The Blue Gum Gang (a short story of Aussie Childhood Adventures)

 Story Background

I wrote this story “The Blue Gum Gang” in 2013. It is loosely inspired by a series of Australian/British made “Smiley ” movies from the 1950’s (which I grew up watching) and my own childhood adventures.

The Blue Gum Gang: typical early Australian Chemist Shop and other buildings
Figure 1.4 Jeparit. Wimmera–Mallee Pioneers Museum, 1973
Photograph courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. John T. Collins, photographer.

 

The Blue Gum Gang

by John Hansen © 2013

“What a sweet melodic voice,” the music teacher, Mrs. Tripcony, cut in as the last notes of the song faded away. “Stuart McCauley you have the voice of an angel.”

Snowy McCauley fidgeted on stage as the other boys in the group sniggered. The girls were more accepting but Snowy didn’t really care what they thought, not yet anyway. His soprano voice and his almost white blonde hair gave him an angelic appearance, and he hated it.

“Oooh Stuart, you sung that song real beeootifool,” teased Nugget Anderson, poking a finger in Snowy’s chest, and rolling his eyes.

“Shut up Archibald!” Snowy snapped back at his best mate, “or I’ll do ya’.”

“You and who’s army?” Nugget retorted smiling. But it was drowned out by the frantic rush of 25, nine to eleven-year-olds as Mrs. Tripcony dismissed the class from school concert rehearsals. Snowy and Nugget were the first to race out the door of the Blue Gum Valley School Of Arts building, pushing and shoving as they ran up the street past Thompson’s Produce Store, and around the corner of the town’s Chemist shop.

As was their usual practice the two cobbers pretended to be their favourite storybook characters or superheroes. Nugget picked up a twig from the footpath and began waving it in the air like a sword, “A zee that stands for Zorro,” he shouted. “That’s zed in Australia ya’ drongo,” Snowy corrected, grabbing the twig from his surprised friend and whacking it against a paling fence as they continued down the main street. “The Phantom never sleeps, ” he cried as they ran.

“I wonder if old Giant Octopus has got any packets of broken biscuits he’ll let us have?” Nugget said as they approached the grocery store, his chubby frame evidence of his constant hunger. Snowy was just about to enter the shop when the old Greek grocer, Mr. Giannopoulos , appeared in the doorway with a ‘CLOSED FOR LUNCH’ sign in his hand.

The tall grocer knew only too well what the two boys were going to ask. They came around regularly on Saturdays after concert practice. As he hung the sign on the door he said in his heavy accent, “Ifa you boys wanna clean outa da backa shed, I giva you all da biscuits yousa can eat.”

“Can I help too, Mr. Giant Octopus” Please, can I help too?” a young voice pleaded, followed by a smaller female version of Snowy McCauley appearing at the top of the shop steps, and completely forgetting she was on an errand to find her brother.

Snowy immediately jumped into his sister’s path blocking the doorway. “No, you can’t Soggy Britches. Go home or I’ll do ya.” He lifted one fist threateningly, but the Phantom was no match for the five-year-old. “You aren’t allowed to call me that. I’ll tell Mum, and she won’t let you go to the pictures.”

Snowy and Nugget were big Superman fans. They had listened to the serial on the radio and took turns buying and sharing the comic book when it came out each month. Now it was finally coming to the Blue Gum Valley picture theatre. It was a 15 episode serial and the first three were to be shown at a movie matinee tomorrow.

Defeated by his little sister Lilly’s threat, Snowy jumped off the verandah, followed closely by Nugget. ‘Come on then,” he called to his sister, as they started walking around the back of the store to Mr. Giannopoulos’s shed. “And no whinging to go to the dunny all the time,” he warned, as Lilly trotted happily after them.

The young trio was doing a surprisingly good job, sorting and stacking boxes of various items neatly on benches and against the walls of the shed. Nugget stood on a small wooden stool as Snowy passed the last box up to him to stack on the very top of a pile.”We better get at least a whole box of Arnotts Assorted for doing all this w..o..r..k”, he started to say, when suddenly he lost his balance, “Crikey, look out!’ he cried as in an effort to stop himself from falling he let go of the box and grabbed onto a shelf. The box tumbled to the floor spilling its contents.

The box had been full of old clothing and shoes and stuff. Snowy and Lilly began to pick up the items that had fallen out. As Nugget jumped down, Snowy held up a large square of red fabric…. “Wouldya get a load of this?” he said smiling, ‘it’s a dead ringer for Superman’s cape,” he said proudly tossing it over his back and tying it around his neck. “And look what I found,” squealed Lilly, holding up a big pair of black gum boots. “That’s so cool”, said Snowy grabbing them off his little sister as well and pulling them on.

Superman raced out into the yard “faster than a speeding bullet”, with Nugget in close pursuit and Lilly taking up the rear and having trouble keeping up, “I’ll tell, I’ll tell,” she chanted after them.

“No you won’t, or we’ll throw you down Johnson’s old well,” threatened Snowy. At this, Lilly’s lower lip trembled as though she was going to cry, and she criss-crossed her chubby legs back and forth around each other nervously.

Snowy nimbly climbed up onto the shed roof, holding the cape outstretched at the bottom. He had become his favourite superhero, and with a blood-curdling scream of “Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s Superman!” he raised his hands like an Olympic diver, and catapulted off the roof, and straight through the chook house.

By the time old Mr. Giannopoulos  had discovered that it wasn’t an atom bomb that had demolished his hen house and three of his best layers, a very sore and sorry Superman and his mate were hiding under the slatted verandah floor at the front of the grocery shop. Lilly, terrified and shaking was standing on the verandah directly above them, her legs twisted like barber’ poles.

The local policeman, Constable O’Malley, having just finished his lunch when he heard a loud crash, strolled down the street to investigate the noise. When he arrived at the grocery shop Mr. Giannopoulos was still checking on the state of his chooks so he was greeted by the sight of the terrified six-year-old girl. “Lilly looked up at his looming figure, and almost on the verge of tears, pleaded,”please Mr. Pleesman, don’t arrest my bruvver.” She started sobbing, unwinding her legs and forgetting herself completely.

Nugget Anderson, hiding directly beneath her, was to remember for the rest of his life, why Snowy McCauley called his little sister ‘Soggy Britches’.

Superman

A 15-part film serial based on the comic book character Superman was produced in 1948. It starred Kirk Alyn as Superman, and Noel Neill as Lois Lane. It was originally screened at movie matinées was one of the longest running productions of its time. The Superman-in-flight scenes were animations, mainly due to the small production budget.

Glossary of Australian Slang

Blue Gum : A species of Gum Tree (Eucalypt)

Chooks : chickens, hens, roosters, poultry.

Cobber : Best friend, mate, or pal

Do ya’ : Beat you up

Drongo : a silly or stupid person

Gumboots : galoshes, wellington boots

Crikey : Oh My God!, Wow!

Dunny : toilet, outhouse

Picture theatre : movie theatre, cinema.

 

John Hansen

Long time poet but not in the traditional technical sense. I enjoy rhyme but like to experiment and dabble in many different forms and maybe even make up some of my own. There is always a message or lesson I want to promote through my writing, for that reason, my poetry generally shies away from the abstract and obscure.

After a lot of procrastinating I have finally self-published my first eBooks of poetry "I Laughed a Smile" and "On the Wings of Eagles" at Lulu.com.Now I find myself branching out and experimenting with short fiction.

I have also been fortunate to have two poems chosen to be made into songs and recorded. The first "On the Road to Kingdom Come" by Al Wordlaw, and the second, "If I Could Write a Love Poem" by award-winning British singer Tally Koren.

I am also finding my services increasingly in demand as a freelance writer and I have ghost-written the text for a number of children's books and educational tutorials.

It has taken me many years of searching and restlessness to realise that my life's passion is to write. It saddens me that I wasted so many years not devoting to that, but thinking positively, the experiences gained over those years is now wonderful material for my stories and poems.

I want to try to bring a new focus on poetry and try to make it appealing to a new generation of young people and those who thought they never liked or understood it before.

Latest posts by John Hansen (see all)

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John Hansen

Long time poet but not in the traditional technical sense. I enjoy rhyme but like to experiment and dabble in many different forms and maybe even make up some of my own. There is always a message or lesson I want to promote through my writing, for that reason, my poetry generally shies away from the abstract and obscure. After a lot of procrastinating I have finally self-published my first eBooks of poetry "I Laughed a Smile" and "On the Wings of Eagles" at Lulu.com. Now I find myself branching out and experimenting with short fiction. I have also been fortunate to have two poems chosen to be made into songs and recorded. The first "On the Road to Kingdom Come" by Al Wordlaw, and the second, "If I Could Write a Love Poem" by award-winning British singer Tally Koren. I am also finding my services increasingly in demand as a freelance writer and I have ghost-written the text for a number of children's books and educational tutorials. It has taken me many years of searching and restlessness to realise that my life's passion is to write. It saddens me that I wasted so many years not devoting to that, but thinking positively, the experiences gained over those years is now wonderful material for my stories and poems. I want to try to bring a new focus on poetry and try to make it appealing to a new generation of young people and those who thought they never liked or understood it before.

16 thoughts on “The Blue Gum Gang (a short story of Aussie Childhood Adventures)

  • April 5, 2016 at 10:13 AM
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    Wow, John you had me at Chooks! Thank you for adding the glossary, it sure enlightened me with Aussie slang, we all have some form of slang or other in our vocabularies. But I must admit, I love Aussie slang very much and so much talent coming out of your beautiful country and you sir are most definitely one of them. I’m a big fan of Keith Urban. What a delightful story and cast of characters. The dreams we all have as children, the intermingle of dreams and how we portray them is often silly but so much fun. I loved Superman and watched it often as a boy and wanted to be the mighty man of steel too. Another of my favorites was The Lone Ranger and his sidekick Tonto. The silver bullet has made history in more ways than one, killing everything in its path, especially demons. lol I truly enjoy your writing style John and look forward to reading more, I had a wide smile on my kisser reading this story. BTW I think kisser is a slang too. lol

    Reply
    • April 5, 2016 at 12:07 PM
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      Hi, Vincent. I did originally have this story published on HubPages but unfortunately, it didn’t get as many views as I would have liked given it is a story I particularly enjoyed writing. I thought the fact that it did contain a lot of Aussie slang and colloquialisms may have been a reason, but without that, it would not be authentic and would fall flat. I am glad the glossary helped.
      I can see we had similar heroes as children. I was four years old when my sister was born. My parents were trying to decide on a name for the new baby. I piped up and said, “Call her the Lone Ranger!” .. true story.

      Reply
      • April 5, 2016 at 12:21 PM
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        John I believe I had departed Hubpages before you joined. I once had over 100 + poems located there and I had a very decent following too, however problems were starting up, too many restrictions for me, so I pulled my work off. I did go back in to read others works of who I had an assimilation to. One of my favorites was of course Neilleanna Hay, then I stumbled on your work and was in awe how you captured the heart and soul with your amazing work. You too have built up a substantial following of fans, fantastic work John, you are a brilliant writer and poet, I respect that very much.

        Reply
  • April 5, 2016 at 11:20 AM
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    Ha , awesome John , I have to say , thank you for the glossary of slang , I always have trouble with the Australian slang , although I have found a new interest in Australian movies . “The man from snowy river “, comes to mind for one my all time favorites . If you haven’t yet , you should write a novel John !

    Reply
  • April 5, 2016 at 12:11 PM
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    Hey, Ed. Thanks for reading, and I am glad the glossary helped. I have actually written a series of hubs on Aussie slang words and their meanings, “How to Talk Aussie.” The Man From Snowy River is a true classic Australian movie. A novel is a big undertaking for me, but thank you for the suggestion. Who knows, maybe one day.

    Reply
  • April 5, 2016 at 10:35 PM
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    What a great story this is John and I love it. I have a dozen sort of like it I would love to put up but I have to go back and do my homework that I by-passed before publishing two! lol Glad you added the glossary…especially for one as many Americans might tell you, lol.
    Great fun here and sure it will be more so once I know what I am doing! Really look forward to it all. I think now I will go gathering in some more members, right?

    Reply
  • April 5, 2016 at 10:46 PM
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    Thank you Jackie. I always appreciate your wonderful comments and look forward to reading your similar stories. Sure go out and collect some new members and have fun.

    Reply
  • April 6, 2016 at 1:22 AM
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    I remember this story very well from the Hubpages work. I loved it then and I love it now. We need more of this! Best of luck in this new venture John.

    Reply
    • April 6, 2016 at 6:45 AM
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      Hi Bill, thank for visiting this site. I appreciate your kind comment. Yes, this story was on HubPages for a few years but wasn’t seen by a lot so I thought it may fit better here.

      Reply
  • April 16, 2016 at 2:45 AM
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    Hey John – this is an exciting, amazing story! So very much in touch with childhood shenanigans. It makes me think of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. You sure have the gift for stories. Thanks to your article on HubPages on Aussie slang, I recognized all the words you used – I am so proud of myself for remembering. What a fun piece of work to read. Great job, Cobber.

    Reply
  • April 16, 2016 at 8:04 AM
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    Hey thank you, Phyllis, I had a lot of fun reverting back to my childhood to write this story. It was a lot of fun to write. Good work remembering the Aussie slang too.

    Reply
  • April 27, 2016 at 12:24 PM
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    Hi John,

    Just getting started, and I so enjoyed looking over this story. What a tale! You said some of the story was based on your life. Now I can put a face to it. Hopefully I’ll have some time to read more later, but thank you for this one.

    Reply
  • April 27, 2016 at 2:00 PM
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    Thanks for reading and for the kind comment, William. I hope you enjoy writing here as well.

    Reply
  • May 27, 2016 at 4:35 AM
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    What a fabulous, delightful storage the names of the two boys. I was an adventuresome tomboygrowing up and raised four adventuresome boys. So I felt the adventure here. Lovely work John.

    Reply
  • May 27, 2016 at 8:39 AM
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    Haha, thanks, Lori. I did have this story filed away in storage for about 20 years, before I dragged it out and dusted it off. Glad you liked the boys’ names and you could relate to the adventurous nature of the kids.

    Reply

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