From Sydney to Mudgee in a Rubber Tyred Sulky

This article appeared in the Mudgee Guardian in the 1970s
Copy provide by Eric Brookes

A man who drove from Sydney to Mudgee in 1924 in a rubber tyred sulky pulled by a champion trotter, returned for the first time this week for a few days at the Central Motel. The man is William H. Brookes of Riverstone, still hale and hearty. The horse, not with him on this trip, was the New Zealand bred Dillenvale. Bill’s mate on the first trip was Charlie Cafe, a colourful character who used to race a few horses around the outer Sydney area in the early days.

“As a matter of fact” said Bill, “I rode Vaucluse for Charlie in eleven races for 9 wins and 2 seconds.”

Dillenvale’s greatest race was when beaten a head in the Sydney Thousand. “We harnessed Dillenvale into the shafts of a sulky that had just won first prize in the Sydney Show and set off for Mudgee with a pack of greyhound dogs” he said.

“We reckoned we’d do a bit of rabbiting around Rylstone. The old cattle track from Kurrajong to Bell was pretty rough and we were about frozen by the time we reached Bell.” Bill said they were taken in for the night by a woodcutter named O’Rourke, an uncle of the famous Australian fighter Les Darcy.

“We tried to ring Dillenvale in for a race at Mudgee but the Inspector of brands was ‘on to us’ and knew more about the horse than we did” said Bill. They did a bit of rabbiting in the district for a while but they were ‘pretty broke’. “On the way back a miner in the Capertee pub challenged us to a race for ten quid. We didn’t have ten bob but Charlie put the sulky, the harness, and the horse for the ten quid. We were back in the pub and half finished a schooner of beer by the time the miner’s horse finished” said Bill with a nostalgic grin.

When asked of changes Bill said he didn’t see a lot of changes in Mudgee, but that Capertee had shrunk. It used to be a fairly big place in those days.

John Byrne of Annangrove who drove Bill Brookes to Mudgee this week is the brother of Kevin Byrne, former well known compositor of the Mudgee Guardian.

Two Bob Each Way

by Judith Lewis

In the time I am writing of, the late 1930s to mid 50s, if you wished to gamble legally on horse racing you needed to visit the racetrack. Not many people in small country towns, or large ones for that matter, could afford this luxury. This didn’t mean that the small average punter was deprived of the ‘pleasures’ of gambling. Rather, he was adequately catered for, by the local SP Bookie. Every town had an SP, Riverstone was no exception. There was probably more than one SP Bookie in Riverstone, but I only know about one because he was my uncle.

Townspeople referred to him as ‘Stockie’. To my brothers, Bill, Robert and me he was our beloved ‘Sheck’ (my elder brother, Bill’s, first attempts at pronouncing ‘Jessop’). Sheck was married to my father’s younger sister Vera, ‘Booa’ or ‘Boo’ to us kids, again for the same reason, Bill’s early mispronunciation. Boo and Sheck were childless and like second parents to we three kids. My mother died when I was 12 and Boo was our ‘second mother’ for the next 25 years. Sheck conducted his bookmaking activities from behind a shop in the main street. Boo took bets at her home on the corner of Crown Road and Piccadilly Street.

Keeping the ‘business’ in the family, Clarrie, the husband of my father’s elder sister, Ivy, ‘Why’ to us kids (you’ve probably guessed the reason!), for a time looked after a section of the business, known as “The Tips” from his home, also in Crown Road. My father, Garnet, also took a few bets for Sheck, from two families who lived in Market Street, who either couldn’t, or wouldn’t, go to Sheck. During the week, Sheck worked at Homebush Abattoirs and I believe he also took bets from work-mates there.

A neighbour, from Piccadilly Street, Sam, worked as ‘Penciller’ at Sheck’s home. I believe it was the Penciller’s task to keep a record of all transactions. In 1945, after Clarrie’s death and the destruction of his home (another story), “The Tips” moved to Sheck’s home and they would also have been the Penciller’s responsibility.

“The Tips” was a favourite form of betting. For one shilling (ten cents) you could nominate a horse in each race of the Sydney meeting of the day, be it Randwick, Canterbury or Rosehill. A winning horse earned you three points, a second place was worth two points and a third place was worth one. The person with the highest number of points after the last race ‘won the Tips’ and collected the ‘Kitty’. I believe it was a ‘winner take all’ competition. Maybe Sheck took a percentage of the Kitty, I don’t really know.

Clarrie Neal reminisces, The prize was sometimes as much as 7 pounds ($14), not bad when you consider the basic wage at the time was less than 5 pounds. When making their selections some people had lucky numbers, others had their favourite jockeys or trainers, others selected horses that favoured a particular track. Most people were content to follow form, but this never seemed to work too often either. Some people followed jockeys who had reputations for certain races. For instance, Billy Cook became known at ‘Last Race Billy’ because of the number of last races he won. I clearly recall riding my bike up to put on Mum and Dad’s tips and if they had selected a few winners I’d ride up again later in the day to see if anybody else had polled as well.

My parents also used to ‘have a go at the Tips’. I remember them winning once. There were also times when we kids were allowed to ‘have a go’. At a shilling a time, I guess there were usually more important things we’d spend our money on, if we had any. The Tips was a fun way to allow ordinary people to have an interest with little financial outlay.

I guess the local police knew what was going on (they may even have been customers of Sheck), but every so often the town would be visited by ‘The Ds’(detectives) from Parramatta or Windsor. This was something that was not talked about, at least ‘not in front of the children’. If Sheck was caught, I believe he was taken to Windsor, bailed, then had to go to court at a later date. There was, I think, some arrangement whereby a local, present at the time of the raid, would take Sheck’s place as the Bookie to be charged. I believe this had something to do with the fact that, after a number of convictions for the same offence, you could be sent to gaol. Presumably Sheck paid the person well to take his place, and he most certainly would have paid the fine, because there was never a shortage of volunteers to take the charge.

Boo had a great fear of ‘The Ds’ coming to the house, but I don’t think they ever did. I guess there would have been no shortage of volunteers to take the charge there, either.

As Clarrie Neal recalls, When you walked into the back room there would be a group of men sitting, listening, with ears glued to the wireless, to get the latest information from Cliff Cary, the tipster, and then listening to Ken Howard the race caller give his colourful description of the race. Ken Howard’s best known phrase was his definition of an odds-on favourite as being, ‘London to a brick on’.

If Sheck took a bet for a large amount of money he would ‘lay it off’ with a Sydney bookmaker. The girls at the local telephone exchange knew about this and would always ensure there was a line available for him. Every Sunday Sheck would burn all the little scraps of paper with bets written on them, some for as little as ‘sixpence (5 cents) each way’, win or place in today’s TAB jargon. He kept a little book with the names of people who owed him money, some of it from bets and some from people who had simply come to him for a loan. There were many down and out people in Riverstone, who looked to Stockie when they were strapped for cash, and many who were never able to repay those loans.

In the early 1950s Sheck bought a car, a 1947 black Chevrolet, a real bookie’s car. He bought it from a former local who had a car yard in the city. I was there when Sheck paid cash for the car, eleven hundred pounds! I had never seen so much money. Being an SP Bookie was obviously profitable! Sheck had a driver’s licence. He’d passed the test in his youth and kept his licence current, but drive he could not! Early in the piece we were in the car with him when he had a slight prang, outside the police station on the corner of Old Northern Road and Showground Road at Castle Hill. The policeman who attended the accident asked Sheck how long he’d been driving, to which Sheck replied, “Thirty years”. His licence could verify this and, what’s more, he’d never had an accident in all those years!

A few years later, not long before his death, Sheck and Boo moved to a house on the corner of George and Park Streets. Sheck’s nephew, Jack and his family, moved into the Crown Road house and the bookie business continued from there. Sheck was an extremely placid, very quiet man, who never showed any emotion. When a favourite horse ‘got up’ and could likely cost him a lot of money his demeanour never changed. Ironically, stress caused his early death. He suffered a mild stroke one Sunday whilst burning ‘the evidence’ and a fatal stroke later, in October 1953. Boo and Jack continued to operate for a while, but finally called it a day. Boo didn’t stop being a benefactor to others though. For up to twenty years afterwards some of her old clients would still be calling in ‘for a loan to get me through to pension day’ or be sending their children round, “Can Mum borrow some money till Dad gets paid?”

As a youngster I was rather embarrassed by my family’s illegal activities. I recall the time when a girlfriend, new to the town, and I were taking a Saturday bike ride to Windsor. As we were leaving our house, one of the Market Street ‘customers’ knocked at our front door. My friend was curious as to what they were there for and I pretended not to know. I was not too proud, though, to spend the night with Boo once. It was mid-week and the trots were on at Harold Park. Sheck wanted to have the night off to go to the trots with his brother, Dick, who owned trotting horses. I was to be company for Boo, as she was betting on the trots. I gladly pocketed my share of the profits from the night. I think I ‘earned’ eighteen pounds, with which I was able to purchase a new topcoat.

I look back with pride and affection on our Sheck and, particularly, our Boo, to whom my family owe so much. I don’t believe a more selfless person ever existed. What they were doing may have been illegal in the eyes of the law, but I believe the world, as we knew it then, was far less corrupt than it is today, with its many forms of legalised gambling. Having ‘two bob each way’ or more, if you could afford it, with the local SP, was a pleasurable pastime. It gave ordinary, hard working people a little joy in their lives, especially when the bookies they dealt with were persons of the ilk of Sheck and Boo.

The Milk Run

by Kevin and Annette Miller

The last ‘milkos’ to make home deliveries in Riverstone share memories of their business.

On 14 January 1983 we purchased our milk run from Les Kirk of Riverstone. The run was bounded by Garfield Road East, Riverstone Road, Railway Terrace and McCulloch Street.

We delivered to around 190 to 200 residential customers and the corner shops in Regent Street and Elizabeth Street. We also made major deliveries to the Riverstone Primary School, Coverdale Christian School and later to St John’s Catholic School.

Originally we collected the milk from United Dairies Ltd at Schofields. They brought a trailer up from North Rocks and plugged it into the dairy across the bridge at Schofields. When they closed in November 1984 we had to go to Nepean Milk Depot on the Richmond Road at Doonside. In the 1990s Nepean Milk was sold to National Foods Milk Ltd.

We started at 3pm and finished around 6 to 6.30. As we collected the milk and made our deliveries that afternoon, there was no need to store it while we made the run.

Our delivery van was an automatic 1975 Holden 1 tonner. We purchased it with the business. At that stage it only had roller doors on the back. The laws changed and we had to have an insulated body on the vehicle. In 1999 we had to have refrigeration installed as well.

One of the biggest changes that took place in the time we operated the business was when the industry stopped using glass milk bottles and moved to plastic containers and cartons. It made it easier for us as there were no breakages, but a lot of people didn’t like the cartons.

The products themselves did not change that much, but the company expanded the range to include more yoghurts and different types of flavoured milks. The last order form we had showed that including the different sized containers there were 144 products to choose from. They ranged from plain milk to flavoured milk, to cream to fruit juices to yoghurt, cheese and even mineral water.

Over the years we cut back on the days that we worked. We started working six days, Monday to Saturday, though we had to do the shops seven days. On very hot days in summer we often started a bit later, but we used to get into trouble with some of the older customers who wanted get their milk deliveries and have their showers or baths before it got too late. In the 1990s we cut deliveries back to four days a week. We employed young people to help with the deliveries. Some of those were our son Garry, Ron and Belinda Newby, Brett Howes, Brett Drayton and Kirk Drayton.

It was a good job and we enjoyed meeting the people. We sold out to Mr Gill in October 1999. He didn’t want to call on people and only did the shops and schools. Our last delivery day was on 5 November 1999 and that was the last day of personal milk delivery to our customers.

Riverstone Pigeon Club

Compiled by Clarrie Neal from information provided
by Judith Lewis, Jim Buchanan & Beryl Mills

It is believed the club was first formed in the early 1930s and some original members were – Jack Mills, Garnet Shepherd, Bruce Alcorn, Bert Hillier, Jeff ‘Mutt’ Haynes, Charlie Smith, Alec Goddard, and Billy Knott.

In 1936 the club merged with the Windsor club comprising Len Horsley (Pres), Rollie Hayes (Sec.), Don Winton, Ted ‘Pop’ Farey, and the brothers Bill and Bob O’Brien. In those days the railways were used to transport the pigeons to their race destinations and the club used the railway Parcels Office at Windsor for their meetings and to basket the birds.

After a short period and because the majority of members lived in Riverstone, their meetings and basketing were held in a room alongside the old Riverstone fire station. In 1939 a Mr Phiphard joined the club from Pitt Town along with several members from Richmond including Ted Mills and ‘Sniffy’ Drayton, the club becoming known as the Hawkesbury District Pigeon Club. Another character who joined the club at this time was ‘Snakey Joe’ Waldron, who lived with the Hughes family near the trotting track in Riverstone.

Garnet Shepherd, being the club Secretary and Treasurer was the backbone of the club from the 1930s through to 1962. ‘Mutt’ Haynes, Max Alderton and Len Horsley all served as the club President during this period. For much of the period he was Secretary, Garnet made the back verandah of his home in George Street available for the club meetings and his garage for basketing the birds. Often helping Garnet with the bookwork and recording details at this time was his daughter Judith. Judith is currently the President of the Riverstone Historical Society.

The clocks used in those days were very basic and were known as ‘Tin Lizzies’, some were even home made. They were sensitive and had to be carefully handled once the timer had been activated.

Beryl Teale (nee Mills) recalled race days carrying her father’s clock on her push bike to Garnet Shepherd’s place, with strict instructions not to bump it. Holding the clock out in front she would ride the bike along Burfitt Street, then across the paddocks on tracks to Eastern Creek, where she would cross on two logs that formed a bridge. She would carry the clock across first, then return and carry the bike across and then continue on her way across the paddocks and the football field into Riverstone. Beryl has fond memories of this ‘bridge’ because it was built by her father, who also replaced the logs when washed away by floods.

With rail being the only form of travel in those days, the baskets of pigeons were placed on the train at Riverstone and taken to Granville and then transferred to the mail train heading west. In later years a truck was used to take the birds to either Blacktown or Penrith station for loading direct on to the mail train.

The bird baskets were placed in the guard’s van with a bag of feed that was fed to the birds by the guard, who also filled their water tray. At their destination the birds were cared for by the stationmaster until he released them on race day.

The racing season usually extended from April through to October, with the short races being held early and the distances being gradually increased to the longer races at the end of the season. The club raced every Saturday, changing the location every 2 -3 weeks. On this western route the first race of the season was usually from Mt. Victoria, then Tarana, Blayney and later in the season they raced from Condobolin, Euabalong, Roto, Ivanhoe, Menindee and on occasions Broken Hill.

Depending on the distance to be travelled, members would take their birds to Garnet’s place on a Wednesday, Thursday or Friday night, pay their race entry and pool fees and have their clocks sealed. Besides their registration ring the pigeons would have another small rubber ring placed on their leg, this ring being used to start the member’s clock when the bird arrived home on race day. The pools were a form of sweepstakes, usually costing sixpence or a shilling to enter each bird, with the winner taking all.

With the retirement of Garnet Shepherd from pigeon racing in 1962, Grace Mills took over the position of secretary and held it throughout the 1970s. The 60s saw the position of president held by Bill Hawkes, then Neville McKellar with Jack Mills holding the position from the late 60s and throughout the 70s.
The Pigeon club held its meetings wherever they could find rooms suitable, some of the venues were the shed near the old fire station, Alec Goddard’s garage in Brisbane Road, the room behind the Olympia theatre, and Wally Wood’s old stables behind the shop that today is Charley Persaks Auto shop.

Largely through the efforts of Grace and Jack Mills, the club in 1968 gained approval from Blacktown Council to build their own clubrooms in Creek Street near the football ground. For all their years of service, both Grace and Jack were honoured with Life Membership of the Club.

The rooms were built entirely with voluntary labour, and the amenities are still enjoyed by the members today. Jack’s son Alwyn prepared the concrete slab, Dave Whalan the brickwork, Bill Young the plumbing, and Kassa Skrobans with his building expertise supervised the other members who volunteered their services, including Gary Griffen, Herbie Spryn, Billy Hawkes, Red and Jimmy Buchanan, Sonny and Dennis Knott, Teddy and Johnny Dickinson.

With the new club rooms the club at the time had 42 members and became known as the Riverstone and District Homing Pigeon Society. Later, the formation of new clubs in the area at Richmond and Box Hill saw the membership drop to 17. The club had another change of name in the 1990s when it became the Riverstone Racing Pigeon Club Incorporated.

From the 80s to the 90s the president’s position was held by Bob Solomons, Gary Evans, Carl Schnoor, Ron Beildermann, Red Buchanan, Jim Buchanan and Kevin Berrier. This period saw the Secretary’s position held by Gary Griffin, Wayne Mitchell, and Jimmy Buchanan the present secretary who has served the club for more than 15 years.

In an area that extends from Concord to the Blue Mountains there are now 37 registered clubs that form the Central Cumberland Racing Pigeon Federation. The Federation uses its own semi trailer to transport the birds to their race starting points, all clubs taking their birds to Fairfield showground for loading on the trailer.

The change from rail to road transport in the 70s allowed the clubs more scope to choose their flight destinations and they can now fly south as far as Wonthaggi Victoria, and sometimes Launceston Tasmania.

-The West route now extends to Little Topar and Mingary in South Aust.
-The South-west route is to Mildura and Renmark in South Aust.
-The North-west route goes as far as Cunnamulla and Charleville in Qld.

The club in 2001 is flying the north coast route with races held from Newcastle, Buladelah, Old Bar, Kempsey, Coffs Harbour, Grafton, Ballina, Tweed Heads, Gympie and Bundaberg Qld. After flying this route sometimes at the end of the season the Federation holds an Invitation race from Rockhampton Qld., a distance of over 1,000 km by air.

Every Saturday during the racing season thousands of birds are released from the trailers to find their way home, over distances that vary from 60 km to 1200 km. The birds fly over mountains, deserts, and plains, through rain, snow, and wind, in temperatures that range from zero to 45 C.

Saturday is the usual race day but foul weather can cause the birds to be held over till the next day. Racing pigeons may average 30 km per hour against a headwind and will average over 60 km per hour with a tailwind. Storms and predator hawks can cause many birds not to make it home. A breeder who starts the season with 100 birds would normally expect to finish the season with 30 – 40 birds.

Race day sees the breeders anxiously scanning the sky for the first sign of birds, hoping to have a bird that will drop from the sky like a stone and go straight into the loft. Sometimes the birds on arriving home will fly several laps around the loft prior to landing, wasting valuable time and causing much frustration to the owner. At 7.00pm on race day the members all gather at their club rooms with their clocks to determine the winner and discuss the days results.

Club races today are worth $120 to the winner, with $80 and $40 for the minor placings. Combined Federation races can be worth as much as $4,000 to the winner.

Judith Lewis, daughter of Garnet Shepherd, shares these memories of the early days of the pigeon club: My father, Garnet James Shepherd, was the inaugural Secretary of the Riverstone & District Homing Pigeon Society. This would have been in the early 1940s as I can clearly remember my parents talking about plans to form the Society.

I believe the society was originally the Hawkesbury Homing Pigeon Society and the reason it moved to Riverstone was twofold. Firstly, most of the members were Riverstone men and, secondly, the group needed a shed where they could meet to prepare their birds for races, and we had a large shed on our spare block of land that was suitable.

I also recall my mother stating that the men would need to mind their language in front of my two brothers and I as she would not want us exposed to any swearing. I can honestly say I never heard any bad language from any of the ‘Pigeon Men’ as we called them.

My father built his pigeon loft across the back of our spare block. Against our back fence, alongside the shed, the width of the rest of our yard, was our chookyard. The pigeon pens, built of fibro with corrugated iron roof, were about 10 feet from the chook yard and must have been over 20 feet wide. There were three separate rooms about six feet square which had roosts for the birds. Between two of the three pens was the loft area from which the birds were released for flight.

Each Friday night the ‘pigeon men’ arrived with their birds for racing in small wicker baskets. The birds numbers were recorded, their racing rings were attached and they were put into large baskets to be taken to the railway station where they were loaded onto the train for transportation to the destination of their flight. The first race of each season was from Mt. Victoria and the later ones from as far afield as Broken Hill. Other destinations I recall were Tarana, Parkes, Menindee, Ivanhoe and Roto. One prestigious race was the Two Birder, from Roto, where each flier could only send two birds and both birds had to return home to be eligible for the prize.

On the Friday evening, after the men had taken the basketed birds to the railway, usually in Jack Mills’ truck, they would meet on our back verandah. It was to our back verandah that the men would bring their pigeon clocks on race day. The clocks would have been started when the pigeon’s racing ring was inserted into it. It was quite exciting waiting for the birds to come home and then waiting for the men to arrive with their clocks. My father made a blackboard on which he painted the name of each member and as they arrived with their clocks the details were recorded next to each man’s name. It was my job during the week to work out the velocity of each bird. This was also written up on the board and all details were recorded in a large book.

There were only two men from Windsor, Mr Ted Farey, who came on the train each Friday night from his job at Marcus Clarke’s store in the City. The other Windsor gentleman was Mr Len Horsley who managed Tancred’s Tannery at Windsor. He was married to Mr Tancred’s daughter. Mr Horsley would bring his and Mr Farey’s birds down and take Mr Farey home after the meeting. My mother always had a cup of tea and ham and mustard sandwiches ready for Mr Farey’s tea. After my mother died, in 1950, the task of Mr Farey’s tea fell to me and he always complimented me on the sandwiches.

Other pigeon men included Alec Goddard, Jeff ‘Mutt’ Haynes, Jack Mills, Ernie Knott, Bruce Alcorn, Ian Marsh, Tommy Campbell, and later, Norbert Seget and Chris Spryn.

In the 1914-18 World War in Europe the carrier pigeons were the chief form of communication between the battlefields and base, and were used by both the Germans and the Allies. Even with the improvement in tele-communications in the 2nd World War, pigeons were still used extensively by both sides.

The Australians in New Guinea used them to overcome that country’s poor lines of communication and transport. Because phone lines were vulnerable to damage and wireless messages were often intercepted, the use of pigeons minimised these disadvantages.

Pigeons were widely used in emergencies by landing barges and other craft to advise of their position and of problems, many crews refusing to leave port without their basket of birds. The efforts of the pigeon breeders and their Army trainers have been recognised in the Australian War Museum in Canberra.

Famous names who were pigeon fanciers include Clint Eastwood, Yul Brynner, Mike Tyson, cricket commentator Bill Lawrie, and the Royal Family.

Memories of Royal Hotel Riverstone

by Heather Smith (nee Watson)

It was probably about 1942 that my Mother, Margery Watson and my two younger sisters Nevis and Sue and I first lived at the Royal Hotel, Riverstone. My father George Watson was in the Army in the 2nd World War and my mother’s parents Mary and William Morgan (aka Paddy King) were the licencees of the hotel.

The hotel was situated on the corner of Garfield Road, and Railway Parade (now called West Parade), the site is now a car park. At the rear of the back yard where a car sale yard and mechanics now stands was Mr Williams the Blacksmith’s shop.

The hotel was a two-storey building with a verandah across the front and down the side facing Garfield Road. It was actually built over a creek and the foundations were three connecting cellars. The first cellar was reached from a trap-door in the floor of the bar and the barrels of beer were kept there. They were rolled down from the street level through a door which faced to the front.

This was after they had been delivered by the brewery truck which was driven by Mr Syd. Muston and later by his son Arthur. The second cellar was damper and it was in here that the spirits, i.e., rum, brandy, whisky etc. was stored in bottles. The final cellar was always very damp with pumps working most of the time to keep the water at bay.

The bar of the hotel was a horse-shoe shaped counter with large handles which the barmaids and barmen pulled down and this opened the taps which filled the glasses with beer. They were very adept at this and never seemed to spill a drop. The trays beneath the taps always had a purple dye in them so that the beer slops could not be re-used. The bar was packed every afternoon from 3pm to 6pm closing time as the meat workers finished their shifts and came in for a drink before catching their train home. The trains were all steam trains and at the end of the platform near the hotel there was a large water tower where the steam engines filled up. The drinkers could time their run to the last second to catch the train.

My aunt Pertha Morgan sat behind the cash register in the middle of the bar on a small raised platform with a waist high wall around it and she was responsible for handing the correct change to the barmen/women. They would slap the coins onto the top of the wall, shout out how many drinks had been served and she would hand back the correct change. It was a constant source of amazement to everybody as she managed to do this accurately whilst continuing on with the cryptic crossword from the Sydney Morning Herald. The noise in the bar between those hours was deafening (the 6 o’clock swill historians now call it) and at 6.00pm we children were allowed to bring the gong from the dining room to the rear door of the bar and bang on it to signify closing time.

There were several rooms leading from the rear of the bar, one was known as the Ladies Parlour but I don’t think I ever saw a lady drinking in there. The other room was the back Parlour and it was here that the Police Sgt., the Meatworks Manager and often the Bank Manager who I guess did not want to mix with the workers, came for their drink of an afternoon.

The side entrance to the Hotel for guests and family was known as the Private entrance and this faced Garfield Road, the door opened onto a passage way which led to a two-tiered staircase leading to the second storey and the bedrooms. Beneath the staircase was a tiny room known as the storeroom and it was here that during the War cigarettes and tobacco were doled out to smokers. Because they were rationed they were in desperately short supply.

When I attended Riverstone school many was the time a desperate teacher would take me aside to ask if I could obtain a few ‘ciggies’ from Grandfather. However, still downstairs, Grandfather’s office was located on the right; it contained a very large safe, a desk and a wall telephone. The phone number was Riverstone 9 and we had to stand on a chair to speak as the phone was mounted on the wall. It was a large wooden affair with a speaker on the front which we shouted into and a handpiece which you held up to your ear.

The next room was the most impressive room of the whole hotel, it was the dining room and ran across the full length of the building from Garfield Road, to the yard at the side of the hotel. It contained three highly polished eight-seater tables. One each end and one in the middle. I rarely saw these tables without the covering of stiffly starched white tablecloths and the full complement of polished silver cutlery, serviette rings and cruet sets. In the middle of the wall was a large brick fireplace flanked on one side by a magnificent chiffonier topped with an ornate mirror. On the other side were the heavy swinging doors which led to the kitchen.

Once through the doors there was the servant’s eating area and then the main kitchen with one wall being taken up with a large fuel stove as well as two large preparation tables and a sink in the corner. There were also two walk-in pantries one for food and the other for plates and cooking utensils. The back door led to the laundry and the ironing room. In the 40s the washing was boiled up in a large copper and hung out on clothes lines which ran the full length of the yard at the rear of the hotel. There was also a well in the side yard under the pantry window and one at the rear of the building. If my memory serves me correctly there was also a vegetable garden in the back yard.

Across the back there was a paddock with stables. My sisters and I had a pony and my grandfather also had a large grey horse which he and my Auntie would ride.

My grandparents had staff who were very loyal to them and had come with them from hotel to hotel. There was Jimmy the barman who had been a jockey, Ned the yardman who cleaned up around the outside of the hotel and hosed down the pavements and bar floor and also looked after the vegetable garden and chopped the wood. Mary the cook who turned out three hot meals a day, seven days a week for all the family, staff and boarders as well as a profusion of family visitors and friends at the week-end. Elsie and Edna were housemaids and barmaids. They set and waited on the tables, made the beds and dusted the rooms then rested for two hours and commenced working in the bar from 3pm-6pm.

There were many other staff, mainly locals who helped in the bar, assisted with the laundry and ironing as well as the washing up and cooking and polishing the floors which were all heavy brown linoleum. My Auntie Pertha also worked as Cashier in the bar and my Mother was expected to help out wherever necessary.

Upstairs were all the bedrooms, bathrooms and sitting room. Hotels in those days especially in country towns always had boarders. These were usually Bank Managers or young bank clerks, school teachers, heads of departments from the Meatworks and during the War many Officers from the American Army stayed there, as they were supervising the manufacture of powdered eggs at the meatworks.

The area was divided in halves by a long passageway with bedrooms either side. At the rear end of the passageway there were two bathrooms one for females and one for males. We had septic toilets and electric hot water systems. These were small boxes mounted onto the wall and the switch was pulled down to start the hot water supply. The supply could be quite tricky as sometimes the water was boiling and other times barely warm. There was another smaller bathroom and toilet just past the stairs but this was only ever used by my grandparents and sometimes by my Aunt.

All the bedrooms that faced onto the balcony had french doors opening out onto them. This was great in the summertime as they could be opened to let in the breezes, however the mosquitos were a problem and we always had big mosquito nets over our beds.

My grandparent’s bedroom was at the front of the hotel facing onto Railway Parade and was entered through a room known as the sleepout. It was here that each morning the money from the previous days bar takings was counted and rolled in brown paper wrappers. When the necessary bookwork was completed, the money and books were placed into a calico bag and if it was school holidays we were allowed to walk up to the Commercial Banking Company, with either Grandma or Grandpa to bank the takings.

The bar of the hotel was opened from 10.00am to 6.00pm on Monday to Friday and from 9.00am to 12 o’clock on Saturday. We did not open on a Sunday.

There are quite a few characters who come to memory – there was ‘Jockey’ Stevens an absolute chronic alcoholic who slept in the vacant paddock which was next door to Conway’s Newsagency. During the winter the local police officer used to arrest him for vagrancy so he would have somewhere to sleep on cold nights. Sometimes however, he would turn up on the hotel doorstep of a morning with the frost on his cap and overcoat.

There was ‘Poppie’ who seemed to be a local villain and the Police were always looking for him. He belied his name as he was only in his early 20’s. There was a story that did the rounds when we were children that Constable Baker had ‘Poppie’ in the sidecar of his motor bike taking him around to the Police station. As they went over the railway line ‘Poppie’ yelled out, “This is where I get out, copper” and went to climb out of the side car. Cst. Baker replied, “Oh, no you don’t Poppie”. With that he leant over and grabbed him by the hair and kept on riding with ‘Poppie’ running along beside him until they got around to the Police station.

One event we children all waited for each afternoon was when Charlie Fisher the local baker let his horses go. The bake-house was located in Railway Terrace, and each morning Charlie would ride his own horse down to the paddocks at the end of Railway Parade, and lead his two big draught horses back to the bake house by their rope halters. They were then harnessed up into two baker’s carts and all the bread deliveries were done around the town.

The two drivers I remember were Lennie Bolton and Lennie Dawson. At the end of the day the horses would be turned loose, they would come out of the baker-house yard, across the railway line, then full stretch gallop along Railway Parade back to their paddock for the night.

When the War finished my father came back to Riverstone. As my grandparents were getting older, my parents stayed on to manage the hotel. When my grandparents decided to retire Mum and Dad were reluctant to take over the licence because the government was about to introduce 10 o’clock closing and they were not interested in running the business with the longer hours.

We moved to a house in Castlereagh Street and Dad went back to being a butcher. They were marvellous years and the memories of the hotel are still very vivid in my mind.


The Royal Hotel at Riverstone was constructed in 1896 and altered several times over the years until it was demolished in 1977.

Licencees of the hotel up to 1980 were:-

  • 1896-98 James Collumb;
  • 1899-03 James Wonson;
  • 1904 Frederick Kingham;
  • 1905 Roger Glanville;
  • 1906-07 Mary Kane;
  • 1908 Patrick Kieby;
  • 1909-15 George James;
  • 1915-19 William East;
  • 1919-28 William East Jnr;
  • 1928-35 Mrs V East;
  • 1935-39 F Hasford;
  • 1939-40 E Harten;
  • 1940-43 W Douse;
  • 1943-51 W J Morgan;
  • 1951 G Punch;
  • 1952 E Butler;
  • 1953 G Punch;
  • 1953-57 J Shapiro;
  • 1957-61 F Butcher;
  • 1961 E Armstrong;
  • 1961-62 J McGrath;
  • 1962-64 G Jefferies;
  • 1964-66 K Williams;
  • 1966-68 E Webb;
  • 1968 L Sharpe;
  • 1968-69 A Rafael;
    1969-70 D Ewings;
  • 1970-71 E Lewis;
  • 1971-80 L Dawson;
  • 1980 Mrs P Skinner.

… From Hawkesbury Journey by D.G. Bowd


Compiled by Clarrie Neal from information provided
by Eric Conway, Michael Groves,
Geoff Pfister and Rosemary Phillis.

The Conway’s story in Riverstone begins with Norman Joseph Conway, a son of John Conway who had migrated from Ireland late last century and who went out west to work at Orange. Later he moved to Riverstone to work as a butcher at the meatworks owned by Benjamin Richards.

Norman was born in 1893 and as a youth learnt the trade of hairdressing. In 1914 he married Lily Pearson, a girl from Parramatta, at St. Mark’s Church, Granville. As a newly married couple they moved into their home with a barber shop on the side in Garfield Road Riverstone, on the site of the present day Liquor Barn. It was in this house they commenced raising their family of six children – Mavis b.1915, Neville b.1917 (died when just 3 years old), Eric b.1918, Laurel (Peggy) b.1920, Cliff b.1923 and Patricia b.1927.

The hairdressing business prospered and in 1925 Norman was able to purchase a block of land opposite the railway station. On the 6th February 1925 the Windsor & Richmond Gazette reported: Mr Norman Conway has purchased one of the most valuable business sites of the town. The land is situated on the James estate opposite the local railway station, where it is intended to erect a commodious hairdressing salon at an early date. Since it has been a vital question with the ladies ‘shall we have it bobbed or shingled’, Mr. Conway has become famous as a tonsorial artist, hence the necessity of larger premises.

Work commenced on the two storey building almost immediately and it was completed late 1925. At the time the building was the only one on the block and comprised a newsagency and barbers shop with a family residence on the upper floor. The residence had two bedrooms with built-in wardrobes and along the hall there were two skylights, features that were rare in those days but were to become popular some 40 years later. The barbers shop was fitted out with three chairs and the two barbers who worked with Norman were Harry Mangold and Ossie Robbins.

Ossie loved to tell Eric the story of the day not long after the shop opened, that Edwin S. Rouse of Rouse Hill house drove up to the shop in his horse and sulky, and while remaining seated in the sulky, called out in a typical gentry manner Conway….. Conway. Norman, in a typically Australian manner, casually strolled out to the doorway and responded with what do ya want……Rouse.

Eric, after completing his primary schooling at Riverstone Public School attended Westmead Technical College in 1931 and 1932 and then left to help his mother with the shop. Eric said he could never remember getting the cane at school but a check of the school records show that both he and Cliff were not that well behaved, both receiving the cane for such misdemeanours as ‘swearing’ and ‘persistent disobedience after being kept in’.

Eric recalls as a lad walking out to Eastern Creek with his father and the family’s pet dog ‘Bulla’. Arriving at the creek Norman would produce a cake of soap from his pocket, soap up Bulla and then throw him in the creek for a wash. (Riverstone did not have a water supply in those days.)

At that time papers were sold in two other shops in Riverstone but Norman was able to buy out their franchises and so became the only newsagent in town. Norman had more than a passing interest in the racing industry owning a mare called Patwood that was to win several races at the pony tracks at Rosebery and Victoria Park. I wonder how many older residents of Riverstone can recall the photos of Patwood that adorned the walls of the shop.

In those days there were no TABs and though S.P. betting was illegal it was a flourishing business, particularly in barber shops. The shop in Riverstone was no different and it was always possible to get a bet on at the back of the shop – the Gazette reporting on the 7th March 1932 that a Mr. Norman Conway was charged with illegal betting.

Norman Conway died in 1936 at just 42 years of age and was buried in the Riverstone cemetery in the same grave as his three year old son Neville.

Lily Conway was to lead a very busy life managing the shop that operated seven days a week and caring and providing for her five children. The shop was to become very much a family business with Eric and his mother working all their lives in the shop and Cliff, after working several years at Mick Simmons in the Sydney Haymarket area returning to work at the shop along with his wife Norma. Mavis was to spend much of her life with the shop, as did her son Michael Groves. The shop was rarely referred to as a paper shop or newsagency, the residents of Riverstone always referring to it as Conways or more popularly as ‘Connies’.

During the 1930s the papers were brought from Sydney to Riverstone by train, arriving at 6.45am. Eric would carry the bundles across to the shop and then fold them ready for delivery around the town. There was no tape, elastic bands or plastic in those days to roll the papers, so they had to be folded to be delivered. Eric’s first delivery vehicle was a bicycle fitted with a large metal box over the front wheel to carry the papers.

During the 1940s the papers were delivered from a horse and sulky that was leased from Charley Fisher who owned the town bakery. Every morning Eric would harness up the horse and sulky and set out on his run around the town, he recalls it was a great job when the weather was fine. But he also remembers returning back to the shop many a day freezing cold or soaking wet, and sometimes both. Over this period there were three horses that were used in the sulky to deliver the papers – the creamy pony was known as Trixie, the bay horse was known as Johnny, and the grey pony was known as Hiraji, named after the horse that won the Melbourne Cup in the late 1940s.

When Eric and Cliff received their call up into the army in 1941, the delivery of the papers with the horse and sulky was taken over by their sister Mavis. She delivered the papers this way seven days a week for the four and 1/2 years they were away in the army. Of a cold frosty morning Charley Fisher would take two hot house bricks from the bakery ovens, wrap them in a hessian bag and place them on the floor of the sulky to be used by Mavis as a foot warmer.

Many older Riverstone residents would agree this was a very welcome innovation as they recall those bitterly cold frosty mornings. Eric recalls Mavis telling him that the day the war ended, as she did the rounds women were coming out of their homes to place flags and streamers on the horse and sulky. It was their way of celebrating peace.

In the 1940s and 1950s there were two morning papers – the Sydney Morning Herald and the Daily Telegraph. In the afternoon there were another two papers – the Daily Mirror and The Sun, each paper costing two pence. On Sundays there were three papers – the Sunday Herald, Sunday Telegraph and the Truth. Eric recalls that some Sundays up to 1,000 papers would have to be folded and delivered, as many families bought both major Sunday papers and sometimes all three.

The shop was the lottery agency and at the time there was only one lottery with a first prize of 5,000 pounds and tickets costing five shillings each. In those days the first five major prize winners had their name and address printed in the paper, so there was always some excitement in the town when a resident from Riverstone won a major prize.

The shop was also the tobacconist. Most smokers, and there were many, would buy their tobacco and papers and roll their own cigarettes. Because of the war it was almost impossible to buy good tobacco and what was available was of inferior quality. As the good tobacco became available it was rationed out, one packet to each customer, then as supplies improved it became two packets plus a packet of cigarettes.

The popular tobacco brands were Capstan, Log Cabin, State Express, Havelock and Champion Ruby, and the popular cigarettes were Capstan, Craven A, 333s, Ardath and Players.

The passageway at the side of the shop was used as a bicycle rack. Cyclists, mostly school children who used the train to get to school, could ride their bikes to the station, leave them in the passage and know their bike would be still there to ride home. Some days there would be 30 bikes parked in this passage.

During the 1950s when the trotting industry was in its hey-day, many good trotters were owned and trained in Riverstone. During this period Eric had an interest in a trotter named Regal Prince, a very good horse trained and driven by Wally Wood that went on to win five races at Harold Park.

Mavis’s eldest son Michael Groves worked in the shop from 1962 to 1984 and shared the morning deliveries with Eric, now done with a Land Rover. Michael recalls living at the shop with his parents Mavis and Harry Groves until they could build their own home in Regent Street. As a child Michael loved to accompany Eric in the horse and sulky with his morning deliveries, and also serve in the shop when allowed.

He commenced full time work in the shop in 1962 and remained there till it was sold in 1984. He recalls it being a 4.00am rise to get ready to sort and roll the papers that now arrived by road from Sydney at 5.00am The shop was opened shortly after to sell the papers to the travellers on the 5.20am train to Sydney and the early starters at the meatworks. Evening papers still arrived by rail and the shop remained open Mondays to Fridays till 6.40pm or till just after the last workers train arrived in from Sydney.

Saturdays the shop would close at 1.00pm and then re-open at 5.00pm to sell the evening papers. As a child Michael remembers the ‘six o’ clock swill’ when the hotel had to close at 6.00pm. He recalls patrons coming around the corner and over to the shop to get their evening papers, some walking briskly and others not so steady on their feet.

Throughout the 1940s and 50s Ossie Robbins was the only barber to work in the salon, right up till his death in 1957. He was a very popular and jovial fellow who loved to stir up debates with his customers, one could say with the scissors or the razor in his hands he had a captive audience.

Ossie was also very popular with us kids because when children’s haircuts cost sixpence he would always give us a penny change to buy a penny ice-cream or a bag of lollies. To get this penny he would continually remind us that we had to behave while waiting our turn to get the haircut.

From 1957 to 1964 Brian McNamara was the barber, until the barber shop area was required to expand the newsagency to a much larger shop. Brian moved his hairdressing business just around the corner into Garfield Road and at that time employed an apprentice named Geoff Pfister.

When the newsagency was expanded it was still very much a family business with Mrs Conway, Eric, Cliff and Michael working full time. Mrs Lily Conway passed away in 1973 and was buried in the Pinegrove cemetery at Rooty Hill. Eric, Cliff, his wife Norma and Michael carried on until 1984, when the shop was finally sold and so ended a family business that had served Riverstone for just on 60 years, truly the end of an era in the history of Riverstone.

Eric stated at the time: I’ve enjoyed every minute of my work, and I wouldn’t change my life with anybody’s. I’ve been very happy doing what I’ve done.

Eric, Cliff and Norma retired at this time and all three are now enjoying their retirement living at Manly, though Cliff and Norma did remain in Riverstone for a few years before moving. I am sure that everybody in Riverstone wishes them all many more years of happy retirement.

The shop finally ceased to operate as a newsagency in 1996 when the new owners decided to move the business into nearby Marketown. It remained vacant for a few months before being bought by Geoff Pfister who restored the premises to their original condition and re-opened it as Geoffreys Hair Flair on the 10th March 1997. The walls are adorned with old photos of Lily Conway, Norman, Eric as a boy, Ossie Robbins and several others.

Bonfire Night

by Judith Lewis

In the 1940s and 50s Bonfire Night was one of the best times of the year. Weeks of hard slog went into building what was one of the biggest and best bonfires in town (at least we all thought so). For about a month or more before the big day, Empire Day 24th May, Queen Victoria’s Birthday, we kids spent every afternoon after school, and most of the May school holidays, collecting and cutting down tree branches from ‘The Bush’ across from Hamilton Road, and dragging them home. We usually went up by Drayton’s, through Pearce’s paddock (now Dingle Street), through a small gap between the fence posts where two boundary fences met. This was known as ‘The Squeeze’, because you had to ‘squeeze’ to get through, obviously. The track home was usually down Crown Road and along Piccadilly Street, leaving a trail of leaves behind us.

The most important task was selecting and chopping down the ‘Middle Pole’. This had to be very tall and straight and reasonably thick, to hold all the branches that would be stacked around it, and yet not too large that half a dozen kids could not pull it. Sometimes the search for the Middle Pole took us almost to the Windsor Road. My brother, Bill, and our neighbour, Mattie, usually had the final say on which tree was to be the Middle Pole as they had been entrusted with their fathers’ axes for this all-important task.

Empire Day was a half-holiday at school. We had to do patriotic things, like sing the National Anthem, God Save the King, and Land of Hope and Glory, and sometimes we had sports’ activities before being released at midday. The bonfire was usually built that afternoon. It couldn’t be built any earlier because it might be set fire to. If you were lucky someone would get you some old tyres to put in amongst the bushes. They gave off lots of smoke. Air pollution was not really heard of then! Old clothes stuffed with straw became ‘Adolf Hitler’ who was placed on the very top of the bonfire so he could BURN!

We built our bonfire on the vacant block at the corner of George and Park Streets. One Bonfire night we were all home having tea when someone did set fire to OUR BONFIRE. We all gathered to watch it burn, but we felt cheated. We had our suspicions. There were a couple of kids who lived nearby who never joined us for anything. It had to be them! Was it? The following year we again had a huge bonfire waiting ready to be lit, but this time we were taking turns to go home for tea, always leaving a couple of kids on guard. When the local Fire Brigade arrived and told us they’d had a complaint about the bonfire’s size, from concerned neighbours, we felt our suspicions were well founded. The Brigade allowed us to light the fire ourselves. They supervised and when the fire had died down they made sure it was completely out. The next year we moved to Challenger’s paddock, on the corner of Mill and Piccadilly Streets, where there were no houses close by.

Whilst the lighting of the bonfire was the highlight of the night it was closely followed by what came afterwards, once the fire had died down, the letting off of fireworks. Our uncle, Sheck, would arrive home from work on Bonfire Night with the biggest bag of fireworks he could carry – Double Bungers, Tom Thumbs, Rockets, Catherine Wheels, Jumping Jacks, Roman Candles and Sparklers, to name a few of the favourites. We usually pooled our fireworks with the other kids. I distinctly remember one night when we wished we hadn’t.

There was a lot of us – my brothers, Bill and Rob, and I, Pat and Mattie and their cousin, Johnnie, Parko, Betty and Baldy Brickhead, plus a number of smaller kids who came, with their parents, to watch. This night everyone was sharing, except for Baldy. An only child, he stood apart, with his parents, to light his own fireworks. The trouble was, he stood close to where we had our combined ‘loot’ and began to light his crackers, before we had even thought about lighting ours. A spark from one of his fireworks fell into our bundle and up went most of our fireworks in one spectacular, and downright dangerous, burst. We were devastated, and, if we’d had our way, Baldy would have joined ‘Adolf’ atop our next year’s bonfire. The next morning we scrounged around in the charred pile that had been our fireworks and found a surprising number of them that had not gone off. We were able to light them that night, but I think this experience ended our ‘sharing’.

What a pity that irresponsible people have spoilt one of the truly memorable childhood experiences. None of us ever got hurt, except for the odd blisters from months of dragging bushes for miles. Today’s kids will never experience the real joy of Bonfire Night as we did. They call it progress

E.W. Edgar       A.C. Benson

Land of Hope and Glory, Mother of the free,
How shall we extol thee, who are born of thee?
Wider still and wider, shall thy bounds be set;
God, who made thee mighty, make thee mightier yet,
God, who made thee mighty, Make thee mightier yet.

Brookes’ Shoe Store

by Rosemary Phillis

In 1999 Faye and Eric Brookes held a closing down sale at their shoe store in Garfield Road. On 6 and 27 August I spent the afternoon in the store while the Brookes and Gail Putra (Faye’s sister) served people, selling everything from slippers through to gum boots.

The front room of the shop has hundreds of shoes on display. There is a large display in the front window, row upon row of shoes along the side walls and a circular display in the centre. The next section has two bench style seats along the walls where people sit to try on shoes. The seats also double as storage areas and a comfortable place to sit and have a chat. One wall is covered with certificates of appreciation from community groups they have supported.

Storage shelves are suspended from the ceiling in the front room and hold boxes of shoes that people have on hold. I watched with amazement as Mrs Brooks or Gail stood unsupported on the top of a small timber ladder to lift down packages as people came to collect them.

As well as the shoes, they sell belts and handbags and the smell of the leather throughout the shop is a very pleasant one.

Mr Brookes has his work area set up at the rear of the shop. His equipment includes a Singer Boot Patcher (an industrial sewing machine), a Boot Last and a motorised Finishing Machine which has a series of wheels with different surfaces used to provide a variety of finishes to shoes.

After donning a well worn leather apron Mr Brookes cleaned and polished a pair of shoes a customer had used the wrong colour polish on. The solvent he used to remove the incorrect colour had a very strong smell and Mrs Brookes in passing commented that after years of using such products Mr Brookes no longer has a sense of smell.

Originally there was a flat upstairs consisting of a lounge room, kitchen and a bedroom. Entry to the flat was via a set of stairs on the outside. During extensions the Brookes had an internal staircase built. The front rooms are now packed from floor to ceiling with shoes. The back section is a modern self contained flat. Surprisingly this area contains only a few boxes of shoes!

In the quiet moments between customers Mr and Mrs Brookes talked about the history of Brookes’ Shoe Shop and life in Riverstone.

Mr Brookes

When I left school I got into the shoe manufacturing trade, working in a shoe factory at Earlwood. Around 1948-49 there were a lot of blackouts as they couldn’t produce enough electricity to supply everyone. They used to take it in turns to supply areas with electricity, four hours on, four hours off. The factory where I was working couldn’t work with that so the Boss decided to put us off.

Luckily I was only off for a day, then I received a telegram to report back for work as they’d managed to get a generator to supply electricity.

When I was working in the shoe factory at Earlwood I was travelling four hours a day. I decided that I would rather be working that extra 20 hours a week than travelling and became determined to do something else.

In those days you could get started in something and find your way and you could do it on a little amount of money. I didn’t care what I had a go at, I just wanted to try something, so while I was still working in the factory I saved up a few bob to get me going.

I started doing a few boot repairs in the shed at home. People were very supportive, collecting and delivering shoes for me for free and sending me work to do such as shoes to repair. I did try making shoes at one stage, but it is a tedious job and the shoes were being imported at prices cheaper than I could make them.

I suppose that I took on a lot of jobs that I shouldn’t, things that took so long that you never got enough money for to pay for your time. I remember one of the worst that I took on was mending medicine balls for someone from Marsden Park.

Many of the old people around the town would give you support when you were young. When Faye and I were building our house in Riverstone Road we moved in before it was complete and Carl Stanford down the road used to let us run an electric lead from his place and Faye would cook tea in a Fry Pan.

Rosenthalls shop on the corner of Garfield Road, had a sign on the fence that said ‘Rosenthalls for Everything’. We bought a stove from Mr Rosenthall and he let us take it and pay it off.

Even into the 1950s when we were building the house it was hard to get building materials. When I needed some bricks for the house I went up to the aerodrome at Richmond with another fellow and got some bricks off a job that McNamara’s had finished working on. Fibro was in very short supply. I wanted to build a garage and had to wait a long while for the fibro and it hadn’t been dried so it was still ‘green’. My brother Ray helped me build the garage and when we had a storm and it got wet, the fibro sheets cracked top to bottom in the middle. Greenaways gave us covers to put over the cracks.

As the business built up I rented a shop from my uncles, on the corner of Market Street and Riverstone Parade. At the time Billy Hughes was still in town with his boot repairs. We were in that shop for about 11 years when we bought this shop from Jack Arnold in 1965 for £5000 which we borrowed from the bank.

Jack had advertised it in the Herald and couldn’t sell it at the time as the government had a policy which protected people who were renting. The government relaxed the restriction to exclude commercial properties, which meant that it would have been more likely to sell, but he honoured his agreement to sell it to me. At the time Peter Walsh rented the space upstairs and Norm Foley the hairdresser rented the shop.

We moved into this shop in 1965 and have been here for 34 years. At the time Alan Pfoeffer was in his shoe shop up the road and had been there for about 10 years. This building is well over 100 years old. I believe it was built by Mr Binks (though Mrs Brookes thought that it might have been Noble Hanna). It was owned for many years by Aird the tailor.

The building suffered from damp due to poor drainage. The building doesn’t have any piers and as the floor sits on the ground, the moisture used to climb up the walls. You could see the beads of water on the walls, it just looked like perspiration. When Foley the Barber was here he couldn’t leave a razor out overnight or it would rust.

I did a lot of work on the place and when I first pulled up the floors I found big balls of fungus and I though to myself what have I done? We have done a lot of work on the building and alleviated the problems with the damp.

Some of the bricks are like iron and others so soft that they crumble in your hand. We have done a number of renovations and extensions over the years. Building the first extension which became a storeroom was a cow of a job, as the side wall had to be built over what was a big twelve foot well. My brother Ray helped with that job.

I tried buying second hand equipment, but it was hard to find and not always the best. The main things I have left are a Boot Patcher, a Landis sole stitcher, a bench, a Last and a Finishing Machine. I’ve always kept the shoe repairs as part of the business. You never get the money for the time you put in, but it is a service for your customers. The sad thing is the rubbish that people buy elsewhere that wears out so quickly and they bring in to me to repair, but it costs nearly as much to repair as a new pair.

You used to be able to buy leather in whatever size or quantity you wanted, the tanners like Johnsons and Farleys stocked it and would sell you just what you wanted. Now they aren’t interested in supporting small operations. The tanners want minimum orders of $1000 and won’t produce until they have the actual order from you.

We used to buy our shoes from the sales reps who came around. They’d take our orders which would then be delivered by Courier. Things are changing, the suppliers like Dunlop don’t seem to want sales reps on the road, they want you to select what you want from looking at a computer! You might see the reps once a year at the start of summer or winter, they don’t seem to want to service small business.

The big businesses are also changing their warehouses. I had to wait for 2½ months for shoes to come out of the warehouse from a company which was changing things over to computers. I thought I’d do the right thing by a customer and go down to the warehouse to pick them up and it took me half a day to do that and they were only over at Bankstown.

Nowadays they want to sell shoes in a supermarket style setup. The problem is there is no service to the customer if the shoes don’t quite fit or aren’t quite what they want.

With footwear you never get out of the shop as it is hard to get someone in for a short time to fill in. Faye’s sister, Gail Putra, has worked for us for 11 years and our children have worked here at times. Our son Stephen worked here for around ten years before branching out into computers.

To be successful in the shoe business you have to have an understanding of the business and be able to estimate what size shoe people take and also to guess what they are after. To be in a place like Riverstone you have to cater for the area.

We have a lot of shoes in stock. I have never been a man for bookwork, if you are working ‘hands on’ you know what is selling and in what sizes and when to order more stock in. Some lines always sell well and you can carry them all year round. Others are seasonal, so you order a batch in and hope that they sell and you don’t get left with them on the shelf.

As for paying for what they have bought people around here are pretty good, we’ve only been caught a couple of times in allowing people to take shoes on the promise of paying later and they haven’t. You learn to size people up and know who will pay and who won’t. We have customers who live as far away as the Blue Mountains who come down to buy shoes from us.

Word of mouth advertising is the best, you really can’t beat it. Since we have started the sale people have been coming from everywhere. For example people get talking at bowls at Richmond and then next day we have people from Richmond in to have a look.

The business has been good to us, but it is time for us to take some time and get out of the shop and do other things. The industry has changed and the introduction of the GST will mean more work as there is no tax on shoes at present. We decided that we would have a closing down sale and dispose of the stock that we have built up. By having a sale we can thank the loyal customers who have supported us over the years and give them the opportunity to get a bargain. It is a funny thing about having a sale though, the shoes that didn’t fit before, when I reduce them they suddenly fit!

There have been many stories that I could tell you from over the years. I remember sitting here on the seats chatting to a fellow who used to go fox hunting. A huge rat came running through the door, raced past us, skidded around in a U turn, raced out the door, across the road and up the drain pipe at the bank. The fellow I was talking to sat up straight and said “If only I’d had my gun”. If he’d had his gun he would have blown a hole in my floor!

It wasn’t just the old days that the stories come from, only the other evening we had a fellow wandered in drunk, sat down on one of the seats, then lay down and went to sleep. I woke him up but he went to sleep again. Finally we got him out when Faye told him that there was a drink waiting for him outside and helped him down the road to a seat.

Mrs Brookes

I worked on and off in the old shop as I had the children to look after. When we moved into this shop I was only going to work for seven years, but then we decided to build a storeroom, so I stayed another seven while we paid that off. Then we built another storeroom so I stayed on another seven years and well I’m still here!

We are fairly well organised, I used to live my life by sayings at one time, “Never put it down, put it away, A place for everything and everything in its place”. We once had the shoes set out according to colour, one aisle for black, one for white, one for bone and it worked really well, things were easy to find.

This is our first and only sale that we’ve ever had. We have always tried to keep the price of our shoes down so that people would come back.

We always opened 5½ days a week, but for about 3 or 4 years we were open 7 days a week to try and give Stephen a hand. It was only recently that we stopped the Sunday trading. The Meatworks were a source of income for us here in the shop. They would bring the freezer suits up to me to replace the zippers on when they wore out, as I could replace them using Eric’s sewing machine. The Meatworks also used to purchase their boots from us over the years, gum boots, work boots, all sorts. We also got a lot of trade from the people who worked there who would come in and buy things before they caught the train.

While Eric has looked after the boot repairs I have always done the hand painting of the shoes and my hands show the effects of the use of the strong stripping chemicals. We were very busy with the repairs and alterations when Alan Pfoeffer closed his shoe shop in Riverstone and had his closing down sale. People were buying shoes that weren’t the right colour and bringing them to us to dye them as well as buying shoes that weren’t the right size and having Eric stretch them.

We will miss the shop and especially the people, but there are a lot of things that we’d like to do, travel, work in the garden and around the house and it is time to make the change.

An Interview with Enid Pettet

by Rosemary Phillis

The following interview was conducted with Mrs Pettet in July 1994.

I was born in 1918 and was one of 9 children. My mother was born in 1880 and was one of the Shoular family. My father was one of the McDonalds.

I went to school at Riverstone for about 7 or 8 months, (when it was in the building that is now the Museum). I remember that the main hall was divided into two by a petition that they could draw back. The cloak room ran across the front of the building where the Masons built an entry foyer.

I was sent away to live with an aunt at North Sydney for a while, when my mother was ill. When I returned, (aged 10), my brothers and I were sent to school at Schofields as Mum didn’t like the teacher at Riverstone. At that time we lived in Castlereagh Street and walked through the bush, across the creek and up past Wood’s old place in Riverstone Road. We walked to school, rain, hail or shine.

One of my brothers was killed at Tobruk. Each of my brothers started work at the Meatworks. John worked out at the piggery where Abells were when he was 16 (he is 89 now, so around 1920). None of the girls worked at the Works.

I was told that when the Meatworks first started they killed the meat out near the creek on an area of concrete known as the ‘stone wall’. They washed the meat with the creek water and then brought it back over the paddocks, (packed in ice) to the train to be taken to Sydney.

After the proper facilities were constructed at the Works this was no longer used, but the area at the creek became a popular swimming and fishing spot. You could catch beautiful perch there.

Cockroach Alley was where the first Meatworks houses were. There were two rows of houses, the front row ran down next to old Mr Vaughan’s Shop and the Oddfellows Hall to where the Bowling Club is now. They were only slab buildings but they were good homes.

Reg Stanford lived in Cockroach Alley. He was a mutton butcher and he used to say that in the morning his apron was covered in cockroaches.
When William Angliss took over he had the new houses built in Butchers Row and eventually the other ones were demolished.

When the Cenotaph was unveiled in Riverstone, Mrs East organised a march for the Returned Soldiers. There was a brass band in the town at the time. Two other children and I were dressed as “Faith, Hope and Charity” and we led the parade up the street. Then we were all arranged around the Cenotaph for the ceremony. After the ceremony we all came back to the village green and they had a carnival. We were all in the maypole dancing. It was a beautiful time.

In the days before there was anything where Marketown and the old RSL is now, this was the village green. It was all green grass up to the street behind. Beyond that was the Bootmaker and Miss Shirley’s dressmaking shop. They used to set up a proper boxing ring on the green and you could hardly get on it for the people. It was in the late 1920s early 1930s that the shops were built on this area.

In those days it was pitch black at night, there were no street lights. I used to work in town (Sydney) and then go to the dances afterwards. My mother would come down at midnight to the station with a lantern to meet me.

During the drought Mum had to take all the washing down to the creek. The water was like mud, but you couldn’t use your tank water for washing, it was for drinking. She would hang the clothes out on the bushes around the creek and we kids would play and usually end up in the water.

Then Mum and Dad built a well (which is still there). Father had problems keeping my brothers at home to help as their friends were always after them to come and play football. The well was 12 foot deep and very wide. (Where Laurie Doolan lives now was where our home was located, on the corner of Railway Terrace and Hunter Street.)
Pushbike races and horse races were held around the park. Before the park was there, along Garfield Road there were about six houses (including Fussell’s). The houses in the street behind were all Meatworks houses. Then they built all those homes in Butchers Row.

My husband Claude drove a semi trailer during World War II. He took goods from the Meatworks to the City, unloaded, loaded up again and travelled back to Riverstone. He would then borrow Mr Leeson’s car (Manger at the Works), drive home and have tea while his truck was unloaded and then loaded up at the Preserver. He’d then set off for the City again around 7 o’clock. He would get back to Riverstone around 12 o’clock and go to bed and then be up again at 6.30 the next day.

Dad’s father used to talk of German Charlie, a German Doctor whose qualifications were not recognised here in Australia. They say he cured many people. He cut off half of Mr Bliss’s face and correctly diagnosed non malignant cancer, saying that it wouldn’t grow again and it didn’t. (Editor: we are not sure that German Charlie actually operated on people.) I remember Dr Johnson as being a very good doctor.

Old Mrs Andrews used to take in boarders. She had a tennis court at the back of her place. They also took in boarders at the Royal Hotel. Ben Hibbert who was a porter on the railway boarded there. He was a huge man, 24 stone and he went through a couple of beds while he was there.

The local football matches were very popular. I remember Waxy going up and down the line all day while they were playing yelling “come on Riverstone”. Mrs Britton used to trip the players with her umbrella if they ran too close to the side line. She would also hit any supporters for the opposition if they came too close.

Alice Voysey and my mother laid out the people who had died in the town. Alice would have made a good hospital matron. Mr Rosa measured up the bodies for the coffins.

There was a big bushfire through the area from Windsor Downs to the back of the Cemetery at Marsden Park, during the 1940s. The sky was red from the fire and smoke. Men from the Works helped to fight the fire. My husband took his own car and Mr Leeson gave him three chaps to go out afterwards and put down the cattle that had been burnt.

Paddy Morgan (known as Paddy King, the boxing champ) had the hotel then. He had two daughters, Pertha and Margery. Margery’s husband was the barman at the hotel.
Aub Gillespie was the AIF welterweight champ. He had a gymnasium in the town. He later had the Hire Cars. My husband was employed as a full time driver by Aub.

Dad’s father spoke of the great flood where the water came up under the railway line near Church Street, back past the Masonic Hall and up to the foot of the Catholic Church hill. I think this was in the 1870s.

Claude Shoular was the boss of the loaders at the works. He used to work at night. My uncle, Tom Shoular had teams of draught horses and carted produce to and from Parramatta.

Where my family lived, the Fields were next door (also a big family) and then the Rosas, the street was almost wall-to-wall kids. The Rosas always built an Empire Day bonfire. They’d be building it for weeks before hand. When it was lit the whole town would light up and then the whole town came to the bonfire.

My brothers and the other kids couldn’t afford crackers, so they would get rags soaked in kerosene and light them and throw them to each other over the paddocks. It took some burnt hands before they learnt that they should wear gloves to do this.

Old Mrs Steer started the C.W.A. in Riverstone, then she started the Younger Set. Nancy Fisher and I were among the first to join. I was about 16 or 17 at the time.

The C.W.A. held wonderful Balls. People would line up outside, watching everybody who came and looking at what they wore. Mrs East always had beautiful clothes (they used to own the hotel). Old Mr East was killed by a shunting goods wagon. He was totally deaf and didn’t hear the train.

Mr and Mrs Pettet left Riverstone in later years and went to live in Queensland.


by Clarrie Neal

Compiled by Clarrie Neal from information gained from the Gazette, Greg Brown’s book, interviews with Peter Dawson, Colin Cubitt, Charlie Wheeler in July 1999, and from an interview between Lance Strachan and Rosemary Phillis in 1994. Apologies to those people I have failed to mention.

The semi-rural character of the Riverstone and surrounding districts meant that the horse and sulky was the best way to travel around. As families could not afford the thoroughbred, it was the standard bred trotting horse that was used to provide this essential service. So as the district grew it was only natural that their interest in trotting horses grew with it.

In the late 1800s there were no registered trotting meetings as we know them today, the trotting races were restricted to the district shows, though occasionally a galloping meeting would include an event for the trotters. Sometimes when owners could not agree as to who owned the fastest horse, a two horse race would be held on a dirt road or track to decide which owner had the fastest horse, often these grudge races were held with a large amount of money at stake.

Many of the trotters that raced at the shows would be trained on the dirt roads and tracks throughout the district, or trained as they pulled the butchers, the milk or bakers cart delivering orders through the week. It is of interest to note that such identities as Richard Rouse of Rouse Hill and Phillip Charley of North Richmond often donated prizes for trotting events at these shows, Phillip Charley later becoming the president of the R.A.S.

The Hawkesbury district played a major role in the development of the trotting game in Australia with such men as Andrew Town and J.A. Buckland being prominent. Andrew Town owned Hobartville Stud for many years and later bought Prestonville Stud. J.A. Buckland also owned Hobartville Stud for many years before buying Clydesdale Stud at Marsden Park in 1919. Shortly after buying the property he built the stables that can be seen today and a trotting track, before selling in 1932. J.A. Buckland is regarded as one of trotting’s greatest sons and bred, trained, and drove trotters for 45 years, driving his last winner at the age of 72 years.

George Kiss was another prominent trotting man and he owned Clydesdale from 1904 to 1919. George owned the champion trotting pony Clyedo and the manager at the time was Harry Wood, whose grandson Wally was to become one of trotting’s leading trainers in the 1960s. ‘Clyedo’ was the name given to Harry’s home and spelling stables in Riverstone Road, Riverstone.

Kurrajong Picnic Races were held on the banks of Redbank Creek at North Richmond in the early 1900s, often on the program was a race for trotters. The Kurrajong Trotting Club was formed in 1906, holding meetings on this track until 1912 when it moved to the new Londonderry track, just out of Richmond.

To get to this track from Sydney, supporters, trainers, drivers and their horses would travel by the steam train to Richmond, and then make their way out to the track.

A prominent owner of this period was the Reverend Howell-Price of St Peter’s Church of England at Richmond where he was the minister from 1896 to 1905. He never drove at registered meetings but drove in many events at the Hawkesbury shows. One of his best known horses was Claredo.

It was in the early 1900s that a girl known as Constance Stephens was showing an interest in horses and trotting. Constance was born in Rylstone in 1897, the daughter of a mounted policeman. Later she moved to Rouse Hill where she married George Moulds in 1919, a man who also loved horses. Their son Laurie who later became one of Sydney’s leading trainers, was born on the 11th September 1923.

George, even when crippled with arthritis was still regarded as a top trainer right up till the time of his death. The Windsor & Richmond Gazette reported that George met with an unfortunate accident when driving his horse and sulky along the Windsor Road at Rouse Hill. His horse shied at an approaching car. The sulky struck a culvert and overturned, throwing Mr Moulds heavily to the roadway. He died on the 5th August 1932 from injuries received as a result of the accident.

Connie Moulds continued on with her love of horses and had a lot of success with Bay Locke, a horse that she bred, owned and trained herself. Her stables were situated in Riverstone, just behind where the Commonwealth Bank is now located, opposite the old Olympia picture theatre. In 1924 she rode Innisfail to victory in the only registered race that was ever held for women. Although women riders and drivers were banned on metropolitan tracks they were allowed to participate at the Londonderry track for a short period, before eventually being banned at all meetings.

Although Connie Moulds had paved the way, it was to be the 1970s before female competitors were allowed to drive at trotting meetings. It was the same with training. Although many women trained horses, their names were not allowed to be printed in the racebook. It was 1966 before ladies were officially recognised as the trainer.

Lance Strachan and Murray Johnston were two lads who helped Connie Moulds with the trotters and the ice run during the 1930s and 40s. Lance Strachan, in an interview with Rosemary Phillis, recalls his early days with Connie Moulds: When I was a kid I used to follow Mrs Moulds and her horses to the shows at Castle Hill, Blacktown, Penrith or where ever they were being held. I didn’t get paid, I just helped her because she had such a battle to make ends meet. Blacktown was a good show because it attracted good horses. We’d take two or three horses, including the horse that we used to deliver the ice in the morning. His name was Dark Bells. He would work in the morning, then we’d drive to the show in horse and sulky, leading a couple of other horses behind. The horses might have two races on the day, and if they won they would start in the final an hour or so later. Dark Bells was a really good horse, and two others she won many races with were Derby Locke and Robert Locke.

In those days in a trotting race you could ride the horse, so long as it had all the gear on, the hobbles and the harness; Mrs Moulds always rode. In between the shows they held gymkhanas, many on the track at Riverstone when it was located in the meatworks paddocks opposite the railway station. These gymkhanas were popular with hundreds of spectators and plenty of good horses.

In the days before refrigerators Mrs Moulds had an ice run in the town. She would pick up the ice from Les Bray’s ice depot in Robinson Street and deliver it in her horse and sulky. I used to help her every Saturday and sometimes through the week.

Another thing we did at Mrs Moulds’ place, Saturday we used to have the fish and chip shop near the old boot maker’s shop opposite the picture show. People would run across the road at interval to get their sixpenneth or a shillings worth, always wrapped in newspaper. Mrs Moulds would peel the potatoes all Saturday morning and cut them with a chip cutter. It was hard work, but she had to do something as she had no money. Although she had horses that won many ribbons, you couldn’t eat them. She would rather make sure the horse had something to eat before herself.

Colin Cubitt recalls Mrs Moulds walking their horses out to the trotting meetings at Londonderry, and Doug Barnes running a bus from Riverstone to the meeting each Saturday. Also a popular track with the locals at this time was the small three furlong track at Katoomba where they held regular meetings and gymkhanas.

Another old time trainer during this period was Tommy Wilson who had his stables in St. Albans Road Schofields. Tommy often told Peter Dawson how he and his brother ‘Sag’ would go away for months at a time doing the circuit of country shows, going as far south as Crookwell and Goulburn. They would leave Schofields in their horse and sulky with two trotters following behind. They would stop for a few days or a week at where ever there was a show, it may be Liverpool, Camden, Bargo, Moss Vale etc. Tommy and ‘Sag’ would camp in the showgrounds at these places. Two of the horses they took on these trips were Timothy Direct and Nightguard. Tommy’s wife Val was another competent rider of the day and rode Timothy Direct in most of his races. Tommy also had considerable success with Jack Hope, Royal Childe, and Belford.

Mrs Moulds and Tommy Wilson both figured prominently at the opening meeting of night trotting at Harold Park on the 1st October 1949.

Greg Brown in his book “100 Years of Trotting” wrote about this night:

Depression years saw Wilson delivering wood from a spring cart, an undertaking which enabled him to buy an eighteen year old pony of trotting extraction, Golden Machine. But age proved no bar and he showed enough ability to win thirty three races around Shows and country meetings, and the £150 required to purchase Jack Hope. This public idol of course repaid his purchase price many times.

He started odds on favourite when he won the main race that opening night.

The sentimental horse of the meeting that night was Machine Wood trained by Mrs Constance Moulds and driven by son Lawrie. Twice he was rescued from the knackery shute, on the second occasion by Mrs Moulds herself. She persuaded a friend to purchase him for £100, a fair sum at the time for a ‘doggie’. The old horse repaid their kindness by winning on this historic night.

Machine Wood was part owned by taxi driver Wally Cornwall and the bootmaker Billy Hughes.

Night trotting was first tried in NSW in 1890 at Lillie Bridge and again in 1927 when A.W. Anderson (of ‘Home on the Pig’s Back’ fame) attempted to introduce it at Harold Park. Both attempts failed to get going. Harold Park had previously been known as Lillee Bridge, Forest Lodge, and Epping before it received its present name in 1929.

The successful introduction of night trotting in 1949 began the era of the golden years of harness racing. During the 1950s the crowds at Harold Park averaged 20,000 per meeting. So strong was the support in the Riverstone district that Doug Barnes used to run a bus there each Saturday night. There were 38,000 at Harold Park to see Avian Derby win the Inter-Dominion in 1952 and when Caduceus beat Apmat in the 1960 Inter-Dominion it was before a crowd of over 50,000 fans.

The champions of the 1950s were Ribands trained by Perce Hall of Penrith and Uncle Joe trained by Bert Alley at Castle Hill. All races in those days were from a standing start, unlike the mobile starts of today, often horses would gallop off the mark and give their opponents a considerable start. Ribands usually galloped off the mark and turned in some tremendous performances to win, these feats making him the idol of all trotting fans. In those days there were up to 160 bookmakers fielding on the events.

There was always one race for the square trotters and it was often won by such horses as Krakatoa, Believe Me, and Willie Winkie that were handicapped to give their opponents 120 yards start. Another good trotter of those days was Daredevil who won at Londonderry starting off 192 yards. It was in this period that the provincial tracks at Bankstown, Fairfield, Penrith, Hawkesbury, and Menangle Park were opened.

The Miracle Mile was introduced in 1967 and many good performances in this race ensured that interest in trotting remained high. Who could ever forget the performance of Mount Eden in 1971 when he broke at the start, lost some 30 yards, was booed by the public for one lap, then went around the field to win running away by 15 yards.

Laurie Moulds was born into the trotting industry and drove his first winner as a teenager in the early 1940s. Laurie went on to become the most successful trainer/driver from the district winning the Sydney drivers’ premiership in 1962-3. This was no mean feat as Laurie limited his stable to 20 horses while many other trainers had up to 50 horses in their stables. Laurie also made his way into the history books when he drove Casawin to win a race at the re-opening meeting held at Menangle Park in 1953.

His best horse was Don’t Retreat which won 54 races from 117 starts, including 26 races at Harold Park, many major races interstate, and was named Australian Harness Horse of the Year in 1975-6. Other successful horses trained by Laurie were Miss Josephine, Derby Commerce, Van’s Dream, Sylvette, Tryax Winkle, Little Maori, Bushfire and Wickawack.

During the 1930s trotters were trained around the track in the meatworks paddocks opposite the Railway Station which served Riverstone as the showground. The Show Society was managed by such members as Ben Hibbert, R.R. Ratcliff, Charley Fisher, Nelson Andrews, and Charley Knight. It was in the early 1940s that a new track was built around the football oval.

Colin Cubitt recalled the day they moved the pavilion from the old showground across the road to the present football oval. The pavilion was moved in one piece, lowered on to log rollers and slowly pulled along using trucks that were owned by Taylors Produce Store and Dick Stacey. It was a full days effort.

Mrs Mulds, son Laurie, Tommy Wilson, Charlie Cafe and Neil Young were some of the regular trainers. Neil Young would often be seen there with a mattock and shovel filling in the holes and gutters to keep the track in good condition. The track was relocated to its present site in the1960s and is used by up to 70 horses a day.

Wally Wood was one of Riverstone’s most successful trainers. His career has been covered in an article in Journal 2001.

There have been many other people from Riverstone and the surrounding districts who have bred, trained and driven trotters full time or as a hobby. The list includes such identities as:

Bill Dawson – came to Schofields from Alexandria in the early 1930s in a horse and sulky leading a dairy cow. He built up a milk run, and a few years later bought the dairy. He always had an interest in trotters and broke in and educated Willowmere that was trained by Tommy Wilson. It was this interest that led to his sons Peter, Bill (Billo) and Neville becoming involved with trotting.

Peter Dawson – now has his stables ‘Glenwood Park’ at the end of Carlton Street. Peter began his career in trotting using the reins off the milk cart horse that were two metres too long, tying them in a knot. One day at a race meeting when the knot came undone and the reins were dragging a considerable distance behind the gig, he was advised by another driver and a steward to get proper reins. This achieved, he went on to win many races at Harold Park and provincials with Straight Ahead, Gamblers Dream and Glenwood Sunset.

Neville Dawson – won several races with Raiarmagh’s Heir and Joe’s Oasis.

Billo Dawson – now has his property at North Richmond where he concentrates on breeding. Billo owned a very ordinary mare named Gypsy Fire, that as a brood mare has produced many outstanding pacers including Sparkling Bruce, Michael Bruce and Blazing Bruce.

George Watson – stabled his horses at Bert Wheeler’s on Butchers Row. Desert Scott was one of his better trotters winning four races at Harold Park and several on the provincial tracks. Princess Brigade was another good performer and he also part owned Edvane with Charley Wheeler and Kevin Smith. Edvane won four races at Harold Park and 16 around the provincials – later in his career when driven by Bert Alley he won a race at Harold Park on the Friday night and backed up next day at Clarendon and won the Hawkesbury Cup.

Charlie Wheeler used Bert’s stables in Butchers Row and was successful in winning races at Harold Park with Harbour Tolley, New Top, and Toli Brigade.

Dave Phillis and his three sons Eddie, John and Arthur have always had an interest in trotters, John doing most of the driving. Some of the horses they won races with were Sterling Hanover, Molly’s Best and Volo’s Song. John also trained and drove for Dick Stockwell and Dr Wilkie. Dr Wilkie had stables and a training track out along Garfield Road, along from Edmund Street.

Kenny Donnelly – won several races at Harold Park and the provincials with Sandy Walla, Taleteller and Hey Presto. He part owned Hey Presto with Barry Strachan, Siddie Locke and Teddie Dawson.

Tommy Cleary – had many successes with Toby Duane, Eve Oro and Redwin. Tommy also trained horses for Sid Randall who owned the knackery at Rouse Hill for many years.

Charlie Cafe – won several races with The Gaffer, Count Arion and Charleval.

Joe Fitzgerald had stables behind his home in Butchers Row. Joe was regarded as a good man with horses as besides looking after trotters he was the stable attendant at the meatworks with the draught horses that moved the rail trucks when loading. Joe always looked after trotters that were owned by Jack ‘Corker’ Cleary while they were spelling. After spelling the horses were sent to Bert Alley at Castle Hill to resume their racing. Their best horses were First Again, Good Intent and a champion known as Uncle Joe, named after Joe Fitzgerald. Uncle Joe had some terrific tussles with that great champion of the 1950s, Ribands. An interesting sidelight here is that these two champions of this era both won their maiden races at Wyong on the same day in the early 1950s.

Pilty Marlin and his son Maxie had successes with Just Another, Lucy’s Notion and a horse known as Terrigal that they trained for Dr Carroll who practised at Riverstone for many years in the 1950s.

Dick Stockwell – won many races in the 1930s with Dick’s Minton. Other horses he won races with were Celtic Bob, Bold Fire and His Grace. Hughie Mazoudier and John Phillis drove Dick’s horses.

Johnny Reid with stables in Westminster Street Schofields became a full time trainer and won many races with Sylvans Star and also with Gypsy Dawn that was owned by Jack Stockwell and Gordon Alderton.

Albert Ible had his stables and own training track on Boundary Road Schofields. He did race Glendale Grattan but settled more for the breeding before he left to become a Steward for the Trotting Control Board. Jack Young took this property over when Albert Ible left and trained Tivoli Lad there.

Bill Young had stables in Brisbane Road prior to moving out to the Windsor Road where he built his own training track. Bill trained Southern Mac, Moving High and Moving Tryax winning races at Harold Park and the provincials with all three.

Tommy McNamara trained Track Chief for his brother Bill and another horse known as Beau John, winning several provincial races. Brian Doolan trained Rivo Boy and Bar None for Bill Mac, winning four at Harold Park and several provincial races.

Sid Gosden, his son Max and grandson Larry were another family involved with trotters. They also trained horses with Noel Dunstan who had a training track on his Grantham Farm property at the Windsor Road end of Loftus Street. Noel was involved with trotting for many years but concentrated on breeding. Max and Noel also operated the sawmill in Edward Street Riverstone for many years.

Jimmy Patterson worked as a strapper with Bert Alley before setting up his stables in Carnarvon Road. He won many races with Jet Scott and Nulla Nulla. Jimmy became well known when he used an old police black maria that he converted into a horse float to get his horses to the track.

Other strappers to work with Laurie Moulds and Wally Wood include Siddie Joyce, Ron Munnoch, Lionel Harris, Ted Massingham, Ray Merchant, Tommy Tracey and his son Gary, Ray Thompson, Darryl Hillier, Michael Van Der Kemp, and Elton Papworth who later trained Master Findlay to his many successes.

Bobby Allen – Became a full time trainer and won many races at the provincials and Harold Park with Swifton Direct, Brigade Scott, Miss Overdene and Sunset Chief.

Jim Castles had stables in Vine Street Marsden Park, became a full time trainer winning many races with Kimbo and Southern Silver

Others involved in the trotting game over the years include Neil Breaden who owned and trained Rhonda Rose, Sammy Loveday, Neville Thurtell, Ted Collins, Gordon Alderton, Arthur and Harold Munro, Ross Lloyd, Les Bastin, Lindsay Curtis, Greg Lewis, Felix Ward and his son Paul.

Trotting is still a very popular occupation in the Riverstone area. As well as people mentioned earlier Greg Sarina and his boys, Jill and David McGill, John Wheeler and Alan Brennan are just some of those carrying on this sport at the present time.