xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' The Font of Noelage: The Invisible Man

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

The Invisible Man

When I was about 9 years old my family moved from 7th Avenue Inglewood and went to live in a big double storey boarding house at No 8, Aberdeen Street in Perth. I lived there with my parents and my two younger sisters, Valerie and Kathleen. Also living in that huge house were my Grandma and my mother’s older unmarried siblings, Aunty May and Uncle Ray and my widowed Aunty Millie and her two sons, Maurie and Raymond Carr. Also living in the house for a while were three sisters, the Sinclair girls, Patricia, Clair and Colleen who ranged in age from about 21 to 13. They shared two bedrooms on the second floor.

It was 1947 and in post-World War 2 Perth building materials were in short supply. My parents owned a block of land in Mount Lawley and we were living at Aberdeen Street waiting for my dad to get a permit to build our new house. We finally got the building permit in 1950 and moved to Mt Lawley in July, 1951.

I enjoyed living at Aberdeen Street.  Although I was only young, I could walk into Perth and explore my city playground. My friends and I used to play hide and seek in Boan’s Department Store. Each school day afternoon I used to catch the number 18 tram from  Christian Brothers Highgate, in Harold Street, to go my Aunty May’s Lucky Bunny lottery kiosk at 119 Barrack Street. At about 4-30 each afternoon Aunty May would give me a calico bag containing ticket butts and money to take to the Lottery’s Commission building in St George’s Terrace. She paid me five shillings a week which I thought was very generous of her. I enjoyed running around the streets of Perth so much that I would have done it for nothing. Aunty May told me not to go by the same route each day. In fact, I had about eight ways of navigating between Aunty May’s kiosk and the Lotteries offices, so before long I got to know Perth very well indeed.

My cousins, Maurie and Raymond were 11 years and 8 years older than me and I thought of them fondly as my older brothers. I idolised them and wanted to be in their company at every opportunity. What they thought of me is not so easily defined. I think they thought of me as their pet. At the time they both had dogs but I was the very young blood relative living with them that they could tease, get to run messages or fetch things for them, play cricket or football with them in the backyard, use as punching bag or play tricks upon. Of course I was about ten and they were just on either side of twenty. As I grew older we found that we really did enjoy each others company and throughout our lives we were really all like brothers.

Maurie and Raymond liked boxing and were good at it. At the tail end of the war Maurie was in the RAAF and fought very capably in several inter service boxing matches held at the WACA ground. They had various types of boxing gloves and there was a punching bag hanging from the ceiling in the large outdoor washhouse. However, aftern I started living with them at Number 8, Aberdeen Street, they quickly discovered that what they really liked to do was to get me to hold a pillow or two on my stomach while they took turns at giving me pounding combinations of straight left and right punches followed by a furious flurry of left and right crosses and the occasional right uppercut. They said my grunting as each of their well delivered punches sank into the pillow gave a more realistic touch to their boxing drills. Sometimes it hurt a bit, but I didn’t mind. At least they were paying me some attention. On one occasion Maurie landed an uppercut with such force that it lifted me onto his bed which then banged loudly against the wall. Seconds later my Aunty Millie came rushing into their bedroom.

My Aunty Millie was a beautiful, gentle person. She had been widowed at the start of the Great Depression when Maurie was three and Raymond just six months old. There was no Widow’s Pension in those days but, with some help from her family, she worked hard during the deprivations of the depression and the war years to provide for her boys. However, on this occasion, on hearing the bed crash into the wall she raced in to bedroom and castigated her sons as I sat on the bed, gasping for air, with my back against the wall. “Maurie and Raymond! I have told you before that you are not to be boxing in the bedroom. You are damaging the furniture and the walls. If you want to box, go outside.” Then she left.

I thought that my much loved Aunty Millie could have made some mention of the fact that along with the furniture and the walls, their dear little cousin Noel was also coming off the worse for wear.

When I had been living at Aberdeen Street for about a year I went into town one Saturday afternoon and saw a picture which I think was called The Invisible Man’s Revenge. It was quite a creepy picture but I was fascinated by the concept of making myself invisible. The next afternoon I was in Maurie and Raymond’s bedroom watching them play a game of chess. While they were concentrating on their game I was babbling on about the Invisible Man and how great it would be to be invisible.
After they finished their game Raymond looked at me and said, “Would you really like to be invisible?”

“Would I? You bet I would. It would be great. I could walk in to the shops and take comics and ice creams and drinks and no one would know who it was.”

With that Raymond left the room. He came back about two minutes later with a large white jar and a medium sized mirror that used to hang on some hooks in the bathroom It was about two feet tall by one foot wide (60cms x 30cms).

“Come and sit here,” said Raymond as he placed the jar on the table and Maurie rested the mirror against some books. I sat down. Raymond slowly turned the large white jar around and I was amazed to read on the side of the jar in big black print, “Vanishing Cream.”

“Are you sure that you really want to be invisible?” asked Maurie.

“You can be if you want to,” added Raymond.

Suddenly, I wasn’t so sure. I was looking incredulously at the jar of Vanishing Cream. Raymond and Maurie were telling me that if I smeared it on my face it would disappear. “It is vanishing cream. Just put it on your face,”

Raymond also urged me to “Put on the cream and it will vanish.” Now, though, I was not too sure at all. In the picture the Invisible Man had gone crazy. Maybe this was not such a good idea.

“Well just put some cream on your nose and see what happens,” said Raymond.

“I think he’s too scared to do it,” said Maurie, using what I found out many years later was called reverse psychology. Well, that was true. Maurie was right. Too right, I was scared, but I did not want my idols to think I lacked courage so I put my finger into the vanishing cream and applied it to the tip of my nose.

"Now rub it in,” said Raymond. I rubbed it in, waiting for my nose to disappear. But it didn’t.
Raymond and Maurie were killing themselves laughing.

“See,” said Maurie. “You rubbed it in and now it has vanished.

“No it hasn’t,” I said, putting my finger on my still very visible nose.

“Not your nose. The cream. The cream has vanished. That’s why they call it Vanishing Cream.”
My cousins burst out laughing again. I was glad I had made my cousins happy. I was even more glad that my face had not vanished.

P.S. I am not sure if they still sell Ponds Vanishing Cream but in those days it was what my mother and my aunties used to try and make their wrinkles vanish. It didn’t work for them, either.

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