Boarding Away: Living in the ‘70s

And Honey, I miss you

And I’m bein’ good

And I’d love to be with you

If only I could

Honey- Bobby Goldsborough 1968

January 1969

The Boeing 707 had just arrived from Wellington, New Zealand.  As the passengers climbed carefully down the mobile stairs, a small, elderly man waited on the tarmac, a white envelope clutched in his hand.

Joanne’s mother saw him as soon as she stepped onto the ground. 

‘Thank you for meeting us, Mac. Everything all right at home?’

‘No, no it’s not good.  She didn’t get Sydney.  She’s going to Wagga.’

Secretly Joanne was delighted.  Mac had organised for her to live with his sister in a gloomy inner-city terrace while she attended Sydney Teachers College, but it wasn’t going to happen. 

‘Wagga!’ exclaimed Joanne’s mother. ‘I’ll never see you.  It would be at least five hours by train so you could hardly come home for the weekend.’

Annie wasn’t having that.  Bravely she marched into Blackfriars in Sydney the next day.

‘I am a widow with only one child.  I run a small business on my own in a country town.  If my daughter goes to Wagga I will only see her in the holidays.  I’ve already arranged accommodation in Sydney for her which is only two hours from home.  Would it be possible to change the offer to a Sydney college?’

No, no, that couldn’t be done, but there was another solution.  Wollongong Teachers College still had vacancies so would that be a possibility?

The rail motor from Wollongong to Moss Vale took an hour and a half.  Annie was delighted.  Joanne was happy that she was going somewhere away from home.  Only Mac grumbled that his sister was very upset about losing her star boarder.

The steep highway that wound down the escarpment showed tantalizing glimpses of ocean.  To her right Joanne could see Wollongong Teachers College and the University College of the University of NSW.  

Her mother turned left into the suburb of Mount Ousley and pulled up beside a small green fibro house with a butterfly roof. This was to be her home for the next eleven months, from Monday to Friday. They met the landlady, Mrs Kruger, and her cat Ludwig (Luddy for short). A girl about her own age but a good six inches shorter, smiled and introduced herself as Margo. She would also be attending the college. Joanne would have someone to share the experience of being away from home.

Alone at last!  Her mother had driven away to stoic farewells.  Margo wanted to ring her boyfriend in Sydney to let him know about her day so they followed Mrs Kruger’s directions to find the nearest public phone box.

Suddenly Margo clutched Joanne’s arm tightly.

‘What’s the matter?’

‘It’s a dog.  I‘m terrified of dogs.  Let’s go another way.’

An hour later, carefully avoiding all dogs, they found a phone box.  As Margo chatted to her boyfriend, Joanne wondered what tomorrow would be like. At high school she had been reserved and quiet with few friends.  Mostly that didn’t worry her because she was happy in her own company, but now she had an opportunity to meet new people and with the chatty Margo by her side she felt optimistic about the future.

Mrs Kruger cooked dinner for the girls each night.  Also she made a cooked breakfast.  This, she said, was unusual and not normally called for but Annie had insisted.  Each girl had her own room and a shared bathroom. Of the $42 a fortnight they received for their scholarship, $22 would go on board.  That would leave the remaining $20 to cover lunches, the train trip home and any other incidentals.  Once the money was spent they could appeal to their mothers for a helping hand.

Having Margo right beside her was such a godsend.  They discussed what they would wear to college and decided on stockings and low heels, skirts and blouses. They would maintain a strict standard of neat, tidy attire as students.  Little did they know how much their world would change in the next two years.

9 thoughts on “Boarding Away: Living in the ‘70s

  1. It seems we all gasped at surviving on $21 a week. I’m not sure I ever knew what my scholarship was worth…hopefully I’ll find something while perusing mum’s papers. I do know I had to get a job part-time at a fruit shop when I lost the scholarship because I’d been too distracted.
    I also had to smile at your thoughts on dress standards. I’m loving this series.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I couldn’t see the last comment as I wrote it as it was hidden. Again.
    I love your writing. Even though I know the story, you make it so interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

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