Memories of Jon King 5 May 2009
Reginald and Elsie King and their two children, Miriam (5 years) and Jonathan (3 years) moved to North Shore from Marshall in 1935 after the Great Depression caused the closure of the family-owned Barwon Soap Works.
Reg obtained a job as a boiler attendant at the Corio Distillery and later worked as a clerk at Sims Coopers Meat Works. He was a Justice of the Peace which meant we quickly became familiar with all the people from nearby who needed their signatures witnessed.
We rented a weatherboard house owned by Bob Eldridge for a couple of years in Seabreeze Parade (The Esplanade) which overlooked Corio Bay and Geelong. Dad was an ardent schnapper fisherman off the rocks below the cliffs in front of our home. Cockles and sand worms were readily available for bait from the nearby beach at low tide and Gillie Gibbons supplied blue bait netted from Fords Wharf.
In 1937 we moved to Coane Street about 100 metres north of the Pivot railway line west of Seabeach Parade for a short time until Dad bought a house in Walch's Road for about 500 pounds. No electricity was available as the poles only serviced the Pivot, Distillery and part of Seabeach Parade. We existed for years quite well using a battery radio, kerosene lamps, a Coolgardie safe then an ice box then a kerosene fridge. Hot water was supplied by a chip heater. House heating was by open wood fires until midway through the war when we finally had electric power supplied.
Our first neighbours were Bill and Mrs Spitty and son Norman. Bill worked at the Corio Shire driving a steam roller and sometimes parked it on the vacant block north of his house. This caused great excitement watching him get up steam in the morning and sometimes taking us kids for a short ride towards the shop. Norman was an energetic lad with a billy cart to pick up bottles for pocket money and a ferret to go rabbiting and a bike to tour the district. He also kept pigeons and was a good mate for me.
Our next neighbours were Jack and Mrs Bliss and their children: Tony, Barbara, Bernard, Peter and John. Jack worked as a ganger on the railway from North Shore to Corio. Later Jim and Peg Canny and family moved into the relocated house on the corner of Walch's Road and Seabeach Parade.
In 1939 I started school at North Shore State School, a short walk across the paddocks and across the railway line. The headmaster and only teacher that I recall was Mr Clark, or "Old Clarky" as we used to call him behind his back. He was a strict disciplinarian and ruled with an iron rod (actually a swishing cane). The main classrooms were divided by a concertina-type glass and wood door so we could just see what was happening next door, which was always more interesting than our own room. A dental van called in annually to our dismay as the drill was a pedal operated monstrosity. The smell of the injection ampules emptied into the incinerator I can still recall as they outdid the smell of the overflowing cesspit at the back of the school.
I remember one day at school as I was dreading an arithmetic test due that afternoon, I ran around a corner of the schoolhouse bumped into someone and hit the brick wall, causing a deep cut along my eyebrow. Dad was called from work at Sims Coopers and, riding his bike, picked me up and dinked me into Drumcondra to Dr Carter's surgery for four stitches. That cut out the arithmetic test.
After-school activities were all outdoors: ferreting, tip ratting, swimming, bird nesting, pigeon collecting, footy and cricket, bike riding, tramping around and anything that kept us outside. For a touch of culture Mum organised me to do piano lessons at 2/‑ a time with Mrs Power. She was very patient and capable but I was not interested in being inside and having to practise was a chore. I now regret dearly that I did not continue my lessons and learn to play.
Scouting was another great activity. Scoutmaster Ernie Harris and assistants John Riddle and Arthur ("Ben”) Foot made scouting interesting. Friends like Bryan Power, Arnie Foot and Andrew Harris made our camps and activities memorable. Camps at Eumeralla and the Pan Pacific Jamboree at Wonga Park were highlights. Trying to memorise semaphore or morse code was not easy.
As our house was next to the wartime grass airstrip we had to exercise care when the aircraft were flying. A big variety of aircraft were assembled from crates at the International Harvester plant and test flown from the airstrip, or were visiting aircraft in transit. The planes included: Kittyhawks, Brewster Buffaloes, Thunderbolts, Vultee Vengeances, Fairy Battles and Tiger Moths. There was a secret Spitfire squadron at Wooloomanata, but I cannot say I saw a Spitfire at North Shore. One Tiger Moth I heard taking off suddenly appeared overhead. Striking the top branches of our tall peppercorn tree in the front yard, it veered towards our roof but missed it and crashed into the next door paddock. After my heart started beating again I ran next door to find two dazed and only slightly bleeding airmen staggering out of the nose-dived aircraft. I ushered them into our house through the chook yard into the waiting arms of the American Military Police.
The war not only brought the Americans and RAAF airman but also brought food rationing and petrol rationing. Dad became an Air Raid Warden like most other able men so had to police blackout curtains and ensure people knew how to put out incendaries and other nasties. The buses looked strange with the large charcoal-fired gas producers used instead of petrol. Mum got busy sewing up backpacks for the kids’ gear if we had to be evacuated "up country" when the Germans invaded and helped Dad dig the air raid shelter in the paddock next door. Although we kept abreast of all the war news, not a word came back from Darwin about the many bombing raids there and also on Broome. We also kept abreast of news in the newsreels at the Geelong theatres reached by Wise’s old green relics or Bender’s new buses.
During the war I left North Shore State School and went by bus into Geelong to Geelong Grammar School’s Bostock House in Newtown.for three years. Then I transferred to Geelong Grammar School, Corio as a day boy at Geelong House. I found it a daunting experience as a raw country boy adjusting to public school life with the emphasis that "the school" was supreme with rigid disciplines in all aspects of school life. Any misdemeanours brought an instant punishment of one or more "cross countries". This meant a cross country run of about two miles around the school perimeter. This had to be done in any spare period and witnessed by a prefect. It made me quite fit and taught me to respect traditions. School also introduced me to Art School for pottery and printing, woodwork classes and lathework, tennis, football and cricket as well as the Army Cadets.
I left school at the end of 1948 and for a brief time worked at the Pivot in the bag printing and sewing area. My job was to load the printing machine with ink, turn it on and feed hessian bags in and stack them up for the superphosphate loaders. The job was made hard because the bags came in a bale of compressed bags which were very hard to separate and quickly wore the skin off my fingers trying to feed the printer. No fun this working life but payday made it worthwhile.
In March 1949 I joined the RAAF as an apprentice. I trained at RAAF School of Technical Training at Wagga Wagga NSW as an Engine Fitter and graduated in December 1952. Various postings followed: Point Cook working on Tiger Moths and Wirraways, East Sale working on Lincoln bombers, Dakotas, Mustangs, and Vampires.
I married Kathleen Toll in October 1956 and we have four children: Michael, Donna, Wendy and Janine.
In 1974 I left the RAAF as a Warrant Officer Engineer and started work as a tradesman at the Government Aircraft Factory working on the Nomad and Jindivik aircraft and worked up to B grade foreman. I trained at St Louis on the RAAF F-18 Hornet and was subsequently retrenched when GAF became ASTA in 1987.
I am now happily retired, enjoying playing golf, tripping around in our caravan and being part of other family functions.