Almanac (Family) Life: The Redemptive Powers of Red Rooster

 

Mr & Mrs Wilson with Glen and Ian circa 1970

 

Reflections #1

 

My Dad was a hard and complex man. In a rare open conversation I had with him once, he told me he planned to be a priest but instead became a British Commando Sergeant Major fighting in Africa, Palestine and Europe spending nine months under constant shelling in order to save Malta from the Germans and Italians in WW2.

 

He migrated to Perth after the war having watched his first wife die of cancer, and boarded the ten pound boat ride carrying three children under ten years of age and a headful of PTSD and resentment.

 

After meeting my Mum Margaret, a divorcee with four kids of her own who had left her alcoholic, abusive husband, they married and I was actually there oddly enough. It took me till my late 20s to discover that my folks married on Friday 13th December 1962 and I was born May 25th 1963.

 

The two bunches of siblings came together and my younger brother Glen was born a few years later. We were born and raised in Medina, the oldest section of the now Shire of Kwinana, in those days a suburban shelter for UK migrants and Indigenous Australians.

 

With my next eldest half-brother being ten years older than me, most of my childhood was spent alongside Glen. He had bright red hair, hated school, could fight and was a brilliant sportsperson.

 

I was blonde, loved primary school, head prefect, captain of the footy teams, dux and all-round nice guy, who when picked on by bullies would challenge them as to the ‘why’ of their actions and always walked away unscathed.

 

Glen and I fought like cats and dogs. After watching World Championship Wrestling or Matlock Police we would soon retire to the backyard and emulate the moves we’d just witnessed. Naturally these would end up in a full blown brawl which Mum would extinguish with the garden hose.

 

The one thing we agreed on was our disillusionment with our old man. He was up and down constantly and we spent a lot of our childhood walking on eggshells around him. He was particularly hard on Glen, who was the image of himself as a kid, and because Glen struggled academically I became very protective of him.

 

Dad’s nickname was ‘Tug’ due to his body shape and strength. Himself a fine boxer, soccer player and cricketer, he stood five foot five and about the same wide. A thick neck and legs like a billiard table.

 

He had eyes that could change in an instant, something I inherited and helped me enormously years later playing footy in the ever volatile VFA competition. Demonic is the best way to describe it.

 

Dad worked at the local BP refinery as a security guard. He typically took the role seriously and had a perfectly pressed uniform and spit polished boots for each shift. Much of it was night shift which suited us because he would have to sleep during the day and we were able to avoid him.

 

One night in 1978 Glen and I were fast asleep in our respective bedrooms when an awful moaning came from the front yard. To this day I’ve never heard such a tortured screech come from a human being.

 

I ran to the front veranda of our commission home but Glen had beaten me to it. Crawling up the lawn on all fours was Dad having just exited the Mazda station wagon, driver’s door open. Mum was trying in vain to get him upright and in motion but to no avail.

 

As Dad let fly another round of delirious threats and expletives, I realised Glen had a ‘Stay Sharp’ knife in his hand. He then calmly stated words to the effect of, “C’mon you old prick. Get up here and we’ll finish this for good. This is the final straw, you’re gonna die this time.”

 

Mum screamed, begging Glen to put the knife down and I calmly ushered him inside. The entire ordeal took thirty minutes or so and I can’t remember if a neighbour helped to get Dad inside or not, because I took Glen away from the goings on.

 

The next day, a Saturday,  Glen and I headed to our beloved Medina Oval, about 300m from home for a kick of the footy. The oval was being used for a soccer match and the gate was locked which was never an obstacle for us.

 

A quick scale of the seven foot fence, leaning over at the top, head first grabbing the wire on the other side followed by an acrobatic forward somersault onto your feet, this was always the way for us local kids.

 

About two hours into our Malcolm Blight impersonations I suddenly saw the Mazda station wagon ominously pull up outside the ground. As Glen and I cautiously approached the fence, Dad exited the car with two quarter chicken and chips from Red Rooster.

 

At that time there was only one franchised takeaway in Kwinana and we all loved it. Only problem was we couldn’t afford it, so when the old man turned up with the glittering prize I was quick to jump up the fence, get to the top and reach down to take the goods off the diminutive, scary man below.

 

Dad didn’t speak a word during the exchange and the events of the previous evening were never spoken of for eight years.

 

On a trip back home from the army eight years later I took Mum and Dad to the Kwinana Hotel for dinner. I couldn’t help but raise the topic of that traumatic night as I remembered it.

 

Glen and I had always thought that Dad had gone to the Kwinana Hotel attending a farewell for a colleague, got drunk and driven home. This wasn’t the case.

 

The first part was correct. It was a work function but he wasn’t drunk. Someone or a group with a grudge to bear had placed a ‘Mickey’ in his drink and had ‘king hit’ him as he left. Somehow he managed to get to the car and drive the 4kms home.

 

The excruciating noise he made on the front lawn that night was the sheer frustration at not being able to defend himself and retaliate. It was banshee-like, so when I asked him whether or not he ‘squared up’ with the perpetrator afterwards, he wouldn’t eloborate.

 

I’m sure Dad’s overly officious and disciplined manner would have annoyed the hell out of certain tradespeople and refinery workers during his time working at BP. Kwinana was a town where justice was dealt out quickly and often cruelly.

 

The explanation from Dad put things more into perspective. He didn’t apologise to Glen and me because he had nothing to apologise for. The Red Rooster was apology enough.

 

The positive for him was that he avoided being stabbed by his youngest son and the positive for us was the devouring of our favourite delicacy. A win-win all round. :)

 

 

Read more from Ian Wilson Here.

 

 

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About Ian Wilson

Former army aircraft mechanic, sales manager, VFA footballer and coach. Now mental health worker, blogger and coach of Eastern Warriors Over 35s (new players always welcome!). Lifelong St Kilda FC tragic and father to 2 x girls.

Comments

  1. Powerful complex story. Thanks for sharing Ian. The child is the father to the man. Trauma begets trauma until someone gives us the tools, confidence and a safe place to break the cycle. Well played.

  2. John Gordon says

    A family history beautifully shared Ian. Well observed also Peter B. My current Victorian friends and colleagues don’t understand the unique importance of Red Rooster chicken to growing up in Perth in the 70s and 80s. This tale might help them gain some insight.

  3. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Pretty powerful story and courage to write,Ian thank you

  4. Many thanks for the feedback. Much appreciated

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