Brian Bell – Interview Transcript

Interview Transcript from Illawarra Stories Wollongong City Libraries Oral History Project –Brian Bell

Interviewer: Edie Swift

Interview Date: 21/05/2016

Edie Swift This is the 21st of May 2016 and I am interviewing Brian Bell, shack owner Number 60 in Bonnie Vale in the Royal National Park. I’m Edie Swift and this interview is about Brian’s experiences as a Shack owner and he also has other people who have owned it that he’s going to talk about.

The interview will go to the Wollongong State Library Local Studies Library and the New South Wales State Library and also there is Y Documentaries has ‘Yesterday’s Stories’ which were in, which they are going to collect 200 video histories of Wollongong for a web site and phone app, so it’ll go there as well. And Javier’s here filming for Y documentaries today. Now, can I have your parents’ and grandparents’ names? We do this at each interview because it puts you in history.

Brian Bell Uh huh… er… Rose Delaney was George’s sister, which is my great grandmother and just Pop Delaney. That’s what he was always just known to me as Pop.

My mother is Dulcie Manix and Edward John Bell is my father.

Edie Swift: And er…what is your date of birth?

Brian Bell 9th of the 8th, 1965.

Edie Swift How did you happen to acquire the shack here?

Brian Bell Well it’s been sort of passed down from my, from my… my uncle. Who was ah, it was gifted to my uncle from my great grandfather, my great uncle sorry. Ah… yeah, that’s basically he… my uncle was here for 20 odd years, umm… just looking after it and enjoying it. Umm… he’s since moved on to Queensland about a year and a half ago and yeah… he gave me the opportunity… myself and my sister… umm… to enjoy just like he had done.

Edie Swift So, I guess we were talking about your Uncle Jimmy?

Brian Bell Yep.

Edie Swift What was his last name?

Brian Bell Delaney.

Edie Swift Oh Okay.

Brian Bell Jimmy Delaney. Yep.

Edie Swift And can you talk about when you were little, and you came here?

Brian Bell Yeah, yeah. I vaguely remember just being a young fellow, running around here while it was still a dirt road with the shacks across the road. Umm… yeah, just a lot more bush land still available here and umm… yeah, just… It was always good fun coming down. Umm… there was plenty of fishing, swimming. Yeah, lot different to the days of now. Umm… you know, back in those was just good fun.

Edie Swift What was… how was it different?

Brian Bell Just the amount of cars and everything that come in here now and the amount of people that sort of pass through, I believe. Though, the people that would be down here then, I think were just a, a lot of shack owners. They used to come down with their families but now you see a lot more tourism.

Edie Swift And what do you remember doing then and what were… how many shacks were here?

Brian Bell Oh… there were… I just remember seeing lots of shacks–just yeah… lots of shacks either side of the road. Umm… yeah. All different shapes and sizes–all different colours. But, umm… yeah. It was a long time ago (laughs).

Edie Swift And how old were you?

Brian Bell I was probably about 5 or 6 back then.

Edie Swift Umm…

Brian Bell So yeah.

Edie Swift It would have been in the 60’s.

Brian Bell Oh, early 70’s.

Edie Swift And do you remember anybody talking about the old days?

Brian Bell Oh, look… they probably were, but I was, I was just out there running around wanting to catch fish.

Edie Swift And was George here also?

Brian Bell Yes, George was here… Yeah.

Edie Swift And did he live here full-time?

Brian Bell I don’t believe… I don’t know whether he was full-time back then, but I do recall one trip taking him back to my Nan’s place and umm… yeah, we’d… he’d come up there for Christmas and then we’d return him back down. I think it was the following day.

Edie Swift Do you know when he started to live down here full-time?

Brian Bell I couldn’t tell you exactly, yeah… but it is… it’s documented… like when he started building it.

Edie Swift Yup.

Brian Bell And apparently, he built it in 3 days or something… the framework and he stayed in it on that…

Edie Swift Was he the original builder?

Brian Bell Yes, apparently so.

Edie Swift Oh?

Brian Bell Apparently, he was a builder.

Edie Swift Oh? And how would he get the material here?

Brian Bell That I couldn’t tell ya.

Edie Swift Because the road was bad when he came down as a little kid?

Brian Bell Yeah, yeah, well it seemed like a long, long way away when I was a kid. We were living at Toongabbie at the time, I believe… I… I think and yeah… it seemed like a long way away.

Edie Swift And how would you get down? Did you have a 4-wheel drive, or you just came?

Brian Bell Yeah… we just drove and yeah… you couldn’t… I… I think that we used to park like way outside and just walk in.

Edie Swift ‘Cause you couldn’t drive in? There was no roads.

Brian Bell Well I… it’s just very sketchy. I just remember the car being outside.

Edie Swift Do you remember any people… when you were here… their names?

Brian Bell No.

Edie Swift And er… what… how did the shack change?

Brian Bell Well it hasn’t changed that much. Umm… it’s still very, very similar. It’s just aged, I supposition needs a… it needs a fair bit of love and attention right now. But, umm… Yeah…I’ll try ‘n’ deal with that this coming year.

Edie Swift So when you were a little boy, did you go on… on boats from here? Did they keep boats?

Brian Bell I remem, I remember going out just swimming like directly out the front. It sort of seems very similar to what it was now. Umm… like the sandbar that… you know a 100 metres out from shore. Umm… but yeah… I don’t remember any boats going out. Boats…

Edie Swift Did you go to the swimming hole that’s right around the corner and…?

Brian Bell Yes, I did. It’s a beautiful place. Umm…

Edie Swift Was that a bridge there?

Brian Bell It was…that was the old original wooden bridge… yeah.

Edie Swift So, the bridge that is there now is not the same one?

Brian Bell No it’s not. Do you remember?

Brian Bell No.

Edie Swift And was there always a bridge there?

Brian Bell As far as I recall there was… yeah.

Edie Swift Did you…were there any shops here when you were a little boy?

Brian Bell Not that I recall… no.

Edie Swift So you had to bring everything? And did they have community sings or community dances or anything like that?

Brian Bell I believe so. Like they used to sort of gather and so forth. Only by reading that…  I didn’t…

Edie Swift You didn’t see that yourself?

Brian Bell No, I’ve never seen that. No…

Edie Swift Were there bad storms here once…

Brian Bell No, that again… I couldn’t.

Edie Swift When you came down?

Brian Bell Not that I remember. The days that we come down was always very nice… pleasant days.

Edie Swift There are a lot of springs on that road that come out, so you would have had that happen.

Brian Bell Oh, yeah.

Edie Swift So actually, what do you do now here and what do you like to do when you’re here and can you improve on the shack? Are you allowed to do anything to it?

Brian Bell As far as I’m aware you can’t… you can only maintain. Umm… You can’t extend. You know… like you… you’re bound by the, the… by the umm… the dimensions that it is right now. Umm… but, yeah…. it’s just maintenance, looking after it. Making sure that it’s maintained… umm… always has the undesirables trying to break in every now and then, which is quite annoying but, you know, that’s just life these days. Umm…

Edie Swift They have broken in?

Brian Bell Yes, it’s been broken into a few times. Umm, I think when Jimmy had it, he… he got broken into twice and since I’ve had it. Umm, just over on 2 years now, umm, yeah, someone’s tried to get in through the back door. So, yeah.

Edie Swift And what umm, do you have to do for maintenance?

Brian Bell Well, I just try and keep it tidy like. I come down do the lawns whenever I can… once they start looking a little bit shabby.

Edie Swift Oh, you have to do the lawns?

Brian Bell Yep. Umm. Yeah, just do any of the weeding and, and keep all the, you know, weeds intact. Yeah, try and maintain it, just like you would your normal house that you live in.

Edie Swift And you have… you can use the bathrooms over… the toilets over there? There is running water…

Brian Bell Yeah, the amenities.

Edie Swift …in the park… So, you use the amenities yourself?

Brian Bell Definitely… yeah.

Edie Swift Oh, a ha…

Brian Bell and it’s hot water, too, so, yeah, it’s all good.

Edie Swift Wow! You have hot water in here?

Brian Bell I don’t have running water. We just, we just have tubs that we just fill up and sit ’em on the sink and… yeah. So, we’ve don’t have running water out of the tap but yeah, we have water.

Edie Swift Can you boil your er… water here?

Brian Bell Yeah, definitely!

Edie Swift Do you have a little… umm?

Brian Bell A little gas cook top.

Edie Swift Oh? And er, so you get gas here to run that? Oh?

Brian Bell Yeah, I just fill up gas cylinders and bring ’em in…

Edie Swift Oh, I see.

Brian Bell and maintain them.

Edie Swift But, no refrigerator?

Brian Bell Not a refrigerator like you would normally think, but yeah, we have a little Angle fridge which is… it’s… it’s just a portable fridge.

Edie Swift Oh?

Brian Bell Yeah, normally they… you carry them in car. Umm… Very effective… they’re… they’re freezable capable, umm… and a fridge, so you can sort of dial in whatever temperature you want. Yeah, it’s all solar panels. We, we try and use the sun’s power, umm… store it in the batteries and yeah, just plug in whenever we need it. We’ve got LED lights around the shack that we utilize when the sun goes down.

Edie Swift Don’t you have… do you have electricity here?

Brian Bell Well, again we use the solar power which is provided by the

battery pack.

Edie Swift So you can have electricity?

Brian Bell Yeah.

Edie Swift And umm…

Brian Bell It’s electricity but it’s only 12 volts.

Edie Swift Do you have to like, do the, redo the shack, I mean if you wanted to, could you pull down a wall, or anything like that?

Brian Bell I believe so… it… it’s like… it needs maintenance now… there’s a few umm… areas where it’s got termites and so forth, so…

Edie Swift Oh?

Brian Bell I’m going to have to do that sort of maintenance on it…

Edie Swift umm…

Brian Bell Yeah. It’s just…

Edie Swift But you don’t know when?

Brian Bell Oh look it’s… once you start something, because I don’t come down and I’m not here all the time, it’s sort of hard to get a project up and running and then walk away from it, on a daily basis. That sort of thing, you know. I try and come down to enjoy it–not to work.

Edie Swift So, what do you plan for the future?

Brian Bell: The future? Hopefully enjoy many weekends and Christmases and, yeah, hopefully my daughter, Jaslyn, she’ll umm, when she gets older, she’ll bring her kids down, my grandkids, so…

Edie Swift And what activities do you do here right now?

Brian Bell Swimming, fishing, walking umm… yeah, bird watching anything.

Edie Swift And you have to umm, is it on a lease? You don’t own the land.

Brian Bell No.

Edie Swift You just own the shack. Yeah. It’s on a 99-year lease?

Brian Bell That’s correct, I believe so… yeah.

Edie Swift And you pay the National Park and Wildlife so much?

Brian Bell Yeah well it’s just like your normal land rates that you pay for your house… your residential house… it’s exactly the same it’s paid on a quarterly basis. So yeah.

Edie Swift Do you want to point anything out to us? As you’re sitting here?

Brian Bell No…

Edie Swift Is any of this furniture original?

Brian Bell Umm… I believe the ah… the chairs and the tables are original. Umm, the bed in the, in the main bedroom might be, umm, but yeah, all of the floorboards.

Edie Swift So you have to paint it once in a while?

Brian Bell Yea. it’s just been repainted umm…, about 2 years ago. But yeah its very similar colours and everything that it was, umm…when George had it when you look at the old photos you can sort of see the very similar colours.

Edie Swift How would he keep warm in here?

Brian Bell Just put more blankets on, I believe.

Edie Swift Oh, he didn’t have any sort of heating in here?

Brian Bell I think he had a little kerosene heater.

Edie Swift Oh he must have yeah. Yeah, because he had to have something to keep warm?

Brian Bell Yeah.

Edie Swift So how long did he live here?

Brian Bell It was 30 odd years, I believe.

Edie Swift Oh? And then when… then he lived here till he passed away?

Brian Bell Well that is… I’m unsure of.

Edie Swift Oh, huh huh?

Brian Bell But, yeah, I think he’d become unwell and yeah, then he sort of got looked after… went into…

Edie Swift And did you see Julie and the ladies that were here. living with him?

Brian Bell Umm…

Edie Swift They their own.

Brian Bell That’s right. I probably did meet them at some stage when I was a young fellow. But yeah… like, do I remember them? No, not really.

Edie Swift So he… what was his favourite activity… George while he was here?

Brian Bell I believe he was a bird watcher; I think.

Edie Swift Oh?

Brian Bell And yeah, he just loved sitting outside and watching everything that passed on by.

Edie Swift Well, um… thank you very much. Would you… would you donate this to the State Library of NSW?

Brian Bell Yeah, I can’t see why not.

Edie Swift And the New South Wales Li… and the Wollongong Library and the Y Documentaries Project? OK! Well that’s wonderful. Thank you so much.

Brian Bell No worries. Great!

Javier Can I… can I just ask you… Just looking at the, in the same sort of fashion. Just checking your earliest memories and recollections, because I noticed one question Edie asked about bad weather. But I felt for you this has always just been happy memories?

Brian Bell Yeah.

Javier Um yeah so could you, just maybe expand on the happy memories that you had?

Brian Bell OK. The memories that I had. One memory that I absolutely recall and being a young fellow and it sort of stuck with me to this age is. I seen my first blue-ringed octopus… umm, up at the bridge that we were talking about earlier, swimming around there and then this pretty thing sort of swimming around and I come back and I talked to the adults that were here… my parents and they explained to me that that’s not something to be touched but, yeah, it looked so pretty.

Edie Swift It was pretty, but it wasn’t…

Brian Bell And the waterways up there were always pristine.  Absolutely beautiful and clear. Umm… whereas they’ve sort of, you know there’s a lot more rubbish and so forth up there now. Umm… but yeah, just I used to go and catch the live bait. George would lend me his little potty mullet trap and I’d go and catch ’em and then take it out front and use live bait and try and catch bigger fish, you know, the things that you do as a young fellow and, yeah, sort of those memories stick sort of in your mind. Yeah

Edie Swift You must have some beautiful memories?

Brian Bell Well, I do, but yeah, lots of umm, lots of years have passed.

Edie Swift That’s right.

Brian Bell And you don’t remember them all the time, but it just takes one thing to trigger ’em and then they sort of come back to ya.

Edie Swift Well thank you very much. It was just wonderful to get in here and look around and also to hear everything that you had to say.

Brian Bell Yeah.

Javier I’ll just get you to take a seat and I’ll grab that other camera and I’ll get that second shot.

Brian Bell Yep.

Javier Um, just before we cut. I’ll just…

Edie Swift[laughter] OK.

Javier maybe just get that…

Edie Swift OK.

Javier You’re right. Just stay where you are. You’re good there.

Just a sec…

Edie Swift I always enjoyed coming here every Friday to see Jane Handley and we’d swim, and we’d have lunch first at the Manna Cafe. I enjoyed the drive.

Brian Bell Yeah.

Edie Swift I don’t go all the way up the coast anymore. I just drop in at Waterfall. But that’s, that’s a little long you know, to go all the way through that curvy road.

Brian Bell Yeah.

Javier Edie, just looking at the camera now. Tell us who you are and who you are interviewing, please.

Edie Swift Oh, I’m Edie Swift and I’m interviewing Brian Bell and it’s for, he’s in shack number 60 and we’re above Bonnie Vale in the Royal National Park and we’re talking about all, everything he remembers as a small boy when he came here and then we’re talking about what he’s doing right now and he’s going to go out and have a beautiful day today.

Brian Bell I’ve got the weather for it all right.

Javier Great… thank you. All right… cool. So, umm…we can break away from that now.

Edie Swift OK. Can we move?