Interview Transcript from Illawarra Stories Wollongong City Libraries Oral History Project – Rube Hargrave
Interviewer: Family members
Interview date: 1970 consensus
Rube: Ballarat In Victoria.
Interviewer: What can you remember about your grandparents?
Rube: I can remember them vividly. They were very, very fond of my mum. She was their third daughter. Mother and Dad. Victoria where George was born. Fremantle where Neil was born and then to Sydney, right opposite the Paddington Town Hall where I was born.
Interviewer: These were Kitchener’s aren’t they, Grandma Kitchener.
Rube: Kitchen, Kitchen.
Interviewer: Grandma Kitchen.
Rube: you ‘right. My grandparents came from Yorkshire in England. Settled in Australia. Where they married and had a family. Really there were a couple of mishaps in births. Mother had, had a couple of miscarriages and we three children were left. They were both Yorkshire. Kitchen. And my mother’s Grandma Elizabeth Kitchen… They were very… close… to all the family, they had three girls Rachel, Elizabeth and Isobel. Each of them, were very lovely people. Married nicely and pleased my grandparents very, very much.
But I think because of his wondering habits, my father, who was now on the scene of course. I think they became a bit worried, of how Isobel would settle in. However, she applied herself very, very well. Wondered with my father on all his contract. He was a heavy construction builder and always was the sort, for building the heaviest hardest things. Like the 1st jetty in Fremantle, Princes Bridge in Melbourne and then to Sydney to take part of the, Sydney Harbour. He built a lot of those jetties around Circular Quay. People would never know how many of those jetties my father built, and it was all heavy construction…
Mother ‘course had to pack up… three children and go wherever father got work. And at one stage when he was building Circular Quay Sydney. He was very, very close, to another an engineer, named Jordan and they clung together for the, years. Peter is named after Glen Jordan, this Jordan’s’ son. I often look back now, of think- thinking, of what they went through in those days. Their mark as they did. And when my parents were just finishing the contract for Sydney Harbour behold my father took a contract to rebuild Bulli jetty. Which had been washed away some years before.
Far away from Paddington [unclear] rather the address was Dulwich Hill, but it was bush, all bush, no real street or anything like that. And ah, we went along Cobar Street turned right and then you faced, Hurlstone Park, and the collage was on top of the hill of Hurlstone Park. And on the 6th, I think mum must have been sick of me. The day after I turned 6, they wouldn’t take me before, I was sent off to go to Hurlstone Park Ladies Collage, I was no lady.
I stayed there at the college and got on very well. Err acting I think was my greatest marks. I could act with anybody, used to play up, I was a hateful creature. And err now let’s think. I know I was 7 or earlier when Dad took Bulli Jetty. And we all had to – poor Mum she used to do all the packing, all the getting. And away we went then down to do Bulli Jetty.
There were two little cottages right away down near the Jetty. And there was a little railway line, bringing the coal from up at the mine and it use to run down the hill. Out there, none of the, biggest ships ever came in there, they were all 1000 ton.
J – J O’Donohue was the Headmaster and his wife taught us sewing. Heavens above, I bet she got sick of me, teaching me how to do a hem. That was good business for them, he was the Headmaster, she got paid for the sewing teacher.
Interviewer: Sewing teacher mmm.
Rube: Did you?
Interviewer: Yes, with Mr Shepard his wife taught me to sew, Mum said I was hopeless at sewing, Mr Shepard said I was marvellous in crafts.
Rube: I was hopeless from, but I applied myself fairly well and did a lot of work. And he was very Irish of course, but um, ‘course that’s another story.
Interviewer: Did you stay at Bulli School?
Rube: Stayed at Bulli School, until, in those days we had a qualifying certificate, now we did not have High School certificates or anything like that. And I stayed at Bulli, and my Mum still wanted to get me to a lady’s college to Miss Bartlett’s’. One was near to the church of England near Park Road.
Rube: It was way up the bush…
Rube: and it was there.
Interviewer: And how many people?
Interviewer: The very old one opposite the paper office.
Rube: No catholic or the other?
Interviewers: Miss Bartlett’s’, Miss Bartlett’s’.
Rube: Oh, there wouldn’t be 30 – 20. 20 – 30
Interviewer: 20 – 30. Do you have any photos of being at School there?
Rube: No. Unfortunately, no we don’t.
Interviewer: Oh. What a shame.
Rube: I guess there would be from today but ah… We got to stop going back to the beginning. I was a beast of a kid, but he was good to me and ah, it err, this marvellous bus was advertised once into Wollongong and once out of Wollongong every day.
So, it was through him we got the house at Co’ had it thrown back to him and there was nothing big enough, but there wasn’t a reas’… Dad sickened of it and wouldn’t do it ‘n. He was never happy unless he had an auction job on the go, and so.
Interviewer: Were there electric trains running in those days, or were there not, were they stream trains?
Rube: They were some big thing that had a, like…
Interviewer: Stream trains.
Interviewer: Stream trains.
Rube: Yes. Some would breakdown halfway up the hill, and there was no ladies collage for me to go to, south in Bulli, in Bulli only Miss Bartlett’s’. Opposite the Presbyterian building and then Roman Catholic see. And she concentrated up next to the church that is now. And she had a big beautiful block of land there and the Roman Catholics took over that one on the main road. But I’ve often wondered what, what they did with it. If they sold it or for funds for the church because it was not payable. It um, Miss Bartlett’s’ wasn’t payable either it was only such small attendance. But um, I know the Roman Catholics wanted three times as many to open it, but they didn’t get it. And of course, wages weren’t what they are now.
Rube: People couldn’t afford to pay extra; the church was bleeding everybody white. And on top of that, they had to pay this huge amount for their children to go to that school. But they never got it, never got the money.
Rube: And I often wonder now who got it in the end.
Interviewer: Yes. How many years?
Rube: Not to long because, Miss Bartlett couldn’t afford that property she wanted to concentrate on the other, and uh, uh it was the best offering for me, so I went straight there err, they were, left her to go to Bulli because, as I say we had what was known as the qualifying certificate.
Interviewer: You were living at Bulli when you went into the eisteddfod,
Interviewer: and you were the only, you are the oldest living contestant for the eisteddfod for their Centenary.
Interviewer: You would have to walk up the railway line, wouldn’t you to get to the road from Bulli Jetty?
Rube: Of course, we did, there was just these two measly little cottages down there and then we’d have to go up and the man that used to drive the Puff Puff we use to know him. He used to say. “You have her ready and I’ll take her right up to the main road and I’ll see she’s alright when she goes to school.” If the management had known they would have shot him. And he made two handles for me to hang on to. I left the bag on the back, and I’d sit there till he, till he got right to the main road. Then it was, a use to have to blow the whistle, to stop all the traffic North and South, see me along to Mr Briers’ shop and wait still blowing his whistle till I got over the traffic to the School. He was a wonderful chap Mr Gerald. He’d blow the whistle and I thought I was somebody when he let me blow the whistle. One day he let me blow the whistle and I thought I was somebody. A great piece of engineering on his part, to land me at the School. You see we had to, the line use to go right across the main road, all the traffic would be stopped, stopped. We didn’t have any traffic lights like they’ve got now. Oh, nothing like that.
Interviewer: Mainly horses and drays, and sulkies, wouldn’t they? There wouldn’t have been many motor cars and lorries in those days would it?
Rube: Oh No! Oh No! We didn’t get anything till 1914 in a motor car and I got a T model Ford, brand new came out of the factory, T model Ford and I was 14 ‘cause war on us, 14 -18 war on us. An’ I got this, and it was delivered in a great big [unclear] go to town, like the size of this and had to be unpacked, to my father’s satisfaction. And if I remember rightly it cost 140 pounds. Would that be right?
Interviewer: Well it could be, I’m, I really have no idea what the cars were in those days. But Grandpa brought one did he, it was, Grandpa brought this T model Ford did he.
Interviewer: And you put it together yourself virtually?
Rube: I, see I had to get a licence I was too young you know, and so he used to, he broke it in, he put it together and broke it. And he used to drive it around, and teach me, and ah…
Interviewer: This is when you built the house at Woonona was it at this stage?
Rube: Oh ye’ no we were at Bulli Jetty you see 14 – 18. ‘Cause I was growing up there, an’ I already had the qualifying certificate to go to a higher school if I wanted to. And Dad would be driving around in this and wearing, you had to wear it, you have to wear a car in, very, very slowly. You only went like the scooter, 7 miles an hour until it was worn in. You learned how to put petrol in it and oil in it, and when and oil the springs. Do you remember the sets of springs?
Interviewer: Yes, I remember.
Rube: It was madness never to have a separate set of springs, all oiled and ready, for fear one broke. So, every time a boat came in it had to bring a set of 1914 T model Ford, when I was being taught of course, which was quite illegal. Off the main road and up and down the paddocks different places. I had to wait until I was, I think it was 16 then you could get a licence. And the policeman who used to be at Bulli was moved down to Nowra. So, he left, he wanted me to have a licence when I turned 16. Which I never come down to Nowra and get it then. So that what I had to do I was only 16 when I was driving, I was younger in the paddocks and everything, you know. I thought I was somebody in a T model Ford.
Interviewer: There wouldn’t have been many girls your age driving in those days.
Rube: There was nobody I was the only one.
Interviewer: Only one.
Rube: Yeah. There was nobody else driving. Oh No! It wasn’t lady like, wasn’t lady like, it was a man’s job.
Interviewer: Where you able to crank the car and start it?
Rube: Oh what?
Interviewer: Where you able to crank the car and start it?
Rube: Oh! That was fun able to crank it, I use to pull up and get some petrol, it was cheap as dirt you know then. I use to pull up to get petrol from over the habit, wherever I pulled up that fella would have to pull the handle for me and I’d just sit there and say, “thanks very much,” and drive off, because I often had to do it.