6 In Living

What Was It Like Growing Up In Kalgoorlie?

What Was It Like Growing Up In Kalgoorlie?

Growing up in Kalgoorlie, I was surrounded my rough men and even rougher women.

At the time, we lived in a mining town called Boulder-Kalgoorlie where everyone wore black Fab jeans and flannelette shirts. Dad swanned around with a pack of Winnie blues up his sleeve, and loved to drink rum and Emu Bitter. I was surrounded by men who road loud, menacing motor bikes, and came home every day from the mines grotty, smelling like dirt, beer and bike oil. The women did it rough looking after their families (they cooked a lot of stew, and to my disgust I ate rabbit stew once. I was suspect of my mums stew for years after that).

I spent a lot of time riding my bicycle on the big, wide roads or gravel tracks, ‘growing’ frogs in steel drum at my friends place, staging dance concerts to Mum on the wood pylons lying on the back yard (notably to the Bangles ‘Manic Monday’), and freaking out at the site of a monster red centipede.

Freakily enough, my family nearly took a plunge into a mine pit once as Dad took a wrong turn one night travelling to my Uncle’s, and ended up somewhere on the outskirts – luckily for us he stopped just in time for the head lights to vanish off into the nothingness at the edge of the abyss. Lucky! The entire family was in the car. It was not our time.

As kids (there’s three of us), we hung out at the pub with my folks and their friends, listening to Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and my favourite ‘The Bicycle Song’, trying to imitate the adults by playing pool and darts, or wishing we could get lucky on the used bingo cards lying around the place. We also sat around the open fire in the bush at night, listening to music, the reverberations from the sounds of the motorbikes going through your chest, pretending to sleep, but really waiting for the spuds to cook under the ashes, only to be slathered by butter and salt and devoured.

Sure, it wasn’t paradise, and it certainly wasn’t all good, but I’m actually grateful for growing up in that environment. It taught me the value of money – especially thinking back to Mum skipping meals so that she could feed her three kids baked beans on toast – and then worrying about what to feed the three dogs.

It taught me not to not judge people by appearances – scruffy people, or people that rode bikes, wore black or looked rough, well they can turn out to be the most funniest, lovely or most philosophical people.

It also taught me to care for every living thing, so much so that I can’t even kill an ant. Mum and Dad brought home injured birds and lizards, we had horses. Mum tried to resuscitate a chicken once because it accidently drowned.

But, most of all it taught me to be grateful for what I’ve got, for the family I have, to not be embarrassed of my roots, and that simple really is best. It also taught me that sometimes, moving on is a good thing.

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  • Leanne Chesser
    March 23, 2011 at 3:17 am

    Wonderful reflections, Janine! I agree about appearances. We really have no idea what’s underneath the outward appearance, or what’s inside a human being, until we get to know them.

  • Sweepy Jean
    March 23, 2011 at 10:14 am

    Janine, you descriptions are so vivid, I felt like I was there! I didn’t grow up with money and also was looked down upon by some. I agree that it teaches us not to be so judgmental, and when there is ever a rough patch, we know how to survive! Great post! xox

  • Reece
    December 9, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    Gee this all sounds so familiar, but my dad sported ‘Camel’ up the sleeve rather than Winnie Blues. Emu Bitter, Norton motorbikes and men with crazy nicknames to name a few items that stick in my mind – you’ve spoken of the environment with a forgiving tone, one which I don’t think I’m ready to give. Maybe for the good and the innocent who existed at this time, I might give it a try…

    • Janine Ripper
      December 9, 2012 at 1:41 pm

      It’s taken years to come to terms with some things and my anger. It got to a stage that it was let the memories and anger control me, or I control it. There are some things I am not ready to write about on this blog yet. Im not sure if I ever will.

  • Leanne@crestingthehill
    March 18, 2016 at 6:48 pm

    I worked in Kambalda for a year when I was a newly graduated Dental Therapist – I had some amazing (and “educational”) times there. Mixed with some weird and wonderful people and did a lot of growing up. It’s not where I would have wanted to raise a family, but I’m sure there were many wonderful people that emerged from the red dust (just look at you!) xx

    • Janine Ripper
      March 19, 2016 at 8:51 am

      Hey Leanne, yes there were good but as you can imagine also bad times. I definitely wrote that post through rose coloured glasses not wanting o upset anyone. The rest of the story… one day I will write about it.

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