Stop the World. I Want to Get Off
Updated: Jul 14
MEMOIR: 1976 Pre-teen musings
Some memories never fade, even after 44 years.
There I was, lying in Bundaberg Base Hospital after a tonsillectomy, dreaming of the much-promised jelly and ice cream that would soothe my burning throat. It wasn’t coming quickly enough. Seeing my dad walking towards me, grinning from big ear to big ear, cheered me up and I immediately sat up. He did his funny ear wiggle to make me laugh. He’d been in hospital recently after his back injury and was in lots of pain. So it was good to see him smile.
Dad proudly spread the local News Mail newspaper out in front of me, and there it was:
TEENAGER LOOKS AT SOCIETY
11-year-old Wendy Millgate won a first prize in the Mt Perry Show schoolwork section with an essay titled, “Stop the World, I Want to Get Off”. The essay reveals what some pre-teenagers are thinking about today's world.
Wow! I couldn’t believe it! Dad had sent my prize-winning school essay to the Editor without telling me. I guess he was proud of me ... unlike one mother in town telling anyone willing to listen that her daughter should have won the essay writing competition in the Mt Perry Show. (Funny how I also can't forget that one.)
I felt stoked! Dad always did believe in my writing. That’s why he had bought me my first typewriter on his last trip to Brisbane to the back specialist. A yellow portable Brother typewriter! I loved it and had typed the essay with it.
This exciting news certainly took my mind off my missing tonsils! Apparently, they’d been huge! When Dr Ang had first seen my tonsils, he’d exclaimed to Mum, “Jesus bloody Christ. Haven’t you ever thought of getting these out? They’re as big as footballs!” Mum had been trying to get our previous GP in Gin Gin to take them out … for months, maybe years. (Let’s call him ‘Dr Perv’.)
Dr Perv had preferred inspecting my tonsils while I was standing in my knickers, and then prescribing copious amounts of penicillin. Mum left his practice for good after he once again wanted to prescribe me a three-month course of penicillin, and after he commented on her pretty knickers in her consultation! Well, that’s when my Mum set her teeth in the way she does, and can still do at 82, when she’s had enough and is NOT backing down. (My brother and I always knew if Mum did that, it was game over, red rover!)
We were out of there and drove to Gayndah to Dr Ang. He didn’t need me to be in my knickers to inspect my tonsils – and he wasn’t going to pour more antibiotics down my throat. My teeth were yellow enough already. Within two weeks they were out (the tonsils, that is!), and my words and name were in the Bundaberg newspaper. Tonsils out, ice cream in – and on the road to literary fame!
I loved writing. I had big dreams! I wanted to one day write a Mills & Boon novel and make $10000 from it! (Actually I still have a secret desire to write a tantric love story... ssshhhh maybe under a pseudonym...) So, I had wanted to win that competition. For some reason, my entry into a government health competition to promote non-smoking didn’t score a winning ribbon. Why my cartoon of a Catholic Priest standing over a fresh grave praying, ‘Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, if God don’t take you, tobacco must,’ didn’t win, I will never know! I thought it was clever.
Of course, as an editor now, when I read my blue-ribbon-winning-First-Prize essay (yay), I cringe and laugh at some things. Mum did say I was a bit of a prude, and it shows through my dismay in the essay at the lack of manners in society. Apparently, they were ‘as scarce as hen’s teeth’ (extra star for appropriate use of a synonym). And ‘too much permissiveness and not enough discipline’ when it came to parenting. (Gosh, I was 11. Was I channeling my parents or what? Or perhaps my policeman grandfather.) I do note, proudly, my correct usage of semi-colons. 😊
And if there was a nuclear war? Well, I wrote, ‘Boy, what a mess there would be!’ and the ‘lazy rich people’ would be no help while families watch too much TV. Transport was too fast and simply ‘too dangerous’.
Overall, I wrote of my disillusionment with the world and how fast it was moving. I feared for my future children’s lives. It is obvious now (2020) that some of my fears were well founded. We are in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and the global outrage at the senseless murder of African-American George Floyd in the US. My own daughter walked with the Black Lives Matter protesters in Brisbane recently, mask on and slathered in sanitizer, and I couldn’t be prouder of her (albeit nervous due to the threat of COVID-19). That was her little way to start making a difference.
My answer to the world’s problem in my essay’s conclusion in 1976 was
‘…we should stop the world and all get off – take a good look at ourselves – and start again in low gear instead of top.’
You know what? That’s not a bad idea. Maybe I was onto something there. What I can see was that within me at the time, besides a drive to win a competition, was disillusionment with the world that hinted at a level of idealism. And perhaps that explains partly my future path. You see, eight years after that essay, I did indeed stop my world and step off.
Was I writing my own future?
I stopped my world and got off, leaving university and my career plans behind me. I left my family. I left my Catholic religion. And I moved straight into the arms of my new ‘Family’ and ‘True Parents’, adopting a whole new worldview. We called the world that we had all left behind ‘the outside world’. The 'outside world' called us a 'brainwashed cult'.
My yellow typewriter? It became community property and eventually disappeared, much like I did. And my proud and loving father? He was to disown me... for a while...
But that’s another story...
PS: Below is my blue-ribbon-winning-First-Prize essay. Greta Thunberg, don't get jealous now!
PPS: From now on I will be blogging more regularly. Sometimes the blog topics will relate to writing and editing such as NON-FICTION WRITING, EDITING, BOOK PLANNING, MEMOIRS, SPIRITUAL WRITING, PUBLISHING, HEALING THROUGH WRITING and more... Others, like this one, will be snippets of my life and personal musings ... a forerunner to my future memoir. Themes of my life include CITY LIFE TO COUNTRY LIFE, SELF-IMPROVEMENT, STORIES OF A COUNTRY SHOPKEEPER, RELIGION & SPIRITUALITY, CULTS, ABUSE AND TRAUMA RECOVERY, DOMESTIC VIOLENCE.