Monday 27 August 2007

Grab a cuppa, sit back for a true story...

A dear friend Alison wrote this for me over the weekend to share with my readers .. as she recounts a special day from her childhood...

This all happened in a small town in Far North Queensland... but I'm not telling which one.. to protect the innocent, and the not-so innocent ;-)


This was the time of loyalty to the monarchy, loyalty to the Empire, right or wrong. This was the time when Her Majesty graced every living room wall, up there alongside the flying ducks and the tapestry of Sydney Harbour Bridge, when every school room also boasted photos of Her Majesty and when everyone stood up at the movies to listen to the Royal Anthem. Even the babies stopped crying. We were more Royalist than the British.

So the excitement which rippled through our little town in 1961 when we learnt that Princess Alexandra, the Queen's own cousin was coming to visit us, was huge. This was an HONOUR. Big time!

At home, all the mothers went frantic getting together the best school clothing for the children. For it had been decided the school children would stand out FRONT, alongside the road, with Australian and British flags in their hands, and would wave, as the royal entourage passed by.

While our mothers begged and borrowed new white blouses and sewed up navy pinafores and boxer shorts on the Singer sewing machines, we children were drilled every day by our school teachers. We had to stand still, we had to wave the flags when the limousine arrived, we had to cheer.

The council went into action and our main street was swept and hosed and polished. Storekeepers painted their weatherboard shop fronts and specially potted plants were placed strategically on the tired, dusty footpaths.

The BIG DAY arrived. Kids spent hours polishing their school shoes until they shone. No kid was allowed to put on their school uniform until the last moment..."in case you dirty it!". Hats were firmly wedged onto heads, handkerchiefs folded and placed in pockets, and furled flags placed into tiny hands.

So we all lined up the main street, almost the entire population of two and a half thousand residents. The children in the front, lined along the street according to Grade level. Behind, stood the older adults, some with walking sticks, some in wheel chairs, some with gigantic hearing aids. The old soldiers stood there resplendent with chests full of medals and their best double-breasted, pin-striped suits, reeking of moth balls.

Up and down the street, the council workers swept the road ever cleaner. Officials darted here and there with excited looks on their faces. So we waited. The sun rose higher and higher and it became warmer and warmer. The excited murmurings died to plaintive whispers. But still we waited. Some babies started wailing and soon we could hear the adults... "Shussssh!! Shhhhush... Mavis...I might take her home I think...she is tired, needs her sleep......" So some of the Mothers pushed their babies home in their perambulators.

In the front row, some of the kids started fidgeting. Tommy Wheelwright next to me, picked his wart and was amusing himself watching a stream of blood pouring down his arm. It was a time to keep busy.

Suddenly, down the far end of the street came a noise. We all craned forward. There, starting its way up the long street was a motor bike with a side car. We could hear the noise as it backfired and crackled, giving out puffs of dark smoke.

The kids started cheering and waving their flags. Gradually the motorbike came up the street until where I was standing in the front row with my Grade One class. Beside me little Lynette Brown peed her pants as she cheered and cried at the same time. Some other little girls also started crying. The enormity of the occasion was overwhelming. Oh, the excitement!!

I stared at the Princess in amazement as the motorbike went passed. Never in my life had I seen such a gorgeous woman! Truly, she was a Princess. Sitting in the side car of this old, noisy motor bike which spewed out clouds of stinky smoke. She had on this most enormous hat, festooned with flowers and ribbons. She was wearing large diamante sunglasses, the glass jewels winking and dazzling in the sunlight.

She had bright red lipstick on and red rouge on her cheeks, painted bright, like a dolly's face. Necklaces hung around her neck like tons of ropes. She had so many jewels! Around her neck also draped a furry animal. I could see it's little head resting on her bosom.
She had this enormous bunch of flowers on her lap in the sidecar. I recognised them as the white flowers, called arum lilies which my Mum said were "funeral flowers".

Her driver was all dressed up too, like a real chauffeur. He had on these goggles, and a leather jacket and a peaked cap pulled down low on his head.

As the Princess passed she held out an arm dressed in a long white glove, turned her head away from us and called out, "HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEELLOOOOOOOOOOO EVERYONE!" in a funny high pitched voice which didn't quite sound like the voices of our Mothers or our female teachers.

Oh, we cheered! Lynette Brown next to me stood snivelling in a puddle of pee, while Tommy Wheelright forgot his bleeding wart and yelled with all his might. "God save the Queen!"

The motorbike passed down the line, and all of a sudden, there was a change in the sounds of the crowd. We could hear the grownups starting to snicker and guffaw!!! And then laughter rose to a crescendo as a black and white police car sneaked down the road past us all, with four khaki clothed police officers inside. As we craned forward, we saw the motor bike splutter, then roar off around the corner with the police car in hot pursuit.

Behind me, I could hear the grown ups roaring with laughter. Tommy and I looked at each other in bewilderment. Barely had we exchanged looks, when a dark shiny limousine glided noiselessly past us giving us a glimpse of a waving white glove behind a dark, shiny window.

We didn't wave our little flags. We didn't cheer. We stood there numbed, uncomprehending. Something wasn't right, but we didn't know what.

It was left to Tommy Wheelwright's father to explain what had happened. It appeared that my own cousin, David, had dressed up in his mothers theatrical clothing (she was a keen member of the choral society), and conned his best mate into lending his Trumby motorbike, to "pretend"" to be Princess Alexandra and her driver.

That afternoon, I stood in the kitchen, trying to tell my Mother (who stayed at home with the new baby) what had happened. "Oh you do tell stories, Alison!"said Mum, crossly. "You're like your father. Now go and hang these nappies upon the back line for me!"

Some days later, I heard Dad tell Mum the whole story, and also that David and his mate had been given a ""jolly good talking to" by the police. However David decided to get his own back on the Police, a few days after that, by climbing up the Police Station roof and rubbing out the letters ""P"" and ""O" from the sign, so that for several days after, the entire town had a LICE STATION.

For young David, who was only sixteen at the time, there followed a war between him and the local police force which would only end when his parents insisted he join the Royal Australian Navy.


Anonymous said...

ROFL. I laughed at this! The young fellas of today don't quite have the same sense of fun and daring.

Anonymous said...

He he he he. Gave me a chuckle.