Mission to DJs

By Geoff Adams

Let me tell you a funny story about how old Colin nearly killed his saintly old grandma.

Accidentally, of course.

It came about because I was charged with taking the frail old duck into the city as she wanted a new dress for her 80th birthday party.

As I recall it was the very early 1970s, so I loaded the family treasure into the car and we headed into town.

She wanted to go to David Jones, firstly because she believed that meant she would be getting something sensible (she had not quite kept up with modern marketing) and secondly, she could not remember when she had last actually been in the city.

So we got a park and I escorted her through the front door of DJs and steered her through the riff-raff and towards the escalator.

If she hadn't been in front of me she would never had made the party that weekend.

Because grandma did not only not realise the stairs were moving, she had never actually heard of an escalator, let alone been on one.

Her feet went straight out from under her and she fell straight back into my arms.

Which saved her little eggshell-like noggin from a horrible introduction to the cement floor hidden beneath the lino.

The whole experience left her a tad shaken and by the time the party frock had been chosen, paid for and wrapped we also chose the lift to get back to the ground floor.

And she was a little leery of that as well.

It might sound funny, it certainly was as I replayed the story, with a few small embellishments, to assorted aunts, uncles, cousins and assorted hangers-on at the party.

But it also made me stop and think about what an amazing experience life must have been for this simple, honest and utterly adorable little woman.

She grew up on a hardscrabble wheat block on the west coast of South Australia.

They had a horse and cart to get around, no car.

For that matter no farm trucks or tractors either.

She was born while Victoria was still on the throne – the Queen, not those morons south of the river – in a world where everyone knew their place and where nearly everyone walked if they wanted to reach that place.

Yet in her lifetime she also lived through two world wars (her husband died too young from wounds in the first one, and one of her sons was shot to bits, but survived, in the second), the Great Depression (during which, among other things, she provided free haircuts to the local down and outs as well as her husband and six sons) and, most incredibly I would have thought, got to see a man walk on the moon.

She went from a world where the horseless carriage barely existed, let alone planes, to a world where we were beginning to explore the boundaries of our universe.

So I remember catching up with her in the year before she died and could not help but share a laugh about those "magic stairs".

Or resist asking her what she thought was the most amazing thing she had seen or done in her time.

I was expecting something to do with technology, from spaceships to computers, or farms that only needed machines and not men. Even her first flight.

“Col,” she said, her eyes going all misty: "The days my first child, my first grandchild, and then great grandchild, were put in my hands are the days I will never forget.”

Of course you would realise it takes a lot to move your correspondent to tears.

And even though I was that first grandchild, I still wasn't breaking down. As you would expect.

But I did suddenly have to point out something in her garden so she would look the other way.