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Short Stories

From the Land of Oz 

brightwater cover


If it is true that we are a product of our early formative years and environment then, growing up in the 1930s and 1940s produced a vastly different generation in my opinion than what is being produced today. 

It is not my intention to criticise or compare but merely to place a light-hearted snapshot with a few short stories upon some bygone era that some readers will remember and perhaps describe as the ‘good old days’. 

The stories concern the characters that make up any small town in both the past and the present and describe incidents and personalities that the reader may readily relate to.


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ISBN:  978-1-876882-52-5
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 106
Genre: Fiction

Cover: Clive Dalkins

Cover Image, used under licence from Shutterstock.com. Bruce Wilson Photography/shutterstock.com

 © Cover Design—Zeus Publications 2019



Francis M. Boggs
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published:  2019
Language: English


      Read a sample:

About the Author  

Francis Boggs, now retired, was born in New Zealand and has spent most of his life in Australia. This is his second published work. He currently lives on the Gold Coast in Australia with his wife Cavell and declares it to be the lifestyle capital of the world.



To my family 


A bygone era





Aspiring authors, in my own personal opinion and observation, are generally earnest, creative, anxious and sincere personalities who feel that they have a story to tell, whether it’s fiction, fact, comedy, horror or any genre.

Storytellers of the far distant past would, of course, rely on personal experience and imagination, and these stories without written word would be handed down to further generations who would then perhaps translate them and record them into their newly created understandable and readable language.

In my quest to continue to contribute to the storytellers of the past and present I do hope that readers of my previously published philosophical fiction novel Paradise Mislaid enjoyed it.

On embarking upon this series of short stories I can assure you that all of them contain an element of truth and personal experience.

Anyone recognising situations or characters portrayed will kindly regard them as fictional, coincidental, and sheer imagination. 


 Read a sample:


Brightwater was a small town by most standards of measurement in the late 1930s and early 40s. It had its obligatory two churches, Catholic and Presbyterian, and Catholic and State schools. One hotel with patrons from both churches. One butcher shop, a town hall which doubled as a movie theatre. A service station, garage, blacksmith, stock-and-station supplies. During the war most cars were up on blocks because of the price of tyres and rationing of petrol; in fact, most things were subject to ration coupons. There was a drapery/clothing/haberdashery shop, a grocery shop, bank, council chambers, a bike shop, fish-and-chip shop. The post office and police station combined as one and both closed at the end of the day at 5pm. The one doctor and chemist shop also combined as one and the whole town made up a stretch of approximately 500 yards, with empty blocks here and there occupied by either a house cow or a market garden, dignified by the name of Main Street. The town’s existence apparently originally occurred by the mistaken understanding that the Southern railway track was to be laid close to the Brightwater river and a settlement to service the outlying farming community should be established.

Whether by geographical problems, political expedience, or some other unknown revealed reason, the railway track continued approximately 20 miles south, bypassing Brightwater completely, and a substantial town was established there which had now over 70 years grown to over 10,000 people. If anything substantial was to be accomplished, then people went to ‘town’, which had a hospital, college, and most facilities that one might expect from a town of that size. It revelled in the name of Dunton, which appeared upon almost every building, edifice, park, shop, post office, railway station, council offices, police station etc. so there was no mistaking where you were. The people from Brightwater simply referred to its location as ‘Dunnyton’.

Brightwater in itself was a misnomer if it was named after the small river that ran by the town as it was perpetually a dirty brown colour, but nevertheless it did not discourage the young ones from discovering a new swimming hole after every flood that seemed to change the character of the river’s course.

The character of the town itself of course could be best described by the characters that lived there, for there is similarity in most small towns that you may be familiar with.

They can be recognised without providing specific names, as for example, Mrs Busybody, who claimed knowledge of every body’s business and was always anxious to share it, be it true or false. It helped that she was on what was known as a telephone party line where several people shared the same line and were identified by a different ring tone and anyone on that party line who cared to pick up the receiver could listen to a private conversation. A local radio comedian once told a joke that when applying for a job and asked if he had done any public speaking, he replied, ‘Yes, I was once on a party line.’

There was the town drunk, who seemed to revel in the title by reinforcing his claim on a daily basis.

The village idiot, who was harmless and unaware that he was the butt of countless jokes. He was in his early twenties with the mind of an innocent five year old and could usually be found at the local garage as he loved the atmosphere and would constantly take a broom to sweep the garage, footpath and street, dodging traffic where necessary and picking up horse droppings as and when they descended.

There were three prominent men of Irish descent in town, as there were in most of Australia, either of convict ancestry or early settlers who settled on allotments. Paddy Quinn was the publican of the only hotel, aptly named the Central Hotel, probably the first building in town, built as a hotel and staging point for horse-drawn pioneer carriages. He was regarded as a good bloke and probably a bit of a soft touch for those wanting some ‘credit’.

There was Sergeant McRae, the local policeman, who seemed to turn a blind eye to the majority of minor misdemeanours and was happily hanging out for his retirement; according to his reports, Brightwater was a pretty crime-free town.

Not forgetting Father O’Toole, the Catholic priest, who had presided over the town for as long as anyone could remember and despite his advanced age, remained the sole representative for the parish along with the four nuns from the Josephites who wore full traditional habit, starched headgear and heavy leather belt from which hung large wooden rosary beads and a crucifix. They taught us young Catholics the basics of education and religion before we eventually embarked on our daily journey to ‘Dunnyton’ by bus to college.

Brightwater’s polyglot of characters were usually labelled as snobs, battlers, good blokes, bad bastard, nice family, abos, wogs or blow-ins.


One main feature of the town was the fire station. Boldly emblazoned across the two-storey building, a sign proudly announced that this indeed was the Brightwater Volunteer Fire Brigade. Once a month, volunteers would attend a ‘practice’ meeting and roll out the hoses and polish up the ancient Dennis fire engine that was kept in immaculate condition downstairs. It had seen no active service that anyone could remember except for being paraded on Anzac Day, Australia Day festivities, school fetes, and the Christmas Day parade down Main Street with Father Christmas throwing sweets to the children.

The siren would also get a test run on practice nights that could be heard all over town and beyond. The understood message was just one screaming wail for practice or maintenance and three if there was a genuine fire. This was understood by everyone except the local dogs who immediately set up a chorus of competitive howling.

The volunteers would repolish their brass helmets and coat buttons and then check the small axe whose head was ensconced in a pouch on the wide black leather belt worn around their three-quarter-length black coat. Matching black trousers and black leather boots that came halfway up their lower legs completed an imposing regalia to compliment the fire truck’s outings.

There was a billiard table upstairs that had seen better days and sometimes the ‘practice’ meetings ran a little late with a few beers and a few games of snooker and a frosty greeting on arrival home, hardly befitting the town’s protectors and heroes.

 It was a quiet, late Wednesday morning in Brightwater. A local racehorse trainer and his assistant were walking their hopefully future racing champions through town on their usual morning roadwork exercise. Shopkeepers were sweeping the footpaths outside their doors, cleaning windows and greeting any passers-by, which were few in number, when a great billow of black smoke appeared, coming from Paddy Quinn’s Central Hotel.

Bert Wilson, the local butcher and elected fire chief (probably because his shop was located right next to the fire station) spotted the smoke and with the excited cries of his customers behind him, left the shop to his assistant and ran next door to sound the alarm for a genuine fire, then began changing rapidly into his brigade uniform. Jack Miles, the local plumber, was the first to arrive as he was parked right outside. He ran in smiling, and told Bert he was rearing to go. He had to shout above the sound of the siren and kitted up while the siren continued wailing. The dogs in town were having a heart attack and the local curious spectators were hurrying to the source of the smoke.

Then came Bluey Dixon, the local postmaster, a florid-faced, red-haired man of about forty, with his sixteen-year-old son Sam, also with a mass of red hair, whom everyone called Little Bluey. Sam was the local telegram/messenger boy. A little bit slow in the head, some people said, but to be honest he was just dreadfully shy, introverted with a low self-esteem, but considered he had found himself when he joined up as a keen volunteer.

They were all struggling into their uniforms when two council workers from the Town Clerk’s office walked in quickly, in spite of the council supervisor not wanting to let them go.

‘All right!’ shouted Bert. ‘Get kitted up quickly, this is not a practice. Who’s got the keys for the fire engine? They’re not where they’re supposed to be on the hook marked Dennis.’

Young Sam stuttered that Ian Smith, the local painter and paperhanger, had them but was on holiday in New Zealand.

‘Christ almighty,’ cried Bert. ‘OK. It’s only at the hotel down the road so let’s go!’

In various stages of getting dressed the team hobbled off in single file with young Sam bringing up the rear, having trouble with one boot to fit properly. His axe had fallen out of its pouch and his helmet had fallen off. Getting it all back together was difficult as he also tried to respond to the shouts of encouragement from the sidewalk locals.

The truth of the matter was that the hotel cook, Billy Hing, of some distant Chinese heritage, had burnt the chips, which for an ex shearer’s cook was unforgiveable. The resultant fire had burnt the curtains around the window and part of the crockery cabinet above the stove before he was able to put it all out. He had made himself a cup of tea and was walking out of the kitchen when Bert and his gung-ho band of fire-fighters burst into the crisis centre to save the day. He shouted at the two council workers to get Billy to safety. ‘We don’t want any casualties,’ he cried. Billy walked across to the other side of the road and sat down on the gutter to enjoy a cigarette and his cup of tea while watching the drama unfold.

As the fire chief and self-designated leader, Bert took off his helmet that he regarded as an impediment, took out his axe and immediately began smashing the window to pieces. ‘Remember the practice,’ he shouted. ‘We have to get rid of any smoke so that we can see the source of the fire and we can breathe.’

A large piece of falling glass cut a nasty gash on Bert’s forehead. Most of the smoke by now had of course disappeared.

‘Quick!’ he said. ‘The walls, the fire can hide behind there and start up any time now.’

They all followed his example and attacked the old tongue and groove walls which had probably been there for close to 100 years. There were no latent flames lurking there but a myriad of cockroaches, upset at having their daylight rest disturbed, scattered throughout the kitchen like a plague desperately looking for new hiding places. Young Sam, valiantly trying to follow the other volunteers’ actions, deftly cut the copper water pipe right through, which resulted in a fountain of water spraying everywhere, quickly creating a mini flood on the floor. Sam stepped on some debris on the floor, collapsed and came up dripping wet with a nasty cut on his hand from some broken glass. Tony, the village idiot, put his head through the smashed window, very excited and asked if he could help. Bert bluntly told him to fuck off as he demolished the crockery cabinet from the wall above the stove with one mighty swipe, so Tony went about sweeping broken glass from the footpath with a broad vacant happy smile on his face.

Just about then, Paddy Quinn came running into the kitchen and pulled up short at the sight of the shambles of what had once been his kitchen. ‘Christ, Bert,’ he cried, ‘you and the boys are bloody heroes. You have saved the hotel. I was down in the cellar and didn’t know what was going on until just now. It seems OK now so c’mon into the bar and the drinks are on me.’

Jack Miles, the plumber, had the water turned off and said that he would have it fixed and all put back on after a couple of drinks.

Billy Hing had finished his tea and cigarette and with a wry smile walked across the road to see if it was possible to re-start business as usual but quickly determined that the kitchen would be closed for a while. He never continued duties at the hotel and resumed his culinary career as a shearers’ cook.

 Bill Holmes, a retired civil servant from the city, who had inherited his parents’ family home in Brightwater, was also the editor and publisher of the Brightwater Weekly News. A four-page edition featuring some advertising, births, deaths, engagements, marriages, council notices and any local event worthy of mention. The paper was proudly called the Brightwater Weekly News but most people referred to it as ‘the one minute’s silence’. Mrs Busybody would have already passed on any news of even moderate interest anyway.

The Brightwater Weekly News proudly wrote up the event of the fire as follows with the headline:



Following a fire alarm alert, six volunteers attended a fire at the Central Hotel. After extracting patrons and staff and preventing possible loss of life, they physically attacked the source despite lack of availability of their fire truck and water carrier due to mechanical difficulties. There is no doubt they saved the hotel from possible total loss and prevented the fire from spreading to other parts of town.

Bert Wilson and Sam Dixon suffered some minor injuries and it should be noted that all volunteers will be recognised at a specially convened Council meeting next month. 

The article was accompanied by a photograph of the heroes taken standing (some just) against the bar of the hotel. Bert had a bandage around his head and Sam had a bandage on his hand and a large stain of vomit on his coat due to his unfamiliar exposure to alcohol. They had all put their helmets back on for the occasion and with buttons undone, covered in soot and asked not to smile, it was a wonderful memorial photo and a larger copy along with the article still graces the wall of the public bar of the hotel and the wall of the billiard room upstairs at the fire station.





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