Driving Days

One of my favourite stories that Dad told us was how he obtained his Driver’s Licence. The then NSW Commissioner of Police was holidaying in Mal­lacoota when word came through that he had to re­turn to Sydney urgently. Dad took over the wheel and related to us, in detail, the harrowing trip through sleet, wind and boggy creek on gravel roads. Many hours later they finally reached Eden and the Commissioner turned to Dad and congratu­lated him on his driving skills. He then asked the in­evitable question “Have you a Driver’s Licence”? Truthfully, Dad answered, “No!” Reaching out and shaking Dad’s hand the Commissioner smiled and said, ” Well you have now!” Dad was sixteen years of age!

When Grandfather Brady first came to Mallacoota and set up his Writers’ Camp, he fell in love with the Lakes. In his writings and articles advertising Mal­lacoota, he always referred to it as the “Killarney of Australia.” He could also see the tourism potential and set the wheels tuming to bring about the exten­sion of the road from Gipsy Point to Mallacoota. Not every one was enthusiastic about his plans, particu­larly the boat owners who, in the summer months, ferried tourists down to Mallacoota for a living. Perhaps the fact that the Model T Ford he pur­chased in 1916 had to be garaged at Gipsy Point, awaiting the hoped-for road, strengthened Grandfa­ther’s determination to have his dream fulfilled. (Finally he was able to persuade the Orbost Shire Council to accept a price submitted by contractor, Mr Charles Cameron from Double Creek, to cut a track to Mallacoota for the sum of twenty pounds ($40). I have heard both Grandfather’s and Dad’s versions of the day the road was ready for ‘traffic’ and how they left Mallacoota by boat, picking up Charlie on the way, and headed for Gipsy Point. Af­ter being idle for such a long time, the Model T took some coaxing to start but they finally set off on the cleared ‘track.’ When a large bloodwood tree loomed up in front, Charlie took to the air, broke his thumb, and refused to continue the joumey. Grand­father and Dad recalled that they only made Double Creek that night and walked the five miles back to Mallacoota. It must have been with great satisfaction that, despite all the opposition, Grandfather knew, as he drove the car into Mallacoota the next day, he was the instigator in finally getting the road into the township, thus opening up Mallacoota to tourism and future residents.

Aunty Tuppy loved to tell the story about when they were all teenagers and Dad used to drive them into the dances at Eden. They would feel very important
but, as the manufacture of cars gradually devel­oped, they became lower in structure. Dad was very aware that theirs had begun to look a bit out of date. She would laugh heartily as she recalled them going down the hill into Eden with Dad roar­ing “Get down in the back.” They would immedi­ately crouch down, sitting as low as they could. I guess it was to create an optical illusion! Dad commenced the first Hire Car in Mallacoota, offering trips to any part of the district. He had a regular ‘run’ into Orbost, leaving on Friday morn­ing and returning the following day. On Fridays, Dad picked up the cream from Tracy’s farm at the bottom of the Drummer (Carlo Creek, now owned by Joey and Joanne Peel). By the end of each week it would be smelling very strongly; the slow trip up the mountain making it very noticeable. Dad always said it was a relief when he reached the top and he went ‘Hell for Leather’ down the other side and on to the Orbost Butter Factory many miles further on, hoping the rancid smell would go ‘out the back.’

One of his memorable trips was the time Mr Bruce asked him to take his wife to the Orbost Hospital as she was feeling poorly. Leaving early in the morning, Dad said they never passed a ve­hicle of any kind. Just past Cann River they hit a stump hole and bent the radius rod which he had to remove and straighten on a stump. Replacing it, they continued on to Fat Cow Creek where the road was a corduroyed bullock track with slush up to a foot deep, making the crossing a hazzard. They finally arrived at Orbost at 6.30 that night. Next morning, before heading back to Mallacoota, Dad called at the Hospital to enquire after Mrs Bruce’s health and was told that the baby, Jessie (Jenny Warren and Brian Bobbin’s mother), had arrived an hour after Mrs Bruce had been admit­ted.

That poor lady, how she must have suffered dur­ing that long, rough trip! Dad was in shock, he did not know she was even expecting a baby! It was the year 1920 and he was 17 years old.

When Grandfather Brady wrote “Australia Unlim­ited’ he travelled from State to State gathering information and taking photographs. Dad was for­tunate in being able to tour Victoria with him and always had fond memories of the journeys they made together.

Dad had a great love of cars, particularly Buicks, but he was equally proud of the first Holden Mod­el. He owned several Holden Statesmans before his death in his 80th year. In all those years of driving, he never had an accident.

Leone Pheeney

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