It was also the first year I was not playing Australiam football in the district competition on Saturday afternoons. A respect for the meaning of the Sabbath and my decision to follow Jesus made the change, which disappointed my friends and the team coach. But this story is not about me.
My father, Ted, was finding that making choices respecting his new-found faith brought unexpected changes. From being a communist sympathiser and strong trade unionist, this skillful engineer and returned war veteran's life was turned around. He had a new allegiance.
He applied for exemption from membership of the large trade union he had so proudly belonged to. The magistrate granted exemption but fellow engineers at the massive Golden Circle cannery were unwilling to accept this legal decision. They planned strike action if Ted remained and told management so. My father had to go!
With a wife and four growing sons to feed, clothe and educate, Ted stepped out in faith. He believed God had a plan but had no idea what it was. The engineering shop was tightly shut without the union ticket.
Presented with the opportunity to support his family on an unsure and untried income from commissions of the sale of religious literature, Ted leaned forward in faith and moved on. He wanted others to hear the good news of the gospel. With only a few years of education in rural one-teacher schools and his trade certificate, it seemed an unlikely direction.
But Ted was a natural and he worked hard at knowing the material he was selling. Titles of the books still ring in the memory: Modern Medical Counsellor, Uncle Arthur's Bedtime Stories and Drama of the Ages. Soon, his territory extended into western Queensland. He moved from town to town, canvassing every farm in between. After two or three weeks away in the car, Ted would return home for supplies.
The outback towns of Roma, Miles and Charleville produced stories of God's providence--of a bogged car miraculously unstuck, and tears and prayers with lonely farm families struggling through tough times themselves. He had so many stories. And then there was the interesting deposit he took on a set of books he brought hundreds of kilometres home in the back of the car--recently weaned twin kids, of the goat variety! The boys enjoyed not having to mow the lawn so much.
And then came The Bible Story series, designed for children, but with something for the whole family. This 10-volume set became his signature sales success. One year, he sold more books than any other literature evangelist in Australia and New Zealand.
After 10 years of ringing doorbells, Ted was invited to manage, train and lead others from an office in Canberra. Further invitations inspired younger men and women to successfully join the ranks in Melbourne and Hobart.
With only a couple of years before retirement, Ted, along with his most important support person, his wife, Florence (Flo), returned to Queensland. There the caravan was hitched onto the car, the pencils were sharpened and the order books were reopened, ready for the signatures that would come. The four boys were now educated and married with families. It was time to go back to the doorstep.
From Mapleton to Monto and Gympie to Kenilworth, the doorbells rang. Helpful gospel-filled books were left in homes in small towns and farming properties. Ted always had a competitive streak, usually competing with himself and always seeking improvement. In his pre-retirement year, he decided the "younger ones" needed inspiration and once again received the award for the top sales. He was quietly chuffed.
As he turns 90 and with Flo gone, he is now married to Grace. He lives a simple life and probably does not remember much of what I have written. He would be embarrassed and probably smiling quietly if he were to read this. So many people's lives changed for the better when they found God thanks to Ted and Flo making that choice back in 1956. It was a good year. Grey hair is a crown of glory; it is gained by living a godly life. Proverbs 16:31. Percy Harrold is a retired medical doctor, who lives on Queensland's Sunshine Coast. His retired brothers, Arthur and Les, had distinguished teaching careers, while the youngest, Stan, is a senior ambulance paramedic, still responding to emergency calls. Their initials form the word PALS.