14 November, 2012

John Ray

Did my brother grow up in a drain?

In a conversation recently, my brother said he grew up in a drain. That amused me -- not least because it is true.

So what are we talking about here? Bombay, Calcutta or some Third World slum? Not at all. We both grew up in a spacious three bedroom house with all mod cons in the pleasant Australian city of Cairns.

99% of what my brother was talking about is explained by the picture below -- a photo I took myself about 50 years ago. It shows the local kids playing in a stormwater drain out the front of our house in Cairns.

Kids in the photo are: Nolene Kelso in red raincoat, Ray Kelso standing on the bank. In the water are my sister Roxanne, brother Chris and Carl Foster, from Fosters auto spares, next door. Geoff Michna wasn't there that day!

Chris says that for most of the year the drain was quite "yucky" but was a fantastic place to play after the tropical storms came and the flood waters washed it clean and filled it up .

Note also from the foreground that we grew up in a house with a white picket fence -- which is, according to our "intellectuals, an unimaginable horror -- though I have no idea why. I have subsequently put up a few white picket fences myself.

For birthdays and Christmasses these days, kids get DELUGED with plastic toys from China. I have bought a few such toys for little kids myself at times. But NO such toys are as remotely as satisfying to kids as a half-overgrown stormwater drain -- particularly if you never wear shoes and are allowed to play without adult supervision.

So my brother and I were discussing that photo and what he actually said was: "Geoffrey Michna and I grew up in that drain" -- referring to his childhood friend from a couple of doors down. He is not in the picture above but he sure was often in the drain depicted!

Perhaps these days computer games do far more for kids than a drain ever did but I wonder. There is no doubt of the endless fascination that drain offered to the neighbourhood kids.

So what my brother meant was that he spent many happy hours in that drain during his childhood. He made his remark when we mentioned that the drain has long since been sent underground and so is now lost to kids forever. It felt to Chris that an important part of his childhood had been buried.

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