January 2007 Newsletter - Steve Gray YHS 1971

Steve Gray YHS 1971….
Cubby huts and hidey-holes…
I guess Yallourn was blessed with practically every house having a shed of some kind and we were lucky as we had both a garage and a shed. For our family, the humble shed that was meant for wood and garden implements (after starting its life as an outside toilet) soon became the place to hang out. For us it was the cubby house, a place where stories were told, billy carts and bikes were stored, but more importantly - as a hidey hole for friends to gather.

My sister, Anne, started off having her dolls lined up on shelves, but before long she reluctantly shared the space with my brother, Colin, and eventually Peter when he needed space to put electronic bits and pieces. When Colin took over, Anne became annoyed that his friends would push the dolls out of the way to make room for more important things, and at one stage a whole bookcase unit was moved to expose a great viewing hole from which you could see the back door and most of the yard.

It was not long before Anne’s dolls were out of there and a fully blown GHQ was set up (General Headquarters…). Colin was the “Commander in Chief” and his ‘minions’ seemed to be a bustling bunch of pushers and shovers when they ditched their bikes at the end of our back yard path. Being younger, my mates and I would be bumped out of the way and any ‘stuff’ of ours that had ended up in his space was soon thrown out the door…(Mum put an end to that).

The letters GHQ were scratched and drawn into the weather beaten door and various locks fitted as well as a spy hole in the middle of the door. If we harassed the bustling congregation too much, there would be a silent pause and then a rush of bodies from the “inner sanctum” to the “real world” and bruised arms and dented egos would be the aftermath as we ran from their onslaught. Such was my life while Colin ruled the roost at GHQ.

Occasionally, on a wet winter’s day, Colin would let me in to watch him trap an unsuspecting minor bird or better still a magpie with a length of string, a cardboard box and chunks of bread strewn about the yard. From the viewing hole, he could pull the string to lower the box on the bird and then rush out and let it free. One day he dragged out his metho camp stove and frying pan and he sent me on a mission most daring… The mission, (should I decide to accept it,) was to get bread and dripping from the kitchen without being detected, then bring it back to make some fried bread… (Oh the cholesterol!) I had a great afternoon and mum was at a loss as to why we didn’t eat much for dinner that night.

The shed (or should I just call it GHQ) saw the coming and goings of many kids and events over the years. Colin’s first go at a cigar and cigarettes along with his minion mates took place here, (they soon found the garage was better as it had greater ventilation although it had a higher risk of getting caught, something to do with the smoke pouring out from under the eaves…)

Around the town there were various similar spots, across the road Joanne Davis’s dad (Joe Davis) built her a two storey job with a balustrade at the top, wow what a sight, and a reasonable view too! In the bush, various lean-tos and hidey-holes popped up from time to time. However only three of these spots really stand out in my mind.

There was a set of pine trees down near No 1 oval out the back on the way to the hospital, which was fairly well untouched, we set up a spot there… (It ended up too far away to be bothered with from my place) The SEC patrolies dropped in a few times and told us off (so much for it being a secret!) they said the fire risk was too high.

The second spot was up a poplar tree out the front of the guesthouse in Fairfield Ave. We would drop our bikes and scurry up the branches and be out of sight in no time (not very big - three kids max!), we had to be careful not to fall out of the tree (occupational hazard) and then there was the cubby to beat all cubbies…

Geoff Castell and I in our travels found a bungalow on the way to school in the back of the Crowe’s place, they had moved on, the place was vacant and the grass grew longer… It was locked but the hardware store provided the right key (took a few goes, but they were happy to
oblige by swapping the key until we got the right one!) We put in a chunk of carpet to sit on, and Geoff puffed his head off on cigarettes (vile things…) One school afternoon our pact to keep it our secret spot came unstuck and we ended up getting our backsides kicked by our teacher when he found out about it. (Loose tongues sink ships!) I don’t recall if it was Geoff or me who let it slip in a casual conversation about who had the best cubby hut. The afternoon walk home became a run, (the aim to run past the house so no one knew which one it was,) but poor communication meant Geoff ran straight down the driveway (Hey did you think I would blame myself?) I followed and so did most of our class. A very embarrassing end to our super dooper cubby hut exploit!

Yallourn afforded many opportunities for kids to hide out and explore and these quick stories I hope illustrate a little of what it was like for so many of us that led innocent and fun filled lives.

Until next time….Steve Gray