Interview Transcript from Illawarra Stories Wollongong City Libraries Oral History Project –
Interviewer: Jo David
Interview date: 4 November 2016
Jo: This is a Dapto oral history project. Today we’re talking to Mr Fred Moore of Dapto. Fred was born in Cobar in September 1922, he came to Dapto in 1952, thanks for speaking with us today Fred. Tell us how you came to be in Dapto.
Fred: It was ahh, arrived in Dapto in February 1952, with a wife and three children and we got our house, in what they called Musgrave Avenue in them days lot 14 and they were cutting up the Henninger Farm. He’d sold all the parts to his farm for housing and they were building homes from ahh, for Tallawarra power house which was coming online and ah, Housing Commission and miners that were coming back into the industry after the war and they were looking for miners.
Well when I arrived here the old farmhouse was still there, there was cattle on the farm horses ‘n sheep and all the stuff that he had. And the old Henninger place was a 100 odd year old and they’d built the nice new house called Ashton Vale in nineteen hundred and twelve and the old house was pulled down, that was over under the trees. They just from there. Well in front of it, the house, that beautiful old house and it was a post and rail fence along there.
There was no footpaths or guttering at that time. And, ah, it was running a drain along the ah, side of the road. And there was, ah, a bit of bitumen up the middle of the Princes Highway, and the both sides was gravelly dirt what the horse and carts could trail along on. There was still a lot of horse and carts in Dapto and horse floats, horse troughs, down past where McDonalds are today and them sort of places. That, the street went straight on down there, there was no little street that runs up in front of – side of McDonald’s and up into the Mall and roundabout there. That wasn’t there, it was just a straight thing and an old tennis court on the hall, on the pathway, like there were just off the pathway and the, ah, horse trough and that was there.
Opposite that there was old, ah, buildings, a big old building, and Fairley’s house was there, but as you came more south back in towards the, ah, Fowlers Road way, there was old, ah, wooden, um, shops that had been there from a long way back. And Billy Vining was the person, his father used to make water tanks there and take them out around the farms. And next just up a bit from that was the Police Station, the house, a little lock up out the back where Sergeant Jim McKinnon, he was there at the time.
And as you went further south there was a big bakehouse there that had been there many, many years. In the paddock was the horses and that, that went around on the baker’s cart. And they used to deliver the bread, ah, every day, ah, with the baker’s cart, and the baker would get off the cart with a basket and a canvas over it and bring fresh hot bread into every house that wanted it. And as well the milk cart used to come around of a morning, and that was horse driven, everything was horses there at the time.
Jo: You came to Dapto to work in the mines, didn’t you Fred?
Jo: So how did you get to work in them?
Fred: Well, I worked in the mine and we used to, they put a bus on, used to run and take the miners to work, but there was no bus home from the mine, you had to come by public transport. So, we used to come down the hill to where the ?Witmasters? shop was at Unanderra there near Five Islands Road and, ah, the old buses would come along and the men would get on them and come to Dapto and that, ah, was the way we travelled. And then they cut the bus out and we had to find transport. So, we went to work on the back of an old truck that belonged to a fella, Mick Fishburn. And it, ah, it might be half a dozen or sometimes more fellas sittin’ on the truck, and we used to pay him about 5 shillings a week for the petrol and that and he’d take us to work. Well that went on for many years. We used to go down over the little 3 bridges at Mullet Creek. When it was flooded you couldn’t get to work, you had to ring up and they’d say come in on the afternoon shift if you can get in. We’d get in on the afternoon shift and then, ah, when we’re comin’ home the tide’d came up and we couldn’t get home. So, we’d sit there 3 or 4 hours till the tide went back down.
Jo: Did that happen very often Fred?
Fred: Well when the floods was on, nearly always, you know, the floods would come down from there, and of course in them days there was no high school or nothing, it was just a beautiful creek run right along there near Reed Park, and it used to come down there. I used to go down there and, ah, catch fish. I used to catch perch there and silver eels actually and I’ve seen a platypus one afternoon splashing in the water, so that was a big pool there and it was full of frogs and tadpoles and everything else.
When they built the school, everything died in the creek and it was all gone in them days. But that was all part of it, and, ah, the old houses went right along and right up to where today is the, ah, um, Aged Centre where the retirement village is. And, ah, in them days that was a farm and an old house and the front where an old man lived in it for many, many years and it belonged to the Catholic Church. So, he was there, and then another lady, May Harley, she got into it and she is a member of the Senior Citizens in later years. But from them days it was all bush, tea tree scrub right across. There was no such place as a lead into Koonawarra.
The railway line run across on the corner of Fowlers Road and the highway. There was an old school there, very old school, and I think the date was 1879 or something on it, and that school was built to, ah, for the pupils of the, ah, refinery over in the thing on the hill.
And they used to come along Brooks’s Creek and was camped all along there. They said they were there, and I knew a lot of the old timers and they used to talk about it. But in the school, itself up on there where the 7-11 is today there was a great big paddock there, and, ah, they used to hold all sorts of circuses and everything that come to Dapto. But it shows you how little the traffic and that was. Wirth Brothers Circus would come there and bring the circus along the main highway, leading the animals and all the stuff and playing music and the clowns yelling out and handing out leaflets and everything. And everyone would run down to watch it and it’d go right up and set up on the, ah, great big paddock there. And it was great days and them.
But there was an old sawmill, ah, opposite there on the other side of the road there as you go up, and, ah, Brunero’s Sawmill was there. And they had under the name of Clarks Avondale Mine and they used to, the old saw would go now and again, and you’d hear it roaring and going on and on.
But the old railway line went across and then it went right up a sort of a dirt road to Koonawarra through a thing there. Well in later years they bulldozed it all out and built the road and Koonawarra become a suburb. But on the other side was Lakelands, and then the, ah, builders came there and the old farm and that was all cut up. The school was on it and it become Lakelands, and so that was all built. Prior to that I used to go up there gettin’ mushrooms and everything out of there, you know. But, ah…
Jo: Did your family settle in well to Dapto?
Fred: Yeah, they loved it, you know, and then, ah … But there was no high school and one of me daughters when she was old enough to go to high school had to get the train to Wollongong and then come home that way and walk from the station up. And down in Marshall Street there was an old, um, factory called Crystal’s, a clothing factory. A lot of people worked there, and that was the first job me eldest daughter got there at about 16 I think she got the job down there.
Jo: They made a lot of school clothes, didn’t they?
Fred: Yeah, they made all sorts of – Crystal’s. And then further up as you went up Marshall Street in them days, was nothing unusual to see a cow on the road or a horse took off. And they had the old pound keeper would come along riding a horse and crackin’ his whip chasing the cow and they’d take out… And Heininger’s farm, and old Claude, the son, he was always yelling out, ‘Fred! Give me a hand. The cows knocked the back fence, the gate down there and took off.’ And it’d go right up towards the bush. There was no, ah, bowling club, or nothing there. And they had like a little dairy thing where they used to milk and the rest was all tea tree scrub right up, and farm to Koonawarra and right across there. So, it was all –
And during the Depression years they said a lot of people were put out of their houses and that, and they lived in that tea tree scrubs and built little humpies and shacks and some of the remains of it was still there and I ah, I used to get ah, flower things that had planted there and many years ‘n they’d spread, I’d dig a couple up and ya know there’d be patches of ’em everywhere no-one owned ’em. And bring ’em home and then water ’em and get manure off the farm and everything and I had a beautiful garden. So, it was good life and ah it was quiet.
Then that was named Musgrave Avenue and then the Henninger family said that they’d been there for so many years and that street should be named after them. They’d owned the property and everything so they changed it to Heininger Street and that’s what it is today and so it used to-. We lived in Lot 14 Heiningers ah, ah in Lot 14 Musgrave Avenue then they changed it to 24 Henninger Street.
So that was all a part of that and, um the town itself was Fairley’s old building down there and it was there, and you could always get, the idea was that you would book up. There was fortnightly payment lines and everyone used to get there food there and Jack Fairley was a great old bloke and you’d pay him every fortnight, pay day and then book again [laugh].
Fred: It went on like that.
Jo: A line of credit. Yeah.
Fred: So, that was Dapto as I seen it, and ah gradually they built the high school and other things, Lakelands School and Koonawarra School and those sort of things, and Hayes Park. And ah, today Dapto’s a City with about 5 or 6 suburbs all with the Postal 2530 on it. Kanahooka and Brownsville and Koonawarra and ah, you know ah, Mount Brown they’re all got that one, Penrose all got 2530 postal thing so ‘n Wongawilli, it’s all-
Jo: You were talkin’ about the circus before. What other sort of things did you used to do in Dapto in those days for entertainment.
Fred: What things did we do?
Jo: For entertainment yeah.
Fred: Well there wasn’t much to do. A lot of people went to the hotels, but the hotels shut at 6 o’clock and once the hotels shut, everything closed down. And the shop shut at 5.30, well there wasn’t many shops in Dapto there was only a few and a couple of butcher’s shops. And, ah Fairley’s was the main thing, they sold everything you know. Used to sell the mining stuff and even in the early days the men used to get the oil and tallow for them little oil lamps and that you know [laugh] there, but in my time. It was a different era and they sold flannels and all things and boots for the miners. Plus, clothes for people, food and everything they had and even, seed, potatoes and that for the gardens. So, Fairley’s was a, was part of Dapto, you know, and had been there for many, many, years. Went back and just at the front and that there was an old Court House, because Jack Fairley was a, apparently, he was a magistrate of some sort.
And the foundries and the big thing over Berkeley there with ah, not Berkeley, ah Brownsville and the crossing into that area and ah they’d come into town and get full and that sort of thing and old Fairley would, he was, apparently he was the Magistrate n he’d say “I’m going to let you off, but you got to be on the next train out”, 5 o’clock train goes and if you’re there, you’re in the lock up. And they had a old lock up like in the backyard, and lock people up. But that was there a very long time, the Magistrate’s court out on the footpath nearly it was an old building and they knocked it down eventually.
And down further there was a big old hotel where a lot of the men used to drink down near the railway station, where the, a car park is there on the left-hand side as you go over the bridge. That was a big hotel there and they turned it into a boarding house. And, ah all along there, there was the thing that was the Old Post Office, and in them days everyone gathered at the post office on pension day to get the child endowment and pensions the old timers that wasn’t delivered to ’em. They had telegram boys going around in every direction and ah that was the way of life you know. Stamps was about a tuppence, 2 pennies each ya know [Laughter]. Now their $1.00 each a different thing. Yeah, and tuppence would be the value of 2 cents you know.
Yes so that was, ah the early part of the Dapto. And down the old bridge at Mullet Creek you’d come across there, and of a weekend there would be traffic going down the coast ‘n you would see a lot of traffic because them days they had to come right down Mount Ousley. And or Bulli Pass but to come down Mount Ousley and then come through Wollongong and either come south or down the other way and Shellharbour way. And then years after they built the road from the university around, cut all that out you know, so now they, they come off near ah Figtree there ‘n that way you’ll follow the highway right through whatever way they want to go. So, all that is all changed ‘n ah, the roads, no, very few roads in Dapto were tarred and that they were nearly all gravel and that you know, and the horses and that on em.
There was the, ah old house, and Vic Waples, he lived there, and his father used to have the blacksmith’s shop there years ago. And there were still old horseshoes ‘n’ that in the grass all around dug down deep in the ground. If ya had a shovel and shovelled a bit, you’d strike a horseshoe or a bit of old [laughter] still there from them days, yeah everything was horses.
Jo: Yeah, yeah, for sure.
Fred: And gradually now you see what was happened today they’ve got the freeway and all that so. But that was my 1st initials to Dapto. And the kids ‘ed yeah kids ‘ed go to the old Dapto school ‘n then they built Lakelands n they went up there’. They had to come from that because they lived on one street different, so they had to go up to Lakelands and the other old school was there which is pulled down now. So that was my ah thing and all them, all along their houses were all built going towards Koonawarra school ‘n all that sort of thing that was, that was all bush ‘n just tracks ‘n that through it, you know.
Jo: All that time you’ve spent in the same house, haven’t you?
Fred: Yeah haven’t moved.
Jo: It’s still there.
Fred: Still the first house right near the Ribbonwood centre and just come out and I’m into the Ribbonwood Centre.
Jo: It’s still there it’s all that.