Copper Change

Walter Fazakerley

A story from Liverpool U3A's publication In Our Day

I started school in 1938 at Bay Street School (Botany, NSW). The lady next door asked Mum if her son could play with me but Mum had enrolled me in school that very day, so the lady raced her son up there as well.

My father decided to start a mixed business. so Mum, Dan and my sister moved in and lived behind the shop. There wasn't enough room for me so I was sent to live at my Grandmother's house for a few years until the extensions behind the shop were finished.

In the summer time Dad sold water ice-blocks. He had aluminium container for the ice and for sticks I had to knock the wooded butter boxes to pieces, scrub them with hot water, boil them on the fuel stove, and then cut them into lengths to go into the ice-blocks. They were sold for a penny each and the money shot into a Minties box in the corner of the fridge. On Friday nights we would roll these pennies and halfpennies in wrappers ready to pay the rent on Saturday morning. The rent was £1/12/6, and it took 240 pennies to make up £1, and 12/6 took 304 halfpennies! If I was late getting to the bank to pay the rent they would remark that they were hanging out for the copper change. It was a ritual every Saturday morning!

Rationing was on – butter, sugar, tea, clothing, petrol etc. When I was in sixth class, just the Headmaster would send me down to the Post Office just before recess to collect his petrol ration coupons (4 gallons a month). Dad bought his produce from the PDS man and the driver would sell butter coupons illegally – one sheet was the equivalent of 56 lb. of butter, or one box. The Black Market did a roaring trade in those times; the Headmaster bought 1lb. butter each month and two policemen would come around to the back gate every alternate Saturday to get their butter. The local Doctor was also supplied with butter, cigarettes too.

When I was older I delivered grocery orders on my pushbike and was paid sixpence per delivery. I also worked for the local milkman (horse and cart) from 5am to 7-30am. Then I would walk home, have breakfast and then go to school. In 1946 I joined the First Botany Scouts and spent many years in the Association.

After the extension was put on the back of the shop I* moved back in with my parents. My sister and I shared a bedroom, which was the lounge and dining room during the day with our beds in one corner, the lounge in another and the dining table in the middle. The light switch was on the other side of the room from my bed, so I tied a long piece of string to the light toggle and strung it across the door and over to my bed. This came in handy, especially on cold nights.

Sometimes my other Grandma would walk around to the shop and offer to take me for a walk. This walk took us to the local Hotel, The Captain Cook, and we would go into the saloon bar and Grandma would pull out a quart bottle and get it filled with beer. She would then put the bottle back in her bag and we would go back home. She would never drink her beer in the Hotel. The barmaid (Birdie) would give me a "lady's waist" of lemonade.

I've got many other happy memories, of course, too many to relate. Life seemed much easier in those days, there didn't seem to be as much pressure, no hustle and bustle as there is today.