Sunshine RSL member and former Sunshine city councillor Charlie Skidmore is still going strong at 92.
He talks to Ben Cameron about growing up in Braybrook, starting a business on the smell of an oily rag, serving his country and valuing hard work.
How long has Brimbank been home?
I’ve lived in the Sunshine, Maidstone and Braybrook area all my life. I was born in 1924.
I can tell you more about Sunshine than Sunshine itself.
I love the people here, they’re down to earth, and you can always trust them.
It doesn’t sound like you’ve been around that long?
I can assure you I have … I’ve been through the Depression and all sorts of things.
My dad lost two houses in the Depression.
The whole area has changed, Braybrook especially.
Growing up in the 1930s, we’d have aeroplanes landing there, they thought it was Essendon aerodrome.
Just six houses in the whole area.
Planes would land near your house?
They were landing on the paddocks – they were pretty big paddocks.
I used to walk four miles to get to school (in Footscray), to save my mother fourpence, so I could buy my family a loaf of bread on the way home from school.
Gee, that’s a long way.
It wasn’t long in those days, you either walked, or stayed home and got no education.
You’d get a pair of running shoes for two and sixpence, and they’d have to last you 12 months.
So you’d tie the laces together, put them over your neck and walk to school in the ice.
Then you’d put them on going into school and take them off going out.
People don’t realise how bad it was.
You also ran a lot of businesses?
I started off a business with 12 and six pence; I used to cut firewood for the boilers up in the country after the war.
I eventually started up a sawmill in Braybrook. I was still driving B double semis when I was 88.
Where did you serve in World War Two?
In New Guinea. I was with the RAAF medical unit, like what you see on
M*A*S*H. Then I was seconded to the army. We’d unload boats … I only carried a rifle for 10 days, maximum.
And you’re still finding local war veterans?
There’s only four World War II veterans still at the RSL in Sunshine.
The oldest is 96, and I’m the youngest, 92 and a half.
I’m trying to contact all the WW2 veterans in the Sunshine area.
We have conflicting numbers on how many are still alive in the old Sunshine area, which used to take in Maribyrnong, Braybrook, Maidstone, Sunshine and parts of Deer Park.
Do you remember council back in the 50s?
They all should have been shot (laughs). Don McKay and I at one stage were the only independent councillors.
They’ve got council elections coming up, I would say anybody that’s been a councillor over the past 60 years should not be allowed to stand again.
Did you raise a family here?
I have three daughters and a son.
My wife was still driving trucks when she was eight and a half months pregnant.
I’m not stuck for a quid though.
I also get $6.20 from the Department of Veterans Affairs a fortnight.
I can buy a latte with two straws, and my wife pinches my straw while she’s sucking on my latte.
I’ve had a life you would not read about, son. I could talk for bloody weeks.