It’s funny, you know…; the image of adults one has as a child, compared to the actual reality known by the adults of the time around you. Mrs. Hancock used to cut our hair when we were children…the four of us ; from the oldest brother (about 10 yrs) , down incl’ to my sister, then myself (the youngest about five yrs). We would be marched down across the railway-line by the eldest (“hup-two three four”), each clutching a bob (one shilling) in our sweaty little hands to get that one generic haircut for which Mrs. Hancock was infamous..: “The Baseoh”…about once every couple of months, it seemed, most of the kids in the district would sport a Mrs. Hancock “special”…and we’d be lined up on the railway station going to school, looking like a lot of miniature “Moes” (as in The Three Stooges!) waiting for the train….girls incl’, you know!..I wonder that some social science person didn’t do a study on ; “Demographic by haircut” kind of thing for those days?..there must have been a “Mrs. Hancock” in every suburb…truth be known, I believe most barbers..like most architects, have one basic style..and everything else is a derivative there-off.
The image I had of Mrs. Hancock as a child was of this frumpy old lady, dressed in ‘lop-sided’ cardigan and dress, living in this dreary old fibro house, with creepy shadows and dull lighting…she would sit us in an old stuffed, armless chair next to one of those “side tables” of dark timber and curved legs and armed with scissors, a smelly fag and the endless glass of water, she would attack our tangled locks with all the tactics of “Tojo in a Zero” coming out of the sun!….the fag-end would send an endless swirl of smoke past her wincing eye…she’d take a gulp of water, vice-clasp our head unceremoniously with her left hand and her right hand would start with the then continuous…”snipsnipsnipsnip…snipping” as she dove into the job, to come out the other side in an undisturbed arc, the arm ascending upward to hover above our heads somewhere “sit still child!”..mechanically, continuously, snipsnipsnipsnip snipping !….one sat in a horror of anticipation for the next “strafing” (and you know, I can’t stand being “dive-bombed” by mozzies to this day…I don’t mind so much the bite…it’s the hovering, whirring, buzzing that drives me crazy!). Her house was the last one on that side of the road..behind the train station…I think it was called “Cygnet Terrace” before it was pushed through and became “The Cove Road”…a cold wind would cut down through the barren gullies there in winter.
But it wasn’t till years later, when I first started going to the pub as an older youth, that I realized that the “glass of water” always at her beck, was gin and tonic…..Yes, poor old Mrs. Hancock was a gin-soak….and , going by her familiarity with her fellows in the front bar of The Seacliff Hotel ; an old hand at the game. I suppose that is why her front parlour where she “scalped “ us kids always had the curtains drawn…but , you know…my mother would have heard of that..but then again, many in that “fringe district” where we lived were escapees from reality….my old man bought there because it was cheap land…not now though!….It was at the end of the railway line…hang on, that’s not quite true…there was one more stop..”Hallett Cove”…but that place only got two or three trains a day then and it was the refuge of bankrupts, hermits and criminals….I got to meet quite a few in later years, so can confirm the statement!
Back to the mistaken image of adults one has as a child…I remember also being taken into the front-bar of the Brighton Hotel by my dad as a very young boy..he having a beer and me a raspberry..and this man bending down to me and saying in a beery voice..” hello little fellah..what’s your name…eh? eh?” and I got real scared, but my dad was just smiling…I couldn’t then understand why he didn’t chase the ugly man away!…poor old bastard was just another drunk saying hello to a kid……but then..I was a sensitive child!………………………….still am!
I have to tell you of this bloke…particularly now that a very weird thing happened concerning my curiosity about him…You know that piece I put up about Mrs. Hancock and our haircuts….well, it got me thinking about people around there then and I remembered the Jablonskis family who lived across the road from Mrs. Hancock who used to cut all the kids in the district hair…then I remembered those kids never had the “Hancock baseoh” that we all had!…I rang my old mate Jon Potter, up in Darwin to ask what happened to Adam Jablonskis and about those haircuts….well Potter answers the phone , abuses me as usual and says; “Here, guess who this is?”…and gives the phone to some bloke I didn’t have a clue of!…”It’s Adam Jablonskis”…the other bloke finally says….Hey!….Hey!….WTF!!…what’s going on here, I’m thinking…WOW!…I haven’t seen or heard of Adam for at least forty years…and just when I go to ask someone about him, he turns up on the end of the bloody line!!??….Hey?..Hey?..far out man!….now I’ll HAVE to tell you the story.
The Jablonskis family lived in a fibro house over the road-one down from Mrs. Hancock. I suppose they are Polish..I never thought of asking..no-one seems to have..but then there were many weird names in that fringe district..: Leuschel, Skrypek, Aloia, Verstaphen, Hogben…now there’s a moniker..: “Hogben”…what is that?…Anglo-something?.. I sometimes wonder how they got along…I do remember the Jablonskis kids never sported the “Hancock Baseoh” that many others did…perhaps, being neighbours, so to speak…? Of all the people in the Jablonskis family, and there were a few, I only remember three…Adam…his brother Alex and old Mrs…..
Adam’s brother, Alex, had extraordinary balance..or at least it looked that way…he could have equaled John Travolta as “Vinnie” when he did that twist dance in “Pulp Fiction”…he (Adam’s bro’) would walk like he was forever facing into a force ten gale…I don’t know how he stayed upright, he seemed to be sloping backwards at least twenty degrees from the vertical!….some of us kids would try to imitate him on the railway station as we waited for the school train….no way !..Marlene Oxford, when she spotted him walking on the street, from her window, would hold a broom-handle vertical to see how many degrees from it he leant…she reckons if you made the handle at twelve o’clock, Alex sloped backwards at about one-thirty / two!….she was a wit was Marlene…she married Tex, the fisherman…I must tell you about him and Ingo Skrypek one day.
But Adam was a strange one…he gives proof that one can show all the signs of conservative on the outside, but be totally “unusual” on the inside….he would accept most challenges…Once, Potter, Mick Oxford and some others scrapped their pennies together and bet Adam that for two bob he wouldn’t eat a caterpillar…he accepted..but they then stipulated that THEY would choose the caterpillar…ok…they chose the fattest, hairiest one they could find….he ate it…one bite at a time…..every kid there nearly vomited…Adam, non-plussed, nonchalantly remarked after finishing the job, that it wasn’t the yellow goo that he minded so much as the hairy bits getting between his teeth!…..more vomiting!!
Adam worked for the old PMG.(post masters general dept’) till it got broken up into Telstra … He was one of those old time public servant eccentrics, who gave the service it’s reputation as an imaginative innovator…Adam was in electronics…I remember he showed us kids then how he had rewired his old man’s EH. Holden so he had a row of toggle switches on the dashboard that controlled everything from an electric aerial (novel those days!) to radio and lights and many other fascinating things…he was a marvel!…at least we kids thought so..I often wonder what his old man thought of it all?
Another dare he took up was to drive his car in reverse from Brighton Jetty back to Marino Rocks (home) a distance of approx’ ten miles by road…a challenge he attempted..I say attempted, because he had got a fair way toward success when he was pulled over by the cops up near the top of Brighton road, by the war memorial and asked to “please explain”…he had some difficulty!
Old Mrs. Jablonskis was a bent-backed old lady, who always wore black…we kids thought of her as some sort of witch….and would run from her whenever she came onto the railway station..poor old thing, when I think back on it now…she must have had some tragedy in her life to be wearing that black..as is the custom, I believe…kids added to ignorance are cruel things…I think we must have upset her some days with our insensitivities….little shits!