My Past

STORY FROM LONG AGO

In November 1961 at the age of 17 the Commonwealth Bank transferred (perhaps press ganged is a better description) me to Whyalla.

On the first weekend I was there I went with a workmate to the local dance where I admired this attractive girl across a crowded floor.

It turns out that this admiration was mutual as two months later one hot January Sunday my then best mate and I contacted the local nurses quarter and there was “the girl from the dance”.

To cut to the chase he married his blind date and after 3 years I married mine – Jeanette.

Whyalla was booming at the time with the steelworks having been opened about this time and ship building still in full flight.

The population was growing rapidly having reached about 33,000 and the town was planned and laid out for a population of 100,000 which never eventuated.

When we were married in April 1965 housing was at a premium and when I had the opportunity to rent a cottage at 55 Rudall Avenue I jumped at it some months before the big day.

Money was also at a premium and I couldn’t afford to continue to pay board at a local boarding house as well as rent on the cottage – so I moved in before the marriage.

Jeanette stayed at the nurses quarters as in those days it would have been inviting public condemnation if we had been so bold as to live together before the big day – hypocrisy was alive and well – and of course it was also the days before general acceptance of “the pill”.

We married on Easter Saturday 17th April 1965 and spent the first night of our marriage in the cottage prior to embarking upon an “exotic honeymoon” in Melbourne driving there in a car borrowed from my brother (we didn’t own one) and returning on The Melbourne Express.

As was normal at the time Jeanette gave up work and set about becoming the model housewife – maintaining the place in spotless condition and dutifully changing into her good clothes to await my return each evening from work.

We loved the place – even with the toilet in an outbuilding in the back yard, a wood fired copper in the laundry and the only hot water being supplied by an ancient “chip heater” in the bathroom that we used to fire up with old newspapers and pine cones we hunted up — the bonus was that with hot water in such limited supply we decided it best to bathe together.

The place had a tiny cooker with one element that didn’t work often and when it did it took forever to heat a bit of milk for hot chocolate when we invited our friends around – after a while they started declining our invitations as I think they were scared of growing old before they got a drink.

The floors in the lounge room and hall were of polished boards and Jeanette kept fit and the floors gleaming by tying rags to her feet and skating around the place.

Life was simple but good – the only fights we ever had were over money – it was a year before decimal currency and I was being paid a pittance – I gave Jeanette 10 pounds ($20) on pay week and 5 pounds ($10) on off pay week and when it was soon gone I would ask her what she had wasted it on.

Our first child Jodie was born in December 1966 and joined us at 55 Rudall Avenue for a few weeks until I was transferred back to Adelaide in January 1967.

Life has been kind to us and I was fortunate to reach the position of General Manager SA/NT for CBA before I retired from full time work in February 2000 after 41 years service. Jodie has been joined by her siblings Kathryn and Stuart.

All of this would have remained just a very pleasant but somewhat distant memory if I had not Googled “serviced apartments” in the search for accommodation for a visit we are making to Whyalla in late March 2011 on our way through to Streaky Bay – Jeanette’s parents are buried in Whyalla and we wanted to stop off and visit the grave.

You can only vaguely guess my complete and utter surprise when I opened the website for Playford Lodge and there in all of its restored glory was “the old girl”.

Memories, and good ones at that, of a simple but decent time came flooding back and I was more than a little overcome with emotion.

Shauna I think you must have a special talent to be able to see in the old galvanised house the embryo of what has turned into two premier apartments – you should be very proud of yourself.

Its almost as though my childhood and early adult years are being revisited – as a very young child I lived with my brothers and sisters and parents in a South Australian Housing Trust semi detached dwelling in suburban Adelaide. In January of this year I was appointed chairman of the very same instrumentality – as I said previously life has been good to us.

Best wishes

Jeanette and Claude Long