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Raised a Radical - The Englarts in Brisbane 1920-1939
- Vince Englart


Ted joined the Australia Communist Party in 1928. Kate's sister Nellie had her forebodings and expressed herself to Katie, "Katie, if Communism comes in the front door, religion will go out the back door !!". Which eventually happened - but not at once. Ted never stood in the way of Kate's practice of religion or of the children's religious belief.

Nellie gave Ted the description of the a domestic alter in three sections about 50 ems high, with the sections 10 or 12 cm square - the central section had a cross and on each side were holy statues about 30 ems high - on one side was a figure of Jesus and the other a figure of the Virgin Mary. Ted had the alter built (by Mr. Hiner-?) and the priest from the church attached to the Loretto convent at Coorparoo came to our home to bless the alter. I have a memory of Aunt Nell with her rosary beads counting out a number of Hail Mary's with the six kneeling Englart children before they retired to the dormitory.

On occasions when I was sick as a child I used to gaze in wonderment at the dramatic line drawings illustrating Biblical events in the family Good Book. There was the Creation, with the serpent with Eve and Adam in the Garden on Eden, Noah with two of all animals crowed on to the Ark, followed by the greatest Flood that my childish mind could imagine, though Abraham to Isaac, to Moses, right down to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. I think that Aunt Mary inherited the family bible.

A Communist Party locality branch was established and it met at our place. One member was Billy Walsh whose little fox terrier once grabbed me by the bum, put me off dogs for life. Billy had an engineering background and he had working models of steam engines. On one rare festive occasion I remember Ted and Billy, under the weather (neither drank more than a glass usually), with German sausage wound around their necks. Billy and his wife (name?) and one of their daughters (Roda was one) came to the branch.

Another member was Jim Haughton and his wife Jennie. They were English with broad accents. They used to say "summut,' for "something". Jim was an intellectual type with a particularly anti-religious bent. He was the local mailman and I have a vision of Jim with a mishap with the mail on his push-bike with Jim in the middle of the road roaring at the top of his voice, "Fuck the Virgin Mary" and similar blasphemies. While militantly atheist, Ted never gave voice to blasphemy.

In order to reach an audience the Party branch used to organise "cottage meetings" to which knowledgeable speakers (not necessarily, or not mainly, Communists) who could talk to our neighbours. Dozens sometime attended. Early in the depression we were honoured to have Jessie Street speak at our place. Jessie was born to wealth and privilege, and married to a Judge of the High Court, but she was an avowed socialist and she devoted her life to others, especially the poor and disadvantaged, both nationally and internationally, and, above all, to secure equal rights and justice for women.

She fought against the double standards that existed for men and women in the economy, in matters of sexual behaviour, and in society generally. Jessie Street was a significant voice for working class women, like Katie Englart, attempting to lift themselves out of the second-class status of their lives. Of particular importance was the subject of contraception and Jessie Street was able to advise women on methods of fertility control and family planing.


So far my thoughts have wandered around many topics and reminders from family have made me feel how much more I need to elaborate on matters. Chronological, I ought to continue on with my first accounts of being a wage earner, but I've decided, on prompts from family, that I ought to elaborate on life generally in the 1930s.

By the early 1930s Ted faced very limited employment, often discriminated against by the bosses through the "bull" labor pick-up system, a system prone to corruption (such as workers who paid bribes out of their miserable wages in order to get work). Ted was doubly discriminated against because he not only campaigned against corruption but also because of his militancy during and since the 1928 strike.

The only times that he was sure of work was when there was (not very common) back up of ships in port. I've seen Ted go to work on Monday, work all day, followed by a night shift, and so the next day another double shift getting a kip on the wharf to work on Wednesday, to come home exhausted on Wednesday night.

Once Ted invited the family to visit him at his work. Nowadays, with containerisation, bulk loading and heavy lifting cranes you hardly see the workers in the industry because of the massive equipment. And the port is out of the city. On our visit the Story Bridge wasn't built and ocean going ships were tied up at Victoria Bridge in the heart of the city.

The wharf was crawling with the wharfies - moving around with hand trucks pushing and pulling heavy loads to stack the loose cargo, bags, bales, etc., on to pallets. When the pallets were loaded the wharfie on the ship's deck would give the appropriate signal to the driver of the steam winch to lift the pallet and guide the driver to deposit it out of sight into the cargo hold of the ship.

These operations were fraught with dangers from cargo crushing a worker by falling on him or by pinning him against other cargo or the wall of the ship. Some cargoes had their own dangers such as asbestos, super-phosphate, cement or coal with the menace of dust. Often they were called on to work on freezers loading frozen carcasses dressed in inadequate clothing. Ted always, summer and winter, wore grey flannel shirts to protect his body.

My family first shopped more than a kilometre away at Byrne's "Cash and Carry" until my mother ran out of cash and Byrne's wouldn't "Carry" any more and they put mother into the White Mercantile Agency (debt collectors) to join debts from two doctors, a butcher, and countless others. Ted managed to wangle around the hay and feed merchants ("a man's got to feed his cow so he can feed his kids...". And, of course, Ted grew his own vegetables.

For many years Mum put in an order to Mr Fulham, a kilometre along Leicester Street, who used to allow Mum to run up debt knowing that he would be paid when Mum had the money (indeed I guess Mum would pay him before the debt collectors). Mr Fulham seemed to be a good man. He used to bring a packet of boiled follies when he brought the groceries.

Mr Fulham was also a bit strange, believing in the spirit world. One day he was telling Mum of his adventures with the spirit world. Mum's oven door catch was loose and the door clattered open; Mr Fulham must have thought the spirits had him and he said to Mum, obviously scared, ''Katie, that is a sign!", he exclaimed, "I shouldn't be talking about such things".

Katie had to front up to the demands of the debt collectors more than Ted. On demand from the Housing Commission that they would take action to have us evicted from our home unless my parents reduce their mortgage my mother goes into the office and puts down sixpence (five cents). The clerk looked surprised at mum's very modest offer, and said, "Surely, Mrs Englart, you don't expect me to accept sixpence?". Mum told the clerk that that was all she could afford.

Ted was summoned to the Commission and Ted took his wages record and Ted with some clever arguments over the price of the feeding a man, wife and six kids (eight people) three times a day with humble pies seven days a week (8*3*7 = 168) it exceeded his income. Of course our parents didn't feed us on pies but Ted made his point.

Sick of having to face up to the daily wrangle, Ted put to the family that we sell up our home and buy a smaller place at the seaside but Katie and the kids didn't want to leave our home and friends at Camp Hill. Mum used to be quite bold in what she will do to the bailiff or the police should thy come to evict us - including locking the doors and having a plentiful supply of boiling water to throw over those bastards who attack our fortress.

Mum used to sew flour bags together to be used as sheets and the heavier pollard bags together as blankets. Not as good as woollen blankets but after boiling and let them weather in the sun and rain they did give some protection from the winter cold. The fact that our parents kept us in eggs and milk must greatly advantage us over less fortunate children, but I remember when my father took the meat off his plate to put it on mine.

If I have a criticism of our diet it was that we weren't restricted on sugar (and sugar based food - jam, golden syrup, treacle, sweetened condensed milk) and fat (we all used to like the fat containing the juices from roast meat in the bottom of the dripping bowl). We shared the common ignorance of nutrition of the time.

Our parents would give us two shillings (twenty cents) to walk up to the Cooparoo Junction to buy "specks", fruit damaged beyond sale, indicating our parents knew the value of fruit, even if second best, to the health of the family. Never-the-less, our dental hygiene suffered. I grew up in fear of dentists - Aunt Nell took me up to the dentist, - I had hardly sat in the chair, when I got up and bolted down the stairs and into Old Cleveland Road with Aunt Nell in hot pursuit.

The word "vitamin" was first used by Casimir Funk, a Polish-born biochemist, working at the Lister Institute, London, in 1912. Of course, people have always appreciated the importance of particular foods, e.g. Captain Cook avoided scurvy in his crews by taking on board ship plenty of limes, hence the name limeys. A lot of early Australians who consumed much damper and salted beef suffered from what was called "Barcoo Rot" (scurvy).

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