In 1955 a five pound note represented over a day’s pay, so when the 6.58 a.m. pulled into Central Railway Station and several commuters saw what they thought might be a note of that denomination lying on the opposite railway track the conversation went something like this.
“Do see that?”
“See what, mate?
“That piece of paper down there.”
It’s a Monday morning and I was on my way back to my ship at Garden Island. The conversation was being bounced around by some half-a-dozen blue-collar workers. In those days it was far too early for the office crowd. The opposite platform was completely deserted.
“You thinking what I’m thinking?”
“Yeah – No, it couldn’t be.”
“No. Nobody’d drop that much money and not get it.”
“Still it does look like….”
“A fiver. Sure does, mate.”
“The colour’s right”
“Naw. It’s a trick o’ the light.”
“Size is right.”
From my location by the window I could see the others, starting to squirm. Yes, it did look like a five pound note. There was a long silence. The suburban train had stood motionless for a good three minutes. It didn’t appear to be going anywhere. Would there be time…?
The silence continued. Did I imagine it, or was there a sort of tension rising within the confines of that crowed space. The train still didn’t move.
Suddenly four or five people all leaped to their feet. Five pounds! A good day’s pay -just sitting down there on the track. If only….
The shrill sound of a whistle. Then – Hoot! The red-rattler commuter gave a lurch as couplings took up the slack. Some people, now half standing fell back into their seats. Others, remained standing, studiously avoiding other people’s eyes; pretending they’d stood ready to get off at the next railway station. It was a moment of embarrassment. Then, as the suburban train gathered speed and plunged into the tunnel towards Town Hall, the rationalisations began.
“Must have been just a coloured piece of scrap.”
“Nobody’d leave that much money. Not even on a busy railway line.”
“Couldn’t have really been a fiver.”
“Well, maybe… or someone playing a joke”
“Too big for Monopoly money.”
“Yeah. But it definitely wasn’t real money.”
And forty-nine years later I’m still not sure.