Thornleigh Seventh-day Adventist Church (Sydney, Australia)

Home > Online Magazine > Online Magazine: Edition 58 - December 2015 / January 2016 > Chevy "Bertha" Gets a Home (by Pr George Porter)

Chevy "Bertha" Gets a Home

and George Gets a Licence (by Pr George Porter)

Mother was right of course. We did need a garage to protect our prized newly acquired car.  The twenty eight year old Chevy needed a home for when the old lady was not mobile somewhere. "Bertha was a beautiful beast and certainly deserved some suitable place when resting.

There was much family discussion as to where we could erect a primitive cover for her.  The house section of land was ruled out of the equation. The cow paddock was also ruled out of bounds.  Dad made it clear that every blade of grass was needed by the house cow and her calf. The only option was to go further afield.

The family house was situated about 100  metres off the main dirt road which passed the house, terminating about one kilometre up the gully in the main village of Ophir Glen.  A creek flowed down the gully passing diagonally through the property we occupied. Where the creek left the property a bush road entered the property crossing the creek. This muddy track wound its way past our house into a branch gully. It was used for carting out packed bananas from a large plantation.  The carrier used ex-army  Chevy and Ford 4x4 blitz wagons (trucks) to negotiate the  deep mud clay tracks. The boxed fruit was taken to Burringbar where local men loaded them into louvered rail trucks. Three times a week the banana train originating in Murwillumbah, would stop and add them to the train.    This was repeated at all stations as the train progressed to Coffs Harbour. Finally our fruit arrived at markets in Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide. Sometimes some went to Perth if the prices were high enough to cover freight. 

Beside this service road next to the main dirt road and the creek, was a small piece of land just big enough for "Bertha" to rest on.  There was one problem. It was covered in a tall thick tangle of lantana with large clumps of hemp agronomy (commonly called cats paw), lining the creek bank. Both these plants were regarded as noxious plants and dreaded by land owners.  The decision was made. We would clear the scrub. After we cleared the site, it measured just enough land on which to park "Bertha."  We were so excited.  So was Mum, watching from the distant house.

Next we searched the wooded hill north of, and close to the house, for suitable hardwood saplings. After felling them with axes we carried them on our shoulders to the cleared site.  We dug three holes each side of where "Bertha" would rest.  We placed six tall posts in the holes and firmed them with stones and soil.  Next we secured four more saplings to the tops of the posts to act wall plates.  Finally we attached purlins across the top and nailed on sufficient corrugated iron roofing to cover the area. Oh yes, and a couple of braces to make the structure stable.  It was a thing of beauty!  Eureka! We had a new home for the car and we had built our first building. 

What do two young teenage men do when they have a "garage" plus a car, but no driver's licence?

We soon found out the answer!  They brood. They plan. They dream continually. They imagine and conjure up all sorts of mischief. I can assure you that temptation to travel hung over Robert and me continually. The waves of temptation to drive without a licence almost smothered us. We were just itching to travel freely. Mother who often overheard our conversations, such as, "We should take "Bertha for a spin."   She would quietly but firmly remind me, as if I needed to be reminded, that I did not have a licence. In motherly tones she would say, "Wait patiently Georgie, it is not long now until January 31 and you can go for your licence."  It was not the advice I wanted to hear.

Needless to say, several times we were overcome by temptation to go for just a little drive.  It usually started with a conversation about driving and fishing.  Robert would say, "We have done enough work today. How about we drive to Pottsville and Hastings Point and go fishing in the surf?"

The more we conversed about driving and fishing the closer we came to doing both. We would talk so much about fish we could smell freshly caught fish. We could feel them tug on the line and slip into our hands! We could hear and smell  them frying in the pan and almost taste them on our tongues! You understand.  It was too much for us. One look at "Bertha and she seemed to be calling, "Please go for a run to the beach."  We obliged her.  We gathered our tins of hooks and bottles with nylon lines and climbed on board "Bertha".  We flicked a switch and woke her up and we were away.  She was so pleased to be going somewhere and so were we too.

Mum was not happy at all.  Her advice was not premised with "Georgie" anymore. It was replaced with a firm stern "George", followed with a good scolding with her tongue.  Not to worry however, as we soon learnt that after a good scolding, Mum could not survive the tantalizing aroma of the frying fish.  When she smelt sweet whiting and yellow swallow tails from Hastings surf,  it calmed her  nerves in an amazing way. 

Well, that was life in the bush in those days.  If you lived out of town on the land you learnt to drive at a very early age. You were expected to use your skill to work the land and to travel inter-farm and intra-farm.  The authorities continually cast a blind eye to our movements on wheels.  They never bothered us providing we drove sensibly and kept out of their direct notice. Even if we had to sneak into town in an emergency. For example, sudden injury, illness or urgently required farm supplies. They were different times and there was not the amount of traffic we encounter today.

As the 31st January 1955 approached I was troubled by the big question, "Whose car can I borrow  for my licence test drive?"  My older married friend Milton graciously offered his near new British Vanguard "lady Bird Beetle" sedan.  It had a gear change attached to the steering column close to the steering wheel.  It was powered with a Ferguson tractor engine and sounded like one.  I could not fight in Milton's armour so I politely declined. I had several offers from older church members but respectfully declined them all. Finally I chose to present myself to the Traffic officer using "Bertha".  I knew how to handle her best of all. 

Finally the long awaited day arrived.  Mum made sure I left home well groomed and in my best clothes. I was so excited and full of confidence. However, there was a little fear and trepidation as to what the traffic official would think when he eventually realised that I had driven myself to the exam.   Arriving in town I entered Main street and proceeded on turning into Queen Street. I continued for a few metres then doing a u turn, I parked outside the Traffic Registry office.  I climbed the steps and confidently presented myself at the counter.  Behind the desk was a middle aged man who peered over his thick rimmed reading glasses and enquired, "What can I do for you George Porter?"  Unabashed and a little amused that he knew my name, I replied, "I am fifteen years ten months. I have come to apply for a driver's licence please. "  He locked his eyes on mine and answered gently, "Huh! What do you need a licence for George?" He hesitated for my reply. I did not reply. He continued, "I have seen you driving all over the district and even in town from time to time." Leaving his desk he picked up his umbrella and motioned to me saying, "Come on take me for a drive now and we will see what we can do about your licence."

It was a day of light rain showers.  We climbed into the car and with no seat belt to check in those days we headed off.  He instructed, "Drive me out towards the High school please."  When we were opposite the old Seventh-Day Adventist Church he directed me to indicate and turn right up a rather steep hilly street called Prince Street.  Half way up the hill I was directed to pull to the side of the street and stop, holding the car with the hand brake.  It did not work.  I never used it.  I held the clutch in and held the foot brake down.  He was not amused, as he wanted to ask me to take off on the hill using my hand brake as a slow release. He was quite agitated and threw open his door and bailed out. Putting up his umbrella he turned and said, "I would rather walk thank you. Come to my office, I will see you there." 

I took a circuitous route back to the Registry office giving my examining officer time to be comfortably behind his desk before I arrived.  I could not help being concerned that he may rule me out for a licence because of the faulty hand-break.  I fronted the desk. The officer, after getting his daily exercise was waiting from behind his horn rimmed glasses and slowly glancing my way. He asked, "Have you got your money. I need ten shillings ($1)?"  He came to me and took the money and gave me my brand new driver's licence.   "There it is George. Now have a good day and by the way, please try to repair that hand-break".  Wow!  What else could I say to such a kind understanding officer except, "I sure will Sir.  Thank you for your time."

I drove home driving on cloud twenty nine! A life time of driving hundreds of thousands of miles had just begun. What is more, now may parents and the whole Church membership could relax. He is legal at last.                             

Just as a "home" was provided for Chevy Bertha so a home is being prepared for you and I outside the parameters of this world. Jesus said that he was going to construct a home for those who will accept him as their personal friend and Saviour.  An invitation has been extended to everyone to join the party. There will be no cost other than your acceptance of the offer. In Isaiah chapter 55 the offer is clearly set out as cost free. "Come ye to the waters, and he that has no money come and eat, buy milk and honey and without price". It is a great deal. "And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely."

This article is Copyright © 2015 by George C Porter.  Used by permission.

Home > Online Magazine > Online Magazine: Edition 58 - December 2015 / January 2016 > Chevy "Bertha" Gets a Home (by Pr George Porter)