Jimbo was a regular visitor to Wayside, a quiet, pensive soul rarely seen without his trademark patterned poncho. In December 2018, Jimbo sadly passed away. He will be very much missed by all of our community.
Below is his story, which he shared with us before he passed.
“I started coming to the Cross around 1976. I’d grown up in Wollongong, but it wasn’t a good life, my old man was an asshole, and there was a lot of trouble at home. I left school when I was 15 and came up to Sydney to stay with my sister. But looking back, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.”
“My sister’s husband was a car thief, and he got me into helping him steal cars. I used to be the driver, so I’d drive the two of us from his place over to the North Shore for the best cars. We’d strip them down and then bring one back and put it in his garage. Then we’d just pull it all apart, cut it into pieces, get rid of it piece by piece around the city. I was doing that for probably eight or nine years.”
“I think it was about 1980 we moved out to Camden. My sister’s husband had bought his own wrecking yard out there. It was nicknamed “Midnight Spares” because in the middle of the night we’d always go out and steal three or four cars. We’d strip a couple of them out in the bush because we’d only want certain parts of them, but then the best car we’d take back to the workshop because we’d have to strip it back down to nothing, cut all the numbers out of it so it couldn’t be identified, and weld new numbers in.”
“It was around that time I met this girl called Tracey, and through her a guy called Palmer, who owned a nightclub and casino in the Cross. That’s what first got me coming to the area. I started loosely working for him – I’d just be in charge of getting people drinks, but sometimes I’d get a $50 or even $100 tip. But it progressed from there and I started selling drugs – heroin, speed, everything really.”
“I started using myself, but it didn’t go too far, at least not at the start. I still had a job and my own apartment all though the 1980s and 1990s, I always had a place to live. I actually worked all the way up until 2001, in construction, building, manual work. But I was always doing lots of other little things on the side – break and enters, robberies. I started running in the wrong circles, and I started making the wrong friends. We’d break into a house on the weekend and steal a couple of grand worth of stuff, just so we could buy a heap of drugs and have a big few days. We’d make a massive 3-day weekend out of it generally, and turn up late to work on Monday.”
“The real downhill actually started when I got injured in 1993. I was working in the furniture department of Grace Brothers and I tore my shoulder open moving stuff. I had a bunch of physio and stuff, over years, but I just kept on re-injuring it. I had two massive operations in 2004 and I just couldn’t work anymore – the doctor said ‘do any more damage to that shoulder and you’re going to have a titanium arm’. So that was that.”
“It was a work injury, so I was covered for a while, but in 2005 the insurance company said that they wouldn’t pay for it anymore. I wanted to work, but the problem was I just couldn’t do the type of work I was doing before. No one would employ me because I was damaged, and they couldn’t insure me. It took two years of seeing government doctors before they finally reached the decision that I couldn’t work. So they finally put me on the pension in 2008.”
“The pension was hard. I was used to earning $800-$900 a week, and I just couldn’t live on what they were giving me. I just became homeless, I couldn’t pay rent, I was sleeping in parks and on benches. That was for about three years. They’d given me morphine after my second shoulder operation, and after I’d used it for so long I just needed it. I took to buying it off the streets. I started with just the morphine, then speed, but then I tried heroin and that was that. It was all over.”
“I was living on a veranda on Orwell Street for a few years around that time, me and another mate – I was down one end, he was up the other end. We were probably there for about 14 months. And the owner of the place, his daughter lived in one of the flats, and he came along one day and asked if we were the two guys staying around his place. And we said yeah. And he said ‘You guys keep it nice and clean and I don’t mind if you guys sleep here, you can sleep here whenever you want. My daughter lives upstairs and it’d be good to have you blokes keep an eye out for her in case anything goes wrong.’”
“Funnily enough though, it wasn’t too long after that that I got housed. I’ve been housed about four years now, it’s a beautiful place just over on Onslow Avenue. And once I was housed I found I could really start chilling back on the drugs too, and I stopped selling. I still have a drink, but that’s about it now.”
“I’m a bit of a loner in the Cross, I tend to hang on my own. I find it hard to trust a lot of people. They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but I think you can. I know how most blokes on the street are going to react because I’ve been there. All my life I’ve always felt like the odd one out, the black sheep. My brothers and sisters all seemed to put their head down tail up and get on with it, get a good job, have kids. But I wasn’t like that, something different in my wiring.”
“I actually want to try to get out of Sydney if I can now. My eldest brother and my youngest brother live up at Tweed Heads, and now my mum’s living up there too. I’d love to get enough money together to go and buy a little house in a country town somewhere, that’s my dream.”
“I’m not near much of my family, but Wayside has become that for me in a lot of ways. I’ve been coming on and off for many years, just to hang out, have a feed, chat to people. All the time the Wayside’s been there to help people out. It’s always somewhere you can go, no matter who you are, you can just come and sit and relax. Everyone is welcome. It’s one of the few places left in the Cross where there are always good people around.”