As a young teenager in the early 1970s, I remember our local council leaving large skips in the backstreets where residents could dump their hard disposable rubbish. Obviously these skips were few and far between due to the cost of their transport. They reminded me of wildlife: no one could predict where they would be, how long they would be there and how long it would be before you were going to see another one.
My father gave me and my two younger brothers strict instructions that if we were to see one within rubbish-carrying distance we were to tell him immediately. It didn’t matter what he was doing; the disposal of rubbish always took priority. After that it was all hands on deck as we rushed towards the backyard lugging broken furniture, old tins of paint, garden refuse, old tyres or any other piece of junk that had been sitting around since the last suburban skip.
Everyone had to work quickly, as every father in the neighbourhood presumably had given the same instructions. Like ants coming out before a change in the weather, children from everywhere would descend on the skip with their unwanted household items. There was nothing quite as embarrassing as being too late and finding the skip was already “chock-ablock” full. On several occasions I noticed a skip almost full to the brim and didn’t bother to tell Dad, thinking we had already missed the boat. On one occasion this backfired as my father saw it not long after and accused me of having deficient eyesight (or words to that effect).
There was no use complaining that you had something better to do if it was skip-loading time. My father was very stoic about this. (“Look, I’d rather be sitting in the lounge room watching Doug Walters batting too, but you know what happens if you leave it too late!” was one of his more memorable quotes.)
Hard rubbish collection has evolved since those heady days. The second stage of hard rubbish collection was the “leave it out the front of your house and we will pick it up three or four days after we said we would because by then people would have trolled through it and taken a lot of the stuff for themselves and saved us a lot of time and money” approach. This worked quite well until rubbish spread on to footpaths and streets and became a hazard.
Our present council has the sophisticated system whereby ratepayers can book a time. This cuts out the bargain hunters and the rubbish riflers, and seems to work very well.
But in a way I miss the spontaneity of the system from all those years ago. Those bright yellow metal skips that were the size of a small truck, the sense of urgency, the area in the yard cleared away after waiting for the council to do their stuff. The satisfaction of a job well done.
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