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The Blue Gum Gang ~ an Aussie Childhood Adventure

John loves to read, especially crime, fantasy, psychological thrillers, and sci-fi novels. He also writes poetry and short fiction.

Image by VintageBlue from Pixabay

Image by VintageBlue from Pixabay

A Story Revisited

I originally wrote this story and published it here in 2013 but after the initial views died down decided to move it elsewhere for a different viewing audience. One of the photo's in Bill Holland's recent photo challenge/prompt #5 reminded me of one I used to accompany this story and I thought the time was right to return this little Aussie tale to this site where it originated.

Some of you, who were here back in 2013, may remember the story, but for many others I hope it is an enjoyable new reading experience. 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.

For those of you not familiar with Australian colloquialisms and slang, there is a glossary after the story.

The photo that reminded me of the one in this story

The photo that reminded me of the one in this story

The Blue Gum Gang

“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.

re 1.4 Jeparit. Wimmera–Mallee Pioneers Museum, 1973 Photograph courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. John T. Collins, photographer.

re 1.4 Jeparit. Wimmera–Mallee Pioneers Museum, 1973 Photograph courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. John T. Collins, photographer.

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.”

Image by Ron Porter from Pixabay

Image by Ron Porter from Pixabay

“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.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Superman_presentation.jpg#/media/File:Superman_presentation.jpg

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Superman_presentation.jpg#/media/File:Superman_presentation.jpg

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.

Image by Danubia duda from Pixabay

Image by Danubia duda from Pixabay

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’.

"Smiley" mural on Men's Shed, Augathella, QLD, Australia

"Smiley" mural on Men's Shed, Augathella, QLD, Australia

Additional Notes

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. (Wikipedia)

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.

© 2020 John Hansen

Comments

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on June 26, 2020:

Thank you Lawrence. I am glad you got to read this story, as you weren’t here at the first publication.

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on June 26, 2020:

John

I wasn't here for the original telling, but enjoyed that you brought the story back.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on June 16, 2020:

Hi Rhodora, thank you for taking the time to read this childhood adventure. I am glad you enjoyed it.

Rhodora from Dubai UAE on June 16, 2020:

Thanks for sharing this John, I enjoyed reading this... Really a childhood memory ❤️❤️❤️

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on June 11, 2020:

Verlie, thank you for the wonderful comment. A lot of my childhood was included here and I am glad you could relate from your own childhood.

Verlie on June 11, 2020:

This is so good John! Thanks for reposting, wouldn't want to have missed this, clearly a signature piece in your catalogue describing a significant part of your past. So relatable for me having been raised in a similar culture and era in Canada. Love this!

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on June 06, 2020:

Yes, I think there is a little bit of everyone’s childhood in there, Vellur. Hank you for reading and enjoying this story.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on June 06, 2020:

I enjoyed reading your story; it reminded me of my childhood days! I was taken into the world of the Blue Gum Gang through your superb creative writing.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on June 03, 2020:

Thank you Lora. Sounds like you had some fun childhood adventures too. Maybe they are worth writing about.

Lora Hollings on June 03, 2020:

What a fun and imaginative story, John! I'm glad that Snowy wasn't badly hurt when he jumped off the roof. This story reminded me of some of the adventures that I had with my neighborhood friends at that age. You really brought the characters to life with your Aussie dialogue. I loved the ending too!

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 31, 2020:

Genna, I am happy that you enjoyed this story and I couldn’t wish for a more encouraging comment. Thank you.

Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on May 31, 2020:

The aspects of writing I love the most are the opportunity to channel our imaginations into words, the imagery that transports the reader into the story, and the dialogue of the characters that brings them to life. Your wonderful story is a superb example of writing at its best. Thank you, John. This was such a pleasure to read! :-)

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 23, 2020:

Yes, Li-Jen, children (especially boys) are often reckless and see themselves as invincible. Thank you for reading.

Li-Jen Hew on May 23, 2020:

Hi Jodah, thanks for sharing this story! Interesting to see children behave in reckless ways. It's really a show of how "Superman" they are at that age as they act without thinking and feel invincible. That's the benefit of being a kid i suppose, struggles put aside.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 19, 2020:

Thank you Peggy. Glad you enjoyed the story.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on May 19, 2020:

What a cute story of childhood playing and mishaps.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 17, 2020:

Thank you MG. Welcome to Australia.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on May 17, 2020:

Nice introduction to Australia and a lovely tale as well

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 17, 2020:

Hi Rinita, yes we have a lot of slang in common with the UK. You probably remembered them from books and TV programs. Glad you enjoyed the story.

Rinita Sen on May 17, 2020:

Fun read. Innocent childhood. Well presented. I was surprised that I understood a lot of those slangs. I suppose many of them are common with Brit slangs and I read them in English books.

greg cain from Moscow, Idaho, USA on May 17, 2020:

They did indeed, John, and are the kind of memorable characters I'd enjoy reading more about. The ending was just superb, a knee-slapper for sure.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 17, 2020:

Thank you for reading this tale, Greg. I greatly appreciate your comment and it shows my decision to repost it here was worth it. By revisiting the story it also allowed me to tidy up some of the dialogue and punctuation that wasn't right. I'm glad the characters and dialogue appealed.

greg cain from Moscow, Idaho, USA on May 17, 2020:

John - this is great! "Go home or I’ll do ya!" is such a great line, so very not like something kids around my home would have said when I was growing up. I love that! And all the other colloquialisms from the land down under are just as charming and entertaining. Seeing the picture of the Chemist shop, I can certainly understand how it reminded you of the Bair Drug picture provided by Bill, too. Nicely done, and as Marie said below, I just love the dialog, and through it I feel like I got to know well the mischievous young characters in short order. I'm glad you brought this one back to life and shared it with us!

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 16, 2020:

Marie, great to see you. Thank you for the generous comment, especially regarding the dialogue. (I proofread by the way and cleaned up some of the inconsistencies with the punctuation...thank you for that) It was also fun to read your own experiences with your brother. Cheers.

Marie Flint from Jacksonville, FL USA on May 16, 2020:

First reading for me, John. I especially loved the dialog. I can just see those little kids talking and acting.

My youngest brother, the baby of the family, once got himself caught inside the chicken coop. His T-shirt was snagged on the wire netting of the window. My goodness! He cried and cried. I, being the big sister, went inside the coop and unsnagged him.

A much earlier memory of that same chicken coop had to do with my older half-brother and me. We were making a giant burdock ball (the unripe, sticky buds are a little bigger than a marble). When it got so big that my brother couldn't hold it easily any more, he threw it over the coop's roof. We heard a loud SMACK! One look on the backside of the coop's tin roof revealed a big dent on the corner.

But none of us ever fell through the chicken coop. The old barn loft, though, that's another story.

I also liked the short Smiley clip.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 16, 2020:

I am glad this story brought a few smiles and laughter MizB. Thanks for reading and enjoying.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 16, 2020:

Thanks for your kind words, Pamela. I’ll see what I can do to write more like this in the future.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 16, 2020:

I am happy that you enjoyed the story, Denise. It is fortunate that your son survived his evade then.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 16, 2020:

Hi Stive, good to see you. Yes, if you watched those old Aussie shows you would have a good grasp of the language. I can’t recall Boy’s Town though. Thank you for reading.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 16, 2020:

Thank you for reading this Shauna. Yes, I was a regular at the Saturday matinees too. Loved the cartoons before the feature too often Tom and Jerry here. I am glad this brought back memories, and hope your brother didn’t tr jumping off the roof dressed as Batman.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 16, 2020:

Hi Linda, I knew there would be someone who remembered this story. Thank you for revisiting it a second time, and I a the right thing returning it here.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on May 16, 2020:

Awww, John, I love these simple little memory-type stories of yesteryear. This one was particularly cute and had me smiling all the way to the end. Then I laughed out loud. I didn't see the original, and I'm so glad you brought it back.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on May 16, 2020:

I very much loved this story, Aussie words and all. It was humorous and you tell a story so well. I would like to see stories like this more often, John.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on May 16, 2020:

What a great story! My son did something similar. Could have broken his neck!

Blessings,

Denise

Stive Smyth from Philippines on May 16, 2020:

Cool story John, I enjoyed it. I also knew most of the slang words. Too much Sippy, Flying Doctor and was it Boy's Town ? Anyway, short and sweet and neat. Keep up the good work.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on May 16, 2020:

John, this wonderful response to Bill's challenge brings back childhood memories of my own. My brother and I looked forward to new editions of our favorite comic books. His were the superheroes, Batman specifically, and mine was Archie. We also went to the Saturday matinee each weekend. Movies were fifty cents and they played cartoons before each feature.

One of my fondest memories of my brother as a little boy was him dressed up as Batman, cape and all, with his arms spread, running around the yard, saying "Doo doo doo doo do do doo - Batman!" (The doo doo doo part was mimicking the theme music to the popular '60s TV show).

As Bob Hope would say, thanks for the memories!

This is such a pleasurable read, John. Thank you for bringing it back to life!

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on May 16, 2020:

I remember reading your first version of this story. I loved it then and I love it now. I'm glad the story has returned to its original home.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 16, 2020:

Thank you for the kind words Linda. Maybe you have seen a lot of Aussie movies or maybe you really are part Aussie. Glad you enjoyed this.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on May 16, 2020:

Loved the story, loved the dialogue--you are a gifted storyteller. And, I guess I must be part Aussie because I understood what those words meant without looking down at the glossary.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 16, 2020:

Hi Ruby, so glad you got to watch the Saturday Superman matinees, and happy that you enjoyed this story.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on May 16, 2020:

This was such a fun story to read. I remember the Superman matinees on Saturday, I never missed going. Finding out why he called his sister ' Soggy Britches ' made me laugh. A great story and written so well John. I loved it!

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 16, 2020:

Hey Bill, so glad you enjoyed this tale. It was fun to write.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on May 16, 2020:

You had me from the get-go with this one. Loved the story, loved the humor. Your muse did quite well leading you on a delightful romp.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 16, 2020:

Thank you Devika. I am glad I gave you something a little different to read.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 16, 2020:

Thank you Liz. I am glad you found the story enjoyable . Not sure if I will write more with these characters. Maybe.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on May 16, 2020:

Hi Jodah I enjoyed your story unique to me. I see that your writing is creative and interesting with some humor and from your side of it.

Liz Westwood from UK on May 16, 2020:

This is a great story. It kept me hooked, as your narrative revealed the scenes before my eyes. Laced with good doses of nostalgia and humour, it's a great tonic for distraction from pandemic news. Is there more to follow? It reminds me of 'Just William' stories.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 16, 2020:

It's great to hear that this gave you a chuckle, Chardie. So glad you had fun reading it.

Chardie Cat from Northern Mindanao, Philippines on May 16, 2020:

This one made me laugh alone and my niece was wondering what I was into that made me chuckle like a crazy man. Hahaha! A fun read, indeed. I love it. Thanks for sharing, John.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 16, 2020:

Hi Lorna, you have a good grasp on Aussie slang. I really have to have visited here to fully appreciate it I think. I am glad you enjoyed the story. Have a great weekend.

Lorna Lamon on May 16, 2020:

I loved this adventure story and could see it in a magazine. I had no idea what a dunny was until I lived in Australia and then realised my Grandparents had one. Snowy reminds me of my older brother - a real drongo at times. A fun read John full of laughs. "Good on ya".

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 16, 2020:

Hi Rosina, thank you so much for reading and enjoying my story. Glad you learnt some new words.

Rosina S Khan on May 16, 2020:

John, I enjoyed the Aussie short story very much. I also became familiar with several Australian colloquialisms and slangs. Thanks for sharing.