Photo: Here I am on my sisters red bike and she’s on my blue Malvern Star in the middle with our cousins on their bikes at Stanwell Park NSW.
My parents decided that we needed a change from the constantly flooding townhouse they rented in Granville. Every time it rained our bottom floor became inundated in a torrent of water. We were all relieved and excited about the move. Although looking back, it was a bit of fun swimming in that dirty water that ran from our flooded small courtyard out the back, through the house gushing out the front door and spilling us kids out onto the footpath.
So in 1973 we packed all our gear and moved to Fairfield in Sydney’s West. I was 9, my sister Vivian was 8 and Patricia was almost 3 years old.
There were about 10 units in our apartment block with people from all different nationalities and walks of life residing in them. Many families lived there, so there was never a shortage of people to hang out with. The twin set of units across the concrete driveway with their garages and overhanging balconies faced each other allowing us to communicate & socialise with the neighbours without leaving our unit.
Life was a social affair most days in Smart Street as the flats we lived in weren’t the only ones on our block. Italians, Assyrians, Maltese, South Americans (like us); Greeks, Iraqis and Yugoslavians (as they were known at the time) populated the area amongst a handful of Aussies.
The only Aussie that I actually remember well on that block in Smart Street, Fairfield was Mrs. Stone who everyone knew as the delightful and friendly old lady who lived in an old shack up the road with her Shih Tzu. She took daily walks with her little dog allowing everyone to pat him. Her sweetness brings a smile to my face to this very day.
Every morning on the way to school we’d pass the local shop that was metres from the crossing to the public school we attended. Wonderful and friendly people have come and gone throughout our lives there. Mr. Zoric was one of them. He was our local shop owner whose little tuck shop was across the road from the school on my side of the road. He sold, milk, bread, coke, some grocery items, ice cream, chocolate and lollies. While he was very popular with everyone in the neighbourhood, the kids just loved him. He was known mainly for his kindness and his huge bright and cheerful personality. Back then we hardly got any pocket money and I remember the excitement of taking the empty glass bottles of coke for a refund of 10 cents to spend on lollies. That was a lot of money back then!
Playing outdoors was a way of life for us kids. After school the children were everywhere riding their bikes, playing handball, hide and seek, playing elastics, doing handstands, cartwheels and skipping. When we didn’t know what to do we improvised and enjoyed life. We didn’t have the technology that kids have now. We learned how to be imaginative and creative making things with our hands or making up games.
Our New Bikes
For Christmas that year we all got bikes. Vivian’s was a new orange bike. Mine was a dark blue Malvern Star Dragster with gears, long seat and a sissy bar. I had been asking my father for that bike for ages and was over the moon with it. It was the latest rage with the kids, it was beautiful and I couldn’t believe it was mine!
One morning my father discovered that our garage was broken into. The bikes were missing and I remember that I was heartbroken. That bike was the only thing I ever really wanted. Dad assured us that everything will be alright and that his insurance will replace our bikes. But one day before our bikes could be replaced, I was visiting a friend in a neighbouring apartment building when I saw two boys downstairs sanding down bike frames that had been sprayed black. Immediately I knew that our bikes had been stolen by these two Assyrian boys who didn’t have bikes of their own and I was angry and felt sorry for them at the same time, knowing that mum was poor and had 4 kids to look after. Telling my father about it brought out my emotions. He assured me that even without the bikes that we adored, we are still better off than those two boys because we have each other. He made me see that material things are replaceable but people aren’t. I had to let it go and decided to forgive them, though it took a while.
We never did get the same bikes back. Although I was grateful to have a bike to ride, the replacement bike was a bit too sissy for this tom boy. It was white with reddish-pink love hearts stickers.
Years later when I became a Christian I realised that my earthly dad was reflecting my heavenly father by choosing mercy over bitterness and revenge. In Matthew 9:13 God says, “I desire mercy not sacrifice.”
I love you dad! You always taught us to be content with life itself and that the most important thing in life is to love the people we share it with. Because of it we have a very close and tightly knit family unit that loves each other dearly.