Long & The Short: The brain can work in mysterious ways

The power of a story to revive distant memories.

Long & The Short: The brain can work in mysterious ways

Writing a daily column in the Herald Sun for nearly a decade, the phone regularly rang hot. Most were new callers responding to items in that day’s column, but I also had several regulars.

One caller who resonated was a nurse.

“I work in a ward with elderly people suffering from dementia,” she said. “I read your column to them every morning, and you know, they can talk for an hour relating memories about something you wrote about, like your mention yesterday of the bell above the door in milk bars. But they couldn’t tell you what they had for breakfast.”

It’s funny how the mind works.

One gentleman rang once or twice every week to tell me the same story.

I’d always listen and never say anything, but one day, after four or five years of this, I said: “Glynn, do you realise you told me that story yesterday?”

“Did I?” he replied, and then he immediately started another story.

He told me this new story every week for several years until one day he stopped calling.


How many of these things can you remember, and can you add to this list?

Kids used to be given Hypol every day because it was good for them.

A car's high beam button was located on the floor and you pressed it with your foot.

Shops sold bags of broken biscuits.

You'd take saucepans to collect your take-away Chinese food order.

Kids would roll Jaffas down the aisles at cinemas.

Cinemas were put in carpet so kids couldn't roll Jaffas down the aisles.

You could buy cigarettes from the trolley lady at hospitals.

Cops would give bad kids a clip in the ear then send them on their way.

Bikes didn't have gears.

Movie stars kissed with their mouths shut.

Staff in hardware stores wore grey dustcoats.

You had to get out of your chair to change the channel on your television.

You would darn holes in socks instead of throwing them out.


Campbell suffered a stroke while playing the 12th hole at his golf club about a year ago.

He survived and was eventually able to return to playing.

Now, every time he steps to the 12th tee, somebody in his group says: “Do you get a stroke here?” And Campbell laughs every time.

If you don’t get it, ask a golfer to explain it.


It’s interesting to look at our place names and research who, and sometimes what, they were named after. And it can be somewhat depressing.

Take Melbourne, for example. It was named after William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne, who was a largely nondescript British Prime Minister in 1834 and again between 1835 and 1841.

He didn’t lead during any times of war or domestic strife, didn’t achieve anything grand and espoused no worthy principles. He was, however, kind and honest.

Don’t laugh if you’re from Sydney. Your city was named after Thomas Townshend 1st  Viscount Sydney, a British politician described by numerous historians as having talents that “scarcely rose above mediocrity” and being a cruel monster for dispatching convicts to the far side of the earth.

Do you have any stories to share with YourLifeChoices? Do you know any interesting characters? Do you have a milestone birthday or anniversary coming up? We’d like to hear from you. Email steve@yourlifechoices.com.au



    To make a comment, please register or login
    3rd Jun 2018
    I never knew anyone that would roll Jaffas down the aisle. You wouldn't hear them. Coke bottles sometime got rolled, but we would not waste anything like that. I believe the rolling of Jaffas is just another urban myth
    3rd Jun 2018
    No, no Sooty, it is real, at least it was in our local cinema. Our cinema had wooden floors which acted like a sound box for the Jaffas. Never did waste Jaffa's like that myself as I could, or would, not waste good lollies like that, anyway my preferred lolly was Fantales.
    The Phoenix
    3rd Jun 2018
    sooty. It is true. When we were kids we mainly went to the Grand Theatre at the corner of Barrack and Murray streets in Perth. We dropped Jaffas and they rolled all the way to the front making a hell of a noise on the bare wooden floors.
    The Grand later screwed wood across the floor to stop the Jaffas.
    We never dropped the Jaffas on purpose as we wanted to eat them not waste them but the those little balls go away sometimes.

    Carpet was a luxury in those expensive theatres like the Mayfair on William street.
    3rd Jun 2018
    We also threw Jaffas at the cloth screen ..
    3rd Jun 2018
    A, for the grand old days! We had a segregated cinema, boys to the left and girls to the right. Dressup in drag started because of this, I think. When Tarzan was on, all of us carried knives in sheaths hidden under our jackets - how would that play out today! Used to roll Jaffas down the wooden aisle, but only Jaffas that we "lifted" from the Cinema cafe. Buggsie
    3rd Jun 2018
    I remember the Jaffas rolling. Also a funny happening when a group of us sitting on the side seats of about 8 I think. Anyway we all leaned forward at the same time to laugh hilariously & the seats were not bolted down & we all landed on our bottoms on the floor! Also many of the other things mentioned are memorable.
    3rd Jun 2018
    As 10, 11, or 12 year old's we would spend school holidays on, in or around the local creek of our backyard 'burbs'. Our family shifted to the country in my 13th year, I never realized how vast and exciting the big wide world was till that point in my life; however, I digress, back to kids up the creek.
    I recall two memorable features about that riperian zone, the first that it was traversed by a railway viaduct. We would scale the concrete piers and lie flat in a shallow gap between the top of the pier and rails. Most locomotives back then were 'steamers', when they passed overhead within inches of us, we were showered with soot, steam, occasionally sparks and water droplets, what a hoot it was!
    The other 'kid magnet' feature was a large discharge pipe outlet for storm water. We kids could stand upright within and armed with candles or battery torches we'd venture some kilometres along its length to a point in the then flash new shopping centre. We'd pop our heads out of the culverts in the carpark. One such occurrence resulted in a mother, her kids in tow, screaming blue murder. We lil hooligans beat a hasty retreat, although looking back now I can't understand why, nobody could chase us.
    The rough and tumble of our childhood is a thing of the past, lost on the current lot of pussies and princesses of every which gender - and then some.
    4th Jun 2018
    I lived in suburban Sydney and can remember:
    - milk being delivered to a lidded can at the front door
    - mail being delivered in the morning and afternoon (and even more frequently just before Christmas
    - your garbage bin being collected from back door of your home by the garbos
    - loaves of bread being hand-delivered daily, unwrapped by the unwashed hands of the driver of a horse-drawn cart
    - getting caned on the bottom at school by teachers for misbehaviour or even for performing badly in a class test
    - parents believing the word of priests and teachers against their child's
    - playing 'flaming soccer' in the bush -- a tightly packed bundle of newspapers was bound with fencing wire was used as a ball after it had been soaked in kero and set alight
    - the freedom of leaving home after breakfast to play with neighbourhood kids around the neighbourhood (including in the bush) and getting back home before dark
    4th Jun 2018
    I remember all of those plus the clothes prop man /the rabbit man/and the baker with his horse and cart and the milkman that filled our billy can from his large milk tin.
    Bike with back pedal brakes/1 shilling to go to the Pictures -- and with that, we could but a ticket in a milkshake and an ice cream sundae, also the telephone boxes because hardly anyone had a private phone, pens with nibs and the inkwells, getting the cane at school, penny ice creams, Easter show bags for FREE and they had great stuff in them too.
    There was NO TV till 1956 and we used to walk up the road and watch TV through the windows of the Electrical store.
    We used to WALK up the road about 3 times to buy groceries and carry them back in string bags as we were working through the week and the shops shut early.
    We used the copper and the concrete tubs to wash our clothes in and the mangle --- if you had one -- never had a washing machine till about 1961.
    I remember those cars with bags on top that used gas to be driven see here


    I am sure I will remember more

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