Harold Gaberdine, 72
I was a telegraph pole in the ‘50s. I had been a milkhorse and a publisher’s ashtray as a kid, but standing up out the back of Kalkallo on the Deadly Hume, that was that was my first real full-time job. There was plenty of work, we were all wooden in those days, the cement poles didn’t come in until way later. One of us rots out or falls down or gets dinged up by a drink driver, and there’s an opening for a new bloke. And they were still building a lot of new roads and suburbs … there was as much work as you wanted. Solid work, sort of like security, but it was easy to forget that you go missing and the electricity is down for a whole town or part of the city. Pretty important really. You don’t think so at the time, you are young, it is just what you are doing, you adapt to whatever you have to do, but towards the end when it was a bad bushfire day in summer I got thinking that maybe I should try something else. I had a girl by then and we had put down a deposit on a house ….
In the early ‘70s I was a leather couch in a men’s club. They got rid of me in about 1982, when they redecorated the whole place, there was a spate of that back then, nearly every pub and club got done over like an Italian palace, they gutted all the old pubs. I moved on. I liked the work well enough, but I wasn’t wedded to it like some of the older gents in the trade, they were from before the wars, that was it for them.
I got some casual work as a surveillance camera in the early ‘80s. That was all new then, I was one of the first they employed when they had a big meeting here with lots of heads of state (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting). CHOGM! There was a big hoo-ha at the time, protests, no-one wanted cameras all over the city. CHOGM was a dirty word. Big Brother and all that. But we all survived, didn’t we? Funny thing, I can take you down and point out exactly where I worked, __________ and it looks like I am still there. But those old CHOGM cameras, none of us have worked for years! You just can’t tell from the streets. They’re all bloody scarecrows! I am sure they have their reasons for leaving the scarecrows up. Probably just too lazy to take ‘em all down, that’s usually the answer! Maybe they figure there is some sort of deterrence, but you have to look to find them all the way up there.
I’m just part-time these days, for beer money and to keep me off the streets. I work as a lanyard Mondays and Tuesdays and as a hi-vis vest on a casual basis. No shortage of work with safety equipment, anything in security. I mean, we had the Cold War and nuclear bomb fears back in my day, but people seem to need something to be worried about. Now it is terrorism. If you aren’t doing something about a problem, don’t worry about it, I say. Leave that job for someone else.
My best job? I have to admit I enjoyed being a horse racing photo in the Great Western Hotel in Melbourne in the mid-70s. Pubs were still pubs back then. I felt some little part of all that fun. Office workers, tradies, journos all talking crap and laughing. I’m not one to mourn the past, but I reckon people don’t laugh enough these days, a real belly laugh you know, just the real enjoyment of being alive. Since the day dot, that’s set us apart, hasn’t it? After knock-off, you make your own fun, no matter what your job is.