A personal recount from Loftus Public School teacher Brett James – on how the little moments of fathering combine to build a childhood worth of memories.
My dad was a plumber for the Sydney City Council. He’s retired now so I think I can safely tell this story without him getting into trouble. You see, he was a plumber in Hyde Park – the jewel in the centre of the city. If you haven’t been there – you should get out more often. The Archibald Fountain; War Memorial and the amazing Moreton Bay Figs were his office. He loved it. So did I. Every school holidays from the age of 7 I was his ‘offsider,’ his ‘apprentice’ and his ‘excuse’ (more about that later).
I loved getting up very early, putting on my ‘work clothes’ and hopping in his white, 1987 Toyota HIACE van for the trip to work. Once there we would say hello to all of the interesting characters that inhabited ‘The Depot’ ( a workshop and storage area with a lunch room beside Hyde Park where all the action happened). There was Brendan – an ex rugby league player who loved to punch me on the arm and say, ‘Mornin’ Champ;’ Johnny who always had tools wrapped around his waist yet in the years I visited the ‘Depot’ I never saw him use any; and Ray – Uncle Ray – who was as funny as he was mischievous. I loved spending time with them all.
There are many stories that I could recount…. The roast beef sandwiches from the local takeaway for morning tea; the lunchtime domino games that needed a cash buy-in and it was always ‘winner-take-all’ or the myriad of practical jokes that befell poor old Johnny – who never had any idea. The memory of those still makes me smile.
But for today I want to focus on my dad and Uncle Ray. They loved it when I came to work because they got to free themselves from manual labour and entertain me – which meant a walk to George Street and into the City of Sydney HOYTS cinema. What a treat. We only saw comedies – Ghostbusters; Three Amigos; Back the Future…. Or Action/Adventure – Return of the Jedi; Cannonball Run; Big Trouble in Little China. We would grab our treats, take our seats and prepare for two hours of bliss. It didn’t even matter that Uncle Ray would invariably fall asleep.
Once finished we would amble back to the Hyde Park Council Depot and I would regal the ‘boys’ with a very in-depth review of the movie for which we just saw. It was here that I got my Council ‘Nick Name’ – a name that all the council workers would call me for all future visits. The name? RAMBO. You see, I was half way through a play-by-play review of Sylvestor Stallone’s third instalment of the RAMBO series (one where he takes out 300 Russian soldiers by himself – so it was factually accurate), when I became a method actor in my delivery and knocked over an open green paint tin over the depot floor. I was ‘Rambo’ from then on.
So what is my point? Well, I have two.
One. As a father or a father figure, we need to share our lives with our kids! Take them to work, share your day, spend time with them in your world. This is the most precious thing we can do! Try it…. You won’t be disappointed.
Two. I still answer to RAMBO and I love it.