Three Important Local Facilities in 1950s Albion Park Rail

August 24, 2015 at 4:29 pm | Posted in Australia, Family History, Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, Memoir | 49 Comments
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I thought I would show you a few photos of three places in Albion Park Rail where I grew up – two of which led to the growth of our little village.

Albion Park Rail Post Office & Moane’s shop

Moanes shop&PO APR 1951

Albion Park Rail Post Office & Moane’s shop, Photo dated 1951

This is just how the shop looked when we first lived in Albion Park Rail about 1955/6. Moane’s shop was a small business, situated on the main highway (the Princes Highway) that runs all the way from Sydney down into Victoria. Although the road was tarred, it was just a narrow, two-lane thoroughfare. You can see it at the front of the photo. Apart from the highway, all the streets of the village were dirt, with lots of potholes.

The shop sold basic necessities like bread, milk, canned and packaged goods, some fruit and vegetables, newspapers – and lollies.

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The Illawarra Co-operative Dairy Association Milk and Butter Factory

Albion park Butter Factory 1950s

The Illawarra Co-operative Dairy Association’s milk & butter factory

This factory was on Creamery Rd Albion Park Rail,  situated next to the railway line crossing in the early 1950s. As a dairying area, plenty of milk was delivered to the factory. At that time, farmers poured their milk into steel cans and took them to the farm gate. From there, they were picked up and carried to the factory on the back of flatbed trucks. Each cans had an identification stamp for the farm it came from.

You can see a truck there, and some of the unloaded cans of milk. The factory workers wore white, and you can see two of them on the rail platform.

At the milk factory, the milk was pasteurised (not homogenised then) and then much of it sent in tankers by rail to Sydney for bottling. From there, it would be sent to milkmen and shops all over the state. The rest of the milk made into butter at the factory and sold under the trade name Allowrie.

The railway gates next to the factory were always supposed to be kept shut in case a train came. Whenever anyone who lived between the line and the lake (that included us) wanted to go through, they had to get out of their car, open the gates, drive through, and then get out to close them again.

The neighbourhood kids would sometimes open and close the gates for the drivers, hoping the drivers would be generous and give us a penny for doing it. We weren’t supposed to, but most kids didn’t get pocket money in those days, and it was a source of a few pennies that would be eagerly spent on lollies at Moane’s shop.

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Albion Park Railway station

Albion Park railway station c.1914

Albion Park Railway station c.1914

Albion Park Railway station is located at Albion Park Rail (which is how the village got its name), just off the Princes Highway. Although the photo dates from a few decades before we lived there, it is almost identical to how it still was then.

The trains ran mainly for the workers, a large number of whom worked at the Steel Works and other supporting industries in and around Port Kembla. The timetable was geared to take them to and from their three daily shifts. You could pretty well set your watch by them.

Others, office workers, shop assistants and so on who worked in Wollongong, our nearest city, caught trains that ran to another timetable. As there was no local high school, students also had to catch the train to either Dapto or Wollongong. In 1961, I caught the train to Wollongong to attend St Mary’s Catholic College. After the polio epidemic, when I had to change schools in 1962, I had a shorter train ride to Dapto High school.

(c) Linda Visman

Photos from Wollongong City Council’s collection, Illawarra Images.

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Coal Trucks & Wagging School

August 17, 2015 at 12:30 am | Posted in Australia, Catholic Church, Discipline, Family History, Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, Memoir, Transport | 5 Comments
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When we lived in Dapto, we went to the local Catholic school, St John’s, where Sister Cecilia ruled with an iron rod. Then Dad got a job working on a new concrete bridge for Huntley colliery at Avondale, a few miles from Dapto. They needed a watchman to keep an eye on supplies, so Dad moved our caravan out there.

St John's School and convent

St John’s School and convent in the early 20th century

It was dairy country between wide swathes of forest, in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range, below the Illawarra escarpment. We camped next to a creek, from which we drew our water. The grocer in Dapto would bring a regular order out to us each week, and we would also go to town on Saturday mornings when the shops were open. Dad bought Mum a Baby Brownie camera from McGovern’s Chemist shop.

I loved the general store run by JG Fairley. They had a wonderful contraption for dealing with money. The shopkeeper would put the docket for purchases and the customer’s money into a brass container. He would pull a cord and the container would zoom along a wire up to the cashier’s office on a mezzanine floor. The cashier dealt with the money and gave change, which he sent back in the container to the shop assistant. No money was thus kept in the public area of shop. This process never failed to enthral me. Waters in Wollongong also had these contraptions.

My older brother was nine when we moved out to Avondale, and he loved nothing more than going into the bush with his mongrel terrier, Patch. On their rambles, they would find snakes and kill them. It wasn’t unusual for Mum to come back to the van to find a four-foot red-bellied black snake stretched out in front of the door. She was never amused. Peter led us three younger girls astray too.

We were several miles away from town, with no chance of getting a bus to school and Dad couldn’t take us. But we were right near the road that led down from the coal mine in the steep hills above. Some of the trucks took their coal to Tallawarra power station to the south east, but others went north, through Dapto. Dad arranged with one of the truck drivers, Charlie Keys (who only recently died: RIP), to pick us up on one of his morning runs from the mine and bring us back on an afternoon return run. It was a great adventure for all of us, sitting high up next to Charlie on the huge wide leather seat.

This photo taken about the time we were going to St John’s, though none of us is in it.

This photo taken about the time we were going to St John’s, though none of us is in it.

Peter decided one day that he didn’t want to go to school. Obviously, he couldn’t wag while we three girls went and possibly got him into trouble. So he persuaded us that playing in the town park was a much better option than school. We had quite a few days off school before Mr Shipp, the newsagent, noticed us hanging around the streets and dobbed us in to our parents. I remember that green leather belt Mum used as punishment for major crimes, and she doled it out in good measure that day. I never could accept though that Sister Cecelia also gave us a hiding in front of the school. Two punishments for the same crime seemed unfair. But I never wagged school again.

When the job on the bridge was finished, we went back to Reed Park in Dapto. Not long after, the unwelcome attentions of the farmer from Avondale on my very attractive mother led to Dad looking for an alternative place to live. He bought a block of land on the shore of Lake Illawarra at Albion Park Rail, and moved us and the caravan onto it We loved life there, but I have never forgotten the wonderful time we had living out in the bush at Avondale.

(c) Linda Visman

Building Rooms as the Family Grows

March 8, 2015 at 1:01 pm | Posted in 1950s, Australia, Culture, Family, Family History, Gratitude, History, Memoir, Migration | 3 Comments
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I have been away, and set this post to be published on Monday the 9th March. It didn’t work for some reason. Now I am back home, here it is.

 

 

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By the end of 1957, we’d been out of our four-berth caravan for about a year, and were living in the tiny three-roomed cottage Dad had bought and set up on our block of land. He had also built an extra room onto the back of it during that time, a bedroom for us four kids. At last Mum and Dad could have their own bedroom. But it was to be for only for a short time.

Mum’s brother and family had come from England to Adelaide in South Australia . My uncle visited us from there about 1957, and decided there was plenty of work for him in the Illawarra region of New South Wales and that he would leave his job in Adelaide and bring his family there. They would move in with us until they had a place of their own.

So Dad again had to get busy building a small two-roomed ‘garage’ next to our little cottage. Its front room served as a very basic kitchen, the back one as a bedroom, into which Aunty and Uncle moved with their young daughter. Their older son joined us four kids in the new bedroom. By that time, our total household amounted to ten people – and Mum was pregnant with twins.

This sharing of limited resources with extended family was not an unusual situation for the times. In the late 1940s and especially in the 1950s, Australia’s population grew very quickly, due to both post-war immigration and the baby boom. A great many migrants began their lives (once they had left the migrant camps to which many had come) with the purchase of a block of land and very little else. From there, they would build their own ‘garage’ that would house their family until they earned enough to build their own house.

When I say ‘build their own garage/house’, I mean that literally – many, if not most, did indeed build with their own hands. They couldn’t afford the cost of having it built by someone else. The 1950s was a time of great energy and enthusiasm, a reaction to the horrors of six years of war, a grasping of the freedom European migrants were offered in a new land. It was a time of economic growth, when most people were willing to put up with hard work, long hours and difficult living conditions in order to make a better life for themselves and their family than they would have had in post-war Europe.

Post war migrants arriving in Australia

Post war migrants arriving in Australia

In mid-1958, after a difficult birth where Mum came close to losing her life, our baby brother joined the family. His twin sister had, unfortunately, died at birth. It was about then, with their only two children in Australia, that Mum’s parents decided they would come too. When Grandma and Granddad arrived in late 1958, Mum and Dad moved out of their newly regained bedroom so her parents could have it, and went back to the night-and-day in the lounge room.

Dad was busy building rooms again. The kitchen, which in 2014 still had its original small cupboards, would be extended to a new outer door, and the little L-shaped cottage would become a rectangle, with two more bedrooms filling in the space. 1958 was a year of high rainfall in New South Wales and Dad was often rained off the building projects he worked on as builder’s labourer and concreter. During those down times, Dad worked on our house. He says he did more work on our house in those days than he did on his regular work, even in the rain.

Late 1958. The last two bedrooms are still under construction. My lovely grandmother stands at the doorway. On the grass are me (second from right) and my two sisters and our baby brother, with our two cousins. My older brother isn’t in the photo.

Late 1958. The last two bedrooms are still under construction. My lovely grandmother stands at the doorway. On the grass are me (second from right) and my two sisters and our baby brother, with our two cousins. My older brother isn’t in the photo.

Granddad had never helped my parents with a penny the whole time they were with us. Grandma slipped a few pounds to Mum from time to time when she could. She also gave us grandkids a shilling a week pocket money. We thought it a fortune, as we’d never had our own money before. In 1959 I think it was, my uncle bought a block of land close to the railway station with finance from Granddad. Granddad also helped to finance the building of a house there. Once it was completed, my uncle, aunt and cousins, and my grandparents too, moved in. At last, our family of seven had our home to ourselves.

For us kids, life was pretty good back then. We didn’t have much in the way of toys and possessions, but we had fresh air, plenty of room to play, lots of interesting places to investigate, and few worries, apart from our schooling and household chores. However, when I see the burdens my parents carried, I realise how difficult it must have been for them. I also believe it made us all stronger, both individually and as a family. Our parents gave us five kids a good start in many ways and we had much to be grateful for.

(c) Linda Visman

Dairy Country – under threat from development

April 14, 2013 at 8:28 pm | Posted in Australia, Destroying nature, History, Nature, Society, Tourism, Travel, Ways of Living | 7 Comments
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I love the area in which I grew up – the Illawarra area of New South Wales, Australia. However there is less and less of it to love these days as housing and industrial developments reach out into the lush and productive dairy lands that were once among the best in the country.

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We took a drive through the remaining pasturelands last week, while we were in the area visiting family (especially my 91-year-old father). The lush grasslands and areas of bush are beautiful.

The ocean in the distance

The ocean in the distance

 

We took quite a few photographs so that we can look back at them one day when the productive dairy country is covered in houses and industrial sheds.

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The area lies between the mountains of the Great Dividing Range and the Pacific Ocean, visible in the distance.

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Housing estates are growing around the towns to the north, south and east.

Houses encroach on the dairy lands.

Houses encroach on the dairy lands.

Dry-stone walls, a relic of the British heritage of the region, are seen less and less. But this one is proudly maintained.

Stone walls

Stone walls

 

A sense of humour is essential in this industry, where prices for milk are low, but the work to produce it is hard and long.

Rue de Moo Poo

Rue de Moo Poo

When Europeans first came to this district in the nineteenth century, cabbage tree palms were in abundance. They provided a vital source of food for the indigenous people. However, clearing of the land, heavy tractors, and the hard hooves of cattle, all of which pack down the soil and make seed growth almost impossible, have reduced their numbers considerably. Most farming areas are now bare of these palms, though they do grow in gullies and better soil parts of the mountainsides.

Cabbage tree palms

Cabbage tree palms

These days, it is not economically worthwhile to maintain many dairy farms to a level needed to keep them viable. The developer’s dollars become more and more attractive to families that have farmed for several generations.

A decaying farm

A decaying farm

I wonder just how much longer these farms will be able to remain, fighting against cheaper imports and low prices for milk at the farm gate. I know that we will be very upset by the loss of this beautiful and productive dairy country to the destructive dollars of the developers.

 

 

(c) Linda Visman April 2013

Photographs by Dirk Visman

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