School was not my favourite place, but I may have continued into my senior years. Truth was, mum could not afford to send any of us to University. I was told, ‘because of your lack of talent’, you had better leave school.
After finalising my school certificate, I enrolled at day-secretarial college, and my sister did as well in the same year.
Immediately after college, I secured a secretarial job at the Bowral branch of the State Bank of NSW. I loved this job. The bank uniform was a neat powdery-blue mini, slim fitting, accentuating my form. I strutted the main street of Bowral, turning heads and attracting my fair share of attention.
After about a year at the bank, I was told I needed to learn the teller’s job as well. I did not want to be a bank teller and it was not long until I found another job at the Berrima County Council in Bowral.
With money of my own, I paid my mother board, and then spent much of my income on clothes. Finally getting out of home-made. I was not interested in make-up, clothes were my way of standing out.
I saw the fashion statements trendy people from Sydney were making, including my brother Jos, wearing their John and Marivale designs. I shopped at Snellings in Bowral, the clothes were an acceptable second best. John and Marivale was expensive, only available in Sydney and the designs were generally for girls of a size 8 and with tiny boobs.
With no car, I accepted all invitations for dates in order to get out and socialise. I needed to explore the neighbourhood and not remain in the small confines of our little cottage in Welby.
After having been brought up in a strict religious environment, with the fear of ‘hades and hellfire’ being drummed into me. Sex before marriage was considered a great sin, the result of which was spending eternity in hell, suffering insane pain and agony. No decent boy would go out with girls who slept around.
Trouble was, I knew nothing about the world, especially about sex.
During my college years, I had some light bleeding for a few days. I was worried and praying to God at night, too afraid to tell my mother. Perhaps God was punishing me for being bad. Such as, being infatuated about Warren Scott, lying about puffing on a cigarette, and lying about where I was going, to the pictures with Clarry Ireland for instance instead of going to the dahlia festival parade, or sneaking off to the local coffee shop instead of the Presbyterian fellowship.
One evening Mum said, “Elly, did you know there is a thing called menstruation?”. Of course, I had not!
Mum with her concern for Jos was explicit in his education but she missed the boat when it came to me. Thinking back to those times, sex education would have been more valuable, than bible studies.
I fumbled through this though, but what I had not taken into account was what happened when I said “no” to boys.
These days, hearing about the “me-too” movement, I can relate, but now girls are calling out unacceptable behaviour, these girls are brave in raising the issues in order to implement change. Boys need education on how to behave, and accept the word no.
Some boys are inexperienced, however, it’s about education and what is acceptable behaviour in our society. What are the role models doing? What are the rock stars doing? The role models were immortalised and everything they did was copied and not called out for what it was. Totally unacceptable.
My experience was that once I accepted the offer to get into the back seat of the boy’s car, and I would be saying no to sex, the boy often kept on insisting, persuading, trying to force the issue. I would say “no”, but often it would result in sex anyway and I would not see the guy again.
If the result was sex I would not see the guy again but if there was no sex, I would not see him again either. I was confused. But one thing was certain to me, we were sex objects. They were scoring and telling their mates about it. If girls said no, they were frigid and if they said yes, they were moles.
The decent boys, such as Bruce Cameron, Glen Bate, and Jimmy Hindmarsh were far a few between, boys who dated without the purpose of sex and then disappear.
Luckily, I was not in the dating scene for long, I met my husband in my early teenage years. He was brought up with good values. These values he handed down to our boys.
At the Berrima County Council, there was a married man in a senior position. Each time I needed to go into his office he would indicate he wanted me to sit on his lap, I raced out ASAP each time. This was a male dominated domain, and apart from the one, all the males were decent and fantastic to work with. So, it is, as always, the few spoiling the reputation of all others.
The “me-two” movement has taken far too long to arrive. No means no, no matter how short our skirts, how timid, or how vulnerable we are. Girls need to be put into positions due to merit not because they are being intimidated into sex. Men and boys need to think about how they would want their daughters, sisters, or close friends to be treated.
After reading the autobiography of Jimmy Barnes, “Working Class Boy” and “Working Class Man” and I was totally shocked. Jimmy continually justifies his bad behaviour with stories about his upbringing. I would go as far as to say, it is about time some men stop justifying their behaviour, and instead ask themselves, “is this how I want my sisters, sons and daughters to be treated”. I am also talking about drug induced anger, violence and abuse.
I experienced sex without consent in my teenage years, it troubled me, but it did not mess with my head. I proportioned some of the blame to myself, I was not strong enough.
To the girls and women reading this, please be strong and demand a firm NO if that is your intention, and do not be afraid to speak out about bad behaviour and specifically about abuse.
The House of Merivale was an Australian phenomenum by entrepreneurs John and Merivale Hemmes, mavericks in the Australian fashion scene.
The Merivale designed clothes revolutionised Australian fashion. The clothing catered mostly for 18 to 25-year-old men and women, and was the first specialty fashion boutique in Australia, becoming famous also on the catwalks of London.
The John and Merivale phenomenon influenced a generation of Australians and their fashion ideals. A place to go for the latest in music, fashion and make-up, and was the first store in Australia to sell the mini. John and Merivale was so popular, teenagers often would be lined up outside the door.