I am That Blind Man: One Woman’s Story [Part III]

CHAPTER TWO…home is where your start is……

I loved and enjoyed both my grandparents.

Grandpa was quite an eccentric, small wiry man, with a fierce intellect and curiosity. One of the first electrical engineers in Australia, he ran the powerhouse in Tamworth when it became the first town in the Southern Hemisphere to have electric street lighting, albeit in honour of the Prince of Wales’ visit. He built and installed the first x-ray equipment at Tamworth Hospital, (having got the plans sent out from America), where he became the honorary radiographer, simply because he enjoyed it. Later he and his young family of three children moved to Murwillumbah where he was in charge of the powerhouse there, significantly improving and increasing its output within the first ten years, training all the staff, and technicians himself.
Grandpa also had a few hobbies, as well as his radiography, which he also continued in Murwillumbah.
One of them was photography so he built his own enlarger out of a large Golden Circle pineapple tin. He also loved his garden and grew spectacular gladioli, )long before Dame Edna Everidge made them famous), winning prizes for them, invented numerous things, from a macadamia sheller and sorter through to electrical and chemical contraptions and formulae, all of which he gave away. Patents and business were things for other people who had a business head on their shoulders.
He preferred instead to spend his spare moments of every day on a variety of projects. He loved creating things in wood and improving and changing things around the home. He made an electric lawnmower, for which his sons were obliged to hold the lead to avoid him running over it. My uncle and the second eldest in their family, Rex, charged his friends money for the privilege and novelty of holding the lead instead of him.
There’s a story about another of my grandpa’s eccentricities. One day Theo decided the knobs on the top of the dining room chairs were ugly, so went to his workshop, got a saw, and sawed off the offending protuberances, much to his wife’s horror when she arrived home to find the alterations had taken place. To this day you can still see the saw marks on the tops of the chairs, although they look wonderful in our dining room.

Gardening, developing photos, inventing crazy gadgets around the home, playing with imported electric trains which ran around the lengthy verandahs on tracks laid in time for the boy’s bedtime, so fathers could play at being little boys, were all passions for Grandpa. He also loved making firework rockets.

This became a big event in the local area. Children from all over Murwillumbah were drawn like the mice by the pied piper to Grandpa’s treasure trove of a workshop and were immediately enlisted into action. Nobody came to watch. They all had a job.
Mum says her job, being the youngest in the family, was always to roll the long wicks, while others made the casings, the rollers for which Grandpa had designed and built himself. The stars and gunpowder came from China.

Every New Year’s Eve they would take the rockets, which stood taller than a man, down to Kingscliffe beach and let them off. One year he didn’t do it and the crowds who had always come to spectate were disappointed and said so. Thus a tradition began.

During World War II Grandpa turned his pyrotechnic skills to manufacturing emergency flares for the Royal Australian Navy. Having always been in a reserved occupation and too short for the trenches of World War I, this was a way in which he felt he could contribute to the war effort.
The best thing about Grandpa was his love of children. But that is not surprising for he never grew up himself. And when he died at 89 years young, he was remembered and regarded as a true Peter Pan.
And sadly, it was not until then that eyes turned to Grandma. at least, the grandchildren’s eyes. For she had been overshadowed by this enigmatic, energetic and centre stage performer.

~ to be continued….

© Jan Stead, JEMproductions, 2008

I am That Blind Man: One Woman’s Story [Part III] by 

_This is Chapter 2 of ‘I am That Blind Man’, or at least the first half of the chapter, for it has a natural break in the middle. You will notice that this chapter is not about me; instead I turned my attention to two very special people in my life. _
They are worth far more than a chapter. One day I will write more on them.

Thank you so much for reading this next instalment.

An avid photographer, both still and moving, since I was 10 years old, I later discovered and developed a particular love of macro, which is one of my main genres. More recently, however, my repertoire has broadened to include stained glass windows and particularly the stunning beauty of outback New South Wales and South Australia.
I hope you enjoy the beauty of the Creation, captured and presented here for you.

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  • Bev Woodman
    Bev Woodmanover 6 years ago

    Beautiful chapter and such a wonderful tribute to your grandfather. These memories should never be lost, future generations will get a kick out of this one for sure.

    Your story though reminds me of my own dad because he was an inventor, always made do with what he had and improvised. A gadget would come out on the market and dad would build something similar. We always claim he probably invented the first whipper snipper because he built one with a washing machine motor mounted on a timber platform with wheels. He used a car choke cable as the cutting wire and yes it was powered by electricity. That thing would cut anything in its path, even concrete and I’d hate to think what it would do to your toes. Fun memories.

  • oooh! I think there’s a story or two there also, about your father Bev. I look forward to reading it. The tidbit you’ve shared raises expectations and whets the appetite.
    Yes, my grandfather was quit a man, before his time in many ways…he got a beating for putting an electric motor on his mother’s sewing machine when he was 12, apparently. And seeing that he was born in 1882, (I remember as our first son was born 101 years to the day after his great grandfather), well, that’s not bad going.

    I often wonder if we’ve lost that inventiveness and creating and building things for particularly purposes in the last generation or so? Our society has become so materialistic that we do the ‘we want it now’ thing…and also there are heaps of things on the market now that you can often find what you need out there.
    What a pity your dad didn’t market his whipper snipper (monster)! With a couple of modifications, I suspect, he could’ve been rich!!

    Thanks for the memories and such a wonderfully detailed comment.


    – Jan Stead JEMproductions

  • Bev Woodman
    Bev Woodmanover 6 years ago

    Your welcome Jan anytime – thanks for the nice words about my wonderful man!

  • C J Lewis
    C J Lewisover 6 years ago

    Your grandfather sounds like a terrific fellow Jan…I think the years of our grandparents & parents were the Golden Years….everything seems to have gone down hill from those times..as yous said: Our society has become so materialistic that we do the ‘we want it now’ thing… and that is such a great shame really…being inventive & creative…teaches us so much and the young ones of today are missing out of such wonderful lessons to be had in life.
    Will head for part IV now…so far very interesting read :)

  • THank you CJ…I once talked to my grandfather about the amazing life he’d had, going frojm horse and buggy to man on the moon, being one of the first and founding members of the Electrical Engineers (Society?) in the country, seeing the first electric city streetlights~ at his instigation and to man on the moon! My mum added that he was ahead of his time.
    He responded with an impish grin “No!! I was bron at just the right time!”
    And I think he was spot on. He had the opportunity to be a pioneer in a groundbreaking, scientifically pioneering time.


    : )

    – Jan Stead JEMproductions

  • C J Lewis
    C J Lewisover 6 years ago

    He had the opportunity to be a pioneer in a groundbreaking, scientifically pioneering time. Which is why he was here at that time…he also had a scientific mind…and as part of the collective consciousness of those type of people at that time….groundbreaking events happened…it’s all relative, I believe :)

  • CJ, I hadn’t noticed you’d left a comment all those months ago. Please forgive me for ignoring you! lol!
    Your comment is wonderful, detailes and thoughtful too, and fascinating to read. The commentary on my grandfather is insightful and illuminating.

    I think you’re right about being here at the time he was; My mum once said he was ‘ahead of his time, but he replied ’No! I’m right at the right time…all the things I’ve seen. In my lifetime we’ve gone from horse and buggy to man on the moon and you can’t get much better than that!’

    : )

    – Jan Stead JEMproductions

  • adgray
    adgrayover 6 years ago

    BRAVO! ☼
    This is a fantastic tribute to your grandfather!
    opportunities for men like him just don’t come about much any more!
    My brother is like him as is my father and both my grandfathers and to an extent my mother & myself. Skik is like him too.
    I think there are still those inventors out there it’s just that nowadays there is such a glutton of product and focus on material wealth that our clever inventors have been ignored!
    Every person has a purpose on this earth in this existence – even if it is just as one of the receivers / one of the masses. In some things we are the receivers and in other things we are the inventors!
    Chookas! ♥

  • Alyssa, I love your words and perspective, as well as your appreciation. He is a wonderful subject to write about and I feel very blessed to have had him as a grandfather. I talk about him often, when the situtaion is right, such as when I’ve been teaching science and technology, particularly studying electricity.
    But I agree that innovation and invention by the average person in their backyard or garage has largely been squashed, which is very sad, for the ideas and disposition are still out there.

    : )

    – Jan Stead JEMproductions

  • C J Lewis
    C J Lewisover 6 years ago

    Your grandfather knew his reason for being…he was a light in the darkness for those around him :))

  • What a wonderful image….but i actually think he liked the light shining on him!!
    Wait till you read the next part on my grandmother…she was the one that focussed the spotlight on him!

    But I can see how you could get that impression, and in a professional sense he was very much this, quite literally. (He arranged forTamworth to be the first ‘town’ in the Southern Hemisphere to have electric street lighting!)

    Very astute of you to see this in my writing about him though…I didn’t realise that came through.

    : )

    – Jan Stead JEMproductions

  • C J Lewis
    C J Lewisover 6 years ago

    What I meant above by saying: he was a light in the darkness for those around him was to do with a much deeper sense of his being than his professional one of bringing street lighting to Tamworth…although that is definitely a light in the darkness…lol…what I meant was people looked up to him for guidance…on many levels…including personal/spiritual…I sense he was a man of God…had a deeper understanding of that side of life more so than others around him at those times :)

  • C J Lewis
    C J Lewisover 6 years ago

    Meant to also add…loving the new avatar you have there…lovely, bright and cheery :)

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