Stories

Charlie Bartleson

Charlie Bartleson

Cohuna Village

I had a brother but he died when I was about 7, from leukaemia. They couldn’t do much for him you know? They knew 2 or 3 months before he died. He was only 5. We went to a little farm after that, I was the only one left. My parents didn’t take it very well, they broke up a few years after. I was upset for a while but you just had to get used to it. I was about 10 or 12. Then I went to live my auntie for about 6 or 8 months while I was working. I worked on farms a bit and at gold mining towns. I think I was sent off to other relatives so they could get back on their feet and everything after the war. I saw them once a year but anyway I was up the bush and working on farms.

We had some fun though, after Mum and Dad split up, because it was around the war, and with my uncle being away. We used to run in and knock on houses and run off down the road. We did it to one bloke once too often and he come out and caught us! He didn’t do anything, he just gave us something to eat! We were quite happy. He just laughed and he said, “I caught ya!” It was probably the best thing he could have done because we didn’t bother going back and knocking on his door after that. Because we thought well that’s it, it’s a waste of time going back again, the fun was gone out of it. We used to go into orchards and pinch apples. And eggs the same thing, you know. I wouldn’t eat eggs at home but I’d go and pinch eggs in someone’s chook yard and then go out in the bush and cook them. I didn’t like them at home – same with green apples – wouldn’t eat them at home, but I’d eat them if I pinched them. They tasted better when they were outside!

Believe it or not we’d ride 7 mile out in the bush (and 7 mile back) and we’d grab a couple of bunches of gum leaves because we’d get a sixpence for them! We rode all that way just to get it! Old people loved the smell of gum leaves. They’d give you sixpence or whatever they reckon for them. We knew who to take them to. We used to find them at an old school. We’d go out there on a Sunday and we’d get the gum leaves off the trees and take them back. They were nice ones, you know? We had to make a couple of bob somewhere! With a sixpence you could buy a bit of stuff with that. We used to buy the black licorice straps quite a bit, they were cheap! About a penny a strap, or something like that. We had to go a long way to get it! Didn’t worry us. Ian Saunders was a mate of mine back then. He started off a jockey and then he was a trainer at the race course.  And anyway the blokes there, they’d be watching us and they’d be laughing as we jumped over to get in to the races. The bloke I was with, his old man was a trainer. I don’t even know what we wanted to go into the races for, we just wanted to go in and watch them and to say we just got in there for nothing! Until we got caught. Then we snuck up somewhere else and we’d be over the fence somewhere else. They gave up in the finish and just laughed and let us go. Get out and enjoy yourself whenever you can, that’s about all you can do. You got your bum kicked if you didn’t do the right thing – which we did quite often. Well, it ought to depend who caught you but most of them were pretty good.

I used to work to do some work down at Silver Glow. They used to make things for hospitals, dairies – stainless steel stuff – you know? A few accidents happened.  One day one of the trollies ran over this bloke’s hand. He was the one who went along and checked all the lines, you know, where the trains go through. There were 30 of us working there at the time. They were motorised trollies and he didn’t ring up and he didn’t check – he had a bad habit of that. Anyway, so he got smashed up and nearly lost his hand, it was almost off. I think they actually saved the hand. It didn’t go off completely, but it wasn’t much good, didn’t work properly after that. Another time we were going down the track and one of the blokes – I actually think he was still drunk – and he fell off the trolley when we were going around one of the corners, he just bounced back up!