Some time ago I posted some memories and reflections:
Frameworks for belief– 3 – 1959 through to 1966–part 1
I mentioned the 1952 death of my sister in the last of these posts.
My sister and I in the late 1940s
There is no doubt this had a profound effect on my view of life and the world and inclined me towards a religious path, though I did not really take it up until around seven years after her death. Among her last words were “Don’t worry, Jesus is with me.” How can one not be affected? Even sixty-one years later I remember with amazing vividness the events of the days when she was taken from Auburn Street Sutherland to St George Hospital, never to join us at Vermont Street to which we are moving at the time. My poor parents! A year later I was in the same hospital being operated on for the same condition that had ultimately killed her. It was around that time I dreamed of Death standing by my bed.
When I finally did go to Sutherland Presbyterian Church, however, even though the minister (Cam Williamson) had been visiting Mum from time to time, it was rather at the invitation of Ross McKay, a Sutherland Primary then Sydney High classmate – and girls were among the attractions. So I joined the Presbyterian Fellowship Association around 1957 or 1958, and around the same time began attending the Inter School Christian Fellowship at Sydney High and reading the Bible via Scripture Union notes obtained there. I had a daggy copy of the Revised Version, a pocket edition that had been Grandpa Christison’s, and I remember being quite sneaky about reading it in bed late at night. My father caught me once and I reacted in such an alarmed way that I now think he thought he had caught me wanking. (That too, of course. I was a pubescent boy after all. But think of the guilt! You have to have lived back then to know about that!) Anyway, he looked almost relieved and told me I could read the Bible if I wanted to.
The climax – no wanking pun intended – was in 1959.
Last night I was 15 again…
16 FEB 2009
1959 Billy Graham Crusade gathering at the Melbourne Cricket Ground
Source — Australian heritage photographic library.
I wasn’t there, but did go to the Sydney meetings with Sutherland Presbyterian Fellowship – even if the minister expressed a few doubts about the phenomenon, though he broadly supported it. I also went independently with some school friends, including one Jew, being 15 at the time.
From Compass, where the transcript has now appeared:
143 thousand people had crammed into the MCG and another 4,000 stood outside listening to hastily rigged up speakers. They had come from all over the state and they wanted to be part of the action.
Judith Smart – Historian
I was eight at the time. I was a member of the Malvern Baptist Sunday School. The Baptists were very evangelical and they decided that they should take all the Sunday School to the Billy Graham crusade. We weren’t close enough to actually see Billy Graham but his speech was quite astonishing.
No, I didn’t go forward when the call came. I had already done that at a Fellowship Camp at Otford a month or two earlier. Oh, and in Sydney I was close enough to see the man quite close, comparatively speaking, in at least one of the meetings.
It was all rather amazing. Sydney had never seen such crowds, particularly for a religious gathering. On the last day the overflow filled the stadium next door as well as the SCG itself.
One of my teachers did mutter something about Nuremberg rallies, I recall. We thought that quite out of place at the time.
My trip back to 1959 did produce a Ninglun’s Specials entry: Memorabilia 15: 1959 — or thereabouts where you will find some quite wonderful super-8 footage of Sydney in that period. Not mine; a YouTube member posted it.
Much water has gone under the Harbour Bridge since then!
That was a profoundly emotional experience, that one at Otford. I can see now how I was in a sense set up for it, given the psychology and emotional state I have been indicating, and the fact I was rather a lonely and imaginative child.
RELATED: Shire childhood, adolescence and early adulthood 2: 1958, Shire childhood, adolescence and early adulthood 3: 1959 – 1961, Shire childhood, adolescence and early adulthood 4: Cronulla 1961-1962, 1964-1969.