My cousin Gladys was raised by our grandparents and I spent many a day and night with them. It was on one of these nights, when Gladys and I were talking and laughing loudly in the bed we shared that Grandpop, who was trying to sleep, called for us to be quiet. He said that we sounded like a pair of jackasses. Well, this only made the situation worse because we both launched into kookaburra laughs. Next thing we heard a thump and a shuffle and Grand pop appeared at our door and hurled his slipper in our direction. It amazed us that it actually landed on the bed since it was fairly dark and he was blind. I guess we were pretty impressed with his effort because we showed some respect and our loud laughter was reduced to quiet giggles until we eventually went off to sleep.
Another evening, we were all sitting out on the verandah listening to the frogs in the deep drain that ran behind the property when Grand pop told us that the frogs sold wine. He said if we were quiet and listened we would hear them calling ‘Plonk, two-bob a bottle, plonk, two-bob a bottle!’ Se we did, and yes, that is just what it sounded like.
Often when Grandma sent us to the shops for supplies Grand pop called us over and gave us a coin to spend. He would take out his coin bag with the ring on top and produce what we would tell him was only a penny. He would tell us that he may be blind but he could tell the difference between a penny and a two-bob piece and if we didn’t clear off it would be the last coin we’d ever get. I think he really enjoyed playing that little game at testing us, as sometimes it would be a shilling and we would tell him it was only a halfpenny, but of course he knew all along what it was.
Grandma told us that in their younger days, when they lived on the old Magenta Road in Chiltern, Grand pop would meet up with his mate, Ted Milligan (who incidentally was my paternal grandfather) and they would walk down to the town and share a few pints with their mates at one of the local pubs. Apparently the wives had an arrangement with the publican and local policeman that if their husbands had imbibed a few too many they were to be locked up in the cell for the night. This was for their own protection and to ensure that they arrived home safely to their respective families. You see, the bushland along the Magenta Road was an old gold-mining area and peppered with mine shafts, some of them close to the edge of he road. It was a bit risky for two drunks staggering along there in the dark.
Sadly, lives change and it was a sad time when Grand pop fell ill. When the priest was called we knew that he was going to die. He passed away at the age of eighty-eight in his own bed at home. It was a sad time for Glad and I, but I was thankful to have shared the last years of his life with him. Those memories, though few, have remained a special part of my childhood.