In 1966 the mouldy old dough
Was replaced by new decimal currency,
Pounds, shillings, pence were recalled
To make way for dollars and cents you see.
And the ancient penny, one inch in diameter
Was replaced by the tiny new one-cent piece,
It was intended you see to keep inflation down
But to some it was too tiny to keep.
I remember as a kid back in 1966
We were living out about in South Kingsville,
A working class suburb in the west, but
Each week we went to Footscray as a thrill.
Footscray was regarded as a big city
A shopping centre near South Kingsville way,
Still too sick to go to school then
My mother dragged me along on shopping days.
If we weren't off helping Aunty Margery Davis
At her kinder out near Maidstone way,
We were in Buckley or Paisley streets
Doing all our weekly shopping in Footscray.
But with high arches my feet soon ached
I was relieved when we headed to Paisley Street,
It meant we were heading for a bus home
Very soon, I hoped, I would get to have a seat.
But we must have been lepers or something in those days
For the buses took off whenever we came near,
It seemed every time, we'd miss one by seconds
As though mum and I somehow gave them fear.
Then one day while standing exhausted
I chanced to look down into Paisley Street,
In the gutter right where we stood
I could not believe what my eyes could see.
A mountain of pennies in the gutter
Just waiting for some clever kid to collect,
Pulling my hand out of my mother's
I stooped and started to grab all I could get.
"Stop that!" said Mum, thinking they were pebbles
But I would not stop till I had every cent,
After all they were lying right before me
So if not for me, who were they meant?
When we got home I showed them to Cheryl and John
But they refused to believe what I told,
"No way were they just lying in the gutter,"
Insisted my siblings, going on to scold.
"It's your savings," they all insisted,
"You took them to the bank and had them changed!"
No matter how hard I told them the truth
Still their scepticism stoutly remained.
Till in the end I almost believed it myself
Though I could remember seeing them at my feet,
I could remember Mum telling me off
When I bent to collect them in the street.
A week later I had almost forgotten them
Until into Footscray again we went to shop,
Then as we entered exhausted into Paisley
Seeing us approaching, the buses all took off.
So, yet again we stood exhausted near the gutter
When looking down, what did I see?
Another five hundred pennies lying in the road
Almost smiling up as though greeting me.
Despite the protests of my mother
I stooped and start scooping them all up,
Only wishing I'd brought a purse with me
Or something to put them in, like a cup.
"Stop that, Phil!" my mother scolded
But there was now way I was going to stop,
Until every copper penny was in my pockets
Thinking of lollies I could buy and soda pop.
Still my siblings would not believe me
"They're the same ones you showed us last time,"
Insisted John, Cheryl, and even Denise
So they didn't get any, I kept them all as mine.
And week after week, month after month
I would find a mound of pennies in Paisley Street,
Finally becoming grateful when the buses
Always took off at the first sign of me.
It was only years later, living in Williamstown
I finally found out how the gutter-coins came about,
They stupid bus drivers annoyed by the tiny coins
Would open up a window and just throw them out.
Due to a strange law their union had negotiated
Their daily balance could be up to five dollars astray,
So whenever they stopped at a big bus stop
They'd grab a handful of pennies to toss away.
Still this oddity brought a boon to me
Bring unexpected largesse my way,
Thankfully for me, after you left Melbourne
The first big stop was Paisley, in Footscray.
In late 1968 we moved to Williamstown
And so we stopped going to Footscray every week,
Willy had its own shopping centre, worst luck
So I no longer found pennies lying at my feet.
© Copyright 2011
Philip Roberts, Melbourne, Australia
© Copyright 2016 Philip Roberts. All rights reserved.