I can’t say that I was a typical Boomer teenager but I can tell you about the years I went through and would think most of us had similar stories to tell.
The first sniff of a different world came in the early sixties. I had just completed primary school and had enrolled at Indooroopilly High School (built for western suburb Boomers), which required me to take a twenty- minute train trip each day and a thirty-minute walk. Our first year there was as ridged as primary school in the initial stages but ‘the times were a changing’.
The Beatles had their first hit in the year 1963, and my mate Keith Blake was a fan from day one. I had met Keith soon after I started at High School and I liked his easy-going nature.
We both liked football and music although he had more knowledge of both and still has. He had the records, the Beatle Fan Club news and easy-going parents. My world started to change as I listened to this exciting music that made you feel that life had to be better than what we were being asked to accept. I started to rebel.
Every Friday night I would put on my black Beatles skivvy and black boots and catch the bus to Keith’s place. It was quite a journey and required a walk to Coronation Drive, a bus trip to St Lucia and a walk to Keith’s home but it was worth every minute, for it opened a new world for me.
His parents were 10 pound pommy immigrants and they were different from Aussie parents, in that they allowed him freedom.
We were allowed to stay in his room and play our music on the old record player- singles and LP’s. We would listen to Tony Macarthur on 4BC radio and he would have an hour or so of the Beatles music and the latest releases. I cannot explain how different and excited it made us feel to be part of this era but different we were.
The world focused on this group like never before and Australia started Beatle mania which changed everything we had known.
In 1964, the Beatles came to town and Keith and I took time off school to stand in front of Lennon’s Hotel in George Street with hundreds of other kids and shout their names. Paul was my favourite and George was Keith’s.
I can still listen to the Bee Gees and remember parts of my life as a teenager and Sunday afternoons listening to the same tune and contemplating life as defined by these songs. The Easybeats- ‘Friday on my Mind’; ‘Grooving on a Sunday afternoon’; ‘San Francisco, ‘World’ and many other songs that all had a message for me.
There is a song for many parts of my life in those years and my children often make fun of me for my choice of music still but they are great memories and I love reliving them.
Memories of the first dance I had with one Jan Jeffries in her parent’s house in Taringa near the railway station. Jan was a girl who I had met on the train going to school but more about her later. I had Billy Thorpe’s song on a single record; ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’ and we danced to it in her lounge room with her parents watching TV in the next room.
Her dad was the famous sports reporter Harry Jeffries who was with the now defunct Brisbane Telegraph newspaper and although I was not intimidated by his presence I made sure I did keep my hands to myself that night.
The Bee Gees ‘World’ was another record that I gave to Linda Clare Harper, my first real girlfriend, to let her know my feelings, as I could not express them to her. Sixties songs had love messages, war messages and emotional messages that expressed the way we felt. In the end you did use parts of songs when writing love letters or expressing yourself as they said it all.
We wanted to be different from our previous generations. Our hair grew longer because everyone wore short cropped haircuts, we questioned the rules of school, because they were so inflexible, just as the rules of our parents and society were and we wanted a different world for our children than the stifling cocoon in which we were raised.
We had not fought in a war and we were not aware of the perils of Communism and Fascism. We wanted freedom of thought, freedom of love and recognition of the rights of the individual. We wanted to change jobs if we were not happy, read what we wanted, say what we wanted, drink at a younger age, wear what we wanted and see what we wanted.
So we challenged things- parents’ rules, school rules and societal rules. It was during this period that I realised I was different from my siblings in that they were very much part of the old world and I wanted to be different.
Thoughts of achieving something for the world or thoughts of my saving the world in some way first came to mind at this age. We teenage males were SNAG’s (sensitive new age men) before the word was invented in the 90s and we allowed and encouraged our female partners all the liberalisation they wanted.
The Elite Theatre where I watched movies as a kid changed too during this period. It now had Mods in the aisle, with their long hair and colourful clothes, and the Rockers and Widgies disappeared with their motor bikes, but not before we had Mods versus Rockers gang fights.
Eventually the theatre itself disappeared for the new world of television and my world became even more exciting. However, I will never forget the pleasures and excitement of the Elite. Watching those westerns and war movies in the early days, the first smoke and in later years hugging my girlfriend Linda Clare Harper on the canvas seats in front of the big screen ( the excitement of touching a breast), at the Indooroopilly High movie night.
The draw of the lucky prize ticket which was displayed on the screen and winning something from the canteen, and watching the gangs eyeball each other across the theatre or being marched out by the theatre usher for fighting. You could make a movie about the picture theatres of old and the carry-on inside.
The theatre site eventually became a shopping centre in the 80’s but by 1970 I had already moved on into the city and left this part of my life behind.
I wanted to be a Mod and wear clothes such as bell-bottom trousers, colourful shirts and double-breasted coats that would turn people’s heads. We did just that as we met in Queen Street on a Saturday morning as the last of the Rock and Rollers, Rock and Roll George, circled the block in his hot FJ.
I can still remember a Japanese tourist following me with his camera taking shots of my long hair blowing in the wind as I walked down the street. ‘Give me a length of hair, long beautiful hair’ were the lyrics of the main song from the popular musical Hair and that’s what we wanted.
We had mod shops to buy the clothes like those from Carnaby Street in London. Clothes that were replicas of the ones our pop idols wore but made you feel so different and made everyone comment on how society was changing.
Many of the comments were not flattering and the rockers were still trying to bash you whenever and wherever they could.
Westminster Boutique above Wallace Bishop’s on the corner of Queen and Edward Streets was the very first shop to cater for our clothing needs and Saturday mornings would mean a trip to that shop to see the latest offerings.
Keith was by far the snappiest dresser of our group and if he had been transported to London, would have had no problem fitting into the trendy set. He had immaculate dress sense and looked the part.
We had music to dance to at discothèques like Prince Alfred’s in Queen Street or Snoopy’s in Edward Street and they were the only places you felt safe in the early years from abuse.
We were anti-war and demonstrated against Vietnam, we liberated women and we loved our new found freedom. I am legally a ‘pacifist’ after a court case, when I was called up for conscription at 20 years of age, but more of that later.
Our efforts have changed the world and it is a better place because of our stand. I am proud of that and proud to be a BabyBoomer.
Our teenage years were exciting times for us all and a time to leave the world of my childhood behind and start growing up. My high school friends made all the difference here. As mentioned previously, I could see the difference in being a teenager and how exciting it was compared to my childhood.
Keith Blake was my first real friend and is still in my life today, which is something I am proud of. I met him as a classmate soon after entering my first year at high school.
Our relationship centred on music, clothes and football. He played for Wests Rugby League Club, as everyone in our area backed the ‘Paddo Panthers’, as they were known. Blokes like Ian Robson, Ritchie Twist, Errol Stock, Ron Raper their coach, were household names in later years, but Hughie Kelly and Barry Muir were the stars of the sixties.
They played at Lang Park and we would venture there Saturdays and Sundays to watch them and cheer them on. One of my first jobs was selling hot chips there for a shilling a bag, and collecting soft drink bottles, for the refund of threepence, from under the stands and around the feet of patrons. I can remember sitting there watching them drink their soft drink so I would be there when they threw it away.
The NRL unfortunately put an end to the local footy sides, much to the games detriment, when the Broncos became the sole focus in 1988. Local sides only draw a few hundred spectators now compared to the thousands of fans then. The Grand Final would have forty thousand spectators and stop Brisbane for a week.
Even my beloved Wests have folded as have the mighty Valleys club (who Wally Lewis played for) has and also the Brothers club (whom Wayne Bennett, the Broncos coach, played for). West’s did not win a game in 2003 for the first time in our history and they withdrew from the Qld Cup for 2004.
So when did the rot set in for Wests? Around 1970 the club moved from Lang Park to Purtell Park at Bardon and everyone was so excited with this new clubhouse.
In hindsight, it was a silly move because it took the club away from the community and the foot of Mt Cootha does not allow for a lot of housing expansion. I was playing for them by 1970 as I had grown into a fair lump of a lad after a stint in Mt Isa as a contract miner in 1968 had hardened me.
All the players at the time helped clear the rocks and lay the turf on the new site Purtell Park and I played many a game there. One of my team members scored the first try on that park and in one game I scored three, which in rugby terms, is hard to do.
In another match I flattened the great Lennie Ditmar (who had played for Queensland at one stage) after a shoulder charge and he had to leave the field. Trouble is that same shoulder I used was to start popping out of its socket in later years, much to the amusement of my children when I told them about it.
I eventually had a bone taken off my hip to repair it but that didn’t work. Funny operation that one was because the doctor had not mentioned the hip part; I had been told a plate was being inserted in my shoulder.
They changed their mind just before the operation when I was out to it, although I remember them shaving me before I passed out and my mind was trying to figure out why my groin would need a shave if I was having a shoulder operation.
They got it right the second time a few years later and a steel plate was inserted, which is still there and the shoulder has been fine since.
As a footballer I was an average player and I made it to Reserve grade, which is one below A grade. There were just too many doubts in my mind about my ability as I was never really seen as a talented sportsman as a youngster at school which had such an influence on my ego and the mind games started to take control.
Even trying to be hypnotised at one stage did not help my confidence, so one week I would have a great game and the next I was full of self-doubt and did not play so well.
Keith played hooker for Wests as a teenager and in a remarkable career, that covered Wests, Public Service and District football, he played until his 60s in Master’s football. He is foundation President of Wests Centenary Football Club and has devoted his life to football, and his wish for rugby league to be seen as the greatest game of all.
This junior club has their own web site and Keith has, over the years, established their home ground, club house and a proactive working committee. In February 2004, he was appointed full time Executive Officer of the Queensland Junior Rugby League in recognition of his outstanding contribution to League. The junior game has never been healthier.
Both of us never really showed an interest in girls as young teenagers and neither he nor I had a lot of confidence in that area in those early years. By Year 10 though, I had met Rob Venus who opened that door for me.
Rob was already dating girls and had started to grow his hair long so he was in great demand at school because of his unique looks and savvy. He was a real ladies man.
I had been grossly overweight in years 9 and 10 but after meeting Rob and realising what a great life he had with girlfriends, I started to get into shape by running around the block at home and up that huge hill beside Wesley Hospital, eating less food and applying Clearasil for my pimples.
He played Aussie rules for the Wests Bulldogs at Chelmer and I would spend my Saturday watching him play before we would go back to his home to work out where to go that night. He was also a good all round cricket player playing for the Indooroopilly Rangers for years so we were unlikely friends as I was not a sportsman. We just seemed to gel.
Keith faded out of my life at this time and I spent every conceivable minute with Rob. He was a wealth of information about the opposite gender and he taught me how to have sex (by demonstrating on a pillow), what to say to girls when I was on my own with them and he shared his great wardrobe with me because my parents could not afford to buy me modern clothes.
He would share all his thoughts with me and mine with him and he had the ideal set-up at home which was his own room under the house. We were inseparable because I wanted it that way and he didn’t say no.
His dad had been a British soldier in the Indian wars, who after coming to Australia married Rob’s mum who was a nurse at the Royal Brisbane hospital. The family lived at Scarborough initially before moving to Frederick Street, Taringa where he attended Taringa Primary and then Indooroopilly High.
He had an older brother Jim and a sister Sue. His mum was so easy going and I had my first adult conversations with her as I lived there all weekend. She would tell me that I was leading her son astray and I would laugh and joke with her.
After I slept over on weekends, Sunday mornings were always sausages and eggs in their old kitchen, with his dad sitting at the table with a tea towel over his head breathing in some steaming vapour to relieve his bronchitis.
The house had such character with old chimney-stacks and darkened rooms and was Spanish in style. It could almost be called Tuscan today and is still there in Frederick Street, Taringa.
The paint was peeling off the walls in his room but it was our home for those couple of years, and we talked, laughed, shared stories, had sex with girls, listened to music and generally prepared ourselves for adulthood there. It was a metamorphosis for me from naive teenager to sex savvy young man.
I loved the room under the house concept so much that in year 11 I worked throughout the Xmas holidays at the XXXX brewery and saved enough to build my own room under our house. Keith Blake was still around, as a friend to both of us, and he did the same thing under his house.
This opened up my home life at Lima Street and once the novelty of Rob’s place wore off, I lived a very independent life at home. Girls were regular visitors and I was proud of the fact that they were all ‘lookers’, which was a tremendous boost to my confidence.
My first girl contact with the opposite sex after I graduated from the ‘Rob Venus School of Sex Education’ was Jan Jeffery (mentioned earlier) who I met on the train coming home from school. She was a St Aidan’s girl and asked for my phone number.
Then it was Loreen Williams who I saw on the Taringa bus on occasions coming home from school but she was not too interested so I learnt about knockbacks.
I managed to finish Year 12 without a sexual experience but was still only 16 due to my early start at school all those years before so I was not too put out. The thought of sex at that time petrified me, as I had still not even masturbated, but I was in the best of company to learn about a teenage sex life.
Anyway, sex was hard to come by for a young, inexperienced bloke in those days and we still had a society that frowned on it and generally regarded it as dirty and something for the bedroom only and not to be discussed.
I did eventually graduate much to Rob’s joy with Jenny Harper, who was the sister of one of my high school girlfriends. Linda Clare Harper was my first girlfriend and a favourite of my mum’s, but she was a good girl in every sense. At that age I was not looking for a wife but we went to the movies and spoke on the phone and I visited her house a few times for meals with her lovely family. We didn’t click though so I broke it off. I had the odd touch of private parts at the movies but it was a ‘no go’ zone for her.
Her sister Jenny Harper was different. I met her at a party a few months after breaking up with Linda and we had a hot relationship. I remember one party when we kissed the entire night. Unfortunately she went back to South Africa soon after, but I finally had my first intercourse on Rob’s bed the night before she left. What a night that was as my body shook in anticipation. I have never lost interest in sex since.
However, I did not meet Jenny until I repeated Year 12 in 1969, so what was I doing in the years before then? School was the main interest as my classmates and I grew up together.
I have so many memories of those years including the train trips to school, the stories of legendary teachers like Stan Brown who was a ‘dam buster’ from WW2, troublesome past students and graduation week when the seniors traditionally did something out of the ordinary to leave their mark around the school like hanging effigies of teachers.
I attended my Year 12 graduation party at Brookfield where I drank a large bottle of vodka and, for the first time, was legless. My mates got me home and left me on my bed under the house (as mates do) but I was sick for two days. I made some good mates at school and I never drank vodka again. Even writing about it brings back my memory of the taste.
Good mates were important to me at that stage and Rob Venus gets first mention for mateship above and beyond the call of friendship. Rob was and is, my lifelong friend. I could not count the number of good times we have had, the sights we have shared, the help we have been to each other from those days through two marriages and numerous jobs and the many laughs and good times we have had up to now.
We are not as close today unfortunately due to the pressures of raising families, but he will always be a brother to me for the effort he put into me and the difference he made to my life.
Keith will always be in high regard to me as well for his friendship, but he did not have the same influence due to his shy nature and he never shared his thoughts as much as Rob. He mainly mixed with his public servant friends after school although we got together with his lovely family on many occasions and enjoyed their company over a meal. Our kids mixed well together and the Blake children Emma, Sarah and JB will always remain part of Murphy folk law.
Sadly Keith has had some unreal challenges over his son JB’s drug dependence. I am so grateful that my children have not been interested in the drug scene. I am sure they have witnessed many things and maybe even tried some stuff but there have never been signs of dependence and I am very glad about that.
It is dreadful to think that JB was offered rolled up cigarettes with heroin in them as a 12 year old at Primary school and was unaware of their content. He was an addict a few years later. Keith never gave up though, as JB is his only son and he loves him deeply. He later became an electrician and is soon to be married. There has never been any relapse.
My teen years were interesting enough and I am sure I was a normal teenager. I listened to the music of the day while lying on my bed pretending to be doing schoolwork every Sunday afternoon as popular music was only played at certain times on the radio then.
I worshiped the Beatles and everything they did, put their pin-ups on my wall, watched football at Lang Park, did little school work, kept up my jobs for Mum and became closer to Dad, as he liked the more mature me and I had learnt how to humour him.
He loved a laugh and when he cracked a joke I always laughed with him so we ended up very close. My brothers started to listen to modern music after a while but they were heavily involved in the church fellowship and played cards and tennis, where as I wanted girls and good times.
They were not interested initially in this modern pop music and the entire circus that went with it. Mike had grown up with Rock and Roll and at one stage had a Teddy Boy curl at the front of his forehead until Dad loped it off with the scissors.
Work was a big part of my life in my teens. The first job was delivering pamphlets to letterboxes – 2 pounds per thousand. You soon learned to dice a few hundred into the sewer or rubbish bin as it took ages to deliver them.
My first real job was at the XXXX brewery where Dad had got my brothers and I holiday work as beer was really in demand during the summer months so they worked extra shifts.
It was a great job as I just stood in front of thousands of freshly filled stubby bottles as they rattled past on the conveyor belt and all I had to do was to remove the broken ones from the assembly line.
It was noisy though and I found my singing voice with Beatles hits being repeatedly sung over and over to beat the boredom. You could earn a couple of thousand dollars over Xmas and that was good money for a young bloke.
Dad also got me jobs at the Brisbane Ekka as a glass boy where I collected beer glasses for the famous Sullivan Pub family, as they had the contract for the Royal Show.
I also worked in beer gardens collecting glasses, as a waiter at the Uni Med Balls at City Hall, Kirks soft drink factory at the end of Lang Parade near our house and at the races as a glass boy.
All my holidays as a teenager were working holidays and our much-loved holidays at Kirra finished in this period as we could not all go.
I loved working and never failed to impress employers with my work ethic. One Xmas at Kirks they worked me 12 hours a day for 4 weeks. If I wasn’t loading trucks with stock for the next day’s deliveries then I was digging holes for posts when they expanded the business.
My hands were covered in blisters and my face with pimples as the combination of dirty work and the many free soft drinks we were allowed each day meant that my face exploded with them. I began to realise the importance of watching my sugar intake and personal hygiene to stop the dreaded zits appearing.
Another Xmas working at XXXX after Year 12 meant that I could have my first beer (as alcohol was becoming part of my teenage world) but it was to cause some conflict for me over the years. There were a few shifts then when I staggered home, as the guys used to open a keg after hours and we would help ourselves as we worked, with the shift boss turning a blind eye as it was after normal hours.
My Dad opened up doors to an abundance of work for me and it never stopped. Throughout the years I worked two or three jobs at a time when studying, when working, when saving for a house and when getting back on my feet after the bankruptcy of ‘83.
I think at last count I have had forty jobs. Dad was always supportive of my jobs and he used to wake me up at the crack of dawn by hitting me with a wet washer in the face so I was well and truly awake. He would then cook me a steak for breakfast and push me out the door.
At High school during my teen years, we played inter-house football, talked all lunch hour about life, had some great times joking around and generally had a fantastic social life.
We looked for parties every Friday night and the older blokes eventually got cars so we started to travel from one party to the next, usually ending up at a café on Coronation Drive for a hamburger around midnight. Everything closed after that so we headed home.
The blokes stuck together and few of us had a girlfriend who could spoil the good times we were having while drinking numerous stubbies. Bill Fox and Maurie Hand came to our school in Year 11 and, as they were older, they were handy blokes to know because they had cars and therefore became everyone’s chauffeurs.
We would meet at Keith’s or Rob’s place and jump into the cars and drive off to some dance or Uni event. The Uni parties were good because they always had grog and the oldest looking guy would buy some for us.
One night I recall us all walking home after a Uni party, along Hawken Drive, St Lucia under the influence of too much alcohol and Rob walked straight into a lamp post. He hardly blinked as he stood up and started walking again without missing a beat.
There was always something to go to and we would end up back at Rob’s or Keith’s for a party in their room later in the night. Poor old Denis and Pat Blake bore the brunt of those drinking years and many were the times that we would be up at one in the morning drinking and singing to our favourite music.
They never complained until one night when one of the girls who was there dropped a carton of cream on their kitchen floor, while getting some more stubbies out of the fridge, and did not clean it up. They were upset somewhat when they discovered the mess the following morning and rightly so.
Those parties were never short of girls and grog and considering the legal drinking age to drink was still 21, you wonder how we did it, but the hotels were pretty slack at checking ID.
The police were never a problem also and I can only recall one night in Toowong Memorial Park when we were seating drinking stubbies in the car and they pulled up beside us and gave us a lecture about drinking under-age. They took the beer with them.
My dad was the reason why Lima Street never saw a party. Everyone was afraid of him so we stayed in the western suburbs and enjoyed relative freedom. He was a good man and he loved his family but he had no patience for the young.
We had a party or dance on Friday night, party on Saturday night, football on Sunday afternoon and, as the years went by, Trades Hall in the city on Sunday night or a footy club. It never stopped and we grew together as a group. A lot of alcohol was consumed in those days and yet interestingly none of us ever became alcoholics.
Music was the global focus of the young. We all loved it and had our favourites. Some were into heavy music like the Rolling Stones or Cream while others liked the more popular Beatles, or Australian groups like Groove, Twilights, Loved Ones and the Easybeats.
We also wanted to be pop stars and lots of the guys played guitar or drums. Around 1970 we formed a band made up of Keith on bass, Bruce Murray on drums, Kim Brown on lead, Dave Reid on rhythm guitar and myself as the singer.
My brother Pete mentioned to me last year, how proud he was to have seen me singing at the Toowong RSL one Friday night when we did a gig for the Uni Social Club. It was great fun but it was our one and only appearance. I regret that, as I would have liked to have made more of it.
It is amazing the influence your school friends have on your life in your teens and they are such an important part of your ‘evolution’ as such. However, I think that I left it very late to cut that cord from those days because, as late as my forties, I still yearned for those days and the friendships that had such an influence on my young mind. I wanted them to last forever and especially to stay close to my friends.
My teens around Lima Street were self-centred years and all the people I had known throughout my childhood were foreign to me by 1970. They could not work out why I wanted to wear my hair long, like a girl’s, and thought the whole music and psychedelic world was an effeminate thing.
Only Athol King, our gay neighbour, was interested as he thought I might be coming out, but I had to disappoint him there as I have no sexual interest in blokes.
All my old neighbourhood friends were not ‘cool’ in my eyes and my family were not on my planet in this new world so Rob’s world became my world until I finished Year 12.
The end of high school really changed my life, as I realised that I had let my parents and myself down. After gaining very average Year 10 or Junior results (as they were known), I had to ask my dad to send me back to school for Year 11.
He thought the apprentice printers job I applied for, and was accepted into, sounded reasonable especially after the Career Guidance Officer at school had suggested I would make a good garbo with the results I was achieving.
It wasn’t a complete disaster though, as with minimal work I had received one B and seven C’s for my Junior (one credit and 7 Passes in modern terms) and they were published in the Courier Mail for the world to see.
Everyone would get really nervous before the publishing date, but my slight disappointment this time was nothing compared to the shock I was to receive when my Senior (or Year 12) results were published.
My siblings had received many A’s for their Junior results so Dad was not sure if I was up to doing years 11 and 12 but, after some gentle persuasion on my part, he agreed that I should have the chance for an education that he did not have.
Over that two-year period, he bought me many books that he thought might help- American Science with Professor Julius Summer-Miller (of Cadbury chocolate fame in recent years) and American Math books that had no relevance to our system, but he was keen for me to do well.
In response and to my eternal regret, I had a great social time and I found myself as a person somewhat in those two years in Years 11 and 12 but in the end it was a disaster academically as I only passed one subject- History.
Rob and I had laughed and joked our way through those years and the results showed it. He did not do much better than I did, although he may have passed three subjects.
It was to be the turning point of our academic lives but it was time wasted as far as an education goes. It was to be another twenty years before he finished his degree at Uni and about the same time for me to finish with a Batchelor of Education, Diploma of Teaching and a Diploma of Professional Counselling.
We had to do it all at night and I suppose the disappointment of those years made us realise how important education is for your future. Most employers demand it today but we did not have a lot of love for it in the sixties as we did not equate it to jobs. Jobs were plentiful and we knew it.
Soon after Year 12 and as predicated I became a police cadet in the Qld Police Force. I had wanted to be a policeman for some time and I had been accepted into the Police Force before I finished Year 12, so maybe that is one of the reasons I did not study in my last year at high school.
At a recent school reunion that Keith and I organised (for 600 former students from 1954-1970), I was told by my old class mates that I had made it very clear at the time to my form teacher Mr Armstrong that I was happy to become a policeman and could see no use in studying but I do not recall making that point.
So after school it was off to the Police Force. The cadets trained in the mornings at the old police barracks on Petrie Terrace and at Lang Park Police Boys Club from Monday until Friday.
Some fellow cadets, like Wayne Bennett the Bronco’s coach, stayed in the barrack rooms over the weekend as they were country boys.
We were a very fit, tight group and trained in a regimented way under Sgt Tom Molloy who kept a close eye on us. He was a tough ex-army sergeant and proud Irishman who thrived in that type of environment and nobody ever disobeyed his orders. But we only trained physically for half the day and the rest of the time we learnt police skills.
I was placed with the CIB Photographic Section where after lunch each day where I was taught photography. Taking mug shots of crims at the watch house was fun for a young bloke. I was also aware of all the murders and deaths at the time, which were great stories for my friends to hear, as I developed the photos in the small dark rooms at the CIB.
It was there in 1968 that I saw photos of an old school chum, Martin Triebels, who had repeated Year 12 that year to get a better Uni entry result. He had some of his new Year 12 mates over for a weekend shoot on his Brookfield property and an accidental discharge of a rifle had meant that I was developing a photo of a face I knew.
I loved the sex shots and the murders, but this sight shook me to the bone. Martin’s father phoned me at work and wanted to blame the poor guy who discharged the weapon but it was an accident and I told him so.
This young man who was responsible for the shooting went on to have a nervous breakdown and I have no doubt spent his life reliving that moment. Parents spend a lifetime protecting their kids but sometimes you just cannot be there when common sense must prevail.
The Police Ball was the big event of the year and I asked Heather Addie (one of the Taringa café girls Rob and I use to talk to on the way home from school) to come with me. She looked a real treat that night but rejected my sexual advances as she had the hots for Rob.
He attended to with Sue Rattle and we all have a copy of a photo that was taken that night. Heather recently tracked me down through the School Friend’s web site and it was terrific to hear from her.
She sent me a copy of that photo with the four of us but accompanied it with the sad news that Sue had died of cancer a few years ago. Rob was genuinely upset to hear that. She was surprised to hear that we both had the photo still.
The other bit of news from this era was the fact that Al Higgs, the head of the Photographic Section, used to try to get me to go to his house to take photos. I was not interested although I did wonder why he wanted to take them.
I was a very naïve young man and I did not put two and two together until Athol King, the gay neighbour, spoke to me one day and asked me to say hello to his good friend Al at CIB headquarters. That would have been an interesting photo session!!
I was now certain that the Police Force was not the life for me and I was a very ordinary photographer anyway so I was looking for an out. There were large anti-Vietnam War demonstrations by 1968 as Australian youth were being conscripted to fight in that unpopular war.
I could not see why we should be involved in a civil war so I started to mix with anti-war protesters through a guy I had known from school, Martin Chance, even though I was a POLICE CADET.
Martin was heavily involved as an organiser of the demonstrations and was a supporter of Ho Chi Minn who was the leader of North Vietnam, thus, effectively making him Australia’s enemy. Martin was not popular with the Police Secret Branch who had files on all dissidents in those years and they had one on him and known associates.
It was a bad mixture and I was an idiot to be with them. At one demonstration at Queensland Uni I was with a large group of protesters shouting antiwar slogans when police arrived and confronted the group.
In the ensuing melee, I was dragged down an alley behind the Chemistry block and assaulted by two police officers from Taringa. One punch burst a blood vessel in my eye and when I turned up for work with it, my boss, Det. Sgt. Al Higgs, complained to the Inspector in Charge of CIB, Bob Simpson.
The policeman who hit me lost a stripe but I lost my ambition to be in the force and I promptly resigned. It was a weird time and I remember one demonstration when one of the policemen took off his cap and joined the protesters. Inspector Simpson told me he was disappointed I was leaving, so I guess I had, once again, accomplished the tasks asked of me with some success, but I was adamant that I was not police material especially during those turbulent times.
The then Premier of Qld, Joh Bjekle Petersen, was a hard man and many demos ended in violence as police attacked us. I was part of that anti– war movement and proudly so and my turn to be conscripted came at twenty. My birth-date marble was drawn from the barrel and I had finally been called up. I refused to go and was faced with a court case that meant a jail term if I lost.
Fortunately, it was 1971 and the war was going so badly that the majority of Australians had had enough. The magistrate listened to my story and declared me a pacifist, thus saving me a sentence. I am forever grateful to my Dad who stood in court and told them that, “He had not fought for our freedom in World War 2 to now have his son jailed for having a different opinion to the government”.
My brothers would have gone, he explained, but were not called up, so why should Brian go when he had no wish to. It was an eventful stage of my life but the Vietnam war was bad and we should not have been there. So now I will always be a ‘Conscientious Objector’ by law, although my life has not been all that peaceful since.
In the meantime, my brothers had done well with university entry results at Year 12 and I had embarrassed the family with mine. It is hard to explain why but I never found my academic feet at high school but being a year younger meant that I was constantly playing the fool all the time to be accepted by my peers.
My lack of maturity meant that I focused on an informal education with Rob and lapped up everything he told me but ignored a formal education much to the displeasure of my teachers and father.
I remember the two months before our Senior Exams, which were run as a statewide exercise and Rob and I skipped classes and sunbaked under our home block at school.
The teachers were only too glad we were not in the classroom. We didn’t give a damn though and had some of our happiest moments talking about life while our classmates sweated on exams.
I dominated Rob’s time so much in these years, whether after school at the café in Taringa or his place. I never arrived home from school until 5.30 and then I would ring him after dinner (or tea as we called it).
If I was not talking to him, it was one of his girlfriends, particularly Liz Gowdie, who was the school honey and she was Rob’s girl. She had long blonde hair, terrific figure and lovely personality. He was in love.
She would ring to find out what he was thinking, as Rob was the quiet shy type and I was his big-mouth friend and we would talk for two hours. Heather Addie was another who rang.
Bad Year 12 results when published meant that his mother’s prediction of me leading him astray became true but he was so easy-going that it did not worry him. He found work as a clerk with a company near the old Custom’s House building in Queen Street and started his working life without fanfare. His humility is one of his greatest assets.
Anyway, there I was at the end of 1968, my police career in tatters and nowhere to go. So it was back to the brewery and more singing to the tune of smashing stubby bottles.
By Xmas of that year, I was starting to realise that life without my Year 12 certificate was going to be difficult. Besides, I felt that I had a point to prove over my poor academic results so I talked my poor old Dad into letting me repeat Year 12 in 1969.
I would use the money from XXXX to buy the books and uniform if he would keep me. He agreed. The opportunities that man gave me were endless and we were good mates, but God I let him down in my opinion.
My return to Indooroopilly High was always going to be difficult. I had experienced the world and was a lot more confident with my approach to teachers and the now younger students.
All of a sudden there was interest from girls as the body had hardened a bit as a Police Cadet, with all the training we did in the mornings, and I no longer looked like a plum pudding.
Rob and I had discovered surfing after Year 12 and were now regular surfies with panel vans, so the hair had gone blond with the help of salt water, sunshine and Ajax. Yes Ajax, the cleaning product, was used as it had bleach. It’s a wonder we still have hair.
Surfies were cool. We were not aggressive and wore the brightest clothes. Pink, white, three tone shirts and t- shirts and had our surfboards with names like San Juan from Bryon Bay or Col Smith from the Gold Coast.
We would travel anywhere from Cabarita in NSW to Noosa for a surf. It was a cult thing so there were plenty of guys to talk to about surfing, an image to live up to and the music was special with the likes of the Beach Boys belting out the tunes.
You had a piece of board wax to rub on your board and longer shorts (which we tied to the board racks on top of the car to dry on the way home from the coast to Brissie).
Your hair was seldom combed and you would only go to places to socialise where other surfies congregated. They were magic years and we were never lonely with the surfie girls looking for partners. It was a lifestyle.
Cars have been a part of my life since turning 18 and getting a licence to drive. The first was a Austin A40 which was sold to me by one of the Police photographers, but Al Higgs made him take it back when he realised I had been sold a lemon. That car did a 360-degree turn one night in the wet on Moggill Road. How it didn't turn over I will never know because it was too heavy.
I needed transport for my new life as a surfie so in 1969 Rob and I decided to buy a car between us. It was a Hillman Imp, which brother Rod had checked out for us in the days when I thought he knew a few things about cars.
We found out soon after that it was not a good model for Hillman and it was always going to be expensive to run as parts had to be imported but we thought it was great at the time.
We actually took it surfing in the early days with huge boards sticking out each end. It only took one or two trips to the coast to realise we looked like dickheads in it. Soon after, Maurie Hand was driving through Kenmore and he wrote it off for us. I will always remember driving the remains of that car through the city on the way to the panel beaters. Half the car was gone, he had done a good job on it when he came over a rise on the wrong side of the road and collected another car.
Soon after I had a HK Holden panel van with curtains and board racks on top and I was a real surfie then or so it looked.
Anyway, back to school for Episode Two of educating Brian. As well as easily chatting up the girls in my comeback year, I got on very well with the teachers and they thought I would do well.
For the first few months all went swimmingly but I then started to party, which we all did well in those days.
We started to take time off school at lunch times to go to local houses and drink and listen to music with a few girls. As well as endless parties, I also meet Bruce Murray, Dave Reid, Kim Brown and Greg Ditchburn. All these guys were a year younger than me so I was at least confident about my age at last.
I got to know them through Kim Brown who was repeating Year 12 that year with me, as he had been living in Holland for the previous couple of years. They were great guys and we had many a party so Rob got to know them as well. Bruce in particular became very close to us and eventually travelled to Sydney with us.
I met Linda Clare Harper that year, as she was one of the high school good-lookers in 1969 so I chased her. Cosette Howarth was another and she chased me so things were looking up.
By the end of the first semester though I had lost my place at school and was expelled, but I had also lost my virginity, so that was a positive. After a night with Jenny Harper at Rob’s, it was Cosette Howarth and then others so I was really enjoying this life.
My results immediately suffered with the partying. I can remember one party at Rob’s, while he was at work I might add, and a few of us got really drunk. Ray Cole was hanging out of the car widow in the middle of Taringa being sick as I drove them back to their homes in the Hillman Imp. The parties got out of hand and it was a relief therefore when finally one lunch hour we partied and returned to school and were caught out.
I had sat through two classes drunk but the teachers had noticed my unusual antics and comments and the drug squad were called in as they thought I was on something heavier than alcohol. In return for my taking the blame for buying the alcohol, the Principal, John Sparkes, expressed his disappoint in me and decided to expel only four of us as alcohol was not seen as a hard drug.
So Episode Two of educating Brian was over. I saw John Sparkes again at the recent school reunion at Indooroopilly High in 2009 that I organised but I was still highly embarrassed by my behaviour and was unable to approach him . I am not sure why, probably embarrassment, but it just didn't seem worth raising the topic with him, as I am sure he would hardly remember it.
So my school days were definitely over now. Dad just looked at me, when I explained it to him what had happened after arriving home from school that day and he said my life was now my own. I knew what he meant but I was glad school was over as I found the expectation was too high for me to meet.
I was very disappointed in myself once again in fact so disappointed that I wanted to get out of Brisbane for a while so I applied to work in Mt Isa as a miner.
The company were so impressed with my results when I sat for their ability test that they offered me a scholarship to Uni if I finished Year 12 to study engineering. They said that I had an extremely high IQ but I have never had it tested since.
Maybe I just guessed the right answers but I did find it easy. University seemed beyond me after failing Year 12 and after my poor academic record in the past, I did not take up the offer but I did go to Mt Isa. I wonder what could have been if I had applied myself more when given that opportunity.
My time in the mining town was short lived as I managed a severe case of conjunctivitis from all the dust around when drilling. I was a Contract Driller and we were required to go a couple of miles down the shaft each day with our mining hats on with the lamp in front.
You were taught how to use the drilling equipment and place explosives in the holes you drilled. At the end of each shift the mine would shake with the explosives going off and the next day you would be back drilling.
You were supposed to clear out the holes with water for any explosives left over but we were paid by the metres drilled each day, so some guys would start drilling without clearing the holes and when the drill hit the explosives- bang! A few guys lost their lives that way.
I sort of enjoyed myself in the single men’s barracks at Star Gully. We could go to the movies at the drive-in or the Barkly Hotel and there were women, but mostly aborigines or ‘gins’, as they were known. Some blokes would bring them in after dark and have them out before dawn. I never bothered as it seemed unethical as it wasn't even prostitution, they were just being used and I am not a user.
One funny episode in Mt Isa included Charlie Stefan who was Linda Clare’s boyfriend after me. She broke it off with him and as fate has it he ended up in Mt Isa as a miner. I had to talk him out of suicide one morning over breakfast. He took a packet of headache pills to do himself in and when he told me, I gave him my usual lack of understanding at the time by suggesting he would have been better to have thrown himself down the mine shaft as it would be quicker.
This was by the way a long time before I became aware of people skills of course, but I couldn’t stand wimps then and my people skills were few and far between.
Anyway, my eyes were a real infected mess so I was shipped back to the capital by the medical staff for specialist attention, much to my relief.
The job was interesting enough in that I was a contract miner earning good money, but I really missed my friends and a social life so I said goodbye to mining for the while (I was to return to it years later).
On return from Mt Isa, I then moved into a flat on Moggill Rd around the corner from Rob’s place at Frederick Street Taringa, so the good times kept rolling and we partied on again. I had plenty of money from the mining stint and we spent it quickly.
It was now 1970 and I started to feel like I needed a bit more security in my life at nineteen as I was not entirely happy with this lifestyle. I still had a strong sense of destiny and being put here for a purpose but not sure which way to go.
Educating Brian Part Three therefore continued with night school at Kelvin Grove, where I studied two subjects per semester at night after work and realised it only took four subjects to graduate as an a mature age graduate. I had been admitted to the Commonwealth Public Service that year as a Clerical Assistant Grade 4.
I had picked the Public Service as it was a secure job but mainly because my brother Rod had a job in Tax and Keith Blake was at the Postmaster General’s Department. Both of them loved their work places at the time, and their social life was top of the range.
Ironically, both were to be badly let down in later years though when after 70 years of combined service, they were forced out of their jobs. They both felt disappointed and let down by their managers when it happened which seems to me to be a very uncaring way to treat loyal workers.
I was placed in the War Service Homes section for returned servicemen at first. They would take loans to build houses and pay them back through our department. I too then realised how much fun you could have in the public service with great friends and good times after work. The focus was on celebrating anything we could at the Victory pub which was right next door.
Keith Blake had been one of the few guys who really knuckled down at High School in 1967 and graduated with good results. He entered the Public Service but I did not see a lot of him after school for a while as he had great mates in the Postmaster General’s Department and they did everything together (as you do in the Public Service) and he enjoyed their company.
He partied with them, played football with them and he lived a very contented lifestyle there. My new work environment offered the same and I knew Rod had the same lifestyle at Taxation with his footie and socials so I looked forward to my new job.
Rob Venus was still a clerk and him and I were still always at the coast on weekends surfing. It was our recreational life at that stage. He had lost Liz Gowdie as a girlfriend in the previous year when he went to a party and found her in the bedroom with another guy.
She married the same bloke a few years later and her bank manager father was happy at last that she had hooked a chemist and not a surfie. Poor Rob was shook up about it for ages as he really loved her.
But life went on and our week consisted of work Monday to Friday, a dance or party Friday night and then off to the coast where we would sleep in our cars and wait for the sun to rise.
Then surf all day Saturday until four and then off to the Blue Dolphin Hotel on the Tweed for drinks and dancing until 11. Back to the beach for more sleep and up at the crack of dawn for more surfing.
We would return home Sunday arvo and maybe to Trades Hall for a dance Sunday night. Every dance and every party meant a different girl
Life was always exciting and during one of our earlier trips to the beach, (before surfing days), with Charlie Walker from our Year 12 at school, Charlie collapsed on the beach and turned blue. He lost his vital functions as well but my resuscitation training at police cadets came in handy and I saved a good mate. He was grateful and I was ‘stoked’ as we said then.
During winter it was too cold to surf so we would watch football on Saturday and Sunday at Lang Park and go to dances at Kenmore, Indooroopilly or Taringa, wherever they were being held.
We were a close bunch and knew each other’s families and were always welcome wherever we went. In hindsight it was only a snippet of our life but it felt like a lifetime in the things we did, the skills we learnt, the closeness of our mateship and the absolute unbelievable fun we had.
We always had something to do, someone to talk to, win on to, or listen to. We moved into all sorts of accommodation and back home in between.
Rob and I decided to take a surfing trip in 1971 to Bells Beach in Victoria, which by surf legend had the biggest waves in the world. We used our holidays and drove down the NSW coast in my panel van from beach to beach. Byron Bay, Angourie Point, Evans Head, Crescent Head outside Kempsey, Newcastle and Sydney where we stayed with Rob’s brother Jim.
We would cook our meals on a little gas burner and sleep in the back of the panel van, telling jokes until sleep claimed us.
After Sydney we went south to Wollongong but we ran out of time and had to head back to Queensland. We met a couple of runaway girls from Qld in Sydney and after only three weeks they already had jobs in a nite-club at 16. Sydney sure was different and these girls showed us a good time with Rob in action in the back of the van and me on the front seat. Boy, life was good.
Just as it seemed that life was improving in 1971 and we were living this incredible lifestyle, the guys then decided we needed to move to Sydney to have more fun. So we all quit our jobs and off we went in ‘safari’ down the coast, surfing all the way. Leaving work was sad as I had made some genuine friends in the Public Service.
One of them was Arch McDonald, who later became an Inspector of Police on the Gold Coast, and he helped me re-enter the force in 1995. He used to have me over to his place for dinner with his lovely wife Judy but we were more only work-mates and had very little in common. Our job was taking files around on a cart and giving them to the Third Division officers, who had passed Year 12 exams so had more demanding roles.
It was so boring in the Fourth Division that Arch and I would go to the pub at lunch often and sure enough there we would stay. On our return around 3, we would be paraded in front of the Executive Officer, Mr Thompson, so he could give us a stern warning then we would do it again the very next week. We both knew we were better than this job.
My mates parents were also sorry to see us leave for Sydney as we had been living in each other’s lives for years. Bruce’s mum called Rob, Bruce and I the ‘three musketeers’ and I have a beaut photo of us celebrating his 20th birthday in Sydney that will always remain one of my favourites.
Anyway, leave we did and one Sunday that year, Arch and Jude bid me farewell at the Blue Dolphin Hotel on the Tweed and we were off. I was taken that they would make the journey down from Brisbane to do so.
After the long journey down and heaps of surfing, we quickly found a flat on Bondi Road opposite the Bondi Royal Hotel where we set up house.
We all got jobs without a problem which is how it was in those days. I worked with Grace Bros Removals as a clerk taking calls from homeowners and arranging quotes. It was a good job and the Pommy boss at the time was very professional and helpful. Rob worked for a Chinese Importer from memory, and Bruce was still with the Tax office as he got a transfer from Brisbane.
The flat was ideally placed as we were upstairs over a shop and we were able to sit on the awning over the footpath drinking stubbies and watching Sydney go by most nights up and down Bondi Road.
The pub had a rock band a few nights a week and we partied hard. Sherbet was one of the groups that played there. Surfing down the road at Bondi Beach was great but we travelled to the northern beaches mainly.
Bruce arranged our social life around his work because the Public Service was no different in Sydney to Brisbane, just more people to party with. So we drove all over Sydney for parties, even to Parramatta for a party once which took us almost 2 hours to get there.
Life was good in Sydney and we would sit and talk and listen to music. There was lots of laughter and we all got on very well and we even experimented a bit in drugs.
I am not really proud of this one but we were ignorant of the real harm of drugs at the time because it was all so new and we thought we were bullet proof. The reader should not forget that the world of drugs in the 50’s and 60’s was mainly opium smokers in the Asian countries so there was no drug education.
It was only in the late sixties that rumours of pop groups taking drugs filtered through and teenagers started to take notice. Bruce got hold of some speed or LSD as it was known and we took a tab before we went to the Sydney Show that Easter.
We had tried some drugs previously and smoked lots of pot, as you did in those days, under the influence of music and the changing world image. I ate a drug mushroom once which was the first time I had felt a total loss of control and I was not impressed, but I had tried nothing like speed before.
The speed trip was another issue all together and Bruce, Rob, Kim and myself, really were not prepared for the outcome. How I got through the day I will never know but I could not speak to the attendant at the gate as I paid my way in to the Royal Easter Show, wandered around in a daze and when I spoke it was all in slow motion. I hated it. I felt frightened, vulnerable, lonely and panicky.
It suddenly dawned on me that I had always wanted to be in control of my body and my thinking so that was to be the last time I took drugs. I got out of those grounds as quickly as I could and walked miles home by myself. I was again confused and disappointed in myself as drugs were not something our family was into and I felt I knew better than to take them.
Thankfully, soon after, we went to a party at Coogee one Friday night and for some reason I got into a fight. In the resulting melee, I hit the cement and cracked my head open above the eye. Kim held my hand as the ambulance took me to the Eastern Suburbs hospital for tests.
Much to my surprise the radiographer on duty turned out to be Roy Barrett, who lived in the corner house in Lima Street before Ted Shepherd did and he was a good friend at the time. He left in 1961 with his family for Sydney and choose this as a profession after finishing school.
I had had a bit too much to drink and didn't talk much but through dazed eyes and slurry speech I bid him farewell for his assistance as the x-rays had shown no real damage.
I cannot believe how people can re-enter your life at different stages and in different roles. Twelve stitches later and a head bandage and I was back at the flat, much to the amusement of the guys.
Keith Blake came to visit us that week as he wanted to marry Sally, his 17-year-old girlfriend, but he had to ask her parents’ permission first and they lived in Sydney so here he was.
Sally had run away from home at 16 and travelled to Brisbane where she found work in the Grosvenor Hotel, which was Keith’s favourite pub. He would often go in there and stare at her but one afternoon he finally asked her out and the rest, as they say, is history.
Keith and Sally did marry in Brisbane soon after and 43 years and three children later he is still with her in 2014. It made us realise that the guys were breaking up as a group and getting older. It just made you feel more responsible with marriage entering our lives.
Poor Sally washed ten loads of clothes for us that day while we had a buck’s party at the Bondi Royal. Nice touch from her we thought and we were very grateful.
I left Sydney soon after the fight and this was definitely a turning point in my life. I was sore and sorry and very disillusioned with my lifestyle. Through adversity I had discovered who I didn't want to be and how I did not want to live so this was the close of my teenage years and of this chapter of my life.
It was an excellent learning period where peers, parents and events had molded a more steady young man who was now prepared to challenge the world. I had broken out of the cocoon of Lima Street and the hopelessness of sharing a house with mates and was ready for another stage of my life.