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The Stroud Community Web is an online news and information source for Stroud and surrounding communities. An initiative and ongoing project of Stroud Lions Club.

A friend in need is a friend indeed

A story by Beryl Bowden 

Before TAB-(Totalisator Betting) every town had an  S P (Starting Price) ‘bookie’. Ours was a big chap by the name of Jack Sweeney who operated from the Central hotel on Saturday afternoons. The belt on his trousers sat below his large stomach. He was forever hitching his trousers up because the coins in his pockets weighed them down. His customers must have all settled their bets in silver. If a stranger was sighted, Jack would disappear in case it was a policeman interested in his activities. Occasionally he was caught red-handed and would appear at the next Court Day, to pay a fine.

 When he retired a local man took over. One Saturday, I wanted to put 50 cents each way on a horse that I liked the name of, so I rang the new bookie. His wife, a friend of mine, answered. After I placed the bet we started chatting-as you do! She told me she was going to America in two months time. I passed the usual inane comments such as ‘ do you need someone to carry your ports’ when she asked, ‘ You have a sister in America haven’t you?’ I agreed that was so and told her to ‘say hello to her for me’. She said’ Why don’t you come with us and say hello yourself? There are five of us going from Stroud. I’m sure the others would like you to come too’.

Beryl and Betty

Beryl and Betty

Beryl and Shannon

Beryl and Shannon

I laughed at the idea but as the day wore on I began to think, ‘why can’t I go? I have money saved up and I can get someone to relieve me at the Post Office.’ When Lloyd was consulted he readily agreed. A rush was on for my injections, passport and travellers cheques in the required time. Everything was falling into place nicely, until Lloyd came home with the unwelcome news that he was being retrenched in three months time!

I declared I couldn’t go to America if he didn’t have a job, but he assured me he would have no trouble getting one and that he had three months in which to do it. He was so confident that I put the problem out of my mind and went ahead with my travel arrangements.

How wrong he was! He found that no matter how much experience you have, no one wants you when you are over fifty. At fifty-two he was too old! After applying unsuccessfully for any job that was going, he had to admit defeat. When the last day came to cancel my booking and get my deposit back, I was tearfully unpacking my port. I had so wanted to go! With the recent death of my mother and the stress of the usual build- up of Christmas mail, I really needed a break.

 Attempting to hide my distress, I answered the phone when it rang.

‘Hullo, Beryl. I’m told you are going to America-when do you leave?’ asked Allan Gorton a friend who owned a sawmill at Washpool.

‘I’m not going’ I confessed ‘ I ‘m unpacking my port now. Lloyd hasn’t been able to find a job, so I won’t go.’

‘You had better put your things back in the port.’ he said. ‘There is a job for Lloyd with me whenever he wants it.’

I couldn’t believe my ears…this meant I could still go! Disregarding my thanks he said, ’Have a good time in America’, and hung up.

I did have a good time – better than I could have imagined! The highlight was spending the day with my sister Betty and her daughter Shannon in San Francisco. Betty had left Australia as a war bride in1946 and had only been back home once. I had never met Shannon and it was a tremendous thrill to see her in person.I don’t regret one cent, or one minute of the thirty-one days spent on the trip. And it was all made possible because Allan Gorton -when told of my dilemma- had made that phone call. I will always be grateful to him!

Thank you Allan. 

TOO OLD | By Beryl Bowden 1978

Retrenched, retrenched. That dreaded modern word
Applies to others only.
One day I heard it from my husband’s lips
And knew that thirty years of work well done,
Does not immune one from its malady.
Confident he could escape it’s hold
He sought employment elsewhere,
But was told. “Too old, too old.”

“Too old for what?” I wonder as I ask.
Eagerly sought for menial, strenuous tasks
Scorned by the young.
His special talents still unheeded
Finds he is in a cage; his age.
The more he tries more often he is told
“Too old, too old.”

 “Not old, not old I silently proclaim
His attributes. ‘Loyalty, good name,
His knowledge and his skills
All nullified by Nature.
That beautiful progression and its ills
Is common to us all.
No longer young and bold
But old, too old.

Your pain is ours, our husband, father, friend.
Daily we watch you age.
Your spirit bend to the inevitable.
The spring is going from your cheerful tread.
The happy smile now fixed.
Rejection now we see in that gallant head
Bent slightly in acceptance.
We cry rebelliously,
“Not old! Not old! Not ever old to me!”

Much loved; we give this hurting man
Support, whatever way we can
To come to terms with this anomaly
Existing today in our society.
Twelve years to serve before he can retire.
Our limits set by those who do aspire
To know these things.
How bad, how sad, how then can it be?
That he’s too old, too old, at fifty-three?



3 Comments on “A friend in need is a friend indeed”

  1. Beryl Bowden January 18, 2014 at 4:53 pm #

    Thanks for your comments. i will continue my American experience in my next Beryl

  2. Stroud Community Web January 7, 2014 at 4:53 pm #

    What a terrific story Beryl – one of your best!

  3. Ian Matthews January 7, 2014 at 10:23 am #

    Thanks for the continuing edifying life stories.

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