I was excited when mum got us one of the new wringer washing machines, because, each Saturday morning it was my job to wash our clothes in the bathtub. Bent over, using mum’s glass scrubbing board and good old ‘sunlight’ soap, my back would hurt like crazy. But no matter how much I scrubbed, I could not turn grey bed sheets white. I remember being embarrassed pegging them out on the clothesline for all the world to see.
The washing machine was squashed into our tiny box of a kitchen, with already no room to turn around, making it impossible to open the door properly. An even worse problem, mum had no idea how to work it. She was too embarrassed to let this on to anyone, so it just sat there, never getting plugged in, or the card-board wrappers on the wringers taken off, no help to me.
Without fail, the August school holidays were always rainy, miserable days, that halted our wander-lust and left us sitting around bored. One kid plucked up the courage to dare to ask, a bit grumpy Caretaker-Jack, if he would let us have the hall key to use the hall and get together for a play. He surprised us all, when he agreed.
Inside, we sat for a while at a loose end then someone got the bright idea for us to put on a concert. So we went off again to door knock Jack’s front door to get permission. He agreed it was okay for us to use the hall on the Saturday night a week later. Well, our excitement went into high gear and we began devising a program, giving each kid a spot in the limelight.
We created invitations to post through the letter flaps of the other flats’ dwellers, and rehearsed our chosen items every day. The Bell girls’ mother, came to the party by supplying miles of crepe paper. With the help of mum’s new ‘Singer’ sewing machine I turned it into cancan skirts – big circles covered in frills, for our ‘grand finale’. Hoping for a big bang at the end we all were rehearsing a chorus line dancing the ‘Can Can’, from the ‘Folies Bergere’ show.
On our big concert night, we had a good crowd of residents turn out, mostly old age pensioners and our family who filled up the long wooden forms, that were the hall seats. Each of our gang of eight, sang a song, told a joke or did a dance, before we formed ourselves into our chorus line for our big ending.
Our kids version of the ‘Can Can’ got the audience singing along with us,
‘they do it in the folies all the little frenchie dollies’ while we twirled our crepe paper skirts from side to side doing high kicks. The final flourish, giving everyone a big laugh, was our spin around to bend over and flash skirts up for a glimpse of bottoms.
My embarrassment at the thought of the ugly black bloomers being seen, was compensated for by the, loud hand claps we were given, it was like music to my ears. Basking in the spotlight we all felt very chuffed with ourselves. I loved it so much, I thought perhaps as there was no money for ballet lessons, I might be able to do acting.
When the school drama teacher was auditioning for the parts in our end of year play, I plucked up all my courage and went along, but never made it in. Instead, she offered me the prompts part. That’s the person who hides behind the curtains and whispers the lines for the real actors if they forget them. I wanted to be on the stage, not hidden behind, so I told her, no thanks. It appeared to me as if the same popular kids got chosen to do the fun things. I was so upset, I had to go outside before my poker face came off and I had a cry.