Cowboys and cracker nights

I was born on 16 Jan 1949 in the (then) Canberra Community Hospital. My sister Diane Elizabeth Frame also was born there on 24 Nov 1951.

Our parents were Harold William Frame and Jacqueline Maud Frame. In Canberra, initially they rented with Bernice and Bill Burns (a PMG Lineman) at 15(?) Bass Gardens, Griffith, then moved into 2 Lord St when the house became available. They were the first tenants. Dad was then working as a carpenter with the Commonwealth Department
of Works.

I remember a very popular sandpit in the kindergarten yard and a 'flying fox' from 'upstairs' in a shed in the school yard to (I think) somewhere near the sandpit. Another favourite pastime was collecting the grass when it was cut in the yard and cramming it into a holding bin on the back of one for my friends trikes. What he did with it when he got home, I can't imagine.

You weren't anyone unless you had a Davy Crocket 'raccoon skin' hat. A good cowboy outfit, or at least a pistol and holster cap gun, also was de rigeur. When I was about 7-8, cowboys and Indians were all the go. At one stage, about age 7 probably, I had a cowboy suit and hat. Mum has a photo of me and David Peak, both in cowboy outfits, sitting in the grass common area at the end of Lord St.

Because Belconnen Way was not built, Miller St was the last street before Black Mountain. Groups of us would go up onto Black Mountain to build 'cowboy forts'. These generally were just little squares with low walls made of fallen timber etc. I don't think we went too far into the bush, but far enough for us to play out of sight of the houses. I remember someone turning over an old piece of galvanised iron one day and finding a nest of redback spiders: I don't think we stopped running until we crossed Miller St.

As long as I can remember, we used to be able to turn on the fire hydrant at the end of Lord St. (A long-gone luxury - fire-fighters now bring their own spanners). We used to all build little dams in the gutter all the way down the street, make a bunch of stick and leaf little 'boats', then turn on the hydrant. The object was to see how long your dam could last and how fast your boat would go.

'Cracker Night', Empire Day 24 May (my parents wedding anniversary), was an occassion that everyone joined in. Someone, I don't know who, used to arrange a bonfire in the common area between Lord and Way Streets and everyone went along and brought their crackers. It was also when you had penny and threepenny bungers available to buy and blow up post boxes, and tom thumb strings to scare the dogs and cats.

In winter, if you wanted something to do that was great fun and annoyed your mother, you could always go out in the morning and jump on the puddles to break the ice. In the early 50s, the road and footpath must not have been paved properly as I can remember lots of good puddles frozen over - not deep ones, but they still had a bit of muddy water in the bottom.

My main friend was Alan Harding, who lived at 64 Miller St next to the fire shed in the common area, on our side. His father was with the CSIRO. Alan went to school with me until I moved to Darwin.

Ian Frame, 2 Lord Street, 1948-59 (contributed 1996)

 

Stories

•  Cowboys and cracker nights

•  The cross on the chimney

•  Dressing up

•  Suicide hill

•  Visiting

•  Todd Street ceilidhs

•  Square dancing

•  Dances and a keg of beer

•  Sunday at the Raccosta's

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