This is the second interview with Maisie and Don Baker. And Maisie has handed over for copying for our files some interesting artefacts and photographs which we’ll add to our collection once we’ve copied them. OK Maisie, over to you.
M: Where would you like me to start?
I’m interested in the, if I just identify the house in this photograph...
M: Well it might be better for Don to do that bit. Don, you come and do the house bit please.
This photograph is the Fyfe...
D: Fyfe House.
And that includes your mother in the photo?
D: Yes my grandfather, my grandmother, which is Wally Fyfe and Julie Fyfe and the dog. That’s Mum’s dog.
And that is this house that we’re actually sitting in here at the moment.
D: Yes that’s right.
M: 102 years old.
D: There’s where you came in the front door. Well I’ve changed all this because all that when I got hold of it, it had been rented out and it was a mess and all that was rotten so I changed it all. But I don’t know who that is or that. But I know that’s my Uncle Grover which is a relative, Grover Hayward.
Is that Hay with a HAY or E?
So in 2009 the house is...
M: 102 years old.
D: Yes my grandfather owned this block. The next block from my great auntie which was his sister owned the next two blocks. So they owned four blocks in this street. And he was offered the whole street for £50 in those days. Of course that was a year’s wage. He never had a hope.
Do we know what the name Southern Hay came from?
D: No next one’s Northern Hay. I have no idea.
They’ve intrigued me quite a bit as my mother’s maiden name is Hay. And every time I’ve seen the names of the street I’ve wondered if it was something to do with a Hay family.
D: See the King William and Queen Street, yes you could pick that all right. But I mean the strange part about it, Southern Hay and Northern Hay faced east and west. And there’s a street up there called East Street which faces north and south.
Sometimes there doesn’t seem to be quite the logic in the naming of the streets.
D: I don’t know whether I gave these to Paul or not. You know the loco in Edwardes Park? This is how they took it off. There’s the loco in the yard. I snitched off from work to do this, up at Reservoir Station.
With the moving of the train. When was this done?
D: I can’t remember when that was done. I know I was at CIG. It must have been, I left there ’57, it must be in the ‘50s I should say. Paul might have this. See this is the loco it came in the yard. And this is how they, there it is in the yard again. And this is how they transported it eventually down. And there it is in the gardens sitting there ready to come off the concrete. There’s the concrete piece which they made there. So that one there’s all the pines. And this is how they hauled it on...I don’t know whether I gave Paul, Paul was after a lot of photos.
Well certainly another copy won’t go astray. That would be good if we could do that.
D: They’re copied from one little photo as big as that.
It’s come up extremely well. Goodness.
D: That’s the old Reservoir Station. They had sidings. Of course now it’s just one massive public car park. So there it is there.
And that was probably sometime in the 1950s.
M: You might like to copy that too. That’s where I was born. That’s in Shakespeare Avenue, Preston as you can see. The house was built in 1926 and I look about 12 months old there so that would be 1928 I think. And it’s the only house in the street in that area that hasn’t been altered. It’s still exactly the same. Well I wouldn’t say the garden part. But yes, the house is exactly the same.
And what number was that?
M 25. That’s Mum and I there in the front.
So that was 19...?
M: 1928. And that would have been all the unmade roads and streets and what have you. So whether you’d be interested in that or not I don’t know.
Oh yes look Northcote’s got quite a lot of old houses. But Preston, obviously it’s taken a bit of time to get spread out and Reservoir even more so. So actually the fact that there’s one there that’s still standing exactly the same, that’s absolutely fantastic. Yes definitely help...
M: Because a couple of houses either side, they’ve all been altered. I occasionally go down there and as I said go slumming.
D: That wouldn’t be the ‘50s. I was at EMF then. It would be, when did I leave then?
M: I’ve got no idea Don.
D: It would be the ‘70s. I’d say it would be in the ‘70s. Change that. When I was at CIG, yeah.
Now I was interested in the different talks and things...
M: Yeah the things that I’d talked about yes.
So that’s what I wanted to kind of catch up with.
M: Yeah I thought you’d want to do that too but I did actually think of a couple of things too where Don used to say about the wood yard around the corner here which used to...
D: Bourke Brothers.
M: Bourke Brothers wood yard which used to have the wood in the winter and then they delivered ice in the summer.
So they covered both bases.
M: And actually Don when he was quite young in our early married days used to go down there and work on a Saturday to make some more money and then deliver...
D: And the big six foot saw. No earmuffs in those days. And the whole weekend my ears would [makes ringing noise]. Still sawing.
M: Well that’s why you’re deaf.
D: Hell that’s why it is. We used to cut the wood up in the morning and then deliver it in the afternoon all around...and I got thirty shillings for the day.
Which would have been quite a lot of money actually.
D: Thirty shillings. Bourke Brothers...
M: I dare say somebody’s mentioned about Kiaora Hospital too around here have they? Yes because...
No actually. We’ve been trying to get a bit more information about that because we keep getting requests to get information and we never seem to be able to find any. So as much information as you can give us about Kiaora we’ll be very happy to hear.
M: The only information was that, well my vintage all had our babies around there and it was the only, no it wasn’t the only maternity hospital. I think, hang on, was there one over at West Preston? I don’t think there was. I think you went there or else you went to the Women’s Hospital. And of course now we all laugh us oldies saying well we had our babies there. Maybe we’re going to end up there in the nursing home.
How long had it been a maternity hospital?
M: Gosh well our oldest daughter is 61 and it was way before then. So I would say...
So we’d be looking about in the 1920s maybe or even before...
M: I would say so. Even perhaps before that. Yes because it was the only maternity hospital that I knew of. Because I know, originally I sort of thought I’d go over to what is now John Faulkner but it was Sacred Heart but then realised, we didn’t have a car or anything, it was so far away and ended up...But most of my vintage we all went to Kioara to have our babies yes. And it was way before that and Diane’s 61.
Because I think it was a private residence before it became a...
M: Somebody said it was a private residence but I don’t really know. I don’t know much about that at all.
Because that’s where we’re struggling to get a little bit of information is just how it became a maternity...
M: Yes housing, and it’s strange how things flow on too from like diverting from that. I think I might have told you about this little park, this little reserve which was called Foch Reserve. We were hoping to get it for the Gibbs. But anyway I got onto the chap again today and he said, “No I’ve looked into it well and truly. I think what happened...” He said that every park in Darebin is named after a councillor or somebody to do with the council which was Mr Donath who was there for thousands of years. But I said I’ve never heard of anybody on the council here or anybody in association with Foch. And he’s trying to look it up too and he can’t find anything with anybody by the name of Foch which is a street. So we must have just not stirred the pot but when we were suggesting about it being called Gibbs Park and then they thought, “Oh gosh we haven’t named that. We’d better name that.” Well I said it goes back 80 years anyway they haven’t had a name.
D: Yes but did you see Wally’s mentioned Foch and Mason were generals either in the Crimean War or the Boer War.
M: But that’s nothing, I’m just, see this is me Judi. I divert from one thing to another. One thing leads up up to another.
D: Well talking about the private hospitals, you mentioned some houses. I was born in Mason Street behind the...
M: But that was only a little private house owned by the...
D: Yeah a private house, little private hospitals everywhere.
M: She was a midwife. I remember you were born around there.
So sort of like a little private hospital.
D: That was in Mason Street behind the petrol station. A little hospital there.
M: And of course we mentioned the Regent Fish Shop down here didn’t we?
No I don’t think you went into any detail about that.
M: We didn’t, no. See the Regent Fish Shop which is just down here in High Street, just down...
D: Next to the tyre place.
M: Where the garage used to be. That has been a fish shop we would say what, seventy, eighty years.
D: I have no idea.
M: It’s never been anything else but a fish shop. Regent Fish Shop. And it’s still a fish shop now. I think a Chinese have got it now. And it’s always had a good name. And it was run by a family of females. Remember the ladies all ran it? It was the ladies’ fish shop. And eventually when they moved they moved down to Rosebud and got a fish shop down there and that’s a long time ago too. But it’s still a fish shop.
D: It’s even got the, do you remember the impressed steel as the sheet. But that’s all in the roof and around the place still there too. That’s the old type of ceiling which is all impressed with steel. It’s still up there, sheet steel. Still there. Good shop.
M: Now how I got onto talking, you wouldn’t believe it when I was young, you would find this hard to believe, but I would cross the road rather than speak to anybody. But anyway I got over that. When I say actually because we worked 14 years as voluntary teachers, not voluntary teachers, with our Neighbourhood Watch work with Junior Neighbourhood Watch which was absolutely wonderful down Preston Primary. But basically being, I was secretary, treasurer, everything of this one. But I don’t know, I sort of got confidence, not from the point of any particular subject. But if I was researching something and it would flow on from there and actually some of the things here I did, I was doing something about, this fellow from up at Yarra Junction who used to have the service station. He was 100 years old. And he was born in Yarra Junction. And then I found out through him that Kevin Heinz was born there. And actually we were invited over to meet Kevin Heinz and his wife. They were just a lovely couple, absolutely lovely couple. But sort of things flow on and I think, “I could do a talk about that.” I’ve done, as far as I can remember, all about Junior Neighbourhood Watch, I’ve done the history of the Flying Doctors and the history of the Victoria Police Force. My father worked for MacRobertson’s so I did a talk about MacRobertson’s and, yes so I did all...
M: Yeah all around there yes. Another one I’ve done is on the theatres. Then I was researching Gladys Dale and I found out why it was called Gladys Dale and then found out a lot of history. So they said, “Give us a talk on that one too.” So then another one developed from holidays didn’t it.
D: State Library, we went to see that.
M: Where’s this, this thing here. Every Boxing Day, there’s one in the middle, is it the Weeroona in the middle Don? Which is the Weeroona? Yes in the middle. Well they used to have these boats, ships, what do they call them?
D: Steam ships.
M: And every Boxing Day my father, my mother and myself and my Uncle Jim always used to have a trip on this Weeroona. You got on it down here at...
D: Port Melbourne.
D: Was it Port Melbourne?
M: Might have been Port Melbourne, it would have been Station Pier. And then we stopped at Queenscliff then across to Sorrento and then you come all the way back again. It was a real ritual but something that always stuck in my mind. And I was never able to find anything. We could find out about the Ozone and the other one but I could never find...
M ...but I could never find anything about the Weeroona. And I think we were at the State Library weren’t we or something, I’d seen something about it.
D: Postcard or something.
M: Yes a postcard or something. Anyway this is the only photo of this Weeroona that we could find. So that I did a talk about that, too about all the olden days there. so basically I don’t do any specific talking on a subject. Any subject that interests me I’ll get up and say a few words about it.
I’m interested in the theatres of the area.
M: Did you find that book of the...?
I haven’t had a chance to actually have a look.
M: These were the local ones. These are the photos, the only local ones that were in the book. That’s right because [papers rustling]...down here opposite Beacham Street. It was only a small, it looks big there but it wasn’t. It was rather an intimate theatre wasn’t it because it had no upstairs. You just sort of gradually went up.
I think I’ve seen that photo but I don’t think we’ve seen that one.
M: That’s it inside. It’s out of that same book if you can find the book and I can’t think what the name of it is. But there was sort of a lot of history as far as that one was concerned because it was a great one for the afternoon matinees on the Saturday. And the kids all swarmed in there and one thing and another. Diverting, remember the night – of course we were married then I think – and there’s been a terrible storm. And the water all flooded into the one side of the theatre, came down the walls, all down there. And when we came out the water was right across the footpath and everybody was taking their shoes and socks off and just walking in our stockinged feet. So that’s got memories too as far as that one’s concerned. But there weren’t a lot in the book. This was the Regent Thornbury which...
Oh yes, now I definitely haven’t seen that one, certainly of the inside of the Regent. I know I’ve put a little bit of information on there but mostly just when it was running. But I don’t recognise that one at all.
M: But that was a very popular theatre wasn’t it?
D: A mate of mine used to work as an usher in there.
M: But if I could get the book out again I could go...but I can’t find the name of it.
I’ll have to have a look. And it might be something that’s actually available at the State Library that I can...
M: I must too do more about it. That was another one that was down in Northcote which was the Northcote Theatre. Have you got that one?
I think that’s the one, we’ve actually got quite a number of old photographs of that one. No that’s the one that’s converted into reception rooms. And there’s a little cafe on the corner. There’s a couple of little shops in the front. And I know because it’s often used, they go in the back, there’s quite a lot of functions. It does actually still say Northcote Theatre up the top but it looks like it needs a good paint.
M: Yes we’ve been past on the tram too.
That’s a different photograph again from the ones that we’ve got.
M: Well you might as well take those two.
I’ll copy all of these.
M: It’s all right, the thing about the theatres. I don’t know where my notes are now. [Rustling through notes and end audio]... Shakespeare Avenue went up to Plenty Road then came into Tyler Street. Well of course in those days there were a lot of empty paddocks and what have you. And this big block was on the corner of Tyler Street and Plenty Road. And each year a circus come there, once a year. And it was the thing of the year. Dad a couple of times would come home from work, “The circus is there and I’ll take...” because I was an only child. “The circus is there and you’ll go.” So that was a real thing that we all looked forward to, the circus which was on that block of land. And most of the shops that Mum went to were all in that area which were lots and lots of wonderful shops. But it was just so family orientated I think, the whole area, more so than anything is today because people have got so many other things in their lives, where in those days those simple things were a wonderful thing. So that was something that’s always stuck in my mind. And I was talking with my friend, Pat Clemenson, she and her husband used to have the pharmacy in Plenty Road for many years. She was of the same thing, “Oh I remember this, I remember that.” Where these days, I think too even as regards to what we called our homes, young people call it a house. Righto we’ll sell it and it doesn’t mean anything. Where older people I really feel that it’s still our homes. I don’t think young people, I’m not saying against young people, but a home doesn’t mean quite as much to them because they’ve got such busy life. And our home life was around the home.
And your pleasures were simpler than they are today because there wasn’t the choice there is today.
M: No there wasn’t the choice because Dad came home, “The circus is there.” Right, once a year we’ll go to the circus. The other thing Dad, Mum too, we always used to go to the show, every year to the show. And I had a photo of that I was looking at the other day, as I said my Uncle Jim again and Dad and Mum, Uncle Jim, Betty who was his daughter and me. But we’re all done up in a coat and a stroller hat, gloves. Dad had an overcoat and a hat. Nothing relaxed about it. But that was an annual thing too, the show, and it meant a lot in those days. But kids seem to expect it all these days.
Did they have show bags in those days?
M: Yes they had show bags.
But nothing like the range that...
M: Quite a lot were free. And as I said my father did the box factory and designed all these boxes. And Potter and Moore which used to have perfumes and all those sort of things, well Dad did all the designing for that. And because Dad had done that I got a free show bag from Potter and Moore. But things were very, very simple. The bags were very, very simple and very reasonable, not like they are these days. But basically what was in the show bags weren’t the things that you actually saw in the shop. They were like a little miniature perfume bottle but not just taken off the shop shelf and put in a bag. It was just sort of something...
Those things would probably be quite collectable now if people still had them.
M: Oh they would. Oh yes they would too. The things that I had and even lots of beautiful photos and things that used, not photos but pictures, prints that used to be on the chocolate boxes and everything. I used to have lots of them because they were all thrown out many years ago. Beautiful photos, beautiful photos. And I think that’s basically as far as anything else is concerned...Getting back to the school too, I was going to mention that too. Each ANZAC Day at school - I don’t think they do it now but they do have a little service - but it was a big not a celebration was it, but those of us, our mums used to make up wreaths and we used to take the wreaths to school. The kids whose fathers had been to the wars and they used to have their medals. Something that always stuck in my mind, I was only talking about it yesterday, my father was a very thin man. He never weighed more than seven stone two so you can imagine how thin he was. So I don’t know where he got me from. But he’d had ill health and he’d had pneumonia and all sorts of things and that just wasn’t accepted in the armed forces at all.
D: Well they found a spot on his lung didn’t they.
M: Yes he always had a spot on his lung because he had pneumonia. I think it must have been about the second year of the war and somebody was kind enough to post him a white feather like they used to in the old days. He never got over that. He used to talk, not a lot, but occasionally. As he got older he didn’t talk a lot about it. But he never got over it. And he used to talk many, many times, “If only there could have been something that they would have let me do but they wouldn’t.” But as I said he was always sickly I suppose you’d say.
D: To a certain extent.
M: But he still went on with life. Then of course he got cancer too because we’re a cancer-ridden family. But he was wonderful with that too. So basically they’re sort of little things that stuck in my mind too. They have. As far as council, I don’t know much about the council.
D: That’s part of you too.
M: The council, never sort of really had much to do with the council except my girlfriend Marge, her father, Marge lived two doors from us and we’re still girlfriends in Shakespeare Avenue. Her father was mayor at one stage, Tom Blake, Thomas Blake. And we girls all made our debut that year because Mr and Mrs Blake so we all went and did that. I think that would have been about 1945, 1946, something like that. But Tom was mayor that year. So hotels, don’t know much about hotels. Oh yes I do from the point of view that – see I divert. But as I said my father worked in Fitzroy, Collingwood. A bit like me he had a ritual. Everything was a ritual, even when they used to wear the collars. He had one clean one on the corner of the table every night and his watch and different things. Everything had to be right. Even to his having his glass of beer. He’d get off the tram down on the corner of...
D: The Junction.
M: The Junction Hotel. It was called Ralphie’s Hotel in those days. And he’d get off, maybe have two glasses of beer and then be on the next tram. I used to stand out the front of our home and run to meet him when he got off the tram.. Every night it was the same time. He wasn’t early, he wasn’t late but always exactly the same. So that’s the only thing I remember about a hotel. Different cultures. I really in my younger times I don’t think had much to do with...
Would it have been more post the second war, when the displaced persons were all coming in from Europe.
M: Yes that’s right.
Did many of them actually end up coming to this area?
M: Oh yes quite a lot of Italians and Greeks. And they used to live down in the Nissan huts which were down...
D: Just near CIG, Chifley Drive.
M: And they were called the Nissan huts. And they were just...
D: Corrugated huts. Awful.
M: They were dreadful. They were so hot. They were dreadful.
I was going to say they wouldn’t be very comfortable in the summer so that would be something that they’d be quite unfamiliar with.
D: We used to get a lot at CIG from the Nissan huts. Because a lot, mostly English, used to come across. And I remember one lass on the front on the desk.
D:Anne Cliff. She came over from England. She said, “I cried for a fortnight because the horrible things that they put us in, these big, hot, hot huts.”
I suppose in a way they were the quickest accommodation that they could provide. Other than actual tents I suppose. So I can sort of understand that.
M: As we said about the war too, but I think I mentioned it to you last time I was down there about our butcher who was Mr Osterberg. People just wouldn’t go the shop because he was of German descent. Same as Mr Gorsett the barber. And then another one that I’d remembered too was the Eisfelders. They had a bakery up there in Plenty Road. Delightful family. But I really don’t think that Eisfelders were any way from overseas. I think it was just bad luck that they had that name. But it was a well known bakery for many, many years wasn’t it Don. And then as I said Joan, she passed away so. We’re up to religion. What do you want to know about religion? We belong to the Presbyterian Church.
Just more or less some of the churches around the area. If there’s any sort of information about some of the churches. Although actually churches we do seem to be able to get a reasonable amount of information because they’re quite good archivists themselves. So we’re probably pretty right there. Where did you actually get married?
M: Regent Presbyterian Church in Joffre Street. Don’s mother and the Fyife family used to go to the Preston Presbyterian Church in David Street. And well then people started moving out and then they opened the new church over her in Joffre Street. And being an associate, well Don has all his life, his grandfather was one of the first elders. And no you weren’t baptised down at Preston. We went there, Sunday school, church. Our kids went there to Sunday school. They were all married there. And at one stage there were four generations of us, that’s right. We were very involved with the church too. We didn’t just go to church...
D: You were treasurer of the Sunday School and a teacher. You were secretary of the property and finance committee. She was an elder and she looked after all the, when the church was closing organised all the speakers and the concerts and so forth when it finished.
M: Organising Annie.
Well the church probably was a...
M: Was the centre of your life.
...a big social thing. Because there weren’t a lot of other distractions. And that’s where people met and socialised and you got involved in activities.
M: And so many ended up as couples and married.
D: I can’t see them playing jump the mat and ABCD in there.
M: In those days the Presbyterians weren’t allowed to dance, the same as the Methodists.
M: I wasn’t a great one into any sports or anything very much, played tennis a bit. But at school, at primary school and secondary school I loved the marching. That was my thing. I just loved the marching.
Because that’s not an activity I think they do much...You didn’t do the throwing of the batons up...
M: No. Nothing to do with that but you’ll find a photo of me actually in that book about Preston Primary. There’s a photo of me there taken from the marching squad. I used to work so hard to get into the marching squad. And even though I say it myself I was always in the front four which was good.
Did you, you went to the competitions and things?
M: Oh yes. You compete locally with the local schools and then if you won there then you moved onto the next division and the next division. Oh yes it was a big thing, the marching squad from the schools. But as far as I know they don’t ever do that anymore now.
I wonder when that kind of faded out.
M: When Diane and Kay were down at Preston Primary it was still going then. And as I said Diane’s 61 now. And then of course we lost our other daughter. And they were always interested in that too. But it was a big competition thing, oh yes. Definitely.
That’s something I wasn’t aware of so I’ll have to perhaps do a little more research on that. Marching competitions. Do you recall any sort of favourite activities you did with your own family or favourite books that you read with them?
M: With our children?
Yes with your children. For instance maybe you didn’t do this sort of excursion on the paddle steamers but you maybe had a regular trip that you did.
We went to Daylesford for our holidays.
That’s all right. Daylesford’s a very attractive...
M: And it was then too and then it sort of lost its popularity. But of course now it’s back again. Very, very popular now.
But was that camping?
M: No we used to stay in...
D: Sydall’s Flats, one of them.
M: Flats we stayed in yes and then other flats.
D: Mrs Kisma’s flats and units.
M: Actually we went to a memorial service, a thanksgiving service last week for a lady who was 97 Thelma wasn’t she. And she and her husband and family, we met them up there. They were staying at the same flats as us. We only had Diane and Kay then. They were quite a lot older than us. But we seemed to click. And they had three children. Alma always used to say, told me many, many times because after meeting this first time at Daylesford, “Now we must stay in contact.” And she said when we went home Arn said, “Now look Alma forget it. They’re a lot younger than us. It was a holiday thing. They probably won’t want to keep in touch with you.” But we did didn’t we.
D: We did for quite some time.
M: As I said she passed away, we went to the service last week. Their daughter Elizabeth, she said, “I always remember coming up in your little Ford Prefect.” The year that they had Helen – she would have been three months old when we got up there – and we went in the little Ford Prefect with the trailer on the back and a baby’s bath, all in the back of the trailer. We always had holidays with the kids. We always did. We encouraged them to read. They were all very good scholars at school. Basically they used to read everything didn’t they.
D: Oh yes. They were good.
M: We encouraged them to read newspapers because in those days it wasn’t so much doom and gloom like there is now. But we encouraged them, anything that they could learn from. And that’s about it I think as far as that’s concerned. We didn’t do any sports together or anything like that did we.
D: Diane was good at the school with her running.
M: And Helen. Our oldest and youngest daughters. They were very good at sport at school. But as I said we’ve always been involved with a school for some reason, even if it was only to do the lunches, a mother’s club or something. Basically Tyler Street or Preston Primary, we’ve been really...
D: You did RE for years.
M: Oh yes did religion. You name it, I’ve done it. No but we’ve always had an interest in the school and in a partial way been involved. Because Don’s mother went to that school. And then Don went and I went and our girls went.
D: My Uncle Dave, that’s her brother, he went too.
M: And then one of the teachers who was there, Joan Bold, she belonged to our church and we were very friendly with Joan. So still sort of always kept our connection.
So there was obviously a fairly tight community.
M: Oh yes, very tight.
So people knew, maybe not everybody, but you knew a lot of people because there would more in parental involvement with the school and there would be an overlap with the church. So the school and the church were really the two main...
M: The girls were very involved in calisthenics, our girls did calisthenics. And as I said I was always involved there with the girls with the calisthenics.
D: I played cricket.
M: Yes you played a lot of sports. Church cricket.
D: Northcote and Preston Churches Association, we played cricket. And our cricket pitch was on the corner of Rubicon Street up there, on that corner, that was our cricket pitch. You had to shoo the cows off before we could play cricket. See there’s something which goes back exactly the same as Maisie see. That was held next door of where I lived, next door, at 69. So if you read that, look how long since I’ve known Maisie.
That’s a little while.
M: Was that the war year one because we had a couple down home?
D: 1940, just when it started, just after it started.
Now what was your reaction when the war started? What was the feeling around at the time?
M: I honestly can’t remember being very aggro or anything about it. Now what, 1939, how old was I then? 11. Then in 1940 I started down at Preston Girls School didn’t I. That year, I don’t know, I think the teachers were talking more about it too. But I can’t say, I suppose not having anybody, I had a cousin who was in the war, but never was a close association as far as the war was concerned. And on looking back I suppose really not having anybody much at the war except my cousin Charlie who was very close. But apart from that no I don’t think...
So you didn’t feel that it really affected you in any way because it was sort of over there.
M: Over there, yes that’s right. Where now with terrorists at your back door and everything. And I think too yes it was talked about a lot because I remember Mum and Mrs Holman - because I never called them by their Christian names in those days. It was Mrs Holman, Mrs Keller. And at one stage there it was after the subs had been in Sydney and Darwin had been bombed. And it was one Sunday morning and it looked like a whole squadron, not a squadron but a lot of planes going across in the distance. And I remember both Mum and Mrs Holman were saying, “Oh no,” looking. And I suppose I was thinking we’re getting invaded or something. But no I can’t say that I was terribly involved.
What about you Don?
D: We built an air raid shelter in the back yard. We dug great big trenches and so forth and covered the top. Then we covered that with soil and so forth. And that was our air raid shelter. But I think it was just about, because Dad, my father was in the First World War. And he was badly shot up and wounded. And the Second World War he even tried to get into that but he would have no hope because he was a very sick man with anaemia and so forth. But he tried. To a certain extent I think it was the same as Maisie. I think I was 12. Later as it went, as the war was seen to be so far away and as it come closer and closer then you started to get a little bit worried, when they started to come down, the Japs come down further and further. Then the big panic was on because they were going to put half of Australia, right across from Brisbane, right across, that was the embargo line, that was the stop to try and stop them coming any further. But no that’s about the same thing too when they bombed Darwin, got closer and closer. Then of course everybody started to build, we built the air raid shelter and so forth. I think that’s what it more or less was.
And did quite a lot of people build these air raid shelters in the bottom of the garden?
D: Oh yes. Some of them built real big concrete...
M: Mr Blake did. Talking about Tom Blake. He built one in his back yard which ended up actually, they bred dogs after the war and that used to be for the dogs. But getting to the war, one thing that has never gone out of my mind at all, as I said I only had these two cousins. Charlie had been up in New Guinea and so forth. Anyway when he came home I had a dog and it was called Nipper. I never thought anything about it. Charlie was there one night and one of us said something about the dog. His face just went ashen. I thought oh gosh what’s going on here. He said, “What did you say?” And I said, “I’ve got a dog Charlie. It’s called Nip.” He nearly went berserk because that’s what he Japs were called. He nearly went berserk. He really did. He yelled, he screamed and went on. The next day he said, “Oh I’m so sorry.” I suppose Dad didn’t think either and I didn’t think either but it really affected him so much because I had a dog called Nip or Nipper. But that’s something I remember about the war years. That’s always stuck in my mind. I think that’s about it isn’t it.
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