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U3A Writing: First Love

Jim Moore tells a tale of faithfulness.

At primary school we were arranged in a class according to our test results. Highest marks were right at the back. I think this was really to allow the teachers to keep a close eye on the lower achievers who were right under their noses at the front. I came equal first, so I had to sit at the back with Margaret Williams.

In High School, this rule didn't apply, and we chose who we would sit with. We had lots of girls in our classes, and I was friendly with all of them, but had no-one specially as a close friend. A year at Mildura Branch University, then I moved to Melbourne to work. In between school and Uni, I had worked at the Merbein Research Station as a lab assistant for CSIR, so now I applied to their successor, CSIRO, and was appointed to Building Research at Highett. Had to get out a map to find it, but as it was on the road to Frankston where we had often been on holidays, I felt quite at home.

I got board with an English migrant couple, whose daughter was a Sunday School teacher at the local Anglican church. She wanted to go on holidays, and persuaded me to take her class. We all had to go on Friday evenings to a training class, and at this first class I was overcome with lust for a tall blonde. The boys said "Be careful, she's only 15, and her name is Jill."

I approached Jill and said "Hullo, I'm Jim."

"I know, because you are a new boy in town."

I took Jill out dancing, and then got invited to her 16th birthday. During the games I had to kiss her, which I did very carefully so as not to frighten her. We went out on the scavenger hunt together, and seemed to click. I took her out many times after that, until one night we got home and had a cuddle on the old couch outside the back door. Unfortunately, we both fell asleep.

I awoke and was dismayed to find that is was 3 am. I woke Jill and sent her inside and pushed my motorbike a long way down the road before I started it. Next morning I got a real serve from Jill's mum, "Anything could have been happening." I thought but didn't say, if you were so worried you could have got up and had a look.

"You needn't think you are getting married until she's 21."

I was recruited by the manager of the Mildura Fruit Co-op, to come back to Mildura to be Outside Representative at Merbein. I arranged for this to be delayed until after Jill's 18th birthday on 2nd November.

Sitting in the car after we had been dancing on the night of her birthday, I told Jill that I was going back to Mildura. I was greeted with a stunned silence. What have I done?

When I went back at Christmas, I asked her about this, and she said "I was so shocked I was speechless."

We wrote to each other regularly, and next time I went down, I asked her Dad if we could be married after her 20th birthday, instead of 21st.

'How will you look after her?"

I just opened my hands and looked at them.

Dad said "OK then."

Jill burst into tears. "If that's how you feel, I better say no then."

"Don't do that, I'll be alright in a moment."

We waited the two years. I travelled to Melbourne every six weeks, except the last Christmas, as we were to be married on the 15th January.

It was a nice wedding at St Stephens, Cheltenham, with a great celebration afterwards. We drove to Maroondah first night, then onto Mansfield, where Uncle Bert was the Station Master. Then onto Buffalo. There was only one sort of accommodation at Mt Buffalo, and that was run by the railways. It you came in on any day, you were charged back to the Wednesday or Saturday previous. We arranged to arrive on Wednesday.

We were quickly absorbed into a group of other honeymooners. I'm not sure how they tell, but it seemed to work. After three wonderful weeks there, we drove back to Merbein to a flat that I had prepared at Mrs Lum's.

The rent was always paid in cash, and not once did we receive a receipt. Some months later we got a letter from a solicitor requesting a meeting, at which we were told that we were 11 weeks behind with the rent. With no evidence to dispute this, we had to pay up and shut up. I quickly organised some alternate accommodation. Bruce Martin's permanent Man's house, as long as we were out by picking. February!

By then we bought an old place in Channel Road. Solid brick, ideal for summer, but hard to heat in winter. We raised three children, which was very handy, as it was just over the channel to the high school. Years later I built a mudbrick house in the back yard, not nearly as big but solar passive.

Over 50 years later, my first love is still with me.

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