Out of the blue yesterday, I received an email from someone I’d worked with many, many years ago in my first job. We’ve not seen each other since I left Gympie to live and work in
On the one hand, my entrance into the wide, wonderful, grown-up “working world” was full of eager anticipation and bravado, but on the other hand, I approached it tentatively, with concealed inner tremors. A whole new life, filled with unknown adventures and promises opened up for me.
I left high school mid-Junior year without completing the final examination. Much to my geometry and algebra teacher, Mr. Martin’s mixed emotions of delight and disappointment. His lessons bored me. I must admit I was a disruptive student under his supervision. I wasn’t rude, but I had a bushel load of uncontrollable mischievous behaviour when in his presence. Consistently, I just scraped through any Maths A assignments. "As long as I passed" was my motto. In my other subjects I was always up with the first two or three in class, reveling in such subjects as English, History, Geography and the commercial subjects. However, when it came to algebra and geometry my interest flew out the window in a puff. To prove a point and to keep Mr. Martin on his toes, I believe upon reflection, I decided to knuckle down and study. For my last examination before the major Junior trial, I received 95% for the Maths A exam. Jimmy Martin’s “delight” was over my result, crowing, “I knew you had it in you…all you had to do was put your head down and concentrate. I knew it!”
Accepting his jubilant, congratulatory praise, I smiled at him, ‘You’ll never get me now!” My cry was in reference to his “little black book” in which my name filled its pages with enough detention dates to have carried me through until this day! That was his disappointment, I'm sure! Standing facing each other, we smiled, shook hands and acknowledging a “draw” in our “battle”, we each went our separate way, he back to school, and me towards my future.
Dressed in a crisp blouse, sombre sweater and skirt, with lightly and carefully applied make-up, I entered the hallowed domain of Tozer and Jeffery, Solicitors, (now known as "Jeffery, Cuddighy & Joyce) to commence my new role as legal secretary on a Monday morning in late July. I was fifteen years old, a naïve innocent in an unknown world. With me I carried a vague idea solicitors had something to do with the law, however I was not deterred by my lack of worldly knowledge, a fact I kept fairly well hidden…I believed! For the first time, I earned money of my own. I felt like a queen! My first pay packet enabled me to purchase a moss green short-sleeved woolen jumper (sweater), a pair of shoes and a 45rpm record of Gene Krupa of all people! It was proof of my love of the drums and for the maestro who had changed drumming in the eyes of the world, I told myself as I hugged my new purchase. He who had drawn people’s focus to drumming and drummers like no others before him had been an idol of mine from when I was a very small child.
A little history for you to ingest and digest:
(Delving amongst some dusty, very old journals in what we named "the dungeon", a below-street level floor of the premises, I came across a thick, hard-bound ledger with hand-written, ink entries referring to James Nash, dated back in 1867-1868. James Nash, prospector, discovered gold in 1867 which put Gympie on the map as well as restoring the coffers of Queensland's treasury. I was thrilled with my own discovery. Years later I learned that all those historic, important journals and ledgers were dumped when interior renovations took place. Naturally, I was gob-smacked! They were important parts of Gympie's history, I believed...correctly!)
With my introduction to Tozer and Jeffery, came my introduction to Keith Brown, “Brownie” as he soon became affectionately known. To me, at that time, he was quite “old”, but in hindsight, he had not tipped the scales at forty years of age when I began working with him. Unconsciously, “Brownie” and I became drawn to each other. Perhaps it was because we were both Scorpios, with his birthday falling nine days before mine. He was, I guess, what is now known as a “Paralegal”, and then known as a “Legal Assistant”. “Brownie” also handled all taxation matters. Soon, I began doing all his dictation and kindred chores.
“Brownie” was generous of spirit, sporting a wicked sense of humour. Donning another robe and hat, he was one of the local professional photographers, taking photographs of weddings, special celebrations, etc., for the local paper, “The Gympie Times”, and on behalf of private contracts. Always in search of a subject and story to satisfy the newspaper’s requirements, we girls in the office soon became “Brownie’s” regular “models”. Barely a paper was published without one or more of us featuring on Page One, Two, Three, and/or wherever else a story and photograph could be placed.
His latest photographic efforts were displayed constantly in the window of Stalley’s Shoe Shop in Mary Street, the main street of Gympie, able to be purchased by the public, whether they were related to the subject or not! A fact I was to later to discover! A few of the local high school senior boys at the Christian Brothers’ College purchased photos of me and pinned said photographs up in their dorms at their boarding quarters! Quite an achievement, I suppose, considering I wasn't a Catholic! That was probably the first, and the last time I’ve ever been a “pin-up”!
I’ve always laid claim to the fact that “Brownie” was the first man I’d ever slept with!
Let me clarify that statement before your mind is flooded with incorrect notions and assumptions!
“Brownie’s” office was situated in the top level of the building in which legal practice operated. The morning sun poured through the wide, high windows. Often after a couple of hours of constant dictation a desperate desire for sleep would take over, not only by me, but “Brownie”, too. We formed a pact, where, in turn, with one keeping watch; the other would place his/her head on the desk and have a nap. This pleasure became a habit and throughout the five years I worked with “Brownie”, I also “slept” with him!
“Brownie” was a gem. He was a loving, proud husband and father of three children.
Every year following my departure from Gympie up until I returned back in 1998, I rang “Brownie” on his birthday. Being back in Gympie, I visited him and his wife a couple of times. They lived not far from my dwelling.
When “Brownie” retired from Tozer and Jeffery I was living in Yorkey’s Knob,
With conflicting emotions, ranging from tears to laughter and all those in between, I read yesterday’s email from Vicki. Transposed back to those years, one part of me wanted desperately to remain there, lost forever.