March 05, 2005

Five Quid A Pop

When I think back on the physical conditions in the Woy Woy area when I was a kid there, they sound primitive even for the time: no piped town water (our family relied on a couple of thousand gallon tanks out the back catching rain water from the roof, which was better than some people -- there was always the water man who'd deliver 1,000 gallons of water in a truck for £5 when you got desperate during a drought), no sewage system (some people had septic tank systems; most, though, had the old outhouse pans that were emptied once or twice a week by the "sanny man" into the sanny truck late at night... the smell of the typical outhouse -- lime, shit, pine-o-clean -- still haunts me all these years later), a town where few people had cars, fewer still had phones (in a town of some 16,000 people, my parents' number was "Woy Woy 148" -- and they were latecomers; people would walk a mile just to use a friend's phone or a public phone), and where all phone exchanges were manual, where TV was black and white (four channels if you had a good aerial; no local channels), and where we played footie (tellingly, Rugby League) barefoot until the age of 12 because parents were too poor to buy a new pair of boots for the kids each year, and primary school classes typically had 40 or 50 kids in them; our school's playground was a large tarmac lot with a single dead tree in the middle of it; I remember when our school first got fluorescent lighting to replace the single bare bulbs hanging in each classroom. Most roads had no hard shoulders, let alone curbing and drains; quite a few roads were still unpaved. There were the remains of an old WW2 emergency airstrip next to what is now Trafalgar Avenue; this was slowly being built over, but for years it remained a long hardened red-dirt dust strip in the middle of Umina.

Most people lived in houses -- I don't think I ever knew anyone who lived in a flat (they were for people up from Sydney on holiday). Most houses were fibro and wood, or brick and tile if you were rich. Very few houses had any form of central heating; air-conditioning was unheard of, even in shops. The climate was humid, rarely very hot, never particularly cold. It rained 50 to 60 inches each year, often in wild storms (it once rained 10" in a single morning; this was impressive). Thunderstorms were fairly common. For all the rain, the soil was mostly sandy and dry. Flame trees and Jacarandas grew all over the place; Lantana choked things up everywhere (and I can still smell it).


At 12/06/2005 6:53 pm, Blogger Spike said...

Great posts about Woy Woy. Had no idea there was an emergency airstrip next to Trafalgar.

At 12/07/2005 10:59 am, Blogger Jimmy Little said...

Spike (quite the evocative name...) -- thanks. The airstrip was still easily visible in the 1960's, but it's long gone now. The last time I looked (a year ago) there were virtually no signs at all that it had ever existed. The rather endearingly odd site has a page on it, with a bunch of other not-quite-right things there as well...

Anyway, I was astonished by your This Isn't Sydney blog -- I'll be writing it into another posting on Woy Woy soon. I keep waiting to see a photo of one of my childhood homes on it somewhere :-).


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