Growing Up Country

I grew up in a country town surrounded by blue-grey hills where houses sat on wide streets and had big backyards. In a time before the internet, digital TV, Skype and mobile phones when living in the country meant existing in an insulated time warp.

We had:

  • Two TV channels. The ABC and the local one which played programs years behind the Sydney channels.
  • Two radio stations. The ABC and the local one which played hits from decades past, with a strong country and western flavour and accompanied by the stock report and the funeral notices.
  • A movie theatre which went through long periods of being closed down, although when they were open we managed to catch the blockbusters of the time Star Wars, Grease, ET. We just caught them long after the city folk.
  • There were very few concerts. Although Jon English, in skin-tight jeans warbling Hollywood Nights, was one musician who braved the wilds of the bush to put on a performance in the closed-down movie theatre.
  • We weren’t a multicultural hotspot, the one Chinese family ran the local Chinese restaurant and just before I left an Indian family moved to the area and opened a, you guessed it, Indian restaurant.  Other than that it was burgers and chips from the takeaway or if you wanted to go posh you went to the restaurant attached to the local motel and had prawn cocktails, steak diane and chocolate mousse.

Socialising usually involved whichever sport you played – and trust me you needed to play a sport. Or, if your Dad was in Lions, it was going to the fundraising BBQ’s. You mixed with everyone, old and young.

It was cold in winter and hot in summer. Nobody had inground pools in the backyard, although a couple of lucky kids had the round, above-ground variety.  If you managed to score an invite to their house you spent the arvo bombing each other or freestyling in circles. Otherwise it was the town pool or the dam to try to beat the wilt-inducing temperatures.

We got ourselves to and from school. We rode bikes to our mates houses and nobody worried about where you were until dark.

We played in places we shouldn’t and made our own fun from whatever resources there were at hand, old cans, rocks, sticks.

When we got into a pickle we figured a way out with the help of our friends. Look you got up that tree you can get back down, just put your foot down a bit, you can do it.

There was only once we had to resort to calling on the adults and that was ’cause we needed an ambulance.

It was a childhood that built resilience, adaptability, imagination and a distinct lack of pretension.

When I moved to the city at 18 the friends I made were country kids just like me.

Where you a city kid or a country kid?

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20 thoughts on “Growing Up Country

  1. I thought I may have grown up in the same country town as you, until you mentioned the dam. We didn’t have one of those. But everything else in your post – IDENTICAL. Someone once said to me, you can tell people who are from the country. In fact, a city-bred friend said to me only a couple of weeks ago, ‘You can tell you’re from the country’, because I went up and told a mother-of-the-bride how beautiful her daughter looked, as she was getting out of the car just before her wedding in The Rocks in Sydney. I’m not sure my friend was being complimentary though. Thanks for a lovely trip down the country memory lane.

  2. I don’t see anything wrong in going up to a mother-of-the-bride to tell her that daughter looks gorgeous. Would have made her day to get a compliment from a stranger. I’ve been to lots of country weddings where people stand outside the church to catch a glimpse of the bride – ’cause even if you are not invited you still know the family and want to have a sticky beak. Even though nowadays you can grow up in the country and not be as fixed in a timewarp – our tv shows are now only half an hour behind Sydney – and we get the same channels! I just can’t be on twitter for The Voice or Celebrity Apprentice otherwise I know the outcome before the family and they get cranky if I share my knowledge. I think there is a difference between country/city – not that one is better or worse – just different.

  3. You are describing my husbands childhood, though you must have lived in a big town to have a movie theatre lol! We have just moved back there this year. We still have no mobile reception at the farm (though there is in town), but we love the slight time warp where things are slower, and community matters. Our kids have so much freedom, and entertain themselves for hours doing all kinds of things.

    • It was Mudgee in the Central West. It had (and I think still has) a population of about 7,000. Love that your kids are enjoying country life – big change for you to go from city living to a home in the bush.

  4. You described my childhood to a T !! We didn’t get tv till I was 12…but loved the radio even after we got it!

  5. I was a country kid, that had the New Forest ponies all around, chasing them out of our gardens. Some standing their ground and refusing to budge. I vaguely remember three channels TV, but it was not long before the revolution of media started and the music took off. I now in the city, and cannot get used to it.

    • Love the image of chasing ponies out of your garden. We get deer in our garden here (not a native but the result of escapees from a deer farm breeding in the wild many years ago).

  6. You just described my childhood. The only exceptions was we had 2 local TV stations (although we didn’t get a colour TV till I was about 8 or 9) and we had no movie cinema. We had to travel half an hour to Port to the local movie cinema – and the Port I knew as a kid is absolutely NOTHING like what you would be used to…. Love the sandles by the way – I had a pair just like them!!! 🙂

    • Yes Port has changed a LOT in the last 10 years – with more big changes to come – Charles Sturt Uni has just opened up here and a planning to build a fully fledged campus – that will make a big difference to the place.

  7. Playing tag and hide and seek in the streets, where one car would drive down every hour or so. And WE’D GET OUT OF THE WAY! Running behind the mosquito sprayer jeep – in retrospect not a great idea. Walking everywhere, not afraid, and neither were our parents. Staying outside til the street lights went on. One tv in the house and dad had control – and that’s NOT remote control. No fast food places. Not when I was a kid. No going out to dinner, almost never. You ate at home, together, at the table.
    Life was simpler.
    I really enjoyed your post and pic.

  8. Loved your post. You could almost have been describing my childhood, even though I grew up in Africa, in the sprawling suburbs of Salisburry, Rhodesia (now Harare, Zimbabwe). TV only entered my life when I was 12 and the series were always out-of-date because of sanctions. Life WAS simpler and how I loved to ride my bike!

  9. Alright, so I grew up with all the technologies and such… but it was in a cow town. It says welcome to a village of the town of North Branford when you enter. And who would’ve thunk, now I’m a city girl. I do miss shopping centers though…

  10. I still live in my very rural area …a small town with population 1,600 but grew up on a farm about 9 miles from any “city/town”! But it sounds quite similar to what you grew up with. 3 stations when the Rabbit Ears were working but we weren’t allowed to watch till all the chores and homework were done! Loved Sat mornings cause the cartoons were on and we could watch until mom decided it was time to get some work done! I can say I had it a little worse than most my age can remember because we didn’t even have running water until I was 9. I loved growing up in the country on a farm and being able to wander the countryside and not have to worry! I lived away from here after turning 18 and enjoy the variety the city life has to offer but do love the solitude, quiet and space of rural South Dakota! :’)

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