Childhood memories

When I started at the school the Upwey Recreation Ground (where we played our sports) was relatively small and rather hilly, and there was a large swamp on the north side. This had plenty of frogs, and a fair amount of cover, so I, and some of my equally non-sporting friends, found it easy to "disappear" on the way to the sports ground, and spend a pleasant Friday afternoon catching frogs and tadpoles in the swamp.

The convention grounds still had a lot of relatively unspoiled bushland, and there were a couple of patches of native orchids. Unfortunately the most interesting one was a summer flowering brownbeak, which would be just thinking about putting up buds when we left for the holidays, and finished when we returned. I don't think I actually saw it in flower until very much later.

Shortly after our games with explosives the local council decided to enlarge and level the sports ground. This was another very educational exercise, involving a number of primitive bulldozers and graders, and we studied proceedings carefully. The bulldozers had a diesel engine, and a smaller two stroke petrol engine to start it. The petrol engine was started by pulling on a rope wound round a pulley, and when, eventually, the workmen persuaded this to start they would then move a lever which would release the compression on the diesel and engage a clutch causing the diesel to start turning. When this reached a suitable speed they would turn on the diesel fuel and re-engage the compression. Both stages of the process were decidedly cranky, and it was often 20 minutes or more before they eventually got the bulldozers going in the morning.

The first stage of the exercise was to dig a channel across the centre of the sports ground in which they placed large pipes to take the creek which had formerly wandered around the edge. This deprived us of our nice swamp, but we did get quite a bit of excitement walking through the pipe. While the bulldozers were still around we made flares by putting some old rag in a tin and adding some dieseline borrowed from the bulldozers, but when they went away we had to go through without lights, and it was a scary excursion, as it was quite dark in the middle of the tunnel.

On the school side of the creek they had to do a lot of excavating, and soon struck rock. They drilled holes in this, covered the area in heavy rope matting, set charges and detonated them to break up the rock, and then dragged the broken pieces away with the bulldozers. Unfortunately our opportunities to study all this interesting activity were rather limited, as we were still expected to attend our classes. We were very disappointed when the ground was at last finished, leaving us with a much bigger but still totally useless sports ground, and we had to devise other Friday afternoon entertainments.

 © Roger Riordan 2004-2019

Hunting frogs, heavy engineering