I hope 2018 is filled with wonderful and exciting adventures.
One night last week, at about 12.45am, I went out into the front garden to water a couple of pots before I turned-in for the night. As always I do, I looked up into the night sky and stared at the stars. The clarity of the constellations reminds me of the magnificent, inky-black skies of my childhood in the goldfields of Western Australia.
Suddenly, and to my great joy, I saw a satellite moving across the heavens. It took me, instantly, to a time and place in my life. In that moment I was, again, momentarily, ten-years of age. It was somewhere between October 4th and the 25th, 1957. Beria, my late mother, and I were walking home at about 8pm. Her husband, Salinovich, was on the afternoon shift on the Sons of Gwalia goldmine, and we had been to supper at the house of her close friend, Joan Tagliaferri, and her husband, Bob. Joan hailed from Victoria, and somehow she ended-up in Gwalia, about 800-kilomteres north-east of Perth, on the edge of the Great Victoria Desert. Joan used to regale us with stories of working in the various munitions factories during the war. Joan had prepared Beria’s favourite meal: gnocchi, in a rich, dark napolitana sauce. When Beria was married to my father, Ginger (he was a real ginger, as it happens), he made it regularly, using the same recipe from his mother back in his Tuscan, hometown village, Magliano, in the Alpi Apuane, north of Lucca, and where his family have been herding milking sheep and making Pecorino cheese for 200-hundred years.
Post-war was an exciting time in the world. The space race was on between the USSR, and the United States of America. To America’s chagrin, the Russians won when they launched the first space satellite. Overnight, the word ‘sputnik’ slipped into our lexicon. Everyone was talking about ‘sputnik’.
As Beria and I walked along Tower Street, heading for home, we came to Ollie Garbellini’s house. Like the rest of the town, the Garbellini’s were out, staring into the sky, searching for Sputnik. Suddenly someone shouted, pointing to the heavens: ‘There it is!’ I was dumbstruck. We could see it moving, silently, across the firmament. I watched in awe and in a few minutes it disappeared from sight. It fired my imagination. Holding Beria’s hand, we walked home, silently. ABC wireless broadcast the best viewing times.
Every night for about three-weeks, at the end of which time its batteries went flat, I stood on the woodheap in the backyard and watched as this fantastic, scientific invention passed overhead. At school, the headmaster, Mr. Reilly, said that one day man might walk on the moon. Beria had told me about the man in the moon. He chopped wood on Sunday and God had put him there as a punishment. Mr.
Reilly’s revelation was a bewildering concept beyond my childish imagination. When I asked Beria how they would do it, she answered, quite simply: ‘I don’t know, Ronnie.’ It was one of those unexplained childhood conundrums on which I pondered, wondering how it might come to pass? Like Beria, I am fascinated by the stars. Shakespeare allowed Hamlet to say it best:
This most excellent canopy, the air—look you,
This brave o’er hanging firmament,
This majestical roof fretted with golden fire.
As I stood in the front garden, watching the satellite slip across the clear, Ballarat night sky, and continue its journey through the milky way and out of sight, it caused me to think of the ‘Baby Boomers’ – those 5.5-million Australians who were born between 1946 and 1965, although some contend the period concludes with the Dallas assassination of US President, John F Kennedy, in 1963, and the end of the brief, shining moment of Camelot.The 20-years following the end of the Second World War were an extraordinary time.
I left secondary school and started my tertiary education in 1965.
My mob were the first generation of the remarkable Baby Boomers, for whom the world was our oyster – there was nothing we could not do – or be! It was a matter of personal choice and application. University education was free.
The world was on the march and we were the vanguard – destined for a bigger and brighter future. It was what they promised us at the end of the Second World War. Many of our parents had lived through two world wars. Denied every opportunity, we were the physical manifestation of their vanished hopes and aspirations; their dead dreams and unfulfilled ambitions. Nothing was permitted to stand in the way of our entitlement.
Our formative years were marked and shaped by the Korean and Vietnam Wars– the latter known also in Vietnam as the Resistance War Against America, or, more simply, the American War. The conflict occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November, 1955,to the fall of Saigon on 30 April, 1975. Both were unpopular and unwinnable wars; the Suez Canal crisis when President Nasser took the world to the brink of an international war. Only in more recent times have we learned of Britain’s disingenuous involvement; the deaths of Queen Mary and King George V1, and the Coronation of Elizabeth II; the famous Royal Tour of 1954 when almost every Australian child saw The Queen and Prince Philip; the Hungarian uprising against Communist occupation; the lowering of the iron curtain, and the building of the Berlin wall; the spread of Communism;the collapse of French Indo China, and the Dutch East Indies – harsh European occupations which never should have happened; the advent of television in Australia; the sixteen-years of Robert Menzies as Prime Minster – an ethos of ‘The Yellow Peril’, and ‘Reds Under The Beds’; the notorious Petrov Affair; the first commercial jet travel; the introduction of apartheid in South Africa; and the genesis of the technology which has given as the mobile phone, faxes, ST and IS dialling, satellite communication, computers, and the internet – none of which existed, so the Baby Boomers set about inventing and laying the groundwork. As I said – a remarkable generation – the like of which I doubt the world will ever know again.
Roland can be heard each MONDAY morning on 3BA at 10.30.