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Summer is a season of feeling, smell and taste. When I look back at the summers of yesteryear, one place dominates my recollections.
In the days before sushi rolls, gourmet salads, and smashed avo on toast at the local cafe after a morning dip, my summer memories evoke the smell and taste of salt (plain not chicken) and vinegar on hot chips, and the sweet smell of tomato sauce on a sausage roll or pie.
There are memories of the smell of the good old barbeques coming from backyards of your neighbours; where sausages were cooked so long you could use them as missiles and quite often did. Sounds of screaming and laughter from the backyard pools of “Marco” then “Polo” from your mates. The sprinkler systems tick tick ticking on the front lawns that our parents used to cool the place down in the afternoon, and we often played (read bathed) in.
Visions of umbrellas flying across the sand as nobody had yet invented a beach umbrella that stayed put. The station wagons of families – windows open and unlocked – on the front lawns of houses while they all gathered for the holiday parties – most often one had the radio on and was blaring the current top 40 hits for the adults on the front verandah. The kids from the street playing tennis, shuttlecock, and cricket on the roads.
The feel of salt in your hair, hot water stinging your sunburn, and the sand that ended up at the bottom of the bathtub from your little sibling’s swimmers that you had to then tolerate as the oldest after a day at the beach. No pain no gain, as then your grandmother tried to get zinc off your face with her spit on a hankie.
The smell of seeded watermelon that was so juicy, it dripped down our chins and we had to sit outside to eat it. Another run through the sprinkler sorted out our sticky hands and faces.
The parties that our parents threw consisting of salmon mousse (yes in the shape of a fish), tiny nuclear-coloured cocktail onions, cabanossi and rubbery cheese cubes with little cocktail forks (very modern!) and devon and mash potato rolls festooning the table.
The smell of those little bowls of happiness still evokes happy memories of our family dinners and summer nights, as we’d often go to the beach for a twilight swim before enjoying our Harry’s.
The table remained decorated for almost 6 weeks as relatives came and went, and the neighbours dropped in for a shandy or punch throughout the Christmas period. That punch just got stronger as visitors added their spin to it, including cask wine, and the fruit juice wasn’t replaced.
Paperchains made at school decorated the trees in front yards down my street – not a lot of festive lighting in those days.
We didn’t get a lot of takeaway in those days; not least as my parents didn’t have a high disposable income, but there wasn’t really that much happening. Fish and chips, hamburgers, Chiko rolls, and on a special occasion a visit to the local club for a Chinese meal.
As my dad worked in Woolloomooloo on the old ship docks, he grew quite a penchant for Harry’s Café de Wheels Pies every now and then, and in that love we shared. He’d bring them home, often getting a good deal as a ‘local’, and Mum would make us the mash and mushy peas, and we’d have Harry’s at home, we called it. We’d often have some in the freezer for a rainy day or when Mum didn’t want to cook.
The smell of those little bowls of happiness still evokes happy memories of our family dinners and summer nights, as we’d often go to the beach for a twilight swim before enjoying our Harry’s. I can’t eat one without thinking of my folks and those happy carefree days with my family and friends.
I’m not ashamed to tell you I used those pies as currency once or twice too…gaining access to my neighbour’s pool in exchange for sharing that happiness with them.