OH I DO LIKE TO BE BESIDE THE SEA!
I grew up near Ulverstone, a seaside town on the north west coast of Tasmania. Boxing Day was traditionally beach day. During the nineteen fifties we were still without a car, and travelled the four miles (8km) from our farm in Mr and Mrs Holmes’ black taxi. The tradition was so heavily ingrained that even wild weather failed to deter us. Some years we endured bitter winds and gritty food, shrugging off downpours as ‘sun showers’.
According to my father’s diaries we sometimes went with neighbours. I have no memory of the occasion dad recorded in 1955, but one of the Richards kids told me recently that he nearly drowned and that his sister Cheryl was bitten by a blue-tongued lizard!
But more usually it was relatives, including my very ‘Victorian’ grandmother, whose appearance at the beach seemed utterly incongruous. She was always so shocked when my father removed his shirt and went bare chested in public.
We packed our picnic lunch in a large brown suitcase. The Christmas festivities ensured a good spread; thick sliced ham, home-grown roast chicken and cold Christmas pudding. There were preserving jars of fresh fruit salad to serve with our own rich cream. Mum’s lovingly made biscuits were packed too; melting moments, Christmas shapes, custard creams and white Christmas slice. No paper plates for us. We took our china dinner set, a linen tablecloth, and the teapot.
Mr (or Mrs) Holmes would obligingly inch the taxi down Beach Road, while my parents kept an eye out for a good table. It had to be towards the top end of the beach, preferably with a roof, and sheltered by boobialla trees.
When my eldest bother bought a motorbike he would be sent down early to claim a good spot. In my parents’ eyes this was the only positive to Kenny owning that wretched bike. The Tongs family from North Motton were lucky enough to have a local relative who could claims theirs, and I suspect they often ‘pipped us to the post’.
Boobiallas! There was something slightly wicked about the very name. They grew thick and mysterious, with little tracks sneaking in and out. Things ‘went on’ in the boobiallas, although I had no idea what.
In those early days we we could safely leave our belongings on the table without the slightest fear of theft. My sister Robbie and I would race down to the beach in our stretch ‘bubble’ bathers. They seemed to fit us for years. As we grew taller we lowered the neck straps until the bodices were nearer our waists.
There always seemed so much to do at Ulverstone beach. We spent hours poking about in rock pools and collecting smelly shellfish. We religiously gathered cuttlefish, for budgies we didn’t possess. Although we could only dog-paddle, we stayed in the often chilly water until we turned blue.
At lunchtime we walked up to the shop to collect boiling water for tea, and the washing up. A more important purchase from my point of view was a Neapolitan Family Brick (triple flavoured icecream). We ate it with Christmas pudding, hoping to find sixpences, for lolly buying later on.
The ‘top end’ of the beach was distinctly conservative. The shop was old-fashioned and rather dark. They sold a lot of raspberry cordial and dixie-cup icecreams. Beside it was a sedate mini-golf course and opposite….a children’s playground! We were slightly wary of some of the equipment, especially the hurdy-gurdy. Robbie and I were fine on our own, but sometimes big boys would approach, and give us a terrifying push. On one memorable occasion I slowly turned green and fell off. My lollies spilled on the ground and I was sick on my sandals. But this playground provided me with some of happiest times of my life. My sister and I would sit on the swings with a packet of mixed lollies….salty and sunburned, and with a whole afternoon stretching before us. Sheer bliss!
The bottom end of the beach was more crowded and a bit racy. Boys drove past in their cars eyeing off scantily clad girls. The shop had a juke box, and served banana splits and ‘spiders’ (ice cream sodas) at formica topped tables. The crowds came from the adjacent caravan park and camping ground. Our longing to join the holiday makers was almost overwhelming. Oh to sleep in a tent instead of going home.
Our magical Boxing Day beach excursions continued for many years, until changing social values began to catch up with us. In the early nineteen sixties someone opened our suitcase and ate mum’s melting moments. The following year our Box Brownie camera was stolen. The age of innocence had ended, though thankfully nothing could tarnish the joy.
Around this time we bought a green Dodge utility, which dad taught himself to drive (very badly) in one of the paddocks. He affectionately dubbed it it The Bus.
Robbie and I were changing too. As we grew older the lure of the bottom shop became irresistible, We lounged about playing records on the juke box, and sipping ‘blue heavens’. We fondly imagined this to be the height of sophistication. We rarely ventured onto the beach. Swimming wrecked our hair-sprayed bouffants and made our eye-liner run. We wore giant plastic earrings and bell-bottomed trousers.
The magic of childhood had gone forever, and with it those enchanted days at Ulverstone beach.
N.B. FOR MY SISTER ROBBIE, IN MEMORY OF THOSE HAPPY TIMES.
HERE IS ANOTHER TALE FROM OUR CHILDHOOD ON THE FARM
I LOVE TO HEAR FROM READERS. DO LEAVE A MESSAGE IN THE BOX BELOW. MAKE SURE YOU SCROLL DOWN AND COMPLETE THE ANTI-SPAM SUM BEFORE PRESSING ‘SUBMIT’