Once a month a Gympie friend phones for a chat…a lengthy chat. He and I first met circa 1960. He was…still is…four years older than me.
In the late 50s he, along with four mates, formed a band. Immediately they became very popular. Their group, “The Starbrites” played many gigs throughout Gympie and surrounding areas, as well as sharing their music with crowds at well-known Brisbane venues. Their repertoire consisted pop, rock, country, and ballads, all of which the group played with free-spirited, professional aplomb.
Upon leaving high school to join the “working world”, weekly, often bi-weekly, I attended the local dances and record hops. A regular on the dance floor, I loved to dance. My friends and I waltzed, fox-trotted, twisted, limbo-ed, and be-bop-a-lula-ed every chance we got. We made sure we never missed a chance to dance.
I had a secret crush on the The Starbrites’ handsome young drummer. The furtive looks he flashed my way as I tripped the light fantastic, without ever tripping over, showed he had similar feelings towards me. We never acted on our hidden desires, though. Love at arms’ length it was.
More than three decades later, shortly after my brother Graham’s passing, my teenage crush and I chatted on the phone. It was the first time we’d talked in many a long year. During our conversation he told me the reason our romance never got off the ground…or the dance floor.
Unknown by me at the time, my brother Graham, having sensed the beating of our hearts, warned my admirer off! Graham figured part of his role as an older brother was to keep would-be suitors at bay. My brother might have believed my welfare was his priority, but if I’d wanted to be cloistered I would’ve become a nun, but of that, I would have none!
Music played a major role throughout our childhood. Our piano was rarely idle. Sing-a-longs around it were frequent. The piano was gifted to our grandparents on their wedding day. The steel-framed Irving Upright had belonged to an aunty of our grandfather. As mentioned in previous posts, our mother was brilliant pianist. With nimble fingers that effortlessly flew up and down the key board, Mum mastered all genres of music….with or without help of sheet music.
My brother loved to tease. I wasn’t his sole target. Often after dinner I’d attack the ebony and ivory, while Nana, lost in a world of her own, continued to fiddle about in the kitchen. Most nights Mum would be working. Through the years she worked long hours as a barmaid. Many chilly winter early morns Mum also picked beans on farms in the Gympie area.
Our kitchen was within close proximity to where the piano stood. After I’d played a few tunes, on cue, Graham and I, with mischievous twinkles in our eyes, would nod in silent accord. I’d then begin playing “Love Letters in the Sand”…a song that was first released decades before in 1931; a song, which through the years had been resurrected many times, most notably, and successfully, by Pat Boone in the late 50s.
Without fail, after playing only a couple of notes, Nana’s sweet voice would fill the air as she sang along unaware….completely oblivious…she was doing so. That is, until Graham and I broke out into loud laughter. She’d then realise we’d tricked her once again, Nana would shake her head in feigned annoyance, before bursting into joyful laughter. Each and every time I began playing “Love Letters in the Sand” Nana would burst into song and, once again, our devious plan had worked. A happy memory it is.
The last time I played the piano, any piano, was in 1974, the day after our mother passed away. Before leaving to fly back to Brisbane, with Nana sitting close by in quiet reverie, I played some of Mum’s favourites, which included,“On the Sunny Side of the Street”, “Walking My Baby Back Home”, “Ain’t Misbehavin’”…and her all-time favourite… Hoagy Carmichael’s, “Stardust”.
With Nana’s passing two years later. In 1976, Graham gave the piano to a Mackay pre-school. I hope the piano continued to bring years of joy to the children. Who knows? Perhaps, it still is...
My musical Gympie mate who rings me monthly (he rang me on Saturday just gone, and once again, we covered a lot of territory, and shared lots of laughs) still plays guitar and sings. He’s constantly updating his catalogue of songs because he regularly visits Gympie’s aged care facilities to entertain the residents.
The Starbrites broke up many years ago. My friend is the last man standing, but the music goes on. and on. It’s wonderful he is still, to this day, at the age he is now, sharing his talent, and love of music with others…selflessly brightening their lives.
Green Bean Salad: Combine 500g cooked, fresh green beans, 330g Three-Bean mix, 1 chopped red capsicum and 1 sliced onion. Mix together, ½c x-virgin olive oil, 3tbs vinegar, 2tbs brown sugar, 1/2tsp mustard powder, 2 crushed garlic cloves and 1tsp dried basil leaves. Pour over bean mix; chill for a few hours.
Beans & Tomato Salad: Trim 500g green beans; leave whole. Cook in boiling water until crisp tender, 3-5mins. Don’t overcook. Drain; cool. Cut away core of 6 tomatoes; cut into wedges. Use a punnet of whole cherry tomatoes, if preferred, In salad bowl, combine 2tbs Dijon mustard, 2tbs red wine vinegar, 4tbs finely chopped shallots, 1tbs finely chopped garlic, 4tbs x-olive oil, salt and freshly ground pepper. Add beans and tomatoes; toss well; sprinkle with 4tbs coarsely chopped basil.
Almondine Beans: Steam 500g fresh green beans until just tender. Meanwhile in a pan, melt 3tbs butter. Add 1tsp crushed garlic, 1-1/2tbs lemon juice and 1/3c sliced almonds. Sauté, stirring frequently until almonds are slightly browned. Be careful not to overcook the garlic. Add beans to serving dish; pour butter and almond mix over top