Sunday, 22 July 2012

A life on the road - "bumming it"

At the age of 14 my father left Burnside. By now he had gained a basic school education and work experience in  the school's own dairy farm. He loved to work there and very much looked up to the farmer who ran it. He also made many friends and considered he was well looked after. Afterall, many at that time, the era of The Great Depression, didn't even have enough to eat or a warm place to sleep.

Working in Dairy.
After he left Burnside  he was employed at a poultry farm where he also lived in a shed with  the other workers. The poultry farm was one of many in the Ryde area of Sydney. He remembers it as being near a big cutting which today is close to  the intersection of Epping and Lane Cove Roads in North Ryde. Definitely no poultry farms out there today - just suburbia and a very busy traffic intersection in the middle.

Vic lived with his sister Grace and her family for a while at Enfield after the poultry farm but soon found himself homeless again and sleeping under a bridge at the local brickworks. No doubt he had a lot of company there. He then worked as a labourer in various jobs before he made a big  decision. He was going to return to his birthplace, Hobart, Tasmania. Quite a decision to make when you had very little money but I suppose the good memories were strong enough for him to overcome any fears. And remember he was really just a  boy.

He got as far as Berrima where he slept under the what is now the famous historic Berrima Bridge. There was quite a community of people living under and around that bridge. He managed to survive by doing odd jobs for local farmers on that trip, but also by scavenging fallen fruit at orchards. Big dogs made fruit collecting quite scary. He has one memory of a woman who was particularly good to him. He knocked on the door of her farmhouse to ask if she had any jobs that needing doing. Unfortunately she didn't but instead invited him in and made him a huge sandwich using half a loaf of bread. He took that sandwich back to his bridge home and shared it with four others.

Berrima Bridge. Not sure when the addition was made but
shows it's setting well.

Berrima Bridge. Pity about the gap in between to let the rain
 through. Berrima gets pretty cold too.

It was at nearby Mittagong where they heard about the outbreak of World War 2. He immediately turned back to head for Sydney to enlist. It meant a stable job - food and shelter. He said that there were hoards of people sharing the road on that same trip - all "on the bum" as they used to say, heading back to Sydney to be "saved" I suppose by the war.

Hallelujah, I'm a Bum!

Hallelujah, I'm a Bum! is a popular song which was sung at this time. I remember it from my childhood too - not sure who was doing the singing! According to Wilipedia "it is an American folk song that responds with humorous sarcasm to unhelpful moralizing about the circumstance of being a hobo.

The version published in 1908 goes:
Why don't you work like other folks do?
How the hell can I work when there's no work to do?
Hallelujah, I'm a bum,
Hallelujah, bum again,
Hallelujah, give us a handout
To revive us again.
Oh, why don't you save all the money you earn?
If I didn't eat, I'd have money to burn.
Whenever I get all the money I earn,
The boss will be broke, and to work he must turn.
Oh, I like my boss, he's a good friend of mine,
That's why I am starving out on the bread line.
When springtime it comes, oh, won't we have fun;
We'll throw off our jobs, and go on the bum.

Halleluha I'm a Bum sung by Harry McClintock. 1928

And Woody singing Hobo's Lullaby

Footnote: You can read more about life at Burnside, including the dairy farm at the where you will find aural histories by others who spent time at Burnside, here.


Anntanami said...

what an amazing life!I couldn't turn off the song

lorik said...

Yes it has been Anntanami. You will now have the song in your head all day like me! Thanks for visiting :)

VaishVijay said...

now, whenever I wear my 'Bum' watch, I'd b reminded of "i'm a bum"!

Annabelle said...

What a really charming blog and so very different. I found you through 2 bags full and joined. I shall so enjoy following you as I have no family history myself. Do visit me and enter my giveaway - a very different blog about travel, cooking and crafts. You have inspired me as my husband is at present documenting his own family tree and it also could be so very interesting. x

lorik said...

thanks Annabelle. I visited and entered your giveaway.

Fun With This and That said...

What a life. It was so nice to read.Your writting is so good. thank to vickie for me to find you Laura