AS I remember, they didnt want to know us. We were Sydneys poor relation, the dirty cousin but we had our dignity. My word we did. We were Newcastle and Newcastle was the BHP. And thats it in a nutshell.
If you want to know more about it, just ask a woman, ask any of the women. Theyd tell you what it was like for them. Of course, we didnt know what went on inside the place, that was for the men. Those that worked there, I mean.
You ask a woman whose husband was on doggie, shed tell you. Doggie of course was dog watch, the night shift. And its no use asking me why, it just was, thats all.
Now, back to doggie. All the women whose hubbies did the shift could tell you what it was like.
A lot of the men, like my Harold, worked liked dogs, too. And what with little kids and all and him sleeping during the day, we had our hands full. We had to go round on our tiptoes and whispering all the time.
It was the noise, you see. The problem was that the men had to sleep in the day after working all night. That was what the shift was like.
Theyd knock off and ride their bikes home through all those dark, narrow streets and by the time they got home, they were knackered. So what happens, now? They fall into bed, dont they. And they need peace and quiet, peace and quiet. And what with kids and their games and horseplay around the house.
And me forgetting and yelling, Watch it you lot, your dads trying to sleep.
But thats what hed be doing, trying to sleep and in broad daylight. And with the hot sun belting through the windows and all, in summer.
Then someone starts up a mower. And someone starts revving up their car. Youd want to go out and wring their necks but they didnt know, didnt think about anyone being in bed at that hour.
Believe me, it was no picnic for the women, as well as the men.
Before the kids started school was the worst. How can you stop a crying baby, a bawling toddler? Was it all worth it? For the bit extra they got, yes and no. But a job was a job. A lot of women got the kids out of the house so they could run wild for a bit and let the old man sleep. But like I said, it turned your life upside down.
I havent told you about the nappies yet, have I? All the babies around Mayfield, Waratah and thereabouts, including Wickham, Carro. Poor little blighters. All of them would have started out with white nappies. But they didnt end white. And dont forget there were no disposables, not like today where you can wrap them up and throw them in the bin. Most women bought a dozen or so new. Remember the old Actil? The mens singlets turned a nasty shade of grey, too. So women just had to swallow their pride and think, theyre washed and clean, just not white.
When the kiddies got older, of course, they could go outside and play in the streets. Thats what they all did back then. Marbles. Cricket. Come school holidays and weekends and youd never see them. They were probably up to goodness-knows-what over at Throsby Creek or in the Styx or something.
But they got home for tea and to see their dad for a bit. And depending on whether hed had a bit of sleep or not, there could easily be fireworks around the table.
And again, it was the women who had to settle everything down.
Now dont get me started on the grime. What with the steelworks and steam trains, its a wonder we all didnt turn black. If it was outside it got a filthy film. And it had a habit of walking in through the front and back doors too, and the windows. So women had their job cut out cleaning.
It was like the train carriages, you had to get out your hanky and wipe the seat before sitting down. Otherwise black smears, black smears over your pretty, new dress. Mens trousers werent so bad as they were mostly dark anyway. But their white shirts could cop it if they didnt have their jacket on.
Now don’t get me started on the grime ... If it was outside it got a filthy film. And it had a habit of walking in through the front and back doors too, and the windows.
I used to feel for the poor sods over there in the Mater and the old Western Suburbs. The smell. Hitched a ride on the wind, it did. And mothers having their new babies, and all. What they breathed in, I hate to think. We just had to put up with it. We didnt know what clean air was, we really didnt.
Yes, it was pretty tough going, year after year. The days off didnt make up for it, and men found it difficult making the switch back to sleeping at night.
Between you and me, it put a big strain on marital relations. A lot of the time it was a quick peck, and a wave goodbye.
Some did all right for themselves though, like the office workers with good sit-down jobs.
Management, of course, did even better. But the ordinary workers, well, they were the backbone, they were the BHP.
Do I miss it? Not really.
I think doggie mucked up Harolds health. Its not natural, not natural working in the night and sleeping in the day. Hes dead now. Up there at Sandgate.
Well, thats all I can say, yes, thats about it.