« 4 - The Old Spice Boys | Main | St Giles Cottage Hospital London 1940 – 1941 »

Useful And Fantastic: A Card Was Born

Joyncie zipped in among the guests at a Greek Orthodox wedding offering them packets of SunWhite rice from his mother’s shop, so all could join in the general throwing. He transcended the linguistic barrier with a most effective sign-language of gambols and gesticulation, interrupted with giggles, but his round eyes alone would have been sufficient.

Val Yule tells of a most remarkable boy.

Joyncie came dancing down the street, with bright and shining freckled face, perky sandy hair, orange shirt and red jeans.

“Quick,” hissed my neighbor, “Shut the door, or we’ll never get him out, not even with the police.”

A boy who would have been the pride of an enterprising upper-middle-class household is a cuckoo-in-the-nest for a decent, apprehensive artisan family. With his available playmates only the factory-workers or unemployed of the future, the cowboys, Indians, Turtles and telly-watchers of the present, Joyncie has to develop his talents unaided, by whatever means are available. Such as Collecting.

All the children in our street regularly came to our doors, selling raffle tickets or collecting for local disasters and school appeals. None of them ever had as much as a paper bag when collecting eggs for the Hospital Egg Day - except for Joyncie, who always brough commercial fillers, and came a week before Egg Day and sometimes a week after as well. He came as a Scout wanting Bobs-for-Jobs, for Junior Red Cross, St. John Ambulance, the local football club, and for any other organisation from which he could wangle a canvasser’s ticket.

He collected stamps, cereal-packet gimmicks, picture-cards and foreign coins for himself on the side, and probably other things as well. Collecting for wreaths after a local bereavement, he was known to succeed in collecting not only from known friends of the family, but from strangers for blocks around, and the shopping-centre as well, including $5 from the wreath-makers themselves, and $3.50 from the funeral parlour where relatives and local children were already viewing the deceased.

For a month before the school Fete, Joyncie collected comics from kids, junk from householders, made his own plastic flowers and novelties, and even went the rounds of the local factories with such persistence - “It would advertise your product -” “What about mediums?” “Technical schools are essential to your survival -” - that the school awarded him a prize of five dollars. Joyncie had collected $530 worth of goods.

If you had marmalade oranges, it needed only a careless remark and Joyncie would turn up with a collection of two sacks-full of jars, bottles and spiders. Too many, too dirty . . . so nothing daunted, Joyncie would round up juvenile bottle-washers and another case of reject oranges from the market.

When we were making toffee-apples for the primary school bazaar, Joyncie collected twelve dozen skewers from six different butchers. Now we had to get in more apples. Then he brought in child helpers, to watch that the toffee would not burn and add unexpected ingredients when adults were not looking. Finally, he lured in so many buyers, who dripped green-and-purple toffee as far as Gertrude Street, that none were left for the sale.

Once he decided he deserved a bazaar in aid of himself, on my front lawn, it being the only piece of open grass in the street of terrace-houses. He protested strongly when the groceries that he said had been donated by well-wishers were returned to his mother’s corner shop.

Joyncie knew more about everyone in Abbotsford than he was told or even overheard, and he was like Paul Revere with news of fire, suicide, lottery prizes, raids by the Vice Squad and impending scandals. He was the first to report a sudden death as a stabbing, with all its details, and the first to reassure everyone that it was a heart attack. He farewelled all departures, and was there to welcome all arrivals. As this made him often the only native that foreign-speaking migrants ever met socially, he was frequently asked in gratitude to their parties, where his behaviour would fill them with alarm as to the nature of Australians in general.

Joyncie was the boy who tried to souvenir a two-foot pink candle from a candle-stick at a Greek Orthodox wedding, who zipped in among the guests offering them packets of SunWhite rice from his mother’s shop, so all could join in the general throwing, and who dared to sample every food at the party to report on later to disbelieving Australians. He transcended the linguistic barrier with a most effective sign-language of gambols and gesticulation, interrupted with giggles, but his round eyes alone would have been sufficient.

His church attendance was scatty, because he could never keep quiet for more than the first five minutes, which did not matter for the hymns, but was regarded as competition with the prayers and children’s talks - he never lasted as long as the sermon. Five minutes was also the time it would take at any social gathering of adults in any local hall before Joyncie would be there welcoming the organisers at the door, making sure all the old ladies were comfortable, setting up games and seeing all the kiddies got some lemonade.

Most people predicted he would be hanged, but when he was fourteen, and seen less often in the streets, it was reported that he had begun apprentice window-dressing at George’s, Melbourne’s most sophisticated emporium. Most people then said that a boy more suitable for giving that store a lift could not be imagined, and Joyncie’s feet were undoubtedly on the escalator for an astounding commercial career.

We all managed to go into town for some reason or other, when we could, and we would pop in to see Joyncie nodding courteously to us over his shoulder as he flitted across the plush on some important errand. “The firm doesn’t know how lucky they are,” we would say to each other as the commissionaire ever so gently pursued us out before the sight of us could deter any regular customers from coming in.

The firm did not know. Although each visitor coming back reported that Joyncie’s hair was getting blonder and blonder, and his flitting barely touching the carpet, and his grace more remarkable than ever in one so young, yet within a few months, he was - fired. Through ‘departmental reorganisation’ it was reported.
Just like Joyncie; that’s just what he would have done, too, we had to admit to each other, but we supposed it was not surprising that his organising talent had just been too much for the old firm.

Joyncie was next heard of in a pantomime. Asked about him, his parents and brother would just say vaguely “Joyncie . . .” and we stopped asking. We thought we might hear about him in the eighties, which was a time suited to his talents, but no. Nevertheless, we still have faith in his indestructibility. The time will come, and when that time comes, Joyncie will come again.


Web-page. WHAT HAPPENS TO CHILDREN: stories told by disadvantaged children who could not write them. 1981 Angus & Robertson, out of print. Facsimile version.


Creative Commons License
This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License.