Lakemba Memories



Page was last updated on Saturday July 30, 2016 04:48 PM

I was born after the war, two weeks after my father returned from overseas (Balikpapan, Borneo) and New Guinea.  I let my mother know I wanted to 'get out' about eleven p.m. and arrived screaming at 4.20 am. at Roslyn Private Hospital at Arncliffe, on a Tuesday morning.  Mum said I looked like a very red, skinned rabbit and she has not been able to eat this flesh since that time.  My parents had their first tiff on the way to the hospital over names.  My Dad wanted to call the baby Shirley, 'yikes Dad what were you thinking?' My parents settled on Carol and Anne as a second name, before they reached the hospital.  Anne L M Montgomery's "Anne" books and had always intended to use that name for her first girl. 

We lived in my grandparent's home until I was 20 months old and then moved into converted unlined Army huts, that had been used by the U.S. during the war as a hospital, at Herne Bay (now) Riverwood. There was not much room, no privacy and we would hear a lot of conversations, quarrels and children screaming in the next door units as, well as those surrounding us.  It was fortunate that our hut was much closer to Punchbowl and located on Punchbowl Road.  We were registered with the Housing Commission and eventually moved into our first home in Legge St. Lakemba, around 1949.

I was not a good baby, extremely restless at night keeping the household from a good night’s sleep. I did not put on weight, as decreed by the clinic sister.  I did not take to anything else but breast milk and today I still hate milk. I seemed like quite fat baby from pictures, and that was my dad's nickname for me.

 At my grandparent’s home, I was surrounded by a loving aunties and uncles.  I guess I was rather spoilt but do not feel that this harmed me in any way. 

 At Punchbowl or Herne Bay as it was known old army huts, I often played with children from the complex, out the front of the hut, in the dirt.  There was no fencing, so careful watching was always done.  There was a swing and a see-saw for me to play on. Simple fun.

I started getting very bad earaches from abscesses in the middle ear, when I was about three. Usually at night, I would wake up continually, screaming with the pain.  After they broke, I would have a disgusting discharge for about 10 days.  My father found this hard to take because he had to get up very early, to go to work.  I was taken to Dr and a specialist and was given  ‘radon’ treatment but I’m not sure if this is the right name.  The specialist put something up my nose that looked like a thermometer and left it there for some time. We have no idea what this did for my ears .Eventually, I had to have my adenoids and tonsils out, before I started school in 1952 and from then on I gradually got over this complaint. 

From an early age I was able to walk fast keeping up with adults. During family illnesses of around 8 weeks Ii stayed with my dad's brother and I stayed with an Uncle and Aunt.  My Aunt Zillah was very surprised at how fast I was able to go and keep up with her because she was almost six foot tall and had a rather large stride. 

 At  about age three, I developed a need for things to be tidy.  My main ‘obsession’ was evident, when I went to bed.  I would pull the bed clothes up under my chin and peer over the top insisting that  someone better help me straighten up every little tiny crease on the bed. Then I would turn over and go to sleep, leaving wrinkles and creases everywhere.

 When I was little and we went visiting (which I always enjoyed), I would go to sleep when I was tired, on a pillow on the floor or anywhere else, as long as I was near the action.  I did not cry or play up when I was woken to go home and my parents really appreciated this.  I was taught never to touch any hosts ornaments or belongings and therefore, I was always welcomed.

Visits to my wonderful grandparents in Ramsgate, using 3 buses during holidays and weekends was a real treat and joy for me.  Grandma was very easy going and let me do many things that I could not do at home.  I was allowed to play with my Aunt Anne’s costume jewellery, makeup, clothes and I really loved clopping about in her high heeled shoes.   She was loving and kind too and did not seem to mind.  I often picked my grandfather's flowers much to his annoyance and he would growl to anyone that was in earshot but because he loved me, I was never forbidden to do this and kept it up. 

 Grandma was not a good cook but she patiently taught me the basics and from then I loved cooking.  I consider myself now to be a good, inventive and adventurous cook.  She was the one who taught me to knit. In fact all of my home skills I got from my grandmother. 

 Soon after I started school, I had trouble identifying words with similar spelling and came home with some real clangers.  I remember saying 'that the teachers had a ‘starve’ room, where they ate, sat and talked.  Another time, I mentioned that Comfortable Brown had come to the school to talk about safety.  I called Funeral Parlours, Funnel Parlours.  Another time, while travelling on a bus I saw a mentally impaired lad and whispered to gently “ That boy does not have all his thinks”.   

When I was old enough, my grandfather took me to the Royal Easter Show a few times.    He took me everywhere, never minded how long I liked to look at the exhibits and bought me lots of bags.  Once, when I had eaten too much and went on some ride, I vomited, much to his displeasure.  However, apart from a bit of a growl he did not give me a bad time over it. 

I can recall hiding under the bed when I was naughty, & waiting for my dad to come home to give me belting. I don't recall he ever did though?

Being raised in the fifties was fun, but looking back now, times were tough and hard.. The life we had, was only what we knew but we did cherish the things that we had. 

I remember walking from Lakemba to Earlwood to see my Uncle and Aunt. It was a very long way but I did not mind.   My parents separated when I was nine and divorced when I was eleven. However my Dad was able to see me when he wanted.   I recall during these years going to the pictures every Saturday afternoon and I really loved all the musicals that I saw.  Singing in the Rain, Annie, Get Your Gun, Carousel, Oklahoma.

When I started school, I played class rooms, teacher play acts with myself. We listened  to the radio, the Davis Cup, Blue Hills, Guess What, When a Girl Marries for entertainment. On Friday night when Dad would sometimes come home with prawns.

We left Lakemba in 1958 and moved to Hurstville to the home I still live.

 I loved Annette Funicello and the Mickey Mouse Club