George and “Aunty” Beatie were our backyard neighbours. Our family moved in December 1951, from living in a tent in Bankstown, to the Morris home for the next 55 years in Napoleon St. Herne Bay. The Dohrn’s were domiciled in the next parallel street, Bonaparte St. The suburb was renamed Riverwood in 1959.
For long as I can remember it was Aunty Beatie and London. Why George was called London, I do not know as he was born in Drummoyne Sydney in 1912. But London he was. There was no back fence, so our back yards became a commune for the two families to have many a social gathering. My elder brother and I were spoilt rotten by Aunty Beatie and we had a plentitude of sneaky biscuits and lollies. Mum would have known, but the genesis of the Morris boys being later accused of being MI6 agents for not passing on family gossip, had fertile roots here.
London and Beatie owned a motor car, a relative rarity then. We were often taken to San Sousi on Botany Bay to have picnic lunches and sometimes after dinner strolls along the waterfront on balmy summer evenings. London’s car had wide running boards and from memory was an old 1930’s something, but to us it was a carriage fit for the Queen.
One day the sewage was put in. The easement along the back fence was more akin to WW 1 trenches, and it posed a barrier for a short while. I don’t recall, but one suspects Aunty Beatie tossed some goodies over the encumbrance. But we have the magic of a flushing toilet, built under the roof but still outside – but that’s another story.
Then the back fence arrived, but not to worry, Dad put in a gate, so access was not denied. A few more years passed before Aunty Beatie and London moved to Brisbane for a short while, before purchasing a home on Marine Parade Kingscliffe, about 2 miles in the old money south of the Queensland border. An older two story building it had an uninterrupted view of the Pacific Ocean.
Contact was kept up by letters and Christmas Cards. It wasn’t till I was 15 that I went to visit them in Kingscliffe, an area still not on developer’s radar, a backwater with a bowling club come restaurant and a small grocery come milk bar and hardware store.
It was delightful to visit and spend time with these caring couple. It dawned on me that the Morris boys were the vicarious children that Beatie did not have – and that was OK by me.
Aware that Beatie had darker skin than most, I was mildly surprised to learn that Beatie was an aboriginal. It did not matter one iota and, as the years rolled by, I came to the conclusion that racism is taught to youngsters, but not in the Morris home. Meeting Beatie’s mob was so natural and normal. The skill of how to catch sea worms in the waves sliding back over the sand was passed on to me. My catch was “donated” to the common bucket. The worms were then on sold to fisherman. This resulted in an invitation to a Sunday morning feast with the mob, a sign of acceptance. It was a holiday I’ll never forget.
Sadly, Beatie passed on in her 50’s and my children never met her. London was always pleased to see the family and maintained our friendship with that quietly affable old school manner. My elder brother called to see London when he was in his 80’s. He was hesitant and asked who he was. Greg said, “If I call you London will that make any difference?” And it did. “The Dohrn’s” have a special niche in the lives of the Morris Families.