I’m the eldest; I have three younger brothers. Mum was told she couldn’t have children, but she proved them wrong – she had four boys! We lived in Acacia Ridge in the 50s, Mum and Dad started their oyster business in our garage. We had a cubbyhouse in the backyard behind the outhouse. Mum and Dad bought me Matchbox cars for Christmas. I’ve still got them at home – and I’m 70 this month. When I was 10 my parents moved us and the oyster business to Buranda.
The headmaster called my parents and told them I couldn’t read or write. They had me transferred to Dutton Park Opportunity School. It was a good school, but I never did learn to read or write; it just didn’t stay in my head. I was really good at sports. I was the fastest of all. My favourite was soccer; I used to play every Thursday against other schools. We won the grand final two years in a row. I played left wing and my friend Willy played right wing. I also did hurdles and long jump. Every Tuesday we’d have cooking classes for the girls and woodwork classes for the boys. I went to the cooking class; I wanted to be a chef. But later I found out that to be a chef I had to do a test for the apprenticeship, but I couldn’t read or write. I left school when I was about 12 years old. My mum was in a car accident and couldn’t walk. Dad had to run the oyster business, so I had to look after Mum and do the house duties. I did that until I was 16.
When I got my licence at 17, I went to pubs and horse races around Brisbane selling oysters and pickled onions. I’d walk through the pubs saying “Oysters, oysters! Get your fresh oysters!” This was in the late 60s. They wouldn’t let you do that these days! It was only 40 cents for a jar of oysters then. A large bottle of beer was only 40 cents then too. I’d sell 150 jars on the weekend.
I also raced cars for 35 years. I loved winning and I won plenty.
I met my first wife at Cloudland Dance Hall when I was 17. I’m a good dancer! We had four kids together. My second wife I met at the Brisbane Showgrounds. I was working on the music machine controls. She got off the ride and said, “Can I get your number?” We went out and she started working at the shows too. She was a star! She was “The Girl in the Fishbowl” act. We had two kids, a boy and a girl. They travelled around Australia with us in our caravan. But my wife stayed in Perth and I came back to Brisbane with the kids. I met my third wife after I put an ad in the paper. She had five kids of her own. Now I’ve got 12 grandkids.
About four years ago I had triple bypass surgery. I was in hospital for 14 weeks. I was in there when I got the news that my mum died. The hospital took me down to the funeral then brought me back to the hospital.
I started selling The Big Issue about five years ago. My brother Denis was selling it and he told me about it. You meet some really nice people and my customers make me feel really good.
The last 10 years have been the best, except for my Mum dying, ’cos Queensland housing got me my own place. In boarding houses I had to do what they said to do. Now I can do what I want. I’ve got photos on my wall of Mum and Dad – and heaps of Matchbox cars.
Wayne sells The Big Issue at New Farm Park and Teneriffe, Brisbane.
Interview by Amanda Sweeney
Photo by Barry Street