In the late 1950s, the shops along Riverstone Parade opposite the Riverstone Railway Station comprised a dry cleaner, fruit shop, butcher shop, Aussie Café, Conway’s Newsagency, a Chemist and the Commonwealth Bank on the Corner of Garfield Road. The Riverstone Meat Company owned three of the buildings, two of which being the Fruit Shop and the “Imperial” Butcher Shop.
During 1959 Mr Don Chandler of Windsor, secured a lease with the Meatworks for the vacant building between the Riverstone Dry Cleaner’s and the Fruit and Vegetable Shop. With the assistance and finance of Mrs Joyce Howe, who was also from Windsor and was a silent partner, the self-serve grocery shop was established , and opened for business the same year and traded as “Dee-Jays”. This name had been formed from the first initials of both Don and Joyce – “D – J”, hence the name “Dee-Jays”. It is not known as to why Mr Don Chandler went into the grocery store business, as his brother was the funeral Director at Windsor – J. W. Chandler.
At first Carol Dwyer of Riverstone worked for and with Don Chandler, filling the shelves and on the check-out, or in those days better known as the “till” or “cash-register”. Eric Wells was the delivery man who only worked part-time for Don at the store. He delivered the groceries “free of charge” to the customers throughout the Riverstone district, Marsden Park and Schofields in the blue 1959 Holden panel van which had side view windows. Eric was a foreman in the Mutton Section at the Riverstone Meatworks, and delivered the groceries after he finished his day shift.
When Carol Dwyer left the store, Jan Bennett took her place, and in late 1961, Margaret Britton of Riverstone commenced working at the shop for Don Chandler. In 1966 Mrs Joyce Howe took over the store from Mr Chandler and then traded under the “Boomerang” as Riverstone “Foodland”. The “Boomerang” was yellow and the words “Foodland” were in red. Margaret Britton was kept on and remained as the cashier on the check-out and filling the shelves with grocery stock. Eric Wells was only kept on for a short time, as Mrs Howe required a full-time man to fill the position. She offered Eric the full-time job at the shop delivering the groceries and picking up grocery stock etc. Owing to the fact that he was fully employed as a foreman at the Meatworks, Eric had to decline the offer. Mrs Howe considered this service vital as business had built up under the “Foodland” banner, also in retaining the regular customers who now wanted their groceries delivered throughout the day and not just in the late afternoon. The free delivery service also attracted new customers to the store.
Len Strachan was a butcher/slaughterman, working in the Beef House at Riverstone Meatworks. At that point in time during 1966, the Meatworks were slack with a limited kill and he was only working three days a week, and he could not survive on such a low wage per week. Len found out about the vacancy at the “Foodland” Store through his sister-in-law, Margaret Britton. Following inquiries with Mrs Howe, he was offered the full-time position at the shop which he accepted. Len recalls that for a short period he used the 1959 Holden Panel Van, but Mrs Howe then bought a 1963 white Holden Panel Van with side canopy windows for making grocery deliveries in.
About the same time Len Strachan started at the shop, young Miss Teena Duce of Windsor was employed to work on the “till” and to stack the shelves. Under the “Boomerang”, business had certainly picked up at the shop. It is not exactly known as to how Teena got the job at Riverstone, but one theory is that her mother, Mrs Duce may have known or been friends with Mrs Howe. Teena and her mother Mrs Duce lived along side the Richmond Railway Line in a Railway House on the northern side in Cox Street. Teena travelled on the train to work at Riverstone, with Noel Smith who worked at Arnold’s Clothing Shop.
Len Strachan recalls that there were several shops in Riverstone Parade at the time he worked at “Foodland”. There was the “Riverstone Dry-Cleaners”, then “Foodland”, Mr Tim Lee (who was Chinese), had the small “Fruit Shop”, “Imperial” Butcher Shop, then Mr Frank Culina had the large “Fruit & Vegie” Shop. His shop was back off the footpath between the Butcher’s and the “Aussie” Café. Then there was Conway’s Newspaper Shop, Mr Bill Kull had the Chemist and the Commonwealth bank was on the corner.
At the shop, Lenny Strachan was also required to make up and check the grocery orders before delivery, but mostly they were selected off the shelves by the customers and put through the cash-register and pre-paid. The groceries were packed into empty cardboard cartons that the stock items came in from the food companies. The “Foodland” delivery truck arrived on Tuesdays in the back lane-way near the R. S. L. Club, and Len, along with the driver had the job of unloading it.
Besides making the deliveries in the van around Riverstone, Len also went to Marsden Park, Vineyard, Schofields and as far away as the Box Hill area. He was called upon by Mrs Howe to drive to Campbell’s at Penrith to obtain stores for the shop when they ran short or out of stock. Mr Joe Wilson also obtained stores from “Foodland” for his small grocery shop on the Windsor Road at Vineyard. Len Strachan would pick up the stores required such as a pack of sugar etc. Mr Wilson would attend Riverstone and collect the stores from Mrs Howe and at the same time, pay for them.
Len recalls that when Mr Joseph “Joe” Wilson passed away in 1967, that his shop at Vineyard was closed. Through Len Strachan’s Aunty – Violet Johnson who had worked for Joe and May Wilson at the Vineyard Shop and Post Office for almost twenty-years, arrangements were made through Mrs Joyce Howe to purchase all the stock on the shelves at the Vineyard General Store. Len went to Vineyard and picked all the stores up.
In early 1968, Maurice “Maurie” and Evelyn Hawkins who operated a guest-house at Bowral in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales, took over the store from Mrs Joyce Howe. Evelyn worked on the “till” at the check-out, and shortly after Margaret Britton left after working at the shop for nine years. Margaret then went to work for Mr Frank Culina at the large fruit shop next to the “Aussie” Cafe. This then left Evelyn and “Maurie” Hawkins, Len Strachan and Miss Teena Duce at the store. The Hawkins’ discovered that they could not afford to keep everyone employed at the store, and shortly after, Teena left “Foodland” and went to work for Mr Neil Murray at his MFC [Major Food Centre] Store in Garfield Road next to the picture theatre.
Later, Vicki White from Riverstone worked on the “till” and filling shelves. When Vicki left the store, Miss Kay Alcorn of Vineyard, took her place. Len Strachan left “Foodland” in 1973 after working at the shop for seven years, and went to work at David’s in Bessemer Road at Blacktown. David’s were a supplier of “Foodland”. Miss Kay Alcorn stayed on at the store with the Hawkins’ until the end of the late 1970s. At the end, Mrs Hawkins worked on the “till” and packed shelves, along with Kay Alcorn, and “Maurie” did the grocery deliveries in the van. The building had operated as a self-serve grocery store for just on eighteen years, with eleven of these years under the “Foodland” banner.
Up until the time the Riverstone Meat Company sold out to the developers, who were building the new shopping complex at Riverstone, the premises were still leased. Len Strachan recalls that Mr John Muddle, the Clerk from the Meatworks would come to the shop each week and collect the rent and issue a receipt to the occupiers of the shop – Mrs Howe and the Hawkins’. Mr John Muddle also collected the mail at the Post Office for the Meatworks.
With the closure of the “Riverstone Dry-Cleaner’s”, “Foodland”, “Fruit and Vegetable Shop”, and the “Butcher Shop” [Manager Mr Barry Rosa], they were all demolished in 1977, and during 1978, the new Riverstone Market Town opened for business. Here, Mr Maurice Hawkins and his wife, Evelyn, went into business in a small jewellery shop.
My Dad had a bakery in Urunga for 27 years. I was working in the bakery from about four years of age, before school and after school. I used to stand on an old wooden sultana box and help cut out the doughs and bread rolls. I probably wasn’t all that helpful at four years of age, but Dad loved me being there, I made my first batch of bread, (with the help of my sister), when I was in sixth class.
I chose to go into the bakery business and left school when I was fifteen and started my apprenticeship with Dad. I worked for him for four years and then in December 1967 we sold the business. Dad was retiring, he was close to 70, but I didn’t want to take it over, because it was in the sea-side town of Urunga and it was just too hard. The town had 800-1000 people and at Christmas time we’d have 3000 plus and it was just work, work, work. There wasn’t enough money in it for the work that you had to put in. Winter time was too quiet and you didn’t make enough money to live, so you had to live on the money you made at Christmas time.
It was different from when Dad started 27 years earlier. He was earning ten times the award wage at the start. There was more profit in the 1940s. They worked very hard, from before daylight to after dark. When Dad started baking, there was no electricity, so you’d work the daylight hours and make the bread for the next day. They’d make their doughs before they went home and they’d ferment overnight. They’d go in before daylight, light the candles up and get started. They used to make their own candles out of flour bags and fat.
I did some rubber work for McLeod’s Tyre Service and moved to their shop sales then out on the road. I didn’t like sales, so I transferred into the office where I did some clerical work. They were behind the times, it was cold and miserable. I had plenty of ideas, but they just wouldn’t run with them. I left there and went to work for WD & HO Wills. I worked there for about 12 months. They taught me everything in the office, I became the relief person. After the three months of relieving they gave me the job of stock controller, you usually had to be there for over twenty years before you got that job. I stayed in that position until I left.
The burning passion in my heart was to make pies and bread, so in May 1971 we bought a shop at 50 Mitchell Street, North Bondi. It was a one man operation. One man operated it with his wife and a couple of casuals. We took over and built it up. It was taking $320 per week and within twelve months we were doing $1600 per week. It was almost unbelievable, but the customers kept coming and the business boomed.
At that stage our family consisted of my wife, Julie-Anne and two children. Karen was two months old and Susan a year and a bit. The business had a two bedroom flat upstairs and the shop and bakehouse underneath. My uncle put in a microphone up in the kid’s bedroom and put a speaker down to the shop so we could hear if the kids woke up or if they made any noise.
My wife used to work for my Dad in the bakery at Urunga of a Saturday morning. At Bondi she would come down and work in the morning, help ice the cakes and then she’d come back at lunchtime and help out. We got a couple of school kids after school to finish the shop and clean up.
Originally we worked five and half days a week, but after we were there a couple of months we were coerced into opening Sunday and selling bread rolls and that was where the big money came in. We had queues of people lined up outside the shop. We were just opposite St Anne’s Church and when Mass came out they’d queue up. People would be driving past, see the queue, wonder what it was and join it.
We ended up taking over the barber shop next door. We expanded, which in hindsight I wouldn’t do again. It wasn’t a financial success, in one sense we did alright, but in another we would lose control because we’d bake in one shop and not be able to hear what was going on in the other. We felt we’d lost contact with people. Also there were no queues, which meant that there wasn’t that added attraction to people passing by.
We were at Bondi until October 1977. One reason we left was because we had another two children while we were there and the flat wasn’t big enough. There were only two bedrooms and a small concrete yard at the back. I also had the desire to buy a freehold bakery in the country, to get out of the concrete. The main motivation for the move was for the kids, to get them out into the country.
We found a bakery at Tottenham, the geographical centre of New South Wales. We landed out there in October ’77 and stayed there until March ’82. It really was a great time for the kids, there was great freedom, they could walk out onto the street and go to their friends place, there was great safety.
There were only about 250-300 people in the town. We serviced and made bread for about 2,000 people. We sent out the bread on mail runs, the school buses.
While we were there we instigated an apprenticeship for the first female apprentice baker in Australia. Her name was Glenise Jarvis. Up until then you could only have male apprentices as a baker. The girls were only able to become pastry cooks.
I wrote to the department of Labour and Industry and said to them, why is it we can’t employ this girl as an apprentice baker. Anyway they approved it and we had the first female apprentice baker in Australia.
Tottenham is a great place. There is a lot happening there. We recently went out there with a group from the Servants of Jesus to provide support for one of our friends out there. As a child I was taught that prayer is the most important thing in the world and I’m starting to believe that now. You don’t always comprehend these things at first.
We knew before we went to Tottenham that bakeries were a dying business and that there was a limited life for them. We could see the big multi nationals coming in. At that stage bread was price controlled. Sid Einfeld and Neville Wran were known as the housewives’ friends as they stopped the prices of bread, milk and a few other things going up. While we were there we took on the Government on this price control. We had so many price increases ourselves that we weren’t able to pass on, it became impossible to stay in business. There was one guy in Wollongong who started baking bread on a Sunday (which back then wasn’t lawful). He did this to try and survive. They fined him and he went to jail rather than pay the fine.
This brought things to a head. We had a secret meeting of the bakers from Western New South Wales at Tottenham (without letting the bread manufacturers find out about it). At that time the bread manufacturers of New South Wales were basically controlled by Buttercup, Fielders and Tip Top. What was happening was that they were pricing their flour out from their own flour mills to their own Bakeries at above market prices, expecting the government to increase bread prices.
We broke away and formed the Independent Bread Manufactures of New South Wales and with the help of the independent member on the South Coast, John Hatton, we ended up getting the industry changed.
We left Tottenham mainly because of the children. Our eldest daughter was in sixth class and looking to move into High School. We got to know a couple of women who had come to the town as teachers or to work in the bank and married local farmers. Years later we could see that they became so lonely as they weren’t country girls, but their husbands wouldn’t leave the land.
I decided that as the children were nearing the age that they would be entering into relationships, that it was time we moved back nearer to civilisation, as Tottenham was just so far from our parents and other members of the family.
My brother had wanted me to go into business with him for years, so in March ’82 I joined with my brother and other partners and we bought the Bread Shed at Windsor. It was a good sized business, one of the good hot bread shops in Sydney, it was doing $3,400 a week turnover when we took it over and within six months we had it up to $10,000. We were doing $6,000 retail and added $4,000 wholesale as well. We were employing sixteen people, including some part time.
On one hand it was a great relief to have partners, as you didn’t have the sole responsibility, I could take time off and things were OK. From that point of view it was good. The drain was the emotional side. My brother and another partner in the business had ideas for future of the business which weren’t heading in the same direction as my ideas, so I decided to get out of that business and look for something to operate myself.
A fellow who lived in Riverstone, Joe Potter, knew me and worked for us in Windsor. He kept at me about coming to Riverstone to look at a business which was for sale. I said I wasn’t interested as it was too small and I was already in a bakery which had sixteen employees and I didn’t feel that I wanted to go back to a one man operation.
However, as it was going to take some time to wind down my involvement with the Windsor business with my brother, I decided that I would come to Riverstone and buy this business. That was in 1985 and it cost us $20,000 at the time.
The business was owned by Catino and Anna Costi and was known as Roma cakes. They had started the shop in the same premises about three years earlier. He got sick, so for health reasons he needed to sell.
I decided that while I was winding up the company with the Windsor bakery, I would buy the Riverstone business, spend two years there, double the size of the turnover and then buy into a bigger bakery.
When we took over we were doing $1,300 a week. After three years of putting a lot of hard work and effort in, we had found that we couldn’t increase the turnover. People had established buying habits and we found that we couldn’t change them. There was another cake shop in the Marketplace which had their cakes manufactured in St Marys and delivered daily and there was also a hot bread shop.
We started to build it up, but hadn’t doubled it. I sought advise from Max Talbot who knew the industry. He told me to roll my sleeves up and get stuck into it as I hadn’t done half of what this place could do.
Over a period of the next six months I felt a couple of times that the Lord was speaking to me and telling me to stay and it has been the same to this day. So that’s why I’m still here 28 years later.
A FAMILY BUSINESS
My wife Julie-Anne has always been involved in the business. She still does what she can including the books, but with sixteen grandchildren including the twins born a few months ago, she is now taking six months long service leave. Although we have had her come back to help when we have big orders of lamingtons.
All the children have worked in the business. Susan has been with the business from the time she left school and is still there. Our second daughter, Karen trained and worked as a hairdresser then came and worked there for eighteen months until she started her own family. She was a great person for the business, she has a great personality and boosted the business greatly.
Tracey worked at McDonalds and MBF and wasn’t really satisfied and asked if she could come and work with us until she started to have her family.
The next surprise was when our eldest son Wayne asked if he could leave school and come and work for me. I sent him away to seek advice and think about it. He came back the next day and worked with us for five years. He did his apprenticeship as a baker and pastry cook with us. He then did twelve months with the Servants of Jesus Youth Ministry team spending a period of that time overseas. He then continued on with them for fourteen years. Wayne asked to come back for a year or two to spend some time with me and is currently in the business.
After Wayne’s first five years with us, Nathan, our second son, came to me and asked if he could come and work for me at the end of year 10. He hadn’t shown any interest up until then, so he did his apprenticeship with us and he is now working at Costco in their bakery getting valuable experience.
We went into computers in the early days. Originally when we came into the business in Windsor in ’82, we bought an Apple Computer. You used to have to put the disk in, load the program and we got that up and running and it saved us hours and hours of time. A few years later as computers became more complicated, we lost a lot of time trying to work it all out. We’ve learnt from that you have to keep things simple.
We still struggle, as because we are a small business, we need to keep things simple so as not to spend too much time on data entry. We have a good program on our cash register called Goalpost, but unfortunately it isn’t supported any more and the new ones are too complicated.
CAKES AND BREAD
We haven’t diversified much over the years as I’m an Australian baker and my Dad’s father came out from England and he learnt the baking trade. That’s all we’ve known. Basically the pie recipe is still the original recipe we’ve always had. We make it all from scratch. There have been improvements with the ingredients we buy, so you can’t say things are exactly the same. The margarine is far more refined, better suited to the task and more consistent.
We use the basic ingredients, salt, pepper and quality meat. We used to buy from Country Wide meat until they closed down and now we buy from Harvey’s who have really looked after us and given us great meat.
Is there one thing I like to cook more than another? Yes, I would have to say bread, but we don’t have the space or machinery to effectively produce bread on a large scale. Because we are more of a cake shop than a bakery, for a period of time we didn’t bake bread. We used to sell Tip Top and Buttercup in the shop.
When Wayne came to work with us, I thought we’ll try making the bread by hand to see if it is worth investing in machinery if it took off. We found that we wouldn’t get enough sales at a price to make it worthwhile with the other competition around. We didn’t go down that path, but I decided that we would continue making some bread, as I missed it so much in the years when we didn’t make it. So we make a few loaves of bread a day for special orders. We mix it in the mixer, but mould it by hand.
When Wayne leaves next year the average day will see me starting at 5.30 in the morning and I’ll go through until well after lunchtime. Susan will stay on and continue to sell things and then tidy up the shop.
Around seven years ago, Pamela Monk, the wife of the local Anglican minister of the time came to see me. She asked would I make gingerbread houses for her church with a recipe that she had.
I said no, but she started telling me how she would have to go home and make 360 pieces of gingerbread because she wasn’t going to buy the product she had last year because it was terrible, it was like cardboard, out of shape etc.
She made me feel sorry for her, but I thought maybe God’s in this. Maybe if you bring the recipe around and see if we can convert it into our language, with our methods and whether we can get the industrial ingredients. I told her that there was one condition, that you come with it. She brought the recipe around the next day and a week later we tried it and it worked perfectly.
We made her 70 houses. She came back the next week and wanted to know if we could make a thousand dollars worth for her sister’s church. We did, again on the proviso that she came and helped. Next came her mother’s church, so that first year we made $3,000 worth.
The second year we made $6,000 worth for a total of six churches. By the third year we knew what we were doing and Pamela came to help us again. We sold $30,000 worth that year. About 60% of our turnover is now gingerbread, which is done in a six week period. It all ties in with our lifestyle and spreading the Word of the Kingdom of God and I’ve seen this happen through people who have been invited along to make these gingerbread houses and hear the Word
I belong to an ecumenical group the Servants of Jesus. I’ve become an area pastor for them at Bligh Park. We see our mission to be a bridge between all mainstream churches. When we went back to Tottenham to visit, we went to the Presbyterian Church there. They had a visiting group of missionaries from Kazakhstan.
Through the business we have been able to support local church and school fundraisers through things such as making the lamingtons. They aren’t quite as popular as fundraisers now, as it is hard to compete with the boxes of fundraising chocolates. Last month we sold one church fifty dozen lamingtons which they sold out early.
My plan for the future is to continue on with what we are doing. I’ve got all those grandchildren. I don’t believe the word retirement is in the Bible. I’m a committed man of God and want to continue to do God’s will. I believe in a sense if you do God’s will, every day is retirement, as you are at peace.
I still have a desire to buy a freehold bakery, the future may contain a freehold bakery which doesn’t involve retail shopfront, perhaps involving internet sales and delivery by courier. I’m still thinking and planning.
Jack Mundey was born in 1929 on a dairy farm at Malanda, on the Atherton Tablelands, 100 kms west of Cairns. He was one of five children in the family, and his mother died when he was six years old. He was brought up by his eldest sister Josie and recalls helping the family work the dairy farm as a very trying time. He initially attended Malanda Public school and was then enrolled at St. Augustine’s, a boarding school in Cairns. He found the everyday discipline at this school hard to handle and eventually ran away, aged 13 years.
Showing some promise as a Rugby League player he came to Parramatta in 1950 to be coached by Vic Hey. In 1955, after realising he was not going to make it as a first grade player in the NRL he accepted the position as Captain /Coach of the Riverstone ‘A’ grade team in the district competition.
He led this team to a spectacular win in the grand final against Richmond, Riverstone were down 11 nil at half time and midway through second half were down 14 nil. They then scored five tries and two goals in the final 20 minutes to win the final 19 points to 14.
At the time Jack became a metal worker and joined the Ironworkers Union, then became a builders labourer and joined the Builders Labourers Federation. Jack was alarmed at number of deaths on these building sites, recalling in one year there was over 100 reported deaths.
In 1957 he joined the Communist Party, and in 1968 he was elected as Secretary of the NSW Builders Labourers Federation. It was in this role that he introduced the Green Bans that were about to bring a change in the attitude and thinking of the middle class communities of Sydney.
With the assistance of the local communities he led the fight to save The Rocks area of Sydney from being demolished to make way for high rise hotels. He prevented Centennial Park from being converted into a massive Sports Stadium and car park. He believed the loss of these areas of open space was detrimental to our way of life and had to be stopped.
One of the more famous protests was when the BLF formed an alliance with the middle class ladies of Hunters Hill to save an area known as ‘Kelly’s Bush’. He then had a Green Ban placed on the destruction of the huge fig trees in the Botanical Gardens. Jack recalled the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald advising him the Herald had received more letters of support for this ban than on any other issue.
Jack continued to help these groups and their Green bans, and became very involved with the environmental movement. Sometimes these protests led to him being gaoled, as was the case with The Rocks protests in 1973.
At the time Premier Askin branded the Green Bans as Industrial anarchy and ordered the police to arrest the protesters. Jack believes this action eventually led to the demise of the Askin government.
Corruption was rife in this era; Juanita Nielsen, the editor of a local paper and a strong supporter of the protesters, disappeared; her body was never found.
Jack recalls one of the arresting constables at the time was Steven Lane, who later became a staunch supporter of the environmental movement. Steven in later years instigated the move to have a part of The Rocks area recognised as ‘Jack Mundey Place’.
There was a Federal take over of the New South Wales branch of the Builders Labourers Federation in 1975 and Jack lost his position as their branch Secretary.
He never returned to the Union movement, being content to work with the Australian Conservation Foundation and other environmental organisations. In 1988 he became an Honorary Doctor of Letters and Science at the University of Western Sydney.
In the 1990’s Jack was made a Life Member of the Australian Conservation Foundation. In 1995 he was appointed as the Chairman of the Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales, and it was in this role that he attended the handing over of Rouse Hill House to the Trust in 1999.
Jack has endured more than his share of personal tragedies in his life. His mother died when he was six year old and he was cared for by his elder sister. His first wife died aged 22 with a cerebral haemorrhage and Jack was left to care for his young son, Michael. Five years later (1965) Jack married Judy, his present wife.
In 1982, his only son Michael, then aged 22, was killed in a car accident.
Today (2012) Jack is at the forefront of the battle to save the historical Thompson Square, Windsor, from destruction by developers and road builders.
Jack can be be proud of his achievements over the years, rising from a boy who ran away when he was 13 years old, overcoming many setbacks to become the Chairman of the prestigious Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales.
Jack was rewarded with the Order of Australia Medal in the 1990’s and later was awarded the AO.
The original Anglo-Saxon word was “ekename” meaning “also or added”. This became slurred to “nekename” and finally “nickname”. Nicknames were common in Ancient Greece and Rome especially as terms of affection. English parents gave their children long names then abbreviated them e.g. “Harold” became “Hal” and “Elizabeth” became “Betsy”.
Nicknames are usually awarded to, not chosen, by the recipient and often are based on the person’s name, physical characteristics, personality or lifestyle. Some nicknames are obvious but some need an explanation.
Some years ago Shirley Cook (Woods) sent us a comprehensive list of “Rivo” nicknames. We have added to Shirley’s list and have endeavoured to match these names with each person’s real name and, where possible, to ascertain the origin of the nickname if it is not indicative of the above criteria.
Bruce was told he had ears like a bat.
Jimmy was a very successful boxer.
John was Road Captain of the Motor Bike Club. Each year the club travelled in convoy to the Bathurst Bike Races. They slept overnight at Lithgow where some of them were confronted by a local gang. John, came charging to his mates’ rescue “like a Big Bear”.
Most Blueys were redheads
On the cricket field one of his mates said he was acting like a clown, a “Bozo”.
Butch’s first job was as a delivery driver, with horse & cart, for a local butcher.
Kevin began driving trucks as soon as he was old enough.
Eric Playing with another boy he was asked, “Do you play dinks?” “Yes.” was the reply. “Well I’ll call you Dinky.”
Alan’s father. People often inherited their father’s nickname when they went to work at the Meatworks. Doughy Wallace Norman He was a baker.
When Eric was small his grandmother had a duck which Eric used to carry around the yard. His Nan also had a Chook, called “Biddy”, which his sister Barbara used to carry around. Eric still calls Barbara “Biddy”.
As a boy Reggie had the best collection of birds’ eggs.
He had curly blonde hair, not unlike Harpo Marx.
He had been a jockey.
Ron was called “Monkey” at school, “Mouse” came later.
He always spoke very correctly, like a “Pom”!
Barry was a very quiet person.
“Snooksey’s” nickname became “Harpo” later in life.
He had rather large feet.
Lots of freckles.
His grandson, John (who is quite tall), is also known as Stumpy.
As a very small boy Graham lived in a terraced house near the Riverstone Royal Hotel. The licensee, Paddy Morgan said he was only as big as a threepence, our smallest coin at the time. The name stuck!
Son Graham also known as Tichey.
Later known as Butch, he was “Tinhare” from schooldays as he was the fastest runner.
Barry &/or Eric
If you can fill in, add to or correct any of the given names that we are missing, please contact us and we will update this list .
The cleverest nickname I recall was back in 1955 when I was practice teaching at Concord Public School on a Year 4 class. The boy’s surname was Bishop and his mates called him “Pub”, short for “beer shop”!
Some nicknames can be the result of a small child’s early effort to pronounce a relative’s given name. I had three close relatives on my father’s side. Auntie Ivy, Auntie Vera and Uncle Jessop. My older brother, Bill called them “Why”, “Booa” and “Sheck”. My younger brother Rob and I continued using the nicknames. Sheck was the only one to lose his name when Superman comics became popular and Rob decided he was “Superman”. Sheck told Rob that he could beat Superman because he was “Joe Palooka”, another comic book hero. Sheck from then on became “Joe”. My mother, Why and Joe all died whilst I was still at high school and Booa (now also known as “Boo”) took my mother’s place in the raising of we three children.
She remained “Boo” until her death in 1975, aged 76. My three sons, their friends and the neighbourhood folk all called her “Boo”. I doubt if some of them knew her real name. Boo was also a great one for using nicknames. Almost every week she had friends visit her home, on the corner of George and Park Streets, for a cuppa and a chat. They were “Lew”, our Nanna Lewis from Mill Street, “Orky”, Treacle Alcorn’s wife, Annie, from Market Street and “Greenie”, Mrs Green from Piccadilly Street. Boo’s dearest friend was “Chalk”, Hilda Chalker, our next-door neighbour in Park Street. Neither of them owned a TV so Chalk visited Boo each evening for a chat and Boo would walk her home each night. Boo always walked Chalk home and we were often in bed when we heard “Goodnight Boo” and “Ni-night Chalk” called out as they parted company for the night at our gateway.
Since I wrote the article on “German Charlie” in the Marsden Park Public School’s 1989 Centenary Booklet people have been asking me if I had the full story of German Charlie’s life – well here it is!
I have chosen to reproduce most of the information as it was written then, in the Windsor andRichmond Gazette, starting with Vol.1 No. 1 on 21st July 1888-1891. Researched at Windsor Library. I loved reading “Riverstone” from our Correspondent and from Truthful James and hope you enjoy their “take” of the times as much as I did. The collected information is not strictly collected in the order as it was written in the Gazette.
Sincere thanks to Cecil Bull, Beth Matthews and Brenda Gardiner from Parramatta Historical Society for their information on German Charlie’s life after Marsden Park.
Anne Birdsey 2012
From the Riverstone Correspondent (July 1888):
The township is presently as lively as can be. Hundreds of visitors from all parts of the colony visit it weekly to consult German Charlie or, as he is most commonly known, Doctor Charlie, upon various complaints.
From Truthful James:
“German Charlie – a Sketch of the Riverstone Medicine Man”
“Some are born great, Some achieve greatness, Some have greatness thrust upon them – under the last category comes the subject of the Sketch, and his worldly success shows, in a remarkable manner, how Fortune knocked at his door and found him at home.
German Charlie, or to speak correctly, Heinrich Frederick Bruggman, native of Hamburg in Germany, and, although some of his disciples now claim for him miraculous powers, his boyhood life was dull enough, and may be summed up as a monotonous repetition in daily form of the ‘got up, washed, went to bed order’.
As a young man he had a penchant for doctoring and longed to study medicine. Homeopathy, being within his reach, soon found in him an ardent discipline, and, to gain experience, he used to visit poorer classes in Hamburg and prescribe for their ailments ‘gratis’. He contracted a serious illness and, his money having run out, he decided to emigrate in 1883.
In 1888 he had been in the colony for five years, four years in the bush. He worked as a hawker, then as a bootblack. At the time he set up as a homeopath on the Blacktown Road at Marsden Park he was 54 years old. He was described as being about 5 ft 10 ins. in height, of rather stout build and his face wore a rather worn-out expression. Charlie had a full beard and wore a tweed suit, a slouch hat and slippers.
Charlie’s house is described as a step-up from a gunyah, surrounded by thick trees and shrubs. The scene brought to mind nearly 1900 years back, a scene in a far distant land by the Sea of Galilee, when a great multitude of sick came to Him. A profile of German Charlie in the 1891 Gazette said that his name was Charles Heinrich Frederick Bruggman but he is buried under the name of Carl Heinrich Frederick Bruggmann.”
German Charlie practised in Marsden Park from 1888 – 1891. German Charlie successfully treated a neighbour’s child and his reputation spread till he was seeing 400-500 people a week. His renown created a local demand for coaches, drivers, boarding house keepers and liars. Crowds of people come from all parts of the country. The railway station is quite lively and, when trains arrive, you would hear the coach drivers echo, “This way for German Charlie”. There were up to 13 licensed vehicles (and more expected) operating from Riverstone railway station to convey patients to Blacktown Road Marsden Park, with signs, “To German Charlies”.
It cost 2/- (2 shillings) to see Charlie, 1/- (1 shilling) for advice and 1/- for medicine. As time went by the fare to get to Marsden Park rose from 6d. (6 pence) to 15/- , a quite large amount for the times. (This was also one of the reasons Charlie decided to move to a more accessible location for his patients.) Most journeys started at a hard gallop regardless of the passengers feelings – to get there fast was the aim. Towards the end of the journey the road narrows so that only one vehicle can pass and certainly drivers took risks to get there first. Some drivers zigzagged along this last stage of road where two vehicles could have passed at very close quarters, to stop drivers getting in first. With all the rushing about accidents did happen, ending in court.
From the Riverstone Correspondent (in the September issue):
“The road leading to German Charlie’s was being gravelled as it was badly wanted, as there is a deal of traffic upon it and it was terribly cut up.”
From Truthful James:
“It is amusing at times to see the lithe limbed visitors start off running in the direction of Charlie’s residence, rather than lose a few moments waiting for the carriage to leave. People may be met in the bush here, there, and everywhere, for the doctor’s house. A week or two ago several almost miraculous cures were made, and one lady from Wellington, who was suffering from a skin disease which none of the doctors who tried could cure, is just ready to go on her way rejoicing.
German Charlie continues to be the most eagerly sought after in Riverstone. Hundreds of people arrive in Riverstone from Sydney and all parts of the colony, camping near Charlie’s and domicile overnight, so they may have an early opportunity of seeing the medico next morning.
It is stated upon good authority that as much as £400 (pounds) circulates weekly in Riverstone outside of the usual local money spent in the town. This is due to the fact that German Charlie has his consulting rooms in the locality.
It is a well-known fact that Riverstone is the best paying station on the Windsor-Richmond line and yet the station accommodation is certainly the worst. Some agitation should be made by the residents to try and get what they require. Several of the Ministry had a trip to Riverstone and it is hoped that some benefit will accrue. The daily trains are crowded with visitors and hundreds are staying in town, if this goes on a train service like that on the suburban line will be necessary.
The consulting hours of German Charlie are a little conflicting… that he did not work on Saturday came out in court – another article stated that Wednesday is a day Charlie never sees patients. The Gazette reported that Charlie went on a visit to Gosford for several days. He was accompanied by his private secretary, and was met on his return at the railway station by a large number of residents, who, with one accord gave three cheers for ‘our German doctor’, whereat Charlie appeared to be exceptionally pleased. The town, usually so busy, was wonderfully different, but on Thursday, when Charlie worked, the town was again inundated with visitors, the lame, the halt (crippled) and the blind all being well represented. The locals were looking to having the trains fumigated with all the sick people coming to town. One lady had come from Rockhampton in Queensland for no other purpose than to obtain his advice and medicine.
Charlie also saw emergencies, one such example was the case of a horse tripping whilst transporting a child, throwing him heavily. The child, of course, progressed favourably. Several Sydney doctors have come from time to time out of mere curiosity, others with the object of discovering whether Charlie was capable of curing some ailments, which all the ability of their brethren and themselves had failed to remove. Two well-known metropolitan doctors of high standing in particular arrived at Charlie’s some weeks ago and one of them managed to gain admission. He stood before Charlie and said, “Can you do anything for me?” Charlie gave him one sharp, shrewd glare and curtly replied, “No!” “Why?” asked the Sydney medico. “Because there is nothing the matter with you” was the answer and the inquisitive one was fain to take it and his leave. His companion remained in the bus outside and when the first emerged from Charlie’s he was asked, “Well what do you think of him?” “He knows a lot more than I do,” said the other and they drove back to Riverstone again.
The stories of Charlie’s cures are really miraculous and the majority of those who put their faith in him and consult him are people whose ailments have been given up as incurable by qualified medical men.
On entering his consulting room the visitor stands face to face with the German ‘miracle worker’ who casts a quick glance over his patient, and, as he says, sees the whole system opened out before him. In a moment Charlie states the patient’s symptoms and places his hand upon the exact locality of the disorder. He sits down, buries his face in his hands for a moment, and then, rising hurriedly, runs his hand along the row of medicine bottles ranged on a shelf close by until he reaches that which he desires to use. People who visited him on more than one occasion state that on being consulted he trembles on all his limbs and remains in that condition until the patient has left.
One doctor who saw Charlie asked him whether he could not impart his knowledge to another, and, after a little consideration Charlie replied that he had thought the matter over but, somehow, he believed that it did not lie in his power to do so. The fame of the German doctor has reached the old country already and word has been received that three or four persons are on their way from America to consult him. Altogether Charlie has been a regular boon to the Riverstoneites who view his threat to leave the locality with little short of horror.”
1891 Charlie moves to Harris Park (information supplied by Parramatta Historical Society)
He married Susan Griggs in 1890 in Parramatta and, in April 1891, he purchased a beautiful Victorian weatherboard cottage, no. 46 Station Street East, Harris Park. This house was built in 1879 but sadly demolished in 1969. The location was ideal, only 4-5 minutes walk from the station and 10 minutes from Parramatta. He charged 2/- per patient. It is said that many times he refused this sum to needy folk. It is also said he received large amounts of donations (mainly money) and he later returned these donations to his patients. In the floor of this house, in the middle of his kitchen, there was a large trapdoor leading to a cellar by way of a ladder, where he stored his remedies, medicines, herbs, to keep them cool. He continued to work from here for the next 17 years, till death. The death of German Charlie occurred on 26th February 1908. He was 74 years old. He is buried in Mays Hill cemetery in Parramatta.
German Charlie was a phenomenal person in the Marsden Park/Riverstone, and then Parramatta/Colony before and after the turn of the century. His popularity was due to the successes of his treatment where local medicos had failed. It is difficult to ascertain how many people he saw in Harris Park, with easy access to his treatment.
During the short time we had him in Marsden Park/ Riverstone area health care was probably the best in the colony, testified by his popularity. As a result WE had a booming economy, improvements to roads etc. YES, we were the sorrier for his relocation.
When the High School celebrated its 30th Anniversary Lynette Walker put together a history of the first thirty years for the Pebble school magazine. It is worth sharing part of the story of how the announcement was made in 1960 that the school was to be built to open in 1962. As with many such announcements it was followed by Government inaction and much community agitation.
Finally, despite having had two years to build the school, construction started only five months before it opened. Needless to say it wasn’t finished on time, but there were enough classrooms to allow the school to be opened on 31 January 1962. Over the years more classrooms were added, followed by the library science block and auditorium.
Fifty years later the school buildings are still recognisable to former students, but inside the classrooms have changed. The blackboards have been replaced by whiteboards and interactive screens, where the teacher can project lessons from a computer onto a screen for everyone to see.
In the Music room acoustic guitars are suspended around the walls, but classes can now be done with the aid of iPads, not to mention the sound studio across the hallway.
The Industrial Arts rooms still house timber working tools and metal lathes, but one room is set up so that students can program their laptops to operate small Lego like robots.
Personal development classes now include access to life like baby dolls. Some can be programmed to be just like a real baby to give students a real world view of life with a baby.
The digital world has met up with the Art Department with a special computer room. Don’t worry though, there is still a darkroom for processing film and two rooms where students can physically apply paint onto canvas.
For many of us the positive aspects of our time at school were connected to the teachers and students with whom we spent our school years.
I attended Riverstone in the 1970s. We completed up to Year 12 at Riverstone, but had to travel to Blacktown Girls High to undertake the actual HSC exams. In later years students were able to sit exams at the school. 1999 was the last Year 12 completed at Riverstone. From 2000 onwards Year 12 students travel to Wyndham College at the old HMAS Nirimba site at Quakers Hill. Here students from Riverstone, Quakers Hill and Seven Hills High schools undertake both Years 11 and 12.
50 years was a significant enough milestone to celebrate with a school open day, so the current Principal, Alistair Yates advertised for interested community members and former students to attend a meeting to look to organise events for the celebrations.
An enthusiastic group of people met in the school library and sorted through ideas for the celebrations. Over the next twelve months the size of the organising committee dwindled, but the enthusiasm remained high. It was decided that the celebrations would consist of a display in the school to open on Friday and Saturday; an official ceremony and cutting of a cake on Saturday; open day in the classrooms on Saturday; a commemorative paver walkway followed up with an open day at the local Museum on the Sunday.
Michelle Nichols established a reunion site on Facebook and over a series of months many people became friends of the site and shared photos and memories.
A core band of volunteers, Ruth Tozer, Rosemary Phillis, Karen Stalker and Vikki Durrant sorted through mountains of paper accumulated over the years to find items and photographs that could be used as part of the display.
Alistair Yates, the current school Principal, lost some hours of sleep as he co-ordinated the numerous official things required to have the events running smoothly.
The school had good sets of class photos from most decades, so it was decided that the class photos would be scanned, numbered and put on display for the day. School staff including Damien Knott, Matt Saville, Lyndall West, Kellie Steel, Pauline Elder, Casey Brown, Janette Abrams, Karen Lawrence and Gillian Elliott provided support in the lead up to and on the days of the celebrations.
The display was to be a highlight of the event and it took two full days to put the display up and pull everything together. Karen, Vikki and Rosemary were joined by Sam Kirby, Sharon Hughes and Brooklyn Durrant to pin photos, arrange artefacts and items of interest.
Finally Friday arrived with the most unseasonable weather for October. It was raining and freezing cold. The Great Western Highway and Bells Line of Road were cut by snow. The visitors however were not to be deterred and drove through atrocious conditions. Over both days the visitors came from everywhere, the country, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia.
One of the most popular visitors on both days was Mr Ted Mulherin. He was a teacher at the school on day one in 1962. He recalled the day clearly. Our first day was pupil free as the school wasn’t finished. They were still sweeping out the classrooms and bringing the furniture in. The first buildings were where the canteen is now and the building adjoining it across the now quadrangle. They didn’t even know if the toilets would work and had brought in the old toilet pans in case they didn’t work.
There were no doors on the classrooms and it was Easter before I was able to move into my science lab for the first time. The site was still a construction zone and if it rained they had to put down timber for the students to be able to walk from one building to the other.
Mr Mulherin spent the two days catching up with his former students along with some of the other teachers from the early days including Myra Steyn, Bill Thompson, James McMillan and Joy Farley.
People stayed for hours in the hall on the Friday, looking at the display and catching up with friends. When closing time came, the last few people had to be hunted out with one of the old school canes, which had been found in a storage room under the stairwell near the Office.
Saturday saw a complete change of weather, sunny and warm. Perfect for a reunion.
Visitors flocked to the hall, signing the visitors book, checking out the displays and looking for people that they knew. The noise levels grew and the area became more and more crowded. The organisers were relieved!
The Office staff and family, along with Rosemary Godbehere, Sam Kirby, Vicki Durrant and her daughters, manned the school stall on the day, printing out copies for sale at request, raising funds for the current school projects.
The official events started at 11 o’clock on the Saturday morning. Alistair Yates was Master of Ceremonies. The National Anthem was sung in unison by the assembled crowd. Former teacher Deidre Dorbis conducted the Acknowledgment of Country, which was followed by speeches from Alistair Yates, Michelle Rowland, Kevin Connolly, Wal Smith and Ray Williams (Member of State Parliament and former student).
The official cake was made and iced by Jordan’s cake shop. It was adorned with a beautiful reproduction of the school emblem in icing made by former student Michelle Smith. The emblem is shown in the photo below.
The official cutting of the cake was a combined effort. Former school leaders Joy Magennis (nee West) and Keith Musgrave and current school captains, Mikayla Tabone and Simon Godbehere together completed the official task, captured in the pictured below.
Another special feature associated with the celebrations was the construction of a Commemorative Pathway. In the months leading up to the event the school was taking orders for people who wished to have pavers included in the pathway. The official ribbon opening the pathway was cut by Karen Stalker (nee Keegan), a former student, School Captain, member of the P&C and mother of two former students.
No commemorative event would be complete without an official photo of the day. Local Professional Photographer and former student Warren Kirby took his camera to the second floor and took the official photograph looking down on the assembled crowd. The crowd was so big that he had to take several shots and digitally “stitch” them together into one shot. A fine record of the day.
After the official events were finished people dispersed. The open classrooms were popular and a credit to the teachers who had set them up to display modern day schooling for the event.
Throughout Saturday the hall and display remained a hub of activity and the school barbecue and canteen did a roaring trade supplying food and drink to the never ending crowd.
Time flew and eventually it was time to close up for the day. People were still looking and talking and eventually the Principal had to turn the lights out to have everyone move on. A great day.
To round off the day, a large crowd attended an impromptu get together on the Saturday evening. Organised by Leanne Leach about 200 hundred ex students descended on the Riverstone Bowling Club to spend more time with old friends. Everyone enjoyed reminiscing about their time at Riverstone High School and telling yarns of the ‘good old days’ and past experiences. Entertainment on the night was provided by The Flyze led by ex-students John Lewis, Chris Hoffman and Geoff Griffis. Some students met up at the Riverstone Schofields Memorial Club.
The Museum open day was a quiet event, but provided another opportunity for some of the students to catch up and gradually wind down.
Over the next few days the school received many expressions of thanks which were echoed on the Facebook site. The Riverstone High School 50th Anniversary celebrations will be remembered for years to come.
I have known Geoff for years and we have shared many happy hours of conversation. I was aware that he was a professional photographer but it wasn’t until I saw a book of photos by Geoff Higgins in a bookshop that I realised how professional his career was.
Geoff was in the first intake of students at Riverstone High School in 1962. As the High School celebrates its 50th anniversary this year it seemed a good time to find out more about Geoff and his story.
I was born in 1949 in Riverstone and grew up in the town. I attended Riverstone High School and was in the first intake in 1962. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but like many young fellows, my main aim was to get out of school and make and spend some money.
I had always been interested in photography. When I was in fifth class in primary school my mother said she would buy me a camera if I did well at school. I came second and she bought me a camera. I don’t recall what sort of camera it was, perhaps a Box Brownie, but I thought it was the bees knees. What Mum didn’t realise was that the real cost was in having the films processed!
In the late 1950s early 1960s I wanted to upgrade the camera, so I got a weekend job on a blue ice cream truck with Bob from St Marys. He drove around the area selling paddle pops, soft drinks and basic items such as sugar. Bob had regular clients in the out-lying areas of Schofields and Marsden Park who didn’t have cars. It was a convenient way for them to buy essentials plus, of course, the ice cream. I was the ‘gopher’ and I’d meet Bob up on the Catholic Church hill at around 9.30 in the morning and work until about 8.00 at night for the princely sum of $2 (plus all the ice cream I could eat). I worked for Bob for a couple of years and it was a good experience as he made me think outside the square.
I saved enough money to buy an SLR camera. I was only interested in photography and spent hours taking photos. We had a bird aviary in the yard at home which contained a variety of birds such as zebra finches. I would sit there all day waiting for a bird to land in a particular spot so that I could take that particular photo. When it comes to photography I have always had great patience.
I generally used black and white film and started developing the photos myself in the bathroom at home. As I got into photography, Dad helped me convert a shed in the backyard into a darkroom. (The shed was either going to be a darkroom or a home for the ferrets, luckily the darkroom won.) I think the shed actually started out as a cubby house for the daughter of the Vaughans who lived there before us.
Photography was a hobby. After leaving school I got a job in a bank in the City. They were long days, getting up at six to catch the steam train around seven and not getting back until six o’clock on a normal day. I changed banks and was working at Riverstone before transferring to a larger branch at Blacktown.
It was while I was catching the train to work at Blacktown that I got to know Rhonda Howes through a mutual friend, Mary Rumery. Rhonda and I married in late 1971 and over the next few years we bought and paid off our house in Riverstone Road. By that time I’d left the bank and joined the fire brigade. The shift work of the brigade allowed me to work up to three jobs at a time to earn more money.
I had always wanted to travel and take photos. In early 1974 we leased our house, bought a caravan and hit the road to travel Australia. Our intention was to enjoy ourselves and getting jobs along the way, which was how it worked out.
It was while we were at Lake Eyre that, through a chance meeting, I started on my way to becoming a professional photographer. We bumped into a fellow who told us that he was writing a book on Australian rivers. When I mentioned that I was taking some photos on our trip, he suggested that while I travelled I should take photos of rivers, which could illustrate the book and that we could go fifty: fifty in it once it was published.
I didn’t think much more of the idea and continued on the journey taking numerous photographs of a variety of subjects including rivers. My main passion was taking photos of wildlife.
After fifteen months on the road, we had only just arrived back home in early 1975, when I got a call from the fellow I’d met at Lake Eyre. A week later we met with his publisher who, on seeing my photos, decided to publish the book. The fellow honoured his promise on a handshake that we would go fifty: fifty.
Until that point in my life I had only had one photo published and that was in the Women’s Weekly. The publisher asked if I had any more photos. Naively I asked him how much I had to pay him to publish my photos. He said “we pay you to use your photos”. I sent a batch of photos to him and from what they used, in the following three months, I made more money than in the rest of my life.
We stayed home long enough to have our first child, Daniel. When he was three months old we headed off again. We had bought a brand new four wheel drive Land Rover to replace our old Holden and caravan and slept in the back. Daniel’s spot was the space behind the wheel arch in the back. No safety restrictions back then.
Our daughter Sarah came along seven years later and we did a few more trips, but bought a caravan to make it easier. As the children grew, Rhonda stayed home, and I did the trips away with a mate and mad keen amateur photographer, John Skarratt. We would be away for three to four months at a time. I don’t know how many kilometres I’ve travelled over the years. I’ve put 400,000 kilometres on my current four wheel drive. We weren’t always on the move, sometimes we’d spend days in the one place.
It hasn’t always been good times and to make ends meet Rhonda has worked and I have had a total of thirty three different jobs, from photographer to opal miner. Sometimes I could combine both photography and work in another job. I used to work for Blacktown Council of an afternoon and spend the morning in my canoe on the Hawkesbury River photographing birds.
Rhonda has always been super supportive, accompanying me on the trips. She has never asked to see a photo I’ve taken, except now when I take photos of the grandchildren! Just like the professional painter whose house is never painted, I didn’t take many photos of our children, except when they were in the context of a scene. It is different nowadays with the grandchildren, Sharnae and Brody.
I suppose all up I must have done around 100 books of photos. Some were small A5 books and other large hardcover books. Half of the photos in the book Presenting Australia came from my collection. At the time it was the largest selling Australiana book on the market and it was reprinted several times.
I’ve been a professional photographer for about thirty years. I was self taught, but my greatest influence was Len Marchoff. I became a foundation member of the Hawkesbury Camera Club when it reformed in the late 1950s. (They had stopped meeting during World War 2.). Mum drove me up to their first meeting as I was so young I didn’t have a driver’s licence. I was a member of the Club for years after that. I have to say that Mum has been the most influential person in my life and supportive of whatever I wanted to do.
At the Camera Club we used to submit photos for appraisal. I remember one time Len gave one of my photos a one out of five. When I protested that it was being viewed upside down, his only comment on reviewing it the right way up was that he supposed that he still had to give it at least a one! This criticism stung, but made me so determined to do things better.
Fortunately for me, Len saw potential in my work, I used to go out to his place and spend hours working in the darkroom with him. Later I was blown away to have him award a five out of five for one of my photos. He didn’t often award such marks.
I upgraded my equipment over the years. Calendar publishers only accepted photos taken in the medium sized format. The equipment was so expensive that it limited the number of photographers for many jobs. In the calendar field for example there were around four to five of us who submitted photos each year. The others included Jocelyn Burt and Ken Stepnell.
I only took medium film format slides. The beauty of slides was that they could be copied for a print. You would be invited to send off several hundred of your slides for consideration. They would copy and pay for any that they used and return the actual slides to you.
Although I wouldn’t call myself an organised person, my slides are all labelled and filed alphabetically in broad categories in cabinets so that I can find them. Although slides are largely superseded, technology allows me to scan the slide into a digital format and to continue to use them.
I never worried about what subject “sells” at any particular time. The market has tightened up due to the financial crisis and the fact that digital cameras allow basically anyone to produce outstanding images. If you press the shutter button enough times, you will eventually end up with a good photo. Publishers can save money as some people are happy to see their photos in print and don’t charge for them. Despite this I continue to make a living through selling my photos.
In the days of slide film, photography was different in one major way to digital; the end result was “it”, no such things as Photoshop back then. Once a slide was taken it couldn’t be altered. If you wanted to enhance a sunset for example you had to put a particular filter on the lens at the time you took the photo. This meant carrying a lot more equipment. I used to have a bag with three medium format camera bodies and assorted lenses in one hand and a bag with accessories such as filters and film in the other. (I’d also more than likely be carrying my son Daniel on my shoulders at the same time.)
In addition the equipment was much more expensive. One Hasselblad brand filter could cost $400-$500. You can buy a lens for that now! Nowadays I carry one DSLR body and six lenses. I still travel to some extreme places and have my camera and lenses professionally cleaned on a regular basis.
Just like when I was young I have always been prepared to work at, or wait for hours or even days to get a particular photo. I have built bird hides in trees to get close enough to take a particular photo of a bird. I once squatted without moving for hours in a bird hide taking photos of a bird. When I went to move, I couldn’t because my legs had gone numb. It is never boring waiting, my life ambles by in front of my eyes and the time just goes.
Do I plan my trips and what I want to photograph before I go? Not really, I go away with loose plans of where I would like to go and what I would like to photograph, but it can change because of something I happen to see along the way. One of the best days of my life was spent at Wilcannia, taking photos of the wild birds from the weir across the river. I had come across it by chance.
Have I ever taken the ultimate image? No, but have I taken photos that I am happy about at the time? What I mean is that I can take a photo that I am happy with at the time, but look at it later and want to change something about it. I’m always open to suggestions about my work. Who can be 100% happy with what they have done?
The digital format has improved my photography especially with wildlife. With digital, I can see instantly whether the photo I’ve taken is what I wanted. In the days of slide film I had to wait until I got home and had the slide processed to see if the image was what I wanted. It might have been the first photo I took that day, but I wouldn’t know and had taken more in case. Now you look at the images in real time and can move on if you have the shot you want.
Just as I did with film, I have taught myself about digital photography, learning by trial and error and asking others. I enjoy working on the computer and the time flies when I am. I can get up and work on the computer from six in the morning until lunchtime without noticing the time.
What does being a photographer involve? It is about having the ability to “see” what is going to make a good photo. If you can visualise the end result, and produce that, you are a photographer. Anyone can press buttons and take photos, but a good photographer moves and sets up the photo to capture the view at its best.
I have pretty much always been in a camera club, as a member, judge and mentor. These days I’m a member of the Castle Hill Camera Club, which with over 300 members is the largest in New South Wales. I still like to compete and challenge myself and be challenged by others.
I have also taught photography. A good mate, Geoff Pfister, had the idea of holding classes for people which we did together for sometime. I hope to continue teaching by holding classes at various locations for people with particular interests.
If you ask if I have tips for a family photographer looking to take photos of their family I would make a few suggestions. Put the camera on a tripod; don’t be in a big hurry; don’t have your subjects looking into the sun and squinting or wearing sunglasses. Make sure the light is falling correctly on their face and look at the background and make sure it doesn’t look like trees are coming out of somebody’s head. People should continue to learn, talk to other people and pick up tips as they go.
These days I go away taking photographs with my grandson Brody who has a good eye for photos. He studies photography at school and one of his photos was entered in an Australia wide competition where he was awarded 5th or 6th. Was I proud? You bet, I was over the top.
Retirement? No such thing. What would I do in retirement, jump in the car and go out and take photos??? I’ve recently purchased a camper van, which once fitted out, will hopefully allow me to get away more.
Someone once asked me where I would live if I could live somewhere else? I said I couldn’t imagine anywhere better than Riverstone as I’ve got my family and friends here, what is more important than that?
If you would like to view some of Geoff’s photos, look up the Geoff Higgins Collection on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NhUrw4G23N4) We also have three of Geoff’s books in the collection at the Riverstone Museum.
To accompany our article on aprons, we looked for a recipe with a connection with the town. The following recipe was developed by May Keegan by combining her mother’s recipe with that of her mother in law, Dorrie Keegan, who lived in Richards Avenue. The recipe is a versatile one and can be used to make either a boiled fruit cake or a Christmas pudding.
1½ lb mixed fruit (680 grams)
1½ cups brown sugar.
1 cup cold water
1 teaspoon bi-carbonate soda
1 packet Fairy Margarine (250 grams)
1 dessertspoon of mixed spice
1 dessertspoon golden syrup
1 tablespoon sherry
1 cup plain flour
1 cup self raising flour
In a large saucepan bring all ingredients to the boil except flour, eggs and sherry.
Cool mixture then add beaten eggs, flour and sherry.
For making a cake
Preheat oven to 400º Fahrenheit (200º Celsius).
Pour into double layer brown paper lined tin. Cut side paper slightly higher than the tin.
Turn oven down to 350º Fahrenheit (180º Celsius) as cake goes into oven.
Cook for half an hour.
Turn oven down to 300º Fahrenheit (150º Celsius) and cook for another hour.
For making a pudding
Pour mixture into a slightly damp floured cloth and tie.
Then add another cloth and tie tightly.
Put into boiling water in large saucepan and cook for 3 hours.
Take out and hang up until needed. (I usually makes mine just before Christmas.)
In 1940 the Meatworks was the life blood of the town of Riverstone and in the words of Helen Liepa, “Butcher’s Row” was the heart.
The avenue was originally named Richard’s Avenue after the founder of Riverstone Meat Company, Ben Richards. However residents gradually adopted the name of Butcher’s Row. The cottages along this avenue were built to house the beef butchers who worked at the Meatworks. In later years it was only necessary to be an employee of the Meatworks to rent one of these houses. Charlie Wheeler is one of the original residents and “ No 23 Butcher’s Row” has been his home for 74 years.
These cottages contain the true history of Riverstone. Following the death of Ben Richards in 1898 the Meatworks changed hands several times over the years and the houses built along the railway line were always under threat of floods. Today the houses face a different and more devastating threat – the demolition by developers of Butcher’s Row. It has been the hard work of the present occupiers led by Carrol Parkes who, in 2010 spear headed the drive to preserve the remaining houses intact. In 1940 Butchers Row was home to 14 families and 27 children and one of those children was Helen Mary Liepa (nee Wheeler).
Helen was born on 29th January 1936 at the doctor’s house in Garfield Road, Riverstone (Sister Barnes’ hospital). She was the middle child and second daughter of Hazel and Bert Wheeler. Bert was descended from Italian migrants, the Puglisi family, who migrated to Australia in 1875 and settled in Randwick. The family fortunes flourished and they became the owners of several picture theatres in Sydney. One of their daughters, Rita, became the first lady film projectionist in Australia. She eventually married Jack Wheeler, the local furniture removalist, who plied his trade in a large horse and wagon. There were nine children from the marriage six girls and three boys. The three boys Jack, Ernie and Bert moved out of the family home in the city and headed to the bush. Jack to St. Marys and Ernie and Bert settled in Riverstone and obtained employment as drovers at Ben Richard’s Meatworks.
Courtships revolved around the many dances and socials held in the district and it was during them that Bert and Hazel met and married. Hazel was the eldest daughter of Gertrude (nee Mills) and Arthur Wells. Arthur emigrated from England as a boy and worked in the freezer at the Meatworks while Gertrude (Gertie) was a house maid at Rouse House. They had four children. Hazel, Margery aka “Minnie”, Charlie and Eric.
Helen has lived in Riverstone and Marsden Park for 75 years and as we sat and talked, the memories of these days came flooding back to her. Wonderful memories that she holds dear to her heart of a community spirit and loving neighbours – each person holding a special place in her memories.
The first house in the row was very tiny with only two bedrooms and was home to Mr and Mrs Boyd and their five children Gary, Sammy, Lawrence, Gloria and Norma. Next was Bert and Hazel’s three bedroom house with front and rear verandahs, lounge room, kitchen, bathroom and laundry with the dog kennels in the back yard. The dogs were working dogs used in the mustering of the large numbers of sheep and cattle which constantly flowed into the Works. Each stockman had his own working dogs trained to respond to his command. Bert’s dogs when Helen was growing up in the 40s were Sox, Biddie and Spider.
Next house moving down the row was Mr and Mrs Bones. He was foreman of the By-products. Beside them was Mrs Baggot and her daughter Phillis. Their house was a grace and favour residence, as Mr Baggot had been killed in the war. Next was Mr and Mrs Peter Steele, (he was a store man), and their two daughters Margaret and May, followed by Mr and Mrs Arthur “Dill” Keegan and their children Fay and Kevin. Mr Keegan was a beef butcher.
The next house was Albert and Alice Davidge. They had three children Donny, Christine and Margery. Albert worked in the Beef House and “moonlighted” as the local SP bookies’ clerk on the weekend. Marie and Sid “Tiger” Locke were next, he worked in the Preserver and their children were Shirley, Sid and Lawrence. Neighbours were Jack and Florrie Strachan and their daughters were Betty and Barbara. Jack worked in the Beef House. Then there was Mr and Mrs Ted Follet, he was boss of the Stockmen. Their children were Allen, Geoffrey, Norma and Anne. It was tradition each year for every family along the Row to order their Christmas poultry from Ted, who would deliver their freshly dressed poultry ready to be cooked for Christmas dinner.
Joe and Eileen Fitzgerald were next, Joe was a renowned horseman in the district and in charge of the Work’s horses and their Clydesdale team. Their children were Ronny and Kate. Their neighbours were George and Ruby Wiggins and children Neville and Iris. George worked on the Mutton Board. Then came Sid and Esme Strachan, he was a Stockman and their children were June, Dennis and Brenda. The last house was occupied by Herb and Nellie Strachan and their nine children, five girls and four boys. Herb was a Stockman. The girls were Jean, Nancy, Marie, Enid, Merle and Joyce and the boys were Sid, ‘Squeaker’, Max and Barry.
Most of the stockmen lived on the Row, as one of their main jobs was the unloading of all the sheep and cattle which came in by train during the night. The stockmen were roused from their beds, usually about 2.00-3.00am by Fred Wells the night watchman. Summer and winter, and in the pitch dark with their team of working dogs they unloaded hundreds of animals and yarded them ready to be moved down to the paddocks in daylight on horseback. Even though sometimes they worked all through the night they were still expected to show up for work the next morning on their stock horses and move the cattle down to the paddocks.
The engine drivers on the steam trains were regulars and knew all the families. They would stop at intervals along the railway line and the fireman would drop shovels full of coal for the kids to pick up and take home for the family stoves.
Helen remembers the special occasions of her childhood. Two or three times a year all the residents of the row were invited to take morning tea with Mr Archibald “Ned” Leeson, the Work’s Manager at his house. This was a grand occasion and everyone went in their Sunday best, Mr Leeson and his two daughters Meg and Nancy welcomed and served each of them with tea and cake. His wife was an invalid and seldom made an appearance.
Every Sunday Vera and Dorothy Abell drove into Butcher’s Row in their horse and sulky to pick up the children and take them to Sunday School at the Church of England church in Elizabeth Street, Riverstone. Weekend outings were always in the family’s horse and sulky. Every second Sunday Bert would harness up their horse and they would drive to St Marys to have lunch with his family. Sometimes they drove to Blacktown on Friday evenings for a special treat of fish and chips. Bert was on the Blacktown Show Committee and annually they went to the Show and also to Castle Hill show. Showtime was always a big occasion. On arrival at the show ground the horses were unharnessed and tethered in the paddock and out would come the picnic baskets and all the families would have their lunch and meet up with old friends.
Helen recalled many childhood memories, Billy Schofield drove the baker’s horse and cart and delivered the fresh bread each morning, he worked for Mr Charlie Fisher. “We children loved it when the ice man, Norm ‘Doughy’ Wallace, came down the road and gave us the broken bits of ice. On Saturday nights every family in the row went en masse to the Olympia picture theatre in Garfield Road. Fourteen families would leave their houses unlocked and head up to the pictures. Nobody’s house was ever broken into, damaged or robbed. On a Saturday morning a lady known only to us as “Old Delia” arrived by train from Sydney with her two suitcases. She went to every house in the row selling her wares. The suitcases contained tea towels small table cloths, pillow cases and socks. Credit was always given to be paid the following Saturday when she would return with new stock in her two suitcases. She was pretty crafty as the credit supplied was the reason for her to return to the houses each Saturday. I don’t know if she visited any other customers in Riverstone.”
Along with all the other kids, Helen attended Riverstone school and trod a well worn path through the railway line fence, across the board walk laid between the railway lines up the platform and on to school. She went on to attend Richmond High school, however as soon as she attained 15 years she left and commenced her first job at St Marys. She caught the early morning bus which ran between the two towns and worked in a factory for 18 months until she suffered an industrial accident and lost parts of two fingers. After that she decided not to go back and immediately obtained a position at the Works.
The beauty of the Works was that it was self sufficient. Everything was made or manufactured on the premises. Helen commenced in the Wrap Room where Ruby Hooper was in charge. Kitt and Mary Attwood also worked in this area sewing the stockinet and hessian bags on a special machine in which the meat for export was sealed. All the identification tags were made in this department as well as the stencilling on both bags and boxes.
She was often called on to work in the Tin Shop where the cans were manufactured and labelled to be packed with bully beef and corned beef. Pat Leslie and Eric Graham also worked in this department. When a department was short staffed, relief staff were often called from other departments to help out. In the Cutting Room she helped to prepare and pack cut meat for contracts with the Army, Navy and Air Force kitchens as well as the two butcher shops in Riverstone. The butchers here were Sid Jarrett and Jock Hilton. Special orders were also packed for high ranking public servants. Often she was called in to help in the Ginger Department to pack the crystallized ginger into jars. The department she liked least was the smallgoods – she could never get the hang of making the sausages.
As a young woman Helen had worked fund raising for the Riverstone Football Club and her energy and popularity was recognized in 1958 by Mr Les Irwin, a local politician and manager of the Bank of NSW in Blacktown. He approached Helen to enter the Miss Riverstone Quest and she entered into the quest with gusto. Many years later in an October, 30 1980 edition, the Riverstone Press produced a nostalgic piece about Helen and her fund raising in 1958.
In 1957-58 a quest was organized by Blacktown Council to raise funds for the Ambulance station at Blacktown as at that time ambulances had to be requisitioned from Parramatta or Richmond stations. In those days, when 35mph was considered a reckless speed over the poor and often unsealed roads of the district, delays in receiving treatment and transport to hospital were considerable and often life threatening. Helen was up to the challenge and through hard work and the unfailing support of the R.S.L Women’s committee and the townspeople in general she raised over 3,000 pounds, a magnificent sum when you consider that the average male wage was around four pounds per week.
During our talk Helen paid tribute to the many local ladies, now gone, who pitched in to help raise the money, Linda Byrnes, Joyce Edwards and Mrs Curry. The article went on to praise Helen and her supporters. Many a pub patron was taken aback by a pretty blonde with a raffle book and a winning smile. They always obliged and were always ‘good sports’. The late Mrs Alice Sullivan and Inaz Davies would cook up to twelve dozen cakes for the cake stalls and the R.S.L chocolate wheel on Saturday mornings outside the picture show. Dances were held in the Masonic Hall and the tulle and taffeta and kid pumps (dancing shoes) were out in force for the ball in the old R.S.L club.
Helen loved ballroom dancing, she attended dances throughout the district and especially loved dances at Riverstone R.S.L sub-branch hall, dancing to the music of Teddy Jones and his band. Ted was the manager of Jericho dairy, one of the Meatworks dairies which was situated where now Windsor Downs is located. Many of the young local boys owed their dancing skill to Helen. The late Johnny Waters, Mattie Johnson and Dessie Cartwright all learnt to dance under Helen’s tuition.
Love blossomed frequently at the Meatworks and it came to Helen when she met a young man John Liepa and on 28th June 1958 they married in St. Pauls Church of England in Elizabeth Street, Riverstone. She was attended by her sister Fay, Dawn Cartwright and June Strachan and her flower girl was Lorraine Wilkins. Groomsmen were Karl Liepa, Dessie Cartwright and Helen’s brother Charlie Wheeler. She and John still reside in Riverstone.
Helen’s love for Riverstone has never wavered, she has lived in the community for 76 years and remains one of the best known personalities of the town and it has been a privilege to have known her for all these years.
“Slipping on Mother’s apron is like getting a big hug from her.” – Joyce Smith
The word “apron” comes from the old French word for napkin or small tablecloth, “naperon”. The dictionary describes the apron as “a garment worn in front of the body to protect clothes”.
In medieval times seedsowers wore a white-coloured apron to carry seeds into the field for sowing. Blacksmiths wore a leather apron to protect their bodies and clothes.
For centuries women stayed home to take care of families and ensure that the home was in a presentable and comfortable state. A memento of this time is “the apron”. This simple piece of scrap material tied around the waist or neck has covered a multitude of sins and been a lifesaver in more ways than one.
Over the times the apron has been used not only to protect clothes from spraying food during cooking or baking but also as a potholder to protect work surfaces from being scorched by hot pans or as a duster for a quick spot of spring cleaning before answering the door to unexpected guests. Housewives and farmers’ wives used their aprons to carry eggs and fresh vegetables and shy children would often spend time hiding behind their mothers’ aprons.
Apron styles continued to unfold in the 19th Century. The all-over apron was required for women who wanted to work whilst wearing their good clothes. It was seamless, with armholes and fitted loosely over the woman’s dress and tied at waist and neck at the back.
In the late 19th Century pinafore aprons were popular, especially for young girls, “Alice in Wonderland” amongst them. In the 1940s the pinafore apron evolved into a cool summer dress worn by girls.
During the depression, when fancy fabrics were in short supply, ladies embellished simple aprons with embroidery. During WWII women joined the war effort by working in factories. Their cotton aprons, which were hand crafted and quite plain, were traded for heavier aprons more suited for their work in the factories.
In the 1940s and 1950s brightly coloured checked aprons became a vivid part of the pattern of home and family life. Gingham became a most popular fabric, often embellished with cross stitch embroidery or trim such as rickrack.
As fabrics for clothing, like polyester and rayon, were introduced, they offered more colours and designs and often required little or no ironing to look fresh and crisp. Clothing then became cheaper to buy and therefore did not need to be so “protected”.
Before the 1960s aprons were viewed as an essential garment for anyone doing housework. In the 1970s men began donning aprons with cute sayings for working with their BBQs and by 1980s aprons had become passé, women were working outside the home and families were eating out more.
Nowadays aprons have come on in leaps and bounds. They are no longer just a practical garment to protect our clothing, but a complimentary fashion statement in their own right. They are now available in fun designs for men, women and children. They are becoming more and more collectable (there are 135,000 entries under “Aprons- history” on the web).
Aprons are a changing way to stay connected with our past.