Stories

Ron & Truda Walters

Ron & Truda Walters

97 & 86, Coroneagh Park

Truda: we lost our eldest boy, he had a brain tumour. He was 30, he had an accident in the car and hit his head on the roof. And that’s apparently what caused his brain tumour. Everything seemed fine for a couple of years after the accident. He wasn’t married and had no children of course. So there’s nothing of him to, you know, remember him by. It’s very sad, I suppose you don’t forget these things. We have three other sons. One is in the Army, another a flight engineer in the Airforce and one is a helicopter technician in the Navy.

Ron: We sent the three of them, said “Off you go!” They’ve seen the world, been around the world. And been to all sorts of places. They were pretty good kids really, didn’t cause any trouble – none whatsoever. They were good citizens. Most of their teenage years they were away from us in the service. I was in the Army for 32 years, an instructor in the infantry.

Truda: I don’t know much about Ron when he as a little fellow. He must’ve been a terror.

Ron: No, I was a good lad. I was one of seven.

Truda: Yeah, you were one of seven, I was one of seven.

Ron: We were both the youngest.

Truda: He used to get up to nonsense when he was home. I know things that you probably don’t know that I know.

Ron: Ah, yes?

Truda: His mother used to make honey mead. An alcoholic drink made out of honey. I’ve never had a taste of honey mead.

Ron: Honey mead’s very tasty.

Truda: So mother…his mother was doing the ironing and he was under the table and had one little drink of honey mead. Two or three drinks of honey mead…

Ron: I was 18 or 19

Truda: But he stood up from under the table and he collapsed! That’s what honey mead would do to him. But mother wasn’t very impressed.

Ron: She wasn’t impressed. She was anti-alcohol.

Truda: Very anti-alcohol. She used to make honey mead but…

Ron: I don’t think she realised it was alcohol!

Ron: We had a little farm growing up. It was a happy time. It was during the depression of course, but people on farms had plenty to eat. We used to share with our neighbours. You know, we kill a pig, we share it with the neighbours, we kill a cow, we share it with the neighbours. We used to share potatoes and things like that. The depression didn’t affect the country people at all. The town people suffered. But the country people didn’t. I took rabbit legs to school every day to eat and a sandwich. It didn’t cost anything.

Truda: I was a city child. Hard at times. And the cost…just towards the end of the depression. And of course we went through the war years. That was hard. Days were all the same, every day, you know? You did the same things. You couldn’t have chocolate for a start. That was always a nice surprise, that mum would be able to get hold of chocolate. That’s one thing I can remember. One day, father bought home this block of chocolate. Mother let me have a piece. We had a room in our house, it was a lounge room. It had a sofa and I could go lie down if I wanted to. And I remember I’m in there lying down and mother gave me this piece of chocolate. It was a block, you know, a little piece from a block of chocolate. I put it in my mouth and I bit on it and it went straight through my tooth – I had a bad tooth. That was the end of the chocolate. Oh, chocolate would have been lovely, but it hurt so much. I shouldn’t have eaten it. I was a little bit greedy, I suppose. I couldn’t waste it and I was wasting it. I’ll never forget that pain, which was shocking. And the school dentist wasn’t very nice. He seemed to be, you know, children of the day would have to go the school dentist – it didn’t cost anything. And he sort of seemed to be a big brute. And you can hear the other children, in his room, you could hear them out in the waiting room, “Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear!” Screaming and crying. And he seemed to take such a long time to get a tooth out. It was dreadful. It really was, or he was, dreadful. I mean I don’t know about any other school dentist but this fellow, he was big, he was fat. He didn’t say nice things to anybody, just muttered.

Ron: Let me tell you a nicer story. I was in the army, I was transferred from Burnie to Launceston. I discovered that there was a young lady who was in the barracks who was interested in finding out who owned a little green care. And so one day I offered the young lady a ride to the post office to post the mail. She accepted the trip to the post office. “Do you mind if I drive you home?” “No, I’d love that.” So I drove her home, and that’s where it all began.

Truda: That’s where it all began. You didn’t stop at home though. We went out to Carrick.

Ron: We went to Carrick. That’s how it all began. My father told me, “When you find the girl of your dreams, makes sure you get her mother on-side.” That’s the important thing, to get the mother on-side. Truda’s mother was a widow, that’s how I manipulated her.

Truda: Terrible man.

Ron: We got on very nicely. Very friendly. So, I used to do little things to help her, didn’t I dear?

Truda: Oh, yes.

Ron: Take her for rides in the car. We used to go out a lot. We went on picnics and things like that, didn’t we? We’d forget to take the tea bags sometimes.

Truda: Poor mum. She would have loved a cup of tea.

Ron: Another strange thing – she used to like to go camping. I used to like to go camping. I had a tent and used to go camping. Mother always used to come with us. Hold on, why did she do that?

Truda: She didn’t trust you, see?

Ron: So, she loved to go camping. And once we got married, we still used to go camping. She never came anymore, I don’t know why.

Truda: Well, we went a couple of times after that.

Ron: We went a couple of times, didn’t we? With your mum.

Truda: He used to play tricks on her.

Ron: We used to play tricks on her, yeah. One day she went to post a letter and while she was out I put the hose on near the gate, spinning around there. And when she came back we were looking through the curtains and the poor old thing was running up and down the fence trying to get in.

Truda: See, that’s the sort of thing he used to do. Even when he as an adult he still did all those sorts of things, didn’t you?

Ron: Ah well, you’ve got to make your own fun.

Truda: Well if you don’t have fun what else is there to do?

Ron: I used to sit in the table next to Truda’s mum. I used to lift the table up very slowly, like this. Her eyes were like this.

Truda: No, that wasn’t very nice Ron. Things he used to do to her.

Ron: But she loved it, didn’t she?

Truda: Yeah, she did. I think he turned out to be the best son-in-law.

Ron: That’s why I did it. I took father’s advice. This advice would be a good start for the young ones today. Humour is a good part of life.

Truda: Good, clean humour.

Ron: Good, clean humour, yes.

Truda: Not causing any damage to anybody else.

Ron: Yeah, don’t hurt anybody.

Truda: Yeah, that’s the clean way to go. And some good advice to young people would be to be fair. You’ve got to be fair to everyone. Just the things you teach your children to do and how they relate to other people. Just be fair about it. Just remember you wouldn’t like some of those things done to you. Just be nice and pleasant. And if you’re going to have fun, have fun without hurting people. Without damaging them in any way or…the discipline…yeah, your discipline should be nice and fair. That’s all. People did that more and respected people more. I mean, these days…well, the respect, you know…well, all of a sudden everybody’s got to call everybody by their Christian names for a start. And that was…an older person, always, we always referred to the older people as Mr or Mrs or Miss because that’s what they were. And also, Mum and Dad and Aunts and Uncles. Nobody remembers all that or they don’t learn it. And which is the proper thing to say, they should be taught.

Ron: Manners maketh the man.

Truda: That’s true. That’s a good one.

Ron: Treat everybody with respect.

Truda: And refer to them with the title that they should have. I was asked this question a few years ago, my great niece asked me, what I thought about her calling her grandfather by his Christian name. I said I think he’s entitled to be, you know ‘Father’ or ‘Dad’ or whatever, not his Christian name. And she said “Do you?” and I said “Yes, you were brought up to call him that.” She sort of didn’t think much of it. She’s a modern girl and didn’t think much of it. That’s what he was entitled to be called.

Ron: Discipline is another thing. Discipline with the family is important, fair discipline. I don’t think discipline in the homes I show it used to be. Young people now, at least. I think parents are too lenient. And this computer age has changed things. Like you can get on the internet and see things that shouldn’t be seen. I think if you discipline a child, you should discipline him fairly. Like when I found Andrew fooling around on his push bike one day in the middle of the road. Next morning, he went to get his push bike to go to school – there’s no front wheel on it. Why? Well, I caught you didn’t I. So he didn’t do it again, did he? That’s the sort of discipline I’m talking about. You shouldn’t be hard, you should be positive – positive discipline. And also reward for good work too.

Truda: Well you shouldn’t be promising them anything either. You shouldn’t promise them things that you really can’t afford or do for them. “Oh, if you get 100% for your exam you’ll get such and such.” But I’ve heard so many people say that sort of thing to their children. Like, “If he wins this race, he’s going to get this.” Right, and if he falls over?

Truda: My dad was an alcoholic from the First World War And he was shot, received a piece in his jaw. He never spoke about any of that in front of his children. We feel now that perhaps that it had caused him a lot of pain and anguish, and he was probably thinking of certain things we didn’t know about. So he turned into an alcoholic, which wasn’t very pleasant. So I don’t speak about my father very much because things weren’t happy at home when he was like that. So I’ve sort of just dismissed him a bit. He had a bad liver, of course, from drinking his liquor. That’s what he died of. We called it cirrhosis of the liver, he was 54. I was only about probably 8 or 9 I suppose. And I was quite frightened of death. I think I didn’t realise what death was, because people didn’t speak about it. And when dad died I was very, very frightened. Frightened of the word ‘death’. Didn’t know what it meant really. I mean I knew people weren’t going to come back. I just was frightened of it. I didn’t know why, but that’s how it was with me, being the youngest in the family. I think mum was quite happy in a way because she didn’t have a good life with him. But that’s how it went. A lot of men were like that when they returned from the war – it was a terrible war – and they suffered and they saw things that they didn’t even want to think about. I think they just went on with life. They had to, there wasn’t anywhere else for them to go. They couldn’t go running around the corner to a support group or anything like that. They had nothing like that.

Ron: So alcohol was the way out.

Truda: It was terrible. I mean, men that go away in any war and any instance like that and they come home a different person.

Ron: I only went up to the Northern Territory in the army. The Japanese had landed there in New Guinea, they went to New Guinea instead, which was fortunate for us. If they landed in Australia, we were there in case they landed in Australia, but they didn’t come by.

Truda: They did come down, they bombed Darwin in the Second World War.

Ron: They bombed Darwin, yes. They didn’t land. We were going to go into the desert and thrash them. We kept a track with the help of the aborigines. They helped with where the waterholes were. Then we poured cyanide in the waterholes and poisoned the water. If the Japs would’ve come in, they would’ve been thirsty. But they didn’t come that way, we were lucky. We were 3 divisions up there – 15,000 in a division so quite a few people.

Truda: A lot of people.

Ron: We had to be there just in case. The Japanese got ambitious and…they shouldn’t have bombed Pearl Harbour. Yeah, so when the war ended I was offered a position as an instructor and I took it. Instructor in the infantry, training to get recruits.

Ron: Life was much simpler before the technology took over. I mean a telephone was on the wall and you answered it. We had a party line. The line went up the road to the post office. Each house had a phone and each house had a number of rings. Everybody, they’d listen in if they wanted to. Our number was 3, three rings and mother would answer the phone and everyone else up the street was like, “Mrs Walker was…” Everyone was listening in on the conversation. It was a good system. All those little things that made life interesting.

And another thing that use to happen in those days, people had horses. And people used to go into town with their horses, and sometimes they’d get drunk. And the horses would always take you home.

Truda: What about the time you put the horse…on somebody’s fence.

Ron: That was Mrs Brown. Mrs Brown used to sell tinware. She had a horse and cart and while she was in the house trying to sell tinware, we took the horse out and put the cart through the fence and put the horse back in again. When she came out the horse was on one side of the fence and the cart was on the other! Mrs Brown had very nasty language, things we’ve never heard before. All those funny things used to happen.

Truda: It didn’t harm anybody, apart from Mrs Brown.

Ron: It all made life worthwhile, didn’t it? And she had a bed underneath the cart with a dog. The dog was just sleeping in the hammock underneath the cart. The dog would be sleeping there. You’d probably sleep there too, you wouldn’t know.

Truda: Would’ve slept anywhere, Ron.

Ron: Life was pretty simple before technology took over. I used to set traps to catch rabbits. When I was about 11, I suppose, about 11 I was allowed to use a rifle. So, I learned to use a rifle at 11 years of age and shoot rabbits. Skin them and sell those skins for 2 & 6 a dozen. It was all money.

Truda: Didn’t you save up for a bike or something?

Ron: Suit. I was about 12. I didn’t have a long trousered suit, I only had short trousers. So, I wanted a suit with long trousers.

Truda: So you’d look grown up.

Ron: So I had to save my money. I suppose I had tickets on myself. The Rodd brothers had trousers, why couldn’t I have trousers? I was a man then. We used to go to Sunday school.

Truda: That’s why he wanted the suit. There must’ve been a little girl there that took his eye.

Ron: No, Sunday school was a bit of a problem. I didn’t like going to Sunday school much. It was 2 miles from our house to school and the church was another half mile further on. So on Sundays I used to go past the school to church and that used to upset me. One day I jacked up so I didn’t have to go anymore. It wasn’t taken very well, but I won the case.

Truda: Well I was sent but didn’t go, my brother refused to take me in the finish because I played up. I was the youngest in the family and my sister above me is 5 years older and my brother at that time was 7 years older. Well those two used to get on very well together. There was no room for me in that little clique. Eric had to take me to Sunday school and I played up – crying and screaming. I sat in the field on the say to Sunday school and he told mum, “I’m not taking her again, she plays up all the time.” So I didn’t have to go anymore. That happened at school too. When I first went to school I played up. He didn’t take me anymore, so mum had to take me the next day. She wasn’t very happy about that either because she had a bit of a walk without transport. We never had a car or anything like that. We didn’t have a bike. So we always had to walk up one hill, tow hills, before we got to school. That was in town, in Launceston. Mother wasn’t very impressed, and my sister used to…she’d get so mad and so ghastly.