Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Tricycle thieves

On an overcast wintry Sunday afternoon in July or August of 1963 I was out with my mates, Carl, Bill and Peter. This was before my first bicycle - that came at Christmas 1963. We were walking along Williamstown Road between Mt Mistake and Charles Street when we met this kid who was maybe 7 years old (we were 9) riding his tricycle happily along the footpath with nary a parent or guardian in sight.

I don't remember who came up with the idea but within a couple of minutes that poor kid was sitting on his bum on the footpath bawling his eyes out as we sped away on his tricycle. We spent some of the afternoon alternating ownership, working our way a mile or so east to a street that's no longer there (Footscray Technical College grew over the street). The appeal of that particular street was that it had a steep downhill slope along Nicholson Street to Pilgrim Street just where it passes under the Williamstown Railway line. In a suburb like Seddon that was almost the only downhill slope we knew of. We spent the rest of the afternoon riding the tricycle down that slope at peril to life and limb of ourselves and anyone silly enough to imagine we should share the footpath with them.

Having had our fun it would have seemed reasonable, would it not, to return the tricycle to the approximate area we'd stolen it from? 40 odd years later it seems reasonable; though 40 odd years later I wouldn't have stolen the thing in the first place. But we suffered from the paranoia of childhood; we genuinely believed that all adults were in league against us. We dared not return the tricycle because that old lady over there would see us and dob us in. Indeed, we avoided the scene of the crime for months afterward; we thought that any adult who saw us in the area would both remember us as the thieves and turn us in to the police. Given that I lived just two streets away from the crime scene it meant I had quite a few nightmares and it was months before I could walk there again.

So we did what any self-respecting tricycle thief would do. A couple of hundred metres away from the aforementioned downhill slope was the Maribyrnong River. I like to imagine the tricycle is still there, a mute relic of crime; but methinks it's long since been dredged up.

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