Crystal sets were all the rage during the 50s: communicating by morse code and crackles of sounds. Constructing a crystal set from scavenged parts by the light of a tilley lamp, Barry developed a passion for electronics and for tinkering. "What's a radio technician?" I asked totally perplexed when I learnt that Baz was joining the Air Force. "You wouldn't understand, Sis," he responded with a diminutive that persists 'til this day. As the Autumn of '62 eased into Winter and Barry turned 17, an avalanche of change was to inundate us both, splitting us asunder. After farewelling him on the platform of Muswellbrook railway station, the mood in the Kombi on the return journey to the farm was both sombre and icey.
After two years of training at the Laverton base on the outskirts of Melbourne, his first posting at the end of winter '64 was to the Woomera base, in remote South Australia. He was 19. The benign uniformity of his exterior concealed a bubbling that mirrored a similar flow of lava in the outside world: the Kingston Trio gave way to the Beatles; Connie Francis made way for Aretha Franklin; and, a new licentiousness abounded.
Fleeing from one intimidatory regime, he was entrapped in an all encompassing straight-jacket. The old escape valves were no longer available: no more manic solo runs along the track to the creek where he was lost to sight by the tall wire-grass; no more taking the tommahawk out to the-back-paddock to feverishly ringbark an insane number of trees. He squelched around in the bottom of beer mugs, washing down LSD before joining the hash circle. Boredom was everywhere. Boredom borne of an isolation that was both physical and psychological.
The Military Policeman who knocked at the door was polite but insistent. No, we don't know where he would have gone. No, we had no idea this was going to happen. Dad's anger rose as his wife, Ollie, sobbed silently in the background. He had been home for Christmas and seemed really good - better than we had seen him for ages. He only went back two weeks ago. It dawned on me that was why he had dropped into the bank where I was working as a teller as I waited in desperation for some word of a scholarship to university - a legitimate escape route. "See ya next time, Sis", he waved as his grey-blue Beetle chugged off down Ogilvie Street. He didn't expect there would be a next time.
Etched into the psyche, '66 was a year of trauma: Baz gone; insecure loner at university with the cool group; home life in tatters. Ollie scanned newspapers and magazines in a desperate seeking of clues. Anything was better than this void. Then eventually, just before Easter '67, word came that he was being detained at Holdsworthy Army Base prior to a court-martial. Dad would have none of that: he had connections. He would see to it. He was friends with the Bishop of Newcastle. His local member of parliament was Allen Fairhall, the Minister for Defence. Within a week, Baz was released with a Dishonorable Discharge and disappeared into the Kings Cross back alleys. He was not yet 22.
|Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds|
Picture yourself in a boat on a river,
With tangerine trees and marmalade skies
Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly,
A girl with kaleidoscope eyes.
Cellophane flowers of yellow and green,
Towering over your head.
Look for the girl with the sun in her eyes,
And she's gone.
Follow her down to a bridge by a fountain
Where rocking horse people eat marshmallow pies,
Everyone smiles as you drift past the flowers,
That grow so incredibly high.
Newspaper taxis appear on the shore,
Waiting to take you away.
Climb in the back with your head in the clouds,
And you're gone.
Picture yourself on a train in a station,
With plasticine porters with looking glass ties,
Suddenly someone is there at the turnstile,
The girl with kaleidoscope eyes.
Lucy in the sky with diamonds.
John Lennon & Paul McCartney