My "Working" Life


I didn't have a career, just a variety of jobs, most of which I hated. None of it seemed important enough to be respected, most of it was purely about money. I suffered mental illness my entire working life and I was extremely immature and irresponsible. I despised commercialism and had no respect for money. In retrospect, I should have been a policeman. That role woud have required me learn responsibity and given me a sense of doing something that made a difference. I applied in 1972 and was accepted. But, typically, I didn't front up. So, here it is. The mostly embarrasing truth of my working life, written only for my children and grandchildren who should know the truth of my life.

My first experience of the workplace was at Woolworths Campsie in 1964. In had a ball serving at the stationary counter, meeting customers and flirting with a fellow worker who was two years older than me. She was a cheeky redhead by the name of Irene. I think that's where I learned to question all that my parents had taught me It was the beginning of a life that has since been dubbed “Rebel Without A Clue”.

When I graduated from school in 1968 I had no idea what I wanted to do for a living. None whatsoever. My parents took me along to Vocational Guidance in Sydney and they were told I could basically do anything I wanted. Trouble was, I really didn't want to do anything. So, my parents asked the Vocational Guidance officer where the best opportunities might be for the future. He said “economics”, a subject I studeied in the last two years of school and absolutely hated. But I wasn';t too worried, I knew may parents couldn't asfford to send me to university anyway. Unless. Of course, I won a scholarship. Ultimately my HSC score of 89% wasn't enough to get me a Commonwealth scholarship, but was enough to secure me a 'teacher's college” scholarship (which my parents had applied for without my knowledge). So, in 1969, at their direction, I found myself stuying economics at the University of New South Wales. And I still hated it.

I struggled to study at school, and my application to my courses at uni were no different. I figured that life was for living, having fun, chasing girls, and playing footy, not for study. I had no ambition, no aspiration, and no thought beyond tomorrow. I spent most of my days at uni playing snooker, playing table tennis and chasing skirt. I missed most tutorials and half my lectures.The four subjects in that first year were Economics, Accounting, Psychology (an elective) and Mathematics.

Naturally I hated the first two, was somewhat disappointed in the psychology curriculum, Mathematics, on the other hand, I thoroughly enjoyed. And I was good at it. Part of the course involved computer programming. In a very large room at the uni was a giant IBM 360 computer that accepted punched cards. The idea was to have the right cards in the right order, so once you had them in the correct sequence, you applied a tight elastic band around the batch. But, of course, I had only a small and weak band at hand, and while walking between buildings, the band broke and the cards flew everywhere in the wind. Seems funny now, but I cried at the time.

I certainly enjoyed the social side of university. The very unique “Roundhouse” hosted some great occasions, from music to plays to special dinners. Australia's biggest rock stars performed regularly. And the dinners were wild in the extreme. I got on with most people, but clashed with one particular guy who thought I hogged the table tennis table for too long. For all my time at uni (two) I only ever saw two fights – and I was in both of them. This bloke was the first. What a wanker I was.

At the end of the first year I managed to get a Credit in Mathematics, a pass in Accounting, but failures in both Economics and Psychology. After working as a labourer during the extensive Christmas break, my parents decided that I should get a job in the Commonwealth Public Service and finish my degree part time. So in 1970 I gained employment as a junior clerk in the Department of the Army at Victoria Barracks in Sydney. They gave me time off to attend all my lectures and tutorials as I repeated the two subjects I had failed the year before. My parents had always wanted me to be employed securely and you couldn't be more secure than join the Public Service. They couldn't fire you even if you punched the boss in the mouth (and boy, wasn't it tempting). In addition, my parents assured me that I would find employment fulfilling, motivating and noble. I'm afraid not. It was meaningless, boring and utterly deflating. I quickly realised from watching others that you could walk around the barracks most of the day with a piece of paper in your hand and nobody would say anything. Morale was very low, and it was obvious that our boss hated his job. But there were a couple of ambitious young clerks who were sycophants to the system in the hope of an early promotion. I remember this one guy walking into the office one day and saying loudly “isn't it great to be at work, what a great day”. An older bloke at a desk at the back responded by saying “yeah, I know what you mean. I had a day like that in 1965. I remember it well”.

I used to ride my motorbike to work and uni, a small 100cc Bridgestone that required constant care. I had a very full life at the time. I was playing footy, singing as a solo artist, studying and working. But on June 20 that year everything changed. My bike badly needed tuning but I didn't have the money. I left uni early to go to the wedding if the brother of my then girlfriend, Glenda. The bike sputtered towards home at a slow pace and I became increasingly concerned that I would be late. As I was making a right-hand turn neat Beverly Hills railway station, the bike stalled and the car behind me hit me at full tilt. Fortunately, I landed on my head and was wearing a helmet. I rolled and rolled down the road eventually smashing my right ankle on the gutter. When the ambulance I was still in shock and tried to convince them that I was fine to carry on. I lifted my leg to show them all was fine but, to my shock, the bottom half of my leg fell vertically toward the ground and a bone poked through the skin. The severity of the injury saw me undergo two separate operations and I was in plaster and on crutches for nine months. So went my football and singing careers. And so went my studies. Somehow I managed to pass Economics but my inability to participate in psychological workshops meant the end of that adventure. I failed.

I eventually went back to work at Victoria Barracks, albeit reluctantly. I was having a really bad time at home, so when the Department advertised that they wanted a clerk to act as cashier at Singleton Army base, I jumped at it. So I packed my bags, hopped on my crutches and caught the train to the central west of NSW. I was given quarters in the non-commissioned officer's quarters but that didn't last long after I got involved in a fight with a sergeant in the mess. He started, but I finished it. The following day I was transferred to the officers quarters where I remained for the remaining 18 months before I was forcibly ejected from the entire base (see “Singleton” in Short Stories). I was moved back to Victoria Barracks and placed in the most difficult and isolated section of the service. To the immense pleasure of my bosses, I resigned after three months.

In the meantime, I had taken up an evening position as a salesman with a company called Knighthood. As soon as I left the Department of Army I turned that into a full time job. I wasn't exactly as success as a salesman, although it did lead me to my future wife and mother of my children, Elaine. I convinced her to take leave from nursing and join me on the roads around NSW and Victoria, selling so-called “trousoe” goods to young women. By far our best results were when Elaine went on her own to make presentations to nurses in the various hospitals around the place. In those days the nurses lived in quarters at the hospital. But, naturally, that didn't last long. It was 1973 and we married. Elaine returned to nursing and managed to get a job as a trainee sales manager with Caltex. I did half my training in Sydney and then the balance in Orange, where they were desperately short of area sales managers for the entire region. Eventually I was offered a position in Parkes, and so Elaine and I packed up and moved there. Elaine had been assured that she would be given a full-time position at the Parkes Hospital, and she was. But it was full-time night shift and we used to pass each other at breakfast. It wasn't what either of us wanted, and I realised that my sales days were unproductive. So we packed up and drove across the Nullabour (before it was sealed) to Perth in the hope of a better life.

Elaine got a job at the Perth Hospital almost immediately, while I searched for employment in a multitude of fields. But, without qualifications and an unsteady employment record, I had no luck. After three months I'd had enough, and I was missing rugby league., So we headed back over the Nullabour and headed straight for Belmore Oval to watch Easts (featuring Arthur Beetson) beat Canterbury. In the short term we stayed with my parents. Elaine returned to Sydney Hospital and I went searching for a job. I landed one of the first I applied for – as a purchasing officer with Polaroid at Glebe. We then rented a unit in Belmore. I was good at my job but resented authority and rebelled against the system. After 18 months I was made redundant (basically fired). By that stage my immediate boss (Frank Murphy) absolutely hated me.

From there I secured a job as a clerk with Golden Fleece at North Sydney. It allowed Elaine and I to buy our first home – a unit in Auburn and I drove to work each day. But again, I got bored and asked to be given a more challenging task. So they decided to test me by asking me to come up with a formula that would determine the cost-effectiveness of their country depots. I worked on it for weeks before applying for and getting a job with Monier Consumer Products as a marketing assistant. I hadn't finished my depot analysis when I told them I was moving on. They offered me double pay for the next two weeks if I would finish the program, and Monier agreed to postpone my appointment. I hear many years later that my program had been written in computer code and was still being used.

Monier were based at Granville, much closer to our home in Auburn. I reported directly to the marketing manage, Neville Roach, and eventually was supervisor of the clerical staff. One day Neville asked me to sack one of the girls (a redhead). This girl considered me a friend, until I handed her the letter of dismissal and her final pay cheque. I swore I'd never fire anyone again, and I didn't. A year later Neville was appointed marketing manager at Driclad and he asked me to join him as his assistant. It was good pay in a growing company and I enjoyed it for a while. I was always invited to board meetings, lunches and after0work drinks with the bosses. But then Elaine left me and I became very depressed. When we finally got back together Elaine fell pregnant with Michael and I decided that it was time to do something completely different. I hated working for a boss even more than I disliked working with people who seemed to me to be so hung-up in life. So, at the urging of my old school mate, Steve Lynch, Elaine and I formed a business called Geoff and Elaine Mooney Cleaning Services. We cleaned a few offices, but were mainly responsible for the maintenance of homes owned by couples who both worked and who had the money to have us do the work for them. Michael came along with us and, for once, I really enjoyed my working companions.

But I had never been a city lad and longed to move away from Sydney. We had been taking regular holidays at Kendall's Beach in Kiama and I proposed that we sell our home and the business and move down there. Elaine was extremely reluctant and I guess I basically forced the issue. So sell we did and headed to Kiama to find a rental property (just in case it didn't work out I promised Elaine we would return to Sydney). There were no suitable properties available in Kiama but there was one in a nearby town called Jamberoo. We had never heard of it and Elaine was complaining. But we settled there, had another child (Kate), and neither of us worked for the first year. In that time I experimented with a professional rating and punting algorithm. Each Saturday we would drive to Sydney to attend the thoroughbred racing and would often either stay or go back the next day to watch the football. But, of course, the system didn't work long term and it was time for us to get real jobs.

Elaine became a nurse in the Cardiac Unit at Wollongong Hospital. I bought an established courier business, which was based on an agreement with Boral Windows to transport new windows from the depot in Oak Flats to various building sights around the Illawarra. It would have worked out well except that the truck was a dud and cost me a fortune to both run and maintain.

I had always had a flair for writing and through my friend David Hall I started writing sports reports for the Kiama Independant newspaper. I determined that this what I really wanted to do for a living. I applied for journalistic positions with all newspapers in the Illawarra with no luck. So I decided to expand my search and wrote to every newspaper throughout New South Wales and Victoria. The inconvenience to Elaine and the children didn't even occur to me. I ultimately received a few responses, one from the newspaper group based in Bega. They were looking for someone to replace the editor of the Batemans Bay Post and Moruya Examiner. Yes, editor. So we all trekked off down to Bega for an interview. A month later we moved into a rented home in Moruya and I commenced my duties. I had two secretaries, a photographer and an apprentice journalist (Tony Hoban). Elaine was a nurse at Bega Hospital.

Together we increased circulation significantly, but my disdain for authority put me offside with my boss (John Leach). Foolishly I did things to deliberately upset him, including putting a topless model on the front page of the Moruya Examiner. Both papers were adjoined with either the Batemans Bay news or the Moruya news featuring on the first four pages of the front and back, depending upon the distribution logistic. News from Narooma was included in the Moruya Examiner, but the people of Narooma wanted their own paper. So, I started the Narooma News, a paper that is still in circulation today. But in conjunction with the launch I organised a “competition” between the rugby league sides of each of the three towns. It was a disaster that resulted in a brawl that required police intervention. I was so dissalusinedthat I decide that I wanted move on. I took holidays and appliedfora position with the Illawarra Mercury in Wollongong that would allow us to move back to Jamberoo. The Mercury were looking for a marketing officer and because I had done so much for the circulation down south, they offered me the position. My first assignment was to organise, promote and be Happy Harry, the cartoonist character adored by children as he travelled around the Illawarra over the Christmas holidays giving away various goodies, putting on shows and running competitions.

When Happy Harry put his costume away I was given the task of promoting the Illawarra Mercury in various means, including finding sponsors for competitions that required readers to purchase the paper on a daily basis. One of the sponsors who really understood how to participate to attain maximum effect was Radio Rentals in Wollongong. I became mates with the manager, Bob Alcorn. In 1985 Bob was offered a promotion to head office in Sydney. He recommended to head office that I replace him in the Wollongong office. I did a good job for the business but I was terrible as a boss. I had two ladies (Rena and Lola) at the front desk who both administered the day-to-day business and acted as salespeople to the people who came in off the street. There were two “installers”, (Len and Phillip), Phillip had been there for many years while Len was relatively new. Phillip immediately informed me that he often worked overtime and he was paid penalty rates accordingly. After a few months observing the operation I started to doubt the overtime story. So, instead of having a quiet word with him, I had Elaine check whether his van was parked at his home when he was likely to claim he was working. Naturally, Phillip was cheating the system. So, I confronted him with the evidence. He exploded with rage that I should be spying on him. He resigned immediately.

I also had three technicians, Brian, John and Martin. I got on very well with Brian, OK with Martin, but poor old John, who had been there forever, absolutely hated me. I was simply too demanding. It was the same with the two ladies at the front desk. Even though they disagreed with me, I imposed new rules and methodologies that ultimately saw them resent and defy me. I hated the job and the bad blood I could feel. I started looking around for another job and soon secured one as regional manager for a petroleum distribution company, Teraco. Brian organised my send-off dinner with all the staff, but he and Martin were the only ones that turned up. Years later, when I was a much more mature person, I ran into Rena and we had a good laugh about it all. At least my time at Radio Rentals afforded us a new house in Jamberoo.

And so I started work at the Teraco depot in Wollongong, but was also responsible for the depot at Narellan. In all I had ten full-time employees and a number of casuals. It was always going to end in tears. My secretary, whose main duties were administrative, was a lady named Christine. He had been there for over six years. But, of course, we clashed as I endeavoured to inappropriately enact my patriarchal control. After six months Christine contacted our boss in Albury, Rob Godsen, and told him she could not work with me and that he had a simple choice. Rob travelled up the following day and handed Christine her termination notice. All the staff, including me, knew it was the wrong choice.

Ken, the depot product manager, tried desperately to make me a friend, but after a few barbeques at his place with Elaine and the kids, I just couldn't do it. Naturally he took it personally and there went another working relationship. Despite securing our biggest ever customer, David (Bert) Wakeman, and breaking all sorts of sales records, my tenure on the job was fragile. Despite having an unlimited expense account and a company car (a brand new golden Ford Falcon) I was increasingly disillusioned with the culture that surrounded the company. Rob would visit Wollongong often and I was expected to join him for dinner at a fancy restaurant or club and drink until it was very late. Teraco paid for a taxi home to Jamberoo and I was then expected to get a lift back to Wollongong early the next morning. On top of that I abused my expense account by going out drinking with Bert and getting up to all sorts of mischief. I started to realise that my work, and my lifestyle, were largely superficial and meaningless. The last time Rob visited we had a late dinner and lots of drinks. I ended up blurting out that what we were doing work wise was bullshit, all about money and meaningless in its contribution to society in general. A week later the Teraco marketing manager drove up from Albury and was sitting in my office chair when I arrived at work. I was fired. In a lot f ways it was a relief, but I knew my parents would be disappinted and I was sorry that I was going to lose my gold Falcon.

I immediately went to see Bert and he put me on straight away as a driver (I had obtained my truck license when I bought the courier business). Initially I delivered heating oil to people's house, where the majority had a tank on the side of the house connected to an inside heater. There were several disasters, but none worse than when I failed to realise that a tank was full and overflowing. By the time I got to it the tank was giving way under the pressure. I buckled and went straight through the fibro wall, smashing into the living room and spilling its contents. It's a day I will never mention again.

Once the heating oil business dried up (in September) I became a driver for Bert delivering petrol to service stations (he was undercutting the oil companies). The tanker was a large truck, but not articulated. Things mostly went well, except for the time that I made the same mistake again and spilled diesel fuel all over a service station driveway. The smell was horrific and it took me four hours to clean it up. On another occasion I had a minor accident. No damage to the truck but damage to the woman's car. I was too scared to Tell Bert and he only found out when the police turned up. I was in trouble. And lastly, I took Kate with me one time to deliver a load of fuel from Wollongong to Botany in Sydney. We ran into a traffic jam somewhere in Sydney, so I decided to circumnavigate it by taking back streets. Unfortunately we found ourselves in a very narrow one-way street and the only exit was a street on the left. But the tanker was too big to get around and we ended up stuck between a telegraph pole and a house fence. How embarrassment. Kate was a mess, the poor girl.

I decided to go back to university to study computing, something that had interested me for a long time. I spoke to Wollongong University about credits for my last university “achievements”. Of course they were rejected. So, the Computer Science degree, which would have taken three years full-time to complete, was put aside for the Advanced Diploma in Computer Application, a two-year full-time course. But the course didn't start for another four months, so I used my contacts to get the job of promotions manager at Corrimal Court. I hated it, and my boss was insane. The most interesting thing that happened there was that I instituted a giant raffle. All the stores, particularly Woolworths, contributed goods and vouchers that eventually made up a Christmas hamper worth over $1,000. Stores would write down the names of customers on a raffle ticket and these would go into a giant tumbler in my office. There were thousands of them, with the winner to be drawn on Christmas Eve. In the meantime, our shopping mall Santa, a guy named Dick Head (it;'s true) entertained children and adults alike with his wonderful sense of humour. Each day he would change in my office. When the time came for the big draw the mall was packed with hundreds of people, each hoping their ticket was drawn by Santa. We made quite an intense build-up to that special moment with carols, a reindeer, and lots more. The drums rolled and Santa drew the winning ticket. “And the winner is Mrs. Head from Corrimal”. Yes, it was Santa's wife. I couldn't say anything because I couldn't prove anything. So they took home all the goodies and I never spoke to him again.

So it was off to uni (1988). Unbelievably, Elaine had agreed to be the sole bread-winner for the following two years, supporting me and our two children. I did very well at uni, mainly because I was about the oldest student in each of the classes and, while the young ones were out doing their thing, I was studying and completing my assignments. The only thing I initially struggled with was computer programming. It was a whole new way of thinking and I just didn't get it. Our first test was to write a simple program on an Apple machine within 30 minutes. I couldn't do it and became so frustrated that I put my fist through the keyboard. The teacher kindly advised me that I should go home and promised not to mention it to anyone. I subsequently sort a tutor and was lucky enough to find an ex-student in Mark Taylor. It too several sessions, but one day it just clicked – I could program. From then on I had no problems and did very well in that subject.

I ended up topping the course over all subjects in that first year, and received a scholarship which entailed working with the big boss, Professor Graham Winley. We became good friends and he gave me tasks that took time and therefore paid me quite well. Second year wasn't quite as successful because, as I do, I became a bit bored with the whole thing. But I managed to graduate with honours. Of course, it was them about getting a job, but I could fine nothing around Wollongong. In the meantime, myself and a few other students had been approached by various government departments about joining the public service. I didn't want to go back to Sydney, so accepted the job of programmer with the ACT government in Canberra. Unbelievably Elaine came along without complaint. How selfish I was in those days. She got a job as a nurse in the Cardiopathy Unit at Canberra Hospital. Anyway, we were there for 18 months, and it's hard to remember any of it as good times. We had rented out our house in Kinross place, but returned to Jamberoo on two out of three weekends and stayed at either the Jamberoo Hotel or with friends. I determined that we would return as soon as I could find work in Wollongong. The funniest incident that occurred in my time there was also my most embarrassing. I started programming in Cobal, patching holes in the ACT government mainframe computer system. Then the chance came up to transfer to the newly created PC department located at Tuggeranong , very near the home we were renting. It came down to me and a younger guy. The selection process was handled by one of our supervisors, a man of limited intelligence and charisma. Nobody liked him. Of course, he chose the younger man. For some reason I decided that I should personally protest and tell the supervisor what I thought of him. I walked into his office, closed the door and grabbed him by the throat. I had my say before he broke loose and ran out the door. Naturally, I was summoned to the office of the big boss and given the rounds of the table. The threatened supervisor said that he would refuse to work in the same building as me and, miraculously, an additional programming position was created at Tuggernong and I was immediately transferred. I was even given the promotion I had sought. I was working there with a red-haired younger woman, and, naturally, I clashed with her. It was at that time I turned 40 years of age.

I contacted Professor Graham Winley at Wollongong University to seek advice. He offered me an interview for the position of tutor in his department, the one at which I'd studied. I was an anxious mess prior to the interview, but in the end it was a warm handshake that sealed the deal. We gave our tenants notice and prepared to move back to Kinross Place, Jamberoo. God it was good to be home. I tutored for almost five years and enjoyed most of it. But I eventually became disillusioned because the courses weren't keeping up with the fast-changing computer industry. I was also pretty disgusted with the attitude to the work of most of the lecturers and fellow academics; largely they did as little work as possible and abused the system in other ways. While other tutors were still teaching Cobal, I had become proficient in more recent languages. This led me lecturing over summer there where I was paid the ridiculous amount of $120 per lecture hour. Not bad in 1993. It was during this period that I had my second uni fight. I attempted to remove a student from one of the labs prior to my class. He just refused, so I dragged him out. Then he threw a punch and it was on. Geez he was strong. Professor Graham got wind of the incident and called me to his office. He just shook his head and dismissed me saying “don't do it again, please”.

I finally left when it turned out I had made a mistake in my assessment of the work submitted by students relating to a course I really hated. For a start it had become completely redundant, and I didn't like the lecturer. Before leaving I did my thing when I marched into his office and told him exactly what I thought of him. It ended up being a big mistake as a month later, when I applied for a position at Wollongong TAFE, I discovered the lecturer had left the university and was now the head of the TAFE computing department. Oops. I eventually became a teacher at TAFE at Dapto, but that was a disaster also. Half way through the first term the students still hadn't received their texts and work books. I thought it was disgusting so I contacted TAFE headquarters in Sydney. The bosses at Dapto were unimpressed and seemed to take it personally. So I was fired. It was 1997 and I never again employed on a full-time basis.

For many years before this, even well before I honed my programming skills, I became convinced that it was possible to completely analyse horse racing form and make a living backing winners. And so began my punting journey. I was inspired by a book written by professional punter Don Scott, whose book “Winning More” was an Australian best-seller. Like Don, in the early days I was winning, not a lot, but positive results. Then like Don, I lost it completely. I wrote very sophisticated computer programs that embraced and weighted the various factors that contribute to a horse's performance. It was partly my obsession with punting that led to Elaine asking for a separation. I moved to Tathra, on the far south coast of NSW, with a good sum of money because Elaine bought my half of our Jamberoo Home. It was in this period that I lost all sense of responsibility, mainly to myself, and lost around $30,000 over a period of three years. Fortunately, I found casual work in Bega, but not near enough to cover the losses. I eventually declared myself bankrupt in the year 2000.

It was then I went online trying to find some sort of supportive relationship. Not financially supportive, although that’s what my marriage to Anne became, but emotionally supportive. After moving to Orange and marrying Anne we started the business “Cards For Life”. I envisaged it as something that would inspire people snd mske s difference in the world. We bought some expensive equipment, including a $10,000 printer. Most of our work became business cards, magnets, and flyers. But in such a competitive industry, where price seemed to be the only consideration and quality didn’t much matter, our margins were small and our profits even smaller. It had much to do with our break-up after four years of marriage. I was basically broke and moved to Bermagui on the NSW Far South Coast. I continued to run Cards For Life from there and things were looking promising. But then I developed a major heart complaint. After a few weeks in hospital and having been advised to rest for months to come, the business collapsed. Because I had this condition, and because I had already lost my left eye to glaucoma, I went on a disability pension. I never did a day’s work again.

Maynard G Krebs was right when he said “Work!!!”. I never enjoyed it and failed to have a career. Looking back I think I would have enjoyed being a policeman, but maybe the discipline and hierarchical structure would have put me off. I was a rebel without a clue who hated authority, but not order. And that probably goes back to my upbringing when as a teenager I lost respect for my parents because I realised that power and control are not things to be either admired or feared. The need for them, in fact, is based upon fear and insecurity. Through all the years I challenged the rules that, to me, didn't make sense. I guess it goes back to my mother always answering these challenges with "because I told you so". If not a policeman then maybe a counselor or just a truck driver. I don't know. But these days it would seem I was born to be retired.

Geoff Mooney