Interview Transcript from Illawarra Stories Wollongong City Libraries Oral History Project – Sally Kelly
Interviewer: Edie Swift
Interview Date: 7 May 2017
Edie It’s the 7th May, of May 2017 and I’m Edie Swift. And I’m interviewing Sally Kelly at her home in Bundeena, New South Wales. We are going to talk about her shack in Bundeena. The interview will go into the Local Studies Library, of the Wollongong Library and the State Library of New South Wales. Now if you’d like to tell me your grandparents name and your parents name.
Sally My grandparents were Elsie and Bill Atkinson. And my parents are Warren and Deborah Atkinson.
Edie Okay. And what I’d like to do is to, as you remember, you know, what happened with the shack. If you could just talk about what happened from the beginning, and what were the changes in the community and in the shack and um, also in the National Park and any activities you had.
Sally So initially the shack was um built out of cardboard. It was um, packing containers and that was for the first, I think, two and then they’d built a concrete slab, and actually put all the fibro in place. And that was, um yeah, I think the, yeah, mid 50s? And I remember going, it was a dirt road into Bundeena from, um, from the turn off it was yeah, probably about 10 kilometres of dirt road. And it was, yeah that was probably in the 70s, and then it was tarred. I lived there, I lived at the shack from 1970, ’74 to 1976, for two years. And um, two years old. So my grandparents lived there, I had a great aunt that lived with us and another great aunt and a great uncle, and a, a cousin. We all lived at the shack together. Um, there was a road out the front of the shack, and a road out the back. There was roughly about 300 cabins at that time. And it was, yeah, quite a vibrant community. People, ah well, pensioners lived in the shacks. People were even allowed to have pets. It wasn’t until, I think the ’74 when they actually made it into a National Park and everyone had to get rid of their pets. So when we moved, I took everyone’s cats home. Back to, we moved to Mascot in the city, and I took everyone’s animals home with me because they had to get rid of them.
Edie So what were your relatives doing for work?
Sally They were travelling, they were travelling into Redfern daily to go to, to work. And they were also building another house, which we were intending to move into. So that’s what they did mm.
Edie And what was Bundeena like then, for shops and things like that?
Sally We didn’t actually go into Bundeena very often. We often um, because, there was a bus that would come and take everybody to Engadine, that was where the shopping was done. I think there was maybe a, a corner store in Bundeena at the time and maybe a garage. I think there was, the garage was there. Yeah we would definitely get a bus, it was like a community bus into Engadine, mm.
Edie And you were two years old, what do you remember doing there?
Sally Um, I don’t really remember a lot at that time but I remember, I remember I could go to anyone else’s cabin, we were very free. And you knew everyone. Yeah, we knew everyone there.
Edie And what year was that, when you were two?
Edie Oh, mhm, and what happened to the shack before that, what was being done?
Sally Um, before that it was a holiday house. Before that, it was just used during holidays. So my grandparents would go there for a month. Um, every summer they would go for the whole of February. And then great aunt and and uncle would go for the whole of March. And then, no one really used it during winter. My dad tells me that he would go down with all of his friends for weekends. Actually my mum and dad had their engagement party there. Uh, yeah, it was, it was used mainly in the summertime. Oh no actually it was used um, for firecracker night we used to have that in June, the long weekend we all went down there in June for that. Yeah before it was actually, before we lived in it, it was just it was a holiday house, yeah that we’d go down to.
Edie How, now when was it first built?
Sally It was built in 19, I think this is a rough, I think initially when it was made out of the packing, the packing containers it was maybe 19, I think 50, I think maybe 1950 and then it was then, that was knocked down and it was built into a more permanent shack I think a couple of years later.
Edie And who did that?
Sally My grandfather, my grandfather did all of that but he would have had help from his brother in laws, that was my grandmother’s brothers.
Edie And where was he working when he first?
Sally He worked at a place called McCarthy’s and McCarthy’s was a hotel supplier so they supplied hotels with um bar runners, coasters and that’s where he worked.
Edie And what was, where was it?
Sally That was at Redfern.
Sally Yeah that’s where they originally lived, they all lived at Redfern and they worked in Redfern.
Edie So as you grew older what do you remember about the shacks and the people and do, can you remember some people’s names?
Sally Yes, I do there was, well I remember the Helen and Ruth. Ruth had a shack two doors up she was an older lady but she also lived near where my grandparents lived at Redfern, she lived near there too so I had been to her house at Redfern as well. Um, oh yes there was a man called Herb, he was, I took his cat home, Teeny, um, yeah I can’t really remember anymore.
Edie What would the community do when you were like 3, 4 and 5 as a group, was there community activities?
Sally No not really, not that I can remember, but they went shopping together. And I just remember they all walked around all day and went to each other’s shacks and talked, like everybody was always, you know walking somewhere and talking to other people because the shacks were very close together there wasn’t a lot of privacy and I remember um, there was communal washes like big, big barrels where people did their washing and they had you know, those big stirring spoons that they would wash, wash in.
Edie And so as you got older what did you do for a refrigerator? What did you do for-
Sally It was the gas fridge that we had and a gas oven, gas lights yeah and everything, the shack was all in working order, there was everything there.
Edie And would you have a running toilet?
Sally There was no toilet so it was a communal toilet, but we had a shower that we, a bucket shower so you’d fill it up with hot water and there was a little nozzle and you’d lift the bucket up with a rope and yeah, there was a shower recess out the back and you’d have a shower out there but there was also communal showers that you could use.
Edie And what happened at Christmas?
Sally Ahm, no we never went we would go, oh no I don’t remember, I don’t remember much about Christmas down there we, um, yeah I can’t remember any Christmases. We didn’t, as, as I got older we didn’t have Christmas down there we used to have Christmas at home at Mascot.
Edie And then you went down to the shack after?
Sally Oh yes, yes in January we always had 2 weeks of school holidays down there.
Edie Did you um, what activities did you do when you were a child?
Sally Oh, um yeah we just, ah, I had a bike, I had a bike down there, I had a surfboard. We used to go nipper pumping, um we used to go prawning. we had a boat, yeah we had a boat at one time, um a surf ski that we used to have, dad had that and we used to go out on that. What else did we do? Yeah we did, we just, all day we were busy, doing those things. We didn’t sit, we didn’t sit inside the shacks we were always outside, always outside doing something.
Edie So um you had the refrigerator was up until what age was it, the old type?
Sally Well it was only, so when I was, oh I would say probably about 15 years ago, 15 years ago, still the gas fridge worked, the gas lights worked, the gas oven worked everything was in working order but we had a gas leak and we were told it would be very expensive to fix so we took all the gas out. We thought it was getting dangerous.
Edie And when you were a teenager how did those years go, were you still going down?
Sally Yeah, I took all my friends there my parents they’d drop us down at Bonnie Vale and leave us overnight like when I was about 15 or 16 with my friends, we loved it, we loved it and then they’d come and get us the next day. My grandparents they used to go down like for the month of February and I’d go down of a weekend and spend the weekend with them. Um, yeah I used it a lot as a teenager.
Edie And then as you got, what was the community like when you were a teenager?
Sally Ah there was no one, there was no one down there then.
Edie Why did they leave?
Sally Well I think that was probably the older people had died and the shacks weren’t being looked after. There was a lot of vandalism. It wasn’t a popular place to go. The National Park wasn’t very popular then, not like it is now. Um, yeah there was a lot of um derelict shacks and people weren’t paying the rent and the National Parks were sometimes not pulling them down they would just leave them all broken and with windows smashed and things like that.
Edie So were you paying rent all along,
Sally All along.
Edie to the National Parks?
Sally All along to the National Parks, yeah?
Edie And your grandparents too, did that?
Sally Yes. Yep, yeah, yep, yeah.
Edie I see. So do you, were there big storms or anything outstanding that you remember?
Sally No, no but I’d been there through lots of storms and it’s amazing the shack, like I know, like other homes that I’ve lived in the roofs have caved in and windows have been smashed that shack has never had any issues at all. Nothing.
Edie What number is it?
Sally Yep, number 19.
Edie Ah ha. And as you went into your twenties and thirties what happened to it?
Sally Well no one went there anymore because my dad he stopped, my dad actually, my mum and dad got divorced, and my dad he would go down but as we got older we didn’t, we stopped going, we were busy with work or doing our own thing and um it was probably, probably about 15 years ago a friend of mine and I decided to go down and just have a look at it and see what was happening and we had a look and we said we could probably do this up and we did. So we fixed everything up again and cleaned it all out and did a huge clean up and, and then everybody started using it again. The family came back and yeah, started using it, and it was ah 2 years ago now we did another big renovation on the inside.
Edie Are you allowed to do that?
Sally You can do inside but you can’t touch the outside.
Edie And so now um, as you were in your early twenties and thirties you didn’t go?
Edie But then you started to go back?
Sally Yes, because I’d moved to Cronulla and um I used to catch the ferry over nearly every weekend then and school holidays, I’m a schoolteacher so I’d come for school holidays and stay there. And, and I invited to because some of my friends that used to come when we were teenagers, I said to them to come back and yeah, come down and every, everyone who goes there loves it. Hmm.
Edie So then now what do you do down there, who goes down there now?
Sally Oh well the grandkids, all the grandkids go down there, we have Christmas there every year. Um, the um, my sister, my sister uses it, my brother uses it, their children, so, I, I mean, I live in Bundeena but I still use it we might go down and stay a night or um, have a lunch there on a Sunday, yeah.
Edie So what’s it like now?
Sally It’s very popular now it’s very busy, not, not where the shacks are but if you go on Christmas Day, you can’t move, it’s packed, New Year’s Day its packed, um, but I mean at night when everybody goes it’s quiet, it’s beautiful and the camping ground was never there, well, like it is now.
Edie Oh, mhm.
Sally It was um, it was completely different. You could camp but it didn’t have the spaces or um, you didn’t pay like you do now.
Edie What is the shack like now?
Sally It’s beautiful, it’s beautiful, we’ve got a new floor, um, I’ve kept original things, I’ve kept the original table. Um, it’s got, ah so it sleeps, it still sleeps two, it still sleeps eight people comfortably. It has no fridge, it has no, um, no gas stove and all the lights now are battery operated lights.
Edie And what do you do for heat?
Sally There’s no heat [laughing], we wear beanies.
Edie Well, you’ve certainly told me the whole history of the area. Is there any, do you know why the caravan park came about?
Sally I think um. I think because of demand, that’s, that’s what I think. I think people were looking for something in the National Park and looking and it is an ideal space. Bonnie Vale is ideal because it’s surrounded by, you know, really calm, flat water and yeah it’s easy access, I think for people from Sydney.
Edie So, um, do you want to say anything else before we conclude.
Sally Ah, I just, I think the actual area now is coming back, I think, the um, the sea life was really affected there for a while from over fishing and people coming and collecting too many, ah, pippies and um, hermit crabs but I’ve been down there lately and I feel like it’s coming back, hmm.
Edie Is there um, people trying to do things there-
Edie to conserve the area?
Sally Yes, yes, there’s signs up everywhere and I think people are understanding that there’s no need to take that away.
Edie Can you have a garden there?
Sally No, no the deer would eat.
Edie Oh [laughing].
Sally The deer eat anything that’s not native, so.
Edie Ok, well thank you very much and would you donate this to the Wollongong City Library, Local Studies?
Sally Yes, I’d love to.
Edie And also the State Library of New South Wales.
Sally Yes, of course.
Edie And would you allow it to be um transcribed?
Sally Yes, sure.
Edie Oh ok, wonderful. Thank you.