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Days Gone By

Collie's Past

The photo above shows Mr Baris who was our local scrap metal dealer, also he would buy cool-drink bottles, beer bottles, copper and lead and as a young fella in the 50's and early 60's I kept myself in pocket money also cigarettes and it was because of this habit I had my first introduction to the law. I was maybe 11 or 12 and in Primary School. All the kids were saying there's a policeman in the headmaster's office and different boy's were being called up for an interview.

It was to do with copper being stolen from the Co-op mine and the old power-house. One of the boy's in my class-room was called up. I don't know if he put me in, I don't think so, but I was called up next. A scary experience at the time. The policeman asked me if I knew anything about copper being stolen from the power-house. I told him I collected scrap pieces of copper and some lead which had been melted from the fires in their rubbish dump. He didn't seem too concerned, but I walked back to the class-room thinking I'd survived a jail sentence.

I found out later some-one had pinched a massive wooden reel on two wheels, which would have held, maybe 1,000 kilos or more. They'd wheeled it out to the boundary fence, cut a hole and wheeled it into the bush. Which would have taken a couple of very strong men. Looking back the police were just trying to get leads from the kids at school. I remember that reel in the bush and it was too hot to handle. We used to get hessian bags full of copper wire, the plastic coating had melted off them in the fires.

I remember one day pulling on some copper cable and the ground started to move. It was sheets of lead that had melted and been covered by dirt. I remember just being able to carry the bag to the scrap metal dealer, which was maybe 3-400 yards. We lived like kings. We weren't the only ones.

I remember another day. There's two or three of us on horses and as we rode passed the hole in the fence, there's a bag with copper and lead in it. The kids that were scrounging it were still at the dump getting more, so we grabbed the bag and rode up to the scrap metal dealer. While we were there and he's weighing it a couple of boy's came in and reckoned we'd taken it off them, which we had, I can't remember the outcome.

One time we had two horses which didn't belong to us. In them days there were horses roaming free. They were brumbies which had been broken in then released. The Shire used to catch some of these and  impound them. For ten shillings or a dollar anybody could buy them.

Another time there were five of us and we only had four horses. One of the mates said I think I can borrow a horse off a young fella who lived up the road, which he did. We all rode out maybe 6-7kilometers. We were going to sleep on a little hobby farm, which one of the fellas with us  father owned, Don and Betty Fraser, yes the one that electrocuted me later in life when I had wild pigs in a sty on a little hobby farm which he owned.

We'd rode out there many times over the years and the horses got to know the sandy tracks and where they were heading, paddocks and grass I don't think we fed them too good. This took place automatically, we would let the reins go loose and the five horses would bolt and hit top speed. We didn't have to steer them just hang on. There wasn't much room on the little bush tracks, so we're bunched up. When we get to the boundary of the mates farm the horses are a lather of sweat, we'd turn them loose in the paddock.

We're all sleeping in the cow shed and during the night there were a lot of noises coming from the horses. I think we had a lantern and we went out to check what was going on. It didn't look good. The horse the mate had borrowed was staggering around, a lot of muck coming out of her nose. The young fella had not long owned the horse and he wasn't aware she was in foal. She was dead next morning. I remember all of us going around the farm picking up dead limbs until we had enough to cremate her.  

The photo above shows Mrs Baris and a friend on two brumbies or wild horses that had been broken in.

The photo above shows Mr Baris and a friend out shooting, maybe ducks as the next photo shows. You can see a couple of ducks hanging in the tree.

The next sequence of photo's show the old Collie Power-house that once stood on the edge of town, west side opposite the Industrial Area.

I lived maybe 4-500 yards from it. The black soot from the chimney's became a problem for a lot of houses that it settled on. Also we used to know what time of day it was when the whistle blew, 8 o'clock in the morning also 10, then at midday and 3 o'clock in the afternoon.

The old Co-op underground mine was maybe 200 yards to the right and it was the day of the pit-horse. I can see them in their holding yards, also the stables. Quite often two or three of us would ride over on our horses, tie them up in the bush. We'd have two or three hessian bags, then we'd sneak down and into the back of the stables were they stored their chaff for the mine horses. I'd like to have had a photo of us staggering back to the horses.

Another thing the Power-house used to pump it's water from a creek down the back, were they'd put a wall across. The water was maybe 30-40 yards wide. We used to tie bits of meat on a string and dangle it down the face of the wall, catching gilgies  (fresh-water crustacean). There was a little pump-house on the corner of it and when it was raining we could shelter in it and wouldn't get our cigarettes wet.

Another thing there were big slag heaps that they'd dumped in a row from the under-ground tunnels. Some were maybe 15-20 feet high and we used them as a race track on our bikes. Off to the side of the slag heaps was a sunken bit of ground, no doubt from the tunnels beneath.

I remember one time going down one of the dips between the mounds. I must have been going too fast and as I come up and over top, I was air-borne. I remember crashing down the side of the mound and when I came to a stop my left foot had gone through the spokes of the wheel and the handle-bars were sticking in my belly.

I think I was trying to catch up to one of my mates who was in front of me, his name was Peter Thompson (Titta). We grew up together as young fellas. His mother was one who had a standard order of two rabbits whenever my father had them. Peter's father was killed in the mines. I cannot remember him. My father would let Peter come when we went fishing. We slept at each others place many times. None of us could get close to Peter when we were racing on our push-bikes.

Later in life he became Australian Speedway Champion Solo Motorbike.

I hadn't seen Titta for quite a while. He'd gone to England racing, I think it was two years. I remember talking to him when he came home. I asked him how he went over there, I actually forget what he told me, but I remember him saying he was in the pits working on his bike and a big English gentleman walked up to him and said "your from Australia son are you", Titta nodded his head and said "yes". The fella said "what part". Titta said "Western Australia". Again the fella said "where abouts in Western Australia". Titta said "Perth". The fella said "what suburb". Titta said " actually mate I'm not from Perth, I'm from the South-west of Western Australia a little Coal-mining town called Collie".

The gentleman then said "Do you know Chris Collie". Titta said "I nearly fell over". Chris Collie is a well known identity, in fact I would say, there's nobody better known in Collie and maybe Western Australia. Chris is handicapped pretty bad, he can't relate to measurements, weights or money. But the town of Collie has looked after Chris all his life.

He had a passion for music and rock and roll bands. He was known to hitch-hike to the city many times, 200 kilometers. The visiting bands all knew him and everything was free of charge for Chris. He helped them setting the stage up. At the end of the night he'd find his way to Miss Mauds Hotel, restaurant, coffee house. Again free of charge. The next day he'd find his way back to Collie.

I remember one time, the wife, myself, a mate and his wife were sitting in a Cafe in the city. I can't believe my eyes, when I looked through the Cafes window, here's Chris's big head looking at me through the window. He yells Jimmyyyy !!! In he comes and sits at the table with us.

He told us the name of the band he had come up to watch. I said "where are you staying mate". "Miss Mauds Jimmy". I said "how much does that cost ya". "a dollar Jimmyyy".

The photo below shows Chris with the Jets 1982. Chris in the middle at the back.

I remember Chris back in the 50's, when we used to go to the walk-in movies. Then later in life at the different hotels. He always had a squash in his hand. I'm standing at the bar this day with half a dozen fellas, I happened to look up and the hotel door was opening, it's Chris coming into the main bar from the lounge . I watched him zero in on us, so I turned my head slightly to make like I could not see him. He's standing at my back looking over my shoulder, as you can see in the photo he's a big boy.

I made out that I was talking about wild pigs. I said the boar had big teeth and he grabbed my dog. As I was turning my head to look at Chris I yelled "BOO". He said "you make me spill my drink Jimmyyy". All the hotels were the same if he put his glass on the bar they would fill it.

I think it was three of the publicans shared the costs to take Chris to Tamworth, the biggest Country and Western do in Australia, there was a bus load went. I would say Chris had the biggest birthday party that was ever held in Collie, his 60th. It was held in the Miners Institute.

I took him out hunting quite a few times with the wife and the kids, never pig-hunting only when I wanted dog meat. I was working in the Shire in the late 60's to the mid 70's and Chris used to turn up there regular. When we were re-lining or renewing some of the old streets, we'd let him pick the roots out of the gravel. The boss we had at the time, Reg Magill was a gentleman and he used to say it gives Chris's mum a break.

I remember starting in the underground mines in the 70's. I don't know if it was the same time or a bit later but Chris started to show up every day. He'd get on the mine bus and he done this for many years. I know the mine manager at the time had a soft spot for Chris. He used to sweep the big work-shop floors, then shovel it into a bin on wheels. There was another story even though I never seen it but I believe it to be true.

Someone had got all the little last bits of the welding rods and put them in the ground standing up in rows like they were growing there. That was another one of Chris's jobs, he watered them every morning and once a week somebody replaced them with ones that were maybe 1-2  inches longer.

Another habit of Chris's was if a truck driver came on site with a load of whatever, most times the first person they seen was Chris. He used to walk stiff legged over to them with one hand in the air indicating for them to stop. I think they all got to know him. I'd like to know what some of them were thinking when they first met Chris and it was known that the mine manager used to say it gives his mum a spell.

This sort of thing can't take place today in this political correct world.

Chris Collie

Another incident with Chris. I was driving a mates car along the Highway. It was a Volkswagen  or VW, we were returning home from dropping his two daughters off. The reason I'm driving was he'd had a few drinks. We were maybe 60-70 kilometers from home when a big public bus or coach goes past. When I look up at it I'm looking at big Chris. Kenny knew him as well as I did.

The coach pulls up at another small town, so I pulled up along side of it. Chris spots us and he's all smiles and he's waving to us. Kenny indicates too him to come with us. We watched him grab his bag, then we watched him tell the bus driver that he was going home with us. The driver waved to us, so we knew everything was right.  

As we are driving along I asked Chris where he had been. He said to Perth to watch a band. He told us a name but I just forget, it might have been The Jets. Then he starts pulling different things out of his bag showing us. One was a hat with the name of the band on it. I said "how much did that cost". He said "one dollar Jimmyyy". Then a shirt with the band on it, I asked again how much it cost "one dollar Jimmyyy" and everything else he showed us cost a dollar. He also told us he stayed at Miss Mauds and the cost was a dollar.

He looked funny sitting in the back seat. His knees were up near his chest, like I said he's a big boy and there's not much room in the back of a VW. Kenny said "would you like some KFC Chris". He says "yes Kennyyy please".

It was about 30 klmtrs out of our way. I've never seen KFC go down like that. I think I had ate one piece, I said to Kenny "he's finished that already". Kenny said to Chris "do you want mine I can't eat it". "yes Kennyyy". I don't know if he'd had anything to eat that day, it disappeared as quick as the first lot.

As we're getting closer to Collie Chris said "you come in and meet mum Jimmyyy". I said "maybe another time Chris", but he insisted. So we go in with him to meet his mum. When she opens the door, the first thing he does is put his arm around her and give her a kiss on the top of the head, Chris say's "I want you to meet my two friends Jimmyyy and Kennyyy".

Then he would disappear and come back with whatever he had to show us. Each time he passed his mum he'd put his arm around her and kiss her on the top of her head again. You can see it was natural for him and it come from his heart. He grabs me by the hand and say's "you come into my room and have a look Jimmyyy". He shows me a big photo of his father sitting on a chair when he was a boy. His dads name was Frank and he was a big fella himself. 

Another time with Chris, I'd taken the family to watch the local football team play. We're parked at the edge of the oval  and there was maybe 50-60 other cars or more. Looking in the distance I can see Chris coming around, stopping pretty much at every car. Then it's my turn, he say's "Jimmyyy I've lost dad". I said "you'll find him Chris" or something along those lines. He said "no no he's gone to heaven". I didn't know what to say to him he got me right off guard.

Would you believe about two weeks later, I'm in the pub playing darts. Chris comes up to me and he say's "Dads been gone a long time now hasn't he Jimmyyy". I know he was missing him. Frank had rules and I know Chris obeyed. If he was being a bit silly and you said you were going to tell his dad, he would behave immediately also if you mentioned the police.

I had a bit of an incident with Frank one time. It was when I was working in the Shire. There was a few of us standing there talking about the bush, Chris is there listening. He said to me "can you take me out the bush Jimmyyy". I said "yes", so every hour or so he asked me "when are you taking me out", I said to him "you tell your mum and dad that your going out the bush with me on Thursday at a quarter past four". I said to him "you be at the Co-op Bridge (which is in the middle of town) at quarter past four". So for the next three days he'd say to me every time he'd see me "Quarter past four at the Co-op Bridge" and I'd say to him "you tell your mum and dad".  "Yes Jimmyyy".

I can see big Chris sitting on the rail of the bridge. He's all smiles and wouldn't take his eyes off the dogs. I told him their names, one was Lady the kangaroo dog that I've talked about and the Cattle dog or Bobby. As we're heading out Chris is leaning on the door with his back and he wouldn't take his eyes off the dogs, a permanent grin on his face. Which he over exaggerated when telling you something. I was going out to hunt off a farm that was having a lot of troubles with roos.

The first mob that got up had some of the biggest males you could get for this area. I thought the dogs would kill when they are both together, very few boomers could stand up to these two. I was a bit surprised when I heard the dogs start up barking in the distance. It was a hot summer evening, with a storm coming in which made it more humid. We had a long way to run and by the time we got there we're both in a lather of sweat. You had to see big Chris's style when he was running. I likened it to a hip shot boomer.

I shot the big boomer and knocked the top quarter off him and said "Chris you give me a hand to get the hind quarter onto my shoulders." "no no Jimmyyy I want to carry it". I said "I will carry it half-way and you can carry it the last half". But he insisted he carry it. I give in and told him to squat down, while I positioned the hind-quarter on his shoulders. Then he stands up. As we're walking the sands pretty loose and it's not long before he's starting to feel the effects of it. Sweat was running off him. I said "come on Chris I'll take it know". Again he say's "no no Jimmyyy I'll carry it to the ute".

The hind-quarter is starting to slip down his back. He must have thought that was the name of the game to get it to the ute by himself which he did. As we drive off, he can't stop talking about it, he's as happy as happy. The bitch had another run, this time I knew she'd kill. I said to Chris "when Lady comes back you say to her, where is it Lady". It was good open bush and you could see into the distance a bit. I've said before Lady was a natural and she knew to walk slow to show Chris where her kill was. I'd like to have had a video camera and sound, because if he said where is it Lady once, he said it a hundred times. I could hear him bellowing. Lady's got a kangaroo.

He carried that back to the ute as well. It's close enough to dark now and we're three quarters of an hour  from home and I was thinking I hope his Mum and Dad aren't worrying about him. I let Chris off at his house and didn't bother about going in myself, which might have been a good thing.

The next day when I walk into the Shire yard at the end of the shift, I knew I was in trouble. Chris's Dad big Frank was standing there. A couple of workers pointed to me and over he comes. He's laying down the law and losing it a bit. I told him that I'd told Chris to tell his mum and dad he was going out the bush for a week leading up to it. Big Frank was politically correct in every thing he'd done all his life, to the extent of writing into our local paper saying that our Hotels were dens of iniquity. A word I've never used and the missus just told me then what it meant. He kept on a bit too much. I said to him "that's enough, shut your mouth and piss off". Luck was on my side he did just that.

I think it was three days later, I walk into the Shire yard at the end of the shift and big Frank' standing there, no one around him. I didn't know what I was in for. First thing I thought was a bit of age has caught up with him and his legs weren't the best and he mightn't catch me if I decided to run. But he's got one hand in front of him as he's walking towards me. I knew he wanted to shake my hand, which we did. Then he asked me if I could take Chris out the bush again. He said "Chris has been uncontrollable for three days".

I took him out a few more times. One time Lady had gone off and killed, Chris and myself were walking behind her asking her to show. When I knocked the top quarter off of it. I said "Chris, you hold one leg and I'll hold the other and we will run back to the ute and we might get another one before dark". As we are running, I tripped, stumbled and let go of the leg, I didn't lose much ground, Chris didn't lose any he was still running for the ute. We were maybe 30-40 feet from it. I said "just throw it in the back Chris".

We were in a hurry trying to beat the dark. But you don't say things like that to someone like Chris, because as soon as he heard throw it in the back, that's what he done 30-40 feet. I watched it somersault through the air, hit the back window and fell into the back of the ute.

Chris started to want to go out whenever he seen me. I didn't want to upset him, but I knew how to bring it to an end. He came up to me this day and said "Jimmyyy  you take me out the bush". I said "Chris I'm not allowed to go out the bush anymore a policeman got me and he told me I was not allowed to go out and get a kangaroo anymore. " the policeman said "if I catch you with a kangaroo, I will put you in jail and whoever is with you will go to jail too". From that day to this he's never mentioned it. He obeyed his father and a policeman ten out of ten.

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