Thomas St Noble Park circa 1955 / 1956

“Oh I can still remember how proud I used to be, when my dad and mumma they bought new shoes for me…..” sang Smacka Fitzgibbon so many, many years ago. Gee I loved that song!

I first heard Bare Foot Days played on a brand spanking new state of the art radiogram at a neighbour’s house around 1955 or 1956.

Seated on the floor in front of the radiogram I was completely engrossed by the sound coming out of the large speaker at the centre of the walnut cabinet. It was a deep, resonant sound, a sound unlike the pithy tinny sound that came from our old wind-up 78 player back home.

This radiogram was an automated electric machine, the very latest in hifi sound. Place a record or records onto the upright metal rod at the centre of the turntable, move the holding arm across to set them in place, select the speed, turn the starting knob at the side and then, hey presto, down dropped a record, the tonearm lifted from its resting place, moved across and dropped onto the record. The needle found its groove and the record was playing.  And to a young boy that was magical.

At that time the Haymans were the only family in our neighbourhood fortunate enough to own a radiogram. They would regularly hold afternoon and evening soirees in their lounge room for the neighbours to listen to music from their extensive record collection.

Seated on chairs and couches the adults sang along with the songs while the kids spread out on the floor around the radiogram joining in whenever we could. Occasionally to the cheers and encouragement of the gathering the more outgoing of our parents would get up and dance to everyone’s amusement, though I can’t remember my mum or dad ever being amongst the dancers. These sessions were fun and entertaining times that brought together many young families who were making their homes in this new housing estate.

At some stage I was taught how to operate the radiogram. Whether I nagged Mr Hayman to teach me or not I can’t remember but I do remember being rapt when I had mastered its operation.

From then on I was designated the DJ or demanded to be the DJ and it wasn’t long before I had worked my way through the entire record collection. Clearly to me there was one standout song in the entire collection and it quickly became my favourite: Bare Foot Days.

I don’t know why I liked the song, maybe it was the melody or the words or maybe it was just different to anything else in the collection but something in that song hooked me in and I played it over and over again. I never tired of playing it nor, for that matter, did the oldies tire of listening to it.  “Play Smacka, Col,” they would call. It was always first played and always last played before leaving with mum and dad.

Before long I knew the song off by heart. I would sing along to the amusement of the oldies who would eagerly egg me on. It became my party trick, to the extent some kind hearted soul even tried to teach me a soft-shoe shuffle to dance while I sang but I was never much of a dancer!

My family left Noble Park for Colac a year or so later when dad was transferred in his job. At a farewell soiree Mr Hayman, with a tear in his eye, gave me his copy of  Barefoot Days which truly overwhelmed me. It was wrapped in thick brown paper; my name written beautifully in a flowing copperplate hand in pencil on the paper. Some string tied it all together.

One of the first things dad did after we arrived in Colac was to buy a radiogram just like the Hayman’s. Boy was I rapt; I was in seventh heaven. Now I could play that record whenever I wanted to, and I played and played and played that record on our fancy new machine for years.

That record has been with me for nearly sixty years though now unfortunately it is in four pieces. During a move about ten years ago I dropped it and it broke. I just stood and stared at the pieces on the floor. Shattered. I did not have the heart to throw away all those memories so the pieces are wrapped in the same brown paper and they sit inside a box on a shelf at the top of a cupboard.

Maybe one day I’ll get that box down and try to glue those pieces together.

“Oh I can still remember how proud I used to be………….”

© Colin Ritchie. More stories by Colin Ritchie.


Colin is a retired teacher who enjoys following the Bombers, listening to music, especially Bob Dylan, and drinking a robust cab sav. He also writes for our partner site The Footy Almanac.