Darkness My Old Friend: Living in the ‘70s

Hello darkness my old friend

I’ve come to talk with you again

Sounds of SilenceSimon and Garfunkel 1964

May 1969

When it was all over Joanne realised she had never seen him in daylight.  It began at the second sockhop.  The Teachers College gymnasium was something to be proud of, Dr Whitebrook told them.  The floor was made from a special timber and it was supposed to be the best gymnasium floor in the southern hemisphere.  Which meant you were to never, ever wear shoes on it.  Hence the sockhops.

The College Gymnasium, home of the Sockhop

When she arrived with Margo it looked like a single sex event.  Not one male could be seen anywhere.  ‘Wait until the pubs close at ten,’ whispered a knowing second year.  ‘Then they’ll arrive but they’ll all be drunk.’

Like clockwork, around 10 past 10, the men arrived.  Actually they were boys, mostly under 20 and nearly all working for Australian Iron and Steel (AI&S) or BHP.

Ben asked her to dance and then just stayed with her the whole evening. They went outside while he had a smoke. She hadn’t tried smoking herself but decided it gave him a ‘bad boy’ image which she liked. They discussed favourite TV shows and she found that they had a mutual admiration for Star Trek. In fact he was a great science fiction fan. He had grown up in a very religious household and was keen to move away from organised religion. She was keen to discuss whether he thought he was an agnostic or an atheist. He also played the trumpet, just as she did. They had so much in common!

They exchanged addresses and went their different ways.

Joanne wondered if she would hear from him again and was delighted after the Easter break when Mrs Kruger handed her a letter.  She tore it open in the privacy of her room and discovered that he wanted to see her again, that he had had the best night since he arrived in Wollongong and how did she feel about him?

Careful not to give too much away, she replied that she would like to see him again and what did he suggest they might do? She knew he didn’t have a car but hoped they could go to the pictures.  After posting it she calculated the earliest reply would be on Thursday so now all she had to do was wait.

On Thursday his letter arrived.  He suggested that she ring him at the staffhouse where he boarded, at 5.00 o’clock today or tomorrow. She walked down to the college with Margo and used one of the pay telephones. He answered her call and during the next twenty minutes they agreed to see ‘The Shoes of the Fisherman’ the following Thursday.  She would catch a taxi to his hostel and then they would walk together to the Regent.

Mrs Kruger thought Joanne should meet him at the picture theatre.  ‘You don’t want to appear too eager,’ she said.  Joanne was too busy thinking what she would wear.  She found a blouse she loved in Katies for $7 but that would have taken all her cash.  She settled on a lemon shirt for $2.99 but wondered how she was going to pay for a recorder, recorder book, hire of the trumpet, a taxi fare and maybe her ticket to the pictures.  She would have to withdraw money from her bank account to cover the $11.50 she calculated she needed.

Somehow the pictures had changed to a double feature,  ‘From Russia with Love’ and ‘Thunderball’.  Afterwards they caught a taxi home and chatted to Mrs Kruger before Ben left to walk home.

The TCCF (Teachers College Christian Fellowship) was a Christian organisation which Margo and Joanne decided might be a source of that rare species, the male college student. Someone was picking them up just as Ben arrived unexpectedly so he went too. He complained he had been ‘earbashed’ as a child as he grew up in the Salvation Army. He suggested they go to see ‘Showboat’ on Thursday night. That was more to Joanne’s liking as well.

The local theatre group, the Arcadians, performed to a high standard. However it seemed the night was ending too fast. After catching a taxi to Mount Ousley they sat on the step and talked until 3.00 am. Mrs Kruger complained next day about the ‘natter, natter, natter’ and her mother said that if Joanne continued to behave like that she would ‘get a bad name’.

The weeks passed.  They tried ice skating at the Glacarium at Wollongong Showground, Joanne clinging to the edges of the rink, too scared to let go.

Wollongong Glacarium, March 29, 1968 Illawarra Mercury

They watched ‘The Sand Pebbles’ and ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’, sometimes walking the two miles home so they could extend the evening. He suggested seeing ‘Hair, the Musical’ in Sydney and she wondered aloud about seeing nude people on the stage. Then one Tuesday he didn’t come around. In fact she never saw him again. Her new friends rallied round and told her she was too good for him. Apart from hurt pride she realised she didn’t really mind.

‘Plenty more fish in the sea!’ said her friends.


9 thoughts on “Darkness My Old Friend: Living in the ‘70s

  1. These days we expect instant replies to our electronic communication. Waiting for letters must have been hard. We also expect somebody to let us know they aren’t seeing us any more but maybe that isn’t easier.
    I never progressed really from holding onto the barrier on an ice skating rink.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. From Russia With Love is a much better movie than Thunderball (in my opinion), but I’d be happy to see them both in double-feature format. 🙂

    Bummer about the disappearing act — I think ghosting has gotten worse the more ‘connected’ life has become — for some reason “goodbye” seems impossible for some people to say.

    Liked by 1 person

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