong and met some local girls who, apparently because of our accents, thought we were British. In Sydney we played cricket, and went to the SCG and saw Simon O’Donnell make his debut while sitting on the Hill. We swam at Curl-Curl, Bondi and Manly. It was innocent fun. Then we went to Kings Cross where our country boys’ eyes were widened.

We also went to the Basement to take in some jazz. One afternoon in The Rocks we saw Kamahl and his Rolls Royce.

Ah, the days of the Road Trip!

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Philip Road, Elizabeth- Holden cars and me

HR

There was still a post-Coronation glow across the Commonwealth when Holden started making cars in Elizabeth, just north of Adelaide. Indeed, our Queen had only been in Buckingham Palace for a few years, and with this respectfully in mind, those mapping the satellite city instead decided that the thoroughfare next to the car manufacturing plant should be named Philip Highway, Elizabeth. I guess Philip Road, Elizabeth was a bit horizontal in tone, especially in the 1950’s.

I’m not a petrol-head, but as a country boy, I was always going to buy a Holden for my first car. Purchased from solid farming folk near Greenock, it was a pale blue HR Holden complete with two-speed Powerglide. It had razor-blade thin tyres, which had the unfortunate habit of prolonged squealing as I gently rounded a corner, or accidently drove in circles at the intersection just up from the Kapunda Pizza Bar. Prior to buying an FM radio, for my driving pleasure I had a portable cassette player and a kazoo. The HR’s registration was REM-097.

Part way through my degree I upgraded to the model I’m confident was made in greater numbers than any other at the Elizabeth plant: a HQ Kingswood (white). In our little country town, there must’ve been twenty of these, and they were mostly driven by us young fellas. Sometimes there’d be three or more of these in a diagonal row, outside Nugget’s Clare Castle Hotel*, late on a Sunday. Owning one seemed almost compulsory, and it functioned as a type of vehicular uniform for our silly army. Its rego was UXA-100.

CCH

For a few months, my friends commuted to uni and back with me. Claire and Trish* were Abba fans and musical theatre devotees, and I now confess that I took fiendish, even megalomaniacal delight in controlling our musical accompaniment. They’d holler, “Put on the radio” and “We want SA-FM.”

Deaf to their words, I’d then lean over and pump up the volume on a ten-minute blues song like, “Key to the Highway.” Somehow, we’re still friends.

Nineteen. There may well be an age at which Australian males are more stupid, but I doubt it. With sudden and inexplicable urgency one Friday night, when I was barely nineteen, three friends and I decided that we needed to race down to one of the Kapunda main street’s four pubs (or possibly, all of them).


So, we left the home of the mate that for legal reasons I’ll refer to as Woodsy* and failing entirely to navigate the dirt road behind Kapunda High School, my left fender prised open about twenty feet of the corrugated fence like it was a tin of Whiskers*. The car came to an immediate halt. Our friend was studying electronic engineering at Adelaide uni, so I said, “Chris*, you’re smart, fix it!” He couldn’t.

Subsequent crash analysis revealed a major cause being the HQ Holden’s front bench seat on which, for now obscure reasons, all four of us were, for want of an ergonomically accurate term, sitting. Apparently, this lack of physical space made it difficult for the driver (me) to successfully operate the steering wheel.

Later, another mate, Crackshot* remarked that despite it being only eighteen months since I’d somehow won Kapunda High’s Paul Giles Memorial Prize for Character and Leadership, I still clearly wanted to make a lasting mark on my former school. Under the cold light of Saturday morning, in grim conversation and looking at my Adidas Rome-d feet, neither the headmaster nor the town’s police officer, saw my yearning for scholastic legacy as a legally relevant issue.

The final Holden I owned was the most expensive of the three, and certainly the least likable. Heading off to the West Coast to teach I bought a VK Commodore from Hage’s in Tanunda. It drove well, if thirstily, but the stereo was terrible and the front speaker rattled like buggery whenever I’d turned up a tape, like Billy Joel*. Billy deserves better.

One evening after a prolonged cricket fixture and raffle-ticket selling duties in the Wudinna Club, the VK batted last and was dismissed, run-out by a Ford at a railway line on the road back to my farmhouse accommodation (I wasn’t driving). After extensive rehabilitation, during which I drove Jock* and Snook’s dune buggy, I sold it.

I didn’t know it, but my relationship with Holden’s was finished. I’m unsure whether I’m yet to have my mid-life crisis, or if I’ve been having one all my life, but I often think that one day, I’ll buy myself an EH Holden.

I might even take it on Sunday drives, and do a lap of Kapunda High.

Thanks, Holdens.

 

*names not changed

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Volleys, Blundstones and Thongs: Life in the Shoe-Wearing States

blunnies

They’re beyond dreadful. Flat and offering less support than Chad Morgan opening for Metallica. The Dunlop Volley is a cultural icon, but podiatric nightmare, and I often wonder how Ken Rosewell wore them and still won all those tennis matches?

But spotting them about, they’re like the rarely seen old mate banging on your door with a six pack of Coopers. House painters love them. The herringbone tread must be superb if your day involves leaping up and down ladders, and cutting in around annoyingly ornate ceiling features.

I wore them at uni. A fine library shoe, they also performed exquisitely in the bar, especially on Friday nights when fifty cent schooners were on. The Volley was exceedingly valuable for sitting in the uni quadrangle as the morning sun streamed onto our youthful dials. About three times a semester and with eyes stricken with terror, my friend David would shriek, “Essay? What essay? Due at four today?”

They were also great as we plodded off to fourth year English, cruelly scheduled on Mondays from 4 – 8pm. At 8.01pm I’d point my HQ Holden southward, and with my old friend Jonesy co-piloting, navigate speedily if not unlawfully to the Botanic Hotel where we’d review the lecture’s major themes, or not.

But I couldn’t wear Volleys for sport. On the cricket oval I was a Puma Barbados man, and everything else apart from footy was handled by my Adidas Romes.

To my curious comfort I later met someone who actually wore them on the sporting field. For three seasons Peter and I played cricket together at Wudinna. A handy bat, and lively fieldsman, he was an accomplished first slip and stealthy patroller of the covers. One Saturday he arrived in a new pair, and I asked

“New Volleys? Where did ya get ‘em?”

“Town.” Adelaide was rarely called Adelaide.

“How much?”

“Fifteen bucks.”

I was surprised. “That’s a really good price.”

“They did me a deal. Because I bought six pairs.”

“Really? Why did ya get six pairs?”

“I reckon that should see me through to the end of my career.”

And I’m sure it did. Over the decades I’d imagine Peter in his shed, pulling down a box of new but peculiarly aged Volleys, brushing aside any resident Daddy Long Legs spiders, and with impish delight, sliding on the Dunlops for spring’s first cricket training.

But six pairs! What a visionary. Succession planning of the utmost order. Cricket Australia: phone this fella now.

I had mine on last Friday when the boys and I were at the park kicking their new Sherrin. They (the shoes, not the boys) are still terrible for this. However, as I later sizzled some sausages on the park’s free barbeque they became magnificent. My tong work was sublime, and I’ve rarely squirted sauce with such crisp authority. I thank my Volleys. They were always more Dean Martin than Dusty Martin.

*

They’d doubled in price. This was much better than anticipated, but I did purchase my first pair of Blundstones from a rural supplies store in Kimba during 1993 for fifty bucks. Since then we’ve moved nine times across three countries, and they’re still travelling superbly, and remain as utilitarian as Mark Ricciuto, but with a mellifluous special comments voice.

A new job meant I had to buy some new footwear so I jumped on the tram to revitalised Adelaide menswear retailer, Trims. Where previously I had no choice there are now multiple styles of Blundstones, catering from bushie to micro-brewing hipster. It was like buying a newspaper in London. You glance at the dozen or so front pages. The Times. The Daily Express. The Independent. And then, having scanned the alternatives, you buy the one you always get.

On the tram home I thought about my new boots and me. What might the next twenty-two years bring?

*

I know it’s feeble, but sometimes you just surrender. To make life easier. In Singapore, and surrounded by Americans, Canadians and Brits I started calling them flip-flops. It was just simpler. And now back home among the throng, and with spring making a few tentative squeaks, I’m reclaiming the word thong.

In various equatorial bars I’d try to explain for my global friends. But never with much success. “So it’s wrong to buy your mum a thong, but perfectly acceptable (if a little cheap) to buy her a pair of thongs.”

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Late Saturday evening my wife’s Grandpop passed away. He was ninety. Not knowing either of my grandfathers contributed to him becoming a significant figure. For most of the twenty years I knew him he and grandma lived in Gympie on the highest hill in town.

We’d sit on their front veranda in the thick air, noisy with eccentric tropical bugs and their assorted clickings and whirrings. Geckos would scamper up and down the walls, while I’d gaze down across the houses on stilts and valleys so different from my dusty home town thousands of kilometres to the empty south.

With the exception of our wedding I only ever saw Grandpop’s gnarly hooves in slippers. Or barefoot.

A magazine columnist once described the non-Queensland parts of our nation as being, “the shoe-wearing states.” Grandpop reinforced this. His slippers were comfortable, but he also went shoeless partly because he didn’t care what those, “bloody wombats” thought. He’d always pronounce wombats with a deliberately long vowel and make it woombats. In the extended family it’s a term of fun and gentle mocking. Mostly.

And now he’s gone. He lived long, but it’s still sad.

*

The boys and I will continue to be bedazzled by Patrick Dangerfield’s seemingly irradiated footy boots. Before the season’s first lawn-mowing I’ll buy a pair of thongs, some double-pluggers. For extra comfort and backyard safety.

Like a feisty yearling my new Blundstones will finally be broken in, and the Volleys, as always, will push me on into that bright, windy spring.

thongs