Memories of Rouse Hill Public Golf Course

by Rosemary Phillis

It is hard to imagine that the land on the Sydney side of the Rouse Hill Anglican Church centre and the shopping centre which now houses McDonalds, Red Rooster and Aldi, was once a quaint nine hole golf course, known as the Rouse Hill Public Golf Course. Indeed, by my estimation, Mile End Road runs along where the third and fourth fairways once lay.

The course was in operation from the 1950s when it was known as Braemar. Judith Lewis recalls that after she and her husband Kevin were married in 1958, they used to ride their pushbikes out from Riverstone, with their golf clubs on their backs.

In the late 1970s I learnt to play golf there as part of our High School interest elective afternoon. The school hired a bus that delivered students to a variety of places, including half a dozen of us to the golf course. Wendy Drummond and I were the only girls interested in playing and to avoid having the boys hit golf balls at us we usually let them tee off first. (Either that or we climbed through the fence, and started on the 3rd hole, you could do that sort of thing at Rouse Hill.)

It was a very basic course, set on the side of the hill; no bunkers and each of the fairways were pretty much straight up and down. The main challenge was on the seventh hole, a short hole, with a dam on the down side of a steep slope. If you didn’t land the ball on the green with your first shot, you either landed it in the dam with a splash or it rolled down the hill into the dam. As poor school students we couldn’t afford to lose balls, so sometimes we just ignored the hole and walked to the next one. An extendable ball scoop to retrieve balls from the mud later proved to be a wise investment.

Other hazards included swooping crows that stole golf balls and the maintenance man and his tractor/slasher who chopped up many a ball as he mowed the fairways. He had a tin full of replacement balls and if he ran over your ball, and you yelled loudly enough, he’d stop and throw you a replacement one. If he didn’t hear you it was tough luck. (We often wondered if his three legged fox terrier dog had moved too close to the slasher at some stage.)

The absolute killer was the times of the year when the course was fertilised with chicken manure and other unidentifiable material. The smell was enough to give you an asthma attack.

There was a small shop where you paid your fees and could purchase a drink. You could hire a buggy, no electric ride ons, just a basic metal framed one that looked like a preying mantis and if you were lucky there was a piece of rope attached to tie your golf bag on with.

There were toilets, long tin sheds with tables inside and barbecues and some beautiful eucalypt trees, restful places for recuperating after nine holes, especially in the heat of summer.

Despite the basic nature of the course and facilities I really loved it. Rouse Hill Public was a great place to learn to play golf, had a wonderful atmosphere and holds very fond memories for myself and many others. It was the scene of many local derbies and if you want to read about one of these, look up the article by Chris Counter in our 2006 Journal.

Ralph Warren, Mr Ohtska, Nick Silvestro & Wendy Burke at an end of year golf day for SMC Pneumatics. 28 December 1988.
Photo: Jilly & Ralph Warren
The greenkeeper, Ted Phillis and Jim Ferguson near the shelter sheds. 10 March 1999.
Photo: Winsome Phillis
The 9th hole on 10 March 1999, in the last year that the golf course was in operation.
Photo: Winsome Phillis

The Iori Family

by Clarrie Neal

The Iori families from Italy first made contact with Australia in 1927 when Pelligrino Iori and his brother-in-law Ugo Burlati arrived in Sydney aboard the Cita Genoa.

They worked a variety of jobs on a property at Merriwa in the Hunter Valley to save the money to bring their wives to Australia. Their wives arrived in 1932. Maria Iori was accompanied by their son Edo. They continued to work on the farm but living conditions were so bad the families moved to Smiths Lake. Conditions there were not much better but they were eventually able to save the money to purchase 45 acres of land at Rouse Hill in 1933. The two families, along with another brother-in-law, Joe Zampelli, moved to Rouse Hill in 1936 and each settled on their own 15 acre block.

The Iori’s youngest son Jack was born at Tuncurry in 1934 and was two years old when the family arrived at Rouse Hill. Now aged 72, he has a wonderful memory and delivers an interesting account of how an Italian migrant family coped with their new way of life in Australia at that time.

Rouse Hill was an area of widely scattered farms, serviced only by a Post Office that also served as a small general store and for many years the store was run by a Mrs Cooper. The only tarred road in the district was the Windsor Road. Garfield Road into Riverstone was a series of pot holes and gutters and Mile End Road where they lived was nothing more than a bush track. The family used a horse and sulky to travel into Riverstone to get their groceries and supplies, though sometimes they would travel to Windsor for their shopping.

Jack’s earliest memories of life on the farm include watching his mother make the cream and their lovely soft cheese. He remembers the family using the war time ration coupons to obtain food and clothing, and his mother and father working all the time. Their first house was built of fibro and comprised three rooms. A verandah was added and later another two bedrooms. It had a corrugated iron roof and was equipped with a fuel stove, an ice box, and there was a well in their backyard.

While setting up the farm and for many years after Pelligrino worked at the Riverstone Meatworks. After laying out his garden beds, he set up a poultry farm, using poles cut from the surrounding bush as the posts. Later in life Jack often marvelled at his father’s ability to build, he was so good with his hands, given a hammer, a saw, timber and a piece of wire he could build anything.

Jack recalled the family had really good relationships with all their neighbours except one, and remembers feeling hurt on the occasions when they were referred to as ‘dagos’.

The family were understandably concerned when Italy sided with Germany during the War, the fear of internment in a camp was an ever present threat. After Immigration officials had first checked with other residents in the district, the Iori family were then interviewed. The family was considered to be low risk and fortunately never subjected to internment, though the officials did take possession of a .22 rifle.

The family grew all their own vegetables and sold their surplus produce and eggs. Jack recalls his duties as a child were to wash up every night, lock up the poultry sheds each night to keep out the foxes, and milk their two cows. Sometimes these jobs were shared with his older brother Edo. He also helped the baker from Castle Hill deliver bread along Mile End Road.

There were no organised sports in Rouse Hill, we used the nearby creek as a swimming hole and for fishing, and we made catapults to shoot the birds, so we still had a lot of fun. Jack has wonderful memories of sitting on a slide and being pulled around the paddocks by their horse ‘Betty’; the slide was a home made wooden frame with flat steel bars fitted underneath to allow easier sliding.

Jack attended Rouse Hill Public School, it was a one teacher school. In the Rouse Hill School book printed in 2000 Jack had this to say about his years at school – 1939 to 1947:-

When I started school there was a total of 15 kids. Ted Harris was Principal and teacher, on his own. He lived next door in the school residence. Ted owned a 1927 Chev tourer; Len Robinson, a cheeky kid, said “Sir, why do you drive so slow?” and Ted’s answer to this was, and I’ll never forget it, “Any fool can go fast, but it takes a wise man to go slow”. I travelled to school by legs for the first two years, then a push bike.

The school introduced us into growing vegetables, then we had a long dry spell, so it was back into the books. Mum’s lunch box surprise – old sandwiches. Favourite pastimes – Fishing, French cricket. Best friends – Tony Rasmussen. I really enjoyed my days at Rouse Hill school.”

During the War he remembers his brother Edo helping to build the Air Raid shelter in the school grounds. Other good school mates of those days were Norm Hession and Joe Mezzomo. Jack said the children played the usual school games but one game that was always popular with them was French cricket. With no cricket bats available the bats were made by Jack using a machete to shape the wooden lids off a lettuce box. In 2006 Jack was surprised to learn that renovation work on the Rouse Hill school building had unearthed some interesting artefacts under the floor boards – a hand made cricket bat and a spelling exercise book with the name ‘J. Iori’ shown.

Jack commenced his secondary schooling at Parramatta Marist Brothers. To get there he had to ride his bike to Kellyville to catch the bus. There were no other bus services other than the two services each day for the schoolchildren. One day as Jack was riding his bike to the Windsor Road, it fell apart. After hiding the bike in the bush he hitched a ride from Mile End Road to Kellyville. Pleased with his efforts, he hitched a ride again the next day and continued this form of travel till the day he left. Regular drivers knew he was on his way to get the school bus so they always stopped for him.

Traffic on the Windsor Road was totally different then. Jack recalled some days he would wait up to five minutes or more for a car or truck to come along. He recalled hearing the trucks changing their gears as they struggled to climb the hills near Rouse Hill school.

Jack somehow managed to fail his first year at Parramatta Marist Brothers and was performing no better in his second year. One day he plucked up enough courage to approach the Marist Brothers to get permission to leave the school to enable him to help his parents with the farm. Jack was somewhat surprised at their response when they told him – “Well, you’re only wasting our time here at school, you may as well leave now,” – and so ended Jack’s last day at school.

The farm continued to grow, they had two draught horses that were used to plough the fields and were used, with a scoop, to dig their first dams. In later years the horses were replaced by the bulldozer. Water was often pumped from Second Ponds Creek into their dams, Jack recalled sometimes the only noise you could hear of a night was the drone of the pumps.

The poultry farm continued to expand, and they gradually increased the number of range fed hens. The range hens were kept as layers for three years and then sold on the market as boilers, often selling at a dollar each. They were known as boilers because they were best if boiled first and then roasted. Chicken those days was not the popular meal it is today.

In the 1950’s the Egg Marketing Board was an organisation formed to manage the distribution of eggs from the farms to the shops, the Iori family held a PA authority to supply several stores in the district. In later years Jack was elected as a Director of the Egg Marketing Board and held that position for 13 years. Farmers opinions were sharply divided on the Board’s functions, some farmers thought it was great while others thought it served no useful purpose at all.

Jack well remembers an outbreak of Laryngeo Tracheitis that killed all their fowls and his father sitting down on a box in the shed, crying at their loss. Eventually a suitable vaccination was discovered and the family set about restocking their farm.

The family formed a company known as P. Iori & Sons and became one of the largest farms in the district, employing seven girls in the egg shed and another four outside. The biggest changes occurred when the boys were able to convince their father to obtain a loan from the bank of $1,700 and change from the open range system to the caged system. Their father had lived through the years of the depression and was understandably wary of the banks, he believed they would go bankrupt.

They laid the concrete paths and Edo who was a welder constructed the sheds. They made a cart to collect the eggs and Jack well remembers the day he heard his father say after he had collected all the eggs in less than an hour, “that used to take me three to four hours”. From that day on he stood back and allowed the boys more latitude to run the business. The poultry business continued to expand until they had 40,000 layers, their farm became one of the largest in the district.

They ran a pig farm for approximately 15 years and all their porkers and baconers were sold to the Riverstone Meat Co. Jack recalled at the time the Company buyer was Kevin Welk, Norm Brown was the yard foreman, and Gray Bloxsom was the manager.

Jack believed the market garden was the hardest work of all and returned the least income. He recalled the time he packed 80 cases of cucumbers and sent them to the markets where there was a glut. He received nothing for the cucumbers, then had to pay $4 to have them dumped.

Farmers in the Rouse Hill area relied on trucks owned by Jack Peterson to carry their produce to the markets. On the return trip he would carry their stock feed and other goods.

There was little in the way of entertainment in those days, there was no TV. Jack recalled they would take their wind up gramophone down to the Rouse Hill church hall to play their records. Their first family car was a Singer bought in 1945, they would all pile in and drive to the cinema at Castle Hill for their Saturday night out. The extended families would always get together at Christmas and again at Easter at one of their homes.

At the age of 18 Jack was called up to do Army National Service training at Holsworthy. It was the first time he had ever been away from home and admits he missed home so much that he cried a lot for the first two weeks. The Army training left a great impression on him and he now looks back on it as a highlight of his teenage years as it taught him how to live and co-operate with other people.

He recalled that more than 60% of the residents in Mile End Road were farmers, and that most were of Italian origin. The majority of the remainder worked at Riverstone Meatworks as there was little scope to get employment elsewhere.

Jack recalls the residents of Mile End Road in the 1950’s were Mitchell, Darcy Mills, Brown, Wrights, Derkson, Shields, Dr. Money, Taylor, Cooper, Mezzomo, Burlati, Zampelli, Iori, Jennings, Lelants, Hicks and Pike. Along the road a good community spirit prevailed, and it was particularly evident during times of illness.

Jack is proud of his parents, how hard they worked, of what they achieved, and the standards they set for the boys to work hard and achieve. Apart from the normal household duties he recalls his mother every day making cream and cheese, going into the cold shed washing and packing the eggs. Jack also remembers his mother continually patching their trousers.

Maria and Pelligrino lived to within a few days of their 90th birthdays, and both passed away in the 1990’s. They have been honoured by their families with a stained glass window in the Catholic Church at Kellyville, and a recently opened park in Mile End Road named ‘Maria Iori Park’.

Rouse Hill remained a rural community until 1990 when urban development commenced. Jack always had ambitions to build shops in Rouse Hill but it took many years of battling with the bureaucracy to finally get the approval to build a restaurant, grocery store, Post Office and a liquor outlet. The shopping centre was expanded in 2000 and now comprises 16 shops and 3 office units.

Jack has never known anything other than work, and has no intention of retiring. He likes to quote “Some people want it to happen, some people would like it to happen, but you’ve got to make it happen.” He is a great supporter of local charities and of St. Vincents Hospital and is well known in the district for being there in time of need. He is a staunch supporter of the Parramatta Eels and the walls of his office are covered with Parramatta team photos and signed guernseys.

Jack and his wife Margaret celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary in 2006. They have lived all their life in Mile End Road where they raised their three children – Karen, Diana and Steve. For 26 of these years Margaret managed the Rouse Hill Post Office.

Jack has dedicated his life story to his parents Maria and Pelligrino, who played an enormously important role in his upbringing and in the development of his character traits of hard work, early to rise, integrity, and a deep and abiding love of family. He is very proud of his Italian ancestry and of his Australian citizenship and every day likes to fly the Australian boxing kangaroo flag in front of his home. He believes Australia has benefited greatly from its acceptance of migrants from Italy and their Italian foods.

The Iori families have made the effort to become wonderful Australians and the local district community can be proud of them.

Compiled by Clarrie Neal from information and photos provided by Jack Iori, August 2006.

Addendum: In 2008 John (Jack) Iori was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for service to the egg industry through roles in industry regulatory bodies and to the community of Rouse Hill.

Views of Riverstone from a Tree

The following views of Riverstone were taken by Jim Ferguson around Christmas 1967. Jim had climbed a tree in the grounds of what is now the Uniting Church in Garfield Road and taken his camera to record the views for others.

Looking down Garfield Road towards the railway line
Looking up Garfield Road towards the Museum (which was then the Masonic Hall).
Photos courtesy of Jim Ferguson

Christmas Lights & Carols by Candlelight

by Rosemary Phillis and Jim Ferguson

Uniting Church lights in the1990s

In the Christmas season many locals decorate their homes and gardens with festive Christmas lights. This tradition did not start en-masse` until the late 1990s.

St Andrews Uniting Church at Riverstone was decades ahead of everybody else, as every year from around 1954 until 2000 they decorated a pine tree in the church grounds with coloured lights and an illuminated star.

The tree and lights were a popular local landmark in the Christmas season, many people drove through the town just to see them.

The Church ‘lights’ tradition started around 1954 when the church was known as the Presbyterian Church. The first star was built by Fred Coulter, a local shopkeeper. The star was made of Masonite and had a small 25W pilot globe on each point.

Jim Ferguson recalls that he was part of the original team which started the tradition in 1954: “As well as the star, we had two strings of lights, hired from Prospect Electricity, to run up each side of the tree, up one side and down the other (4 runs).

We always needed a crew of at least six to put up the lights in position. No one person can claim to be responsible for placing the lights in the tree. Fred Coulter certainly put the thought of many into practice when he made the first star and I was fortunate enough to be the first person to bring the dream to fruition, by climbing the tree to put up the star, but it could not have been done without the support of the team, members of the church and encouragement from members of the community.

Others who climbed to the top included Garth Gee, my brother Barry Ferguson, John Hunt, Mark and Ron Newsome, others who made the journey part way up included Howard Voysey, Ern Nichols, Wal Shoobridge and Geoff Ham.

I am sure that there were others but I regret that time has eroded my memory. Our ground crew consisted of at least four persons, including Roy Turnbull, the Ministers of the day, Mike Strong, Geoff King and some of our younger people.

Jim Ferguson near top of the tree c1967.
Photo courtesy of Jim Ferguson

Originally we had no safety equipment, climbing was hand over hand and once we had reached the required height, we pulled the star and the equipment up manually.

We designed and constructed a new star. It was cut out of a single sheet of aluminium and covered in reflective tape. Jerry Carson arranged sufficient red adhesive sheeting, to cover the whole star. Illumination was via two 60W globes, one each side of the star. Each globe was covered in a hood which had holes and slots strategically punched in it to allow the light to beam to each point of the star. From a distance this gave the star a 3D effect.

Rather than continuing to hire lights which were being phased out by Council, we were able to make our own, thanks to the generosity of Roy Turnbull, Barry Ferguson and others, using full sized coloured party globes. The use of a pulley made it easier to raise and lower the star and the lights.

Safety improvements came in the form of rope belts supplied by electricians Howard Voysey and later John Hunt. The tree climbing was carried out in the early morning, as early as 6 o’clock in the morning or late in the evening around 6 pm.

At some stage our church started holding a Carols by Candlelight service in the church grounds. We always aimed to have the lights up in the tree the Saturday before the carols.

Towards the end of the 1990s it was becoming difficult to find someone willing to climb the tree. The tree was getting older and had some dead timber in it, making it a difficult and potentially dangerous task. There were also issues around running full voltage lights up through the trees.

Vandalism caused us some concern, we lost a few globes every year, however toward the end of the century our display was almost ruined with the theft of over thirty globes from the lower levels and breakages caused by people catapulting small staples at the globes.

To the disappointment of many, in 2001 we did not put the lights up in the tree. Instead we mounted a display on the end of the church building with the theme ‘Jesus is the Reason for the Season’. For the next few years we arranged different displays, but these were too ambitious for our light-weight equipment and a severe southerly blow brought the top to ground level. A considerable amount of work was put into installing the cross in its present position, however a tree branch is in the way, which prevents it being raised and lowered without difficulty and damage. There was no display in 2007, but I am advised that every effort will be made to have a display in 2008.

Although the church no longer displays lights in the tree, others around the town carry on the tradition. I have a unique souvenir of our efforts; a sand cricket inside a clear electric light globe, which was at the top of the display in the star, almost 80 feet above ground level!”

Photo: Rosemary Phillis

Christmas Carols and Carols by Candlelight

In the late 1940s, the Young People’s Fellowship of the Presbyterian Church started a tradition of singing Christmas Carols around the town. They used Norm Powe’s truck, loaded a full sized church pump organ onto the back, tied on some church stools and egg crates to sit on, then drove around town, with Joyce Nichols playing the pump organ and the others singing Christmas Carols.

The church started a ‘Carols by Candlelight’ service in the grounds of the church. I can recall attending these events in the 1960s. Adults sat on chairs, children generally sat on mats that had been rolled out on the grass. The choir was on a raised stage situated in front of the wooden church building. Music was provided by Mrs Nichols playing the organ.

Candles were supplied, sometimes with cardboard to protect your hand from the wax and at one stage small pieces of plywood. There was the inevitable singed hair, but fortunately no major burn injuries, apart from the occasional wax spot burns.

The carols service became ecumenical, with the other churches in the town taking their turn to organise the event, always held in the Presbyterian/Uniting church grounds. Various religious sketches were often enacted during the carol services with the participation of the local schools.

On one occasion rain threatened the activity so it was transferred into the hall. One of the plays included the use of a live donkey. We were assured that the animal had been stage trained, so we continued with the play. Much to the consternation of the gathering the silly ass forgot himself, resulting in a quick evacuation of the hall and the subsequent replacement of the stage carpet.

As more and more people attended and Garfield Road became busier and much noisier, it was decided to move the event. After three or four years in the Lions Park and one year when it was washed out and held in the Community Church, the event was relocated to the vacant land on the corner of Park and Pitt Streets, where it is still held. The ecumenical theme continues, with all welcome to the event.

1995 Carols – Ecumenical choir accompanied by organist Joyce Nichols
Photo courtesy of Rosemary Phillis

My Early Childhood Days in Riverstone

by Ernest James Byrnes

I was born at home at what was then known as “Cockroach Alley” a row of houses near the Riverstone railway station. I started school at age five in kindergarten at the Riverstone Public School. During the early years we used a slate to write on. Later we mixed a powder with water to make our ink, school books were supplied.

While I was at this school I was very shy and small in build and was subject to bullying. However, one day after school I had a fight with another kid. There were plenty of kids crowded around, word soon got around the school when a fight was on and somehow the headmaster found out. Next day we were both called into his office and asked the reason for fighting. I can remember saying that it was only a friendly fight. He remarked, “Then I will give you both a friendly six cuts of the cane.”

A small creek ran through the paddock opposite the public school, I used to catch yabbies in this with cotton and a piece of meat.

Not a lot happened at school – we learnt, we played. Boys mostly played marbles. Big ring and three holes was common also throwing cards against the wall and calling heads or tails. The school photo day was a special event. Although most kids tried to look their best, most boys wore no shoes and what ever clothes they had, which was not much.

I can remember Mum going to the Masonic Hall to collect our rations during the great depression. Our family moved around, I guess it was to find cheaper rent. I was born into what was called “a poor family”, Mum used to make her own soap and shoe polish, she also did washing and ironing for boarders at the Royal Hotel. I used to help Mum carry the clean clothes down to the hotel in a big cane basket. Dad never drove or owned a motor car during his lifetime so we did not venture far from Riverstone.

Two things that come to mind are (1) the annual local show that was held near the Royal Hotel (2) the coming of Wirths Bros. circus that always had us kids scamper down to watch the tents erected and to see what animals they had. The elephants had large chains around their legs and onto a big peg in the ground, the lions were secure in cages. Most parents could not afford the cost of a ticket, so I and other kids would try to seize the opportunity and slip under the tent. The circus came by special train then would set up in the big open paddock next to Conway’s newsagent. Now Market-town occupies all this area.

I cannot forget to mention the “Cicadas”, those noisy winged creatures we always looked for around Christmas and the warm weather. Once we heard them we would go looking for them as they clung to the trees, always amused to watch them emerge from their cocoon and spread their wings to dry.

When I reached the age of 14 years and 9 months, the legal school leaving age, Mum gave me the choice to stay at school or leave, as her uncle who worked at the Clyde Engineering works had lined up a position of apprentice carpenter for me. Mum and I fronted up to the office for an interview at Clyde. My wage was to be one pound with sixpence tax leaving me with 19/6 pence. Being my first wage I was more than happy. During my stay at Clyde I witnessed the building and saw the now famous 3801 steam loco roll off the assembly line.

I came home one day and Dad asked if I wanted to start work in the Beef House at the meatworks. No need for second thoughts, I jumped at the opportunity. I had various jobs, first one was cleaning the floor picking up the cattle feet that the butchers had cut off, then throwing them down a chute. I worked my way up to operating the winch that pulled the killed cattle up to the dressing floor and skinning slinks [unborn calves]. I got sixpence each for doing them. You changed jobs according to the kill. Later I went on as an apprentice butcher however I was not a favourite of the foreman and at the end of my term I did not proceed but worked in other departments around the works.

We were now living at No.18 Castlereagh Street. War still on. I, like a lot of others, decided to dig an air-raid shelter for our family in our back yard. Mum took on making camouflage nets for the army. They supplied all the material, when one was finished it was collected and another lot of material left, I helped Mum with this task.

I built my own billycart and on weekends I would pull this out to Rumery’s paddocks to collect stumps for Mum for firewood. Whilst on billycarts, my mates and I would go to the top of the Catholic church hill in front of Danny Mason’s place where we would set sail down Garfield Road as fast as possible and finish up down near the public school – our carts had no brakes, often there would be a tumble and a loss of skin.

I owned my own ferret and went after rabbits, this helped with the food problem. I made my own nets, these were made on the same principle as the camouflage nets. The humble rabbit saved many a family from going hungry. We were lucky, what with the fish in the creeks, the bunny and Dad working at the meat works.

During the construction of the Schofields air strip in 1941 my mates and I would push our bikes to what was called Bald Hill near Vineyard railway station where the gravel was collected to make the air strip. We would ask the truck drivers for a ride to Schoies and back. We always got our ride.

There was always the game of “Two up” in the corrugated iron shed where the Rivo show was held, also at other places. These games were on the quiet as they were illegal and the cops were always on the lookout, the game usually had what was called a “Cockatoo”, someone on the lookout for the cops. This game moved places to avoid the cops, some games were raided. These sheds were also used by the local beer drinkers on weekends. Sunday I would get here early as sometimes quart beer bottles were left behind, take these to the pub and we would get sixpence each.

A favourite pastime was to walk up to the bush near Vineyard and trap finches, Double Bars, Red Heads, Zebras, Diamond Sparrows and Goldfinches, there were always plenty about. I had a double end trap, I would put a caller in the middle section and set both ends to catch them, I spent many enjoyable hours doing this, I would sell those that I did not want.

In my time we had to make our own entertainment, often I would jump on my trusty bike and with a shanghai (catapult) in my pocket I would go hunting birds. I treasured my bike as it was made from parts scrounged from other kids and was my only means of transport.

Another favourite pastime with kids was to collect bird eggs, I would climb to the nest and would put one egg in my mouth to climb down. I always would only take one egg, I carried a pin to make a hole in each end of the egg and blow out the yoke. At home the eggs were kept separate in a match box lined with cotton wool, surplus eggs were swapped with other kids.

Jimmy Martin our local milkman had on his property many large sheds stacked with feed, often we would go climbing on them, one day we were doing this and once on top I saw this large snake, Jimmy had this pet carpet snake to catch the rats and mice, the snake frightened Christ out of us.
Some people grew watermelons and had fruit trees, like most kids we thought these fair game and always tried to sneak a feed unbeknown to the owners.

I joined the Boy Scouts at age 14 in 1941, Mum took me to the Scout shop at Parramatta for my uniform. During the war the scouts went around town from house to house with our billycarts collecting aluminium for the war effort. Being in the scouts and having a pushbike we were trained as “runners” to the air raid wardens.

Ernest James Byrnes
Photo courtesy of Ernie Byrnes

During the war and long after everyone was subject to rationing, petrol, clothes and food, no ration ticket no goods, black marketing was rife and you could buy ration tickets if you had the money.

During the war years there were many air crashes around the Richmond base, two close to Rivo that comes to mind. First was the Avro Anson that crashed near Cow Flat killing all the crew. I pushed my bike to the scene – wreckage everywhere not a pretty sight. The other was when a Wirraway crash landed in the meatworks paddocks, Airforce people landed in a Tigermoth to survey the damage. The plane was dismantled and trucked out. I can also remember the airstrip at Berkshire Park and seeing the planes under camouflage nets along the road.

At the meatworks there was what was called a tally [number of animals to be killed], often we would finish early and go home. In the summer time when this happened it was time to go swimming in the creek at the “White House” on Eastern Creek, there was a rope swing in a large pine tree near a deep hole, there was always a large congregation of girls and boys, many a lad learnt to swim here. Another swimming hole was at “Bakers Flat” near the northern end of Riverstone Road, Killarney Chain of Ponds creek ran through here.

Another favourite swimming hole was the Hawkesbury River at what was then called “Phillip”. There was a small railway station here made of railway sleepers (13). We would catch the steam train to Richmond then “Pansy” to Phillip, summer time the place was very popular and always crowded, Pansy ran from Richmond to Kurrajong.

I used to catch Pansy to Phillip and also other stations between Phillip and Kurrajong with my ferret and a bag of nets that I made. I also used to rabbit along the west side of the river up to what we called Phillip Charlies, sometimes I would carry my Lithgow single shot 22c rifle and pot off any rabbits. At home I would clean the rabbits, what Mum did not want [no freezers then] I would sell for sixpence each. The skins were pegged out to dry, stored, then sold to a skin firm, it was a problem to keep the weevils out.

During the summer several of my mates and I would either push our bikes or catch the train to Phillip and camp on a sand island in the middle of the river for the weekend. Back then the river was crystal clear and we could catch prawns, we would take tins of “Irish Stew, Bully Beef and Baked Beans”’ to eat, an old tent with no floor to sleep in, we burnt cow dung in the tent to ward off mossies. The river had some deep holes and kids often got into trouble.

Some weekends or school holidays brother Kevin and myself as well as others would walk out to “Jericho” to shoot rabbits, foxes, wild ducks and kangaroos, we normally used shot-guns.

A lot of dams around Rivo had carp in them, I would get a long stick, a bit of string and fashion a hook from a pin then use a worm, fish caught were not harmed and let go for another day, a lot of time was passed this way.

During the bushfire season it was a common occurrence to have a bushfire somewhere, when the siren sounded you would look for the smoke then take off on your bike to help fight the fire, we normally used a wet potato sack or break a branch off a tree. Flood time was also a disaster for some townsfolk, the same as fires everyone pitched in to help others.

A lot of kids played football and being local you always wanted to play for your hometown and pull on the “Maroon and Gold”. I was a good runner and was always placed on the wing.

My brother Kevin and myself would either walk or ride our bikes to the junction of South and Eastern Creeks with our Kelly rods tied to our bikes and always get a feed of fish. We were not the only ones, a lot of locals used the Eastern and South Creeks for fishing.

To earn pocket money I often rode my bike to Cornwallis to pick vegetables spuds, beetroot, peas and beans. Stinging nettles grew amongst these and made picking hard. You had to be aware of three-corners as they would puncture your tyres very easily and it was a long walk home.

Bonfire night was always a challenge, we would start building our bonfire weeks before – the bigger the better, we would scrounge as many old car tyres to put inside the bonfire, the more tyres the blacker the smoke. We had to be watchful, as a prank was to try and torch the other bonfires before the night. This event was eagerly awaited as we got to let off our fireworks.

As time has rolled by I can honestly say “that I have lived through the good old times”.

The Bushfire and a Grave in the Cemetery

by Patricia Smith (nee Woodland)

My name is Patricia Smith, I am the daughter of Ruby Woodland. When I was growing up I lived in Riverstone with my Grandmother, Mrs Ada Woodland, who lived past the cemetery.

I remember the time of the bushfires – Nan locked the doors and said we would be safe if we could reach the cemetery. We were running as the fire seemed to be taking over us. Just as we reached the fence of the cemetery, Nan said lay down on this slab, keep your head down as the fire will pass over us.

I will never forget the slab we were laying on, it was Mr Conway’s grave, who owned the paper shop. Just as I looked up, not taking any notice about keeping my head down, I saw the fire was about to reach us, but at the same time the wind, at that moment, changed direction and the fire never reached us.

Someone was looking after us, but the only thing Nan had left were the keys in her pocket, she had lost everything.

In a strange co-incidence at a Riverstone Public school reunion in 2007, by chance, Patricia found herself sitting next to Cliff Conway, son of Mr Conway whose grave is mentioned in the story above.

Tennis Anyone ?

by Heather Smith

In the 1950’s when I was a young girl growing up in Riverstone – tennis in Australia was at its peak and nowhere more so than in Riverstone. Tennis filled a social and competitive role for many of us teetering on the brink of adulthood. Television, computers, clubs and pubs were an unknown quantity to us in those days – our entertainment was self made and tennis could keep a young person very busy for the entire weekend.

The Presbyterian court located in the centre of town on the corner of Garfield Road and Oxford Street was a meeting place for many of us during the school holidays.

Geoff, Ernie and Warren Nichols when they could get away from the family business, the Leach girls Joyce and Fay, Geoff Follett, Leon Turner and I spent many hot and happy afternoons bashing away at a tennis ball. Our only refreshment came from the tap outside the court – the boys drenched their heads while we girls drank daintily from the end of a hose.

On Sunday afternoons we pedalled our bikes or were doubled the three miles (five kms) to “The Groves” Picnic grounds on Windsor Road at Mulgrave. Situated here were two tennis courts, a number of small shelter sheds and a shabby old house which was known rather grandly as the tea rooms.

Brian Woods, John and Lynnie Waters, Kevin Lewis, Colin Crouch and I thought nothing of the long ride out there. Sometimes we struggled out with a large watermelon which was cut up with a pocket knife and then shared around. Kevin Lewis recalls one afternoon that finished in a water melon fight and alleges that Johnnie Waters pushed one into my face for letting down his bike tyres. (The author hotly denies both incidents.)

John Waters dressed in his tennis whites, eating a piece of watermelon.
Photo courtesy of Heather Smith

At the end of the day I was always grateful when my father turned up in his 1949 Ford utility and Lynnie and I rode home in the back while the boys raced behind on their push bikes, back home to Rivo!

Sadly both of these courts have disappeared, the land gobbled up by progress. A church and parking area now replaces the Presbyterian court and on the site of “The Groves” picnic ground there is a large brick building which has seen life first as the Tourist Centre then “The Black Stump” Restaurant, but now seems to be just a vacant building.

Gradually the Robbins’ family took me under their wing. In 1949 Joan Robbins and Beryl Penrose won the Australian Ladies Doubles Championship. Three or four times a week I was coached by Joan in the finer points of tennis.

Ozzie Robbins maintained an excellent court in Oxford Street just past the intersection of Regent Street. The red sandy loam used to top dress the court was obtained from the council owned land on the corner of Bourke Street Richmond. The only remaining evidence of this is the large hole filled with water and now the water hazard on the Richmond Golf course. I then began to play more competitive tennis with the Robbins family, Mr and Mrs Robbins, their daughters Joan and June and the Gavin boys Geoffrey and Ron.

Ernie & Warren Nichols.
Presbyterian tennis court, Photo courtesy of Heather Smith.

Fay & Joyce Leach, Alan Follett, Leon Turner & Ernie Nichols, photo were taken at the Presbyterian tennis court. Photo courtesy of Heather Smith.

Each court was very proud of their competition teams who competed in the Saturday afternoon District competitions. I had been invited to partner Eileen Martin and together with Keith Martin, Darcy Moulds and the Gill boys Harold and Cecil, we represented Wilmar court. The Saturday afternoon competition followed a strict order of play. Each team comprised of four men and two ladies and they played sets of first to six or more with an advantage of two games. Each of the games were Doubles. First to play was the Men’s Doubles followed by two sets of Mixed Doubles then the Ladie’s Doubles. Following afternoon tea the reverse order of Mixed Doubles was played and finally the reverse Men’s Doubles. Each player had completed three sets and the winning team result was based on the best of nine sets. At the end of the season if any two teams were on equal points a count back of all games won during the season separated the two teams.

Afternoon tea, supplied by the home team, was always a source of pride. It was here that the best cooks of the District came to the fore – scones and pikelets with jam and fresh cream, recess cakes filled with jelly and cream, double sponges so high it took an enormous bite to contain the double layers, sandwiches and savouries always accompanied by endless cups of tea poured from large enamel or aluminium tea pots.

Another custom strictly adhered to in Saturday afternoon competitions was all tennis clothes were white or cream. The older men wore long sleeve white cotton shirts and long flannel trousers. If the game became too physical they sometimes rolled up their sleeves. The older ladies were suitably attired in a white dress reaching past the knees and quite often stockings. Both ensembles could be finished off with a white canvas hat or sun shade.

The younger generation prided ourselves on being much more adventurous. The young men wore white shorts and short sleeve cotton T-shirts, gold watches on sun tanned arms and hair slicked back and held in place with ‘California Poppy’ or Brylcream.

We girls wore white dresses with pleated skirts which were steam pressed each week using a very hot iron over a damp cloth. When they blew up following a more strenuous passage of play spectators were given a glimpse of frills and lace….Gorgeous Gussie panties. A daring trend introduced at Wimbledon by an American female player Gussie Moran whose underwear featured rows and rows of gathered frills and lace. Sewing machines all over the district whirred away stitching frills to daring young tennis players’ panties.

White canvas sand shoes and white cotton socks completed our ensembles. We favoured white Dunlop Volleys with rubber soles and after an afternoon of play on courts of orange loam the socks and shoes generally ended up the same colour. A vigorous scrubbing with a brush and Sunlight soap usually removed the stains from the shoes followed by a liberal application of Nugget white shoe cleaner. Sometimes the shoes had to be dried in the oven. If I forgot to do them through the week and if they required quick drying on the morning of competition, I had to resort to the oven of my Mother’s ever faithful fuel stove, kept a-going in all weathers. Usually a smell of burning rubber coming from the kitchen announced that they were ready for wear. The white socks took a little longer to restore to their whiteness. They were rubbed, soaked and boiled, then a liberal rinse in the blue water could bring them back to pristine whiteness.

Gradually I progressed to A grade competition and partnered Claudette Atkins and teamed with ‘Darkie’ Hall, ‘Curley’ Shepherd, Barry Blundell and Trevor Edwards who drove me to the matches each Saturday in his Vauxhall Velox, often balancing my Mother’s carefully prepared contribution to afternoon tea on my lap. Every week I stood nervously at the net as serves from the strongest players in the competition whistled past me each game, but somehow I managed to survive and we won the A Grade.

In 1956 I was married and settled in Riverstone. My husband Kevin was also a keen player who came from Oakville so I played a few seasons there. Oakville had two excellent courts maintained by his uncle Dick Baker on the ground where the Oakville Cricket field is now located.

In the mid 1950’s two courts were constructed in the Meatwork’s paddocks complete with lights. One night a fund raising exhibition match was played there and one of the players was a very young John Newcombe. A strong Sunday morning competition was held there also and was won by the team of sisters Merle Banks and Joyce Foster Lawson Banks, Colin Moulds, Kevin Smith and Trevor Edwards. Ken Foster, Joyce’s husband, was the reserve player.

Racquets were of the assorted variety, wooden frames with cat gut strings. Some of the most popular brands were Slazenger, Oliver Bluebird and Cressy Perfect which were screwed into wooden presses to stop the frame from warping. In 1949 I won a school girl championship and my Father bought me a top of the range Dunlop Maxply costing five pound equivalent today of approximately $10.00. I played with this racquet for over ten years without replacement.

With the advent of lighted courts becoming more popular in the District, night competitions were played all through the summer. This was the opportunity for married couples with children to team up for a night out together and often there would be a line up of prams and strollers outside the perimeter of the court with the off duty players tending to the children.

There were many wonderful Riverstone tennis players. I remember in my generation Marcia Bowd, Ron Cusbert, the Drayton boys George, Alan and ‘Butch’ Drayton, Harry Phillis and Jack Weaver. Tennis was a favourite game of Riverstone sportsmen and women and I hardly knew a person in my day who did not play.

Over the Creekers

by Merv Baldwin

I was born in 1943, the youngest of six children born to Lucinda and Clarrie Baldwin. I never got to know my mother as she died during my birth and I was reared in Windsor by her sister Lilly Davis until I was three years old. I then returned to Riverstone to live with my father when he had married for the second time. Other children in the Baldwin family were Gloria, Thelma, Teddy, Ray (Whop), and Dawn. Our house was situated right on the creek bank, at the end of Clyde Street.

Now aged 63 I am a grandfather and would like to share some of my memories with the old and new generations, of how we lived and survived in the 50’s and 60’s.

Although my real name was Mervyn, at times I was also known as Alwyn, ‘Podge’, or ‘Little Whop’. One of my earliest memories is of sitting on a sugar bag on the ground watching the men, including my father, playing ‘two-up’. My father was a good fisherman and caught plenty of mullet and perch in South and Eastern Creeks. Sometimes of a weekend he would travel by train to Brooklyn and take the ferry to Spencer. Often, I would accompany him on these fishing trips, I can still picture him walking across the paddocks with his cane fishing basket slung across his shoulder.

As a child I loved roaming through the meatwork’s paddocks, exploring around the old piggery and scrounging in their rubbish dumps. There were few fences between the meatworks boundary and Garfield Road and there were tracks running everywhere through the bush. I would often stop and talk with Mr. Jackson who lived in a house right on the creek, he had also built a flood house on four tall poles where he could stay when the area was flooded.

We were the true ‘over the creekers’, we lived on the creek, got mussels from the creek, swam in the creek, fished in the creek, made tin boats to use in the creek and played ‘Two-up’ on the banks of the creek. The old creek was very much a part of our life, sadly today it is only a shadow of its once pristine beauty. In spring the yellow wattle trees growing along the banks always looked great with their reflections on the water.

A lot of children from the early days would have enjoyed the old creek, the current swimming pool wasn’t even thought of. Rubber car tubes were the order of the day and swinging from ropes tied to overhanging branches was popular. Tommy Smith, a local identity, would often demonstrate his diving skills with a mad dash along the creek bank and fly out across the water in spectacular fashion. One part of the creek was known as ‘Smithies’, as the generation that swam in the creek in the 50’s would no doubt remember.

Besides the Baldwins, names of others who swam regularly in the creek included Justice, Delarue, Aberley, Donohue, Loveday, Latimer, Britton, Woods, Lam, Sercombe, Clark, Denis Rosa, Peter Riley, Alan Watton and Billy Mitchell (my apologies to all those boys I have overlooked).

Apart from the creek we played cricket with a bat made from a board and used a kerosene tin for the wicket. We built a bonfire each year to celebrate Empire Day, and we picked mushrooms after periods of rain. We picked blackberries in the summer, using sheets of old iron to climb across the blackberry bushes.

Dawn, Gloria and Thelma Baldwin, Linda Aberley on ‘Little Bridge’.
Photo courtesy of Mervyn Baldwin

Like most of the kids in the 50’s I attended the Riverstone Public School in Garfield Road, always barefoot, which was par for the course in those days. I remember getting the small bags of broken biscuits from Cook’s store and asking for the bruised fruit from Staceys. In later years I attended Richmond High School travelling by the old steam train.

My stepmother died in 1953 when I was 10 years old. I was very fortunate when growing up to have two wonderful and caring aunties – Mary and Kit Attwood. They lived in a house on the corner of Farm and Park Roads and would often take Dawn and myself for a walk up to the Marsden Park shop to buy us an ice cream and lollies, on the way back we would look for the ruins of the ‘mud house’ and look for the little purple chocolate flowers that grew wild in the area.

They took me and my sister Dawn on countless trips all over the place; I still remember the great bus trips to Manly, Thirroul, Mitchell Park, and Bungool. In those days it was a bit surprising to have a lady driver – Mrs Murray; the buses departing from in front of the old ‘Wattle’ milk bar. For the record, Mrs Murray was a confident and top driver, keeping in mind they weren’t the luxury coaches of today.

Mary and Kit Attwood are remembered for walking from their home to the Catholic Church in Riverstone every Sunday. From Marsden Park it was a fair hike, they never complained; even when offered a lift, they politely refused and continued on, feeling more independent and comfortable just to stroll along on their marathon walk.

Another marathon walker of those days was Mick Sullivan; I would see Mick walk for untold miles, a sugar bag strapped over his shoulder, walking through the bush and the meatwork’s paddocks. A very focused and dedicated worker, he would carry out numerous jobs related to general maintenance, and would set up traps to catch the crows to protect the baby lambs.

Mary Attwood Kit Attwood
Photos courtesy of Mervyn Baldwin

Mary Attwood would sometimes venture into the meatwork’s paddocks to release the unfortunate birds caught in Mick’s traps. Mick was not too happy the evening he caught Mary releasing his trapped birds. Mary had a strong fondness for all birds, animals and even insects, I have seen her placing sugar on the ant beds for the ants. She would often bring home stray dogs and cats and care for them, or at the very least, feed them. I well remember at my aunt Mary’s funeral, standing next to Les Harris who remarked “Merv, if Mary doesn’t go to heaven, no one will ever go there.”

All my sisters and brothers were married by the end of the 50’s, so I became a little isolated and lived a little like a gypsy in my teenage years, but it was fun. For two years I lived in a room at the side of Mary and Kit’s place and they provided my meals.

I knocked around with the Aberleys and the Lovedays, we ruled the bush in those days. The Loveday family loved their horses, Sam and Tony shared their natural attributes with the horses, while Ron trained trotters and made his own roads through the bush with his baker’s cart and draught horse. Mrs. Loveday was always very kind to me, and often advised me to buy a block of land (I wish I had listened).

Karl Heinrich, nicknamed ‘Flea’, was another good friend of mine and Sam’s, from over the creek; he was a promising footballer and all round sportsman. It was really tragic for Flea to die so young in a motorbike accident, he had so much natural talent, he could have been anything.

For a time I lived at Cow Flat and was friends with the Whiteheads and Sammy Taber, I think Sam was the mechanic who got the old ‘A’ model Ford going that we drove around Whitehead’s paddocks. Bobby Sercombe was another ‘over the creeker’ and I had a lot of wild nights with him. I probably regret a few, but it’s a part of growing up. Bobby’s mum always made me feel welcome, even though she had ten or twelve children she could always give me something to eat, amazing stuff.

I would have liked to see the old Rivo hotel remain near the railway gates. ‘The Riverstone Royal’ as we knew it, I don’t think there was much royalty there, but it had character and to me a thousand memories, it was my hangout on weekends, a few beers, a few bets, and a few coins in the old jukebox on Saturday night. If you didn’t see a good fight there it was a quiet weekend.

There were guys I was told to have respect for —- George Cafe, Jim Woods, Les Luland and a host of others, I can’t remember all the names now. But I do remember Bruce ‘Poppy’ Cameron. When the beers kicked in he took on the world and feared no man, a likeable rogue. I don’t remember how many times I drove him home, but do know it was a nightmare trying to get him out of the car. Sometimes he would become a little disorientated and I would get smashed for my troubles, but he would be your best mate next day. That was the trend of the old Rivo pub.

I think a lot of the boys those days had been through the local boxer and trainer Aub Gillespie’s coaching school, while some had a natural ability. I guess some just liked to let off steam after a hard day at the old meatworks, maybe it was a sort of release valve.

I remember helping myself to a little Government property, not really being a criminal, I was just adventurous —–had an all expenses paid holiday in the Parramatta maximum security guest house. Two inmates took an acute dislike to me and singled me out; I couldn’t believe my luck when an aboriginal guy said in an abusive voice — “Leave him alone, he’s a Rivo boy.” It is a new generation now, but the Rivo of old did have a reputation.

My thirst for adventure increased, so several of us had a meeting in Roger Latimer’s shack over the creek and decided to head to the bush to make our fortune. Our team consisted of Mickey Aberley, Brian ‘Toot’ Johnston, Joe Maher, myself and a few others. The final day had come for departure — ‘Toot’ had become intoxicated and lost the plot completely, Mrs Aberley, a devoted mother of eight children pleaded with me not to take her son Mickey. So in the final wash up with the late scratchings, it was just Joe and myself, with a bag of groceries and a 1948 FX Holden sedan.

Joe and I scored jobs with the Snowy Mountains Authority. Joe couldn’t handle the bush and lasted just one week. I stuck it out for six years as a plant operator, working all over the Snowy scheme and had adventures I could write books on, maybe I will one day. One of these adventures was when six of us hired a Piper Cherokee for two weeks and flew to Cairns, quite an experience in the 1960’s. I have no regrets, only this year I flew to New Zealand and had a reunion with a former Snowy worker and his family.

Well, this is my contribution to my growing up in Rivo and to the small clan who lived ‘over the creek’ in those early years. I will end with my favourite philosophy that I read in an antique shop – Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift, that’s why we call it the present.

This article was written by Merv Baldwin in 2006.

Mill Street

by Rosemary Phillis

In 2007 Mill Street was awarded the prize for the most attractive street in the Blacktown City Council Garden Competition.

Mill St road signage

Mill Street was first set out and named in the 1877 subdivision plan DP337. It was given a descriptive name along with a number of other streets that it ran parallel to; Church, Park and Market. A member of the Blacktown Historical Society once asked me if the names had any significance to local landmarks. The answer is no, at the time there was no mill in Mill Street, no church in Church Street, no park in Park Street and no market in Market Street.

Co-incidentally however, in later years the Pearce family constructed a mill in Mill Street, the vacant land on the corner of Pitt and Park Street is regarded by some as a park and the Marketown Shopping complex was constructed on the end of Market Street.

Two links to the early days are the old house next to the Mill Street Reserve and the remnants of a well in the park itself. If you stand near the top pedestrian entrance to the park and look in about five metres, even in dry weather you will see a green ‘circle’, which shows the location of a former well.

These days there are no vacant lots in Mill Street and the pride that many of the home owners in the street take in their houses and gardens is reflected in their award as most attractive street in 2007.

Arthur, Joe and Jack Pearce, cutting timber at their timber mill 24 Mill St Riverstone
Photo courtesy of the Pearce Family