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Traffic Trains and Lemonade.

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Author Topic: Traffic Trains and Lemonade.  (Read 191 times)
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« on: October 28, 2008, 11:00:23 am »

I had been down to Fremantle and back to East Perth unloading new refrigerators from
 Sydney A hot summers day in December 1956. It was about 4.30 pm and the usual heavy traffic of  workers hurrying home.
I was making for our agents yard which was situated in the most notorious street in Perth, Roe street. It was the red light street where the legal brothels were allowed to operate.
 It mostly consisted of terraced houses with the tiny front veranda covered in chicken wire where the girls sat on a sofa or the front room window sill waiting for clients..
Entry was by a locked wire gate opened by the girls from the inside..
  The other end of this well known street was full of warehouses of which one was ouragent. Moylans Freight Forwarding Agency.
  I had many a strange look from Perth residents when they were told the address of our Business agent. Sort of ‘oh yeah’ and a knowing smile.
Anyway  I approached a very busy intersection on the way to Roe St., four large roads meeting where a policeman was on ‘point’ duty.
Motorists to-day wouldn’t understand what point duty was so I’ll explain.
Traffic signals were not in vogue yet, a few around but when traffic needed to becontrolled as in the rush hour an experienced officer was put out in the centre of an intersection and by his skill and prowess directed traffic quickly and smoothly.
A job needing constant concentration.
He would have a continuous flow going all ways at the same time. A good point duty man was a joy to watch. They walked about around the intersection flicking fingers to the left and circling their right hand the other way and traffic flowed around each other without a problem always on the move.
 At the start of each shift a single file of police complete with “bobby helmet” would march from the station and stop at the first intersection, halt and one would walk out into the middle of the road to change places with the officer on traffic duty. That officer would join the file and they would proceed to the next corner and so on till a complete exchange had taken place.
 Then the six officers with a sergeant in charge would be marched back to the station.
 Well as I came up to the corner to turn right this police officer on duty pointed to me and drew me to the centre of the road while directing oncoming traffic across my front and at the same time indicating others to turn left, cars going every where. He then walked across the front of my truck and out a little into the centre to call the traffic through from the left. At that moment I had just unscrewed the top from a half empty bottle of Lemonade that I kept under the seat. I had a swig and then sat it on the metal engine cover next to me as I was about to sneeze which I did and the bottle tipped over and rolled down the other side and ended up on top of my open bag in the far front corner of the cabin.
 I could hear it glug glug glugging its sticky contents over my last remaining change ofclean clothes.
“Damn and blast “ I yelped.
I immediately pulled the trailer brake on and jumped up onto the engine cover leaning down to grab the bottle. In my haste  I scooted across  too far and ended upside down in the farthest corner head down and arse up
.I managed to grab the bottle and sprang back on top of the cover, quickly checking I had time to get back into the drivers seat.
 ‘Yep the ‘copper’ still has his back to-wards me.
 So as I sat up on the engine cover with my head near the roof of the cabin and  took another swig before I had to slide back down into the drivers seat.
 That’s when the trouble started.
As I took the bottle from my lips I caught it in the looped  cord that operated my chrome plated twin air horns on the roof of the cab.
Well the blast was ear deafening and wouldn’t stop .The more I struggled with the bottle the longer it blasted. On and off on and off. The policeman poor fellow took off at a dead run for the footpath without a backward glance.
 I finally managed to extracted the bottle from the horn cord and quickly glanced out to-wards the centre of the intersection where I had last saw the traffic cop.
He wasn’t there!
My first thought was he had done a ‘Mary Poppins”
 I couldn’t see him any where!!
 I then glanced sideways to my right and saw him. He was marching back from the side of the road where he had stopped running, a look of thunder on his face and  he was making directly for me.
 I just sat there on the engine cover mesmerized thinking “Oh oh what do I do now?” .
 All the officer could see was a man sitting up on the engine cover, bottle in one hand, mouth open wide bending his head down looking at him with a blank look  under the top edge of the windscreen and no one in the driving seat, it was empty.
.I felt like a helpless deer with a menacing  lion stalking me ready for the kill.
.You see these air horns I had were illegal at the time. A blind eye was turned to them on the understanding that they were only used in an emergency.
We did out in the bush for cattle or sheep blocking  the road, that’s all.Back then they were extremely loud and attention getting.
Usually people froze and then looked around for the source.Sometimes thinking  it was an ocean liner behind them.
Not this person he took off like the start of the Olympic 100 yard dash.
 I had untangled my arm from the cord but sent out another short blast accidentally as I  slid into the driver’s seat..
He put his arm up palm outwards, pointing and stopped all traffic all four ways and slowly turned to-wards me.
There was I in the middle of this intersection, all alone out in the open, like a country ‘dunney’    Hhhmmmm    I thought .Doesn’t look good..
If looks could kill I was dead. The cop had a face like thunder.
 Not wanting to look at him directly I sort of kept my head straight ahead looking forward but checking him out from the corner of my eye and drumming my fingers on the steering wheel as if I didn’t have a care in the world.
It was very hot in Perth that day but I felt a cold shiver go up my spine.
 Right about this time, I thought,
“ Doesn’t look good Ray, you are in for a heap of trouble by the looks of it”
As I eyed  him very slowly pacing  the last few  steps over to my driving door.I promptly sneezed again and dragged a battered half used toilet roll from under the  seat tearing off a little off to blow my nose, just to appear busy and minding my own business, as if it wasn’t me that caused all the trouble. Then leaning my head out the window and lifting both arms up in the air with a sort of guilty but friendly smile at the approaching storm, sort of  finally admitting, yes it was me but ..sorry.
It was no good, I spoilt everything again. I dropping the toilet roll, out of the windowonto the road  managing to hold the dangly end  while it unraveled across the road rolling past two highly polished black boots topped by a dark colored  uniform.
“Oh no ..bloody hell “  I thought .. “ what next can happen to me ?”
I didn’t know whether to smile, frown or just jump out and run away.
The jumping out and running away bit was tempting.
 Instead I thought I had better get out and pick up the toilet roll or I’ll be had for littering as well as what ever else he is going to do to me.
I jumped down “Sorry officer’ I called as I ran past and bent to pickup the still rolling  toilet roll.
He was looking up into the cabin and then turned to me.
Now large British AEC 30 ton green colored East Coast Semi trailers were quite rare in Perth in the
early 1950’s. More so with air horns. I believe at that time I had one of the few sets available.
“You  bloody  little  useless  bazztarrd “ he suddenly  barked loudly  at me.
 This I thought was unfair as he didn’t know I was a bazztarrd nor was I particularly short.
 I must admit he WAS very big and he WAS very  tall.
I swallowed my thoughts as I  scooped up my toilet roll endeavoring  to roll up
 my early type ‘Tissues ’thinking while he spoke to me that I must throw this part
of the roll away when I get back to the yard, never know who has spat on the road
 around here.
“ Are you listening to me?  YOU … Stand still when I’m talking to you.”
 Looking up I noticed he had two stripes on his sleeve so he was no new boy.
“Yes  YES I am officer.. I’m trying to clean up this mess while your talking to me.”
 All this while I’m trying to roll the toilet roll back into some sort of shape.
“They never seem to go back the same way do they?” I said .to him conversationally.
  “Never mind that, you bloody fool  what do you think you were doing making all that noise”.
 “My  Lemonade bottle fell over and was soaking my clothes, I had to rescue it didn’t I? When you were still busy I took a quick swig and caught my hand in the horn cord.”
“You were not even in you seat. You were not in control of your vehicle”
“No .. yes I was ..  I had the trailer brakes on and was ready to go when you were.”
He took a deep breath. “Get back in your truck,.. driver “
I did quickly, slammed the door, half smiling down at him.
He took another deep breath and I sensed him relax just a little.
“You might just get away with this Raymond” I said to myself .”Now be nice to the man”
“I nearly pissed my pants” the two striper confessed looking from left to right up and
down the road as he spoke.
“Yeah, look I know I’m really sorry for that, it scared the hell out of me too.”
“That horn you have is the same as on our express trains and bloody cruise ships.”
 I didn’t know if a train was coming up St. Georges Terrace or a P and O liner.”
He stared long and hard at me and then looked at the name and address on the door.
“You’re from the east , I see.”
“Yeah … Sydney.”
“Are you allowed to use that horn over there?”
“ No not really ..well sometimes, when I’m in a hurry,.. you know.”
I immediately knew that sounded wrong. He might take it the wrong way.
“What I meant was sheep and cattle on the road out in the bush.”
“This duty is hard enough on a stinking hot day without having Idiots like you causing trouble.”
“Where are you going?”
“Roe Street”
“ What ….  WHERE? ..
“ Roe Street?”
“I should have known it.”  He exploded in exasperation and continued,
“Cant wait, In a hurry I suppose  ..want to beat the rush eh.?”
I had done it again. .my big mouth.. must get out of this.
NO   no  no  I’m not going to where you think. Our depot is in. Roe Street”
“ Going to make a delivery”.  .he replied  some what sarcastically.
“No honestly our depot is up the other end .Moylans Freight Forwarders they
 are a very old and respected firm here in Perth, been around for years.”This was true.
 I thought it best at that time not to go into any details about what we did after we parked our trucks for the night, safe and sound or I would put my foot in it again.
  He looked all around, shook his head then looked around again, all traffic stopped, horns blowing, cars banking up wanting to know what was going on.
“Look at this mess” he sighed. I could sense he was relaxing a little more, Wondering just what to do with me.
“I’m really sorry officer for all this . I can see your very busy with all this traffic”
I thought this sounded good and very sincere.
“YOU…. You get going before I have second thoughts and throw the book at you, illegal use of a horn contrary to the traffic act of Western Australia, not in control of your vehicle, cracked windscreen, probably a bald tire or two, and worst of all  frightening the hell out of me. Now get out of here”
I called down to him  ‘ Gee thanks Officer’ with a wave and a great big winning smile. jammed the toilet roll under the seat, let the brake off, shoved it into gear and took off to finish my right hand turn, at the same time  nearly  running over his toes  withthe trailer wheels.
“Bloody hell Ray, you stupid fool, you got away with it, watch what your doing” 
I gave just a little blast on the horn,   couldn’t help it    and hightailed it for Roe street.
 Hopping  quickly  backwards and nearly tripping over he yelled loudly waving
his index finger.
 “ Don’t you come back this way to-day  you hear me or I will change my mind”
He then turned his back and proceeded to get all the disgruntled motorists moving again.
I didn’t
He couldn’t
And that was the end of that..

       From                          “My Way on the Highway”
                                              The Life and Times
                                                       of the
                                                  Nullarbor Kid   
                                                  Ray  Gilleland   
                                                 Copyright 2005     
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