School was okay. I enjoyed the friendships. I didn’t like kids teasing me. I wasn’t well-liked because of Dad and Mum. Dad drank a lot. It was a small town. When Mum and Dad split up, I went to Mount Gambier with Mum. Dad was living at Meadows, but we didn’t want to go to Dad’s. He was a bit different.
It was hard but Mum looked after us. I was 18 when Mum died. I saw her and I said, “You’re going to die aren’t you?” And Mum said, “No I’m not. Don’t be silly.” But I knew it, I knew she was going to die. Mum died from a heart attack out on the front verandah. It took six months to sink in. I can remember when she used to send me down to the shop for Choo-Choo Bars, black cats and aniseed balls. She was a liquorice fan.
When I die, I’m going to be cremated and I want my ashes to be put into Mum’s grave. My sister Eileen doesn’t like this idea – she was the responsible one, the oldest, she got the brunt of it all. She’s a good girl. I love her. There are eight of us. I am probably closest with Teresa; she is the youngest. She is very easygoing. And I get along well with David. I got along with all of them.
I used to waitress in a guest house at Port Elliot; that was when I was 18. The work was good. We’d get tips under the dinner plates when the diners had finished. I think this is why I like selling The Big Issue, because I’m getting out of my unit and socialising.
I was 19 or 20 when I got married. We were married for 25 years. I know what went wrong with my marriage but now I am looking ahead. I’m a great‑nanna now.
My daughter Janet encouraged me to sell The Big Issue. I signed up last year. People who come past my pitch are very friendly and encouraging. One lady gave me a hat, a scarf and two pairs of gloves. And one man loved my smile. I always say, “Good morning, good morning.” When we had chickens on the magazine, I made lots of clucking noises. That brought in lots of sales.
I bought myself an old record player with the money I’ve saved from working at The Big Issue. I like country-and-western music. I also love Kamahl – he has a lovely clear voice. I bought some of his records from the second-hand store. I am so fortunate to have the things that I want. I would like to go on a holiday, but I am scared to on my own. I would like to go to the Holy Land.
Selling The Big Issue has given me something to do. I especially look forward to the pocket money. I treat myself to a nice dinner nearly every week. I’m saving for a nice new handbag and a pair of pants that has pockets in the legs. I have always wanted them.
I will work for The Big Issue as long as I can. I would really like to go away. Perhaps for my 80th birthday – I am 73 now, so in seven years – I can go up in a hot air balloon and take the family up.
Elizabeth sells The Big Issue on Kintore Ave and outside Hungry Jack’s on Rundle Street, Adelaide.
Interview by Erica Rees.
Photo by Nat Rogers.