'John Thomson, known to his many friends as Jack, has spent all his life in Balmain. Born in 1927, Jack remembers the days of the Depression, when kind greengrocers put aside ‘specs’, fruit with spots on it that they gave to hungry children. Jack’s childhood had its trials: when he was five his father was diagnosed with schizophrenia and spent the rest of his life in Callan Park; then his mother became ill with tuberculosis and died when Jack was nine. But Jack’s life changed when the Phillips family took him in.
'Jack tells about his happy time with this warm, quintessentially old Balmain family. His remarkable memory of the people who lived in the area, the way they lived, of the children and the games they played, brings old Balmain back to life. After school Jack worked at CSR in Pyrmont, then on the trams and the buses.
'Sport – particularly football and sailing – was a big part of his life. Jack remembers when Balmain Rugby League players were locals, the waterfront was ringed with boatsheds, and the winters were spent playing or watching footy, and the summers were spent sailing.
'Jack still lives in Birchgrove in the house he bought in 1954 when he worked on the trams. He has seen many changes. Jack’s story is a warm retelling of how life was lived in old Balmain, when people didn’t have much money, but they had their neighbours and community. ' (Publication summary)