Saturday morning at the Insurance Company of North America, Australian Home Office, Spring Street, Sydney.
"Strewth, what a day. If I wasn't working I could'a done my grocery shopping at King's Cross before the rush, now it'll be off the tram, into the deli before it closes at two, back on the tram and hope there's something goin' on tonight in Bondi. Hope I've got time to hit the Pitt Street Rhineskeller Wine Shop for a jug."
Just the three of us: Crazy Kath Sherlock in her gray Red Cross uniform, sucking Cure 'Em Quicks, and that new honey, Judy Stutchbury who won't even give me the time o'day. Y'know, the other day I asked her to type some stuff and she said that it wasn't her job? Who the heck does she think she is? I've been here longer than she has, and besides, isn't that what the girls are supposed to do?
Who's this at the door?
"Yes, madam, you want to renew your Household policy? Do you have the renewal slip?"
"No? Not a bother at all. Now what is that address again?"
Go to the ledger, find the address, find the policy number, go to the pending folder. Let's see, City Account? She must be one of our agents' shirt-tail rellies getting the 15% discount.
Good, she's done and gone.
God, 2 hours till I get off at 1 o'clock. I'll read the Herald want ads.
Needs Mechanics' HelpersPositions at Mascot AerodromeGood working conditions.Interviewing today at Wentworth House 10.00 am until 4.00 PM
Hmm. Wonder what Mechanic's Helpers do?
If I was in aviation, maybe Polly would let me take her out to the flicks instead of up the hill to St Patrick's to Confession where I know she confesses fooling with her court reporter boyfriend. She only takes me along as 'cover'.
(Wentworth House is no longer standing, but it was just across the street from Polly's weekly confessional and it was the headquarters of QANTAS Empire Airways, Australia's locally grown, aerial connection with the outside world. Probably because of Australia's dedication to the British Empire and her assistance to General Douglas McArthur's drive to defeat the Yellow Peril, Australia had been granted a round-the-world route. QANTAS had been flying the U.S. built Lockheed Super Constellation: Sydney, Darwin, Singapore, Delhi, Cairo, and the long leg to London. Then, London to New York, nonstop to San Francisco, Honolulu, Nandi and Sydney.)
I look for the Employment Office but instead find a sign, 'Interviews' and nearby a varnished, glass enclosed office with an old coot reading the Saturday Daily Telegraph with his feet propped up on a empty desk.
This is aviation?
"Sir, is this where you're hiring mechanics helpers?"
Bill Grove, Maintenance Foreman of Hangar 85 at Mascot, takes a look at me in my blue, double-breasted, tailor-made suit, white shirt and Windsor knotted club tie and wonders what the hell I'm doing there, but it's a slow, late, spring afternoon and there are no other applicants lined up.
"Yairs, son. Come on in."
Bill is a balding, stocky, middle-aged man dressed in a nondescript plaid suit which is not near the cut of mine. He too is having a boring day, seconded by the Personnel Department to do interviews as Saturday is their day off and managers don't get overtime.
We talk father to son stuff. His son is attending Scotts College, a GPS school at the west end of Rose Bay, where I am, at great expense, currently subletting and sharing a house.
"Why would you want to be a mechanic's helper?" asks Bill.
My enthusiasm has always been a door opener and it flows out to open this unexpected portal.
"Well sir, I've always wanted to get into aviation, in fact, it's really my first love."
This was not totally untrue as I had been the class 'drawrer' since 1st grade and could draw the best aeroplanes and rocket ships ever to adorn the covers of my mates' exercise books. I regularly buy and devour a weekly periodical from England, "The Aeroplane", and if I can afford "Flight", I buy it too. The smell of airplanes in a hangar is totally intoxicating. I dream of layovers on Pacific islands exploring abandoned Japanese Army fortifications and tunnels finding souvenirs of the war I have only read about. I also dream about 'hosties' like Pauline and how they get all gooey when talking about pilots.
"Well, you look as though you could do the job, but frankly it's a greasy, sweaty job cleaning parts that have been taken off our Connies and I don't think it would interest you for more than a week or two. But, I tell you what, if you can afford a tool box and a pair of overalls, I'll take you under my wing and see that you stay out of trouble. I need someone to work just outside my office door to take care of the Maintenance Manuals and tag the airplane parts that the mechanics have removed for repairs. When I can find them, the apprentices aren't interested and do a lousy job and the mechanics hate paperwork."
I don't have a clue as to what 'take me under his wing' means but he seems to be a straight bloke and just may have my interests at heart. Perhaps it's the Riverview/Scotts College connection - both are members of the elite Great Public Schools of New South Wales and I am after all, a Riverview bloke. Well, kind of.
I lie about my age and he doesn't seem to care. The better wages start at age 21, so for QANTAS purposes, I'm 21.
"You may have to live closer to Mascot. Do you have a bike, or a car?"
He knew I do have a tool box, but a car? A motor bike? Last time I saw my push bike, it was a year ago and it was leaning against the wall of the Public Bar of the Commercial Hotel in Gunnedah. Who knows which drunk had ridden it home.
"Ah, no I don't, but I can get one!"
"Righto then, you can start in a coupla weeks. I'll set it up. Keep your mouth shut, or tell anyone who asks that you worked in Clegg and Tyrell's Gunnedah Garage instead of working in the Parts Department. When you start, I'll check your tool box over so's no-one will question it. By the way, you'll have to join the Union and you might consider taking the evening classes at Ultimo Technical College."
I leave Wentworth House flying just a little higher than those Connies I hope see in two weeks.
Little did I know that this would be the beginning of a career in aviation which lasted over 40 years.