The Chevrolet gets a scratch

The day my father discovered a parking spot that had always been ‘reserved for him’ was actually reserved for a tourist bus was a memorable day indeed. My father was a quiet man most of the time. He rarely spoke about anything. But he was also very bad tempered too which was witnessed by a bus load of tourists the day he made this unfortunate discovery.

A trip to Hagley Farm School

It happened at the time my brother Bruce was boarding at Hagley Farm School. Bruce was sent there in 1968 for his high school years to learn all about farming so he could carry on the family business. His time at the farm school was not entirely wasted on his education. He had some fun as well. Collecting eggs from the hen house and pelting them at another student comes to mind. Apparently, that was not part of the curriculum judging by the amount of trouble he got into.

It was a long drive

Hagley is a small farming community in the north of the state of Tasmania. At the time when Bruce attended high school there, apart from the school, there was only a shop and lots of farms in the area. These days the community has grown considerably. We used to make the long journey from Forcett in southern Tasmania to visit Bruce at the farm school about once a month in Dad’s precious Chevy.

Dad always did the driving. My mother and brother Samuel sat alongside him in the front bench seat. Samuel sat in the middle in a plastic tartan patterned baby seat (very stylish for its time) which hooked over the front seat. Just like a coat hanger hooks over a hanging rod in a wardrobe. Same principle.  The rest of us kids managed to squash unrestrained into the back seat. We had free rein as there were no seatbelts back then.

Entertainment in the car

There wasn’t much. The most fun we had on those long trips was winding the back windows up and down, arguing about whose turn it was next. The crank handles always got a really good workout along with Dad’s voice. Imagine if there’d been push button controls back then to operate the car windows. Despite the threats from Dad about stopping the car and putting us out to pasture, we continued.

The mandatory stop – the ice cream shop

One Saturday morning on the way up to Hagley, we made the routine stop at Oatlands for the ice cream cones. “Best ice-cream in Tassie,” Dad always declared as the car came to a halt outside the shop. He parked in the spot ‘reserved for him’ and ordered us to stay in the car as he went into the shop. Nothing unusual there; except that only a few seconds into the future he was about to discover the spot was not reserved for him at all.

 The arrival of the big, bad bus

Suddenly, a huge tourist bus appeared. Mum looked out the window and said calmly, “that bus is close to the car.” We could hardly hear what she was saying as the bus scraped along the side of our car, making a screeching noise and causing the car to rock from side to side as though we were in a rough sea.

Tassie tour – ‘exhibit one’ for the silver tops

After fully dealing with our car, the bus eventually stopped. The burly bus driver stepped out of the bus behind the biggest belly I had ever seen. The elderly tourists followed. They wandered around the car and inspected the damage and peered at the occupants sitting inside. Mum, my siblings and I were still following instructions from Dad and stayed in the car. We quickly became ‘exhibit one’ for that bus load of silver tops. “Lovely baby”; “the silly woman is still sitting in the car” (they were talking about Mum); “nice car”; “not too much damage”; “gorgeous little boys”; “such a shame”  ….

Dad gloats about his excellent parking skills

Obviously, my father had heard all the racket from inside the shop. He gave the wire screen door such a mighty shove that it ricocheted off the side of his body as he stormed out of the shop. Thankfully he was still holding the six ice cream cones in his hands.

“I could have parked three semitrailers in there,” Dad shouted at the red-faced bus driver. No one ever doubted that because after all, Dad drove semitrailers for a transport company when he wasn’t working on the farm.

The six ice cream cones hit the ground

The bus driver shouted back even louder. “You’re parked on a bus stop”.

Dad closely inspected the ground. A couple of silver-tops pointed out to Dad that the barely visible paint marks on the road surface definitely indicated a bus stop. Dad had no further words to say. Instead, he pelted the ice creams onto the road as we watched on in horror.

If you don’t know the answer, ask the question ….

It felt like  we were being punished for the actions of the ‘fat bus driver’ as Dad drove off that day.

 “But what about our ice creams? Why did you throw them on the road? Why did the bus driver shout at you, Dad? Are you in a bad mood? Why? Why? Why? …..” Perfectly reasonable questions. But Dad was in no mood to answer them.  Mum said it was best not to ask questions until later.

We all shut up and continued on to Hagley

Dad manoeuvred the car into a parking spot in the school car park. He left the engine running as he got out and closely inspected the ground. Mum had clearly had enough by this stage.

“No sign of a bus stop?” she quipped.

He didn’t say anything. Instead, he turned off the engine and we all got out of the car.

To read more about this car, go to

Featured image taken by Bruce Leishman (dec) with Mum’s box brownie

Hagley Farm School images-1968; Courtesy of



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