I saw an article recently in the newspaper. The local writers club, (Felixstowe Scribblers) were looking for new members. I really need some discipline in my writing, joining a club, is a good idea I thought. My first task was set; 1,000 words or less on the subject of Missing Person(s)
As you may be aware, I only write what I know and I write from the heart … This story is based on true events back in the 1960’s when I was a little girl, growing up as a ‘Pommie in beautiful Australia. It’s a haunting memory, but with a valuable message. Make sure you teach your children well. Blessings.
Mum and Dad were a bit quiet this morning. They seemed happy enough around us, but then a whisper between them would serve a stillness I wasn’t used to.” You OK mum?”
“Sure, I’m fine. And how are you my ‘sweeeet’ little pumpkin”
She squeezed me up into her loving arms and gave me a big cuddle. I giggled.
“Mum, what’s Dad doing?”
“He’s getting ready to go to work …”
“But it’s Saturday?”
“He’s got an extra job to do …” she explained.
We were £10 Pommies. That’s what they called us immigrants from England. We now lived in a wooden clad house, painted lilac. It was big and very pretty compared to our old place. The nearest neighbours were off in the distance. We could see their houses, but you couldn’t hear them. It had 3 bedrooms, a bathroom and most of all, a big kitchen. Mum loved it. We could get the whole family around the dining table. The house had a veranda all around to shade us from the heat of the unrelenting Aussie sun. To me, it was just fun to run round! And so did Skipper my dog. He’d chase Marmalade the cat with me or my sisters, chasing them both. We’d see who could catch Skipper first.
One time, as I turned the corner, Skipper was coming the other way. I flew right over him. Poor Skip’, he got a telling off from my dad but it wasn’t really his fault. We were just playing. I remember thinking how very different it was from our old house in England. That was made of bricks. This house stood on bricks.
In was 1962, when we moved into the Lilac House, grateful to leave behind the barrack style housing made available for the immigrants. They were half moon in shape and made from corrugated iron and small for a family of our size. Six of us in there was a tight squeeze.
Us kids settled in nicely at school. It was some distance from our new home so we used to ride the bus. That rickety old yellow bus, would stop at the end of the lane every morning to pick us up, and drop us back again in the afternoon. Then we’d walk together, the short distance home.
When I think about those days and that school, my most vivid memory was the smell of the place.
Hot and dusty with choking whiffs of chalk in the air. Kids used to like being blackboard monitor. Not me. I hated the stuff..
One day, we were to paint a picture of someone we knew so that is could be sold to raise funds for the school. I painted one of my mum, with a bright pink smiley face and blue dress. Mum paid sixpence for it and stuck it to the icebox so she could see it every day.
I soon made friends with Kathleen. She and her family were from Ireland. She’d comment on how we were ‘aliens’.
“What do you mean?” I said.
“Well, we are from another country”.
“But I’m not an alien, I’m a Pommie!“ We didn’t know what the actual name was for an Irish immigrant.
“Aliens” she said again laughing. We accepted it and played happily together. Two little kids, away from their homeland. Aussie kids were friendly enough, but she was my best friend.
Today was a very hot day. We hadn’t had rain for weeks. Days like these were best spent at home, but now Dad was going out again. On a Sunday?
I worried. The slightest breeze blew dust in your eyes and kept your horizon very close. Mum packed him off with bottles of water and put them into his rucksack. He donned his wide brimmed hat and tied a scarf around his neck and left, ruffling my hair as he passed me by.
“Where’s he going mum?” I asked… but she didn’t say.
“He’ll be home later”
What has brought this vivid memory back to me is the headline of a daily newspaper;
“Mother reports her two girls missing” ~ A third child, (teenager) being sought”
With relief, I read the next day that although the mother had called the police, very quickly, they had been found. Gone to a ‘friends house’ on what they thought was a ‘sleep over‘. The children were safely back at home.
Then I remembered back to those days in the 60’s and what my poor Dad must have gone through. It was years later before mum told me what had happened. Dad never spoke about it…
“A little girl had gone missing. The police were asking for volunteers to help search the woods. She’d been missing for days and they had to find her fast. Your Dad and others, joined the search parties.
On the second day they’d found her. She’d been killed. It scared us.
It was in the news and on the radio, but me and your dad tried to keep you all safe from it”
Vaguely, I did remember getting the ‘do not talk to strangers and do not accept lifts” talk … They’d sat us down altogether on the big sofa. It really did go in one ear and out the other. I was too young to understand their concern. Not long after, thank goodness my little sister paid more attention …
A man pulled up in a car along beside us as we were walking back to the house. He asked the way to a neighbours address and said he’d give us a lift if we showed him.
“No, I’m not getting in the car” my little sister shouted. “And neither are you!”
She grabbed my arm and we ran off to our house. After telling them, Mum and Dad looked very concerned and just kept hugging us. I don’t remember much else, but I do remember shortly after that, a policeman came calling…
Sadly, later that week, was when Dad joined the search party …