Stories

There’s a unique story behind every individual, and these are some of our residents’ personal accounts of life, before Respect and as residents.

Libby Fitzpatrick

Libby Fitzpatrick

86, St Ann's

I don’t know how old I was, but they must have asked me if I wanted to go down and see something special, and Mum didn’t want me to go, but anyway I went, and I remember holding onto this hand and when they let the pontoon go it went swoosh and the water came back at me, it was a bit scary, but I was pretty right. Sir Alan Knight was lovely with me, he become quite a good friend of mine through my life. Lady Knight and Alan Knight lived near me and so I knew them very well, and so with this pontoon, Mum didn’t want me to be there, but Dad wanted me to go, but Alan Knight took me and I remember him holding my hand and he didn’t let it go, he made sure I was alright.  They had a floating bridge (Hobart Bridge, built 1943), part of it is still there because there is a lift span and they’ve still got a bit of the concrete there underneath the big bridge now that goes over and so it was in the same position and they used it while they built the big bridge, and then of course the big ship ran into the big bridge and my husband had problems with that!

My Dad used to like taking me places and my sister was 9 years older than me. Dad was out a job and so he became a stock and share broker, I don’t know how he made all his money, but he made a lot of money. He would often go to Melbourne because the stock exchange there was bigger than here, and if there was a lot to be sold, he used to go to the mainland. I went with him once and it scared the living daylights out of me! Because I was frightened I was going to get lost, because we were near the railways station and there must be a river or something that comes out. It’s funny the memories you have when you were little.  Back then life was different – more primitive – we’ve got much easier lives now, stoves that work and that sort of thing. When I was first married, I don’t know how I did my cooking, but I know it wasn’t easy, it wasn’t the way my mother did it. I lived through it, and learned to cook. When we married, we went to Bronte Park and it was very primitive up there.

My husband (Michael) was an engineer and he knew everything, you know what it’s like when they know it all. He was a very clever man and did most of the dams here, designed them. I was lucky to be able to travel the world a lot with my husband, walking through dams. We did a lot of travel and he designed dams and he did a rock fill one, and it was quite unusual and it’s the dam behind, you know where they do the racing with the rowing? Well, there’s a dam upstream from that, and it’s a rock filled dam and it was quite unusual, never been built before and so he travelled the world telling them about this and there are a lot of dams like it now, because they were simpler to build and they were stronger and stayed put. But we did have a fright once, we were out somewhere and Michael suddenly realised that there was a huge swell of water coming down, and we’ve just had one recently in the rivulet, and he worried about this dam and he was gone! And I thought oh my god that will be the end of him! Anyway, it was alright, he realised that rivulet was going to knock his dam up further, but it did stand up to it. But some of them, when there was a huge storm, it was quite dangerous, you didn’t want to go near it.  Being an engineer… we nearly got flooded a few times. And you know the big flood we had in the other day? We had one of those. And he was running trying to control it because it was part of his job. You lose people when you’ve got a big flood going through your city.

I remember sitting down with my children, I think it was the last day of the school holidays, and I was sitting at the little beach near Wrest Point and I suddenly saw this fire and it literally went pssshhhhhh like that and I thought jeepers! That’s a strong wind doing that! It was a fire out at New Norfolk, so I said “Come on kids, we’ve got to get home!” So we got home, just in time to shut it all up and people came, wanting to break windows and things, and I said “No! Don’t touch anything!” We had to police them, because they wanted to break windows and pinch things I think! It was awful! Anyway, the sarking under the roof burnt, but the house was alright, but it was scary. The fire literally hit Fern Tree at the same time as it hit me at the top of the hill at Mount Stuart, and that was scary, that’s how fast it was going. It was one of the worst fires I think they’ve ever had. I had my three children and also my sister’s children, I had a lot on my mind, I said to them all “Don’t move from anywhere! You’ve got to stay exactly there!” and that was under the house. They behaved themselves, I think they were a bit scared, it frightened them. But anyway, we survived. One house burnt right down behind me and it was very sad, because she had two or three children and I don’t think she could afford that happening, she didn’t have it insured. But anyway, that’s life, you’ve got to be insured. Michael rang me up and I ran back inside because I knew who it was and he said ‘have you got a fire up there?’ and I said ‘YES! Get home quick!”, “Oh, how bad is it? I don’t think I need to come home?” I said, ‘Get. Home.” When he came home at the top of the hill, he said ‘Oh my god’. He realised he should have come home! But yes, that was quite an experience. He rang up and argued about it with me and said, just how bad is it? I said, GET HOME! Honestly, it was like I was making a fuss about nothing!  When that fire came at me, it really was scary, and I had a baby on my hip, I had two small children, and my sister’s children, so I had to look after a lot of children, I said you’re not allowed to move! You’ve just got to stay still! It was a bad day, I’ve never forgotten it, and I never want to do it again. But I was sitting on the beach when I saw it on the other side of the river and I knew then I was in trouble. On the top of Mount Stuart, there’s a look out there, my house was just below the lookout, it wasn’t safe, but I was lucky.

I had to look after dad and mum as they got older, they got sick, like mum got ulcers on her legs and dad got a bit of Alzheimer’s. He liked to have lunch at the RSL club, he’d go there and the club would ring through and say he’s arrived. And then when he’d left, they’d ring through and say he’s gone, and then the person where he ends up had to ring in, and then I knew where he was. Well, sometimes it didn’t always go right, and I’d have to go out leaving my children at home looking for my father. And I found him at bar one night. It must’ve been… just turned 6 o’ clock. And they said, “Thank God, you’ve come!”, because it was Friday. And they didn’t know what to do with this man that they had sitting in there. He’d bought some trousers, had money. Anyway, I found him and got him back home. But it wasn’t easy because I had three children. I can’t remember how old they were, but I know it was a struggle because Michael’s job was a pretty full-on job and quite often he didn’t get home until late either. So Drew, my eldest, had to be responsible a little bit. If I had to go looking for dad, Drew would take over looking after the two girls. It wasn’t easy to look after parents back in those days, if they say they wanted to do something, you couldn’t stop them. And dad bought tickets to go to Brisbane, and I had to send… I got a nurse to go with them. Actually it was the nurse dad used to go to. She says, “I’ll go with him. I’ll take him up there for 12 days” – she lasted 8 days! He was a bit naughty. And, you know, she lost him a couple of times, just like I lost him.  Thinking he was just sitting there and suddenly he wasn’t there. He’d take off. Anyway, he was a very good dad to me, so I really did have to look after him.

I started working at Lipscombe Childcare, it was who I knew rather than what I knew that got me the job. I remember Princess Mary’s mother came in one day and she said “I don’t like the way you’re running this,” she said, “I want all the cupboard doors taken off” and she looked around the room with a real snooty nose, and she took the doors off! Of course all the children bought everything out on the floor and then they were sick of them! Anyway, I rang her up and I said “well I’m not going to stay here if you’re going to leave it like this, you’ve got to come back down and out these cupboard doors back on, and I will stay!” And she came down and fixed it! She didn’t apologise, she still thought she was right! But it was stupid! Some of those old ladies, you couldn’t tell them anything! I suppose I was just as bad when I got old. I tried to listen to people and tried to give softer advice.  Looking after Princess Mary was quite a responsibility when she came to the crèche. She grew up with me I suppose, because I started looking after her probably when she was about 5. She was a sweet little girl, and she has always been sweet to me, and when she first met her love, I said to her “Well, you’ve got to go and quickly learn the language”, which she did, and she came back and she thanked me for that. And then they met up again in Sydney when there was a yacht race on and that was when he proposed. She’s got 4 children now. I haven’t seen her for probably 12 months, the last time they were here, they went to Government House and I did go out and see them, but I felt a bit like I was being pushy, but she did ring up and ask me to come, but it didn’t seem right. She didn’t get the chance to see me much once she had the four children, but I loved her children, and they were always lovely with me.

I did a lot of teaching (painting), I took over the running of the Colour Circle, but then we lost the building and then I didn’t know what to do and I was going to close it down, and then I ran into the Lord Mayor and I said “Gee it’s sad that I’m going to have to stop running those Colour Circle classes,” and he said “Oh, you can’t do that! My wife learned how to paint there! I will find you a building.” Anyway, he did the next day and it’s still going! I’d like to go up and see it again, you know, the people, but I don’t like to ask.

It’s harder to look after children these days, I think. You know you’ve got to work, and they’re in crèche, you have to be careful, you know, how you handle them and I think the crèche did very well with the little ones. They teach them; you’re teaching them all the time because if you don’t teach them, they’re not as bright. So, you know, you got to teach them, and play with them, and put the babies to bed.  You’ve got to make sure they eat properly, and they don’t spit it out or throw it on the floor. It’s… it wouldn’t be… I don’t think I could cope with the children today. Because they’re a bit more advanced or something. I don’t know. I can’t explain it. But the children in our day, a lot of them went to crèche and they didn’t see their parents. Parents dropped them off at 8 o’clock and picked them up at 6. How do you know your child when you do that? There’s too much of the crèche I think. But what do I know.

Oh. I don’t think I could handle it (raising teenagers today). You got to treat them as an adult. You mustn’t treat them as children. I can remember something happened. I can’t think what it was now. But I snapped and it doesn’t work when you snap, you make it worse.  Well, you got to keep an eye on them because you can’t trust them. And if you can’t trust them, they might get pregnant. And so, I don’t know. I did manage to cope with my own but it wasn’t easy. But I did get them through.  I caught my daughter smoking. I had been a smoker until somebody said to me that if I was having a baby, if you continue to smoke, it will hurt your baby. I came home and I had a cigarette, “Oh! This is hurting my baby.” I put it out and I didn’t have another one ever again. But, honestly, I don’t know how I gave up because I used to smoke about 20 a day.  I don’t know why I smoked. It was nerves I suppose. Dad smoked and I suppose I smoked too. I started when I was about ten. A friend of mine, and she still rings me nearly every day, she still smokes. But she used to pinch her father’s smokes and I think I used to pinch a few of dad’s too, so that’s how I got them.

There was a lot more respect then there is now, which is sad, I think. Do you agree with me? Respect is being polite, being friendly, and not being bossy. I had a good life and an interesting life and, you know, I’ve tried to join in with everything. And I do a lot of paintings here and now, we’d been doing this sort of stuff, and, you know, I just enjoy being with people. I don’t like sitting here and not having somebody to talk to or do something. Once I’ve read the paper, I’m usually off to see everyone…

Marie de la Motte

Marie de la Motte

85, St Ann's

My parents, Albert and Elsie, were both from farming stock.  Dad was from Yarlington (near Colebrook) and Mum was from Gray (near St Mary’s in the northeast of Tasmania).  Both left the land and my dad had various jobs in Hobart and Launceston until he was offered a position as a salesman with the Singer Sewing Machine Company in Launceston.  Mum was a cook in various guest houses.  They married in 1930 and had my brother, Peter in 1931 and I was born in 1933.  Soon afterwards dad was transferred to Hobart where he remained with the same company until he retired at the age of 65.  Mum stayed at home to look after us children.  Money was hard to come by in the pre-war years and later Mum told us that there were times when she went without a meal (without letting Dad know) so he wouldn’t have to go without – seeing as he was the breadwinner.

Often Friday nights in Summer Dad would take us in the work van to shoot rabbits.  Or in the season, deer or wallabies for food.  That helped with the meat bill significantly.  In those days (1930s & 1940s) the baker and the milkman both came around with their horse-and-cart delivering the bread and milk every morning.  When necessary, Dad would pick up meat from the butchers’ on his way home for lunch from work, as there were no refrigerators in those days. The grocer would come to the door each week to pick up Mum’s grocery order, then would deliver the groceries each Friday, bringing them to the kitchen and unpacking the boxes onto the table, and taking the boxes with him back to the shop. There were no supermarkets in those days and not very many households had telephones. Later when we did get a phone, Mum would ring through an order to the grocer and he would deliver it on Friday.  As I said, Dad came home for lunch every day.  One of my earliest memories was when Dad was leaving for work after lunch, Mum and I would go down to the gate, he would say goodbye to Mum and drive me down the street to the corner. He would kiss me goodbye and I would run back to Mum who was waiting on the footpath for me.  Imagine that happening these days!

In those days, Kingston and Blackman’s Bay were holiday places and one summer holiday I remember Dad hiring a shack at Kingston for a week.  He took us down on the Friday night and would go home to work for the week and would pick us up the following Friday.  Mum, Peter and I would enjoy going down to the beach every day. We would play on the sand and Mum would be sitting under the shade of a tree reading Woman’s Home Journal or Home Notes – 2 of the magazines of the day!  I must have been sitting too long in the sun one particular day. The next day I woke up with a huge sun blister on my thigh.  I have never liked the beach since!  After we married and had our own family, often in the summer I would pack a picnic tea, pick Deryck up from work and go down to Sandy Bay beach.  Deryck would take the children swimming and playing in the sand – I stayed will away on the grass putting out the picnic tea.  I hated sandy sandwiches – and I just hated the beach after that experience as a child.

In 1939 Dad build a home in Montagu Street, Lenah Valley.  In that era most children (and many men as well) came home for lunch.  Dad would pick us up from school in the Bedford van, belonging to the company, take us home for lunch and then back to school for the afternoon. Dad used to work one week in Queenstown, a few days in New Norfolk and a few days down the Huon each month.  When Dad was away working and we were older, we would travel on the tram to school and home again, but still having lunch at home.  I remember when World War 2 ended, Dad picked Peter and me up from school and took us down to the Town Hall to witness the celebrations – I was 12 years old. During the war years Dad and the other fathers dug air raid shelters at the school and we also had one at home. All windows were taped up with tar paper tape and blacked out to stop the glass splintering.  We had air raid drills every week at school – much as fire drills are practised today.  Mr Abbott, our next door neighbour, had a large box attached to the boot of his car which was a gas producer.   I have no idea how it worked but it must have somehow produced gas to fuel the car.  Food and clothing were rationed as well as petrol.  And it was also difficult to obtain building supplies.

I was a junior teacher at the Lenah Valley School when I was 16 and the following year went to the Launceston Teacher’s College.  In 1953 my husband Deryck migrated by ship – a 3 week voyage – from Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) to join his brother who emigrated the year before.  During the 1950s the White Australia Policy was in force.  This meant anyone wanting to come to Australia had to prove that they were 50% European. Deryck’s brother combed old church registers and tombstones and on the back of a picture in a church he found a document where his great-great grandfather on his father’s side had come from Roubaix, France, in 1796 during the French revolution.  On his mother’s side, her people had come from Amsterdam, Holland, with the East India Company.  This proved European descent of a least 50% – French and Dutch – which fulfilled the requirement for Australian citizenship.

I met Deryck in 1954 at Bicheno, when he came to visit my Aunty who was a missionary in Ceylon whom he met there.  Deryck was working in Melbourne and when he returned after the visit he wrote to me now and again – and I responded of course! In the following year (1955) Dad and Mum gave me a trip to Melbourne for Easter, arranging for me to stay with some friends.  I had written to tell Deryck so he met me at the airport and took me to our friend’s home. I am afraid I didn’t see much of our friends as Deryck and I spent all the time we could together.  By the time Easter ended we had decided to get married on 23rd December, that same year – 1955.

I don’t know what Mum and Dad expected, but really we just clicked and stayed that way for 56 years until Deryck passed away.  I knew Dad was racist (which wasn’t uncommon in the 1950s) and wanted me to marry an Australian.   I don’t think even an Englishman or a New Zealander would have done for Dad.  However, he did come around a little when our first child, Sharon, was born.  Mum was softer and came around much more quickly.  It wasn’t easy for foreigners then, as many people felt the same as Dad.  Deryck was outgoing and friendly and I think others responded in the same way.

We built a house behind Mum and Dad and had four more children after Sharon – Philip, Stephen and Ruth, and then 10 years later Martin arrived. I went back teaching at Goodwood School when Ruth was 4 years old, and the other children were at Lenah Valley until the following year when Ruth joined them. About this time Deryck applied for, and was granted, his Australian citizenship.  In 1970 we moved to a small farm at Dromedary, which was a wonderful move. We had 14 years there before moving on.  The children enjoyed having plenty of room for their various hobbies, old cars, and a horse for Ruth etc. Deryck could get away from the office. He was Claims Managers at Medical Benefits Fund but his heart was on the land.  He had been brought up on tea estates and enjoyed an energetic childhood, especially when school was closed for the whole year in 1942 due to WW2.  He loved gardening.

Bridgewater School was a small country school of 65 children – where Philip, Stephen and Ruth had their primary school years.  When Martin was about 2 months old the principal asked if I would teach music in the school.  Martin would sleep or play next to the piano in his carry cot.  When he was around 12 months old he upgraded to a playpen and could recognise 14 or more songs and would sing along with the children in his own lingo.  When he was a little older, the principal asked if I would teach English and Social Studies, two hours a week, so I arranged to leave Martin with a friend who had a child the same age.  Sharon was already attending Ogilvie High School.  She and Deryck used to catch the train from Boyer Paper Mills each morning at the bottom of our paddock where there was a small siding, and home again on the train to Bridgewater, where I would drive the 3 miles to pick them up.  Each Friday night there would be a steam locomotive pulling two or three carriages…bringing back fond memories for Deryck, who had worked as a fireman on the railway engines in Ceylon – his first job after leaving school.

The children all did very well at school and trained as a dental therapist, diesel mechanic, air traffic controller, nurse and IT programmer.  Now all are married and we have 15 grandchildren and 15 and ¾ great grandchildren.   In 1975 Deryck took me to Sri Lanka for the first time.  Deryck made trips back four more times and I accompanied him on three of those trips.  We also went to the UK and New Zealand and stayed with Sharon and her husband who had a café in the Solomon Islands.  This trip was in April 2011.  Sadly Deryck passed away suddenly just 12 months later.  We spent many happy years of family life with its ups and downs.

My advice to parents today would be to please teach your children to be honest, have respect and to take responsibility for their actions.

Albert & Mavis Drew

Albert & Mavis Drew

88 & 91, St Ann's

Albert: I was in the Northcote band and we did a tour of Tasmania and in the process we came to Hobart and Mavis’ father was the bandmaster of the Hobart band, and so we met. And Mavis came back to Melbourne for a while and then we decided we’d come back here and so we finished up getting married and then we stayed here ever since. I was 18 and Mavis was 21, she was the original cougar. See it’s so different these days. I was sort of in Melbourne, Mavis was here, but nowadays, you just come over and both go live with one another. No one thinks anything of it. In those days it was a high disgrace. If you went and lived… you just didn’t do it! If you wanted to live together, you had to get married. No doubt about it. No, we’ve had a good life together. Really good. So, there you go.
Mavis: I paid him to say that.  This 1st December we have been married for 70 years, we are looking forward to celebrations with the family.

Mavis: I think younger people should forget about holidays once they’re married. And try to work together and when you have arguments, try to work it out between you and don’t just pack up and buzz off. They make the big mistake now of having holidays and wanting everything first, and then when they get married, they find that they haven’t got what somebody else has got, because somebody else didn’t rush into going on holidays. They’ve got their things together and worked on getting a home first and then…
Albert: Looking back, I mean, we were in the shack, and we never had any washing machine back then, and Mavis used to do the washing over the bath. We didn’t have our own refrigerator, and eventually we did get a refrigerator, we got a vacuum cleaner, a washing machine. We thought we were on top of the world. And any thought of holidays… Oh, we used to go to Melbourne, my parents were over there. We used to go over there about once a year to see them, or they’d come over here. We never spent big, so Mavis went back to work and we had extra money coming in and that sort of set us up, then we travelled.

Albert: I think things are a lot different these days, and I think the fact we were pretty strict on the eldest, it worked on the others, they knew what would happen before, and if they stepped out of line they knew what to expect. It just set the tone for it and I mean we really didn’t spank them all that much, but they knew that if they did something wrong that was the punishment in those days. I always used to look at it, “Do it now and get it over with and get on with things”.
Mavis: You’d laugh now, but Albert used to cut the boys hair…five boys and they wanted their hair…
Albert: This was about The Beatles’ time
Mavis: He had different cuts, square cut and everything else and when they got older they wanted to go to the barbers. This particular day, Albert had gone in the day before and said to the barber, “the kids will be in later and they’ll tell you they want this cut and that cut and something else” but he said “they’ll have the short back and sides anyway”. The boys all came in and they sat in the chair and start to line off what they wanted done to their hair, the barber said, “don’t worry boys,” he said “you won’t have to worry about that…”
Albert: “Your father’s already been in.”

Albert: We went from the Salvation Army and went to Wesley Church quite a few years, and then all the kids grew up and they didn’t want to go to church, and we thought oh well, we were only going to sort of give them a lead, and so we just didn’t bother anymore after that.
Albert: I never had a beer until I was 35 because of that (Salvation Army). I’d been brought up by Salvation Army, they never had alcohol at my home. And I thought I was setting my family a good example by not having it. But then when my eldest son, he was about 15 or 16, came home drunk one night, staggered up the stairs, I thought, “Oh, perhaps I’d better start having a drink and show him how to drink”.
Mavis: He made it all the way up the stairs!
Albert: The joys of bringing up boys! I guess girls are as bad. They surely would be these days.


Albert: We did silly things like sulking instead of sorting things out, we’d go for days without talking. That was just plain ridiculous.
Mavis: And now we look back and think how stupid we were to sulk about silly little things when it was only a simple thing that you could’ve…
Albert: Sorted out
Albert: We’ve always been a good couple together, and, you know, got along well together and that sort of thing, and now looking back, I couldn’t see doing anything a great deal different.

Mavis Drew

Mavis Drew

91, St Ann's

My family lived in Adelaide when I was born and moved to Tasmania when I was 4. We came to Tasmania so my father could find work and we lived with my grandparents at the old female factory, which was burnt in the 1967 bush fires. My father eventually found work on the roadworks. I would be the only person alive who lived in the women’s prison. I was only a little girl when my grandparents lived there. It was the Female Factory and the girls and married mothers were this side, and there was a big archway that you went through on this side.  Where I lived would have been the matron’s quarters. It was a lovely old home and beautiful old staircase. It was beautiful and it, you know, it was a really lovely home to live in, but we lived through some funny things there.  Grandpa used to kill the pigs and then someone used to come and cut the meat up. Grandma used to make the butter. I used to turn the handle for the butter to mix it up and it comes out and you cut it into shape.  But living down in the country, that was a circus. I didn’t have a doll or a doll’s tram or anything like that. And mum one Christmas made a cloth doll, painted its face really pretty, and my pram was a baking dish with a rope on it.

My first days of school, I was warned if I didn’t stop talking, I’d be punished. I couldn’t stop talking could I? The teacher called me up the front and got the glue and stuck a patch over my mouth…that was respect. Parents nowadays would hit the roof, but parents in those days would probably say you deserved it.  I didn’t think this it was funny at the time. But my brother’s only 13 months younger than me, and we were in walking distance of the school to home. And one day we took our shoes and socks off, to walk through the creek that had just overflowed down the bottom of our school yard. The creek ran right up to the prison, at the Women’s prison where we lived. And so we got our shoes and socks off and toddled off up the creek, which we would have got in trouble for. Anyway, we got as far as the bridge that goes over the creek there at the Women’s prison, and there’s mum sitting on the lawn with the strap.

I left school at 14 and went to work – this was during the war – went to work at Rundles the Jewellers. At 16 I went to the Optical Annex – that’s where they used to make these lenses for the cameras for the aeroplanes, the guns and that sort of thing.  All sorts of cameras that they would need. And so we used to make those. And the work finished after the war.  I used to grind them from the rough glass so that they were absolutely smooth and they had to be just right to fit the cameras. So I had to start right from scratch and I used to have a good time, but it was a sad time. Some of the girls that worked with me… some of their husbands, they were just married and they went off to the war, and the girls I worked with, some of their husbands didn’t come back… And they had to keep on working through that. At that stage I didn’t know Albert, I just had to sort of be there to talk to the girls and I was the youngest. It was a bad time for the girls that were left behind.

I was there (1967 Hobart bushfires) and I was minding somebody else’s little baby. He was about 18 months I suppose. His mother was a school teacher and he was having his sleep. My next door neighbour, who is still my friend today, we were sitting out on the lawn enjoying a bag of peaches my sister had given me a few days before, and then suddenly there was an explosion on the hill opposite. Then I said to Gwen, “We better ring the fire brigade. Those people wouldn’t have known that happened.” So she goes in to ring: no answer. By this time, the fire was over the hill and it kept on coming. Anyway, the fire brigade came up there and by this time the sparks out of the gum trees had blown over the top of our house into the bush and set that all alight. And so it came back over our house. By this time, I said to Gwen, “You’d better ring your husband. We better get out of this!”, so she rang in and he didn’t believe us! We said, “Well you know, the place is on fire!” By this time the shock had set into me, Gwen’s husband drove up in the car, and he’s going up the driveway, and I got my hose, and as he got out of the car, I hosed him up.  He says, “Ah, Mavis. That’s my new suit!” I said to him, “I don’t want you to catch on fire!”  So, I grab the little boy and we got in the car and drove down to the South Hobart School and … all this time I was in my bathers. I’d been sunbathing and didn’t have any clothes on, just bathers!  And I couldn’t go back inside; you couldn’t get inside because it was all on fire.  So a gentleman took the little boy to the barracks to be looked after, the mother got word that the little boy was there. That’s where everybody went to pick up their children, at the barracks. I was just waiting at the bus stop at the post office for my children to come from Cosgrove so that they wouldn’t get the bus home because there wasn’t anything there.  And the eldest boy, he was only 16, worked at the electrical shop, where Albert worked.  There was a lady, she appeared from I don’t know where, she had a basket full of sandwiches. I don’t know how she knew anybody would be at the post office. From there, I got all my kids and I was trying to work out what I could do. The only thing I could do was to fly to Melbourne to Albert’s parents, and I didn’t know how I was going to get the money to get there.  We finished up in Brighton Camp. From there on my father worked at Clarence High School.  And opposite there, they had a house that they used for like a camp, like you talked about. And they let us have that for 12 months.  The top floor. We were… the kids still came in from the country, but they used the bottom floor, but we were allowed to have the top floor.  But we had to wait until they all used the shower and gone off and…and gone to bed then we were allowed to go down and shower. But it was comfortable we were able to start to get our life together.

Well, after the fires we didn’t have anything else but the boys’ school uniforms and we didn’t know next morning what we were going to do. So we heard that they had clothes being distributed at the church, and so we went off down there and one of the twins he was about 13 – 13 or 14 – anyway, he looked at the clothes and said “I’m not wearing those”. And his father said, “Well son you can wear those or not wear anything. We don’t have any money so what are you going to do?”

I think younger people should forget about holidays once they’re married. And try to work together and when you have arguments, try to work it out between you and don’t just pack up and buzz off. They make the big mistake now of having holidays and wanting everything first, and then when they get married, they find that they haven’t got what somebody else has got, because somebody else didn’t rush into going on holidays. They’ve got their things together and worked on getting a home first and then holidays.

Albert Drew

Albert Drew

88, St Ann's

My parents were in the Salvation Army, they were required to move every 12 months or two years. Two years was the longest they ever stayed in any place. I was at a different school every year, it was very difficult to make friends when we were constantly moving, I didn’t enjoy that. We moved from where I was born in Southern Australia, to Melbourne, then we moved to Launceston, and then back to Melbourne – that was the beginning of the war – we settled at Northcote, a suburb of Melbourne.

In my early years it was a pretty traumatic time because I was only 9 when the war broke out and about 14 or 15 when it finished. My father went with the Red Shield, he went up to serve in New Guinea and my 3 brothers, 2 were in the Air Force and the other was in the AIF. They all came back except my brother in the AIF; he was killed.  And having them all away from home must have been a terrible time for my mother. I didn’t realise until I looked back on that, what a terrible time it must’ve been.  I feel very sorry for my mother and the things she had to… the way she had to go, and I feel like I could’ve done a lot better, as far as supporting her I mean. I was only 10 or 11, but looking back now, I could’ve done more to support her in my own way.  There wasn’t much I could’ve done except behave myself a bit more, not leave school. She never found out about that, only when I truly left. The problem was I found changing schools so often, and going in from state to another state, all their standards were different, and I’d come in and we always moving over the Christmas period, which didn’t give you a chance to get a reference. The school you were going to and the teachers would bombard you with information and all the rest of it. I reckon looking back I could’ve enjoyed my schooling my lot better.  I started working at age 14 as a motor body builder and at the age of 25 was in retail working at electrical stores.

After we got married I set about building a little holiday shack on our block of land. And then in front of it, we would go on to build our house. I used to come home from work and Mavis would have the children fed, ready for bed, and we had our dinner, and I shot off, I was gone to work on the home. So Mavis was left with the children. And luckily I was just a stone’s throw, just a walk into the front of it. And as soon as Mavis finished with the children, she’d come down and help. It took us 12 months to build the shack. It was a four-room shack. It was what was called in those days a ‘temporary dwelling’. So what happened was we lived in that while I built the house. Of course in those days, I still used to play football and cricket on the weekend. And didn’t work on Sundays, so I was pretty restricted on time. And anyway, I built the house and we lived in that for quite a few years.  In the midst of trying to buy the block of land and get it established we had a son, about 14 months later. Then, let’s see, there were these twin sons. We had twins. That was a bit of a…you could say, blow. But it wasn’t really, when they told us we were going to have twins. And we had nothing! And a two year old sitting on the step waiting for mummy to come home from the hospital.  So we had a bit of a time then. Anyway, we moved in and we built a house. It was on a hill. In those days we still had to take all of the gear to up to the block, because in those days there were no trucks, you know, we had a bit of a drive up and couldn’t get up easily with a load of bricks or metal. We used to get down at night when I came home from work. Mavis would have a rope around her shoulders onto the barrow, and I’d have the wheelbarrow and we took it all up. That was a happy time. We were young and we knew we had to do it that way or we wouldn’t get it done. And so then we worked long like that…It was all part of it. I knew, you know, it had to be done.

When the shack was finished, the inspector came up and he said, “Alright. Yes, I’ll pass it. I believe you’ve finished.” But when we moved into the shack, it was our temporary dwelling, we’d like to call it, the inspector from the Hobart City Council came up and he said to Mavis, ”You know you’re not supposed to be living in this? You’ve got no permission” or anything like that. He said, “Does your husband want to spend his Christmas in jail?” So anyway, long and short of it was I had to go into the Council and they said to me, “Well you can lodge your deeds as your good intention that you will build a house. I said “I can’t do that because if I give you the deeds I can’t borrow the money to build the house! “Oh, you can pay a deposit of 200 pounds” he said. I said, “I haven’t got 200 pounds”. And he said, “Oh, if you get an influential person who’ll go and guarantee it and say that you’ll do it then.” So anyway, the Reverend from the Wesley Church signed the little thing saying, “Yes, I was an upstanding citizen; I’m sure to do it.” It certainly got us through that. So then we built the house and finished around the mid 1950’s, the kids all grew up in there.  And what I should tell you that had a three-bedroom house and it wasn’t like plaster sheet like on these walls. This was lathen plaster, we used to call it. The whole house, the ceiling and everything. I hadn’t built anything before so I had the book ‘The Australian Carpenter’ told you how to build a house and so I looked up what to do for this and that and pitching the roof. My father-in-law was a cabinet maker and he came up and said, “No. You’ll never do that. You’ll have to get somebody in to do it.”  But anyway, I had my book here, and so I did it!

Well, the thing was, in those days, I played football in North Hobart for a little while, then I got injured, and with the growing family, I thought, “Well, this isn’t good” so I had to do something else. So, I took up umpiring; I umpired for about 15 years. But the thing was, with the umpiring you got paid for it unlike football, so I put it into the house and it helped us build the house and that sort of thing.  Looking back, I mean, we were in the shack, and we never had any washing machine back then, and Mavis used to do the washing over the bath. We didn’t have our own refrigerator, and eventually we did get a refrigerator, we got a vacuum cleaner, a washing machine. We thought we were on top of the world! And any thought of holidays… Oh, we used to go to Melbourne, my parents were over there. We used to go over there about once a year to see them, or they’d come over here. We never spent big, so Mavis went back to work and we had extra money coming in and that sort of set us up, then we travelled.

Things were going nicely until the ‘67 bush fires came along, and it went all down, that was a traumatic time. I was down in Middleton installing a washing machine and a stove. When I was driving, I could see this fire coming over the hills at the back of the city, and I thought, “Gee! That’s going be close by the time I come back”. And anyway, I got down there, it was about lunchtime, and the bloke was like, “Oh, stay for a bit of lunch”. Fortunately, I did because we were having lunch when the fire got down there, so I helped him save his house, not knowing that my house was burning down at the same time. My eyes got burnt from the fire so somebody brought me down up from Middleton to the hospital and formed a queue, there were a lot of people with burnt eyes and that sort of thing. They had it all set up beautifully in that when you went in, the doctor looked at you and would say, “You go that way and you go that way. That’s not badly burnt.” that sort of thing. And then a guy from the City Council was there and said, “I’ll take you home”, I said, “Well, thanks very much”.  He said, “You’re alright. Your house is still there. So anyway, we went down to somewhere in Hobart were they were collating information where people were. I found out that Mavis and the family were over at her sister’s home.  And I said to her, “Well, we’re lucky the house is alright”, “No, we’re not. It’s down”, she said. The next day, the next day we went up and…it wasn’t there.  Only the foundation was there.

Well, the main thing was that the family was safe. That was the main thing. We were young. I started to draw up the plan for a new one!  We had a lot of help and they had a Bush Fire Relief Fund so we got help through that. As far as financially was concerned, by the end of 12 months, we were quite okay. It took more than 12 months to get back in there but…Anyway, we went up there and took a look at it. And the next night we stayed with some friends down in Taroona. We realised that, well we were six kids in, we realised we couldn’t stay with them for too long; we slept on the floor. And they’re offering us some accommodation there at Brighton Camp, the military camp, so we went out there. That was alright for a night or two but then Social Services came out and gave everybody cheques, you know for people who’d come in from the country, and what do they do? They went down to the pub and spent it all and came back drunk… it was terrible. I found a Salvation Army officer and I said, “Look. Can you find us somewhere? We’ll go in the morning but we’ve got to stay somewhere tonight” and we finished up in the jail up there. That was the only safe place.

I think the worst part of it was realising that all our photos and all that sort of things were gone, and in Mavis’ case all the baby things and all that sort of thing. That was sort of the worst part. Fortunately, my parents had a few photos of the kids in the early years that we were able to have. I think that was the hardest part.  As soon as we got up to Brighton Camp I started sketching about what I wanted in our new house and I concentrated on that. And fortunately, the firm I worked with, I used to do T.V. installations in those days, and I had a big Kombi van. I was just on the holidays that week, they said to me, “What do you want to do?” I said, “Well look. I think I’d like to take my holidays so we can organise things. Could I lend the van?”, and they said, “Ah yes”. That was amazing to have the van to take the kids around to school and that sort of thing. And from there on we sorted of planned on getting the new house together. We got a builder organised. But, of course, you couldn’t get bricks to build the house because everyone wanted them.  So anyway, the government said, “We’ll give you a subsidy if you go back and build on the same block.” They were frightened everybody was going to leave all these blocks. And so, what happened, the military came in with the bulldozers and said, “What do you want to do with the foundation?” I said get rid of it. So they bulldozed all the bricks and everything else and took them away, so we had a clean canvas to start with. So that part worked out and we moved on from there.

My grandparents came out from England to help establish the Salvation Army here in Australia. We used to go to church three times on Sundays, but we’ve given it the bypass now, we just drifted away from it over the years.  We went from the Salvation Army and went to Wesley Church quite a few years, and then all the kids grew up and they didn’t want to go to church, and we thought oh well, we were only going to sort of give them a lead, and so we just didn’t bother anymore after that.  I never had a beer until I was 35 because of that (Salvation Army). I’d been brought up by Salvation Army, they never had alcohol at my home. And I thought I was setting my family a good example by not having it. But then when my eldest son, he was about 15 or 16, came home drunk one night, staggered up the stairs, I thought, “Oh, perhaps I’d better start having a drink and show him how to drink”.  The joys of bringing up boys! I guess girls are as bad, they surely would be these days.

Margaret Cope

Margaret Cope

69, Eliza Purton

Margaret’s family invited students from Asian countries each Christmas, welcoming them in each year to their family Christmas dinner in Railton.

“Usually the students were from Malaysia, Vietnam and China. They were engineering students doing a 3 month prac at the cement works over the Christmas holidays. I remember their cooking as they would cook with peanut butter. One fella would come home and ask what we were having and then ask if he could cook. One or two of the students got homesick but Mum was really good at helping them through that. Some students kept in touch and sent photos of their families and came back to visit us.”

Phillip Stafford

Phillip Stafford

84, Eliza Purton

Phil won first place in a chopping competition at Spreyton and competed across Australia in the late 1970’s.

“My first win was in Waratah in the 1940’s I got fined for not wearing white trousers. I remember going to Adelaide once with two others – we went out and painted the town. Our hostess said ‘out the door, turn left and go down 4-5 houses and tell me about it in the morning’. A good time was had by all.”

Deasy O’Connor

Deasy O’Connor

96, Tyler Village

In 1947 Deasy and her mum created a children’s story book – Deasy created the artwork and Deasy’s mum wrote the verses.

“Mum was a lover of writing stories. She had written stories before but never a children’s book and none had been published. I was thrilled when the story was published. I painted the pictures for the book in a little studio in my house near where I used to live. My niece found the story and paintings in the family home at Avoca, I had forgotten about them. My family all love the book especially my nieces and nephews.”

Murray Appleby

Murray Appleby

89, Eliza Purton

Murray shows us that it’s never too late to start a new hobby, challenge or dream – no matter what age you start.

“I was the second eldest of eight children from the farming district of Upper Natone. I left school at 14 years old to work for 25 shilling and my keep. After 2 years I returned home to take over the lease of my grandfather’s farm as it was a soldier’s settlement farm from the First World War. My strongest memory of that time is the smell from bushfires, and of hay.

We often had goose for Christmas lunch and it was the children’s job to catch one the geese, which was most difficult, because the geese were wild and flew away from us!  I remember spending Boxing Days at Blythe Heads.  Mother would pack cold goose and jellies, and we would go by bus from Upper Natone to the wood chopping held near the mouth of the Blythe River. People would arrive in buggies.

I met my first wife Zenna when I was a bus driver and she was a passenger – she lived at Somerset. Zenna refused to get off the bus until the last stop. I have the feeling she asked me out, not the other way around.  We married in 1949 and lived in the old farm house at Upper Natone which had no power and just an open fire to cook with. After 12 months there we sold the farm and moved to Burnie, driving buses and taxis for 8 years.  We had two children Barry and Suzanne. Later working at the Paper Mill on shift work we decided to move to New Zealand for 5 years but enjoyed it so much they stayed for 15 years. Whilst there we travelled to many Pacific Islands.

I was married twice, first Zenna and then Alice – both of them lovely ladies. Alice was an old friend who I’d known for many years. We married, and had fifteen lovely years together.  I wrote my first poem when I was 84 years of age, written about my second wife. I always made sure my ladies had flowers and cards, and especially Valentine’s Day cards.”

Earland Gillow

Earland Gillow

83, Coroneagh Park

Earl played cricket for Australia in the 1940’s and was picked for the combined team undefeated for 3 straight years playing in Adelaide and Western Australia.

“I picked my first cricket bat when I was 13 years of age. It was Frank Wheatland that taught me to be a slow swing bowler. One day a chap by the name of Ray Mayberry took 5 wickets in the one game. He was good and was one of the fastest bowlers I have ever seen, that’s why we won 3 years in a row, he made the team spirit.”

Don Machen

Don Machen

87, Tyler Village

Don was a leading hand carpenter, constructed and maintained bridges that were used by trains and built independent workshops for government agencies around Northern Tasmania during the war.

“I lost my eye when making a model train for my children at Christmas. A detonator exploded on my work bench and my face was burnt and both eyes injured. My eyes were bandaged for some time after, one eye was able to be saved but not the other. My biggest challenge after the accident was getting back to work on the railways. There was a lot of pressure because I was the only one that held a scaffolding licence, they needed me back as soon as I could.”

Lyall Cubit

Lyall Cubit

91, Eliza Purton

Lyall has broken 33 bones in his 67 year cycling career and won the Australian Championship in 1989.

“In 1965 whilst training I fell at Sassafras and fractured my skull. I was put on a bed of ice by Dr Gordon Jamieson at Latrobe which saved my life – 6 months later I was back on the bike. It was the most serious of accidents so is a strong memory. One day a member of the public walked across the track at Latrobe without looking and a group of riders fell trying to avoid them. My advice to budding riders is train, train, train. It’s the only way to be fit enough to compete strongly.”

Nancy Aitken

Nancy Aitken

87, Coroneagh Park

Nancy would often send patrons on their way when they misbehaved at the Top Pub in Penguin.

“Mr Stone, who owned the Top Pub in Penguin, put me in charge of the pub as they were going to England for a holiday. I was helping out in the kitchen at the time. I put a fellow out after he kept ignoring requests to behave and stop loud mouthing. He came back the next day and apologised and he behaved himself ever since. I was always treated with respect and treated as one of the gang. I had positive feedback from all of the patrons. Some of the comments made was that I was helpful, firm but fair and respectful to all the patrons.”

Edward (Ted) Howe

Edward (Ted) Howe

100, Coroneagh Park

1939 at the start of WW2, Ted joined the army at the age of 22.

“I got promoted to Corporal then Sergeant Major. When I got shot a big heap of rocks were nearby so I crawled behind the rocks until someone came over and dressed my leg. They were going to put me on a stretcher but I said no thank you, I could walk – the other soldiers were worse off than me.” “…the Kadoka trail was terrible and was so tough. Steep hills lots of steps in mud and it rained all night. Food was scarce. Nights spent sitting in a heap of water. Never had a cup of tea. Oh I tell a fib, I did get a cup of tea from the Salvation Army. I was sent to see someone about a plane that got cut down and it was the best cup of tea ever in my life I reckon.”

Anton Ward

Anton Ward

82, Eliza Purton

Anton’s daughter reminisces proudly about her Dad’s talents and life accomplishments:

“He was born Anton Willem Ward in Middleburg Holland in 1934.

Mum and dad came out to Australia about 3 months after they were married in 1960. He picked up whatever work he could get. He used to work in factories quite a bit. He worked with BHP in Sydney at one point. A year and a half after we got to Australia he joined the RAAF.

I grew up with dad playing the fiddle, he has perfect pitch and can play anything by ear. People always commented that he was so clever especially when he played the fiddle. He used to play nursery rhymes when I was little. I’ve got a recording of it actually, from when I was about 2.

He had a huge library of books and a huge collection of music, spoke 5 languages and travelled the world. He loved walking, an hour and a half a day. Dad loved the ocean, always did. Dad actually built a boat – a trailer/sailor with a cabin and everything. When we went back to Holland he bought a laser and he and I would get on the lake in Holland (it was freezing) and sail. It’s one of my most cherished memories.

Dad was a devoted husband for over 53 years to his wife Ella. They did so much, they crammed so much into their lives together. They moved a lot – different countries, different states. Mum and dad renovated houses. He was always that quiet, dependable type of person for us. He’s got really good manners, he’s a gentleman, would open doors for people, try to share his food. He is the cleverest person I’ve ever known and the most modest. He didn’t like a fuss. He is the best dad a girl could ever have”.

Leila (Biddy) Bellchambers

Leila (Biddy) Bellchambers

88, Tyler Village

Biddy married George, brought a house in Deloraine, had three children Ruth, Dianne and Ian and lived happily ever after.

“I met my husband-to-be, George at Elizabeth Town Hotel where I was working. I wasn’t allowed out of kitchen, in those times women were not to be seen out in the lounge area. George had just got back from serving in the war and seen me about and thought he would like to meet this girl. One day there was a knock at the door, it was George. My friend answered the door, George asked to see me, so I came to the door and he said, ‘Leila would you like to court with me?’ What did I say? Yes of course!”

Maria (Rie) Jansen

Maria (Rie) Jansen

92, Coroneagh Park

Rie started gymnastics when she was just 6 years old all the way through to 25 years old and was asked to perform in England.

“Once a year we all got together with other gymnastic schools in a paddock and we all did the same exercise together. We all had ribbons and it looked like a red, white and blue flag. My boyfriend wasn’t into gymnastics but I kept going and wasn’t going to stop because of him and even when I married him, still kept it going. My mother said I had to marry my boyfriend before going to Australia. I was asked to go to England to perform but didn’t because I got married and went to Australia. I was looking forward to it but it wasn’t to be.”