Corona Virus – COVID-19

by Rosemary Phillis

It would be almost impossible to believe that 100 years after the mass loss of life as a result of the Pneumonic Flu, that the world would again be devastated by another pandemic.

As a young girl I remember my grandmother talking about the Pneumonic Flu after the First World War. She had one cousin killed during the War, but lost two cousins to the Pneumonic Flu. She spoke about her brother, Frank Rumery, working on the railway and having to wear a face mask to work. Masks back then were not streamlined, the often consisted of layers of gauze which were hard to breath through.

The outbreak and rapid transmission of a strain of the Corona virus to be officially known as Covid-19 in the Province of Wuhan in China was at first of a mixture of horror and interest. Images of hospitals and people collapsing in the street seemed unbelievable.

Globalisation and the day of rapid transport soon saw the virus spread to the rest of the world. Fortunately our Government, lead by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, taking advice from our medical experts soon closed our borders to visitors from China. Other visitors from overseas were required to self isolate for 14 days when they came home.

For some reason, people started to hoard toilet paper. Stores ran out and had to limit the amount of toilet paper that people could buy. There was no shortage or restriction on the production of toilet paper which is made in Australia, but the chaos continued. Empty shelves where toilet paper was normally stocked remained consistently empty. As soon as it was delivered it was sold. The same applied to tissues, hand soap and hand sanitizer.

18 March 2020. The empty shelves where the toilet paper is normally stocked. Woolworths store, Railway Terrace at Schofields.

It became apparent that cruise ships were a place where the virus could spread quickly. Errors of judgment in relation to a ship known as the Ruby Princess allowed thousands of people to disembark and travel through the community and overseas. Ultimately many of the passengers came down with Corona virus and spread it to others. Many of the deaths here in Australia were ultimately linked to the Ruby Princess passengers.

The Federal and State Governments then moved to start to “lock down” the country and restricted the movements of people.

The term “Social Isolation” was the new word. Basically it meant that apart from people who shared a home, everyone else had to remain at least 1.5 metres from the nearest person when outside the home. The thought being that if a person sneezed or coughed that at this distance you should be outside the distance that the virus could be expelled if the person was infected.

Restaurants, clubs and cafes could still operate, but they had to distance their seating and arrangements for staff so that they were 1.5 metres apart. These measures were not enough and soon these businesses and many others were closed unless they could serve takeaway.

Sign on the door at the Thai restaurant in Pitt Street.

We were subject to the rules set by the State Government. In a nutshell, unless you worked in an essential industry, were caring for someone, exercising or going out to buy essentials such as food, you were not to leave home, or risk a $1000 fine.

The rapid shut down and implementation of these rules gradually started to reduce the number of cases of infection, but every day we were horrified and saddened by the statistics overseas, where in countries such as Italy, Spain, England and America, 800 to 1000 people were dying every day from the Corona virus.

Life in Riverstone

Once level 3 restrictions were introduced, businesses regarded as essential that were still able to operate did so with measures to incorporate Social Distancing. Taped crosses, stars and circles appeared on floors and the ground 1.5 metres apart to show people where to stand. Bollards and tapes guided people in and out of businesses.

Riverstone Town Centre shops on 25 March 2020. The bollards to the left guide people in and out of the butchers. The stacked chairs at the Cafe reflect the restrictions limiting service to takeaway only.

The local newsagency and IGA supermarket installed plastic screens aimed to reduce the transmission should any infectious people inadvertently cough or sneeze in their vicinity.

Hairdressers were allowed to operate, with limits on the number of people who could be in the shop at one time and the chairs had to be more than 1.5 metres apart.

At one stage, as there were rushes on items such as Toilet Paper, limits were placed on items. Supermarkets such as Woolies and IGA, closing for several hours on some days to give them time to tidy up and restock the shelves.

Social Distancing marker on the footpath outside Sam’s Cafe in Garfield Road.

The Riverstone Museum also had to close, as did churches, gyms, dine in cafes and restaurants, clubs, pubs and any where else where people might congregate. Blacktown City Parks were closed and playgrounds taped off to prevent use.

Mill Street Park Playground.
Mill Street Park

Churches were amongst the first to adapt. The Anglican Churches in Riverstone, Marsden Park and Quakers Hill worked together. Through the use of technology, the Ministers from the churches combined at Quakers Hill, and on 22 March 2020, the first service was live streamed over the internet. The streaming of services continued to include Good Friday and Easter. Parishioners were invited to add comments and greetings through a messenger service which ran in conjunction with the service.

The Riverstone Post Office which had been open five days a week plus Saturday mornings, ceased Saturday morning trading on 1 April 2020. (They recommenced on 4 July, three months later.)

Covid-19 Testing Facility

On Monday 20 April 2020 a drive through testing facility opened in the swimming pool car park which had been fenced off and adapted for the purpose.

A sign on the fence of the newly established COVID-19 testing centre in the swimming pool car park.
7 June 2020. The COVID-19 Respiratory Clinic in the Swimming Pool carpark on the corner of Market and George Streets.

Anzac Day

Anzac Day 2020 was very different. There was no service at the Cenotaph. People were encouraged to stand at the end of their driveways at 6 o’clock on the 25th with a candle and observe a minutes silence. I found this a profoundly moving experience and felt a great connection to the many who paid the supreme sacrifice.

25 April 2020. Riverstone Road.
The Cenotaph was not forgotten. The Chamber of Commerce laid photos of each of the men whose name is recorded on the Cenotaph, along with small candles. (Photo: Cenotaph 100 Facebook page.)

1 May 2020 saw a relaxing of restrictions to allow two adults to be able to visit another household, the aim of this measure being to relieve social isolation.

1 June restrictions eased. Provided there was sufficient space for 4 square meters per person and 1.5 metres distance between people, clubs and churches could open again.

On 22 June 2020, Life Anglican Church again opened for face to face sermons, subject to Social Distancing requirements.

Students returned to school after the July School holidays. This was probably a relief to teachers, students and parents, as home schooling had been a challenge. Teachers had to prepare both written and digital lessons. Digital learning relied on students having access to technology and reliable internet connection. Where parents were working from home and if there were more than one child in the family, there was not always enough computers or laptops for everyone. One of the things students missed the most was the social interaction with other children.

As children returned to school and some people returned to work, social distancing on public transport was a challenge. The State Government put limits on the number of people who could travel in buses and train carriages. Green “sit here” stickers were affixed throughout public transport. Signs were put up around stations providing tips on “how to protect yourself from viruses”.

Riverstone Railway Station on 13 April 2020. “Protect yourself from viruses” poster.

An outbreak of cases in Victoria saw a spread to New South Wales and “hot spots” broke our in areas such as south western Sydney. This lead to an increase in anxiety as people once again had to be on high alert.

By August, for the Sydney Metropolitan area, the wearing of masks in situations where social distancing was not achievable was encouraged. Late August Riverstone High School, Schofields Public and Wyndham at Quakers Hill were closed for several days awaiting the results of tests on a number of students. Two students at Riverstone High and one at Wyndham were positive. As a result many close contacts of those student were then required to self isolate for 14 days, as well as being tested. Fortunately no further cases were known to have resulted from this source.

Around this time people were encouraged to wear masks they were a common sight around Riverstone. People attending medical appointments were required to wear masks.

Local clubs, restaurants and cafe’s reopened. They were required to develop and implement COVID-19 plans based on State Government guidelines. Patrons generally had their temperatures checked before entering premises and were required to supply their name and a contact phone number or email to allow them to be traced if an infectious person was found to have visited the premises at the same time.

In early September Australia Post advised residents that in order to deal with the large number of parcels needing delivery residents would only receive home letter deliveries every second day, until 30 June 2021.

By late September the number of community transmissions in New South Wales dropped to zero. Despite this figure, the Health Department continue to promote the message that the virus was still circulating in the community. They appealed to people to continue to be tested if they showed even the slightest of symptoms of the virus.

Great delight for many when the South Australian border was opened again to visitors from other states in September. The Victorian, Western Australian and Queensland Borders still remain closed to the frustration of many.

Small pockets of infection continue to appear around Sydney, providing a constant reminder that we all still need to be on our guard against the disease. The main messages for helping to avoid the spread of the virus continue to be; get tested if you have symptoms; wear a mask in places where you can’t keep your distance from people; wash your hands often with soap or use hand sanitiser.

With the reopening of the Riverstone Swimming Pool, the COVID-19 testing facility in the swimming pool car park closed on Friday 25 September 2020. There was a change to the people attending the swimming pool in that they have to book and pay online to control the number of people at the pool in a given time.

Post from the Riverstone Family Medical Practice Facebook page on 21 September 2020.

The first community event in six months took place with a car show in the vacant area near the shopping centre carpark at Riverstone. Organised by Blacktown Council, a variety of cars attracted a steady stream of visitors. Attendees had to register their details before entering the area. The BBQ stall was popular as they not been permitted as part of the restrictions.

Christmas Celebrations in 2020 are likely to be different, but people will no doubt adapt as they have with the other changes brought about by COVID-19.

Unless otherwise noted, all photographs by Rosemary Phillis.

Our Society 2020

by Heather Smith

Our organisation although small fulfils a need to preserve the history of Riverstone. We welcome people each month seeking not only history of the town but also history of their early family who once lived here. Our extensive collection of school photographs and family history collected over the years is always a source of joy to the searcher.

Each of our active Committee members provides a special skill which our visitors adult and children alike enjoy so much.

Graham Britton (Vice-President) whose imagination and skill generates memories for the older generation as well as the younger visitors informing them of the real history of our town. His creation of the township model coupled with the Meatworks display is one of the most interesting displays in our Museum. He also created the railway display, sport in Riverstone as well as our “Dunny Man” and is always seeking better ways to improve and create our displays. Recently he and Rosemary were responsible for the display of Binks’ cottage.

Carol Britton is the member which every organization wishes they had, nothing is too much trouble she steps in whenever needed and her sewing skill has fulfilled many a job which improves the look of our surroundings.

Cheryl Ramsden (Treasurer) her knowledge of genealogy has set many a stumped researcher on a new course in their search of family history and coupled with her duties as Treasurer makes her a valued member of our Society.

Clarrie Neal (Life Member & Vice President (retired) and his wife Beverly are two stalwart members of our group., Clarrie has researched and written The 120 Year History of the Riverstone Football Club as well as many family histories in our reading room and Bev, whenever she sees a cleaning job (which we often overlook) gets in and gives it a good “spit and polish”.

Win Phillis whose quiet efficiency and impeachable local knowledge fills a gap in our local history with the passing in 2017 of our former President Judith Lewis. Win never lets her health problem stands in the way of her duties and her recording of the innumerable records, items and books which we have accumulated is endless.

Barry Clarke As I mentioned before each of our committee has a special skill and Barry is a long time supporter of the Society and now a committee member does a wonderful job of playing our collection of musical instruments like the pianola, the pump organ and our piano providing not only entertainment for our visitors but to ensure each instrument remains in working order.

Rosemary Phillis Finally, in our small group we all acknowledge the true spirit of our organisation our Secretary, Rosemary Phillis. She is not only respected by us but the entire town of Riverstone refer to her in matters of local and social history. Our Society flourishes mainly due to the numerous publications by Rosemary. She has compiled and edited 19 annual Journals as well as researching and writing books on The Riverstone Meatworks, A History of the Rumery Family, Riverstone and World War 2 and Photos of Riverstone.

Also, she has co-authored and compiled The Riverstone Cemetery, A History of St. Pauls Anglican Church Riverstone, Riverstone and the First World War and to celebrate the centenary of the cenotaph 2020 she wrote the Riverstone War Memorial book.

Rosemary is currently working on writing a history of St. Peters Anglican Church, Schofields coupled with compiling the 2020 Journal. She is also assisting one of our members Shirley Seale researching and adding illustrations to her book on Mary Bligh.

Her work load could only be done by a person who is passionate in her love of local history. She has a never-ending thirst for knowledge, seeking and finding any object or recording of the history of Riverstone. With her camera she has recorded the movement of a small town which will be the history of Riverstone in the future as we fight the creep of development.

Development is a never-ending threat to Riverstone. Our Society must look to the future and encourage parties to realise and preserve the history of Riverstone. New families who have chosen to settle in Riverstone our Society welcomes them and we hope to inspire them to preserve the history of Riverstone.

Heather Smith

11 November 2018 Remembrance Day at the Museum. Back Row: Jackie Dawson, Carol Britton, Graham Britton, Barry Clarke. Front Row: Cheryl Ramsden, Heather Smith, Rosemary Phillis, Winsome Phillis.
Photo: Neville Biddle

Riverstone and District Historical Society – The First 10 years

by Rosemary Phillis

In March this year it was 40 years since the Riverstone and District Historical Society was formed in 1980. This article provides a brief overview of the first ten years of the Society.

The residents of Riverstone have always loved their history. Looking back through the early days of the Windsor and Richmond Gazette there were often stories in the Riverstone column relating tales of the residents and their early lives.

In 1934, the coming of water and electricity to the town prompted the week long Back to Riverstone celebrations. 1971 saw the Back to Riverstone School Day celebrations organised by Heather Smith and the Riverstone Public School Mother’s Club.

The early 1980s were a period of strong community activity. The Riverstone and Districts Progress Association was one active organisation. Although people had suggested it would be good to have a Museum in the town, no one had taken steps to progress this, until Alderman Lindfield of Blacktown Council suggested to the Progress Association that they look at forming a historical society.

In 1997 Irene Reilly wrote a letter to Blacktown City Councillor Allan Green recalling how the Historical Society started:

After discussion with the then Alderman, Alwyn Lindfield, on how to start a Historical Society, I placed an advertisement in the Riverstone Press for any interested people, to come to 10 Deborah Place Riverstone, at 7.30 PM on the 17th March 1980 for a meeting on the matter.

The meeting consisted of eight people, Mr. Greg Patterson of Brighton Street Riverstone, Mr Boyd Hilton of Creek Street Riverstone, Mrs Eileen Hynds of Piccadilly Street Riverstone. Mrs Lorraine Forbes of Riverstone, Mr Luke Grealy, Mr Robert Reilly (my husband) of Riverstone and myself.

A committee was formed and Mr Greg Patterson Chartered Accountant was elected Honorary Treasurer, Mrs Lorraine Forbes as Secretary, Myself as President and Mrs Eileen Hynds as Fund Raiser.

My dream in forming the Society was with the aim to one day obtaining a Museum to collect and preserve the history of the Blacktown Area.

The next meeting was held at the old site of the Riverstone R.S.L. Hall, at this meeting other people joined with us, including Mrs Judith Lewis of Riverstone, Miss Rosemary Phillis and Mr Mervyn Davis, who was appointed Historical Research Co-ordinator.

At this meeting we planned the first fund raising function, the O’Connell County Fair and Beauty Quest, for 7 March 1981.

Straight to Work

The Historical Society got straight to work. Lorraine Forbes was appointed the O’Connell County Fair organiser and a huge effort went into the organisation of the event. Eileen Hynds raised much needed initial funds via a raffle and Merv Davis became the Historical Society representative on the Blacktown Council Historical sub-Committee. One of the first projects Merv was involved in was collating information on local sites and buildings that the Society felt should be heritage listed.

Meetings were held monthly on 4th Monday of the month at the old Riverstone R.S.L in Market Street (the site is now a vacant lot). Monthly speakers included Mrs M Robinson, Mrs R Simpson, Ald. A Lindfield, Kevin Moore and Company, Sam Lane and Miriam Hamilton. 


The O’Connell County Fair on 7 March 1981 was an outstanding event. Untold hours by members of the Society went into the organisation. The money raised was to go towards a Museum in the town, a vision ultimately achieved with the official opening on 3 December 1988 of what was known then as the Blacktown & District Bicentennial Museum. Irene Reilly continues her recollections:

This function proved more successful than we had anticipated, with 23 local girls in the Beauty Quest, Thousands of people turning up on the day to join in the festivities, I managed to get Mr Colin Segelov of Channel Ten news to cover the event….

Miss Lisa Haigh, who was the granddaughter of Mrs Eileen Hynds, became the first “Riverstone Miss Society Queen”, as she had raised $5555 for the Society. Miss Sandra Bowie was the first Miss “Teenage Riverstone” judged for her beauty. The judging panel, included Alderman John Aquilina, Mayor of Blacktown City Council, Mrs Aquilina, Mr Alan Cadman Federal Member for Mitchell, Mr Paul Arundel Public Relations Officer for Blacktown City Council, Mr Colin Segelov of Channel Ten, Mr Brian Rodgers of Parramatta Branch NSW Real Estate Institute, Mrs Edgecombe Head Mistress of Riverstone Infants School, Mr Rex Davies, of V.D.B. Relations Box Hill.

Mr John Aquilina Mayor of Blacktown City Council Crowned the girls, in front of Market Town Shopping Centre on Saturday 7th March 1981.

Irene Reilly, Sandra Bowie, John Aquilina, Lisa Haigh and Alan Cadman. Photo: Maurice Agius

The streets of Riverstone were packed with thousands of people, enjoying the days events, which included, “bush rangers” riding through the town, staging a mock “bank holdup” at Mr Greg Paterson’s office, which had been dressed to resemble it original look of a historic bank. The grand parade was enjoyed by all, and included a Cobb & Co Coach, Penny Farthing Bike. The boys from HMAS Nirimba Naval Base 1923 Steam powered truck, plus floats from the Local Lions Club, Sporting Clubs etc.

Roving minstrels, a billy-boiling competition, sheep shearing, wood chopping demonstrations, coach and dray rides for the children, a bush band, tug-of-war between the Riverstone Football Team and HMAS Nirimba, rollerskate races, face painting, craft stalls, made this a day to remember. HMAS Nirimba also donated a 60 cm by 60 cm cake, specially made to help celebrate the fair.

Following this the Society managed to get the local High School history master Mr Garrett Barry involved, he proved to be a major asset to the Society. Membership continued to grow and new members included Wal and Lorraine Smith from Riverstone, helped to swell the ranks of the willing workers.

The following year we planned a Colonial Ball Fund Raiser. The committee voted to make the fair a Bi-annual event to give the committee a breathing space.

Lorraine Forbes, Judith Lewis, Diane Wade, Glen Hartley, Scott Hartley. Photo: Maurice Agius

The First Annual General Meeting of the Society was held on 23 March 1981 at the Riverstone R.S.L. Club. Those in attendance were: M. Davis, C. Lewis, E. Hynds, D. Olsson, G. Patterson, Y. & D. Williams, M. Nichols, J. Lewis, R. Phillis, I. Reilly, L. Forbes and P. Stuart-Day, with apologies from M. Hamilton. In her Secretaries report Lorraine Forbes declared that the motto that had evolved for the Society was “Mediocrity is not our style”.


The second AGM of the Society was held on 30 March 1982. Irene Reilly reported details of the meeting in her regular column “On the Local Scene” in the Riverstone Press of 8 April 1982. Meetings were now being held at the Riverstone High School.

There was a large roll up and Irene reported on the attendance of a number of new members; It was great to see such a fantastic roll up and welcoming of so many new members. There must have been close to thirty people present in the Library at Riverstone High for the meeting and some of our new members included Historians, Mrs. Jan French, Mrs. Shirley Seale, Mr and Mrs Meredith, Mr W. O’Halloran, Mr. and Mrs. Wal Smith and Mr. Sammy Lane.

Irene continued her report: We were also thrilled to see such young members of Riverstone High becoming involved and realise this younger generation will eventually take over the society and will become part of our famous History.

I had no idea when I posted a notice in the local paper to start the Society that it would reach such heights and much of the success rests on the shoulders of Mrs. Lorraine Forbes, who through her hard work and efforts has been the inspiration for so much that has happened through the foundation years.

Lorraine was the Society’s first Secretary and believe me, the O’Connell County Fair would never had been the success that it was without her behind me when I was elected the first President.

I must not be remiss in mentioning Greg Patterson. Greg has also been with us through the formation of the Society and is a rock we all lean on. He was our first Treasurer and now is in his third term. Thanks Greg for always being there and putting up with us.

Mr. Mervyn Davis has also devoted many hours to the Society and he also is always there when we need him….

Further detail from the AGM appeared in the Riverstone Press of 6 May 1982. Garrett Barry, the History Master at the High School was elected as President for the coming year. Garrett had been appointed History Master at Riverstone High School in 1975. Garrett’s role extended beyond the school into the community. He had established a Local History group which met at the High School and included community members interested in history.

At the 1982 AGM Garrett provided an explanation of activities of the Local History group at the High School suggested that Historical Society’s goods be kept at the High School, along with the Local History’s collection as a unit for protection. The two collections to come together as one group. The two collections were combined and some of the members of the Local History group joined the Historical Society.


The Riverstone Public School held their centenary in 1983 in conjunction with the second O’Connell County Fair on 25 March 1983. The publication of the school history was a major success, combing the history of Riverstone and the history of the school.

Irene provided detail of the event in her column in the Riverstone Press of 31 March 1983. Once again local businesses and young ladies turned their hand to fund raising for the Society in the “Fair and Beauty Quest”. The winners were: Michelle Strachan, Historical Society Queen, Kerry Oxnobshyn, Miss Teenage Riverstone; Jenny Ogg, Miss Riverstone and Districts, Debra Verney, Miss Crowning Glory. Along with the fair, the events also included the O’Connell County Fair Ball.

1983 O’Connell County Fair and Riverstone Public School Centenary Parade. Photo: Historical Society Collection

First Quarterly Journal

Another major achievement for the Society was the publication of the first Quarterly Journal,  “Death or Liberty” in March 1983. The contents were: The Road to Vinegar Hill by Kevin Moore;First Federal Electoral roll 1901 – Riverstone and District by Jeff Follett; Centenary of Eduction in Riverstone 1883-1983 from the Riverstone-Schofields Survey; A Brief History of the Rumery Family by Rosemary and Beverley Phillis; Riverstone Commercial Establishments c1900 and 1980 by the Riverstone Evening College Local History Group 1981; People of Nelson by Laurence V. Hession.


The 3rd Annual General meeting of the Society saw Garrett Barry returned as President. Irene reported on the meeting in the Riverstone Press of 5 May 1983:

… Mr Barry spoke on the very first quarterly journal produced by him for the Historical Society, and the success of the O’Connell Ball, Beauty Quest and County Fair. He also mentioned how, for such a young society, we were still able to donate $250 to the primary school towards their centenary celebrations…… She also commented: It was very heart warming to see the Phyllis (sic) family turn up in numbers…..

The success of the O’Connell County Fairs from a financial point of view was amazing. The report for the AGM showed that the Society had no liabilities and $10,190.56 in the bank.


The 1984 AGM was held on 27 April 1984 at the High School. Garrett was returned as President and spoke about the recent acquisition of farming and historical items from Walla Walla and that it was hoped that they would be transported up shortly.

An article in the Courier from 4 July 1984 recorded the start of a concerted push by the Historical Society to obtain a Museum at Riverstone. The process was to take several years. Wally Smith recalls the moves taken to obtain a building to house the growing volume of artefacts that had been accumulated.

With a growing collection it was important to have a home and to establish a museum, and give Riverstone a perpetual source of pride and interest.

The Bicentennial was due in 1988, and our main focus was to obtain a Bicentennial Grant to establish the museum.

Garrett had his eyes firmly focused on the original School House which was at the time the Masons meeting hall.  As Garrett was the President of Riverstone Historical Society the process of getting on the Bicentennial Committee began, finally he, Rob Reilly and I were accepted to the Blacktown Bicentennial Committee, and after lengthy selection processes, the Riverstone Historical Society was successful in obtaining a Bicentennial Grant of $80,000. This was helped by the fact that we had raised $10,000 in fundraising. Council purchased the School House and an agreement was reached. The Museum was finally a dream come true.


The grant application was successful and work began on renovating the building into a Museum. A new organisation was formed to operate the Museum, being the Blacktown and District Bicentennial Museum Association. The Committee for the organisation was formed of representatives from the Riverstone, Blacktown and Mt Druitt Historical Societies, along with a representative from Blacktown City Council.

The Museum on Official Opening Day 3 December 2020.
Photo: Rosemary Phillis

Museum Opened

The Blacktown and Districts Bicentennial Museum became a reality. The Museum was to be operated by a Committee composing representatives of the Riverstone, Blacktown and Mt Druitt Historical Societies and a representative from Blacktown City Council. The official opening of the Museum took place on 3 December 1988 and was well attended. The Museum was popular with locals and schools.

Official opening photo from local newspaper.

The next three years saw the focus of the Riverstone Historical Society move to operating the Museum. The collection continued to grow, displays were rotated and visitors regularly attended to learn more about local history.

Bob Reilly and Garrett Barry attend to paperwork during a meeting at the Museum.
Photo: Rosemary Phillis

The Riverstone and District Historical Society has continued to be an active organisation working towards their goals of preservation and eduction. The story of the next thirty years is a task for a future Journal.

Recollections of Riverstone

by Wendy Biddle

The year was 1949, and the little girl was pushing her pram from the railway to her new abode. The last couple of nights she had been sleeping in the storage shed opposite the railway station as her father had been transferred with the railway. As a four- year old she remembered the yellow calliopsis flowers swaying in the grass as the train went by and fettlers pushing their trikes along the tracks. In later years, the little girl would look out the train window for the Griffith Bros tea sign which indicated how many miles to the city of Sydney. The family walked up Regent Street to their home which was on a huge corner block and two blonde haired girls came across the road and wanted to play, but she was too shy. The family had come from a small hamlet in the northwest called Baan Baa, but only her two siblings would remember her birthplace.

Their new town was a rural community called RIVERSTONE or Rivo as it was known by the locals. It was a far cry from their previous domicile where red dirt wedged between their toes and drifted in the hot wind.

Dirt roads were still the norm, and when it started to rain she could literally smell the rain coming as it settled the dust but when the storm came it became a slippery quagmire. There weren’t many houses then and therefore if you were going to the shops you cut through paddocks with knee high paspalum that stuck to your socks and it made you itch. There were big muddy puddles and heaven knows how many snakes. That thought never entered your head. Attending the Olympia Theatre at night, which most of the townsfolk seemed to do, you walked home the same way. At interval, you went to Blair’s Milk Bar, George Trahanis, and Tony’s, who made the best hamburgers, or the Wattle Milk Bar for refreshments. The latter always had those yellow insect strips hanging from the ceiling to keep the bugs off the food.

1956. Wendy Coates in her school uniform walking along Regent Street, near the intersection with Piccadilly Street.
Photo: Wendy Biddle

The Big W of the town was Rosenthall’s and they sold everything, clothes hardware, groceries, lawnmowers – you name it you could get it at this shop. There was also Arnold’s, Mrs. Coulters and in later years Noni B for clothes. Wood’s grocery shop was interesting as they had items on tables and you bought a bag of broken biscuits, because they were cheaper or half a pound of flour as the goods were in big tins or sacks. The customers carried their shopping in string bags and by the time they arrived home it was nearly on the ground from the weight.

The local vegetable shop was Stacy’s, and they had a truck that came around to sell their wares and Fishers Bakery had a horse and cart that delivered. The lucky person who went to collect the bread usually took the middle out as it was still warm. The same for the milk they rode their bikes to Martin’s dairy for a quart of unpasteurized milk in a billycan. Most times they had less when they arrived home especially if the children went to shop. The schoolchildren had little bottles of milk for recess and there was always a layer of cream at the top. Unfortunately the shed where it was stored faced the east and it was hot and uninviting! Speaking of schools there were two – the public in Garfield Road and the catholic School in the church grounds. The little girl, who never enjoyed any of her schooling years, was to attend the public carrying her little Globite schoolcase. Pupils sat at small desks with inkwells and used pencil to learn cursive writing, and when they progressed to pen they practiced between the sloped lines. They learnt reading, writing and arithmetic or the 3R’s as it was then known, and most of the children became proficient in all subjects. The students all lined up at the original school which is now a museum to have their Sabin vaccine for Poliomyelitis, Mantoux test for Tuberculosis and diphtheria injections. The little girl can recall a 6th grade student checking the children for head lice with the same ruler for each child. There was also a school concert held occasionally at the Olympia Theatre as there were no facilities for the sort of occasion.

1958 Riverstone Public School in Elizabeth Street.
Photo: Riverstone Public School

Both schools had religious instruction and the Catholic children always wore a brown leather necklace called a scapular with the picture of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on one side and St. Simonstock on the other. The little girl was told this meant they would always be blessed. All the children were covered in Vicks in the winter to ward off colds. Sport was a weekly event and quite often marching around the asphalt. The children certainly knew their left foot from their right and no trouble keeping in time if they were to march in the Anzac Day parade. Unfortunately this was the era where the cane was still given and many children would remember this vividly even if they didn’t receive the punishment. They mostly rode their bikes to school and if they needed attention Danny Mason was the man to see.

A new Post Office had been built and it had a manual exchange and there were red telephone booths and postal boxes scattered around the area.

There were four churches in the town – the Church of England, Presbyterian, where the little girl admired the freesias around the trees, Catholic and the Methodist which is the only one not in use, now it is a second hand shop.

The bells always tolled at the Church of England when there was a funeral or a wedding and if it was the latter, townsfolk would go to the church and have a look as they most probably knew the bride and groom.

Conway’s Newsagency was opposite the railway station and there was a barber’s shop at the rear. Funeral notices were posted in their window for all to see and it was a good way for the town to keep in touch. Election Day was an outing and everyone was dressed up in their Sunday best to go and vote and the CWA ladies most probably had a stall – no sausage sizzles in those days.

Who could forget the grand old Royal Hotel near the railway gates – it was demolished in later years and a new hotel was built. The floodwaters have been known to come up to the railway gates and over the line further towards the meatworks. These waters were very worrying for the trains as the flood used to come up really high under the viaduct at Mulgrave. However, many fun times were had by the schoolchildren who had to travel to Richmond High School via train as there were no senior schools in Riverstone.

The 1961 flood. The level crossing gates were a popular place vantage point.
Photo: Clarrie Neal

The railway gates and signals were opened manually to allow the traffic to flow and two metal staffs had to be transferred from the station master to the guard on the train and that was their indication that the line was clear. There was a huge water tank for the trains to fill up and you could see plumes of steam and smoke drifting over the district as the train made its way to Richmond or Blacktown. Occasionally they had the country trains which had double doors and corridors and pictures on the wall of places around the country. There was also a rack which had water bottles and glasses. These could be refilled at Central Station where the porters would be pushing the carts around the station. Electrification finally came in 1975 and everybody came out to have a look and take photos.

Employment was mostly at the local meatworks and if you didn’t have a permanent job you went on the gate and hoped for a casual position for the day if you were lucky enough. People would come in droves off the train in the hope of getting a day’s salary. The whole town used the works siren as a clock to signify when it was start time or lunch etc. The stock were brought in by train and the stockmen unloaded and put them into yards at various times so they were ready for the kill next day. When there was a tragic fire the community mourned as these were hardworking local people that had been earning a living to support their families.

The local stock and station agent was Taylors, which was between the railway and the meatworks and they sold their grain in bulk. The employees had to carry huge sacks on their shoulders and always wore leather aprons. Another person who wore an apron was Eric Brookes, he was the local shoe repairer on the corner of Market Street and moved to the main street in later years and if you couldn’t get shoes out of town you could guarantee he had them on your return.

Riverstone had two doctors – Dr. Carroll and Dr. Fraser – Boag and he lived in a lovely old dark brick home with a wide verandah. The dentist was in Mill Street and the mothers used to take their babies to the Baby Health Centre to have them checked and make sure they were growing. The Sister at the Clinic would tell them when to start the babies on solids. The local pharmacy was in Garfield Road and Chemist Williams remained there for quite some time.

1989. Riverstone Baby Health Centre.
Photo: Rosemary Phillis

There was a taxi service run by Aub Gillespie and the local bus was Barnes Bus Company and Ampol Garage and it was good when you could go by transport other than your legs! The local constabulary was a one manned station in Railway Terrace and it was undersized with maybe one cell for the inebriated to sober up overnight. This was later to be moved to Australiana Village at Wilberforce. Two banks, the Commonwealth and the Commercial Banking Corporation, ensured the town was well accounted for.

Aub Gillespie’s taxis in West Parade.
Photo: Geoff Gillespie

Immense backyards enabled the children to play until dark with their friends – parents didn’t worry as they knew they would be home at some point. The little girl played fly which was jumping between sticks, hopscotch, marbles and jacks. The girls across the road became friends and a lot of the time they tied a rope to the squeaky gate and skipped. There was also the Riverstone Park which had a slippery dip, a hurdy-gurdy that went around and also a seesaw, but strangely enough there was always a puddle of water somewhere when you fell off. The slippery dip was shiny and hot in summer! As there was no swimming pool it was not uncommon for people to go to the Hawkesbury River at Bungool but the families would load onto the back of the neighbour’s truck and hang on – all part of growing up in the 1950s.

The little girl has remained in her town her whole life. Sometimes she has been mocked as to why she would live here and her answer – “Because I am proud of my town.”

After leaving school, where she achieved well, she was employed after leaving High School, married and enjoyed her family and is now a proud grandmother. Friendships made over the years have remained, even from school days. That in itself is wonderful and even though she may pine for days gone by there are lots of memories.

Like many of the older generation, the little girl sometimes wishes that Riverstone was the same as it was in the early days. There has been a lot of progress and hundreds of homes have been built to the point that she can forget where things used to be. The urban settlement seems to be at a standstill and back in the early days you could buy most of what you needed in the town without travelling further afield.

The old saying “Progress waits for no one” is so true.

The little girl’s identity – Wendy Biddle nee Coates.

This article was an entry in the 2019 Blacktown City Council Mayoral History Prize. The article also appeared in the Feb 2020 – Mar 2020 edition of the Colo Shire Family History Group Inc. magazine. We thank Wendy for allowing us to include her story in our Journal.

Bowling Club

by Heather Smith

In 1950 on behalf of the Riverstone and District Civic Centre Co-operative Ltd., chairman Dr. Frazer-Boag announced the Co-op., had purchased a parcel of land on Railway Parade as part of a general plan to construct much needed amenities for the town. He explained the venture was to construct a swimming pool, bowling green and large club house. “A large club house would be very suitable for meetings and entertainment.” he added. Unfortunately, a water course running through the site made the land unsuitable for a swimming pool and coupled with a lack of interest and funds plans were put on hold.

A flyer for a meeting in relation to the establishment of sporting facilities in Riverstone. Although the Bowling Green was listed as one of the “other amenities”, it was the first to be constructed

On November 18th 1952 a group of locals with a provisional Chairman Mr. J.C Burns and provisional Secretary Mr. C. Chapman met and planned to establish a bowling club on the site. It was decided to call, at a later date a general meeting of all interested with a view to enrolling members and making all necessary arrangements for the organization and development of the Riverstone and District Recreation and Bowling Club.

Recommendations set by the meeting included joining fees be set at 5 pound 5 shillings (approx. $12) for the first year and thereafter an annual subscription of 3 pounds 3 shillings (approx. $6.50). It was further recommended that in return for construction of the green, provision of the club house and other facilities by the Co-operative a sum equivalent to 85% of the total profits from Club’s activities would be paid to the Co-operative during the first 12 months with the percentage to be reviewed at the expiration of the 12 months.

The response from the town was excellent and the Club made a successful application to join Nepean District Bowling Association for permission to play Pennants in the Nepean competition.

A group of dedicated volunteers led by Harry Hynes Snr. and Lionel McCutcheon then commenced work on the first bowing green parallel to Pitt Street. Once the work was underway the Chairman of the Greens Committee of NSW Bowling Association was invited to be guest of honour at a function organised by the Co-operative. He commented most favourably on the work in progress and gave some expert advice on further establishment of the bowling club. By late 1953 work was almost completed and members then had the opportunity to obtain a club house.

Windsor Bowling Club a well-established club in the District since 1935 offered Riverstone their old club house at a cost of seven hundred pounds ($1500}. To cover the cost of the purchase (originally an ex-army hut) plus transport and installation 10 pound ($20) debentures were bought by members. The hut was split into two and transported on trucks down to the site on the corner of Mill and Pitt Sts., and settled adjacent to the completed green. Voluntary labour installed the foundations, electricity, water, storage shed and the newly built toilet block complete with pump out septic sewerage.

Early 1960s. The clubhouse which was relocated from Windsor.

The green which the Co-operative had commenced construction on was taken over by the newly formed Bowling Club and under the guidance of Harry Hynes Snr., and Lionel McCutcheon it was completed and playable in 1956. A liquor licence was then obtained and Les Britton and Arthur Denman were engaged as part- time stewards on Saturday and Sunday and the Club was open for business. A Committee was set up to provide refreshments with a jar being placed on the bar for contributions as the club did not have a poker machine license. However this changed in 1960 when a license was granted and the club installed 10 Silver Jubilee poker machines. Members assisted in the bar and with the outside work and the Ladies Auxiliary helped with the food on social occasions. Sporting history was made when the Women’s Bowling Club was formed in 1957 the first of its kind in the Region.

Arthur Denman and Les Britton
A poker machine at the club. The number of notices on the blackboard show how busy the club was from both a bowling and social point of view.

On 5th October 1961 the club held its first annual dinner President George Johnston, and Secretary Mr. Max Marlin welcomed 75 members and outlined the progress of the club during its first five years their words were endorsed by Mr. Jack Danks Treasurer and Mr. George Watson spoke on behalf of the members sounding a confident note for the future welfare of the Club especially as the second green was nearing completion. Other visitors of note were Mr. Graeme Bloxsom General Manager Riverstone Meat Co., Mr. Jack Pringle Riverstone R.S.L Club and Mr. Ken Lyons Hawkesbury Consolidated Press. Excellent organization by the social committee headed by Mr. Frank Coates and assisted by Jim Allsop and Bob Morris ensured a ‘delectable’ three course dinner and entertainment by Gordon White, Dick Stacey and Bill Miller rounded off the festivities.

22 October 1960. The second green under construction

The club not only became a sporting venue but also a social success on Saturday nights the old hut reverberated with music supplied by Billy Miller’s Band and cabaret concerts always drew a packed house. Families young and old spun in the dance floor and many a romance was kindled in the progressive barn dance. The success of the Club enabled them to purchase the land from the Co-operative which unfortunately encountered financial problems and folded in 1958.

It was a packed house at the Bowling Club for the Egyptian Show.

Riverstone club gained State-wide attention when Les Bell in 1961-62 won the State singles Championship, a feat he was to repeat in 1965-66 and went on to represent NSW in interstate matches.

Les Bell, winner of the 1961-62 and 1965-66 State Titles.
Photo: Kevin Smith
State Title Newspaper Article
The Women Bowlers at a packed function inside the old Bowling Club.

Good management and growing membership saw the Club forging ahead and within a few years a move was made to build a new club house. Miller’s Brewery offered to finance the construction but members felt this sponsorship would tie the club to the brewery for many years so the offer was declined. Fund raising began in earnest. Over two years bowlers raised eighteen thousand pounds ($40,000.00) with Builders Days when all bowlers around the District were invited to play. Entry fees, raffles and a temporary bar set up in the middle of the green (strictly illegal) kept the sales flowing. Tenders were called for the construction of a new bowling club house and the successful tenderer was W. McNamara Pty Ltd., with a quote of sixty five thousand pounds ($140,000) and with Architect Kevin J. Curtain and a loan from the Commonwealth Bank the plans for the new club house became a reality.

In 1964 work commenced on the building Brian Watts was Foreman and working staff during construction were –

Carpenters – Jim Wolfe, Neville Vaughan, Albert Talbot, Stan Lawson and Graham Noble.

Apprentices -Col. Watton Andrew Pearson (1st Yr ), George Stanley (4th Yr.)

Labourers – Les Britton, Cecil Davies, Warren Cook.

All rounder – Jim Hanney

Back hoe operator -Charlie Sandilands

Subcontractors Alan & George Race(brickies) (Acrow) and Plasterers Freestone and Co.

Painters – Julie Schultz and Jim Allsop.

The new bowling club was to be constructed over and beside a natural water course the reason why the original idea of a swimming pool on the site had been abandoned. The water course commenced in front of Riverstone Public school ran down Garfield Rd., then cut across, across to Market St., and down to Park St here it turned left at Pitt St., travelled over the bowing club site down to Mill street where it runs parallel to Riverstone Parade before crossing under the railway line adjacent to Church St. Large concrete pipes had been installed to capture this water course however when excavations for foundation work began the water table at the northern end of the building caused havoc. This was overcome by using water pumps to continuously drain the excavation enabling reinforcing to be installed and the footings filled with concrete to stabilised the foundations of the building. The No.1 bowling green is built directly over this watercourse.

Sewerage was not yet available in Riverstone so a hole 6m x 6m had to be dug to install a septic tank. Charlie Sandilands commenced the job with the back hoe but soon struck rock and could not go any further. So, Jim Henney who claimed some knowledge of explosives- gained in the Army – decided to take charge and blast through the rock. The charges were set and covered with a blasting mat. These mats were made from sliced up rubber tyres bound together with cable and chains and placed over the blast to suppress noise and dust as well as prevent flying rocks. Unfortunately the blast proved too much for the mat which did not contain the force of the explosion and blew the heavy mat high into the sky. It plummeted down to earth landing on the nearby electricity transformer and “blacked out” the entire town. However by November 1964 the new club house was completed featuring full length glass windows on the western side looking onto three (3) top class bowling greens and landscaped rose gardens. Entry from the car park on the eastern side of the building led to a small lobby where guests were required to sign a visitors book this area also contained the Bowl’s Secretary office. Double glass doors led into the social area of the club, poker machines, two billiard tables, locker rooms, change rooms, men’s toilets and seating and tables for 100 people. Folding concertina doors divided the areas which were opened on social occasions to reveal a spacious auditorium and stage plus a kitchen and board room. Finally at the southern end of the building was another much larger entrance hall plus a small reception area and ladies toilets and female locker room. Truly an amazing update from the old army hut which was once again on the move and went on to enjoy another life as club house for the Riverstone Guides.

Photos of the official opening with signatures of those in attendance.

Club facilities continued to be upgraded and in 1971 a squash court and spa were added also the kitchen was updated and enlarged to include a sit down bistro area. Plus a full-time Secretary Manager was appointed.

Like every sport Riverstone participated in they soon rose to the top and Bowls was no exception. By 1972 they were the No.1 Pennant team in the Zone winning District, Zone and advancing to the State Finals defeating the strongest teams in the State. Unfortunately, they were defeated by Kahibah Club from Newcastle in the final. The outstanding bowlers in this team were all local boys Alan Orr, Kevin Smith, Pat Worboys, Teddy Dawson, Reg. Woods, Bill McNamara, Brian Doolan, Toby Marlin, Alan Wallace, Jimmy, Charlie & George Sandilands, Barry Allison, Barry Wood , Peter Rosa and Ron Miller all local boys.

1974 Riverstone Pennant Team No1 Division. Zone 5 Winners. State Finalists. Runners up to Kahibah (Newcastle) Back Row: Kevin Smith, Brian Doolan, Ron Miller, Barry Allison, Les Bell, George Watson, Alan Gould, Pat Worboys, Neville Cassell, Ted Dawson. Front Row: John Stacey, Alan Wallace, Charlie Sandilands, Dick Stacey, Toby Marlin, Jim Wolffe, Jim Sandilands. Photo: Kevin Smith

One of the most famous Riverstone bowlers was Eric Magennis. The victim of a tragic motor cycle accident which left him a paraplegic he coached netball teams, played wheel chair basketball at Olympic level and went on to win gold at the Paraplegic Olympics winning medals in the Singles and Pairs.

Eric Magennis putting down a bowl at Canberra.
Photo: Eric Magennis
1970s. Constructing a new green.
Aerial shot of the Bowling Club and greens.
Photo: Shirley Curl.

Unfortunately, many of the top local bowlers were gradually lured away by bigger Clubs, Charlie Sandilands and his son Shane, Kevin Smith and Les Bell all went to play No. 1 Pennants at St. Marys Club. They were then approached by St. John’s Park who offered lucrative contracts to the group to revitalize bowls in their newly renovated Club. It was an offer too good to refuse and together with a fourth player Paul Norris they put St. John’s Park on to the map. Cameron Curtis, Jim Morrison, Trevor Kable and Brian Robson were to name a few and as well as playing the four Riverstone players also coached the teams. Finishing at the top for several years they won the No.1 Pennants State title in 1996 the forerunner of many similar successes.

In 1990 Charlie and Shane Sandilands, Kevin Smith and Paul Norris won the State 4’s and went over to Perth to represent NSW only to be defeated in the final by Victoria. St Johns Park was now a leading Club in the State. In 1999 bowls was becoming more professional and Premier League was being trialled and each felt the commitment to Premier League would be too great. Unfortunately, Charlie had been diagnosed with cancer and Shane and Les decided to retire. Kevin who was now a State selector and coupled with work commitments made it difficult to travel to St. Johns Park 2 to 3 times a week and the Rivo boys decided to call it a day.

Kevin Smith was invited to take up the position of Bowls Organiser back at Riverstone and together with Colan Ryan (29) the young Secretary-Manager it was not long before big name sponsors were approaching the club to sponsor tournaments.

Riverstone club was always very family orientated as bowlers preferred to use money from the Club to benefit the community and as a result under the guidance of Col. Ryan in one year membership doubled. He introduced many days of free activities for the whole family at Christmas and Australia Day. Father Christmas (Colin Haywood) distributed generous presents and in January bowling celebrities were invited to show their skills in the game. Community families , regardless of their skill, experience or age were introduced to bowls by two of Australia’s finest bowlers – Cameron Curtis and Rex Johnson. Together these two held gold medals from World tournaments and Commonwealth Games. Free lunch and entertainment was provided to all families

Riverstone now boasted the biggest and richest bowls tournaments in Australia $25,000 Pairs Tournaments sponsored by Bernipave gave local players the opportunity to test their skills against Australian and international players. Frank Crowley Triples $8,000 celebrated a long time member and Riverstone personality known by many as “Tootles Anderson” to name a few of the major tournaments.

Prosperous years followed however changing management saw the Club gradually decline and an agreement was reached to a takeover by the Memorial club with the proviso they would absorb the debt of $700,000.00 and include a 10 year tenure which would allow the bowling club to remain open and trade. However after 5 years this tenure was withdrawn creating a bitter dispute among many of the bowling fraternity who disagreed with the Board and to this day refuse to patronise the Memorial club.

Several schemes were broached by members to no avail and so on 30th November 2013 a large group of members gathered at the club house to say farewell to a club which had flourished for 60 years.

Authors Note: My thanks to Kevin Smith, John Watton, Bill McNamara and Graham Britton for their assistance in preparing this article.

30 November 2013. A symbolic releasing of “BYE” balloons at the Bowling Club.
Photo: Rosemary Phillis

Unless otherwise noted, photos from the Bowling Club Photo Album.

Looking Back – Christmas in the 1930s

by Winsome Phillis (nee Voysey)

The following article was written by Winsome in December 1985 when her daughter Rosemary asked her to write her a story instead of buying a present for Christmas.

Every year, early in December my sister Elaine and I would have a day in Sydney with Auntie Evelyn and Auntie Hazel. We would catch the steam train that left Riverstone around 7 o’clock in the morning, arriving in Sydney around half past eight. Anthony Horderns, Farmers and Grace Bros always had marvellous Christmas displays for children – as well as decorated windows to their stores. An entire section would be made into a fairy wonderland with maybe a walkthrough passage, or a fairy ride in a coach or train, ending up with Santa in his Magic Palace. After you told Santa what you would like for Christmas you were given a little gift.

These stores often had a pantomime too. The first one I can remember was I think at Farmers. It was an underwater play, with these tiny children as mermaids in shells, and the whole thing was seen through a green curtain which gave it a very realistic effect. I was absolutely fascinated.

Lunch was in one of the stores’ restaurants, which were beautifully decorated with plants. Farmers restaurant was on the top floor, and you could go out into the roof garden.

After school had finished for the year with its concert and prize giving, and after the Sunday School prize giving was held, seemed to be the beginning of the Christmas season for us. The house would be decorated with paper chains and bells, and each day we would eagerly await the arrival of the postman to see if any Christmas cards came for us.

Elaine and I shared a bedroom at home, and each Christmas Eve we would hang up a pillowcase at the end of our beds. Very early on the morning of Christmas Day we would wake up and crawl down to the end of the bed to see what was in the pillowcases – sometimes we just had to feel, then wait impatiently till it was light enough to see. Then about half past six we would tear down to visit Lal and Uncle Charlie, who always went to visit Auntie Polly, Uncle Charlie Fry and their family at Waverley on the 7 o’clock train on Christmas Day. Lal and Uncle Charlie always gave us lovely presents. My kookaburra brooches and my celluloid dressing table set came from them.

Each year our pillowcases would contain a book, as well as other gifts. For many years I would find a ‘Tiny Tot’s Annual’ full of fairy stories and pictures. Then, in later years I would look forward to the Mary Grant Bruce books, especially the Billabong series. I can still remember sitting in the cool of the hall reading my book when I should have been doing something to help get dinner ready. Elaine would also get a book and often we would get a similar present such as a doll or a tea set in different colours. ‘Puck’ and ‘Sunbeam’ were two of the Annuals the others would get.  I can’t remember the third one.

We didn’t have a Christmas tree to decorate in those days, they came along after the war. Dinner was at mid-day in the dining room instead of the kitchen where we ate most of our meals. The wooden dining room table could be extended by adding leaves in the middle to accommodate about twelve people. It was always a hot roast dinner, chicken and vegetables,

Winsome in a small pedal car.
Winsome in a small pedal car.

followed by plum pudding and custard. The chickens were in those days bought live from somewhere. Dad had to cut their heads off out in the woodheap and then they were plucked and cleaned using boiling water. I always avoided being around when this was going on, but I didn’t mind eating them when Mum served them up stuffed and cooked at Christmas.

Mum also made the Christmas pudding, which contained silver trinkets and threepences, wrapped in little bits of greaseproof paper so that no one would eat one by mistake. These puddings (she always made two, one for New Year) were mixed in a large china wash bowl about six months earlier, and then hung in their calico wrapping on the back verandah till the day, then boiled again for some hours. They were delicious hot, and also delicious eaten cold with butter.

Christmas tea was a cold meal, with ham that had been previously cooked in the wood copper; lettuce and tomatoes from the garden – ours or Uncle Charlie’s, and stewed peaches from our own trees.

At some time during the day we would take our presents around to show Mrs Crowle and her old mother, Mrs Wilson, who lived in Railway Terrace just a few doors along from Lal’s house. They were friends of Lal’s and always liked to see what we had.

Auntie Evelyn and Auntie Hazel visited us in the afternoon and sometimes stopped for tea. Mum often gave them both Cashmere Bouquet Soap for a present, three cakes in a white box, which had the most beautiful smell. Even now the scent of this soap reminds me of Christmas at home, and sitting on the bed watching Mum wrap up her presents.

Early 1930s. The Voysey House at 4 Regent Street Riverstone (later renumbered to 8). Stella Rumery visiting her nieces Elaine and Gwen.

Unless otherwise noted, all photographs from the Voysey family.

Hawkers of the Hawkesbury

by Michelle Nichols

The Hawkesbury district covers a wide area and some inhabitants had to travel long distances to access services. Reliable hawkers with a range of products could make an adequate income and a visit from a hawker was usually met with delight from the female members of the family. A hawker or peddler, carried an array of goods and travelled around from town to town, selling his wares and merchandise. As only a small amount of capital was required, many hawkers started out on foot, carrying their wares. When they had made enough money, they could acquire a horse and cart and travel further afield and with more stock.

A license was required to be a hawker and could be obtained by applying at the local court house. The license provided approval to sell any goods from a stall or vehicle in a public place in New South Wales and a Hawkers Act still exists today. During the 1870s the annual fee was approximately 20 shillings for those travelling by foot and 40 shillings if travelling by horse. The charges varied between localities particularly if the hawker operated close to a town, for instance the fee in Sydney ranged from £1 to £2. Sometimes a bond was required if on horseback, using a cart or boat, and it was necessary for the words ‘licensed hawker’ to be printed on a hawkers box.

Paul Convy, from the Australian Lebanese Historical Society noted that a number of Lebanese migrants hit the road as hawkers in the early days. “The only avenue open to them to make a living was a suitcase full of what used to be called ‘fancy goods’ — ribbons, needles, cotton, lace, razor blades, cloth offcuts, things small enough to be carried in a bag.”

A lifeline to small communities and isolated localities, items sold ranged from agricultural goods to home wares, pots and pans, clothing, suitable trinkets and sometimes exotic goods such as spices and silk. Many Lebanese migrants arrived in Australia and took up the occupation of hawking, walking around the countryside selling goods, and if successful, they then set up businesses.

During the 1890s some renewals of licenses were restricted to British subjects, excluding those originating from Afghan, Assyria and China. During this period, Indian Hawkers became more prolific. An Indian hawker, reported in 1897 that he was robbed of some of his wearing apparel “somewhere in the district.”

Records for hawkers, other than licenses, are sporadic, except when coming to the attention of the local media. One such person was Elias Habeeb or Habbib, a hawker who had been in Riverstone from the 1890s. Elias originally travelled the district with a basket and then in a covered vehicle. In 1893 he was reported on his deathbed but three months later he had recovered and was back on his rounds.

Later that year, Elias left his horse and buggy, near the goods-shed in the Station-yard, when the moving of some trucks by the Mason Bros startled the animal, which made off in the direction of the Meat-works. Mr. S. Mason made every effort to prevent the animal continuing its course, but failed, and the vehicle was capsized near the stock-yard in the Station premises.

Elias eventually opened a store in Riverstone in 1904 but was listed as bankrupt, a few years later.

Henry Saundercock, a resident of Riverstone was granted his hawkers license in 1903.  That same year, Thomas H. Schofields also received his hawker’s pack horse license. Eight years later, Saundercock was granted his Auctioneers’ license. He went onto become a well-known businessman in the area.

Micky Azzabox, another Assyrian hawker, was reported in the Windsor and Richmond Gazette in 1919. He was acquitted of assaulting Riverstone inhabitant, Mrs. Mary Jane Showers. Mrs Showers was hospitalized however the hawker was found not guilty and acquitted at Windsor Court House as there was no evidence connecting him to the offence.

Indian hawker and van with customers, similar to those travelling around the Hawkesbury area by Gabriel Knight 1876-1946. Photo: State Library of Victoria H87.52/172

Payment of goods could be an issue for the hawkers. They had to outlay for their merchandise and not everyone paid their bills. One licensed hawker who filed as bankrupt, was Richard Abdullah, of Oakville in 1923.

In Riverstone in 1939, Sam Coorey, an Assyrian hawker, was charged with assault of Aubrey Johnson. It was alleged that Coorey went to Johnson’s to collect monies owed to him by Mrs Johnson. She was not at home but two men apparently chased him. There was a disturbance and Johnson was stabbed in the commotion. The outcome of the court case was not noted in the newspapers however he was still listed as a hawker in the mid-1950s.

There were still a few hawkers plying their trades in the 1950s. Bernard Knobbs from Riverstone established a small concern in the mid-1950s. Originally from Ebenezer he saw the need for such a business visiting outlying districts. With several suitcases he set off in his van. Mr Knobbs eventually remodelled a truck and travelled around the Riverstone and Hawkesbury district. He drove around from Riverstone to Oakville, Maroota and through Ebenezer then back home selling Manchester such as sheets, pillowcases and tablecloths, plus clothing, toys and home wares until he retired in the early 1980s, one of the last hawkers in Riverstone.

Bernard Knobbs with sons Ken and Bob. Photo: Knobbs family

Some Memories of Schofields Public School

by Nell Moody

For three years, from the beginning of 1940 to the end of 1942, Miss Roston’s and then Miss King’s classroom at Schofields Public School, was at the centre of my life.

We sat in double wooden desks with seats that folded down from the desk behind. I sat with my friend Ann who also lived in Schofields Farm Road.

There was another classroom, but that was for the big boys and girls, who were taught by Mr Middleton, the headmaster.

A long veranda outside the two rooms had a bell fixed to its end, which was rung by a boy from Mr Middleton’s class, to signal the start and end of lessons. At the other end of the building was a row of basins and a bubbler. The boys and girls toilets were some distance behind the building and each had an entry of corrugated iron.

Ann and I sat in the far back seat of our classroom, probably because we were both very quiet.

I remember only brief talking by our teacher and some chanting of “times tables”. My most vivid memory is of silent reading. When we finished our set work, we were allowed to go to the book cupboard, out the front of the room, and get a school magazine.

Miss King was a very busy lady. The room was full, with three classes and over forty pupils. I am sure she allocated her time well and Ann and I enjoyed the magazines.

Today’s pupil-teacher ratio is much smaller. The Second World War was on then and many teachers were in the Armed Services, so large classes were common.

When the bell rang for playtime or lunchtime we seemed to be really free. To my knowledge no one checked whether we were eating or playing, or where we were. I particularly remember our “cubby house”, which was just a space under a tree with a hanging branch. For five or six little girls it was “ours”. Boys occupied nearly all the front of the school playgrounds, pushing and shoving, and the girls found places on the edges. Some of the big pupils played more organised games behind the school. Mr Middleton and Miss King just seemed to appear from time to time.

One day some boys tied the long paspalum grass heads together to trip unwary people. One such person was Mr Middleton who I think, was pursuing a naughty boy at the time. I was “that girl laughing” who was sent up to the veranda to wait for Mr Middleton to get his cane and then I had to put my hand out. I probably only got a ‘tap’ for effect. I didn’t cry, but I didn’t tell my parents either, and I never got the cane again. I don’t remember the cane ever being used by Miss King or Miss Roston.

A particularly naughty boy in my class brought a big knife to school. He said he would cut off my head. He must have made similar threats to others, because Mr Middleton put him in the book cupboard. I worried that he would tear those precious magazines, but he was soon released.

One day my cousin Ian, who was also in my class, was told by Miss King to empty his pockets out onto the desk. His pockets must have been bulging, because I remember a sling-shot (a short forked stick with a rubber band attached), a number of large pebbles and a large piece of torn sheet which contained two carefully wrapped bird’s eggs. Miss King said how cruel it was to steal eggs from a mother bird, and how these eggs would now never hatch. Conservation was in its infancy in the 1940’s.

Miss King then asked Ian where his shoes were. I wondered how she knew that he left them in a tree and collected them on the way home. Boys in my class liked to be barefoot. I think they would be thought tough.

School uniforms were rare at Schofields, only a few girls wore tunics, most wore anything they had. Leather shoes were rare, sandshoes common and many boys regarded all shoes as “sissy”. The word “sissy” was a common insult.

Some girls came to school in pretty frocks with lace around the bottom. I envied them. Years later I realised that the lace was added to make the dress last another season. Clothing coupons had been introduced during the war and children who grew out of their clothes could be a problem. “Hand-me-downs” were what most children had and no girl had more than one good dress.

Many boys wore braces. They could put their thumbs under them and make them “snap”. The braces were considered “MANLY” and “GROWN UP”.

There was no tuck shop or canteen. We brought our own food, usually wrapped in greaseproof paper or a serviette or even newspaper.

My father always cut my lunch. He cut thick slices of bread with a bread knife. Sliced, soft bread was far in the future. On Monday meat filling from the left over Sunday roast was common and for the rest of the week peanut butter, Marmite or plum jam featured. Not every child had fresh fruit. Modern children would be appalled at our lunches but we ate what was in front of us. Complaining abut food was pointless, because one was immediately told that some children in other countries were starving and that it was better than bread and dripping which was what our parents said they had as children. Attention to a balanced diet was years away as was plastic wrap and lunch boxes. I do remember talk about Oslo lunch and salad sandwiches, I think after the war.

The 1939-1945 war was well known to us, because our families talked about it a lot. Trenches were dug in the school grounds. No doubt the new air base that was built on what we called Pye’s paddocks on the Quakers Hill side of the Schofields, the Richmond Aerodrome, and the increasing number of planes overhead made the trenches a sensible precaution.

We were not allowed to play in the trenches but were taken into them for a drill which involved a lot of crouching down and biting down on a wooden “dolly peg”. Our mothers had to make us a bag for this peg to hang around our necks. I think it also contained some rag or cotton wool to stuff in our ears. This was, I guess, to cushion the noise of falling bombs and the peg to stop us biting our tongues. My mother had torn up an old sheet for mine. Thankfully no bombs fell and eventually the trenches filled with water and were filled in.

Schofields Public School was a world to itself. I do not remember even having a visit from another school or being taken outside of its grounds in school time. There were no excursions and sports equipment was very limited. I do not remember visiting speakers or scripture teachers or music or art or radio. There were certainly no parent-teacher nights or even a phone for parents to ring the school on . It was unusual for a parent to even visit the school except to call to leave or collect us.

Maybe present day children would think we were deprived, but we did not regard ourselves so.

For me Schofields Public School was a happy experience. There was no homework and little boredom. Though our parents worried about the war and their friends and relatives who served in it, it was far, far away from us children.

We may have had a lot less in the way of possessions than today’s children, but we didn’t know that Australia would change or that other places were different. For us, our world was Schofields and we liked it just as it was.

1936 Schofields Public School. Although taken five years before Nell attended the school, the photo shows the clothes the pupils wore and the absence of shoes for some boys and girls. The boy on the left hand side of the second row from the back can be seen wearing braces.

Singing at Anzac Services – Di Gavin

by Rosemary Phillis

In the 1960s I was approached by Maurie Hawkins, President of the Riverstone Schofields RSL sub-Branch to see if I would sing at an upcoming ANZAC service. They were unable to find anyone else prepared to take it on and he had been told by my neighbour, Barry Crouch, that I could sing.

I came from a musical background. My mother played the drums (she used to practice on phone books thank goodness). Dad played the button accordion and my brother the banjo. I learnt to play the piano accordion and I loved it. My accordion was a Crucianelli brand and I think the model was one of only two that came out from Italy. It was purchased from Nicholsons at 416 George Street in Sydney and my grandmother paid it off.

The family performed as a band and I can recall playing on a Sunday afternoon in a park near where we lived at Earlwood or Glebe.

In addition to the accordion I also trained as soprano singer. I took lessons from a woman in Pitt Street in Sydney for many years.

Our family had a Riverstone connection through my father’s parents. George and Georgina (called Jo) Morris who lived in Brighton Street. My Uncle Bob and Aunty Anne lived in Elizabeth Street. I’m told when I was a baby we lived at my grandparents place for awhile, as Dad drove delivery trucks from the Meatworks to the City.

Most of the time though we lived in rented places down toward the City. I spent many school holidays staying with my grandparents. I came back to Riverstone when I married Geoff Gavin, started a family and have remained here ever since. Now the City has followed me out to Riverstone, something I thought that I’d never see.

Geoff’s Mum was involved with the CWA and had me go to one of their meetings and play the piano accordion. Next thing she had me play at a lunch at the Church of England. She’d mind the children while I played.

Going back to Maurie Hawkins and his request to sing at the service, I said that I would on the proviso that they would provide the music, which they did through cassette tapes. The lady before used to play a piano on the back of a truck. (Her son worked at the local railway station.)

Eventually I ended up singing for all three commemorative services, the Sunday and Dawn Anzac Services and Remembrance Day. There was one year I had to read the Lords Prayer as well as they couldn’t find a church Minister for the day. I sang at the services for years, finally retiring in 2005 when I came down with the flu and they organised someone else to sing.

1993 Sunday Anzac Service. Di is standing at the right of the photo. From video clip by Rosemary Phillis
1995 Sunday Anzac Service. Di is standing near the Memorial with her back to the camera. Photo: Rosemary Phillis

The Simpson Family

by George Simpson

Alexander Lilburn Simpson “Jock”. Born 1883 Scotland. Died 1965.

Jessie Ann Simpson nee Wood. Born 1885 Scotland. Died 1967.

Jock Snr was a Sergeant in the Seaforth Highlanders and served in the Boxer Rebellion in China and the Boer War in South Africa.

Jessie came to Australia in about 1908. Jock followed in 1909 and they were married in 1910.

They went back to Scotland with two young children so Jock could re-enlist with the Seaforth Highlanders to serve in WWI. He was on active duty in France for most of the war.

Alexander L. Simpson Snr (Jock)
Alexander L. Simpson Snr (Jock)

They lived in Molong before the war and moved back there about 1919 when they returned from WWI. One daughter died in Scotland in 1914 and Jock Jnr was born in 1914. It is hard to comprehend how hard those long boat trips would be especially with two small children.

In 1920 they moved to Grange Avenue, Marsden Park for better schooling for their children.

In 1922 they bought 14 acres on the corner of Richmond Road and South Street, Marsden Park, which was the family home until Jock died in 1965 and Jessie in1967. Jock and Jessie paid £400 ($800) almost 100 years ago for the 14 acres, they would not believe the millions that it is worth now.

The house at Marsden Park in 1938

Jock Snr, together with Major McLean, Harry Whitehead and Harry Dobson, all old Riverstone names, were the four foundation members who pioneered the Riverstone-Schofields RSL. He was Returning Officer for Marsden Park and Secretary of the Presbyterian Church.

Jessie was a Foundation Member of the Riverstone CWA.

They had seven children, three dying young from diabetes.

  • Jean born 1911 – died 1914.
  • Grace born 1912 – died 1974.
  • Alexander born 1914 – died 1968.
  • Janet born 1920 – died 1993.
  • George born 1924 – died 1931.
  • Gordon born 1925 – died 1926.
  • Mary born 1928 – still going strong in Denman.

Jock Snr worked at the meatworks all his life, riding a push bike to and from work. They never owned a car, it was bike or horse and sulky.

Power was not available until 1938 and water just after that.

Times would have been tough, but it was what they were used to, a wood stove, wood copper, meat safe and an ice box. Ice was delivered twice a week.

Jessie had chooks and cows, so eggs were a big part of the diet and she made her own butter from the milk.

1942. Jock Simpson Jnr and his mother, Jessie


  • Grace Simpson worked for Dr Boag in Garfield Road.
  • Alexander Lilburn Simpson (Jock Jnr) had a truck at the meatworks carting ashes and sawdust until they stopped using it on the floors. He had a sawmill at Marsden Park and then in 1951 bought the sawmill and weighbridge at Box Hill from Rod Terry. He was a very good woodchopper in his younger days, winning many ribbons at local shows. He had four children, eleven grandchildren, ten great grandchildren and three great great grandchildren.
  • Janet Williams (nee Simpson) lived at Narrabeen when first married and moved back to Marsden Park and finally Ballina. She had five children, eleven grandchildren, ten great grandchildren and one great great grandchild.
  • Mary Gibson (nee Simpson) lived at Plumpton when first married and moved to Baerami then to Denman. She has one child, one grandchild and one great grandchild.


We don’t think Jock Snr ever saw a rugby league game, definitely not live, but he left a lot of players down through the generations.

Jock Jnr’s Sons:

George – Captain Coach Riverstone Reserve Grade Premiers 1971.

David – Play in Penrith’s first President Cup side 1967. James (Jim) – Played 1971 Reserve and A Grade sides.

Riverstone A Reserve Grade Premiers 1971.
Back Row. 1. John McNamara, 2. Bobby Gill, 3. Warren Irvine, 4. George Simpson – Capt./coach, 5. John Freeman, 6. Jim Simpson, 7. Tommy Haynes, 8. Peter James, 9. Graham Britton, 10. Mick Shields – Manager.
Front Row: 1. Michael Britton, 2. Tony McNamara, 3. Barry Drayton, 4. Phil Creek, 5. Graham Magennis, 6. Robert Shea, 7. Paul Haskings, Mascot – John Liepa Jnr., Ball Boy – John Judge Jnr.
Photo: Ron Bates

George’s Sons:

Scott and Glenn both played junior football for Riverstone, Scott winning two premierships. Glenn’s son Bailey plays in the Tamworth Competition.

George’s daughter – Belinda Rumsby has two sons. Jack played in the local Tamworth comp, playing in the winning Farrer Country Cup side, representing Group 4 in junior and senior years, also rep player for Greater Northern Tigers, a stint at Norths Devils Under 20’s QLD and now playing in the Newcastle comp for Central Butcher Boys. Henry plays Under 10’s in the local Tamworth Competition.

Jim’s son -Adam played junior football for Riverstone, Adam’s son Zac plays for Mount Druitt team.

Janet Williams (nee Simpson) daughter – Janet Montgomery (nee Williams) has two sons, Dillon and Kane. Dillon played Jersey Flegg for Manly going back to back for Ballina winning four premierships and still playing. Kane played junior rep football and won two premierships with Ballina.

Sadly I don’t think any more will wear the maroon and gold for Riverstone, but there will be more coming through to play the game elsewhere.

Unless otherwise noted, all photographs from George Simpson.