Interview Transcript from Illawarra Stories Wollongong City Libraries Oral History Project – Mavis Stevenson
Interviewer: Jo David
Jo Welcome to the Dapto Oral History project. Today we are speaking with Mavis Doreen Stevenson who was born in Corrimal on the 29th May,1921. Tell us Mavis, how did you come to be at Moorland?
Mavis Um, my mother was very ill at the time, where I was born in Corrimal and my aunt lived at Avondale. Her and her husband came up to Corrimal to pick me up to bring me down to Avondale. And they brought me, in those days there was no cars. It was by horse and sulky. And they picked me up at Corrimal and on the way back the train was coming, and my father must have been dreaming I think. I’m calling him father now, ah, he must have been dreaming because the train was coming and the pony was nearly on the line. And he had to keep whipping that pony with the whip to keep his attention off the train to get it safe to, over when the train went through. So that happened, I suppose, I’ve been told since I was lucky to be here. If he’d have got on the line we’d all been smashed up of course. But anyway, past that I came to Avondale to live at 3 months old, and here I am still here.
Jo Still in Moorland.
Mavis I’m still at Moorland, never left it, never been away.
Jo Oh wow, that’s amazing.
Mavis Yes, I married and never went away from here. Always been here. It’s been a, a great life that I’ve had.
Jo Tell us what it was like, um, growing up on Moorland as a child.
Mavis Ah, great times. I went to a little school in Avondale, Avondale Public school. There was only one teacher and there would only be at that stage about 18 children going to school. It was a one building, and we were all in the one building at different desks, and we enjoyed that very much. Kids of course enjoyed being at school with no outside school, schooling – we enjoyed that very much and, ah, that was something that was, still stays in my mind. We had a gentleman from Dapto that was a school teacher, a Mr Howe, and his parents, well not his parents, he lived in Dapto, and he used to come out to Avondale every morning to school. His wife Dorothy used to teach the girls sewing, so it was very good to be taught something in that line too. After he was transferred to Wongawilli school, we got a Mr Snodgrass who lived at Albion Park and he used to travel from Albion Park to Avondale every day for school. Ah, quite an interesting man, he was a musical man and at, ah, over at the school was a big hall there was built and he used to put concerts on. All would perform at these concerts. Some would recite, some would dance, some would sing, which I did.
Jo You sung did you?
Mavis Because I was a singer, and we enjoyed that very much. We had a lot of outside playing in the school ground. It was very good. So all the children were from properties around here?
Jo Yes, they all lived on properties all around here. All those have gone from Avondale now. There’s not one left.
Mavis That used to, well, not at my age, there’s not one around.
Jo How did you get to school Mavis?
Mavis I used to ride a pony.
Jo Okay. [laughs]
Mavis Or if I didn’t ride the pony, there was a friend, ah, above a boy up, a bit further up here, and he’d ride the pony, double-dink me which we said put a bag on the pony and I’d get on the back of it, on behind him, hang onto him.
Mavis Which was very interesting.
Jo And so you just, the ponies would be just left to graze while you …
Mavis Yes they had a yard over there that you could put ponies in, and they stayed there and you got on them and come home that way. So that was very good.
Mavis Beg pardon?
Jo You spent a lot of time on horses growing up?
Mavis Oh yes.
Jo Tell us about that.
Mavis Used to ride the shows when I was nine, ten year old. Done it all my life until a few years ago. Quite a few years ago.
Jo Your own horses?
Mavis Ah, yes, I had my own horses, yes.
Jo Did you have a favourite?
Mavis Yes, that black one that you just saw in that paper.
Jo What was his name?
Mavis Mate. I rode him in every show, ah, in the, for the hack classes. He was just an ordinary hack. But he could do what I asked him to do. And we won every prize that we went in for.
Jo Did you really? How long did you have him for, how many years?
Mavis I had him for his life, and he died at at about, oh, 25-30. Well …
Jo He was your mate?
Mavis Well, I don’t know whether it’s a long time. I’ve got a little pony now and he’s 38.
Jo Oh, really, really … So you still have horses?
Mavis Oh, I’ve still got a little pony that I feed twice a day.
Jo Oh, that’s nice isn’t it?
Mavis Yes. But my school days were very interesting days, and my show days were better ‘cos I enjoyed that.
Jo You enjoyed going to the shows did you?
Mavis Yeah, loved the show work, it was great.
Jo So you used to help out at shows. Did you do some actual work at the different shows Mavis?
Mavis Did I what?
Jo Did you help work the shows?
Mavis Ah, not until I, no, not when I was riding at the show, no that was just a show work that I was doing. But, ah, many years after that when my first husband died. He and I used to go around judging at shows, and, ah, he was, ah, in that book it will tell you, ah, he was well known on the Coast for broadcasting the show, the, ah, trots at the shows – commentator – he knew all about that.
Jo So did you meet him through the horses, did you?
Mavis I met him when I was about 10 years old at Kangaroo Valley riding horses. I was riding his uncle’s horses and he was riding his uncle’s horses, and that’s how we met, but we never got married until many, many years after that.
Jo So what else did you do out here in Avondale, um, as a child to keep yourself busy?
Mavis Ah, I went to, my father took me for singing lessons to the Dapto convent, and I did singing lessons down there for 10 years.
Jo 10 years. Wow.
Mavis And then I, this is when I was about, ah, probably, 17, 16, 17, 18 – in those years. And, ah, I used to sing at different functions at Dapto.
Jo Was it part of a choir, or on your own?
Mavis No, on my own. I used to do a lot of singing. I got my, um, ATCL, at the, from London College. And, you know, you don’t use it of course.
Jo No, no but still you had it.
Mavis You just go through those examinations and you get it, so that was easy enough. Then my husband died. Ah, we were only married nine years when he died. And I remarried.