The freedoms available remain Frank Prem’s strongest memories of growing up in Beechworth through the 1960s and ’70s.
“The practice back then was for people to work very long shifts, 12 hour days, so kids were latch key kids to a great extent,” he said.
“Me and my dog walking through the Beechworth gorge, unsupervised, riding to school on a bike unsupervised or walking, doing things with friends, unsupervised, it was just the character of the time.
“We revelled in that, and we didn’t know any different.”
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A poet for more than 40 years, Prem has brought together stories from his youth in Small Town Kid, a self-published collection now available in stores and online.
“The reason that I wrote this set of memoirs was because by the time I’d had my own young children that whole childhood had disappeared,” he said.
“Back at that time – I talk about it being before civilisation – it was before there were indoor toilets, it was when television was a new thing, quite a different era, even though it was relatively only a short time ago.”
Prem arrived in Australia as a baby with his parents, who migrated in 1957 from Croatia via Germany and passed through the Bonegilla Migration Reception and Training Centre.
The family settled in Beechworth, a town Prem returned to about a decade ago and where his parents still live.
He began writing poetry as “a good cheat when in high school”, to avoid 1500 word assignments.
“I got away with about 300 words because I wrote a poem,” he said.
“I got praised and it was easy. I didn’t really know what I was doing much initially, but I just kept doing it.
“It was an easy, comfortable way for me to write and served to get difficult ideas out of my head and on to paper.”
For many years Prem combined poetry with his work as a psychiatric nurse, but now he is moving more towards full-time writing.
The poet will make Meet the Author appearances at Wangaratta Library on Wednesday, January 16, at 6.30pm and at Beechworth NewsXpress on Saturday, January 19, from 9am.
“Imagery is reasonably characteristic of my work, I like to read to an audience and I often invite them to close their eyes and come on a journey with me, and just let the voice take them,” he said.
“These are only one-minute journeys, mind you, dip in and dip out and just come along.”
To win an autographed copy of Small Town Kid, be one of the first two callers from 1pm Friday, January 11, on (02) 6024 0546.
The book is also sold at Dymocks Albury, Edgars Books and News Wangaratta and Beechworth NewsXpress.
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