A Lifetime of Memories

Beverly Tyson – Sydney U3A

My earliest memory is somewhat hazy – of sitting in the garden of our home with my head on my mother’s lap. We lived in Carlingford in a new little brick house my father had planned even before my parents married. He had the proverbial green thumb so that we had a wonderful flower garden with roses, azaleas and snapdragons plus a vegetable garden as well. It was a sunny day and I thought life was perfect.

I had started attending a kindergarten class at the local school which I enjoyed. We had a charming young teacher who was gentle and kind and we all tried to please her. We thought Miss Ferguson was so clever because she could draw. I used to walk to school with some “big kids” who were children of a neighbour my mother had become friends with.

On my fifth birthday my mother had prepared a birthday party for me to be held with my extended family. Imagine her surprise when I arrived home with school friends and presents ready for the birthday party to be held that day! I believe the impromptu party was a success, but then my mother had to cook for a second party to be held on the Saturday. Not bad for a five year old!.

My Uncle Charlie, Dad’s brother, persuaded my father and therefore my mother, sister and me to move to the country in partnership with him and his family. Unlike most city-born folk, Dad was a natural farmer with a lot of practical skills. He also believed it would be better for his asthma, a constant problem as we lived near a creek at the bottom of a steep hill.

I suddenly found myself transported from this sunny and secure life to an altogether different life. I think we travelled up with the trucks that had our belongings to a small farm (107 acres) in Burrawang, a dear little village with a population of approximately two hundred and fifty people which is not usually recorded on maps. It is four miles from Robertson and fourteen miles from Bowral. Everything was bright green (due to the high rainfall) and cold!

There was on the farm a big twenty-four square house (with only one bathroom) and five bedrooms which had been built by a local builder during the Depression using the recycled materials from a previous house. This meant that there were gaps between some of the boards through which westerly winds blowing from Mount Kosciusko would make their presence felt. It was many years before my overworked father had the time to address this problem.

Our family shared this house with my Uncle Charlie, Aunty Nell and my four cousins – Betty, June, Mavis and Barbara. The youngest, Barbara, was eighteen months older than I – a cheeky little girl who led me into lots of mischief and to defy my poor mother. Her older sisters spoiled my little sister Nancy. It’s not easy living with another family!

The four adults would rise at 5 o’clock every morning to milk the cows by hand after washing their teats in cold water. In later years we had warm water and milking machines, even a blue painted dairy and bails to repel flies – as per the advice of “The Agricultural Gazette”.

Barbara and I spent our home time playing in the creek, climbing trees, romping all over the farm and playing houses in the hay in the barn. It was a glorious lifestyle for a child. Playing near the cows and the one bull was definitely not encouraged, although we had an unusually tame bull named “Billy” who would back-peddle if we tried to pat his nose. In the creek we became the target of leeches, but were soon expert at getting them off our legs. The large laurel trees were perfect for climbing and I can truthfully record that I never fell out of one; I have a very strong grip.

The township was typically Australian and charming, and was just around the corner with three churches, a School of Arts, a School (three doors up), a Butcher (then), two General Stores, a Post Office and the Hotel. It was all within easy walking distance. Because I had been attending a kindergarten class at Carlingford, I now had to continue my schooling at the small local school.

There was one teacher who had high standards and even in this out-of-the-way place endeavoured to impart these to his country pupils. Mr Costin would have a small “concert” on a Friday afternoon, encouraging the children who wanted to sing or dance to display their talents. The three of my younger cousins all volunteered to sing which they did beautifully. Mr Costin then turned to me. Did I know any poetry? Oh, yes, I replied confidently.

I stood up and recited the one “poem” I knew:
“Erky Werky was a worm,
A little worm was he.
He sat upon the railway line
The train he did not see.
Erky Werky was a worm!”

The carefully cultivated propriety of the school had been lost – for this afternoon anyway. The school was in uproar! Splitting their sides with laughter, the other children rolled home, telling all and sundry what had happened.

We had a 1920’s green Dodge which was the transport for the two families. The ten of us used to pack into this car to attend the Church of Christ in Bowral, with Barbara and I sitting on two small children’s chairs placed on the floor between the back of the front seat and the back seat. And before anyone gets overanxious about safety issues, please remember that cars were not the eggshells they are today and speed was not as high.

At one time my Uncle Charlie decided to give my Aunty Nell’s sister Dot a driving lesson. Four of us children went off with them for the drive. However, Aunty Dot turned the steering wheel in the wrong direction and we all plunged down a gentle slope into somebody’s field. No one was hurt, so Uncle Charlie took us for a long drive with the purpose of allowing us time to forget. And yes, you have guessed what story we rushed into our mothers with.

However the farm had not been properly looked after for years by the original owners who had owned it for over one hundred years. The ground was covered with stones and blackberry bushes were so high that I could imagine them to be houses and fencing that needed to be done. Sometimes one could look out at a small hill and suddenly the whole hill would move, there were so many rabbits. After two years the two brothers faced the reality that the farm was too small to support two families and decided that one would have to buy the other out. My Uncle elected to return to Sydney as his family was older and would need High Schooling sooner.

So another period of my life had ended and a quieter life took over. We settled into the life of the village where everyone knew everybody else’s business, but that didn’t matter as everyone was kind. My father worked very hard, moving the stones by hand with just the use of a horse and a sled, spraying the blackberries and using myxomatosis to eradicate the majority of the rabbits, under the guidance of “The Agricultural Gazette”. Because of his asthma, he used every safety precaution he knew about. The spray for the blackberries included Agent Orange, but there were never any deformities of any baby born in Burrawang that I heard of in over thirty years.

Australia has not yet learned to respect our heritage and has not been disacovered by Sydney-folk. It still remains picturesque.