Bimbo Brown was – and still IS – my third cousin. I say ‘was’ because I can only think about him as a kid, one year older than I, but he’s now a grandfather and still kicking round Calliope and I hope he never gets to read this, or he’ll probably kill me, if he doesn’t die laughing instead. Now I know these days a bimbo has a completely different connotation than then, but in the 50s anyone called Bimbo was a boy, not a failed cheer leader with passable legs and a brain permanently new out of the box, so to speak. Any time I mention my cousin Bimbo, Tracey doubles up with mirth at the idea that someone so called could be anything but a cardboard cutout of Paris Hilton that’s been left out in the rain a bit too long. Not so. In 1955, Bimbo was a boy, perhaps heavily suntanned and usually depicted with dark fuzzy hair, but strong in the x chromosome department. Bimbo Brown had acquired the nickname from a song popular when we were about 5 or so. I just googled it and was pleasantly surprised to find out things about the song I didn’t really need to know, but Google’s imprimatur means people will probably be more familiar with it than I thought. Does your mummy know, that you’re going down the road To see your little girly-o? As you can see, this established without question the macho status of Bimbo, and later in life Bimbo proved that status with prowess I won’t go into here for fear of being sued or badly maimed.
Bimbo’s parents were a lot better off financially than we were. That was mainly because we hardly had a brass razoo to our name, while Bimbo’s dad had the lucrative contract for nightsoil removal for the town. While being the dunny man lowered the family status for Bimbo somewhat, it was more than compensated for by the fact that his dad had racehorses and cash, and his father scrubbed up quite well after the night’s adventures with the lavatory pans, redback spiders, snakes and startled early morning toilet users. ['Hell, Charlie, get outa there and let me finish in peace!' snapped Joyce Moran when the back panel of the space for the pan suddenly burst open and she was left hanging in mid-air, as it were.]
But back to Bimbo and financing matters of the heart. Having the actual sixpence to buy a sixpenny sundae topped with raspberry cordial essence at Barlow’s shop won over many a fair lady’s heart, and Bimbo did have the actual sixpence; in fact, he could find a shilling for two of them if required. His family’s horse-racing nouse had taught him how to hedge his bets if not on a certainty.
If the lady was about Bimbo’s age, and if she had either had been guaranteed that he hadn’t helped with the nightsoil collection the night before or she was untroubled by the thought of it, the sundae usually did the trick. The lure of the taste of raspberry essence seeping into melting vanilla icecream in a short-stemmed sundae glass and eaten with a long silvery spoon does put things into perspective when you’re about nine years old.
The preferred vehicle for nightsoil collection was the 24 Door Austin. They were all the rage in Gladstone in the Sanitary Collection community. Do I need to explain why the 24 Door Austin was so named? Just use your imagination if the question hangs heavily over you – like the aroma of the 24 Door Austin itself.
Actually, Bimbo’s dad’s vehicle for collecting the toilet pans was a wartime Blitz army truck, converted for a more humble occupation than when it had been at the Enoggera Barracks in Brisbane. Maybe it never saw wartime military action other than to be full of Diggers trying to outflank American soldiers in Brisbane in a race for available girls. To entice their prey, the Yank soldiers had the huge advantage of a smart uniform, heaps of money and, so it seems, access to the babe magnet of an inexhaustible supply of nylon stockings, but that’s another story and before my time, so let's leave it right there. The Blitz, more popularly known in less polite circles [i.e. most of Calliope] as the shitcart, was parked through the day next to but an olifactorally sensible distance downwind from the Brown household, its nocturnal goal achieved; that of replacing full nightsoil pans with empty ones in some part of the town. Our 600 acre farm was outside the town limits, so it was not a service provided by the Shire Council for us. We managed our own sanitary arrangements, which is definitely not what you want to know about. When Bimbo came home from school and his father was sleeping, he usually sneaked into the Blitz and extracted from the ashtray as many dumpers as he could locate. For the uninitiated – and I accept there will be a few – a dumper is a partially smoked roll-your-own cigarette, and the stop-start work of removing and replacing lavatory pans meant that Bimbo’s dad started many a smoke that he didn’t quite finish. This meant that for Bimbo, there was a reasonable choice of partly smoked durries on offer. Bimbo had been smoking these ever since he was big enough to open the door of the Blitz and forage for them. Probably the age of 6 or so.
One afternoon he offered to allow me to accompany him behind the racing stables to partake in these goodies. Illicit smoking is more fun in pairs, so it seems, and somehow less suspicious-looking if his dad should walk around the corner of the stable after his nap. Bimbo had a keen appreciation for the science of risk management before they invented the term.Frankly, I wasn’t that keen, I confess, for two main reasons. No, three.
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Pooooo! The good old dunny! Ours in Brisbane was a pleasant outdoors affair, with the flowers of pink coral vine climbing around the door and a little red bantam that often sat on the wooden seat. Our neighbour, Cyril Hunter, owned the garbage-and-nightsoil collection business, so was a wealthy man in St Lucia. He was beyond doing the collecting personally, so suffered no stigma.His family lived in a poshy red brick house with leadlight windows, and he grew prize dahlias in his front garden.They were the kindest people ever,and Cyril provided all the fireworks for the neighbourhood bonfire night held each year in the park across the road. I admired, almost with awe, the excellent cubby house the Hunter girls had, purpose built on the back of their (also poshy) garage.They always wore frills, those girls. And I remember the Bimbo song (which I always thought silly; I was such a snob) but must mention that this very day I met a man called Boof. He is the man from the wreckers who is going to pulp my dear little blue car :( boohoo. You are reminding me more and more of Ginger Meggs!! Or -Denis the Menace!ReplyDelete
Hey Julie, if your neighbour wasn't handling those pans himself and sterilising them with pitch heated in a 44 gallon drum out at the dunny depot, then I can't think of him as a genuine dunny man. Sorry! :) But thanks for the memories!ReplyDelete
Hey, I remember that Bimbo song too! Truly chunder-making! Some of the music from the fifties was pretty ghastly when you look (listen?) back...all that Rosemary Clooney stuff. Patti Page - yuk! Doris Day - ditto yuk! Lots of silly chorus type songs. Thank goodness for Elvis, Bill Haley, Fats Domino etc - and beatnik jazz!ReplyDelete
...Wot's more...when I first came to Brisbane in 1966 I was intrigued by all these cute little timber buildings outside so many houses. I thought they were toolsheds! Until somebody put me right and I heard the word "dunny" for the first time. I came from a Third World country but at least we had flush loos! (Actually my grandmother had a "long drop" on her farm, and it was known in the family as "Going down the path with Beverley Nichols" because of an English gardening personality who wrote a column under that title).ReplyDelete
Oh come now, what was wrong with 'Que Sera Sera?' :) 'Down in the Little Green Valley'? Lovely, they were.... :) Ahhhh, but when the Twist came, and the Beatles almost on their way.... Houston, we had liftoff....ReplyDelete
So you didn't know about thunderboxes even though you came from Darkest Africa? I never met up with a flush loo till I was 13 or so. And when I tell the Aunty Daisy story you will be very much reminded of the Long Drop..... if you don't get bored first with my memoirs!