Sunday, June 21, 2009

Keeping tally on the waters of Purgatory

The house Laurie built 1950-1951, corner Sherbrook Road and Pulbrook Parade, Hornsby

"My life hasn't been a total waste, you know: I've built a few houses in my time. Wanna see the one in Sherbrooke Road today?"

Dying is a long and winding road.

Norm Ingram was the bloke who helped me build the sunroom on the back of Hunter Street, then I asked him to help me build on the block of land I bought down the bottom of Sherbrook Road. We only worked Saturdays on it: sunrise to sunset though, and I picked him up in the Bedford and delivered him home after. He lived on Pennant Hills Road just down from Pearce's Corner. Took us over a year but Norm agreed to be paid only after I sold it which was not easy being not long after the War and I'd only take cash. I got finance from Ray Aspinall who managed the Bank of New South Wales on the corner of Florence and George, just near the station.

Letter written by Laurie to his mother, Sylvia Irene Veronica Cole, October 1956 when he was building a house on the farm with my older brother, Barry, as his only companion. All six pages form this one letter.

Timber was hard to come by after the war: nothing second-hand, mind you. Not DAR but I insisted on newly milled. Had contact with this bloke with a lumber yard on the highway down in Roseville. Huh, I remember one darned day, when I loaded the truck up with 40 foot planks. They were so long, I couldn't just dangle 'em over the tray: the coppers would've bin onta me like the proverbial off a shovel. So, I had to reload them so they sat up over the cabin AND dangled off the back. That was tough work. Well, I was on me way back up the highway and I was over the rail bridge past the pub on the left and part-way up Pymble hill ... yeah yeah ... Jools see where that car is parked ... 'bout there ... when the bloody load shifted and the clatter was enough to get all the drinkers out from behind the bar to gawp at me. Bludgers ... they were muttering and frothing ... but a couple took pity on me and gave me a hand.

Not long after that, I was slaving away one day when the bloke who owned the block next door came and asked me if I wanted to buy it from him. I only ever did cash in those days: so I haggled with him a spell and ended up buying for 100 quid. I sold it about a year later for 200 quid. Didn't tell the Deputy Commissioner, though.

I didn't make much dough from Sherbrook road but gee, I got good experience from it.

What other houses have you built?

Well, the one on the farm, right? And the one in Denman: in Turtle Street ... ... ...

Left: Farm house built by Laurie during 1956
Right: House built in Denman by Laurie during 1962

And didn't you build one down in the Riverina?

Yeah, yeah the one for the Chaunceys: they came from out Myambat way. Geez, they were a funny pair. Never seen a father'n'son fight so much. They would go at it hammer'n'tongs: really belting into each other. Yeah ... I built one for them, too.

Never made much money outa building things ... ... ...

The letter bears witness to this: 300 pound - after costs - for slaving his heart out every Saturday for over a year.


Joan Elizabeth said...

What I like about this piece is the way you've captured your father's voice.

altadenahiker said...

It was a hard life. But I think your father takes some satisfaction that there is something tangible to show for it.

When my father died -- 10 years ago this summer -- his will was very detailed, right down to rings and bracelets. But the things all we kids wanted were those he had made himself, wood carvings mainly. And for those he left no instructions.