Interview Transcript from Illawarra Stories Wollongong City Libraries Oral History Project – Joy Friend
Interviewer: Edie Swift
Interview Date: 30 June 2016
Edie My name is Edie Swift and today is June 30th 2016 and I’m interviewing Joy Friend at her home in Bonnie, in Bundeena. Her father was Bob Manners and I also interviewed him quite a while ago and, um, and that was the National Library project. I would like to talk to her about her shack in Bonnie Vale. Of course, her father was very involved with that shack and the oral history will go into the Wollongong Library Local Studies and the New South Wales State Library. So if you want to start talking about the earliest times you can remember.
Joy Uh-huh. Yes, well I think I was just a bit too young to even remember because I know from what my parents told me they started going to Bonnie Vale when I was 9 months old. So I was born in 1944 and ah we lived at Marrickville which was really west, West Sydney then and many people did go to Bonnie Vale but you could only get there by the um, the train and the ferry, so I don’t really remember the beginning of it but this was actually before shacks. It’s like when it was um, you could go over and um pitch a tent and stay there but the tents were like army tents back then but ah, and many people did have tents and then eventually you could leave the tents there, and just come back every uh holidays or, um weekends which we did do for a long time travelling by which was, seemed a long time travelling by train and ferry out to and the ferry went to Bonnie Vale in those days and then the National Parks allowed you to build something a little bit more permanent. Ah, we had two army tents I remember back to back, you could pick your site, you could go anyway there was no roads it was just sort of all mixed up, but then you could pick a site where you wanted to build something a little bit more permanent and that’s what my dad, ah did, but everything that was bought over at that time you had to bring over on the ferry so they were very flimsy. What I remember in the first one that it was very thin wood and, um, was it material that ro- Malfoid or something like that, that they rolled up. It was sort of black, and so the walls were made of that, they were very flimsy, you didn’t have windows you just had um, mesh, ah, but you had shutters like a lever that lifted up to let the um, the light in, so and what I do remember about the very first lot of um cabins, was that they were very small, small in size as in [coughs], really just one room that was curtained off which a lot of Sydney houses were like that anyhow, but just curtained off. Doorways weren’t very big so I don’t recall that, sort of, people today are quite tall, people weren’t really tall then because the doorways were really small and everything was brought over on the ferry to, to build so it had to be sort of, wasn’t big bits of timber it was just ah, yeah, hand carried so it was a slow process. I sorta do remember always helping, um, my dad. We all just helped ‘n held things and put things together. But it was fun, it was fun because everyone pitched in and helped everyone else when they were building something, nothing fancy. But joyful times it was just a wonderful time to get away, so, I just recall not having a city life I went to school in the city but I came away to Bonnie Vale which was like an escape it was sort of, um yeah, it was just the trees and the water and the beach ‘n it was just a wonderful, wonderful time and a joyful laughing time. I think the whole time you came away you knew it was going to be happy, because people just gathered together from their, their cabins. On weekends in the summertime you’d be outdoors. There’d be, there’s no electricity or gas or anything like that you just, it was just ice chests in the beginning I remember that ice chest and the, the milkman coming around on his horse and cart, at least we got milk and then there was ice and you had the little, which I suppose people in the city did too but you had little boxes hanging up in the tree with the air flowing through that you’d put a bit of meat or bread in. But it, for me it was just remembering how happy it was and I’d always, the feeling of a Sunday night going home was such a low. I just wanted my life to be always in the cabin with the people that came along every, um, every week and it didn’t matter who turned up someone, people didn’t come every weekend or every holidays. I guess they had other things to, ah, to do, but my, my thoughts are, we were there just about all the time and it was just delightful and happy for me. Then I recall maybe that, when I was ten, nine, that my father decided that he would, um, the cabin was small and short [laughs] and little ‘cause my dad wasn’t really tall but he decided to build something a little bit bigger, so he did another shell over the top of the old one and so we could still live in the little one but then he made something a little bit bigger and then pulled the other one down. And again we just helped, we just helped with the building and everything was very exciting and then one day I remember that my dad turned up in a car, so it was many years before we had a car to be able to bring things over and ’cause there was no road to go in either it was very, very, some people did have vehicles eventually and sometimes we went home with them of a Sunday but I used to get car sick I hated going home in the, the cars, I just preferred going on the ferry and the trains. Even that you know, going home on the ferry and the train with groups of people it was a fun time that, ah, everyone was just happy and singing and concerts and it was just wonderful and uh. Yes I couldn’t wait, every week, every week, school, couldn’t wait to for the weekend to come and, c-, and even if people didn’t, other kids my, kids like kids around but even if they didn’t turn up, other families, it was still a beautiful time to, to be there walking around with the sea, the water, the bush. Helping to cart your water over to the cabin and, um, just slowly things they would, you would get together there was no, there was a tap somewhere along the way but you’d have to carry your water back but then we eventually got, um, big drums that you would put on the outside of the cabin on the corner and it would catch the, the water so you didn’t have to cart the water a long way back to your cabin but I remember it was always full of wrigglies which were turned into uh, mosquitoes so you had to be careful if you scooped that out and you wanted to drink it that you didn’t get the wrigglies that were in the, the water. But it was fun it was just a whole, my whole life there it was just fun and that’s what I remember that everybody was happy there was never any dramas it was just, ah, but looking at it as a child it was just, everyone was happy to see you and, oh and fishing, fishing was another thing that everyone did too, so it was like a big competition that ah, that when you’d go fishing, that ah, not many people had boats but off the beaches, but if you were lucky enough to have a little row boat, you’d go out in the row boat and then you would display your, your catch when you came back and you’d walk around to all the cabins close by and ‘this is what we caught’ and they’d be showing you what they caught and ‘where did you catch it?’ Whiting was always a big thing to be caught but it was enough fish to, for meals you could have good meals out of the, the catch of the fish. There was National Park, the, ah, the rangers, there was just a family that lived there and another man that um, that helped them. Uh we did pay our, your money for the fee to have your, your cabin there, it was not a lot of money I think it was 5 shillings a, a week. But ah, it was well worth it for the kids, the children, I think even the adults, the, the laughter that’s what I remember most about the cabins. It was um happy, joyful laughter. It was a getting away from the city. I’m not sure, it was just the closeness of everybody that they all just became like a family to you away from home. So that’s my main um thoughts of it, is just times in the cabin.
Edie Do you remember, as you got older, how the cabin changed how the community changed?
Joy I do recall people were starting to build bigger and better cabins because they had the roads come through they could bring their, the material in and they were starting to build not luxury ones but just bigger and better, and, I suppose with people when they have families and their children are younger when the children grow up a little bit, they have their own life and I suppose that family life changes as is, like sort of, it’s never, never the same, so there’d be a new lot of people that would, that would come in to um, to Bonnie Vale. And actually, I, yeah I just recall that some people started selling their cabins and uh, that’s when they were building bigger and better things and that’s when the National Park sort of changed. I’m not sure if you had to, we never had a lease that I remember it wasn’t a 99 year lease it was just you were there and you were able to stay there. But then some people just started selling their cabin off and making a profit because they didn’t want to come back to the place anymore and I think it just caused a whole a lot of difficulty for the, the ah, the regular people that just wanted to stay and the National Park, um, at that stage come down on people and eventually you weren’t even allowed to do anything to your cabin to, to fix it up. So-.
Edie And what year was that, was that when you were later?
Joy That I recall that, mm hm, and it changed the whole, but then again see I was growing up too, so I was probably wanting to go off and do other things but always still loved coming back to the cabin at Bonnie Vale.
Edie Do you remember some of the people, their names of the people there?
Joy Uh, one’s around me, the O’Reilly’s and the Edwards and Wells. You had your little clique of friends, yeah, so there was plenty of other people. Um, let me have a little think about that. Um, Coppock’s, there was Alan Coppock, I remember that and Whitehead’s that was another name I recall, the Hill, Hill’s, Ian Hill, but that was when I was still quite young those people’s names mm hm.
Edie And then what happened as you went into your twenties?
Joy Well in, I, ah I got married early, in my twenties and had children and then I started taking my children down to the, to the cabin and I know that they have wonderful memories of the cabin with growing up. Weekends down there and school holidays and they have just as good memories as what I do although it was in a different era. They still have wonderful memories of the Bonnie Vale with the cabins, yes.
Edie And how long did you have the cabin then?
Joy Eventually we loved the area so much that my dad bought a block of land in Bundeena, and so the house in Bundeena was built probably in 1970, started being built in 1970. We still had kept the cabin because we’d still have holidays there with the family. I’m just trying to think when it happened because the, the only reason that we let the cabin go was because the National Parks made it very hard to be able to keep the cabin, ‘cause they wouldn’t let you fix it up. And ours was, had white ants in it and was deteriorating but they just wouldn’t allow you to touch it and because of that we just decided well, we had the house in Bundeena then, it’s probably best to let it go because we can’t do anything with it, it wasn’t safe to, to stay in it, but now we’re probably sorry we did let it go, absolutely, because you can, they don’t want you to fix it up but we could have in somehow probably fixed it up but it was a no, no, at the time when we let it go, but that was probably the late 80’s I think that we let it go, the late 80’s, 90’s.
Edie And what happened to the cabin then?
Joy It just stayed there for a long time and it was sort of starting to crumble and there would have been asbestos in it, with the fibro with it and um, eventually when it just sort of crumbled a bit more one time we went there and it was pulled down, it was just gone.
Edie So do you remember some of the other people at that time also going and the cabins disappearing?
Joy Yes, absolutely yes, it was just sort of I don’t know whether it was people’s lives changed and they didn’t go down as often, but because you weren’t allowed to do anything to them that wasn’t safe to stay in them anymore, because they were just sort of, um, falling down. If you were allowed to, probably fix them up then I would say there’d still be a lot more cabins around there at Bonnie Vale, if there, at the time the National Parks I don’t know what their thoughts were, I think they just wanted all the cabins to be gone. hu hm.
Edie And then what memories do you have of your father in the last few days of his life, did you go over there with him?
Edie to Bonnie. Yah.
Joy Ah, yes yeah we’d walk around there, have a look at it, um just memories I, my dad got dementia the last few years of his life so, it was more rather than taking him out we could talk about it, we just talked about the good times. Because if we took him around there he would never want to come back again.
Edie So did he have um, he had fond memories and then did you ever have boats over there, a lot of boats when you were-?
Joy Oh yeah, little row boats, yes, yes, we had little, we had little row boats that we’d take it out and I have fond memories of going out in the row boat with my dad and fishing and he taught me to fish as a little one and taught me to hammer nails in and, uh yeah, fond memories of being by his side and, I often think I can do things like a man, I just haven’t got the strength because of watching him and him teaching me how to do things, yes.
Edie So are you, were you planning now to go into Bonnie Vale sometimes do you go over sometimes?
Joy Oh yes definitely, I walk around there lots, it’s um, it’s just a part of me and where they pulled down our cabin, and I don’t know for what reason but there’s just, it’s fenced off with a lovely native plants growing in, it’s like a little garden area, it’s not, it’s big it’s about, it’s bigger than the size of the cabin was but I just think oh wow isn’t that lovely that they fenced it off and it sort of just, yeah I walk around there quite often.
Edie Yeah but the Dolphin hut that was pulled down, that shack, quite recently do you know anything about that?
Joy Um, no, I did hear about it going to be pulled down with the uh, with emails, like if you want a last look at it or take photos. But again, it was, I remember seeing a gentleman there sort of on and off, so I don’t know what happened whether the family passed away, the person who owned it, um yeah, it was sort of quite a big thing that to say that one of them was going still going to be pulled down, yeah so, no one was obviously using that but there’s still a c-, still another one there that’s not being used that hasn’t been pulled down.
Edie Oh, where is that?
Joy The one that’s right next to the Dolphin one?
Joy Yes, and that was where the Coppock’s were, that I mentioned their name Alan Coppock, yeah.
Edie So do you remember George and Julie who used to live there?
Joy George and Julie, mm, probably, there were people that lived in the cabins too later on, yes, hu hm.
Edie Do you remember any stories about them?
Joy I can’t say I do [laughs]. Joycie Brunt I do ’cause her cabin was sort of right near ours, beautiful, beautiful lady, mm hm.
Edie I remember her too.
Joy Mm hm.
Edie So what would you do with her, would you visit with her or?
Joy Um, yes, because we still had our cabin, she was always there to greet you when you came of a weekend and, yeah ’cause eventually you could get porta-a-gas, things, things changed and it would have been a hard life living there though.
Joy Without water and electricity and they always talked about that they were going to get the, the power put on to the cabins but that never happened.
Edie Do you have any anything else you’d like to say before we conclude?
Joy, Ah, it’s a shame that, it’s a shame that the cabins are gone but it reminds me these days of what, when people go into a caravan park and, and pull up next to one another, because there was so many cabins, there was hardly any space between you and they just started growing and growing and then, they made streets out of ‘em, like there was hundreds of cabins around there. It was just picturesque, it was beautiful with all these, you know lovely painted little one room places and little gardens around them with little shrubs and it was just beautiful. And every, what I do remember every cabin had its own name. That was lovely. Do Drop Inn, just funny little ditty names and, ah. that everyone did have its name before they decided to number them. Then, then I do remember one year that they said, no, we’ve gotta number these because we need to know which cabins, I don’t know, have paid, haven’t paid, who they belong to rather than just their name, so I suppose that would have been 40, 50, about the 60’s I think that they put numbers on the cabins.
Edie Ok. Well would you donate this to the State Library of New South Wales and also the Local Studies Library in Wollongong?
Joy Yes that’s fine
Joy Of course.