Interview Transcript from Illawarra Stories Wollongong City Libraries Oral History Project – Joan Polonis
Interviewer: Jo David
Interview Date: 27 May 2016
Jo Welcome to the Dapto Oral History Project. Today we’re speaking with Joan Polonis nee Drew of Dapto. Welcome Joan and thank you for speaking with us today.
Joan Thanks for having me, Jo.
Jo Tell us Joan, how old were you when you first came to Dapto?
Joan 25 when I first came to Dapto.
Jo Ok, what year was that?
Jo Right, ok, ok. So what was it like coming into, um, a place like Dapto as a newcomer?
Joan Well it was very different to what I’d been used to as I’d worked in cities and Dapto was, there was a lot of dairy farming still going on, and it was very small and Fowlers Road was still a dirt track and we didn’t have a car. We bought a house but we couldn’t afford a car. And I can remember walking up and down Fowlers Road for quite some time.
Jo Ok did you have children?
Joan Yes we did, we had children quite quickly [laughs]. The first one was born in 1960.
Jo Ok, so just a year after you-
Jo Yes, ok, ok. So what did you, how did you fill your days with a young family in a new place?
Joan I had no trouble. I went out a lot, dragging them with me whenever I could, um, because there was very little in Dapto at the time as you can imagine. So we used to go and visit a friends that I’d made in Wollongong before I came to Dapto and just take the kids to places where they’d be entertained. And in the weekends we often, even back then, we would take them to the zoo-
Joan and to the pictures and things like that.
Jo And how would you do that, by train would you?
Joan By train, yes.
Jo Ok, yep, yep. How long before you got a car?
Joan About 3 years after we got married we got a car. So, I think that was even then was quite unusual.
Jo Yes, okay, yes, yes
Joan And we didn’t, it didn’t worry us for some reason or other we were not worried. I think we just both like walking and my husband walked to the railway station at the crack of dawn every day and caught a train and went to the steelworks where he worked.
Jo Ok, yes, yes.
Joan And I, when I got the job at the local doctor’s surgery, I walked to work every morning.
Jo Ok. And how did you get a job at the local doctor’s surgery?
Joan Um, well I had gone to, I had, when I came here, um, and I found, after I found I was pregnant, I thought well I’ll have to see a doctor so I looked up the phone book, and I thought, oh, Dr Chaffee, Dapto. And I was, you know, very well treated by Dr Chaffee, and after about 6 months after I had the baby, he offered me part time work just for a month, and, um, that was the beginning. And I was there off and on for about 20 years.
Jo Really? Where was his surgery?
Joan It was, um, on the Princes Highway next to the garage just opposite the library now, just over here.
Jo Ok, ok. Was he the only doctor in Dapto?
Joan No, um, there were, there was five. Um, and would you like me to tell you their names?
Jo If you can remember them.
Joan There was Dr Calder Chaffee, Peter Fuller, Evan Whittaker, David Oliver and Ken Doust.
Jo Ok, ok. Now did did they work together, and did you work for all of them, or were they all in separate surgeries?
Joan No they were all in the one-
Joan uh surgery. And it was really interesting to me, again, when I started working there to realise what they actually did. Um, they did all sorts of procedures at 8 o’clock in the morning. Things like tonsillectomies-
Jo Oh wow, ok.
Joan um, circumcisions, removal of lumps and bumps, things that you would have to go to specialists for now.
Jo Oh, yah, yah.
Joan And I was really happy to say that nothing went wrong. Everything, they were very professional, but they were are also lots of fun. Yeah.
Joan And they also did a lot for the community. Um, most of them were in, oh no, some of them were in Apex Club and it was decided that Dapto needed a swimming pool so, not just them, there was the dentist, Ian McWilliam, who I forgot to mention and they were very much involved in getting the pool started. And what we used to do, a person in each street would go around and collect 20 shillings every week, and that went into a pool, for the pool.
Jo You need a pool.
Joan Yes. And the pool was a wonderful thing for Dapto, as you can imagine, because with all the, all this new, um, development, the Taylor Woodrow, there were lots and lots of children, and it was free entry at that stage. And it was one of the best things that ever happened at that stage. Yes, so, I only mention that because I remember them being so enthusiastic about it.
Jo Ok. Did they help with the fund raising?
Joan Yes, yes. That’s right.
Jo Hm, very good. So the doctors, were they all locals, did they live locally?
Joan They, they did. That was the other interesting thing and I think that’s why they were so involved in the community, was because they actually all lived here.
Jo Yes, yes.
Joan They didn’t, they weren’t born here. One was from England, one was from Scotland, and the others I think had grown up in Sydney.
Jo Ok, yes. And they were good to work for were they?
Joan They were very good to work for. Um, they were very, as I mentioned before, they were very professional. Their standards were high, but it was still very pleasant to work there.
Joan And there was, we had lots of fun. There was, you know, I could tell you a short story about Dr Ken Doust, who was a riot at the best of times, and we had a severe earth tremor. I think it was in 1961. And I was going to work that morning and it happened about quarter past 7 and it was very loud, it was very loud. I’ve never experienced it before or since. And every, we all rushed out to the street because we thought a truck had smashed into our home, that’s how everybody felt. Anyway, Dr Kenneth Doust lived in Mt Brown and he thought immediately Tallawarra’s, there’s been an accident at Tallawarra, an explosion. So he got up, left his pyjamas on, got his medical bag and drove straight over to Tallawarra and then could not understand why they wouldn’t let him through the gates [laughs]. He just, then he found out later on that it’d been an earth tremor. So that, we laughed about that.
Jo Going over to Tallawarra in his pyjamas [laughs]. That’s good. Was there any damage from the earthquake do you know?
Joan Very little. There was a crack in one of the walls at the surgery, actually. Um, we don’t think there was any at our place, but um, and they were all newly built.
Jo Yes, yes.
Joan But, um, it was a very, it was surprisingly loud.
Jo Yeah, ok.
Jo Yeah, ok, and do you remember any others, or is that the only one that you remember from Dapto?
Joan There was another one about, oh, 5 or 6 years later.
Jo Oh ok.
Joan But it wasn’t anywhere near as bad. It was noticeable but not as bad.
Jo No. Right, that’s good. So is there anything else, um, memory wise that you recall, Joan?
Joan I suppose I could mention the cracker night.
Jo Uh, hm, tell us about the cracker night.
Joan Where we lived, Cambridge Road and Parkside Drive were divided by a creek and a large playing field. And when cracker night was approaching, all the kids from Parkside Drive built a huge bonfire, you know, the makings of a bonfire and likewise all the kids in Cambridge Road did the same and it was very serious. We were always very amused because the kids were so serious about this and they were normally good friends, but when they were building their bonfire they were not. [laughter] And then the amazing thing was, back then, nobody gave hoot about them going out on cracker night, letting off crackers and lighting the bonfire, it was absolutely superb.
Jo Yes, yes.
Joan And then after it was all over they resumed their normal warm friendships.
Joan And that was very funny, we thought so.
Jo That is, that’s great. How about your children, what did they do for, um, entertainment?
Joan They were very energetic children. They were always running around. Um, they did simple things I think. I might have not have mentioned there was what they called a fairy ring in what’s the playing field now behind Cambridge Road.
Joan And it was a circle of rocks and we were terribly upset when they were destroyed so that there was a soccer park put there. Yeah, and that’s,the children played in the creek and up on around the fairy ring. All the children around the place used to congregate there and sit on the rocks and talk and they made up game and that’s what they did. And they also used to walk up and down the creek looking at creatures and playing with eels and all sorts of things that were in the creek. And they were entertained by really simple things. Um, they loved being read to, which they always were being read to, um.
Jo And what was the name of this creek?
Joan Brook Creek.
Jo Brook Creek, ok. And do we know where those, this, this fairy ring came from, or was it just there was it?
Joan No, we don’t and we wish we had gone to some trouble way back then, but I don’t think we had much time and found out why it was. It could have been an Aboriginal site or something. And our kids are still talking about how dreadful it was when the fairy ring went.
Jo Oh, That’s sad.
Joan Yes, yeah. It was.