Chapter 38

Another go at Studying: Department of Public Instruction Technical College, George Street and a stint at remodelling the Singer Roadster, malaria attack, new home and neighbour’s death

As I was working in a mechanical field I enrolled to do the Mechanical and Electrical Engineering diploma through the Department of Public Instruction Queensland, Technical Education Branch, and was granted exemption in all but two subjects, Electrical Engineering and Heat Engines which I did at evening lectures at the Technical College, George Street, Brisbane during 1956. So my previous studies were not completely wasted and I was back to evening lectures three to four nights per week.

We were still living at 91 Charlotte Street in our little converted flat, and I remember one Sunday morning when a Police Constable called round, “Do you own a Singer roadster?”,
“Yes”
“Where is it?”
“Under the house”
“No, it has been found near Beenleigh on its side.”
Someone had rolled it out of the yard and literally rolled it over without our knowledge. I’ve forgotten who took us to see it. It was not wrecked but was damaged so we were towed back to Wynnum. The aluminium panels were not damaged, but the rear mudguards were pulled away from the timber framing which had dry rot in it due to our humidity as it was designed for an English climate. It meant rebuilding the curved framing under the mudguards. I salvaged one frame and gave it to Hugh to be able to steam 4” x ¾” tallow wood to the same shape; he could do this when he was steaming boat planks. This worked well and I could rebuild the back section. Most Singers had a crack at the lower edge of the boot each side where the frame had failed. Anyway, we eventually got the car back together and usable. One head-light was badly dented and I bought a pair of Lucas Biflex long range headlights off a Humber Super Snipe from an acquaintance at Rheem. These fitted the mudguard mounts but were about twice the size of the original lights. They gave the car a distinctive look so we had wheels again, as well as distinctive headlights.
Never a dull moment, this was a busy year, both working, evening lectures, outings to Wynnum practically every week-end to see the families and the occasional entertainment and dinner at the flat with friends around.
We were still at 91 Charlotte Street I was at work and felt feverish, as though I was in for something…so I went along to the first aid post. My forehead was hot, I lay down on a stretcher and had a thermometer in my mouth to take my temperature and I began shaking…no need to look further…an attack of malaria. I took some camoquin tablets I carried with me, rested a while and went home. I knew no one was home at “91” so called in to Mother’s place and she immediately put me to bed. Betty was upset when she got home to find me at “55”, I considered it to be a storm in a tea-cup, but it indicated the underlying tension between the two families. We were better off on our own and this possibly led to our move.
Betty saw an advertisement for an unfurnished single bed sitting room flat at New Farm in McDonald Street. We inspected it and decided to take it. It was a brick unit on the first floor and one back from the street and had car parking underneath. Only half of the proposed development had been built and it suited us …bed sitting room, bath and toilet, small kitchen and we were close to shops and to work. We bought a bedroom suite consisting of a double-bed, dressing table, wardrobe and some easy chairs all on hire purchase and moved in. We kept to ourselves and did not see much of the other residents. There was one incident when the caretaker asked me to go through the window of the front unit using a ladder to reach the window and see if anything was wrong as he had not seen the occupant and was concerned. I climbed in, opened the door to let him in and found the occupant dead. I believe dead from natural causes.
I passed the two examinations for the Technical College Diploma and ended up with a Diploma in Mechanical and Electrical Engineering and I was content at Rheem. They were a progressive company with company training programs and dinners. At one of these training sessions we were all given a small booklet, “A Message to Garcia” by Elbert Hubbard, a literary trifle about a man who does his work, who carries the message to Garcia in the Cuban War. Rowan was given the task, did not ask how or why but delivered the goods on his own initiative. I still have the booklet and remember the message.

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