The WHAT'S NEW! page contains the latest medical updates. If you're wondering how I'm going as far as health is concerned, this is the place to start. Latest: Wed 27 Nov 2013. 7.20AM

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The enraged prima donna

This photo is of the wedding of my sister Jan to Ken Stockwell. I referred to them after marriage in another story, and Jan wrote on her impressions of Christmas at Taragoola, as did Lyn, who’s the senior bridesmaid on the left. I’ll have more to write about Ken later, as he made a great impact on our lives. But I’m using this photo to tell a story about my youngest sister, Kay, who is the sweet little junior bridesmaid on the right in this picture.

Kay fancied herself as a bit of a singer when she was about 5 or so, and would perform without much persuasion for family and visitors. This was usually downstairs, under our house in the cool of the afternoon and after milking was over. It was a great time when we could all relax.

On this particular afternoon, Kay had an audience of Aunty Lucy, Uncle Frank, and our cousins, Beth and Gay Brown, apart from Mum and Dad and us siblings and one or two others. Gay is the other junior bridesmaid in the wedding photo.

Kay would have been about this age when this event took place.

Kay’s favourite song to sing for an extended audience was Rock Island Line. The chorus goes like this:

Down the rock island line is a mighty good road
Oh the rock island line is the road to ride
The rock island line is a mighty good road
Well if you want to ride you gotta ride it like you find it
Get your ticket at the station for the rock island line.

The only problem for Kay was that there was a fair chance she would get it confused toward the end.  If you watch this screamer of a version of it on youtube – hang in there till the end, the visual alone is worth it - you’ll see how fraught with danger this is for a 5 year old whose confidence might just have outstripped by a fraction her memory of how the song ended. Kay, let me add, was excellent at many things later in life, such as writing, painting, and a nationally known horticulturalist, but singing was one of her lesser talents, let’s say.

So, the concert began, and sadly, towards what should have been the end, Kay found herself going into an infinite chorus loop, forgetting where the stopping point was. After a while, the inevitable happened. Beth Brown, sitting down at the back, started to giggle. Beth would have been about 10 at the time.

Kay was having none of that. She glowered furiously at Beth, and continued with the song, but unfortunately was still in the infinite loop. Everyone tried to contain themselves, all except Uncle Frank who was chortling like crazy, sitting on an end seat down the centre aisle of the performance area. Meanwhile, Bethy Brown down at the back continued to giggle – very quietly, it must be said, but visibly. And Kay had a keen eye open for any critics of her performance. Like Churchill and trailing prepositions, it was something up with which she would not put.

Kay was now deeply offended by this discourtesy, her fury directed particularly at Beth, whom she regarded as the originator of the barely repressed chortling and the indignity she was suffering. She stopped her song, and marched down the centre aisle, heading for Beth, who she was going to teach a lesson in manners.

On the way down, as she walked past the grinning Uncle Frank, she clipped his ear good and hard, much to the amusement of Aunty Lucy – and of Uncle Frank, who I thought was going to fall off his seat with laughter. Fortunately for him, he was not the main target, just someone who was in a great position to be disciplined on the way. Beth, still giggling like mad and seeing Kay bearing down upon her not unlike the train in Rock Island Line, jumped out of her seat and took off to parts unknown, at least by Kay, thus saving herself from near certain strangulation by the prima donna. Or worse, the Kay Death Stare, followed by immediate throttling.

The performance thus came to an abrupt conclusion with the singer refusing to perform for an audience not appreciating her talents sufficiently, and it was only several of Aunty Lucy’s fairy cakes that changed Kay from a seething, simmering five year old bearing a very large chip on her shoulder back to her usual angelic self. Beth did not return for quite some time after – until she was sure it was safe to do so.

But if you were in the audience that day you would never forget the sight of Kay explaining to the audience in no uncertain terms as she swept down the centre aisle what was expected of them as to their behaviour whenever she was performing for them. By the way, she loved Uncle Frank dearly and was always his favourite – but he was not hers on that day!

Kay, a little older, not performing Rock Island Line
FOOTNOTE TO THIS STORY: When she read this incident, my sister Lyn reminded me of something I had completely forgotten about. In her words: 

"I was amused at the piece on Kay getting stuck on the Rock Island Line song, but you didn't use the punch line?....  I won't forget the glitter in those eyes as she stalked off muttering 'that bloody Beth Brown'!"

I wish I'd remembered that before I published the story! Thanks, Lyn!
[Next story] [Back to Index]


  1. That is very funny, about Kay being caught in a loop..I lOVE that sort of thing with little kids! good for her showing some spirit, too. I'm amazed at how much she reminds me of Sylvia in this later photo. Early 1970s I'd say, by the clothes (I bet she was pleased with those shoes). What year was Kay born?

  2. Kay had plenty of spirit. She is terribly missed by us all. And yes, I can see what you mean about the resemblance to Sylvia. Kay was born in 1951 so she would have been your age, pretty much. You would be right about when the later pic was taken. They are nice shoes and [this would be a first for me] I actually DID notice them before you mentioned them!- but then, what would a boy know about such things? :)

  3. Julie: I managed to accidentally delete your last comment about the band singing 'Rock Island Line....' I thought I was deleting a test one - sorry! Does the Ballroom Rockets lead singer actually have hair like I used to?? :) Cool!!

  4. Ha .. you guys (including Denis - the chief tormentor of baby girls) were just training fodder for Kayse. Jeff Kennett (our local member as well as the premier) felt her wrath when, along with members of the school council, she stormed his office & protested about the proposed closure of the local school (he was selling school land to balance the budget). He abandoned the sale and the school still exists - with major growth in enrolment and a significant building program.
    Julie - how clever of you to date that pic via the dress. It would have been 1973 or 1974. I know that from Jasper the cat (who we had for only about 2 yrs) and the fence which appears to be in the house we rented in East Brisbane a year before we brought our own home.
    Kay was born in Jan 1952.

  5. Baby girls? I tormented all my sisters without discrimination as to age.... I thought I mentioned somewhere else but can't find it now when Kay and Kennett clashed. If I'd done my sums right I'd have got 1952 instead of 1951 for her birth year too. Mind you, I made breakfast for Kay every school morning, while Mum was finishing up in the dairy, so I wasn't all that bad!

  6. I loved reading this and used the link to view Lonnie Donnegan in his hay day, what memories that brought back for me as l performed on stage with him in London back in 1973 with his then partner and her sister Debra(my best friend). we belted out Rock Island Line with no idea from my prospective how popular that song had been in 1957.

    I loved reading about your family antics Den.


  7. I really love that you are enjoying the family history, dear Chrissie. I remember you telling me about singing with LD! See you and Rich as soon as I crawl out of this bit of a hole the chemotherapy put me in this week!

  8. Ahhh, so maybe that's where my 'death stare' comes from - Mark and the kids are always telling me I have do the kids in my class. I feel in very good company now!

  9. I well remember this song and, indeed, still have a Lonnie Donnegan CD somewhere in my collection. It was a favourite with my family and we used to sing it in the car, belting out "....I've got all livestock, I've got all livestock, I've got AAALLLL live-stoooock!" at the top of our voices. Poor little Kay, it's hard to imagine her ever being so fierce.

  10. ..and further to that, it reminds me of my daughter Cathy (you met her, Denis, now a respectable scientist but once a small "Twinkle Star" in a Brisbane ballet school end-of-year show. The mothers had to make the little costumes of midnight blue satin with silver tinsel trim. I was hopeless at sewing so even from the audience you could see Cathy's costume beginning to fray and come apart. This bunch of about 10 kids (the ballet school babies, all about 6 years old)were so absolutely awful that the audience began to giggle. And the more the poor little things stuffed it up and pirouetted gracelessly into one another, the more the audience laughed. Most of the ballet babes turned scarlet and retreated to the back of the stage by not MY daughter...she stomped to the front of the stage, put her hands on her wrinkled blue satin hips, glared fiercely at the audience and then stomped off, followed by her fellow ballerinas. Children DO take this sort of thing very seriously - but then I suppose it's a good preparation for life...if you stuff up someone's gonna let you know it!

  11. Hey Julie - nice to see you here and I hope you have settled well into that new place. Thanks for the cheery letters... I WILL respond! The one Lonnie Donnegan record I remember best featured chewing gum sticking to your tonsils... :)

    Ohhhh - how I WISH I had a video of that walk-off!!! She is definitely her mother's daughter.... Heh heh.

    By the way, did YOU have electricity on your place in Frica when you were little? (See my latest story...)

  12. Frica = Africa - I KNEW I should have proofread that before sending - but what could possibly go wrong in 20 words slipped in as an afterthought? (I shoulda knowed better.)


Some iPads simply refuse to post responses. I have no idea why, but be aware of this.
Word verification has been enabled because of an avalanche of spam. SAVE or compose a long comment elsewhere before posting; don’t lose it! View in Preview mode first before trying to post.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.