Wednesday, October 17, 2007
































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 Brisbane all those years ago (stories I’ve been relating in “Reaching Out to the City Lights”….which I must complete one of these days!). Vicki, the sender of the surprise email, for the past eleven and a half years was Personal Assistant to our recently retired Queensland Premier, Peter Beattie. See, I do have friends and acquaintances across the political divide! Tracking me down through mutual friends, Vicki imparted some sad news to me. A co-worker from those halcyon, innocent, naïve and simple days of our youth passed away. Tears flowed freely and unashamedly down my cheeks as I read and recalled the happy, fun times we all had shared.

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:

Sir Horace Tozer (1844-1916), solicitor and politician, was born on 23 April 1844 and baptized Horatio at Port Macquarie, New South Wales, son of Horatio Thomas Norris Tozer, chemist, and his wife Charlotte Winifred Amelia, née Croft. Educated at Newcastle and at Rev. W. H. Savigny's Collegiate School, Sydney. He was articled to James Malbon Thomson in Brisbane in 1862 and admitted as a solicitor of the Supreme Court of Queensland on 7 December 1867. The practice he established next year at Gympie soon flourished. A joint owner of mining leases, Tozer became an authority on mining law and was a member of the Gympie Mining Court; he conducted two mining appeals before the Privy Council, in London.

(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, Cairns. I was invited to his retirement party that was held at the RSL Club, but because of commitments I was unable to attend. However, I wrote a poem to him in dedication of the fond and fun memories I had of those wonderful days and years working with him. Graham Jeffery, the son of my boss, John Jeffery, who had completed his “Articles” beneath his father’s guiding hand, who also worked as one of “us”, staff, and who later inherited/bought his father’s practice had the illustrious duty of reading my poem during the evening’s festivities. Later that night, after the party was over and everyone was back in their respective homes, I received a telephone call from Graham, the anointed one, informing me that “Brownie” had been so thrilled and so very pleasantly surprised by his poem.

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.

36 comments:

  1. Hi Lee
    I was amazed at reading this post and the one before, how much our early lives parallel. Even to the point of our mothers being working mothers in that age of stay-at-home mums who brought up their children on their own as well as working. Amazing.

    It's alway sad when a loved friend of our halcyon younger years passes away...it's sad and we know we'll never relive those years...only in our memories.

    As for the meat pies, I, too, love a good meat pie. Yatala pies do it for me these days, they're about the closest one can get to a childhood yummy tasting pie.

    Good to catch up.

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  2. I think it always interesting and rewarding to hear from those to whom you have lost contact and revisit past memories, even though the communications brought sadness. Malcolm Fraser made that memorable statement, which you no doubt you remember, that life was not meant to be easy, which I think is true. Nice pictures, history and experiences of your first employer. The idea of writing a poem for a colleague and friend no doubt was an occasion of mutually shared delight.
    Best wishes

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  3. I've not had a Yatala pie in years, Robyn. They were good and it would seem they still are of similar quality. There's place in Canungra that serve their own "home-made" pies and they pretty damn good, too! ;) It's also good to see you back up and running and computering! ;)

    Yes, Lindsay...the simplicity of our youth is a cherished memory. :)

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  4. Time marches on but please know that you've written a lovely tribute to a good gentleman.
    Thanks for sharing your life with us Lee.

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  5. Hi Lee, a sad but very nice tribute post to a departed friend.

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  6. I just wish was marching to a slower drummer, Cliff! ;)

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  7. Thanks, Peter. :)

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  8. It is sad to know that someone whom you knew so well in earlier times has passed on.
    A nice tribute to him however.

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  9. He had a good innings, jmb, but, yes, I was sad to hear of his passing. :)

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  10. Thanks for sharing this with us. It's amazing how time passes, days, weeks, years. We don't ever forget these friends, but our busy lives keep us from keeping close contact. My thoughts are with you.

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  11. Hi Lee ~~ Great story again and it is always sad to lose a friend. You wrote a nice tribute to him. I felt for you in Maths, but you did well in the end. Can't believe they threw out those historic records at Gympie. Take care,
    Love, Merle.

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  12. Lee
    It was with great sadness that I read those historical journals were tossed out. They would have given the future generations a peak at times gone by if they had been place in a Museum.
    How can we learn from the past if we toss it out.
    Thanks for sharing with us the waves of time that lap at your mind.
    I loved school. I think I could have been a professional student.Learning opened up so many interesting things until CALCULAS which is still foreign to me.
    Peace

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  13. Hi AW...we never know if friends from the past still think about us as we do them, and it's always uplifting when we discover that they do, like when I received the emails from Vicki. It was great to hear from her after all the years and to learn that I've often been in her thoughts throughout that time. The funny thing is I was talking about her to a friend only a few weeks ago.

    I just wasn't interested in algebra and geometry, Merle. I could see no real purpose in it for me...and I think I was right as I've never really needed to use it to any great extent since. But I realised it was just a matter of applying commonsense and some logic so I thought I'd prove I could do it if I really had to! It was part of my torment of my teacher, Mr. Martin! ;) He enjoyed the game, I think as I ran into him a few years later and we laughed about that time.

    Hi Lady Di...I, too, was astounded that those pieces of history were just callously tossed away. I often think about it.

    I didn't dislike school and I did pretty well while there but my stronger desire was to go out to work and earn some money and learn about life and the world in my own terms. :)

    Thanks for your comments everyone. :)

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  14. I loved Krupa too!..but I sooooo agree with you about marching to a slower drummer now!!

    some of my brothers classmates went to visit him recently (50th reunion).. after the initial surprise at seeing each person, you could see the years just disappear and the wonderment of how life gets in the way of keeping contacts... it happens to us all.

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  15. It sure does, Deslily. I had a glossy photo of Krupa on my bedroom wall when I was a kid! I was hooked from a very early age! :)

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  16. lee,
    Some times the world is too much with us!
    rel

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  17. How wonderful to write a special poem dedicated in memory to your friend who retired.

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  18. And, sometimes Rel, we're too much for it! ;)

    I was glad I did, Ellee as Brownie got a thrill out of it...it was a light-hearted one, befitting its subject. :)

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  19. Wonderful post, Lee. I can just see you stepping out into the world of work. What a fab line - "I thought solicitors had something to do with the law"! And fancy those precious journals having just been dumped like that. "Brownie" sounds a wonderful character. You had me worried there for a minute with that line about "sleeping" with him! - "It's not like Lee to boast about something like that", I thought! Then I read the rest of your funny story. Great memories - I can imagine how hearing from your friend from back then affected you with both laughter and tears. Auguri.

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  20. Hi Welsh...I'm glad you enjoyed my little story. You're the first and only one who picked up on the humour of my first "sleeping partner"! ;)

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  21. Nice profile, nice tribute to your friend and may he live on in your heart. I found it intriguing how he used the girls of the office to fill newspaper space for deadlines. My one recurring dream is that I'm back working on a deadline with my former newspaper and I have nothing to write. I would have loved to have been able to take a picture of some young women and call it a day.

    I, too, loved the pictures of the meat pies. I knew they were coming because of the Google ads for Aussie meat pies at the beginning of your blog.

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  22. Hi Dave! Yep, we were frequently featured in the papers all that fame and notoriety ceased when I left Gympie to live in Brisbane, sadly! Hehehehehe!

    I never cease to be intrigued just how quickly Google pick up on the contents of the posts...so soon there is an ad., or two reflecting the contents.

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  23. How bittersweet to reconnect with an old friend under such sad circumstances.

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  24. It was, Serena...and my mind has been filled with fond memories ever since...all of which have made me smile and laugh.

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  25. what a post...hope, joy, sadness, courage, loss and future all wrapped up into a tight little ball....

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  26. Great story, Lee ... thank you for sharing. Memories are just amazing things.
    Hope you are well.
    Take care, Meow

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  27. As usual, a good read!

    Marc

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  28. Hey Lee. Great story as usual. Sorry about my sorry absence. I'm amazed to the journals got tossed. That's too bad.

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  29. Good morning to you all...Rebecca, Connie, Marc and Corn Dog. Thanks to you all for your comments. You visited while I was off sleeping and dreaming! :)

    It's great to hear from you, Corn Dog. You are missed greatly, you know!! :)

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  30. This is totally funny. Close to home, and our wakeup this morning. Not so little boy kittey has appointed hmself the wakeup cat. If we are not awake after the alarm goes off, and the snooze bar is tapped, this is what ensues:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1qiGyxPplAw

    Real close in this house!

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  31. Did not post as a link.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1qiGyxPplAw

    One more try.

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