SOME MEMOIRS -- by John Ray
Some occasional personal notes from a quiet life...
1956 was a rather good year for me. I was 13 and in the final year of primary school. The family moved to Cairns from Innisfail half way through the year. It was just after my father's father (Jack Ray) had died and we went to live in the house formerly rented by him.
It was in the days of rent control and Jack had been given a controlled rent that was very cheap. The rules at that time allowed a controlled rent tobe inherited by the children so my father took advantage of that. He thought he would get work more easily in Cairns, so it was a good opportunity for him
As a result I inherited a store of old children's books which I promptly set out to read. I remember a nursery rhyme in one of them: "Our greatest battleship the Hood is made of iron, steel and wood". No wonder the sinking of H.M.S. Hood by one salvo from the Bismarck in the early phases of World War Two made such an impression. (H.M.S. Hood was actually a battle cruiser, of course, which explains why it was sunk so easily).
Some of the books even predated World War I. They were mostly books given as presents or won at Sunday school to the children of my father's family. After I left home, my mother gave them all away! All the maps of the world in them did of course show vast splashes of red. I wonder how many people in future will know what that signified?
So I got strong doses of Victorian ideas from those books. When they were written such ideas were still current. I still to this day agree with most of them (such as the distinction between the deserving and undeserving poor).
Another thing left at the Stratford (Cairns) house was an old wooden windup gramophone with lots of old popular 78s (78 r.p.m. records). No pictures of the actual family gramophone have survived but the one below is very similar
The spring that drove it had a habit of breaking, unfortunately. After that I rotated the records with my finger. It was my introduction to music of various sorts but the record I particularly remember was "Florrie Forde's Old Time Medley" -- songs from about a century ago.
By some miracle there is a video of her online singing exactly the songs I remember: The Lassie from Lancashire; Has Anybody Here Seen Kelly?; Down at the Old Bull and Bush etc. I think they would still have a broad appeal today. See here
There were also parts of various old pushbikes left behind and I used them to put together a "new" bike. I think my father was rather impressed. I seem to recollect that he rode it to work for a time. I painted it red.
When I moved to Cairns I got on the bus from Stratford one morning and found my new school by myself. My mother or father did not go along to help enrol me. I did not think much of it at the time but in retrospect I see it as another example of my mother's indolence. Though I suppose I was an independent little bugger
I read a bit of the works of Karl Marx at the local library around this time and occasionally talked about what I had read. For this reason I was sometimes at that time called "Commo John".
At the end of the year I did my "Scholarship" exam, necessary for entry into High School. I got an 80% mark overall. I seem to recollect that that was seen as a very good result at the time. To "pass your Scholarship" was a big deal back then and you only needed to get 50% or more to pass.
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