until I went away to school. I went to Ipswich Grammar School after doing a year of secondary school by correspondence. After three years at the grammar school I went to teachers’ college for two years, then was appointed to a school at Tingoora, which is between Murgon and Kingaroy. It was a two-teacher school. From there I went to Paringa, which was a similar sort of situation. Paringa was on the Darling Downs.
The school there has since burnt down, and so is the hotel where I stayed. From there I went to Gayndah, which was a one-teacher school at Barambah Creek and stayed with a family by the name of Slack. I had three happy years there at Gayndah, then was transferred to Wondai, which was closer to my home, and I was there for a year teaching infants.
From Wondai I went to Murgon to take on a class of sixty-six children, in two drafts. They were Years 6 and 7. In the following year I took the twenty-eight ‘sevens’ onto scholarship. That was a very small class for the time, but they sat for the scholarship exam. While I was at Murgon my husband came to relieve the principal, who was going on long service leave. And that’s where we met.
I was married in 1962. We first made our home in Bundaberg for a few months until Jim was given a school at Yorkeys Nob, which is outside Cairns. We had a couple of years there. From there we went to Widgie, a school just outside Gympie, and from Gympie to Mulgildie, then Stanthorpe,
and finally Ipswich. Our four children were born – one in Cairns, two in Gympie, and one in Monto. In 19 … Ooh, I’m stumped … Sorry … It was before we left Stanthorpe. My husband, who had been in the air force, suffered a massive heart attack from which we did not expect him to recover, but he did. He had a yearning to return to Ipswich, which had been his home;
and so we built a house in Ipswich and moved there. In 1983 … No, I’ll have to go back a bit … After being in Ipswich for about six months with not much to stimulate me, I suppose, I returned to teaching at Mount Crosby. That was a two-teacher situation. From there I went to Blair and had a number of years there. In that time
Jim had retired because of ill health, and I remained in teaching while he did the house. He died in 1983 and I felt that I could not go on teaching whilst dealing with four teenage children, so I retired. But in that time I finished my BA [Bachelor of Arts] degree and then an opening came up for me at St Mary’s College in Ipswich, where I did some temporary work. Later I was
employed part time. I stayed there for seven years working part time, and following that I did voluntary work for a couple of days a week. My grandson was born in that time, so I took to minding him. That was at Merrill Street. From Merrill Street I moved to my present address, where I continue to mind the grandchildren.
and we didn’t have refrigeration. We had wireless. That was the thing we valued most. A number of people did not have wirelesses in those days, and we’d have neighbours come down to listen to the cricket, especially when the Australians were playing the English over in England. It would be a cold winter’s night
and the kitchen would be full of people from the neighbourhood who’d come over to listen to the cricket. And of course we all thought it was absolutely genuine when we heard the bat hit the ball – but it wasn’t at all, was it? The other services we had were quite basic, I suppose. We didn’t ever make bread in the house, though baking day was usually Wednesday; and washing day was …
Washing for nine people was a fairly big task. The boiler had to be got ready the night before, and the tubs all put out, and the work clothes soaked in. Then next day there were three girls all lined up with a tub each – one for the washing, one for the rinsing, and one for the blueing. My mother would be there at the boiler with a stick, prodding the things
that had to be boiled up. Tuesday was ironing day, and Wednesday was baking day. On top of the dresser that we had in the kitchen – do you know what a dresser looks like? It’s got a cupboard underneath and a number of shelves. On top was a line of cake tins, and those were filled every week with cakes and biscuits – enough to last us for a week. Every afternoon we’d have afternoon tea
and those were what was on the table for afternoon tea. A number of people in our dairying area, they had to have a fire to boil up water. That was to sterilise the equipment that was used in the separating process. And people in the farms, a lot of them would have toast and jam on a fork before they started the milking. We didn’t ever do that until the war,
when we found that the milking took a bit longer. But breakfast would be on once all the farm jobs had been completed. It was mostly eggs and something … eggs and bacon, or egg-over-meat which was the remains of the corned round. Or there was eggs done like an omelet, or just fried, or poached. It nearly always included eggs.
The family would eat the main meal in the middle of the day. That would nearly always be meat and potatoes and whatever vegetables we could get. When I was going to school, of course, it was sandwiches. Then I’d get to eat my main meal when I came home after school. My mother would heat it up for me and I’d have it then.
Then, what we’d call ‘tea’ at night, that was whatever could be rustled up in a hurry. Sometimes scones, or what was called ‘pastalunas’ in its German name. That was fried scones. The work was very evenly divided into male and female occupations. The women did the housework and the laundry, and the men did the farm work.
They crossed over in milking – both sexes would do the milking, of course. Minding the cows – which we often had to do in the drought years. We had to keep them in a special section of the paddock where they would eat. It might not be fenced off, and we’d have to stop them from getting into a cultivated area. We did all that as girls. I remember that my sister Edna knitted two dresses whilst sitting on a horse, minding cows.
The boiler would be filled with water and the fire lit on Monday morning. Then mother would scrape the soap – just ordinary bath soap – and that was put into the boiler. Then you’d boil that up and it let come to a thick, fudgy composition. There was no actual laundry as such. We did this around the side of the house between two big tanks. There was long bench there with three tubs – round, galvanised tubs. One
was for washing, and for lightly-soiled clothes that didn’t need boiling. Dresses and light things went in first, and then dirtier things went in later. Next was the rinsing tub for after they’d been washed. We didn’t ever have those washing boards – Mother didn’t believe in those. You washed with your hands. That was the way we learned to do it.
So then the washed clothes were wrung out and then put into the rinsing tub, and you’d go through that process. Then the light things and the white things went into the blueing tub – Reckitts Blue – it came in knobs. It was a really royal blue colour. I suppose it brought up the whiteness of the whites. They used a lot of white things – tablecloths, sheets,
good shirts. There was always a lot of white washing that would have to go through the blueing. And then of course it all had to be hung out to dry. There were two clotheslines outside the house yard. They were possibly fifty metres in length and held up with two props cut from young sapling trees. They had a fork in them and they were joined with straps. So the washing was hung up there.
It was always a very sad thing in winter, or when it was dry, to see a whirlwind go along the clothes line or to have an animal or something knock the line down. Then you’d have to go through the whole process a second time.
hospitable. We had a huge table, and she always set an extra place at it. Very often that extra place was filled. She was the one who made most of the rules in the household and she was the first to voice her own opinion about anything – if anyone
stepped over the line. But Dad had the last word, always. You might listen to it for a while, but … Somehow, she took it from him, but if we answered her back, she wouldn’t take it from us. She must have been a very hard worker because she raised eight, well, seven children
in a slab hut out in the bush and then went to Murgon and raised another one – me. She was a very firm believer in God and the Lutheran church – very staunch. She was a chatterbox though, and very interested in local affairs.
She was in the Red Cross and the CWA [Country Women’s Association] and the Show Committee … anything that was going on, she liked to be involved in. Other people have always spoken of her well; she always put on a good table and others liked to visit her. But she ruled the roost.
I can remember before the war … My brother Louie was feeling frustrated. He wanted to get away and become a policeman but he was too short. He went to the Exhibition in Brisbane where they used to recruit and he came away disappointed. And she voiced an opinion about it, and he said, “Well, I’m going to go somewhere anyway.” And he walked off.
And she was saying, “No, you can’t do that. You’ve got to come back home,” and this was a man of twenty-five she was talking to. So, she was always ‘right’ I think, in her own mind.
for a few years because his father had died early, and they had a little farm out here at Haigslea. But he was a great reader. One of the last things he did … When I was in my senior year at school I had decided to take ancient history because I was very interested in that sort of thing. The textbook that they
prescribed – there’s one on the shelf in the workroom over there – was Brestead; it’s about this thick [gestures]. And he read right through it while he was recovering from illness. That was shortly before he died. Anything – magazines or … There were always lots of magazines in the house.
One of them was put out by the ABC, and there was another one that was printed on very plain paper … I can’t remember the name of it. It was a really good magazine with a wide range of subjects. We were related fairly well to the teachers who came into the district. More often than not we had to board the teacher
because no-one else much wanted to. And I think he really appreciated the input he got from those young people – as we all did. Then also, teachers from the surrounding schools would also come over to our place because we had the local teacher there. Dad was a great listener.
Radio was really what he loved. And he was a very fair man. I can remember him being visited by an uncle. He came from Ipswich. And Uncle Guy was sitting at the table and Sam Chambers – he was an Aborigine who was a drover – and he used to go around when a dairy farmer wanted to sell off an odd cow or two that was past their prime
and Sam would go out and collect them from all the farms. We were sitting at the dinner table – it must have been a Saturday because I was there – and Charlie looked out of the window and said, “There’s Sam,” and he called out, “Hey Sam, you’re just in time for dinner!” And Uncle Guy said to August – that’s Dad’s name – he said, “He’s not going to eat with us, is he?” And Dad said, “Of course he is; he’s a friend.”
He was very tolerant of the Aborigines. At that time the act that confined Aborigines to the reserves was not being enforced. It had been passed, but it wasn’t yet enforced. But they would come from the Aboriginal settlement near Murgon – it was called Cherbourg – and do some work for the farmers around the place. Very often it was clearing away undergrowth in the scrubby areas that were still left on the farm, or they might do a bit of digging
for fence posts and that type of thing. But the women, they always camped in our scrub. We had a patch of scrub that my father insisted should never be cleared – he said it was shelter for the animals, both the native animals and the cattle as well. When it was cold or there was a storm, then they could get into the scrub.
So they used to camp in there too. I can remember playing with their kids. They were always very welcome and made to feel … My mother, too, she was also very tolerant of them. They’d come out and … I can remember when they enforced the act and the women came out to the farm and they … They’d never come into the house yard that was fenced off from the farm. They wouldn’t do that; they’d only come to
the fence or the gate. But I can remember this woman coming to the fence and throwing her arms around my mother and saying, “We can’t come here any more.” And the two of them just cried. They had been coming for so many years and camping in our scrub. We got quite involved with them, but now they wouldn’t be able to do that any more … What else can I tell you about my dad?
He was a Labor Party worker who used to hand out how-to-vote cards in a Country Party area. But he was also very friendly with the local Member [of Parliament]. And although he wasn’t an educated man, he was someone that others always seemed to come to for advice. There were people who’d come around back then selling various scams – you know, shares in this
and that sort of thing. He was caught once, investing in a New Zealand company. It was supposed to be New Zealand Forestry, and he thought at the time that would pay for my education because it was supposed to mature in so many years. But it was a scam, and I can remember that he and some of the other neighbours talking together when they found out that it wasn’t
genuine; and they came to Dad and said, “Well, what will we do?” I don’t know what happened about it. I think they went to the solicitor. But I can remember them coming to him for his advice first. The morning of an election day, he always presented the cards to me and explained the voting process; he’d tell me
about what had to be done, and how the vote would affect my life, and how hard it was to get the votes. He’d say, “Use it.” That’s the sort of man he was.
On the first day, when they asked me what I’d learned at school, I drew a rectangle on the slate I had at home. I drew some scribbles on the side and at the top … they laughed, and I didn’t know why. This was a one-teacher school and I was more interested in what the other kids were doing. They were doing mensuration, of course, so that was what I thought was the most interesting thing that happened during the day so I drew the rectangle and put the measurements on the top and the sides.
I loved school. It was great. On wet days we used to light a little pot belly stove in the corner of the school. We’d toast our sandwiches on it. Quite a few of the other children wouldn’t come to school when it was wet because it was too far. So the few of us who were there would have a lovely day
and … I can remember also – not long after I’d started school – I remember going off to school and two of the big boys were playing tennis. And when I got to the tennis court, one of them said, “There’s no school today, Dulcie. You can go home.” And I look at them suspiciously and they said, “That’s right – no school today.”
So I went home. And when I told them this yarn – I can’t remember who I told – but I can remember Elsie saying, “But you are going to school.” And I said, “No, Colin Bates said it was a holiday.” Elsie said, “Well, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” Well, I dug my heels in. And there was a peach tree near the gate and she broke a stick off it and said, “You’re going to school if I have to take you all the way.”
Which she did, with a peach switch behind me. The second time I got there, there were other kids there, and one of the boys apologised afterwards – many years afterwards. He said it was an awful thing they did that day.
who had four sons. One of them was a bit of a tearaway and he was a great admirer of Hitler. They were a family of German extraction as well. My parents – they spoke both English and German – and my father used to listen to the news from Germany on a short wave radio, and I can
remember him talking to the mother of this boy, and he was trying to get him to change his attitude, because this was not good. Of course, war was something they had tried to get away from in the generation before, so they thought the situation in Germany was not good. The strange thing was that, when I was young,
I thought the Napoleonic Wars were just ages ago; but now that I’m so much older I’ve realised how recent they were, I mean, when I was young. Europe was being carved up and all this, and their grandparents had gone through it. They didn’t want to have it again. Anyway, my brothers weren’t interested but there were a number of boys in the district who joined the Light Horse [Australian Light Horse Brigade] –
the soldiers on horses with the bandoliers and jackets and an emu feather in the hat. And the horses! They were gorgeous. They had the best horses, and they were groomed and shiny, and we used to see them ride off. They’d ride in on a Friday night – in Murgon – and some of the things they did on their horses … the tent pegging, and bending races and manoeuvres on horses
were things that we thought were just great. So we really admired these fellows. At the outbreak of the war, the sons of those from English descent went off to war immediately. They were what my stepfather called the ‘flag wavers’. But that was their feeling – they were attached to
England and therefore their sons immediately joined up. Ours weren’t so eager to go at that time, because … well, Europe was a long way away, anyway. But my cousin Bill, who was killed later, he joined the CMF – the Citizens’ Military Force – and he used to go to drill on a Friday night too. He used to walk the nine miles into town sometimes, just to go. So he did a route march before he got there!
And we as kids, we thought he was mad because he didn’t have a horse. We thought, “Why would you join the CMF when you could have a horse?”
Talking about the games that we played, we loved arguing. We belonged to a modern school, and we were all in the debating club. But when we got bored we’d pull out some topic and divide into two sides and have a debate. It is about whether Dodge cars were better than Chevs [Chevrolets], or whether Ford cars were better than something else; and I remember one story, of a child who had a new car in the family for a fortnight, couldn’t tell anyone about it – because that would mean they’d have
to change sides in the debate. And that was a very hard secret to keep. There was a debate about whether Illawarra cows were better than Jerseys, or vice versa. So we’d check our results from the Project Club to prove which one was better, and so on. One of the boys actually added cream to the milk sample one time in a way that made Illawarra’s look much better than anything else. I think the cow was tested at about twenty-five. After war broke out, the debate suddenly shifted.
The German side, and there were a number of us from German descent, and the others, who were not German descendants. This is something that not many people realise. We talk about the postwar migration but at Wellwood school at that time there were families of German descent and a family of Italian origin, and one of Dutch origin, and one of Chinese origin, and a couple of English.
And there was one German woman who had married a man named Smith, and they were quite safe from everything. But that was what happened. Suddenly, the school was split in two. It was pro and anti German. And we didn’t know what Germany was, having left it about four generations ago. We had no ties with Germany whatsoever.
But that went on. One of the English men in the district actually proposed to the parliament that German descendants should leave their farms. They were proposing that we should become more or less employees, and not be owners any more.
Fortunately, the man was intelligent, and he rebutted that one, but there was a distinct feeling of a split in the community. I think that mellowed after Japan came into the war. Then the division disappeared.
Their family was very much afraid that their mother might be taken and interned. So we sort of had an idea of being shut up with barbed wire around us. But by the time Christmas came things had sort of settled down, and the 1940 Christmas I can remember vividly.
It was one that never happened that way again. In a small town, everyone knew what everyone else was doing; it was common knowledge. Our family had always celebrated Christmas, sometimes at our place, sometimes at another uncle’s. This year it was at Uncle Carl’s.
So that was where all the preparation went on; all the families contributed something, and it was a great day for eating and meeting everyone. And at that time, the only late night shopping that was allowed was on Christmas Eve. So it was very exciting to go to town and have a few drinks and buy the last Christmas presents, and so on.
I didn’t take part in that though, because I was too young and had to go to bed. I had done my shopping beforehand. I’d done it all at Coles [department store], which was fairly new in Murgon at that stage. But they had the prices on everything whereas other shops didn’t. I didn’t like asking because I mightn’t have enough money. I’d sold a calf for ten shillings prior to Christmas, and that ten shillings was to buy presents for the family.
So I went to Coles and bought presents for everyone, and debated how much I was going to spend on everyone; so I had done my Christmas shopping. In the morning, you wouldn’t have known that it was Christmas day, because we all had to go and do the milking. I wasn’t milking regularly at that stage, but was doing the other little jobs.
So we came in and had our breakfast, and then all of us – I don’t know how we did it – but managed to bathe and get into our semi-good clothes; and then we opened our presents at home, before we left to go to uncle’s place. Of course, at uncle’s place there was a crowd. Everybody was there
and we were welcomed in. One guest who was there that day was a fellow named Billy Needy. He was one of the ‘Dan Kelly Ghost People’ … Nobody knows what happened to Dan Kelly, but he was one of the people who was represented as Dan at one stage. But he had a little sulky. It was polished up beautifully and was drawn by two little grey ponies
named Jack and Jill. All the leathers on the sulky were red, and it was absolutely beautiful. Sometimes, he would give us rides in it. Not often though; because Billy was very shrewd, and if he gave a ride to this person, and didn’t give a ride to that person, then he was in trouble. But I can remember on that Christmas at Uncle Carl’s, he gave rides to all the kids. And we loved it. And we had this huge table set up on the verandah with thirty people plus.
There was duck and goose and chicken – ‘chook’ as we called it – and all the vegetables we had fresh from the farm. We had a lot of China Flat peaches that grew on Uncle Carl’s tree just near the kitchen window and there were lollies and nuts that the grocer had given us with our order – he always included those, free.
So we had a wonderful day, finished off with plum pudding and custard and fruit salad. After that, we kids used to disappear for a while. That was because we didn’t like the fetching and carrying and cleaning up after the big feast. The women, of course, had to do that. The men stayed on the verandah and talked. That was their privilege. After the cleaning up was all done … I don’t know what we all did – sang a few
carols, I think. And then there was the obligatory cricket match, where everyone joined in – even the aunts, they were all in. The pitch was bounded on one side by the barn and by the house on the other; and we played. And it was probably hot. We also had this dog that had been given to us by some people from Wondai. It was a town dog
and not a country dog, but he was a very faithful dog and he could catch cricket balls. So we didn’t have to do too much running after cricket balls – Rob brought them all back. Then after that we had afternoon tea – Christmas cake, biscuits, the lot. And then we went home to milk. Everything seemed quite happy. We had good rain; everything was fine – 1940 Christmas. It was a sort of really carefree Christmas
the likes of which I don’t think I’ve ever experienced since. Now, in 1940 they’d started to take an interest in training Australian men for military purposes. Men had to register and be medically examined and so on. The letters came, saying that one of the men had passed A1,
and my mother would tense up, thinking that he was going to go tomorrow. So, throughout that year they came and went. It was quite fun really because we went to see them off at the station, and we went to meet them when they came home. So it was just like having Christmases one after the other, as they came and went.
Then in 19 … Now, that was the year that we had a relieving teacher. Our teacher – Jack – he was called up, and we had a relieving teacher for three months. His only problem was that he had never been in the country before. He had taught at a [Christian] Brothers’ School, and had very little teacher training. So he took the place of this teacher that
we absolutely loved. Jack had been a townie too, but we knew that he had taught at Normanton in the Gulf country, before, and we knew that he had been a lifesaver – although we didn’t quite know what lifesavers actually did since we’d never seen the sea. And he was just … we just loved him. I think we were
quite popular with him too. So, we were sent this substitute teacher for three months. When Jack left, he went with the mail man, and the mail man delivered his replacement. It was nearly half past ten and we’d been playing and waiting for this to happen. We went into school at about half past ten, and Jack
had put the work on the board, so we started with that. The little ones seemed a bit agitated, but we didn’t really take any notice. After a while some of the boys were pointing at the clock … it was morning tea time. So someone was delegated, surreptitiously, to put up his hand and tell the new teacher, “Please sir, we have our little lunch now.” And he said, “You’ve only been here for half an hour.”
So that wasn’t a very good introduction on the first day in our eyes. It didn’t give him much reputation in our eyes. Following that he taught us his way, which was mostly by rote learning. Some people can learn by rote and some can’t; like, you were given a page in a history book and told to learn it, then you’d have to stand up and say it; and if you couldn’t, then you’d get a punishment like having two hundred words
to write out. And this went on and on. I was fairly good at rote learning and I was a good reader, so I didn’t have too many words to write out. But eventually I found myself joining with the others and not knowing it. So we had all these words piling up and we’d sit in the classroom at lunchtime and scratch away,
writing these words out on slates. At last, some of the kids had thousands of words to write out, and they were getting sick of it. So we decided to go on strike. We’d have our lunch as usual, and then write out the words after school. And he’d have to sit there with us. But there was one implication that we were a bit scared of – we all had to be home at four o’clock for the milking.
So we were there scratching away and the clock was getting closer to four o’clock; and the little infant classes, they were there under the school, waiting for their older brothers to take them home. And then we heard an adult’s voice, and a tramp, tramp, tramp on the steps. And this voice said, “What’s going on here? You’ve got two of my milkers in there; the missus is home in the yard on her own, and I bet some of you others should be home as well. Come on, get home.”
And the teacher, who had been sitting at his table, jumped to his feet. And the kids who were missing from the cow yard jumped up, and the rest of us jumped up, and out we all went. We didn’t have any words to write out after that. So we didn’t gain all that much, even though it was a bit of a victory for child labour.
He got around the school very calmly; nobody was ever punished or caned or … You’ll hear this story from most people of that time about how terrible the teachers were. But Jack was just the opposite, and, to quote one of my contemporaries who was
at the school at the time, also. She later went on to become an Inspector of Schools, and she said she’d later realised that her teacher was one of a kind, that she’d never seen many like that since. She said that he was one of a very few teachers like that. He joined in our games and we made cubby houses, and he’d visit us, and we’d make him tea. The mothers were
even in on this because they’d send in cakes for little lunch. He didn’t board with the families. He boarded with one family and then they had to use his accommodation; so we offered him our place, but he said he’d rather go into Murgon and stay in one of the hotels. He used to ride a bike; that was nine miles of corrugated road. But he rode the nine miles in the morning and in the afternoon.
He loved milk and I used to take him his bottle of milk every day, for which I earned threepence. So he was just a favourite with all of us. After he left to go into the army he wrote to all the families. I have a letter that he wrote to me just before I was married. And he sent us a coconut from New Guinea. We’d never seen a whole coconut in the shell, with husks. And he sent us
Japanese cigarettes, and Japanese invasion money – the money they were going to use when they invade Australia. When he came on leave later on he visited us. He was just a part of the community; a very special part of the community.
So what was your brothers’ reaction at the outbreak of war?
I don’t think they worried a great deal about it, and they really enjoyed their three month training camps. When they were called up I … well, I had this vision in my head of my older sister Edna going for the mail, and finding in it a brown envelope with OHMS [On His Majesty’s Service] on it, addressed to one of the
brothers, and throwing it down on the kitchen table in front of Mother, and saying, “He’s going off for three months to Brisbane, where he can go to the pictures, and to dances, and eat chocolate …” When was she ever going to get a chance to do that? That was her reaction to it. But the boys really enjoyed their training.
It was fun seeing them off too, and meeting them when they came home. But everybody of course – from all around the district – there was a couple of them like that from every family. So we were partying from one day to the next, with send-offs and homecomings. But then, when Pearl Harbor was bombed and the call-up came, Jack went and Louie went – he was the one who wanted to be a policeman –
and so he was quite happy to go into the army. Suddenly, the dads in the district were doing what I call ‘cow sums’ – right, that’s fifty cows between five milkers; that’s ten each. And fifty cows with three milkers, then that’s a bit of a problem.
all the mothers had them dead and buried in their minds almost immediately. They were very anxious. So I can’t remember much about that Christmas Day being much of a Christmas Day at all. It was very sombre. But in the January following the replacement teacher arrived. Her name was Miss Mulhearn, and she was nineteen years old.
I’ve got a letter from her, recalling her stay with us. She’d lived in Toowoomba all her life and had never been on a farm. She was quite unprepared for what she was facing, and she’d never seen a one-teacher school before. She’d gone to a convent school. So we were wondering what we were getting. All around the district these
young girls were coming to replace the male teachers. Teachers at that time were quite high up on the social calendar, and one of the ladies in the district, her husband went off to meet the replacement teacher. I can remember her grilling him about how he must behave and how his manners must be perfect and how he must wear his suit; and he must call her ‘Miss’ all the time.
Her name was Betty Eagle. So he went and met her at the station and welcomed her, saying, “You must come and live with us, Miss Hawk.” And he called her Miss Hawk all the way home. Betty laughed about it later. So they made their homes with us, these young teaching girls. At school, the first thing we noticed was that Ruth couldn’t quite handle the four/five class situation. So the bigger girls used to take it on themselves to go and do
what Jack would have done in the situation with the infants’ school. Gradually she got the rhythm of it though, and she ended up doing very well.
school; aged about twelve, I think. And the first thing that we really noticed was the shortage of elastic. That was a big thing. And also the shortage of materials fit to be made into underwear. You could buy singlets at the counter, but you couldn’t buy children’s knickers … because all the mums made them.
That was part of … they just bought the soft materials and made them. The store that we supported got in a large bolt of yellow head cloth – pretty stiff, cotton material. My mother and one of the other mothers bought yards of it, and they managed to get some elastic – it used to be put away under the counter –
and she’d say, “Psst, I’ve a bit of elastic in this week; you can have three yards.” And the ladies would say, “Oh yes please, that’d be good!” So Kathleen and I had these horrible bright yellow bloomers. And because of that we couldn’t have a swing for the entire duration of the war, because if our dresses blew up, we’d be showing these horrible yellow … by the end of the war they were just about worn out!
I can remember, too, getting extra coupons for being an outsized child – I was a fairly early developer, and was over five foot tall. If you were over five foot you could get extra coupons. Well, I was five foot tall at age twelve – and I never grew after that. But these were the sorts of things that were done at school – Ruth had to measure us
and send away whatever sort of application form was required. And she had to do surveys for possible evacuation of city children – all our houses had to be measured: the number of rooms, the size of the rooms; estimates of how many people we could bed down, and all of this. It caused quite a stir because some of the women said things like, “I told my brother that if it got bad in Brisbane I’d take in his wife and kids. I don’t want these other people.”
So, that exercise was not very popular. We had to say what sort of car we had so they could work out how many people we could carry. One family had a Huptmobile – do you know what that is? It’s one of the early model cars that was very high at the back. The two seats in the front were fairly squashed. It was one of the German families,
and although they were third or fourth generation, they still had a little bit of a German accent; and I can remember Kevin saying, “Da Hupt can take thirteen.” And Ruth looked at him and said, “Are you sure?” And he said, “Yes, when we went somewhere there was thirteen of us in it.” So he wouldn’t be budged from that because he had once carried thirteen.
that these poor boys so far are way from home – they were from Victoria and New South Wales – and they couldn’t get home on leave because they were so far away – and so we should introduce hospitality Sundays. So everybody in the district lined up to take two of these fellows on a Sunday. And they’d come along in a military vehicle, a truck or whatever, and they’d be dropped off at the gate – two of them. So we got to know quite a few of these locally established
young men. One night, my father was sitting on the steps puffing away at his pipe, as he usually did, and he said, “There’s a light out there.” We were all blacked out, and to be in the country when it was all blacked out, well, it was really dark. And we watched it for while; we all went over to the door and we watched it.
It was going to the right to and left, and then suddenly it disappeared; and then we saw a flash of light on the dairy. And we could hear a truck or car, and then the next minute they pulled up at the back gate. So that was the first of it. They would get a truck and some of their mates and come around to our place, where there were four girls and lots to eat.
So after that they came regularly of an evening, to play monopoly and cards and singing; and to have a good feed for supper. And they wanted us – the girls – to go to the local dances and pictures with them. But we didn’t have enough petrol. Petrol rationing was very strict. And so they talked it over with Dad
and they said, “Will the girls be able to go if we can get some petrol?” And I remember now that army petrol was a bit different from normal petrol. It was a different colour. But by that time we had a tractor. It was powered by kerosene, but it was started with petrol. So they worked out that if anyone queried it, they’d say it was the ration of petrol for starting the tractor.
And my mother walked out to the shed one day and said, “There’s an extra drum of petrol out there.” And Dad said, “Yes,” and she said, “Where did it come from?” And Dad said, “It’s for the tractor.” He knew perfectly well it was pinched petrol and that it was going to be used in a car – to give the girls the opportunity to go to dances and the pictures with these young men who’d been visiting us. They got quite close …
One of my sisters, I think she really lost her heart to one of them. She wrote to him but we heard no more of him. I think he might have been killed, because we heard no more of George. And of course his people – goodness knows where they were in New South Wales – it was like being on the moon in those days; so she went through a rather sad time and never looked at another after that. But we wrote to them all.
We did a lot of letter writing, both to our brothers and to these young fellows that we’d got to know. We wrote to Jack O’Hearn – every night we wrote letters. The mail deliveries then were severely cut back, too. Our mail then, it went with the cream carrier, which was a reserved occupation. Somebody had to cart
the cream. So Bill became a general carter. Up to the war he had brought us the Tuesday meat; but as the war went on, and with rationing, he just became everyone’s carrier – he was treated as the mailman; he took our cream; he took the bags for bread and meat. The women had got sugar bags and lined them with
flour bags – that’s hessian lined with white cotton – and they’d roll these up and put a label on them for the meat or bread order, and put them on top of the cream cans. So when Bill came to collect the cream cans he also took away the order for bread and meat. And then gradually, it became, “Can you get this? Can you get that?” Parts for the tractor or … you’d just ring it up and Bill would bring it. He’d be running around the town all day,
doing all these jobs. So it was a really reserved occupation that grew with the war.
a chart on the wall with our targets. We had a list of all the fellows from the army who were in the war, up on the wall – where they were, as far as we knew; it was only generalised because you could get censored for that. But that was part of it. And of course, letters that you’d get would be censored heavily – you know, they’d say, “I’m well,” and then there’d be big pieces cut out of them.
They might as well have written seven words and been done with it … that was especially from Vince, when he was in Borneo [Dulcie meant New Britain]. There was no indication of where he was or what he was doing …. Some of the others too, they … The local blokes were involved in the Shaggy Ridge campaign. There’s a picture
of one in jungle warfare gear, and so they had a really torrid time. Bill was killed at Salamaua, before the Milne Bay offensive, I think. He was a sergeant, and his officers had been killed.
There weren’t too many of them left, and he rallied them, and they captured a Japanese machine gun post; but he was killed in the process. That was the detail they gave to his parents later.
mostly writing; Ruth was reading to the younger ones. A car went down the road by the side of the school, and heads popped up. Then another car went down; and there were whispers around … “Who’s going to town today?” “Were you going to town today?” We were all absolutely puzzled, because we all knew what everyone else was doing. If we
went to town, we sort of put the hat around in case anyone needed anything that we could bring out. So we were puzzled for a while. Then there was a knock on the door. It was Charlie, actually; and Ruth went out to the door, and they talked for a bit. Then she beckoned to the two older boys who were on flag duty that week, to run the flag up.
By that time we were all craning our necks out of the back window towards the flagpole. They ran the flag up, and then lowered it to half mast; then she came back in and said, “Stand up all those of you who are related to Bill Eisenmonger.” I suppose about fourteen of us stood up. Then she said, “I have to tell you that Bill was killed at Salamaua.” And that … well that brought
the war right home … right home. And everybody in the district – some of them were related, but all of them had gone round to Uncle George and Aunt Margaret’s’ … And she went from being just the jolliest aunty, who you went round and made biscuits with, to … She became very different for quite a long time.
She set up on her sideboard what, sort of … like a shrine, with all photos of Bill growing up, and she had flowers and … I don’t think she really got over it till after the war. She and uncle George went to New Guinea to see his grave. Whether it was his grave or not, that’s debatable too, but she was satisfied after that. It made a big difference to her.
It was really foggy; very thick fog. And out of this fog came what they used to call a ‘Don R’ – a motorbike scout. And she was there in short shorts and just an ordinary shirt, I think. And he was all rugged up in a blanket, because the early mornings could get very cold
in Murgon. He wanted to know the road to Gayndah because one of the things they did early in the piece was to take all the signposts down. So he had to find out which was the way to Gayndah so he could point the convoy in the right direction. So she gave him the information and offered him a cup of tea.
She took him up to the house where mother was in the kitchen and she fed him up and … It was a day we were having a district picnic. It must have been a public holiday – Labor Day or something – and we always had a picnic in the school grounds. It was a general community get-together. We’d decided to still do this even though the blokes were away – or rather they decided, not me.
So we went along with the usual picnic, with trestle tables underneath the school and absolutely laden with food. That was despite rationing, because we had our own butter, eggs … and flour didn’t seem to be a thing that was hard to get. So, after he’d been fed by mother, Les went back to direct his convoy on, and we all went down to the school. It was right beside the road.
And he didn’t leave all day. He just waved them on, and every now and then somebody would stop and come in and have a cup of tea; and then the next lot would go on. That was the first of the convoys. After that, there were lots of them. We used to count the trucks. That was one of our pastimes. We’d sit on the fence and count the trucks. And if it was afternoon and we had to go home, we’d say, “You finish counting Miss, we’ve got to go home now.” So Ruth had to go on and count
how many trucks had gone through. That was going north. Later on there were troop trains, but that was later on when I was going to school here.
So we all went up and showed it to Dad, and he looked at it, and said, “I think it’s a coconut, but how do we get into it?” So he got an axe, and of course it just bounced off. And we were looking at it, and one of the neighbouring boys who was home on leave from New Guinea happened to arrive
on the scene, and he said, “Where’d you get the coconut?” We told him it was from Jack O’Hearn, and he asked us if we wanted to open it. So he drove a stake into the ground and drove the coconut on the sharp stake, and lo and behold the outside came off – and there was the coconut. And getting the Japanese cigarettes, they went all around the district. Everybody smelled them. They came in a little basket. I’ve got one
in there that I have tea in. But the smell had gone right into the basket. I had the basket for years but it just sort of crumbled. And the Japanese money, well, we weren’t too worried about it because we knew that Jack was up there fighting these Japanese and they weren’t going to get here after all; so we weren’t going to use this Japanese
money anyway. So, I don’t know where they got to, or which families kept them, or what. But when you think of it, he was in the thick of it, yet he had the time to send those things to us. He thought we’d be interested in them. It always brings to mind something that I heard at a seminar once given to beginning teachers, and the person who was giving it said, “If at the end of a month you don’t think that you’ve got another family,
then teaching isn’t for you.” It’s very true, and it’s what makes a lot of teachers work very hard. That’s how we thought about Jack – he was part of our family too. And we were part of his.
I just absolutely loved them – them and the school annuals. I really soaked them up. When I’d done scholarship and couldn’t go to school, that was really hard for me to take because I’d read so many books about what it was going to be like. I found it very hard. But then I got to school and the
first week was a misery. That was because we’d been digging up potatoes the week before and I’d been wearing a shirt with no sleeves on it and I got badly sunburned. So I had to wear a long-sleeved blouse that week, when everyone else had short sleeves on. You couldn’t buy the sort of hat you needed – a Panama hat – so I had a different sort of straw hat. So I felt
like a fish out of water. The school seemed so very big and I didn’t know where I was going. My sister Elsie had enrolled me. She was living here in Ipswich at the time, so she took me up on the first day to introduce me to the headmistress. And she took my details, and said to me, “I think, Dulcie, that we shall put you into Sub-Junior.”
And I looked at her, because I’d already completed Sub-Junior; and Elsie protested, but the headmistresses said, “Oh, we’ve had these girls before from off stations; they don’t measure up; she’ll be better off …” So I was feeling shattered by the minute. But Elsie dug her heels in and the headmistress agreed to put me on a trial for the first term.
So that was okay. If I got through first term I could stay in the junior year. And I went into the first lesson, and it was her lesson, and it was a Latin lesson. She had glasses like mine, and she looked at them and said, “You – new girl – you read.” So I stood up and tried to read Latin aloud. I sort of knew it, and I could write it, but I couldn’t pronounce it. The whole class of course
thought it was hilarious. But I never felt so much like sinking through the floor; and I made a vow then that I’d never humiliate a child like she did to me. But I got an ‘A’ for Latin at the end of the year. I felt very different, very humiliated.
but not to us. To us, Australia was home. We never thought of Germany as ‘home’. Never. My parents started to teach the older ones to speak German, to try and make them bilingual. They found out that Elsie got a bit too cluey, and when they wanted to talk things over in private, in German, she’d understand it,
and long before they thought she could. So they stopped doing it. They didn’t worry about it again until I was born and then they decided that they’d teach me. Apparently, I could chatter in either language until I was about age three. My little granddaughter is about that now. I remember getting a visit
from the uncles down here and singing a German song for them, for which they were very proud. But when the Hitler thing came into it, it was stopped. I can’t remember much of it at all any more. I know all the stupid words that the Germans spoke; and when Louise and I visited Europe, we could make out what the signs meant in French and Italian – because I’d studied Latin –
but when I got to Germany, I couldn’t make sense of much at all. Anyway, they stopped talking German at home, and that was why they were worried about listening to German radio. That seemed a very risky thing to do.
I do, but for people who don’t, maybe you could explain?
Well, you had several subscribers on the one line, and each one of them is given a morse code signal for their own particular call. We were 65B, so we had a long and three shorts – which is ‘B’ in morse code. If it was just a local call you
didn’t have to go through the exchange. You just rang each other on the line. And if Mum got the feeling that there was a phone call from – not just someone on the line – but from further away, she’d get a bit jittery because she was expecting it might be a telegram. I suppose we all sort of lived with the apprehension
that something could happen. But we knew that Percy and Louie were up in Australia, so it didn’t really hit us like it did other people whose sons were overseas. My cousin Myrtle, her husband, he had a three day leave; and he came home one day, and the wedding was the next day, and they both went back the next day. We saw them off at the station for their one-night honeymoon.
He went off on a ship to New Guinea, and she came home on a train. I felt that, more than I felt for my brothers, because I was quite close to her. I knew that she was very sad and apprehensive.
also. Work was just sort of dropped for a few days and they prepared for the wedding. There was the usual sort of Sunday dinner menu for the wedding – geese and ducks and hens and chooks and vegetables from the farm. Plum puddings and fruit cakes …
They were very good at making plum puddings. There was an iced wedding cake in three tiers – one to be eaten, and one to be sent away to people you liked; and one to be kept for the christening later on, when the child arrived. That was the usual thing. But Myrtle didn’t have what you’d describe as a wedding dress. She wore what, up till then, had been called the ‘travelling’ dress.
Every bride had to have two outfits – the white outfit with the veil and whatever, and then a travelling outfit to change into: a smart dress, hat, gloves, handbag, shoes … to wear when they set out on their honeymoon. But she and a number of others made that concession – the travelling dress became the wedding dress.
And there’s two pictures – one of my sister-in-law, who I didn’t know then, and Myrtle, both in the same colour pink travelling dress. They had the handbag, with the posy attached, and a smart hat and gloves. So this was how a wedding went off. But the photo reveals that there were older people there – uncles, aunts, and children – but no-one much in between. The girls, of course, the girl
cousins were the caterers, who operated behind the scenes.
Sometimes my father would wear his three-piece suit just to go to town. They were tailor made; you didn’t buy suits ‘off the hook’ in those days. On the farm the men usually wore what they called ‘cotton twist’. It was not quite like denim, more a cross between denim and chino; that sort of casual material you see today.
Dark coloured shirts, too. We used to be regularly visited by travellers from places like McDonald & East, and from Bayard’s. That’s where most of the ordinary, everyday clothing came from. A big van used to pull up and they’d open up the sides of it, and there would be all the things that you wanted.
Dresses were all home made. Nobody bought a dress. And there were no dresses off the peg. Everything was home made, out of good material. So we were always very well dressed. I used to love it when the traveller came, because at the end of it he’d give me a little book of samples. If there was something that you particularly liked and
it was not on his van. They were in a little stack and stapled onto a card. He’d give me one of those I’d flick through it, and dream of things. And I can remember my father buying a new hat. He always wore a … I can’t think of the name of it … Like an Akubra, that sort of hat.
He said they were useful for belting a bull over the nose with, or you could have a drink of water out them, or fan himself on a hot day. Gradually it would get to the floppy stage, and then he’d sacrifice it for a new one. But it was always bought from the traveller.
What did the boys wear when they were out working?
The cotton twist and the dark shirts. They didn’t wear shorts because we had a very hot summer. And when they were engaged in activities like haymaking … this was just when shorts were beginning to come in … so they were absolutely sick of it, and one of the sisters got the scissors and cut them off at the knees.
For Percy and Vince and Louie, this was fine. But Charlie was a redhead, and he got such a proper sunburn that he couldn’t do anything for a week. It was just absolute murder. So they wore shorts before the girls wore shorts. Up till the war the girls farmed in dresses. You had your good Sunday dress, and when that was
a season or so old, it would become your second dress – like the one you wore when you came in from doing the milking. We didn’t have a bathroom in the house, we just brought one of the big tubs into the bedroom and had a bath there – provided there was enough water around – otherwise you just got by with a lick and a promise.
We’d change into clean clothes anyway, just to have tea at night. And those were the sorts of things we wore on a Sunday, or to go and visit cousins and the like. Then, when those were beginning to get daggy, then they became work clothes. You’d wear them for your work around the place. And even for the everyday clothes, we always wore a black apron over the top. That was no doubt to help
with the washing, to help keep everything clean. And the girls wore stockings too – lisle stockings, a cotton mixture. And garters. They were always crinkly, and they were always pulling them up. When the boys left, Edna, the most outspoken of the sisters said, “Well, if I’m going to be a farm hand, then I’m not going to do it in a dress.”
She said to Mum, “You can get some material and Rosie can make us some shorts.” There was a great furore over that. Mum wouldn’t have it. She said, “That’s fast; only fast girls wear shorts!” But Edna stuck to her guns and some navy head cloth was bought in reams, and Rosie sewed shorts and overalls for us – the overalls for the winter
and the shorts for the summer. But we also wore sun coats, and this was before melanoma was really … before it was heard about. I didn’t wear them much because I thought they were too hot. But the others did. They always had a jacket that they put on over their shirt, if they were going to work out in the sun.
It was called a sun coat.
Can you recall home remedies for anything else? A gentleman we spoke to the other day was talking about kerosene and cotton wool …
Oh, yes, my husband used to go on about that. He’d say that if you got a sore throat, then you got swabbed with cotton wool dipped in kerosene. No, but my father had an ulcerated leg, associated with this kidney problem he had. When he was a young man he fell in the scrub
and injured his leg. It had never healed and became ulcerated later. My mother used to go around and pick leaves off a weed called marshmallow plant – that’s what she called it. But she would pick those and then layer them over his leg, and bandage it. Somehow I think it worked, to an extent, even though his leg was always
bandaged. That was what she did for it, anyway … what else was there … Edna became very ill with pleurisy; something to do with pneumonia almost, I think. Well, she got very sick and so mother made these things with brown paper layered with mustard.
Rawleigh used to be the traveller who came around with various home remedies – or semi-home remedies I should say – she used to get the mustard in a tin and spread in layers. It was a poultice. And she’d put that on the area that was affected. I don’t know if it did any good either,
but … what else did she do? Even among the plants that grew wild she used some that could be eaten. In dry years, when there was a shortage of green vegetables, she’d put them in salads or in soups. She knew which ones would
So once the war was well under way and the young men left, how did life on the farm change for you?
I had to do more than my little share of work. Most kids had to learn to milk between the ages of seven and nine. I had my first milking lesson at age nine, I remember. It was the second birthday party I had, and there was a very bad flu epidemic that year,
and everybody in the household except Percy and Louie … they were not too bad. So Louie went and worked at The Ranch, and Percy milked at home. And I had invited all the kids from school to come to this party. My mother and Rosie debated about it, but they said in the end that they’d put the food out and let them come.
And I remember it was the first time that Violet Crumble bars had appeared on the menu. They had bought one each for the kids. So they came and had their feast and took their Violet Crumble bar and went home. After they’d all left on their ponies, Percy got up and said, “You’re coming to the cow yard tonight.” Which I did; and he chose a cow for me,
one that I was fond of, named Carnation. And I sat there with a bucket between my feet and I cried while he went on and milked all the cows that had to be milked. But at least I was sitting there to his satisfaction. And after that I got to the stage of milking two or three cows that were considered easy milkers – Carnation was one of them. So I could milk; but when
the men went I started going over to The Ranch to milk , and then it was either nine or ten cows I milked, twice a day. Then I would have to rush home and do the feeding; or at least, whatever feeding Mum hadn’t found time to do. There was just so much more to do. Especially in the cow yard. I had to spend a lot more time there.
and get on my bike and ride home again. My mother would have breakfast ready, and then I’d have to get ready for school. I’d race off to school, and the school day would proceed as usual. Then after school, as soon as I got home, I’d change clothes and then yard the cows – it was my turn in the afternoon to do that. Then I’d milk the ten cows again, then go home.
I’d get home, get changed, and then we’d have the evening meal. The weekends were different because we helped each other. Farmers helped each other a lot, especially at harvest time and when there was hay to make. One of the other cousins from one of the farms that bordered ours, he would come over and help Charlie; and then Charlie would go over and help him the next week. Everything that happened sort of had to be dealt with
at once – corn had to be picked and threshed, and everyone’s hay had to be in at the same time, so people mucked in and helped each other through that time. They’d leave their own farm and go and help the next door neighbour. We did a lot of corn picking – that’s maize, not like what you buy in the shops, but matured and ripe. If it was Saturday then Edna, Mabel, Ruth and
myself might go into … we had a little wagon, a wagonette really. It was just drawn by one horse – Captain. He loved pumpkins. And we’d do this in one paddock of corn; we’d plant a couple of rows of corn and then a row of pumpkins, and then more corn. The pumpkins would be harvested for eating and feeding the animals
and this little wagonette fitted neatly in the pumpkin area. So the pumpkins would be ripe, and we’d set up a ribbon, and somebody would be picking on one side and someone on the other. And they’d be tossing the corn into the wagon. Then someone would wake up to the fact that there was no thud when the corn landed. Captain would have discovered a nice pumpkin further
up the row, and he’d creep up there to it and have a feast on it. So there’d be this whole pile of corn left there on the ground, where the wagon was supposed to be. That was Saturday. And we’d also have to dip the cattle at the weekends, and we all helped each other with that. The kids loved it too, because it would involve chasing cows and horses. It was quite enjoyable, even though it’s work.
She didn’t particularly like housework, nor sewing, and she wasn’t the contented, stereotyped girl. She would rather be outside. And she was very good at sport – a very good tennis player. So she became Dad’s right hand man on the farm. But she used to plough with four Clydesdale horses,
and if you’ve seen Clydesdales at the Exhibition, then … well, they’re giants, but gentle giants. But she had to harness them and if you had to lift a horse collar, well, there was no need to go to the gym to do weightlifting exercises. She would have to put the four collars on these horses and finish the harnessing of them; and link them up to whatever implement she was going to use. She did that from then on.
The others … Mabel was the one who was always in charge of the dairy, and the cleanliness of the dairy. You had to be very careful with milk because it goes off; and cream goes off. You had to do a lot of scouring. The factory used to grade our milk and cream, and if it was the least bit tainted then you didn’t get top price. It was always the aim
to get what they called ‘Choice Grade’ cream. There was Choice Grade, First Grade, and Second Grade. Well, I don’t think we ever got a Second Grade, but we had a couple of Firsts because sometimes when it rains the cows eat a lot of weeds, and that gets into the milk. That’s why I don’t like milk to this day. I can smell it, and I think of it; the weedy smell of cows who have just fed on strong smelling weeds – it taints the cream and therefore they
won’t give you the top grading. So that was her responsibility. She had to see to all that. She never did any ploughing that I can remember, but she did help with the picking – potatoes, corn; and chipping weeds in the vegetable patch. My mother did a lot in the vegetable patch. She had to do that too.
And feeding pigs … I can see Edna with two four gallon kerosene tins. Kerosene tins were put to a number of uses on the farm; they used to poke one end out and hammer the edge tightly so that it wouldn’t cut you, and they’d put wire handles into them and that was the first stage of processing the milk. These kerosene tins – which were boiled and sterilised – stood just outside the cow shed,
and as you came out your poured your bucket of milk into these four gallon tins, until they were almost full. And from there, they were carried up to the dairy. It wasn’t very far, but still. It was about the width of this house, I’d say.
There they’d be put through the separator, where the cream would come out one spout and the separated no-fat milk the other. That was mainly used for feeding the animals, and I can see Edna carrying two of those four gallon cans, one in each hand. She’d carry them from the cow yard to the dairy, and then from the dairy to the piggery, which was a fair way away.
To jump right ahead for a minute – how did the girls feel when the war was over and the men came back?
I think the one that most affected was Edna. She had done what they did; and in her mind – and perhaps in mine too – she had done a better job. But the dynamics of the family changed very rapidly, post war.
In 1944, I had the year on correspondence. I couldn’t go away to school. By that time, things were looking better in Europe, and also in the Pacific. Louie had been at Mount Isa, and try as he might, he couldn’t get out of the place. He’d applied for transfers, but didn’t get them. So at last he wrote home and
asked Dad to apply for him so that he could work on the farm. At the time they were demanding higher production because of the American soldiers here. We were also supplying England with butter; whatever butter they could get across to there. And also foodstuffs. So they wanted a lot of farm products
and were willing to release some of the men. The highest demand that they put down … this is a strange bit, but they made it legal for boys aged twelve to be exempted from school. So the boys in my class stayed home and went farming. At age twelve. I spoke to one of them a few months ago, and he said to me,
“Dulcie, you actually managed to finish school; we never did.” It was only what they learned up to age twelve, because they never went to school again. There were several of them that just dropped out like that. Anyway, Louie was eventually exempted – I think the local doctor had something to do with that – so he came home, and I was able to
go to school. I couldn’t get a boarding place at the grammar school here, but by this time Elsie was married and I stayed with her for three years, going to school as a day girl.
And how did you get to Ipswich?
My sister lived here, and I had to travel by train. If we travelled by night then we left Murgon at about half past seven. We’d make a connection at Gympie in the middle of the night, then get to Brisbane at about six. We’d make a connection there, and then we’d be home here by about half past seven.
It was an hour and twenty minutes to Brisbane in those days. But the trains didn’t always run on time during the war. Sometimes we had to wait longer at Gympie than necessary. There was a railway cop. We knew the railway cop. Tex Morton wrote a song about him, and he was a true character. My father knew him, knew him personally, and I always got the instruction
that if I had to travel at night, “When you get to Gympie, find Wingy. He’ll look after you.” There was a group of girls – some of them went to Brisbane schools; Somerville House, and Brisbane Grammar. They were boarded there from Murgon. And we’d all have the same instruction – we’d find Wingy and he’d take us into the waiting room, and there’d be a pot belly stove there, all stoked up. And he’d make cocoa for us and we’d wait there until
we caught the train we needed. There were troop trains going through there all the time, and they didn’t stop. But the trains we needed, we didn’t worry, because he’d put us on board. Sometimes it was very crowded. There were troops on leave and there’d be delays because of urgent troop trains that had to go north.
I remember one morning we got to Brisbane – we’d missed our connection anyway; it was well past our time to get that connection – and it was bright daylight and … I’d been to Brisbane once before, and the other kids had. So the Brisbane members of our group, they all went off to their schools. But there were a few of us from Ipswich Boys’ Grammar and a few from Ipswich Girls’ Grammar. We decided we’d have a bit of a look at Brisbane while we were there. The tallest building then was the City Hall. So we got in the lift
and went up the top of the City Hall tower and had a look over Brisbane. After we’d done Brisbane over we found a train and got into Ipswich at about four o’clock. I got a tongue thrashing from Elsie; “Where have you been!” She knew that there might be delays, but would have expected me by midday at the latest. And the boarders got into a bit of trouble at school, too,
because they could have been there much earlier. But we had a good day.
What was your impression of them?
Well, they just looked different – very smart, with beautiful uniforms; not like our old daggy khaki things that the men were expected to wear. Yes, they were much better favoured. But we had a Yank of our own, because we had … the original family, as I said before, had sent half their children to America and half to Australia
and my mother had kept in contact with one particular branch of the family. They wrote letters and received them regularly. And we got a letter saying that one of their grandsons was coming to Queensland; that he was a soldier and was going to Queensland; and could we get in touch with him. They gave us the address and Edna wrote to him. She sent us a photo of him, which Edna promptly put up on the dressing table, because the cousins in Brisbane, well they would go out with Yanks all the time;
but at least she had one to put on the dressing table. So we were going to meet this visitor from the US [United States of America]. We found that he was stationed in Rockhampton, and that he didn’t know how to get to Murgon. So we didn’t think that he was too intelligent, because we reckoned he could have worked it out if he wanted to come and visit us.
There were plenty of them down in Ipswich too, from the air force base at Amberley.
It was really a pointless subject as far as I was concerned. I liked maths 2 more than maths 1 – which was pure maths. But we had a succession of teachers with that, and it was hard to get teachers at that time. So we had a lady who had been on the staff and retired, and she came back to teach us for a while.
She came in and looked at the textbook on the table, with her glasses on. Then she’d take them off and go to the blackboard and pause at the blackboard; then put her glass back on and go back to the table; and she’d go back and forwards between the blackboard and the book. Eventually she’d get whatever she was looking at up on the board. I vowed that if I ever got to that stage I’d retire. So we had her for a couple of months,
then we had the retired principal from the Boy’s Grammar School for a few months, and his method of teaching was to write it up on the board, then turn round and ask you, “D’ya understand that?” And we’d just look. My friend one day plucked up the courage to say, “No, sir.” So he laboriously rubbed it off and then wrote it out again, and said, “Do you understand it now?” We didn’t. Then fortunately, just before the exam was due, we got
a good teacher, and she put us through the whole year in three months, and we scraped through. That was an experience. But I really don’t understand school maths. I’ve never been a mathematician, perhaps because of that erratic schooling I had.
Let’s go back and talk about the agricultural shows that you mentioned earlier?
Yes, they were the great event of the year. Our family was very heavily involved in them. He was on the Show Society committee; and my mother was involved in the catering part of it. All the older members of the family worked on it in some way – they were stewards in the cattle section; Louie was a steward in the ring; Mabel was a steward in the fancy needlework section;
and Rosie was in the catering with my mother. I can’t remember what Edna did, but I think she had something to do with it as well. It was the most exciting event of the year, of course. We would live from one show to the next, and we’d enter items from our school work, and also from the farm. I can remember getting a calf ready to show. And also, my father
had a little bit of a bent for breeding Orpington poultry, and so we’d penny up a few hens – feed them up and get them ready to look really nice so they’d put on a good show. The first day would always be judging day, which was a bit of a non-show day, really. There’d just be the few people who had to go in for that. Then
Friday would be the main show day when everybody went. We’d let the cows go in, in the evening. But all the displays seemed to me to be so wonderful. You look at them now and they pale in comparison to that stage of my life. You’d look at all the big farm pumpkins and vegetables, and all those things were very interesting to a kid on the farm
who knew how these things grew and developed. Of course for days before the girls would be busy making cakes for things they were going to enter. There’d be several cakes that they’d make …because the big old wood stove, it demanded brigalow wood, because that burnt consistently,
with the same heat. Our farm was a brigalow district. So the men had to supply brigalow for the stove for the week. And they had to cook them. This or that one wouldn’t be up to scratch, and they’d call that a ‘sod’ and they’d keep that one for afternoon tea. Then they’d try another one, until they got the perfect thing. And the car would be loaded up on a Thursday morning with all these cakes to enter; and corn, and heavens knows
what – there’d be a chook in the boot, probably. So you had to go round then, and see what prizes you’d won; and if you’d won anything in the schools section. That was exciting. And of course, the sideshows – they were something unbelievable. I had a postcard for years with a picture of a St Bernard dog on it. I’d visited that sideshow about three times. We had the retriever on the farm that
used to catch cricket balls; and the St Bernard dog just looked like a big version of Bob. That was pretty good. We all loved watching the horse events because we were all interested in them. But I never, ever rode in show. That was one thing I always wanted to do, but the war sort of interfered around the time I was able to handle a horse properly. War broke out and we didn’t have shows for a few years.
I was pretty good at working the system then, because all the other members of the family were installed in various parts of the showground, and I knew that I could find Louie at the ring, and Percy in the chook pavilion, along with Dad. I knew I could find my mother in the catering pavilion … I knew where all of them were. So I used to go around and con them all for a shilling every now and then so that
I could go into all these sideshows – two or three times. They were always good for a shilling. But it was a wonderful day. Then at night they began to have fireworks, and that was just … and there’d be the Show Ball on the Friday night. We all had new, long frocks to wear to the Show Ball, and the fellas of course would wear their suits. And there used to be a travelling show come, before the war.
It was called Thorley’s. It was a stage show, like a review type thing. My father was very interested in that. He and mother and I would go to that, while the others went to the ball and danced. I think I picked up a bit of a love of theatre because of that. For a country kid it was a great experience to go to that.
square and put in the thunderbox area. And anything that had to be wrapped and sent somewhere, it always had newspaper underneath, and brown paper on the top. Everything was sort of … I can remember a bag that hung on the back of the door. It was filled up with old bits of string. You’d take it off parcels and then put the string in there.
Sugar bags – they were always recycles for bread and meat bags. Sometime aprons were recycled too. Clothes were cut down and … there weren’t many hand-me-downs going from one person to the next, exactly the same. The thing was altered a bit, so that it wouldn’t look quite the same.
Rosie was very good at doing that. And we always got the Ladies’ Home Journal, which had a number of models on the front page – not lives ones, they were, you know, drawn … graphic. They’d show what styles of dresses were going to be the in thing for this year. So they piled up. Rosie had learned at rural school. That was the colourful side of their lives and educations –
they all went to rural school. That was a day a week for children aged over fourteen, which was the leaving age for primary school. The girls learned cookery, needlework, housekeeping, cleanliness, and laundry – all the sorts of subjects you found later on in home economics,
and the boys learned blacksmithing, carpentry, tinsmithing – smatterings of trades that were very helpful on farms. You’d often have to turn your hands to things of that nature because there wasn’t anyone around to do it for you.
We did have a saddler call regularly. He’d make his rounds of the farms with his cart. He’d spend a day or two mending harness and that sort of thing. We had a tea man who used to call, too: Edwards & Company Teas. There were big tins. His name was Mr Dux and he wore a grey coat.
He’d drive his van as far as the slip rail but he’d never go beyond it; and he’d just take out all these tins and balance them on it. You saw this row of tins with the little legs coming out from underneath. But he’d spend an hour or so at the table with Mum and Dad, and they’d sample these teas and whatnot. And of course he’d have a cup of tea and cakes with them, and then eventually they’d get around to the dealing
and the transacting, and there’d be a tin of tea and a tin of coffee; then off he’d go to the next place. But when war broke out, all those things went – the traveller groceries, the tea man, the saddler, all those who used to come out to the farm.
His sight wasn’t really good. So Charlie had to go to be the driver. The first thing we thought about, of course, was how we were going to manage the milking. Fortunately, one of the neighbors sons was on leave, and a quick call on the party line fixed that. Another neighbor’s son who was about nine years old was volunteered too.
The two of them took up the milking load. So they set out from the farm at about four o’clock to drive to Ipswich or almost to Ipswich. At that time, the car was fitted with blackouts on the lights. The lights on the 1939 Dodge were not good at the best of times
and with the blackouts on them there was hardly any light at all. They got to the top of the Blackbutt Range at about nine o’clock, and there was a heavy fog on the range, and you couldn’t see ahead. So father decided that he would drive, and Charlie got out with the torch to show the way.
They weren’t making much progress at this walking pace so my father decided, “Well, if it’s good enough for the army then it’s good enough for us – take those blasted blackout things off the car,” which they did, and then they had another couple of hours to Ipswich. It was just like trying to find a pin in the dark trying to find your way down that range in the dark. Those were the main things I remember about that; the effects of the blackouts and of having to be away from the farm
and arrangements having to be made for the milking. But people were always very helpful; they’d help each other.
they had to bring these men home from all over the world. My husband came home in 1946, so that was quite a long time after the fifteenth of August, 1945. They had to bring them all home, and they had to get them all into occupations, and I don’t really know … Most people thought,
“Right, I’m going to go back into the slot where I came from.” But they didn’t realise that that slot was no longer there. On the farms it was sort of like that. But the men were not happy with that slot either. My brother Percy meanwhile had attached himself to a cousin of ours.
He had very bad asthma, and there was no treatment for it at the time. And it was getting worse and worse. So as soon as he was demobilised he joined that family. They went up onto the Darling Downs to try and bring Alf some relief from the asthma. The climate here must have had something to do with. So they sold out of the property there, and bought in at Texas,
and then later moved to Chinchilla, which is a different atmosphere. So Percy didn’t come back to the farm. Louie came back – he was already back – but he sort of wanted more say in how things were done and run. When my father died he actually took over his share in the farm with my mother, so that he could do
some of the management. He actually had to do all the management, really. It was not just a wage situation. But talking about wages – most farms were just subsistence level up until World War 11. We were always well dressed and well fed, and had money to spend when there was something on; but as for people being paid a wage, well, there was no such thing. People in town
were paid wages. They got wages every week, but we didn’t. We just sold our produce and paid our bills, and whatever was left over we just shared amongst us. It was really just subsistence farming. And after the war, all that changed. The men had got wider horizons and had different experiences. Even if they didn’t go overseas they were still
looking toward things being different. It took the old people some time to realise that that was the way things were going to go.
When you met your husband, did he discuss his wartime experiences with you?
All the fun things … assorted stuff in the cupboard; and his trips on the liners of the day – the Fontaine, the Queen Mary, the Queen Elizabeth; travelling to Canada; being in New York and London, and going to all the theatres in the West End. But never anything about the war, not until they began to show that documentary about World War 11 that the ABC put together.
And over at Merrill Street we this model of a Liberator [medium bomber] strung up hanging from the wall, over the TV. John had made it, because that was his aircraft, and he loved his Liberator. He just thought it was the greatest thing that ever flew. He told us of one experience when he … they were strafed, and he got a nick in the leg – his ‘war wound’ as he called it.
The plane was fairly shot up, but he managed to navigate it home, right down to the runway. The skipper and he made it home. But apparently he told his brother that they were ditched at one time; and I always wondered if he was ditched, because the only thing he was ever frightened of was the cold of the North Sea. He wasn’t frightened of being shot down – that was nothing –
but he was afraid of having to ditch in the North Sea, where you froze; that was the thing they were all scared of. And according to Tony, he did ditch once. The day he died, he went through all that process of getting out of the plane that had ditched.
When the war finished, how long do you think it took before things started recovering?
Not a long time. Once people were home there was plenty of work to be done, and although the men didn’t go back into their same occupations they very soon got work somehow. The government did run rehabilitation courses
for them, and some of them had also been trained in trades. For example, my stepfather, Morris, he was trained as a fitter. He was a carpenter when he went into the army, but was trained as a fitter also. He didn’t ever use his fitter’s training, but he’s got a fitter’s mind. So that trade has been very
handy for him. My cousin’s husband – Norman – the one from the military wedding in the barn, he became a carpenter after being a farm boy. I think he went to a rehabilitation course and then later got a job with Public Works. Later on he set up a business, building in Murgon.
I think they did things that they wouldn’t have dared to do before the war, partly because of the sort of parental control – it was always a scandal to hear, “Oh, so-and-so’s son has cleared out.” Left home. That was an absolute disgrace to think that your boy would leave your home voluntarily; that must be terrible.
I think that Mum was worried about that with Louie – that he was going to clear out and that she would be somewhat disgraced somehow by that. So I think they learned to take risks. And there was quite a building boom after the war too, because a number of them had married, and the bride had kept on living with her parents – even when the children came along.
So there was a high demand for building materials. There was very little available, and it sort of had to be rationed out, because there were so many people wanting to build new homes. But the material wasn’t coming in quickly enough. The teachers who came back … of my own experience of knowing Jack O’Hearn, he just slotted back
into where he’d been. He did marry, just after the war. But he came back to Merlwood and just went on with the job. Jim did the same. He just went back there and slotted in. I think most of the teachers did that. They did give them a few weeks of
training. I was actually at college when Jim did his retraining. But our paths didn’t cross then. They did a short course to bring them up to date. Not that the syllabus had changed. It was still the same syllabus they were teaching when they got back, as what they’d been teaching when they left. So it didn’t take them long to pick it up again.
I wanted to ask you too, about the Italian POWs [prisoners of war] that … did you see many of them around Murgon?
There was only family who used them – only one family in the district who employed Land Army girls; they were of English descent and they had always had some people employed on their farm. Very often they had
wards – wards of the state – and they could go out and work for people for little more than their keep. They had two Land Army girls there. But we had nothing to do with them. They kept pretty much to themselves. The other family had the Italians. I was walking home from Sunday School one day and they offered me a lift.
I wouldn’t get in the car because I was scared of them. They wore these horrible reddish-looking uniforms; they were the same as the Australian khaki uniforms but theirs had been dyed this horrible red colour. There were lots of people going through. The dog I mentioned earlier – Bobs – he was the one who took my sister and I
across to The Ranch. Every morning he took my sister across and, or if we went over he took both of us. He escorted us backwards and forwards all the time. And there were … you know, young people fooling around one day, and he thought that somebody was being hurt and went for who he thought was the perpetrator … we had to grab him
by the back of the neck … so, I don’t know what he was aware, but he was aware that there were strange people in the district. What came to him through the this business, was the idea that he had to look after his own.