bilateral kellerberrin

May 25, 2005

Kellerberrin Wednesday 25 May 2005

Filed under: keller dailies — Lucas @ 10:10 am

In my dream I’m up by the time Glen arrives. He’s come to lend me his air compressor and nail gun. It’s dark outside, and snowing. He taps on the side door and we head out to his truck to get the gear. We sit inside the cab while he taps away at a computer trying to get the co-ordinates right. Each time he clicks on a particular function, another one pops up. It seems to be an ongoing problem. By the time my alarm clock rings (in the real world) the dream-Glen has still not solved his computer issues. I reluctantly drag myself out of bed (it’s 6.50am) and put on some coffee while I wait for the real-Glen to pull up.

Finally it’s the beginning of winter. My fingers are stiff and cold as I type. I’ve made a big mug of tea to warm them. I need some of those cool fingerless gloves. The craft barn, a cavernous warehouse, is not easy to heat. I’m glad to have been in Kellerberrin during the Autumn.

* * * * *

The big news of yesterday, of course, is that my Pipeline classified ad worked, and I now have silver buttons to go with my Kellerberrin Volunteer Fire Brigade suit. A few hours after the phone call from Betty Johnson, Bettie from Betties came over to the gallery with a handful of silvery jewels. There are two types of button. One is small, and has the letters F and B in ornate script layered over and through each other. You have to look hard to decipher each letter. The other type is larger, and has a swan motif in the centre. Around the outside is inscribed: “WA Fire Brigades 1909.”

There are two things I’m unsure of. First: exactly who is responsible for this act of fastener-generosity? Betty Johnson? Bettie Dixon? Whose buttons were these originally? I wanted to ask Bettie about this when she delivered them, but at that precise moment, a man stopped and asked her for directions. He has a relative living somewhere near Dryandra (the nursing home). But he didn’t think he’d have time to visit her, as he was en route to Kalgoorlie. He was curious to hear about the old cinema, and wanted to buy some of the junk in the window of the craft barn. By the time he went on his way, Bettie had scurried back to her shop, and I remain ignorant of my benefactor.

Second: why there are two different sizes of button?

I took my newly buttoned suit for a spin last night. Cristina and I gave a slide show about our past projects in the gallery, and I wanted to dress up for the occasion. Everyone was impressed, of course, except Dawn, who said I look like a clown. The suit is navy blue and has a beautiful red stripe running down the side of the trouser leg. It’s a bit like an Italian police uniform. I had matched it with my bright red sneakers, which is probably what lent it an air of clownishness.

Apparently, this suit is the talk of the town. The question everybody is asking is: why did Vern Wright give it to the op shop, rather than just keep it mothballed in the back of his wardrobe? The leading theory is that Mrs Wright “had a clear-out” before they moved to Toodjay.

Someday, I should like to meet Vern. He has assumed legendary status for me. I imagine him to be old: over 70, thin and tall and with a dry wit – a man who uses few words to great effect. Unlike me, Vern keeps things in good order – his shoes are always shiny, he likes his dinner at six on the dot, and he updates his garaged Ford Falcon every five years. Although he doesn’t mind a beer, Vern never drinks much, and he avoids wine altogether, except champagne which he drinks at weddings, and perhaps a bit of port after dinner on a special occasion. Vern used to work for the Main Roads Department, a job which he took in his twenties and stayed with all his life. He and Mrs Wright have travelled extensively around Australia, but only went overseas once – for their honeymoon…

The turnout for our slide show was…how shall I put it…low on quantity, high on quality. It’s not often that you can proudly name everyone who came, but this time I can: Pauline, who did the hard yards in organising everything for us, ringing around cajoling folks to come; Jo and Pat, the gallery ladies; Caroline and Les, who I had just met the day before at the Pipeline assembly; Pip and Dawn, who arrived slightly late because they thought it was a 7.30pm start; Cristina, and me.

Even with the small turnout, the talk was worth doing. In Kellerberrin, I have adopted a policy of not thrusting information about myself onto people, unless they ask. But even on the odd occasion when somebody enquires “so what kind of art do ya do, painting?” I find it hard to put together a digestible reply. So pictures help to explain the oddball development of the things I do: something to look at while I go into the convoluted stories behind a project…

At the end of the night, Dawn said that, contrary to my non-pushy communication policy, she has her own policy of not pushing people for more information. She says if people want to tell her something, they will. I’m glad to have found that out before I leave Kellerberrin. Sometimes I’ve wondered whether people are just lacking in curiosity. But from what Dawn was saying, they just don’t want to appear too nosey. And yet, they will happily regale a visitor with tales of their own (as you can see from this blog).

You might wonder how Dawn and I managed to have any conversation at all during the last eight weeks, what with my unwillingness to carry on unless directly asked, and her reluctance to probe for more information unless it was freely volunteered! But little things seep through. Thirty seconds here, a few minutes there, in the street on the way to the co-op. A profile builds up over time. Sometimes it’s confusing: I can’t remember whether Dawn told me a snippet about herself, or if someone else told it to me about her. Of course, these details are important, but perhaps not as important as the fact that little bits of time were shared together over several weeks.

* * * * *

A few final snippets:

Jo came into the gallery yesterday. She wanted to check her email. Her daughter had called her from America to tell her to go check it. I helped her log in, and there were two messages. In the first, her daughter wrote to say “it’s great you finally got an email account”. The second was a link to a jokey website, some spoof on Star Wars promoting organic vegetables. So, not an overly information rich start to Jo’s cyber career. Give her time, though, and she’ll be hooked. Jo is turning 85 on Saturday. Our gallery dinner will also be her birthday celebration.

Pip also popped in during the afternoon to see if I needed any extra tools. He lent me a very nice electric drop saw, which, together with Glen’s nail gun, should see my bench built in no time. Which will help, since there are more than enough other things to keep me occupied for the rest of the week.

Florence, the Tea Rooms princess, came to visit me. Cristina brought her for a walk. We played “giant will eat you up” featuring me as the giant with my big steel cap boots and her as the little animal that gets eaten up. Florence loves to play games like this over and over and over again. No matter how many times, she never gets tired. In fact, the more repetitions, the more she gets whipped up into a frenzy. Florence must be about 3 or 4 years old, but actually, I have no idea really, and I’ve never asked. She’s damn cute though.

2 Responses to “Kellerberrin Wednesday 25 May 2005”

  1. Roger Rooney Says:

    You mention in your blog about been given a couple of buttons, one being marked around the outside, “W.A. Fire Brigades . 1909,” and coloured silver.
    About fifteen years ago I dug up a similar button in a garden in Geraldton, except that the colour is gold. Around the inside (obverse?) side is the maker’s name: Stokes $ Sons . Melb.
    Unfortunately the metal loop for stitching the button to a uniform is missing.
    Apparently there have been various Acts to do with the Fire Brigades of W.A.
    These were (after a quick search through Google):
    Fire Brigades Act 1898, District Fire Brigades Act 1909, Fire Brigades Act 1916 and amendments, Fire Brigades Act 1942 and amendments.
    So as you can see, 1909 was a significant date. Anyway you probably know a darned sight more about it than I do (which wouldn’t be difficult). I just thought you might be interested.



  2. Lucas Says:

    Hi Roger

    thanks for your remarks about the fire brigade buttons! Indeed, my buttons also have the “STOKES & SONS VICTORIA” name on the inside of the button.

    You have piqued my curiosity. According to wikipedia, the Western Australian Fire Brigades’ Board was formed in 1909, so that might be why the buttons commemorate that particular date.

    Unless they were kept in immaculate storage all this time by Vernon (and his father before him), my guess would be that my particular buttons are newer than 1909, and the date is just a part of the button-memorial.

    Here are a few photos of my button for comparison: front and back.

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