Growing Old

I was reminded of my childhood today when someone in a tweet made a passing remark about the night cart! For you youngsters reading this, when I was a kid (and we are talking 1958 to 1960)  the thunderbox was in the backyard and twice a week, in the wee small hours of the morning (pun unattended), the night cart would come around and and the carter would discretely although not so quietly, replace the used pan with an empty pan. The pans appeared to be coated with a black substance, I guess it was tar of some form.

Redback vs Lizard – this is not a big lizard and redbacks are quite small By Calistemon – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

As kids we were given a right clip behind the ears if we left any toys in the side passage where the night carter used to pass in the dark – the last thing anyone wanted was that he should slip and fall, especially on the way out.

Also required at this time was whenever heading to the thunderbox, first one would gently lift the toilet seat and check for any redback spiders, which could provide a very nasty surprise if one sat a little too quickly and without checking.

Of course, the redback on the toilet seat is something that as an Aussie, well, it is a cultural thing.

Eventually we had a sullage pit installed and that was the end of the night cart at home, although from 1961 to 1962 one of my chores was to pump the damn thing once or twice a week – and one continued to check the toilet seat until toilets came inside the house.

The old thunderboax, on summer evenings, well, the smell was atrocious and once you performed the redback check, you would them be attacked by swarms of mozzies (mosquitoes). Inside toilets were a long overdue luxury.

Butter, that item that makes pretty much everything better, was item that has changed over my lifetime. The butter is still basically the same as always, churned milk, but these days it comes from the refrigerator rock hard. When I was a kid, it was kept on the bench in the kitchen, covered, ready for use. In winter it was rock hard when you wanted to butter your toast but in summer, you didn’t spread it on but rather poured it onto the toast.

We also had an icebox, and the iceman used to come twice a week to  put another block of ice in the top. It was not so big so the butter remained out but fresh food, meat etc went into the ice box to keep it cool and away from the flies. It didn’t matter than we had fly paper hanging in the kitchen, only about 50% of the flies ever manager to get stuck to the paper and die

Tonight my sister mentioned a kerosene refrigerator, asking did we have one. As soon as she did, my mind remembered the smell of the kerosene in the kitchen. we eventually replaced the ice box with a kerosene refrigerator. The kero fridges work by an absorption process (see for an explanation), although as a five or six year old, I had no idea how it worked, it just did!

So, a load of memories from the mention of the night cart and the smells my memory recalled.

9 thoughts on “Growing Old

  1. expatatlarge 7 May 2020 / 1:45 am

    Great post Tommo. Good to see you’re distracting yourself from harsh reality with some well-timed nostalgia.
    The smell of phenyle in the dunny. Always threw a splash or two into the can. Masked the aroma to a degree. An empty phenyle bottle was cause for concern, if not tears.Thursday afternoon/evening was the dunny man’s schedule for us. Only got caught in there once.
    Maybe grandma had an icebox when we lived up in Coragulac, outside Colac (until I was 3, so 1960), but I’m sure we had a cream, curved-door Kelvinator fridge with a big handle down in Geelong. I had to carry briquets in from the garage in a tall tin scuttle for the coal-fired Aga stove before mum could cook dinner. Minced beef curry (Keens) with pineapple was a staple.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thomo the Lost 7 May 2020 / 7:34 am

      Ah, you’ve reminded me of the fuel stove as well. Hot as Hades in the kitchen once fired up.


  2. Doug 7 May 2020 / 2:40 am

    And now – growing old, we had to take Gus to the vet today. All of a sudden, last night, the old boy couldn’t stand, wouldn’t eat and was in distress. You should miss him.


    • Thomo the Lost 7 May 2020 / 7:36 am

      I saw Gillian’s post in Facebook. Indeed, I will miss my old mate.


  3. Greg Kelleher 7 May 2020 / 8:08 am

    I remember the rabbit man coming once a week. We also had a copper that was connected to our bathtub through a brick wall and if the wanted a bath the copper had to be filled and a fire lit and it would take quite a few hours to get to an appropriate temperature.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thomo the Lost 7 May 2020 / 8:15 am

      The copper in the laundry next to the concrete laundry tubs and the wringer. Two stout lengths of wood for pushing the clothes down into the copper as they were boiled in soapy water. My sister reminded me last night that I was the one turning the handle on the wringer while she fed the clothes through that nan had washed and rinsed. Explains her flat fingers 😀


      • expatatlarge 7 May 2020 / 12:25 pm

        Yes, concrete tubs. There was a copper in the outside laundry of the house we purchased in 1978! We didn’t use it however. We had a Hoover twin tub with my wife’s favorite, the clitoris cycle.


  4. Stephen Caddy 7 May 2020 / 2:39 pm

    Your post is a blast from the past. We had someone doing the same service here in England around about the same time. I’ve no memory of it but my parents told me that as children we called the carter the “clip clop man” because we heard his horse in the night. At least there were no redbacks here. I guess it was somewhere in Lancashire, perhaps an old coal mining village. I moved every one or two years as a kid so I”m not always sure what happened where.

    I first heard about Australian spiders from an aunt who moved to Adelaide when i was a child and from my grandma who sailed over several times to visit her.

    all the best,



    • Thomo the Lost 7 May 2020 / 2:58 pm

      Spiders, snakes, sharks, crocodiles and any other number of fauna or flora.Australia is never really boring. We live by the rule that if it can walk, swim, crawl or fly it will likely eat you, otherwise it will certainly give you a nasty rash!


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