Byters Mick and Kath stopped in to see me on a visit to Sydney from Canowindra (for overseas readers, it is pronounced Ka-noun-dra and comes from an aboriginal term for “a home”). It is a farming area about 300 kilometres west of Sydney with a rich history, including being taken over for three days in 1863 by bushranger Ben Hall and his gang (a story for a future Bytes).
During our conversation, Mick mentioned an anecdote to me that I am posting as today’s item. I managed to locate a source for it, an obituary for rural reporter Colin Munro (1940-2010) which, in turn, quotes another rural reporter, Alex Nicol:
Colin was a great racconteur and teller of stories. His Balfang Balfang reworking of the English language yarn is of legendary status. Another story was of rural reporter Alex Nicol who interviewed an elderly woman Mrs Harris in the 1970s for Sunday All Over, the forerunner to Australia All Over. Alex broadcast the programme to the nation from the regional studios in Orange, the first time this had happened in the history of the ABC.
Mrs Harris had 13 children and ran the Kerragundie telephone exchange on the Bourke-Cobar party line for 55 years. She had been so committed to her job that when there was trouble in surrounding station country, she would sleep beside the switchboard in case of an emergency. This encouraged Alex to ask: “What happens if you are ill?” She didn’t understand the question. Alex asked again. Still she didn’t understand. Finally he said: ‘‘Have you ever been bedridden?’’ to which Mrs Harris replied ‘‘Oh yes Alex, hundreds of times – and twice in a sulky.’’
Reflecting the times, the response wasn’t considered appropriate for broadcast.