Here is another in the occasional series about some of the odd or unusual events in my life. This story recalls an event that, to this day, still makes me wonder just exactly what happened and why.
One hot December afternoon in 1969 my Nanna took my brother, my sister and I into town. As I was only 6 at the time and a trip into the city involved a bus and a train ride, this was a big deal.
To add to the excitement, Perth was all dolled up as Christmas was only a couple of weeks away and every shopfront had Christmas displays in the window, not to mention huge crowds causing my poor old Nanna conniptions as she tried to corral three kids under six through the perils and pitfalls of the big smoke.
As we walked down William street, the very heart of the town (outside what would become Hungry Jacks in about 1982), I spied an old man, probably 35 or so (that’s old to a six year old!), steaming towards us in a big hurry. I vividly remember admiring his brown and tan check Trilby but noticed he was unshaven and, to be frank, a bit shabby looking. He was carrying a box in one hand and I remember thinking the box was really too big to be held in one hand. I looked up and made eye-contact with him as he was bearing down on us and, as I did, he lifted the box so it was now in both hands, in front of his stomach and I remember being relieved he wouldn’t drop the parcel.
As we reached each other, he suddenly shoved the box at my chest and said “Merry Christmas, kid” then continued past us, possibly moving even faster than before.
While my Nanna desperately called out “Sir! Mister! Come back!” I looked down and saw the box contained a camera kit!
It consisted of a black Kodak camera, a strap, a roll of film and a flash cube.
(These days I know the camera was a Kodak Instamatic 124 and I still remember the confusion I had whenever I considered buying film for the camera – the model 124 used 126 film.)
At the time, this would have been quite a substantial purchase, at least when considering my family’s relative poverty…and my mysterious benefactor was completely gone by now.
There was no bag, no receipt, no sign of being purchased from any particular store so, after examining it for some time my Nanna decided she would leave it up to my mum to decide what to do with it.
That evening, my Mum told me that the camera had probably been stolen and she would have to contact the police to return it to its rightful owner. She said she knew I would be disappointed but ‘…what if it was meant to be a Christmas present for some other little boy?” (Like I cared about some kid I had never even met!)
I cried for a while but, even then, I understood that complete strangers didn’t give kids random presents unless they were stuffed with a pillow, dressed in red and sporting a fake white beard.
Weeks later, Christmas Day finally arrived and, much to my surprise and delight, I got the camera kit in my stocking!
My mum said she had spoken to the police but there was no camera theft reported and “…after all, he did give it to you, whoever he was.”
I have no idea what happened to that camera but I’ve never forgotten that strange, shabby man and the most unlikely Christmas present I ever received.