Hey, Hung here, Look my last early days story was about playing cricket in the back yard at mums. This is about a mate or two I made after that. For the record most of this is true, some is pure bullshit and some is artistic licence. All the names have been changed to protect the infertile or what ever.
It was my job to go to the Halfway shop for Mum whenever she ran out of anything. I mean this was 1968 and as consumers we wanted goods, well that’s what Ma would say. Anyhoo, I’d go to the Halfway shop for Ma and Pa whenever they wanted things like sugar, butter, cigarettes, blow up dollies well you know, the Halfway shop had one of everything.
One day Mum sent to he shop about four times. The kid who lived next door to the Halfway said “Hey mate, you got the runs or what”. Well I didn’t know what he meant but he was playing cricket by himself by throwing the ball against a wall and then hitting it with the bat.
“No mate” I said “Just getting stuff for Ma for our tea” I replied.
“Well, wanna a game of cricket? “ said this kid “Tomorrow down the park? Nine o’clock”
So it happened. The next morning , me and this kid turned up at the local park for a game of cricket.
I said “ Mate, before we start, I’m from the country, my dad was born overseas and worst of all I’m catholic”
“ No worries mate. I’m from Thirroul” Instantly we were mates.
I said “My names Hung” I spurted. He said in reply “ Brownie”
I enquired “What’s your first name?”
“Don’t worry about it Hung, no one ever refers to me by it so just call me Brownie”
The Halfway shop was owned by Mr and Mrs Drew or as we eventually got to know them George and Mildred. They were wonderful people and came from London. George was ex Royal Navy and was doing well until the Germans decided to blow the shit out of his boat. Many died but George survived but with many injuries and much later he and Mildred emigrated to Australia. They landed in this hell hole called Sydney. One day, on a drive, they found Austinmer and a shop for sale and they brought it.
George and Mildred were fantastic and really looked after me and Brownie. We would stack shelves and fridges for them for a few bob. Mildred had a full time job and George’s injuries prevented him from doing lots of physical stuff so me and Brownie did it for him. Mildred always finished early and when she got home George would take the dog for a walk past the Headlands Hotel and well, being thirsty would drop in for a couple of beers and then bring a few home as you do.
One day Brownie said “C’mon Hung lets smoke, men smoke, George smokes, lets smoke”. So one day after getting our wages from George, me and Brownie decided to go and get some smokes. We caught the bus to Thirroul, over Kennedy’s Hill on a Dion’s bus from Moore Street for 2 cents. The corner shop sold packet’s of Viscount 10’s for our “Dad’s” for 15 cents. We had two bob each so we was rich.
We walked down McCauley Street. Brownie pointed out a house called “Wyewurk”
“Famous house is that Hung” said Brownie “Some pommy poofter lived there”
“What’s a poofter Brownie?” I asked innocently
Brownie stared to turn red, breathing hard and making a grunting sound. Now Brownie was big, mean looking and about three times my size. Kids would cross the road rather than deal with Brownie however the whole time I knew him he did not hurt a soul.
“I don’t know what a bloody poofter is Hung but don’t say anything to your Ma and Pa because when I did I had the crap belted out of me so it must be bad, I just heard one of the big boys say it”
We walked in silence down Bath Street and dropped into the public baths at Thirroul. The Sydneysiders that were too scared to swim in the ocean swam here. We just watched them for a while from outside the fence.
Me and Brownie then went to the northern end of Thirroul beach, out of the wind, to light up our smokes. We didn’t inhale as it made us sick but we were men and men smoked. This bloke came along the shore. He had a sack and would forage around the rocks for squid and shell fish.
“Hey Hung” said Brownie “Here comes the old dagoe” Brownie smirked.
“Hey boys” said the old dagoe “ Smoking ain’t no good for you young fellas” he said
I felt guilty as. This fella had been going up and down the coast for years, hardly speaking to anyone. “Hey mate, what’s your name? “ I called.
“George, mate” he replied. From then on we always sung out hey George and he would reply hey boys. Me and Brownie had long given up smoking when one day George said “Boys, come up and see my house”. We followed George up a goat track to this beautiful house, painted blue and white, overlooking the ocean. We met Mrs George, Effie, who gave us soft drink she made from lemons and pastry with honey and nuts. It was all good.
“You boys better get going to beat the tide” George said “And come up any time you want”
“Thanks George, we will” I replied as me and Brownie headed down the goat track back to the beach.
Each weekend after that me and Brownie would head to George and Effie’s house after buying a few things in the main street of Thirroul usually toy cars that we both decided to collect. One day when we got to George’s house something was different. The house was locked up and all the furniture was gone from the house. A note was taped to the door,
“Boys, George has passed away and I have moved to Marrickville to live with my family. Thanks for you infectious company and I love you both, Effie”
We walked home in total silence. This time we went via the highway over Kennedy’s Hill past Austinmer beach. As we got to the Halfway shop Brownie turned and said “Hung, there is something I have to tell you” Brownie said in a deep tone and a sad face “ I’m moving to Bulli”.
Well I never saw Brownie again and George and Effie gone this life thingy was a funny game.
The following week school holidays started. I went down to the Halfway shop and stacked some shelves, replenished the fridges and put out the papers. Mr Drew went to give me some money but I asked for a pie and a drink instead. The shop had a table and chairs at the front and I went and sat down to eat my pie when this strange kid came in the shop. He got a pie and drink and came and sat next to me.
“You from around here?” he asked.
“Yeah mate just up the road” I nodded in the direction of where I lived.
“Just moved in mate, the names Jono, do you like cricket?”
Here’s some interesting links if you get insomnia and want a quick cure.
First published: http://hungsworld.wordpress.com/2014/04/08/me-and-brownie/