Easter Sunday and an update on the project. With a handful of days not at work, we've smashed the 90,000 word barrier and all but completed Chapter 1952, leaving one chapter to draft. I definitely acknowledge that what I've produced so far is a draft synopsis more than a novel, with the hard work to mould it into something readable still ahead.
Research into events in Chapter 1952 led to several fascinating places, the first being the Wondergraph/Star/Ozone/Curzon theatre that graced Goodwood Road from 1911 to 1964. The company who bought the theatre and renamed it The Star signalled its inevitable demise when they built and opened the New Star (now Capri) in 1941. It must have been unusual for two theatres owned by the same company to be operating literally paces along the street from one another.
Research also took me to the Wayville Trots held in the Wayville Showgrounds from 1934 until 1973. The track was originally used as a speedway track from the mid 1920s until 1934. Coincidentally, I also ended up chasing down the routes of the old Adelaide tramways and was surprised how extensive the original tracks were - a past lost by poor vision.
I took the opportunity this past week to also visit the Daw Park Repatriation Hospital Museum where several kind gentlemen allowed me to look around and even set foot in the old mortuary refrigerator. I strolled around the outside of Wards 1-8 and Daw House to get a sense of 'place' and peered through windows at the now-empty rooms within.
This is the chapter in which our central character meets the man she will marry, my father, Bill Shillitoe. William Henry Shillitoe was a patient in the men's ward in 1952, admitted after a relapse associated with his medical discharge from the RAAF in 1945.
Bill joined up in July 1944, days after he turned eighteen, and after training in Wagga Wagga he was assigned as an AC1 to Darwin to learn mechanical engineering. Unfortunately, he fell ill in October with a double-whammy of Scarlet Fever that led to Rheumatic Fever and he was placed first on the critically ill list and then the dangerously ill list as his condition rapidly escalated. Research revealed the Rheumatic Fever was not uncommon in World War Two as a consequence of men living in damp, ill-equipped close quarters, as was the case in Darwin, but the use of penicillin in medicine proved an effective treatment and the rate of infections declined markedly.
The illness in Bill's case, however, became Rheumatic Carditis and left him with a permanently weakened heart and damaged heart valve. He was repatriated to Adelaide, discharged when considered well enough, and he returned to itinerant work as a farm hand near Ashville. I have no record of how often he had relapses associated with the illness, but he was in the Repat before July 1952 and discharged in September 1952.
My mother told me in our interviews that when she was assigned to light duties post-TB, she was attracted to a 'shy, well-spoken and handsome young man' and she started paying him extra attention, including visiting him after hours. She was disappointed when he left, but he wrote her a letter shortly afterward and then rang her and invited her to a dance ball in Meningie. So began a life-long relationship.
So, tomorrow I begin drafting the final chapter of the project, and hopefully will have it done by the end of next week, or the week after, depending on the impact of returning to work. When I began, I wasn't sure I had enough material to flesh out a novel. It turns out I do. One more chapter in raw draft, and then we get serious about polishing the rough.