Memories Of 1969

1969 was a year of big changes for me. You might say it was my first venture into adulthood – I became an Aunty for the first time; I left school at not quite 15; moved from Penrith to live with my Aunty at Rozelle; and went job hunting on my first Monday in the big smoke (Sydney).

My first job interview was at McDowell’s department store. The personnel officer was Mrs O’Donnell, a lovely lady. I asked her if I could have a job in the “button department”, as my brothers girlfriend use to work there. She smiled and asked me my age and why I wanted to leave school so young. I replied with “My Mum left my Dad, I’m living with my Aunty…”. In fact, the poor lady got my life history and family woes in just a few minutes, you know those days when you really should stop talking, but you just keep rambling on, yep that was me! 

There were no jobs at the time. She assured me when one was available she would contact me, but it “may not be in the button department… which is called haberdashery”. I didn’t really hold much hope of ever hearing from her again.

Undeterred, I headed to the big Coles variety store. I sat a Maths test, did some training that week, started work the following week and loved it! I worked on the electrical counter, selling light globes, batteries and various other things. I felt very grown up and important running my own counter, but my very favourite part of the job was hitting the bell on the cash register, holding the money notes in the air and yelling out CHECK! Yes, feeling adult but acting very young.                                         My first pay was amazing, I felt so rich with six-dollars-something in my pocket.

I arrived home one afternoon to find a telegram from Mrs O’Donnell. She had a job for me, but not at McDowell’s – it was at their Mark Foy’s Piazza store. I wanted to remain at Coles, but my Aunty said that there would be better career prospects at Mark Foy’s so she and my mum decided that I would work there.

I started in ladies’ fashions, wrapping layby’s and running errands for the buyer. It was a good job, but my heart was still at Coles. Most of the floors at the Piazza store were closed except for the ground and first floors. Some other floors had workmen banging and clanging, but most were used for storage – a graveyard of old shop fittings from a time gone by. The staff canteen and lockers were on one of the higher  floors, I regularly hopped out of the creaky old elevator on the wrong floor and found myself in a huge scary space. I imagined ghosts of shoppers past lurking there, I spent five or so scary minutes wandering around trying to find our canteen which was tucked away on a different empty floor. It was a terrifying experience for a 15 year old – it was like being lost in an abyss. The old Mark Foy’s is now the Downing Centre courthouse.

In 1969, a very special must-see event was happening at the Capitol Theatre – the premier of the Monkees movie “Head” – complete with bands playing and giveaways. The first 50 people to buy tickets received an inflatable Monkees pillow from the radio station 2UW, so my cousin and I arrived at the Capitol at 6am and were 3rd in line. Others soon arrived and were pushing in but silly me didn’t mind as we all were having fun singing songs and laughing and sharing our love of the Monkees.

I arrived at the premier that night in my clothes, bought from the  In Shop in the Strand Arcade no less, which was the place to shop! Feeling very “groovy”. I excitedly headed over to the 2UW bloke to show my ticket and claim my pillow but was devastated to find out that my ticket wasn’t stamped. I was just about to cry, stamp my feet or do something, when a lovely girl I had met that morning handed me one, as she had been given two stuck together by mistake.

Waiting for the stall doors to open, I was approached by a good looking older boy who asked  my cousin and I if we would help him carry their gear upstairs to set up for their gig. His other band members had gone missing. The band in question was called Imagination. So began my big teenage crush on Geoff, the drummer. Chatting with them after their set and daring to ask why the other three members weren’t around to help carry the gear earned me the nickname “Cheeky Girl”. I found out that Alex was their lead singer, Lyle and Neil were on lead and bass guitar respectively, and, of course, Geoff was on drums.

Settled in our seats just before the movie started, some guy from Go-Set magazine called Ian Meldrum 😊 was drawing out lucky seat numbers. The girl a few seats down from me was sitting in a lucky seat – such was my luck, as I had sat there first and moved up to an aisle seat! The Monkees movie Head was unfortunately very forgettable, unlike the rest of that night, but I still remain a fan of their music today.

I soon moved back home to Penrith and was enjoying hanging out with my friends again. There was a huge all day  Pop Spectacular happening at Sydney Showground in July and one of the featured bands was Imagination, so off we all headed to Sydney. I remember Doug Parkinson In Focus singing “Dear Prudence”. Basically all the bands and singers who were anybody were performing there. 2UW were getting kids to record for their station promo. We had to say “Hi, my name is ____, and I listen to the new UW triple-one noughtable on your transistor portable.” Or something like that. I was so excited, although I never did hear my promo on the radio.

The bouncers hired for the event were ruthless. Girls were jumping over the fence to get to the bands, and were literally being pick up and tossed back over the fence, landing heavily on the ground. Some of the bands headed over to the fence to sign autographs and I spotted Alex and Geoff about 50 feet from me. I yelled their names so loud I nearly broke the sound barrier! They walk towards our group and I climbed on the fence to get closer when suddenly the big hand of a bouncer was pushing my face and nearly breaking my arm off. I heard one of the boys tell the thug bouncer to “Let her go now!”. I asked if they remembered me and their reply was “How could we forget you, Cheeky Girl?” 

The Imagination were a Wollongong band who move to Sydney to get their big break. Three of the boys lived in Newport. Neil, who was married, lived in Mona Vale (I think, from memory). They signed with a record label who represented some big names in Australia, The Beatles were one, also The Easybeats and Billy Thorpe. Imagination released a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You”. I still have their single, 47 years later!

They had a regular gig at Moby Dick’s Whale Beach surf club. I was invited to their place at Newport, to which I did go for a few Saturday’s or Sunday’s over the following months. If the boys weren’t there I would hang with a really nice girl named Bonny who lived there. She was a year or so older than me, and was Lyle’s girlfriends she told me, although I was never really quite sure she was. I guess, for a little while I was a kind of groupie, but these boys were nothing but respectful to a starry-eyed 15 year old – they were always polite and welcoming. Alex was engaged to the lovely Jenny, and even said that I should come to their wedding, the following year.
He also said that I could ring him at the surf club before their gig about 6pm any Sunday, and he would let me know where the band (and also another Wollongong band called Tin Pan Alley_ were playing that week. Well, that was probably not the smartest thing to say to a teenager, as I rang him on quite a lot of Sundays. He always came to the phone and we’d have a chat until my money ran out or he had to start his gig. He was such a nice guy and always seemed happy to take my call. Looking back now, I probably annoyed the crap out of him. 😊
As is the fickle life of a teen, before 1969 had ended, my secret crush on Geoff the drummer started to wane and my attention moved to a boy closer to home. Besides that, Mum and Dad found out where I was going on those weekends and grounded me for life.

I lost contact with Imagination, but always remembered the patience and kindness they showed to a silly teenage girl, especially Alex. I doubt I would be remembered by them, but 47 years later, they certainly still have a page in my memory book.

When Stevie Wright died recently, it brought back memories of Imagination playing with the Easybeats at the Trocadero; me wanting to meet Little Stevie; and Alex’s words that Stevie Wright “wasn’t the type of person for me to hang around”. Looking back all these years later, I guess Stevie had his demons way back then, too.

Now comes a bit of twist in the story. After hearing of Stevie Wright’s death, I started wondering what happened to Imagination. I Googled them, as you do, and read an old article that said Imagination had split up in 1970. Lyle and Geoff still play together occasionally around the Illawarra, an interview just a few years back with Neil said he went into Christian music.  As for Alex? Well, he married his beautiful Jenny and had four kids, but sadly divorced. When he was in the band he went by the surname Steele, which I knew wasn’t his real surname. I didn’t remember what his name actually was, though. Looking at old newspaper stories and photos on Google, it named the band members as Neil Porter, Geoff Foster, Lyle McLean and Alex Stefanovic aka (Steele). 

It blew my mind realising all these years later I’ve been watching two of his sons most days for a number of years on TV. Yes, he is Karl and Peter Stefanovic’s Dad.

It most certainly is a small world! 😊

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Australia Day 2016

Welcome to my first blog.

Firstly let me say I am a proud Aussie and always will be!
This is where I was born and has been my country, my home for all of my nearly 62 years and my ancestors before me.
I believe Australia Day should be a day to come together and celebrate the wonderful country we are and the diversity, faith and cultures of our people from around the globe who embrace Australia and its way of life as their own and as their home. Today we welcome 16000 Australians who celebrated becoming citizens.
Be proud of your heritage whether you are indigenous or came here from other lands it is part of who you are, but also embrace Australia’s culture too.

To Aboriginal Australians, I’d like to ask you to please not call our national day invasion day. I have heard a lot of talk in recent days of white Australia, no this is a land for all its sons and daughters regardless of the colour of our skin! Let’s unite and celebrate as one.

I have sincere respect for those whose ancestors suffered greatly and were treated as no human beings should be treated, and sadly the perpetrators were never brought to justice. We as your fellow Australians and as a nation feel your pain, never forget the past, but it is now time to let go of past anger and move forward. Australia today is still a young country and has much to learn, but we have come a long way from those days. I applaud and acknowledge Stan Grants speech on racism yes, sadly based on well documented fact, and I’m horrified at the cruelty and injustice that was suffered.

Unfortunately there are a number of Australians with or without a drop of aboriginal blood in their veins who like to jump on the band wagon and incite division, in fact they thrive on making a huge divide and to them I say get over yourself you are taking away from the true plight of indigenous Australians who really do need help.  By your whinging and protesting and sprouting about how hard done by you are, you are not doing yourself, Aboriginal heritage or culture any favours!

I watched a protest march on TV news today, Aussies protesting invasion day while fellow Aussies celebrated on Sydney Harbour and around the country. I say to them remember the past but celebrate the present and embrace the future of this amazing country you belong to. Your march did nothing positive for your cause or to help indigenous Australians. The traditional ceremonies and the celebration of Aboriginal culture through song and dance that went hand in hand with celebrations around the country did,  it respectfully honoured their ancestors in a way they should be remembered.

I watched Jessica Mauboy proudly sing the national anthem both in English and her indigenous dialect. I heard a wonderful Aboriginal elder say we are as one we walk the same steps and breathe the same air. I watched Australian performers celebrate our country in song and dance, this is how it should be.
The past is the past, let’s now focus on Australia being on an equal footing for everyone regardless of colour, race or creed . One for all and all for one. Let’s set an example for the world to follow.

The British atrocities of the past and the stolen generation are disgusting events in our history that should never have happened, but they did … They  happened and can’t be changed! The past shouldn’t be forgotten it will always be a very dark part of our history. Speak of it to future generation as they should be told the good and the bad of Australia’s history, but don’t let actions of the past define who we are today and in the future.
Sorry has been said and really not much else can been done, so should it be dwelled on today in 2016 or grievances be laid to rest in the history of time?

Should we be made feel guilty that we embrace and celebrate our country on January 26th each year? Maybe the date should be changed? NO! Should Americans change the date of their Thanksgiving? Atrocities happened there too… Black Friday.  Australia is just one country of many to suffer in early days of colonisation.

Australia Day is a celebration for all Aussies. I really think we should come together as one nation.  I don’t refer to myself as a white Australian…. I am an Australian!
Regardless of past adversity, or even present adversity, tough times happen to us all we are not immune, it doesn’t discriminate between rich or poor or black or white, loved ones lost through illness, accidents and even murder, financial troubles, disabilities, you name it, but we pull ourselves up and carry on with life.

Should the blame for past atrocities be put on the current governments or even the Queen for actions of past monarchs? Should we vilify the relatives of Lachlan Macquarie for the wicked horrible person history or rather his own words and actions have proven him to be? No! So why is it acceptable to lay blame on people today for something that happened 228 years ago. The people responsible have all met their maker and had their judgement day!
Look back to the history of England in the 1700’s it was a very barbaric place at times.
The Government with royal approval transported convicts from Ireland and England here sometimes for as little as stealing a loaf of bread to feed their families, they also were treated appallingly  while on the ships and when they arrived here too! Read up on that history. The perpetrators unfortunately are now just dust and can’t be punished for their unforgivable actions! I believe the name of Lachlan Macquarie and his cohorts should not be immortalised by iconic land marks named after them and maybe should be renamed to reflect Aussies who brought much to this great country.
Tina Arena said it best today “EMBRACE THE FUTURE + RESPECT THE PAST”!
Happy Australia Day to all my fellow Australians regardless of your religion, culture or past adversities. Let’s all celebrate our past, for it is part of who we are today, the present for what we, as people of this great nation have achieved in just 228 years, although we still have much to learn. For the future, hope for all the generations to come. Let’s celebrate not just today but every day and feel blessed that we live in the best country on earth without a doubt. Let’s celebrate loved ones who are no longer with us, they helped shape who we are today and we hold their memories dear. Let’s celebrate the diggers past and present who fought and continue to fight for this great country. Let’s celebrate our police force, our fire fighters, our doctors, our nurses, our teachers, our young and our elderly. Let’s show by example and teach our children, the future leaders of our country to have respect for others and that although people may looks different on the outside we are all the same on the inside.

Start focusing on the positives and not the negatives, be more tolerant, smile at strangers in passing as you go through your days and you just may find they smile back, you get back what you give out. Lets do our own little bit to make our country today, a happier and better place than it was yesterday!  It’s all about letting go to move forward.