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Biography of Jim Waugh by his eldest daughter Elaine Olley.
Elaine Olley gives us a lively biography of her dad, a man ahead of his times in many ways, building church halls and houses across NSW, Australia, and pioneering in many country towns as an innovative Baptist minister. This is not your stuffy story of a country parson, but a get-your-hands-dirty and dusty hands-on story of building churches and helping people.
Migrating from Scotland as a four year old, Jim left school at 11 years of age. A feisty young man, he could turn his hand to anything. But God claimed him to serve as a Baptist pastor dedicated to country churches in New South Wales. He loved fast driving, open air evangelism and missions and cared for people in distress.
Wherever he went he grew congregations, built church halls and manses. His friends were willing to uproot and follow him when he needed them and his children remember times with a relaxed fun father.
Above all he had a profound impact on many lives who testify to this fact today.
By all means James Alexander Waugh proclaimed the God he loved above all else.
1 Early Days
2 Arncliffe 1941–47
3 Griffith 1947–51
4 Tamworth 1951–55
5 Gloucester 1955–61
6 Orange 1961–65
7 Toronto 1966–73
A Son Remembers Ministry
Tribute to Dad―his children remember
Jim’s Children Today
Tribute to Dad―
His Children Remember
im loved each of his nine children and prayed without ceasing for them. Each child remembers the Scripture readings at the table after meals which set a foundation for their lives. Holiday times were remembered with great fondness as their Dad was a fun person to be with, enjoying fishing as a relaxation or in the very early days in the Blue Mountains at Hilda’s parents’ holiday house. His love is reflected in the family’s continued closeness despite geographical distance. His faithful prayers have seen all nine children claim Christ as their own and become active in the various churches they attend.
To have a rounded picture of Jim we need to add his children’s memories.
Dad was a strong family man as well as a strong Christian leader.
He was always repairing the things we used, like bikes, cars, toys, and house repairs. Dad often made toys—like the big plane he made me that was too big to fly around much, but I did sit on it. He supervised our jobs, such as at Griffith with veggies and chooks, and collecting eggs. We all moved through the washing up and drying up chores. I used to stir the family’s porridge on the gas stove after it had soaked all night, and Dad insisted on no lumps.
As small children we played lots of imaginary games—inviting Jesus for tea with the tea sets. We always seemed to have some kind of cubby house somewhere. I preferred to climb trees and read borrowed comics there.
I remember riding my bike a lot—great to develop leg muscles I used as in PNG, walking over the hills, and in the South Pacific in retirement! I remember building the family caravan with him from a trailer chassis, with timber frames and aluminum screwed onto it—thousands of screws! We used it for the last family holiday with Mum in January 1955, from Tamworth across to the coast and down the north coast—and I drove with Dad in the black Chev to Gloucester, as he prepared to move there that year.
‘Blue Hills’ was a lunch time ritual—we rode home on our bikes for lunch (except at Griffith). We had pets, mainly dogs, needing feeding and walking. Baths were often with the chip heater—so that involved chopping chips and lighting it, and doing the same under the copper for washing on Mondays.
Though Dad was strict about no talking at the table (ruler always handy), once food was finished any questions were okay. I learned heaps about the Bible at home as well as at church, and enjoyed telling my siblings imaginary stories based on Bible facts—one way to get through washing the dishes and drying up happily! We would also sing choruses and hymns, sometimes alphabetically—from ‘Away in a manger’ to ‘Zacchaeus was a very little man.’ I think Q and X stumped us! We were all encouraged to get involved in church life from an early age—so developed a lot of leadership, and Bible knowledge. I remember teaching Sunday School, leading Junior Christian Endeavour, acting in church dramas, and preaching, all before finishing High School.
He was proud of his family, often commenting on any of our achievements to others, but rarely complimenting us so we wouldn’t get ‘big heads’ and often telling us we could achieve whatever we set our minds to do.
Generally life was happy, relaxed, and meaningful. Always there were things to do, and we all had chores fitting our age, but plenty of time to play. Dad encouraged creativity and trying things out, and taught us to ride bikes and drive cars and answer the phone and run messages. A good life. I am grateful for the strong love, strong discipline, and strong Christian values Dad gave us all for strong foundations in our lives.
My memories go back to Arncliffe and the free life before school began. I had a bad start at school because I would not eat, therefore Dad had asked the teacher to make sure I ate my lunch. However the teacher was too tough on a five year old. I ran away from the school and Dad had to cycle all over Arncliffe to find me as I had crossed the overhead bridge on Princes Highway. I remember Dad’s arm around me tightly as I sat on the cross bar of the bike on the way home but I did get punished when we were home. Punishment was there but love was there also so it was no big deal.
We older two had our tonsils out while at Arncliffe and it was Dad who was at the hospital with us when we woke, Hazel must have been a baby at that time. He had promised we could have an ice-cream, a very rare treat then, if we were good. I told him I was good and got my ice-cream.
Dad as well as having chooks for eggs in Griffith, also killed and plucked them at times, laughing at my disgust as he plucked those poor chooks. I never saw them actually killed, he kept that from us. He once made me a pram and as he was making it he told me it was a chook feed bin. I however knew what it was, so to save his face I went along with it. Dad also hid in the church hall two bikes he was doing up for Hazel and myself for Christmas, but somehow we knew and pulled ourselves up to the hall window to have a look. It didn’t lessen our excitement one bit.
In Tamworth I used to have the freedom to ride my bike wherever I wanted and often went to the roads outside the town and lay on the grass making daisy chains and finding pictures in the clouds. We older three were allowed to go to the swimming pool together which was some distance from the house. We had bonfires in the back yard at Tamworth with Dad buying fire crackers and Catherine Wheels for the fun of it. I stuck to sparklers. Bonfire night was Graeme’s birthday and the night of his birth we had had to sleep in the car outside the Leeton Hospital. I selfishly only thought of the fun we were missing. Some time during the Tamworth era Dad stopped tucking me into bed at night. I loved him doing that as he made a boat bed. I guess it was the right time as the teen years were catching up with me, but I regretted this passing of my childhood.
I became aware in Tamworth that finances were very tight as we had mostly second hand clothes, our cousins’, which were really nice. Dad mended our shoes and I had one white dress, from the mission box I think. Each week I took the hem up for tennis, and let it down for school cooking classes. I had one school tunic which I was responsible for cleaning and ironing each weekend. I was aware that if it had not been for the fresh produce given to us by the farm families things would have been more difficult. This fresh produce, and one time I can remember a turkey, reflected the love these farm people had for Mum and Dad. However we were not ever made aware of the tight circumstances as a terrible thing, just part of life. We learned that God would take care of our needs.
The one time I remember Dad being really angry occurred when he was able to buy a fridge to replace the old ice chest. There was criticism from some in the church, despite most people already owning fridges. Mum was in tears because of this criticism as she had been so proud of her new fridge. Dad declared never again would he allow a church (I am sure it was only the minor few who spoke the loudest) to dictate what the Pastor could have in his own house. Mum had only a copper for washing with wringers in the tubs but times were changing.
Dad had a radio program in Tamworth and once he included Hazel and me singing a duet. It sounded lovely until we heard it on the radio—I was too close to the microphone and it blurred, very humiliating yet Dad who was fussy about good programming said ‘never mind’. I was baptized by Dad in Tamworth—a special time where I felt Dad and I were cocooned with God.
Dad was proud of his kids. Even though most of us went through the horrible teen times and did our rebelling, he worked through those stages with us.
Even though Geoff was only thirteen months older than I was, Dad and Mum made sure he was able to do things before I could, giving him the sense of being older.
When Mum died Dad must have been so devastated but he comforted us kids. I remembered him pulling me, a sixteen year old, on to his knees and holding me tight. He understood (with the house full of visitors at that time when I should have been a hostess) that I didn’t want to talk to anyone.
Our mother was too nervous to drive a car. Dad therefore seemed to think I would be the same, so I was sad that he was no longer around when as a mother of two children who needed to be driven to school, I did learn to drive during our Home Assignment from Hong Kong, and drove in Hong Kong! Dad walked me down the aisle on my wedding day. A first for him, so special for me. I wanted only a father that day, not the pastor he had been for most of my life.
An important God-given time for me was when we were on Home Assignment from Hong Kong. It was NSW Baptist Assembly time and I was to speak at the Women’s Day at the Central Baptist Church. Unbeknown to me, Dad was listening out the back, so proud of his daughter. He then took me to the Chinatown, behind Central Baptist, for a Chinese meal. I guided him in his food choice and he loved his first and last Chinese meal, lemon chicken. He died just days later (not from the food!).
Looking back, it was meal times I enjoyed so much as we could talk as we grew older and we had lots of discussions and always ended up with the bible (King James in those early days) being read at the table. Sometimes we would spend hours still in the dining room after a Sunday lunch, always with others who were there for the meal. Our lives were enriched by our parents’ open house policy. The opening of the Scriptures at the meal table set a pattern in John’s and my family life although by that stage there was more child-appropriate material around and I see this passed down as our grandchildren enjoy their children’s Bibles.
My earliest memories are of Arncliffe where I was born. A special memory is Sunday School Anniversaries when tiered platforms would be erected way up high. I longed for the day when I would be one of the big kids and could sit up towards the top. They went out of vogue before I got to that age though.
I loved to play in the church yard and remember marching around singing, ‘Stand up, stand up for Jesus; ye soldiers of the cross’. Even at a young age I knew the difference between earthly armies and spiritual. I think the devotional times around the meal table and Sunday School models to reinforce visually truths learned are a testimony to parents whose passion for Jesus would see all nine children make the same choices.
I almost cut off my tongue when playing on some bricks and slipping while my Dad was doing some brickwork on a fence at the front of the house—I remember clearly the look of deep concern yet calm control as Dad scooped me in his arms and rushed me to the hospital. The doctors said they could not stitch it, and I would either lose the end of my tongue or it would knit. Dad took me home and sitting on a kitchen chair at the table he held me under his arm in a vicelike grip—no hope of moving—while he physically held my tongue in place until it started to knit. I still have a very deep scar diagonally along my tongue with the worst part in the middle which sometimes still bleeds. My Dad was determined I was not going to lose my tongue if he had anything to do with it.
I remember the train trip to Griffith and the Church Secretary meeting us at the station with the car with a ‘dicky seat’ at the back. There was a bag of fresh almonds which we were allowed to help ourselves to. Soon after we arrived at Griffith I was in hospital with pneumonia and Dad was always right there. He came with a bag of boiled lollies one day and encouraged me to share them right around the children’s ward which I was very happy to do until I started to see those lollies disappearing. However when it was my turn there was just one left (that was one for everyone). I thought it was the most wonderful lolly in the whole world and determined to make it last as long as possible.
I sat for my first Sunday School exam at Griffith. I still remember the verses I had to write down from John 14:
Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
I walked out of the room (one of the last to finish) and burst into sobs but Dad was right there to comfort me. I was terrified I would fail so still ‘practiced’ the verses in case I had to write them again. Those words of John 14 are precious to me to this day, having first started to penetrate at the age of 7 or 8.
At Tamworth I loved Church and everything to do with it, except the effect of some critical folks—and long sermons! Actually, compared to today’s ‘climate’, Dad’s sermons were always 20 minutes to the second and he would bring up his arm in smart military precision to check periodically. I used to love to watch that, but I learnt how to switch off by reading (singing in my mind) hymns, or reading my mother’s Bible (I wasn’t going to listen to sermons!). I soon learnt that I wouldn’t get into trouble by reading the Bible or the hymn book. One hymn I loved was ‘The day Thou gavest Lord is ended’—and when I would get to the line ‘Thy praise shall sanctify our rest’ tears would come and I couldn’t stop them. Once I looked up through my tears and could see the soft look in the back of Dad’s eyes, and I think after that I started to listen to sermons, because I realised I couldn’t ‘pull the wool over’ my Dad’s eyes. That was a favourite expression of his. That soft expression deep within his eyes would also be there when he sang with the congregation himself: ‘Turn your eyes upon Jesus’, ‘Have Thine own way, Lord, Have Thine own Way’, ‘Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me’, ‘When I survey the wondrous cross’ (often during communion).
Another saying he often came in with was, ‘Paul made tents, you know’. He certainly led by example in not expecting anyone to do what he wouldn’t do himself. Whenever we had a lot of visitors staying over (usually guest speakers), Dad would pull two armchairs together to make a cot like bed, and we loved to snuggle up as he would pull the blankets very tight making a boatlike bed. I used to do that with my own children, telling them that my Dad used to do that when I was their age. They too loved ‘to rock in their little boat’.
‘Blue Hills’ at lunch time was a daily non-negotiable happening, but I loved it as well and couldn’t wait for the next episode. Actually I expect that none of us were ever late for lunch! I remember us all crowded in the hall in the manse at Tamworth around the big radio listening to the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth. It was a great event and exciting to be allowed to listen to it all.
Easter camps, excursions to Sydney to major Christian events, whether Evangelistic Crusades or Youth for Christ or BYF, were never missed whichever town we were in.
It was at Gloucester that my athletic ability started to surface and I did very well for my school. Dad used to tell me that if only I would put in the same effort in my scholastic study I would do well. What I later found out was he would proudly boast about my athletic ability to other people. New relatives in Gloucester, particularly Hazel Yates, would always find a way to tell us.
Orange: Dad was extremely watchful over his kids when they were choosing their lifelong partners, incredibly strict and protective and a great support and ‘safe’ sounding board. Even at the age of 21 I still had to be in by 11 pm. He also cared as much for all his flock and was a safe sounding board for many people. In our home we all saw that, and it had its place in nurturing us all as well.
In January 1955 when I was 6 ½ years old my Mum died. A few weeks later Dad, the older three children and the youngest child, Daphne moved to Gloucester while Heather and I went to stay at Griffith with Dad’s friends, the Jarvis family, until the new manse at Gloucester was built. The trauma of these events has seriously affected my memory of day-to-day events throughout my life. I have no memories of anything before Gloucester, not even of my Mother.
Some of the things I remember about Gloucester were walking to school, sometimes barefooted (Graeme’s choice) and doing the hot foot shuffle on the bitumen assembly area with a lot of other kids in a similar state of dress. I sometimes had to walk the cow on a lead to feed it on footpaths, etc. during dry times. One time when that cow had a calf, I was helping Dad while he was building a holding pen for the cow or calf and he asked me to get a length of timber from across the yard. As I walked between the cow and her calf, the cow charged me, and as I was running for cover, Dad grabbed the nearest stick of timber he could find, intercepted the cow and gave it a bit of a hiding. It was during my Primary school years in Gloucester that I started building things, and at times destroying other things to get the parts I needed to build my contraptions. Dad allowed me to use the tools necessary to build, but I got more than one belting for destroying other items. In those days Dad believed firmly in ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’. There were two things that I remember Dad bringing home from Papua New Guinea. One was a toy boat called a Lakatoy, and the other was a wicked looking cane with knobs up both sides. I think the sight of this was supposed to deter misbehaviour. It didn’t work. Geoff once created a label to place across the corner where this cane stood saying, ‘I need thee every hour’, in fun I think.
In Orange I rode a bike to school, usually with my best friend David Christie, a deacon’s son. All my friends went to the Baptist church where we were involved in Sunday School, Christian Endeavour and Boys Brigade and I sang in the Church choir. It was in Orange that I went to my first inter-church youth camps. I started work in Orange and remember a particular life lesson at that time. Dad said on the date of my first full-time pay packet, ‘You are a working man now and have to pay your way. Mum will get weekly board from you whether you are in work or out of work, so stay in work.’ He helped me buy my first car when I was still on L-plates and used to lock it securely when he and Mum went out of town together. I don’t know if he ever discovered that I became a good hand at picking locks, hot-wiring cars and then driving illegally without a license. I suspect, knowing he had a lot of spies in town, he may have known but never let on.
When the family moved from Orange to Gwandalan, I was working mostly away from home with Martin Bamby on rural sheds. My time off was spent in Gwandalan and I remember this as a relaxed time of my life, swimming in the lake and rowing Dad’s timber rowing boat from Gwandalan to Belmont and back—got very frightened being caught in storms a couple of times doing that.
We moved to Toronto and it was there I started my building career. I became active in Sunday School, Christian Endeavour, choirs including BYF choir and Inter-church youth camps. It was at a camp leadership meeting that I met Alison. Dad also collared me to use my car or his at times to do pick up and return home runs for some elderly church members and young people for various meetings. I believe at times he had to deal with irate parents who felt the courier drove too fast. I used to enjoy using his car with that magic clergy sticker as there was less chance of getting pulled over by the constabulary. It was at Toronto that I became aware of Dad’s interest and knowledge of current affairs and world events. Illustrations in sermons often included references to these events. He had quite a sense of humor with most sermons including some joke or funny story somewhere along the line.
It was as a carpenter myself that I discovered how good Dad could be with hand tools, although he could also be rough when in a hurry. One day Phillip Latham and myself, both apprentice carpenters, were trying to construct some implement that required a hole drilled right through the centre of a long stick of timber. We both continually failed with the large boring bit continually protruding through the side of the stick before it got to the other end. Dad came into the shed, saw all the failures, asked the purpose of the exercise and immediately decided to show us how it was done. He took a new stick, stuck it in the vice, grabbed the brace and bit we were using and proceeded to punch a 20mm hole lengthways through a 38mm square stick about 250mm long at full speed and came out dead centre the other end first go. To this day I have never been game to test myself to see if I can match it.
Although Dad repeatedly told me I should never own a motor bike because I drove too fast, when my finances were tight as I was on an apprentices wages and I could not afford to keep the V8 Ford I had, he helped me buy my first road bike. He may have considered it safe as it had a sidecar and there might have even been some nostalgia involved, as he once owned a bike and sidecar himself. However, I got the bike and so it must be his fault I still ride them today. Dad was very handy with motors and he taught me most of what I know about working on them. We used to use the large tree behind the manse at Toronto to lift motors out of cars using pulleys permanently attached to a high branch on that tree.
It was when Alison and I married and I moved away from home that Dad and I became mates. Until then I had been probably the most rebellious member of the family and Dad was forever having to deal with that part of my nature. Dad sometimes came onto my building projects when I needed a hand and we worked well together. He was there the day I cut my hand with a power saw and I am sure no car Dad ever owned went faster than the old ‘beetle’ did that day getting me to a doctor. We worked on the house at Gwandalan together when Dad decided to re-clad the external walls and he helped me win a contract to extend the Toronto Church hall, and then worked on it with me.
I have no memory of my mother or of her passing, however I guess it must have affected me greatly as I remember having a fear of losing Dad. When he went to New Guinea I was scared he would not come back and in early growing up years—at least from Gloucester—I hated him travelling anywhere and was always worried about him not returning.
Dad was very strict on one hand but soft on another. I always knew he loved me, no matter what I got up to.
He was at times like a big kid, e.g., when we went on a holiday (I don’t remember where but it was up north) and he liked to fish. One morning the beach was full of dead fish washed up on the sand and Dad collected them in loads and piled them all over the sand in a bunch and then stood with his fishing line and had his photo taken as if he had caught them all! I think I have that photo still.
Then there was the first year we were in Orange and that first winter it snowed. When I came home from school and walked up the driveway Dad jumped out and hit me with a snowball. I think he hid and did the same for each one of us coming home.
Another example was when Elaine and John went to Hong Kong and he bought the tape recorder and had great fun trying it out and was very excited when using it to record our messages to them.
Then there was the mini-transistor radio Elaine sent him from Hong Kong. He was so excited with this little transistor and put it proudly on his bedhead to listen to while he was in bed.
Dad was also very protective. Even though I was a rebellious teenager and wore mini skirts and the like which he didn’t approve of, he was quick to stand up for me if anyone from the church criticised me.
Also, not long after I had my first motor bike, I went to work one day and during the day a pretty strong storm developed with a fierce wind and when it came time for me to come home I put on my wet gear and started home battling the wind, especially crossing the Fennells Bay bridge where some other bikes had stopped to wait it out, but I wanted to get home so kept going leaning into the wind. I got home safely and Dad drove in after me—he had come over to where I worked at the Lake Macquarie Shire Council in Warners Bay (about 20 minutes away) and followed me home out of sight to make sure I could handle it.
I was always sad that Dad passed away before I was married with children as I remember watching him with his grandchildren who he loved dearly, just like his kids.
I don’t remember my mother as I was thirteen months old when she died.
Probably the best memory I have of Dad is up in the pulpit singing with all his heart, total enthusiasm. Even now sometimes a hymn is sung in church and tears come to my eyes because all I can see is Dad up there in the pulpit singing it. And of course there were times when he was listening at home to hymn music and being ‘a conductor’.
Sunday mornings we would often be woken up with Dad singing hymns with gusto, coming in and telling us it was a ‘wonderful day’ and time to get up. He would pull back the curtains and tell us it was time to ‘rise and shine’, singing ‘rise and shine, and give God the glory, glory’!!
Then there were the times I handed him the tools while he was under the car, quite a few times actually.
Dad loved the Islanders singing and brought tapes home of them singing in harmony. This was after he went to New Guinea I imagine.
In Orange Dad brought me ice cream when I had my tonsils out. He also taught me how to ride a push bike by taking me up the back yard and letting me go (down hill) until I fell off because I didn’t know how to stop, of course yelling out instructions along the way.
The family tradition was to open our ‘stockings’ before church on Christmas Day, but to wait until after the Church service to open the family presents (this I imagine was so Dad could be part of all the family festivities after the service)–a tradition we followed through in our own family.
I used to stay awake until Dad was home and in bed (at Toronto Mum and Dad’s bedroom was next to ours)—there was that comfort and security to hear Dad’s deep voice as he and Mum talked together.
I also have vague memories of him remodelling the house at Gwandalan, my general feeling being lovely relaxed family times holidaying there.
Dad put me through Newcastle Business College when I left school, then I got work pretty well straight away. When I talked about travel, he insisted that if I was to move away I was to go somewhere where one of my older siblings lived so they could keep an eye on me!!! Geoff was in Brisbane so I chose to start there.
When he put me on the train to Brisbane, Dad gave me an envelope that I wasn’t to open unless I wanted to move back home. Of course I opened it as soon as I got onto the train―it was money for a return ticket if I wanted it or needed it. He wrote at least once a month while I was there, just a small page but those letters were so special.
One special memory is of sitting out in the sun in the back yard at Toronto just talking with Dad as he talked a little about our mother, for the first time in my life. I was about 17 years old, not long before I left for Brisbane.
Dad loved to explore and learn. I can’t remember much of a holiday trip to Canberra with the old caravan, except Dad’s enthusiasm to see ‘everything’ at the War Memorial and to read all the detail. We kids were sick of it all way before he was. We had a few family holidays in the caravan, mostly at beaches but sometimes ‘educational trips’ like Canberra and Adelaide.
At Toronto because the church had a big debt, Dad found a practical way to make money. He was always ahead of everyone in ‘alternate’ things (such as all the vitamin pills we used to have to put out for him at the table—kelp and other strange health tablets). He discovered that the paper mills bought old paper waste for recycling. So he proposed that the church collect the paper waste from the shops in Toronto and pack it in wool bags and sell it. This involved a bit of work as it needed to be collected each day form the shops. He made up frames the wool bags hung on and the shops just dropped their paper and packaging in it.
The job of collecting these bags of course fell on him and thus me as well. He borrowed the church secretary’s milk van and off each afternoon after school we would have to go and collect each full bag from about 3 or 4 shops. This wasn’t so bad as often damaged goods that were OK to us were in amongst the paper. We especially loved the shoe shop as often one week one shoe would be discarded and then its matching pair the next. The girls at this shop left their old Coke bottles out as well, so we could take them back for the 5c recycle claim.
These bags were then off loaded in our back yard (the manse right next to the church) in a fenced off area Dad had made. Then every Saturday the men from the church were on a roster to sort out the paper from waste and pack it tightly into wool bags and tie them up. They were stored there until a full semi-trailer load was accumulated, then it was loaded on the trucks to go to the Sydney mill. Often these bags got very wet and thus heavy in the rain while waiting—this caused some funny incidences of bags ripping open while being loaded and truck’s loads slipping as they tried to leave our back yard ( as it was sold by weight wet paper can make some money).
I remember one particular trying load that happened to cause so much trouble it was still being loaded late at night. One man had the big hook that gripped the bags to lift them with go through his hand. The load shifted as the top layer went on and only our old fence was holding it up—it had to be unloaded and loaded again. This late night happened to be a Boys’ Brigade night so Dianne and I didn’t mind as some of the young men of our church offered to help. Dianne and I happened to be sleeping in the caravan outside at the time (no room in the house) so, even though a very harassed father ordered us to bed, it was easy to lean out the windows and carry on conversation with certain young men! I think this was the same load that the semi driver jack-knifed the truck on the way to Sydney. I think the load was too heavy.
After a while the men of the church got tired of spending their Saturdays sorting through paper and rubbish so it looked like this source of income would dry up, but then Dad got another brilliant idea. If we gave up carting their rubbish away, how would the shops get rid of it? Pay someone of course. So he negotiated with the shops and continued to take away their rubbish for a fee and straight to the tip. I of course had to help (he was fairly old by this time and Phillip was too young—how Dianne missed out I don’t know). It was the embarrassment of my teenage years as often at school someone would say, ‘I saw you at the tip’ !!! I knew all the old scavengers by name and Dad would often come home with ‘something’ useful! We went so often to the tip I didn’t even notice its smell after a while. Anyway I think we finally got out of debt and it probably became too much for Dad, but it certainly left some memories for me.
The disciplining was always shared between Mum and Dad. When Dad registered my birth he put down that day’s date not my actual birth date, hence my birth certificate is wrong. Mum said he was busy getting ready to go to New Guinea and had a lot on his mind.
Dad’s nickname for me was Blockhead because of my large head (I loved it). Once when he was handing out awards at a Sunday School Anniversary, he called me out as Blockhead!
Until I was 22 I never realised that pastors had a set day off during the week. To my knowledge, Dad never did.
I remember Dad speeding one day and saying that it was OK because he had a clergy sticker on the car and the police would let him by.
Dad always wore a hat and when he came to Toronto High to teach scripture a lot of kids thought that he was a detective. He was a pretty cool Scripture Teacher, maybe because he had teenage kids. He read us ‘In The Twinkling Of An Eye’ (which had great results) and the kids thought that was much better than everyone else’s boring scripture lessons.
Dad hated TV because he said he would visit people and they always left the TV on and he felt they weren’t giving him their full attention. He hired one for us kids though when we had a holiday at Gwandalan and he had to spend a majority of the time renovating and cladding the house.
He hated Vegemite (blackjack) and tomatoes and loved passionfruit ice cream in a cone—that was a treat reserved for holidays. He also loved listening to ‘Blue Hills’ and we weren’t allowed to talk while that was on. He was really into alternate health—kelp tablets, carrot juice, apple cider vinegar, and he took me to a chiropractor in the early ‘70s when most people hadn’t even heard of them.
He was very protective of his children and believed that he should minimise the chances for them to get into trouble. We had to walk to school even though we were eligible for a free bus pass (it was healthy for us), but we were only allowed to leave home at a time that gave us just enough time before the bell went. As teenage girls Lyn and I had an 11pm curfew and we were never allowed to go to school dances. I remember Hazel talking Dad into letting Lyn go to the school formal.
Dad loved fishing, boats, and the beach. Our holidays always revolved around those (unless it was visiting family). Mum and Dad used to go for walks on the beach holding hands and we weren’t allowed to go with them. That was their time together.
We always ate meals together at the table and without fail we had family devotions after tea each night. If a visitor called, Dad invited them in, saying it was feeding time at the zoo. He always asked them to join us for devotions and never cut it short.
Dad the builder. He was not just a preacher who used big words. Rather he had a garage full of interesting tools and knew how to use them. Hours spent playing while Dad worked on something in the garage is a special memory. Dad was a ‘roll up the sleeves’ kind of guy. Toronto Church needed funds for buildings so Dad took an afternoon job collecting cardboard waste from the supermarkets, compacting it by physically jumping on it, and storing it till we had a semi-trailer load to sell. Needless to say if Dad had a job then we kids had it too. One morning Dad got the girls up extra early because there was a load to compact and store. With many complaints they dressed and traipsed out into the morning chill to find an empty yard. They stormed back in the house complaining and Dad asked them what day it was—it was 1st April.
Sometimes it would be a project too far. One day Dad had the idea of painting the old Volkswagen beetle car. Of course he could do this himself with some amazing spray painting kit that would work off nothing more than Mum’s vacuum cleaner. Mum was less than enthusiastic about his idea, and very reluctantly parted with her treasure. Only when Dad told her not to be silly, nothing would happen to it, did she surrender it. By the time the poor Dub was eventually painted Mum was the proud owner of a new vacuum cleaner. The old one paid the ultimate sacrifice. I also remember the delight in Dad’s eyes when he could finally buy Mum an automatic washing machine.
Dad the preacher. It must be said he was rather old school, stern and scary when he wanted to be. He could inject a misbehaving son’s name into the middle of a sentence in full preaching flow. I remember a night he stopped to tear strips off a group of unruly teenagers. They didn’t twitch the rest of the night.
He used to be able to still a room full of restless school scripture students with one stern gaze. Yet I never had a doubt that underneath that stern façade was a completely soft heart that could usually be manipulated to the desired end.
Dad was a believer in corporal punishment. A thick leather strap hung within sight of the meal table and if a dinner was being refused his eyes would rise dramatically in that direction. Having said that, it was rarely used. I can never remember Dad hitting me in anger. Instead I would have to collect the strap and bring it to him. This, I suspect, gave him time to cool down and be more dispassionate in his discipline.
I remember one day when I and some friends were playing chicken, seeing how closely we could brush against cars travelling at full speed on the local road. I made the mistake of doing this with Dad’s car. He did not even stop but drove home and told Mum to send me to him with the strap when I arrived. When I received the news I knew it was serious but did not know the offence till I arrived in his study.
Many old school preacher’s kids complained that their fathers were never there for them. I never had this sense, instead I had a constant awareness of both my parents’ attention. Perhaps the only exception to this was one morning when I woke with a searing pain in my side that turned out to be acute appendicitis. Neither Mum nor Dad were on hand to assist as they were at an early morning Church prayer meeting. That was the longest prayer meeting of my life.
Dad was ahead of his time in his ecumenical outlook. When another Church, perhaps Seventh Day Adventist, opened up in town, Dad helped them out in some practical and encouraging ways. He had very good relationships among the local clergy at a time when that was a bit suspicious. It is still a common experience for me to have pastors and senior denominational figures confide to me that they had appreciated something that Dad had done for them by way of encouragement and mentoring
To really understand Dad, there is one scene, often repeated, that comes to my mind. An alcoholic hobo would knock on the door and be warmly invited in to tell his story of woe. Perhaps an hour would be spent listening to this poor man’s story and then would come the inevitable appeal for money. The appeal was never rejected. Not only was it listened to but enough money would be given to buy a family a week’s groceries. The hobo would depart with many thanks and Dad would track him, with tears in his eyes, all the way straight to the local pub. Next week he would do it again. It must be said that it took a special lady to be married to him. I suspect both mothers had to be prepared to feed drop-ins at the drop of a hat.
I have to laugh when I read about how strict Dad used to be with the older kids. No talking at the table indeed. By the time I came along we had collectively ground that sort of thing out of him. I guess all parents are a little tense at first, but as I was number 9 Dad had had plenty of time to relax a bit by then. He could still be an intimidating figure though. I remember a time when Heather was my CE leader and I gave her a hard time in the class by misbehaving. To my horror Heather told me to go home and report to Dad. I refused of course, so my determined sister grabbed me and dragged me from the Church to see Dad. I could not believe she could send me to a fate so terrible. On the other hand he could amaze me by just laughing at me when Mum caught me with my illicit stash of cigarettes.
Dad never went to the movies. Graeme and Alison, when ‘The Sound of Music’ came out offered to take us all to see it. Dad agonised for a week but couldn’t bring himself to break a lifetime habit of avoiding the excesses that movies indulge in. He knew it was a good film though, so he sent Mum and the kids along. When holidaying at Gwandalan one year Dad hired a TV set. He so enjoyed it he actually began to talk about buying one. All my Christmases were coming at once it seemed. Then an ad came on for the show ‘Alvin Purple’, featuring topless women. The TV went straight back.
I remember the look of joy on Dad’s face the night Heather and I went forward at a Gene Jeffries Crusade. I remember the pride he showed when Geoff came to Toronto and preached up a storm. I remember the pride he had that at least Graham had inherited his practical ability and there was someone in the family who could speak his language and argue about the best way to truss a roof. Elaine had made it to the mission field. Hazel was a success in business, Heather was a gung ho secretary who Dad would proudly repeat that he had been told could work wherever and for whoever she desired. Daphne, Lyn, Dianne and I were the young ones that were the apple of his eye.