Interview Transcript from Illawarra Stories Wollongong City Libraries Oral History Project – Jack Hyland
Interviewer: Jo Oliver
Interview date: 13/02/18
Jo: This is an oral history recording for Wollongong City Libraries’ Illawarra Stories project. Ah, it’s the 13th of February 2018, and my name’s Jo Oliver and this morning I’m interviewing Jack Hyland. Thank you, Jack, for coming in and chatting today.
Jack: My pleasure Jo.
Jo: Now, can you tell us when you first came to the Illawarra or have you always lived here?
Jack: No, I was born in Scotland, and my family were, as they were called in those days, “10 Pound Poms”. They were neither a Pom, but they were definitely mostly 10 pound. Ah, we came to Australia, ah, in 1964. We arrived in Sydney on the 6th of June 1964. Ah, we were met there by the family’s, my mother’s younger sisters who’d been in Australia some years before. And we came down to where we had accommodation in Bulli, and we had very temporary, ah, basically a, a two-bedroom flat with an annexe, ah, next to the railway line on Park Road, ah, Bulli.
It was a big family, we were a family of ten, ah, with two grandparents, Mum and Dad and six children. So, a two bedroom, even with an annexe, was no good whatsoever. But luckily, ah, my Mum’s younger, youngest, sister, ah, had big accommodation just a couple of hundred metres up the road on the Princes Highway, ah, next door to the then, ah, Bulli pub, Bulli Hotel. Myself and my, one of my brothers, we stayed with Aunt Mary. And, ah, we put up with the noise of the pub. Um, we got to know the publican at that time was Mr McGee. Um, anyway we, um, settled briefly in Park Road. Um, we would go down to the Catholic Church, St Joseph’s, further down Park Road towards the beach.
Um, in the meantime, Mum and Dad were looking for suitable, suitable accommodation for us and they found a beautiful, very old–at that time, it would have been about a hundred-year-old farmhouse, ah, on a creek in Corrimal. That was at the end of Henson Street. Henson Street, ah, was a dirt road in those days, a cul-de-sac, ah but there was a track leading across from the cul-de-sac over to, I think it was Mountbatten Road. Um, that track, ah, went across the 3-log bridge over the creek. Ah, that was all it was in those days.
Anyway we, um, liked this big old house, lots of cedar in the house. Um, and it was on a very large, I suppose it was a quarter acre — a quarter-acre block in those days. It was certainly a double block of land. Ah, and we would eventually build a second house where the garage was on No.1 Henson Street, and our house was No. 3 Henson Street.
And, the family did what most families do–my older sister had left school in Scotland, or just finished school in Scotland. Um, so she went to work, ah, she got the job of her desire as a cookery demonstrator for the Illawarra County Council. Um, ah, I, I’d been very dissatisfied with my high school in Scotland. I basically hated high school and, um, I, the only thing I wanted to do was get out, get a job and go to work. And my very wise parents said, “OK, look for a job.” So as a 15, going on 16-year-old, I went searching for my career as an architect, I wanted to be an architect. And then I discovered after my first interview that without the qualifications, I couldn’t actually be an architect. So, I searched for anything else that would fit in.
Um, what I did enjoy at school was, um, metal work and woodwork and that so, I eventually went for an interview with Lysaghts at Port Kembla. And I think the interview place was in Springhill Road, I think. Ah, and they said, “Yes, you can start as an apprentice, um, fitter and turner.” And I said, “Oh, good, thank you very much.” Now this was August of ’64 and they said, “You can start in February ’65.” And I said, “Thank you very much,” and I went home to my parents and said. “They’re not going to let me start until next year. Can I go back to high school?” And they said, “Praise the Lord!” Because being a very good Christian family! Ah, my next brother, Paul, sorry I should, I maybe should do the family names?
Jo: Oh, we can let them come out as they, as they come up. I’m interested to know, just to clarify how old you were when you came out?
Jack: I was 15.
Jo: And so that was immediately afterwards.
Jack: At the time, ah, and I turned 16 in August.
Jo: And what was the attraction to come to Australia? Your parents brought you all and-
Jack: Oh, it was the land of-
Jack: Australia was the land of opportunity. Ah, about, I think it was 5 years before, um, my Aunt Mary and Uncle Eddy had come to Australia, and they wrote back and wrote back, wrote back telling about this land of opportunity. Ah, my mother’s next sister, Helen and Sam, came and brought their family about 3 years before us, so that would’ve been about ’61. And then, because we still had the 2 grandparents now, the grandparents, one was Mum’s mother, ah, Christine Roach- Christine Blake- Jane Blake, Jane Blake – sorry about that. Ah, and my grandfather had died about 5 years before. But living with my grandmother was her lifelong companion, and that was Christine Roach, and she was just “Teeny”, and she was a kind of nanny to us as kids and so they had to come with us, we couldn’t leave them. Um, my grandmother was 90, no, 86, the day we arrived. And we had, um, a big family party at the Bulli Hotel- invited everyone in the family, and all of the family friends and people that we had actually met on the, on board the ship coming over.
Jo: Yes, and, ah, what were your first impressions of Bulli and the area do you remember?
Jack: Yes, no kangaroos! You know, I was under the impression that we would see kangaroos in all the streets.
Jack: Ah, but not quite! My first impression was, ah, because we were living virtually on the railway line at Bulli, um, Bulli Railway Station was about 200 metres from the small apartment, we could hear the trains going past day after day. And we were getting, we were catching trains to places. They were like something out of the wild west, America, we were looking at because they were dilapidated and antiquated trains. And that was probably the first impression that I had that the trains were…
Other impressions because Aunt Mary had a cafe, um, in those days, a ‘hamburger joint’. It sold everything, and it’s another impression was, ah, having Australian chocolate. And it was so different to Scottish chocolate, where Scottish or English chocolate had been so much more rich, it appeared. Um, but that was another first impression, the chocolate. Um, also I suppose I was impressed by, um, pinball machines, I’d never actually played them, as a child maybe once or twice at a fair ground in Scotland. But seeing them in a shop and a cafe was impressive, and we used to love putting sixpence in the machine to play it.
Anyway, so Mum and Dad had found this lovely place in Corrimal. Um, my sister had got a good job; um, my next brother under me, Paul, he went to Holy Cross, ah, High School and because Holy Cross High school was in Bellambi, ah, and he could walk to it by going across this log bridge into Mountbatten Crescent and on to Rothery Road as it was then, and walk down Rothery Road to Holy Cross school. Holy Cross later was renamed Holy Spirit, but at the time it was a new school, and it only went up to, um, 4th form or something. So, when I’d gone back to Mum and Dad and said, “Can I go back to high school?” “Yes, but you’re going to have to go to Christian Brothers in Wollongong “No problem.” It’s all boys,” and I’d been going to a co-ed, ah, school, Catholic school in Scotland. And I enjoyed the co-ed part of the Catholic high school in Scotland. I think I liked girls, I’m sure I liked girls. And while my friends and I had fun and games in Scotland, it was completely different in Australia.
Ah, I had to go and sit for an entrance test to Christian Brothers, and the Christian Brothers College was at that time at the top of Crown Lane, on the corner of Regent Street and Crown Ring, Crown Lane, in Wollongong. Ah, the Christian Brothers had the Brothers’ accommodation there and that. And I think I must have gone for this entrance test on the Saturday. And they tested me in Mathematics, English and French. Um, my French was better than the French teachers, um, because my father was, um, quite linguistic, he could speak about 5 or 6 or 7 languages. Um, he’d been in the Army and prisoner of war. Um, and he spoke German; he spoke French, he spoke Italian; he spoke, ah, Arabic, I can’t remember, um…
Jo: Had he been in the Intelligence, or…?
Jack: No. No, he was simply a, an infantry man, but he was a very gregarious man, ah, and, ah, he was, ah, for example, when he was in, um, Alexandria, he was positioned, ah, and there, um, he was told what to do by mostly Brit-, English Officers, ah, and he conformed, um, but he disliked the way that they looked down on the ah, Egyptian and Arab lackeys, shall we call them. And my Dad made up for it by speaking with the people and picking up their language, and sharing language and things like that, ah, which is something I’ve done all my life as well. Um…
Jo: And did he find work when he came?
Jack: Yes, Yes.
Jo: Did he have anything lined up or did he have to…?
Jack: My Dad had been the top Prudential insurance agent in Scotland and had twice represented Scotland in London conferences. So, obviously, because he was very good at insurance, he did the same thing in Australia. But, ah, it was a completely different ballgame. Whereas in Scotland he had been working with the poor and depressed, um, in that part of Scotland, I didn’t know at the time, it’s only in hindsight. Um, but because here in Australia he went to work for the Prudential Insurance Company, but they assigned him to what we’ll call the, the, they were migrant hostels, basically so…
And they were, ah, a lot, the 10-pound Poms were all coming to Australia, ah, from poor regions of England, Ireland, Scotland. Um, they were coming for the 10-pound boat trip, ah, which was a luxury boat trip for next to nothing, basically. But when they got, when many of the migrants, um, were settled by whichever department it was, um, they put them into what were called ‘Nissen huts’, which were, ah, they were horrific really, in hindsight again. Um, because, ah, they were just corrugated iron huts that were roasting in summer and freezing in winter. And of course, um, we, we very quickly learned what ‘whinging Poms’ meant, um, because we could understand completely why people put in these circumstances, we’re complaining about it.
We, on the other hand, had settled into Henson Street. Ah, we had a large farmhouse place with verandas on, ah, the front 2 sides. Ah, no air conditioning, but the air conditioning of those days, which meant the, ah, house was situated so that prevailing winds blew in through the back door and straight out through the front door, and vice versa. Ah, and the big verandas meant that everything was shaded, and it was really good. Um, it was a, an old farmhouse place so it had outhouses at the back.
Ah, it had fruit orchards all over, we had fruit coming out of our ears- peaches and apricots and apples and pears- everything. Um, and this is what we loved because in Scotland, every year Mum would make hundreds of bottles of jam jelly for June, the summer months, and here we were in heaven because she could make every kind of jam, ah, it was great. Um…
Jo: And was, did you own the house?
Jack: Yes, we were in pro-, we were paying that off, yes.
Jo: And is it still standing, that house?
Jack: Yes, it’s still standing and my, ah, third brother, Peter, he and his wife now own that completely. Ah, they also purchased, um, after… after about 10 years roughly, ah, Mum and Dad decided to buil-, knock down the garage and put a brand-new Marksman home on the, um, block of land. So, they virtually built a 4-bedroom brick veneer house on the other block. Ah, and my brother Peter, married by this time, and said, “We’d like to buy the old house.” And brothers and sisters are all saying, “You’re not going to live next door to Mum and Dad, are you?” you… ah, but, ah, they bought it and they’re still in it and they’re it’s a beautiful old house all cut back to the original cedar and everything like that.
Jo: It must be very old now. Does it, does it have a name, that house?
Jo: And it’s it surrounded by other development now, or is it still in a fairly rural?
Jack: Ah, no, it’s, it’s all been built out, and the whole thing’s all the, because of all, all of Corrimal, Bellambi and everything like that all developed.
Ah, they, but going back, another thing I remember, ah, going back was, was having the, the dunny can, and the dunny can man. Ah, and, ah, this was something we’d never heard of and never knew anything about, so that when we discovered that there was a sanitary service that came with the dunny can delivered once a week, but because there were 10 of us, they delivered 2 dunny cans at the same time.
Anecdotally, ah, I think it was Teeny had gone out during the night to the dunny house, um, and that must have been 4 o’clock in the morning or 5. She’d gone to use the toilet, ah, and she just opened the toilet door and it was semi-dark or whatever, and, ah, of course the dunny man arrived and he just opened the door of the toilet and bumped Teeny’s head, and, ah, “‘Scuse me!” and she met the dunny man!
Jo: Oh, that would have been a fright.
Jack: Yeah, yeah.
Jo: And that was different from what you had in Scotland, um, you had, um, sewerage.
Jack: Sewerage in Scotland, yeah.
Jo: So, it must have seemed quite primitive in a way. [laughs]
Jack: Ah, I, I had come across a chemical toilet once on a holiday to England with my Mum and Dad and, ah, I think it would only have been one of the, probably Marie, the younges-, the 2nd youngest, Mark hadn’t been born yet, and we’ve gone someplace and stayed in a, a luxury caravan park, and the caravan… we had hired a cabin and the cabin had a chemical toilet. Ah, um, but having one on a regular basis was [laughs] yes, that was something new. Um, ok.
Jo: So, tell us about- ah, you started work at Lysaghts, or…?
Jo: No? Did you did you stay at school?
Jack: Because I, I’d chosen to go back, so I, I, went to Christian Brothers, sat the entrance tests; um, the results said I was excellent at English, OK in maths, excellent French, so you can go to the new school, which was Edmund Rice college, ah, on Mt Keira Road. Ah, so I went along. This was in the beginning of third term, 1964, and I went along to this brand-new school. It had about, I think there was about 12 classrooms on the, in a row, ah, and I went along, and it was, it was all very new and very exciting.
Ah, I got on very well with most of the boys, but there were one or two bullies who decided that the Scotsman with his Scots accent should be teased. We sorted that out rather quickly, so they no longer teased me. I might have been small, but I was, um, tough.
However, um, I’d been going to school by train from Bulli. Um, of course I, I met up with friends on the train station, and then, um, other friends all going to Christian Brothers or Edmund Rice got on the train along the train line. Um, so we had, ah, I had my best friend at the time was Mike Dwyer. Ah, he got on at Fairy Meadow along with Tyrone Phillips. And, ah, I’m still friends with Tyrone now. Ah, Mike passed away, ah, while I was overseas a few years back, but there’s a memorial to Mike Dwyer, ah, up at Coledale, opposite the Coledale Hospital. There’s a memorial for Mike Dwyer because Mike was, ah, quite famous, ah, as a, a union, um, representative, delegate.
Mike and I got on very well, we were both, um, left-wing, or almost communist, um, but definitely leftie, and thank goodness I still am. [laughs]
Jo: And were you conscious of that, um, political thought even at that age?
Jo: Or is that something that came later?
Jack: Yes, yes.
Jo: And what influences led you to that way of thinking?
Jack: OK, one of the first was Edmund Rice, ah, Christian Brothers. Ah, we were,
the school principal was, was one of my teachers, Tom Brosnan, and he urged us all to get involved, “Don’t let the communists take over the unions. So be active in your unions.” So, we did! We were! Firstly, against the principal of the school. Ah, and Mike, Mike and I were very, ah, left wing, um, we were rather extreme. I think I’ve got a photograph of Mike, ah, as my Best Man at my wedding.
Jack: Ah, we got married in St John Vianney’s, ah, Fairy Meadow, on the Princes Highway there.
But, ah, you said, was I left-wing at that, yes definitely. Um, I’d, because I’d grown up, um, my family were very working class and were, um, left-wing also. My Dad had been conscripted into the Army and been taken prisoner of War. Ah, he’d seen some of the horrors of the P.O.W. system there. He only ever told me, or that I heard once or, 1 or 2 stories of his time as P.O.W. But these were all things that tended to make us lefties. Um, but as I say, I’m still a leftie, ah, and have been all through my teaching career and things like that. Can I go back to something?
Jo: Yeah, sure.
Jack: Where was I? Oh yes, back to Edmund Christian Brothers and Edmund Rice. I went to Edmund Rice at the end of ’64, ah, and discovered I’d no idea what a Murrumbidgee was, um, I’d never heard of economics… um, no idea who Captain Cook was, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but I, basically I had no idea of Australian history, geography, economics. And in order for, ah, in those days, this was just prior to the Wyndham Scheme coming in, um, so between my parents and the school principal there, “It might be better if Jack went back to, um, Christian Brothers lower school.” Ah, finished off year 9 and then started next year on the Wyndham Scheme. Ah, so I was a guinea pig for the Wyndham Scheme. Um, ah, which meant that I was doing, instead of as had been doing, my sister only did 5 years of high school, I was now going to do 6 years of high school. Um…
Jo: So instead of the Leaving Certificate, you were going to go onto what was sixth form or now, Year 12. Right.
Jack: Yeah, ah, um, now it didn’t bother me in the least sort of, repeating. Ah, I could see that it would be to my advantage. And there was also the fact that Edmund Rice college had Army cadets in those days, and I was very much an outdoor teenager. I’d been very actively involved in outdoor Boy Scouts, but not the Boy Scouts of getting a badge for this, getting a badge for that. It was outdoor active, dangerous, risky, wild, all of that sort of fabulous things. So, when I found out I had to join Army cadets, and what that would involve, I thought, “Wow, all boys, Army cadets, that’ll do me!” And away I went.
Um, I was rebellious, I started work, um, in late ’64. Mum got me a job, um, in Corrimal, just in a very, very busy fruit shop in Russell Street, a place called Caves of Corrimal. Ah, ah, my boss was a guy called George Bond and he had a partner in Sydney, so that he was purchasing the fruit and veggies at the lowest rate, bringing them back into the shop. I worked in the shop, my job was packing spuds- potatoes, into 5 ‘n’ 10-pound paper bags, ah, from 150-pound bags. And I just began packing spuds and it’s just pack, pack, pack, pack.
Ah, and then that developed, and once a week, George would go to Sydney and come back with a 5-ton truck loaded with fruit and vegetables, and then it was our job to unload all that truck, and I found myself carrying 150-pound bags of spuds on my shoulder, running inside to the back of the shop. Ah, and that was tough, but it was even tougher when you had to carry a 160-pound bags, sacks of pumpkin, into the back of the shop. And then we would be, um, arranging all of the fruit and vegetables into the shop and putting them all on display, and, ah, I, I actually used to really enjoy the job itself. It was hard, and it was challenging. But, ah, so I must have had that job during 1965, because I can remember studying Economics, ah, and doing contracts.
And so, I actually, being a leftie even then, um, because the boss was ripping us off, um, I drew up a contract. Um, he’d opened a second shop in- Westfield hadn’t long opened, I think about 1965, he’d opened a second shop there. I was basically manager of the Caves of Corrimal shop there. I was basically opening the shop up in the morning before school, ah, and then leaving it to the other people. Then I’d go off down, get dressed into school uniform, get on the train, go off to school. Have my day at school, come home from school, change it back into shop uniform, back up to the shop and then I would work at the shop from 4 o’clock in the evening until sometimes 10 or 11, 12 o’clock at night, and then I’d go home and be too tired to do my homework. Yeah.
Jo: Yes I can imagine.
Jack: So basically, I would just catch the train the next day, and on the train we’d
share the other boys’ homework.
Jo: And you did that every day, every, every school day?
Jack: Most school days.
Jo: And was it you that were… were you, were you sort of pushing yourself to, to do that much work, or was that something your parents encouraged?
Jack: Oh, no, um, my, my parents, my parents were both hard working people. Ah, my Dad always seemed to be working, except when he was playing with us, and showing us how to do all sorts of silly things in the bush, ah, setting snares and fishing, catching, gutting, catching trout by hand and things like that.
Um, ah, and Mum was always showing us… ah, Mum showed us how to cook and bake and everything like this. My sister was very good at this as well. And so, I, I loved cooking; I loved baking; I loved… these were all fun things to do, ah, which is probably why I ended up a qualified chef, um, but that’s- yeah, we’ll get to that later, later.
Jo: So, did your studies, did your school studies suffer because of the amount of work you were doing at the fruit and vegetable shop?
Jack: That’s, that’s a good question Jo. Yes and no. Um, yes, academic-, academically, I, I wasn’t inclined, I wasn’t at all inclined academically, ah, I was much more interested in making money. But, but that was what we did, we tried to make money, um, whichever way we could. As a child in Scotland my, my first job was when I was, I think I was 11 or 12. Um, and then I used, used to get jobs every summer holidays, because we would…
Dad would have 2- or 3-weeks holidays and we’d go someplace. We, we travelled all over Scotland, which was quite unusual for families in those- families who could afford to go for a holiday went to places like Butlins holiday camps and things like that, whereas um, we went on camping trips and we, we’d hire a large, large tent, suitable for 5 or 6, or 4 or 5 or 6 of, of us and we’d go off to remote isolated camping places. Um, and this was something that I enjoyed, and I continued that practice and still do today.
Um, I’d very rarely… but I was commenting to my son a few years back because he would go off to Bali and I’d say, “Oh, what are you going to Bali for? Everyone goes to Bali.! And he said, “Yeah, but not to the parts of Bali that I go.” So, he would go to Bali, but rather than staying in the resort where everyone stayed, he’d go off into the Bali mountains and the Bali regions and he’d meet up with the, the locals in those regions rather than the touristy places. And so, I was never a very good tourist. Um.
Jo: So, did your family continue to go camping in holidays in Australia, did you…?
Jo: Yeah. So where would, would you go, um, in Australia?
Jack: Well, we camped throughout the Illawarra to begin with, and I, and I still did this, you know, I knew was running out of time, ah.
Jo: No, you’re right. But tell us about some of those places that you went in the Illawarra.
Jack: In the Illawarra, the best and most famous… Mt Keira Scout Camp was a favourite of mine, and I’ve used it hundreds of times, um, up on Mt Keira Road. But the other one that I used many times was at West Dapto at Logbridge Farm. And, ah, I de-, helped… help develop Logbridge Farm for all kinds of reasons, ah, and it was used by the Department of Education. In my teaching years I used it to create, ah, cross-country racetracks. Ah, that were used for, um, regional, um, Illawarra State championships. These were all along the tracks that we developed, um, on Logbridge Farm itself. Um, and that was on, off Bong Bong Road at West Dapto.
But, yes, we had a lot of fun doing that, ah, and actually, ah, the Department of Sport and Recreation they used to, they would say to me, “Will it be all right if we send one of our representatives to learn how to run a camp like you’re doing?” And I’d say, “Oh, who is this guy?” “Oh, he, ex-principal from Mittagong.” I said, “Oh, send him down. I love telling principals what to do!” [Jo’s laughter.]
Um, m, actually one of the most interesting jobs I, I had was when I eventually became my own principal, became a principal of my own school. Ah, I, my first school was Koonawarra at Dapto, while it was still a very young school. Um, ah, it was my first appointment. I was back with all the Pomms, um, because it was a huge migrant, ah, centre.
Ah, and I, I loved it, it was, ah, basically it was an extension of Teacher’s College. It was training young teachers and so they put in a very, very experienced school principal, Rod Gunning, and, um, he was there to train all the new boys. Um, and he did try to train me, and he tried, and he tried. And, ah, we had a lot of exciting times.
Jo: Now was this, is this in the public-school system?
Jack: Public school system, yeah.
Jo: Ok, so can we just join the dots there. You finished, you finished at Edmund Rice, you must have got what was equivalent to the HSC then or…
Jack: Yeah. Edmund Rice would have been 1965-66-67, so I did Year 10, 11, 12 there. At the end of that time I had to join the Army cadets, it was compulsory, ah, so I was a Private my first year. Um, at the end of that time the Captain, Brother Lewis, had called out to myself and a little cohort of fairly leftie guys. “Would you like to learn to be a Sergeant?” “Yes brother!” And so, we all went off to Army training, and we were trained by regular, they were actually ex-Vietnam Regs who, who did the training, trained us to be Sergeants. Ah, and you were examined, and I qualified as a Sergeant. And in my final year, ah, I went back off, and trained to become an Officer.
And, ah, I’ve tried to get, I’ve got a lovely photograph of me in my Officer’s uniform, ah, and I, I, think it looks great with the Sam Brown and all that. And I, actually I really enjoyed my Army cadet years. Um, I, I was a regular soldier just like my Dad had been.
Um, but at the end of my Year 12, I hadn’t, ah, you asked before if my studies suffered from working, yes, because I finished working in the fruit shop about ’65 sometime, a year then maybe. And I had a girlfriend at the time, and her stepfather owned a company called Coastal Belting Service, and she said, “Why don’t you get a job working for Uncle Bob? He’ll give you twice as much money. “So, I’d been carrying the 150-pound bags of potatoes, 160-pound bags of pumpkin, and I went to work for Uncle Bob. This was weekends, holidays and, ah, other things like that, still in my final years. And Uncle Bob was 10 times the slave driver that the fruit shop owner had been. And now I was doing 170-180 pound, and doing work, eventually it was all done by machine.
But I was conveyor belt technician, um, and that was the first time that I went underground. And that was at Wongawilli Coal Mine which is still open today. Ah, but, yes, and I, I still remember, um, the guys- I mean I was 16-17, ah, and the mature men were telling me about the cave-ins and the rock falls and things I could expect when I went underground for the first time. And I remember going underground the first time, and we got about 700 metres underground when the roof came in on top of the transport. And, ah, um, by that, by those days, 16-17, I was, um, smoking Benson & Hedges at the time because they were the ‘best’. I’m afraid I’d started regularly going to the pub with the boys, even though I was only 16-17, ah, because I was with the men, they assumed I was a young-looking 18-year-old. Um, but um, yeah.
Jo: The drinking age was still, was 18 at the time.
Jack: 18 was still, yeah, um, but, um, yes.
Jo: And so, you were doing that while you were finishing your studies, you were doing this mining work?
Jack: So basically, I was making a lot of money. And, ah, I’m working very, very hard. It was underground-
Jack: In based in, ah, first of all based in Kingsford Street, Fairy Meadow, ah, and then to Montague Street, Fairy Meadow. As that company got bigger and bigger, ah, as it got bigger and bigger, even before I went, ah, roundabout, when I finished Year 12, at various stages, I’d been making a lot of money as a, mostly as a kid. Ah, and I still used to come home and hand my pay packet to Mum, that sort of thing. Um, and my pay packet was more than my father’s pay packet. Ah, and, um…
Jo: And would you get to keep some of that, or…?
Jo: …that work?
Jack: Ah, I used to open my wallet and Mum would take it out, took the money out of the wallet; she’d give me $20.00 and she’d put $300 away for the family, um…
Jo: And that was seen as, as a contribution you, you were happy with, you understood that was the contribution, yeah.
Jack: But only for the first year or so, when I realised Mum was ripping me off [laughs]. But, you know, that was, that was the way it was in those days. You, ah, I can remember my first job was as an 11-12-year-old, and I got paid two and sixpence by Mrs Henderson for my week’s work of delivering groceries on a railway wheelbarrow. When I got home I, I handed my money to two and sixpence. She said, “Congratulations. Thank you,” took the two and sixpence, gave me sixpence for myself. “Thank you, Mum, that was wonderful.” And I felt so proud, I just forgot to tell Mum that I had two pounds seven and six from tips from all the people that I’d kept. I learned very quickly to hide my tips in my pockets and not let Mum know. It wasn’t that much I got in tips, but I, I kept my tips in my pocket. Um, but yes, we, we learned all sorts of things as we went along.
Um, Mum was always robbing Peter to pay Paul, and, um, metaphorically, ah, and, hang on – Paul was my second brother, Peter was my third brother who was… [laughs]
Jo: And you mentioned earlier you had a girlfriend at this stage. Now how, how did you meet girls? You were going to an all-boys school and you were working very hard after school.
Jack: I was gregarious.
Jo: I don’t know how you found time, but anyway.
Jack: Because Jenny was a wonderful, beautiful, lovely girl. Ah, and she worked in, in Corrimal. Um, now she was, we called, she was called a working girl in those days, but it had no relation to the current meaning for a working-class girl. She, she was more a working-class girl, yeah. Um, and so she worked in Woolworth’s on Princes Highway, Corrimal, ah, whereas I worked around the corner. Now it meant that I would often be sent off to get hamburgers or whatever it was for our evening meal while we working. Um, the boss paid for that, so we’d go and get it. And I, that’s where I met Jenny, ah, and we took a liking to each other. Ah, it was quite funny because, ah, I was one of the only, of, of the boys going to Edmund Rice College. Um, we all met up with the girls from St Mary’s College, ah, and we’d meet in, in Wollongong itself.
And, and the boys met with the girls and the girls met with the boys, and then, ah, we would find, ah, I think probably because my older sister was involved with the YMCA type of organisation at St Columbkille’s parish, and, um, we would, because we had a large garage, we would convert that garage into a disco. Um, and that would be my sister doing it first of all and then as she matured, um, it became my turn to turn it into a disco. Um, and then I would invite the boys and the girls from Edmund Rice and from St Mary’s and [coughs] parents would drop them off at our place and we would have these, um, very interesting disco nights, oh, disco nights ‘n’ parties there. And then, um, then we’d, it was the usual one-upmanship- someone would try to have a party as good as Jack’s, and they’d have a party at this place, and everyone would get invited there and the party at this place. So, there’d be a party in Wollongong ‘n’ there’d be a party in Fairy Meadow; there’d be a party in Bulli. Um, ah, and this all while we were doing 10-11-12.
Ah, and we were going away to Army camps, and when we were going away to Army camps we would always be saying to, because it was all young men you know we’d say to the young ladies, ah, “Don’t forget to write to me! You will write to me!” and of course, this was a competition to see among the guys who could get as many and of course I was a writer.
I, I loved writing, and I still do, except I don’t type or write. All my writing is now done by voice, um, everything I do I’m using, um, Dragon Naturally Speaking and Dragon Dictate, so everything I do except on my iPhone where I talk to Siri all the time, trying to get Siri to come up to the standard of my Dragons, but….
Jo: You’re a very auditory person. And, and with can I ask, so would you have a record player, is that what you would use to listen to music?
Jo: And what sort of music, can you remember any of the names of the bands, was it the Beatles, or…?
Jack: Yeah. Beatles, of course, um, Normie Rowe, ah, Col, Col Joye and the Joye Boys. Um, I, I actually remember, um, in 1965 going out to ‘Thirroul Stomp’ and Little Pattie was there at ‘Thirroul Stomp’, and I could remember seeing Little Pattie at ‘Thirroul Stomp’ and falling in love. Ah, but ah falling in love was a-
I’ll finish this story, too because I’m coming back to the letters, long letters, because this came back to bite me years, years later. And sorry if I burst into tears here, occasionally. Ah, ah, so, we had now I’m saying we, only one of the group and it was in the boys, it was probably about 10 or 15 of us. Ah, and we’d all we’d all stuck together, and we’d gone on to be corporals and sergeants and the top echelon was about, um, maybe 6 or 8 of us who’d gone on to be Officers. Ah, and I enjoyed being an Officer in the Army cadets because I actually got paid, ah, for, for it whenever we went away to camp, and you’d pick up your proper pay from the Army.
Um, but we wrote all these letters. Each of us, boyfriends and girlfriends sort of rotated; nobody was having sex. There was no sex because it was all, um, just too dangerous. Ah, and I think, um, most of the guys would carry something in their wallet just in case. And this stayed there for two or three years [laughs]; it was probably useless definitely – I don’t know – ah, but none of us had sex.
But we had, we did exchange letters and, um, when we were away at Army camp, each time we were away, um, there would be a parade and, um, Brother Lewis, Captain Lewis, would read out the mail. And of course, he was a larrikin too, and so he would just call out “Langry, grr Lilly of the Valley. Hyland! Smith, Short, Weir!” And he’d call all these guys names out, and, ah, and of course, he would tease, because, ah, all these envelopes they would be “sealed with a loving kiss”, SWALK on the back, and there would be lipstick on the letters and this sort of thing and it was all just nonsense but, ah, it was a sort of a competition between all of the guys to see who got the most letters.
And of course, I realised that I’d get the letters if I wrote, so I would write first to the girls even before I left home probably, or something like that, and then I’d get a letter. And, and of course, um, in camp it would always be a routine, “Who did you get a letter from?” “I got it from Louise, Margaret, Mary, Lorraine,” and all this sort of stuff, and, ah…
Jo: So, you’d write multiple letters to different…
Jack: Yeah, yeah.
Jo: People, there wasn’t just one person?
Jack: And every, every letter was signed “love Jack” you know, “love Mary” and “love Louise and that, and we were all just lovely, lovely wonderful friends.
Jo: Yeah, Yeah.