Johnnie's New Car
by Pr George Porter
Johnnie's New Car
This story is almost 60 years old. It took place in the north of New South Wales at a little village called Ophir Glen. "The Glen" as it was affectionately known, was situated 7 kms west of Burringbar which was situated on the then Pacific Highway 14 kms south of Murwillumbah. Ophir Glen was actually an old volcano funnel.
You entered the Glen through a several hundred metre gap in the mountain, through which a creek flowed. There was a slight rise in the road as it found its way up and across the creek and around up into the village green. The hills reached up to about 500 metres above sea level, in a circle around the village. All sides were steep and covered in banana plantations, which belonged to the fourteen families and two middle aged bachelors. All families were Seventh-day Adventists except the Johnnie Dadu family. Johnnie was a "New Australian" who had migrated from Malta after the Second World War.
All we children attended the village school built for us by the Church elder and his family.
The young boys of the village all worked with the men in their plantations on the slopes of the mountain. My brother Robert and I worked for several families to earn money to help our family who were very poor. When we reached the age of fifteen we had our own small plantation.
One day as we were high on the slopes we caught sight of Johnnie pushing his old Dodge car out of the car shed near the creek. The old Dodge had to be started with a crank handle. The steel shaft was placed into a cog which was actually the end of the crank shaft of the engine. With the shaft engaged the owner would turn the handle so as to cause the car to fire up. We watched as we worked. Poor old Johnnie, he struggled for two hours to get his car to cough into life but it was determined not to respond to his rather colourful language. Next we could see him struggling to push the car to the brink of the slope out of the village with its nose facing down the road. Push, push, then all off a sudden the old Dodge began to run down the hill. Johnnie quickly jumped in and pushed the gear stick into second gear and waited for the momentum to fire up the engine. Sadly the old Dodge refused to wake up and came to a halt on the only flat part of the road.
My brother and I were about a kilometre up the mountain and decided that it was time we went down to help Johnnie with his cantankerous car. As we approached the car Johnnie was cranking the car furiously. Still the old Dodge remained silent. Now Johnnie was furious. In front of us he flew into a rage and with language that fired the air blue and red he took careful aim and smashed the steel starting rod neatly dead centre along the old Dodge's bonnet. Oh, what a horrible dent.
I stepped over to Johnnie and suggested that he speak nicely to dear old Dodge and make sure to say "Abracadabra" three times slowly, then crank the engine and it will be sure to go. Johnnie gave me a sly look and muttered, "Are you sure? It had better or you will……" We encouraged him and finally Johnnie gave one last turn of the handle and hey presto the old machine roared into action. Lucky for us boys! We were poised ready to outrun an angry Johnnie if it all failed. Johnnie was amazed and claimed that he had never known that Abracadabra was the miracle word for Dodge cars.
Johnnie had made up his mind that he was going to part with the old Dodge. He went off to Murwillumbah and bought himself a brand new shiny black 1955 Morris Oxford. He drove it home and parked it next to the creek just outside his garage. We boys inspected it and gloated over this new arrival. It was superb. Wood grain dash with fake gold trimmings. We were so glad for Johnnie. He had every reason to be proud of his new machine. We advised him to garage it as there was a possible hailstorm predicted for later in the afternoon. Johnnie had other ideas. He wanted his car on show for all the villagers to see and inspect. It was a proud day for Johnnie. One of the village bachelors said, "He just wants to show off. "
My brother and I went off to a Youth meeting. Suddenly the village was engulfed in heavy storm clouds and the lightning crashed and the thundered roared. It was deafening. Then down came the hail. It came down the size of jagged cricket balls. The sound on the iron rooves of the houses was deafening. Immediately we thought of Johnnie and his new Oxford. No one dared go out into the storm to secure or save anything, not even the cows or the fowls. It would be sudden injury or even death.
After the storm had passed we, with the adults, ventured out to view the damage. It was all around. Damaged bananas, dead fowls, injured cow, badly dented house rooves. One family owned a roof made from thick corrugated fibro asbestos. It was a sorry mess. Many holes clear through the roof to the floor where large ice balls were melting away into carpets, beds and chairs. Fortunately the size of the hail stones meant there were less in number than usual. Poor Johnnie's new Oxford. Almost every panel had been badly dented and the roof, bonnet and boot lid looked so sad. There was one miracle. All the glass on the Oxford survived. Poor Johnnie, he was broken. He was so ashamed. If only he had taken the young boys' advice rather than putting his car on show.
I remember one of the older Saints in our village saying, "Well boys there has to be a moral to the story. Perhaps we should always take care with our language. Speak kindly for a genuine response and do not put our purchases on show. Garage them because all folk will eventually see them anyway". By the way, we were all rejoiced that Johnnie had his Oxford repaired and we with him enjoyed his clean new machine.
This article is Copyright © 2012 by George Porter. Used by permission.
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