Short stories

Childhood memories – the family home (Part 1)

My parents build their first home in Toowoomba in the 1950s. To realise their dream my father, who had  been in the Air Force, borrowed money through the War Service loan program. I was four years old when we moved in, two years older than my sister Susan.

The house was a simple structure, made of fibro, three bedrooms and one bathroom. The toilet was in the backyard. The house had a lovely treed outlook, opposite Newtown Park.

During World War II Newtown park was a military camp, home to thousands of Australian and USA soldiers. Most of the soldiers were accommodated in tents. There were halls and other outbuildings that were still there when we moved to Tor Street. The park covers 12 ha (30 acres) and on the Holberton Street side the Queensland State Rose Garden commenced in 1999. It is a beautiful addition to the City of Toowoomba.

The day arrived. We were moving from Bridge Street, East Toowoomba (my Poppa’s home) where we had lived for almost two years, to Tor Street. My parents could not afford a furniture removalist, so my father relied on a mate who had a truck to move the family belongings. I am not sure whether I remember seeing my father driving off sitting on top of all our belongings on the back of the truck or whether my memory comes from a photo. However, the story of what happened is told by my mother.

At the corner of Bridge and Mort Streets my Dad was knocked off the back of the truck by a tree branch, unbeknown to his mate. He lay on the pavement, semi-conscious and unable to move, outside of the Bellevue Hotel. People nearby thought he was drunk. Fortunately, along came a good Samaritan who saw he was in trouble. He was then taken by ambulance to the Toowoomba Hospital, where he was admitted. My mother tells me he was never the same after the incident. It is likely that he experienced trauma from his head injury which was undetected. Despite this, life moved on.

There were a number of changes over the years. We left the family home for a time (I was 11 years old) when my parents became the publicans of the Grand Hotel (now the Norville Hotel), Toowoomba. By this time, I had three more sisters (the youngest Debbie was eight months old). My brother Michael was born after we moved back to our family home in Tor Street when I was 18 years old. Later our family home was sold, and my parents moved to the Gold Coast. My siblings and I left our childhood memories behind and moved on with our lives.

Decades later, in 2017, when my sister Christine and her husband John were staying us in Toowoomba we visited the Queensland State Rose Garden in Newtown Park. After a short walk across the park we arrived at Tor Street, now part of the Warrego Highway, staring at the house where we spent many of our growing up years. The house had a sold sign out the front. It must have been uninhabited for a while as it looked very neglected.

The original driveway still in place over sixty years later. In the 1950s my father was a qualified mattress maker. For extra money he worked in the garage (shown in the photo), making mattresses at the weekend.

The grass was long, the gardens overgrown. The house had flaking paint, the door of the detached single timber garage was unhinged. We walked through the long grass, stepping carefully to avoid the cobbler’s pegs, down the side of the house and discovered that the back door was open! It was the original back door and the same steps that we sat on as children to polish our black leather school shoes and whiten our sandshoes, every weekend. We paused, called out to find if there was anyone inside, and then went into the house, uninvited.

Please note: I will be writing a series of short stories, mostly non-fiction, over the next couple of months and maybe longer!

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