I told you I’d tell you a bit about Fred Finley. This is in the same context as the previous story. Fred was an old bloke when we knew him as kids. He could have been forty or he could have been seventy. We will never know. But he lived in a shack in the bush on a track that we drove along every day getting to school. In the very early days,1949/50, we would drive past on the way to school in our horse and cart but then we moved up market and Dad purchased an old Hupmobile or Erskine. I know we had both of these cars at some stage and here are photos to give you an idea. They are not our photos – I have taken them from the ‘net.
Both of these cars would have been about twenty years old and cars that old were not as reliable as a modern car of the same age, Now although they were both used petrol our father set up a little process where he had a small petrol tin hanging from the roof of the car next to the offside windscreen. This contained about a gallon of fuel and the main fuel tank was kerosene. Noe kerosene was much cheaper than petrol so he would start the car on petrol and when it was running he would turn a tap and change over to kerosene. When we were near the destination the tap would be turned the other way so the car finished on petrol. On a fifty mile round trip this saved a lot of money.
But back to Fred. I said I didn’t know how old he was but to me he looked very old. Fred had a real problem with drink and always looked very much the worse for wear. Once a fortnight, on Thursday Pension day, Fred would be standing on the side of the road and mother would stop and give him a ride to the school bus. Bill, the driver, would let Fred on the bus and he would sit at the front and all the kids would sit as far to the back as possible, He was harmless but we didn’t know that. That day Fred would pick up his pension cheque and buy some basic necessities and a lot of beer and proceed to get drunk. Then the local police would pick him up and lock him in the lockup. He was never charged with anything – but he was looked after and then somehow on Friday or Saturday he would make his way twenty odd miles home. We wouldn’t see him for a few days but maybe on Tuesday as we drove to school he would be standing at the roadside, screaming and waving and suffering from the DTs (delirium tremens) We were all quite scared of him on these days and mother would drive past without stopping. The next morning he would be there again, fairly sober and we would stop and he would hand us a bottle of boiled lollies, nod his head at mother and say. ‘Thank you Mum.”
On a couple of occasions Dad would invite Fred home for Sunday dinner. I remember very clearly one time when we were at the table. I was sitting on Fred’s right .and my brother was on the left. Fred pushed his plate back, leant back, loosed his belt and the top buttons and said, “Well Mum, that was a very nice dinner.” David and I looked at each other and started laughing and Dad sent us both outside and we didn’t have any dessert. After dinner, Fred said goodbye and started off up the dirt track to his hut. And our Father, gave us a good talking to. The gist of his speech was, “It is very rude to laugh at a table when you have a guest. He might have thought you were laughing at him.” But the really funny thing was that we were laughing at Fred.
In 1958 I went away to school and only heard by mail from mother, that Fred had got very drunk one day and had fallen into his fire. Dad drove him into town to hospital but he died a few days later. What I never knew was how he came to be as he was. Was he just an old drunk, or was he one of the many WWll casualties that slipped through the net.
Below I have a photo. This is not of Fred’s hut, but it looks a bit as I remember it.