Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Meat works

I started school at 4 and left at 14. I loved school and was an A grade student but the kids didn't like me. I was very pretty. I also left home. I had runway many times. I won't go into personal family stories.

The police, with my parents' permission, arranged for me to stay at a CWA hostel, even though they didn't usually accept females under 16 years old. I think my rent was $40 p/wk without food. Centrelink in those days was very difficult to obtain, I had to sit there all day to try and get money to pay rent. I got $90 a fortnight.

The lady who ran the hostel and some of the other teenage girls helped me out with food. I soon got sick of it. I was raised to work for what I needed.

Because of my misspent youth I was a good pool player so I started going to the pub and playing in competitions. In those days there was no ID check, I looked older anyway.

I was winning $100 most weeks. People use to challenge me also and put $50 on the table. I always won. I had a great shot and an accurate eye.

I could survive, so I moved to another girls hostel and got a job working in a servo. I loved it. A customer told me there were jobs going at a meat works. I had just turned 15. The legal age was 16 but I looked it. The customer said she would pick me up at 5am and take me there but I had to wait at the gate and they would choose their daily quota. I was quite tall and strong and I was lucky enough to be picked.

I was placed in the pet room packing bad bits of meat. The boxes were packed weighing between 50 and 70 pounds and had to be lifted onto a wire crate to be forklifted away. It was hot in the room because there was no airconditioning.

At the end of the day you got paid - it was $74. I told them they made a mistake, that I hadn't worked all week. "No darling, that's a days pay", I was told.

I was ecstatic. I made sure I showed up the next day. I was chosen to work again. My back was sore from lifting but I gritted my teeth. This went on all week - I was rich! The next week they offered me full time work, I accepted. I had the stomach for it, I watched other girls walk in and throw up. They weren't at the gate again.

I was promoted to the tripe room it was nice and cold from the air conditioning. Tripe like lungs were not as heavy as livers. Livers were the heaviest. I had to rinse them and I will never forget the smell. I will never eat offal. It was a bit cleaner work though. After a week there I was promoted to the offal room. Heaven. Eventually my back did go and I did claim compo for 6 weeks. I wasn't employed again. The excuse that they used was that there were no jobs – ha!

I still suffer back problems from those days. My body was too young for such brutal work.

This work allowed me to get a share flat with an older woman who ripped me off. She didn't pay the rent for 6 weeks. She told me she was leaving and sold everything except for the fridge and a single bed and chair. I was going to stay and find a flat mate. The real estate agent showed up and told me it had been a fully furnished flat and asked for the rent. I had to talk to the police and move out.

One of the police officers let me stay at his place but got in trouble for it so I had to go back to the hostel and back to centrelink. One of the girls in the hostel wanted to travel so we hitched up north. They were fun days and God looked after me and nothing went wrong.

I met a guy in Gympie. I had thrashed him in the pool. We fell in love so I stayed at his place. I stayed with him until I was 19. We got engaged when I was 17 and I thought my girlish dreams had come true. Yeah right! We moved up north. He worked and was transferred and wanted me to be with him – so I followed. He used to bash me - I was young. Eventually I left him. This lead, once again, to hostels.

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