Interview Transcript from Illawarra Stories Wollongong City Libraries Oral History Project – Mollie Armstrong
Interviewer: Sue Boaden
Interview Date: 29 July 2014
This is an interview with Mollie Armstrong as part of the Austinmer Project. The interview took place at Molly’s home in Catalina on Monday, the 29th of July 2014. The interview was conducted by Sue Boaden.
Sue Now Molly first to start the ball rolling, I’m going to ask you your full name.
Mollie Well, Mollie, is all I’ve got.
Sue Mollie, Mollie Armstrong.
Sue No middle name.
Sue And what was your date of birth?
Mollie 2nd December 1920.
Sue And what about your mother’s name?
Mollie Sylvia Pettet.
Sue Did she have a middle name?
Sue And what about, would you know, remember when she was born?
Sue And what about your father’s name?
Mollie Alfred Edgar Pettet.
Sue And how do you spell Pettet?
Mollie P E T T E T.
Sue It’s a name from Austinmer. I remember the Pettet name. Now I’m going to be asking you about your early life, your school, even before school, and then right through to um, you know, the 1990’s when you left Austinmer. So what are your first memories? Where did you live when you were, you were born in Austinmer?
Sue Where were you born?
Mollie Kirton Road, 36 Kirton Road Austinmer.
Sue And you were born at home?
Sue Wow! And 36 Kirton Road Austinmer was your far- your family home? Had it always been the family home?
Sue Was it your father’s home before he moved or did he buy it as a married man? Lived there as a married man or did he live there earlier?
Mollie Yes, they lived there. As far as I can remember.
Sue Mm, and did you have brothers and sisters?
Mollie I had a brother, one brother and one sister.
Sue And what was their, were their names?
Mollie Sisters name was Joyce, my brother’s name was Stanley.
Sue And you were born there and then you had neighbours in Austin… in Kirton, was that Kirton Road
Sue And did you have neighbours, do you recall that you played with those children?
Mollie Yes. The Doris Mobbs was the, she was just about my age. She was my friend there. Sue And then the Mobbs family lived nearby? And then when you are old enough to go to school, what school did you go to?
Mollie Austinmer Primary, mmm.
Sue And what were your memories of Austinmer Primary what, where was that school?
Mollie Main Road Austinmer, opposite the beach.
Sue And how many buildings did it have? What date was that, about 1925 I guess.
Mollie Just the one building divided into three rooms inside.
Sue And do you remember the teachers?
Mollie Yes, Miss Cox was the kindergarten teacher and there was Miss Sharp for the 4th and 5th. And Mr Treglown was the headmaster.
Sue Right. Was it a very big school, were there many kids there?
Mollie Not a lot, no.
Sue Is that like 20 or 50?
Mollie Oh more like 50 I suppose.
Sue Yeah, yeah. So how did you get to school.
Mollie I walked.
Sue So up Kirton Road and then how, did you go down Moore Street or?
Mollie No, I walked along Oceana Parade to the highway.
Sue Oh, ok.
Mollie And then walked along.
Sue Wow, we have to come back and talk about Oceana Parade a little later. Um, and then you were at school until – Were you at school until you, at Austinmer Public until 6th class and then where did you go then?
Mollie To Wollongong Domestic Science.
Sue Right. And what do you remember, anything in particular about when you’re at Austinmer Public School that was memorable were there school carnivals were there -? Um
Mollie I remember that before it was, before the promenade was built on the beach when it was high tide, the water used to come right over the road. And we used to take our shoes and socks off, put them in our case, and paddle along the highway. And then we got to the school gates we put our shoes and socks back on.
Sue Do you remember the promenade being built?
Sue That was a big thing wasn’t it.
Sue And some people have told me about the sand up the promenade that, that until recently there was a big drop from the promenade to the sand.
Sue There wasn’t a lot of sand up to the promenade and then the storms brought the sand in and these days it’s all level.
Sue You just can walk out. With the, who built the promenade was that –
Mollie The Council, I suppose.
Sue And so Austinmer, did it have all of the p- the beach, did it have the pine trees?
Sue So they were there for a long time. Did you go to the beach from school?
Mollie We used to go after school.
Sue Yes. And were the pools there?
Sue Was it always two pools?
Mollie No, there was the one pool, they had a springboard. And then later they made the other pool.
Sue It’s quite unusual, isn’t it, to have two pools, most of those beaches have only got one. Do you think that it was a popular beach?
Mollie Oh, yes. The weekends, the trains used to be full coming from Sydney and people’d come down Moore Street. Spend the day on the beach.
Sue Mm, crowds of people down Moore Street, everyone remembers that, people, on Sundays particularly. Do you remember that?
Sue And what about Moore Street? You didn’t go to down Moore Street when you were going to school, but that was the main street with the shops. Do you remember the shops?
Mollie Yes, there was Mr. Dolrun’s butcher shop.
Sue Which, what, there were two butcher shops. So which one was Mr Dolrun?
Mollie No, there was only one butcher shop when I was there.
Sue Ahh, so he was the one on the side with the other, with the Post office.
Mollie Opposite the post office. Miss Hurley had the Post Office and Mr Hope had a grocery shop, that was about it.
Sue And there was a baker, but that came later, up near the railway station.
Mollie Oh yes, mm
Sue And I think there might have been another baker. Do you remember a baker on the main road?
Sue So there, so when your mother was shopping, did she go to Thirroul or did she go to Austinmer?
Mollie We went to Austinmer to the butcher shop and went to Thirroul to the Co op shop.
Sue Oh, where was that?
Mollie In Thirroul on the main street and then you used to give the order and they used to deliver it by horse and cart.
Sue Really, [laughing] those were the days. Tommy Hope in Austinmer didn’t deliver, did he or did you have to go to that grocery shop? You have to go there. He didn’t bring it round for you.
Mollie What from Austinmer?
Mollie No, they didn’t deliver from Austinmer, you went to the shop got what you wanted.
Sue But the Co op always delivered.
Sue So what about other shops in Austinmer? Do you remember a chemist shop?
Mollie Yes, Mr Grew had a chemist shop.
Sue What street was that in?
Mollie Well, it was first, was in Moore Street, then he moved round to the main road opposite the beach.
Sue Yes, that’s right and then that was um on the corner, up near the school.
Sue Yes. And people talk about the creek near that, that chemist shop at the beach, it was always flooding apparently. Is that around the time when you had floods as well and you were taking your shoes off [laughs] and walking along to school? I think it’s called Hicks Creek.
Sue And it was often flooded.
Mollie Yes, well that runs into the promenade, yeah.
Sue Yes, and the other, do you remember floods in The Grove as well?
Sue And but there was, when you were going, did you have a car, your family have a car? Mollie No.
Sue So you would railway, you use the railway.
Sue And where do you, remember the rail, what are your memories of the railway station?
Mollie Oh, it was always there and Tommy Eddie was the porter and you know, took your tickets at the door. But um, it was just always there in the same place, there are three great big coral trees outside. They used to lose their leaves in winter and summer they’d have a red flowers on them.
Sue Beautiful. Do you remember the tree, Austinmer being somewhere that there were lots of trees?
Mollie Yes, there were trees down Moore Street and plenty of trees around.
Sue And what did you do for, um, you know, when you were at school or you were at um going to do something with your family? What were, what did you do when you lived in Austinmer?
Mollie Well, we went to the beach in the summer. And we used to climb up mountain, up Sublime Point in the wintertime, that’s about it.
Sue And did you, is that, I’ll just stop, pause this and try and stop the phone. I’m starting again. We’re starting this interview again and we’re just talking about going on the train to, did you go to Sydney or did you go to Wollongong?
Mollie Well, went to Wollongong to school.
Sue Oh that’s right, you caught the train?
Sue Not the bus?
Sue Do you remember the bus service?
Mollie Yeah, Dion’s bus service, still going.
Sue Yes, it is. And what about the train to school, that was um, uh, all the way to the high school which, where was your high school?
Mollie Domestic Science School in Smith Street.
Sue Oh, ok, so that was North Wollongong, you’d get off at North Wollongong?
Mollie No, went right to Wollongong.
Sue And what courses did you do there?
Mollie Oh well we did the usual English, History and Business Principles and then we did typing and shorthand.
Sue Did you like that?
Sue Yep, and then you started working.
Sue And what was your first job?
Mollie Well I worked at a place called Lawrence and Hanson Electrical Pty Limited and I did, did the office work and the shorthand typing.
Sue And how long were you there?
Mollie Five years.
Sue And where were they?
Mollie In Crown Street.
Sue Oh ok, so you get to go to work every day on the train. And then after, after work you’d be doing, going out and, or what was your after hours thing, you talked about climbing Sublime Point. But what else were you doing? Picnics or going to the beach, were you a beach person?
Mollie Yes, yes, we, we all went, all the kids from school went to the beach after school.
Sue And did you belong to the surf club or is that before the days of ladies?
Mollie No, no I didn’t go belong to the surf club.
Sue No, no. And Sublime Point do you, tell us about that climbing up Sublime Point.
Mollie Well you went up the bush track ’til you came to the ladder and climbed up the ladder and then you’re up on the top.
Sue And people talk about leeches. Do you remember leeches?
Sue Well it didn’t seem to worry you.
Sue Tough [laughs] And what about when you got up to the top, there was a kiosk, but then did you come down the way you went up or did you go down Bulli Pass?
Mollie Walked down Bulli Pass.
Sue That seemed to be what people did.
Mollie Yeah and came home, we all had blisters.
Sue [laughs] It was a school holiday thing, wasn’t it?
Sue You did it in the holidays. Yeah, and then for a long time those ladders were burnt by fires and you couldn’t climb Sublime Point, but now you can again.
Sue Yep, and did you go to other beaches? Did you go to you know, Coledale?
Mollie No, we just went to Austinmer beach.
Sue Yeah, and what about the little beaches? Did you go to the ones, um, the one just north of Austi, and the one near Headlands Hotel, or did you just stick to Austinmer?
Mollie No, we just went to Austinmer beach ‘cos the pool was good.
Sue Yes and, and uh, and it was quite a safe beach. Yep. And what about, did you belong to the church, did your family belong to the church?
Mollie Yes, I couldn’t get christened in the church ’cause it wasn’t built.
Sue [laughs] So where did you get christened?
Mollie At home.
Mollie In the lounge room.
Sue Oh OK, that was interesting. And what did your dad do was he-?
Mollie He was an engine driver.
Sue For the railways?
Sue Oh, so he was on shift work?
Sue Mm and where was he bas-, was it based in Thirroul,
Mollie In Thirroul, yeah.
Sue ‘Cause that was a railway town really? And was his family, your grandparents around?
Mollie No, they lived up at Thornleigh.
Sue So did your dad, come to Austinmer and lived in that house, but he didn’t have other, other relatives around Austinmer.
Sue Oh, ok, so I wonder why he chose Austinmer? Was that because of the, a job?
Mollie Well it was because it was near Thirroul depot.
Sue Yes, yeah. And did he have lots of friends at Thirroul depot that you used to see?
Mollie Oh well all the other drivers and firemen as they called them.
Sue And did your mum work or was she at home and she-, and what about her parents, were they around Austinmer?
Mollie No. Grandfather, mums mother died before I was born and Grandfather Shields, he lived at Thornleigh with mum’s sister.
Sue Right, so both your grandparents lived in Thornleigh. So going to visit them, you’d go on the train.
Sue Or they’d come to see you?
Mollie No, no we’d go there.
Sue And so your dad was on the South Coast line, going south as well as north.
Sue Mm, so you’d get lots of travel on the trains,
Sue Because of um a work, a train worker. Yep, so then there was the church and so was your family involved with the church, your parents?
Mollie Oh yes, mum I think was an inaugural member of the Ladies Church Aid and ah we all, kids all went to the Sunday school then later we went to church for Sunday morning.
Sue And did they have lots of um things for you to do, that you joined?
Mollie Ahh, no, we just went to the services.
Sue Yes, yeah. So there, was there lots to do as a kid in Austinmer, how did you spend your days?
Mollie Well we mostly went to the beach.
Sue Yeah, ’cause it’s such a beautiful beach. And someone was telling me about Clowes Park. Do you remember, did you go to Clowes Park?
Sue Was that part of school sport or did you just, or was just football games or?
Mollie Yes. It was along the end of Railway Avenue, and uh, they just used to have sport things there.
Sue Yes, and if you, b- you worked for five years and then what happened?
Mollie Well I got married when I was 22, went to live in the Sydney.
Sue Oh, so tell us about getting married, who did you marry?
Mollie Jack Armstrong, he was in the police force and ah w-. we lived at Hurstville. Then we bought a block of land and built a house, Mortdale Heights at um…
Sue So in that time you were coming backwards and forwards to visit your parents at Austinmer?
Sue And would you do that, did you have a car by then?
Mollie Went on the train.
Sue And the train was still packed with people.
Mollie Oh no, just ordinary.
Sue Mm, that seemed to be, that there was a big rush of people who were coming by train in the, in the 40’s and then people, some people got cars and it was a bit less rushed. People were sat, when I’ve interviewed people they’ve said that, that crowds of people hanging out of the windows [laughs], do you remember that?
Sue Um, well, that sort of stopped, it wasn’t so busy. Tell me about that train trip you come down from Sydney and then you go through the National Park and what happens after that?
Mollie We came out at Stanwell Park, you came out into the-, you see the water? Then we just stayed in the train until we came to Austinmer.
Sue Yes, and then you’d get out and walk over, [clock chiming] up and over the hill to um, to your, um to your parents and did you have children, so your, their grandparents then?
Mollie I had a son and a daughter.
Sue And they were at school in Sydney?
Mollie No they ah, went to school at Mortdale and then Robert went to Port Hacking High. Heather went to Penshurst Girls School.
Sue And then you decided to come back.
Mollie My husband always wanted to come back to the coast and when there was a position in Wollongong we sold our house in Mortdale and moved down to Austinmer, built down there in Oceana Parade.
Sue And was Jack a loc.., a South Coast man? He grew up down there?
Mollie Yeah, he was born in Kiama, grew up down there.
Sue But he didn’t want to go back to Kiama, he wanted to go to Austinmer.
Sue What is it about Austinmer that, you would want to go back because your family was there, but other, what is it that people love about it?
Mollie Well it’s a pretty little place with a very safe beach and it’s only an hour’s drive from Sydney. Popular.
Sue Yes, and it’s, there’s a distinctive landscape, isn’t there?
Mollie Yes. The bush comes right down to the beach.
Sue Mm, I think being safe is good, isn’t it? A safe beach is important. And so you built in Oceana Parade. What number was that?
Sue And tell me about that, that, was that different to living in Kirton Road to live in Oceana Parade?
Mollie Well, my dad died and mum’s eyesight was very poor so she came over and lived with us in Oceana Parade. We had a basement there and she lived there, and we were there for about 40 years.
Sue Did the house in Kirton Road was sold?
Sue Mm. And did your brothers and sisters live around you then, or were they, had they moved away?
Mollie No, my brother lived in Victoria at Morwell and my sister lived in Sydney, at Five Dock.
Sue Right, so you had your, your elderly mother living with you, yeah. And did you have a garden in um, Oceana Parade, was that something you were interested in?
Mollie Yes, my husband was an excellent gardener used to grow lovely vegetables and flowers. Loved his garden.
Sue Now near where you lived was a guest house, and Austinmer had a lot of guest houses, do you remember where those guest houses were?
Mollie Well, there was a big place opposite us. Uh, Mr and Mrs Roberts had that. But um, and there was Kelburn, along Oceana Parade where Mrs Austin and her husband had a guest house and then on the corner of the highway and Oceana Parade, the Willis’ had a, Mr and Mrs Willis had a guest house there.
Sue So Mrs Austin is that the Mrs Austin who lived behind the church?
Sue They had a guest house?
Sue Oh what was that called, do you recall?
Sue Kelburn ’cause the one opposite you was called, gosh I was going to say Keswick but it’s not Keswick.
Sue It was called um wasn’t called Astria? We’ll have to think about that [laughs]. And there was Keswick which was um on that headland above the pool.
Sue Do you remember that one?
Sue Tell me about that one?
Mollie Well it was just like any other guest house, more or less.
Sue Do you know who owned that?
Sue And there was another guest house, Astria, which was, which is still there actually, above the beach.
Sue So they were quite a-, Austinmer seemed to have been known for its, a place to come and stay, and people said that, people I’ve interviewed have said Headlands Hotel was a honeymoon hotel.
Sue It wasn’t actually a pub hotel. It was a place to stay, which seems as if Austinmer had a quite a lot of places like that. When you live there, you don’t actually go and visit those places ’cause you haven’t got any need to, but did you ever go to, did you ever know anybody who stayed in the guest houses?
Mollie Oh yeah, some of our friends from Sydney used to come down and stay.
Sue Mm, really. So you’d go and, and there were tennis courts and dining rooms and quite a nice holiday, really. And there was never a hote, was there a hotel in Austinmer?
Sue I’ve heard, I’ve read about something called the Centennial Hall. Do you remember where the Centennial Hall was?
Mollie Never heard of it.
Sue No, it was opened in 19 in sorry, in 1888. Big- because 1888 was the centenary of the settlement of New South Wales.
Mollie Whereabouts was it?
Sue Well it was, in the advertisements it says it was within walking distance of the railway station, so I can only imagine it was in Moore Street, but I don’t know where.
Mollie No, no been no hall in Moore Street
Sue It wasn’t-
Mollie Only the Scouts hall.
Sue Yes, it wasn’t near where the, well what the Church of England now, the old RSL. Was there ever a hall there, in your memory? And what a, and there was a, on the corner of Moore Street and the main road was a service station.
Mollie Yes, Mr Heather.
Sue Oh really, Mr Heather’s service station, and it was mechanics and petrol?
Sue Then next to him going up Moore Street, I’ve been told there was a shop.
Mollie Yes, the Red Cross had a shop there.
Sue Was that always the Red Cross from your memory?
Mollie Well it was a library to start off with?
Sue A little lending library.
Sue Where you paid some money and borrowed a book and then it turned, but that wasn’t a hall, was it?
Sue Um, and then across the road from that ah, apparently there was a doctor’s surgery.
Mollie The doctor surgery was in Moore Street on the same side as the library.
Sue Oh ok. Where the, up the, up a bit from the library, but no hall.
Sue The Church of England had a hall, but it wasn’t a Centennial Hall.
Mollie No, it was just.
Sue It was just a-
Mollie It was called the Shaw Memorial Hall.
Sue Oh, really, why was it called the Shaw, were the Shaw’s a family in-
Mollie Yes, Shaw. It had a photo in it of a man with a moustache, Mr Shaw.
Sue Did you use, even though you went to the Methodist Church, did you use the hall? Did you go to anything at the hall for the Church of England?
Mollie Yes, they used to have the fete every year from our church. They used to have it in the hall there.
Sue At the Church of England hall?
Mollie Yes, and then I used to go to um, gymnastics.
Sue In the Church of England hall?
Sue And then did your children, I think they used to have classes in that hall, you know dancing and physical culture.
Sue Your kids might have done that too. Well, the Church of England had a bell tower.
Sue Do remember the church bell ringing, but the Aus.., the church, the Methodist Church didn’t have that.
Sue What about other churches? Do you remember? Was there a Baptist Church?
Mollie No, no.
Mollie That was in Thirroul.
Sue Yes, a Catholic Church.
Mollie No, that was in Thirroul too.
Sue Yep, so no pub in Austinmer and no Catholic Church. Only two churches, yeah? And do you remember families having holiday houses in Austinmer, who also went to the church?
Mollie Oh yes, yes. There was one the top of Kirton Road, J.O. Anderson, the tennis player, he built a home there for guest hou- like a holiday home. And then along the other end of Oceana Parade there were a lot of small houses of people came to, guest, for holidays.
Sue Mm, in the Christmas holidays and maybe weekenders, I’ve interviewed somebody who had a weekender in Oceana Parade and they’d come down on the train initially and then later in a car. They’d come down and stay on weekends, mostly in the warmer months, and they’d go to the beach of course, that was the great attraction. It wasn’t, they, like you really, they stuck to Austinmer, there was enough to do in Austinmer. Did you play tennis?
Sue So what tennis courts did you use?
Mollie There were the Railway Tennis courts at Austinmer near the station.
Sue On Railway Avenue?
Mollie Yeah. And there were tennis courts down in Moore Street.
Sue Oh, whereabouts were they?
Mollie Where the, where the RSL is now.
Mollie There were couple of tennis courts there and Mr Wilson used to, he lived there and used to look after the tennis courts.
Sue So they were privately owned or owned by the Council?
Mollie No privately owned.
Sue And the Railway Tennis courts, who owned those, maybe the rail, did the railway own the Railway Tennis courts?
Mollie Yes, one.
Sue Um, and what about um, other sport, did you play other sport?
Mollie No. At school I played basketball.
Sue And hockey, basketball and tennis in the summer and swimming [laughs].
Sue And I was going to ask you about um, when you came back as a married woman, you work, did you work or did you-
Sue And so you joined associations, did you, were you belong to, to um various groups?
Mollie Only the church.
Sue Yes. And what, what did you belong to at the church?
Mollie Well, the Ladies Church Aid.
Sue And what, then you used to um be involved with street stalls and-
Mollie Yes, cake stall.
Sue So you were a baker? And do you remember any celebrations or events in Austinmer, um Cracker Night and Commonwealth Day and Anzac Day, was that something that was a big thing when you were growing up?
Mollie Well they had the cenotaph down at the beach which is still there and they’d have a service there.
Sue And was that um well attended?
Sue It’s still well attended, apparently there are thousands of people who come to that service. And then Cracker Night was a big thing on Commonwealth Day, in May. Do you remember those, did you, did your family get involved?
Mollie I can’t remember having a bonfires or anything like that.
Sue And what about, I think there was a centenary, or celebrations at the school when maybe it was 50 and then it was 75 years and there were big, there was a fete, do you remember that?
Sue That’s maybe you, maybe that was when you weren’t there.
Sue It could have been when you had, were living in Sydney. And have you kept, you kept friends from school, Austin-, who were your friends at school when you were at the public school?
Mollie Yes, well the headmaster’s daughter was a good friend.
Sue What was her name?
Mollie Gwen Yates and um, all the others have all died.
Sue And did you go to high, to the Domestic, to the Technical Domestic Science School with Gwen? Did she go to school in Wollongong?
Mollie No, her father was the headmaster and they were moved on somewhere.
Sue Oh mm. And so you kept, did you had, when you moved to, married and moved to Sydney, was it Gwen that you stayed in touch with?
Mollie No. She married a school teacher and they were down the Murray River somewhere.
Sue Oh, yes. And then when you came back to Austinmer, did you meet up with people that you knew from school again?
Mollie Yes, oh well they were all the people at the church. Jessie Hodgekiss was one of the friends that I knew there.
Sue And, and you kept up with them while you were back in Austinmer, yeah, and their families. Now I’ve got to ask you if there was anything that you remember about special teachers that, were there teachers from Austinmer that had been there a long time or were the teachers mostly moved around?
Mollie Well, Mr Treglen was there all the time I was there.
Sue And how did they organize the classes, was that, were you all in together?
Sue Or you’d have separate classes?
Mollie There was um, the kindergarten had the one room and then there was like a dividing glass door they used to pull along for 4th and 5th. And then 3rd and 4th and then 5th and 6th were in another room on their own.
Sue Mm, so there were combined classes.
Sue In that, in the big main um, I think it’s stone building, the one that’s sort of above the beach.
Mollie Yes, it’s brick.
Sue Brick is it, yeah, and then later on other buildings were built around it. Did, what did you do for lunch? What was the lunch routine? Did you take your lunch?
Mollie Yes, mum used to pack our lunch.
Sue So you’d take it with you. And you didn’t have a tuck shop?
Sue If you didn’t have your lunch, what would, were you’re allowed to go to the shops or-.
Mollie Yes, you could go down the shop and buy a pie.
Sue And they were the shops at the beach. What do you recall about those shops that were along the beachfront? What was there?
Mollie There was the newsagent was on one, there was the chemist shop, Mr Grew, and there was the newsagents, Mr and Mrs Gray and then there was um Anne’s shop, she had like a, you’d get fish and chips and bread ‘n things like that.
Sue And there the, where the chemist was, wasn’t always a chemist, I don’t think. I think it might have been just a general store on the corner before that turned into a chemist. Or maybe it was always a chemist?
Mollie No, it was always a chemist as far as I know.
Sue Oh ok, and that the school these days comes right down to the main road.
Sue They must, did they bought, they must have bought somebody’s, some land.
Mollie Yes, they bought the building that was on the log up high and that’s all school buildings now.
Sue Yeah, so there was quite a big old home on that, on that land, do you know the family, I-
Sue I think it was a holiday home actually, or it might have been a guest house.
Mollie No, just a private family lived there.
Sue Ok. And there were also, um behind those, the shops on the beachfront, there were, there was some spare land which now has got blocks of flats on it, do you remember that? Sort of behind Hennings Lane runs down from the station and between Hennings Lane and Moore Street there was, that was always empty land, but now there are flats on it.
Sue You don’t recall that there was something there earlier, was there ever a building on there?
Mollie Oh, there was a Miss Pringle had a guest house there, two storey wooden place but it was burnt down.
Sue Were you there when the fire, was happened?
Mollie No I didn’t see the fire but it was-
Sue So Pringles guesthouse on that corner. Wow, that’s int, that’s interesting. And then the, one of the most distinctive streets that people talk about is The Grove.
Sue Why do you think that they remember The Grove?
Mollie Oh, it’s very pretty, winds around from ah the beach at Austinmer Street round to the railway station and ah had a lot of trees and it was a pretty, pretty road, still is.
Sue And a creek.
Mollie Yeah, there was a creek there but they’ve covered that over now.
Sue Yes, people used to be able to drive over a little bridge to get to their homes over the creek. I remember that creek flooding, at the road-
Sue Going towards the railway station, but it doesn’t anymore. I’ve also heard stories that children weren’t allowed to walk home through The Grove because it was a bit dark and windy, but did you, were you told that?
Mollie No, we used-, um Doris Mobbs and I used to walk through The Grove.
Sue Quite a change from the Moore Street.
Sue Now there were also some shops when you were going up the hill towards Oceana Parade, between Moore Street and Oceana Parade, [coughing] do you remember those?
Mollie Well, there was the post office and then there was Mrs, uh Siverite, had the shop next door uh, it was like you could go and have a cup of tea, they had tables there, tables and chairs.
Sue Up from the service station?
Mollie No, up from the post office.
Sue Oh ok, in Moore Street?
Mollie Then there was Mr Hopes grocer shop.
Sue Yes in Moore Street. But what about going up from the service station up the hill towards Thirroul, but then you come to Austinmer, Oceana Parade, there were some shops there.
Mollie Oh yes. Rickets was the name of the people that had the shop there, he had ice creams, and sweets.
Sue When was this, was this when you’re at school?
Sue Or later?
Mollie It was always there, Rickets shop and then Mr Wilson and his wife ran it, but that was all pulled down and they’ve built flats there.
Sue Flats are everywhere, aren’t they?
Sue And there was also a guest house, going to, going past um those shops and past Oceana Parade and past the Wilsons and past the Kennedy Road, there was some guest houses up on the hill looking over Thirroul, did you know those guest houses?
Sue Now thinking about behind the railway station, do you remember the mine, the coal mine?
Sue Austinmer Coal Mine
Mollie It’s uh, Excelsior Mine.
Sue Did you know where that was?
Mollie Yeah up in the bush.
Sue Did you ever go there?
Mollie In front of it, I’ve never gone down the mine.
Sue Mm, and it was off Asquith, um I think it was off Asquith Street. Is that the mine? Yes, and there was also um, if you went up Hill Street, what was up Hill Street?
Mollie Just houses
Sue Scout camp? A scout camp, do you recall that? Um, I’m not sure that there was, someone said there was, but I haven’t got to the bottom of that. And the mine, was it working when you were a child, a little girl?
Sue So did your friends, fam, fathers work in the mine.
Mollie Yeah, they used to come down after the mine, after the shift and they’d all have black faces.
Sue And then they have to go and have a bath.
Sue I don’t recall that mine, so I wonder if you can tell us, your memory of where the people were, lived that worked in the mine.
Mollie They just lived around about Austinmer.
Mollie There were a few families down Kirton Road that worked in the mine.
Sue Was there a mine at Thirroul, too?
Mollie Yes. Kirton, Kirton’s mine.
Sue After the, were there Kirton’s living in Austinmer when you were there?
Mollie No they were, lived in Thirroul.
Sue And the Hicks was an important name, do you remember the Hicks family? I think they were in Thirroul by then. And there was a, a house that was called um, Sidmouth.
Sue Do you remember where that was?
Mollie Yes, that in the, in The Grove.
Mollie Big, Rathane was the name of it after they called it Sidmouth. Captain Young lived there.
Sue Yes, and he had a Rolls Royce someone told me.
Mollie And he had two retriever dogs.
Sue Did you ever, they, there were fetes held in that garden? Did you ever go to a fete there?
Sue ‘Cause I think after Captain Young sold Rathane, the Allens’ bought it and they had, the Mrs Allens’ had fetes.
Sue That some people have said they used to go to a fete in the gard-, in the grounds of that house, which was on Hennings Lane.
Sue Is that right between The Grove and Hennings Lane?
Sue Yeah, so Sidmouth I think was built by the Hicks. It, it’s, do you think there are close connections between Thirroul and Austinmer and Coledale, or were they separate towns?
Mollie Oh well, they merged into one another.
Sue And did you have friends in Thirroul and Coledale?
Mollie Had friends in Thirroul, I didn’t know anybody in Coledale.
Sue Did they go to school with you, or there was a school in Thirroul wasn’t there?
Mollie No, no there was a school in Thirroul and there was a school in Coledale.
Sue So I’ll just see if I’ve got, is there anything else that you wanted to tell me about um, Austinmer. What about if you were sick, did you go to the doctor in Austinmer or go to the hos, what about a hospital?
Mollie No, there was no hospital, you went to the doctor’s surgery in Moore Street.
Sue And there was a hospital at Bulli and a hospital at Coledale, so that would solve that problem. What about a fire station, was there a fire station in Austinmer?
Mollie Down in Thirroul there’s a fire station.
Sue And there might have been a fire station in Coledale too, I think. Um, and what do you think in the time that you were there and then you went away and then you came back, what were the changes? Did you notice change in Austinmer?
Mollie Well, they got the electric train, that was one thing that was different. Otherwise it was pretty much the same.
Sue Well, what about the shops that people could go to, the shop um in Austinmer and get well meat and vegetables. You might have to go to the co op for your basic shopping, but you could do shopping in Austinmer and then that all changed because it all went, all those little shops in on the on the, on Moore Street actually closed up, why do you think that was?
Mollie The shops are still there.
Sue But not the grocery shops.
Sue There’s a little café, which sounds as if it’s taken over from where you remember, a little tea and coffee place, a tea, Devonshire teas. Um, but the supermarkets in Thirroul probably-
Sue …made the change. And did you belong to the little library at the, in Moore Street?
Sue But did you go to the library in Thirroul?
Sue No. And is there-. You’ve said that you went back to Austinmer because your husband really liked the South Coast and liked Austinmer and, and there was that memorable landscape and the beaches. It was a good place to be. You thought that? Liked to live there? And you stayed there for another 40 years. So is there anything else you’d like to say that I haven’t asked you about?
Mollie I think you pretty much covered it.
Sue Well, I think we might say thank you to Molly, and if there’s any more thoughts that she has, we can always come back and ask you some more, but you’ve given us a really interesting insight into Austinmer over, well over 90 years of memory. So thank you very much.