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Son of a Preacher Man: II. My Travelling Youth

Posted on February 05 2018

Son of a Preacher Man: II. My Travelling Youth

 

It seems funny looking back now, I can see the circumstances of the life I was born into were not quite as normal as I believed them to be growing up. I later began to wonder if I too were perhaps not quite as “normal” as I thought I was.

I was born the middle of 3 children; my family had just moved back to Perth from New Zealand where my father had attended bible college to become a preacher. In fact, I recall father joking that I was “Produced in New Zealand, Manufactured in Australia”! 😅 Our travels didn’t stop here, only a few months after I was born we were on the move to Tasmania. This stop was short lived too, for reasons I never bothered to ask. After a year or so living in a small 2 bedroom unit in Sydney, where my only memory is of father building a massive pirate ship out of Lego, we settled down for a few years back in my Mother’s hometown of Perth. By “settled down” I refer to my family’s interpretation of the saying which consisted of about four or five different houses in the 2 or 3 years that I can recall.

My Aunty Margie once remarked that she needed to keep an entirely separate address book for our family alone! Constantly moving house never bothered or upset me whilst growing up. In fact, I always found it quite exciting to be off on a new adventure again, and this quickly developed my love for flying! It really is quite extraordinary just how far a family of five can travel whilst being flat broke all the while- We travelled around the world!

There were times whilst living in Melbourne (which is where I spent the majority of my childhood) when we would all have to search the house high and low- down the back of the couch and so on, in order to scrape together enough coins so that we could afford a bottle of milk and a loaf of bread!

“HEY you kids, go easy on the milk” Father would yell out whilst we were glued to the tv watching Thunderbirds 😅.

My Father’s life as a Preacher was for the most part, more unconventional than other Ministers working for the church. His was more so a matter of going at it alone, that is, not working for any church or organisation, but rather utilising contacts he encountered to help get to where he felt he was needed most. This meant that for the majority of my childhood he would be away for 3-6 months at a time all over The United States of America and The United Kingdom. He would come home for three to six month periods in-between these ventures.  He was preaching not only in churches, but also on the streets, in prisons, hospitals and even on cable tv! The best thing about this was that whenever he would arrive home, we had a grand old time sitting around his suitcases as he would unpack all sorts of foreign sweets and gifts for us!

One time, I must have been about 9, whilst father was in the USA, I was looking through the model car section at Kmart. This was when the average model kit would set you (or rather, your parents) back about $19.99. I had been fortunate enough to have been given a kit or two over the previous years, and seeing as though I wasn’t old enough for the real deal yet, I was quite happy to settle for the miniature version. As I drooled over the towering shelves of model kits in the store, I came across one that blew my mind- It was a massive one with a skill level three! It was a ’57 Chev. I know 57’s have been all the rage for a long time now, but back then I was a kid- I didn’t know what other people thought of them, all I knew was that I thought that it was the coolest! I wanted this model kit so bad, I had never seen one quite like it before but the price was $90! Any normal kid may have thought; “Oh well, I’ll never get that.” Whereas I was thinking more along the lines of; “What can I do, how on earth can I earn $90?” I wasn’t even getting any pocket money, but I wanted that model big time! The next time I spoke to Dad on the phone, I mentioned that I had seen an awesome model car, and if he saw a model of a ’57 Chevy that he could afford, I would love one. A month or two later Father arrived home and as we sat eagerly around his suitcases, he mentioned that he found a model of a car that he felt drawn to, it made him think of me. I can still remember the complete and utter shocked surprise I got when he pulled out the exact same kit that I had been dreaming about for months! Needless to say I got stuck into it straight away!

For some reason, I just love old cars and have done so for as long as I can remember. I was also obsessed with 1950’s stuff before I even knew that that’s what it was! As a 7 year old, I would carry around a flick comb that my father had given me because –  well, naturally- he had one when he was a kid! I would slick my hair back because that’s how it felt most comfortable. I thought it was kind of cool too, not because someone told me it was, just because I guess, it felt like it was me! As a 9 year old, I would dream of owning & restoring a 50’s car when I grew up, somewhat concerned that by the time it was “the future”, we’d all be flying around in air-O-cars and there wouldn’t be any old cars anymore 😂. As cool as that sounds, (and…there should defiantly be more 60’s style bubble top cars in the world) I am glad this wasn’t entirely the case!

 

 
Weesner's idea of the future

 

Like anybody, I had my influences in becoming who I am and loving the things I love. When we were living in Perth at age 3 my Uncle Allan & his family lived across the road from us; it was great living so close to my cousins Daniel & David! Later as an adult, I learned that Uncle Allan & Aunt Jenny were a couple of good old-timey Aussie Bodgie & Widgies; who dug the old school 50’s style way back when! They’d do their hair up, and go rock’n’roll dancing-winning competitions and all sorts. Come to think of it, he did always wear pointy toe shoes and have some pretty good pointy sideburns! Every day I would wait to hear uncle Allan’s old midnight blue metallic V8 Holden Statesman coming around the corner; you could hear it from a few streets away. I would either look out the window or run to the edge of our driveway to watch as he would religiously do a skid every day up his driveway, unburned fuel spitting out of his twin pipes as he peeled out letting everyone in the street know that he was home.

 


Uncle Allan's Statesman

 

Even at that young age, I loved it!  That nightly ritual was enough to make me want a Statesman Caprice and I believed that I would one day get one. I also, for some reason, got it in my head that I wanted a car that was luxurious; it would have a beautiful woodgrain dash and cream leather trim interior. I could just picture it. I don’t know why that’s what I wanted, it was just something in the back of my mind. Perhaps it was something as simple as the idea of no longer living in poverty, and this sort of car would be the defining benchmark.

One day much later in life as I was on my lunch break in the staff room of Best & Less in Sydney where I worked, I was thumbing through the pages of a newspaper that had been left on the table when an add jumped out at me. A 1974 HJ Statesman Caprice was for sale; Midnight Blue Metallic just like my uncles old one! I promptly arranged to go and have a look at the car and as I walked up to it and pressed my hands up to the glass to look through the driver’s window I couldn’t believe my eyes. It had a gorgeous walnut woodgrain dash insert and literally every part of the interior that wasn’t either carpet, chrome or glass, was cream Cadillac leather trim! The trim was factory fitted for 1974 models only here in Australia. Despite being 30 years old, the car was in near pristine condition and had never even been restored!

 


My '74 Statesman Caprice

 

After a quick test drive which included some sideways action through a round-a-bout to make sure the nuts and bolts were in good working order (leaving the poindexter in the passenger seat who still owned the car with a “holy shit-it’s never done that before” expression on his face), I slapped down the money and dove it away. As I pulled up alongside a car at the lights on the way home, and the chicks occupying it started flirting with me, I knew that I had bought the car for me! It couldn’t have happened at a better time, right when I was heading full swing into a 70’s phase. I would crank the 70’s cassette tapes with my aviators on and my afro flappin’ in the breeze as I cruised around Sydney wearing a pair of brown pinstriped flairs that Mother helped me fashion out of two pairs of pants!

These childhood experiences prove to me that you can achieve your desires when you believe in yourself and follow your heart. Without knowing it, many times in my life, I seem to have attracted that which I desired. Some might say its luck but I think it’s because of having a good attitude and believing in myself.

I believe you can accomplish anything you desire when you have a positive attitude towards it and believe you can do it.

Matthew Coto

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