Riverstone Police Station – The Later Years

by Heather Smith

The Police Station at Riverstone has seen many changes. In 1974 the tiny Police Station was moved to Australiana Village at Wilberforce and the original station from Blacktown took its place following the construction of a new station at Blacktown. This was a much roomier set-up, comprising two rooms allowing space to move.

In 1980 the two room building was demolished and it was decided to utilize the house as a Police Station. However the cells were decommissioned and used only for storage. The wall between the main bedroom and the passageway was removed and a counter built to serve as the front desk. The lounge room became the Constables interview room and the second bedroom became the meal room.

The picket fence was removed and replaced with Cyclone wire fence and a carpark constructed where the old Police Station once stood. High speed Police vehicles replaced the old motor bike and side car. A large section of the land has been fenced in and used as a holding yard for vehicles involved in fatal accidents and waiting to be examined by Police mechanics.

In 1996 Commissioner Peter Ryan decided that Riverstone did not need a full time Police Station and that it could be adequately supervised from the brand new station at Quakers Hill! Now, as the development burgeons in the outer western suburbs, it may be time for the people of Riverstone to begin to agitate for their own Police Station once again.

Riverstone in Other Parts of the World

by Judith Lewis

In 1995 my husband Kevin and I were holidaying on Lord Howe Island when we came across a monument on a prominent part of the headland just across from the Lagoon Store. The inscription on the monument read:-


Research has revealed that Allan McCulloch had joined the Australian Museum at the age of thirteen as a volunteer, working without remuneration whilst awaiting the possibility of a paid position. At the age of sixteen Allan was appointed mechanical assistant to the Museum’s zoologist, Edgar Ravenswood Waite. Waite moved to the Canterbury Museum in 1906 and Allan Riverstone McCulloch was his replacement at the Australian Museum. During his “apprenticeship” Allan’s superiors encouraged the development of his obvious artistic talents, which were later refined by tuition under Sydney’s leading art teacher, Julian Ashton.

In 1914 the Museum’s scientific roll lists Allan McCulloch as – Vertebrate Zoologist. Of the eleven men listed on that roll, Allan was one of only three remaining in 1921 and his position was now in Ichthyology, where he was said to be working “prodigiously at descriptions of new species and on his check-list of Australian fishes”.

In 1924, health deteriorating, and near nervous breakdown, Allan was granted a year’s leave. During this period he visited Honolulu to attend the Pan-Pacific Fisheries Conference as an unofficial delegate of the New South Wales government. There he committed suicide in August 1925.

In explanation of his death, colleague T.C. Roughley wrote:

“…Mr McCulloch resolved to place the science of Australian ichthyology on a sound and systematic basis. Only those associated with the difficulties of this work can appreciate its magnitude…but Mr McCulloch was undeterred by obstacles which, to others, had proved insurmountable and eventually, by a lavish use of his strength and health, won through…”

There is photographic evidence of Allan at work on Lord Howe Island in 1921 and in New Guinea with Captain Frank Hurley in 1922-23.

Our second encounter with another ‘Riverstone’ was again on holiday, in 1998, in Far North Queensland. The caravan park in Cairns had a brochure on its office shelves proclaiming:

A Taste of Nostalgia &
The Real Australia

The brochure urged us to Drop in for tea at the Riverstone COLONIAL TEAHOUSE at Gordonvale on the Gillies Highway, south of Cairns, two kilometres from the Bruce Highway turnoff.

Caravan in tow, and in light rain, we headed for Gordonvale to “drop in for tea” at Riverstone. The owners Jan and Noel Alley made us most welcome. Cane farmer Noel was tending the beautiful garden surrounding this lovely home built in 1933 on the original site of Charley Alley’s 1877 ‘Riverstone Hostelry’. Jan was unpacking her shopping of fresh fruit and vegetables. Riverstone was hosting a garden wedding that coming weekend and Jan would be doing all the cooking.

Jan served us coffee and cake on the large verandah and we chatted about the two Riverstones. Jan’s story told of twenty-year-old William Saunders Alley from Gosport, near Portsmouth, England who was a sailor on the ‘John Davies’. Mary Banks from Haddington, South of the Firth of Forth, Scotland, was a passenger. A shipboard romance flourished and in the Colony of New South Wales the two married.

Charlie Alley, as he was known, possessed business acumen. He entered the hospitality industry as host of ‘The Ship Inn’, the ‘Queen’s Hotel’ and the ‘Duke of Cornwall’; acquired punts plying the river trade between Brisbane and Ipswich; went gold mining at Blackall, acquired a sailing ship and a steam launch ‘The Countess’ and traded between Smithfield and Cairns. They became cedar getters and in 1877 were the first white settlers on the rich river flats of the Musgrave River.

By 1880 the astute William Saunders Alley had built the ‘Riverstone Hotel’ and ‘Riverstone Homestead’ at which travellers crossing the range could rest overnight. The hotel operated until 1907 when it was burned to the ground.
Today Jan and Noel Alley are offering this same hospitality. They would not allow us to pay for our morning tea. We purchased a Riverstone placemat and a copy of Jan’s excellent book ‘Recollections and Recipes of Riverstone’ which is an absolute delight. (To repay their hospitality, on returning home, I posted to Jan a copy of Riverstone Public School’s ‘Centenary Recipe Book’.) The first page in Jan Alley’s book is indicative of this delightful couple.

Oh, let my simple kitchen, Lord
Speak my humble duty,
And may I, through serving others
Contribute to Life’s beauty.
May all who come in through my door
Find friendship at my table
And may I always freely share
With those who are less able.
I’d like to invite all my friends
For bickies, cake and pie.
And then I’ll know my day’s complete
When nights are drawing nigh.
Although my deeds may not be great
Let my kitchen say my prayer
That everyone who needs a friend or food
May find some comfort there.

Thank God for dirty dishes,
They have a tale to tell,
Whilst other folk go hungry,
We’re eating very well.
With home health and happiness
We wouldn’t want to fuss,
For by this stack of evidence
God’s very good to us.

The Riverstone Teahouse, Gordonvale QLD

Caravanning again, in 2003, we stayed at the Breakwall Van Park in Port Macquarie. The large boulders on the wall, beside the walkway, have all been ‘decorated’. One of the boulders, painted in yellow and red (maroon and gold?) declares it is “RIVO’S STONE”. There were a number of names painted thereon but, sadly, they were not included in my photo. Perhaps someone reading this may be able to enlighten me.

My fourth encounter with Riverstone is not really first hand. A friend had told me of a former neighbour whose son had developed an estate somewhere in the United States and had named it after his birthplace, Riverstone, NSW, Australia. The son was Alby Stockwell, whom I’d known when I was a child. My aunt Vera (Shepherd) was married to Alby’s uncle Walter Jessop Stockwell and we saw quite a lot of Alby’s parents Dick and Alma but not so much of Alby and his brother Neville who were much older than my brothers and I.

I was able to track down Alby’s son, Richard who sent me the following information:

Alby was the Group General Manager – Housing for Hooker Corporation and he oversaw all of the housing operations for Hooker in both Australia and the USA right up until his retirement. This involved about 6,000 homes per year.

In the USA Hooker built under the name of Hooker Barnes Homes, incorporating (Barnes) the name of the company they purchased in order to get into the American market. They specialised in what we would call house and land packages, developing their own land from broadacres and selling the completed package. Riverstone was an estate located in Atlanta, Georgia.

I had mentioned to Richard that I might find something on the internet but he was sceptical because the estate would have been developed, probably mid 1980s, long before the internet took off. My internet search was not entirely in vain. I located numerous references to Riverstone in the suburb of Canton. Sadly, I had no reply to the e-mail I sent to the Canton Council, but the internet did supply a number of references to the shopping precinct of Riverstone and a map indicating Riverstone Boulevard and Riverstone Place.

Phillip McInnes – An Army Career

by Clarrie Neal

Phillip was born Attilio Visocchi in 1921, the eldest son of Guiseppe and Rosa Visocchi who had migrated to Scotland just after the 1st World War. Their first six children were born in Scotland and the family then migrated to Australia in 1929, where another five children were born. They first rented a house in Cow Flat before building their own home on Carnarvon Road. All their children attended Schofields Public School.

Leaving school he worked at a variety of jobs but liking music and dancing he always took the opportunity to learn from the local musicians – namely Dick Stacey and Chummy Greenhalgh. He worked in many of the well known clubs of the day in Sydney – Oyster Bills, Showboat, Ziegfields, the Tivoli, the 400 club etc.

The Second World War
When the 2nd World war broke out he enlisted in the Australian Army, on the 24th May 1940. Because Italy had joined with Germany and realising that he would have difficulty enlisting in the Australian Army with his Italian name of Attilio Visocchi, he changed his name to Phillip McInnes. McInnes was the name of a family in Moss Vale that had befriended him.

He travelled to the Army Barracks in Moore Park, Sydney to enlist and there he met Ray Burgess, a man who became his lifelong friend. They travelled together by bus to the Ingleburn Camp where they joined the 2/6th Field Regiment as Regimental Signallers. It took more than three weeks to fully kit out the new recruits. Having worked in show business, he felt the initial weeks of their training would have been great material for a comedy film.

Being in the Artillery they were transferred to the army camp at Kelso by trucks towing their guns. The infantry were sent on a five day march to get to this Kelso camp. Phil recalled being rather envious of them, as each town they passed through they received gifts and goodies such as quarts of beer from well wishers. Training became more intense as they prepared to go overseas with the 7th Division. With their training completed they were loaded onto troop trains each carrying 700 soldiers and transferred from Kelso to Darling Harbour where they boarded the “Orion.”

Off the west coast of Tasmania the ‘Orion’ joined the troopships, ‘Stratheden’, ‘Strathmore’ and ‘Strathavers’ carrying Australian troops and a Polish ship the ‘Batory’ carrying the New Zealand troops. Their next port of call was Fremantle, but crossing the Great Australian Bight Phil recalled many of the troops (including himself) being affected by sea sickness.

From Fremantle they sailed to the Middle East and Palestine. He made notes of the nicknames and the witty comments made about their officers. He always felt the Army preferred to perform every task it attempted by the most difficult method possible.

Their units trained in Palestine at Deir Suneid, near Gaza. They moved into Egypt through Ikingi Merut near Alexandria, and on to Mersa Matruh in the Western Desert, and then to the fighting in the Syrian campaign. After several months of battle and victory achieved, they marched into Beirut with cheering crowds lining the streets. He recalled the scraggy appearance of the troops in their tattered and torn uniforms and worn out boots. How unlike their parades in the big cities at home, wearing their smart uniforms.

Phil was invited to become a member of a concert group being formed by the 7th Division to entertain their own troops. Performing at Quastina he met Stan Russell from Riverstone, who had been dating Phil’s sister Linda before he enlisted.

There was much speculation amongst the troops as training was intensified and movements appeared imminent. The big question amongst the troops was “to where”. Everybody had their own theories. Some said Europe, some said Russia. Their Units crossed the Sinai Desert and were loaded onto troop trains that took them to a port on the Suez Canal. Phil was one of 5,000 troops who were loaded onto the ‘Nieuw Amsterdam’ and taken to Bombay, India. During the voyage they learnt that Singapore had fallen to the Japs.

At Bombay they were offloaded into three smaller Indian ships and escorted by destroyers back to Australia, the first port of call was Fremantle and then Adelaide. Phil was saddened to learn that a member of his Unit while on leave in Adelaide, had been killed in a motor bike accident.

Phil was allowed a few days leave in Adelaide and was billeted in an old home in the Adelaide Hills. Here he had the opportunity to phone his parents. How great it was to speak to the family and his mother who was in tears the whole time.

They boarded a train that carried them to Tocumwal, where they walked across the bridge over the Murray River and boarded another train that took them to Sydney. Their guns and vehicles were unloaded at Chullora and the troops went into Central to begin their leave. Phil remembered Charlie Knight meeting him off the train at Riverstone and allowing Phil to leave his bags and gun at his store, before taking him home to Carnarvon Road.

After their leave they boarded a train for Tenterfield where they began rehearsing for their concerts. Phil longed to return to his old Unit but contracted Dengue Fever and was transferred to the Australian General Hospital at Tamworth.

It was July 1942 before he rejoined his Signals Unit in Caboolture, Qld. One night on leave in Brisbane he was involved in a brawl with some American troops in a cafe that resulted in damaged furniture. Phil was given a choice – pay for some of the damage or be charged by the owner through the Military Police, who had stopped the ruckus. Phil had no money and opted to phone Dad. He was grateful to Dad when he wired him the money, but was not so impressed when Dad made sure that every resident of Schofields and Riverstone knew the story of his son’s behaviour.

From Caboolture all the troops were loaded onto four trains and transported to the Brisbane dockside where they boarded the ‘SS Maetsuycher’ bound for New Guinea. He remembered Port Moresby for its stifling heat and the hordes of mosquitoes. He learnt just how bad the War was going and how poorly equipped we were, while marvelling at the Americans with their planes and construction equipment arriving in great numbers.

In Port Moresby he met up with Vern Luckman, another Riverstone identity who had just returned from active service in Milne Bay. They discussed how the tropics and the intense humidity aggravated problems such as dermatitis, diarrhoea, tinea, and malaria.

At times they received letters and parcels from home, always a wonderful present to receive and a real boost to the morale. He recalled the day he opened a parcel from his father, it appeared to be a stale loaf of bread, the crust crumbling away and revealing a bottle of Dad’s wine.

He learnt his father was working with the Civil Construction Corps on the Bells Line of Road, from Kurrajong to Lithgow. His sister had joined the WAAF and was stationed at Forest Hills Air base at Wagga Wagga. Also his younger brother Ron was applying to join the Navy.

In December 1942 he suffered his first attack of malaria, a disease that was to cause him much suffering in the coming years. He recovered and with his old unit they were now in the midst of the fighting in the jungle.

Seeing the bodies of soldiers from both sides caused him to reflect on the fighting, that soldiers are not heartless, but war is just that, in the field of battle. War isn’t really nice, it looks much nicer in capital cities with big bands leading smartly dressed soldiers, with colourful flags flying from tall buildings.

Several more attacks of malaria resulted in him being diagnosed with malarial debility and he was returned to Australia. He recalls his mother and family being visibly shocked when they saw how thin he was. After a lengthy period of recouperation he was released from hospital, and determined to rejoin his unit, he caught the train to Townsville.

Here he boarded the small Dutch ship ‘Thedens’ on its way to New Guinea. Arriving in Port Moresby he was amazed to see how much difference the Americans had made. It was now a busy and efficient port, nothing like the shambles he remembered from his first visit.

On shore he learnt that Stan Russell was dangerously ill in hospital with Scrub Typhus and not expected to survive through the night. He pleaded with the nurses to be allowed to see him. He was shocked to see how dreadful he looked, on oxygen, propped up with pillows and struggling to talk.

Recognising Phil, Stan asked how his sister Linda was. This led to a little more conversation and Phil said “You don’t look as good as the last I time saw you, when Riverstone played Schofields Rugby League at the park”. Stan gave a weak smile and closed his eyes. Next morning Phil went to the hospital, expecting to hear the worst. He was surprised when the Sister said “Through the night he seems to have passed the crisis, he seemed to pick up immediately after your visit yesterday”.

Phil suffered another attack of malaria but was thankfully returned to duty with his unit a short time later. After another long train trip home, Phil recalled thinking at the time all railway workers deserved a medal for their wartime efforts, the movement of personnel and goods was far and away above what was expected of them, or what our railway system had been designed for.

He arrived home to another wonderful family welcome, a family he was so proud of. He met up with Stan Russell who had been returned home, his health improving every day, and was even better when Linda came home on leave.

While home on leave, Phil took part in a march past of the 7th Division through the streets of Sydney, a heavy downpour failed to dampen their spirits that day. As most people were aware the 7th Division was known as the ‘Silent 7th’ as a lot of their operations occurred when, for security reasons, they couldn’t be publicised. A newspaper front page headline covering the march read – ‘The Skipping, Sopping, Silent, Seventh’.

Another malaria attack saw him admitted to the 1st Australian Orthopaedic Hospital that was run by the Army and the Red Cross. Aware of his musical talents the Red Cross asked him to organise a show for the patients, many of the patients doing their own acts. The shows were titled ‘Hospital Blues’ and ‘Cheers For Atabrine’. They were memorable shows. Patients were wheeled in from all over the hospital. He still smiles today when, despite their smashed bodies and illnesses, he recalls how much they laughed and enjoyed the shows.

Stan Russell recovered and rejoined his old Unit, taking with him his pet carpet snake that was useful when buying a beer in a crowded bar.

Phil was now back with his 2/6th Field Regiment. Training for the Balikpapan landing was on the Atherton Tablelands, and their final effort before leaving Australia was a landing practice at Trinity Beach, near Cairns. The troops were loaded onto the ‘Westralia’, ‘Manoora’, and the ‘Kanimbla’ and taken to Morotai Island, the actual jumping off point for the Balikpapan landing .

It was now 1945, the atom bombs had been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the Japanese eventually surrendered. The troops were now much happier and relaxed, many were helping the natives return to their houses. The Japanese soldiers, now prisoners, were being used as labourers to build roads etc.

A few months later the Australian troops were on the ‘Manoora’ bound for home, Phil recalling watching Borneo fade away in the distance and wondering what it would be like returning to civilian life. They left the ‘Manoora’ in Brisbane and travelled by train to Sydney, arriving on the 16th November 1945. Again Charlie Knight gave him a lift home to a wonderful family welcome, mother bursting into tears, and the house was full of visitors all afternoon. Linda and Stan were making wedding plans, and Doris was going out with another soldier, Keith Talbot.

Phil recalled his thoughts when accepting his discharge and at the time wrote

 “Although happy to be out of the Army I was extremely sad as well. I thought of all the wonderful blokes with whom it was my good fortune to have served. Even some I could describe as no-hopers, had their good qualities, and most of them were never found really wanting.

We had our dead and wounded mates. Fancy being buried in a place like New Guinea. Mates, you were unlucky both ways, to cop it, and then to be laid to rest in such a God-forsaken place. But wherever you are, you and the rest of the blokes, you will never be forgotten, certainly not by your mates from the 2/6th Field Regiment.”

After his discharge Phil changed his name back to Phil Visocchi. He was happy to be a civilian again but was really missing his Army mates. He soon learnt at home that the Army style of giving orders did not work with the family, his younger brothers and sisters simply took no notice.

He went for several job interviews, feeling disappointed and a sense of frustration when told by some employers he lacked experience. He eventually got a job as a clerk at the Riverstone Meat Works and enjoyed working with a lot of his old school friends.

The Korean War & Japan
Phil was now married and, having problems settling down, he applied in August 1950 to enlist in the K Force to go to Korea. He changed his name back to Phil McInnes. K Force was a special Unit of experienced Army personnel from the previous war. They went initially to Japan and while there he badly damaged his knee and was unable to continue training. He remained a member of the Royal

Australian Regiment and in accordance with the CO’s direction he became the Unit postie, an experience that he regarded as quite unique.

In 1951 he returned home and was admitted to the Concord Repatriation Hospital where he was declared fit for non-regimental duties only. He was transferred to the Armed Forces Stores/Canteen Services and spent the next 20 years working at Ingleburn, Holsworthy, Wagga Wagga, Duntroon, Williamtown and Woomera. In the meantime he had been promoted to a Warrant Officer.

The Vietnam War
After a period spent in Darwin he returned home and then completed the Jungle Training Course at Canungra, Qld. In March 1969, Phil received notice he was going to Vietnam as the Officer in Charge of the Stores and Bulk Stores at their base in Vung Tau.

The war in Vietnam was not going well. Though the morale of the Australian troops was high, the American troops appeared to be losing interest and there was a realisation that the War was never going to be won.

Phil recalled the Rugby League Grand Final in 1969 between South Sydney and Balmain, Souths being raging hot favourites and Balmain the rank outsiders. In Vietnam interest was at fever pitch; during the week prior to the game the Australians were doing their best to con the American troops into supporting Balmain, which they did. One of the Australian Officers bought himself a large toy rabbit (Souths mascot) and decorated his office with the red and green. On the day of the game the mess halls resembled a racetrack with their bunting, ribbons and the bookmakers.

The Aussies were stunned when Souths were beaten. When the Americans came to collect their winnings it was decided to hold a funeral to bury the toy rabbit. Phil described it as an impressive ceremony with one American stating “You wouldn’t have got a better service at our Arlington War Cemetery”.

In 1969 Phil was awarded the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal for services to the Armed Forces. America was moving to disengage itself from the war, but the North Vietnam troops and the Viet Cong were continuing the fight. Drug trafficking was becoming a major problem.

Phil, reflecting on his thoughts of the war at the time, wrote “I personally feel, to interfere in another country’s sovereignty should be regarded as a capital crime. I was proud of being a soldier in the service of my country, but ashamed and soiled at invading another country that could never in our wildest dreams have been a threat to our security. The only benefit to any invading country under these circumstances is to bolster their own economies”.

At this time Phil became very disillusioned with the war and wrote of other unpleasant experiences. He was a very happy man to be granted six days leave at Xmas to return home to see his family. He returned to Vietnam to complete his tour of duty and was returned to Australia in February 1970.

He was discharged from the Army on the 4th January 1971, but rejoined the Defence Department as a civilian. He was placed in charge of the NSW Bulk Store for the Australian Services Canteen Organisation. Later he was further promoted to be the Area Manager for the Newcastle/Singleton Area. Through illness Phil was declared unfit to continue duties and retired from the Services on the 6th February 1983. So after a career spanning more than 43 years, Phil, as an Australian can feel very proud of his service to this country.

Norm Jennings

by Clarrie Neal

Norm was born in Riverstone on the 14th July 1934, the only son of Gordon (Dave) and Myrtle Jennings. He and his sister Shirley and the family lived in Hamilton Street. on the site where the Jehovah’s Witness church is now located.

He attended Riverstone Public School until 1946 and like most boys at the time he never ever wore shoes to school. His nickname at school was ‘Steamer’, because we believed he was as strong as a steam engine. He remembers the games of marbles, and the cricket games played in the paddock in front of the school, where the pool is now located.

He completed his secondary schooling at Richmond Rural School where he gained his Intermediate Certificate. He was classed as an average scholar at both these schools. Norm has very fond memories of these schooldays and gets a great kick out of meeting his old friends at the school reunions.

Norm has always loved fishing, he recalled fishing with his Dad at South Creek, and their annual holidays at Woy Woy with the Davis family. He still loves to get away to their holiday home at Pacific Palms near Forster to catch the big ones.

Because the mutton board at the meat works in the slack season would only work three days a week, a number of these workers, including Norm’s father would supplement their income by working on the farms at Windsor. To get pocket money as a youth Norm would often accompany his father to work these casual days picking corn, potatoes, beans, etc. He said after a day’s work he would often jump into the river to have a clean up.

Norm has always loved sport and believed in keeping himself fit, with cricket, cycling and football being favourite sports. He loved wandering through the bush, and aside from filling his pockets with stones to use in his catapult, he loved to ride his bike on the numerous tracks throughout the bush.

He joined the Riverstone Cycle Club in the 1950s when it was reformed by Fred Coulter and enjoyed the road racing events, at one time winning the Hawkesbury Junior championship. He was a good athlete at school and set a record for the high jump at Richmond Rural School that stood for 16 years. He played cricket for several years playing with Vineyard and Oakville and represented the District with the Hawkesbury Colts team.

He also recalled doing his three months Army National Service and CMF Training with mates like Ray Brookes and said it was a good experience, he still appreciates the discipline they endured.

He recalled the days when he gathered mushrooms from the paddocks and sold them on the roadside, and of the days when he and his cousin Alwyn Davis and their fathers went trapping rabbits at Kurrajong. They used to set the traps on Friday night and return to Riverstone on the Saturday morning where they would sell the rabbits at one shilling and six pence a pair.

When Norm left school he started work as an apprentice Fitter and Machinist at the Clyde Engineering plant and attended the Granville Technical College. After completing his apprenticeship he continued on with his engineering studies at Sydney University where he gained his Mechanical Engineering Degree.

Norm’s life was to change when he met Nadia Burlati, the daughter of a Rouse Hill poultry farmer. Nadia’s father had come out from Tuscany, Italy in 1927, and worked on a sheep station at Merriwa. He returned to Italy five years later to bring out his wife and after a few more years at Merriwa he was able to buy a property at Rouse Hill where he started his poultry farm.

Nadia and Norm were married in 1956 and built their home in Mile End Road Rouse Hill where they raised their three children, Darryl, Garry, and Gina. Norm continued with his studies and to make a living drove a truck out west, carting wheat, oats, etc., for the poultry farms in the Rouse Hill district

It was while driving the truck one day that he made a very interesting observation – that the crops grown by the farmers using chemical fertilisers were not nearly as productive as the crops grown by the poultry farmers in the same region.

In 1969 Norm, armed with his engineering skills and his practical knowledge of poultry farming set out to make an organic fertiliser. It was a fertiliser that would revolutionise the poultry farm and would become world famous.

Many believed Norm was crazy and told him so, but he continued on doing all the research and development himself. He overcame each problem as it arose, he experimented and invented such things as a trough that minimised the amount of water wasted and spilt, thus keeping the manure dry. Norm is now grateful for the ‘crazy’ comments because they made him more determined than ever to succeed.

After some five years of research and development the system had been perfected. The first plant was built in the paddock behind their house in Mile End Road in 1969 and operated with a staff of four. Norm designed and made all the equipment that was required.

As the product was first being used Nadia had noted some of the comments of the farmers – “it’s dynamite” and another ” it lifts the plants out of the ground”. She chose the name ‘Dynamic Lifter’ to market the product, a name that has now become world famous.

The following story appeared in an article in the Powerhouse Museum book ‘Making It’ – The Dynamic Lifter Story.

Norm tells of a farmer in Oberon who bought some Dynamic Lifter from an agency in Lithgow. Five months later the farmer stormed into the agency demanding apologies. “Do you remember the fertiliser you sold me?” he shouted. “Ye-e-e s” replied the agent. “Well I put my merino stud rams in on it and I’ve lost five of the buggers!”

The agent blanched. Had the stupid sheep eaten the stuff and been poisoned. The farmer continued with “I still can’t find the bastards because the grass is so high”. Norm said “I’ll never forget the feeling I had when the agent told me that story. For a moment, I thought we were going to be sued for everything we’ve got”.

Norm and Nadia are very proud that Dynamic Lifter became a family business with their three children becoming involved. Norm remained in research and development, Nadia in overseas markets and exports, Darryl in engineering, Garry in product knowledge, and Gina became the company promotions officer.

Demand had outstripped production by 1982 and a new plant covering more than 6 acres was built in Withers Road Rouse Hill. The Dynamic Lifter organisation remained a family business until 1995.

Norm sold off his Dynamic Lifter Australian and New Zealand operations in 1995 to Arthur Yates (an Australian Company). He has retained control of his overseas operations in America, Hawaii, India, the Middle East, South East Asia, and the Pacific Islands.

Norm is extremely proud of the fact that Dynamic Lifter has been such a success, and that it has all evolved from the efforts of a lad from Riverstone. He is also very proud of the fact that he has never had to advertise, he has relied on the quality of the product, from the publicity given in magazines and from TV shows such as Burkes Backyard.

It is now recognised as a true organic fertiliser with the concept now taught in Universities and Agricultural Colleges throughout the world.

Compiled by Clarrie Neal from articles, photos and information provided by Norm Jennings.

Riverstone 1935

From Wise’s NSW Post Office Commercial Directory 1935 p. 886

BAMBRIDGE, H. store MOULDS, Mrs, refreshment rooms
BLAIR, Wm. greengrocer NICHOLSON, J. poultry farmer
BRAY, E. dairyman O’CONNOR, W. postmaster
CONWAY, Norman. hairdresser PIKE, P. O. police constable
CORNWELL, Wm. carrier POWER, J. bootmaker
EAST, Mrs Joseph. Royal Hotel PYE, J. J. grazier
EDWARDS, Mrs. refreshment rooms PYE, S. G. orchardist
FISHER, Chas. baker RICH, Harold G. medical practitioner
FITZGERALD, John. dairyman RIVERSTONE Meat Co Ltd
FLETCHER, Thomas. teacher, The Vineyard ROBERTS, – . refreshment rooms
FORD, B. manager NSW Produce Co ROSENTHALL, Lyle. store
GREENTREE, George. wood merchant ROUSE, W. C. headmaster
GRIFFEN, E. bootmaker RUMERY, Thomas & William. farmers
HESSION, William. poultry farmer TAYLOR Ltd. produce merchants
HIBBARD, William. poultry farmer VAUGHAN, E. store
KNIGHT, Charles C. store WARD, H. C. poultry farmer
LANE, George. cycle agent WHEELER, King. painter
McDONNELL, G. mixed business & radio dealer WHEELER, Mrs J. boarding house
McKEEVER, Patrick. farmer, The Vineyard WILLIAMS, H. blacksmith
MARTIN, J. carrier WOOD, H. E. farmer
MATHEWS, F. poultry farmer 3


Memories of Riverstone (DON)

by Dawn Olive Neal (nee Douglass)

I think it is wonderful to be able to write about Riverstone and full marks to the Riverstone Historical Society.

Coming from an old Riverstone family, it gives me great pleasure to talk about my family, the Douglass’. I was born in Riverstone on the 18th of March 1932 and delivered by Sister Barnes at the Private Hospital, Garfield Road, Riverstone. Our family lived at 82 Crown Road, three generations side by side and what wonderful memories I have. All the love and affection anyone could hold. There was Mary and Robert Gunton (my great grandparents), Eva and Percy Douglass (my grandparents) and of course my parents, Jack and Dorothy Douglass nee Eather.

We lived there for about four years and then moved to Butchers Row, I remember every time we crossed the rail line I cried my eyes out to go back home. When I was five, my brother Des was born and I remember Mum going to hospital in the horse and sulky to Garfield Road. Des now lives with
his wife Barbara at Inverell, NSW and has three children and numerous grandchildren and one great grand daughter. Then Barry came along three years later and he lives at Windsor, NSW. Barry has four children and just as many grandchildren. I have five sons and seven grandchildren and two
great grand children.

Pop Douglass and his three sons all worked at the Meat Works. Pop was the best Mutton Butcher holding a record to dress a sheep in no time flat. According to the private diary of Mr William Hanna, the highest tally for four hours was 76 whereas Percy Douglass holds the record for 86
mixed sheep in four hours.

The Meat Works was once on strike for six weeks, so Pop and his boys, Jack, Darcy and Curley rode their pushbikes from Riverstone to Pitt Town and back to pick potatoes on the May farm. Believe you me, the spuds they brought home were most welcome on the plate. They went rabbiting and we had a lot of that and also my father Jack was a good fisherman and there was always fish from the creek that was crystal clear in those days.

In 1945 my beloved mother, Dorothy Joyce passed away at the early age of thirty-four, after this we all moved in with my father’s parents, Percy and Eva Douglass in Crown Road. From there I married Jack Neal and we moved to Richmond with Dad, Des and Barry and we raised our five boys.

However, I never forgot the kind-hearted people of Riverstone. I remember that in those days you never visited anyone without coming home with eggs, cream or milk. The Schofield’s lived next door to Gran and Pop and always had veggies growing and they always made something to give you.

I now reside at Boambee East, just south of Coffs Harbour on the NSW north coast.

Jockey Stephens

by Lorraine Forbes

Riverstone has had a number of well known local identities over the years. One of the best known was ‘Jockey Stephens’ This article was originally written by Lorraine Forbes in 1983 and has been updated to add in some more information for this Journal.

Jockey’s real name was Roland Stephenson, but he was better known as ‘Rollie Stephens’. He lived in the ‘hollow’ near Crown Road and Bourke Street, in an old split slab cottage, with his mother, an elder brother and a sister, Millie. His sister moved to the Pitt Town area after her marriage.

Jockey had been a keen horseman in his youth, hence the nickname. He rode in most of the district races and was an accomplished Show jumper.

He appears to have been a kindly man who loved children. He took care of his elderly mother until her death, but then, unfortunately, went into decline himself.

Jockey served in the Army during World War I and despite rumours to the contrary, he was never decorated. Indeed his war records show that he was in trouble with the authorities on a number of occasions. One can hardly hold this against him, for many others were to behave in the same way, due to the horrors of the war.

Anzac Day was a memorable day for Jockey. Charlie Fisher, who had, I believe, served with Jockey in the War, would take it upon himself to make Jockey presentable for the Anzac March. Mr Fisher owned the Bakery, which until recently was a veterinarian’s surgery and is now a private home and is just behind the corner shops of Garfield Road and Railway Terrace. Charlie would bath Jockey in the horse trough (he still used a horse and cart to deliver his bread), and would cut his hair with the horse clippers. A new, or ‘new’ second-hand suit was provided for the March. Jockey promptly sold, or pawned, this straight after the March to buy a bottle or two of ‘plonk’. Never-the-less Charlie Fisher repeated the process each following year. Charlie also provided Jockey with the left-over bread from the day’s baking and was always there with ‘two bob’ when Jockey needed it, which was frequently.

After his mother’s death Jockey continued to live in the house but systematically dismantled it, using the timber to fuel his fire to keep himself and his numerous dogs warm. Lettie Brookes clearly remembers the night when the neighbours were awakened by an almighty crash. Jockey’s house, or all that remained of it, had collapsed. All that was left upright was the roof which was leaning at a precarious angle. Unperturbed, Jockey simply used what remained as a lean-to.

After the land was sold Jockey camped wherever the mood took him. A favourite spot was in the paddock where Marketown now stands. He could be seen curled up with his dogs around the remnants of his fire, covered in frost and blissfully ignorant of it all. When the Referendum for extended trading hours for hotels was approaching some wag painted a huge sign along the fence of this paddock. It read: “Vote No For Jockey!” Another favourite spot was under the morning glory vine opposite the old pub near the railway gates. He probably defrosted there while waiting for the pub to open!

Mr Dick Stacey Snr. was good to Jockey, giving him the bruised fruit, some vegetables and cabbage leaves etc. which Jockey would boil up in an old tin over his fire in the paddock. Jockey, however, set such store by his dogs that it is debatable just who got the largest share of the ‘tucker’!

Jockey had a passion for collecting stray dogs, always handy when a free meal was offered. The young people who frequented the Friday night dances were always known for buying Jockey some fish and chips with their limited spending money. Upon receipt of this treat Jockey would sit in the gutter and distribute his goodies on a ‘one-for-you, one-for-me’ basis with his stray dogs. To the credit of his benefactors this practice continued for some years.

My Nanna (Marie Locke, nee Strachan) used to send me to the pub nearly every Sunday with some hot corned beef and freshly baked bread wrapped in a tea towel for ‘poor old Jockey’ as she called him. He always thanked me kindly, blessed my Nanna for the goodly woman she was, folded the tea
towel as best he could and sent me off with the words, “If you grow as fine a woman as your grandmother the likes of me will rest easy”. Words which, I’m afraid, were lost on one so young as I, but which now fill the heart with regret and sorrow.

My Pop always gave Jockey a shilling every pay day. Jockey was known for borrowing threepence or sixpence from the men on pay day. None of it was ever repaid, but then, it was never expected.

The town drunk, or ‘dero’, today is treated with disdain or ill-disguised contempt. In days gone by he was the local identity, someone with a past, if little future, who, in their own way, contributed to the character of this town. Roland Stephenson at some time had a future, he most certainly had a past.
What changed this man from a fine upstanding young man to the town’s beloved drunk? I leave you with this to think about!

Herbert Davis – An Original Anzac

by Rosemary Phillis

When War was declared on 4 August 1914, Herbert Davis was quick to show his support by enlisting three weeks later on 29 August. According to his Army records, at the time of enlistment he was described as being 5 feet 4½ inches tall, 157 lbs, with a chest measurement of 35 inches. He had light brown hair, blue eyes and described his religion as Church of England.

As Herbert was 20 years and 8 months old and not the requisite 21, his father had to give permission for him to go overseas with the expeditionary forces. A copy of his father’s letter reads:


To Major Lucas D.A.S

Dear Sir,
I Hereby give my Consent for my Son Herbert Davis to go with the expeditionary Force.

I Remain
Yours Faithfully
Joseph Thomas Davis


The Windsor & Richmond Gazette 18 September 1914: Herbert Davis, son of Thomas Davis, of Riverstone, has been accepted for active service at the front. A few of his friends tendered him a private send-off.

His Army service records provide little detail of his first few years of service. He is listed as having embarked from Australia on 13 October 1914 and joined the N.E.F. on 4 April 1915. If he had been badly wounded, suffered severe illness and been evacuated, more information would have been likely to have been listed.

The Windsor & Richmond Gazette of 21 May 1915 reported: Pte. Herbert Davis, of Riverstone, who went with the first contingent to the front, is among the list of wounded in the Dardenelles engagement.

This is the first indication that Herbert served at Gallipoli. Later reports in the Gazette confirm that he not only took part in the Gallipoli campaign, he took part in the first landing.

Herbert carried a camera with him for much of the war and took numerous snapshots. Unfortunately no one knows what happened to the photos. His son Harris was not aware of their existence.

Windsor & Richmond Gazette 16 June 1916: Anyone can spend an interesting time looking over the snapshots Thomas Davis has received from his son, Herb, who has been away at the front since the outbreak of war. He went through the Gallipoli campaign. Amongst the snapshots there is one where Herb and young Paull of Pitt Town, are reading the ‘Windsor and Richmond Gazette’ newspaper.

Windsor & Richmond Gazette 7 July 1916: Mr and Mrs T. Davis of Riverstone have one of the finest collections of photos of war scenes and subjects of any person in the district. It comprises over 800 views, most of them taken by their son, Pte. Herbert Davis, now at the front in France. One of the photos shows Herb and a comrade reading the ‘Windsor and Richmond Gazette’, which is sent regularly to Herb by his mother. He enlisted when the war broke out in August 1914, went through the Gallipoli campaign and is still going strong. His camera was taken from him for a while, but has been restored to him.

Windsor & Richmond Gazette 28 July 1916: Dvr. Herb Davis, son of Mr and Mrs T. Davis, of Riverstone, has been enjoying a fortnight’s rest in England. It is certain he requires a rest after nearly two years’ of strain through war. He joined the first contingent that left these shores, and went through the Gallipoli campaign.

Windsor & Richmond Gazette 9 November 1917: Herb Davis, son of Mr and Mrs Thomas Davis, of Riverstone, is still going strong on the battlefields of France. It is now three years since he left these shores, and with the exception of a slight wound on one occasion, he has gone right through without injury sufficient to put him out of the firing line. If he has the good fortune to return home, he should receive a warm welcome. He has done more than his share on the sodden fields of France and the scorching hills of Gallipoli.

Windsor & Richmond Gazette 4 October 1918: Pte. Herb. Davis, son of Mr and Mrs T. Davis of Riverstone, will probably be amongst the large number of Anzacs returning in batches to Australia. He has been on the battlefields in Gallipoli and France. Herb should receive a royal welcome when he lands in Riverstone.

Windsor & Richmond Gazette 1 November 1918: One of the original Anzacs, Bombardier Herbert Davis, son of Mr and Mrs Thomas Davis of Riverstone, is coming home in ‘L’ boat, his parents having received word to that effect last week. Bombardier Davis enlisted in August 1914, three weeks after the war commenced. He went through the famous Gallipoli stunt, from the landing to the evacuation, without injury, but was slightly wounded in the wrist in France.

The parents received the following letter from their son a few days ago – written before he was aware that he was coming home among the original Anzacs.

‘France August 25, 1918. Dear Mother and Father – Just a few lines in hopes of this finding you all well at home. It leaves me well, but very busy. Things are fairly warm here, and we do not mind, because for the first time the whole of the Australians fought together and advanced and captured many prisoners.

I guess you see in the papers this happening. There is much water about here, and we need it badly. There is not much news to give now, and we are very busy, so I will have to leave writing alone until I come out. I get a few papers and the “Windsor and Richmond Gazette” newspaper and they are quite readable, I can tell you. I guess there will be no chance for me of a visit home yet a while – too many married men. I have had over four years now, and feel as fit as when I left for the front. Your loving son, Herbert.’

Herbert returned to Australia on 24 September 1918 and in 1919, he received the 1914/15 Star, the British War medal and the Victory medal.

The final reference to Herb from the time comes in the Windsor & Richmond Gazette of 5 September 1919: Herb Davis, who was away at the front over four years, has had a cottage erected on the land he purchased at Schofields recently. He has already put under cultivation, a portion of the land.

Herb married and had two children, Harris and Olga, who were featured in our Journal last year.

From Latvia to Australia – Memories of John Liepa

by Clarrie Neal & John Liepa

John was born Janis Julijs Liepa on the 21st June 1937 at Riga, the capital of Latvia, a small country located around the Gulf of Riga on the Baltic Sea. This is the story of the Liepa family’s journey that finally ended when they arrived in Australia in 1949, as told by John –

Our family had lived on a mixed farm at Ulbroka, a small village, seven miles out of Riga. We had 10 cows, plus sheep, pigs, poultry and some pets. It was a self supporting farm with fruit trees, fields for growing stock feed, and vegetables that were grown in large quantities to support us through the severe winters.

The farm backed onto a State forest that was inhabited by deer, foxes, wolves, bears and snakes. Growing wild in the forest were mushrooms, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blue berries that were picked in the springtime by Mum and all the family. Mum preserved many of these berries and also used them to make jams, she also made our own cheese. The farm work was hard but it was a good life style, that is, it was until the outbreak of the War in 1939.

I remember the blocks of peat moss being cut in the field and laid on the floor of the barn, then covered with straw to keep the stock warm in winter. In the spring it was cleaned out and used in the field as an organic fertiliser. Nearby our grandfather owned a much larger farm with a dam that was stocked with fish and yabbies.

The War Years

I remember seeing lots of big bombers flying over in formation. At night time with all the lights out we would shelter in our cellar; the flashing and the noise of the bombs being dropped giving a feeling of being in a violent thunderstorm, but this was far worse. With the occupation of the country by Germany and then Russia, Dad decided that there was no future for Latvia and we would risk all and leave. It was 1944 and the war was still raging.

We drove all our stock to our grandparents’ farm who had decided to remain in Latvia, and then went home to pack our suit cases. I recall how difficult it was saying good-bye to the grandparents and other family members, remembering the good times, knowing that we may never see them again, and that’s exactly how it was.

Dad harnessed the horse and loaded all our possessions into the spring cart. On our way to Riga we picked up our grandmother who wanted to see us off and then she would bring the cart back to their farm. It was dusk as we were waiting for the ferry at the dockside in Riga, where we met with some of Mum’s brothers and families who were also leaving. I remember grandma holding back tears, saying to each of us “May God be with you”. As the ferry departed I can still see her, waving her silk hankie, with our horse and cart in the background, and that was the last time we ever saw our grandmother.


The ship that took us to Danzig in Germany was the “S.S. Shtoben”, we later heard that it had been sunk on its next trip. Dad managed to get a four wheeled cart with panelled sides and a pulling handle, we packed our cases and belongings in and with Karlis on top we set off for Berlin. We were following a map that Dad had, hoping to reach the Allied Forces, there were refugees everywhere.

From Berlin we headed to Dresden, most of the time we were walking, sometimes travelling in trains, and sleeping in bomb damaged rail carriages. There were burning buildings everywhere, the sirens were howling, we passed a bombed railway station that had been packed with commuters, it was a horrific sight. To us children it was so frightening, I was seven years old and struggling to keep going. One day I said to Dad, “I can’t walk any more, you go on, I’ll be alright”. He picked me up and put me in the cart with Karlis and kept us going.

I remember the day when we were suffering hunger pains and Karlis was suffering from malnutrition. Mum made a beautiful meal that day, a soup made of stinging nettles with pieces of rye bread crust, bits of finely cut ham rind, and snails. It tasted good, it warmed our bellies, and we kept going.

After a few days in Dresden we pushed on, we heard a few days later the city was totally destroyed by bombs. There were army tanks, trucks, and soldiers everywhere – the Russian Army was retreating from Prague. We crossed the Czechoslovakia border and headed for Leipzig, a suburb of Prague. Our family had a frightening experience when Mum and Dad were lined up against a wall by Russian soldiers and interrogated. I believe the only thing that saved us that day was that both Mum and Dad spoke fluent Russian.

We left Czechoslovakia and returned to Germany where an American soldier in a jeep told us to keep moving and pointed us in the direction of the Refugee camps. We arrived in the town of Egarr with thousands of other refugees. The Americans were providing food and rations to all, even vitamin tablets for the children. Karlis had a badly cut foot that was stitched and bandaged by an American Army doctor. We were then moved on to the town of Rebdorf.

Rebdorf: 1945-6

Here we stayed in an old monastery, surrounded by a sandstone wall that you entered through a huge arched gateway. The War had ended but life was still a struggle, there were thousands of refugees everywhere, all battling to survive. Military Police were screening our documents while others were providing us with better food. We were sleeping in large dormitories and provided with blankets and pillows; many refugees, including Mum and Dad, were helping in the kitchens and doing other chores. Dad passed a driving course here and got his driver’s licence, though with no car it was worthless. At times we would receive parcels from the Red Cross containing chocolates, and sometimes with marbles for us children to play with.

Nuremberg – 1947

Here we were transferred to the DP’s camp at Valka, previously used as a POW barracks; a huge camp packed with DP’s from Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Poland. The camp had a large canteen, a police station and a First Aid room. All the barracks were the same – rooms down each side of a long hallway, fitted with twin bunks, electric light, stove, tables and benches.

It was here Mum became friendly with another Latvian family, the Konrads. Their children Jon and Ilsa became our swimming champions of the 1950s. Mrs Konrads was a dentist, she pulled out a decayed tooth of mine, but with no anaesthetic it was a day I will never forget. I also remember having a photo taken of myself wearing an outfit that had been made from an army blanket, it kept me warm.

Life became more settled and all children had to attend school and Sunday school. I was learning both the Latvian and English languages, I found the English language very difficult to learn.

We had a little veggie garden and Dad made a chicken coop for our chooks. They provided us with fresh eggs and on special occasions we even had a roast chicken. Dad did a course to become a policeman, and got work as a gate man.


Immigration programs were being prepared for entry to the USA, Canada and Australia. With long waiting lists for the first two countries, Dad decided it would be Australia for us. All the family underwent several health examinations, screenings, x-rays, etc. in the town of Swinefurt. Any police records were also checked. We received our passports and went to Schienport for one week where we were told to start packing. Dad made two large wooden crates for our belongings and I painted the signs ‘J LIEPA SYDNEY AUSTRALIA’ in bold letters that were attached to the crates. I also made signs for our suitcases and bags.

With Nuremberg under the control of the USA Occupation forces, many refugees elected to remain in Germany, but Dad was not prepared to take that risk.

We travelled by bus to Nuremberg station where we boarded the train to Austria, a train of basic old carriages packed with refugees. We then boarded another train with soft seats and compartments for our trip to Italy; police were manning the checkpoints on the border. After passing through the Alps we arrived in Aversa, then travelled by bus to more holding camps, this time surrounded by chain wire fences with barbed wire tops. At one point we were dusted all over with a DDT powder and Dad was furious, he was aware of the dangers from the powder and made us wash it all off.

We were moved to Serengalia on the Adriatic Coast, then onto Banyole, overlooking Naples and the Isle of Capri. It was good here as we could swim during the day and we were fed soups and pasta. We waited another week here before we boarded the ‘SS Wooster Victory’ for our trip to Australia. On board the sexes were separated, men and boys on one side and women and girls on the other. As we left I remember seeing an active volcano from on the top deck.

Out on the open water many of us were squeamish, only a few dined that night on the meal of spaghetti and parmesan cheese; however we all improved and found our ‘sea-legs’ after a few days. The ship crossed the Adriatic Sea and through the Suez Canal to the Red Sea where I saw my first pyramids, a marvellous sight. The ship stopped at Aden and Port Said where Arab traders came alongside to sell their wares, using ropes to get the goods up on board. On board I saw a group of Arab workers smoking from a large glass bowl that had pipes attached. They were also eating slices from a huge piece of fruit, green skinned, the inner flesh was red and there were lots of black seeds; the first melon I had ever seen.

Crossing the equator was very humid and hot, the crew celebrated by having ‘King Neptune’ turn the hoses on the passengers to cool us down. I saw my first flying fish, some actually landed on the ship. Our next stop was to be Australia and what a wonderful sight Fremantle was, the wharves were lined with migrants who had arrived previously, welcoming and presenting us with lots of fresh oranges and bananas.

After refuelling and replenishing supplies the ship set sail for Sydney for what proved to be the worst part of our trip; the ship buffeted all the way across Bass Straight by storms. The hatches were battened down, doors were kept locked, at times meals could not be served and most passengers were sea sick. One day I opened a door and ventured out, I received a kick up the backside and warned “never do that again”. So after five years of what was hell at times, through war ravaged Europe, we had travelled from one side of the world to the other. This was to be the day we began a new life. It was May, 1949.


We approached the Sydney Heads on a cloudy day with misty rain, but they still looked great; seeing the big bridge in the distance made me feel good. Everybody was excited as the ship docked and the sun came out, the city of Sydney an unforgettable sight, but where were the natives with their spears. Next morning we disembarked in orderly fashion down the gangplank with guides checking our documents and directing us to the bus.

We were taken to the dining room on Central Station to have our breakfast, our first meal in Australia and what a treat it was. Nice tables, white crockery, little silver tea and coffee pots, toast racks, Kellogg’s Rice Bubbles, porridge, jam and honey. What a treat! Mum all the time reminding us – to behave, not to rush our food, show your manners. It tasted great – a breakfast I’ll never forget.

After breakfast the guides took us to the waiting train, we all sat in our carriage watching the trains come and go and the passing parade of commuters. Mum remarking how nicely dressed everyone was and their smiling faces. I kept looking out the window till I fell asleep.

Nearing our destination of Bathurst it was getting colder. It was freezing and snowing when we arrived, nothing like the hot weather we had heard about. We boarded our bus to the migrant camp at Kelso, the rows of huts similar to what we had experienced in Germany. In the barracks we were issued with suit cases, hand bags, a mattress, sheets, pillows, blankets etc.

I remember our first evening meal, each table set with a bottle of red sauce and a bottle of PMU sauce. We had lamb chops, baked sausage and gravy, mashed spuds and peas, white bread and butter, jam and honey – I had a go at the lot. That night was very cold and we all put our mattresses together on the floor to help us keep warm. Next morning there was snow on the ground but it melted quickly through the day.

We were all assembled in the hall and from a blackboard we learnt about the Australian currency – half penny, penny, threepence, sixpence, shilling, florin, the pound, five pound, ten pound. Only to discover that when we went out into the community there was another system used by many Australians which confused us even more – a ha’penny, tuppence, a trey bit, a zac, a deener, two bob, a half note, a quid, a fiver and a tenner.

It was the same with the English language, we learnt to dot the i’s and cross the t’s, but outside we had to understand sayings like ‘you don’t say’, ‘fair dinkum’, ‘pull your head in’, ‘Stone the Crows’. There were many other phrases we heard for the first time, often used with other descriptive adjectives. (John is well remembered by his workmates on the mutton board for his use of the phrase “Stone the Crows” which to John became “Stone zee Crows”.)

After two weeks at Bathurst Dad was offered a job in Sydney at McKenzie’s sawmill at Rhodes. He accepted and stayed through the week at the Meadowbank Hostel. Dad liked that saw mill and continued to work there for another 20 years.

Bathurst was getting warmer and I was eager to explore, I found strange birds – a black and white bird that warbled, also a pair of birds that sat on a pole and “ha ha ha – laughing at each other”, very unusual I thought. Another day there was a paddock full of rabbits, I could hardly believe my eyes, how could there be so many rabbits in the one paddock?

I felt nervous going to school the first day but the teacher was good and introduced us to the other pupils. I travelled by bus for two weeks to the Kelso Public school before I was transferred to the Bathurst High School. One day two girls offered me a chocolate sandwich, I accepted it and enjoyed the salty taste, and have enjoyed Vegemite ever since.

Another day on the bus I had a difference with another boy, just a little pushing and shoving, the driver told us to “hoof it”. I had to ask the bus driver what it meant, he firmly said “it means you get off this bus you little Balt, and walk home”. Later the other boy and I shook hands and we became friends.

After a few months we were transferred to the Greta migrant camp, a much larger camp with two canteens, two cinemas, sports ovals, tennis courts, and a hospital. The brown timber huts were known as ‘Chocolate City’ and the galvanised iron huts were known as ‘Silver City’, terms used by the soldiers during the war. Mum got a job as a cook in one of the mess halls, and finished up in charge. Mum had to attend English classes – I remember them singing such songs as ‘My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean’ and ‘Waltzing Matilda’.

After a few weeks at Greta Public School I was transferred to the East Maitland Boys High, a good school with plenty of sports. I joined the school cadets and loved their week- end camps, particularly those held at Gang Gang. At one stage I thought I would enlist in the Regular Army but Dad said “Son, don’t you think we have had enough of the Army life”.

After school I worked in the canteen to get some pocket money, I saved enough to buy a wrist watch; still have it and it is still ticking. I also bought a Malvern 3 Star racing bike that I rode all over the Hunter district.
With Mum and Dad both working they had saved enough to put a deposit on a four acre block of land at Marsden Park. In 1951 Dad started clearing the trees and I travelled on the train from Greta every weekend to help him. We slept in a car shipping crate and cooked our meals on a primus stove, I was not getting much rest but felt I was growing up fast.


With the block cleared enough we commenced building our new home, it was to be a fibro home with a galvanised iron roof. Building with very basic tools, it took us two years to complete. We laid the foundations, using water to get the correct levels. The timber had to be creosoted to protect against termites. We also built a garage at the back, and made a lot of our own furniture. The house was completed in 1953.
We made the move from Greta by train, all our belongings packed in the luggage van at the back. We had no regrets at leaving the Greta camp, over the years we had seen too many.

I attended Richmond Rural School and Karl attended the Marsden Park School. I left school in 1953 and after working a few days on the farms at Cornwallis, I decided that farming was not the job for me, so I got a job on the mutton board at the meat works. Over the years I became a slaughterman, made lots of good friends, and stayed there for 30 years.

In 1950 Dad bought a Phillips radio for 31 pounds, it was good for learning even if we did listen to such shows as Bonningtons Bunk House, Dad and Dave, Slim Dusty, Reg Lindsay and for two hours on Saturday the two HR Tops of the Hit Parade.

One of the biggest moments in my life was when all the family attended a Naturalisation Ceremony at Blacktown to become Australian citizens. We had to swear the Oath of Allegiance on the Bible and we were each presented with a Certificate, at last we were all Australians. Other refugees from Latvia that settled in the Marsden Park area in the 1950s were the Viksnaks, the Heinrichs and the Blumanis families.
John and his brother Karl returned to Latvia in May 1993 for a four week holiday to visit their older brother and several cousins who had remained in Latvia.

Compiled by Clarrie Neal from information, documents and photos supplied by John Liepa.

Berkshire Park

by Clarrie Neal

Jericho and Berkshire Park houses

Berkshire Park is situated at the junction of South Creek and the Blacktown – Richmond Road and is believed to have been named by the Rouse family. Richard Rouse arrived in Sydney in 1801 as a free settler. Several years later he built Rouse Hill House, eventually moving there to live permanently in 1825. In 1819 he bought a 320 acre property on the western side of South Creek and named it Berkshire Park after the English county where he grew up.

On this property he built a 10 roomed house and later a brick cottage for his eldest daughter, Mary, who had married Jonathan Hassall in 1819. Further land acquisitions increased the size of the property to 1,000 acres, it being eventually left in trust for his widowed daughter Mary Hassall and her five sons. The house was destroyed by fire in 1944.

Later he bought 347 acres of land on the opposite side of the Richmond Road overlooking South Creek and named it Jericho, after the name of a place in Oxford. ‘Jericho House’ was built on this property for his son George in c1839. In the book ‘Rouse Hill House’ the Rouse family recall ‘Jericho House on its magnificent site overlooking South Creek’.

Thomas Musgrave’s maps of c1842 show a bush track leading from Rouse Hill estate through the site of today’s Riverstone, over Eastern and South Creeks, and on to Berkshire Park. Richard Rouse lived the last three years of his life with his son in this house; his will showing the property at that time comprised 1,200 acres. It too, was destroyed by fire.

Berkshire Park Post Office

Berkshire Park first requested a Post Office in 1932 when the local store keeper, Mr H. Armitage, sent a letter on the behalf of 40 residents. The M.P. for the area, Mr Stewart, also sent a letter in 1932. On the 29th May 1933 Mr Stewart sent another letter along with a petition signed by the residents.

On the 9th December 1932, Mr H. Armitage indicated he was prepared to accept delivery of a ‘free’ mail bag from the Windsor Post Office and deliver all correspondence free from his store, once a day, at no cost to the PMG department.

This offer was initially refused, but on the 3rd January 1933 Mr H. Armitage was licensed to sell stamps and was approved to accept delivery of the mail bag from the Riverstone Post Office.

This Riverstone – Berkshire Park agreement became a contentious issue as Eleanor Coles, the Post Mistress/store keeper at Marsden Park claimed a loss of income as it restricted her business, a business she had bought some years earlier for 800 pounds.

However, the arrangement between the PMG and Mr Armitage continued until the 19th February 1934, when Mr Armitage advised the PMG he would not continue to accept the mail bag. He later indicated he was prepared to accept the mail if he was paid 39 pounds per annum. 

In the meantime, Charlie Fisher, the baker from Riverstone offered to deliver the mail free of charge to the residents, along with his bread deliveries, each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It appears this was the practice for the next two years.

It was not until the 9th April 1936 that the PMG finally approved a Post Office Agency in the local store operated by Mr Armitage.

The telephone service to the area commenced on the 9th May 1936, and payment of the aged pensions commenced on the 4th April 1938.

Mr H. Armitage continued with the Post Office/store until the 8th November 1945, when he sold the business to Mr N. Wheeler who continued on until 31st March 1961. During this period Kathleen George was approved to act as the Asst. Post Mistress. In 1956 the P.O. hours of business were; Monday – Friday 9.00 am – 1.00 pm and 2.00 pm – 6.00 pm. Saturday 9.00 am – 1.00 pm, Sunday Closed, Public Holidays 9.00 am – 10.00 am.

In 1942 the Department of Public Works was engaged to build an airstrip at Berkshire Park with a work force of 70 men. It was expected the men were to be located on the site and the job would be completed in three months.

To pay the men it was decided to open a Money Order Office in the Berkshire Park/P.O. store on the afternoon of pay day, once a fortnight. This Office was to be staffed with the Assistant Postal officer from Riverstone who would carry the necessary cash with him.

Berkshire Park Airfield

During World War 2 the RAAF had several airstrips known as ‘Relief Landing Grounds’ built in western Sydney. These airstrips were located at Berkshire Park, Mt. Druitt, Penrith, Pitt Town, Richmond, Schofields, and Yarramundi.

The Dept. of Public Works commenced construction of the Berkshire Park airstrip in August 1942; it first being necessary to acquire the area from the local land owners. The RAAF referred to these acquisitions as “Hirings” and paid the owners an annual rent, sometimes as little 2 shillings and 6 pence a year. The strip, 5,000 feet long and 150 feet wide ran from the Richmond Road through to Fourth Road, the site can still be seen today, opposite the entrance to Windsor Downs. Often the strip was referred to as the Marsden Park airfield.

The following owners who had their land acquired in 1942 were:- E. A. Hudson, W. T. Lisson, A. H. Nicholls, H. Armitage, J. & H. D. Marshall, Est. M. J. Ussher, H. J. Ussher. Cultivation Lands Ltd owned Lots 161 and 162 located on Fourth Road and these lots were hired by the RAAF under Order 1426 on the 20th August 1942. On the 8th September 1944, much of this land was returned, but the RAAF retained the sections on Fourth Road.

On the 6th December 1945, the new owner W. Greig, again requested the return of the land. After an initial refusal, the RAAF on the 22nd Dec. issued a memo – “Lots 161 and 162, previously required for Aircraft Hideout, can now be released to the owner on the 7th March 1946.” (Colin Cubitt recalled W. Greig later building a house on one of the bitumen areas that had been used for the storage of the planes.) A. H. Winn also had land acquired.

It appears Gabrielle and Eleanor Sewell did not have land taken over, but correspondence indicates they did experience drainage problems at times.

In 1942 a number of Spitfire aircraft were brought back from Europe to Australia by sea to fight the war in the Pacific, the airstrip at Berkshire Park being used for training the pilots.

Derek Roylance in his book “Air Base Richmond” noted – The Spitfire pilots who had come down from the European War were not used to flying out of strips hacked out of the jungle, so one squadron was sent to train at Yarramundi, and another to Marsden Park.

Paddy Heffernan, the CO at the time, said there was plenty of room on these strips; 50 feet wide with another 50 feet of cleared land on each side. Despite this, within a couple of weeks, at least half a dozen Spitfires had run into trees.

Derek Roylance also noted that –

  • The No.2 Medical Receiving Station formed in 1942 used the nearby Clydesdale residence as a RAAF Convalescent Hospital.
  • A searchlight battery was located near the airstrip, on the Sydney side of the plane storage area on Richmond Road. (Colin Cubitt recalled it was located in a paddock on Ted Jones’s dairy.)

A RAAF Internet site shows several local Radar Stations in WW2: -Stations No. 169 and 170 – Pitt Town and Marsden Park; Station 309 – Marsden Park; Station 312 – Marsden Park.

A familiar site until the 1980s was the Remote Receiving Station masts and aerials located on the eastern side of the Richmond Road. It was operated by the RAAF and was capable of receiving messages from all over the world. The rooms used for its operation were located in underground bunkers and the messages received were relayed to the RAAF H/Q base at Lapstone to be processed.

When the War finished, the airstrip was no longer needed and it was left unaltered for many years. A Thematic Study by the NSW Heritage Office in 2001 on World War 2 aerodromes and associated structures noted that in a 1946 RAAF report, Marsden Park airstrip was listed to be retained but not maintained.

During this period the site was used for a variety of unofficial purposes for many years. An Internet site shows that in 1946 and 1947 the strip was used for two motor races, held on a three kilometre circuit based on a World War 2 airfield located at Berkshire Park. The race meetings were held on the 10th June 1946 and the 27th January 1947.

Ron Clarke recalls going to car rallies at the site in the 1950s: as we lived at Maraylya we also often went to the Pitt Town airstrip. When we felt like going for a ride on our motorbikes we’d sometimes go over to Berkshire Park. Nearly every weekend there would be something on there, people held car rallies, picnics, barbecues out there; nothing official, just a chance to get together.

I remember one time Bill McLachlan, who started the Pioneer Village at Wilberforce, turned up in a 1950 or ‘51 Zephyr convertible. It was a real talking point as it was unlike any car we’d seen.

I know that many people learnt to drive at Berkshire Park, just as others did out at Pitt Town. In those days you could have a bit of a race there, take your car out and see how fast it could go down the straight. There was a tarmac surface, but it seemed to be thinner than Pitt Town and broke up more quickly into gravel.

I can also recall the wires in the trees across the road which used to hold up camouflage netting that they parked the planes under. They had the same set up at Pitt Town, except that the planes were parked at the side of the airstrip in the bush. Another air strip that we went to a lot was the one at Mt Druitt. It was turned into a proper race track and I saw Jack Brabham win his first race there.

Up to the 1970s many Riverstone residents learnt to drive at Berkshire Park, there was sufficient tarmac left to provide a reasonable surface, and as the potholes of red clay developed, it was a good opportunity for turning and swerving practice.
Ruby Waldron lived most of her life at Berkshire Park. Her father Fred was a timber cutter. He supplied the local residents and also those of Riverstone with their firewood from the 30s to the 50s. He initially used a 4 wheel horse drawn wagon to cart the wood and in the 40s he bought an International truck. Even though forced to use a crutch for a World War 1 injury to his leg he still continued with his wood cutting business, often with the assistance of his wife and daughter Ruby.

Ruby recalled:

  •  the construction workers building the Berkshire Park airstrip during the 2nd World War.
  • the workers sharing their sandwiches with the Waldron family.
  • the drainage work done to make the strip suitable for all weathers.
  • the surface was sealed and tarred.
  • there were no sheds or hangars built.
  • dummy planes were stored nearby under large camouflage nets.
  • dummy planes were also stored under nets along the Llandilo Road.
  • the Post Office and store on the corner of the strip and Richmond Road, owned by Mr Wheeler.
  • Charlie Ingerson owned the nearby poultry farm.
  • the local residents using the strip as their ‘learn to drive’ school.
  • the Forester’s living in First Street. Their daughter was killed when thrown from a horse as it plunged into a drain alongside the strip.

A 1974 topographical map still clearly showed the airstrip. Gradually houses were built on part of the strip and other land uses were introduced. Today, if you look carefully you can still see the airstrip clearing from several of the streets that now traverse the former site.

Remnants of the wires used to hold up the camouflage nets in the trees can still be seen at the front of the Windsor Downs area. Local residents, including Ernie Byrnes can remember planes taking off along the Richmond Road, before the airstrip was completed.

Colin Cubitt recalled boys from Riverstone riding their motor bikes out to the airstrip for ‘a burn’. He also recalled the gravel used for the construction of the Schofields airstrip being quarried from the Vineyard hill in the meatworks paddocks; the site now occupied by the Sewerage treatment plant.

Compiled by Clarrie Neal, 2003 from information provided by Rosemary Phillis, Ruby Waldron, Merv Davis, Ron Clarke, Kevin Lewis, Ernie Byrnes, Colin Cubitt, Caroline R. Thornton’s book “Rouse Hill House”, and National Archive files.