Unpleasant Happenings

A Story by Beryl Bowden

In 1959 my mother Pattie Bourke left Stroud to visit her daughter Betty in Modesto California. Betty had gone to America as a war bride in 1946 and had not been home since. Mum looked forward to seeing her grandchildren, Billy Jim and Shannon.

While she was away I had an unnerving experience. My husband Lloyd was working at Tea Gardens and was camping away from Monday to Friday each week. One night I woke, terrified. I felt that some one had touched my foot! Unable to move I attempted to scream but could only manage a gurgling sound in my throat. Rigid with fear, I lay there for what seemed like hours before I could move enough to switch on the bedside light. It was 3:30 a m; what could I do? I was in the house on my own with the three children and it was a long time until morning! Finally I overcame my fear sufficiently to struggle out of bed and carry the sleeping children from their beds and put them in mine. I then remembered that the key was broken off in the lock of the back door so I couldn’t lock it; if the intruder came back we were not safe. The only weapons I could think of were the two long metal rods of the barrel vacuum cleaner that were kept under my bed. Placing a rod on either side of me, I sat bolt upright in bed, surrounded by sleeping children, until daylight.

Mum visiting Betty in America

Mum visiting Betty in America

My father had not gone to America with Mum; he was staying at home while she was away. I rang Dad and told him about my fright and he said he would come and sleep in the house with me that night. Not aware of the extent of my fear, he didn’t come until 8 o’clock – by which time the children and myself were out on the road waiting for him! I had not been scared in the daylight but when darkness came the feeling of terror returned and I couldn’t stay in the house. Once Dad came I was all right and he continued to stay with me every night while Lloyd was away. I had never been afraid at night before, and apart from this one episode I have never been afraid since. Thinking back, I guess I must have had a nightmare—but it did seem very real at the time! I was glad of Dad’s company from then on.

Another thing happened while Mum was away that could have had tragic consequences had Dad not been there with me. Anne had a touch of croup and I had lit the vapour lamp to help her breathing. The children were sleeping in our room in the front of the house. Dad and I were out in the kitchen with the door closed, so as not to disturb them; he was reading the paper and I was knitting. Suddenly, I thought I heard a faint noise. Opening the door to investigate I was horrified to see flames coming from the doorway of the room the children were sleeping in. I screamed for Dad and we rushed down the hall. The vapour lamp had been burning for some time, ash had formed, caught alight and flames were streaking up the wall. With great presence of mind Dad grabbed a towel from the bathroom, picked up the lamp and made for the front door with it. I hastily opened the door and he threw the blazing lamp onto the lawn.

I hate to think what would have happened had I not decided to check on that faint noise (which I have never been able to identify) or if Dad hadn’t been there and acted so promptly! The wall next to where the lamp had been was scorched; had the fire taken hold there could have been tragic consequences.

I have no doubt that we owe our children’s lives to Dad’s quick thinking…and God.

We had missed Mum for the time she was away and were glad to welcome her home and hear about her experiences with the American branch of our family.

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