Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Horse poo

In 1960 we lived with my grandmother. She didn't have a refrigerator; she had one of those old fashioned ice-boxes. Once a week a block of ice was delivered to the house and placed in the icebox to keep things cool. (I suspect it was more often in summer but I don't remember). Each morning my grandmother would empty the tray for the melted ice into the sink.

The ice was delivered by a horse drawn cart. One of the natural by products of a horse drawn mode of transport is horse poo. Can't avoid it!

The house opposite ours (in Broad Street West Footscray, a little dead end street with maybe 20 houses) was occupied by two little old ladies (I fancy they might have been 10 or 15 years older than I am now ). Two doors down on our side was another little old lady.

I can no longer remember which day of the week the ice was delivered but I remember well the sight of those four little old ladies (my grandmother would have been about 68 years old at the time) racing to be the first to scoop up the horse poo for their gardens. If my grandmother had been triumphant (and memory tells me she was more often than not but that may be youthful bias) she was in a wonderful mood for the rest of the day and she'd cook up lambs fry and bacon for dinner. If not, she'd be philosphical about it (but always scheming to win next time) and she'd cook up lambs fry and bacon for dinner. Either way we got lambs fry and bacon for dinner and it was wonderful. I've always been a liver fan - chalk it up to favourable childhood experience.

The world was a different place then (at least in West Footscray). I can remember, when I was about 7 years old (I'm reasonably sure it was after my father died), being taken to the bus stop in Essex street and given strict instructions about which bus to catch to go to the movies at the Trocadero Theatre in Footscray. My grandmother gave me enough money (maybe 3 shillings?) to get to the Troc, get into the Saturday Matinee and catch the bus back home. Being an imprudent 7 year old I spent the return bus fare on lollies and had to walk home. I remember making up an incredibly complicated story about how there was a second session of movies for free and that was why I was late back home. I very much doubt my mother or my grandmother believed me!

What makes this memory so incredible is that it must have occurred after this case[^]. I can't imagine that I'd have been sent off, alone, to the movies when I was just 7 years old if there'd been a climate of fear. Indeed, I remember being warned about accepting rides from strangers (about 5 minutes after I'd accepted a lift from a kindly stranger who turned out to be harmless) and that must have been at about the same time. Of course, we hadn't just won the lottery and I'm sure that was part of the parental and grand-parental calculation to allow me at the ripe old age of 7 to go unaccompanied to the movies.

I hope the parallel is clear. Can you imagine any parent today allowing a child of 7 to do that? I'm in two minds on the subject. I survived the experience (to this day I have warm memories of walking back along Barkly Street on a warm late spring afternoon - though it might have been an early autum afternoon) to inflict this blog upon you. I also did this in Melbourne Australia. In other places in the world this might not have been a safe thing to do. Yet I wonder, have things gone too far? I notice that an ad running on the radio here in Phoenix posits the situation of a mother with a sick child. Does the child have the plague? Nope. Has the child contracted measles? Nope! Has the child done the unthinkable and come down with Flu? Nope! The child has a cold! And the scenario in the ad is of a mother racing frantically from pharmacy to pharmacy in search of a medication that won't make the child either hyperactive nor sedated! Ahem! It's a cold for christs sake! I had a million of the buggers when I was a kid and I'm here to tell the tale. So too are the vast majority of sufferers of a cold.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed your story, thanks for that. Ice carts, Trocadero, old ladies, and 7 year olds out on their own, a lovely snapshot of old West Footscray.