Meandering down Memory Lane
AT 88 YEARS old, Ken “Stents” Nicholson is brimming with a lifetime of stories.
With his razor-sharp mind and a keen interest in politics, the Kingscliff resident remains an active contributor to the opinion pages of the Tweed Daily News and other publications.
But it is more the life of his parents – both long dead – that occupies his mind and is the subject of a series he’s penning, Letters of Life.
“My father told me a boots-and-all story which came out over the years,” Mr Nicholson said.
The only child of Harold and Marjorie Nicholson, Ken was born in 1927 in Sydney, where he grew up to eventually become an assistant branch manager at the Commonwealth Bank.
He married at the age of 24 and became a father of two sons, one of whom now lives in France and the other in Brisbane, where his two grandsons also live.
But, as described in one of his poignant letters, Mr Nicholson almost never got to live his life, his aunt revealing he was the result of a failed abortion.
“My mother never wanted children – a legacy of her harsh upbringing – yet she was pregnant with me,” he wrote.
“My aunt confided in me much later in my life that she had helped my mother in her attempt to rid herself of the unwanted foetus.
“They turned out to be hopeless amateurs, using kitchen-based procedures, eg hot baths with tubs full of mustard thrown in.
“My father knew nothing of this. I am a failed abortion. I reflect upon this in periods of solitude with confused feelings but without malice.”
His mother, who suffered an horrific abusive childhood, died aged 79 in the grips of dementia.
Ken’s father, Harold, was the sixth child of a brood of 11. Despite growing up with “a monster of a father”, Harold was a kind and gentle man who “loved the human race”.
“He had no complaints about anything, despite suffering turmoil all his life from his birth until the time he died,” Ken said.
“I didn’t work out until I was a young man that the harder he sang, the more strife he was in.
“He used to sing that song from the musical Oklahoma!: Oh What a Beautiful Morning. Just before I moved out he was bellowing out the loudest I’d ever heard.”
Ken came to hold a strong admiration for his father, recounting stories of his childhood through their regular conversations on the front veranda of their rendered Sydney home.
With a failing marriage and having given up on the banker’s life, Ken moved up to the Tweed in 1976 in the hope of finding a happier life for himself and his family.
“I devoted my life to trying to make her happy,” he said of his ex-wife.
Battling his own demons in alcohol and his wife’s mental illness, Ken’s marriage broke up amicably in 1983.
Today, he lives alone in a small unit overlooking the banks of Cudgen Creek, with his ex-wife and a host of friends in the complex.
He keeps his mind active through an abiding interest in politics, having unsuccessfully run for both State and Federal Parliament as a Democrats candidate three times.
These days his allegiance lies with independent Senator Nick Xenophon, whom he met recently.
“The thing about him is he’s fair dinkum,” Ken said.
“I’ve known for a long time the two-party system is ruining this country.
“I’d been praying for somebody to stick their neck out. I’ve been waiting for this guy for 15 years.”