The original ratbags

The following story was transcribed from Rudy's own words.

I grew up with my five brothers. People thought we were ratbags.

Me and my mates would hang around, chatting and mucking about. Cause we were a group of young blokes, the cops would come past and tell us to move on. If you didn’t do what you were told, you’d get a kick up the Khyber Pass.

Some of the guys we hung out with, like Teddy Rogers, had a bit of a record. But nothing too serious. We were ratbags, but we didn’t do really anything wrong. We’d give the cops a bit of cheek. If they caught us, they’d give us a thump and let us go. We had respect for the police.

Not saying we were angels, we got into trouble and had plenty of fights. But nobody had knives, you didn’t get dirty. If you had a blue with bloke at the pub, you wouldn’t have a go inside the pub. You’d take it outside, or pre-arrange a fight down the paddock the next day. Sometimes the best fighter from one group would be matched up with the best fighter from the other. They’d punch it out and that would be it. Whoever won, it was over.

There was no kicking or stomping on people’s heads like there is today. If someone did the sort of things we hear about today, knocking someone out and kicking them while they were down, everyone there would have run in and kicked their arse. No matter what side they were on. You didn’t have to worry about random attacks. You could leave your doors unlocked and wander the streets at night. Back then, criminals, like Barney Farrell, would bump off other criminals. They didn’t bother you if you left them alone.

We spent a lot of time at the pub. On Sunday’s we used to drive out to Campbelltown or the top of Bulli to have a drink. We would jump in the car and drive a couple of hours for a beer. Cause you were only allowed to get into a pub on Sunday’s if you were a traveller. You had to sign in and say that you hadn’t finished your journey. So, you had to be far from home. It was a good day out. Even when you got married, you’d still go out for a drive every weekend. Today there’s too much friggin traffic.

Pub’s closed at 6pm and then re-opened from 7pm to 10pm. It was so husbands would go home for dinner. The funny thing was that you’d see the local cops go into the pub when it closed at 6pm. They were having a free beer, why else would they go in when the pub was closed?

You could get pretty much anything you wanted at the pub. You could go in and tell a bloke what size suit you needed, what colour you wanted, and he’d have it for you that afternoon. You could get good quality sheets, a present for your girlfriend, pretty much whatever you wanted.

Back then there was (sic) police on the beat. Every suburb had local coppers that lived in the area. They knew everyone. The local cops blamed us for things we never done. Sure, we were cheeky, but we weren’t criminals. When we were kids, we used to do was tie knots in the paspalum grass, we’d get the cops to chase us down a track and they’d get caught in the knots and trip over. We knew where they were, so we could jump over the knots and keep on running. We thought it was hilarious. They didn’t think it was funny. Eventually they would catch us and give us a clout around the ears.

The girls lived in Chullora, which was the other side of the railway yards. Rather than walking for miles we would cross the railway lines. We had to keep an eye out for the rail detectives. Even though we weren’t doing anything wrong, it’d be trouble if they caught us. We’d tell them that we were just crossing the lines, but you didn’t argue with them, cause you couldn't win.

We used to walk along the tracks and collect coal that had spilled out along the tracks so we could take it home and give it to Mum for the stove. We didn’t have hot running water. Mum used to do all our washing in the old copper. If you wanted a bath, you had to boil the water and take turns. Sometimes we would tease the train drivers, run alongside swearing at them, so they’d throw coal at us so we’d have more to take home to Mum.

Cause we were a group of boys without a father, they thought were unruly. That we were trouble. Everyone said, keep away from the Belfield boys.

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Names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.