In August, 1961, at the age of 13, I remember watching the black-and-white television news footage of armed soldiers pushing through a crowd of people, thrusting them aside to the left and right.  Ignoring the cries and pleas from those around them, other soldiers unrolled fencing wire and began erecting a tall fence.  When a mother tried to push past them to the other side, they grabbed her roughly and flung her back behind them.  She picked herself up and clung to the wire, on the other side of which stood her little boy, crying and shocked.  I was very angry and deeply upset.

For days after this broadcast, the television news showed people crossing the border, from West to East in a steady stream in an effort to reunite with their families.  But no-one was allowed to cross the other way.  The wire was not strong enough to stop the rebellious ones, so masons moved in and erected a concrete wall.  Those who tried to cross that wall, were shot.  I could not believe that people could be so unfeeling, and could treat people as items.  It was the first of many lessons about the iniquities of oppressors at all levels, worldwide, that I was to learn as I grew.

By the time the wall came down in 1990, the people of Berlin were not the only ones to rejoice – the world, involved via the global television broadcasts, rejoiced with them.  they saw families reunited, as holes were sledge-hammered through the grafittied panels, and people clambered over the rubble in their haste to reach FREEDOM!

After many days the escapees from the East began to make their way home again.  With the wall gone it was not necessary to live on the West side to have freedom.  With the wall gone Berlin was once again a united city, socially at least.  By the time the wall came down the younger people were East Berliners –  only the older people and those dispossessed of family and home remembered how it had been.

Pieces of wall were sold as souvenirs.  A rock concert by Pink Floyd called The Wall was held over Hitler’s Bunker, where the wall was built and knocked down amidst a spectacular light and sound show.  The wall had been placed into History as an EVENT.  How many, I wonder, will only remember the rock concert in years to come.

(C) Copyright  Jud House  April 1997

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Short Story: IN THE OLD DAYS

“In my day,” the 96 year old man said loudly, “it was crystal sets for radios – no TV then let alone videos an’ that.”

His young greatgrandkids, their parents, and their grandparents looked at each other across the dinner table.  Their greatgrandmother, who was sitting in an armchair nearby, smiled quietly.

“What’s a crystal set?”

“A very primitive form of radio that people built themselves,” said their granddad.

“The thing I find scary,” put in their grandmother, ”is that these kids never knew a time when man hadn’t walked on the moon.”  She shook her head.  “Just think of it.  They were born after it happened, so their world includes that fact.”

The kids turned to look at her, still silent.

“In our time,” she continued, “we saw rockets go from fiction to fact.  I remember when it was unusual to see a plane fly overhead.”

The old man looked at all the faces, fiddled with his hearing aid and stated, “Never mind rockets!  I flew the first plane here in Australia, for TAA.  And when I was a kid there weren’t any cars, just buggies.”

“What did you do for entertainment then?” his grandson asked.

“We had our own dance bands – I played sax, you know.  And drums.  And the goanna.”  The young people laughed, except his daughter.  She’d heard it before.  Many times.

There was a lull in the conversation as the icecream dessert was placed in front of them.

“Mmm.  Nice.”



“We made our own icecream in those days,” the old man bellowed.  “Had
to turn a handle for hours mixing it.”

“Like a churn,” his son-in-law put in.

“Then we took it next door to the picture theatre to sell.  My mum played the piano for the silent films.  We had a shop next door.  That’s where the local dances were held too.”

“The shop?”

“No.  The theatre.  They’d clear out the seats and our band used the stage.  We were pretty good too.”  He grinned smugly.

“It’s weird to think how many changes took place this century.  Amazing really.  No wonder people have trouble keeping up.  No wonder there’s so much stress nowadays.”

“Dad’s seen – well we’ve both seen an incredible number of changes in our lifetime – cars, planes, TV’s, computers.”  The old lady threw up her hands.

Her daughter leant forward.  “And to think that the Middle Ages stayed the same with virtually no progress for a thousand years.  It’s so hard to believe.  I guess because we can’t imagine it, picture it.”  She paused then added, ”No wonder Catweazle had such a hard time.”  They all laughed.

“You know, GrandDad and I went on our honeymoon in a Tiger Moth plane.  We landed in a paddock and stayed the night with farmers while GrandDad fixed the plane.  Then we flew on the next day.”

The young people were stunned.  The grandson opened his mouth to speak, but his grandfather’s voice came out.  He hadn’t realised, as old deaf people don’t, that others were talking.

“On one of my TAA flights in a prop plane we got stuck at Oodnadatta.  You know where that is?”

The young kids shook their heads.

“It’s near Coober Pedy,” their father said.

“That’s right.  Out in the desert up near Woomera where you were.  Well anyway, we got stuck there.  The battery died and I couldn’t get the motor to turn over.  With a plane
full of people in the boiling heat.”  He chuckled.  “So we got a long rope, ran it through the motor, got the passengers to run away from the plane pulling as hard as they could on the rope, while the airport bloke turned the prop and I started the plane from in the cockpit.”

“What happened?”  They were all listening now.

“It started first go.  The passengers piled back in and we took off.  They were all sworn to secrecy as it was definitely against regulations.  But we couldn’t sit there in the boiling heat all day.”

“Just think how interesting it would be to have a reunion with those people.”

“Yeah.  You could put a notice in the papers, over the radio and see if any are still alive.”

His wife smiled.  “GrandDad never told anyone about it before.”

“I think he’d be safe telling about it now though,” said her daughter.  She sat back surveying the table.

“Four generations here.  What a difference in experiences we’ve all had so far.  And not just us oldies.  The kids have their own stories to tell.  And the littlies will have theirs in time.”  She looked around the table at them all.  “I wonder what they will be?”

(C) Copyright Jud House  18/08/20011

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