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26 September 2014

Jeff

I was born in Seddon Private Hospital in Tongue Street, Yarraville. It’s now a boarding house. Mum was a schoolteacher; she had me in 1947. One day she took me to school with her. I was in second or third grade, she was teaching sixth graders. She said, ‘This is my son.’ You should have seen the reception I got! I was well looked after that day.

My father was a clerk at Smith Bros, but they shifted to Mulgrave and he didn’t have a car. Then he took a job as a cleaner. My mum died on 1 October 1959, nine days after me 12th birthday. I got out of bed and went into the kitchen, my old man come out and he said, ‘Mum’s passed away, she had a heart attack.’ My father died 29 May 1966, when I was 18 and a half.

Apart from a cousin who lives in Sunbury, I’ve got no one – no brothers, no sisters, no parents. I had a sister who died before I was born: she was three months premature. In 1946 if you were three months premature you didn’t live – now you do, but then you didn’t. So she died. She’s buried in the same grave as my mum and dad. For me to be buried in there I’ve got to be cremated, so that’s what I want.

I left school at 16. I got [work in] woolstores, which was good fun, but they’re cactus now... There’s no more woolstores. Went into truck driving, worked in a factory,or a store, always sort of in the industrial sector. And then I got sick of that, so I took on taxi driving for a while. It was okay at first, but it started to give me the shits. Went back into storework, unloading containers. Then I got too old, too cranky, so I took this on. That was April 2012.

I play trivia Thursday nights, and go to the footy and watch the Western Bulldogs [AFL team]...unfortunately! I played footy when I was a kid, but I was too skinny for a start. I used to go in hard and I was a good kick, but that was about it. I played for Maidstone and South Kingsville – neither of them exist anymore. I would have liked to have kicked the winning goal for the Bulldogs in the grand final. It was always my ambition, that. But it never came true.

I like selling The Big Issue. It’s a change from what I was doing before. You meet people all the time; most people are friendly. I have regular clients. One particular client, Karina, is my favourite customer. Last year she went to Japan and came back with a Japan Big Issue for me. I can’t read it, of course!

This is the last job I’ll ever have. I’ve just turned 67, will be 70 in three years. I’ll do this for another three years, then I’m gonna give it away and just sit there and do nothin’.

Interview by Katherine Smyrk
Jeff sells The Big Issue in Melbourne CBD and Footscray