DOLPH Baker remembers clearly long hours in the little air raid shelter at his home in London.
Dolph, now 93 and calling Helensvale home, said Covid-19 restrictions reminded him of those days of not being able to get out, be with friends and do as you wanted.
Wife Mary Anne said Dolph particularly missed his Monday social get-togethers through Nerang’s Liberty Community Connect, and was far less accepting of today’s restrictions than those he faced as a kid during the war.
“We had an Anderson shelter in the garden and it became like a second home,” Dolph said, explaining he and his siblings went there each day after school, and when the air raid sirens wailed.
Many Anderson shelters – steel or iron panels formed into a semi-circle and dug into families’ gardens – survived the worst of German bombing that destroyed homes and neighbourhoods, and are still intact today.
“We grew up with the bombing, so it (the air raid shelter) didn’t really worry us,” Dolph said.
“It was like anything else, it’s what you were used to and you did it because that was what everyone did …”
He recalled his mother being able to hear the plane motors coming far in the distance before a raid.
At the earliest opportunity, 17¼, having been turned down by the air force, Dolph signed up as an army paratrooper, which he was pleased still meant taking to the skies.
He did a series of missions into Europe and the Middle East, and recalls sticking a whole roast chicken into his battle dress before making a drop into Palestine, and living on it for the next four days.
He says smuggling food in this way, with the parachute harness holding it in place, was common as troops often had no food or line of communication when dropped into hostile territory.
Whether or not having survived that chicken is what gave Dolph the robust health to make it into his 90s he’s not sure, but it makes a good story.
It’s just one of a series of exploits in Dolph’s life, from his childhood years training monkeys and caring for animals in his dad’s pet business, to talking to the queen (incidentally born the same year as him) during her tour of the Ronson lighter factory he worked in after the war.
So, it’s perhaps not extraordinary that in 1952, when his girlfriend of the time migrated to Australia, Dolph decided to follow her.
With the help of a whip-around by his workmates, within three weeks he was on a boat to Melbourne as a £10 Pom – Australia’s assisted migration program.
It was a huge journey for a romance that faded, but Dolph did find a new love while working as a booking clerk on the railways, and married his first wife Margaret.
A number of different jobs followed, from horse breeder and farmer to home renovator and baker, and, sadly, Dolph lost first Margaret and then his second wife Jean.
But he never lost his spirit of adventure, and in 2009 on a trip to Malaysia, met and fell in love with Mary Anne.
Moving from Melbourne to the Gold Coast in 2015 to be closer to his grandkids, he eventually convinced Mary Anne to marry him, but still found the Coast lonely until she convinced him to give Liberty Community Connect a go.
After initial reluctance, she said Dolph now waits at the door each Monday for the LCC transport, which he refers to as “the school bus”, to pick him up and take him to activities.
“I don’t like being on my own,” Dolph said.
“At Liberty I’ve made new friends and they are all great company … and the staff and volunteers go out of their way to make me feel special …
“They also know how to make us all laugh – I can act like a bloody fool and get away with it during games and activity times!”
And while, of course, all those group social activities are on hold during Covid-19 restrictions, LCC community development officer Anita Ryan said staff are doing 1:1 home visits, taking out Boredom Buster Boxes of cards, books, puzzles and board games, picking up scripts and doing all sorts of services for clients.
They are also still taking new clients, so phone 07 5578 1668 to find out more.