Will James was born as a Japanese aircraft carrier cruised down the Western Australian coast, its planes plastering Wyndham and Broome on the way. The family beat a retreat into the bush and for the next three and a half years the youngster lived a cotton-wool existence, cushioned by the skirts and the gentle bosoms of his mother, grandmother and various aunts. Life was warm and gentle despite the turmoil somewhere beyond.

 

Then Hiroshima and Nagasaki were razed and as Will explains: '... the Old Man suddenly came home and turned this "cloud-cuckoo" land on its ear. The peace and tranqility were shattered ...'

 

Young Will had to learn to deal with a brusque, masculine invasion that suddenly crashed into their idyllic existence from nowhere - uncles, rough mates and the dreaded monster they told him was his father.

 

The family moved 'bush' - and moved again, and again. First job at six years of age on the 'nightman's' cart, pans slip-slopping to the clip-clopping and jangling of an indifferent horse. School and rough justice in the 40s; hair-raising escapades amid the profusion of derelict mineshafts around Kalgoorlie. Puberty and the shock of Bertie's bristling manhood; first love among the deck-chairs of the open-air theatre - and raging acne; Bill Hayley, Elvis and, finally, the first stuttering television sets.

 

But Hello Fencepost is more than just a series of anecdotes about life in the 1940s and 50s. It is a portrayal of the fabric of our society as it was when the last vestiges of Victoriana were being played out in the decades after the war. It is a sociological treatise, too, about a generation which had one foot in the camp of the old-timers and had the other in the flurrying stream of the late 20th century. A ubiquitous generation - at home in the present, and yet familiar with the past. A lucky generation.

Hello Fencepost

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