The Dogmans Offsider

I really had no idea what I wanted to do or become once I left school. Both my parents had high hopes for me in the beginning. My Father had achieved Batchelor of Law and Batchelor of Commerce degrees and was a practising Attorney and my Mother achieved a Honours Degree in Applied Mathematics, English and Latin as well as a Teachers Diploma and she was a High School teacher.

The post world war 1950’s was a time of exponential growth and achievement for mankind and technology was at the forefront of becoming a major force in society.

I still had no idea what I wanted to do.

I was sent away to a private boarding school for 4 years. But my academic studies let me down and I was to repeat a school year at government school and finally matriculation. I was 19 when I finished my schooling. And then the school burnt down. Now they say that they had to burn the school down to get me out of there.

In the beginning I thought that I would like to become involved in the wool industry. My Aunt and Uncle had a sheep farm and I spent many weekends and holidays there. But it turned out that I was allergic to the fine dust within the fleece of the merino sheep and at shearing time suffered greatly in the woolshed. I also had an interest in mechanical things and thought that being a motor mechanic could start me off in the right direction. My father however, had other ideas and soon discouraged me from leaning that way. I was induced to attend university. I chose subjects of anthropology and geography and duly took my place in the hallowed halls of learning. Although my subjects were of interest to me I could not cope with the way I had to learn and was totally out of my depth in the classes. The language may have been understandable but the process was foreign. Needless to say that after a year at university, I called it quits. Studying wasn’t for me.

I had been home again for a couple of days when my father stated that he wasn’t put on this earth to support a no-hoper like me and that he had organised a job for me and accommodation in the city and with 10Rands in my pocket sent me off on a train journey to my destination. I meekly complied.

My job was in the Civil Service, working in the Department of Coloured Affairs. The year was 1964.

Those were the years of the ideology of Apartheid. The Department of Coloured Affairs dealt with citizens of South Africa who were of mixed race bloodlines. That was the nature of the business. My first day at work and I was offered an insurance premium to pay on a monthly basis. A great insurance institution had its headquarters in the building adjacent to where I worked and no doubt they had a spy in our office, who would alert a salesman across the street on new recruits entering working life. I said that I would think about it. I had no car in those days and caught a bus to work on the foreshore in Cape Town. At first I was assigned to do clerical work in an office. Shifting papers and doing filing, that was my daily grind. It was dead boring and I dreamt of far away mystical places.

My friend James and I got motherless drunk on cheap wine after we received our first pay-packet. I can recall that I was on a great salary of 62Rands per month. My board and lodgings were 30Rands per month, transport was about 10Rands per month and the rest I could save or spend. We were warned at the boarding house that we only received one warning and that the next time we got out of line we would be asked to leave the residential establishment. Wine cost 27 cents a bottle!

I had been working for the department about six months when a new recruit, in the form of a busty eighteen year-old country girl joined our team. Very soon things livened up, as this young thing was to provide much pleasure and enjoyment in the filing cabinet storage room to a variety of fellow workers. A month later into my sojourn at the Department I walked into an office of the Director by accident, only to find him having his way with the young thing from the country. This resulted in an embarrassing situation and very soon afterwards I was offered a job in a country town some five hundred kilometres away from head office. Being a realist I took up the offer.

Now I was closer to my hometown, and soon afterwards started negotiations with my father, so that I could be able to buy a car. I had some money saved and my father had said, a while back, that if I did well in my last year at school and passed my exams, that he would fund fifty percent of my first car.

Austin Healy 3000

Austin Healy 3000

This blood red Austin Healy 3000 sports car sat there in the dealer’s showroom and I drooled over it. The price-tag was 3300Rands and I had 1800Rands saved. My mother baulked at that idea and flatly refused my father to even consider buying a sports-car for me.

Ah, but it was not to be. Wouldn’t mind one now though!

My very first car. 1958 Anglia 100E

My very first car. 1958 Anglia 100E

The upshot of these negotiations was that I ended up with an Anglia 100E which cost 100Rands. My father sourced the little car for me, bought it and then when I collected it, presented me with the bill, which I had to settle forthwith and no 50% discount either….I had to pay the full whack. So much for promises.

At last I was mobile at the age of 21! I went here and there and everywhere in that little car until it developed an awful noise in the differential. I went home one weekend and my Father and I traded it in on a little rear engine, Simca 1000. Now, this was a much nicer little car and smooth to drive and it was one of the reasons my travels began in earnest. Time moved on and soon I was enjoying my first paid holiday.

1963 Simca 1000

1963 Simca 1000

Upon returning from my annual holidays I called into the office just to say ‘Hello’ before unpacking my gear. The regional head of the department welcomed me back and said “I hope that you will knuckle down now and do you job!” to which I said, “What are you implying?” The conversation went downhill from there. I lost my temper, told the regional head what he could do with his job and stormed out of the office. I can recall that I was so cranky that I was not thinking straight. I went back to my digs and started packing the rest of my worldly goods in the car. My landlady wanted to know what I was up to, and protested madly that I could not just leave. But I had paid her a month’s rent in advance and so she was covered and I told her to keep the money and I sped away from Beaufort West in haste, heading north.

Knowing that I would meet stiff opposition from my parents for leaving my job I drove past our house heading north and kept on going. Some days later I found myself in Windhoek in Namibia, then known as South West Africa. In Windhoek life took on a new meaning. There were jobs to be found and soon I was working for Stewarts and Lloyds, a company who supplied windmills and pump gear to farmers. I found accommodation at the Ausspanplatz Boarding House and made a whole heap of friends there. We were all into music and soon I was playing rhythm guitar in a band on an ad hoc basis. Girls were plentiful and we used to go to the drive in movies in great numbers and spend much time drinking weird beer concoctions in some of the pubs. I spent weekends travelling to the popular Gross Barmen springs near Windhoek, Swakopmund, Walvis Bay and even Uis chasing skirt and having a good time. The weather was great and all was well, except at home in South Africa. I had written to my parents to tell them of my escapade and they were not impressed with my antics but nevertheless we kept in touch. My job at the windmill company was only temporary and one night I met up with a chap who offered me a job in the outlying town of Kalkfeld working for FCU Wool Corporation. My job was to visit farms in the district and take deliveries as well as orders for whatever they needed. I was to find my own way there as well as accommodation. So off I went into the setting sun.

Almost the exact replica. Ford Cortina Mk1

Almost the exact replica. Ford Cortina Mk1

In the mean time I had traded the little Simca in for a more robust Ford Cortina as the roads were not suited for such a delicate little rear engines car. And now I was in debt! “Oh never a borrower nor a lender be” so my Father had preached. And he was right, because it took me nigh on forty years to get out totally of debt again. I had to register the Cortina in Windhoek and duly went along to the registrar of Motor Vehicles. On filling in the form the older gentleman behind the counter looked at me and stated that his surname was also Kempen and that I should come around on the weekend for supper so that we could find out if we were related. It turned out that I had met his eldest son in Grahamstown whilst playing rugby against one another. The only way we found out we had the same surname was when the referee, who was a housemaster at one of our respected schools, had named the person he had penalised for an infringement stating whilst pointing at me, ”You! Kempen…are offside, yet once again!” With that Henry Kempen stood up from the scrum and said “Who? Me?” And so we had met. Later on after the match Henry had introduced me to his younger brother Bill who was also at boarding school at that time. And so I caught up with the Kempen Clan of Windhoek circa 1965. Yes and we are related in the same family tree.

At Kalkfeld there were more adventures to be had. It turned out that I had been sent there as the husband of the couple running the company office had hurt his back and was on light duties until further notice. His wife was the Manager of the place and she was a really a nasty piece of work. Most of when she spoke was in a snarly manner. Needless to say, we did not get on well. But I was there to do a job. Kalkfeld was a small town with only a Pub, a Post Office and telephone exchange and few houses and the FCU buildings. Accommodation was only to be had at the Pub which was charged at a monthly rate. You were allowed to put drinks on the tab but I thought it to be a better idea to keep some money in my pocket and pay for them. There was a young lady working at the telephone exchange, she also lived in the hotel and we got on well together. I had a round 30 farms to visit in my round and some nights I would sleep out in the back of the Ute if I was in between farms. Other times the farmers kindly provided a room and a bed. The job lasted for four months but the nasty manager made sure that I was worked out of the job and I was back in Windhoek before I knew it. I was employed again by Stewarts and Lloyds on a temporary basis and in this time saved hard and managed to pay off my car debt. My parents had been urging me by letter to return home and a few months later I did just that.

Back in South Africa I hit upon the notion that I should follow in my Father’s footsteps and so I became an Articled Clerk to his Attorneys Firm. This was mainly to appease both my parents. This job lasted a year but being the hit headed character that I was my Father and I were soon at loggerheads as in my opinion he was attempting to exert too much control over me. May be that was my perception as I don’t think that he saw it in the same light. But I parted company with the firm in 1966 and went wandering down to the city of Cape Town again. Just as I got close to the city the gearbox in my Cortina failed and I was without wheels for a short while. I managed to trade the broken Cortina in on an older two-stroke front wheel drive Auto Union (forerunner to the Audi) which had a freewheeling gearbox and twin distributors. Being very electrically changed in those days I needed at times to take the car to a specialist mechanic for tuning. But I had wheels again. I fell around doing a number of short term jobs and then my Uncle, who had attained the Rank of Colonel in the Defence Force subtly, suggested that I try for a career in the Army. Whatever made me fall for that silly suggestion I do not know.

Auto Union

Auto Union

I was inducted into the Army Infantry 1 in Oudtshoorn, and started my Basic Training straight away. It did not take me long to realise that I had made an enormous blunder as army life was not going to be my cup of tea. I was too much of a free spirit. But I was stuck where I was and so I had to make the best of it. Once a month we got a weekend pass and seeing as I had a lovely girlfriend in Cape Town, I used to speed along to the city some 400 kilometres away on the Friday afternoon and arrive back at the barracks before 23.59pm on the Sunday night. One thing about Basic Training was that I became incredibly fit. However, on my last day of basic Training we were performing a jump off a moving truck in full battle dress. On the third sortie I felt something go ‘crunch’ in my right knee. It was very painful. From there on things went downhill. I was accused by the officers of ‘swinging lead’ but a subsequent X-ray stated that I had damaged cartilage in my knee and that I needed an operation. Within days I was transferred to Defence Force Headquarters in Pretoria at Voortrekkerhoogte. The operation never materialised. I limped around the barracks on ‘light duties’ for the rest of my time there.(Major surgery knee replacements came along in 2003 and 2005)

Morris Mini Cooper S

Morris Mini Cooper S

In the meantime, my Auto Union car had cracked a head and I traded it on a Morris Cooper. Shortly after that I visited my parent’s home and my Father wanted the Cooper as he took a fancy to it. There had been a glitch in the signing of papers and so he offered to pay my debt on the little car and gave me his company car, also known as the ‘office furniture’. It was a 1953 Ford Customline V8. It sounded like a good deal as I was now out of debt for the time being. Away I went with the Ford and had many adventures in it. Petrol was still affordable in those days at around 30 cents per litre.

My 1953 Ford Customline V81966_Northern_Cape

My 1953 Ford Customline V8 1966 Northern Cape

I hated the Army life and one year after signing up on a fifteen year contract I was afforded the opportunity to buy myself out of the contract. Trouble is I had no money and my father was not going to help me out. As far as he was concerned I was where I belonged and should be able to keep out of trouble there. I borrowed the enormous sum of 200Rands from a school pal of mine who was a lot better off financially than me. It took about a year to repay the loan as wages were very low in those days. In the army we were paid 45Rands per month with board and lodging included in our pay.

I was FREE again and breathed a sigh of relief. Now what? I managed to get a job at the Kempton Park City Council in the accounts department doing paperwork. Not an exciting job but a job nevertheless. I rented an open space above a shop in the Main Street of the city. Other friends joined me there and we had a boyz squat. Trouble is I seemed to be tidying up after the other blokes all of the time and things became a bit strained at times. Life continued on in a young man’s frenzy as it always did. My old Ford gave up the ghost and the lawn grew through the engine bay after I had parked it at my mother’s brother’s place in Pretoria. I eventually sold it and bought Fiat 500 Bambino. This was a cute little thing but as usual I had mechanical troubles with it. I even drove it home for a long weekend some 1600 kilometres return.

Fiat 500 Bambino

Fiat 500 Bambino

One night I was at a party in Johannesburg till late and enjoying good company and lots of alcohol. On the way home at about 3am on a balmy early morning with the roof down I skidded the car at the Modderfontein Corner and it rolled over. There weren’t things such as seatbelts in those days and I fell out onto the roadway. Luckily I only sustained a few bruises. First vehicle on the scene was a Police Car. They helped me right the car back onto its wheels and told me to go straight home. Lucky! The little car wasn’t too badly damaged and I got home in one piece. Many hours after work to late nights and weekends at a friend’s place on the little car, saw it back to almost good as new. I applied lots of body putty and a fair amount of elbow grease to get it back into a saleable condition. My next car was a Fiat 1500 Convertible.

Fiat 1500 Convertible

Fiat 1500 Convertible

It was a cool car and I had many escapades in it. But thinking I was invincible I eventually came unstuck at a Traffic Light in Johannesburg when I selected the wrong gear and reversed into the car behind me, disabling it completely. The poor young lady driver was very distraught to see her Cortina demolished. The Police had come and gone promising me that although it was an accident I might be summonsed in the near future to answer to a charge of driving without due care. My Fiat had not sustained too much damage but a week or so later I traded it in on a Vauxhall VX4/90. This was one quick car when it was running properly. It had triple carbs and tuning them to run smoothly was an exercise in futility at times.

Vauxhall VX 490

Vauxhall VX 490

By this time I was become fed up with my job at the Council. It was dead boring with little future unless you were prepared to study and attain some degree of competency. I moved out my digs and slept in my car for two months to save money. Eating very sparingly and only paying my car payments on time I was soon away from that job heading west once again. I had decided to go to South West Africa to have a second look. It was November and some summer rains had fallen. I took a shortcut through the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park and beyond that I had to cross a number of saltpans which were quite wet in places and I couldn’t get good traction. I had stopped to let some air out of the tyres when a large American Jeep Truck rumbled up to where I was. The driver rolled his window down and asked if I was OK. I instantly recognised the voice. Behind the dark glasses was my old school class mate, Tienie. Wow, what a surprise to meet someone, whom I had shared a lot of time with in days gone by, out there in remote country. We had not seen each other for five years.

I kept on heading north promising to catch up with Tienie at a later date. He was on his way to Johannesburg to source parts for some earthmoving machinery that he was in charge of and I had to find a job. I managed to get a room once again at the Boarding House I had stayed at when I visited Windhoek the last time. I landed a job with BSB which stands for Boere Saamwerk Beperk. It was the Afrikaans version of FCU. My job was to visit farms as set out by the company over a vast area bordered by the Highway south out of Windhoek and the Border of Botswana. My job was to collect Persian lamb pelts from the farmers for marketing overseas by the company I was working for. I was given a One Ton Chevrolet Utility truck, and a labourer, for loading and unloading and also as a gate opener as there were plenty of them to contend with. The company also gave us a box full of food, enough to sustain us for a week and two bedrolls as we had to sleep out from time to time if we were between farms. We used to deliver drums of fuel and other items supplied by the company and we usually loaded to the hilt with the truck straining under the weight. It was a good job in the outdoors and I met over time, lots of interesting people. Some were very friendly and some were different. Many would say front up that they sent their pelts to a different company but overall I think I was doing OK for the company.

About three months into the job I had to get the truck service and new tyres fitted. The following morning I picked the truck up and the labourer and we loaded all the gear I was delivering to farms, and away we went heading south this time. About 50 kilometres out of Windhoek I heard a faint clicking noise for a few minutes, and then a louder clicking noise and suddenly all hell broke loose. A wheel went bouncing off into the bush. The left hand front of my truck dropped down onto the tarmac and what followed was a hairy ride in a relatively straight line for about 250 metres. I hung on to the steering wheel trying to keep the truck running straight while the wheel hub was screeching away on the tarmac below. The truck was fully loaded with drums of fuel and other supplies. Luckily nothing moved during this wild ride and we ground safely to a halt. During the event my passenger had been praying very loudly and when we came to a standstill just off the side of the road he jumped out and kissed the ground and thanked his god for saving his life. All through the rest of the day he kept repeating “My time wasn’t up yet…no it wasn’t.” I sent him off to look for the wayward wheel which had jumped a fence and had careered into the bush for about half a kilometre before coming to rest against a Camel-thorn Tree. It took him a while to retrieve the wheel. Meanwhile I assessed the damage. Obviously someone at the tyre fitting place had neglected to tighten the nuts on the front wheel. The whole wheel hub was pulverised into a molten mess of metal. I managed to get a ride back into town and picked up another truck from my workplace after explaining the situation to my boss. Back at the scene of the accident the labourer and I had to transfer the load to the new truck and that took some effort especially with three 200 litre drums of diesel on board. Just as we had completed our task and were catching our breath a tow truck arrived to remove the stricken vehicle.

As the wheel hub ground along the tarmac it made a sizeable groove in the road surface. I often wondered in later times what the road maintenance crews would have thought of this.

I caught up with Tienie and his job site at a later date and we progressed from there to his girlfriend’s place in Marienthal. It was a long weekend and there was lots to do and see and everyone was in a party mood. The last day we meandered out to the Hardap Dam where someone had a boat and everyone went skiing. I tried a few times to water ski but could not get my balance right. Maybe I had had too much wine! In the afternoon one of the girls wanted to take the boat for a spin and no one else wanted to go with her as they were all lazing about. So I volunteered. We were still drinking wine and I soon found out that wine and boating does not mix.

The young lady was driving the boat and near the dam overflow the engine cut out. I was desperately trying to get it restarted as we drifted toward the weir wall. Luckily I managed to grab hold of the side of the weir wall and hung on like a limpet mine. We were rescued by another boat and towed back to our camp. Everyone was very upset about this and blamed me for failing to take sufficient care. I was inebriated and dismissed their complaints with a wave of my hand, gathered my things and drove back into town. By this time it was getting dark and I decided to drive home to Windhoek seeing as everyone was being very unfriendly. It was a hot night and after a short while I became very drowsy and pulled over to sleep. The road was very quiet and with little traffic and I opened the cars doors and lay across the seats. Around 3am a blaring sound shattered my peace when a truck stopped just in time as I had parked on the roadway itself. More grumpy words were spat at me. I said nothing and just got behind the wheel and drove home a lot more sober than earlier in the night.

Another couple of months passed and upon returning back to the depot one day there was a note from Tienie to say that I should meet him at the Windhoek Hotel later that evening. And so I became involved with Jaco and a hair brained scheme in Angola. (This story is written up under the heading Jaco and the Diamond Differential).

I found myself back in Cape Town in early 1968, stony broke and with few prospects. My family had some shares in a large insurance company and knew the Managing Director personally and he offered me a job as a pen pusher. The job was dead boring and extremely tedious but I latched on the MD’s secretary and she and I had a good time together and so the job became bearable. After falling around looking for accommodation in various locations I ended up living in the main drag at Sea Point. I was having a beer in one of the local pubs one evening and was chatting to the Kiwi barman by the name of Neil about New Zealand and places far away. He introduced me to another chap who had walked into the bar called Ian. It turned out that he was the Operations Manager of Springbok Atlas Safaris who hired drivers to drive luxury cars around taking private tourists all over South Africa. Ian in turn introduced me to Gordon Hall the General Manager of the company which was run under the auspices of Grosvenor Motors Car Hire. I was offered a part time job driving luxury cars around the city on weekends and in the evenings. This was a great job which I just loved doing. After a month or so Gordon said that could join the Garden Route Team of drivers if I wished. That would necessitate giving up my job as a clerk. I left that job but the MD wasn’t too happy about that stating that I could build a career in Insurance and that I was throwing away a golden opportunity. I agreed, to be polite, but left anyway to go and enjoy myself. My new tour drivers group was comprised of Ian, Sean, Johan, Fred, Casper and myself as I recall. Casper was an older gentleman with some very strange habits. He used to collect all the soap from the hotels he stayed in without using them. He was also an amateur ventriloquist. At Swellendam at the Drostdy Museum there was a very large and beautiful wooden cupboard. Casper used walk past with his entourage and the cupboard would to say “Hello Casper”. Casper would then knock gently on the side of the cupboard with his knuckle and say “Are you still in there?” and a short conversation would follow much to the delight of his clients.

The tour guide’s job was great and I enjoyed every minute of it. The company catered mainly for Inbound Tour Operators from the USA. We had some great times and learned a lot. In those days Americans were very uninformed about Africa and the questions we were asked sometimes beggared belief. But we had to answer and guide our customers through their tour of the countryside. The pay wasn’t very good but we got free accommodation and meals and we received tips from our clients and kickbacks from various souvenir outlets. I was making 1000Rands a month on average and life was good. I was also allowed to take my car home most evenings if I had a tour on the next morning. This was good as for the first time in some years I did not own a car. In the mean time I kept on talking to my Kiwi mate behind the bar when I was in town. He had been to Australia and told me snippets about this vast place that intrigued me.

I didn’t have a steady girlfriend at that time but my old love Carol was still in the background waiting for me to settle down, as she put it, and then we could consider things. We were walking on the beach and she told me that another chap, whom I knew, had proposed to her and that she was going to accept his offer of marriage in the not too distant future. She told me I had no prospects and she was right in a way. I was out to have adventure and fun and was not thinking of settling down! Not that I had set my heart on marrying her but it did come as a bit of a blow at being rejected. We had been close friends for many years and parted good friends and remained so forever. But on that day I had an abscessed tooth as well and had to visit an emergency dental clinic to have it removed later in the day. My feelings were slightly hurt and my tooth hurt me physically. That evening I was drowning my sorrows in the bar again, numbing the gaping hole in my lower jaw as well and thinking about the future.’

My future took a sideways step a few weeks later when I met an elderly Travel Agent who took a shine to me and who offered me a job in a town which name if have forgotten in the State of Wisconsin. I think that she had a daughter of marriageable age and thought that I may be a good prospect. I was excited about an opportunity such as that and seeing that my job driving limousines was not a permanent one I accepted the offer. Things started to move fast after that. I did state to this lady that I would be stopping off in Australia first for a three month holiday after going on a sea cruise and landing in the port of Fremantle of Western Australia. I made enquiries as to visa requirements and in those days there were none for South African citizens. I found a berth on the ship MV Ellinis, booked and paid for my passage. Then I informed my parents of my plans. My Mother was reserved about it but quite excited all the same and she and my Aunt Vera came to see me off at Cape Town Harbour. My Dad on the other hand was not impressed at all and told me that should I go east then it would be best if I kept on going that way. After I had boarded the MV Ellinis I found out that it was an Immigrant Ship heading from Britain to Australia. These were famous Ten Pound Tourists. All they had to pay towards their passage to Australia was Ten Pounds. There were only three of us who had paid the full fare. But I had a great time on board and I made lots of new friends.

Here I am on my voyage out from South Africa 1968

Here I am on my voyage out from South Africa 1968

An old school pal met me in Fremantle. I had a difficult time getting through Customs and Immigration because they asked in the questionnaire something about being on a farm and I said ‘Yes’. Not a good move. I was given an open working visa which was valid for 12 months. This was good but I had no intention of working. Ha!

I eventually caught up with Tony and his wife and after pleasantries they took me to a Boarding House which was pretty awful. There were bugs in the bed. When I woke up the next morning and looked out of the window all I could see was miles and miles of red tile roofs of houses. It looked dreary and for a moment my heart sank. My heart sank even further when I went in for breakfast and the Housemother was rude to me because I asked for something without eggs. Anyway, I shouldered my pack and sauntered down the street keeping my eyes open.

My first day in Australia was the 12th day of November in 1968 and it was an eye opener. At least they spoke English here and I could understand to some degree what they were saying through their nasal strains. Some words were beyond me. It wasn’t long before I found a shonky car dealer and procured a FJ Holden from him for $50. But the radiator had a hole in it and that had to be repaired first. Then I bought spare belts and hoses and engine oil and a drum for water and a jerry can for extra petrol and by the end of the day and $150 later I was mobile. While I was waiting for repairs to the car I had been looking through the paper for other lodgings and found some in Claremont, a western suburb of Perth. With a street map in hand I made my way along the streets keeping my eyes wide open to GIVE WAY TO THE RIGHT rules as the friendly car dealer had warned me. What a bloody experience! Cars could fly out from the right, even if you were on a major road and you had to give way to them, sometimes in haste, so as to avoid a collision.

I found my new lodgings after a while and booked in for a week. It was a much nicer place with gardens and lawns out the front. I had decided to go and look for job and would take the train in to the city each day. I was also set on getting an Australian Drivers Licence.

The following morning a bloke at my breakfast table said “Ow yer going” to me and I said “By train” and he looked at me quizzically. Someone at the table twigged amongst all the laughter and explained my second lot of Australian slang to me. I soon found out what “wog” and other vernacular meant. I dressed up in a suit and went to the city doorknocking on Travel Agents looking for a job whilst presenting good references. It was not to be. The Australian psyche in1968 was to make you start at the bottom if you were new from overseas. After two weeks of doing this I gave up and went to the labour exchange or Commonwealth Employment Service. I had also managed to pass the questionnaire needed to obtain my Driver’s Licence.

I had hardly set foot in the Commonwealth Employment Service office when I got sent to a job. What sort of job was it? You will be working as “Dogman’s offsider” came the reply. What the hell is a dogman, I wondered? Maybe I would be working at the local Kennels, sweeping or hosing dog enclosures out? Anyway, I caught the bus to this place and presented myself. It was a steel manufacturing yard and I soon found out what a dogman was.

The Dogman is the bloke that signals to the Crane Driver when and where to place the wire rope, which has a number of heavy duty chains attached to it. Once the chains are in close proximity to the object to be lifted the Dogman’s Offsider attaches the chains to whatever needs to be moved. I had never had anything to do with chains before in my life but I earned really fast. The blokes I was working with were less than enthusiastic at me being there. Every time I asked what seemed to them as a silly question, they swore at me and called me names. I managed to hold on to the job for two weeks but then told the foreman at the beginning of the second Friday that I would finish up that afternoon. He was less than complimentary but I ignored his remarks and collected my pay at 4.30pm and left that miserable place with its miserable people.

After a month in Australia, I was getting ideas of moving on from Perth and took to the road to the north in my FJ Holden!

Don't I look neat in a Safari Suit?  Me and my Holden 1968

Don’t I look neat in a Safari Suit? Me and my Holden 1968

 

 

Posted in Life Stories.