The Big Issue : Edition 457
THEBIGISSUE2–8MAY2014 21 The only ‘mod con’ we had in Doreen was the phone. There was no mains water, no sewerage, no radio, no electricity, no gas and no refrigeration apart from a little kerosene fridge. We boys slept in a sleep-out, between the house and the storeroom. We froze in winter; cooked in summer. We learned to conserve everything, including water, candles, wood and food. We had one candle per person per week. Each candle was marked with seven little nicks. It was our problem if we overused a candle during the week. Another one wouldn’t be available until the next Sunday. Water was the biggest concern. We were totally reliant on tank water. Bath night, usually Sunday, was a test for both the youngest and oldest children. The process started with Rodney having one kettle of hot water and one kettle of cold. As each older kid got in, one additional kettle of hot water was added. Alan got a three-kettle bath; I had a four-kettle bath; Claudia, the pet, had the luxury of a five-kettle bath. She, however, followed three dirty boys, any of whom may have piddled in the bath. Especially during summer, Dad would walk around the water tanks tapping them to see how much water was left, and adding a bit of kerosene to the top to kill the ‘wrigglers’. We were self-reliant for eggs and poultry. As my job was to catch, kill and pluck the weekly roast chicken, I developed a foolproof technique that ensured the chook died happy. I spread some wheat over the far side of the chopping-block. As soon as the selected chook saw the wheat, it would stick out its head for a feed. Whacko! Head off. We always had a plentiful supply of fresh eggs, but it was a real chore feeding the chooks and cleaning the hen-houses. Dad had two encyclopedias and a pair of almanacs. It was a regular event for the entire family to sit around the table as Dad opened one of these books and read out some fact or another. Then he’d encourage discussion or debate. It was in Doreen that we were introduced to corporal punishment. Myrtle owned a whip, the type of whip used by cattle people to move cattle down a narrow race. The whip was solid hide and tapered: wide at the end, narrow at the tip. It was much more effective at inflicting pain than a fly swat, a strip of razor strop or even the piece of dowel that was also part of Myrtle’s arsenal. And she had no compunction about using it for what often seemed like minor infractions. One day at school, some wounds on my back, caused by the whip, had festered. The scabs became visible. I was sent home from school with a note! Yet the whippings continued, although now I was swabbed with Dettol. Then came the day when, with what must have been incredible courage, I found the whip, took it out to the chopping block and then threw the bits into the dam behind the house. Myrtle never found out what happened to her ‘lost’ whip. This left her with only the fly swat or piece of dowel. This was progress, of a sort. So, too, our move, in about 1949 or 1950, to Ararat in the Western District. Where there was water, electricity and sewerage. » Geoff Gaskell, now retired, lives in Rochester, in rural Victoria, where (among other things) he is treasurer of the bowls club and a contributor to the local paper. THIS PAGE THE AUTHOR’S BROTHER, ALAN, AND SISTER, CLAUDIA, REVISIT THEIR OLD SCHOOL OPPOSITE THE GENERAL STORE – ONCE THE GASKELLS’ HOME "On Friday afternoons the entire school would embark on a walk through the rolling countryside, farming land on all sides, to shootrabbits. All students were required to take their lunch each day and have a drink with them. "