I was in a family that was go, go, go all the time. We lived in the Cross (Kings Cross, Sydney). My mother had a B and B (bed and breakfast). She knew everybody in the Cross – Tilly Devine, Katie Leigh (famous Australian underworld figures) . She was on the good side. Tilly Devine used to talk to us. I’ve seen her chasing blokes down the road with tomahawks, because that was her business. They were the days. I can truthfully say I never had any dealings with her at all because my parents just wouldn’t let it be. My parents got me away to sea. The main thing was to get me out of the Cross so I wouldn’t get mixed up. It was good growing up in the Cross. I wasn’t allowed to get out of line. Mum was getting people out of jail all the time. She’d feel sorry for ‘em and fight for them. There’s many a time at her place when she’d say, ‘will you come around and support me, I’m having trouble with so and so. I don’t want you to throw ‘em out’… and she’d throw ‘em out herself! She was a tough cookie I’ll tell you what, she’d be as tough as Tilly. We lived in Claremont Flats. My next-door neighbour was Dame Mary Gilmour, the woman on the $10 notes. I used to do all her odd jobs. She was a wonderful person. She used to do a lot for the labour party. It kept me on the straight and narrow.
I was a bedroom steward in my seafaring days. I was on well-known ships like the Westralia, the Wanganella and the Bulolo. And I ran a dining room until I met my wife. Best 60 years that I had. Any day we were together was our happiest day together. We just blended. We clicked. I never said a bad thing to her. I get a bit upset now. She was just wonderful. I didn’t want to play or muck up because she was such a good woman. She loved cooking. She loved looking after me. You couldn’t ask for anything more. We had a wonderful life. I couldn’t say a bad thing about her. We had three children. A daughter and two sons. All in their 60s now and the two boys aren’t married. One of my sons in Sydney, he lives on the same street as his partner, and they’ve been together 30 years. Something must be working.
I never drank, I never smoked, and I never gambled. But I was never a dud. I’ll tell you what I did love doing, that was dancing. I like Latin American. But I’ve got no power in my legs now, I can’t do a darn thing.
You’d be surprised the number of people who love this hat. My daughter doesn’t like it. They often stop me and say, ‘never get rid of that hat.’ So, I wear this hat all the time.
We’ve got some wonderful women in here. Now I forget their names. I call the girls all ‘dear’ and ‘love’ and ‘my honey’, but I don’t mean anything by it.
The average person, if they can say to me, ‘g’day mate’, that’s all you’ve gotta do. I like to feel I’m somebody. I’m not just a nothing.