Trusty creeks were paths to adventure

Jack Johnson. 128638_02

The late Jack Johnson was the author of When The Clock Strikes, a fascinating account of growing up in Dandenong, his years tending to the city’s pipes and drains as a plumber and bringing up a family with wife Frances in their beloved home in Macpherson Street.

Our explorations from the other side of the McCrae Street bridge took us past the Kidds Road bridge heading north.
This makes us sound like a smart bunch of explorers in short pants, but in reality we did not know at that age which was north, south, east or west, for when we were in the dense bush, most of the time we could not see the sun.
So, when on an adventure, we followed our trusty creeks.
One of the first things we had learned was that they would all lead us back to central Dandenong and one of our bridges.
One day when we were skinny dipping in one of our swimming holes that were in and near the Police Paddocks, this old bloke came wandering along one of the tracks, and stopped to talk to us.
When we were kids we considered anyone with a moustache or beard as old.
He was dressed in clothes that made him look like a cross between Robinson Crusoe and Dr Livingstone.
He had a long walking staff which Nipper reckoned was a broken vaulting pole.
I thought it was a waddie for snake bashing.
He was carrying so much gear he looked like a one-man band.
He was lost, but he had a compass that could have navigated the Queen Mary liner.
This was the first time we had seen a compass.
Jinnie thought it was a small sundial.
The old bloke was wearing a stained pith helmet, so Nipper thought he may have been an off-duty cop from Oakleigh or somewhere.
We also thought he may have once been in the Indian Army.
He must have been a bird watches as he had a pair of field glasses hanging from a strap around his neck.
We started to direct him back to Heatherton Road, but he said he had come along Study Road, so we had to give him different directions.
When we decided this thing he had was a compass, Nipper said: “Well it did not do him much bloody good. He still got lost.”
As young explorers, we had already followed the Dandenong Creek out past Wellington Road to Scoresby and discovered the Corhanwarrabul Creek where Caribbean Gardens and Lake Tirhatuan are today.
The paddocks south of Heatherton Road, we entered from the gravel and grassed rivulets of the unmade end of David Street by crawling under a barbed wire fence and cutting through the open paddock that ran below the large clay pit of the hillside which supplied the clay for the Ordish Fire Brick Company on Stud Road.
When we went to our beloved Police Paddocks, we came alongside the creek through the bull paddocks to the Heatherton Road wooden bridge, which was too low even for us kids to walk beneath.
We therefore had to climb over the barbed wire fence and jump across the deep drain which ran along Heatherton Road and cross the bridge to cut through Essex Park farm and get to the Police Paddocks and beyond.

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