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Hard times

Hard Times is a true and ingenious travel tale all the better for having been hidden in box for more than 50 years.

Written by Jack Mercer over many years the details of his journey are as fresh as if they happened yesterday, not more than 100 years ago. The matter of fact way in which the story is delivered adds to the richness of the tale, because that’s how it was – high, low, dirt, hunger and all. Enjoy life as it was and will never be again, as you read your way from Melbourne to New York, Jack Mercer style.

Running away seemed to be one and only alternative to a life of hardship growing up in a pub in Ararat Victoria. Jack Mercer was brutally beaten by his step-father and largely ignored by his mother, cared for on the sly by the kitchen staff at the pub and doing his best to survive in unbelievable horror.

 Saving up a small amount of money earned from a job at the Post Officer and hidden from his mother, he eventually had enough to buy a train ticket out of town and did so, ending up in Werribee, scared and  jobless. And so began what was to become many years on the move, seeing the world and finally finding his place in America.

After Werribee he managed to get a place as a crew member on a Norwegian barque bound for Patagonia, which turned out to be one of the biggest learning experiences in his, until then, small life. Not being a natural sailor saw him seasick for days on end. The Brunel eventually sank off the coast of South America and after days floating about in life rafts, trying to find Staten Island, with a small mutiny thrown in for experience,  they were picked up by a passing steamer and taken to the Port of Punta Arenas.

On his first look at Patagonia Jack fell in love with South America deciding to remain and take work on a ranchero working with sheep. After a falling out he once again gathered his sea bag and set off to head north.  He soon found his fortunes would change plunging him into a world that was going through deep depression, where work was a rare commodity and finding food when you were penniless very daunting.

In all his travels he had always managed to meet up with other likely souls sharing his journey, both looking out for him and teaching him the ropes along the way, something which never changed in all his days of travelling.

Eventually reaching New York by means of walking and riding the trains as a tramp his fortunes took a turn for the better finding work as an elevator boy in a small hotel, which came with board and keep. Encouraged to begin to better himself he started studying and eventually managed to move on in the workplace finally finding his way into the Canadian branch of the Royal flying Corps.

Post war he went on to establish himself in the business arena eventually being sent back to Australia as the manager of British American Bye-Products Australia in 1934, where he lived until his death in 1976.

Hard Times is a true and ingenious travel tale all the better for having been hidden in box for more than 50 years.

Written by Jack Mercer over many years the details of his journey are as fresh as if they happened yesterday, not more than 100 years ago. The matter of fact way in which the story is delivered adds to the richness of the tale, because that’s how it was – dirty, hunger and all.

 

AuthorJack Mercer
PublisherTransit Lounge
ISBN978-1-921924-47-7
Websitehttp://www.transitlounge.com.au