Mollie Armstrong – Interview Transcript

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.

Mollie  Yeah

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?

Mollie  Elma

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?

Mollie  Yes.

Sue  Where were you born?

Mollie  Kirton Road, 36 Kirton Road Austinmer.

Sue  And you were born at home?

Mollie  Yes.

Sue  Wow! And 36 Kirton Road Austinmer was your far- your family home? Had it always been the family home?

Mollie  Yes

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

Mollie  Yes.

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?

Mollie  Yes

Sue  That was a big thing wasn’t it.

Mollie  Yes.

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.

Mollie  Yes.

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.

Mollie  Yes.

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?

Mollie  Yes.

Sue  So they were there for a long time. Did you go to the beach from school?

Mollie  No.

Sue  No.

Mollie  We used to go after school.

Sue  Yes. And were the pools there?

Mollie  Yes

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?

Mollie  Yes.

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?

Mollie  No.

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?

Sue  Yeah

Mollie  No, they didn’t deliver from Austinmer, you went to the shop got what you wanted.

Sue  But the Co op always delivered.

Mollie  Yeah.

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.

Mollie  Yes.

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.

Mollie  Yes.

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?

Mollie  No.

Sue  No.

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.

Mollie  Yes.

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?

Mollie  Yes.

Sue  Not the bus?

Mollie  No

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?

Mollie  Yes.

Sue  Yep, and then you started working.

Mollie  Yes.

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?

Mollie  Yeah.

Sue  Well it didn’t seem to worry you.

Mollie  No.

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?

Mollie  Yes.

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.

Mollie  Yeah.

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.

Sue  Oh.

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?

Mollie  Mm.

Sue  Oh, so he was on shift work?

Mollie  Yeah.

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.

Mollie  No.

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.

Mollie  Yeah.

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.

Mollie  Mm.

Sue  Mm, so you’d get lots of travel on the trains,

Mollie  Yeah.

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  Yes.

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?

Mollie  Yes.

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?

Mollie  Yeah.

Sue  And would you do that, did you have a car by then?

Mollie  No.

Sue  Train?

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?

Mollie  Yes.

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.

Mollie  Yeah.

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?

Mollie  Nine

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?

Mollie  Yes.

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?

Mollie  Yes.

Sue  They had a guest house?

Mollie  Yes.

Sue  Oh what was that called, do you recall?

Mollie  Kelburn.

Sue  Kelburn ’cause the one opposite you was called, gosh I was going to say Keswick but it’s not Keswick.

Mollie  No.

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.

Mollie  Yeah.

Sue  Do you remember that one?

Mollie  Yeah.

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?

Mollie  No.

Sue  And there was another guest house, Astria, which was, which is still there actually, above the beach.

Mollie  Yeah.

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.

Mollie  Yeah.

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?

Mollie  No.

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?

Mollie  Yes.

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.

Mollie  Mm.

Sue  Where you paid some money and borrowed a book and then it turned, but that wasn’t a hall, was it?

Mollie  No.

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.

Mollie  No.

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?

Mollie  Yes.

Sue  And then did your children, I think they used to have classes in that hall, you know dancing and physical culture.

Mollie  Yeah.

Sue  Your kids might have done that too. Well, the Church of England had a bell tower.

Mollie  Yes.

Sue  Do remember the church bell ringing, but the Aus.., the church, the Methodist Church didn’t have that.

Mollie  No.

Sue  What about other churches? Do you remember? Was there a Baptist Church?

Mollie  No, no.

Sue  Catholic?

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?

Mollie  Yes.

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.

Sue  Oh.

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  Hockey?

Mollie  No.

Sue  And hockey, basketball and tennis in the summer and swimming [laughs].

Mollie  Yes.

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-

Mollie  No.

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?

Mollie  Yes.

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?

Mollie  No.

Sue  That’s maybe you, maybe that was when you weren’t there.

Mollie  Yes.

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?

Mollie  No.

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.

Mollie  Yeah.

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?

Mollie  No.

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.

Mollie  Yes.

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-

Mollie  No.

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.

Mollie  Yes.

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.

Mollie  Yeah.

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-

Mollie  Yes.

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.

Mollie  Yes.

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?

Mollie  Yeah.

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?

Mollie  Yeah.

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?

Mollie  No.

Sue  Now thinking about behind the railway station, do you remember the mine, the coal mine?

Mollie  Yes.

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?

Mollie  Yeah.

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.

Mollie  Yes.

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.

Sue  Yeah.

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  Really.

Mollie  Mm…

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.

Mollie  Yes.

Sue  Do you remember where that was?

Mollie  Yes, that in the, in The Grove.

Sue  Yes.

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?

Mollie  No.

Sue  ‘Cause I think after Captain Young sold Rathane, the Allens’ bought it and they had, the Mrs Allens’ had fetes.

Mollie  Yeah.

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.

Mollie  Yes.

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.

Mollie  No.

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-

Mollie  Yeah.

Sue  …made the change. And did you belong to the little library at the, in Moore Street?

Mollie  No.

Sue  But did you go to the library in Thirroul?

Mollie  No.

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.