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13 September 2013

Frank

Photograph by James Braund

"I am either 52 or 53 years old, not too sure – but I look 21! I am the youngest of seven, with three sisters and three brothers. Most of them are now in their sixties so I like to tease them about being old. The great thing is that when I’m in my sixties, I’ll still be able to tease them about being old. I grew up on a dairy farm about 50 minutes from Dandenong. When I was born, the doctor said I was deaf and blind. I’ve heard similar stories from people with cerebral palsy who were born around the same time. 

When I was 10 we moved to Dandenong and I went to school near Frankston. I finished when I was 17 – it was a special school and I didn’t learn anything there. Things got better in 1981, the United Nation’s International Year of the Disabled – a lot of things improved for people with disabilities.

These days, when I’m not working I love to go to the races. I go twice most weeks, by train. I should be there right now! Most of the time I’ll place a bet, and I don’t do too badly. 

I meet some funny people on the train. Once I saw this little boy, a very wild-looking kid, on the train and I thought to myself, ‘I wouldn’t want to run into him in 10 years.’ But then he came up to me and said, ‘I’ll swap you my legs for your wheelchair.’ I laughed.

In my spare time, I sometimes go out for tea or to the pub – with my brothers or sisters or with friends. Actually I was just at the pub with my friend Aleisha and Big Issue vendor Kyra [‘Vendor Profile’, Ed#382]. I played a prank on Kyra. I got Aleisha, who’s a carer, to pretend to steal something from my wheelchair and run away with it. I wanted to see what Kyra would do. Pretty mean, but it was funny. Kyra’s a good sport.

I’ve also done a bit of writing in the past. I had some pieces published in a book once [1990 anthology Fine Words Butter No Parsnips]. I’d love to do more of that in the future.

I like my job selling The Big Issue. I’ve been doing it for two-and-a-half years now. I like people-watching and I like to make up stories in my head about the people going past. Dad used to do that when I was a kid – he was a joker and he’d always sit in the car and watch people go past and make up things about them. He’d always say, ‘Geez I feel sorry for him!’ and that sort of thing.

Lately I’ve been selling a lot of copies. The Superman edition [Ed#435] went pretty well for me. One day, I saw a little boy in a Superman costume walk past. He saw the cover and he was waiting at the lights with his mother and he started trying to get her attention. I think he wanted to buy a copy. I probably should’ve given him a free one…but I didn’t!"

 

Interview by interview by Sophie Quick/photograph by James Braund
Frank sells The Big Issue at the cnr of Collins and Elizabeth Sts, Melbourne.