Paradise of Dad’s Work – Bernard Salt

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(Graphic: Stuart Krygsman; Source: The Australian)

[Reposted with kind permission from Bernard Salt, originally printed in The Weekend Australian, Sep 14-15, 2013]

MORE than 50 years ago, before going to school – I must have been four – I spent half the day with my father at his work. Mum must have been ill; I can’t quite remember the circumstances. Dad worked in the produce department of a country co-operative store in a small town in western Victoria.

Dad’s workplace was the most wondrous place. It was a drive-through shed that was cavernous, cool, dark and terribly manly.

The store sold farming and building supplies, as well as clothing and groceries. They even had what was known as a “fancy department”, which sold gifts and dainty stuff and was staffed by women. But down in the produce department, where dad worked, it was men who were always scurrying about, busy at their work. They wore Yakka overalls. They rolled their own cigarettes. Have you ever seen a man roll a cigarette? I know it’s a confronting concept now but back then I thought it was a choreographed work of art.

One man wore a leather apron; he had a pencil balanced permanently behind his ear. The shed was filled to the rafters with stacked hessian bags of wheat and chaff. Have you ever smelled hessian? Have you ever run your fingers through a bin of wheat? Have you ever wondered at the lightness and fluffiness of chaff? Have you ever smelled timber being dressed?

There was a joinery attached. It had a buzz saw that was strangely reassuring; it was the sound of work. At morning tea the men would gather in the joinery and pull up a saw-horse to sit on, drink black tea from tin cups, eat broken biscuits that couldn’t be sold in the shop, and joke and laugh and talk about football. I was in heaven. They had names like Tom and Jim and Harry and Bill.

Dad dispensed a product known as millet. I think it was fed to chooks. It smelt malty. It smelt delicious. I ate some. Damned lucky chooks, I say.

Every year the co-op store had a company picnic. Maybe 30 families would board buses to a park on the foreshore at Port Fairy. There were egg-and-spoon races, sack races and three-legged races. There was a sprint once. Dad didn’t win, but then he didn’t come last either. Late in the afternoon the entire picnic would bus to the wharf for a joy ride on a fishing boat out into the blue water beyond the breakers. Perhaps 30 people would cram aboard a single boat. No safety harnesses. No life vests. Kids were left to wander the deck of a working fishing boat that would pitch and roll. Salt water would spray in your face if you managed to get into the right position. Back then it was “your lookout” and not someone else’s to ensure that you didn’t fall off the boat.

The danger, the fun, the adventure, the edge that was that boat ride is something that has stayed with me for decades. On the way home, in the cool of the summer’s evening, there would be singing on the bus: Irish Eyes are Smiling and It’s a Long Way to Tipperary were favourites.

It’s odd, the seemingly irrelevant minutiae from childhood that stays with you for years, and that perhaps will stay forever.

Bernard Salt is founder of the facebook page Decent Obsessions.



Bernard Salt’s piece brought back memories of my grandfather, Jan Groenenboom. He was a greengrocer and mixed business operator in Lidsdale, NSW. He had one of those leather aprons. It had silver rivets on the corners. He wore the trademark pencil behind the ear. I can still see him, stand there with his hands in his pockets, underneath the apron, and a Ritmeester ‘Little Cigar’ between his lips. I can smell the fruit and veggies. I can hear the compressor pump kick in under the work bench.

And I remember the hessian bags and the smell of wheat and grain from the back of the shop in Portland where Leigh Eave’s father worked. The whole footy team would be weighed in there on his big produce scale. Me, Bellamy, Kearnesy and all the others. And an older man from the team would be there, writing everyone’s weight in the sheet in his knife chiseled pencil…

Great memories. Thanks, Bernard, for bringing them back…

Building a Community of Men

Tonight was the first get together for The Meating – a new men’s community at Redlands CRC. There were three basic elements to what we did:

1. Great food: We ordered prime Rib Fillet, 25mm thick from Fitzsimmons in Carindale, and it was delicious, melt in the mouth beef. With some salads as sides we ate really well











2. Great company: 50 men from all age groups and walks of life. Some have followed Jesus for a long time. Others were still wondering what it was all about. Across the board the blokes loved the night. Great community, wrestling with real issues, and some time to break it down in groups of three or so.

3. A Great speaker: Peter Janetzki local counsellor and host of Brisbane’s 96.5 FM’s Talking Life opened up the issues of (amongst other things) authentic masculinity, passivity, cultural change and its impact on how boys and men develop, and what this means for men who follow Jesus.



It was amazing that after 30 mins there still wasn’t a sound in the room. Every man was locked on, thinking through what it would mean for them to build a community where men and boys were encouraged into strength and action with character. We knew that we needed this.

So many models of masculinity today have little to do with strength and action with character. We see plenty of strength and action from our sporting heros, but so very little good character. Character cannot be legislated or mechanically applied. It’s interesting how when you look at Jesus, we see strength, action and character in perfect balance. Jesus presents an incredibly attractive picture of restored masculinity.

One of the things ‘The Meating’ will seek to do is create some something of the ‘village’ or ‘community’. It we can do that in a way that shows the Kingdom, it might just end up being a village that raises better children.

Question: What do you think are the biggest challenges to authentic masculinity today?

Why start a dedicated Men’s Ministry

I am keen to tell you about the new men’s meeting which will be starting at Redlands CRC in February 2011.

There are important reasons why this is a great step for our church.

Men need a place to talk

    Men need a place where they can talk with one another about life¸ and build good relationships. Women seem to do this more easily: whether it’s over a latte or a chat on the phone, women are way better at talking about family, relationships, struggles and joys. We can call this stuff ‘in here’ because it comes from the heart. In contrast, when men get together, the discussion revolves around work, or the kids, or the traffic, the government, of the footy. We easily talk about stuff ‘out there’ and we’re not too good at talking about the ‘in here’ and ‘from the heart’ stuff. Men need a place where it’s OK, and normal, to talk more about the ‘in here’ stuff.

    Photo credit: iStockphtoto: asiseeit

    Men need to see good communication modelled

      I guess we all know how hard it is for men to talk about the ‘in here’ and ‘heart’ stuff. The problem is that like old dogs, it’s hard to teach grown men new tricks. Especially ones that involve communicating in new ways. This is why this new context for men needs to model how good communication is done. We will do this by giving men the chance to observe men relating in healthy ways. We plan to have some interview style open dialogue between two men who will talk about their story, their interest and their battle. They will be talking about this ‘from the heart’ and not only from the head. The idea is that as men observe other men in open and engaging conversation, they will be encouraged to do the same. Some group discussion will encourage those present to wrestle through the issues.

      God wants his church filled with great men!

        The Bible has some very clear teaching about men. They are to live and lead in the likeness of Jesus, putting the needs of others above their own (Eph 5:23, see 5:1,2; Phil 2:1-5). Their strength is one which imitates Jesus, and not one which exasperates or seeks to dominate others (Eph 6:4). They are to be men of integrity, grace and humility (see James 3:13; 1 Pet 5:5). When the Bible says this is so clearly, you have to wonder why there are not more contexts where men can encourage each other to live this way.

        I’ll work through a few more reasons next time, but for now, men, pray that this new venture will be blessed, and make a commitment to be part of it. There’s nothing better than brothers getting together in unity (Ps 133).

        If you have questions: be sure to ask me

        Grace and peace: Dave