A Brush With Death

Childhood Memories

Hello and welcome!

So here we are, The very first newsletter ‘story’! And guess what – it’s a draw! The main interest in my stories was for Pancake Chewing Gum & A Brush With Death. To be honest, Pancake Chewing Gum is such a non event I could write it in 10 minutes, then start preparing for the next newsletter. So in essence, it was added as a story to give me a month of from writing. After all, I am still creating Blog posts which consume time by the bucket load. Now I have decided to leave names out of this because I didn’t ask permission to publish. After all, this is sensitive information that possibly shouldn’t be shared. Anyway, these are my stories so let’s get on with it!

Pancake Chewing Gum

As skinny little kids with crew cut hair, and knobbly knees protruding from long baggy school shorts; we lived in Randwick. The Currie Clan. Five boys, four of us all born roughly 2 years apart seemed like careful planning. But wait, there’s more. Another boy, eight years later… whoops. Is that what some parents call ‘an accident’? No, of course not, Shaun is a gift. We lived in a modest 2 bedroom rental on Dangar Street and for the most part, Andrew (the eldest) slept on a fold out couch in the living room. Stephen, myself and Neil shared the 2nd bedroom. Mum and dad had the front bedroom all to themselves until baby brother Shaun was born – then there were three. We lived in this cozy little semi-detached house with the scary dark and dank space under the back stairs until I reached the tender age of 11. Where upon, Mum and dad bought a 4 bedroom home in South Wentworthville thus we became ‘westies’.

Living in Randwick was some life. The beaches were a short drive away and back in those days, minimal traffic. I recall our father bundling us into the station wagon and taking us for an afternoon swim after he finished work. This was our lifestyle throughout summer. A stone’s throw away was Centennial Park, our playground. In fact, we had many playgrounds and because we were a naughty bunch, we often played in prohibited places. Some of our favourites were the bus depot, the Randwick TAFE facility and a barbed wire enclosed block of land we affectionately called ‘The Cubby’. Actually, The Cubby is where the terrifying incident ‘A Brush With Death’ took place. I digress.

Living in Randwick also included having to go to school, hence the intro about knobbly knees protruding from school uniforms. At this point in my life journey, Andrew was already going to Randwick Boys High School whilst Stephen, Neil and myself attended Randwick Primary School. The school route started at the back stairs. We would go up Dangar Lane, turn left at White Street followed a right onto Wentworth Street. Once on Wentworth, we would go up the steep hill and pass the property that housed the nasty dog that constantly chased us up the street. In fact, said dog actually got a piece of me one morning and turned my love of dogs into a phobia. Nasty dog was such a worry to me that I started to take a longer route just to avoid the terror.

I remember our packed lunches to be less than aspiring. White bread with Pecks Paste. White bread with vegemite. White bread with peanut butter. White bread with jam. Sometimes mum mixed it up… white bread with devon. Maybe my boredom with packed lunch led to the sudden urge to try something new, something like Pancake Chewing Gum. Walking up the hill on Wentworth Street my eyes happened upon a fascinating site. Right in the middle of the road there was somebody’s discarded chewing gum. It had been run over by so many cars that it was the size of a family pizza and it was almost completely flat. We weren’t allowed to eat chewing gum yet suddenly I felt compelled, I had to have some. To the dismay of my brothers, there I was in the middle of the road on knobbly knees, picking at this disgusting, dirty, tire tracked chewing gum. I was in a frenzy. My enthusiasm was so great I reluctantly moved to the side when a car approached only to return when it was safe. And that concludes my Pancake Chewing Gum memory!

A Brush With Death

As I said in the previous ‘story’, living in Randwick was wonderful. I have so many fond memories yet it was also fraught with danger. Playing in the bus depot was prohibited so your heart pounded with the thought of getting caught. Sneaking into construction sites would also get my adrenaline going. The ‘dump’ in Centennial Park was another enclosed area we frequented. Usually we would scour the rubbish looking for some good reading material for inquisitive young boys and occasionally we would get a rare find, a playboy magazine 🙂 But not on this particular day. So we started a fire instead. But the fire was too small so we rolled all these large discarded oil drums into the middle. It started as a bit of fun yet quickly turned into an inferno thanks to the empty oil drums. As the fire rose to unfathomable heights with billowing black smoke, we realised we were going to get into real trouble if we got caught yet we were mesmerised by our creation so we stayed with feet glued to the ground, watching in awe.  Once we heard the police car siren the spell was broken. We knew it was time to scarper out of there so we made a run for it towards the trees but the distance was too great and one of my brothers got apprehended. I had visions of the belt buckle lashing me when I got home yet astonishingly, the police drove over to our hiding spot and let my brother go without reprimand.

Another favourite hangout we affectionately penned ‘the cubby’. The cubby was a vacant block of land opposite the bus depot at the end of Dangar Street. The way I recall, it was fairly flat for the most part but abruptly went skywards at the southern end. It was an unkept place, wild in fact. The grass and weeds were knee to waist high with insects galore. I remember many uncomfortable visits that ended with me getting a faceful of sticky cobweb. There was a large tree with branches bending due to the weight of the vines growing over it. This was our ‘cubby’. A little secret space away from the world, hidden beneath foliage. I remember my first day of kindergarten was somewhat spoiled because my brother took me into the cubby for a special treat, I guess you could call it a picnic. I don’t remember what we snacked on or how long we were there. But I do remember when we got to school our mother was waiting for us in the principal’s office… we must have lingered there for some time.

One day, one of my brothers was going to the backyard to play, and when he came to the back door and saw something rather puzzling. It appeared that a young man was escorting another brother out the back gate and into the laneway. Upon investigation it was true, one of our brothers was being lured southwards down the back lane. Who is this man, what is his intention. Confusion turned to alarm. “What to do, what should I do”? My panicked brother went knocking next door. Relief, Frank was home. After hearing what had happened, Frank rang the police then hurried to his shed. Frank was a big imposing man and when he emerged with axe in hand, my brother thought the perpetrator is going to be in real trouble. Looking back on it, mortal danger would be more accurate. Frank raced down the laneway on a frantic search for the man with our brother.

Back inside the house it was a nervous wait for the police to arrive. I was too young to remember all the details but the police asked a lot of questions but the most important one was “where do you boys like to play, do you have any special places you like to go”? This information led the police to The Cubby where they found this man with my brother, pants around his ankles. The man was arrested and subsequently questioned. It turned out that this 21 year old Uni student was a very troubled individual who had priors. 6 weeks later he was on the front page of the newspaper, charged for the sexual assault and murder of another young boy in the area. This is one incident in my life I wish I couldn’t remember.

To this day, I still get shivers down my spine when I think of it.

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