Hi. I’m Frank and I was born in Sydney, Australia way back in the middle ages…. Well, the middle ages of the last century that is.
That still sounds weird, doesn’t it.
It was actually in August, 1943 that I entered this world. I started life with the sounds of Glenn Miller, Louis ‘Satchmo’ Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, Doris Day and many, many more wonderful voices that emanated from the old valve radios of the day.
My father, Frank Snr. was born in Fresno, California and was serving on US navy destroyers during WW2. He was on exercises under Admiral Halsey outside Pearl Harbor when it was hit by Japan on December 7th, 1941. He served to the end of the war and settled in Sydney with my mother, Stella Norma Ross, who was also born in Sydney.
The family moved from the Sydney suburb of Kingsford to the western fringe of Sydney, a place called St. Marys. At the time, most of St. Marys had dirt roads, and plumbing, but no sewerage system.
We had a milkman for home deliveries or, if we chose to get our milk fresh and sometimes, still warm, there was a dairy up the road from us where the Sproul sisters had their cows and sold locally to the residents. Of course, we had a cabinet type ice box, the pre-runner to the refrigerator and we had regular deliveries of ice, which came in a great big block.
With no sewerage connected, there was the weekly pick-up and exchange of the out-house (or ‘dunny’ as we called it back then) pan. This was like a big, wide black bucket that sat under the toilet seat and was replaced on a regular basis by a worker who drove a large truck with around . I can still remember the smell of creosote and phenol that covered the pan.
It was around this time that I got my introduction to, in a very small way, of ‘cowboy’ life. I learnt how to milk a cow. It also meant that with the couple of cows we owned, I had to go out on the weekends and watch the cattle as they grazed across the railways tracks on what was known as ‘the common’. This was a chore that I shared with my brothers. It was also a time when I learnt how to ride (and at least once, get thrown from) a horse. Many years later, I would complete the circle of my ‘taste of being a cowboy’ when I would strap on a holster and sixguns and blaze away, throwin’ hot lead down range.
After leaving high school, I worked as a telegram boy for the PMG (PostMaster General) which handled telephones and mail services back then. My first posting was at Granville Post Office and all the telegrams that were sent and received at Granville were done with morse code and an old typewriter. We telegram boys would then deliver the telegrams to addresses within the area on big heavy push bikes that seemed to weigh a ton. We were tough back then. Even the ‘posties’ rode push bikes with great, heavy bags over the front wheel.
The main rail line from Sydney to the Blue Mountains and beyond was still non-electric until 1955, so for a short time at least, I experienced railway trains pulled by steam locomotive going past at the end of our street. I still recall going to the railway lines, collecting coal that had fallen off the coal tender at the rear of the locomotive. It made good burning in our wood combustion room heater, the good old faithful ‘Wundaheat’.
We also had a slow combustion stove for cooking, I don’t recall if ever we used coal in that unit, although we may have. Our stove also had a ‘wet back’ (no, not a Mexican) installed in the back of the firebox and that’s how we got our hot water for dish washing and bathing.
Moving along, I did a small stint in the CMF (Citizens Military Forces), which was an earlier version of the Army Reserves that we have today. I was attached to 25 Platoon, 12 Company, RAASC (Royal Australian Army Service Corps) which was a transport unit. I never got to drive a truck though, just marched and drilled. Oh, and I did get to shoot off some 9mm rounds from an Owen machine carbine (full auto machine gun) once. That target sure was sorry that it just stood there and tried to stare me down!
After transferring from telegram boy (18 was the age limit) to the PMG Stores and Contracts division, I spent time at Sydenham Scrap store, Greenacre store and finally Villawood cable yard.
It was while I was at Sydenham that I married my first wife Maree. It was a short marriage and it bore one son, Gary. I still correspond with them both to this day and we’re what I would regard as being good friends.
I decided that promotions in the PMG would take years, so I left and started working at a job with Swift & Bleakley in Ashfield, where I met Carole, the girl who would become my second wife. We had three children, Grant, Vicki and Clint. It was due to my meeting with Carole and our relationship that got me fired from Swift & Bleakley (damn jealous bosses!)
I spent the next couple of years working at various jobs, during which time I’d joined 22 (City of Sydney) Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force, based at Richmond, New South Wales.
This was a reserve squadron and until just prior to me joining, was an active flying squadron. It also was an active squadron during WW2, with a Victoria Cross (posthumous) recipient.
I served almost 12 years with the air force and I’m fortunate enough to be able to keep in touch with ex-members of the squadron, including visits to the base for the occasional BBQ or whatever social function that they may invite 22 Sqn. Association members to.
In 1969, I started work at Kodak, working in stock control and purchasing, at their Processing Laboratory in Annandale, Sydney. Here too was another 12 wonderful years spent in a job that wasn’t fantastic in wages, but made up for with the working environment and the great friends I made there, many of whom I still keep in touch with almost 40 years later.
I had previously dabbled in both, colour and black & white developing and printing when I was at Swift & Bleakleys. I’d built myself a nice little darkroom at home and even managed to develop some 8mm movie film once.
Black and white work was always satisfying and overall, I was able to achieve some reasonable results in the colour developing and printing side of things as well. I also had quite a bit of enjoyment making 8mm and Super 8 movies, some even had sound (using a magnetic sound track built onto the edge of the film by the Eastman Kodak people).
Working at Kodak allowed me to delve deeper into photography as well, but the real joy of photography came in the digital age. By combining a digital camera, great programmes like Corel Draw and Corel Paint and a laser or LED duplex full colour printer (not to mention the magnificent dye-sublimation printers), there is no end to what one can produce with some imagination.
If anyone thinks that my foray into digital technology ended with laser/LED printer technology, you’re wrong. I still haven’t mentioned Thermal Wax printers or 3D printers yet. They’re both part of what I’ve experimented with and with great success.
After reluctantly leaving Kodak, with very fond memories of the people there, not to mention Doreen, the light of my Kodak life, I could see that things were changing in the photographic industry and it was time for me to move on. I started out working with my Greek friend, Nick Angelopoulos, as a door-hanger, eventually branching out on my own. By this time, I’d been divorced (again) and I’d left the air force.
I spent some years hanging doors as a sub-contractor. Now, hanging a door isn’t such a hard thing, y’ know. Of course, some people think that the hardest part of hanging a door is settin’ it on th’ hoss an’ getting’ the rope around it……. I know. Dumb joke, eh?
The thing is, door hanging was a very good job and if one were to work hard at it, they could make a very good living out of it. I didn’t go down the ‘hard path’ with it though. I was content enough being my own boss and still surviving comfortably enough.
I have to admit, my life’s choices and how I lived my life have never made me rich and famous (forget the famous, but rich never entered into it either), but I know that I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. I feel sorry for people who look forward to the end of it all. I’ve never ‘wrastled’ grisly bears or crossed swords with pirates, but the things I got involved in have given me so much pleasure and fulfillment
WE’RE STILL BUILDING THIS SO, PLEASE WEAR YOUR HARD HAT