Me ‘n’ Pete

A History of a Catholic Family, Part 3, 1946-1953

Gerard Charles Wilson

Also available on KOBO: Me ‘n’ Pete: Recalling a Fifties Childhood | Rakuten Kobo Australia

This is the third book in the family history series.

What did kids do in the 1950s when there were no smartphones, tablets, and computers? They roamed the neighbourhood on scooters and bikes. They went Saturday matinees with theatres packed to the rafters with kids yelling at hero-action and booing at kissing. The author relates this and much more about a decade that now seems idyllic to many in their seventies, so different was their social world. To those who lived through them, the 1950s were so different from the first decades of the 21st century, that they now seem like another world, an impossible world of social and moral values. In today’s atmosphere, it seems hard to imagine it possessed any real social and moral coherence. This third book is the author’s story from birth in 1946 to the end of his second year, First Class, at school when he turned six, 1953.

The author, a pretty ordinary fifties boy – considered a little naughtier than most – looks back on those years, telling the story as much as about himself as about the world he grew up in. He claims his naughtiness was much misunderstood. A hyperactive spirit, not spite or contrariness, drove him. That’s his story, and he is sticking to it.

The story starts in July 1946, the author’s birth, and goes through to the end of 1953, the year in which Queen Elizabeth was crowned and he turned six.

He tells of the self-made activities of kids when there were no electronic gadgets like smartphones, tablets, and computers. It was outdoors, roaming the neighbourhood on scooters and bikes, free of risk. It was Saturday matinees with theatres packed to the rafters with kids yelling at hero-action and booing at kissing. It was tram trips to Balmoral Beach or Sydney’s Taronga Park Zoo. It was a bus trip into town at Christmas time to look at the Christmas displays. All this involved his lifelong friend Pete who was a rubella baby, a condition which tragically took his sight in his teenage years. Pete ‘s story. told as an adult without sight, is fascinating.

The book is also about the political world of the fifties, and his Catholic father’s passionate commitments. For a boy, who according to his mother had ants in his pants, the author remembers much about the events which provoked his father into loud comment. He has sharp memories of the Korean War, the activities of the communist-controlled unions, and Prime Minister Menzies’ actions against them.

A key part of the story is his starting school at the local convent under the regime of the Mercy Sisters. He recalls with affection their teaching methods and the marshalling of their pupils. He thinks some of their ways, now condemned by some, are rather humorous to look back on.

In 1953, the author was in First Class in the infants’ school. He sees that class as the end of a phase in his development. The following year, 1954, was rich in social and political events and will start the fourth book in the family history series, BILLYCARTS AND TWO WHEELERS.


Writer … and still in the fifties