Sunday, June 17, 2007

"Reaching Out To The City Lights"...Chapter Thirteen

All my family ties to Gympie had been severed a few years earlier. With my brother married and raising his family in Mackay, my mother and grandmother left Gympie to live at Slade Point, a seaside suburb of Mackay, to be closer to my brother and his offspring. I made fleeting visits to welcome a new nephew or niece. Separately, my mother and grandmother came for lengthier stays with me in Brisbane.I rarely took time off from work.So much was happening around me in my workplace and my role in it was major.They were exciting times. I didn’t want to miss out on a thing.

In fact, I had so much time and money owing to me from leave not taken, that I innocently became the pawn in a game orchestrated by the union in the Sydney hosiery factory. As I’ve said previously, I had never been a member of a union, and to this day the status quo remains. It is probably why they chose me to be the scapegoat in their silly game.I had nothing to do with the Sydney factory, nor they, with me. The reasoning, which was beyond my logical thought and comprehension then, continues to baffle me to this day. When I was advised by the head office in Sydney that the union threatened to close down the Sydney factory, that it was bandying my name around, without my permission, setting me up as some example in their socialistic blackmail, I saw red…more like white…I was feeling white-hot anger!To this day, even though my reaction to being held to ransom cost me a lot, I have never regretted what I did.

Sitting quietly, alone in my office, I wrote a concise, precise, succinct note to the company in Sydney for them to pass onto the union. No one advised me how to handle the matter, nor did they know what I had in mind to do. I told no one, not even John Trimmer, until after I wrote and sent the letter.

In the letter I wrote: “My not taking holidays has been of my own choosing and freewill. I write to inform you that I hereby forfeit and relinquish all time and monies owing to me from accrued holiday leave and from accumulated sick leave.”

I felt like telling them to “put that in their pipes and smoke it” or more descriptively harshly, to put it where the sun didn’t shine, but I kept my dignity intact.

The strike action didn’t go ahead. I heard nothing further from the union, not even an acknowledgement to my letter.

Promotional evenings continued. Some were organized “out-of-premises”, being held in chosen restaurants. John and I appeared together on a local Brisbane morning televisions programme, which was hosted by John Crook.We discussed Kolotex panti-hose, their benefits etc., and the place the company held within the industry, nationally.

One special fun event I organized was held at “The Courtyard Restaurant” in Bowen Hills.We had held one or two functions at the restaurant previously.John and I had also entertained business associates there often over lunch. This particular evening was to have a “Hawaiian” theme, for no particular reason other than I thought it would be fun. The evening wasn’t to present a new product, but a goodwill-public relations gesture for the buyers and departmental managers from the Myer stores. More than likely, to be honest, it was just a good excuse to have a party! During the few weeks leading up to the evening, I spent time with the owner/chef of the restaurant, planning the format and choosing the menu for the evening’s pleasures. I’d decided we would hold a luau. Not an authentic Hawaiian Luau, of course, as the party was to be held in-doors in the restaurant’s function room.A long, low table made from trestles on blocks was laid out. It ran down the centre of the room to be surrounded by large plump cushions for our guests to sit and lounge upon. The room was transformed from a boring nondescript one of shades of grey and burgundy to a tropical paradise filled with potted ferns, palm fronds, banana leaves, frangipani blooms, hibiscus flowers and vibrant, multi-coloured sprays of bougainvillea blossoms. I begged, borrowed and didn’t steal fish-nets, shells and Japanese floating buoys.Generously, a neighbour of one staff member lent me a small, no-longer-sea-going craft that was decoratively placed at one end of the room, with much effort and sweat!I went on a search of suitable Hawaiian music and hired grass skirts and leis for my junior female staff members. Much to their shock-horror, I told them of my plans and their roles in those plans for the evening!Under instruction, after they finally realized I was serious, I guided them in the art of hula-dancing! Under my strict choreography, they spent their lunch hours leading up to the event, learning how to sway to the music. It was so funny!They did everything possible to try to talk me out of their on-stage performance, but I wouldn’t listen to the excuses they invented!

Melbourne Cup Day was the day before the event. Melbourne Cup Day in Baxter Street was always “party day”. “Sweeps” were organized.Fresh prawns brought in from Burleigh Marr at Breakfast Creek, an area well-known to "Brisbanites", together with other savoury delights, were part of the afternoon celebrations.Each year, John generously supplied a television set from his home or hired one for us, and equally generously went to the Tattersall’s Club for lunch, leaving the rest of us to the fun and games. At mid-day, someone was nominated to drive to Burleigh Marr to pick up the ordered seafood. Usually the day before Melbourne Cup Day, I did a “grog-run” to pick up the necessary supplies, together with the appropriate mixes. From noon onwards, no work was conducted by the Brisbane office. The Glo International showroom became the site for the party. On a normal day, John would ring me from the club to drive up to the city to collect him, but on Melbourne Cup Days he found his own way back by taxi, arriving back to the office later than usual.Each year at these parties, I knew there was no point expecting work out of any of us, once the feature race had been run.Grabbing some petty cash, I would commandeer one of the storemen to run across to the pub on the corner up the road from our premises to purchase a bottle of scotch, rum or brandy, whatever the spirit of choice John was drinking at that time.As soon as John arrived back to work to be confronted by his high-spirited staff, I’d place a glass of scotch or whatever in his hand.He had no other choice but to join in the revelry.He learned very quickly that any protests he made were purposely not heard or were purposely ignored.

The day before the Hawaiian party, he walked into the showroom to be confronted by the sight of two of his salesmen, Ken and Charles, leis around their necks, dressed in hula skirts, swaying non-seductively to the beat of Hawaiian music blasting forth! John just shook his head, burst out laughing and joined in the fun. He knew he couldn’t “beat us”, so he joined us in the fun.

The following day was busily spent finishing off the final arrangements for the evening ahead.My “girls” were still protesting about their coming performance, but I remained adamant. I told them “this could be your defining moments”!

Dressed in their grass skirts, bikini-tops and colourful leis the time arrived for their opening act. Nervously, they clustered together in a room off to the side of the stage that had been set up in the function room. Being the consummate “agent/manager/choreographer” my main fear was not that they wouldn’t go on, but that they would get the giggles. With a straight face, trying to hold down my own laughter, I glared at them, threatening them with “death” if they dared giggle.I told them not to look at each other but to “get up there and give it your all!” And that they did…expertly.Not a beat was missed as they did their “dance”. They were brilliant and received loud applause and accolades from our guests at the end of their performance. I sighed with relief!

They each told me later that they weren’t game to get the giggles; that I had put the fear of God into them with my before-performance lecture and threat!We laughed many time afterwards when we talked about that night.A couple of years ago, Debbie, who was one of the “dancers’ came up to visit me one weekend. She is now has a Phd. in Marketing and lectures at Griffith University on the Gold Coast. We recalled that night and laughed our heads off over it. Again, she told me there was no way they were going to get the giggles. “Lee” had spoken!At least on the night, my conviction and firm words worked, even if I was trying vainly to bury my own laughter. I will always remember the looks of absolute terror on their faces before they went “on stage”!

Our guests, plus us, sipped on heady, colourfully-decorated tropical cocktails served in scooped -out pineapples upon arrival, some choosing to stay with the cocktails throughout the evening, others drinking their beverages of choice. Sounds of "ooi-ng and ahh-ing" echoed through the room when dinner was served. The food was laid out down the centre of the table. The menu included as the centre-piece, a whole suckling pig, its crackling crisp and golden, served on a large platter surrounded by char-grilled pineapple rings and stuffed tomatoes. It was accompanied by chicken dishes, baked fish, coconut prawns, platters of fresh fruits, confetti rice, vegetables and a variety of salads, followed by coconut desserts, macadamia nut tarts and much more.

Those who managed to drag themselves away from the lowset table danced the night and the extra calories away, others chose to watch on from their large cushions, chatting amongst each other as their dinner digested slowly.

The night was a huge success. Everyone had a wonderful time, including my "hula dancers", who, by the way, never went on to achieve fame and fortune on the stage circuit!

To be continued...

(I don't know why this post has slipped over to the "right"...I hope it doesn't disturb the flow of your reading...I've just installed Microsoft Office, so perhaps the tabs on Word are out of alignment...I'll check into that...sorry)


  1. Anonymous1:10 AM

    Lee, thanks, it was very entertaining. The slip to the right wasn't a problem. Sounds like a fun party. I guess these types of functions lead up to you getting into the food industry.

  2. They do, Steve...each a step towards that direction. Thanks for your comment. :)

  3. lee,
    I can see you sternly cautioning those girls to keep straight face while doing the hula. ;-)
    You do know how to entertain!

  4. And it worked, Rel! ;) Wonders never do cease! Hahahahaha!

  5. Hi Lee, those were the days, short of the Packer wedding those sort of party's don't seem to happen anymore.
    I worked for an industrial supply company named Westeels in Melbourne years ago, our "Trade Nights" were always well attended because we went to the trouble of getting good entertaining programs and excellent suppers.

  6. Yep...they certainly were fun nights, Peter...perhaps not quite on the scale of the Packer pending wedding, but close to it! ;)

  7. I loves (female) hula dancers in grass skirts.
    Good post Lee! I actually did that in a skit many, many years ago. Wore my whitie tighties underneith though.

  8. Hey, that you've divulged your secret, I expect to see pics of your "moment" in your blog! ;)

  9. Lee, I'm sure that somewhere, in someone's forgotten picture album, there is a picture of me, topless, with war paint, grass skirt, skinny legs, with a war spear, and doing the Watuusi. I doubt it will ever surface in my lifetime. But if it does, it will probably be on the internet.

  10. On the internet, somewhere other than our blog.

  11. Well, that's a shame, Marc. I'm terribly disappointed. I'll just have to rely upon my imagination! ;)

  12. Hi Lee ~~Great post again.
    Seems like you are a great organiser -with your dire threats. At least you got the results you wanted. Sorry
    you had that run-in with the unions
    but you handled it well.
    I hope you never run out of these
    entertaining stories Lee. You sure
    do get us interested. Take care, Love, Merle.

  13. I think the unions were probably sorrier than I was, Merle. I was standing up for a principle...I had no choice than to do what I felt was right for me...not them...for what I believed in and I still don't regret what I did to this day.

    Never fear, Merle...I still have a few stories stored away in my head somewhere! ;)

  14. I thought my eyes had gone funny so was glad to see your mention of the fact that the post had "slipped right"! No, it didn't spoil my reading of it! What a fabulous party! I, too, can just see you forbidding those girls to giggle! Sorry about your run-in with the union, too. You are a woman of principle. Great pictures!

  15. I thought mine had too, Welsh! :)

  16. Re; your unwilling dancers. You could bend people to your will in the pre-tomahawk days? Impressive.

    And you bring up young Aussie girls in grass skirts and bikini tops, but no PICTURES?

    /sadly walks away.

  17. Aww...sorry about that, Gto...I was going to put up a pic of Lara Bingle for you in FauxNews this morning but changed my mind to please the ladies instead! ;)

    I was practising with my tomahawk swing on coconut trees at the time, Gto! ;)

  18. Hi Lee. I loved what you did to the Union...really spiking their guns...some do-gooder probably decided you'd be a good pawn about being foiled.

    As for the hula mean thing, not letting them giggle. I'm surprised they didn't wet themselves with!

    Ah, sounds like fun though. What an organiser you are...I'm surprised James Packer hasn't snapped you up to organise "The Wedding".

    Keep warm.

  19. Hi again Lee ~~ I hope you keep warm up there. Stay indoors rugged up and write some more. Take care, Love, Merle.

  20. Hi Lee,
    I can imagine an entertaining and interesting excursion for your companies Buyers from Myer and other retail oulets. Your post reminded me of a time I was in review where we were all dressed up as ham fisted ballerinas, all in tights.

    One of the chaps was an ex footballer, he stood 6feet 7inches! We all danced to Spartacus, led on stage firstly by a really talented ballerina.

    Interesting involvement with the union.

    Best wishes

  21. Ah the tough lady was about to loose it and lol and that would have surely started the giggles.

    Your Principles made you tooo generous. Even though it was you choice I think the company owes you with interest. I am a believer that a Company should not take any holidays or sick pay from anyone. I have known Companies here who have taken advantage of their good employees. I will step off my soap box now. oops!

    I sure would have enjoyed some of those parties you organized. John sounds like the BEST BOSS. Where is his award?

  22. Hi there Robyn...what a party that is, the Packer wedding celebrations! Good luck to sounds like a lot of fun.

    It sure has been cold these past couple of days, Merle...not so bad this morning. Thanks for popping in again.

    Lindsay, you and Marc would make a nice duo! I can see the two of you on stage in your skirts! ;)

    I wasn't being taken advantage of, Lady Di. I knew exactly what I was doing, and why I was doing it. Too involved to go into in here...I'd have to write a sequel to do that...and I've not yet finished the first copy yet! ;)

    John was an excellent boss and an equally excellent friend. :)

  23. Great post as usual Lee.
    There's nothing like the Melbourne Cup is there. I do miss it.
    Once I visited in November and arrived a couple of days before the cup. My racing fan inlaws told me to pick my horse for my bet at the TAB. Of course I didn't have a clue but studied all the horses and chose a grey. Well of course guess whose horse won and I don't think they forgave me for that.

  24. Yep...Melbourne Cup Day is certainly a special day here. I love it, jmb! :)

    Good on you! Nothing better than a win on Cup Day! :)

  25. That was great. I do enjoy reading your stories. I cannot wait to read the transition to the food industry. My daughter is getting into the food industry herself. She has been approved to be a student at the culinary institute here in Houston. She is really excited.

  26. That's wonderful news about your daughter, Sandra. It's hard can be extremely stressful.
    You're working to strict timetables, it can be dangerous work...however, it can also be very rewarding. As I always is only limited by one's imagination. I wish your daughter all the best, Sandra. There are wide and far horizons ahead for her. :)

  27. Ha. I loved the hula dancers. I wish I had been at some of these galas you put on. How grand!