My story, “human” --- God’s story, “divine”. “He had it planned”.

This is my personal life story; it roughly traces my life and family over the past 75 years or so. There has been good times and bad, many ups and downs, many happy and some sad. I have had an interesting life, never boring. It hasn’t been an easy life. I have always been an energetic, hard working man, keen to do my best at work and at home, but certainly not always succeeding. Although I had a very strict up bringing as a child, I was happy enough. You can always learn to live with your circumstances, which I did.

Alfred and Matilda I was born in Dubbo on the 16-06-1928. I grew up as a young teenager without friends or vices. I had two sisters; one older and one younger. “MEMORIES”. What a wonderful gift from God. Let me start back in 1935 when I was a small boy. I remember my grandparents well, Alfred and Matilda. They were not Christians and never went to church as far as I know. I remember them quite well from my childhood days. They seemed to be financially well off and gave us some very good presents at times. I remember “cracker night” well. It was always at their place with a huge bonfire and lots of crackers which they supplied every year. It was a special time we looked forward to every year; good memories. They lived on the outskirts of town on a very large block of ground in Dubbo, just past the cemetery. They also owned a very nice brick house on the corner of their land. Their first house burnt down. They had an orchid, grew a lot of vegetables and owned a few beehives and made their own honey. I remember eating the yummy honeycomb there sometimes. They were very well known in Dubbo. They leased some of their land to the council for many years. It was used to empty the towns sewage in very long trenches which were dug and covered over by hand and reused again. My grandfather, my father and his brother all worked for the council on the council sewage trucks for years. It was a well paid and very important job in those days, but smelly (I remember only too well what those “open poo” cans were like). I loved spending time with my grandfather in his garden. To me he seemed a very serious old man, but friendly enough. He would show me how to loosen up the ground and say “This is the way to tickle them up, son”. I remember he had a bad nervous breakdown when I was a boy. He was very strict like my father was. He died at age 82 from a heart attack. My grandmother was a lovely kind old lady, she used to spoil me with some yummy cake she specially made for us. Unfortunately “Nana”, my grandmother died from cancer in her sixty’s. I can’t remember how old I was, but I remember going to her funeral. My grandparents had a daughter named “Lily”. I believe she was a wonderful young lady, a lovely person to know. It was so unfortunate she died so young (in her twenty’s). She died from Tuberculosis (T.B). A lot of people got T.B (a lung disease) back then. They had special hospital homes in the mountains for people to stay at until they recovered. They needed fresh clean air. Lily was the youngest of the three children. She had two brothers; Ernest (my dad) and Lenny who was in the middle. Lenny was very different to my father. He was a very likable person and easy going. It’s a pity he never married. He was financially well off too. Lenny was expected to marry my wife’s sister Pearl. She was ready but he wasn’t. They did get engaged but never married. We liked Lenny, my wife Joyce and I always got on well with him. He was a fairly big man, bigger then my father and more generous. Whenever he saw us down town, he would give us some money.

For many years my grandparents, Lenny and my father owned and rented about 15 houses in Dubbo between them. They did not get much rent in those days. My sister Betty was the rent collector. They built the houses themselves over many years and the houses were all exactly the same. One plan, one colour. The Rich family was very well known in Dubbo.

Houses owned by the Rich Family

What about my mother’s parents? My mum’s mother died while giving birth to her fifth child which also died. Mum was only 11 years old at the time. She had two younger sisters, Edna and Hazel and one older brother Arthur who went to the war. My mother had a big job being the eldest girl. My mother’s parents were in the Salvation Army. Her father played in the Salvation Army Band. My mother’s fathers name was George Sutton. He must have been a carpenter because I know my father worked with him building houses before I was born (that’s how dad met mum). They built the house we bought and lived in when we were married. They built four houses where I was born. My sister Betty was 5 years older than me. I was born in 1928, Betty in 1923 and my younger sister Renee in 1930. We were all born and grew up living in Dubbo. I am grateful my mother sent us to Sunday school (at the Church of England) because it was my Sunday school days which gave me the spiritual beginning I needed to believe in God, Jesus and the bible.

Well now about my parents, “Ernest” and “Florence” (Flo). My mother was born in 1905 and died in 1999 at the age of 94. My father was born in 1903 and died in 1988 at age 85. He died from a kidney failure and an enlarged heart. They must have met and had a serious relationship while they were very young because mum was “17” and dad was “19” years old when they married and my eldest sister Betty was born early in their marriage. They were not christians and didn’t go to church. Mum had a quiet faith but I’m not quite sure if it was a “saving faith”. She was named Florence Emily Noreen Sutton. She preferred Flo, but was known as “Noreen” all of her married life to please my father Ernie, as she did most of her life. Mum said he did not want to have children and just wanted her as his working mate. Thank God that was not to be. God had a plan. Mum was small but muscly and very strong for a woman. My mother was very special to me. I knew she loved me even though she wasn’t allowed to show it. My father was against showing much affection and did not want his son to be a “sissy”. Mum was quietly spoken, gentle, polite and obedient to her husband most of their married life. She did rebel much later in life. They were married 66 years. My mother was a remarkable woman. For many years she worked with my father in the building trade building houses to rent. She was his labourer mixing cement, carrying bricks etc. She was a good painter too. Dad was very proud of her. She could work like a man, and certainly did.

Old time dance band

Mum played the piano well (without music) and owned her own old time dance band. We had a very big backyard cemented where they held their dance nights regularly. Us kids loved to get around the piano with mum and sing songs, a good time like that was rare. This was around 1940.

Florence Riding My mother was best known throughout the west for her remarkable efforts cycling on the road and setting record times. Her time for cycling 103 miles(on bad road) was 5 hours and 22 minutes (unpaced) from Nyngan to Dubbo which was an Australian record at the time. Then another time she cycled from Dubbo to Orange; 99 miles. The newspapers said, “Dubbo wonder woman cycles, Dubbo to Orange establishing a cycling record for which Australian or world parallels have not been found”. (This was also in Sydney newspapers too). My eldest sister Betty was 14 at the time, and was a big girl for her age. She was a good cyclist too and held the Australian junior time road records in fact. Mum and Betty trained together on the road. It’s sad to think that they both lost their legs (due to sugar) before they died. My mother said before she died she had a very fulfilling life. There was a big write up in the local newspaper about her past history, I still have a copy.

My Father was a honest hard working man, well known and respected, certainly not religious. My parents did not attend church or read the Bible that I know of, but thank God mum sent us to Sunday school. I remember dad saying when Joyce and I started going to church regularly, “Religion is alright son, as long as you don’t take it too seriously”. My father was very strict and had rules we had to abide by or else we copped the strap. One rule was to be seen and not heard, especially at the meal table. We never wanted to make him angry, he had a very bad temper. We knew he meant what he said, in fact we were frightened of him. We were not allowed outside our gate and other children were not allowed in to play. We did not have any close friends. We always walked a long distance to school in all weather. My father found it difficult to show love, most likely because of his father. I could never live up to his expectations. He was a “workaholic”, worked seven days a week and holidays too. I was about 10 years old when we moved from Dubbo and into a very old unused farmhouse about 20 miles away. We did this so dad could rent the house we were living in. We lived in two 12’ x 12’ tents for a while in a government owned reserve before moving into the old farmhouse. No one had lived in this old house for many years. It was made of timber slabs standing up right and had plenty of cracks in the walls. One thing I remember living there was the night dad was having a go at mum about something and I spoke up in her favour. We were having our evening meal at the time, dad lashed out immediately hitting me full force over the head with his hand. My head was forced down onto my plate smashing it. Just as well it was my forehead and not my mouth. I jumped up straight away, my head bleeding and ran outside crying. I never spoke out of turn again. Times for my parents must have been tough then, in 1938 and 1939. My sister Renee and I attended a one room school with one teacher. That was within walking distance from the old farmhouse. When I was about 13 years old we moved back to Dubbo into a newly built house in Allison street that Dad had built for mum. I guess he reckoned she had earned it. I lived there until I left home in 1946. I also went to high school for a while but I did not learn much there.

A time I have never forgotten was my first time in Sydney. Uncle Lenny took me to Sydney with him for a week or so while he had an operation on his throat. I went to school while staying with some relatives I never knew. My first time away from home. It was a little scary but very exciting. It was a wonder I was allow to go, I was about 11 at the time.

Me and my sister Renee Another time, my sister Renee and I was with my parents in dad’s ute. We were going to visit our grandparents when we were involved in an accident on a street corner in Dubbo. I was the only one who was hurt. I was flung forward hitting my mouth. The force of the impact broke my two main front teeth off and loosened several others. My mouth was in a bad way for months in which time I had to drink and eat from a straw. I had some false teeth from then on. Prior to the accident, I had really good front teeth.

During the war in the early 1940’s, my parents were away working at a place called “Glen Davis”, a very small town tucked away at the foot of some mountains. This place only had one way in, and one way out. Dad was building and mum was painting army barracks for the war. I’m not sure how long they were there but I know we didn’t see much of them for a couple of years. I remember staying with my father at Glen Davis for a week or two during school holidays.

Our sister Betty looked after us well. She was our other mother at the time. She had a big responsibility, so did I because I had the job of looking after mum’s poultry farm before and after school. I’m not sure how many chooks there were but it seemed like hundreds. It was a very big job, a big job indeed. Everyday I would boil up wheat in an old copper outside. The mixture for the morning meal was pollard and bran, plain wheat was used in the afternoon. I would cut some lucsene and chop it up in a chopping machine that had a handle to wind around everyday. Of course I also had to collect the eggs. There were patches of lucsene, fruit trees and a large garden to look after. It was a big area of ground. There are six houses on that ground now. My father owned two of the houses. He built them on ground which used to be their tennis courts.

Me. Dubbo wheel race winner I left school when I was 14 and a half in 1942 and went to work for my father. I worked on a garden market out of Dubbo on the Macquarie river. The place was very isolated and we never saw anyone around there. There was a very old house on the land. Another young fellow (about 16) and myself worked the garden and lived in the house on our own. I learned to cook and we both shared. It wasn’t right to leave us there like that on our own. We also didn’t have any phone on that property so there was no way to contact anyone. We didn’t get to town much because my father would come out there on the weekends, mainly to see how we were doing. He would bring needed food and give us some more work to do. I remember being there on my own for a while at one time. I wasn’t paid anything until the end of that job. After about 12 months, dad must have got rid of that garden because he leased some ground right in Dubbo, just behind the shopping centre, near the river. I looked after that garden when I wasn’t working with him else where. At times I worked with him in the bush. He always expected too much from me. He never liked me being left handed either. My mother was left handed. When in town, I loved going to the movies, or “pictures” as we called them then. It was the main thing that made life worth while at the time. I had my cycling racing too. I loved that. I started when I was 10 years old. I had a few years break and then became more serious about it in my teenage years. Dad trained me for a few years, but I was never good enough to please him. I remember him saying, “you’ll never be good enough”. When dad gave up on me, another helpful old man started training me, that’s when I became really good. My very best year was in 1952 - after I was married. I was 24 years old at the time. That year, I won three important one mile track wheel races. Mudgee, Forbes and the big one at Dubbo. There were big headlines in the local newspaper (of which I still have a copy). What a terrific night that was. It was like a dream come true.

My dream girl, Joyce The “real dream” that came true was finding the right girl, getting married and having a family. There is no doubt that God had a hand in that. I was invited to Joyce Brown’s 16th Birthday party out of the blue. The strange thing about it was we hardly knew each other. There was a hidden reason for it though. Joyce’s parents were trying to draw attention away from an older fellow which they apparently weren’t to keen on (not that they knew me that well either). I have never forgotten that night so long ago (this year [2009] will be our 60th wedding anniversary). That night Joyce looked so beautiful, so exciting, so entertaining. I was captivated by her. I really was. It was November 12th, 1944. She was the first and only girlfriend that I’ve ever had. I felt Joyce Brown was the “girl of my dreams”. I had to pursue her for about 12 months before we began going out together. Joyce didn’t even like me much at first. and she tried to push her younger sister Marji onto me. When we did start going out on dates (mainly to the pictures), Marji was made to go with us as a chaperone. Joyce’s father didn’t trust us to be alone. He said we could go out alone when Joyce turned 18, but that did not happen until after there was a big argument between Joyce and her father. He slapped Joyce’s face for persisting. After that, her father gave in and let her do what she wanted to do. Joyce was very determined to prove her father wrong and remained a virgin until we married. When we started going out alone together, we began going to church every Sunday night. Although I hadn’t gone to church since my Sunday school days, I was keen to go anywhere, anytime with my sweetheart. We both had “faith” but not “saving faith” (there’s a big difference). We believed in God and the bible but did not read it and didn’t know how important it was. It was over 20 years before we came to know God in a personal way. I believe our life and marriage would have been so much improved if we had known the Lord Jesus before we were married.

We went to the Methodist church and sent our four children to Sunday school regularly, but we never heard the true message of salvation, the need to seek forgiveness for our sins and commit our life to the Lord; to be “born again”.

I was about 18 years old when I left home. I was working with my father on a building site when I made one mistake too many, that was when he threw a piece of timber at me... luckily it missed. I left the job immediately, went home, packed my port and said goodbye to my mother. She understood. It was then that I started living at a boarding house.

Joyce and me, 1945 When Joyce and I were “19”, we were very much in love and wanted to get married. Joyce’s father agreed but my father said “No, you’re too young”. We could not get married until I was 21 without my fathers consent (that was the law back then), so we had to wait until then. I was 21 on the 16th of June, 1949 so we planned ahead to marry on the 18th of June, 1949, the first Saturday after I turned 21. Waiting was a good thing for us, it gave us two years to save up and plan ahead. Those two years soon went by but it did not seem like it at the time. We spent a lot of time together during those two years and went to the pictures regularly. We were very much in love.

The wedding day came. It was a very exciting day. It was a wet Saturday afternoon on the 18th of June, 1949. About 50 people attended. My father wasn’t at the wedding, he didn’t go to my sisters wedding either. He did buy us a good quality lounge suite which showed he approved in a strange way. On our wedding night, we caught the train to Sydney. We couldn’t afford a sleeper so we sat up all night (I know that’s hard to believe). We spent the weekend in Sydney. It was very exciting for us. Joyce had never been to Sydney and I had only been there once as a boy. From Sydney, we caught the train north to Port Macquarie. We had a most enjoyable honeymoon together, an “unforgettable” time.

Our honeymoon at Port Macquarie.

Me, Port Macquarie Honeymoon Joyce, Port Macquarie Honeymoon Our wedding day, 18.06.1949

We loved Port Macquarie and so did our parents. We all spent much time there and made many trips back there over the next few years. Joyce and I went with my father once after we were married. The three of us all went in his big ute. We had a good time there together and we saw the best side of my father. He liked talking to Joyce. When Joyce’s parents sold their market garden in Dubbo, they moved to Port Macquarie to live. They lived there for many years in a large caravan. Living in the west, we loved to visit the coast and mainly camped at Port Macquarie whenever we got the opportunity. We always spent time with Joyce’s parents while we were there. Joyce’s sister Pearl and her husband John were often there too. They ended up living in Newcastle. Even on a long weekend, we would drive to Port Macquarie on a Saturday and home again on Monday. “Ridiculous”, yes I know, but thats how keen we were to get to the coast, we loved it so much. My parents liked fishing at Port Macquarie too.

Joyce, baby Trevor and me When our first born son Trevor was a few months old in 1951, we drove over to Port Macquarie for the first time in a very small old ute which I bought off someone I knew and trusted. It turned out to be a “bomb”. We didn’t own a car until then and only had bikes. We got to Port Macquarie alright but was lucky to get home again in it. This ute had very little power and we could only get half way up the big hills going forward so I drove the rest of the way up the hills in reverse (as the car has more power going in reverse). Oh boy, what a trip! Never-the-less we really enjoyed the holiday with our first baby boy. He was born on the 1st of September, 1951. We were lucky to still have him as he almost died at six weeks of age. He had a blockage in his little tummy which he must have been born with. In the end, the doctors had to operate and remove it, which they only just did in time. He was so weak and lost a lot of weight not being able to keep any milk down for long. Joyce ended up feeding him over the sink ready for him to bring it up again (that’s how bad it was). The doctors were slow to realise what the problem was, but we knew there was something seriously wrong and we were getting desperate. The minister christened him before the operation in case he didn’t make it. After the doctor operated, he then said, “It’s now up to God”. Although we did not know God personally at the time, we certainly prayed hard and was grateful to God for Trevor’s good recovery. Trevor grew into a lovely little boy and we enjoyed him very much, after being married for two years.

We were living in an old style 2 bedroom weatherboard house at 16 Tamworth street in Dubbo. The house had a back verandah with a roll up canvas blind which we used for a third bedroom later on. Me in my backyard garden in Dubbo The house belonged to my father. We bought it off him after he went guarantee for a private loan through a solicitor for us. We then had the needed money to buy dads’ house. I remember the loan was at a much higher interest rate than the banks, and there was always a financial struggle to keep out of debt. We never had a lot but always just enough. The good thing was we owned the house to begin with. That meant we were able to mortgage the house to the bank and always had money there which we could use when needed, with discretion of course. I think my father sold us the house at a reasonable price. Some people said he should have given us the house for a wedding present with me being his only son and him owning a few houses. If only. We were grateful for him enabling us to own our house this way. We soon settled in and enjoyed living there for 18 years. We had a good vegetable and flower garden. We sold a lot of flowers to a shop. We had a rain water tank, an outside toilet with a “sewage chain” to pull. This was a big improvement to the open pan, I can you tell you that. Especially when the pan was almost full to overflowing.

1952 - I was 24 years old, in excellent condition and never felt better. I had been training and racing on track and road for about 6 years or so. I had done well but had not won any big events... but 1952 was to be my big year for success on the track. I won three one mile handicap wheel races against all comers. At Mudgee, Forbes and the biggest at Dubbo. I will never ever forget that night. Joyce would be pleased for my sake but she was not as keen as the “Riches” were about cycle racing. I had been racing each weekend for years and training five days a week; track in the summer, road in the winter. My worst fall was on the road. My father trained me for years, my eldest sister Betty was the secretary of the Dubbo cycle club... so when we all got together, Joyce got more than an earful of cycling... if you know what I mean. It was the only sport I had and I loved it. It kept me very fit too, I guess it was in the blood.

On October 1st, 1954, our first daughter Janet was born. She was a lovely blue eyed blonde. We now had a boy and a girl, just what we wanted and we loved them both dearly.

I had been working in two different joinery factories since before we were married but now the time had come to start looking for other work. I had learnt a lot working with my father in my teenage years so I was able to get some carpentering and painting work. I was a carpenter on the Dubbo council for a while and was always mindful of my family needs.

1958 - I was walking past a neighbours house one day and heard their new baby crying. That triggered an urge in me to want to have another baby. Joyce agreed but was not as keen as me. We had not intended to have anymore children.

On January 18th, 1959, our second son David was born. Trevor was seven and going to school and Janet was four years old. We had started renovating our house by then too and we would have owned a new car; maybe our second new one. I know I wasted money trading in my cars on new ones too often and I also started betting on the horse races too. We were surprised that year (1959) to find out we were going to have another member in the family. We didn’t really mind, but four children, that’s enough.

On February the 18th, 1960, our second daughter Carol was born. Joyce and I believe she is a special gift from God. David was born 13 months earlier. As you can see they were very close, like twins. This was a most enjoyable time of our lives. We enjoyed the children so much; I know I did. We were struggling financially but that was just part of life. We were kept very busy, had a good garden growing and we were attending church regularly as we did before we were married. We also sent our children to Sunday school too as we thought we were right with God. In over twenty years of attending the Methodist church, we never heard the message of salvation, how to be saved from hell and have eternal life.

Alec, Carol, Trevor, Janet, David, Joyce. 1962

I had some natural ability as a salesman. This helped me a lot after I got a job working as a traveling salesman for a big company called “Waltons”. They sold most things, electrical items, furniture, manchester, etc. While working for Waltons I had a very big responsibility as did all their salesman throughout the state. We called on hundreds of existing customers each week, collecting hundreds of “pounds” as they paid off their goods on a “time payment plan”. This was like hire purchase. We had to keep selling more to them so they would remain permanently paying customers, always adding on the high interest. There was a big competition between the salesmen and good prizes too of which I won my share. The customers receipt book and mine always had to balance, and there was no room for mistakes. I spent many hours at night adding up the cash collected that day and banking it the next day. If we were short, we had to make up the difference from our own pockets. That didn’t happen too often, just as well. As you can imagine, I had to be so careful not to make any mistakes. It was difficult at times when customers kept talking to you. We also had to chase bad debts. This was no easy task. I am still amazed that I was able to do this job as well as I did with so little education. English was my favourite subject at school. I loved writing but spelling was my weakness.

Trevor and Janet were now going to school. Joyce and I were both kept busy with David and Carol. It was like having twins.

A fellow I knew managed a big new store like “Target”. He gave me a job as a cleaner when Waltons sold out to “Myers”. It was a completely different kind of job. I played music while I cleaned early of a morning. Times became more difficult for me with work and seeking a suitable job. I worked for M.L.C insurance for a while. Another person I knew got me a job as a barman at the Dubbo golf club. Talk about a different kind of job. I couldn’t handle that for long and working until 12am. I can’t imagine me behind the bar serving drinks. It was most difficult when a group of men came in off the golf course all expecting their drinks at once.

Sometimes certain decision we make in life can seem right or necessary at the time, yet sometimes they can have a devastating effect on our life. Over a period of time a certain job brought that set of circumstances over our life and marriage. We also did not know God at that time.

I think it was about 1963, I was working for “Norm Provan” in an all electrical smalls shop as a salesman. Norm Provan was a good St George rugby league player back in the 60’s. Because of this job and my eagerness to stay employed and please the manager and boss Mal Bower, I put my work before my family without realising the damage that was being done in my striving to make ends meet. There were many worrying and difficult times raising our four children and our health and marriage began to suffer. I developed stomach ulcers and my wife had a near nervous breakdown, which I’ll explain more shortly. Joyce did an excellent job looking after our four children and me. Without having God in our lives we were really struggling. At Norm Provan’s we sold most electrical goods, especially televisions. Televisions had not long come to the west. There were three salesman including myself all very keen to sell what we could because we were paid on what we sold. We also had to deliver and demonstrate what we sold. Mal Bower was the manager and expected a lot from his salesmen, it was no easy job. Mal Bower had a young secretary, she was happily married and they were a very nice couple. A serious problem developed because Joyce became very jealous of her, causing insecurity. I honestly believed she had good reason too, she felt I could not be trusted (love and trust are very closely linked). I have always been faithful and Joyce knows that. She was most fearful about what might happen. As time went on, she believed in her mind that she had more and more reason to fear losing me through things that happened with my job. Our relationship suffered and Joyce became more insecure and the lack of trust made it worse. I have proven to be trustworthy. My problem was I believed I was not doing anything wrong. I did not realise the harm I was doing to Joyce just by remaining at Norm Provans as long as I did. I certainly regret putting my job and boss Mal Bower before my family. Our doctor knew about our situation and the state Joyce’s mind was in at the time. One day, we had to bring the doctor to see Joyce. I remember being in our bedroom with Joyce and the doctor was explaining what was happening in her mind at the time. He said it was like a needle on a record player that was “stuck” going over and over in her mind and he said the best treatment to move it would be “shock treatment” done at the Orange hospital. As I said before, it was a “near nervous breakdown”. The treatment was to help you to forget whats on your mind troubling you. It’s a tough kind of treatment which they don’t do much anymore. Without having God in our life and marriage, it made matters worse. That is not having a personal relationship with Him. I was so bewilded and shocked to realise how far things had gotten out of hand. These bad memories are difficult to write about but they are a very important part of my life’s story, a part that can never be forgotten. Some say the past is in the past. I ask “is it?”. I guess it is, only when it is left there. It was a very sad day. I drove Joyce to the Orange hospital and had to leave her there for two weeks of shock treatment. Did it work? Yes, for a while. Joyce forgot a lot of things. Her memory came back. Unfortunately so did the insecurities and lack of trust (Joyce has been on medication ever since). Unfortunately, so did the insecurities and lack of trust. It was around 1963-1964, Trevor was 12 years old, Janet 9, David 4 and Carol 3. Trevor remembers this time and according to him, I did a really good job of looking after them while Joyce was in hospital. I do not remember much about that time but I must have been well organised and capable. I had to be strong for the children’s sake.

I do remember we did have our share of good times in the 50’s and 60‘s, four of us in the 50’s and six of us in the 60’s. We went on camping holidays to Port Macquarie, the Gold Coast, Canberra (on our way across to Bega), on the south coast then up to Woolongong and home again. We went to the Bathurst car races a couple of times. Trevor got lost once. We enjoyed a lot of good camping holidays during those years. Going to the Dubbo show every year and having our family photo taken too. They’re good times to remember.

Joyce, me and my sister Betty In the summer time it was hot and we had fun in the Macquarie River swimming and shrimping. The river was a walking distance from our place. In the winter time when is was cold, I remember how we would spend time around the warm fuel stove with the oven door open. At night, there was the open fire and radio programs to tune into; no television. Trevor remembers the radio programs we enjoyed so much. Every night there was something to listen to. There were quite a few very simple things we all enjoyed so much, like having a milkshake together at “Lillies” down the street and sometimes on a Sunday, we would all enjoy an ice cream soda together. We would all sit around the kitchen table with a “brick” of ice cream (it came in a cardboard box called a brick), a large bottle of coloured cordial, a glass and a spoon. That was a real special treat on a Sunday (not every Sunday). Sunday school picnics once a year was a special time for the family too. The children were sent to Sunday school regularly. Christmas time was special and although we could not afford much, the children really enjoyed what they did get. They enjoyed the “stocking” filled with little things that didn’t cost much.

God was good to us even though we did not know “Him” then. The children remained strong and healthy. I was very sick with hepatitis for several weeks. Another time I had a bad infection for a couple of years in the urinary tract and was eventually sent to a specialist in Sydney who found it and burnt it out. That wasn’t pleasant but I was glad to be rid of that ongoing problem.

After we came home from a holiday at Port Macquarie in January of 1966, I started thinking about how good it would be to live close to the coast. I thought whats stopping us from moving there, why not pack up and move there I said. Joyce agreed. My parents thought we were crazy as did some of our friends. It seemed like a good idea to us. I wondered why I hadn’t thought of doing it a long time ago. It certainly was a big decision at the time. We had never considered moving before, but we did and we have never regretted it. We decided to make our new home at Lismore, close to the sea but not right on the water. We had never been to Lismore and it was completely new to us. I believe God was behind that decision. “He” had a plan for us. Later that year in late October (I think), Trevor and I traveled to Lismore to check out a job I had waiting for me at “Carl Smalls” as a salesman in the electrical department. Trevor got a job there too on the delivery truck. We camped in our 12’ x 12’ tent in the camping ground. We had a gas stove, a light and fold up beds. I was not very impressed with Lismore because there was a drought on at the time we arrived and it had not rained for a while. Everywhere was very very dry. The job checked out ok and it wasn’t long before Christmas came around. Trevor and I packed and headed to Dubbo to have our last Christmas there. We were looking forward to moving to the coast in the new year.

The load we brought from Dubbo to Lismore I must mention about our trip over to Lismore. We packed as much as we could in and on our morris oxford station wagon. We owned a very small trailer which we stacked up high. We had “everything” with us except the big furniture which we sent over by train. The station wagon and trailer were well and truly over loaded. We started off not knowing if we would make it or not. Six of us, a dog named “Scamp” and a bird. I find it hard to believe now that I would take such a risk. The wheels on the trailer were no bigger than a wheel on a wheel barrow. We didn’t have a spare wheel for the little trailer either. No doubt God was with us on that very long difficult trip. We made it to “Benameer” just past Tamworth when we pulled up to a service station. I found a tyre on the little trailer almost flat. We were very lucky to make it there (or was it more then luck?). We were able to get the tyre mended and were ready to be on our way. It was a slow and difficult trip.

In 1967, we were in Lismore camping ground, but not for long. We soon moved to the Ballina camping ground until we found a suitable house in Lismore to rent. We rented an old style house in James street while looking for a house which would suit us to buy. We bought a house in Lismore heights at 16 Renwick street with bridging finance because we had not sold our house in Dubbo at the time. This house was a grand old three bedroom house with verandahs that covered the front and both sides. It had a ‘fantastic’ view over Lismore central. The house needed some work done on it which we did eventually do. The money from the house in Dubbo was not enough to fully pay for this house so we continued paying the house off at a reasonable amount per month, it was an ex-serviceman loan we took over.

You know when you think about it, what a tremendously big decision it was to move from the west to the far north coast, to Lismore, a place we had never seen, leaving behind everyone we knew. If we had never moved, what a difference it would have made to our extended family. It was one of the biggest decisions we had ever made.

In 1967, Carol was seven, David was eight and Janet was able to start going to Richmond River High School. Trevor already had a job. There was a heck of a lot of activity happening in that house in the nine years we lived there. They were certainly interesting years to look back on. As a family we had good times and bad, very important years but difficult ones too at times. I’ll come back to the “70’s” a little later on.

Our four children ready for school In January 1969 while on holidays at Port Macquarie, we went to a scripture union family mission tent with our children. I noticed the recently released “Good News” bible on display for sale and felt the urge to buy one, and so I did. I was very interested in it, it was easy to read and to understand. I began to read it straight away while on holidays. I found it certainly was “Good News” for me. It was as if I had saw a bible for the first time. As I kept reading it, God began to open my eyes to the truth of “His Word”, encouraging me by helping me to understand it, for the first time. After we returned home from holidays, I kept on reading my new bible night after night. God was speaking to me through “His Word” and I knew it. God was revealing to me what we had always believed in was not enough to save us from the torments of hell. We thought it was good enough if we believed in God and his Son Jesus Christ, lived good decent lives and went to church, surely that would be enough to get us into heaven and have eternal life. But then I read in Ephesians 2:9, “Salvation is not a reward for the good we have done, so none of us can take any credit for it”. I soon realised my sins could not be paid for by living a “good” life. We all fall short of God’s absolute righteousness; all have sinned (Romans 3:23) and we are all in need of a Saviour. I read in Romans 10:9-10, if you confess that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised him from death, you will be saved, for it is by our faith that we are put right with God. It is by our confession that we are saved. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one goes to the Father except by me”. I now understood that God holds each one of us responsible for what we do with “Jesus”. I was amazed after all these years to know our eternal destiny is determined by “choice” not “chance”. One night while reading my bible alone in my bedroom, I responded to God’s free pardon for my sins, accepted “His” forgiveness and asked Jesus Christ to come into my heart and life by faith, and made a life time commitment to “Him”. That was in early 1969. I did not fully understand the commitment I made to follow Jesus. I didn’t understand the importance of “repentance”. I was sorry for my sins but not that willing to make the changes in my life that was needed and it was certainly effecting my spiritual growth. For the next seven or eight years I really struggled ‘spiritually’ on my own trying to live the Christian life in my own strength, still doing things ‘my way’ instead of ‘God’s way”. The devil hung on to me and wouldn’t let me go, he will not give up easily. Satan made the most of the troubled times we were going through. There was trouble at work and at home. Our children had grown much bigger and so had their problems. Spiritually, I was still very weak, I went to church and bible studies but did not have a personal relationship with God that I needed. I could not understand what was happening in my life, or why. I realised much later that my main problem was I was trying to put on my “new self” over my “old self”. It was the same year (1969) that Billy Graham had a “crusade” in Sydney. Lismore had a landline through to the city hall where a meeting took place. I went to that meeting especially to go forward at the end to witness publicly my commitment to Jesus, really confirming my faith. That was just the beginning to a long, long relationship with God, an everlasting one.

As I have already said, the “70’s” were very active years. So much happened, too much to include it all here.

When ‘Carl Small’ went bust, I was without a job. Within the same year (with what I believed was a good reason) we bought a small banana plantation. Yes, a “banana plantation”. This also included a patch of pineapples, two cows, a draught horse named Dolly and a very old house, high on a big hill at Rock Valley. We were living in Lismore Heights at the time and drove out to Rock Valley each day to work. Queensland growers flooded the New South Wales banana market at the time so there was no money to be made there, but it was good experience, but a battle against the odds for sure. At the same time, I got a job at ‘Summercraft blinds and awnings”. We worked the banana plantation as well. Some times I would drive Joyce out early in the mornings and pick her up after work. We would all be out there weekends. It all seems like a bad dream to me now. We sold it to the next door neighbour within twelve months at a loss. David and Carol had a great time there. One of the cows had a calf too. We also grew beans which were attacked by tullawongs.

Now let me reminisce for a while about the very important busy years in the 1970’s. Joyce and I were in our early forties. The were changes in me - physically, mentally and spiritually. Self weakness and weakness of the flesh made things worse... and Satan knew it.

Our house at Lismore Heights Our new home in Lismore Heights was a big house,. There were times when there were 11 or 12 people were in our house. Yes, six of us, Janet’s boyfriend Peter, Janet’s girlfriend and her boyfriend, our friend Robbie Gulliver and there were two male school students boarding with us for a couple of years. Trevor had a friend or two as well. We had some great times with Robbie. We loved the same kind of music and often played records at night. We went fishing together sometimes. He helped with work on the house too. Joyce became close friends with his mother Dolly. I just mentioned fishing, how good it was when we moved to the coast. Joyce's parents and mine were very keen fishermen and very good ones for sure. We did a lot of bream fishing when we moved to Lismore, both at “Evans head” and “Ballina”. The fishing was so good, we caught heaps of bream. We always had plenty in our freezer. We all loved fishing, especially Trevor. He was one of the best bream fishermen on the far north coast. The best part about living at Lismore Heights was the fantastic view over most of Lismore. The problem was driving up and down every day taking the children to sport or whatever. David took on boxing and rugby league. I helped out with the boxing training. It was in those turbulent years that Janet and Carol had their first baby, both girls were adopted out at birth. So much was happening at home and at work. I worked hard as a “fitter” for Summercraft. They offered me a job at Summercraft blind and awning as a traveling salesman, and I took it. I was on my way to Tweed Heads one working day in the early 70’s when God saved me from certain death with his divine protection. I believe It was so close with a big semi, two of them in fact. It happened on the Baranbar range. I came around a bend to face two semi trailers, one behind the other coming down the hill with a car alongside the second semi trying to pass. My reaction immediately was to hit the brakes. My small datsun car swerved inward toward the embankment. Desperately trying to keep control of the car, I swerved back the other way toward the semi’s, just managing to straighten my car up in time as the two big semi’s (and the car that almost cost me my life between the two semi’s) went “flying” past, right in front of my eyes. That all happened in a few seconds. I knew God was with me at that time. I kept on going as if nothing had happened, but my heart was pounding and I kept saying, thank you God! Thank you God! I have had some close goes before but nothing like this one.

God is so good! I was still searching for a closer relationship with God. We attended the methodist church every sunday. Carol and David were going to christian endeavour. I assisted there. I went to a bible study home group held at the pastors house. I went to a special methodist study meeting where when I passed, I received a certificate saying, I have been “confirmed”. It was like a salvation certificate. They were no where near the ‘mark’, but I didn’t know it. I still have this “certificate” which means very little. I was the only christian in our family then. I was doing my best as a christian but had not changed much to notice. Car and caravan, ready for Grafton

After working at Summercraft blinds and awnings for about eight years or so, the boss Gavin McKinnon called me into his office one day. “Take a chair”, he said. “How would you like to start your own blind and awning business in Grafton, selling my manufactured products?” This was unexpected and I said that I would think it over and talk to my wife. We made another big decision, to move away from our children, sell our house in Lismore Heights and move to Grafton to start our own blind and awning business there. (These ‘big’ decisions amaze me now. I certainly must have had a lot of confidence in my own ability). So we put our house on the market for sale. I bought a small caravan to live in and also some ladders and tools I needed. I then said to myself, “Grafton, here I come”.

Another big load ready I owned a small Ford station wagon at the time, hardly big enough for what I needed. Later I bought a big Ford V8, a second hand one in excellent condition. Joyce stayed in Lismore a few months while I got started in Grafton. God must have been in it. I lived in my caravan in a caravan park to start with, did my own advertisements in the local newspaper which I enjoyed doing. A lot depended on connecting with the people of Grafton through the advertisements which I did each week. I had a lady who Summercraft knew to take my phone calls. I called on the interested customers, measured and quoted, and made a weekly trip to Lismore to order and pick up what I had sold and ordered the previous week. I showed I was a christian by witnessing in the local paper each week under the heading, “Take time with the Lord”. It was well read by what I was told. Business was good and Joyce soon joined me. We rented a house in Grafton while looking for a suitable house to buy. We were strangers in Grafton and we didn’t even like the place at first. Never-the-less, thanks to our great God, it proved to be a good decision, for our lives were greatly enriched and so much began to happen for the best. With a lot of long hard hours, we did very well with our new blind and awning business and we soon found warm christian fellowship there too in the Grafton baptist church which we joined. It wasn’t long before Joyce was converted and baptisted there and I became much stronger in my faith. God blessed us in our marriage and in our business. We were now living in Carlton street in South Grafton (we only rented for a short time). We conducted our blind and awning business from there and Joyce handled the phone calls. Our house was a small fibro house, nothing fancy but comfortable. We went to church every Sunday and joined a home group bible study. It wasn’t long and I was leading my own bible study group in other peoples homes.

One of the best thing I could have done was to join a christian mens group which I did. It was called C.B.M.C (Christian Business Mens Committee). There were mainly six of us. We met for prayer and breakfast regularly and had outreach dinners a few times a year and all the members in New South Wales and Queensland met once a year for a C.B.M.C convention at Toowoomba. That was really a special weekend. I would come home flying “high as a kite” spiritually.

Our Grafton house Over the next five years as our business grew, I became so busy I didn’t have time to enjoy life, didn’t have time to do the things I really wanted to do; for God or myself. I was just too busy. I decided to sell the business. I felt it was time to get out, my health was being affected and I couldn’t get reliable help. After being in the blind and awning business for about five years we sold it and our house which we now owned for the first time. Because of certain circumstances, we decided to buy 16 acres of land in the bush with our son David, and set about to fulfill an ambition... to build our own house. It was not a good idea, but seemed like it at the time. It certainly was a challenge, a big one. But that suited me and I knew it wouldn’t be easy but then it wouldn’t be a challenge if it was. What a tremendous worthwhile experience. We were very much aware of God’s presence with us. It was a great time to get to know God much better, He used that time and that experience to teach us so much about many things. In particular, God taught us patience and the need to wait on Him to act, to trust Him and to depend on Him. “God had a plan”, and as always, His timing was perfect.

Our son David built himself a bush shack on a section of our land that suited him near the dam. He helped me to build a storage shed to begin with and also helped with the building of the house at times. I drove out each day as we hadn’t sold the house in Grafton at the time. When the house in Carlton street sold we moved out onto the land after having a section cleared. We stored our furniture in the newly built shed (which I accidentally nearly burnt down). Thank God it didn’t. We lived there in a small caravan while building the house. I didn’t use any proper plans to build our house. I knew the way I was going to build it. The simple easy way I knew. Flat slopping roof with sky light windows facing north. Fibro walls, mainly second hand hardwood timber to save money. The only problem with that was they had plenty of old rusty nails to pull out. That was Joyce's job. We built the house about a metre off the ground, on brick piers. That took us a long time. Did you know I was a bricklayer. So often, so many things in my life have been done the hard way.

I’m a carpenter, painter, plumber, joiner. Joyce did a lot of the painting work. All done without electricity. We had a small generator which was setup in a special small shed, that was the only electricity we had for the caravan. It was a real nuisance when watching a movie on TV at night and the generator would run out of petrol and stop just when the end of the movie was getting exciting. I would race outside with a touch to quickly refuel the generator and back in again to see the end of the movie... sometimes too late.

I built a small room on the back of the shed for a bathroom. We had a bath and a “chip heater” for hot water. We had a large rain water tank at the end of the shed and another tank with dam water when needed. It was pumped up from the dam. We bought a large cement rain water tank for the new house. We had a septic tank for sewage. We had a vegetable garden too which we watered with water from the dam tank. We had to fence the garden off to keep the kangaroos off it.

Wall feature I had a bricklayer build a feature brick wall inside the house, it ran from the front to the back of the house with a twin bar room swinging doors in the centre, how about that. After I finished building the house, I built an extra room on the back of the house for my office where I met with God, did bible study and prayed morning and night. After about three years of very hard work, trails and difficulties we were able to move into our brand new house, built to the way I had in mind. Even though we faced many difficulties while we were building the house and eventually in selling it, we knew God was with us. “He” was in control. He was in control with all the traveling involved when in business, during the time living out in the bush and traveling back and forth to Grafton. I spend a lot of time in praying getting to know God much better while traveling. The cost of building had been far greater than expected and getting the electricity on was expensive too. I needed a job and soon found one with “Coffs Harbour Blinds and Awnings”. I worked for them in the Grafton area until we sold our house and land.

House we built in Grafton.

Front of the house Back of the house

I still had much to learn as far as communicating with God. Before I left the Grafton area I bought another second hand car, which wasn’t a good choice (more about that soon).

We waited anxiously for a buyer at the time not realising God was working “all things together for good”. He had a plan.

October 1985 - We sold the house and moved away from the bush, gum trees and kangaroos to Lismore where I thought God might want us to settle and serve him in that area (without having Ballina in Mind).

Note! Right now is a brand new year, 2010. I have been reminded lately of Gods goodness, how good “He” has been to my family and to me over the many years, a life time in fact. Our faith has not been truly tested, thanks be to God. He has blessed our lives instead. I will go on trusting “Him”, his mercy and goodness endure forever.

We weren’t in Lismore long when the second hand car I hastily bought in Grafton needed some repairs . God soon set my sights on a yellow Toyota Corona. It was in a car sales yard all by itself and I felt assured this was the car God had in mind for us. I traded the car I had only owned for a few weeks on this Carona and I never regretted it.

The last ten years had been busy hard working years. I was now 57 and looking forward to retiring. We moved in with Peter and Janet while looking for a suitable house to buy in Lismore, one we could afford. After looking around for a few days we saw a house that suited us in Lismore Heights. The price was more then the cash we had but we could get a bank loan [so I thought]. I still had not learnt the lesson of staying out of debt. First I needed a job to be able to get a loan, I had already applied for a suitable job as a salesman for a new blind business that had just opened in Lismore. I felt sure this was God at work, with my experience I was sure I would get the job.

Sometimes God needs to intervene to change our thoughts and directions”. This was such a time.

After being messed around for a few days, I went along to be interviewed for this vacant position. While waiting to be interviewed I remember thinking to myself how important it was for me to get this job to be able to get the bank loan to be in the position to buy the house we had paid a deposit on. I was very anxious and thinking, ‘I must get this job, so much depends on it’. Then God intervened in the events that followed. Suddenly (like out of the blue) God spoke to me. I heard Him clearly -- (God does speak to us in different ways at different times, its a matter of being aware of it). On this occasion, I clearly heard a voice say to me


I knew for certain it was God who had spoken to me. That soon straightened my thinking out. It changed my thoughts and feelings immediately. I said aloud, “thats right God, it is you alone I depend on”. A calm peace of mind came over me and I knew all would be well. It didn’t really matter anymore if I got this job or not. “God was back in control” and that is very important. I did not get the job and I couldn’t understand why at the time.

God was working all things together for good in His divine providence”.

God had a plan all along for us to retire in beautiful Ballina by the sea, to own and live in a comfortable three bedroom house (one that suited us perfectly) in an excellent position in East Ballina (more about the house later).

As I have said, I couldn’t understand why I didn’t get the job at the time. God stopped us from getting in debt with another bank loan. To buy this house in Lismore was not God’s plan for us. “He” stopped us from rushing into something we would later regret. I praise God. He always knows whats best for His children. If I had been successful in getting that salesman job, I wouldn’t have had it long. The new blind business closed down a couple of months later. I soon would have been unemployed with a loan to pay off, living in Lismore where we were not meant to be. God is so good! I can assure you it was a lesson well learnt.

Having time to consider all things prayerfully, we decided to take a short lease on a very nice unit in Goonellabah and wait on Gods leading. “Our future was now in God’s hands”. At this time we were attending the united church in Lismore. Our daughter Carol was living in Ballina and attending the Baptist church and she encouraged us to drive to Ballina each Sunday and go to church there with her. God soon made it clear to us that Ballina was the place for us to settle into. We were blessed once again with warm friendly fellowship in the Ballina Baptist church so in February 1986, we moved to Ballina and later joined the Baptist church. Over the next six years or so God was able to use me extensively in that church. While there, I learnt a great deal about God and the intolerance of christian people, which disappointed me greatly. I guess it was an experience I needed to go through and be part of at the time.

It was 1988 when my father died. Before then, we had visited my parents in Dubbo a couple of times. We spent sometime with my parents fishing at Evans Head when they were there on a holiday. Fishing at Evans head was fantastic. It was so good at one time I was able to catch two good size bream at the same time, on two separate hooks. You don’t believe me, but it’s true. I saw another fellow do it twice. Trevor caught heaps of bream there over the years. Carol, Janet, Trevor, Joyce and I all caught heaps of bream at Ballina. It has all changed now though.

As I have said, my father died in October 1988, aged 83. Dad had an enlarged heart and serious kidney problems. My mothers health was alright at the time with the help of medication. She may have had some sugar problem then. Lenny didn’t sign his will, so all of his money, around $500,000 dollars went to my father just before he died, leaving my father with around $1,000,000 in all. When he died he left most of it going to the cancer foundation. How much did my father leave to me, his only son? $2,000. Yes, two thousand dollars. It was no surprise though as he always said people who get something for nothing never appreciate it. Let them work for it as I had to do he said. My sister and mother did not agree with that philosophy. They were not left much money either. Of the $80,000 that my father had invested, the interest would go to my mother. The $80,000 itself was to go to the cancer foundation when mum died, so she could not leave it to us. My sister Betty, who was married lived in a rented house owned by my father. The will stated that she could live in the house rent free, until she died then the house would go to the cancer foundation, so Betty’s husband Merv could not have it. My father didn’t like him either. So you can see why we agreed to contest my fathers will, besides, half of the money was Lenny’s anyway. Lenny had me on his will for $100,000 which I did not receive. So 1989 became a very important year for us all as we prepared for the court case.

There was a lot of preparing for this court case as we needed to convince the judge that my fathers will was unfair. We were told by our solicitor right from the beginning that it would be very difficult to convince a judge to change my fathers will as it’s not usually the case. We all agreed we had nothing to lose. I went with my solicitor to see our barrister in Sydney in advance of our court case to talk things over. It was about 12 months after dad died that the contested will court case came up in Sydney. We were all there, my mother, and my sisters (Renee and Betty - in her wheel chair). Betty had lost one leg through sugar. Betty’s husband Merv was there too. When our Sydney barrister presented our case to the judge who had already received our information pleading our case before hand, we were not feeling too optimistic. Joyce and I had been praying for sometime that God would grant us just enough money to buy a house in Ballina. The judge granted Betty and Merv $250,000. They received the most due to her being disable and needing the house fixed up to suit a disable person. The judge also granted them the house they were living in, so that when Betty died years later, Merv ended up with the house. He certainly deserved it after all he had done for Betty and mum. Renee was granted the least because she owned her house and had sold some units in Dubbo. She received the amount of $60,000. Joyce and I were granted $130,000. Our barrister asked for $200,000 saying that $130,000 would not be enough to buy a house in Ballina. The mean old judge said “they can buy a house in Lismore, houses are cheaper there”. We were very excited and well satisfied. God had heard and answered our prayers. He had a plan. You may wonder why God did not persuade the judge to grant us $200,000, the amount our barrister was asking for. God promises to meet our needs and He knew $130,000 would be just enough to meet our need to buy the house He had waiting for us in Ballina.

We received the $130,000 plus my $2,000 in 1990. The very first house the estate agent took me to look at was the one we bought. There is an interesting story to be told here. It’s marvelous what God will do for you when you love and trust Him as we should. While we were battling to have the money to buy a house in Ballina, God had a builder building his own house (our future house). He was building this house for himself and his wife, but he split up with his wife by the time he had finished building it. This was about two years before we were ready to buy it, no doubt he hoped to get a good price for it. Twelve months went by and it still wasn’t sold, so he rented it out to a couple he knew from the U.S.A who were holidaying in Australia for twelve months. Then the builder put his house back on the market to sell, finding it hard to sell he reduced the price again. That was when we came into the picture. Can you believe it, it’s true.

God’s timing is always perfect”.

Once we had the money in the bank, we wasted no time contacting a estate agent. The agent took me to a house in Chickiba drive saying this house is a real bargain as the owner is very keen to sell. He reduced the price to $133,000. After having a good look at this house and the size of the block of ground it was on (mindful also of the position it was in). I knew for certain this house at 85 Chickiba drive was for us. I told the agent we’ll take it, it suits us perfectly, depending on my wife of course. Joyce said, “No, we need to look at some other houses too”. I took her to look at this house I was so keen to buy and together we agreed to buy it. Then the agent said to us that there is someone else who wants to buy this house and is willing to pay $1,000 more. Well maybe there was and maybe there wasn’t, who knows. This house was ours and we weren’t prepared to run the risk for and extra $1,000.

So we paid $134,000, plus the solicitor fees. We had some money but not a lot. It was August 1990 when we bought the house God had waiting for us and moved in; we have never regretted it. The house was in excellent condition, it was only about two and a half years old and lived in for about twelve months. The big back yard was covered in long grass, no lawn, garden or cement. We worked hard for a couple of years or so establishing a garden, cementing paths and a patio. We have been here for 20 years now. The north east breeze has been a real blessing in the summer and no one living opposite us as there is a sports oval there. Our house has been valued recently at just over $500,000. That’s half a million. Praise God! He knows what He is doing. God is good, all the time!

In the 90’s we had been through some very turbulent years at the Ballina Baptist church. We had enough and we decided to leave that church and join the Alstonville Baptist church (A.B.C). It was in 1993 we began attending the A.B.C on a more regular basis. At first we were not sure about joining that church as it was so different to what we had been use to. It took a while before we felt comfortable there and became aware of a freedom in the Holy Spirit that we never knew before. How good it is to understand the “grace of God” more fully, those were the days of real “spiritual highs”. It was fantastic worshipping there during those years; from 1993 to 2000. Such spiritual joy I never knew. It was during those year I was able to encourage my grandchildren Kylie and Josh by being there at the night services. I was able to be the one to lead Kylie to Jesus at one of those night services and I was there when Josh was baptized one night. I was encouraging my daughter Janet to meet me there at night services too. They were ‘significant’ years in my spiritual growth.

I will never forget 1992. A year I remember well. It was February when I learnt about prayer retreats. It was at a C.B.M.C convention on prayer in Toowoomba when Gavin Williams, the guest speaker for the weekend spoke about his experience by having “prayer retreats”. That is spending precious extended time alone with God, getting to know God better as the years go by. It was something new to me. I was very interested and determined to give it a go when I went home. After giving it much thought and consideration I decided to make Robinson lookout in Lismore my special place to meet God on prayer retreats on a regular basis. I wasted no time getting started. 19-02-1992 was my first prayer retreat at Robinson lookout. I kept a record, a spiritual journal over the next 17 years. I met there with my loving heavenly father 367 time. The amount of times is not so important, it’s what you do while you are there. I have discovered there is something very special about going to a certain place at a certain time, having no other agenda, nothing else on your mind except meeting there with God alone.

Satan did not want me to keep my appointments with God and for a time made it very difficult for me. It amazed me how quickly two or three hours go by when you are enjoying the presence of God.

Knowing and loving God is our greatest privilege, and being known and loved is God’s greatest pleasure”.

The main idea behind prayer retreats is to spend more undisturbed quiet time alone with God, on a regular basis. “My soul wait thou only upon God, with great expectation” - Psalm 62:1 KJV. There is a need for us as God’s children to have an intimate relationship with God. How marvelous it is to be able to know our creator God intimately. We all long for meaningful relationships, to give and to receive love, to care and to be cared for. There’s no doubt how important relationships are to each other, family and especially our relationship with almighty God.

I stopped meeting with God at Robinson lookout in Lismore on the 27-11-09. The main place I like to meet with God for a quiet time now is down by the water near Shaws bay caravan park. It’s a beautiful spot on a clear sunny day with a full tide. Anywhere, anytime is my special time now to be with God. It was during the 1990’s I compiled and wrote two leaflets based on the truth of the bible. One was called “The truth about the bible”, the other was called “The truth about Hell”. I also completed compiling and writing a booklet called “Eternity, our ultimate destiny” by the beginning of the year 2000. I was pleased with the final result after working on it over a four year period. I feel sure God is pleased with it too. Joshua, my grandson helped a lot with the printing. Although I have given some booklets away there are still some left to be given away. I have also kept spiritual journals as a daily record over the years and other books with written sermons.

For about four years I attended “charismatic” churches at night. It was interesting and well worth while to be able to understand their ways of worshipping and their different beliefs.

It was 1998 and Joyce and I turned 70. Seventy years old, that turned out to be quite a shock for our system; we suddenly realised we were old. We had a lovely seventieth birthday celebration and our whole family was there at the Ballina RSL club for a fantastic meal. David’s ‘Roof Proof’ business paid for it. That nights celebration was recorded on video camera which we still have for viewing.

It was during the year 2000 that we returned to the Ballina Baptist church where we have been now for ten years.

It was time for family celebrations again one the 16-06-2008. Yes, my 80th birthday and again on the 12-11-2008, Joyce's 80th birthday. Those celebration dinners were held at Ballina Bowling club. I was so encouraged by what my grandchildren had to say about me on a video that was shown on that night of my 80th Birthday. It’s so pleasing to see the way our family enjoy getting together at these opportunities. We all met again the next year, in 2009 to celebrate our “60th” wedding anniversary. That’s commitment! We took our wedding vows seriously. “To love and to cherish, through sickness or health, for better or worse, till death do us part”. That’s the commitment we made before God and man on 18-06-1949. We made that commitment again in Tamworth (with other couples). This was at a special function we went to with some church friends. We took a bus trip there in the early 1970’s, I think.

We will never forget August 2004 when Joyce had a triple heart bypass. A big open heart operation. God was with her and all went well before and after the operation. It’s now 2010. God has been good to us, we have gotten past the big “8-0” [eight, zero]. I am 82, my father died at 85. Nan and I celebrated our 60th wedding anniversary last year. Although we are feeling our age more so, we’re grateful to God for our good on going health. Age can make a big difference, your relationship with each other can get tougher. Surprising how much people can change as they grow older, especially in a relationship as a married couple. As the aches, pains and tiredness of older age persist, there is a need for a higher level of tolerance, patience, love and understanding. It is so important for a married couple to be strong in the Lord, committed to Him and to each other. To have a most successful marriage, it takes “three”. You, your partner and God in the centre, seeking to please God and each other. They need to study the bible and pray together, both getting to know God and understand His ways and purposes in their lives and in their marriage. We can make our plans, but the final outcome is in God’s hands. We should make plans counting on God to direct us. I have not always done that, it is something I have had to learn. Theres no doubt I have often chosen the hard way most of my life, but Gods divine providence has been so amazing. When I think back over my life I am overcome with gratitude to God for all He has done for me. In Gods divine providence everything works out according to His plan. In Romans 8:28 we read that God works all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Nothing is impossible for God. He fits everything in your life into His perfect plan so long as you love Him and are available to His call on your life! Remember, “All things”. The good times and the bad, and notice also all things do not work for good in everybody's life. Make God the first, most important, love in your life.

Sometimes we read verse 28 and claim it as a promise, that everything will turn out to be pleasant and many times that’s Gods plan but good doesn’t always mean pleasant. Gods purpose in your life (in good and tough times) is for your life to reflect “His” image more and more! Romans 8:28 has become my favourite verse in recent times. It’s always been a favourite of mine but it is only in recent years I have been able to “grab hold”, except and fully understand the truth in this verse... and apply it in my own circumstances. It will make a tremendous difference when you can except and understand that God is working “all things” for your good when you love him, NO MATTER WHAT! Seek first His kingdom (Matt 6:33). If you seek something else first then your life will be off balance.

Note: What is the secret of a happy life? It is simply this..... “God in everything” - nothing, absolutely nothing is of greater value in life than knowing God. What ever our feelings, whatever our circumstances, each child of God can know that God is there. His promise is sure and unfailing. “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee” [Jesus].

Well now... what is ahead. Only God knows. Each new day is a gift from God. Joyce and I realise how quickly our time on earth is running out and how soon our journey of life will be complete. God has been good to us and I thank Him every day for giving me life, a wonderful wife and extended family. There are not many things we can be certain about in this world today but one thing for sure; each day we grow a little older. Time soon passes by. Here we are already in 2011 and another year well on it’s way. As each year comes and goes, we soon grow older. We become more mindful how short the days are, how short life really is. Thank God this life here on earth is not the end. We were made to last forever and God wants us to be with Him in Heaven for all eternity. Fantastic! Hallelujah!

Well, as I come to the end of my life story I have found thinking back that my life has been a worthwhile rewarding experience. It’s my prayer that God will bless my life story to you in what ever way it can benefit you most. Dear family, remember life is so precious and very uncertain. We need to stay close to God. He can take the place of anything, but nothing can take the place of God. With lots of love to all my family, from Dad, Pop [Poppy], husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather.

Alec Rich.

Happy Moments         - PRAISE GOD
Difficult Moments       - SEEK GOD
Quiet Moments           - WORSHIP GOD
Painful Moments         - TRUST GOD
Every Moment            - THANK GOD

Alec and his family. Dubbo. 1960.

Alec and his family. Dubbo. 1960.

Copyright © Josh Taylor, Alec Rich. All rights reserved.