Rusty_BoatWe lived in a beautiful part of Sydney, surrounded on three sides by the Parramatta and Lane Cove rivers. Water, water everywhere but not a boat in sight. If ever there was a challenge to a small boy, this must be it. My first calculation in the field of navel architecture found me, atleast afloat, on a small timber deck supported by nine empty kerosene drums. If you are ever unfortunate enough to be paddling a craft of this type, you would discover that it goes faster and faster in ever decreasing circles but finishes up absolutely nowhere. So another calculation had to be made to produce a more directional typpe of propulsion. This took the form of a bicycle chain and sprocket assembly attatched to a length of curtain rod plugged at one end so that a propeller, made from galvanised iron sheeting, could be firmly nailed into position. A real precision job which propelled the nine kerosene drums in a forward direction. The operator was required to kneel on the keck using one hand to turn the pedal and a foot to munipulate the rudder.

Later, as my shipbuilding skills improved, I put together a cranky, but otherwise seaworthy, canvas canoe. To this, I adapted the same propulsion unit which produced a dramatic improvement in speed. This does not mean I could compete in any way with the ferry boats but I could make it across the river to explore the virgin bush and streams. As a geat prophet has said – “if we act with a pure heart bliss follows us like our shadow”. My bliss must surely have been full.

Of course, there were moments of doubt. One late afternoon, just after a storm, when I was about to cross the river n my homeward trek, a large shark broke the glassy surface of the water just between me and my home base. Would I stay out all night on the opposite side of the river or proceed on course? Knowing full well that one layer of canvas is not much protection from a shark, I continued on course with my hair sticking straight up in the air.

I was installed at Shore at fourteen and soon made it into the second four crew. After my first race, a serious toxic condition developed in my throat which spelt the end of my rowing.

At about the time, a copy of the American magazine “Rudder” came into my possession with the plans of a 20ft speedboat named “At-a-Boy 11”. It was love at first sight. The boat I had dreamed about. As I so could not fit a 20ft craft in the stables, I modified the plans to 17ft and overall length and as i had saved just enough money for the timber, I went ahead and ordered the best I could find.

The day father returned home from the office and saw all this beautiful timber laid out in the backyard was a day to remember. I knew he would be angry but I did not know he would be SO angry! I was forced, there and then, to store all the timber in the rafters of the stables and not to touch it until the following Christmas holidays, about nine months away. Well, I did touch it. In fact when he was not home, I secretly built the boat piece by piece and hid the bits between the back of the stables and the next door fence. When the holidays came, it took me only a couple of days to set up the entire framework of the boat.

When father saw the progress I had made and the standard of workmanship, it was obvious that he was impressed. In fact, he was so impressed that on Saturday nights, when his Bridge playing friends arrived, the hurricane lanterns had to be lit and an inspection made before the game was allowed to start.

When the boat was launched, friends and neighbours (and the Bridge players) flocked, not only to see it christened, but to also carry it down to the water on timber bearers.

By the time a few minor adjustments had been made to its converted T Model Ford Engine and it was made seaworthy in every way (early in 1922 and my kast year at Shore), the Headmaster, L.C. Robson was about to start training his senior eight crew. (See story next page)

AT-A-BOY 111 served me well from1921-1927 when she was sold for 110 pounds which got me started on my first round-the-world trip working my passage.

Apart from helping to coach the winning Shore crew, another proud event was a visit to a Bristish Battleship anchored in Sydney Harbour. The ship had just arrived with an officer cousin aboard who had invited father and myself to lunch in the officer’s mess. As we arrived, At-a-Boy circled the battleship at her 21 nautical miles per hour full speed. We pulled into the ship’s side and as we clambered up the two flights of steps, the little craft with pennant flying, was taken over by His Majesty’s sailors and moored to an enormous boom. It looked so pitifully small alongside the scale of a battleship. After an inspection of the turrets bristling with guns, we climbed into the bowels of the ship for lunch. Unfortunately though, halfway through my first course, it was not the ships but my bowels that caused trouble and I had to surface hurriedly for fresh air. As I reached over the side, I could see my little boat cast a shameful glance in my direction.

Rusty_PrefectThe first most breathtaking event occurred during a move from my birthplace in Woolwich to a home in Hunters Hill. I was perched high on a small seat squeezed between my sister and the driver of a sizeable pantechnicon drawn by two grey draught horses. As we lurched and swayed over the potholed road, I was beside myself with excitement. I couldn’t believe that the world could offer so much joy. But this was not to last.

Kindergarten was my first brush with humanity at the age of five. That there could be so many “little nasties” in the world like myself was unbelievable. They had arms and legs just like me too, but they used them for punching and kicking and worse still, when I retaliated they would pimp on me and get me into trouble. One day, I suppose to try and cheer me up or something, they gave me a picture book. Unfortunately, I already had one exactly the same. It was such a disappointment. I thought i would never stop crying.

To compound my problems and inability to deal with humanity, I was sent to Preparatory School at the age of ten. On the first day as I stood bewildered in the middle of the playground, all Hell broke out as the bullies descended and nicknamed me “girlie”. No one had thought to change my kindergarton clothes – short corduroy pants, a white silk embroided skirt and sandals – nor had they cut the long golden curls from my head. This was a world of big boys iin their first pair of long trousers and lace-up boots. No wonder I looked a sissy. Then the bell rang and I found myself sitting at a small desk in the most prominent position in the classroom. Presently, the tallest and meanest looking man in a flowing black gown, entered the room. He sat at his desk in deathly silence, then, with a piece of chalk in one hand and a cane in the other, he drew himself up to full height with his arms in the air, like a huge Praying Mantus, and lurched towards me with the words, “BOY – what’s your name?” I was stricken with fear and numb from the neck up, a state of mind and body tat remained for the next four years I spent in that revolting place.

About this time, 1918, my mother was healed from her illness by a Christian Science practicioner who used prayer and instruction from the Bible as his only means and what a wonderful and supportive mother she became. She assessed the seriousness of my position and bargained with my father’s Bridge playing friends to persuade him to send me to “Shore”.

The first day at Shore was awesome to say the least. At lunch time I took my sandwiches to the furthest corner of the playing field, as far away from anything that moved and as the fences would allow and waited for the “bullies” to come. But, they never came.

The bell rang and I returnedto the process of getting started. The sun was shining and the and the people were friendly. I thiught of my mother and how hard she worked to get me here. I could not fail her now. Then the strangest things seemed to be happening to me. I had lost all sense of fear or failure and only excitement seemed to fill the air. For the first time in my life i had a feeling of confidence. The old hoodoo my father had placed upon me – “that I would never be good at anything” – was no llonger weighing me down. I resolved to prove that I could be good at something. What a great feeling I had never experienced before. Like my mother, I was healed.

During the next four years at Shore, I won my School and All School Colours. I became a Sub Prefect and during my last year, 1922, I was made a Full Prefect and Captain of Hodges House.

Rusty2

As Alice put it:

“Let’s start at the beginning and finish when we come to the end.”

It seams, during the first fourteen years of my life, my mother was practically bedridden. It’s only a guess, but I fear that I was the cause. I am sure my arrival was not part of a family plan. So the younger of my two sisters took me in charge at the mature age of eight. The only other companion I can remember in those early days was a large pink and white parrot which gave me my first lessons in English. Unfortunately, hi spelling was hopless and even now I am forced to sit on a dictionary when writing the simplest things.

Rusty1How many storage cells in the human brain? Billions? Trillions? Who knows? All that seems certain is that we use a mere fraction of its capacity.

Recently, I put myself to the test by concentrating on past events, all ninety years of them including fifty years running my own creative type of business. I was amazed at the extent of the material I recalled, the clarity, the detail and the ease with which it appeared on the screen of my mind. The message that became so clear was that the mind must record and store everything that happens throughout our lives. We may forget things, but I have no doubt it is all stored away in the computer of the unconsious mind which can auto matically withdraw information from its memory bank as required at any moment our lives.

Please understand that this series of short stories is in no way intended as an exercise in self glorification. It is more an amateurish attempt in trying to determine, to some small degree, the capacity and excellence of that priceless piece of equipment we possess so firmly located between our ears.

It may interest you to note that all the material covered in this booklet has been drawn from a period of over ninety to sixty years ago, and I can assure you that my ability to describe these events to you in writing falls a long way short of the clarity and detail with which they may have appeared in my mind.