Pardon Me While I Change Into My Pajamas

On September 9, 2015, Queen Elizabeth II became the longest-reigning United Kingdom monarch.

On June 2, 1953, Queen Elizabeth II was crowned monarch of the UK and on 3 February 1954, the newly crowned Queen became the first reigning monarch to set foot on Australian soil. Much the same as most of Australia my mum and dad were also swept up by the excitement of her visit and wanted to catch a glimpse of the Queen. I wasn’t disappointed that I wasn’t one of the youngsters dressed in a white shirt and shorts who assembled and spelt out Elizabeth II on the Melbourne Cricket Ground when she visited. Two and a half years later the MCG was the host for the track and field events of the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. I remember standing with mum, dad, and my brother behind a barricade, dressed in pyjamas, waiting to catch a glimpse of the Queen. It was one of the roads leading from the Exhibition Building and eager, excited, Melbournians were lining both sides of the street; it must have been Victoria Street. I remember the sudden quick shout; here she comes and just as suddenly and quickly a black Rolls Royce, or Bentley, hurried by. We all waved madly and I think I heard someone say; wasn’t she lovely. We most likely had the Vanguard back then and I fell asleep, in pyjamas, fatigued by the excitement, on the back seat, on the way home to Newport.

In the fifties and sixties, Bourke Street was the epicentre for a day out shopping in Melbourne. Foy and Gibson, London Stores, Coles, Leviathan, Buckley & Nunn, Darrods, Dunklings, Paynes Bon Marche, and Myers were all clustered in Bourke Street. Each December the streetscape became a Christmas wonderland as each department store adorned their facades, verandas, and windows with decorations. Foy and Gibson, known simply as Foys, even had a roof top carnival; after seeing Santa you could ride the Ferris wheel and look down on Bourke Street.

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image source: skyscrapercity

All of the department stores, except Myers, have now gone and Bourke Street has become Burke Street Mall; Myer’s Christmas Windows is the last survivor of a bygone era and is now a Melbourne tradition. Since 1956, by using inventive lighting, costumes, puppetry, and animatronics, the windows have brought to life popular Christmas themes that have included; Santa Claus and the Three Bears, The Twelve Days of Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, A Christmas Carol, How Santa Really Works, Peter Pan, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Generations of parents and grandparents on warm summer’s night, when it is too sticky to sleep, still deliver their pyjama dressed little ones to the end of the queue so they can slowly shuffle past each window. For several years Mum delivered us, in our pyjamas, to Myers Windows and we left out smudgy fingerprints and nose prints on the windows as we followed the motion of the puppets and the exotic movements of their worlds. There were six Myers Windows and it was well past our bedtime when we had smudged all six windows. Dad would drive us back to Newport; and we were soon asleep in the back seat of the Austin, or Vanguard, dreaming of our own enchanted Xanadu.

image source: flickr

The Skyline drive-in theatre opened in Burwood in 1954; it could accommodate six hundred and fifty-two cars and was Australias first drive-in theatre. When the theatre opened in Burwood, even though only seven miles east of Melbourne’s centre, it was mostly paddocks and there was only the Burwood Highway leading to the theatre. The drive-inn caused traffic jams that lasted for hours in both directions along Burwood Highway and also to the entrance of the theatre. For some reason, mum and dad decided we should go to the Skyline. I don’t remember very much about going to the Skyline. I do remember that we wore our pyjamas and I remember that we seemed to drive forever in the Vanguard before we could even see the drive inn screen in the distance; I remember the traffic gridlock: But I had on my pyjamas and knew that I could outlast a real game of rush hour. Even the emotion of the traffic gridlock couldn’t keep me awake; I was asleep on the back seat as soon as we left the Skyline.

Mum made my pyjamas as well as making some of my trousers, shirts, and coats. Her sewing machine sat in one of the kitchen corners; the kitchen on Sundays would be filled with the smells from mums baking and it seemed at least one night of the week with the dulled, subdued, mechanical chuka, chuka, chuka sound of the sewing machine needle hitting and piecing fabric. We had winter and summer pyjamas; summer were seersucker, short pants and top and winter were flannel, long pants and top. My pyjamas were more utilitarian in style rather than styled for lounging around at night with a dressing gown stylishly draped on top listening to the radio.

I don’t remember the precise time when I stopped wearing pyjamas but it was in the sixties; the time I entered the world of change and uncertainty: Youthquake, hippies and mini skirts, alcoholic oblivion, the Stones, Who and Kinks, and more. I know I didn’t pack pyjamas in the backpack that I used to carry all my essentials for the overseas working holiday exodus from Australia. Most Australians of my age assumed a working holiday as a rite of passage to true adulthood. You left Australia in your early twenties with London as your destination; whilst working in London you did Scotland and Wales and sometimes Ireland and a collection of weekend and longer expeditions to different European countries. When the time came to return to Australia I did it in a burdensome way; overland through Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Each European country has stitched into its culture a unique thread but Turkey is a mosaic of eastern and western culture, traditions, and history; it is where the treasures of the silk and spice roads intersect. At first, I would goggle at the men wearing loose-fitting pants that looked like pyjama pants but as I drifted further East I saw more and more men wearing loose billowing pants. I learnt that in India the traditional clothing for males is the lungi, dhoti or pyjama.

It is accepted that pyjamas date back to the Ottoman Empire; both men and women wore loose drawers or trousers tied at the waist. History suggests that during the European colonial period pyjamas were adopted as an alternative to the traditional nightshirt and when the Europeans returned to the motherland they continued to wear their silk pyjamas as exotic loungewear. Even though I was an observer of history as reality and an onlooker to this sea of cloth wrapped around the waist and legs of every man and knotted at their waist I was not transported back to the European colonial period. I left India, the home of the pyjamas, with only two kurta shirts.

And I still don’t wear pyjamas. When I think back it seems the pyjamas of my younger years became street ware for early evening and night time special outings and events: And I went to sleep after these events on the way home in the back seat of either the Austin or Vanguard and then woke up in bed the next morning. Granddad used to fall asleep in his chair watching television. And now I have started to fall asleep on the couch watching television but I always wake up on the couch and not in bed. I think this is a sign that my childhood is over; waking up in the same place where you fall asleep. I don’t want to leave so soon that safe place of childhood; that place of fantasy, simplicity, and innocence: I think I will buy a pair of cotton poplin pyjamas, change into them, drive around Omaha for an hour or more and then go to sleep on the back seat of the car with the longing to wake up in bed in the morning.


Traditional Attire Of Men In India

Bananas in Pyjamas

Queen Elizabeth II visits Australia

Standing in the Corner Watching Television

If it weren’t for Philo T. Farnsworth, inventor of television, we’d still be eating frozen radio dinners. Johnny Carson (1925 – 2005)

I really didn’t grow up with television. I first saw television from the footpath outside the windows of the Patersons Furniture Store in Ferguson Street, Williamstown. It was a small black and white television; at that time thought of to be extremely large, and I together with a large crowd that spilled onto the road watched as former 3DB radio announcer Geoff Corke who later was known as Corkey King Of The Kids introduced GTV9’s first test television broadcast: Everything’s fine on GTV Channel 9. We watched the black and white static mesmerized. The 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games were broadcast as a test transmission. Australia did well at those games; Murray Rose won three gold medals in swimming, and Betty Cuthbert became the Golden Girl by winning three gold medals in track.


It seemed as if every shop window had a television set in it and every television was showing a black and white grainy image. The footpaths became congested places. I only knew that television sets cost a lot of money. Programming was only for a few hours each day and the test pattern was broadcast for the rest of the time that the three channels were on air; Melbourne had GTV channel nine and HSV channel seven and the government channel ABC channel two. So we were like many families and didn’t get a television when they first came out. Each afternoon after getting home from school and before tea I would sit glued to the wireless listening to the Air Adventures of Biggles, Superman, and the Adventures of the Sea Hound. Sometimes we would have a special night out: the family was invited to friends of mum and dad’s up the street to watch television.


After tea, we would walk animated up Peel Street and do all we could to contain our anticipation and excitement. We would only stay and watch TV for a couple of hours: bedtime was early for me and my brother and besides television stopped broadcasting around ten o’clock. Sometimes we would stay and watch the test pattern; it always followed the playing of God Save the Queen and the Australian flag.

And then we got a television set. The inside layout of our house in Peel Street was typical of a lot of houses built in the early nineteen hundreds. It had a central passageway with my mum and dad’s bedroom and lounge room in the front of the house and a few steps down the passage opposite the dining room the bedroom I shared with my brother. The kitchen was at the end of the passageway and a spare room that became my bedroom was off the dining room.

Peel Street
Lounge Room
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The lounge room was reserved for entertaining guests; it had a couch and a couple of large soft chairs and a glass door cabinet that housed and displayed my mother’s crystal, silverware, and other collectables. His Master Voice television sat supreme in the lounge room; the tube and those big valves were inside a honey-coloured wood cabinet that was on legs. My mother insisted that we had to turn the volume down when we turned the tuner knob to change channels otherwise we would break something.

Nanna and Granddad would walk down Peel Street after tea from Eliza Street every weekday night and stay until about 9:00 o’clock before walking back home to bed: just as we used to walk some nights up Peel Street years ago to watch TV. Nanna would sit at the kitchen table and do the Australian Post crossword while my mum sewed, ironed or knitted. Mum would sneak words into the crossword while she ate her dinner and at other times during the day. The Australian Post was a weekly picture magazine and was read by all of Australia; it was a curious blend of scandal, human interest stories, sensationalism, entertainment and pin-up photos. You always read last weeks and earlier Post’s when waiting for a haircut at the barber’s shop. While the ladies spent their time in the kitchen granddad sat with me in the lounge room. I’d stretch out on the couch and he would sit in a chair to soak up the television. I didn’t understand it at the time but within twenty minutes his head would drop to his chest and he would be asleep.

image source:pixabay

We always thought that cousin Bruce was too young to play in the paddock or go with us on Market Day to the Dandenong Market. Years later he would take the Blue Harris from Dandenong and stay for a few days of the school holidays with Nanna in Eliza Street. He would walk down Peel Street and together we allowed both of our young teenage minds to be shaped by daytime television; we watch it all afternoon.

That was the last that I remember of strenuously watching television. I do remember Eric Pearce announcing the Cuban Blockade. I was drifting into my teenage and professional student years and was deciding to watch sometimes only cool television. I entered the world of change and uncertainty; rock and roll, sixties and seventies women, alcoholic oblivion, The Masters’ Apprentices, The Twilights, and more: I gave little thought to television until London. Friday nights in London became must be home by 10:00 pm to watch Monty Python Show and must also be home on other nights to watch the Benny Hill Show and Steptoe and Son.

Kitchen Sink OWH

image source:johnmcadam

In 1991 the television show Everything but the Sink was created. It was broadcast on an educational television channel: the channel was one of the public, educational, and government access channels in Omaha provided by the cable franchising authority contacting with a city. The set was a 1960’s kitchen in limbo. I talked to my guests, read the paper, watched television, ate doughnuts and drank coffee. It became an Omaha cult favourite. I did radio talk shows and the daily paper tried to explain Everything but the Sink.

Everything But the Sink
Playful Talk Radio

People still recognize me and acknowledge the program 25 years later. I suppose I was some sort of video viral blowout before YouTube and on-demand high definition digital video started narrowcasting across inter-connected devices. I wonder if all those people who watched the Sink were trying to become active participants in the stories that unfolded in the kitchen.

I still remember the great 1979 movie Being There; adapted from the 1970 novella by Jerzy Kosinski. Chance is a simple-minded, middle-aged, man and has lived his whole life gardening. Other than gardening, everything he knows has been learnt entirely from what he has seen and sees on television. When his benefactor the Old Man is discovered dead Chance is told by the lawyers that he must leave the townhouse he lives in so he packs a suitcase of clothes and takes his remote control and heads out into the world.

Maybe Grandad fell asleep in front of the television so he would forever hear God Save the Queen and watch the test pattern, or maybe he was channelling the concept for the future 1980 studio album Glass Houses and the lyrics for Sleeping with the Television On to a teenage Billy Joel.


I’m going to try going to sleep watching my smartphone.

Skyhooks Horror Movie

The Twilight Zone

Being There

North America Starbucks introduces Flat White Coffee to Confuse my Grandad

My grandparent’s house was just a couple of blocks from our house; it was a 3-minute bicycle ride up Peel Street, through the laneway and into Eliza Street. We wouldn’t visit often but would always call in unannounced for some of Nanna’s after school treats. My grandad was a tinsmith. Every morning he would walk to the Newport railway station, always wearing his hat and carrying a kitbag, to take the train to North Melbourne. I only knew the kitbag to have in it a thermos of tea and a beetroot sandwich but it probably had whatever else a tinsmith needed for a day of soldering metals. After Grandad got home from work, or on a weekend afternoon, he would sit at the kitchen table and have a cup of tea. He had tea without milk and he would pour tea from the cup into the saucer, blow on the tea in the saucer, and then drink from the saucer.

image source: jmcadam

Whenever my mother had visitors she would always put the kettle on for a cup of tea. My Aunts always put the kettle on for a cup of tea. My cousin always put the kettle on. I always used to put the kettle on for a cup of tea. None of the visitors, my mum or aunts, my cousins or I never drank tea from the saucer. Having tea was always a leisurely, social, shared time. My grandfather’s tea breaks or tea times were always defined by time; a rushed quick cuppa in the morning, lunchtime, and mid-afternoon between soldering metals. The tea had to be drunk quickly so, therefore, had to be cooled quickly. I think the kitbag must also have carried a saucer so he could pour the tea from the thermos into the saucer, blow on it to cool it and then drink from the saucer before returning to the waiting metals. So I always grew up having a cup of tea until late teenage rebellion introduced me to the mysterious coffees produced by the Faema espresso machines that were sprouting in the Italian and Greek migrant coffee shops in Carlton and Brunswick. This was the rebellious seventies, flaunting our independence and conspiring against the society we once knew by drinking lattes, espressos, and cappuccinos.

The espresso assault by the new wave of European immigrants happened and Melbourne became the coffee capital of Australia. The short black and flat whites were created and the cities coffee culture is known worldwide and Melbourne is one of the world’s greatest coffee cities. I wonder if my grandad would pour a flat white into a saucer, blow on it to cool it and then drink from the saucer: but then he never put milk in his tea so he would probably drink espresso.

What is a Flat White

Australian cafes in Manhattan and Brooklyn