The Sociology of A Place To Call Home Part 15
Still on the beach with the beach community…
A southern based bikie gang arrived one week-end and endeared themselves that they respectfully asked what could they do to help the community. To suggestion they help pick up weekend townies’ litter that otherwise would discredit the campers, they as respectfully patrolled litterers.
The female partner of the couple whose army disposals tent was meeting place was a
specialist nurse. She achieved a senior position at a very young age. She and I strolled along the beach and shared why we had left our professional positions and training. Her decision too she arrived at on grounds of protest and concern about the status of her profession and working conditions.
The economy of the local store at the curve of the road onto the beach boomed. The dramatic influx of domestic and international travellers brought new influences to bear on local food supply. Wholemeal and grain bread was near unheard of. My German friend I had campaigned with to alert the business world to the travesty of the seizing of the painting and the subsequent court case asked in a stentorian voice in a busy Cairns City central bakery to buy a loaf of bread. Once served, he stepped back from the counter, pushed the loaf down to its smallest possible size with two hands, rolled it into a ball he stuffed into a pocket of his khaki trousers, uttered the historic guttural statement, “It’s rubbish” and walked out. Not something I would think to do, but there again I was not yearning for a stout heavy grain loaf of bread and a beer garden.
“We are going to the pub”, R. announced one day when my partner obliged him we would be transport and helping hands on one of our friend’s wheel-dealer runs. We had arrived at a location on the Atherton Tableland. “No,” he announced firmly when we arrived. My partner and I had started towards the lounge.
On his insistence we were there to exercise it transpired the right legally awarded women in that year (1970) to drink in a hotel bar, the three of us walked in the street entrance of the pub’s front bar.
I was short of 21. The legal age was not dropped to 18 until 1974. None of us gave it a thought. My age was not challenged. I might have been however the first femme in the bar. The entire attention of the patrons was rivetted on us. The silence was
audible. Served, the three of us awkwardly sat on the bar stools available to sit one next to the other. We sipped on our beers. R. said abruptly, “Come on. I can’t stand it.” His voice was so replete with quiet determination to leave, my partner and I stood and followed him as he walked out. We were all glad to exit. We left three beers unfinished on the bar counter top.
Yet R. favoured the look of an Australian worker in khaki work shirt and trousers and work boots. His headwear was always a battered Australian bushman’s felt hat. Nothing to see there. Perhaps my partner’s abundance of over the shoulder curls was not so usual in a country pub in 1970.
The diversity of stories shared grew in kind. The community’s members and local residents were swept up in experience that evolved out of their neighbourly relationships, become actors in real life dramas as moving as any we find where humans group; great love was seen to be found, love triangles were absorbed, trysts negotiated, international intelligence agency (not too intelligent) revealed, a history of individuals who shed their anxieties, abandoned their worldly goods, collected new accoutrements. The red double decker London bus conversion that was a mobile home and mechanics workshop double parked.
The stories of the double decker bus and our new friend’s varied fortunes are legend. News was an ice cream shop was opening in Cairns. The double decker was driven to town for the clamouring purchase of different flavours of icecream in cones for a busload.
A report in the local newspaper, The Cairns Post, cited the bus driver who picked up schoolchildren in the morning as noting ‘they’ were all still in the same place when he returned in the afternoon. ‘They’ hadn’t moved from where ‘they’ waited for mangos or coconuts to fall into their hands to feed ‘them’. Other reports fabricated or interpreted people smoking roll-your-own tobacco were smoking drugs. I recall someone’s voice enquiring ‘What’s marijuana?’
We read standing in a group, craning our necks to see the one newspaper, that we were hippies.
I remained alcohol and drug free with exception I once experimented in the period, on my request supervised and ingested a small number, perhaps three, of the psychadelic mushroom, ‘the blue meanie’. I lay on my back in the grass of the back yard and my neighbour looked over the fence and laughed as I laughed. I found a fascination in the shapes of clouds that seemed to speed from one composition to the next. In the cottage bedroom blemishes in old paint on the walls assumed crocodile-like skin patterns that made me laugh for the absurdity. I lay on the floor to look at the ceiling. I was entirely engaged in the moment and realised I was lying on the floor gurgling in delight. My only further memory of it is that I sobered. The interesting thought occurred to me I had regressed. I do further believe that regardless happy chance I stumbled on recall of the baby within.
Such an outcome would not be everybody’s experience or mind construct. As result of
observation and over the course of my life hearing of the experience of others my viewpoint is the ingestion of psychadelic mushrooms or any other common hallucinogenic is potentially dangerous.
If I was not habitually sober and drug free I would not have enjoyed the ease and depth of of relationship I did with the key members of the community who were as well habitually sober. Discussion increasingly turned to how and where to buy land.
Someone’s idea to buy a block of land as a collective we would manage as a camping ground appealed to the group. We would provide harbour to anybody in immediate need of safety from persecution.
Our land scouts brought back stories of being apprehended by police personnel and harrassment. One real estate office telephoned the police and when the two men emerged from the office after making their enquiries they found the street barricaded at both ends by police cars. They were arrested on suggestion of vagrancy and spent the night in jail. In the pocket of one was a list of all the names of the people keen to contribute money, thought to be their list customers and they drug dealers. We, instead, early identified key identities in the real estate industry we thought suspect of collusion with authorities, of rigging land values, and bidding up land auctions.
Meanwhile, the observation thought newsprint worthy that the “hippies” when the bus driver drove past were always in the same place hoping for coconuts and mangoes to
fall into their hands held the smallest grain of truth.
The couple who had established the army disposals tent as living space … that the surround of became a gathering place … were establishing a screen print design clothing business. The bus driver’s return journey coincided with afternoon tea.
A resident supplied the assistance of his premises for manging the screens and printing. Among the women of the community were experienced industrial machinists. Bikinis were stock-in-trade. Men’s and women’s shirts and women’s dresses were added. I enquired of interest in a line of children’s clothing. I drafted small girls’ sundresses and supplied the front panel for printing with a design I was asked to first approve or reject. The printed panel was returned to me for assembly.
An order came in from a local flag shop. I sewed small marine flags when they were printed.
Another of the community adept with a movie camera assembled a technical team and a movie was made intended for commercial promotion.
to be continued…
Christina Binning Wilson