At weekends, the men left in the camp were expected to make their own arrangements for lunch. Breakfast and dinner were available but the cook had the rest of the day off. With a bit of cash in the bank, trips back to Perth on the train were now possible and I was usually accompanied by friends from the camp. On the second trip, I bought an old Ford Prefect. I had no licence at the time, so Gordon and Glenice made good use of it (when it went!)

I travelled back to Perth at every opportunity, but it was difficult for a young lad who didn’t know his way around. Having no contacts in a strange city is pretty lonely for a single young man. I had noticed a ‘Learn to Dance Studio’ in the city and although I was a reasonably good dancer, I enrolled just to meet people.

Not having a partner, one of the younger assistants asked me to be her partner. I followed her directions with dedication. Thankful to find someone who didn’t tread on her toes, she sought me out as often as she could. And she soon discovered that I was an imposter. She was a great dancer and we got on pretty well. We became good friends and I took her out each time I returned to Perth.

One particular weekend, I was at a loose end. Most of the workers had taken off the night before to visit family and friends in various surrounding towns or further still all the way to Perth.

I tied back the tent flaps to air my bed and let in the sun, and shoved a small pile of soiled clothes into my haversack ready for washing. After sweeping the duckboards that protected the inside of the tent from the rough dusty red dirt that surrounded the camp site I sat on my camp stretcher. I picked up my drawing book and flicked through the pages. A few pages left, I thought to myself. I’ll see what I can find to draw in town.

The camp was situated about a mile out of town on a sparsely wooded hill. The road up to the camp was a narrow strip of bitumen, bordered by two deep storm culverts and red dirt footpaths. Neat white weatherboard homes, capped with red or green corrugated iron rooves, lined the road. Front gardens were decorated with geraniums and fruit trees.

‘Back home’ I never wore a hat in summer or winter, but here I had soon fallen into the habit of wearing my newly acquired broad brimmed hat. Donning the hat, I picked up my haversack and headed down the hill to town.

All of the shops were shut apart from a café-cum-milk bar half way along the main street. I pushed my way in through the red and white plastic strips in the doorway, sat down and surveyed the menu. I ordered ‘chicken & chips’, then wandered over to the juke box at the far end of the room. Scanning the list, I punched in K15: ‘So Sad’ by the Everly Brothers.

Halfway through the song my meal arrived. I stared in disbelief – a hot meal with a lettuce salad all on the same plate!

The Everly Brothers – ‘So Sad’
We used to have good times together
But now I feel them slip away
It makes me cry to see love die
So sad to watch good love go bad

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