As we travel along the path to adulthood, we have many ‘awakenings’. What we believe to be normal in our world, is challenged or called into question through our varied experiences. It is all part of growing up. So, I want to share an example from my childhood where my perspective was changed in the process of… growing up. It wasn’t an earth shattering experience. Just the same, I believe growing up is full of moments, big and small, which contribute to shaping us into the adults we become.
Among my first memories of my world has to do with where we lived. Rocklea is a suburb of Brisbane, Queensland, located about nine kilometres south of the CBD. It was mainly an industrial area and not in any way, salubrious (one of my father’s favourite words). It was a microcosm of 1960s Brisbane with a mixture of ‘gerry built’ houses, Housing Commission homes, dirt roads, big yards and few fences. There were migrant families, poor families, big families, low income families and middle class families (not many). Most of all, it was a place where cheap land was available and people who didn’t have much, had the opportunity to buy a home (the Great Australian Dream). A place where all the kids knew each other and seamlessly moved between each others houses. We had a corner shop and a telephone box at the end of our street and a bus stop nearby and not much else. However, that was my ‘normal’. I didn’t give any of that much thought until I was about eight years old.
In those days, television shows were often televised ‘live’. One such show was a children’s afternoon show, the Happy Hour starring Jill Edwards and a lanky comedian named Beanpole, aka Dick McCann, who dressed as a school boy (private school?) and provided comic relief to the show. Essentially, the show interacted with the audience and introduced a variety of TV series’ and cartoons. So, one day in the early 1960s we found out that we were going to be part of the ‘live audience’ on the Happy Hour. Each afternoon a great big coach would arrive in a suburb or neighbourhood to pick up the children to transport them to Mt Coot-tha where the television studios were located. It was with awe and trepidation that we climbed aboard the coach to travel up the mountain to meet our TV idols and be part of the show. Just going on the coach (I stress it was a coach and not just a bus). I traveled to school everyday on a bus. This was not a bus. It had plush seats and I think, carpet on the floor and curtains on the windows. This was not just a bus! It was definitely a coach.
As I have mentioned, Rocklea was not too flash. It was situated on a floodplain and whenever it rained, even a small amount, there was two inches of water in the yard. We had no curb and channel and a dirt road. We caught tadpoles in the ditch out the front of our house. There was bushland at the end of the street where we spent a great deal of time. Naturally, we had the obligatory back yard toilet or outhouse, colloquially known as the ‘dunny’. This was common throughout 1960s Brisbane. (Thank you, thank you Brisbane Lord Mayor Clem Jones (1961 to 1975) who had a vision to rid the landscape of the outside dunnies!) Are you getting the picture? However, for all of that, we were relatively happy – we didn’t know anything else.
So, there we are. All these kids from Rocklea piled on to the bus for our big adventure. We had watched Jill and Beanpole each afternoon after school so we knew what we were in for – or we thought we did. The time passed quickly as we were all so excited. When we arrived at BTQ 7 studios I remember the sense of awe that we were in a TV station. When we walked in there were large photos of the station’s ‘stars’ on the walls and there was a collective sense of anticipation of what was to come. We were ushered into the studio and we sat on the tiered seats. Then we saw Jill and Beanpole. It was very exciting. As part of the show (or the warm up), we were asked where we were from. We all called out (proudly) ROCKLEA!! At that point, I distinctly recall the look on the faces of the people in the studio. It was that OMG, you’re from where? Did I mention Rocklea was not a salubrious place? It was at that point I realised that somehow, I was inferior. Well, at least where I lived was. The rest of the show went on but how I thought about my world had been altered by that reaction. Beanpole didn’t seem as funny as he was on the TV screen and somehow the studio seemed tacky and small from behind the scenes.
In some sense, I wish I had never gone in that fancy coach to the lofty heights of Mt Coot-tha. I felt that my peers and myself, without fully realising it, had somehow been robbed of our sense of pride in ourselves and where we came from. Not sure whether the others thought the same. I never spoke of it. What I learned was, not everyone views you and your surroundings in the same light as you do. For some time I was embarrassed about where I came from. People’s reactions can impact on others without you even being fully aware of it.
As an adult, I am proud of where I came from and my working class roots. Afterall, it contributed in shaping me into the person I am today. Life is full of ‘awakenings’. This was just one along my road to adulthood. Oh, and I am still having them!
Please leave a comment about your experiences ‘growing up’. I would love to hear from you.
Thanks for reading my post!