Thursday, January 10, 2013

Summer in the 70s

Happy New Year readers and hello 2013. This week we are being blasted by a heatwave like summers of old. While some people are convinced it is a sure sign of global warming, I’m lost in the nostalgia of the summers of my childhood on the Hay Plains.

When my mother arrived as a bride at Red Hill Station in 1966 there was only one tree on the 20,000+ acre sheep station. It must have been quite a shock to her system, arriving from her lush family farm in New Zealand’s north island, where she had grown up with hills covered in green grass and abundant trees, fat, white sheep and no bush flies, red-back spiders or snakes.

The Hay Plains are naturally treeless and the trees that my parents planted took years to grow into anything significant (those trees that actually survived that is). The summers in the ‘70s out there were hot and relentless with very little shade. When they built their new homestead in 1967, my parents had a “cool room” built into the kitchen; a large walk-in fridge that could easily hang a side of beef or several sheep, boxes of fruit and vegetables and other groceries. My mother still says it’s the best room in the house during the summer and we used to take turns at locking ourselves in it as kids (and snacking on whatever yummy food we could find).

The air-conditioning in the family chariot, our ’72 Datsun 240c consisted of rolling down the windows and you had to be careful when sliding in on the black vinyl back seat (I was always a little envious of those fluffy lambskin seat covers that Mum and Dad had for their front seats).

After the flood years of ’73 and ’74, I remember scorching hot summers that seemed to stretch on endlessly. Until the mid 1970s at Red Hill Station the only room in the house with air-conditioning was the dining room (where the bassinet was parked when we were babies), the rest of the house baked. In those early years there was just one portable fan that moved between the kitchen and the bedroom my brother Tom and I shared.

We loved that fan, not just because it kept us a bit cooler but because we used to amuse ourselves by talking into the spinning blades to distort the sound of our voices… we weren’t the only ones thinking distorted voices were fun; a couple of years later in 1977, George Lucas and Hollywood delivered “Star Wars” to the world and the now famous distorted voice of Darth Vader… “Luke, I am your father!”

The hose on the back lawn, with or without sprinkler attached, provided hours of cool, wet fun. Later on Dad set up an above ground pool; a circle of tin with a plastic liner and waist-deep muddy water from the ground tank; we all thought it was brilliant despite the fact the water was infested with water beetles that would get tangled in our togs and bite us.

At some point in either the late ‘70s or early ‘80s the four of us Simpson kids were presented by our Gran with what was (and probably still is) arguably the world’s greatest summer toy of all time… the Slip ‘n Slide. An ingenious invention of a long sheet of plastic you wet down with a hose, added a bit of washing detergent for extra slippiness and ran towards full till before throwing yourself down for an adrenalin-producing slide… ahhh, happy days.   

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