Thursday, May 17, 2018

OLDPOM


Tony assured me on numerous occasions that we first met when he answered an ad I’d placed in the Trading Post. “I bought a pile of Film Fun weeklies off you.” They’re probably still neatly packed away somewhere in his collection. I found his name in an old 1970s address book that recently popped up again during a tidy-up.

The University of NSW book fair probably saw our next meeting. In the 1980s that event was held every second year on the ground floor in Unisearch House, Anzac Parade, Kensington. We spotted each other while scanning the children’s book tables, that being where our collecting interests crossed paths. Tony probably suggested that I visit him and have a look at his collection. In the mid-1980s I launched my small print run biblio magazine, “Golden Years” and sent Tony a copy. Some time after that we either met up at his home or more likely at the next book fair. 

In 1989 I took a redundancy package and began spending a lot of time visiting secondhand bookshops, op shops and auctions. Perhaps Tony put me onto Tempe Tip, as the Salvos’ facility near the Tempe container depot was known. In earlier days prior to my becoming involved in the book world, this was the mecca for all bargain hunters, in much the same way the Chatswood White Elephant store drew those same folk on the North Shore.

At this point I should mention two long-departed and much-missed biblio mentors, Bill Hall and Tom Ebbage. Tom lived at St Johns Park on a 5-acre plot when I first visited him in the 1970s after Bill (one of the original Hammondville 100 settlers) put me onto him. We all collected vintage children’s publications. Interviews with both Bill and Tom can be found on my web site. Tony knew both but all of us were somewhat furtive in our contacts, especially when it came to mutual interests! At the time Tony and I were particularly interested in the works of “Biggles” author W E Johns. Tony then and forever was blessed with a 6th sense that always turned up trumps at any book sale. He was the Roger Bannister of the book world, without ever having to raise a sweat!

In the 1990s we made the decision (at different times, perhaps) to try our hand at selling books and collectables at the monthly Sydney Model Auto Club swap meet at Granville. This followed our visiting it prior to its move to the old Crest Cinema, when it was held in a church hall to the west of Woodville Road. Tony’s first attempt saw him do a roaring trade, taking in hundreds of dollars, hand over fist. If my memory serves me correctly, buyers were literally shoving money in his face as he opened up cartons of goodies. 

At this point I’ll introduce another much-missed pal, Cathy Goodwin. Cath and I had teamed up due to mutual interests, namely media science fiction, Sherlock Holmes and The Bill. Cath wrote – brilliantly – and I, among others, published her work. She and Tony hit it off from the start and the three of us would meet at Tony’s occasionally to sort or more likely just talk. Before much longer we occupied tables every month at the swap meet. Tony, never the bloke to do things by halves, constructed marvelous display shelves that were easy to carry, erect and were I’m pretty sure, the envy of the other traders in the hall. The great advantage of any such event is meeting other collectors with similar interests. The best advantage, of course, was getting in early and wandering around the hall to see what you could pick up for yourself.

The old garage, as Tony called his collection repository, once upon a time contained his entire collection. So I’m led to believe although Tony did tell me a large part was still back in England in the family attic. Down the years, despite Tony’s best efforts at raining in his collecting passion by only picking up choice items, the collection grew and grew. 

In the 1990s I became a volunteer at the Uni of NSW book fair. This led to volunteering in the book room “downunder” where the U-Committee sorted and priced the donations. It didn’t take much into talking Tony to follow suit. His workplace wasn’t far away so he could drive down during lunch on Mondays. Once he made his vast biblio knowledge known, he wound up working with the slow auction and collectables volunteers. Like myself, he also became involved in visiting folks to collect donations, a task that often required more tact than I could manage at times. Tony on the other hand, with his people skills and charm, came back with more interesting stories than I can remember. Generally it wasn’t unusual, when rolling up to a donor’s home, to be met with the questions: “How much are they worth?” or “How much will the university pay me?” Such is life!

As 2000 arrived, the monthly swap meet had moved to a less interesting location and collecting interest had generally waned. Tony tried other, bigger, events around Sydney while probably thinking over what the future held. We saw less of each other but kept in contact via the phone but eventually the idea of opening a shop popped up. I’d casually suggested it for years and, I’m sure, many other dealers and collectors Tony had come across also helped to cement the idea in his mind. Work pressure probably played a part in his decision to open the Old Book & Comic Emporium. A need to escape from the rigors of everyday life and try to channel one’s skills and interests in a different direction all played their part.

To be continued.

Monday, February 28, 2011

MY LADY WITH THE LAMP


A mutual friend matched us up in 1979. She was, as the title indicates, a nursing sister, running a ward in an inner western Sydney hospital, no mean feat for someone of her tender years. Eight years younger, a mere 23, but to see her in uniform at her station was to know that she was fully in control of her environment. I'd occasionally call in at night during visiting hours and sometimes felt like I was a member of staff. It was a friendly place and I felt right at home.

Our first date was at a restaurant on Five Dock Road just off Parramatta Road. That really isn't important; more importantly I remember her graceful presence, the sensual way she moved, probably without realising it, and how I instantly felt at ease with her. She was unlike anyone else I've ever met, in a very feminine and lovely way. 

I was naive in many ways, and shy to the point of being afraid to enter my government office typist's pool if there was more than one female present! My Lady gave me confidence to come out of myself in her company. There was a sparkle in her eyes which always mesmerized me whether we were alone or in company. We parted in 1980, thanks to my lack of commitment. It would take a decade for my boss of the day (an ex-Vietnam Vet and a bloke of few words) to put me straight and to give me a sudden clarity of vision. "You're capable of a lot more in life; it's a pity you always hold something back rather than giving your best."

Such experiences in life come rarely and sadly, we don't always hold onto them. Memories of times and names may fade, but those evenings of relaxing in the car with time standing still, until the milko's truck headlights appeared hesitatingly over the hill, linger on, becoming more nostalgic as the years roll by.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

STREET MYSTERIES


Sir Joseph Banks Street held a number of mysteries for us kids back in the 1950s and later. The big Engisch family (publisher of the local "Torch" independent newspaper) home among trees on the western side, midway to Stacey Street, and the deserted and abandoned home several blocks up from Rickard Road on the western side (north of where Macca's was later built), had us intrigued. The latter was eventually demolished in preparation for the first high density home construction in the area. It was this area which became infamous when the BLF imposed a green ban on it during the late 1960s. This was (possibly) the first green ban imposed outside of Sydney proper (?).

LEARNING TO DRIVE in the mid-1960s





  

My pal Ted who I've known since infants school taught me to drive in his recently purchased FC model Holden back in 1965. This had a 3-on-the-tree gear change, meaning it had a 3-speed manual gearbox with the gear change attached to the steering column, the lever falling nicely to hand under the steering wheel. He soon tired of the Holden and acquired a Wolseley 1500 as it had a 4-speed shift in the usual spot; between the bucket seats. Meantime Dad suggested I go through a driving school as the DMT (Department of Motor Transport, later absorbed by the RTA) looked more favourably on learners who took lessons from a professional. I was lucky to have a lovely lady in a VW Beetle as my instructor. The most embarrassing event during my term of lessons was grabbing her knee rather than the gearshift in heavy traffic! Judging by her amused reaction, I later guessed it wasn't unusual. But at the time my face was probably the shade of a stop light. I passed without any problems and began looking for a cheap car. That's another story.

PETS


We only had two pets in my childhood. First came Soot, a rather nondescript black cat. He was more attracted to Mum and I don't have any memories of him, apart from his usually being locked in the laundry during Empire Day, described elsewhere. Naughty kids had a nasty habit of tying crackers to cats' and dogs' tails at the time, so it was usual to keep animals confined and out of harm's way.

Our one and only dog was a haughty Pekinese, Ching. He was nothing like the memorable Tricky Woo seen in 'All Creatures Great and Small'. Ching was brown and white, and looked like a pig during hot summers. The folks felt sorry for him sweating in heat waves and would have him shorn, somewhat like a sheep, by the local vet. He took to Dad and I was only an also ran. He once escaped out of the yard and I had to save him from one of the neighbours' much bigger dogs. By way of thanks he turned on me and sunk his teeth into my thumb. Ouch! The other dog took off and a neighbour came running out, to accuse me of mistreating Ching. She thought Ching was howling whereas the loud screams were coming from yours truly!

FIRST CAR - MAZDA R360 Coupe


My first car was a tiny Mazda which I spotted in a car yard on Canterbury Road, Lakemba in 1966. It was love at first sight! Dark red in colour, a 2-door with bucket seats, it seemed to wag its rear bumper like some lonely dog looking for a home. The bloke at Ideal Cars, later one of Sydney's biggest Mazda dealers of the 1970s, didn't have to do any fast talking. In fact he may have tried to talk me out of it but I had stars in my eyes. Dad I should mention only obtained his licence after I obtained mine, and he cheerfully built a mini garage down the side of the house. This just fitted the cheeky little beast which eventually cost me a lot of money when I blew a cylinder.

Someone asked, possibly the dealer, if I'd read the handbook. "Handbook?", I queried. Yes, there was a handbook in the glove compartment which revealed that my Mazda had a recommended cruising speed of 19 mph and a maximum speed of 25 mph! I'd been driving it at close to 60mph (just under 100kph) on trips outside the city. The dealer told me the car had been designed for use on Pacific islands where speeds were low. The car in fact was over-engineered in other respects with superb construction and a brilliant suspension system which I'd certainly tested to its limits. The 360cc 2-cylinder aluminium motor was another matter entirely. I ended up selling the R360 back to the dealer when I blew the other cylinder. Unfortunately I didn't photograph my car but I've found an online image.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

UNCLE BILL

As a shy lad I steered clear of grownups, to my eternal regret. I'm sure we're all faced with that same regret later in life. Uncle Bill never married but I have a photo of him in 1953 with an attractive girl who lived a few doors along from Gran's home in Chullora. I'm sure there's a story there to which I'm not privy. Bill was a regular golfer who spent a large part of his life on Hudson Park Golf Course. This public course is situated next to the goods line, opposite Rookwood Cemetery. Bill played there most days and was still going strong into his 80s. I'm not sure what part of the services Bill served in during WW2, but he worked in Chullora Railway Workshops for his later working life, along with other members of Mum's family. Bill was ever cheerful and never spoke down to me. He had a memorable voice, what we called a "gravel" voice and could be relied upon in all situations.