A Visit

A wet windy afternoon in
1950’s school holidays with
little extra entertainment
provided for children in winter.

At Mum’s request dad took
each of us on his auctioneer’s
afternoon visits to his market
gardeners. We drove past suburbs
down muddy tracks along
macrocarpa shelter belts
edging huge paddocks
down to dingy packing sheds.

They were dark, poorly lit,
doors wide open to fields
round about, inside a layer
of filmy dry dirt covered bare
planked floors and benches.
Though dark and dusty they
were alive with Chinese
families – adults, elderly,
children on holiday, all packing
vegetables into boxes and sacks.

All greeted Dad happily, greeted
me too, thrust at us paper bags,
cartons of potatoes, carrots,
cauliflower. He talked with
one man, filled in forms, viewed
the surrounding paddocks.

Then we drove away to
the next market garden.

Previously posted May 2017.

A Visit

Auction Floor Bedlam

In the days before supermarkets
in the 1950’s produce auction houses
along the street from the wharves,
auctioneers opened up at 4 am for
the big Monday sale to take in
produce too sell to greengrocers and
fruiterers from suburban shops.

On Sunday nights Chinese market
gardeners parked laden trucks
outside on the street, slept there.
At 4 am they surged in through
unlocked doors, over bare planked
floors covered in fine earthy dust
jostling each other with Chinese
shouts at the tops of their voices.
Aiming for the best auction places
they wheeled in sacks and boxes of
potatoes, carrots, onions, turnips
cabbages, cauliflower, other vegetables
each kind to its own long bank.

Over the road fruit was wheeled
on to the floor from boats in the
lighter basin behind, boats laden
with fruit from the south, more fruit
rolled off trucks from the orchards
out west, more from tropical islands.

With each bank lined up while
store men patrolled, gardeners
and auctioneers rushed off for
breakfast. From 8 am the
auctioneers’ staccato calls filled
the air, greengrocers, fruiterers
wheeled purchases to their trucks
to sell in their little suburban  shops.

By 11 am the day’s frenzy was over.

Previously posted May 2017.

Auction Floor Bedlam

An Unknown Tongue

As my brother,sister and I
played on our driveway one
Saturday morning, Mum house
worked inside while Dad
drank with his mates in the
1950’s smoke laden packed
crush at the local pub.

As we played a Chinese man
approached saying Stoo ? Stoo?”
Our Dad worked with Chinese
market gardeners and their wares.

Yet we could not make out
the sounds or words in his
heavily accented speech except
“Stoo ? Stoo ?” Our Dad
was called Stuart, he wanted
to see him. All we could do
was shake our heads,
say no he had gone out.

Later Dad said he mostly
understood the strong Chinese
accents, though a few were
very hard to comprehend.

Years later as I connected
calls at the emergency services
centre I still could not discern
the sounds, the words, spoken
in that unfamiliar tongue.

I connected their calls to the
police for their assistance.

Previously posted May 2017.

An Unknown Tongue