CAN YOU REMEMBER HOW YOU FELT WHEN YOU FIRST FOUND OUT YOU WERE GOING TO BE A FATHER?
I suppose I was very worried in a way, around how I was going to handle it all. I remember having thoughts about wanting to do my best to help. We didn't know in those days of course if it was male or female. You didn't know until you’d had the baby! We didn't particularly want to know anyway. We were just happy to have a baby that was healthy! I think I probably became very excited about it all - it was great. I didn't have any hang-ups as such, other than about knowing what it was going to be.
WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER ABOUT THOSE FIRST FEW WEEKS WITH A NEW BABY?
I was so over the moon because we had this little girl, just a lovely natured little girl. I was really delighted and proud. In those days we didn't have much money, we couldn't afford a pram. We didn't want a pram though, we wanted a pusher as Helen wanted to be able to push the baby around in the shops and that sort of thing.
IN THOSE DAYS DID YOU GO INTO THE HOSPITAL WITH NAN WHEN SHE WAS DELIVERING THE BABY?
They didn't let you! It wasn't the done thing. That was hard. I think that was one of the big steps forward when the father was allowed to come in and be present when the baby was born. You just went home and you didn't know what was going on. You got a phone call when the baby came and told what it was, you know ‘You’ve got a lovely little girl’. I remember Helen was very proud and all smiles - that was on the first visit.
DID THEY GIVE YOU ANY CLASSES BEFORE THE BIRTH ABOUT WHAT YOUR ROLE AS A FATHER WAS TO BE?
No. No classes. My role was to be loving and caring. I knew that. I never read any books on it or anything- I don't think they even had any books on it!
TELL ME ABOUT A CHALLENGING TIME WHEN YOU WERE RAISING YOUR FAMILY OF FOUR KIDS?
It was a very happy time. Then Lindy got a kidney problem. We were told that it happens to a dozen babies in the world. It is a very rare type of thing to happen. The doctor didn't really know how to fix it and that was worrying. That was hard, that is still vivid. She was in primary school at the time and what happened was just a very worrying time. Shell wanted me to go over to Holland to do a maintenance course with the engineers over there. We didn't have any answers, and Helen would have come with me normally, but that didn't happen. Helen was home by herself. It was a strained situation I was in, being over there at that time and it was hard- I remember that.
That was the only real hardship I had in my life, I didn't know what was going to happen to Lindy. Anyway when I came back, things weren't changing, things weren't getting any worse but they weren't solved.
The doctor didn't know what to do and we prayed it about very much. When I came back, I’d been thinking about it a lot and we talked about it, Helen and I. We said ‘I think that those drugs really aren't helping her at all and she might be better letting her system fight it and she may come around.' I said I think we ought to talk to the doctor about this. Luckily he was a Christian doctor, and when I said we’d prayed about it and that sought of thing, he said 'Well as a matter of fact we’ve been discussing the same thing. Taking the drugs off her. We’ll be careful about it by taking the drugs off her slowly and carefully.' She just came out of it and it went. Vanished. It was a success. Now who did that I don't know…but that’s what happened. I suppose that made my Christianity very strong after that. I’ve never forgotten that.
WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT YOUR DAD AND YOUR UPBRINGING, DO YOU THINK HE DID A GOOD JOB?
Yes. I’d say so. There was no lack of love on either side - Mum or Dad.
I think I was pretty strict, because Dad was pretty strict with me. We talk about that now as brothers, we were bought up very isolated. All the brothers never fought with each other, we were normal. I was talking to my brother, Ian, about it all last week and I said to him how we never argued with each other, we all got on well because we all had plenty to do when we got home from school and milked the cows and chopped the wood. Then we always had plenty of time to do our own things like making model aeroplanes and kites, all those normal things that you like doing. I suppose as a kid we were never inside much. It was a pretty good upbringing. But you didn't need to relate with other boys much except at school, they were all in similar situations I suppose being at a country school. So I had a sheltered upbringing in the those early years.
WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER MOST FROM YOUR FATHER'S CHARACTER?
He always stood up for you. I think when I got older, things had become a bit more easier for him. When he got money it got easier going and I think that made a difference. He wasn't under so much pressure. You see my father spent his money far too freely- he didn't know how to handle money. When he first got married he bought farms and he was a very hardworking man. He had to be because he went broke, the banks took over all the lands he bought because couldn't pay the interest. There was a drought and he used to have a team of horses, this was the period before cars and tractors were around. He couldn't sell the hay or anything because it didn't grow- we had a 10 year drought. The banks foreclosed on him and he went bankrupt. But I was young so I didn't see any of that.
He then did nightshift. He wanted to work at night because he wanted to work during the day and develop the twenty acres with an orchard of fruit and that sort of thing. On top of that he branched out into chooks and eggs, because he a local fruit and vegie round. That was part of it, developing into the poultry farm and that was really a big money spinner for him.
He must have had a hard time but it didn't really worry him. I don't remember him getting down or worried about life. Fond memories of him really- that’s all I had. I didn't realise all this was going on, except when I later heard about it when I was much older. I think the older ones knew more about it than I did.
WHAT WAS YOUR PHILOSOPHY OR APPROACH TO LIFE BACK THEN?
I didn't have any money either. There wasn't much difference- we were battling and I had a brother Vernie who built my house on one of Dad’s blocks of land, before I was even married actually. I borrowed and I had to have at least 70% of what I borrowed saved up. That’s how the banks were working in those days, which was good because it taught me to be rigid in how I spent.
Our first house had orange cases for a lounge suite until we could save up. When we did buy a new suite we started to feel a bit prosperous! How did it affect me? I didn't even think about, I just knew I had to work. I used to organise spec houses and I built about 3-4 spec houses on Dad’s twenty acres. I worked hard on doing those sort of things, I’d be doing that on weekends, digging foundations.
YOU ADOPTED YOUR YOUNGEST SON - TELL US ABOUT THAT EXPERIENCE.
Well we’d had several miscarriages and we wanted another baby. We heard about the Presbyterian Church in Melbourne adopting out Children. We had to apply of course, and they had to look at us for about two years. We had to go up there and be questioned. They were very thorough in how they went about placing out their babies. Next thing, we got the message that we were going to get a baby! We were just about to head off on a trip down the coast on a bit of a holiday with the kids. I remember they said 'no you just take the baby with you and carry on as normal.' So we did. It was great.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR CAREER AS AN ENGINEER?
The thing that was really so easy for me, and I say that we lived in the best of times, was when we left school there was a job for you. When I finished my engineering course I had a job straight away to go to.
I got a cost scholarship of fifty pounds every quarter to go to the Gordon. I didn't feel I wanted to go on and be a builder or a tradie, I wanted to go do more studies so I did- I got my Diploma in Mechanical Engineering.
I went to the glassworks and they were just starting to bend the glass for cars. I then got the job at the Shell refinery and it was about half again as much money. I was working up in the design office doing drawing which is the best job that could happen to an engineer. I had to know all the fittings and Australian standards.
I was 31 years with Shell. I got along with my men very well. I understood that I had to train them.
You worked on a wage. I would get called in the night and work until morning. You never got extra pay because your salaried. I think it did me good because you were toughened. I remember some nights sleeping on the concrete floor waiting for machining to be done. I could go to sleep at anytime…on the floor or anywhere, I learnt to do that.
I don't think I missed out on anything (with the Children). I didn't really think about it.
YOU HAD BOTH BOYS AND GIRLS - DO YOU THINK THERE IS A DIFFERENCE IN HOW YOU RAISE THEM?
I think you’ve got to put some stops in. I remember Lindy coming home smoking, she’d been at university but and I said no that’s not going to be. I said 'no Lindy, you are not going to put our hard earned money into smoke!' And she did, she stopped. I nipped it the bud. She came out and demonstrated that she wanted to smoke and I said no that's not on. Now what I would have done after that I am not sure.
I think I was strict. There was a certain amount of what was right and wrong and instilling that into them; be smart with your money and don't do stupid things. Keep it simple! I suppose thats how it mainly evolved. I said I am going to be honest if I can possibly be. But I don't think I was at all times.
Sometimes you do the wrong thing. You can't be right all the time.
WHAT’S IT LIKE BEING A GRANDFATHER AND GREAT GRANDFATHER?
I find it very hard, when you are old and they are so young, to relate! Deafness is a thing that is very difficult for me. See, I can't understand what Archer my Great Grandson is saying to me. It must be my hearing. A child has different ways of pronouncing words and it is very hard to identify the differences. That is the hard part for me at the moment. But of course I enjoy having them around. They are full of life and they have no worries in the world. It is nice to keep it that way. You’d love to see it stay like that. You don't try to interfere with it though- you want to see them happy and that is it.
WHAT WOULD YOUR ADVICE BE TO FATHERS FROM ALL THAT YOU'VE LEARNT OVER THE YEARS?
Strongest advice I would give would be; first of all you become a believer in Jesus Christ. Now the only thing that is very important to understand in being a Christian, is how do you know that Christ is true? Somebody had to witness that Jesus Christ came back to life after he was crucified! More 500 witnessed this in Corinthians according to Paul. Now ok, so what did he try to teach us? We’ve got to help other people and give to other people. In things that we’ve done, Helen and I, we have always stuck to that. I’d say to you, there is only one person in control. Not the Pope, not the Prime Minister, God is in control.
WHAT DO YOU THINK EVERY FATHER SHOULD AIM TO ACHIEVE?
As parents, from day one of children's lives we need to guide them and nurture them wisely. I trust most parents are looking for all the help they can get to teach their chidlren to take the best path possible for the future. A good leader has to be a teacher and have a purpose or a goal. The best things in life are never on sale; contentment, peace, enjoyment, friendship and forgiveness can never be bought and only taught by example.