Archive number: 1673
Date interviewed: 18 March, 2004
Munitions Factory Worker
You are listening to the interview audio
To begin with Gloria, thank you very much for doing this today, the archive wouldn’t exist without your generous support. The first thing is a summary of your life.
I was born in Parkes and my family come to Sydney early in the piece because there was no work. Then we went to Glenbrook, and I started school in Glenbrook, and then we came to Springwood. My father had a job delivering bread and the baker’s burnt down so that’s how we came to Springwood,
Valley Heights actually. Went to school in Springwood, grew up with a stack of kids around, roaming the bush and then to Penrith for high school. Then I got a job in Springwood in the shop there. I suppose our life only consisted of day-to-day; going dancing as well, all did.
How old were you when you left school to get a job?
Where were you when the war came?
Working there. The last year of high school war broke out, but it didn’t really hit us much until the first year of work.
Take us through what happened to you then.
We went from there to the munitions factory, they were calling for workers.
I would have liked to have joined the army but my mother wouldn’t hear of that and we all did what our parents told us in those days. So we went to the munition factory. I met my husband when the boys marched from Ingleburn to Bathurst, I met him then. The rest are dashed.
How long were you working at the munitions factory for?
Nearly 18 months I think. The girls said I want some dates,
but I didn’t have a clue of dates. From the munitions factory I got married. I went to Warwick for awhile, my husband came back from New Guinea for awhile then they got moved higher up so I went back home again, lived at home. The war ended, my husband came home and then we couldn’t find anywhere to live. His mother had a little property down on the Nepean River,
out from Richmond and we went and lived there. He worked in the city and came and visited me on Wednesday nights and weekends. Then we got a beautiful home at Westmead, war service home. After being married seven years he was home every thing night of the week for the first time. We had a happy time then, the family grew up and then of course the DMR [Department of Main Roads], in
their wisdom, put a by-pass road through and we had to move. We went to live in the Hunter Valley. We had a good time there I suppose, and then we came back here to live. We bought this place for the daughters and we came back here to live. Of course, he was very sick and we had to be closer to a hospital. That’s about it and I’ve sat here quite like one of your mushrooms for the last 14 years. I joined
war widows and don’t do anything very much at all.
That’s a very good summary. A couple of things, your daughters, can you tell us about them?
I had five children, three daughters and two sons.
Where are they at now?
The eldest daughter is in Bunbury in Western Australia.
She has a patchwork quilt shop and a magnificent home looking over the ocean where they can watch the dolphins and things while they have their breakfast; and the second one was a boy and he’s the one that’s just gone to Coffs Harbour. The third one was a boy and he’s holidaying in Tasmania at the moment and lives out at Yarramundi, from Richmond, and works on the railway.
The next one’s a girl and she lives in Gladstone in Queensland; and the next one, how many am I up to, four? The next one’s gone to live in Coffs Harbour, no Port Macquarie, and she does a charity work on Saturday afternoon looking after, in the hospital for the koala bears - and if that’s not different.
That about sums them up. She works of course; she works in the hospital up there.
I’ve been to that hospital up there, with koalas with bandages on.
Yes? She just absolutely loves it. Funny for her she’s a bit of a, been more in the professional line, but loves animals. Of course she always had something half dead dragged home. So that’s all of them.
They have amongst them 12 children, and they have amongst them, 14 children. So I have a nice family.
Time goes on.
So now we’re going to go right back to the beginning of that story and talk a little about your childhood. You were born in Parkes?
We left there when I was only about one.
Where are your early memories of growing up from, Glenbrook?
A bit of Glenbrook, but not very much because I started school there and then we came to Valley Heights. It’s all Valley Heights actually. That was a railway town; everybody there had a job on the railway.
How big was the town?
It was a very small place, really.
They used to change the engines, add another engine to the train to get them over the mountains it was very much a railway town. It was a good friendly little town; we all grew up as good kids, and through the bush, and billy carts. We had a mob of mates that were boys and they built billy carts and we’d come over the railway station, off the bridge and straight into the Western Highway. Imagine it!
Never saw many cars in those days of course. It was good life I think, nobody had anything much and they shared and we all gathered on a big empty paddock of a night time, did paper chases through the bush and all of the things [kids] do I suppose, not anymore.
Can you describe what the town looked like and what it was? I’m sure it’s changed a great deal since then.
It was half way up the Blue Mountains. I suppose, Emu Plains is the beginning of it. We walked everywhere. We went to school in a little train, we had three carriages took us from Valley Heights up to Springwood. But when we
moved, of course we never had any money, we moved from place to place when you couldn’t pay the rent. In those days they gave you, Dad went on one of those, like, working for the dole schemes they’ve got now. When things got really tough the man who owned the bakehouse decided to do the job himself so Dad was out of work. He got one week in three working on the road,
clearing the road and then they had this marvellous scheme to send them all outback up to building wheat silos. That was a wonderful opportunity for him of course. Get away from all of us. We were lucky we lived next to a bakehouse and so we never went hungry because you could always have lovely fresh bread. We had a lovely lot.
We moved from right down in Valley Heights, it only had one general shop, but when we moved from there further up, closer to the bakehouse, then we got away from a lot of them because we couldn’t get down there, it was a bit too far. We walked then to school. We were lucky, Mum was lucky. She had a marvellous friend and she had a
stack of boys so we grew up with them, although I only had sisters, but we grew up with them and they did, well, they helped get wood for the fire, they’d spend days carting wood home out of the bush for the fire. It was all hard in those days, nobody thought it was, that was the joy of it. Handed down your clothes, shared your food, somebody would give you pumpkin,
we never really went hungry, but we were lucky. We had the swaggies coming past, living next to the bakehouse, they’d come past. They lived an interesting life.
Tell us a bit more about the bakehouse.
It was fibro, I suppose, I don’t know, it was white, it had to be white washed because of the health rules.
Every so often a larrikin that was out of work would come along with a great big brush and bucket full of white wash and slap it all on everywhere; it was very great with the health report bit. And the boys who worked in the bakehouse were lovely young fellows. They were apprentices. And the man that owned it lived in the pub so he very seldom come to visit them. He’d come at all odd hours
and the boys, of course, would be on the big night out and they’d sleep in, and the dough would flow over the top, and they used to bang on the wall of our house, “Get up you bloody kids and come and help us.” We’d have to go in with buckets and shovels and shovel up all the dough and hide it in the bush before the fellow that own the place turned up. They were great lads, they both went to war, and they were bakers of
course, and they got jobs as transport drivers. We were lucky to have that bakehouse. It was great. They’d make us, any leftover dough, they’d make us bread rolls, things which you’d never heard of in those days.
What sort of bread did it produce?
All white bread except a little lot that they made separately, which was the brown bread for anybody that was health conscious, and buns at Easter.
They made these Easter buns and that was a wonderful time because they had a big drive-in, way at the back, where the truck used to be parked and they’d take the truck out and they’d lay all the bags down on this back bit and flour them and then they’d bake the big, big trays of these buns and they’d slide them off onto these. We got the job, we got a billy can with sugary water in and a brush
and we got the job of slapping that on the top to make them shiny. They worked all night Friday night for the Saturday baking and they used to get a draught beer, a big bottle, and they’d give us the empty bottles and we’d walk all the way up to Springwood and trade them in for four pence, and nearly had the price of going to the pictures. They were good times. My two eldest sisters
went to live with Gran and Grandfather because there just wasn’t any money. They were better off than we were. They lived in Waverley, and we envied them because they had it a lot better than we did we thought. But years later they said, “No. We would have loved to have come home and lived with you lot.” We didn’t know that.
I’ll come to your sisters in a moment, but a couple more questions about the bakehouse. How big an operation was it?
It wasn’t very big; I don’t know how big the troughs were. I imagine they were about three or four yards and they were wooden troughs and they put flour in that end and water in this end. The water had to be warm, they had a thermos [thermostat], the water had to be warm and they sort of swished the water into that four, and the four, and the water ended up that end. Then they mixed that
and then it went down that end. They did that about five times until the bread was finally made, and then they covered it up with floury rags and left it to rise. Of course it would rise up and they’d throw it onto a table in the middle and make into clever little, with their hands, they used to make it into clever little, two pieces for each end, put it in the tins, put it in the
oven. And the oven used to be lit with this beautiful wood which kept us warm in the winters, because it was stacked next to our fence and that, with the coal we pinched off the railway line, kept us very nicely through the winter. They used to light the fire in the side of the oven and it had to be out; they cooked everything that was in the heat left in the oven. They never, ever used that and they stack it in the bread
tins, two tins together, put them each end, put them on the end of a big flat thing. Have you ever seen that? That’s very clever. Like on a big long stick, a flat piece of timber and they used to sit them on that and place them in the oven exactly where they wanted them. They did the brown bread on this table. Then they stacked all the fresh ones that came out on another trough, which they never seemed to use,
over that side, like a big table. They’d bang, they never greased the tins, but they banged them on the thing and the bread fell out. They stacked it all up. They had a big storage room full of where the bread was stored. They had a cat that kept the mice out of the bread. And then they bought sultanas and stuff for the bread they brought in. The health inspector used to come along every so often and the bloke that owned
the place knew he was coming, he’d meet him outside and take him up the pub for lunch. He never stepped inside the place, which was probably just as well. They were larrikins, the boys, and they were lovely. We were in there one night talking to them and my sister had a bangle and they said, “Put the bangle in it.” And she stuck it in this end and we waited and waited for it to turn up, and
finally it turned up and we got it back. But the bread then was beautiful bread, not like the rubbish we’re eating today, it didn’t worry you what was in it. Sometimes we had to sieve the flour to get the mice dirt out of it, you know, all those exciting things.
How did they sell the bread?
It was four pence a loaf. They delivered it to the door. People ran up bills, they couldn’t pay.
Which was very fortunate for my Dad, who grew up in a pub at Fifield and of course was very fond of a beer. And in those days nearly every family, although they were all poor, managed to make a lovely home brew and he’d either have a try of this new one, or he’d have a bottle, and he’d get home happy at night. He used to pass out and Mum would, we had the job of
pulling the tops off the beer and putting it all out and spilling it in the back behind the woodheap. Then the next morning he’d get up and he wasn’t game to say what happened to it, but none of us knew anything anyway.
Your father didn’t work in the bakehouse?
He worked delivering the bread. That was his job. That took us to Glenbrook, which was
a very pretty place, but then the bakehouse burnt down and we had to go to Valley Heights.
What else can you tell us about your father?
He was a happy-go-lucky sort of a bloke. Didn’t accept responsibility at all. We were very fortunate in having a damned good mother otherwise we’d have… but going away with the boys would have suited him fine. I think he tried
hard, but you know, he was only young.
What about as a father?
I didn’t [remember] much of him as a father. I was 12 when I saw him last and I was 34 something when I saw him again. So as a father, you’ve only got a dim memory of him.
What happened to him?
Years later my Mum got a job and she was working and he used to come home every so often; he used to send us two quid in the registered mail every so often. He eventually just didn’t bother coming home at all. He went to work in Melbourne, he was very clever mechanic, and he went to work in Melbourne on the docks and settled down there. And
when my mother was killed in a car accident and he got in touch, my elder sister and said he’d like to see us all again. I said, “No thanks.” But the others said that they would like to see him again. He came up and they went and stayed with a cousin in Sydney somewhere and they took him to a club and they had a really nice visit with him.
But the other sister and I said, “No thanks.” We really didn’t see any sense in seeing him again. My sister went on a world trip, my elder sister and her husband went on a world trip and it was a long weekend in June and two of my sisters had a birthday on the 20th June, and it was their birthday and a holiday weekend. So they said come down because we’re babysitting Betty’s lovely house at Rose Bay, and we went and my sister came in
and my daughter, my youngest daughter was with me and she said, “June’s got a boyfriend.” And I said, “No. That’s my father.” He was very pleased to meet me again. He said, “I remember you always being very wilful, I’m not surprised.”
Why did you not want to see him?
Well Mum had had it rough trying to rear us, she worked damned hard. She did her job
for 10 bob scrubbing someone’s house out and her hands used to crack and were sore. She never was miserable, always looked on the bright side, always managed. If there was a picture on we wanted to see she’d ask the fellow could we pay when we had the money; she never let anything stop her. I felt that he’d been cruel to her I suppose. When you’re a kid that age
it’s not a very important part of your life. No, I don’t want to see him again. I travelled to Bankstown, half way home with him. They saw him from time-to-time again, and when he died my sisters went down to Melbourne, the two elder sisters went down to Melbourne. By then he was living with another family and they were very, very nice people. My
sisters were very happy, pleased with them. I didn’t see the need.
Tell us a bit more about your mother. She was the one who raised you.
Yes, she was. Her father was a manager, or what, in the gold mines. That’s why they were in Parkes. So she was reared to a pretty good life, but married young and foolish I suppose, like me.
She was, well I can’t tell you a lot about her. She was a remarkable woman in every way. This lovely friend she had, they reared us together. They only commented, one of the boys only commented a while back, all the years they were so close and shared everything, they’re always Mrs - Mrs Rogers and Mrs Brown. Never, ever called by their first name,
which I found amazing. I don’t know, she’d see a need and she dealt them out. One of the neighbour’s daughter was getting married and she couldn’t go because she had no clothes. Mum went through her wardrobe and found the best shoes she had, which she had some beautiful clothes of course, both my elder sisters went into sewing when they went to work and they made some beautiful clothes.
I can’t tell you a lot about her.
You mentioned your sisters, can you tell us a little bit more about them?
My eldest sister was 10 years older than me. She started work when I started school, which ten years isn’t long but it expands. They lived with Gran and Grandfather in Waverley.
Betty worked first in a big guesthouse and then the man that was boarding in the guesthouse said, “I’ve got a better job for you.” He had a factory that was making special children’s clothes and things, so she went to work there and the next sister went to work with her. They were very, very close, those two.
Your eldest sister was Betty what about the others?
How old was she?
June was about 18 months behind Betty. Pat and me, and Shirley. June and Betty were very, very close because I suppose, living away from home. They used to come home, whenever they could rake up the money
they’d come home. It was great, we’d all race down to the railway and meet them and they’d bring two bob’s worth of peanuts they’d buy off a Chinaman somewhere, and we’d sit around the fire and eating peanuts and chucking the bits in the fire. It was marvellous when they’d come home. It was a big deal. And like I said, they made us lovely clothes because they could get remnants cheap and they were very clever with it.
What about the three of you that stayed, Pat, Shirley and you? How did you get on?
I suppose we got on. Pat went to, she was artistic Pat, she went to Penrith High School first. I was about two and a half years behind her, and when I followed her up the teachers used to say, “Are you sure you’re Pat’s sister?” Very humbling.
Well the sisters made us school uniforms. Springwood school was a good little school because we were in the middle of Springwood town. In those days there was a nice school there. As a child, when Mum brought us all to live with Gran and Grandfather when they came down from Parkes, and she has a young sister
that lived at home and she used to get very upset about the noise of the kids, and Mum took us a lot to the beach to fill in our time, which I would dearly love to be still near the beach. Shirley got a germ in the finger and she was only about a year old and they thought it was TB [tuberculosis] of the bone for a long time; she used to have to take her to the children’s hospital a lot. Finally they amputated it and she has
that finger missing. But she coped very well, she didn’t seem to have a problem with it but it was big thing for all of us. She got asthma a bit too which worried Mum a lot. She hated the sun going down at night because Shirley would get sick, she coped through all of that of course. And Pat, we’re up to. Pat was gorgeous, which was a big disadvantage for me. I’d bring home
a bloke I thought was lovely and she’d go off with him. She had a lovely English complexion like Mum’s sister had. She has this lovely honey gold hair. She was very lovely and very clever and smart, and she got this job in this shop in Springwood and he was a member of parliament that owned that shop. But they had a very strict rule, when they hit 18 he had to pay them more money. They had to be sacked for somebody
else. So the manager said he would very like me to get the job because he hated having to sack her. So she went to live in Sydney with my sisters, and Gran and Grandfather had died then. They had a unit in Bondi and they went to live with them and she got a job at David Jones, which is exactly where she should have been. So then there was only Shirley and me at home then.
We just followed up and Shirley went after me. She’d got on better because she was smart, she didn’t get that, “Are you sure you’re Pat’s sister?”
Who was the youngest?
Shirley’s the youngest.
What did you do together?
Everybody sort of
collected on this big green bit and we played all sorts of things or sat around talking, but we didn’t do a lot together I don’t think. We sort of all went our own ways. We went to the pictures, we went dancing and we did that with everybody in the town. They’d ring up and say are you going and we’d go.
What were your particular interests as a girl?
Actually yes, when I look back on it, very little. I don’t know why, I don’t think I had much time, I had to help Mum a lot. Mum would get a job working, I’d come home from school and join up with her. My sister went to a funeral a while back and she was telling me all about this magnificent house in the middle of the… “Don’t tell me about it. I know every room.” We used to have to shift wardrobes about to get
behind them. Mostly I suppose I helped Mum. I loved to dance, of course. I had mates, I spent time with them a lot. We didn’t do a lot together.
Tell us a bit more about helping your mother. She’d clean houses?
If she could get a job she did. Eventually she got a job at the Oriental Hotel in the laundry and fell on her feet marvellously because all the people that
worked were like a big family, and of course that was war time by then and I was working just down the road and I’d come up and visit her at lunch time. The fellow that owned the hotel would bring her down a nice, cold drink and the cook would say, “Before you go home I’ve got a little something for you.” And she’d have a lovely meal that she’d cooked extra. It was just marvellous for Mum because she had
good, happy company that she had, and only for Mrs Brown, she didn’t have much adult company. It was very good for her.
You mentioned that you’re father described you as a wilful girl. What can you tell us about that?
I wouldn’t want to tell you about that. I laid him cold one night with a poker off the stove. He came home drunk
and my mother had a beautiful friend, and she’d married and gone to live in Emu Plains, and she’d been up to visit and she’d brought us up this beautiful cake, and lovely stuff like that we never saw in our lifetime. He came home, and he was drunk of course, and he’s going crook because she’d been up and eaten the food out of the kids mouths, and all this, and Mum said, “Look she brought us all this beautiful food.” And she had these lovely cakes on
the plate and he shoved his hand through it, crashed it down onto the hearth in front of the fuel stove. I picked up a good strong poker from off the stove and laid him cold with it. I really didn’t want to see my father again and I really didn’t want to go to his funeral. There was too much sorrow behind it all for me. I imagine he thought I was wilful. I must have been about eight.
What happened after you’d laid him cold with the poker?
He came good after a while. He used to come home, Mum would have a meal in the oven waiting for him to come home, whatever we had, which wouldn’t be much, and that wouldn’t do. He’d open a tin of sardines, and all my life I can’t look at a sardine. Cost you four pence for a tin of sardines in those days. He’d open this and go all over the kitchen. Have you ever undone a tin of sardines that rolled
back up, had a key on the side? It took a while to do if you weren’t thinking too straight, and oil out of that all over the kitchen, then he’d eventually end up with the sardines. He wouldn’t eat the meal she kept on for him. So it was a good, happy life because we got away from it all, but it was hard.
What are some examples of the hardships that you had to endure?
We didn’t, I don’t think, because Mum sheltered us from that. Mum and I shared a pair of shoes. One went out in the shoes, the other went out in the shoes, but we couldn’t go out together. I had a great mate too, her dad was on the railway, engine driver, and they went to Yass to live and I flew up to Mudgee to her funeral.
Didn’t miss not going to my father’s. I don’t know. I suppose toothache, you couldn’t get to a dentist, you’d put up with toothache, you’d have to have a bagful of salt to rinse your mouth and all of those things. We didn’t think of them as hardships, nobody was any better off than you were. One of our neighbours was a fettler on the railway and he grew these
magnificent dahlias. He dug a big well in his yard and he’d use the water from and he’d give you one of them, these great big glorious flowers, a wonderful treat. When we went from Glenbrook to Valley Heights we had to find accommodation, and Dad was already working up there, and he went all around and then he came home and picked us up in the baker’s van, he took us
up. He’d found a lovely home for us. We got up there and it was a lovely home, it was an old stone one, it was beautiful, and she opened the door and Mum stepped in and went straight through the floorboards. It was white ant eaten. He hadn’t bothered to look at the inside. So that wasn’t any good so back we went to Glenbrook and we were driving along, and as I said, there were not many cars on the road then in those days, and we’re driving along and
he said to Pat, “You count up the telegraph poles.” “Did you get that one?” “No.” Then he’d back the car up and Mum was, of course, ropeable. We finally got home, and we finally got a nice little house. Of course when he went away to work, and we didn’t have any money we had to pack our, in those days you packed up and moved to the next city, which was not a
problem because we only had our beds. Our wardrobes were a piece of three-ply stuff that went across a corner like that and it had a piece of curtain hanging down it like that and that’s where we hung all of our clothes. So we could pick up our stuff and move over the road, it was not a problem. It was terrible when we got money and had to live a better life, but that all came
What about clothes? You mentioned sharing shoes with your mother.
Well when I went to work at Jackson’s we were young ladies, of course, and I had to have a black dress and we had to wear a white collar, they gave us collars, and my sisters, of course, made me the black dress. But we had to wear stockings, and I got sixteen and three pence a week and I gave Mum 10 bob which left
me with the six and three pence. I paid two and six for a pair of stockings which left me with very little. And we worked Friday nights for a while for that, nine o’clock Friday night. We had half a day off Wednesdays and worked all day Saturdays. The mob that was going from one pub to the other, used to say “C‘mon,” and you had to work.
What about earlier on, did you have sets of clothes for Sunday?
Yes, one decent dress you had, yeah. You’d come home and change it. I still do that, you know, that was a bad habit to get into I suppose. I still hang all the good clothes up and work in old stuff.
What about food on your table? What sort of things did your mother have for you to eat?
Sometimes we had sausages, mashed potatoes, pumpkin if somebody had given us some pumpkin.
I don’t really remember. Bread of course, bread was the big thing and Vegemite. I can’t look at Vegemite either, it’s with the sardines. Everyday, Vegemite and margarine, which was dreadful stuff in those days.
Were there any particular tricks or dishes she made out of nothing to make ends meet?
No. She was a lousy cook and so was I, because we never had anything to cook with.
You never had really. No, I can’t remember anything particularly interesting. Later on of course, she did, she cooked beautiful meals in the fuel stove in the middle of the hot summer, when we were all working then.
What was a treat for you?
The movies. Not to eat, no.
Fruit we loved. Sometimes somebody would come door-to-door selling fruit that they had a glut of and they’d have a big bucket full of stuff for two bob. Where she found it - we’ve sat since and thought, where in the hell did she get the money? Because she found it for us when there was a big bucket of peaches or something. Marvellous.
Interviewee: Gloria Maxwell Archive ID 1673 Tape 02
Talking about the Depression, you mentioned swagmen would come to the bakehouse. Could you tell us more about them?
The swaggies were mostly marvellous blokes. They were just ordinary everyday people who couldn’t get a job and they did a walk through, hoping
to get better when they got to the country. They used to put a little stone on the post outside to tell the next bloke along that he could, and of course we’d take them in and give them half a loaf of bread. Mum would even give them a meal if she could scrounge up one. We had, just on dark one night, the first aborigine we ever saw come to the door, black as the ace of spades and it was just getting on to dusk.
Frightened the hell out of the lot of us. He had been camped in the cave at Glenbrook and the bushfires had come through and burnt everything he owned. And so Mum of course filled him up with a bit of everything and he was terribly grateful and he said he was working his way further out. And for a long, long time after, in the mail came a big box of cherries from somewhere
that he’d sent us. You remember that. It’s amazing. One old bugger used to come on the routine, stop off, and he was a nuisance. “I’ll do that for you Missus.” He’d be chopping wood and putting his feet under the table for every meal. He was terrible, but the majority of them were fine. They used to sharpen the knives for you or anything they could do. I read
a little bit the other day about the tinsmith ones, and I’d forgotten them altogether. That was the trade they used to do and they could make things out of wire, very clever they were. I don’t remember having any of it, but I remembered the stuff they did.
What other signs of the Depression could you see around you?
I don’t think anything really. As I said, I suppose we made the best of it and
we were lucky we had Mum, it made it easier for us. The Brown’s kids didn’t have a dad and we didn’t have a dad and the mother’s pulled together. When the little girl was going to make her communion my sisters made her a lovely white frock, and that’s what you did.
You were the Rogers, what about the Browns, can you tell us a bit more about them?
At one time we shared an old brick house. It was divided in two and didn’t actually share it, they had one half and we had the other half. She had a big family the same as Mum. They were devout Catholics so we spent a lot of time in the Catholic Church. Of course when they got to be altar boys we went and saw them, got to
make their first communion we went and saw them. The Catholic church was wonderful in Springwood. You fought the kids, the public kids and Protestants and whatever, but when the priest come to visit them he visited Mum too and he’d have a chat to her, you didn’t make fish and fowl through them. The dances were always in the Catholic hall of course. The father priest used
to come around and have a chat to everyone that was there. The eldest one, that was Pat’s age, he went to England during the war in the air force. And Matty didn’t, he worked on the railway, and Willy went to Occupational Forces in Japan and then he went to Korea. And he
then when he came back he went with a chap from Springwood out to Ivanhoe to build barns and things to get a job. When he died, he got a swimming pool built out there for them and everything, they gave him a marvellous big funeral when he died. But we didn’t get to that either. They took a bus load of people but there wasn’t enough room for us. Shirley went up to Bathurst, to Matty’s funeral because she stayed close to them. Then they had a girl,
it was the same age as Shirley and they were great mates forever. Joanie got special dispensation to have Shirley as a bridesmaid in the Catholic church and by then Fr Galvin had gone to God and we got a new one, and he was very up with it this lad. He kept saying to Shirley, “And of course we kneel here, that doesn’t apply to you.” All the way through it and
she said, “Can you see anything wrong with me kneeling at the same time?” So they just ignored him when it came to the crunch.
What was your religious upbringing?
Very little. We went to Sunday school. We took our penny to put on the plate for the poor and needy, which we hated parting with. Look at the Abos today, I’d like to know what they did with all my pennies.
We went to the little Sunday school down the road. Mum couldn’t go to church, she didn’t own a hat, and you couldn’t go to church in those days without a hat. We all went to Sunday school. Pat taught for a while, Sunday school, we loved our little Sunday school actually. It was the thing to do I think, more than anything. We had scripture at school of course, in those days, too.
Then I married a Presbyterian Catholic, and the first thing my mother-in-law said to me, “You won’t have any Catholics in Andrew’s house will you?” My God how am I not going to? Half of the family’s… I said, “I’m sorry I can’t say that, no.”
What were the fights with the kids about?
Oh, only like kids always do. Catholic kids were marvellous and the Protestants kids were marvellous, only sometimes coming home from school you’d have a git of a blue with someone, not a problem, any of it. I don’t remember any harm done. The only harm done was when we went out on a Billy cart somewhere along the way. Of course we spent half our life carting wood, we carted wood out of the bush
for the copper on the washing of a weekend, and for the fire. We were up on the railway line carting coal and we had to walk to Springwood to get any groceries we were going to get and brought them home. We were pretty busy. Didn’t have much time for getting into mischief, not that we didn’t.
What about going on a paper chase?
You’d rip up a whole heap of paper and you’d have it in the bag and then the first lot would go off.
The rest of you had to find them. It was just sort of getting onto dusk at night and you were all over the bush trying to find these little torn up pieces of paper, that’s all. Just something to fill in the time I suppose. We didn’t have balls in those days to play with. You didn’t have bats and things, I don’t remember having them. Next to that green bit where we used to play, there used to be a beautiful
old, well to me, it was probably an old shack. But it was a huge like one of those stations that they had in the olden days when they went overland in the horses, staging place, called the ‘Hammer and Gad’. It was a fascinating place to us, we never got in it of course, but the woman used to have sheep in the backyard and it was two storey and it was a really interesting place.
Now Valley Heights, I don’t think they’ve got anyone looks after the station, but they’ve got a great cement bit up steps and across the highway and down the other side onto our green. They’re having a discussion now what they’re going to call it, the bridge, because they have a couple of heroes that, I saved it for Shirley, I said, “Have you ever heard of this bridge?” “No, I never have.”
My family are nearly all buried in Springwood now and I go up there from time-to-time, when I’ve got any money.
Where would you get coal from when you walked up to the railway line?
Pinch it off the railway line. You’d have one of the boys, one of the engine drivers would say, “Don’t pick up this rubbish, I’ve got some good Newcastle stuff next week.” And instead of shovelling it into the engines they shovelled it off and you took a sugar bag home.
And mostly you had to look for it. And blackberries grew thick along the railway line and we used to get beautiful blackberries. You’d lay a plank across them and walk across, most often you’d find a black snake underneath, but because you were high you didn’t worry about that. The best blackberries were as far away as you could get.
What about the railways, was anyone guarding them?
No. No. They didn’t miss that bit. Everybody did it. We’d have been damned cold on the mountains without that coal. The worst part of it was you’d have long woolly socks on and we used to get those, Cobblers Pegs, we used to call them, the weed thing that grew all along the railway line. You’d get them all in your, and you’d have to spend half the night pulling them out and chucking them in the fire, apart from that.
No, it wasn’t a problem.
Can you tell us about school?
I went to Glenbrook but we weren’t there very long. I remember very well my first day at school because Mum had that lovely friend that lived at the back, and the horse had the big yard at the back and I walked through the horse yard and out the back gate and down a little lane way.
And down the back of, the school had where the water used to run through a creek, and went down that and up and underneath the fence. And I was back home at playlunch time. I didn’t think much of that at all. So I don’t remember much of Glenbrook school, but Betty and June and Pat all went to Glenbrook school. I don’t know how long they were there for.
What about the school in Springwood?
Springwood was great. I liked the school at Springwood. I liked the teachers we did well with. We had a separate class for most of us, but one of the classes you had two in together. Headmaster taught us class always in those days and we didn’t have libraries, the books used to come in in a big solid box
thing, like metal, in the train. That was full of books, like library books for us to read. We got a school magazine about once a month, we loved the magazines they were full of interesting stuff. But school just come and went. Didn’t take too much worry about that, I didn’t of course, others must have.
What subjects were you interested in?
Nothing. Well, I was pretty useless at most things. I couldn’t cope with languages. I did shorthand and typing for a while, I like it, but I didn’t use it again either. I loved art but I was hopeless at it, but I loved it and that’s when I go to Canberra, when they’ve got a lovely art exhibition on that I want to see that isn’t coming to Sydney, I go to Canberra. I went on the train of course, and it
doesn’t go anymore, and book myself in somewhere and went to the art gallery and come home again the next morning.
What about other skills that you might not have learnt at school? Your sisters were dressmakers, what did you learn about that?
Very little. You didn’t need to and I was very sorry about that in years to come when I had to do a bit.
They did it all and you didn’t need to and granny taught them because they lived with her. Mum loved embroidery, we all did that, I did it and all my daughters have beautiful embroidered supper cloths. I like doing that, but nothing useful.
Any other memories of school?
No not really. I suppose we lived, at the time we loved
it and had school mates we loved, and some we didn’t and all of that.
How often and for what occasions would you go into the city?
School holidays. Grandfather had one of us every school holiday, and we’d stick our clothes in the school case we had, and you could get a ticket on the railway for a shilling and
when you came back you traded it and got your shilling back, which was a marvellous thing in those days. We’d go by train down to Central and cross over and get the tram out to, I suppose to Waverley somewhere, and we’d walk down to Grandfather’s place and we’d have our holiday with them and spend the day on Bronte Beach. We got that sunburnt you couldn’t believe,
blisters on our shoulders. Grandfather was a great believer in sticking you under a hot shower. And Gran and Grandfather’s place was like a whole new world, it was marvellous. We loved it there. They had a nice yard and a pussy willow tree in the backyard and canaries, we loved our holidays. June and Betty were marvellous to us too, of course. We had cousins that sometimes came and visited at the same time.
They had the pub at Orange. They’d be in the city staying somewhere and they’d turn up. Still got cousin Harry and he’s just a joy, and he lives up on the central coast somewhere, and he rings me, “When are you coming up? You’re not game.” He’s about 83. That was a big highlight, but sometimes we didn’t all get to go of course. Pat would get a
turn and I’d get a turn and Shirley would get a turn. They used to come down sometimes and we’d stay at Christmas time down there.
What street did your grandparents live in?
How far from the beach was that?
It wasn’t very far from Tamarama and at the top of Tamarama there was a lovely big seat there and Grandfather
used to go along there and had a little dog called Nippy and he used to go along there of an afternoon and sit there, and all blokes from around would come and sit and it looked right out across the ocean. You had to do a lot of walking to get to Tamarama, which we did of course. One Christmas, when Mum’s sister Dolly lived in another street further down from them and I had to go and stay with her,
Pat was doing her 6th class then, and Aunty Dolly had a new baby and she wanted someone to come and help her and so Mum sent me of course. I was kicking and screaming. I had to stay with her and the rest of them all stayed with Gran and Grandfather and I had to stay with Aunty Dolly. That was a terrible time, I hated that. But I look back on that
first cousin, and Nan’s quite a close friend now, and we see a lot of her and she’s prospered very well. She’s got half a dozen houses in the city and she has a beautiful unit somewhere in France that she spends the winter in. She was the baby, I don’t know how old she was, she was about 10 months old I suppose, and she had a beautiful stroller which I wished they’d kept. It was
sort of cane and a roundy bit and it was only that high and it had big long wheels on it of course. And it had a big long handle so I stuck her in there one afternoon and I took her down to Bronte Beach and left her in one of those lovely things and had a lovely splash in the ocean and took her home again. She says now, I was trying to, I forget how old she is
and I was trying to figure it out because I had to go to school when I was there. I would have only been, I don’t know, I reckon I was about 9 but it doesn’t fit in how old she is. But it doesn’t really matter either.
What was the scene down on Bronte Beach in those days?
Beautiful beach, it was calm and lovely. I’ve only been back once. There was a railway picnic, and my son and his wife took me and I went back up to see Grandfather’s house
and have a wander around rather than stay at the picnic, and it was quite rough. I got to Tamarama a couple of times too. My sisters’ had a unit at Bondi and I went down to Tamarama swimming one time, I was down holidaying with them. It was rough. Bronte was a beautiful beach, it was. Of course the high rises everywhere had ruined everything.
You could walk for miles and they had all these little picnic and kiosk things all along, grass everywhere. Beautiful.
What did people wear to go swimming?
Whatever they could find, mostly I suppose. What I found interesting when the migrants came, and they were fat most of them, and they’d shove on anything they could find. But the joy of those people when
they hit the water, it didn’t make a bit of difference what they were wearing, they just laughed and fell in the water and fell in the water and had a lovely joy, and that is what the sea is to me, don’t really matter. They didn’t get to the bikinis until quite a while after, then the beach inspector put them all off the beach because they were exposing themselves. My eldest sister was a marvellous swimmer. I’d get me knees wet and she’d be way, way out coming in on the waves.
She’ll be 89 in a couple weeks time and she can hardly walk now.
What about the beach inspectors?
The Bondi Beach inspectors, they used to come along and make sure everything was fine. They always wore a lovely white outfit and a white hat, and when the bikinis hit the beach, and they were pretty well covered when you look at today’s little lot. But they wouldn’t have any of that,
exposing themselves. They put them all off the beach. But mostly the kids had swimmers of cotton, swimmers with frills on the bum and all that, but an ordinary beach cozzie was like an ordinary one piece cozzie today.
Do you recall there being a dump down there at the back of the beach?
No, I don’t really. I went to school along there somewhere but don’t know where because I only went for a couple of months.
What about Tamarama, did people swim there the same as Bronte?
Yes, but it was a pretty rough beach, you had to be mindful. Years and years later my husband took time off and he minded the kids, and I had a week with June
after Betty was married, had a week with June down there. She went to work and I went down swimming and lying on the beach all day in the sun down at Tamarama. When I got back home she come rushing in and that was when the bush fires were on the mountains, that was the end of my week down there, I had one day lying on the beach at Tamarama. I’m never going to make it to the beach.
I’ve got this little dump and a few quid and I still haven’t got enough to get a place by the water.
What about the rest of the city? Did you go anywhere else?
June and Betty of course took us to marvellous places, and Carl’s Restaurant was the highlight of our visit to the city. They’d take us in there and all this beautiful food, we said, “Do we have to eat food?” “No you don’t.” So we’d have two desserts.
Can you describe where this restaurant was?
I don’t really know, right in the middle of the city somewhere, but it was just like something like the one Woollies have got opposite Town Hall Station, with all the lovely food along and you just move along and selected what you wanted. Carls had restaurants all through the city. You could choose lobster and they’d cook it for you, imagine, swimming around the pool.
The city was a fascinating place, but they took us to the Sydney Show for the first time ever, and they had a beautiful Indian temple built inside the Sydney Show, and we were walking on all these streets and we said to June, “When are we going to get there?” She said, “We’ve been there for the last half hour.” It was so huge and big that we never dreamt of anything like
that. So I wasn’t happy when they moved it either.
Were Betty and June…?
Worked in the city, lived with Gran and when Grandfather died she sold the place and they went into a unit. They always worked in the city.
Where was their work?
Somewhere down near Anthony Hordens. They made children’s overcoats, during the war of course they had to go on to something else. They had a very clever scheme going. They had all the scraps and that, the Salvation Army used to collect for cleaning the premises. They were supply and demand days and it was good. They brought home a lot of scraps and things and made nice warm blankets out of them, sewed them all together like patchwork
quilts. Andy’s mother did it too, all those years later, she sewed a lot of material. The boys used to sleep out on the verandah and she had sugar bags at the back and these coloured stuff on top. You do these things, I suppose, when you’re poor.
Were there men in your sisters’ lives when you went to visit them?
Betty had a boyfriend and went dancing a lot.
June was very quiet and she was very much at home with Grandfather. She didn’t bother, she went to pictures and things but she didn’t go dancing. She was reasonably delicate and she couldn’t really do too much of things the rest of us did, but she made a good way of life for herself. She never married. She had a couple of offers but she didn’t accept them. She couldn’t see her way clear for that. So she stayed an old maid, but she
ended up as a librarian at The Telegraph and loved it. She got very ill at 39, she collapsed and they discovered that she’d had a hole in her heart all those years that she’d worked hard for a living. So they operated on her of course, and told her that she had a 50/50 chance. The oldest person was 10, that lived to 10 with a hole in the heart in those days and she was 39. She come through it
fine and then she didn’t want to go back to dressmaking. She said that she went into The Telegraph, they’d had this ad in the paper for six weeks. “Obviously nobody’s rushing the job. I have no qualifications whatsoever for it, but I’d love to give it a try.” It was the days when old Packer owned it and he said, “Right, I’ll give you three months trial.” And she stayed there and loved it. The journos were great to her, they’d get her
the free tickets to the movies. Paul Robeson came out here to visit and she was a great fan of his and they took her as part of the crew, I don’t know if they were filming. She got to meet him. She made a very good life for herself. She had a little unit in Woollahra.
What did your older sisters teach you about boys?
I didn’t really get a short, sharp talk. June told me about periods which Mum never mentioned a word about. It would have frightened the hell out of me because I was 12 by then and never knew anything about it. They didn’t, none of them did, they left it to you having enough sense yourself to avoid these things I suppose.
How did you find out about the facts of life?
Eventually through mates, especially this girl from Mudgee, she was wonderful, she was one that worded me up on a lot of it because she was a couple of years older than me. So we avoided like the plague, because in those days it was a terrible disgrace to have got pregnant. You got shipped away somewhere and come back after and all of that. We weren’t having any of that.
Had a lovely lot of boyfriends. War time we went dancing a lot, we’d come back from the factory and stop off at Penrith and come home on the midnight train.
We’ll come to the war period in much more detail a bit later. Coming to your earliest boyfriends, when did you start to go out with boys?
The lovely girl from, Mum’s friend, from Emu Plains married, from Glenbrook rather, married a chap from Emu Plains and he was the most beautiful man that ever drew breath, and a lovely, lovely bloke. He had us for school holidays, he had an orchard and mostly when the fruit needed picking for the market we got invited. It was nothing to chuck school and have a couple of weeks down at Roy’s.
He used to take us to Melrose Hall dances, and I was about 14. This gorgeous young bloke come up and he danced with me all night, and he was a lovely dancer which was strong on my books because I wasn’t much good at it in those days. I was still at school in Penrith of course, and he was a mechanic apprentice at Emu Plains. He’d
come riding past on his bike and I’d have to dive into a shop or something because I didn’t want to let on I was still at school. I only met him on a rare occasion and then I met him again after I started work. A crowd of them used to come up from Penrith to the dances and I met him again then. He had, of course, a lovely motor bike and I had to walk a mile or so after work and he’d come to pick me up after work. “Don’t you get
on that motorbike,” Mum said. So he walked, believe it or not, he walked the damned motorbike all that way from there to my place because I wasn’t allowed to get on the back of it. I saw him for a while. He went into the air force too, I saw him for a while and he turned up one day at the factory, we were all up having lunch and you’re in these giggle suits, I hid that day too. I didn’t want him to see me in that
shocking, bloody suit. I haven’t seen him since. Oh yes, we went to a ball one night in Penrith and he came up to have a jazz waltz with me and he said, “I’ll be in big trouble over there.” Because he was married then. He said, “I can’t resist it.” So we danced this lovely jazz waltz together.
You mentioned starting work at Jackson’s store. Can you tell us a bit more about your early work experience?
They had a shop with a bit of everything in it down in Chinatown. We had to do two weeks training there and we had to wear a hat and gloves to work of course, and I stayed with my sisters when I did that bit. Then we got up there.
It had counters along one side and down the middle, island counters, and up the other side. Somebody was in charge of each island. The manager was in charge of the menswear bit, which was down the other end. I had on mine, sweets, kitchenware and paint at the end of it. The paint ran into the menswear
but we weren’t allowed to sell the paint or the menswear, but of course the manager was never there so we managed to do that. The worse bit I ever got of that was a young lieutenant wanted blue underpants and I had the, that was the worst thing I struck. We were very naïve in those days, we never really mixed and did much of anything. Anyway we had a wonderful charge lady
that would come to your rescue if ever she spotted you, and she had all ladies wear, the stockings and the ladies wear and the shoes at the end of hers. The one in the centre had a bit of everything, like stationery, books and bits and pieces. You had to learn it all and then at the back of the shop you had all the store rooms and you had to keep the store room tidy and you had to order your own stuff that would come in from Sydney.
Old Stonewall Jackson had Henry Lawson’s old home up at Faulconbridge, further up than Faulconbridge. He was the one who organised all those magnificent trees to be built, and planted by… every prime minister planted a tree and Henry Lawson is buried there in that little cemetery. He’d land in and if we were listening to the Melbourne Cup or anything there was hell let loose.
You weren’t allowed any of them niceties. He’d come in, his wife was a sweet, beautiful, old fashioned lovely woman, but old Jackson was a, typical member of Parliament I suppose. They said he was the only one that never ever spoke the entire time he was in Parliament. But it was a good life, a nice chap the manager and very, very lovely people I worked with. She was very
angry with me when I left. The other girls said they were going up to see about going to this munitions factory and so I thought I’ll go too.
We’ll come to that as well. This training in Chinatown, Chinatown must have been an interesting place for a young girl to go.
Yes, very interesting place because there was, our charge lady sister was in charge of that lot. She said
they came down from Wellington as young girls and Jackson’s had given them a job and they were devoted to them. It was right in traffic and people coming to and from ships in the back, a lot of Alaskans and that sort of people, which I’d never seen before in my life, but that didn’t matter. But you couldn’t stand behind your counter waiting to serve anyone you had to
grab them on the way past. It was a very interesting job. I was very glad to get out of it I don’t mind telling you. They had a lunchroom downstairs, and all around the top there was wire netting and all behind that was rats, so it was a bit creepy. We survived that alright.
What about the kind of people that were in Chinatown in those days?
Well, those Alaskans, people that come, those sailors on the ships and workers on the ships and that. The People’s Palace wasn’t far away and there were people staying there and people that lived in Chinatown, it was a whole new way of life for me, but you had to dive on them, took a bit of learning. So I was glad to get out of it.
Where would you go for lunch?
Took a sandwich with you and sat down in the lunchroom of course, because you didn’t have much time for lunch. They had a bit of everything in there too, but I didn’t learn much of any of that really, they plonked you behind a counter and you got all the rules and things. Get a tram home of an afternoon.
Stonewall Jackson’s, yes, supposedly an American, he was an off-shoot to some wonderful general, American general or something.
This was a general store?
Yes, it was an interesting shop that had a bit of everything in it which was new to Springwood altogether. They had a big opening ceremony and they had a band playing out the front and everything.
There was a general store opposite that had mostly hardware and stuff and the butchers, and there was houses and the school and a big Presbyterian church - a boot maker next to us, and a big Presbyterian church next to that.
It was quite a new thing to have a shop like this?
What did people do before this store?
I don’t know, they probably didn’t buy anything. I imagine they went to Penrith, or Katoomba would have been the nearest. Of course the kids from school, any kids that went to school at Springwood school, any of them that lived at top side, Faulconbridge side, went to Katoomba for high school and the ones on the other side went to Penrith. Now they’ve got nine or ten in
On the subject of travelling tradesmen or salespeople, what sort of people would come to your home in those days?
I really don’t remember anyone coming to our home, but as I said, we didn’t have any money to buy anything anyway so it wouldn’t have done them any good anyhow. I really don’t remember the tradesmen. The bakers delivered always. The baker gave me a lift to work one day, the new baker,
I didn’t get to work until a half an hour late, there was big trouble over that. But we had a bakehouse next door to Jackson’s and that woman was a single woman and her family did all that baking in there. Warrens, they were a beautiful family. We were lucky to have them because they used to pop in and visit. The girl from the butcher shop would pop in and visit. It was sort of very family. School of Arts
was beautiful, in the main street, and Walter Lindstrom come with the billiards demonstrations and whatever. Now they’ve swiped it all together and built a huge big one down the other end.
Interviewee: Gloria Maxwell Archive ID 1673 Tape 03
Can you describe the house that you lived in?
The last house we lived in was the only one we stayed for any length of time. We often laugh because we lived in the brown house, the white house, the stone house, and can’t describe them all.
But the last one was the one up near the bakehouse that we stayed in. It was a brown house. It was weather board and it had three bedrooms and a big room, and then you shut all that off and step down and had the kitchen, the verandah and the bathroom with one wall and the tank. The laundry was out the back. Funnily enough that one tank of water seemed to last forever,
although if we got really short we could get from the well at the back of the bakehouse, we could drag water up from that. A fuel stove. When we got windy days on the mountains as we did regularly, it would always be windy for three days, and the ceilings in the house were all timber as well. Over the years they shrunk a bit and they were full of fine dust from
coal, from the trains. The wind would blow and Mum would set the table for a meal and we had a big stool along that we all sat on, and a couple of chairs and Mum would set the table and she’d put the tablecloth on top of everything, you had your meal under that. Because all of this sooty stuff was falling down all over everything. The front of the house seemed to be alright, it had a little verandah out the front,
a bull nose verandah out the front, and then the Western Highway and the railway. So we were never stuck for something to look at and do.
Sewerage and the loo?
Down the back as far as you could get it I suppose, a timber one with redbacks [spiders] under the seat. Nobody gave it a thought to clean up and do anything with it. And, of course, the squeeze of paper on the back.
We’d dive for the loo every time the washing up was on. The toilet man, the sandy man they called him, he came by once a week and lifted it on his shoulder and stuck it out in the... He gave me a lift home from work one day, that was something to remember too. He was a beautiful man, that man that had the contract for that. He
had a lovely family and wife and daughters and he was a beautiful dancer and he’d come to all the dances, but his hands were all tarred out. Every time you had to empty them you’d have to tar them, and of course his hands were a terrible mess. He used to wear lovely little white gloves when he’d come to the dances. He was there forever.
Did he have a low status in the community?
Not a bit. He was one of the few of us that was working. Nobody did. The fettlers on the railway, they were hard working men but they were great blokes. The stupidest thing they ever did, doing away with them, look at what they’re doing now. I was at Town Hall Station a while back and a man came along with a sledge hammer belting in the things on the railway line, another one was watching for trains. He’s walking.
So anyway that was the loo man, sandy man or whatever.
What about the toilet? Spiders?
Oh yes. It was timber seat with a hole in it and timber loo. Interesting stuff to read on the paper, you wouldn’t get the rest of the story. Like I said, “Where the hell did it come from?” and none of them could tell me either.
Because you and your family didn’t buy papers?
No, I don’t remember there being any papers, no doubt there was, but I didn’t remember ever seeing any paper. So you could, I can’t for the life of me find out where that come from, but it must have.
In a household full of girls, who took care of mice and cockroaches?
We didn’t have cockroaches, we didn’t have any until I came here. God knows how old when I come here, but
that’s the first time I’d ever had cockroaches. I lived down at Yarramundi in a dump, I lived at Pokolbin, I lived in Westmead in a beautiful new home and I never ever had cockroaches until here. We had mice but then of course the bakehouse cat caught all the mice. I don’t remember mice in the place. There wasn’t anything for us to eat let alone a guest would have a very poor living.
What sort of meals would your mum cook?
It depended what we had to eat. If we had any money then we had sausages and potatoes I suppose. Like I said, somebody would give you a pumpkin. We grew lovely strawberries in the backyard and occasionally we grew spinach. The bakehouse boys would get there early and get all the strawberries. Anyway, we very seldom got one of them to eat.
The cooking wasn’t a part of our lives. But as I said, when she got this job at the Oriental Hotel and we had beautiful food then, when we all started to work.
In respect to your job with Jackson’s, how did you get the job?
The manager asked Mum could I have the job because he wanted me to have the job because he had to sack Pat.
What was the reason for sacking Pat?
She got to 18.
Therefore it would be…
An increase in wages. We got an increase in our wages, we got two and six every Christmas. So the wages were very, we worked bloody hard too.
How did Pat feel about it?
I don’t think she minded because it was a chance to get to the city with my sisters. She went for an interview at DJs [David Jones – department store] and got the job
straight away, so it suited her fine. She loved that job. Shirley went to DJs too, later on.
The war is coming. What did you know about events going on in Europe at the time?
Absolutely nothing because we didn’t have radios and we didn’t have papers. That was the last year of high school for me.
I got the measles just as we were going to do our intermediate. I couldn’t do my exam and I was home. That’s when the boys enlisted in the city at the showground and they went to Ingleburn, and they decided as part of their training they would bring
them in stages across the mountains to Bathurst camp. That’s how come I was home otherwise I wouldn’t have met any of them, but I wasn’t too crook we were going to the dance that night. We were heading to the dance and my friend lived in a little stone railway cottage and we used to short cut across the railway
there at her place and I called in to pick her up and here’s all these soldiers, her mother had had them all to tea. They all come with us of course, that’s how I met him. I didn’t think much of him I must admit, I wasn’t impressed and I don’t think he was impressed with me either. But over the years of writing to him he wrote to me nearly every day when he got to the Middle East.
Just a step back, you were too sick to go to school?
Well I couldn’t go because of the measles. You would have given everyone the measles and I couldn’t go back to school when I got over the measles because they’d all done their intermediate and I was very angry about that. I would have loved to have gone back to school for another year, but of course, we couldn’t do that and we needed the money and I had to go to work.
So you’re not at school, you’re at home recovering.
Mum come home and said, “I’ve got a job for you, you’re going to work in Jackson’s.”
“Aaah!” So that got very well organised. I got to the city and my sisters made me a black dress and off I went to work.
The soldiers walking past, can you just share that story with me and how you met Andrew?
They came, every second day a bunch
came past and they used to have a band in the front, march, and the trucks with all their cooking gear with them and everything and he was with the military police when he first joined up, him and his brothers. Didn’t take them long to discover that wasn’t quite what they fancied. But they were stationed at the police station for a week so
we went out to a few things while he was there. I had my eye on the publican’s son at the time. He was irate, “You shouldn’t be going out with them.” Ah, for the good old days.
Did the publican’s son have his eye on you?
God no. He had his eye on everybody else in town. Wasn’t a problem.
When did you first see Andrew?
Then, when we went to the dance that night. Got introduced to all of them, five of them there, were there, that had dinner at Jenny Stewart’s place and then they all went to the dance with us. We saw him a few times after that and they went on to Katoomba after that. That’s the bit I wanted out of the archives, because we were all at the pictures one night and a lovely bit come on those newsreel
things about the boys marching through Katoomba, and of course the police have got an eye on them and he’s standing there looking at a lovely girl, and he thought for years after it was a lie, but everybody in the picture show said, “Look there’s Andy.” He wouldn’t believe it. I asked if there was any chance of getting a copy of it but of course, no, no, no.
He was checking out another girl?
Oh was he ever. He was really giving her a look over. He didn’t do it again in my presence until all those thousands of years later, and we were going to a turnout at the Bellbird pub and we were driving into Cessnock, and we’re driving along and he started veering towards the gutter, and behind him there’s a most beautiful woman in a purple pant suit,
in a gorgeous sports car behind him driving. It was love at first sight, you know what I mean I said, “Hey hey.” It was Brian McGuigan’s wife and she was a joy, an absolute joy of a woman and he had a lovely night chatting to her. There you go.
Going back to this dance where you met him, how did he introduce himself? What happened?
They introduced us there just before we left
and we all walked up to the dance and danced all night. I don’t think I come home with him, I couldn’t tell you that.
How do these dances actually operate?
If you’re lucky there’s a band, if you’re paying two bob to get in there’s not, there’s whoever they… Most of them were in the Catholic hall but big balls were in the picture show, they used to turn it into and you’d get a lovely band, and a lot of women in the band
in those days. But oh they were clever they were really beautiful. We got dolled all up. Betty used to give me her hand-me-downs all her lovely frocks, so I was always very well dressed. The two bob ones were in the Catholic school hall and they’d usually have somebody playing the piano and somebody playing the violin and that was about it, but it didn’t matter we all enjoyed them and walked home after for miles.
In respect of the Catholic ones, there was drink and food?
Coffee sometimes and sandwiches and things.
The money would go to the local church?
Yes. The coffee was in big kerosene tins on a primus to keep it hot. It was good, nothing like this rubbish they’re drinking today, of course, but memory is very kind isn’t it?
So when you walked in what happened?
You walked in, you paid your two bob and nearly everyone there you knew. The toilets were the ones the school kids had way down the back. If there was any romancing going on you’d have to get around them, you tried to ignore that. They were good, happy times. They had barn dances where you all changed partners and danced around.
Would the girls wait for the fellas to ask them for a dance?
Oh yes. If there weren’t enough fellas, and there wasn’t in those days, you danced together it wasn’t a problem.
What was your expectation? The hope to find a fellow?
Oh God no. No. I suppose because with Dad, and the Brown’s kids didn’t have a dad and we didn’t have a dad, and a lot of
the dads were away at war, and I don’t think I thought that was a very important part of living at all, that’s how it was. My sister went with her boyfriend for 10 years before she married, Betty. June never married. Pat married but not for a fair while. Pat played the field of course she was very beautiful she didn’t have any problems
So you’re relationship with your dad or your dad’s relationship with all of you affected your view on…?
I think it did basically, but you weren’t aware of it in those day. I certainly wasn’t looking for a husband.
What was your expectation for your future?
We never thought of that either. We just thought of the war being over, every day. Sometimes
we’d get on the train at night and some of the boys would be coming home on leave and they was awful times really. So you sort of waited for the war to be over more than anything. We only had ambitions of having a good time, or where we were going next, whether you were going to Penrith for a dance or whether you weren’t.
What about the bigger ball dances?
They were gorgeous. You’d arrive and the hall would be all decorated beautiful and the ladies would be making a big supper out the back and the orchestra was up on the stage. We were all sitting all around, and everybody had the best they had on, and they were really beautiful.
How much would you pay?
I don’t think we paid all that much, but I don’t remember that either.
I don’t remember paying a lot for them. I imagine we probably bought the ticket early in the piece and you went by tickets mostly, because I don’t remember ever paying. But you very seldom went with a partner because there weren’t any.
Can you share your preparation, what you’d wear and your makeup?
It depends on what sister got away early.
Mostly we only wore lippy. But we had the hair all in rollers for days and we all had a bath whether we needed it or not and we had our very best undies and stockings and shoes I suppose. But the frocks were gorgeous, beautiful frocks. The fashion of the time. Sometimes some girls were that poor they still had the sandshoes. I can’t imagine
how you danced in sandshoes, but they did and they looked lovely.
Hair is a big thing for many women.
Oh, it was a big thing. Page boy bob time, when you’re hair was long and you had it rolled under and you’d go to bed with all these hairpins in and butterfly clips, absolute agony. I don’t remember that. I remember us sharing a bed once. I don’t know who come to stay but somebody did, and
we didn’t have any spare beds and we shared the bed. The beds had wire springs mattresses and they went in the middle, they got very weak in the middle. We spent all night with one leg stuck over the side to stop us rolling down to the middle, because one was one end and the end was the other. Nothing was a problem. We dragged a mattress off a bed once and all lied across the double bed instead of trying to...
Was there only one hair style?
That was the most important one. Of course curly haired girls just had to have curly hair. Page boy bob was all the thing.
How would you keep your hair clean and long at the same time?
Long wasn’t a problem because you didn’t have the price for a haircut very often anyway.
But I suppose, we didn’t have shampoos, you washed it with Sunlight soap, was the best thing for hair washing. When the boys got to New Guinea they said, “Send us up Sunlight soap. None of that Palmolive stuff.” Shirley’s little friend Joanie Brown used to do hers in lemon, and she used to rinse, because she had beautiful blonde hair, and she used to rinse. We thought
she was pretty upmarket rinsing her hair in lemon juice. She was the only girl in the family of boys and she used to have to do all the odd jobs helping her Mum because her Mum was a fairly sick woman. Mattie was courting and he said, “Want me pants pressed.” And she must have been having an off day, Joan, because she was the sweetest loveliest person that ever drew breath, and she pressed his pants with the creases at the sides.
We thought it was the funniest thing we’d ever seen. He was ropeable. He ended up marrying that girl and, though they were strict Catholics, and his brother took him to task over it. He wasn’t allowed to marry her because she wasn’t a Christian, and it took him a lot of time and he ended up marrying her. He ended up
pretty well ostracised over it. Terrible isn’t it?
Was there a lot of religious tension back then?
I don’t think tension but they kept to their own, kept to themselves, there certainly wasn’t any mixing. It was very nasty, and of, that mixing business. Mat courted her for a long time before he got to marry her.
To the dances, would you wear jewellery?
Oh yes, we had some lovely jewellery, for over two and six you could get some beautiful jewellery. None of us ever had anything worth having I don’t think, it didn’t matter. Nothing mattered you shoved on anything you had. Flowers in your hair.
Things like, even for the boys, body odour and those sort of things.
Life Boy soap up once a week, you had a bath once a week with this lovely Life Boy soap. It was stinking stuff, it was bright reddy pink, and it stuck on everything. Don’t know why we ever used it but we did. You know, I don’t think any of us stunk, that’s the funny part. That’s why [UNCLEAR] is very kind to you because now you get on a bus, especially when Avon was strong on the market and it was overpoweringly
scented, and you’d get on the bus and 10 different… And now you get on the train you’ve got garlic one side and BO [body odour] the other, that’s very true. All you ever get is the ads for this marvellous stuff you should be using.
So you’ve met Andrew, when did the relationship of writing begin?
He came home on leave and we went out a bit. They all came down on leave and then the next thing they came down on final leave and all the boys put in their money towards buying an old Chevy car, Tourer car, and they came down in that and they went everywhere in that. Saw a bit of him then, but not a lot. He went, a couple of days before that, he had a brother that he was very, very fond of and he had
friends he wanted to visit and he went with him. So the last few days of his final leave he spent off with Alex somewhere.
So after the initial dance, what was your relationship with him? Friends?
What was the next step? How did you keep in contact?
When he wrote to me from the Middle East, he threw a card out on the window of the train
saying that they were going and he didn’t know where and he’d be in touch when he could. Then they called in, when they were coming back they called into Bombay. They were going to Singapore, in the meantime Singapore fell. So how lucky were they not that the Middle East and Syria was a picnic, but better off. At least they had a fighting chance.
He was an MP [Military Police]?
Yes. No, he changed over. They went on the [HMS] Queen Mary overseas and they changed over then to the 2/5th Artillery.
So what stories did he tell you about being a MP?
Not many because he wasn’t in it long enough really, but some lovely ones of course, in the Middle East. They got called in to help in those days. He didn’t tell a lot of stories, kept pretty well to himself most of it, until we got to Pokolbin.
And there was only two of us in a 25 acre paddock and went shopping once a week, and anything he did I was holding up the heavy end of, so we got to be very close. At night when he couldn’t sleep he used to talk a lot and I got a lot of it then. But a lot of them, my sister’s husband that went to the Middle East and New Guinea and Borneo and I said to him, “Exactly where were you Jack?”
“I was with the transport, we were everywhere.” You know, that’s all you ever got. Imagine what he could have told us if he wanted. A very sad bit to that, he died last year and my sister put in to have his grave dug for the war grave and he’s not entitled because he wasn’t on a pension. That’s a little bit slipped by us until now, she can well afford to have it done, but
his two brothers are in Springwood and she wants him to be there with them, and she wanted it done just like them. Anyway, we’re looking into that. Well it’s not right is it? But then again there must be thousands of them dropping by the wayside now. They’re all into their 80s but he was 16 months in hospital and she paid $1500 a month the entire time he was there. Veteran Affairs never paid for any of that.
He gave you the card, had you gone on any dates together?
Oh, only the pictures and probably a dance or two, I don’t know. Every time one of these troops would come through they’d have a dance, so I suppose we’d been to a few of them, I don’t remember us doing anything particularly exciting.
Took me down to visit his family because they had a little Chevy truck, they lived on a farm at Yarramundi, at Richmond, and funnily enough my son lives not far from there now although it’s years later. He took me down to meet them. While they were away in the Middle East the three of them came home reasonably safe, not sane, but safe and his father and his
brother both died while they were away. His father was killed in a car accident and his brother died of pneumonia. Ironic isn’t it? We had nothing very exciting and certainly didn’t plan for anything in the future or anything, but he wrote to me all the time he was away. I think what impressed me most, he was that bit older and he was a very intelligent bloke, and up until then I hadn’t had anyone who had, as I said,
anytime I brought home anyone exciting Patty got them. So I’d never sort of been anything very much up until then and I think I was impressed with that more than anything, I think.
So were you sort of his girl?
Did you write to anyone else?
No, not really. A lot of the boys we knew had gone overseas and some of my old
boyfriends had gone overseas, but no, I never wrote to any. I wrote to him a bit, used to send him postcards and things.
So what sort of things would you write to one another?
Very little. There was very little you could write, you couldn’t say you had a great night out with somebody already, could you? It was very difficult actually. You could write and tell him about the family and different ones from
Yarramundi that had been up to the shop that you’d seen and that, but there wasn’t a lot. He, on the other hand, he would sometimes, he would write three letters in one when they were on the move or when they were in action. When they went up into Syria he wrote some very, about the place and description and the wogs and all of that and having coffee with them and all of that bit. But
he found plenty to write. He was in Jerusalem Christmas morning and he went down into the crypt and, where supposedly the manger lay, and he wrote beautiful descriptive letters about it. He could find plenty to write about. I didn’t have much, my world was pretty small.
Did you look forward to his letters?
Oh very much. The postman did too, the postman would say, “It’s a letter from Andy.” And he’d [stay] until you read it.
That was the joy of working in that shop because mothers and girlfriends, brothers that were all away, they’d all come in, “I had a letter from you know, and they’re fine.” And all of that. You shared all that with them all and it was good.
Were there occasions…?
Oh yes, that wasn’t so good. Yes of course there were. They never
told you until they were over the worse of it. Then they’d tell you.
But you would have known?
Yes we all knew, the town knew.
Did you share an occasion?
Oh yes, sometimes they’d just tell you. You couldn’t really do much could you? There’s not a whole lot you can do. When anybody, prisoners of war started to come home they shut the town and we all went out to welcome them home. Those small things
they did. Not a lot you could do.
This early stage the war’s broken out, you’ve met Andrew what part did you want to play in the war?
A lot of the girls we were at school with were going into the army. Billy Horler had been to the First World War and enlisted again and his two sons and his
two daughters all enlisted and one of the girls that worked with us went into the air force. I would’ve loved to have gone in too, to the army, but Mum said, “Oh no, no, no.” So when the other girls come up with this bright idea they thought they’d go, the government had a man, I don’t know what you called him but he had an office, he had to more or less conscript people in to the factory.
They were going up and said what about coming and I said, “Well, good idea.” So we made arrangements to go the next night and I told Mum and that was alright with her.
What was your mum’s objection to joining the army or the navy?
Anything! She wasn’t in favour of that at all, none of them.
I don’t know why. Really I don’t. She just didn’t think that was the place for women
I suppose, and she wasn’t, and see my other sisters they, both of them were sewing and Pat and Shirley were in David Jones and Shirley used to go to a canteen. David Jones had a canteen under the railway station somewhere where they used to hand out hot coffee and stuff to the servicemen and she was working there. So they were sort of safe and sound and she didn’t want me, I think, getting involved. But anyway.
What was the attraction for you?
Nothing really, I just thought yes, I’d like to do this.
Did you know anyone who was in World War I?
We knew a lot, but we didn’t realise that because they were customers. One of my loveliest customers, turned out years after, that he was back from World War I, because they never talked to you about it. One of the other ones brought home an English bride, an
Irish bride, and she used to come in with the blessing of God always, with this beautiful accent. Our customers were but we didn’t know it. I wasn’t impressed with any of that, I just thought that I’d go, it sounded good to me.
Share with me how you got involved with the munitions factory.
We went up, it was up towards Faulconbridge,
we had a good walk, we walked up and went and saw the man and he gave us a thing to go for an interview at the munition factory. They had a huge big administration block up the top, in closer to St Mary’s. So we went to that and they did a medical which was blood pressure and test your heart. Then they sent
us down to this, I said this to the girl, they sent us down for about an hour of tests and things, like a book full of ink blots things. “What’s this look like to you?” type thing, and mazes and whatever. We finished all that and so then we went home and waited to hear from them and we got chosen, which wasn’t hard. They’d have anybody. They were recruiting from Maitland and everywhere at the time. So
blind Freddy would have got a job in there as we found out later. We finally got selected the jobs that we were supposed to do and when we got in there we got into this change room that had 350 in it and they said, “Did you do the test?” We said, “Yes.” And they said, “The only requirement you really need to work here is strong in the back and weak in the head.” I said, “I certainly pass that alright.”
That was that. We got moved around a bit, but we mostly got, we were all in different sections, and we mostly got whatever work was going, that’s where you got shoved sort of thing.
Can you describe the layout of the factory?
What we saw, we
didn’t actually see it all which was a bit unfortunate. It was huge. All the buildings were huge and they had green roofs and they were beautifully built and as far as… We went out on a train, we came down from the mountains on a train. People came from Katoomba and everything and they came very early, and very patriotic most of them. Then the train took, just out there was, I think there were three stations. There was Dunevat [?], not sure what the
second one was, and then Pyro, Pyro was the furtherest out and that’s where they did all the explosives, prepared the explosives and that. This big train line took us all out to wherever you were going to go and it pulled up next to the store room, part of the store room where they unloaded a lot of stuff. It was built, I think it was built of tin, but I’m not sure now when I think about it.
It was like, a lot of it was like a motel you know, how the motels are built long and a lot of doors. Well a lot of it was built like that. Then you went into, the first place you went into was the change room which was another huge big building and it had an office part at the end and it had the change room and it had the showers, toilets at the other end. The train
pulled in and unloaded all its stuff at these other parts, roads all through it, really is an amazing place. I first went into silk screen printing on 25 pound cartridge cases and the train unloaded all those into there. Then you went back up these streets, back to the change room
and then the next one I went into was where they filled the cartridge cases and they did something different in the, bays they called them, they did something different in all each rooms. They were all shut up from one another and besides that they had a room for morning tea, the ladies in charge of the change rooms come down and did the morning teas. No, I’ll tell you that later.
They had clean areas and dirty areas and all these rows had, about that high, red, like stools, the whole lot was done, you couldn’t step over that you had to stay on this clean area because of a little bit of grit, might set off an explosion, so you had to have everything perfect. You had to stick to that wherever you went. We
did, all these different bits for the cartridge cases. There were ones that did little primer things and that what was shut in and where we assembled it was shut in and next door, and on the top of the things they had like a paddy pan thing and it had inside of it, a strip and the strips used to come like that and the
whole room of people flattening out those strips like that so whoever was in a hurry could grab them without having to fiddle with them. So that was another section altogether.
Interviewee: Gloria Maxwell Archive ID 1673 Tape 04
Do you know roughly what date or time you started at the munitions factory?
No, I don’t, not the date really. Like I said, it’s probably half way between
1940, it’d be after September 1941, but I can’t really tell you.
Can you describe for me a typical day going to work?
Yes. We were in the brown house then and we were quite a way from the railway station. I think we caught the train at six o’clock so it was a case of chucking your clothes on and
racing down the hill and falling into the train. I don’t know how long it took us to get there, probably half an hour or more to get to St. Mary’s then the train took us out. Winter time it’s very, very cold in St. Mary’s, the frost sort of lays low and one of my mates was a great dancer and she used to warm up by doing handstands against the place, but the rest of us didn’t.
Then we went straight into the change room out of the train, and changed our clothes, which was an absolute joy. The first time it frightened the hell out of you, but you got used to it. They had hooks in the ceiling and they were big change rooms, 360 something changed in the change rooms and they had the clean areas all that red stool bit around there, you came into that side.
You reported in, on the way in, to the ladies in the change room and if you had anything especially you got them to mind it for you. Then you went along to your particular peg on the wall and you let down a rope with this three hooked thing on it, down from the ceiling, stripped all your clothes off, except your bra and your knickers, and put them on that hook and hoicked them back up and brought down the ones,
stepped over into the clean area and put down the other ones and put them on. You were supposed not to have had any metal on you at all because that was dangerous. The suits were just beautiful. They were made, we were poor and we never saw anything luxurious and they were made of this beautiful, I don’t know whether it was black or a very deep navy, but very beautiful
woollen material and the pants had splits up both sides with tapes on so you had to tie them around because you couldn’t have any metal. The coats were like Chinese jackets with the high collars and leather buttons down the front. Up both legs of the pants you had big, written in white paint, your number, mine was
5729, big letters and across your back, like crims, and across the top of your hat. You had a hat with your hair all in it, a cap thing. Shoes with the number across the toes, brown men’s shoes, and that was your clean area gear. So off you went down to work. You went down this clean area bit to wherever you went to work. I went up over to the screen
writing and June and Edith went the other way and later on June went into the stores. We all got shifted around. Later on after the silkscreen, the silkscreen bit was very, very clever. It had an office sort of a room inside of it, but the men made them, these silkscreen things and they chopped all what you had to do out of paper and made a
platelet thing and the silkscreen underneath and that bit on top and another one on top of that. In a sort of big box. They delivered them to us. You slapped in the end a nice stack of yellow paint and you had like a squeezy thing and you squished the squeezy thing across that way and back that way, and lifted it up and tipped the tin over and did the same on the other side. And then there was a
small one that did the two ends, you sat them on the ends and did those ends. Then you dumped them off and did the next one and that was your day. We had morning tea and we had lunch. If you were handling explosives when you went up to lunch you had to have a shower. But otherwise you just put your other shoes on and you went up the canteen. They had a big canteen where they came from all over into that.
From the very beginning, what did you have to wake you up?
You just woke up. We didn’t have anything to wake us up. You just woke up unless you’d had a big night out, and then of course, you didn’t. Mostly if we went anywhere we went Friday night, because you didn’t work weekends. You just woke up.
No alarm clock?
No. Later on we probably did, but I didn’t, in the early days we didn’t.
Did you ever run late?
Oh yes. I slept all day once. I didn’t wake up until Mum come home at about four in the afternoon. You just got very tired, because some of it was heavy work.
What happened when you didn’t turn up?
Nothing. A lot of them didn’t turn up. We had a lovely girl work with us
and she used to sing with a band and of course she was out nearly most of the night and she was in doing this bit with the paddy things, she was in doing that bit, and she’s curled underneath the bench and they found that she’d had a couple hours sleep when they found her. They didn’t have a full complement to do the job, but they
had plenty of people, I suppose, they could call in to do it.
When you slept in were you docked pay?
I couldn’t tell you that. Really, the pay was marvellous after what we’d been living on, but I can’t remember that. The other marvellous thing about it was elderly people who hadn’t worked for years got a job there because there were so many jobs that they could do. Some of the women
were cleaners and they loved it.
Catching the train in, was it free travel?
No we paid for that, it was a special train but everybody was on it. Early morning train from the mountains.
How much was that?
How would I know that? I can remember it cost us a shilling to have a holiday at Grandfather’s
but I can’t remember that now. We got three pound 12 a week when we started at the factory and I don’t know what we got out of that, you couldn’t buy a weekly ticket in those days. I don’t really know what we paid out of that.
Arriving at the factory and the change rooms, the first time stripping off…
Yes. We can’t say we were young and innocent but by God we were naïve.
And after going through the tests and thinking this is marvellous and you land into that. But like all the rest were in the same boat, so it didn’t matter. When it got to the showers bit we didn’t have to shower, but if we were going dancing we had a quick shower. We weren’t actually handling explosives so we didn’t, the girls in the next section that were filling the shells they always had to shower.
But the showers were like a big carousel, round carousel with dividers into eight bits like that and that was it, so you’d have quickly got over any, and even growing up in a family of girls we never ever stripped in front of one another. Suddenly you were faced with this and you dived in, you had three minutes to shower and there was always a queue waiting to hop in after you.
You mentioned that when you went in you handed anything that was valuable in. Was there much theft?
I don’t think there was any, but I suppose it saved the problem. You could just say Mrs Bargely was in charge of that, because she travelled in the train with us too, she came from the mountains. There was another man that came from the mountains, he came from Leura, and he had a garden full of lilac and it was the first time I’d seen lilac in all the
different colours. I always knew it was pale mauve but he had all these. Some Fridays he’d bring a big bunch of lilac for you to take home. That was luxury.
What would you use lilac for?
Beautiful smelly flowers and just a luxury that you’d never seen.
How many of you would travel down on the train?
Well I travelled with my two mates of course,
but her brother-in-law come with us later on in the piece, and there were hundreds of them when you got out at St Mary’s and got out of the car of the train. Different ones you’d meet all the time. Nobody specially I don’t think. When we got back to St Mary’s, coming home some nights Juney had two brothers in the navy and you’d get on the train and one of them would be there, or one of the army boys. It was lovely,
that sort of made your day, you really thought you were doing something worth doing.
Coming down on the train, is that when you caught up with the news?
You didn’t catch up with much news of what was going with the war because they kept you pretty well in the dark. When they bombed Darwin we hardly heard about it, took you years to hear the story on Darwin. Mostly at that pictures you’d get the newsreel bit and that’s where you’d get a bit of the news, but
only what they wanted you to know of course. Mostly from the postman because the postman stopped while everyone read their letters and he knew that whoever was where, and they’ve gone up into Syria, and he knew all that, but it took us a while to learn it.
The change rooms, was it just a girl’s section?
Was there a male section?
There must have been, but I never
saw it, wherever it was. The men’s had, the men used to bring all the heavy stuff, they’d bring in the trolleys with the stuff on and taken away and all of that. One of our men, Joe Maxwell he was a VC [Victoria Cross] winner, and he was a very sick man and often times we did a load instead of him, because he was such a nice bloke and you couldn’t see him struggling. There were two men as a rule, they had grey suits and we had
the navy blue ones. The army inspectors, which I haven’t mentioned, they were ladies with blue duffle coats, they wore dresses and just this blue duffle coat and a blue hat on. They inspected every move we made and I’ll never, to this day, know how they dropped any of them short and killed some of our boys, because we couldn’t do a damned thing they didn’t want, every step we made.
You’re saying everything was made precisely?
Exactly. When the shells came into the other side with the primers in them you had a thing like the barrel of a gun, chunk of metal, and you had to make sure they fitted in that. So every bit you did one of them followed you. I’ve got a nice picture of this bit for you, they’d follow you to
make sure that bit was done exactly right and then they follow you to make sure that bit was done exactly right, and then they’d follow you to make sure that bit was done exactly right. So how in the hell could they ever have one charge short and blow up half their mates I’ll never know.
Are you referring to a particular story?
You hear them.
When did you hear them?
From Andrew of course. You heard,
some of the boys will tell you. That was the worst part of the war when they’d drop one of these things short. As I say, I never know how. I want to know now where were they getting their ammunition from? I don’t think we were making it in this country. Where’s all the lot over in Timor and places getting their ammo from? If I go back to making hand grenades I’ll find out.
In respect to your clothing, was it one size fits all?
No, no. You got roughly, I suppose it was small, medium and large, I’m not sure. Then on Fridays when you come up you handed your suits in and they all went to the laundry and you got them back Monday morning. Beautiful material of course, in the hot water washing machine, the pants were up to here,
and you couldn’t do much of this in them. That’s when you started to look like a scarecrow. But so did everybody else, nobody give a bugger in the long run. They didn’t care. We had some wonderful, wonderful girls that worked with us. One of them was an absolute joy, whatever, no matter how nasty the job was she was always, “Well c’mon let’s into it.” And
she never faltered.
So you were saying the uniforms shrunk?
Yes they did. Didn’t seem to matter, you could still fit into it, but it didn’t make any difference to the white paint on the legs either, it come through very nicely.
The uniforms were washed once a week?
Yes, and you got back clean and handed over to you from the office bit at the end of the change room, every
morning, Monday morning. You wore them all week and handed them in Friday.
Did any of the girls customise the look or design?
Oh god no, no, how could you? You weren’t allowed to use anything metal. You couldn’t add anything to them or take anything away. No. They had their own personalities with their make up on I think, a bit, but not otherwise.
That goes with make up?
Well the girls
that played with the band had lovely lacquered eyelashes and all of that, they had different make up. The rest of survived on a bit of lippy.
Things for your hair, you mentioned you had a hat? Any hair pins, they’re metal?
You couldn’t have any of them. It was a cap thing, I’ll show it to you after, and it went all around on your hair
and it had, the whole lot of it was in there, you had a bit at the front sticking out. No metal.
Leaving Stonewall Jackson, the store, what did they say when you left?
The charge lady was very angry with me because they had a new charge lady, and she relied on me because I’d been there a long while, and to help her in every way.
Which I think I had done anyhow, but she was very angry with me going. It was bad luck.
Did they get someone to replace you?
Oh yes, very much so. She was very good at the job and she would have been every bit as good as I was in a week or two, so it didn’t really matter.
The munitions factory, once you were dressed and changed can you explain to me a bit more the clean areas and the dirty areas?
We went out of big doors at the end of that and straight onto those streets that went down to where you were going to work with all the, wherever you were going to walk, the red bits were
between you even when you came over for a cup of tea, that was there, you were still in a clear area bit. Sometimes when there was a storm we couldn’t work in a storm and when you were very tired at the end of a day you say, “Send it down.” It didn’t have to rain, the thunder was the problem for some reason. So we get then to go back up to the change room. You had to sit in the change room, you couldn’t go any
further than that. But it was a good little break. Sometimes they would take us when the cordite didn’t come through and we had no work, they’d take us then to see another part and that’s how we got to see the shell filling bit, that wouldn’t have been five minutes away but we never saw it because it was over there, and it was an area you weren’t allowed in. And another time they took us out to Pyro to show us how these things blow up
if you happen to drop one. Which was bad enough we knew, but when you saw it, and out there they had bunkers all around everywhere, big bunkers of dirt. Everything was in a bunker of dirt if our bit blew up it wouldn’t have effected anywhere else. Likewise, every building and when they took us out to this place and they had, it was like a big cement piece and they put
the rags from all the turps we used over the silkscreen printing and bits of cordite and stuff like that, and they stuck it in a heap over there and then they laid a trail and we stood way back up there and she went boom! So that was a good lesson, but I don’t suppose we needed it because when you gathered up these shells, 10 probably or 12, when you gathered them to pass them on to the next,
you sort of landed them into your hip, on your arm, the chance were there you could have dropped one without much trouble because you had to hurry, you weren’t sort of taking your time. But anyway, that was one. We didn’t get to see a lot of it which I would have, being a sticky beak, would have liked to see how the whole lot worked. But we didn’t get to see that.
I don’t understand the clean and dirty areas.
That’s where you couldn’t walk, that was ordinary everyday grass and dirt and stuff there, but you couldn’t walk on that with your shoes on that, you were actually working in the factory. You had to stay on all these pathways. Like the housing commission bit, with the roads all through everywhere and they had this red bit. It stood up
high about that high so you had to step over it to get into it, it wasn’t just a red stripe on the ground, it was up high. To get into any dirty areas you had to step up into them.
Walking on the grass and getting your shoes dirty, was there any particular reason?
Only getting grit in your shoes and you couldn’t take them into the bay, the bays had to be fastidiously clean. We had to wash them out everyday where we
were working. That was all tar coloured too, inside. One speck of dirt would have sent her up. If the little primer landed on a bit of gravel.
The clean areas are the concrete pathways?
Tar. All, like roadways all through the lot.
No expense was spared in any way. Next to where we put the little primer things there was a piece of Feltex, like carpet about that thick, white, next this, everywhere was luxurious.
When it rained obviously your shoes were going to get wet and dirty.
Not on the clean area bit they’re not. They are if you’re in the mud but we’re not in the mud, we’re in the clean areas. You leave your shoes up with your clothes.
You walk on the clean area?
Yes, wherever you’re going.
Can you just walk me into where you first working?
I don’t think I passed anything much
when I come out of there and down this roadway and into this big building. And it had big doors, the big doors were open there because there was nothing to blow up in there and into that part where I did the silkscreen printing. I didn’t get to see any of the other until I got to go over there. We had, everywhere you have a fall lady that is trained in Melbourne for this job. They enlisted long before the
factory opened and did their training in Melbourne. I got to go over to the cartridges, 25 pound of cartridge cases next.
Can we talk about…?
That’s all, I don’t know how far, it wasn’t far but it opened out onto the railway and opened to the big
store rooms, they were down near us too.
When you arrived first thing in the morning was there a talk given in respect to what you were doing?
Oh God no. No, none of them luxuries. You just arrived, and we got talked through the day we arrived when we were new, when we first arrived, we got talked through it, the change area and so forth, but that was all. Somebody took us down to where
we were going to work.
If you could just share with me your initial training at the place and how they warned you about the dangers.
No, no, no. “You grab this, you do that,” you know. And you’d say, “Right.” And that’s what I did. I got tinea stuff all over one hand.
Now I still wear a rubber glove because it still comes up in a mess. I had a week off for that which is probably why I ended up in the cartridge cases, but then I went over to that next. There was a Colonel McFarlane, that was a big boss, and he used to come around about once every couple of months, and he obviously had been blown up somewhere along the way. He only had one eye and his face was a mess. Lovely man, knew what he was on about. I think he was one
that organised just to go over to where the explosives went off so we’d have a better idea. But no, nobody warned you about that. If you were working in explosives you had to have a shower because it did something to your skin whatever it was.
Now the silkscreen.
That was very clever the silk screening. Very.
What was it for?
The printing on the 25 pounder cartridge cases.
Comes out as what’s in the cartridge cases, and a clue of where it come from. Each factory had a sort of different type of letters where it came from. That’s all.
So you would take the cartridge or shell…
No, no. We only had boxes, tin boxes about this big, you could have bought one at any army disposal for a
tool box after. They were about that big and so many shells went in it. We just printed the side, went swish, swish on one side, flipped it over swish, swish on the other side and then we had a small one for the ends of it. I can’t even remember what the hell was in that. We did both ends. Then dunked it over because it was painted, did another one, it was
painted. Then the boys come and loaded them onto the trolleys and they took them over to the cartridge place. That’s all we ever saw of them.
So the silk screen is the packaging of the shells?
No. It’s the painting, it’s the thing that paints the thing on the side. I’ll show you that too after.
Forgive me, is the painting of the packaging of where the shells go?
Yes, the tin. The tin container that the shells are going to go into and this prints on the side in bright yellow paint what’s going to be inside.
How did you cope with the monotony of this particular job?
Didn’t have time to think it was monotonous. You just did it.
Was there a quota that you had to come up with each day?
No. Then, there was a quota on hand
grenades but never ever heard a quota on other things, but no doubt there was. They’d strive for more each time, which you would have. We just got on and did it. Got covered in yellow paint. No gloves, nothing like that with all the luxuries, you didn’t have any gloves.
So who was overseeing you?
One of the charge hands, Rita O’Reilly was our charge hand.
She was a snippy little piece, but she was, some of them were just beautiful women, really lovely women. But some of them were very efficient of course which I suppose they thought they needed to be. There were two different people doing, making the silkscreen things. They had this lovely little office room which they did that. So there were two people, because they wore out and they had to
keep replacing them. They did that. I don’t know how many of us worked there but I imagine there was about six of us in there. I can’t remember that either.
How long would the screen last? And what was it made out of?
No, fine silk, very fine silk. Paper was the writing but fine silk on
either side of the writing, and of course it wore out. They lasted a fair while. I don’t know how long, really, but we didn’t very often get a new one. They were making new ones all the time. It was very tedious, it had to be cut out with a sort of razor blade to print all the numbers and stuff. It took them a fair while. It was a very interesting bit that.
In this role did you rotate jobs?
No, we did the same.
We all did the same because that was all there was to do. The swishing thing with the paint. You can see where my intelligence test comes to fruition.
You didn’t think that working with Stonewall Jackson was more interesting?
Oh God no. I liked working because of my customers, but no, I didn’t like that job much at all but I was stuck with it.
Morning tea? How was that signalled?
The charge lady would have told us, “Tea time.” And we’d finish what we were doing and we went over into the room in the middle and the ladies made big pots of tea or coffee and you could pay for two milk coffee biscuits if you wanted them.
How long did you have off?
About 10 minutes at the most. There wasn’t a big crowd in there because they sort of come in in waves. So you could get served straight away and swallow it down and get back, it wasn’t a big deal. That’s where I was going to tell you about the union man that came to give us a short talk. We said, other girls said they had boyfriends and one of my mates had the brothers in the navy and by then
one of them was a prisoner of war, so she wasn’t gong to be listening to no union bit. So she said, “I’m not going. I’m going back down.” They said, “No. You can’t do that because the whole lot will all come out on strike if you go back to work. You don’t have to come and listen to him but you have to stop up here until it’s over.” You know what he wanted? He come in a lovely suit and everything, he wanted us to strike for afternoon tea. The
Japs were coming down through New Guinea and all of these people had loved ones somewhere waiting for this ammunition and he cured me for unions. And of course, my son that’s on the railway, he’s a very strong union man. We used to have some very heated discussions around the table. I couldn’t believe it. I suppose he had to earn his money.
On that occasion you were all called together?
We had to go otherwise they would have gone on strike, the rest of them, and that would have shut the whole factory.
When you first joined up were you asked to join the union?
No. We didn’t have to join the union.
So after morning tea was over?
Yes, back to work. Then lunch time. We went up to have lunch, we changed our shoes
and went up to the big beautiful canteen up there, and you could buy your lunch or bring it with you, whatever you liked to do. You could buy tobacco and things to buy cigarettes if you wanted to, coupon things, because that was in the ration time then. We’d have our lunch. Sometimes, somebody would get up and sing or something. It was quite a nice happy sort of environment except for these suits that we were in.
We’d go back, I don’t know what time we knocked off but I think it would have been about four o’clock, but I’m not sure about that either.
So what songs did you sing?
I didn’t sing. I have a dreadful voice. I won’t even sing in church. I used to sing when I lived up on the 25 acres, my husband would have a rest of an afternoon and the dog and the cat and me went out into the horse paddock and gathered up manure for the garden and I used to sing all the hymns I could think of,
in a 25 acre paddock. I won’t sing in church.
So what sort of songs did some of the girls sing?
All the typical, mostly the girls used to go back to the old Irish ballads. She was a chubby little girl from St Mary’s with a beautiful soft voice and she used to sing some of these pretty bits. Of course, ‘The Bluebirds’ and Vera Lynn’s ones that were very popular at the time.
But we only had about a half an hour for lunch so you weren’t long up there and then back to work.
Conversation wise, what did you discuss with some of the girls? The war?
I honestly can’t, I suppose we discussed who was where and how were they. And that sort of thing, but I can’t remember. When Juney found her brother was in the POW [prisoner of war] camp she said,
“The poor little bloke will come home with nothing,” she said. She started knitting things, jumpers and things for him. So we did a bit in that line, we all knitted I suppose. It was a cheap way of getting clothes in those days. You could buy wool cheap. I don’t remember a great deal of the discussion. I suppose the latest boyfriends we all had and all of that. Something in depth.
We were scared stiff. The Japs were coming down awful fast and that wasn’t a very comforting time for everybody. You tried to get away from it, but you couldn’t really. They all had something they were going to do if the Japs got here and at night time they were making nets for the guns and packing parcels for overseas and all of those things.
I didn’t do much of that because you had to walk up to Springwood to do it.
So what sort of plans did some of the girls have if the Japs did arrive?
Oh, what they were going to do, tablets to take and all of that. They weren’t going to live through that. The fathers all said they had a bullet ready for them all, promise you’ll take the young ones with you. It was frightening times. Then of course the Japs
started invading the country. My sister said if they’d have known they could do it this easy, they wouldn’t have bothered fighting the war. My husband worked with them because he went into shipping. He had a mate that was a Jap, great bloke, Nori Tenaka. He wanted us, after when he went home, he was only here for two years and wouldn’t let him bring his family out, because they knew he’d stay. He wanted us to go over and visit
him over there, all expenses paid. I begged Andy to go, I said, “You’d love it, you go. I’m not going.” I couldn’t imagine myself in a country with them. He never went of course. He wanted to bring him home to have Christmas dinner with us and I said, “I’m sorry, I couldn’t.” Fortunately someone else at work had a big house and swimming pool, took him home to have Christmas dinner with them. So my conscience was clear.
It was a frightening time.
If the Japanese had invaded what were your plans?
I suppose I would have followed them, but at the time I didn’t make any plans, but I knew that the others did they talked about what they’d do.
Where would you get pills from?
I suppose you’d take an overdose.
I asked my doctor recently about that, and, “How many of them would it take?” “It wouldn’t take many but with your tummy you’d spew them all up again, so it would be a waste of time.” When I got stuck in Pokolbin I thought oh God this is the pits, I don’t think I could live here. I don’t know honestly, what you would have done, but I know a lot of them had planned to do away
with themselves, they weren’t going to face that.
Was this a subject that came up with your mum and sisters?
No. Never. My mother wouldn’t have, she was strong, she went through the worst of it, she wouldn’t have considered that. I don’t know what she would have done had it come to the crunch, but she would, I’m sure she wouldn’t have considered that. My sisters weren’t really involved with it at all, or they didn’t seem to be.
My sister’s husband was an engineer and he was out at Casula somewhere, training the engineers. And the furtherest he got was up on the amphibians when they first tried them out up at Townsville. He was up there for a while, but he ended up a lieutenant colonel. He couldn’t march on Anzac Day, it used to worry him immensely.
He won the war on his own fortunately though, for the rest of the mob.
He won the war on his own?
According to him.
Interviewee: Gloria Maxwell Archive ID 1673 Tape 05
At the end of 1941 Japan entered the war, things changed in Australia, can you talk about how you noticed things changing at that time?
I suppose we were all certainly more aware because it was all over the other side of the world, and people didn’t travel to the other side of the world in those days. It was only something you learnt about in school.
That brought the war awful close to home and we didn’t know much about the Japanese either. So it certainly made, and they brought the 7th Divvy [Division] back from overseas and they had, I think they had seven days leave and then other short leave and they were off to New Guinea. It made a big difference to all of us,
mainly because it was close to home. Everyday you would have worried about news you were going to get next. I don’t think it made much difference to the way we worked or the way we spent our lives or anything.
How real was the fear that Australia might be invaded?
Very. Coming down through New Guinea like lightning. They were very close.
What precautions were being taken on the home front?
Apart from black out and things, I don’t think… They migrated all the children from around the Far West Children’s Home from Manly, all got moved up into the Oriental Hotel. They built a temporary bar on the block of ground opposite for the pub to move into and they took that over. They shifted all the children. A lot of servicemen brought their wives to live in Springwood and on the Blue Mountains, wives
and kids. I don’t think there was a great deal of precaution taken anywhere, any different.
What about the black outs? What happened there?
A bit like this. You had to have, they made them out of that tarpaper like they put in the roofs to stop the heat coming down, that Sisalcraft stuff. They made them out of that and they had a like a broom handle on the bottom and rolled them up
in the daytime and let them down at night. In the city more than anything. My sisters were in a unit at Bondi and they got the little ships in the harbour that blasted all around them. They got close to it because they’d never expected any of that. The little kid that lived in the units, her mother brought her up to live with us. She didn’t like gathering sticks or anything either, city kid.
I don’t know that it made a whole lot of difference to anything.
Were the same precautions taken up in the mountains as they were in the city?
We had these but I don’t know that anybody used them, but we had the blackout lights and things because you fully expected that you’d get them any day. Especially with the submarines you knew they were closer than you thought they were. I don’t remember a whole lot of anything being done.
What about digging trenches or shelters?
Not up there, there wasn’t. I never saw a shelter, but they were all going to end up on the railway stations of course. They did dig trenches, they dug all these trenches and put a sheet of tin over the roof. You’d be worse off in that than anywhere else. They grew a lot of food and stuff because they thought you’d stack up your cupboards,
a stack, laying in tins in cupboards and things, in case you were stuck. No, it was a very frightening time, but I don’t know that, we didn’t go around being frightened but you certainly were. Of course, the mums and that were coming in more often.
When you say they were all going to go down to the railway stations, what was that?
Well, they’re underground in the city, that was the disaster plan in the city. But I don’t think it ever got to the mountains, ever,
the disaster plan. Because in England when the bombs came over they all went down. There were six year old kids that had never slept in a bed in England. We didn’t get that. Scarcities of everything, you couldn’t buy anything even if you had coupons. When I got married all the girls at work and my sisters, all gave me coupons towards getting a dress.
What about air raid wardens?
Yes, they had the Dad’s Army lot, air raid wardens, but I don’t think they ever got as far as where we lived. But they used to all practice in the street and all that. They were all prepared, they worked hard at it. A lot of conscientious ones and a lot that had been to the First World War. Billy Hall, all his
family went, he went back into it. He was in the Middle East but when he come home, then everybody in the town, he tried to invite them to come and he’d teach them to drive, so they could all go into the army and all of that.
At the munitions factory in St Mary’s it would’ve been a particularly good target?
It would be now but you never thought of it.
Were there any preparations made there?
I don’t remember seeing any, no. We just went on the same as we always had.
But then I got married in ’43 and I left the munitions factory, so it could’ve got worse after that. But I don’t know.
What about rationing and shortages. When did you first start to see those?
We got them very early. You got, you could have two ounces of butter a week and all these sort of things, meat, butter, sugar, clothes
and all the sheets and towels had to last you forever. You learnt to make do and mend was the cry in those days. When all the sheets were worn in the middle you got the outsides and put them into the middle and started again. I don’t think anybody lost any sleep over it. I think they all just coped, that was part of life.
Were these measures coming in when you were still working at Jackson’s?
What happened at the store when rationing came in?
I think one of the worst things was steel wool, that was one of the first things. We’d get a small amount. You’d have to keep it under the counter and just give one bit to each customer, could get one lot. It’s amazing in all of that how dreadful things were, how many of them would stand and argue with you to get more. I was surprised at that because they were very nice
people, all of them. So that was one thing. I don’t know what else we got rationed. Nobody was buying paint to paint their houses or anything. All of those things went by the board.
What about the clothing?
We did have what they called, a certain amount of house dresses and things, we had a certain amount of those still. They had
to have coupons for them and it wasn’t long before they disappeared, we didn’t have them anymore. We didn’t have much in the line of linen, so that disappeared too. We were still paying two and six for a pair of stockings, but apart from that. My sisters were struck with the clothing of course, you could get small bits at one time but couldn’t once that all come in. You wore all your old stuff.
You wore old stuff?
Yeah, what you had.
What were the coupons? Can you describe what they looked like? And how you used them?
They came in a sheet, you got so many depending on, don’t know what, suppose how old you were or something. They were little ones and you took, they were like stamps, you took them into the shop and they ripped that one off and got whatever you were
buying at the time.
Was there a black market?
Very much so.
How did that work?
Somebody would kill a pig and they’d sell you a chunk out of that and that sort of thing. I suppose they were supposed to declare what they had. There was a big black market especially in petrol and stuff like that. When I got pregnant I got extra butter and stuff too.
It sort of went with the family. I didn’t see any extra but it didn’t really matter either. I don’t think it made a hell of a difference to you.
What shortages affected your life the most?
I don’t suppose anything particularly, because I didn’t have the money for nice clothing anyway, and as I said, they all put in for me to have the extra coupons when I wanted
a wedding dress. No, I don’t think so.
What about things like stockings?
Well we still had the stocking but we didn’t wear stockings when we went to the munitions factory, we all give up stockings and things then. So they were a thing of the past. The Yanks, they could lay their hands on nylon which we’d never heard of and that was a good
trade, and chocolate and all those things. The Yanks of course were very glamorous. We landed into a dance one night at Penrith and they’d landed in a whole battalion of black ones near to Penrith somewhere, and they were all at the dance. I said to Jenny, “What do you reckon?” She said, “We’ll stick it out.” The black arm went around you, I said, “Well,” I said, “I think no, we’ll catch the early train home.” They shifted
them, they only left them there for about a week and shifted them because they definitely weren’t going to have them. We didn’t see much of them, on the trains travelling, sometimes you would, but they didn’t get up the mountains or anything much.
You mean the American soldiers in general or the black American soldiers?
Oh no, all of them, the American soldiers in general.
What about in the city?
In the city was different. Used to love to walk through the city and hear them
Talking, chatting. Jenny Proctor had a cousin that was with the Americans in the small ships, and we come out of the Trocadero one Saturday and he was out the front so the three of us all were chatting away to him, and one of our Springwood army boys spotted us and he waited. When they left he come over and drew strips off us for having anything to do with them. We could not convince him that
he was Jenny’s cousin.
What were those tensions about?
I think they were here and they weren’t, they were overseas and they were here having the best of the country. They were beautifully dressed, they were well fed and the girls loved them because they were polite and nice. I honestly think a lot of it was jealousy, but my husband went into action with them in New Guinea and
it was a bit more than jealousy then.
How could you identify an American soldier?
Opened his mouth. Dressed, beautifully dressed, different uniform altogether, and the American twang. If you walk through the city now and there’s a ship in, and Anzac Day there’s usually a ship in, and they march with the boys on Anzac Day and it’s nice to hear them.
Can you describe what was so beautiful about their uniforms?
Well the Aussies blokes, like one size fits all, and they were rough sort of material their uniforms were made of, and they were cumbersome, didn’t fit them or anything. These American ones were tailored to fit and beautiful material, and all of that.
Apart from Jenny Proctor’s cousin did you have any dealings with them?
No, because they couldn’t ship too many of them up to the mountains and I wasn’t in the city much.
You mentioned the Trocadero. Can you talk about that for us?
Beautiful, beautiful big dance hall, beautiful floor, beautiful music, lovely people and anybody that had time would go and dance there.
It didn’t have to be, you didn’t have to be with anyone specially, you just went. We went over to Luna Park and danced there. They had a big floor out over the ocean at Luna Park, but we had to be on the last train home so we couldn’t stay very long. We went Saturday afternoon to the Trocadero, but we went to Luna Park, once we were over there until, we’d have to leave there at about nine o’clock or something, so we weren’t there long, but that was very beautiful. I don’t think they’ve got any
plans to build another one of those.
The Trocadero was quite unique by today’s standards. Describe what it looked like?
It was cosmopolitan, everybody was there. They all dressed nicely to go and it had a different feel about it altogether. It was really lovely. That was the epitome of going anywhere, was to the Trocadero.
What did it look like on the inside?
I don’t remember really much, it was very, very big and I suppose
it was bright, and I don’t imagine anything very much about it. My sisters who lived in the city went to all the beautiful night clubs and balls everywhere. But we went to a regimental ball once up Oxford Street, at Paddington Town Hall, but we never got to any of those.
What went on at the Trocadero in the afternoons?
Same thing, just the dance. You sat around at tables and no drinking.
Then they’d announce the next dance. The Sydney Town Hall tried to start an afternoon one there a while back, afternoon tea and dancing, but I don’t know how well it took off.
What about at Luna Park? Can you describe that in a bit more detail?
The dance floor on the ocean.
Yes, it was beautiful. We were only there once,
and of course nothing very much to describe. There were always plenty of partners because there were fellows home on leave and that’s where they went, where other people were, and they enjoyed getting away from it all for a while I suppose. Then we had to rush and catch a boat back and then we had to run up Eddy Avenue, the last train to the mountains. We walked out on ‘The Maid of the Mountains’ to Gladys Moncrieff singing it at the Tivoli one night
We waited up at the door right until we possibly could then ran like mad. Poor Glad was singing away and we walked out on her.
What would happen if you missed the train home?
No more, it’d be daylight. In the morning the paper train at about five in the morning, you’d been sitting on the railway station for hours.
Did that ever happen to you?
No. We didn’t let that happen to us. Mum would have killed us.
How did living so far away affect your ability to court men or meet boys?
Well there was always plenty of them about. Living away spoilt you forever, seeing anything that was wonderful happening in the city, that’s the only thing I found was a problem. But otherwise we went to Penrith a lot, dancing in Penrith.
What was the Penrith equivalent to the big Sydney dance halls?
They had a big hall not far from the railway station. They had a big hall there and they used to have nice dances, just mediocre like.
How did you see yourself at the time, were you taken, did you see many young men, were you too shy?
No, no. We met them, wherever we went we met a lot of them.
I had a beautiful dancing bloke I went out with for a while, but he enlisted and went away, that was the end of that. I had a lovely boy that I met in earlier days in Emu Plains and he went off too. I didn’t get very serious about any of them. Then when Andy come home I thought, ‘I’ll grab him’.
What about your friends at the time? Were they married or single?
Edith was to get married first.
She had a boyfriend and he went away and he was one of the Rats of Tobruk, he came home. When I got married before her, she had everything ready for her wedding, this beautiful handmade wedding dress with the long train, and she wanted me to wear it. She didn’t want me not being a bride and she wanted me to wear the wedding dress and I said, “No, no, no.” Jean didn’t marry for a long time, because they got the card from
Timmy saying he was a prisoner of war. They didn’t know whether he was drowned or not, he was on the ship. Then they got the card to say he was a prisoner of war and then towards the end of the war they got another one to say that he’d died. She took that very hard, as you would. She had lovely steady fellows for a long time, for years and then they’d disappear and she’d have another one
for years. She ended up marrying, but she never had a family. She was the kindest creature that ever drew breath that one.
Was she a friend of yours from Springwood?
From school time, yes.
Did she work at the factory with you?
Yes. Then she went on to the switchboard in the post office and then she went to a doctor’s receptionist after that.
What was it like for girls and women to have their loved ones overseas and so far away?
How can you put that into words? A bit like when he died, you had that same horrible feeling inside you that you really can’t get away from. But you have to get away from it because you’ve got to be up and got to go to work and got to meet other people who are worse off than you are. So you just
sort of survive it. And of course some of them didn’t come home and some did.
How would women like yourself support each other during those times when it was getting a bit hard?
Don’t think we did a lot of that, funnily enough. You know how they’re cuddling one another now and all that, and all this counselling and so forth, there was none of that, there was nothing there for them. I suppose in one another, they
comforted one another, and in their own families.
How much was it just a comfort to know that everyone was in the same boat?
You wouldn’t have wanted them in the same boat really, I don’t think it was a comfort. You knew that they were, oh worse even. Of course there were some women with little children that husbands never come home.
I’ve heard it said by some people that society became a lot closer knit during the war.
I think Springwood always was because there were workers and people out of work and they all seemed to help one another and they were all pleased to see one another and all of that. War time did bring them closer yes, but I don’t know that it was a comfort.
Were there good things about the situation you were in at the time?
Well we just lived it and come and went, this too will pass. No, I don’t think so. I suppose there were happy times when you met someone you hadn’t seen for ages, but then they went again didn’t they?
All of that.
But not all the time?
To a certain extent just living day-by-day. Then the word came that Andy wasn’t coming home and they landed them into Adelaide and took them by goods train. Well when they got into Adelaide the wharfies, so they couldn’t unload their gear so the boss lined them up with the rifles over there and the rest of them unloaded the gear. They got taken
from Sydney to Brisbane in the goods train, but they said one really good thing happened about that. From then all their cooking places had lovely new tarpaulin roofs so they got something out of the trip out. Then he rang Jackson’s to say he was coming up, home from the Middle East, and he’d be home in two days or something. So I went
and had the hair done and the dress, because I hadn’t seen him for a year and a half, and I hadn’t improved. You know, it’s a long time for somebody that you hadn’t really known intimately and then the word come that the leave was cancelled and he’d have to get back to me on that. So I went to bed with the hair all in pins, the beautiful new dress hanging up there, knock on the door and he’s standing there.
Wasn’t the best of times. He might as well get used to it then as later I suppose.
Was he everything you’d been waiting for?
Oh and more, yes. Yes. He was lovely.
We’ll come back to that. A few more things about wartime. What was the volunteer work that you talked about with your sister working in a service canteen?
Yes my sister did, yes, from David Jones.
There was a big crowd from David Jones all went down to this, it was somewhere in underneath the railway station. They set up a tea and coffee and they had, like the American canteen stuff, used to have dances for them, for all the servicemen and that. I didn’t see any of that of course, and we didn’t do any of it. Well they volunteered work, doing the Red Cross work and all of those things, but I didn’t do any of that. I helped pack parcels a bit, not much.
Can you tell us about that? What parcels you were packing?
They packed boxes to send over and they put a small cake in them and usually home knitted socks and bits and pieces. The Red Cross did most of that. Then they sewed it into calico and sent it overseas. I sent Andy one when he was in the Middle East and he got it just at the end of his stay in New Guinea.
So it wasn’t any good to him. He said, “Send me over some Sunlight soap.” But when you wrote to them, all your stuff was censored. And after we did these little pineapple hand grenades we went on to a special, they brought through a special one and we got to do those. They were about this big and they were made of bakelite, and
part of that was to put a green line to say that they were loaded. But you had like a potter’s wheel and you’d put your foot on it and dump the little half inch brush in the green paint and stood there like that and it spun around and got a nice stripe about that wide. We did 2,000 of those a day. I wrote up to Andy and said, “We’re sending up some pretty, little, new things.” And he wrote back and said, “If it’s what I think they are
don’t bother. The only thing they’re good for is fishing.” By then they were down at Lae and they were throwing them into the ocean and stunning the fish and having a cook out on the beach. So sometimes you felt your efforts were in vain.
Just back to those Red Cross parcels, would you send them to a particular soldier?
No, most of them went to anybody. The Red Cross paid for all that, shipped them all out and everybody got them, especially
the prisoners of war. A lot of them, of course, took the stuff and they never saw them. A lot of them did get them and they thought they were marvellous, given something from home I suppose, as well as whatever was in them. All odd things went in them. The Willow lot made a lot of tinned stuff, like cake tins and things. They made a cake tin with a lid on, especially for that so you could seal them in with that.
I don’t know what else they sent in them.
What other volunteer work could you get involved in?
They made the nets to put over the guns and they made rolling bandages. And you learnt, for when the Japs did come and you were needed, you learnt to do all that first aid stuff. I don’t know that there was much volunteer stuff you could do.
Living out of town for us too, I mean we had to get home and then we had to walk a mile or two and then we had to walk home again, so that stopped you from doing a lot.
Did your mother do anything in the war effort?
No she didn’t.
Did she continue to supply food for you during this time?
Oh yes. When we started earning money
the food went considerably better. Golden syrup I can’t stand, it got shoved on everything, Vegemite. Mum battled very hard to feed us, but it wasn’t easy.
What work was she doing during this time?
She got in the laundry at the Hotel Oriental. She’d only get an occasional job. She’d get 10 bob. She’d be there from seven o’clock in the morning and finish at seven
o’clock at night; do the washing; do the ironing and clean the entire house. Shocking times.
Moving back to the munitions factory, I just want to know a bit more about the girl’s you met. When you went to work there, there would have been a bigger range than you’d ever seen before.
Yes, they’d come from every walk of life. They recruited extra ones from Maitland and they built all little
houses in St Mary’s to accommodate a lot of them, and some of them were married and had children and some of them were, and especially the supervisors that went to Melbourne to learn about it. And one of them, her father was a broker and she was the funniest girl, but she was a joy, beautifully spoken. You’d think, my God! But they were very conscientious
and very keen to do something. As I said, we had two little Sally’s worked with us. We had one that used to sing with the band and curled up and had a sleep. They did come from every walk of life, but you met some very lovely people. We lost track of them, we never stayed friendly. Although Juney stayed friendly with…. As I say, they had a big
trotting meeting that they have every year, whatever wonderful thing it was, and Juney bumped into her. She said they stayed in the bar and never saw a horse. Interdominion, that wonderful big race or something. They stayed friends forever.
Were you exposed to girls and types of behaviour you’d not seen before?
Too right you were. Yes. Very much so. A rough lot some of them.
Funnily enough, just how ridiculous the thing we went through to get to where you were going to work, nearly all of them landed up in the shell filling bit. That was a heavy job and they were more in tune to it which surprised me. But they were out for a good time. They’d left Mum home minding the kids, the hubby was away in the army somewhere and they come down to have a good time. They did and good luck to them.
When you say “Rough and out for a good time” what do you mean by that?
Well I suppose anything goes, you know. They weren’t looking for a partner for life or anything, they were just going to enjoy themselves. Hard drinking, hard romancing, anything that was on offer, no holds barred. They were a nice bunch, a happy bunch. As I said, we lived in a small world, we were a bigoted lot, it was all new to us.
We soon learnt.
Were there ever any girls that got into trouble at the factory?
Not as far as I knew, but they could’ve, because there was a hell of a lot of them. Thousands of them, so you wouldn’t know. I don’t think so. They were too smart for that.
Was there any education given to you?
Oh no, no, no. You went and you did your job and you went home.
Occasionally you would get someone who would give us a short talk up in the, like when we got the fellow from the union, that sort of thing, we’d get a bit of. Sometimes we’d get some big wig from the army or something that told us what a wonderful job we were all doing. But no, you never got anything personal or anything close to home.
Who lived on site?
Nobody as far as I know. But they would have had security guards and it had a huge big iron fence all the way around. I’m sure they’d have security guards on site, but I don’t remember seeing them. The cleaning ladies were lovely and the men that did all the work.
What about in boarding house for girls that had come from out of town? Would the factory set up places for them to live?
I think they mostly all went into these little cottages, three or four of them in each of the cottages. Little cottages are still there by St Mary’s railway station, a lot of them. Some of them they’ve modernised up. No, I don’t remember them being in boarding houses, but then Penrith was close handy and a lot of them lived at home.
What about girls from different class backgrounds?
They fitted in. We had two of those little ones
in my photo, Salvation Army girls. They were very strict in themselves but they never tried to tell you anything. They fitted in and worked hard like everybody else.
What did you know about the lives of these girls?
Oh everything, but of course while you’re working they’d tell you where their husbands were or boyfriends were or where they were last night, all of that. And the wonderful
place they went and the wonderful bloke they met. We talked about all of those things. They gave me a terrible roasting when I was getting married. They had some wonderful yarns to tell me, but we ignored that.
What sort of a roasting did they give you?
You know, telling me about all the weird things that were going to happen to you. Frighten hell out of you.
Who were the best friends you made?
School mates I stayed friends with, but I didn’t have any lasting friends from the factory. I had the other pair, they’re both in Springwood cemetery now, I visit them regularly, along with everybody else. The other girlfriend, she was up in Mudgee. These friends I’ve got now
are newer people, like neighbours, though one of them lived near me over at Westmead in a war service home there. She moved in about the same time and we’ve stayed friends all the way through. It’s about 50 years according to her. She’s a dear little Christian lady. You can’t see the connection at all, but we were both 25 then. I meet up with her and we go to organ recitals or
special service or something.
You obviously enjoyed the work.
Yes. Loved it.
Did everyone feel the same way?
Yes I think so, because you didn’t do long in the one bit. Where we did the 25 pounders there was a bit over there you would do for a day and you’d come over here for something a bit different or up there for something different. So, you sort of moved around into all these different things and you met
nice people and interesting people. It was good, I enjoyed it. I would have enjoyed darning too.
Were there any girls that didn’t like it?
Yes a lot of them because they, well they more or less got conscripted into it in a way and they weren’t working so they found them a job. They hated it, because they were used to a better way of life and that was pretty rough, all that.
They hated it a lot of them, but they did it and they felt they had to and they did it. More power to them because it’s easy to do something you like, easier.
These were girls from a better class of life?
I would say so. Yes. The poor lady we had with us, she was a character. The one whose father was a broker.
She stayed at the hotel at Lidcombe, that’s where she had her accommodation. She used to come to work from there. Then she was very much a lady. She had a fellow who was very high up in the navy, was her boyfriend and she didn’t have much of a bosom, and she padded herself up with Modesses [sanitary pads]. She’d look down and one was on her shoulder and that’s the sort of woman she was. She had us in fits of laughter and we’re handling all of these explosives and she was a joy.
You met them which I never would have in my life, have met anyone like it.
You mentioned Modesses, was that a problem during your work?
Not really no, because by then we had them. Early days you wouldn’t have, it would have been a big problem, but in those later days we had all these modern things and it made a big difference.
When did they first come in?
Mmm, after I
left high school anyway, ’41 I suppose. I don’t really know. It’s another thing I don’t know.
There was no shortage of these during the war?
No, no. Betty went into a chemist shop down in Rose Bay and the chemist is explaining to her the benefit of one against the other, she said, “I was so embarrassed I couldn’t get out of there quick enough.”
So it was all new I suppose and they felt they had to explain it to you, but I don’t think she needed the explanation. She said, “I was so embarrassed.”
Interviewee: Gloria Maxwell Archive ID 1673 Tape 06
The rash you got on your hand?
It was only like a tinea type thing, stayed out of the turps and it was alright and I went back to work after
a week. But I get it now not so much in the turps but in the soil. If I’m doing too much in the garden I get it. Not a problem.
Did you have any protective wear?
No. No we didn’t.
No. No gloves. No nothing.
When did you notice the rash?
It was all covered
in sort of itchy little spots. When it got really nasty they said you’d better have a few days off.
So you went and saw a doctor?
Oh yes, you had to, it was itchy, nearly drove you mad. But it didn’t last long, got some cream to put on it so it went away. It wasn’t a big deal.
So you came back to work and you applied for another section?
No, but I was transferred to another
section. That’s why I think possibly they thought well, this could be turps doing this so then I went on to the 25 pounder cartridges. Then somewhere along the way we went on to the pineapple hand grenades and then we got the other ones, whatever they were. I don’t know what they did after that because I left.
Could you explain the process of 25 pounder cartridges, what you actually did?
We had this one big room and the boys brought in the tins, those tins we’d written on and stacked them all there. Over in that corner there was a piece where the shells went into there, and you got these little round primer things that come in from Pyro and they were the ones that set them off.
They were about the size of a penny and not much thicker, and around the outside they put like plasticine. I don’t know what the hell it was but it looked like plasticine. They made like skinny grape things and they put that around the outside, which virtually was their washer. Then we had this thing like the size of the gun bit, a big chunk of metal and when the shells come in and
landed there you had to try them in that first to see if they fitted and could get them in and out alright. And then you put one of these little primers in the bottom of it and there was another little machine you turned the handle on and it had a couple of little bits sticking out, fitted into the spaces on that little primer, and you screw them in. Then of course some of this plasticine stuff come off and you had to wipe that off, wipe
them clean and then you dumped that next to you. Somebody working over there come and gathered up an armful of them and set that board up, they had to set the board up, then the army girl had to check that everything was there. The shells were this end, not that end like they are on the float, they were down this end. When those primer things went in they sat up a little bit from the bottom of the thing
and you had to come along then with a long handled brush and a thing full of like glue, and you had to go along from that end and put just a smear of this around the bottom of each one of them, making sure you didn’t get it on the centre bit. You left that down that end and you came back
here. Meanwhile somebody else had followed you up after the army inspector had gone along. And the little red ones full of cordite were about that high but they had a frill stitched on them. We never saw the people making these either which I would have like to have. They had this little frill of material stitched on the bottom of it. You put your hand on them and you smoothed them like that until the frill all stuck out and you dropped them in all the way along.
You did that all the way along, and somebody was coming behind you with a stick and they poked the stick down so that the frill was stuck to gluey stuff, and somebody is following them up and they pick up a white one and a blue one. They were about that long, little bags of stuff, blue ones were bigger than the white one. They’d pick up a white one and a blue one and dump them into that on the top of that. Then somebody that end picks them all up and
dumps them next to another girl who had this lovely big machine thing which only got a handle on of course, and all those little cap things, she sticks a cap thing in the top and makes sure that the handle part is done neat and tidy. This machine comes in and squashes them in, just a certain length of time. Then they get dumped next to her and somebody that end puts them all into my little tins.
Then the army inspector inspects that the right amount is in that and you close the lid and put them over on the big barrow for the men to drive away when you’ve got a barrow full. That’s the process. When you’ve got a lot of people working in there, because you’ve got two army inspectors and you’ve got all the girls, there’s three on the board and two over there. Clear?
And you’re all in beside, inside damned good thick doors so if one goes up it’s only that lot. The girls next door could be doing anything either side.
The blue and the white, is that explosive?
Yes, it’s cordite, all of it, but it’s different quantities in it. I’m not too sure what. And the army
boys tell me if you want that’s how they gauged the distance. They set their gun the distance but they could also take out one of those charges and that’s why they’ve got to be able to lift that out. The shells of the 25 pounders go in and then this one goes in behind them. The four inch naval shells of course, which was this size have this fastened to them, we never got to see them or how they made them,
only on the float. A bit uphill explaining them.
My understanding with talking with 25 pounder guys, there were actually different shells. They talk about one, two and three and then the armour piercing shells.
Now they’ve got, yes. When we went to Singleton to have a look at open day they had a lovely jeep and a gun
about 10 feet out the front of it, so I couldn’t get to see what sort of ammo they used for any of that. They must be using some marvellous stuff now. I’ll have to have a brush up when I go back. I only need a hand grenade for all those bloody wogs sitting over in Lakemba, a grenade will do them.
Just going back to the munitions factory, you were just making one type standard shell?
Yes exactly. That’s all they had then. They had these 25 pounder guns and they didn’t get more modern until later. At one time in New Guinea, when they had trouble getting [into] the Owen Stanley’s, they decided a brilliant idea was to send a certain amount of blokes with a
piece each and fly them over and drop them off with a piece each and assemble it on the other end. But I don’t think they went too far with that good scheme. I never heard how the rest of that went.
How long was the process from the very beginning of putting the shells together to very end? Would that just take a matter of hours?
Oh Lord no. You got through
millions of them. I don’t know, the shells came from a different bit and we only visited them once so I have no idea how their’s even went out and what they went out in or anything else. We didn’t get to see them.
Again, was there a quota you had to get through of shells?
I don’t know that there was or not. There was a quota of hand grenades and we ended up doing 2,200 in a day of those, the little pineapple ones, and I don’t know about the other ones.
I don’t know how the other ones were packed or anything. They were just a sort of special thing they did for a trial run and we were lucky enough to get them. I don’t know much about them at all. They obviously weren’t a success. They were made of, like plastic now, but bakelite in those days
You also mentioned earlier the inspectors, how many inspectors were there per girl or per station?
Two in all that process.
They’d be constantly walking up and down?
Yes. They checked everything you did. They worked hard. They were very nice girls too, but they were more mature married ladies that weren’t, like most of the working ones were younger people. That was a good paying job because the army paid them; they weren’t on the wages like we were.
During the process did you find faults with the shells?
Ones that didn’t fit in this thing, you had to put them aside. Those that were oversized and wouldn’t fit in the gun barrel bit you dumped them. I don’t know where they ended up. Most everything else you would never find fault, any of them.
That was the only sort of issue, the shell casing was too large?
Yes. I’d say so.
Were any mistakes made along the way?
There wouldn’t be chatting here if there were.
I suppose there were but we didn’t hear about them. They kept that pretty quiet. We had a lot of people visit us like the McFarlane man, and we had a chemist coming around checking on things and we had bosses of sections, but they were all nice sort of blokes. You just got on with what you were doing.
Were they trying to put more pressure on you?
never had any of that. If there was a storm, as I said, we got to sit outside and if it kept on for a while we got to go back up into the building. No, you never got anybody chasing you up for anything. It was very laid back I suppose you could say, yet everybody worked hard because they were working for a good reason weren’t they?
Did you always work on one section of the actual putting together of the shells?
No, you could end up anywhere. There wasn’t a bit of it you couldn’t do pretty fast.
When you came in in the morning did you know what you’d be doing?
No. Not really. I suppose you just, the charge hand would say, “You can have a go at that today if you like.”
Inside the casing there was the circular component thing and you said you were not to get glue on it. What happened if you did?
You had to get it off and it wasn’t easy. You couldn’t get your hand in the damned thing and you’d have to get a brush, like a paint brush and make sure it was off, because I suppose it wouldn’t work, and it was the primer that sent the whole lot going, the firing things on the guns hit them.
You see them shooting out hot, they reckon they were red hot. I haven’t seen them, but I’ve watched them do it. I’ve been close enough. I went and visited one down in the war memorial in Canberra, they’ve got a nice big gun there and shell sitting there with a little cartridge case. It was one from the Melbourne lot, it wasn’t one of ours. I had one for a long time, but Peter’s got it now, he took a fancy to it.
and took it home. After the war they sawed a lot of them off and made ashtrays out of them and everything.
Were the bosses giving you feedback on how important your role in the war was?
Very rarely. No. I don’t think we needed it, to be truthful. There wasn’t anyone there that wasn’t working for a damned good cause.
Jenny Proctor had two brothers in the navy. Edith had a boyfriend and I had a boyfriend and everybody, brothers or uncles or husbands or something. So no, you didn’t need the feedback. You didn’t need anybody to tell you that you were marvellous, we knew it. I think our relaxing bit, our outlet, was to go dancing and that helped I think.
Was putting together the 25 pounder more interesting than the screen printing?
Yes it was because you were doing more. The screen printing was swish, swish and swish, swish, then the other thing you were doing all sorts of jobs.
What other sorts of things?
You could’ve been testing the shells and putting the primers in or you could have been doing the
board or doing the lids and packing them. There was more to be doing with that. For the life of me I can’t remember what we did with them damned hand grenades, except for making sure the pin worked. You had a sort of a plug thing around the bottom, metal, and you put that underneath and then you pulled the pin out. You’ve got a live hand grenade in your hand. You had to see that it would come out freely but not fall out.
That little bar bit that holds the thing up and drops down and sets the whole lot off, well, you had to be able to use it. You see them with them hanging on their belts and I thought ‘oh dear, I wouldn’t have done that’. There’s this little metal piece, it was about that wide, and it had little flanges that fitted in a bit at the top and then it came out around a bit from the hand grenade. And
it was that one that was the problem - if it didn’t ping up easy well you had to sort of give it a bit of a knock on something to give it another go. It didn’t worry any of us, we did it.
How did you get the transfer from the 25 pounders to the hand grenades?
I just went a bit further on. They were in one of the bays near it. They were doing those and we went into that and I
think they must have had an order for a certain amount of stuff, and sometimes the cordite was coming through from the Pyro, up where they did all that handling, all the explosive stuff. If they were ahead of us or behind us we got another job to do from them for a while.
Your girlfriends that you joined with initially, were they in the same group?
We all ended up different. June went into the stores in the finish which
was up next to the railway station and next to where I did the tin can screening. She went up there into the store bit and Edith sort of roughly where I was but in different places. We never worked together in the whole time we were there.
Did you meet up during lunch?
Oh always, we had lunch together and come home together.
The hand grenades?
I can’t remember, how they packed them. I put the green stripe on some and I did some of this hand bit but I honestly don’t know what they did with them after that. I can’t remember anything about that.
The green stripes are?
Just to say they’re whatever, they’re ready and charged with the stuff. We had 2,020 in one day
so you can imagine handling hand grenades that fast. that nothing went up, but it didn’t. We didn’t have any accidents while I was there and that was a year and a half.
Were there shifts?
No. We only worked the one shift and they didn’t work weekends, and we only worked the one shift. Doesn’t that amaze you with the Japs coming down fast through New Guinea. But then that was only one of the munition factories, there was a big one in Queensland, there was a big one in Melbourne,
and so I suppose they were all working hard.
You mentioned your feelings towards the Japanese, did you have the same feelings towards the Germans?
No, because they were too far away, you didn’t have to worry. Although a lot of our friends were prisoners of war.
I don’t know why, but I didn’t. The Japanese seemed to be such a cruel, rotten, stinking lot. Funnily enough, my sister that worked on The Tele [Telegraph], and the Japs came through after the war and one of them, her paper was on the end of the desk and he said to her could he have a look at her paper and she said, “Certainly.” She said, “When he
put it down I couldn’t touch it.” She had the cringe problem too, the same as me and yet she didn’t have anything much to do with the war. She didn’t have anyone close to her that was killed. Our brother-in-law’s brother was in Singapore, Kitch, he died eventually. Got her too, she was the same. She said, “You know, I couldn’t touch that paper.”
He was a nicely dressed businessman of course, as they were after the war.
Do you remember at all, the propaganda of the time?
Stacks of it, yes. Terrible.
What sort of things?
Oh, only like, ‘The Army Wants You’. They had a lovely one of Uncle Sam, like the Americans had. There was a lot of those. There were a lot of beautiful posters and the Woman’s Weekly always had a front page of all the lovely soldiers. I’ve probably got a heap of them over there if
I’d thought of that, but I didn’t. All the soldiers going and leaving the wives and girlfriends, and all of that. But there were big efforts raising funds for one thing and for getting people to do all these marvellous things. They needed heaps of them.
We took a photo earlier of you on a truck, could you tell us how you got involved with all that?
I got chosen to be on it. It was the fundraising thing that they took from the factory and I got chosen for the one of the job, which was very flattering, that’s all. We just drove through the city, there was heaps of them. We weren’t the only ones there. There were things from all over there. The army invited us to dinner and they cooked in a big copper full of stew.
I said, “Thank you, no, I’m vegetarian.” And he said, “It’s bloody good tucker, we don’t get as good as this usually.” It was just a war loan rally that they had every so often and they were invited to send one, and of course we had the best of everything. Everything was all shiny and brassy and new suits and new trucks and everything. We ended up in Centennial Park. We were there all day with
the people that were invited to come and have a look at everything. You had to talk to them about it.
Your uniforms with your number on it?
We didn’t have any numbers on it that day.
They gave you brand new uniforms?
Brand new uniforms for the day, yes.
Were you able to keep those uniforms?
I don’t know. We went home in them so I suppose we did. I don’t know what happened to them. I’m sure we didn’t have anything at home
so they either handed in, every so often if yours got beyond it you’d just say, “I could do with a new uniform.” And it’d be there for you Monday morning. So you didn’t have a problem. It didn’t have to last forever. You could always ask for another one if you wanted it.
How were you selected to be involved in this?
No idea. The chemist come and he said,
“Would you like to go on our war loan float?” “Not particularly.” He said, “Well you’re it.” We did enjoy it. It was a good day. I didn’t know the city, we had to get home again from wherever we were. But we did, we managed it.
They were just selecting the prettiest girls?
I suppose so, yes. They had thousands of them to select them from so I don’t think so. I think they chose
from the ones that were working in it.
How many girls were on board your truck?
About eight I think and two charge hands and two army inspectors. They shoved on as many as they could. You didn’t need two charge hands. We only ever had one in each job you did, had one charge hand. Some of the jobs had
two inspectors, army inspectors.
What sort of munitions did you take with you to show people?
Well I imagine that they were mock ups. I don’t suppose they had explosives but they were all done exactly the same as the stuff we normally had, but I don’t know what they had in them. Cordite was like straw inside of them when you felt it. It was a sort of straw feeling in those
nice little bags.
You took a 25 pounder shell, what else?
We took the whole thing that we usually worked from, the board that we worked from. You put the shells all along, they put them in the back because they looked better that way, but you’d put the shells along the front and put all the other bits on the board. My sister was talking to me one day, I visited her Tuesdays and we’d sit and yarn because she was pretty
lonely. and she’s always having me, that’s a feather in my cap. And we were talking one day and she said, “When you were working in the munitions factory in the war, you weren’t in any danger were you?” I said, “Oh I suppose we were really.” And she said, “I never thought of you being in danger.” See, they never thought to wonder.
Could you share a little more about this board and the fundraising?
It was a board, literally a board made of timber, it was about that wide. I think it was 10 shells, but I’m not sure. We divided into halves only in that bit, and the shells fitted in this space and then the next lot fitted in, the red ones with the frills on, fitted in their own space.
The white ones came next and the blue ones across the top. They checked the whole lot was there. Somebody had already set it up and checked everything was there before we started, then you did the glue bit and the frilly bit and so forth. And they’d check the board was empty when you finished and handed them on to the next girl. You did four at a time,
you put them in your arm and took them up there. Then somebody ahead of you took another lot.
So on this particular day at Centennial Park…
It was set up exactly like we worked.
Your role was to explain to people?
Yes. Practical demonstration on how we worked. Try and, getting more in to work I suppose, and try and raise funds as well.
How many civilians would come along to this event?
There were big crowds in the Domain, a bit like… Sundays in those days would be wonderful in the Domain. There’d be somebody up on the soap box screaming about something, they could all do their own thing. They could be preaching or anything. It was a day out for people. They used to go wandering through, so we had a good role up.
This was just a one off?
Yes. It was a one off for me and I think it was a one off for there. They had a lot of them.
Were there other organizations as well, explaining what they did?
Yes. There were army there and Red Cross and all of those. I don’t know what else was on the other floats because we never got to see much.
So it was sort of like an Expo?
Yes, very like. Got one on at the town hall for the seniors. How to stay healthy.
Do you know how much money you guys raised?
No idea. No, we never heard anymore about it. The only thing we heard was that a lot of the stuff was looted off the float. I don’t know, how that could have happened is beyond me because the float, we had two drivers in the truck and I can’t see how that could’ve happened.
I suppose it could, they’d get a nasty shock if they thought they had something really worthwhile.
What was there to loot?
Souvenirs, I suppose. Make a nice vase.
You had more than just the 25 pounder shells, did you have grenades there?
No, we only had the 25 pounder shell
on this side and on the other side was the 4 inch naval shells, and they were these beautiful, big, and this long, and great big shells at the other end, and lying on a lovely metal bed thing. And we didn’t have a clue, we were a bit uphill and we said to this lovely charge hand, “How are we going to?” “Oh just improvise,” she said.
You just pretended that you were talking about a 25 pounder?
Oh yeah, you just had to. I don’t think anyone was interested enough in the technicalities.
After the grenades, did you go to somewhere else after that?
No, I finished then. We did the special ones and then came back to the hand grenades and then I finished, then I left the… because Andy’s mob
were stationed up at Warwick, up in Queensland. He got a place for me to stay up there and I couldn’t get permission to leave the factory and I couldn’t get permission to cross the border, so I went anyway and the army boys come down in the truck and picked me up at the border. I had three months with him in Warwick, before they reequipped for Borneo, but he didn’t go to Borneo but he was away for a long time.
Just before we talk more about that what’s the difference between the pineapple hand grenade and the special ones?
A big difference but what the destructive elements was I don’t know.
But the look of them?
The pineapples were only sort of this round and they were made of a heavy metal of some sort and they were crossed like this all over. Haven’t you seen one? And
I suppose they’re handy to cart with you and they’d be pretty handy when you throw one, obviously. These other ones were supposed to have been a brilliant concept, as you do get in every walk of life. And Andy said they were no good because, whereas the little metals ones would have done a lot of destruction when the metal exploded and shattered, well these things
made of bakelite wouldn’t hurt anything I couldn’t imagine. The explosive might have but I can’t imagine the shattering bits would have hurt anyone much. I don’t know, I didn’t get into that detail.
Could you describe for me what these special ones looked like?
They were lovely colours, all different colours in the one thing in the bakelite, yellow and blue all through it. They were about that big and they had a lid, top
thing a bit like the new aerosol things have got screw on top thing. But I don’t know much about it, the only thing I got to do was putting the strip on them. You could only work half a day on that job because they had this, you put your foot on it like the potter’s have, the potter’s wheel and they sat in that and you put your paint brush in with a long handle and stuck it at the
thing and put your foot on it and it went “zzz” “zzz” and you got a nice green stripe. You did it again, and you did it again. And so I have no idea what was in them or anything about them. I know that we only did one lot, we worked on them for a couple of weeks and that’s all. They never came back. The boys said they were handy for the fishing and they’d know.
You also shared with me earlier a story about going out to the Pyro. Could you talk me through the process of being taken out there and what happened?
We went out on a big truck, all of us from that particular bay we were working in and they had a big heap of stuff there when we got there, with all that turps and stuff. We had to, stacks and stacks of turps, rags from that department,
and it all had to be done away with somehow, they didn’t put them anywhere special. They had bits and pieces of other things and they just made a heap of it, not a big heap about that high and round and then we had to stand way back there. They put a trail along and they lit the trail, like you see them in the movies, and it just burnt away up to that and it went Boom! And even that small amount of stuff. So it certainly showed you what it could do
if you dropped one. It couldn’t possibly stop you from dropping one, if it happened to you because it wasn’t that you weren’t careful, you knew what you were handling.
So you girls that were there, were you behind something as you watched?
No, we just, at the end it was like a big cemented piece a bit like a road way, a big cemented piece with little bits along the side.
Bunkers all around, dirt mounds 10 foot high all around. No, we were only down the other end watching. You couldn’t have got hurt with it but you could certainly see what a nice little job it’d make.
You mentioned that they put all the rags in there? Did they also put a shell or a detonator?
No. Some leftovers from the cordite factory and scraps from other places, but it wouldn’t have been anything exciting,
just only bits and pieces like we had, just rubbish. It certainly made a nice little bang.
Was a talk then given about the importance of…?
Yes, of being careful and watching for the safety areas and clean areas and making sure you didn’t have any metal on you and all of that.
Were you expected to clean up after yourself and make sure that your area was clean in the factory?
Yes, we mopped out all our benches and we mopped out the floor. And outside at the back it had big verandah across the back and we had a storage cupboard out there and that’s where all the bits and pieces were, all out there, and we had to clean that out on Fridays, a couple of us. That Dicky Dahl was a great one for that, “C’mon we’ll clean out the cupboard,” she’d say. You were supposed to do it in turns but a lot of them wouldn’t do it of course.
So we’d clean out the cupboard and put new paper in it. Of course, the sticky glue stuff and all that lived out there and it made a mess of course. That wasn’t a problem.
Were these inspectors to check your work out there?
Oh no. Nobody ever checked any of that. The charge hand would say, “Have you finished the cupboard?” “Yeah she’s right.” No you never had anyone really pushing you. The inspectors made sure
that everything was right. They didn’t check you, they just made [?], which was very important as we found out.
I presume some of the inspectors and managers would have been quite good and some of them would have been nasty?
No, they were all good. All the ones we worked with were good. Some of them were stricter than others, caught up with their importance but most of them were just
ordinary, everyday people and they were doing a job. But they had trained which the rest of us hadn’t, we learnt the hard way. They were all trained to do it. We didn’t strike any nasties.
Were the conditions inside the factory during summer, hot, cold during winter?
It was air conditioned so it never got hot, it had the same temperature all the time.
So it didn’t get hot or cold but it was damned cold outside when you arrived in St Mary’s on the winter mornings, it was freezing cold. It didn’t get hot or cold, you got a surprise when you got outside, “Oh daylight.”
You’ve shared with me the process of arriving, what was the process of going home?
Much the same except the 300 hundred of us were all in the room at once, whereas you might have arrived with 20 more, but when we were
going home we were all there. The girls rushing into the showers and you let down the other ones, and on went your factory clothes and up and took your shoes off, and you stepped over and got your own clothes. Come down and you shoved them on, and we had a one mirror this size for the 300 and you’d be trying to look in there to put a bit of lippy on. June Proctor could very nicely do hers beautifully without moving off the spot.
We envied her. Then you nicked off up to the station and off you went home again on the train.
Did you clock on and clock off?
Yes we did.
What was the process there, giving your name?
No, we had a Bundy thing. We had a card with your number on the top and you did that, it was just inside the door of where we did the changing.
Then they had an administration block with stacks of them over there doing all the official stuff and they used to do the wages. The ladies in the office part of our change room gave us our wages.
You’d get paid when?
Just with an envelope?
Yes, with your number on the top.
Cheque or cash?
Interviewee: Gloria Maxwell Archive ID 1673 Tape 07
Sometimes while you were at the munitions factory you souvenired a 25 pounder? Is that right?
On the day that we were on the float we took one each home - not a 25 pounder just an empty case, cartridge case.
It wasn’t a real one?
When people asked you what you were doing, how proud were you of being a munitions worker?
Absolutely not at all because everybody looked down on you for being a munitions worker. You went into munitions when you couldn’t go anywhere else and all the deadbeats, we were supposed to be, all the deadbeats and no hopers couldn’t get a job anywhere else ended up in the munition factory. I put up with that for a long time and I heard one that someone was telling me. I said, “Hold on. Where would you have been without the munitions workers?
You’d have been up the creek without any paddle.” And they said, “I never thought of that.” But it’s true. You never mentioned that you were a munitions worker if you could avoid it.
What did you tell people?
Nothing. Nobody asked you. You were in your civvy clothes or you were in uniform, because everybody that worked or went into the services all wore their uniforms all the time.
So, nobody asked you.
Did you have a uniform to wear outside the factory?
No. You just wore your own clothes.
How did people respond to women in uniform during the war?
I think very well. They were very proud of them all. They did a mighty job. The day that we went to the stamp bed [?] there were some ladies there that worked in the land army and
they had beautiful blazers with the land army, and I said to one of them, “You had a stinking job in the war, digging spuds in freezing cold paddocks.” And she said, “No. The only problem we had was the lecherous farmers.” That put a different slant on it. Most of the girls that went into the services did a damned good job because they relieved others to go into
worse battles. A lot of them worked on the big lights, search lights.
Would you see women in jobs that you hadn’t seen them in before?
Very much so.
Where would they be?
I suppose all the jobs we did in the munitions factory to start with and the elderly people that had never worked that started working and were doing all those things. We didn’t see a lot in Springwood
because there wasn’t a whole lot of things women could be doing. They drove things and buses and all that.
You mentioned lecherous farmers.
The lady was, I’ve never thought of a farmer being lecherous. Perhaps I’ve led a sheltered life.
There were no lecherous chemists or the men working in the munitions factory?
No, because all the good strong healthy blokes had gone to war. They had to be for some good reason to be working in the munitions factory. There was nobody interesting that worked there. They were all elderly and some of them weren’t of course. They were mostly happy in their lives, didn’t bother being interested in anyone. I didn’t see any romances.
I suppose there were. Didn’t have time, you got there and got to work and had lunch and you come home.
What about behaviour that would now be labelled sexual harassment?
What isn’t labelled sexual harassment? Boy at the drop of a hat you can sue somebody for a nice small fortune. No, we didn’t have any of it, ever.
Who were the men, can you tell us about the different roles they had at the factory?
They mostly did the heavy work. We weren’t supposed to lift any of the, once they loaded the stuff you weren’t suppose to carry that. They were supposed to do all the lifting and they loaded the trolleys up and carted them away and brought over the empty ones. They did all those sort of jobs. In other parts I’m sure they would have done more. Probably in some of the shell filling they did the actual filling the shells.
As I said, we didn’t get to see any of that. I’m a real sticky beak now. Any time someone’s doing anything I go and see how they did it. I didn’t get to do that.
What about the technical jobs?
I don’t think there was anything technical really. I suppose there was in some parts, like the bombs had all the technical things
on the tops of them, but I don’t think they made any bombs out there. They were, like the chemist had a technical job making sure everything was fine and other ones would, administration did all that office type work. I don’t think there was anything too technological, as my Telstra son says.
Chemist is a good example. What exactly did he do?
I don’t know
but he must have had to make sure, like with the fall out bit and that, where they were working with cordite and those sort of things, I’d imagine. He just seemed to wander around. He was a lovely bloke, and he wandered around and had a yarn to everybody. What he did I wouldn’t know. Come down from the administration block and do a bit.
What common injuries were you susceptible to in a munitions factory?
Apart from dropping something and blowing yourself up. I suppose there’s plenty of things you could, probably broken legs and things if you dropped something. I didn’t see anybody who was off for compo and I didn’t see too many going off for the rest of their lives with bad backs either, like they tend to do later on when the Italians got here. I don’t know.
Apart from the rash you already mentioned, were there any other…?
No, that’s all I got and it went. It comes back from time-to-time. I haven’t had it for a while and mostly with the soil now if I forget to wear a glove. I’ve got gloves all over the house for gardening.
What was that from exactly? Do you know?
Turps I think. I don’t know and nobody else did either, and I’d have gone into Sydney for a specialist
and gone on forever and a day finding out. So as soon as I got rid of it I didn’t worry anymore.
Who looked after medical things at the factory?
They had a nurse there that you had to go to. We didn’t have one where we were on the main part. I suppose you’d have to go over to the administration.
Red Cross, probably a Red Cross nurse. We never got anything wrong with us. We didn’t have time.
Obviously you never dropped a bomb. Were there rumours or stories about that happening?
Yes, there was always rumours about it but we never met anyone that was in it, and I suppose the biggest danger was up at Pyro where they put all the cordite into the little bags and stuff. But it wouldn’t have gone off on its own.
In a big factory there had to be some deaths or casualties during your time there?
Well I never heard of any.
Do you think they kept it from you?
Oh, of course they would. Then rumours always spread don’t they? Although it was huge, there were huge buildings and you went by train to a lot of it, you were in a small world.
Those ones that you were working with was all you saw really.
Your time at the factory, when you Andy came back from overseas and you got married.
I worked for three months after I was married and then he got stationed in Warwick. I went up to stay with him and I left the factory then.
You already told the story about him coming home and you not being ready for him. How did your courtship progress after that?
Luckily it did. Actually it’s very hard to tell you because it was absolutely overwhelming to have him home all in one piece and everything was so marvellous. Then when I went up to Warwick, and I had three months up there and his
regiment was stationed in Warwick and we’d go for a walk through the town at night. He could come in out from camp and stay with us at night in this big guest house, a whole lot of them were there with their wives and it was a lovely happy spot. You had to help, the only way you could have a room in the guest house was if you helped. You had to help with the washing up or setting tables or something. We’d go for a walk around the town at night and the people you’d meet, like people I met from school in Penrith and all that way away,
and home from the war and everything. It was amazing.
Just a small step back, how long were you together in Sydney before you decided to get married?
Oh he was home on about 24 days leave or something. He wired me when he was coming home on leave to arrange for the wedding and I hadn’t seen him for 18 months
and I thought, ‘I couldn’t marry you without seeing you again’. It left you with a hell of a lot of doubts because I was that bit older and hopefully more sensible. So I didn’t go on and arrange for the wedding, but we didn’t have any money so I couldn’t have a lovely wedding in Springwood because half of Springwood would have to come, which I just couldn’t afford it. My sister had a flat at Rose Bay and she
[said] “Well be married and come back here.” Just for the family bit after so we decided I’d go to St Steven’s in Macquarie Street. But I wouldn’t do the planning. So we lost two days actually because when he came home everything was marvellous and we went together. It was such a busy time, people getting married and we had to fit in, we had a half an hour and that was our time to be
there. If we missed out on that half hour we had to wait for a wedding and a christening and it would have been like two hours difference. My brother-in-law got his mate that drove a hire car and he was to take us, and his brother was to be his best man. He got a shrapnel wound across his back and was still in New Guinea. Another friend was to sing at the wedding, he got shifted to Melbourne overnight. So
one thing and another, it was a beautiful wedding. It was very lovely. We stayed at the Hotel Metropol that night and we went down to Huskisson to stay because it was terrible hard to book anywhere in those days. And we booked to stay at the hotel in Huskisson, which couldn’t have been better actually because the fellow that owned the pub at Springwood, his mate owned the pub at Huskisson.
So when we arrived he greeted us. We travelled down with a fisherman, and he said, “Come down when the trawlers come in and I’ll give you lovely fish and the cook will cook it for your tea.” So when we got into the pub the publican said, “Here’s the keys to the bar, I’m going to bed.” So it just was beautiful, it really was. The prettiest place. It was an old two storey pub and the river came down this side from the bathroom window.
The river came in and the ocean came in and you got the whole, the two with sun on it of a morning. It was very, very pretty place and we had a nice, happy honeymoon. The cook did cook the fish for us. Then it was back to norm of course, after that. Back to work for me and back to army for him. Then they got their station at Warwick.
Was there a proposal?
He said, “You’ll marry me won’t you?” Do you call that a proposal? I guess I got one. We had been engaged for 18 months even though I’d never seen him any time in those 18 months.
When did he say that?
Oh when he first came home. He gave me a big cuddle and said, “You’ll marry me won’t you?”
Were you sure that’s what you wanted to do?
Oh, very much so, once I saw him, yes.
Apart from getting the half an hour at the church what other preparations were you able to make for your wedding?
We still lived in the brown house, and we were a long way from the railway station. And I left home to go to the train and I got half way down the hill and a lovely engine driver man told me he was growing gladioli flowers, like Dame Edna has. And he came out with a big bunch of these glorious gladioli for me.
And I made the railway station and I got to Sydney. And my sister had made me a dress and a complete set of undies and a hat, she’d made the whole lot. I’d never seen it or tried it on or anything else. I didn’t have a clue what I was going to church in the next day. That’s the preparations. I had shoes and a handbag, and stockings I guess, I don’t remember that.
So that was that, and she was my bridesmaid. She stood up with me and we all came back to her unit. His mother said, “Thank you, no.” She didn’t really want to come. And she came in the finish after all. It was a pretty sad time for her. Everything was very lovely and we stayed at this beautiful old pub and went the next day in the train down to Huskisson.
Was the dress short or long?
Oh no, I wasn’t having a bride’s one. No way in the world was I have a bride’s one. She said to me, “Sketch out how you’d like this dress.” And so I put bits out of everything and I put it exactly how I’d like it, and it wasn’t that much of how I would’ve liked it. It was very lovely but, you know, not a damned thing about it was how I liked it.
But the undies and all that were gorgeous. Those were the days when you wore scanties, and they were very beautiful and they were satin with rosebuds on.
Given the shortage of material, what was the dress made from?
A crepe, it was lovely. I wore it for a long time as a best dress of course. It was very pretty, very pretty. They were very clever and they’d go around David Jones and they’d sketch out the lovely things. They’d
copy them of course. Oh dear, this was just, it didn’t really matter.
What colour was it?
Blue, pretty blue colour, nearly a jacaranda colour, and the hat was the same.
As you say, at the time many people were getting married, what sort of things would you see at the war time weddings?
A lot of them wore their best clothes, they got married…
But like I said, Edith had this beautiful lace frock with the train, and her father and her brothers lived right out in Bevan Road, in Springwood, and they were lovely old time boys with the huge walrus moustaches. And her father was the only one that married. The other two brothers lived with her sister and they used to run the bees and hives and everything. When they were ready to go to the church with Edith,
Dad’s outside he says, “Come on Ed we’ll start walking.” He meant it too. That was life in those days. She married a lovely chap but he couldn’t settle down to life at all, he was a mess after the war.
That wedding was shortly after yours?
Yes it was, not long after us. He was in the 8th Divi with the Rats of Tobruk and he came back a bit later.
But they were all married, of course, in Springwood. They had big families.
What was the rules of getting out of the munitions factory, was it as easy as saying I’m getting married?
You couldn’t get out. You wanted to resign but they said, “No.” You couldn’t get out. But anyway, I did.
How did you manage that?
Just went. Then getting across the border was the worst bit. I got the train up to Stanthorpe on the border, and then from the railway station I got a bus to the border and the boys came down in the army truck and got me in across the border up to Warwick. But
then it came time to come home. Three months and they were re-equipped for Borneo and they were moving up to train on the amphibians. So, I had to come home. So that’s how I come to meet up with Tony Trollope. He was up on the station too with his wife, was very, very sick to dying and they wouldn’t give him any compassionate leave so he was taking it anyhow. We both had to get across the border together, and the trains of course stopped at the border .
You had to get out of one train and into another. So he said, “I’ll keep an eye out for you Glor, but I’ll be dodging the MPs.” We stopped at Lismore, or somewhere, and a cup of tea come through the window and that was that. I didn’t see him until we hit the city. He got down safe and he got back safe, the police didn’t get him. And I didn’t have a problem, just got out of one train and into another, nobody could have cared less, if you were worried.
What were the regulations for crossing the border?
You had to have a permit. Not too many people could get the permit. Of course the Japs were very thick on the ground, all this security they’ve got going now, it’s fascinating.
What was happening up in Warwick?
It was an army town. It had big army stores there. The boys sent on their duffle bags ahead of them and they all went into storage there, and there was a whole lot of other army that was stationed there as well. It was full of boarding houses and things, people brought their wives to stay wherever they could get in. The boys that were as permanent, they used to march to work each morning with the band down the main street.
They had a beautiful concert one night, an entertainment concert thing. I went in Andy’s overcoat, because it was only for the army, so the wives went in army overcoats. They had like the good old mouth organ playing and all of that. That was nice. It was a happy, lovely time, Warwick. All good things come to an end.
Can you describe the boarding house that you were living in and who else was in that?
It was a big old Queenslander,
and we only had a room each, and the dining room where we all met up and a big hall and stacks of room. The boys and their wives, some of them had their little kids even. If they were going anywhere special the rest of us minded the kids. It all fitted in together. Most of them were 2nd and 5th fellows. I met some lovely women there. I kept in touch with one of them for a long time, but I’ve lost track of her now.
What special things were you newly weds able to do while he was up there in Warwick?
Just being together, being able to touch someone, it was very special. But he had to go to work everyday and be home at night, walking around the streets at night. One thing he wouldn’t let me do was eat chips. We stopped at fish and chips one night and I said, “I’d love some of them chips.” And he said, “Well you’re not eating them with me.”
Oh well, there you go. So it was a learning thing.
Why was he prejudiced against chips?
He wasn’t going to have me eating chips while he was in uniform I suppose, more than anything. Anyway, I never ever did get to eat chips when he was with me, I can tell you.
What were they doing?
They were training because they were re-equipping them for Borneo, and I suppose in every
way because they’d just got back from New Guinea, and all the stuff they had was pretty well worn out. I don’t know quite how much training they did. But sometimes some of them wouldn’t get in at night and they’d have to stay over and do whatever they were doing. Then they went on from there to Atherton Tablelands and did all that jungle training and amphibians and all of that. I took that lad that’s off on the scooter now, I took him
when he was about nine, up to Cairns for a holiday because he has never been anywhere or seen anything. It’s a wonderful country we have. So we went by train from Sydney to Brisbane, we stayed overnight and then we went on to Cairns the next day and we saw all the pineapples and all the tomatoes and it was a wonderful trip, and we went up to the Atherton Tablelands and had a look around up there too. It was a good trip.
Why were you unable to go with Andy up to Atherton?
That was all combat area, you couldn’t go any further. We all had to come back, all the wives had to come back.
How different did everything feel for you now you were married? More anxious about your new husband going off?
He was medically unfit for Borneo, but he did all that training.
And then they decided that he could stay and they posted him all different places, he was all over the place. He didn’t get back for a long time, it was about a year before he got back again. But I knew he was in this country. Yes I suppose you were, didn’t fancy being a widow. This girl I went to school with was a widow at 20. I think it made it worse
because you had more of a closeness then. Everything was pretty harrowing. Tried to fill your days. I was pregnant then too so that kept me busy, spewing all day and all night, took the shine off it a bit. I was back home living with Mum. Mum had a nice big house. We were supposed to live with her when the war was over, but didn’t work out that way. I was back
home with her and back amongst all the people I knew, and Edith used to come down and visit me and Juney. I had enough to fill my life.
Why was your husband medically unfit, what had happened to him?
I don’t think very much had happened to him, he had a big accident off a motor bike. His brother was a dispatch rider and
he was sick and so he filled in for him, and the French were shooting at them from the mountains and he got shot off the motorbike and ended up with big scars across his shins. I don’t think he got very badly hurt, but just the same he volunteered for a couple of nasty jobs. He got a Miliary Medal in the Middle East. I suppose in a way he might have been saved a bit.
He still ended up in the army and he ended up all over the place doing odd jobs.
Did you miss working in the munitions factory?
Yeah I did, I really did. I would have liked to have gone back to it. However, that was all in the past.
What did you miss about it?
I think the companionship, the easy way of life and a feeling of that you were doing something, and all of those
things, wages were nice too. We never had a decent wage until we went to work at the munitions factory.
Do you think that made you more independent? Were you able to spend money on yourself more?
Oh no, I don’t think it did. We could buy nice clothes which we’d never been able to do before, but no, I don’t think so. It was nice to have a bit of cash.
When was your first child born?
1944, in the private hospital in Springwood and the whole of the Blue Mountains was on fire. They had the window, in where I was, down, and all you could see was glow all around the hospital. It was a bad year for bush fires.
Juney’s sister who was having twins, she was so pregnant she walked all the way up to visit me in hospital. They were wonderful people.
Was your husband present?
She was five months old when he saw her. When I had the second baby he kept worrying, he said, “Look you’re going to burst.” He couldn’t get used to me being so big with the baby.
It was a whole new experience for him. No, he couldn’t come back, they didn’t let them come back. Tony Trollope’s wife was dying, she’d got over it, but they weren’t to know that and they wouldn’t let him home because they knew they wouldn’t get him back. They’d had a gutful of being at war. They wanted them for Borneo.
What was that reunion like when he first met his five month old child?
He was a bit dumbfounded I
think. He sort of looked at her and didn’t believe I don’t think. It took him a long time to come to grips with that. It was a mistake in a way I suppose. We shouldn’t have had a baby so early. I felt it was a good idea, but it obviously wasn’t. It would’ve given him a better chance to have become, they pitched a hell of a lot on them when they came home. They had to come home from a war, and they gave them a suit
and they had to get a job and it was very hard to get jobs and they had all this inside of them, and they had to step back into an ordinary, everyday life. It was very, very hard. Of course my mother, who was shape up or ship out, and he were very much at loggerheads because he was just as much as she was. In the finish I said, “This isn’t good enough.” We couldn’t find anywhere else to live.
He tried hard to get a place but an ex-serviceman could’ve gone to court and put in for it if a place was empty, and he didn’t get one of course. So his mother had a little property down at Yarramundi on the river and there was nobody living in it and it was empty so we said we’ll go and live at Yarramundi on the farm. Living there on your own, but we did. Painted it all out him and his brother, and made it all nice.
So we went to live there. I went to live there; he came home and visited me. That was a bad time too. We finally got a lovely war service home, and three years from the time they dug the foundations, we went to see exactly where all the rooms were going to be and everything, and it was three years later before we moved into it because of the scarcity of the building materials.
So where were you when the war ended?
At home with Mum in Valley Heights.
What can you tell me about that?
Not a lot. You can’t. They’re things that you feel. It was wonderful that it was over, but then they all started limping home, pretty crook, all of them. At least it was over and you didn’t have that awful threat of the Japs coming down
and taking everything. It was a big time, a good time.
What celebrations were there in Springwood?
I don’t remember a whole lot of happenings really. I suppose there were plenty, but we celebrated more when they came home off the train and you went down to see them come home. When we worked at Jackson’s we were
very much the ladies with the stockings and our boss was very strict with us, And we were both working one day and this sailor came in with his great black beard and he grabbed Moira and he give her a big cuddle and then he give me a big cuddle and the boss was about green by then. He come charging out and we said, “That’s Neville Honeysette.” He’d been in the Mediterranean for three and a half years. He was so glad
to be home. It was alright then, he excused us. But he didn’t think it was very proper us getting cuddled by this big, hairy sailor. They were happy, joyous days. We were glad it was all over. It took a while for things to come good after it though, for them all to get back to work.
Can you tell us about Andy’s homecoming? Where you were and what happened?
I was still with Mum when he came home and he had leave before he came back and got signed out, and all of that exciting stuff. He had to find a job and he had to settle down. It took a bit of getting used to actually, somebody home all the time and running your life in with
theirs. We really, we spoilt him because you did; you tried to do everything you possibly could for them to make it easier. In the finish you became an also-ran because you didn’t really have much life of your own for a long time. Then he got a job with the Dutch firm, down at the quay. He went into shipping, he was an accountant but he
went into shipping. He didn’t want to go back to that. They were very good to him, because he stayed overnight at the YMCA [Young Men’s Christian Association]. He had to work until 10 o’clock sometimes because that salaries a very catchy word, when you’re on a salary you’ve got to work whenever you’ve got to work. So he used to work in the building behind the Ship Inn down there, the quay, and he stayed at the YMCA at night. But if there was anything on, like a big ship in the harbour
or anything, they’d take him with them to the beautiful dinner on board ship and all of that. He did very well with them. It got a bit much so he went to another firm and they sold out to Hoffners and he went to Hoffners after that. Then they were going broke so they went out to Alexandria, and by then he was 63 and they wanted him to go back to uni and do a financial management course,
so that he could take on that as well as the shipping. He said to me, “I’m really too tired.” And so that’s when we decided to go bush.
You said that he didn’t have an easy time when he came home, how did his war service affect him?
Not so much that you would have noticed, but in that he couldn’t sleep at night. When we honeymooned at Jervis Bay,
one night the navy had an exercise out to sea and they dropped a depth charge and he shot out of bed and under the bed like grease lightning. It was there with him all the time. He had nervous dyspepsia. Coming home on the train one day he passed out on the train and somebody put him in a taxi and sent him home. So he had terrible trouble with the stomach bit, but you wouldn’t have known. He looked fit and well
and healthy and he started up the ham radio and he loved that. He went to tech at night. When we went to Pokolbin at 63, because the boys were going to come up and do wonders for him. They had a growing family and they played sport weekends and everything. So he went back to tech to learn oxywelding and up to…Then he
always said, “Have you got a screwdriver or spanner or something, I can give it a jerk.” And it smashes in half. So there was always metal and shit metal. But when he got to tech he discovered there were 28 varieties or something. He topped the class at 63. He topped the class and what was very interesting to you tax payers was that there were 11 crims from Cessnock gaol did the course with him. So when they’ve got to blow up a safe now they’d know exactly how to go about it and not make a mess.
They brought them in the bus and left them there at the tech and come and pick them up and took them back. It was a bit of an eye-opener for Andrew.
How did he get over those nightmares? Did that stay with him forever?
To a certain extent. No, he did get over it and he slept better, but he never went to sleep until I
got in there at night. I like to stay up at night and he was an early morning boy. He’d never go to sleep until I got into bed at night, he sort of needed that security. I don’t know why, but he did. He was pretty well over it. Sometimes he couldn’t sleep, he’d be lying awake at night. That’s when I got all the army stories.
What do you mean by that?
The different things that happened and you’d never heard of, all of those things that they never talked about. He never ever went to an Anzac Day march, he never ever pinned his medals on. He said the war was over for him and he was happy to leave it there. But he went to the regimental reunion dinners. Lovely row of medals and never pinned them on. I would’ve thought he would’ve been proud. He was
proud of his service, proud of his regiment but he never, but he couldn’t do that.
Apart from those late at night talks, did he speak much about his war service to people?
No. Not to anybody. He didn’t. None of them did much though. Except my lovely brother-in-law, he went on to Borneo. My brother-in-law, he were with the transport. You could never get out of him even what…
He sailed with the 6th Divi we discovered in the finish. He’d never talk to you about anything. He went to Anzac Day every year. He was the best looking bloke in the march, marvellous he was.
Interviewee: Gloria Maxwell Archive ID 1673 Tape 08
Just coming back to your husband Andy, what stories did he share with you as you were building the house?
You want the colourful language as well.
Not a whole lot but what it do… All the years between I sort of… He was the clever one so we sort of referred to him pretty well on everything and we did everything to please him. But when we got up to Pokolbin and there was only the two of us and he needed somebody to hold the heavy end, things changed considerably. We sort of went back to how we were in the early days. In a way it was marvellous because we
were closer than we’d ever been because we’d reared the kids in between, and that seems to divide you a bit. In another way it made it harder when he went. As far as building the house, we built a big shed first. We had 25 acres of gum trees and we built a big shed first and we put a fuel stove and a kerosene fridge in that, and we used to go up
every weekend. And one of the boys would go with him if I didn’t get to go, they’d just go up. We bought a caravan in the finish. The caravan, we slept in that and we got there one night and there was a ferret in the building and here’s the bronzed, brave Anzac, and he said, “Quick get in the caravan.” And we couldn’t get out until the ferret left the next morning.
A lot of the things that happened to him, that’s when I heard about the cartridge thing dropping short and they killed some of their own men. He said that was the worst thing for him. The bit about when the French sniper got him, when he was doing dispatch riding bit. He was going up a hill and when they started firing on him somebody else ahead of him dived into the gutter as well. After it was all over
it was a big man and he’d thrown himself over the young boy and they’d both been killed. That haunted him a bit. Things that haunted him, he never talked, and let’s face it, he didn’t have time. He worked for a living. He talked about a fair bit of it.
When the shell fell short did he blame the factory workers for that?
Yes. He says we definitely had to be one short in the thing, and
I said, “It would be impossible.” But obviously it wasn’t impossible because it happened. But it could have been tampered with somewhere along the way, somebody might have been picking out a different range and put the damned thing back. You’re not to know are you? It would be blown wouldn’t it? His brother was with Ro [Roden] Cutler when they had to go up and get him and bring him back in again from that lot, all that bit.
We got a few stories, not everything.
Andy’s memories of the war, were the worst memories from the Middle East or from New Guinea?
I think the Middle East although he must have had it worse in New Guinea because of all the mud and all of that. They went over the Owen Stanleys with the guns, and flew out on an aeroplane because he had to, for his job he had to fly to Canberra. And he said,
“I wish I wasn’t going. I don’t really like aeroplanes.” But he was in that bit too. He would have had a hell of a lot of experiences that we’ll never hear about. He was pretty tough and the mother brought them all from Ireland when he was only 12, when they landed here. His father came here a couple of years before and got them a place to live. At
14 or 15 or something he had to leave school and finish his schooling at tech at night, and then get a job and then his mother always wanted land, being Irish. She got a job caretaking the teacher’s college camp out at Castlereagh, and so he and his father stayed in Sydney and went to work, got the money for them and started up and that and they’d go home weekends.
They’d walk miles and miles to get home. Life was pretty rough for him.
Just some general questions now. How do you think Sydney or for that matter Australia changed from before World War II to after?
I don’t think after was so bad because everybody was so happy, and so glad that it was over and relieved, and trying to make a life for themselves and all of those things.
They even then banded together and did a lot together. But if you’d like an update on now, it’s different altogether. I feel sorry for you young people today trying to make a way in life because it’s terrible cut throat stuff. But not in those days. I don’t think it changed all that much. We still shared. I loaned my pram to somebody and got it back when I was having another baby, and all of those things you did.
Given that this is for the archive, what would you like to say to future generations about war?
What can anyone say? Look at the world today. Just look. Use your eyes and your brains and see what’s around you and live today as though there was [no] tomorrow.
Was World War II worth fighting?
It had to be fought, but look at what the Pommies have got, look at what they went through. I’ve read some marvellous books about the bombers and the gas and the water, and the Pommies went through a terrible, terrible time and look what they’ve got now. Black fellows have taken their country and they’ve got nothing hardly left.
As I say, don’t let this happen to you but it has happened to us. So I really don’t know. From my point of view it was, it had to be fought and they did. Some of our mates paid the price. I’ve watched all those fellows that were prisoners of war on last night’s lot and some of those old movies on the air
raids, and all of that. One of the lovely boys went down in the English Channel. They had hoped he got out of it, but he didn’t of course.
In hindsight looking back now…
Which is futile.
Which is futile, but would you have done anything differently in respect for your service for the war?
I would have loved to have gone into the army, as I said, and Mum didn’t want it.
Actually Mum’s words were, “There’s enough trollops in it now without you joining them.” So that was, I couldn’t have done it. But no, I don’t think so. I think that was the only thing that was open to me, was the munition work and I did it to the best of my ability.
Is there anything you’d like to add to the archive before we finish?
I don’t think so, what in the line of?
Just any extra thoughts that we haven’t covered?
No, I don’t think so. I’ve found it very interesting with my friends and their lives and how it’s all panned out. If there’s a marvellous plan for us all it must be a busy bit of writing.
As we reflect on the war, are you happy in the way that munitions workers have been remembered?
Well how else could they be remembered? They got a nice bit in the war memorial and there were so many of them. Like I said, we weren’t the pick of the choice for the month when we were munitions workers.
You made a few comments, not willing to come forward during the war years of what you actually did?
No, you didn’t.
Do you think it was unappreciated?
Very much so. Like I said, they just thought the drop outs went to the munitions factory, anyone who was any smarter would be doing something else. I don’t know where they got that from. We had them from every walk of life and some very fine people and they obviously thought it was the only thing they could do towards the war effort.
It was an effort, a big effort. As I said to this other bloke, “Where would you be without a munition worker?” There’s only a certain amount you can do with a bayonet.
In respect to the Germans and Japanese who we fought in World War II what are your feelings towards them now?
We didn’t hear a lot about the German stuff until the war was over. We didn’t get all that dreadful stuff that the Jews got, all that, terrible wicked cruel stuff and you wondered at their mentality when they were all screaming. They said, “Yes but don’t forget they were starving.” That’s why they thought Hitler was going to be marvellous for them. So I imagine they’re all on a par and I imagine if I had to do the same thing
I would be doing it probably the way they did it. It comes to you and your kids, and all of that.
Why did you think it was important to share with us today your story?
Well you obviously were running a bit short of people, and it was something that I thought was important and I thought I’ll ring you up
and have a chat on the phone and that’ll be that. When the girl said the boys will come in, I thought, “Oh my God, no.” I thought you were coming last week when I looked up the calendar, oh no I’ve got another week. I really was in a pink fit. It’s over and my daughter said, “Do it Mum, do it.” She has done a couple of commercials and she said, “You won’t even notice.” I took photos of all this. I’m going to send them to her, blow ups.
Why do you think it’s important?
I think it’s very important and, as I said, that lovely one of Andy, I would have loved to have owned that and they could have quite easily whacked off a bit of that for me when he was eyeing up the lovely girl at Katoomba. I knew roughly the date and everything. I think it’s very important. What they’ll do with it is another thing.
Why do you think it’s very important?
A lot of people gave a hell of a lot didn’t they? And supposedly so the next generation could live in this wonderful country because they didn’t want the mob at the top stuffing it up on them. I’d hate to imagine my great grandchildren what they’re going to get. The grandchildren are having trouble finding jobs. Then that’s their problem. With a bit of luck I won’t be here to see that.
I don’t want to live to a hundred. My sister doesn’t live to 90.
Well thank you so much for your time and sharing.
It was very fortunate having you two nice boys. I had no idea of what I was going to get, and thought well if they’re starchy I’m in trouble because I tend to swear. I got introduced to the nice new minister once as, “The lady who swears.” He said, “I don’t mind, there’s plenty of them around in my church you can swear as much as you like.”