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Margaret Edwards

THE MEMOIRS OF KINGSLEY SHOUMACK,
A FREE SPIRITED KID GROWING UP IN LARGS BAY.

I was raised by my paternal grandmother and her second husband Herb Barrett and we lived at 7 Alfred St., Largs Bay from the time I was 3 months old in March 1943 until December 1957. Surrounded by uncles and aunts during those earlier years was wonderful and learning from my grandma of her brothers and sisters back in England. My Welsh Grandfather lived in Pontycymmer, where he worked at the Ffaldau colliery. Life was a struggle for them and they returned to Bartley Green, south of Birmingham. The death of my grandfather in an industrial accident in 1924 was a reason Grandmother and her brood migrated to Adelaide in 1925.

Growing up in Largs Bay during the mid-1940's to late 1950's was one of pure freedom for a kid where time was not measured in hours or minutes, but simply as day and night. In the late afternoon, it was time to be heading home. If one became hungry through the day, there was always some form of fruit hanging over or through the fences just waiting to be picked and eaten.

Towards the northern end of Alfred St between Walton and Wills Streets, in my early youth, water would accumulate after rain and a lake form that would be quite deep and it was just a haven to float homemade wooden boats cut from a fence paling or some thin piece of wood with a stick for a mast and the obligatory paper or cardboard sail.

After a while, these puddles became the breeding ground for thousands of tadpoles, which just had to be captured and taken home in an old tin or pickle jar - much to the disgust of grandma.

This location later became the building sites for our new migrant friends which included Italians, Russians, Germans and Greeks, and it didn't take too long to make friends with the new kids on the block.

Every day was set to become a new adventure with things to explore, hills to climb and slide down (courtesy of the cement company) and tear the backside out of ones shorts, holding up to ransom the drivers of the RX steam engines shunting various wagons along the tracks near Elder Road even if it was for just a ride on the footplate.

Between the Birkenhead Bridge and the then power station further downstream, there were all the little beaches to discover, hidden treasures to be found, crabs to find hidden under rocks, little dinghies pulled up on the beaches to refloat with bits of timber to use as oars when paddling about in a wild and untamed Port River.

The Vacuum Oil company jetty was always good for a spot of fishing until boredom set in and then it was time to wonder off along to Snowden's Beach to see what could be further discovered.

Arriving home at the end of any unfolded adventure usually with some form of cuts or bruises, covered in coal dust, mud or being wringing wet from swimming off one of the little beaches, was followed by the obligatory tongue lashing or several whacks with a belt. Not that it helped me, as I did exactly the same at the next opportunity.

Be it the pipe laying in the new Taperoo housing estate, roadwork activities, everything was made to be climbed over or in just waiting to be discovered. Even the new roadworks and tar laying in Hargrave St was no exception, especially when the coal fired steam roller was parked on the edge of the road one weekend near the Walton's household. It was fair game. We could climb on it and there were parts which could turn, and we did just that every which way we could. And I know some of the coal finished up in our wood basket. No session with a belt that day even though I was black with coal dust. Then of course there were the neighborhood ladies to annoy because they were too snobby nosed to allow their precious little darlings (who shall remain nameless) to associate with my feral activities around the neighbourhood. Hence the name given to me by one toffy nosed old git as a "street urchin". I know I had at least 1 or 2 cohorts on these adventures, but for the life of me, at the moment I can't recall who they were. I must be having a little "senior's moment".

All these wonderful daily activities had to be curtailed to weekends, because school started to get in the way.

I first attended the Port Adelaide Primary School for at least 3 years. I remember my reading teacher Mrs. Longford. She instilled in me my love for books and my joy of reading. For whatever reason, I was enrolled at the LeFevre Primary for at least 12 to 18 months probably during 1952-53. Sending me to that school was a true disaster. I absolutely despised it as it appeared to me to be highly "feral unfriendly", so much so, I finished wagging school more often than I attended. To me, the school was so bad, even to this day I have no recollection of the teacher or the classes I may have been in.

My grandfather would take me to school on his motorbike, and for some reason I always seemed to arrive back home before he did. Out came the belt or the cane again on a very frequent basis I might add. And believe me, my grandfather was so good at using the cane and I noticed later on, he would have made Spud Murphy look like a pure novice.

My grandma and I were frequently visited by the school inspectors resulting in me being threatened to be sent to the reform school. This didn't help either as I dug in my heels just that little bit deeper. This had to be the reason I was enrolled at the LBPS for the 1955 school year.

My teacher in grade 5 was Mr. Spud Murphy. He would grab a smoke at every opportunity, claimed he could spot us being up to no good when his back was turned writing on the blackboard and it was quite common for the chalk duster to be aimed at some one. Me, now being a "little goody two shoes" was down in the front row just out of reach of the cane on his desk. However, I did not escape too many times with missing out on the cuts through "normal" behavior.

Still having a touch of rebellion in me, even to this day, I have no idea how I passed my exams and progressed into grade 6 with Mr. Len Gardener. Without doubt, to this day, it is my strong belief that Mr. Gardner instilled in me, the purpose of school and education and learning and from that point on I cannot recall having a day off due to wagging. I thoroughly enjoyed every day I had at school with Mr. Gardner where he would teach us in the simplest of terms that we could all understand quite clearly. Seemingly as a bonus, from time to time, he would play his Sax for us. Then he would take us to the oval for some form of sports activities.

To me, he was a true educator of the highest order.

Then in 1957, most of us from grade 6, progressed into grade 7 with Mr. Sam Catford. A new teacher, a new classroom in the big building, new subjects, new schoolbooks! After most of us settled in and sitting in the double desks with whom we chose. Any new fears and apprehension just disappeared. Mr. Catford encouraged my interest of History and Geography and opened up my eyes to new countries and possible new adventures and of countries of the British Empire in particular.

During my school years at LBPS, there was segregation between the girls and the boy section, with a white line drawn down the middle of the yard. It was not to be crossed for any reason!

During assembly one morning, for whatever reason, I fainted and keeled over hitting the ground face first along with spending an hour or so in the "medical room". That was good for a few sympathy votes throughout the day. As for the school band, I was self-taught on the fife and got to prance up and down the school yard a bit and I got to play the bass drum briefly, but do you think they would let me play the side drum? Not on your life! I presently can't recall who was in charge of that drum and fife band. Then there were the days of either being the milk or ink well monitor. I much preferred being the former as we could have extra milk. Not in the summer time of course.

I do have some recollection of the kids in grade 6 and 7. Kingsley Plows and I sat together in grade 7 so as to confuse Mr. Catford a little. Kingsley lived on Fletcher road, somewhere between our school and Clausen's boat builders.

Then there was, Malcolm Riddell who lived in Levi Street. Others include Charlie Leckie, Lin Bloffwitch, Barry (Unknown), (Unknown) Goodson, son of the teacher Ms. Goodson who later became Mrs. Smith, Russell Naismith, Peter McLennan, Russell Ebert [I think] and Allan (Unknown) who lived on Military Rd at the last house near the railway line near the Largs Bay Station.

With a large number of kids in grade 7 I'm sure there's many more I knew, but as I don't have a photo of grade 7, it's a little hard to recall many of the boys.

Being raised at 7 Alfred St, meant there were kids about my age or a year or two older than me nearby. In our street opposite was Jimmy Dunstan who I suspect was my running mate on many expeditions.

Next door to us was the Beer Family. Their 2 kids were Barbara and Johnny Beer. Next to them was the Curtis Family and the 2 girls were Beverly and Glenda.

Around the corner in Levi St, was Harold McDonald, a Port Adelaide football "super star" who would always be around to kick the ball with us when a game of street footy evolved. Over from him was the Riddell Family with the 2 kids Malcolm from my class and his elder brother John. Next to them the Rose Family and their son Trevor whom I seem to recall went to LeFevre School.

In Hargrave St, there was the Chambers Family with Graham with his elder brother John. Graham and I played tennis at the then tennis court at the Methodist Hall further up Hargrave St over Fletcher Rd.

Then there was The Walton Family who lived nearly opposite the Chambers. At this time I can't remember how many boys lived there other than Ray. A little further along Hargrave St was Ian Radford. I think he was a classmate also.

One should not forget Bill Marston (although I had, and he reminded me after a recent phone conversation) who lived just around the corner on Victoria Rd. I'm sure that he can also recall the top part of the building over the kiln at the cement works blowing out and causing quite a stir in the neighbourhood, as did the train and bus smash in 1954 near the Draper Station.

I think it may have been Mr. Dansie who told our classes not to go near the Draper Station on the way home from school. In short, my time at LBPS was unforgettable. I've remembered through the years, the great teachers I had as well as Mrs. Adams and Mr. Lister (who scared the hell out of me).

Because of family circumstances, I left school at the end of the 1957 school year. I turned 14 in the following January and went to work straight away. Without any doubt what so ever, it was my time at LBPS, and the perseverance of Mr. Gardner and Mr. Catford who both in their own way, instilled in me the importance of learning (or lifelong education as it was later called) and the joys of keeping an open mind to the world around us. Both of which helped me endlessly during the 54 years of my working career.

Kingsley Shoumack.
CEO of Retirement Management, Energy & Activities.
Caloundra, Qld.