Lillian Merle Gibson – formerly Thom, Hunter, nee Lane
The following are notes of discussions between Merle Gibson and her son Grahame Thom in Melbourne on 28 February 1997, and later added to from memories of both.
Samuel Lane 1852 – 1932. I can only remember Grandad Lane living with us at Warrah Creek for quite a time before he went into a home for the aged in Sydney. I remember him fondly. Dad used to talk of his parents quite a lot. He spoke of his father being a practical joker.
One story dad recounted about his father related to the Lane family attending church to hear a visiting preacher. They heard the preacher forcefully explain that everyone went to heaven or hell and that the end of the world was near; the moon would go red. The preacher called for everyone to repent their sins. Later young Sam and his friends made a kite out of a lantern covered with red crepe paper. That night they took it to the top of a hill overlooking Windsor and managed to get it to hover over the town where the town’s folk saw what they thought was a red fire ball in the sky. People came out of their homes into the streets and fell to their knees praying, repenting their sins, and waiting for the end of the world. I can recall that it was said this “joke” was written up in the local papers.
Catherine Maria Lane (nee Parker) 1847 – 1909. Dad talked of his mother as being very clever and also of many incidents of her being able to predict events. She had a great love of books and reading. My dad had several books from her library.
John Edmund Miller Russell 1843 – 1929. I must have seen him once before he died as I remember his beard when he kissed me. Mum told lots of stories about grandad’s working life, but Grahame found in his research one story could not be proved. This was his story that the famous Three Sisters in the Blue Mountains were named after three of his four daughters – Bertha, Annie (Maud), Violet and Ruby.
I can remember all of us going to Sydney in the Studebaker, my first and only time until I left Coopernook in 1938, for the funeral of my grandfather John Russell. He died on 9 August 1929 at Rose Bay in Sydney and was buried at Rookwood. Mum and dad stayed at Rose Bay with Aunty Maude, while I stayed with my cousin Ken Russell and his wife Dulcie at Waverton, on the north side of the harbour. I cant remember where my brothers and sister stayed. We children did not go to the funeral.
Ken was the son of my Uncle Arthur and his wife Alice. While there one incident stands out in my memory. Like most houses of the time, the floors were covered with lino, so I found walking on the floors in bare feet quite cold. I had a bath and so that I did not have to walk on the lino with bare feet, Ken insisted in carrying me to my bed. I was very embarrassed. Ken and Dulcie had two sons and later, just after my marriage in 1940, one of the sons, a dental mechanic, made my first set of false teeth.
Mary Anne Russell (nee McClean) 1847 – 1918. Aunty Maud is said to have nursed her mother as she slowly died of diabetes. My mum didn’t speak of her mother very much, only of her illness.
My parents Alfred Oram Lane and Ruby Lillian Russell
In his younger years Alfred Oram Lane became a school teacher and was good at tennis and cricket. It is possible that he met his future wife Ruby Lillian Russell on the tennis court as she too played tennis. Grahame has two medals handed down to him from me in 1994. One on the front is inscribed Diamond Jubilee 1897 (referring to Queen Victoria); and on the back it has P.S.A.A. CRICKET 1897 – H LANE (probably H is an error and should be A). The other has P.S.A.A. TENNIS 1898 – 1st PRIZE on the front and R. Russell on the back.
In his later years my father played no role in the general community except to be the “headmaster” and he liked to chair the school’s Parents and Citizens Association meetings. He always read the newspapers, especially the Sydney Morning Herald, and liked to discuss politics and current affairs.
My mother had been brought up in a well-to-do family and on marriage she could not even boil water on the stove. In her twenties mum had become a big singer in Sydney. She sang many times at the Rockdale Town Hall. She had a life membership of the Royal Philharmonic Society of Sydney and sang solo parts in Dame Nellie Melba’s shows; including many times at the Sydney Town Hall. I saw programs to prove all this. I don’t know what happened to them. This appears to be the main reason she did not marry dad until she was in her thirties and the fact that his school appointments were in country NSW. They were married at the Presbyterian Church in Johnston Street, Annandale, Sydney on 20 January 1916. At the time dad was teaching at Crookwell and mum lived at 54 Johnston Street, Annandale.
In private, mum called dad “Orrie”, no doubt in keeping with his second given name Oram, and in public he was always Mr Lane. This also applied to mum – Ruby and Mrs Lane.
My sister Noela can recall that when dad lived at Windsor in his youth, he would use a special family “cooee” to contact other relatives when he was in the bush or at shows, races and the like.
Dad owned only one car during his life, a 1923 Studebaker purchased second hand when a couple of years old. It was originally an amber colour and later painted dark green. I can remember clearly dad driving up and down the hills from Beaumont to the coastal plains at what I thought was a fast speed. Dad did not worry about cutting corners and driving on the wrong side of the road. We children, of whom there were five, would get scared but he said not to worry as there were few cars on the road. The car was sold when dad retired in 1945 at Coopernook. I drove this car around the paddocks and quiet lanes even though I did not have a licence.
I was named after my mother – Lillian, and after Merle Handsaker, a girl who attended dad’s school at Warrah Creek and was about 8 or 9 years old when I was born in 1918 – February 4th at 54 Johnston Street, Annandale. I met Merle Handsaker in the late 1980s after seeing the surname on a butcher’s shop in Tamworth. On entering and explaining the story the butcher said Merle Handsaker was his sister and immediately telephoned her which lead to the meeting.
When I was in Primary School if the other children wanted to get me mad they called me “Lill the Dill”. When I started High School I said I would never answer to Lillian again and I didn’t.
Dad would not let me go out by myself prior to being 18 years old. He was an authoritarian person and strict with his children and pupils. Dad and mum were snobs. They found out that they were distantly related by marriage (Anderson connection) to Sir Bertram Stevens, Premier of New South Wales from 1932 to 1939. So they used to “drop his name” by saying “my cousin Sir Bertram Stevens ….” They never met him. Stevens caused problems for the State over his financial policies and several of his supporters crossed the floor and caused his defeat in 1939. From then on the Lanes did not refer to him again.
When at Jasper’s Brush, I became friends with fellow student Clarice White. On a number of occasions Clarice stayed with us and I stayed at her house in Berry. Her father had an important role in the community and lived in the main street of Berry. We used to go to Berry to do late night shopping on Friday nights. I can remember my parents “name dropping” Clarice’s father. I was really embarrassed and it was this that caused me in later life to go the other way rather than drop names. I can also recall that mum and dad “name dropped” a Mayor of Berry. This was most likely Mr T A Strong as he was Mayor in the early 1930s and his daughter, Ruby Strong, was a member of the Berry Methodist Church Choir with mum and me.
Hobbies and pen friends
I was the gardener in the family and I did a lot of painting and drawing, and played the piano a lot. I had several pen friends I found through the Children’s Page in the “Sydney Mail”. I kept writing to one pen friend from Alstonville, (north coast NSW) Olive Spearing, for many years. When I was aged 70 years I was passing through Altsonville and I thought I would see if I could find Olive. I did and we had lunch together and took photographs.
We had a much loved sulky horse named Laurie when we were at Beaumont. Trevor, Edgar or I would ride Laurie about a mile to get the mail which was delivered three times a week. I don’t remember having a horse after Jaspers Brush. Noela and Eric, to my knowledge, did not ride. We always had a cat and I remember we had Billie a fox terrier; he appears in one of our early group photographs.
When we lived at Beaumont dad used to go to Sydney, by mail bus to Nowra and then train, the week before Christmas to go shopping. He would come back close to Christmas Eve and get the bus to stop where he could hide our Christmas presents in the bush up the road and get them after dark. We received at least one gift we had asked for in our pillow slips which were always full. Dad made a doll’s cot for me at Warrah Creek, and tricycles and billy carts for the boys. Noela had a doll’s house and Edgar a black gollywog. Noela and I had various dolls.
In July 1994 I gave Grahame my coin purse. This purse belonged to my mother’s mother Mary Anne Russell. When I was young I was allowed to take it to church with a penny in it for the collection. After I left home in early 1938 I did not see it again until Noela showed it to me around 1992. Noela gave it to me after I asked if I could have it back. I had some of the links repaired.
Warrah Creek 1916-1924
I can’t remember much about living at Warrah Creek seeing that I was only six when we left to go to Beaumont. My earliest memory is going to town with dad in a sulky and horse, dressed in a brown velvet dress and bonnet when I was about four years old. Another very early memory is of Trevor and Edgar being tipped out of a billy cart on to an ants nest and mum putting them into a cold bath, clothes and all, to get the ants off them.
Grandfather Samuel Lane lived with us after giving up his general store at Windsor. He brought with him rolls of grey and red flannel. Mum made all kinds of clothes out of the flannel. I can recall how it itched and nothing fitted properly. Mum was not a good dressmaker. (Samuel Lane died at Marrickville, Sydney on 26 January 1932.)
The School Inspector came yearly. I was dressed up during his visit and cautioned to be good. All the best silver etc was used for dinner that day. I remember Warrah Creek as a happy time.
I am not sure when dad started to attend the yearly conferences in Sydney for teachers. This always happened between the end of the school year and Christmas. He probably attended these conferences while we were at Warrah Creek and took the opportunity while in Sydney to buy Christmas presents, see above relating to Toys. These trips were probably the closest dad got to taking holidays. We never went on holidays as a family.
Beaumont 1924 – 1930
At Beaumont dad regularly took some of us kids into the bush to shoot rabbits. We would go down into the valley from our home next to the school and up the other side where there were grass paddocks. I can remember mum calling us to meals by using a very loud “cooee”, which was easily heard across the valley. Mum was well known for her “cooee”. No doubt strengthened by her singing training. The main reason for moving from Beaumont, was to more easily allow me to attend high school in 1931.
In teaching his children, dad expected us to excel and be the best students in the class. I can recall in the early days dad used the cane on the boys but not on the girls. One of his favourite forms of punishment was to stand the girls in a corner with their back to the class. He was a strict and severe teacher. Later on dad believed that it was not necessary to punish students.
I can recall that teachers received one third of normal wages during the depression, or so dad said. He shot rabbits for meat. All the children had shoes that were passed down to the next youngest as they were outgrown. Because I was the eldest I usually got the new pair. When we needed vegetables, I can remember visiting local farms and the farmers would give us some.
Jasper’s Brush 1931 – 1934
The Lanes lived in the residence next to the Jasper’s Brush School about 11 kms north of Nowra. For the first time we had electricity. I can remember that up until then we used kerosene lamps for lighting. One of my regular jobs was to clean the glass chimneys; I hated it. I was an avid reader of books and I would read in bed by the light from the lamps. It was much better when we got electricity.
When the family was living at Jasper’s Brush and I was attending Nowra High School, I and a girl friend I went to school with, travelled by train to Warrnambool, Victoria, to stay with my friend’s grandparents for the school holidays – it was probably during a school vacation in 1932.
My favourite subjects at school were arithmetic, algebra and English, in that order. I left high school towards the end of 1932 when aged about 14.5 years old, having completed only two years of high school. I left so that my parents could then afford to let my brothers go. I always passed my exams with good marks except for Latin and French. For three months I went to piano lessons in Berry. I had to stop as dad could not afford paying for them and dressmaking.
I then went to the technical college at Berry for a year to do dressmaking. As a result my mother would say to anyone who said they were interested in having some clothes made “Merle will make it”. I did not like mum saying this.
We were members of the Berry Methodist Church and mum and I were members of the Church Choir. The Minister was the Rev William Green who, with his family, Mrs Jessie Green and daughters Olive and Florence, had come from a ministry in Fiji.
As was normal at any posting, dad and mum attended meetings of teachers in the district. At Jasper’s Brush, dad came in contact with fellow teacher Frank Tickner from the Numbaa school (east of Nowra). When there was a teachers’ meeting at Nowra, the Lane and Tickner families joined together for the day and one of my first memories of the Tickners is having a family picnic under the Nowra Bridge on the Shoalhaven River. The Tickners were father Frank, wife Ada, sons Aubrey and Laurie and daughter Elva. The two families played a lot of tennis together and, even though Elva was a couple of years in front of me at school, we became good friends.
Both sets of parents did not use given names when talking to each other, or to others. It was always Mr and Mrs Lane, and dad and mum called the Tickner parents, Mr and Mrs Tick.
Dad liked to organise tennis on Saturdays for the parents of his pupils. He tried several times to get teams together to play cricket. The Tickners were keen participants.
Mum kept in continuous contact by letter with Mrs Tickner for the rest of her life. This lead to Elva and her husband Lyn (who joined the RAAF) and young son staying in our home at West Street, for a short time in about 1941. I can remember they slept on the verandah and one night it rained heavily and as the Black family got wet they had to move into the main house.
Jumping forward a few years, in 1963 when Grahame went to Canberra to work at the Government Printing Office, it was mum’s continuing contact with Mrs Tickner, who lived in Canberra, that resulted in Grahame boarding with the Stones at 14 Hodgkinson Street, Griffith. Mrs Tickner’s son-in-law, Lyn Black, ran a small shop (booth) at Garema Place, and through his contacts he arranged Grahame’s accommodation.
When mum lost her memory (when she was in her nineties) Mrs Tickner could not understand why mum ceased writing to her. I met Elva on a number of occasions when I came to Canberra. Elva Black died on Boxing Day 1995.
Sir Charles Kingsford Smith
I can recall going with several friends to Seven Mile Beach (north of the Shoalhaven River) to see Sir Charles Kingsford Smith take off from the beach. We went there the night before and slept on the sand. There was a photograph in the local newspaper of a group of about nine or ten of us together under rugs. I can’t remember which newspaper, but I was in one of the photos and it was a good one. I had the newspaper clipping for years but don’t know what happened to it. I can remember this all very clear.
The Sun – 11 January 1933 page 1, mum on left
Research has revealed that in December 1932, Air Commodore Sir Charles Kingsford Smith wrote to the Gerringong Council seeking approval to use Seven Mile Beach as a take-off point for his next flight to New Zealand in the middle of January 1933. The Council gave its approval (The Kiama Reporter, Wednesday, 14 December 1932). There is no doubt that this newspaper report would have caused a great deal of interest in the area and was probably read by the Lane family in Jasper’s Brush.
On 11 January 1933, The Kiama Reporter, reported that Sir Charles Kingsford Smith had landed the famous Southern Cross on Seven Mile Beach the previous afternoon about three miles from the Crooked River end of the Beach. If the weather was favourable, Kingsford Smith intended taking off on the morning of 11th. On request, the local police agreed to provide 10 constables for crowd control as the aviator had said that the presence of souvenir hunters had caused problems in the past. Kingsford Smith was accompanied by Capt. P G Taylor as co-pilot, navigator Mr J Stannage, Mr S Nielson of the New Plymouth Aero Club and Mr J Percival, a press representative.
The Southern Cross had made a successful take-off at 3 am on Wednesday morning, 11 January 1933 and arrived some 14 hours later at New Plymouth. The Kiama Independent reported on 14 January 1933, that Kingsford Smith had made a farewell speech to well over a thousand people on the beach. Then “The plane took off splendidly after a run of about half a mile and turned at the end of the beach, sending up several Verey lights. Then she came back right over the surf shed again, with the searchlight on, and after circling, made straight out to sea, the only lights visible then being those in the cabin. Kingsford Smith’s selection of the Seven Mile Beach for the heavily loaded plane to take its departure, was fully justified.”
Wyong Creek 1934 – 1935
I remember having to do a lot of sewing and doing all the housework while at Wyong Creek. Also making and maintaining the flower gardens around the house. Trevor and Edgar rode their push bikes to catch the train to go to Gosford High School. Because Trevor got appendicitis he had to go to Sydney with mum for an operation. He was in hospital for two weeks. Operations were rare in those days and we thought he would die. My only social life at Wyong Creek was going to church on Sundays and playing tennis on the school court. The church was in Wyong so we went to the morning service and had a picnic lunch afterwards on good days.
It was probably at Wyong Creek that mum and dad got very excited about an Inspector’s report as the inspector was impressed about dad’s method of teaching based on the students being responsible for their own actions. Dad wrote a thesis about his teaching methods. He put these into practice, especially in getting the students to think for themselves, and not imposing any punishment. His methods were used at the Gosford Boys Home. This Home was located on the northern banks of the Hawkesbury River near the Pacific Highway, and it was where the Courts sent wayward boys, mainly from Sydney.
From memory I think dad was only promoted once during his teaching career. Its likely it happened as a result of his thesis and the Inspector’s Report, as he was promoted to a two teacher school for the first time – Narara.
Narara 1936 – 1937
When I was 18 years old, and living at Narara, a young man, Bob Neil (he played tennis with the Lanes), asked me to go to a dance in the hall on the opposite side of the road where we lived. I asked dad for permission to go. He said no, and I recall that dad, in keeping with his character and beliefs, would have giving me a lecture (as usual) about the evils of dancing and going out with boys. So I decided to sneak out and attend the dance. I crept out of the house unbeknown to anyone else there.
I had a good time at the dance and my boy friend kept saying that as I was 18 years old I could do what I liked and my dad could not stop me going out so long as I did not do anything wrong. On going home, I faced my father and told him this in no uncertain terms and from that time he did not stop me doing what I liked and he did not lecture me again.
Dad took us to see our first silent movie at the hall. I cant remember the name of the film but I remember the projector was hand operated. On the night before we moved to Coopernook I saw my first talkie in the hall. It was “In the Garden of Allah” starring Marlene Deitrich.
Added by Grahame – Click here to see a report in the Gosford Times about Merle’s role in the September 1936 Narara School Concert.
My first job away from my family was helping at Mortimer’s general clothes store at Gosford for about 6 weeks around Xmas 1936.
I remember that dad got terrible headaches and us children were always being told to keep quiet. The headaches restricted his teaching career as they were the reason dad did not go further. While at Narara he went to the Broughton Hall mental hospital for treatment for his headaches. I think it was because of this visit the family decided to move from Narara; the move happened at short notice and quickly. We moved to Coopernook. I think the need to move quickly may also have been linked to mum as she could be sharp and say nasty things about people and there may have been reactions by mum to comments made by others about dad’s time in Broughton Hall.
Coopernook 1937 – 1945
After we moved to Coopernook (April 1937) my boy friend at Narara wrote to me and visited Coopernook once, but the romance faded after about 12 months. I became friendly with a Coopernook lad, Keith Unicomb. He played in a local band and asked me to join the band to play the piano, which I did.
While at Coopernook, the Education Department found it difficult to provide dad with an assistant teacher. So he arranged, through the local School Inspector, for approval for me to take the position. The Department agreed on the condition that I passed an exam to judge my capabilities. The exam included doing an essay and answering verbal questions put by the Inspector; I passed. I was assistant teacher from soon after we moved to Coopernook till about the end of 1937 when I was replaced by Clarrie Rowe sent there by the Department at the start of the 1938 school year. I taught 1st, 2nd and 3rd classes and when I started teaching dad gave me 6 shillings a week. I received my salary by cheque, which I handed to dad so that he could cash it and give me 6 shillings. I can’t remember how much the cheques were for.
It was several months later that I decided to seek work in Sydney. Not telling my dad and mum I wrote, in response to four advertisements in the Sydney Morning Herald, seeking live-in housemaid positions. All wrote back asking me to start. My father always got the mail so I had to explain what had happened. I decided to accept a job at Vaucluse. My parents did not like me going especially because of the fact that I would be a housemaid as this was seen as beneath their position in the community. But as I was determined to go, mum and dad felt that the position at Vaucluse was the best because of its status as a good suburb of Sydney.
I went by train to Sydney and tram to High Street, Vaucluse to do house work at one pound a week and full board, for a retired bank manager, Mr Potts, his wife and teenage children. This lasted several months until the wife suggested I should leave as the “old boy” had started to “chase” me. Mum would write to Mrs Potts so that she could hear how I was going, and she kept in touch with Mrs Potts after I left. Sometime after the death of Mr Potts, their home was sold to Allen Toohey, a well known Sydney radio announcer.
It was during my time at Vaucluse that I decided to visit my Aunty Maude (Annie Mary Maude born 1879 in Sydney, daughter of John Edmond Miller Russell and Mary Ann McClean) who lived nearby in the Russell family home at 43 Beaumont St, Rose Bay – now Dover Heights. On knocking on the door my Aunty opened it but did not invite me in. She questioned me as to why I was in Sydney and on finding out that I was working as a housemaid, said this was beneath the family and then goodbye. I never saw her again.
I recall that my Aunty Maude married (around 1940) late in life to Frank Russell after his first wife had died. Frank was a cousin living in England. My Aunty had previously met her English relatives on a visit to England when she was younger and had kept in contact with Frank. Mum caused a lot of trouble within the Russell family as she objected to Maude keeping in contact with Frank, a married man and a communist. Maude and Ruby stopped talking/writing to each other. I can remember being told that two of the Russell children died young from the bubonic plague (Frank died March 1876 aged 10 months and Harry died March 1880 aged three years).
I checked the job advertisements in the Sydney Morning Herald and was successful first go in obtaining a live-in job at 30 shillings a week and full board for looking after a six weeks old baby at Bondi. Both parents worked. The mother sold hosiery door to door. This job lasted about 6 months as the mother decided to stay at home. I got a good reference.
Again I was successful in responding to an advertisement in the Sydney Morning Herald in late 1938. I was a housemaid to a family at Neutral Bay at thirty shillings a week and full board. The father was the last editor of Smith’s Weekly.
While living at Neutral Bay I went out with my cousin Jack, a very nice and kind man. He liked watching baseball and he took me along, probably about half a dozen times. I was fond of Jack and he lived close by in Cremorne. He was the son of Stan and Bertha Maddocks (nee Russell). They also lived at Cremorne, on the northern side of Military Road. One foggy day Uncle Stan was on his way home from work in the city, when the bus slid over the edge of the road near his home. Uncle Stan was the only passenger upstairs and was killed. Aunty Bertha died later of a stroke. Like most of the Russells, the Maddocks family, except son Jack, were a bit stuck up. Jack had a brother Stan and a sister Nancy.
Not long after moving to Neutral Bay I joined a local tennis club. It was here that I met Robert Thom. When I was introduced to him, he was called Bob. But later I found that his family called him Robbie. Outside of the family he was always called Bob.
We both caught the same tram home and walked together a part of the way. Bob was living at Mount Street, North Sydney, with his parents. We continued to see each other. Then I lost my job as the Smith’s Weekly ceased publication and my employer could not afford to keep me on. This together with the fact that the mother of the house felt well enough to look after her three teenage girls meant I had no where to go after having worked there for about a year. This occurred in about spring of 1939. I can recall spending a quiet 21st birthday in February 1939 in this Neutral Bay home.
Bob invited me to stay at his parent’s house. I accepted as I had no where to go. It had only two bedrooms and Bob moved on to the verandah. One thing lead to another and I became pregnant.
But before this was known, I returned to Coopernook in late 1939. After a short time I decided to return to Sydney to live with Bob at his parent’s house, now in Burlington Street, Crows Nest. Bob’s mother liked to move every so often. We were married from Burlington Street on 6 January 1940 at the Methodist Parsonage, Ernest Street, Crows Nest; in the Minister’s lounge room. Bob gave his occupation as a greengrocer and I a dressmaker as I had got a dressmaking job in rooms behind a shop in North Sydney. The witnesses were my father and Charles Ross. Charles Ross (Charlie) was Bob’s sister Mavis’s husband.
My mother did not come to our wedding. Mum and dad said they couldn’t afford for both to come. They gave us 10 pounds as a wedding present; quite a lot in those days.
Bob’s parents were Robert John William Thom (1890 – 1955) and Margaret Adeline Bullivant (1890 – 1962). He had two elder sisters, Mavis and Laurel. Bob did not talk about his parents or his grandparents. His grandfather had red hair and was a minister of religion (Plymouth Brethren). They lived in Pigott Street, Dulwich Hill. When his parents were going out together his mother became pregnant with Mavis and they married in 1912. Bob was born on 9 June 1916 at Amy Street Campsie. He was a twin; the other baby was still born. Bob’s mother believed she was descended from French royalty.
When Bob left school he started work by helping to deliver groceries door to door. Soon after Grahame was born he became a milkman. As Bob did not have a licence to drive, he delivered the milk in a horse and cart. This he had to do twice a day. The first run started at 4 in the morning and the second during the afternoon.
Bob was good at playing cricket. I think he played for North Sydney. I remember games he played in being written up in the Sydney papers. He was referred to as “slow bowler Robbie Thom”. Then he played for the Tramways for three or four years and as the matches were held during the week I only went to some local games.
World War II
I can remember being at Mount Street, North Sydney when war broke out in September 1939. I first heard about it on the radio but did not realise what impact the news would have. The war did not touch me until people I knew started to enlist. Bob did not volunteer and later was called up and failed the medical as he was an epileptic (inactive). I recall Bob receiving white feathers in the mail etc. He copped a bit from people travelling on the trams.
I was at home doing house work and Bob was at work when I heard the news on the radio that war had ended. I remember feeling a great joyful emotion and crying. When Bob came home I met him at the door excitedly and all he said was “I heard”.
Bob in keeping with his introvert attitudes, did not dance or socialise. I am the opposite and took the opportunity to go by train to weekly community dances in a hall opposite the Artarmon railway station. Bob did not object to this as I went as an official hostess with his cousin next door.
Naming the children
Both our children were named by me. Bob was not interested as usual as he left all the decision making to me. I simply liked Grahame and Carole. Bob’s parents were very disappointed that their grandson’s first name was not Alexander or Robert, both family names. However there was some consolation as Grahame was given Robert as his second given name. For Carole’s second given name I first considered Anne. But as my mother liked to “play” with people’s names, I decided to choose a name that mum could do little with, the same approach as I had taken in choosing Grahame and Carole as names. So I decided Anne was not appropriate as her initials would be CAT. Barbara was chosen after Bob’s sister Mavis’s daughter Barbara. Bob’s mum was pleased with this choice.
Mum used to call Grahame, Grey or Grey Grey. On marrying Bob, my initials became LMT, so mum called me EMPTY, especially after birth – “you’re empty now” she would say.
145 West Street, Crows Nest
I went into the Royal North Shore Hospital at St Leonards from Burlington Street for Grahame’s birth in July 1940, and while in hospital for about two weeks Bob moved us to West Street, Crows Nest. Although we were renting West Street, Bob’s parents also lived there till late 1941 when they moved to a small 1930s brick semi detached house in Ernest Street, Crows Nest, just east of Alexander Street. West Street being a big house was used to board relatives from time to time. During our time at West Street, I knitted baby clothes for a shop at Crows Nest.
Next door to us in 143 West Street, lived a first cousin. In fact mum seemed not to know this until we moved into West Street and she became aware of the names of our neighbours. This cousin lived there with her mum and family. Her husband was a taxi driver who went to and returned from war. They also had a boy about a year older than Grahame. (The cousin was Edna Russell, daughter of Arthur Richard and Alice Russell – see my Russell story).
There was no work in Coopernook for the growing Lane boys, so Edgar and Eric came to live with us in late 1940 or early 1941 – before Carole was born. The boys got jobs at the Aircraft Factory at Chullora. Then Noela arrived from Coopernook just before Carole was born in September 1941 to help me look after the growing family (children and relatives). Instead of going to Royal North Shore for Carole’s birth, I decided that the newly opened Mater Hospital on the Pacific Highway at Crows Nest was better than the old prefab type buildings of the RNS.
Before Carole was born my brother Trevor also arrived to stay at West Street. But only for a short time as he left with a friend to work at the Burnie Paper Mills in Tasmania. When that job finished Trevor returned to Sydney and joined Hardie Rubber for the rest of his working life. He married Midge (Marjorie) and built a house at Greenacre where he still lives.
Noela got a job with a dentist and later moved in with Edgar and Eric south of the harbour. Eric and Joyce were married during this time from West Street. Eric had joined the Air Force.
The next boarders were a Mrs Kelso and her son who was about Grahame’s age. Mrs Kelso had just left her policeman husband Bob. They were not there for long as Mrs Kelso returned to live with her husband.
Then dad retired from teaching and left Coopernook with mum in July 1945 to live at West Street with us. They were there for about six months. When mum and dad arrived at West Street, they gave me the family piano. This had been purchased when I was four years old as I had shown promise by playing Home Sweet Home on a toy squeeze box. I was the only one of the family who played the piano, although Noela says she had piano lessons but soon stopped going as she was not very good.
One day dad was on a train and got to talking to another passenger, an elderly chap who mentioned that his house was for sale at 94 Loftus Avenue, Loftus, an outer southern Sydney suburb in the bush. The house was purchased and my parents moved there late in 1945. From the time he retired, dad did little in the house and nothing outside.
When Grahame was around three to four years old he had to go to the Prince Henry Hospital at Little Bay for six weeks because he had become very ill with scarlet fever and German measles. When I visited him I was disappointed as I was only allowed to see Grahame through glass windows.
In mid 1946 Grahame started school at North Sydney Public School on the Pacific Highway between Bay Road and McHatton Street. This was only for a short time and while there Grahame can remember lining up to get the free milk in small glass bottles during breaks. Also Grahame remembers falling over and gashing his right knee which required several stitches. I remember having to carry Grahame home to West Street (quite a walk) because he had stubbed his toe quite badly resulting in his toe nail being removed.
Grahame can remember a small boy dying from a spider bite after he had crawled under his house. He lived in West Street on the other side and closer to Falcon Street. I only remember it vaguely.
I was conscious that my family had had little chance to settle down and Bob had started to gamble heavily. The man who was Bob’s employer as a milkman was also a bookie and he had sold Bob an electric steel guitar on time payment. Bob could also play the piano accordion. His debts became a problem. So we decided to look around for a smaller place to rent so that relatives could not stay with us, and Bob agreed to find another job. This he did just before we moved, by becoming a tram conductor operating out of the Neutral Bay depot on Military Road.
I put an advertisement in the paper seeking an exchange. This was the popular way to move from one rented house to another. The owner saw the advertisement and came to see me as he was upset that I had taken this action without talking to him. But he then proceeded to arrange a three way exchange and in late 1946 the Thom family moved to 70 Holt Avenue, Cremorne; a semi-detached three bedroom brick house.
70 Holt Avenue, Cremorne
This was a handy place to live, as it was close to schools, shops and the tram depot. Grahame can remember starting school again late in 1946 at Mosman Public School in Belmont Road, as he remembers crying on the first day on arrival at the school. I too cried after leaving Grahame there. I continued to knit baby clothes but now for a shop at Cremorne Junction.
Before long Grahame and Carole made friends with other children living in Holt Avenue, especially the Crowley children Kevin, Noela, Jeanette and Dennis, and Dee and Robert Tester. Also we gained another well loved family member, Peter, a tabby cat.
The move did not stop our relatives from living with us. Mum’s brother Arthur’s (deceased) wife Alice had two children Ken and Edna. Alice was bed-ridden and could not move. Alice and Edna were living with Ken and his wife Dulcie and their two children and tensions were rising as the house was too small. Edna asked me if we could help. As a result she and Aunty Alice moved into Holt Avenue on a temporary basis until they could find another place. They occupied Carole’s room, as Carole moved into the rear bedroom with Grahame. They were there for less than a year when Aunty Alice became ill and was admitted to the Royal North Shore Hospital where she died. Edna moved out soon after as she found a job caretaking a block of flats at Kings Cross. Much to everyone’s surprise she then married.
Because Grahame and Carole had reached an age where they could walk to school by themselves, and as the family needed funds, I got a part time job at Kenwall’s, a factory at Berry Street, North Sydney, making cheap dresses. I worked part-time from 9.00 am to 3.00 pm for about a year around 1947/48. I was glad I left Kenwall’s as I did not like sewing and the travelling.
I got a full time job in about 1948/49 at an electrical workshop behind the owners’ shop on the corner of Military Road and Cabramatta Street, Cremorne. It was called Ferguson and Nichols. Besides the owners there were three men and me. We were also friends with the Costers who lived just up the street (90 Holt Avenue Grahame thinks) and I arranged for their daughter Yvonne to “escort” Grahame and Carole to school. This enabled me to work full time for the first time.
The Costers were not very tidy at home and their stove was quite dirty. One day I spoke of this in the presence of Grahame and on realising he had heard me, I told him not to say anything. But he did by telling Mrs Coster that mum said her stove was dirty, how embarrassing.
I started assembling electrical toasters and did the wiring for the electrical system for Bob Dyer’s Pick a Box radio show. The two contestants were asked questions and if they knew the answer had to press a button on the counter in front of them and the first to press their button to make a buzzer sound got the opportunity to answer the question. Once the buzzer sounded this cut out the other two buzzers. At the end of the quiz part of the show the contestant with the highest score could win a valuable prize by picking a box from a number of boxes. I can recall that Bob Dyer used to call in at work to talk with the owners. One day I interrupted them talking and Bob Dyer put me on his knee, so I slapped him very hard on his face. The men laughed.
After World War II the electronics industry became more interested in the possibility of television becoming available. At Ferguson and Nichols I was given the task of wiring their first TV set from drawings. This I did and one of the men then tested the set and adjusted various parts. It did not work very well. I gave Grahame radio parts to help him make a crystal radio and later made him a small radio. I worked there for about two years.
During my time there I became friendly with some girls working in a general goods shop across the other side of Military Road. After having used torn-up newspaper for some years as toilet paper and as more items started appearing in the shops as the economy slowly recovered after World War II, I started buying Medisa toilet paper rolls for home when they were available. The girls had kept me 6 Medisa toilet rolls wrapped in newspaper. I picked them up and on crossing the road in a hurry in front of a tram, the wrapping broke and as the rolls opened with a spring, there was toilet paper all over the road. The tram driver helped me pick them up and much laughter came from the tram passengers and people on the footpath.
Each year the Tramways put on a family picnic. Bob would work on special days, such as Christmas and Easter so we did not get to go to special events that often. I don’t know why he did this but it was probably to get the extra pay or to build up his recreation leave credits by working on a public holiday for no pay. But we did go to several of the family picnics. We would travel by tram to the Waverley Tram Depot and then walk to the picnic grounds at Bronte Park, Nelson’s Bay. There was all kinds of entertainment including running races and novelty events such as the egg and spoon race. Carole was a very good runner and won several races. Grahame can remember eating ice-cream and drinking ginger beer. We all went on an outing to Vaucluse House for a day too.
Bob went on Bob Dyer’s Pick a Box quiz show and was successful in answering some sports questions and won a Chenille package of bedspreads, one double and two single. Contestants chose what subject they wanted to be questioned on. Bob chose sport. It was rigged so he could win, because I worked at the factory. However he won it in his own right anyway.
While at Ferguson and Nichols I was encouraged to do some study and about 1949/50 I did two years studying part time two nights a week, radio wiring and maintenance, at North Sydney Technical College at Gore Hill and on passing obtained a certificate.
Around this time Halstrom’s heart clinic opened in Sydney. My doctor suggested I have a check-up as I had been born with a defective valve of the aorta. Surgeons had just started doing open heart operations. After attending the clinic I decided not to have anything done as the defective valve did not affect me very much and the operation seemed to be in the experimental stage.
Grahame and Carole used to stay overnight at their grandparents Thom’s home at Ernest Street, Crows Nest. Grahame can recall clearly going on tram trips with his grandfather to the Spit to play on the beach. Grahame can also recall playing their piano using pianola rolls. Dad Thom had quite a collection of pianola rolls and he would hire these out for a small charge. He would walk around Crows Nest with a suitcase full of rolls, knocking on doors. Mum Thom worked for awhile at a factory making toothbrushes on the corner of the Pacific Highway and Albany Street, St Leonards.
I can recall dad Thom coming home from his painting jobs with paint on his overalls. For a short time after they moved to Alexander Street, Umina around 1952, he continued to go to work by catching the train from Woy Woy to Sydney in the early hours of the morning. He then retired. Grahame and Carole spent many of their school holidays at Umina.
My father died at the Home of Peace, Petersham, on 3 August 1951 and mum continued to live at Loftus.
After Ferguson and Nichols I immediately got a part time job 9.00 am to 3.00 pm sewing little girls handbags for a Hungarian husband and wife in a shed at the back of their house opposite Ferguson and Nichols on 4 pounds 10 shillings a week. I can remember being puzzled by a change of attitude by the wife against me and came to realise it was because I was quicker than her at doing the job. Two other girls worked there.
During this period there were a number of salary increases granted to the general community. Also the number of orders for handbags were increasing. One of the customers was Woolworths. Bob was on about 15 pounds and his wages went up quickly. I asked for a pay rise and was told no as I had been paid at a higher level from the start. I rang the Industrial people and was advised that I had been underpaid for some months. I went back to the boss, shaking like a leaf, and said I had checked and asked for back pay. He hit the roof and still said no. I rang Industrial again and they sent out an inspector. I got the increase and back pay, as did the other girls. But things were not good between the three girls and the Hungarians; a month later all three of us resigned.
As an example, they said we could not stop working to listen to the Melbourne Cup. I had a small radio and the three of us listened to the race in the toilet. We got caught and were told off, but next day he apologised. This would have been in 1951.
In about late 1951 or early 1952 I got a job with Transmission Products at North Sydney. They made telephone equipment and I helped wire and test the equipment because of my technical knowledge and training. I remember working on the first automatic country telephone exchange which went to Katoomba. It was 10 feet by 3 feet and 8 inches deep. I left Transmission Products on 30 January 1953. It was difficult to cope with the travelling to and from work to home.
In January 1953 the Thom family gained another pet, a fox terrier puppy called Mitzi.
Before my next job I had a few weeks break and then worked from February 1953 to September 1954 at Olsons, a factory next door to Ferguson and Nichols in Cremorne, making jewellery boxes. I enjoyed this work too, especially when I became forewoman. I left because the business moved to Waters Road, Neutral Bay.
From the time we moved to Holt Avenue the other semi was occupied by Mr and Mrs Dorling (could be Darling). Mrs Dorling died a short time before 1954 and as her husband was an alcoholic, his family took him away leaving number 68 vacant. Mr Dorling moved out on 9 January 1954. From the time dad died in 1951 mum would telephone me crying as she was frightened. I would go next door (the Gales in number 72) to take the call. She was afraid to go out at night to the outside toilet. I asked mum if she wanted to sell Loftus and buy next door. She seemed interested so I told her to talk to the rest of the family. She didn’t (more trouble) and moved in very quickly.
Mum’s money was sufficient to pay a deposit on both our home and next door for herself. Over the years we paid off 70 Holt Avenue and used some of our funds to improve mum’s house and later our house. 68 Holt Avenue was put in mum’s name when we moved out in 1958.
A gap was made in the front fence dividing the two semi-detached houses so that mum could walk through without having to go around via the street footpath, to have her meals with the Thoms. Mum only needed the front two rooms so the back part was closed off to the front at the end of the hall way and let to a Mrs Manley and her young daughter.
There was much celebration in early 1954 when the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visited Australia. The Thom family went to a good harbour vantage spot on 3 February to see the Royal Yacht Gothic come into Sydney Harbour. That night we watched the fireworks from Cremorne Point. Then on 18 February we saw the Queen driving through Cremorne Junction and later in the City.
30 July 1954 was a big day for the Thoms as our first telephone was installed – XY 2349.
Then I started work on 11 October 1954 at Telecomponents, at Military Road, Mosman, near the junction with Middle Head Road, next to a small park. Their main product was the popular Ferris Car Radio. I started doing coil winding. Then one day the chap who did the settings on the machine was out and as I did not like doing nothing when I had finished my work, I did the settings myself for the next job. On his return the chap said I had done a good job and from then on allowed me to do my own settings. Then I tested the car radios, having learnt testing at the Technical College.
It was at Ferris I met a fellow worker, Lorna O’Donnell and we became good friends. The Thoms and O’Donnells got together many times over several years. Lorna and Walter had three children; two girls and a boy who had spina bifida and later died.
After a short time at Ferris I was allowed to do men’s work and received more pay. The other women became jealous and would not talk to me. I ignored them and ate my lunch in the small park. When Ferris decided to move the business to the Warringah area I left in March 1956.
Bob’s brother-in-law Charlie Ross died on 12 March 1955 from copper poisoning as he had been a worker on the telephone lines.
Dad Thom became ill at Charlie’s funeral and was taken to hospital that night and did not come home again. Dad was operated on for cancer of the stomach and bowel and seemed to be doing well when the hospital telephoned Bob to inform him that his dad had died that night. He died on 15 April 1955 at the State Hospital at Liverpool from a coronary occlusion. We drove to Umina to tell mum Thom and brought her back with us. She went home after the funeral.
In October 1955 Mrs Manley and her daughter left the flat and a week later Mr and Mrs Lucas moved in. It was about this time that I became friendly with a couple from the Isle of Wight, Mr and Mrs Brisk, who operated a grocery shop on Avenue Road, Mosman. They had come out to Australia as their son was working here for a drug company. They had bought the shop for their son, but he was not interested. In February 1956 Grahame painted a wall in the shop a purple colour. It did not turn out all that well.
I worked in the shop from March to June 1956. As the Brisks had decided to return to England, they wanted to find a good home for their black cat. I decided to take the cat and later have him put down. But Silky, as we called him, became part of the Thom family with our tabby cat Peter. Earlier that year, in January, the Thom’s fox terrier, Mitzi, had taken a fit and died – no more dogs.
Mum Thom’s second marriage
Sometime about mid 1956 mum Thom arrived unannounced on our doorstep accompanied by an elderly gentleman unknown to us, Bill Williams, and much to our surprise while still on the doorstep, mum announced that she had just married Bill. Mum had married Zacharia (Bill) Phillip Williams on 19 May 1956 at the Umina Methodist Church.
I learnt later that mum had already visited her two daughters, Mavis and Laurel, and had received a cool reception. Mum and Bill stayed for tea and later Bill said he appreciated our acceptance of their marriage. Bill was a nice chap, quite large, an ex-miner who could not read and write except to sign his name.
Mum and Bill had a happy life together for just on six years. But I remember on one occasion mum got upset with Bill as she had just learnt that he was older than her. Mum said she would not have married Bill if she had known he was older. When they married Bill said he was younger and mum was pleased about that as she did not want to become a widow again. But mum died before Bill. Their marriage certificates states Bill was 73 years of age and mum 65 years.
Back to Holt Avenue
Carole had developed into a good swimmer, especially doing the breast stroke and diving. She was coached by Sam Hurford, the coach of Olympian Murray Rose, at the Spit swimming pool. She would compete against Sue Knight in diving, usually coming second to Sue who later went to the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games. Just before Easter, Carole took part in time trials as a lead up to the Games. She missed by a fraction but there was to be another chance. However, during the Easter holidays, Carole was pushing the kids’ billycart when she fell over and broke her leg. So she missed out in having another time trial.
Grahame took movies of her walking around the footpaths at 70 Holt Avenue, with her leg covered in plaster. Not long after Grahame’s best mate, Kevin Crowley broke his leg and Grahame took movies of Kevin hopping around.
I then worked in a number of places. In June 1956 I started work at a Rest Home near Spofforth Street and Rangers Road relieving some of the full time staff as they took holidays. This lasted till 1 September as I had obtained a job at Harmour and Heath; starting on 3 September. One of the men who knew me at Ferguson and Nichols, George Gilmore, recommended me to them to do a special consignment of tape recorders to be sent to the tropics. It was special work as they had to be dipped in wax to avoid erosion and rust from the humidity of the tropics. This lasted till 17 January 1957, and four days later I started work serving behind the counter in a cake shop at Mosman. I finished at the cake shop on 27 June as I was due to go into the All Saints Hospital for an operation on 8 July. After recovering I worked at Skillmans from 8 August 1957 for a very short time.
In the 1950s Bob fell off a tram when working on the outside running board type tram. It appears he had an epileptic fit (which rarely happened). He ended up in hospital for a short stay. As a result of this fall Bob could only work on the inside trams, and this ruled out any possibility of working on buses even if he wanted to. With the likelihood of the trams ceasing operation, we decided to move to a new venture. Bob was keen to re-associate himself with the grocery scene, so we looked around for a shop and found a mixed business at 250 Falcon Street and the Thom family moved there in June 1958, the day the trams stopped running on the north side of Sydney. As the shop had a large newsagent section, I worked for a few weeks at Frank Knox’s newsagency at Cremorne Junction shopping centre for experience while waiting to make the move.
250 Falcon Street, North Sydney
Mum Lane stayed at 68 Holt Avenue after the Thom’s moved to Falcon Street in June 1958. My brothers and sister felt that the Thom’s were deserting their mother and this caused problems. Also the mother and daughter occupying the rear of the house left. I did not see mum again until Dr Brown rang to say she had had a heart turn and was in Royal North Shore Hospital. I visited mum there. After being discharged mum went back to Holt Avenue.
Luckily this co-incided with the rear of the house being rented by a young man; Ron Reeson, who was studying to be a Methodist minister. He kept an eye on mum and was a great help to her. But after finishing his studies, Ron left and mum decided to live with three of her children Edgar, Trevor and Noela, on a six monthly rotation arrangement. This came unstuck when Trevor’s wife objected. So mum arranged to move to a Methodist Church home at Enfield. She jumped the queue by promising her house at Holt Avenue to them.
This did not happen. Holt Avenue was left empty for a time then sold somehow. Trevor had power of attorney for mum. She lived at Enfield for quite a few years until the early 1970s. Because the home had been condemned it was closed and mum moved to another nursing home at Narrabeen. There she slowly lost her memory until she could barely remember anyone. She was transferred to the Manly District Hospital where she remained for some time. Grahame can recall being told that she had fallen out of bed and had broken her left hip shortly before she died there on 24 May 1978 aged 96 years.
When the Thoms moved to Falcon Street, I sold the piano to a church and this caused a lot of ill feeling with my brothers and sister as they considered the piano was a family heirloom.
Prior to coming to the shop Grahame had obtained his driving licence in July 1958. Also he had bought a 1928 Chev tourer for 30 pounds. In running the shop I decided we needed a vehicle and purchased a second hand pale green Hillman Minx Station wagon. As we had yet to get our licences, Grahame had to drive the Hillman to the bakery at Cremorne to get the daily supply of bread. After a short time we obtained our licences.
It seemed to be that the ordinary working class people (on wages) always voted labor, which I did until we bought our own business. I cant remember when I changed to Liberal. When I moved to Queensland I voted for Joh Bjelke-Petersen (Country/National Party) and since then I have voted for the person rather than a Party. Also how I voted was influenced by the fact I considered a change was necessary rather than one party remaining in power for a long time.
Bob always got five weeks off for his holidays because he worked public holidays without pay instead of receiving double pay and so got the extra days added onto his two weeks. Also all public transport workers received a family pass for free transport to use during their holidays on any form of public transport in New South Wales. For this reason we used the pass to travel by train and after awhile travelled as far as possible north of Sydney to the NSW\Queensland border.
Our first holiday as a family was to Nambucca Heads. I think this was in 1948. My cousins Dulcie and Ken had friends who had a fisherman’s hut below Nambucca Heads. We stayed there for two weeks. The beds were slung bunks made of bagging. There was no electricity and no stove; just two rooms. We had to walk about a mile to get food and had to cook on an open fire. I remember being bitten by sandflies or mossies.
Next year we went west from Sydney. I seem to recall travelling at night in the train, three nights, and spending the days in different places, once at Lithgow and another place on the Blue Mountains. It was here that Grahame and I each got a snail in our lettuce in the meal.
Bob heard other conductors speaking about the Gold Coast for a holiday. This sounded like a good idea as we could go by train to Murwillumbah, the end of the train line, and then take a bus to Tweed Heads/Coolangatta. So for the next four years, we stayed at Beach House three times and Greenmount Hotel once both in Coolangatta. Beach House was at the western end of the Coolangatta Beach, just under Kirra Hill on Marine Parade, and Greenmount Hotel at the eastern end on the slopes of Greenmount Hill.
The first time we travelled north I can remember arriving at Murwullimbah and not knowing how to get to Tweed Heads. So we asked a taxi driver and he suggested that we stay overnight in Murwullimbah and catch the bus next morning. He said that all the hotels were full as there was a bowling convention on, but he knew a place where we could stay. It was a small two room flat. We soon realised it was very filthy but we had little choice but to stay there. We were glad to catch the bus next morning.
There was a pickup and deliver laundry service at Beach House and on one occasion some of ours was “lost” for several days. I can remember on our second holiday at Beach House we were walking (we did a lot of walking) near Kirra Hill when I picked up a wallet. I reported this to the local police but did not hand over the wallet as it took a long time before the police gave you the money if no one claimed it. However a couple from Newcastle reported their loss to the police and they were so pleased to recover the wallet as it contained their holiday money.
On one holiday at Beach House, Grahame or Carole, or both, put me in as being able to play the piano. So I played almost every night after tea for singalongs. I enjoyed doing this and as there was a lot of rain that year, it was better to be indoors. The House held 250 guests so there was always a crowd to join in. There were some good voices including Bob who had a nice tenor voice. Someone did a collection among the guests and gave me a honey pot and butter dish when we were leaving.
I remember that during one of our holidays at Coolangatta we travelled to Brisbane and stayed in the YMCA Hostel near the William Jolly Bridge and while there we went to see the Doomben Cup and also went by boat to the Lone Pine Sanctuary especially to see the koalas. Mum also accompanied us on one of these holidays. I can remember we went for a walk to the Razor Back and we pushed mum up the hill by taking turns in placing our hands on her back and pushing.
About 1950 we took a day trip to Canberra on the train. We walked around the shops at Civic and visited Parliament House. I recall we took our lunch with us and sat on a grassy area to eat, probably near Parliament House.
As both of us had played tennis we went to White City in Sydney several times to watch some of the important tournaments. It was usually very hot and we took Grahame and Carole once. Then in 1952 Bob and I decided to go to Adelaide to watch the Davis Cup between Australia and the USA. I think it was winter time when we sailed on the Westralia. Grahame and Carole stayed with their nanna and pa Thom at Ernest Street, Crows Nest.
We left Sydney at about 9 pm. Prior to going to bed we had a quick look around the boat and then decided to have a drink in our cabin. We had a choice of tea, coffee or vegemite as a drink. I had vegemite and was immediately sick. I have disliked vegemite ever since. Maybe the main reason I was sick was because of sea sickness coming on at the same time. This was my first time on a boat and even though it had stabilisers and the water was calm, I became very sick. I was the only one sick that night and next morning the doctor came to see me in our cabin as I was too sick to move. The doctor felt that it would be better if I was in a larger cabin, so we moved to the best cabin on the boat. But I was sick most of the way.
We arrived in Melbourne early in the morning and took a bus tour up to the Dandenong Ranges. We could not see much due to the light misty rain. We sailed next morning to Adelaide and after arriving in the afternoon, booked into our hotel close to the Torrens River and the tennis courts, then walked around the city shops. On our return we looked at some tourist leaflets while having an early tea and decided to see a cycle race meeting. To get to the tram we had to go through some open ground. It was getting dark and we ran to catch the tram. I tripped over the tramline, fell and received a bump on my leg and scratches on my arms and cheek. My wounds started to bleed. We got on the tram and people asked if I was okay and offered assistance. But we got to the races.
In the morning I could not move and I stayed in the room for the next three days while Bob went to the tennis. I managed to get there on the last day. Australia, represented by Sedgman and McGregor, won 4 – 1. Because I did not want to take the risk of being sea sick again, we decided to catch the train home. I have not been on a boat for a long trip since.
It was probably in 1953, during winter, that we went for a day trip by train to Woy Woy and travelled by bus to Ettalong and Ocean Beach where I owned a block of land near the beach. It was here that we came across a goat tied to a rope much to the delight of Grahame and Carole. By way of background, my dad had decided to buy blocks of land as an investment for his children and to transfer title to them as a 21st birthday gift. He purchased the Ocean Beach block for me when I was born and transferred the title to me when I turned 21 years. Dad also bought a block for Trevor near the airstrip at Umina. The other children missed out as dad did not have enough money. I later sold this block for 80 pounds to Molly Jolly who lived across the road from us in Holt Avenue.
About mid 1954 we went to Brisbane by train via Casino. Then changed trains to travel to Cooroy and bus to Noosa for our holidays. I remember arriving in the bus at Noosa as the last bit was down a steep road and we could see the name Noosa House on the roof of where we were going to stay. We did a lot of walking around Noosa, especially in the Noosa National Park. The Hotel provided lunch baskets, and one day while walking it rained so we took cover in a partly built toilet block and ate the basket lunch. Carole remembers playing the card game Canasta with Bob and Grahame during the rain.
In 1955 we went back to Tweed Heads for our holidays. This time Grahame’s best mate, Kevin Crowley came with us. We left Sydney by train on 12 May and stayed for a short time at Murwullimbah before taking the bus to Tweed Heads. This time we rented a flat on Boundary Road; the State boundary went up the middle of the road to Point Danger and we stayed on the NSW side. Prior to going on holidays, in late April, Bob and I gave Grahame an 8ml movie camera for his birthday. It was an early gift so he could take movies during our holiday. We played tennis a couple of times, walked to the Razorback Lookout, hired a rowing boat to go fishing on the Tweed River and walked along the beaches to the Currumbin Bird Sanctuary. It rained a couple of days and I remember winning at penny poker against a man who was a very poor loser.
All our holidays were mid year so as to leave Sydney during winter and while Grahame and Carole were on school vacation. It was during these train trips we encountered delays due to extensive flooding of rivers as the train line went along the coast and had to cross many rivers. Sometimes the train travelled slowly through water up to a metre deep. I recall this happening around Kempsey and Maitland districts. On one return trip the train could go no further than Lismore so we had to stay in a hotel close by the station for several days until the train could proceed again. It was here that I can recall the hotel cook asking Bob several times to get him a beer. Bob was asked not to by the manager as the cook was an alcoholic.
In 1956 we did not go away as Grahame was studying in 4th year at North Sydney Technical Boys High School and it was Carole’s Intermediate Certificate year at North Sydney Girls High School. However Bob and Grahame took advantage of the free pass to travel by train to Moss Vale for the day.
Because Grahame and Carole needed to do well at school, we did not take mid-year holidays in 1957 but waited until school had finished. Again Kevin Crowley came with us. We left Sydney by train for Lismore on 22 November, and then by bus to Ballina for two weeks. This time my mother came. Mum stayed at a rest home for the aged while we stayed at Arthur’s Flats in the main street.
Our holidays seemed to be the best time that Bob took part with us as a complete family unit. They were happy times as I remember.