Dogs Bark And The Teardrop Camper Goes By

It was the early seventies when I embarked on the two-year working in England and hitchhiking Europe odyssey. The journey was also known as the traditional rite of passage for twenty-something-year-old Aussies. Similar to most twenty-something-year-old Aussies doing their rite of passage, I wasn’t going to London and Europe to find history, culture, and sophistication; I was going for the adventure, thrills, and naughtiness. During the last few months of having farewell drinks with the mates, I explained to them how I was going overseas to search for inspiration and idealism in the ordinary. My years as a young teenager, adolescent, and maturing adult, seemed to be made up of chaotic events and occasions that confused me. It was these confusions that were the focal point of my search for idealism in the ordinary.

image source: jmcadam

One of those confusions was Dad and Granddad building a plywood teardrop camper. It wasn’t that I didn’t think they were skilled enough to throw together a camping trailer; it was that I didn’t think they understood the existential aesthetics of a Masonite teardrop camper. Some would have doubted their carpentry skills. Granddad was a tinsmith by trade, but he had a collection of woodworking tools in his backyard shed, and dad was a smooth-talking suave salesman who was everybody’s best friend and would give anything a try. They built the camper on a small trailer dad bought. I think they made the design up as they went, and it ended up as a small camper with a small door on one side, just big enough to accommodate two people in sleeping bags. It would hardly be called a camper by today’s standards; it didn’t have a rear galley kitchen with a stove to cook on, a fridge, or running water, and there was no inside cabinet storage for plates, spices or a french coffee press. And there was no insulation in the walls, floor, ceiling or door, and no reading lights.

image source: pinterest

During my preadolescence and early teens, the new camper set the stage on many holidays for the family to uncover the idealism of the teardrop Masonite camper trailer. Dad majestically towed the camper behind the Holden FB station wagon on every family holiday, and it was the showpiece of our tent and trailer campsite. Our holidays were a mashup of camping and caravanning.

The tent, stretchers, folding chairs, Li-Lo, Primus, Esky, rolls of toilet paper, a couple of torches, and all of the other camping stuff were now neatly packed in the camper instead of being crammed into the FB. And this made room in the Holden for nanna and granddad to join us on our family camping and caravanning holidays. When we arrived at a camping ground, everything came out of the camper and was set out alongside the FB until the tent went up next to the camper trailer. It was a square white canvas tent with wooden poles and ropes and a lace-up in the middle of one side that became the front of the tent. After dad attached two guy ropes to one of the corner poles, granddad raised the pole into place and held it until dad hammered in a tent peg and secured the ropes to it. While dad and granddad were putting the tent up, I busied myself assembling the hessian roll up folding camp stretchers; I sometimes struggled to get the wooden leg sections aligned and attached to the wooden stretcher frame and the springs hooked into place.

image source: bostonglobe.com

I was overjoyed when I became old enough to help dad put the tent up. I was a man at last, and doing a man’s job; emancipated from a boy’s job of wrestling with the stretchers and trying to inflate the Li-Lo. The Li-Lo is an air bed mattress. We had two green Li-Lo’s. Some might say they were buoyant, superbly comfortable, and easy to blow up. I tried blowing them up a couple of times but only managed to get them to be soft and plumpish before I was dizzy and lightheaded. I think I was breathing faster and deeper than usual, thereby causing some of the carbon dioxide that should have been staying in my body to go into the mattress. Dad suffered the same dizziness whenever he was blowing up the Li-Lo and eventually bought an accordion-style air pump made exclusively for inflating Li-Lo’s. The inflated Li-Lo’s were wrestled into the camper trailer, transforming it into an under-the-stars boudoir. The camper was nanna and granddads bedroom whenever they went with us on our family camping and caravanning holidays. My brother and I slept on the Li-Lo’s in the teardrop camper when nanna and grandad were not holidaying with us.

image source:jmcadam

There were times as a young adult that I sometimes wished I’d spent more time assembling the stretchers instead of holding the tent poles. The wishing came when I spent cold, dank, Saturday afternoons with a couple of mates at the Western Oval standing on the sloped terraces in front of the grandstand, with the proud brotherhood of Footscray football followers. I was surrounded by the smell of meat pies and tomato sauce, cigarette smoke and beer, balancing on tiptoe between busted beer bottles, spilled beer and puddles of vomit, with a Four N Twenty in one hand and a beer in the other. And then a roar from the crowd would erupt. It meant a goal scored, a spekkie taken, or a player was flattened by a shirt front and now lying motionless on the ground. When a shirt front happened, runners dashed onto the oval carrying a folded canvas stretcher. After opening the stretcher, they lifted the hardly conscious player onto it and stretched him off the ground to applause from the terraces and the outer. I’d take a long drink from my beer, turn to my mates and tell them; if I’d spent longer with the camping stretchers instead of the tent poles, I’d be the one getting the applause right now.

As I matured into a young teenager, our camping caravanning holidays seemed to follow the same mundane routine. Unload the camper, put up the tent, blow up the LI-Lo’s, set up the stretchers, unfold the camping chairs, set up the Primus stove, put the wooden toilet seat and rolls of toilet paper and the torch by the tent flap, and see if the caravan park office had ice for the Esky. I found myself losing interest in wanting to uncover the idealism of the teardrop trailer. I was like our fellow campers. I stopped showing awe and wonder at dad and granddad’s Masonite teardrop camper trailer.

image source: cinematreasures.org

I learnt England was the home of caravan holidays and for those who have a love affair with caravanning when I was a teenager sitting in a darkened Hoyts theatre watching Carry On Camping. Carry On Camping hit the screens in 1969 and is the 17th release in the 31 Carry On films series. The classic Carry On comedies blend the traditions of the British music hall and the seasonal pantomime. Pratfalls, groping women, sight gags around cleavages, homophobic wisecracks, double entendres, males dressing up, smutty jokes, and slapstick routines stitch together the narrative sequences of each film. Carry On Camping follows the standard Carry On formula and is a series of vignettes laced with innuendo, double-entendres and slapstick.

Sid and Bernie are best mates and partners in a plumbing business. They keep having their amorous intentions snubbed by their chaste girlfriends Joan and Anthea. The boys suggest a camping holiday, secretly intending to take them to a nudist camp. Of course, they end up at a family campsite and meet up with the weirdest bunch of campers you can imagine. Coachloads of sex-starved teenage schoolgirls and bands of hippies all add to the laughs.

It took halfway through Sid and Bernie’s escapades for me to see past the fat people jokes, women’s knockers double entendres, and the camera peering up ladies dresses to see Carry on Camping for what it was. It was my insight into why cars towed caravans and how England became the home of happy campers. And then I knew that if I could brave it, my quest for finding inspiration and idealism in the Masonite camper trailer had to begin in the mother country. Years later, I boarded the S.S. Galileo at Port Melbournes Station Pier after spending the day consuming farewell Australia beers. The Galileo’s mooring ropes slid into the water, and I could hear the band on Station Pier playing Drunken Sailor and the sound of paper streamers breaking as the ship pulled away.

image source:guglielmomarconi.blogspot

During the seven weeks of the S.S. Galileo sailing across the Southern Ocean, along the coast of Africa, and into the Mediterranean Sea, I planned out the start of my search for uncovering the idealism of the teardrop Masonite trailer in the home of the caravan holidays, and those who have a love affair with caravanning. I’d start by visiting the head office in West Suffix of The Caravan Club of Great Britain, and even though I wouldn’t have a caravan or camper, ask to be granted special permission to attend their National Rally and if I could pitch up. The rally takes place on the grounds of a stately home and can attract up to 10,000 caravanners at a time. As I planned my quest, I pictured the nights I’d spend sitting by the light of a kerosene lantern with those who live the romance of the caravan culture. I’d listen as the caravanners told their stories of yore, stopping by the side of a quiet lane, getting a farmers permission to pitch up or to park a teardrop camper.

I started my two-year working in England and hitchhiking Europe odyssey in the mother country by sharing a small room in a three-storey row house in Tooting Bec. During the long hot summer, I worked as a lifesaver at an outdoor swimming pool nestled in the corner of South London’s Brockwell Park. I spent my free time before I headed off to Europe and the hippie trail to India, enjoying the adventure, thrills, and naughtiness of London and England. I never visited the Caravan Club of Great Britain’s head office, so I never did discover the idealism of the funny little teardrop trailer towed by a FB Holden station wagon that I sometimes slept in on a family holiday.

 

The History of Teardrops

The Caravan Club of Great Britain

The Carry On Film Series

Why Isn’t There A Vaccine Against Stupidity

It seems that in the near future, whenever we travel to foreign countries, we may very well have to present a vaccine passport to provide proof of vaccination against Covid-19. Some academics and human rights groups are voicing concerns about these new vaccine passports. They suggest it may be discriminatory against those waiting for a vaccination, anyone who can’t have a Covid vaccine for medical or religious reasons, and persons who reject mandatory immunisation because they control and decide what goes into their body. Other flustered persons have expressed concerns about their privacy and the ease of hacking a digital vaccine passports information. Now I’m not sure what the big deal about a vaccine passport is about because having to prove you were vaccinated to enter a foreign country is not a new concept.

image source: jmcadam

When I was wandering Europe, the Middle East and Asia along the ill-defined hippie trail, I carried a passport, Barclay’s travellers’ chequers, a fake international student card, an international drivers licence, and the World Health Organisation’s International Certificate of Vaccination. The certificate was a yellow booklet known colloquially as the yellow card. Different countries had different mandatory immunisation requirements, and the yellow card became a vaccine passport to be checked at border crossings for the required vaccinations and if they were current before you were approved to enter. Travellers got the vaccinations needed for each country. We were concerned about our health and well being and the adventure of travel, and didn’t worry about who controls and decides what vaccines go into our bodies.

By the sixties, most communicable diseases in Australia were controlled by routine childhood vaccinations and high living standards. Like most Australians growing up in the fifties, I was inoculated against diphtheria, tetanus, and polio, but not smallpox. Back then, smallpox wasn’t widespread in Australia, so there were no mass vaccination programs for the disease. I’d seen photos of smallpox victims, and they caused me to have the same fear of it as I did for polio. Australia experienced a major polio epidemic in the late fifties. I remember seeing images of children laying immobile in bed suffering from paralysis and pictures of others with their heads jutting out from iron lungs. John Tillerson, lying immobile on a flat wooden cart with bicycle wheels, was one of the pictures come to life.

image source: pursuit.unimelb.edu.au

Whenever we played cricket in the street, the electricity pole was the wicket, and the gutter was the crease. The electricity pole wicket was a couple of houses down from the Tillerson’s. If we were playing cricket on a warm summer day, Mrs Tillerson would wheel John out of the front gate and onto the footpath on a flat wooden cart. He’d watch us play laying stretched out along the length of his wooden cart. John had polio, and his unbendable legs were in iron braces. We called him Tin Legs Tillerson, but not to his face.

During the fifties, sixties, and early seventies, ships from Lloyd Triestino, Chandris, Sitmar, and P&O made up the immigration conveys sailing from England, and Europe, to Australia. It was commonplace to see the Fairsea, Arcadia, Patris, and Galileo docked at Port Melbourne’s Station Pier. When the ships left Melbourne to return to their home ports, the government-assisted migrants and Ten Pound Poms they carried to Australia were replaced by twenty-something-year-old Aussies starting their hallowed rite of passage, a two-year working and travelling holiday of England and Europe.

image source: museumsvictoria.com.au

I boarded the S.S. Galileo with a yellow card having signed stamps showing the date of vaccinations for smallpox, malaria, diphtheria, yellow fever, cholera, typhoid, tetanus and hepatitis. Protection against diphtheria, yellow fever, cholera, typhoid, and tetanus was somewhat standard for the hallowed rite of passage. Because I was unsure of where my travelling while searching for inspiration and idealism in the ordinary would lead me, I thought vaccination against smallpox and malaria would be a plus. All I remember about getting the smallpox vaccination is the cautionary words of the doctor infecting me.

Me: G’day mate; I’m here for my smallpox jab.
Smallpox Doc: It’s not like a vaccination you’re used to. I won’t be sticking a needle into yu. I’m gunna put the vaccine just under the first layer of your skin by taping around a small part of your arm with a two-pronged needle.
Me: Crikey!!!!
Smallpox Doc: Your gunna have a blister in a few days and it’ll be incredibly itchy. Whatever you do, don’t scratch it. In a few weeks, it’ll scab over and then fall off. You’ll have a pitted scar there for the rest of your life.
Me: No worries mate.

image source: reddit

A few days after getting the jab, a liquid-filled blister appeared on my left arm, where the doctor pricked my skin with the vaccination needle. I covered it with a band-aide to help me with resisting the urge to scratch at the itchy, fluid-filled blister. Whenever I changed the band-aide, I couldn’t help but look at the blister filling itself with pus, and that caused me to remember the photos I’d seen of children with smallpox; their face, upper arms, and body covered in small pus-filled blisters. I’m not sure if I threw the scab in a paper bag when it fell off and if I tossed it into the rubbish bin or not.

It took two months to travel by ship from Australia to Durban, up the coast of Africa to the Canary Islands and stopping in Messina, Naples and Genoa. I began my rite of passage in the mother country, sharing a small room in a Tooting Bec three storey row house with my Aussie travel mate and four English lads. During the long hot summer, I worked as a lifesaver at an outdoor swimming pool nestled in the corner of south London’s Brockwell Park. A few weeks before summer’s end, my Aussie travel mate and I bought a 1960’s Ford Angelia panel van with money we saved from our summer lifesaving jobs. It was a small dark blue van without windows, similar to a fruiterers delivery van or what you’d see on a London street while watching a baffling Scotland Yard mystery feature film.

image source: youtube

At summer’s end, we both were without jobs, so we made a deep and thoughtful decision; we’d search for inspiration and idealism in the ordinary by driving our Ford Angelia van across Europe and then follow the Hippie Trail from Turkey through the Middle East to India. With the Ford Anglia van safe in the bowls of a drive-on drive-off car ferry, I spent the cross-channel journey from Dover to Belgium in the ferry’s lounge drinking pints of warm beer. In those days, I thought of Europe as an adult Luna Park; a hallowed rite of passage experience. Twenty-something-year-old Aussies didn’t go to Europe to find history, culture, and sophistication but went there for adventure, thrills, and naughtiness. During the next several weeks, the Anglia took us along the highways, laneways, narrow winding roads, roundabouts, and through the villages, towns, and cities of Germany, France, Italy, Yugoslavia, and Greece. At night we parked in village squares, side streets, and out of the way places and nestled into our sleeping bags in the back of our trusty van. At border crossings, our passports were stamped, and on-demand showed what was now our tattered yellow card.

image source: med.umich.edu

The Plaka, in the shadow of the Acropolis, is the oldest section of Athens. In the early seventies, pastry shops, old men playing backgammon, nightclubs, and street vendors selling the best tasting souvlakis filled its streets. We parked the Anglia in the streets of the Plaka, and it became our bedroom in Athens. During the day, I walked the twisted, hilly, narrow streets of the Plaka and wandered to the Acropolis. I sat alone among the Parthenon stones and watched Athens stretching itself into the distance. Because I needed up to date vaccinations for Turkey and Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, I checked my yellow card a few days before leaving Athens when I was sitting peacefully on one of the Parthenon stones. Some vaccinations needed updating, so I headed off to a hospital on one of Athen’s main streets for the round of new vaccinations. I don’t remember getting the updates, but my tattered yellow card was newly date stamped, the dosages noted, and signed by a Greek health specialist.

In the Hippie Trail days, the streets surrounding Istanbul’s Blue Mosque were the parking garages for Magic buses, Volkswagen Kombis, old Royal Mail vans, and a collection of unroadworthy minivans. We parked the Angelia in the shadow of the Mosque and enjoyed Istanbul for the next week or so. I’d begun to practice the traveller’s ritual of finding a bank to cash a traveller’s check, changing leftover money into a different currency, checking for required visas, and checking vaccinations are valid for the upcoming border crossing a few days before leaving for a new country. In the shadow of the Mosque, I discovered my Aussie travel mate and I had overlooked a lapsed vaccination in Athens; we needed to find someone in Istanbul to vaccinate us.

image source: jmcadam

Fellow travellers who were sharing the Blue Mosque parking garages told us the whereabouts of a doctor who gave vaccinations. My travel mate and I trusted the owner-driver of a classic 1950’s American car, come Istanbul taksi dolmus, to find the doctors house somewhere in Istanbul. The consulting room was a small room with a table and a medicine cabinet on the wall above a sink. The doctor entered the room, took a syringe from the table drawer, turned toward the wall-mounted cabinet, and motioned both of us to bare an arm for the vaccination. He filled the syringe with the liquid from a vial he took from the cabinet. My travel mate raised his hand to signal he would be first. The doctor plunged the needle into his arm and released the serum. In an instant, he spun around, jabbed the needle into my arm, and emptied the syringe of the leftover serum. He recorded the dosages, dated, stamped, and signed our tattered yellow cards. I offered him Greek drachmas for his services; I hadn’t cashed a travellers check or changed money before leaving Athens.

I wonder if the doctor with the small consulting room in Istanbul is equipping it with the necessary technology to interact with the fast data rates and greater capacity of the next-generation communication networks in anticipation of someone with a digital vaccine passport knocking on his door. Maybe it would be better if the Covid vaccination left a scar similar to the smallpox vaccination; if so, you could wear your vaccine passport on your arm.

 

The 1970s Hippie Trail: Drugs, Danger, and a Magical Pudding Shop in Asia

A Short History of Vaccination Campaigns in Australia

How Would digital COVID Vaccine Passports Work?