Val Mahoney – Interview Transcript

Interview Transcript from Illawarra Stories Wollongong City Libraries Oral History Project – Val Mahoney

Interviewer: Jo Oliver

Interview Date: 1 March 2021

Jo  The following interview was conducted with Val Mahoney, ah, as part of Wollongong City Council Libraries Illawarra Stories Oral History Project and it took place at Val’s home in Austinmer and it’s the 1st of March, 2021. And my name is Jo Oliver.

Jo  So Val, thank you so much for being interviewed today. Um, have you always lived in the Illawarra?

Val  I’ve only lived here since I got married, which was 64 years ago.

Jo  Right.

Val  I came, I came from Newcastle originally.

Jo  Okay.

Val  Coal miners.

Jo  Yes, it is, the town. So that 64 years ago, what year would that have been?

Val  ’57.

Jo  ’57. Right.

Val  I’ve always lived in Austinmer since, um-

Jo  Since ’57.

Val  Yes.

Jo  Yes. And so you came here when you got married. Did your husband come from here?

Val  He was, he, he was, he was from Menangle and they moved down to Austinmer before that.

Jo  Right.

Val  He was a plumber in those days

Jo  And how did you, how did you meet him, if you were from Newcastle?

Val  Well, he used to come up to his aunty’s place, it was always at Christmas time and his cousin was the same age. She was a friend of mine and that’s how we-, ’cause we was only kids about twelve or fourteen, you know but he didn’t take much notice of us in those days ’cause we were only the, only the younger ones, you know.

Jo  Yes, yeah.

Val  He was only three, four years older than me but it was a big difference in those days when you’re twelve and he’s sixteen, isn’t it.

Jo  That’s right.

Val  Yes.

Jo  So how old were you when you married?

Val  Twenty-four.

Jo  Twenty-four.

Val  Yes, going on twenty-four.

Jo  Right. And then you came straight down here to Austinmer. So where did you, you first live when you came down here?

Val  Lived in, down Kirton Road, had a flat down in Kirton Road. It wasn’t a flat in those days, every house had a flat on it, you know, a backyard flat, more or less in Austinmer.

Jo  Oh, okay. So what we call a granny flat now?

Val  Yes, part of a house and you just had your, you know just a bedroom and it was a front verandah. There was a kitchen in it, but, ah…

Jo  Right. So was that with his parents?

Val  No, no. That was uh, old Granny Fisher used to be Mrs Fisher down there.

Jo  Right, right.

Val  But all the holiday, all these houses had flats on the, um-. The best story I know is that two doors up, Laurie, he used to come down here when he was a kid with his mother and father and for holidays. And, ah, you know, anyhow his mother died, but anyhow his father reared him. Anyhow after Laurie got married he lived up Hill Street and then after his divorce, he, ah, ended up buying this house where he used to come and have his, um, childhood holidays, you know with his mother and that. I think that’s a lovely story that one.

Jo  Yes. A lot of people have happy memories of holidays here don’t they.

Val  Yes. There was a flat on that on this house here when he came here too.

Jo  Yes.

Val  Next door.

Jo  Right.

Val  But they all had, ah, my old father-in-law, they lived in Moore Street. Well they had little flat down the back it was only for a holiday flat they used to let it for. But everyone, all the older houses had holidays flats.

Jo  Yeah. I suppose that was an extra form of income for people. And so what was your husband’s work, what did he do?

Val  He was a plumber for years and then he worked for Allied Indus-, ah, Allied Constructions, in there, so he had a very good job at the end, but ah.

Jo  And had you worked before you married?

Val  Yeah, I was nursing in Newcastle Retirement Home.

Jo  Okay.

Val  I never worked since I got married.

Jo  Right. That was the thing really then wasn’t it.

Val  That’s right. You didn’t, um..

Jo  No.

Val  People didn’t work in those days.

Jo  Yeah, yeah.

Val  The husbands had to keep them all more or less didn’t they.

Jo  Okay. So what was, what was Austinmer like in 1957?

Val  More or less looked the same I suppose, but, ah, you know things were just different. You know the shops and that they’re all, ah, you know how many shops there used to be in Moore Street?

Jo  Yeah, yeah. Well, tell, tell us about those. There was, what was there in Moore Street?

Val  Well the first, where the squash courts used to be at the first building, you know, at the top.

Jo  So what’s the vet, is it the vet now?

Val  No, opposite the vet.

Jo  Opposite the vet? Oh, okay.

Val  Opposite the vet there it used to be, used to be a, there was a hairdresser, Miss Marge Harris, had her Curly Tops Hairdressers. There was a little grocery shop that old Pop Halloran had that and then there was a barber shop. Well then that was pulled down and, um, Max and Dorothy Cooper, they built the squash courts which ah, you know, they put the two storey ’cause they lived upstairs and they had the squash courts there. But I don’t know what’s there since the squash courts. Bit of everything now isn’t there?

Jo  Yeah. That’s that brick, two storey brick building.

Val  Yes.

Jo  That was the squash courts. Okay.

Val  Yeah, that was the squash courts originally.

Jo  Right.

Val  Well that had, because my son used to play squash and he was only about 18-20 so, ah, so that’s 40 odd years I’d say that, that was built.

Jo  Yes, yes. And what was opposite there, that one on the corner that’s now the vet?

Val  Well that was the, ah, bakery. Argues, ah, they’re an old Austinmer mob. Argues had it and then Bob Jones had it, and I think after Bob Jones had it, it finished up and then the, um, the Outlook, the Outlook people that, you know, they had the um, I think they used to, drug rehabilitation.

Jo  Yes.

Val  They had it there for a while and then the Post Office had it after the, ah, butcher’s and then the, ah, the Outlook people that uh [inaudible]

Jo  Yes.

Val  But they used be then, post office was there and then when the post office went I think the, um, the Outlook came and then I think the, ah, vet.

Jo  And what was further down, because there’s a building further down in Moore Street that says Post Office.

Val  Yes, yes. That was the post office. Well after you leave that building you have the church and then you come to those, the first building which used to be a butcher shop, which was, um, the Illawarra Meat had it and it I’ll get some [inaudible] here, it closed down and there was also a butcher shop on the other side of the road.

Jo  Oh, was there?

Val  Old Thomas had that and he moved, he moved over to that. Well next to the first butcher shop coming down there was Tommy Hope. He was, he was the local grocery in those days ’cause there was no Woolworths or that at Thirroul or that, you know

Jo  Yeah.

Val  But here there was Tommy Hope’s and then, um, next to Tommy Hope it was the post office. Then there was a mixed business on the corner.

Jo  So is that another grocery, when you say mixed business does that mean another, yeah. So I guess people used to just walk to get their-

Val  Groceries and your meat. You went and got your meat nearly every day in those days. There were no fridges. And then the, ah, people on the, on the corner there of the laneway, that was a mixed business, well they built the house across the road next to the old RSL down there. So anyhow we move further down the road with the, ah, next building was the, ah, that was another little mixed business shop too there. Don’t know what’s there now. I think it’s a gard-. Next to the Scout Hall was the, ah, chemist shop, Mrs Tyrell’s husband, had the Tyrell, had the chemist shop there but Kevin Grew was in it when, ah, I came there and, ah, anyhow then he closed that up and he built the shop, well he didn’t build it, they, um, on the corner down on the, um, where the paper shop is.

Jo  Yeah.

Val  He, he moved that chemist shop down to there. And then um, and ah, and then the doctor’s surgery was there too. And there was a doctor’s surgery up where the, um, where the old post office used to be too, there was doctor’s in there. So that was on the that side. and then you got down now to the old Red Cross shop. Used to be the Red Cross shop on the corner where that um, well that used to be, that was before my days. there was a chemist down there too, so I believe. But when I come here it was just the, ah, Red Cross ladies used to have like a little shop down there selling bits and pieces.

Jo  Like a charity, charity shop? So is that on the corner of Moore Street? That one that’s sort of curved?

Val  Yeah, it’s a, it’s a bed and breakfast.

Jo  Yes.

Val  Then on the corner where that big block, was a garage, ah, Sorrell’s Garage, well Frankie, old Frankie he used to, well all, all the kids wouldn’t walk past unless they stopped and said to Frankie ’cause you, at that stage we were living in Oceana Parade ’cause we used to walk down that back lane and the kids always had to go and see Frank on their way to school and you know they, he looked after all the kids.

Jo  Okay. So what, just to have a bit of a chat with him, or-

Val  Just have a chat and say hello and he loved the kids. He used to more or less watch ’em all go across the road ’cause the kids all went to school on their own in those days.

Jo  Yes, they did.

Val  And then after, just after, up when you come out that back lane up there was another little grocery shop there too where that estate agent’s there now, it was just like a, they lived at the back of the house type of thing.

Jo  So you started off in the little granny flat and then did you say you moved to Oceana?

Val  Yes, we, yes that was a bigger, bigger flat. Then we moved around while we were building this house we moved around just up…

Jo  You’re talking about, so in Allen Street?

Val  Yes.

Jo  So you were renting all those places?

Val  Yes.

Jo  Yes, yeah.

Val  Then we finally started here.

Jo  Yes. And what, when did you build this one?

Val  I was 40 when I moved into it so it was about 50 years ago.

Jo  Okay.

Val  Started ’cause my husband did most of the work in those days.

Jo  So in the ’70s he built, you built this property?

Val  Yes. In the ’70’s, mm.

Jo  And your sons went to Austinmer Public?

Val  Mmm.

Jo  And how did you spend your time? You were looking after the family.

Val  Looking after the family and doing running kids, you know, ah, the kids had Scouts and Surf Club and canteen and all that business. I ran, ran the canteen for a couple of years round Austi school you know when they [inaudible]. But, ah, you know, just filled in the time I suppose. I did more a bit more than what I do today, I don’t do much today.

Jo  No, but there was more, it was more physical then wasn’t it?

Val  Yes, that’s right.

Jo  Did you have a washing machine or did you have to wash by hand?

Val  I had a little washing machine, a little Hoover, you know, not an automatic one you had to put it in.

Jo  With two sides to it. And would you do your shopping in Moore Street? Like you would get most of your food just locally.

Val  Locally. And then Jewels I think it was started in Thirroul. We used to Thirroul then but mostly, mostly it was in um, in Austinmer.

Jo  Yeah, sounds like you had pretty much everything here.

Val  Then coming down road, we’ve left the vet, where the vet is now, well that little, where the bead shop used to be that used to be a dentist.

Jo  Oh, did it.

Val  Dentist used to be in there, then I think Doctor Baxter he built that house his surgery next door, you know the doctor’s and I think Doctor Baxter, about ’59 I used to go to him to, ah, when he was there, you know, but, ah.

Jo  And the RSL, how long has that been there?

Val  It was there when we came here. It was just a straight hall, an old hall type of thing.

Jo  Okay, single storey building.

Val  And then they did extensions and the, um, Governor, Governor General, Sir Roden Cutler, he come down to open it up.

Jo  Really.

Val  And then, ah, they’ve had a, since then they had the other big extensions put on upstairs and that to, ah. After the Dentist, there was the um, butcher shop there that we were talking about. And then it was down to the RSL and the police station was on the corner. That was on a house on the, um. They lived there as well as, ah, before they built the, ah, new-.

Jo  So you pretty much had everything you need, medical, dental, shops, post offices.

Val  Yes we had everything. We had all the beach shops that, ah, you know, in those days the beach had a cafe down there but, ah.

Jo  So is that, was that at the Surf Club end, the café where the pools, near the pools.

Val  Yeah, there used to be, um, the Surf Club didn’t run it, there was, ah, old Charlie Wrench had it and then Burnett’s had it one time. It was like, it was privately run and then the Surf Club finally took it over and, um, closed it down and they rebuilt the, um.

Jo  And did you have a car in those days, in the ’50s?

Val  No.

Jo  No.

Val  I didn’t learn to drive till I was 40

Jo  Okay.

Val  Too late, but, ah.

Jo  So your husband didn’t drive either?

Val  Oh, yes, he, he had a car, yes, but, ah.

Jo  So was he still doing plumbing in those days?

Val  No, no, he was with Allied, you know. You see, and he got a car, company car [inaudible]. You know, as much as to say, well, you can get your licence now you got your own car.

Jo  Yeah, yeah.

Val  So you had, we had one car in those days as much to say well-.

Jo  So what was it, what was life like for women in those days, most of people were in, in their homes?

Val  Yeah you know, there was no, ah, everyone was quite friendly and that, but, ah.

Jo  Was there any social events or things where women would get together? Oh they had the, ah, the Red Cross always used to had something going, and, ah. [inaudible] when Headlands, you know, first started, you know, in the olden days the, I was telling [inaudible]. But you know after the school holidays went back, the, all the big, ah, doctors, they all used to come down to Headlands, the kids would all be back at school. See they’d all sent the kids back to boarding school and, um. ‘Cause we used to go up there just to see how the ladies were all dressed. I think they mostly all came from Sydney.

Jo  Yes.

Val  It was just to see, you know just to see the fashion up there in those days.

Jo  I think it was built in about 1924, weatherboard and brick.

Val  Yes, it was the old guesthouse and that. But I think the bar bit was all built on that.

Jo  Okay.

Val  It was like the old one was always like that in, ah.

Jo  Yeah. And then they, these people would come and have a little holiday after their kids had gone back to boarding school.

Val  To school, yes, yes. It was real popular, you know. The guesthouses were always full  too. See there was three guest houses.

Jo  Okay, so where were they, the guesthouses?

Val  Well you got Astrea on the corner. Bell’s Point is where the chair is on that corner there, that was the Astrea guest house.

Jo  Okay.

Val  And then the Outlook in Oceana Parade.

Jo  Yes.

Val  And then Keswick over in, ah.

Jo  That’s still there isn’t it? The building’s still there.

Val  Yeah, the building’s still there.

Jo  Two storey building there.

Val  The building, all the buildings are still there but they’re not, ah, they’re not guesthouses.

Jo  So a lot of people still used to come and holiday here during the late ’50s and ’60s.

Val  Yes all come down for, ah.

Jo  Yeah.

Val  Yes, we used, you know you’d see the same old people down the beach each year, but ah.

Jo  Yeah.

Val  Yes, we would, um, still in touch with this couple, couple they had twin girls and my Graham was only a baby in a pram when we first met them, but we still keep in touch with them, you know. Been to their weddings, their 21st birthdays and that. But their mother and father, the girls still send me a Christmas card and that, but, ah.

Jo  Nice. And did people come on the train. I know earlier on a lot of people came from Sydney on the train to go to the beach. Was that still a thing?

Val  Yeah, especially of a Sunday, you know, ’cause my in laws lived down Moore Street, the end of Moore Street, and that 10 o’clock train, it was just like Pitt Street. The people got off the train to go to the beach and then at 3 or 4 o’clock they’d be marching back up to get the train again.

Jo  Right.

Val  But see they had the ah, had the shops all down at um, you know the beach down at ah. Yes, but getting back to Kevin Grew, see he moved from Austi down to there, but, and then he moved back over to Thirroul. [inaudible]

Jo  So sorry, who was that?

Val  Kevin Grew, the chemist.

Jo  Oh, the chemist, yes.

Val  Yes well I never, never spoke to him since that day, but ah, anyhow to make a long story short he just closed up the shop and moved to Thirroul. He didn’t sell the shop, the chemist shop, you know, it was the only chemist shop there. So the kids who had the [inaudible] grudge wouldn’t go there but anyhow I never spoke to him or never saw, never went in his shops, I went to [inaudible] in those days. But then when I, the last time I was in hospital I came out in the ambulance with him from, ah, to Thirroul. Anyhow, we made our peace there.

Jo  Oh, that was really-

Val  Anyhow he died a few months after that so, but ah. Yes, but you know he left us in the dead lurch.

Jo  And what did that shop become then, the one on the corner, did it become what it is now the newsagent?

Val  Yeah, I think it became a newsagent after that. But, ah, [inaudible] I think he was in it. There was a little newsagent in that, where the yellow shop I used to call it, the ah, there was the little, ah, they were all only little shops there.

Jo  Yes.

Val  Three little, little fish and chip shop and then, ah, little grocery shop, you know, bits and pieces of everything. The paper shop was only about well, the size of a letter box, more or less, compared to what is.

Jo  Yes.

Val  And I think it, I think it was ?? Rawson moved down there and it’s been a paper shop ever since. See now that old lady died that owns that, Connnie ??Burlington,

Jo  Yes, I’ve heard that – who lived in the house behind the paper shop.

Val  Yeah, she’d been in a nursing home. There’s not much you can do with that shop other than a paper shop, is there?

Jo  No, I don’t think so.

Val  With that creek, don’t know where you can sit and have coffee and then…

Jo  Yes, yes.

Val  Yeah, so I don’t know what, ah, what we do there, but, ah…

Jo  And were there deliveries in the old days of, um, you know, did they deliver milk and..? Val Yeah you got your milk and your bread every day.

Jo  And your bread. So the bread came from that bakery up the top of Moore Street.

Val  Moore Street, mm.

Jo  They used to deliver. And fruit and vegetables was, were they at the groceries or?

Val  Well the fruit and vegetable cart used to come around, you know, but, ah.

Jo  Okay.

Val  But the baker, you know, you got half a loaf of bread a day, you know, but…

Jo  Fresh every day.

Val  Yeah, fresh every day, and the milk, but, ah, in those days, but, ah.

Jo  Yes. What, what other things did you enjoy doing? Were you in any, any community clubs or..?

Val  We used to go swimming a lot to, ah.

Jo  Did you?

Val  By the time you run the kids around you know, take them here, there and everywhere. Jo Yes.

Val  Yes, but it was real, you know, it was really a community, you know. Everyone knew everyone else, knew everyone and, ah…

Jo  So did you swim in the surf or in the pool or..?

Val  Oh, mainly swam in the, ah, in the pool.

Jo  Yes. And were they pretty much as they are now, the two pools and the baby…

Val  Yeah, the little rock pool and

Jo  and the dressing shed, yes.

Val  I think they’re cleaning out the pool aren’t they? What’s …?

Jo  Yes, they cleaned out one of them, um, last week, I think. They do it regularly, I think, get, get the sand out and they’ve finished, um, the restoring the pavilion, the bathing pavilion. So that’s all looking good.

Val  What’s in front of the ah, dressing rooms look like what did they..?

Jo  Yeah, it looks, it looks good. It’s pretty much as it was only cleaned up.

Val  Still got all the arches?

Jo  They do, they’ve kept all of that so they’ve restored it, restored it well, yes. And did you used to go further afield, would you go into Thirroul? Did you go to Anita’s Theatre or, um, movies or anything like that?

Val  We went to the movies occasionally. I wasn’t, ah, too, we used to go, my sister lived – she got married and she came down to Balgownie so she used to come out of a Thursday, we’d go down, might go down Thirroul and do a bit of shopping. We’d walk in those days, push, push the old cane pram. I used to push the old cane pram over to Thirroul in those days.

Jo  Yes, up over the hill. And pretty hard coming home.

Val  Coming home uphill but, ah, you know things were…

Jo  And would you go to Wollongong at all? Would you go shopping there?

Val  Occasionally we would, not, ah..

Jo  Get the bus or? And what do you remember about the shops in Wollongong? Is there anywhere in particular that you went?

Val  Oh, no just the into the, ah.

Jo  And so with your, your sons, were they involved in, um, they went to Austinmer Public for primary school and then where did they go for high school?

Val  Went to Bulli High, Bulli High.

Jo  Yes. And they’d get the bus there’d be a bus over? Yeah. And were they involved in the surf club or any sporting clubs or anything?

Val  Ah, Craig he was the, um, he played bowls. You know, he got his, ah, umpires, he was the youngest umpire at that stage to, he was only 17-18, he played bowls. And he played surf and he was a good squash player and they played soccer when they were kids at Thirroul.

Jo  Yeah. And so the bowling club that was in between Allen Street and Wigram.

Val  That was, uh.

Jo  And was that somewhere that you would, you would go to. Were you, did you play bowls at all, or-?

Val  No, I wasn’t bowling, only used to go round there for a drink.

Jo  Yes.

Val  Or a social event there. We used to have some social events there. See they should never have closed that old bowling club down. Well they should never have closed the, the RSL down, you know, for people.

Jo  Yes, a lot of those clubs have closed down haven’t they?

Val  All these old…

Jo  And the RSL. And was that the place that people, was it mostly men that would go to the RSL?

Val  No, we used to go Saturday, they had the raffle you know, the meat raffles on a Saturday, that’s right.

Jo  Yeah.

Val  Saturday, they had the meat raffles. And they had different things there. Meals upstairs, you know.

Jo  Okay. And did they have social functions there as well?

Val  Yeah, I think so.

Jo  Were there any dances or anything like that in your time around here or-?

Val  Oh no, they had a bit of a dance up at Headlands. You could always have a bit of a dance up at Headlands.

Jo  Okay. Would they, would they have a band or, to play or-?

Val  Just a one piece band.

Jo  Yes.

Val  Not a real loud bands like they have today.

Jo  No, no, yes.

Val  It has changed now. Now do you remember the, um, the bus?

Jo  No, well tell me about that. That was in Allen Street. I have heard about it.

Val  Miss Price used to live on the corner. When you turn around into Allen Street, right.

Jo  Yes, yes.

Val  On this side.

Jo  On the left hand side?

Val  The grey brick place.

Jo  Yes, yes, I know the one.

Val  Well her brother used to have them. He, uh, I think he only had about two double decker buses and then he used to leave them up where the Thorns built the house, two or three doors up, there’s a brick place, that’s where he used to leave his buses there, but ah.

Jo  Yes. I think the whole of that backyard was concreted across.

Val  Yeah, well that’s probably why I….

Jo  And what were those, where did those buses go?

Val  Just between Austinmer and, ah, Wollongong.

Jo  Okay. So they would have been competing with the other, the Dions as well.

Val  Yes, so I don’t know whether, whether he worked, whether it was Jack, Jack Price was his name. He owned it but whether they were Prices buses or what, um.

Jo  And do you remember any other, um, interesting people or unusual people that lived around at that time?

Val  You know the Thorns, Johnny Thorn?

Jo  No, tell me about them.

Val  Well little Johnny Thorn, well he was a cripple, you know, he had, ah, to walk with ah, ’cause he had irons and that, you know.

Jo  Yeah, polio maybe.

Val  Yeah, but as for smartness you know, he was, he was a little arrogant bloke, you know, ’cause he always had um, girls to wheel him around, you know. But, oh, he treated them like dirt type of thing, you know but he was still like that when he grew up. But down in um, he started Thorns Import and when you go through Thirroul, uh Woonona, that hall at the back there’s uh, before you get to the RSL those set of lights there, before you get to Liquor Land’s on the corner isn’t it?

Jo  Yeah.

Val  There’s a building at the back there where you go up the back at, ah, it’s got Thorn Imports, well he started that. Well his father had the Thorn’s Brickyards at Bulli.

Jo  Yes.

Val  ‘cause that new estate there’s a lot of Thorn’s, ah, names up there.

Jo  Yes, yes.

Val  So that was, they ah, his mother and father built that house when Johnny was still going to school like. Ended up selling that and they bought that big house on the, ah, near Glastonbury Park, you know the one on the-

Jo  Yes.

Val  Johnny got married. He had three children, don’t know how, but anyhow Johnny got married and he built the big house on the corner which drives into the back when you come around, um. But I think Johnny died and the Thorn’s are both dead now. And I think his wife lives in that now, that big long house.

Jo  And was Glastonbury a park, it was a park in your days here?

Val  Yes.

Jo  Yes ’cause I think originally it was a bit of a swamp.

Val  Yes, a bit of a swamp ’cause when we first, if you had any rubbish we used to dump it around there.

Jo  Oh, really.

Val  Yeah, people used to dump it in there and they filled it in, but, ah.

Jo  Yeah.

Val  Yes, but there was, ah, you know, a lot of characters around Austinmer in those days, but ah.

Jo  Yes. Tell me what, any, what others, who else do you remember of the characters?

Val  Wilma James, you know, ? James she was a real character, you know, but ah

Jo  Yes, in what way? What was unusual about her?

Val  Oh she was a happy sort of a, but this was a story you know, they, they used to say about her. During the War are you, they always used to call her Mrs Cut Glass that’s how she was known. And they said, “why’s that?” Because during the War she’s supposed to have buried all her cut glass in the backyard, so…

Jo  Okay [laughs]

Val  …whether that’s true or not, I don’t know. There were a lot of nice old people in those days.

Jo  Yes, yes.

Val  People, there was no, you know, you could trust people in those days.

Jo  Okay. And did people tend to stay in the area for a long time?

Val  Mostly did, yes.

Jo  And what about the, the big house, Rathane up in, um, it sort of backs on to, it goes between Moore Lane and The Grove, do you know much about that?

Val  The two-storey place?

Jo  Yes, yes.

Val  That used to be Michaels Menswear store and then Mick Williams, that Des worked for, he used, when he was a kid he used to come over there play ??whatever

Jo  And we just heard a train go past here. You’re very close to the, the railway. Did you used to go up to Sydney at all on the train?

Val  We went to Sydney occasionally. I didn’t, you know, I didn’t go up to Sydney that often. Might be Christmas time we used to go up there shopping when the kids were little for toys and things like that but, ah, mm.

Jo  And do you remember much, do you have any memories about trains or the railway at all?

Val  No, well see the kids always used to play on the railway lines.

Jo  On the lines?

Val  Yes, ’cause they only had the wire, you know strings of wire, you know. They didn’t have any fences or that. Anyhow, uh talking about that, there used to be a tennis court there, over the railway too.

Jo  And was that, who owned that?

Val  That was the Railway Tennis Club so I believe. Because, um, Laurie, Laurie remembers that when he used to come down when he was a kid. But it, ah, hasn’t been there for years now since the, ah.

Jo  And did you know that kids were playing on the railway line?

Val  Yes. They used to tell ‘em not to go on the railway line, but they used to sneak over there, but uh

Jo  Right. And did that worry you?

Val  But in those days the trains were that slow and you could hear them coming a mile off, you know, but, ah.

Jo  Oh, okay. So you knew they’d, they’d get off again.

Val  They weren’t the, um, the electric trains weren’t like they are today.

Jo  And did people still come to climb up Sublime Point? It’s, you know, it’s very busy now, people, a lot of tourists come.

Val  Yes they say up in Hill Street you can’t get a park up there.

Jo  No.

Val  The people in Hill Street complained about that.

Jo  Yeah. Well, so was that always the thing that people would come to climb up?

Val  Yes. They used to more or less go up through Clowes Park in those days but they seem to all go up the…

Jo  So they’d walk up from here. So Clowes Park is, that’s the park up the end here and what do you know about that? Has that always been here?

Val  It’s always been there, but, ah, they used to have, you know, the kids used to have the, um, Thirroul used to have some of the kids playing football at the weekends and that. But they don’t, they don’t seem to use it as much as what they used to, ah.

Jo  Right

Val  They used to have cricket matches up there and, ah.

Jo  Yes.

Val  Days but they don’t seem to uh.

Jo  And what about later on when they’d left home?

Val  Later on, I had, had very good job, had a very good, ah, lot of overseas trips in the last, ah

Jo  Would you go flying or?

Val  Fly, yes.

Jo  Flying, yes.

Val  See I used to, he used to go to America every, every year. Well I used to go every second year with him, but, ah, you know, I’ve been over there with him.

Jo  And what about around here? Do you still, are there still people your friends with or around here that you see?

Val  Yes, I do. There’s as I say, there’s not many of my old friends, I haven’t got many old, you know, old ones left now, they’re all, um, they’re more or less the kids friend’s but, um.

Jo  Yes.

Val  ??but you know it’s been a strange old world hasn’t it. That’s, as I say, thank goodness I’m going out of this world and not coming into it. I don’t know what it’s going to be like in another, do you?

Jo  No, it always changes I guess, but I think there’s always been difficult things, you know. There’s been wars and, you know, there’s been some really hard times. Yeah, so you would have, you would have lived through the, the Second World War. Were you, you would have been quite a young woman then or only a child.

Val  I was only in first year at high school. I was only about thirteen when the Second War finished. I can remember that because we went off to school and, um, it’s like here to Wollongong to our school, I had to go on the bus and, ah, just got into assembly and the next thing they told us to go home so we had to..

Jo  Okay.

Val  Yes, that was, ah…

Jo  And do you remember while the War was on, how did that affect your life very much as a child?

Val  No, it didn’t because I had a cousin in the Navy. He used to come home

Jo  And your father was he in the War at all?

Val  No, he wasn’t in the War. They used to have the blackouts out, you know, do trial blackouts, you know, put your blinds down all that, but, um.

Jo  And how do you think this area has changed since you’ve lived here?

Val  All the, ah, how would you say, I don’t know, it’s seems the same the area itself but it’s just the people I suppose are different to what they.

Jo  Yeah. In what, in what way do you think they’re different?

Val  ???

Jo  [laughs] Right. It seems to be a lot of young families moving down.

Val  Yes, yeah. There used to have a lot you know ‘cos they walked down this laneway up to Balfour ??

Jo  Oh do they. So that’s, that’s, who owns that land that goes up.

Val  That’s the Council.

Jo  Oh, is it?

Val  All that land is Allen Park it goes right up to the-

Jo  Yes

Val  call it Allen Park for some reason I don’t know that goes right up to the, ah, mountain.

Jo  Yes. And there’s, there’s a lot of trees now in Austinmer, but I have seen photographs earlier on, where it was, there were less trees. Is that, is that your memory of it too?

Val  Yes, all these trees in it, but even bigger than it is. I’ve just noticed that flame tree out the front of my, out here, it’s getting huge.

Jo  Yeah. So it was, it was not, a more open earlier on. Yeah.

Val  Yes, you know, well see I could sit on my verandah and could see people looking out at the, ah, at Sublime Point through the…

Jo  Oh, could you.

Val  See them down looking through the, ah, telescope.

Jo  Yes, yes.

Val  But now you can’t even see the top of the mountain when, you know, when I’m sitting out there.

Jo  And do you have any memories of say fires. Were you here, you were here when there were fires up the top.

Val  Yes the ’68 fires.

Jo  Yes. What are your memories of that?

Val  I was, I’d been to Wollongong that day, I think. I’m coming home in the bus, and, um, at Thirroul I could see that that house up in, um, Hill Street today again. It was going up there the shack. But, you know, it went for a couple of, or a day or so. There was a couple of old shacks up there up through, um, Clowes Park there. They would do

Jo  So were you worried that it would come down, down the mountain?

Val  Well, I suppose so. We lived in Oceana Parade in those days so we were a bit further down. But see the Bulli, came down the pass, it just jumped houses down the let me say ???this terrible fires isn’t it to, ah?

Jo  Yes. So there must have been a lot of smoke and embers and, and that. Do you have any other memories of you know, natural disasters, the sea or floods or anything.

Val  No. We had no floods.

Jo  Does this creek come up?

Val  It’s only come up once, been had water in my garage about two foot of water one, one year when the creek flooded. But that’s the only time it’s ever…

Jo  Okay.

Val  It’d be about forty years ago I suppose.

Jo  Yes, yes.

Val  To, ah, thirty odd years ago, that ah.

Jo  Yeah. So he died quite young, your husband?

Val  Yeah, he was 56-7.

Jo  Oh, really. Can I see up on the wall here it says Inventors Designer of the Year. Was that, for him, his award?

Val  Oh, yeah that was when he worked at Allied.

Jo  Okay. And what, so what was he doing that he, that he got that award?

Val  Oh, well he started all these, a lot of these, ah, machineries down at, ah, well he didn’t invent them like, but, ah, what would you say, ah, all these big machines they used to clean out the things that they do, things at the Steelworks and very clever and that they could do.

Jo  Yes.

Val  That’s when he used to travel around the world looking at ideas and things like that and I would…

Jo  Did he? So would his work send him around the world looking at, looking at things and that’s when, did you travel sometimes with him then?

Val  Yeah.

Jo  Yeah, yeah. So who was he employed by, by the Steelworks?

Val  No, no. He was employed by Mick Williams

Jo  Right. And what was that company?

Val  It was Allied Constructions in those days and BW Steel and that and Mick was, he was very, you know, very good, very good to all his employees, and that, but um, yes.

Jo  Yeah well is there anything else that you’d like to add Val?

Val  No, I don’t know what to, ah…

Jo  You’ve told us a lot of interesting things about, um, about what things were like.

Val  Tell me, all me idiocy things but ah, ???? All the old publicans that used to be up there. I’ve got, ah…

Jo  So tell us about them. So they were up at Headlands were they?

Val  Headlands. Well, old Henry Range he was um, it was only made um, it was always a guesthouse I think. Just before we married I think it, ah, round about the time we were married that it was made a, into a hotel, got the license.

Jo  Okay. Before that it was just a guesthouse.

Val  Guesthouse, yes. but there’s the, ah, And then ??? was there the next one. There was the Joneses and then there was a John Wall there. I remember Harry, Harry Beecham was up there. Don’t know, and there was someone else in between. I don’t know that. and The Jeffries were there. I think the Jeffries were the last ones to that, but ah.

Jo  Okay.

Val  They were all characters in their own way, type of thing, but, ah, you know, they in those days there was a, it used to shut at 6 o’clock you know for that hour for that hour see, and they finally scrapped that when the ??? tenant brokerPubs closed at 6 o’clock, didn’t they really going back in, um.

Jo Y es. And you said you used to go up there to look at the fashions that the Sydney women. So what sort of, what are your memories of what the fashions were? Was that in the ’60s then?

Val  Yes, early-

Jo  Early ’60s.

Val  Late ’50s. No, it was just the way they dressed, you know, they were all, all dressed up, you know.

Jo  Yes, very elegant.

Val  Elegant ?? Even when you had socials up there people all dressed up, you know, ah, the women all, all got dressed up in their Sunday best type of thing. Not like when they go up there the pub now they’re-

Jo  [laughs] No, people don’t dress up anymore.

Val  No, they don’t dress up anymore do they?

Jo  No. So what were the, what do you remember what the dresses were? Would they wear hats and hats and gloves?

Val  Oh no, it was just a, come down for their dinner like, you know, they’re all dressed up there, they look like they’re all made up just all spick and span type of thing. And the husbands were always in their suit and tie, but, ah.

Jo  But thank you so much Val for, um, sharing your memories today and particularly of, um, you know Moore Street and the shops, that’s really fascinating. ’cause it’s all very different now. It’s all cafes pretty much isn’t it.