THE WHITE SPIRIT OF CLIMATE CHANGE
I was born in Moe in 1949, and graduated from Moe High School in 1966. A regional city 121km east of Melbourne. Moe was modernity at its best. Accommodation for workers. Nearby was Yallourn, Morwell, and Traralgon: the view of Australia’s great rift Valley, hinterland and flats. Abundant water and electricity. Who cared about the increasing carbon dioxide?
My mum and dad did. Chimney power stations bloomed throughout the Valley. It smelt. And if the wind went east, north or south; the clothing on the family’s Hills Hoist clothesline was soiled.
It made mum, Marie upset. Marie was our cook, cleaner, and wife. In the beginning, Les was a Yallourn trade assistant (T.A) for the State Electricity Commission, Victoria. But he really wanted to own his own business.
Mum had to wash them as quickly as possible on the back veranda and then hang them out to dry on makeshift clotheslines.
They decided to name this backyard operation Spick & Span Laundry. Their private enterprise started in our backyard shed. Soon, there were lots of boiler suit bags coming in and out the backyard laundry.
Mum and dad realised the clothing of the Valley open cut mines and power stations were covered in oil and sludge. But their shed only had a simple washing machine, roller, and tumbler.
Then, all of a sudden, Dad saw a barrel of ‘white spirit fuel’ that directed him to the new overwhelming amount of garments that were NYLON. He tells us instead of Spick and Span, he has renamed the backyard shed Leslie Dry Cleaner.
Again, lots of bags came in and out of the shed, no longer were they pure cotton or wool. Most garments were either NYLON or woven NYLON. As the three family children, we knew that laundry machines require fresh water and soap, and dry-cleaning spins ‘liquid solvent’ and also a steam boiler.
Modernity was our dad’s speciality.
Mum and dad kept telling us the rift Valley was a ‘Garden of Eden’. A feature of natural beauty that can also be dangerous.
Away from the family’s business, sport was our recreation. Dad introduced us to speed boating and water-skiing; dams, rivers, estuaries and lakes. Mum taught us tennis and table tennis. Win or lose, she would give the comforting advice – always bend the knees.
My parents taught me how to play sport at both recreational and elite levels. Don’t break the rules. Avoid tribal aggression. Be intense. Be calm. Civil. Have good technique. Sport has the advantage of score logic; team v team, or player measurements.
My homeland heroes were the men, like dad rolling fuel drums into sport venues, digging bitumen pitches, bulldozing grassy fields, building benches, sheds, and pavilions. Mum and her friends made the food pies, sausages, sandwiches, and scones for the team and fans.
Moe had the benefit of successful sports teams. They also did as much as possible to reduce carbon dioxide.
They realised that ‘white spirit’ was extreme flammable and dangerous to health, they quickly introduced the less flammable solvent available; German ‘Perclean‘ (Tetrachloroethlene).
Their next step was to buy new machinery that would be safer for the environment and still be affordable. Before dad died in 1975, the laundry in the backyard shed had transformed into Civic Dry Cleaners in the Moe shopping centre.
After Dad’s death Mum, at the age of 60, began a pavlova making business in her kitchen. She called the business MUM’S PAVS. MUM’S PAVS and Marie Hopkins took off in the entire rift Valley. Despite severe health issues, partly due to lithium drugs and smoking, her results were delicious.
The Hopkins parents did the best they could to reduce carbon dioxide.