This story is part of the life of Herbert Knight as he told of his younger days and the struggle it was to survive. It was very upsetting for him to tell of his younger days and his cruel Father. His words were –
“I couldn’t possibly tell you all the things that happened. Like the time my Father held his gun at my head and to this day I don’t know why he didn’t pull the trigger.”
So he has relayed some of what he calls the lighter side of his growing up days. The rest was hell.
I was born Herbert Knight on the 13th of December 1917 at Latrobe. I was the youngest of four children born to Edward Henry and Amelia Mary Knight (Parker). The other children’s names were May (real name Katherine), Arthur, and Maurice. We had a real hard life, never any money and very little home comforts. My Father was a very hard and cruel man who drank a lot and made all our lives hell. I can’t tell you about my young childhood because it was too cruel and is still upsetting, like the time my Father held his gun at my head and to this day I don’t know why he didn’t pull the trigger.
My earliest memories are when I was five years old and we lived at Mersey-Lee near Railton. My brother Maurice and I were playing and he wanted me to be his pet pig, so he got an old tin lid and marked my ear with it. (When you owned a pig, to ear mark them you had to put a cut in the ear, which is what Maurice did to me.)
There was no money, as Father would drink it, so we didn’t have food in the house, Mother sent us to the next door farm to dig a few potatoes for our tea. The ground was very hard so Arthur had to use the pick to loosen the soil. As he did so I thought I saw something in the ground and bent down to see what it was and Arthur hit me on the top of the head with the pick. I don’t remember much about it and as we were in the country there were no phones, no doctors and no cars. My Mother had to take care of me and nursed me back to health.
We moved to Heybridge. It was when the highway used to go through the town at Heybridge and across the bridge. On the other side of the bridge there was a small hill and when an old truck would come along with a load of potatoes, it would just move as it went up the hill. My brothers and I would all run and jump on and get a ride to Round Hill, near Blinking Billie, and at another hill there we would jump off and catch another truck going back the same way. This was our fun because we had no radio to listen to, no cards or games to play and no toys.
Another time we went fishing to catch some food and the tide started to come in. We realised it had come around behind us and we had to make a run for it, we were almost stranded.
Once my Mother was away and we had an Aunt and her two kids staying with us to take care of us. My Dad had found some eggs and told my Aunt he wanted a cake ready for him when he came home from work. I don’t know what happened to the eggs, I think perhaps she fed them to her two kids, but when my Dad came home and saw there was no cake he was pretty mad. My Aunt said she had made the cake and had put it out on the step to cool and the dog ate it. Now the dog belonged to Arthur and Maurice and my Dad was so mad that he made my brothers put their dog in a bag, fill it with rocks and throw it in the river to drown.
That same year we moved to Natone and we all had to work, even me at six years of age. I had to share a rabbit trap with my sister May to catch food and also to get money from selling the skins. The three eldest had to walk to Yolla which was about thirty kilometres return on foot for a few miserable pennies (two cents) per skin. I wasn’t allowed to go because it was too far for me.
We then moved to Natone and then Henrietta. We then moved to Cooee where I had two days at school. On the second day at school a boy and I were playing up in class (in those days the whole school was just one room) so the teacher sent us both out on the verandah to get the cane. As I walked out the door I noticed the key was in the lock, so I turned the key and locked the door with everyone still in the classroom, then ran home.
We moved to Somerset and again I was able to go to school for a while. Then another move to Calder Road in Wynyard and I went to the Convent School.
On the move again, this time to Preolenna and there was no school there as it was too far out, so we all had to work. Even though I was only eight years old my Father cut down a saw, so I could handle it, and I had to saw logs with my Father and brothers. We also had to cut down lots of ferns.
We lived there for about six months then we moved to Deep Creek near Wynyard. There I went to school again. I always remember that move because it was there I celebrated my ninth birthday. There was no cake, no present, and no one even said Happy Birthday. We spent most of our spare time fishing so we would have something to eat.
We then moved to Lower Wilmot and I went to school again. I had a fight every day because of the clothes I had to wear and also because we had a bad name because of my Father’s drinking.
I was always glad to see my Father go away working for a week at a time. He was such a cruel man.
We moved to Wilmot and our Father was still going away working for a week at a time. To me these were the happiest of times. We had no radio or games to play, so my Mother would get her hymnbook out and we would all sing a long. Then my Father would come home. My Mother would hear him coming and get us out of bed and out into the cold because our Father would be drinking and she would have to quiet him down and get him into bed. Then she would come for us.
Next we moved to Ulverstone where we bought ourselves a cow and I would have to walk it along the fences and grass strips to feed it as we didn’t have a paddock. Then we moved to Devonport.
I had to walk the cow by myself to Devonport and I was only ten years old. It was such a long way as I had to walk down through Forth, as it was where the highway went at the time. It was about 12 miles (25 kilometres).
We moved from Devonport to East Devonport where once again I was able to go to school, but only for a short while. Then we moved back to Devonport and I was only allowed to go to school when my Father said so.
It was my job to take the horse to find grass for it to eat. One day I was walking through this very dry paddock and I had a box of matches with me. I lit one and a piece must have broken off and caught all the other matches alight. In my fright I dropped the matches onto the dry grass and of course it caught alight. It burned very quickly – but not nearly as quick as I could run.
Then it was strange because I started to learn at school. Things just started to click and I did very will in my test. I came first. Then came exams. I was doing real well but on the last day my Father wouldn’t let me go to school. So I didn’t pass.
Yes, on the move again. First to Sheffield then to Stoodley (near Sheffield). It was there I turned twelve years old and had to go to work.
Over the Christmas that year we three boys had to cut wood to pay the food bill. The man we were cutting it for would come and check up on us to make sure we were working, so when we heard his van coming Maurice would run down the road and hide, then when he wasn’t looking Maurice would take biscuits out of the back of his van so we would have something to eat. We didn’t have food at home to take a packed lunch.
Once I had to walk from Stoodley to Railton to get some brandy because my sister May was sick. It was about eight miles (16 kilometres) and I was twelve years old. On the way home I was walking on the railway track, throwing the bottle up and catching it – and I missed.
Next move was to Don. We were still cutting wood but the man we were cutting for knew my Father drank so he wouldn’t pay us cash. He would give an order to the shop and we would get groceries instead.
I then got a job on a farm at Lower Barrington and had to camp away all weekend. My job was to sow manure and put in potatoes with a couple of other men. At lunchtime I had to go back to our shack, light the fire and go fetch a bucket of water, then cook potatoes for every one for dinner. All we had were potatoes. Then at night time I had to do the same as I did for lunch. After that there was nothing to do but go to bed. We were ready for it anyway. It was a hard day’s work.
I went to work for a neighbour who said he had some work for me. It was there that I spent my thirteenth birthday ploughing a paddock. I worked there until Christmas when the work ran out, so I had to leave.
I went back cutting wood with my Father. We had a horse and dray and would leave Devonport early in the morning and go twenty four kilometres back into the bush, cut a load of wood, load it onto the dray and be back into Devonport by nightfall. Sometimes we would have to camp over in an old deserted house. It would be so cold and we would have to lay on the filthy dirty floor that had rats running everywhere and I could count the stars through the holes in the roof.
Wood cutting was very hard work because n those times all the wood was cut with an axe and a hand saw.
Towards Christmas I had a job ploughing at Spreyton but my Father offered me a job again cutting wood with him and he would pay me and that meant I would have some money for Christmas. I worked extra hard and my Father sold all the wood. When it came time for me to collect my pay my Father gave me six pence (or six cents). Do you know, that was the only thing my Father ever gave me in my life.
Between Christmas and New Year brother Maurice and I had to walk to cut wood. There was no food and we would get very hungry. One day we got home early and the door was locked. I don’t know why but Maurice broke the door down and he was so hungry that he ate Father’s tea. Our Father was furious and kicked us both out for good. All my Mother could give me as I walked out the door was an old grey blanket. I was fourteen years of age. I didn’t know what to do so I just followed Maurice. We walked from Devonport to Barrington to Sheffield and to Latrobe. It took all day.
There we called on the Aunt who had got rid of the eggs and caused the dog to die but she gave us some food and bed for the night. We headed out the next morning and walked to the Don, Forth and Ulverstone. Maurice wouldn’t go and beg for food he would make me go. I hated having to bum food. I asked one old lady and she refused.
As we walked along a bloke came in an old ute and said if we gave him a push he would give us a ride. We pushed him up the hill and he gave us a ride to Heybridge.
We walked through the bush, it was getting dark when we came to a house. We were very hungry so I had to go and knock on the door to ask for food. The lady gave me a jam sandwich and a bottle of cold tea. We walked miles again and we came to another house and Maurice enquired about a job and got one. He could start in the morning.
It was really dark and we saw an old shed so we went in. We had to sleep on the floor with the grey blanket our only bedding. When we woke the next morning there were a bunch of little pigs running around us everywhere.
We went back to the farmhouse and they were milking cows. They gave us some food and something to drink. I asked for a job and got one. It paid four shillings (forty cents) a week. The job was helping to milk forty cows by hand and help separate the milk. I also had to feed the pigs and then to work all day picking up potatoes and milk again at night. I had to sleep in the old shed, so I made myself a bed out of the loose hay and covered myself with my grey blanket.
My Father found out about the job and told me I had to take every penny of my wages home and give it to my Mother, which I did. I didn’t argue with my Father.
One Sunday I borrowed a pushbike and rode it down the road. An old ute did a run in front of me and hit the front of the bike. I went sailing over the handlebars and hit the gravel road and hurt two fingers really bad. It was my pointer and thumb. The next morning I went to work and the workers said they were dislocated so they pulled the pointer back into shape and kept trying to pull the thumb back into shape but it wouldn’t work. I later found out it was broken – I still had to work.
I stayed there working for quite a while until my Father wanted me back home to go wood cutting with him again and like a fool I went. We cut wood and carted it to the Preston station on the horse and dray, then stacked it on the train to go to Devonport. The job didn’t last long and I didn’t get paid. We then went to Lee’s digging potatoes and once again I didn’t get paid. Father then went to North Motton to work at Lloyd’s while the family stayed at Preston.
The houses we lived in were very rough shacks. All we had was board floors and Mother had to scrub the lot on her hands and knees. We were really poor and didn’t have any nice things. For instance, Mother’s aprons were made from sugar bags. Also our towels were also sugar bags. They were hard and rough. All we owned was an old table and four chairs and an old homemade stool. There was a dresser in the kitchen, two iron beds, a wash stand and a dressing table. It was all we had in the world. Most of our clothes we wore. There was no tap water, it all had to be carted from a creek and we had no electricity.
While Father was in Preston I caught rabbits for meat and sold the skins to get some groceries. For days all we would have to eat was a cup of black tea and a slice of stale bread for both dinner and tea. It didn’t matter how hungry we were, there was no more food.
One day my tooth ached so much my Mother gave me 3/6 (35 cents) to walk to Ulverstone to get my tooth pulled. It was 15 miles (30 kilometres). I finally got to the dentist and he pulled my tooth out and it cost the me the whole lot. As that was the only money I had, I had to start my walk back home with no food and no drink. I got a drink of water from a creek along the side of the road.
Later that year I got a job working for Baldocks for 8/- (80 cents) a week. I had to milk cows night and morning and feed the calves. After the morning milking I had to set (plant) potatoes and sow manure. That was walking about 11 miles (22 kilometres) a day. When our night meal was over we went to bed because it was a full day’s work.
Mr. Baldock hired me to a neighbour, Bill Smith, for 8/- a day. Bill Smith asked me how much I was being paid and I told him 8/- a week and he said it was daylight robbery and he paid me more. He would give me a cheque, I would cash it, take out the 8/- a day for Mr. Baldock, and keep the rest for myself. Besides, Mr. Smith fed me well.
I then went to work for Mr. Tonge. I worked hard milking cows by hand night and morning. Between times I had to hoe potatoes. Mr. Tonge gave me a piece of land. It had to be cleared so I worked hard between doing my job, to clear it up. I even hired a bullock team to finish clearing, then planted it with potatoes. I did all this while still milking and hoeing the potatoes for Mr. Tonge.
I was getting paid 10/- ($1.00) a week but was being charged 12/6 ($1.26) board and all we had to eat every day was eggs, bread and potatoes. Then one day out of the blue Mrs. Tonge told her husband that I had punched one of the cows, for no reason at all. I argued but it didn’t do any good so I left. I was seventeen. I then went to Gawler, home to my Mother.
Once I was breaking horses for people by the name of Trails. They were a funny family. I can see them clearly even today. They had a daughter named Ethel and she would always make a sponge cake for afternoon tea. It was always a terrible cake. It was about half an inch thick (1cm) and it was always so tough, just like a piece of leather, but I had to eat it because I was so hungry.
They also had two sons. I can still see them standing there with their hands in the pockets of their overalls, hat turned up at the front, while their Mother chastised them.
On this particular day the Mother was going to belt Charles and he was running away from her. Joe, who was just standing there watching, said “Stand and take it like a man Charles.”
Charles said “No fear Joe, that stick hurts.”
The Mother said, “My word I will give it to you when you come home Charles.”
And Charles replied “Well I won’t come back then Mother.”
They were both in their thirties.
I went to Motton to work after that, then to Preston and then to Nietta to work on a farm with my Father. I never got paid. I still had to catch rabbits and sell the skins for money. Father then left and went pulling logs for a mill. I stayed home with my Mother.
One day I came down town and met Bill Claridge who offered me a job at Cuprona on a farm. So I went home and packed my few things and left.
Occasionally I would walk down to Lobster Creek to visit my sister May who had married Fred Grundy and was living there, right where the golf course is today.
We worked digging potatoes all day and bagging them, then carting them all night to Burnie wharf and stack them ready to be shipped out. Old Bill came down to Burnie one day after we had unloaded and his son and I were starving. Old Bill parked the truck in front of the pub and took his son in to lunch and left me sitting in the truck like a dog.
One day I went down to visit my sister May and it was there I met Sylvia. She was delivering a pig’s liver to May’s husband Fred. Sylvia was on one side of the river and we were on the other and we had to use a rowboat to get from one side to the other. So I rowed across to pick up the liver and Sylvia was on her way to teach Sunday School but said she would come back when she had finished her teaching. When she returned I rowed across and collected her and took her back to May’s.
The Wedding of the Century
On this very day, sixty six years ago, on the 3rd day of April 1936 it was on a Thursday morning that Sylvia Applebee and Herbert Knight set down the long road together. We walked, rowed a boat and walked again, six miles (12 kms) but we got to the church on time. I'll never forget the look on the Parson's face as he opened the gate for the car and we walked through with poor old May, her pushing her pram, and Fred, with us all on shank's ponies. It cost four pounds ($8) which I had to pay off as I didn't have that much money.
Then the wedding breakfast. Oh that was something very special. Up the street to the Moro/Rockcliff's cafe and had a hot dog each. Oh what a day. Topped it off by going to a funeral.
Somehow that day only lasted for sixty one years three months and ten days before Sylvia took a stroke on the 2nd of August 1997 and never recovered. She passed away on the 1st of September 1997.
I don't suppose that was too bad seeing that we only met for the first time in our lives on the 8th of March 1936. Just six weeks and five days from the day we met 'til we married. I was 18 years old and Sylvia was 21.
That night we stayed at May’s and the next day we went to Nietta to see my Mother and Father where I stayed for a week or two and helped Dad dig his potatoes. It was a "thank you" job.
Sylvia only stayed a few days and went home to her parents. I don't think that her and Mum got on so well. I don't think she was very well received when she got home. They didn’t know she was married and her Mother was very upset and said some mean and nasty things to her and even put a curse on her and her family.
Somehow I never mentioned that home was Nietta or that the reason I couldn't pay the minister was because I had a cheque coming to me but my dear old Dad had got the cheque and cashed it. I kept on going to the agent I had sold a few bags of spuds that I had grown and I was being told that the cheque had been sent. After several trips up to Nietta the agent said to me "If your cheque isn't there today I'll put it in the hands of the police tomorrow." So when I went home this time and told the old fellow what the agent said he soon produced the money. He didn't like the sound of the police.
At Lobster Creek
So now to join Sylvia and stay with her parents for a time. During that time I had a few little jobs like digging a few potatoes out at North Motton. It was about five miles each way and I walked back and forth each day. Then there was the hatchery for the fish eggs. Sylvia's brother Clarrie was looking after that. The job was picking the dead eggs out of the trays that they were kept on. This job was working in freezing cold water all of the time so poor Clarrie got the flu didn't he. I looked after it for him for a week or so and I got the flu didn't I, for the first time in my life. Put me down and out for a couple of weeks. I can tell you I was laying in bed feeling pretty good one day so I thought I'd get up by my feet no sooner hit the floor than my head did too. So back to bed I crawled.
When the hatchery was finished for that year Clarrie and I worked on hobbes train line for a while, just a few little repair jobs. The train line ran from right in front of where Applebee's lived up to Purton's Flats at North Motton, following the river all the way. The little locomotive used to have two little log trucks behind it to fetch the logs down to the punt which was an old paddle steamer. It used to come from the saw mill which was at West Ulverstone just across the street from the motel. Every now and again it would sink and lose the logs in the river. One day when Clarrie went to have a look to see if he could retrieve a couple of logs he noticed they were moving in and out. He thought that strange but all it was, was a big trout laying in between the logs, and as it breathed the logs were moving in and out. That was Clarrie's story and I know it to be true because he was never known to tell a lie.
My next job was cutting wood for a Mr. Jordan. I used to cross over the Leven River and walk up through bush to his place at North Motton. That was only a short job. Next I split some posts out of a tree that fell across the road at Lobster Creek and sold them to G & A Ellis. Clarrie had a small tray back motor so he carted them to town for me. Coming home after taking a load to town there was a milk cart on the side of the street, horse attached, milkman in the house. So what did Clarrie do? He blew the horn which made a hell of a racket. The poor horse didn't like the noise one little bit so decided he wouldn't wait for his master. He bolted up the road bearing milk cans and bottles scattering everywhere, turned a side street that wasn't even formed yet, then the cart turned over and spilt the poor man's milk and cream everywhere. His customers would have to go without that day.
Then I got a job at Central Castra and found an old house that was empty so Sylvia came and we made our first home. We didn’t have any furniture and at the time I was earning 7/- (70 cents) a day or seven cents an hour and I was working a ten hour day setting spuds and sowing manure. Never had money or furniture so we went to a place called Cox Brothers and got one hundred pounds or $200 worth of furniture. A bedroom suite, a dresser, a couch (the one I have) a table and chairs and some lino. That would be like getting $20,000 worth of stuff today.
We lived there about 18 months. Poor Sylvia, she had no close neighbours, had no radio, no electricity, no running water, nothing much to do only I think cry all day. There was no baker or butcher. The grocer called once a week. She had to bake her own bread and her Father gave us a cow so we had plenty of milk and spuds. Plenty of times when I came home for tea we had potatoes sliced and baked in milk.
Cyril and Beachie would come and stay for the weekend. That was Sylvia's brother and sister-in-law. They were very good to us. I told you about all the things we never had, I never mentioned the things we did have. Such as rats and snakes in our roof. I came home one evening and there was a snake up in the ceiling. I went outside in time to catch him coming down the side of the house so we had a fight and he lost his life.
We used to go down to Cyril's sometimes and stay of a weekend. One of these occasions was Sylvia's 22nd birthday on 12th September 1936, which was on a Saturday. On the Sunday night Cyril and Beachie went to church. Sylvia and I stayed home and went to bed and of course we played up and I knew straight away that Sylvia had a birthday present. I told her "you are pregnant." She said "How do you know?" But the next month confirmed it for her so then the knitting needles came out. Then there was the name picking. Calvin, Kelvin, and finished up with Kevin, a good choice.
So, Sylvia was pregnant with our first child and of course we had no electricity and had to cook on an open fire. When I came home one night Sylvia bent down to make me a cup of tea from the kettle on the hob, when her foot slipped on the polished floor and her hand went into the boiling kettle. I had to call a neighbour, because we had no transport, and he brought over his horse and buggy and drove us nine miles (18kms) to the doctors. The doctor gave Sylvia some ointment that she kept putting on her hand. It didn’t seem to be getting any better so I told her next time she got an order to get some Rexona ointment and rub into her hands. She did and it worked wonders. The next time she went to the doctors he couldn’t believe the change in her hands.
The months went by and of course it was Kevin. We went home to Sylvia's Mother and Father for Christmas that year and while we were away we had a break in. Some nice person kicked our door in. I couldn't think who would do such a thing but as the years went by I worked it out. There was only one thing that went missing. It was a 21st birthday present that her old boyfriend had given her. He lived right beside her parents and knew where we were.
There was all the baby clothes to buy so Sylvia picked blackberries for G & A Ellis. They used to give a penny, half penny a pound. Less than one cent. The grocer man used to pick them up each week. Ellis used to pick them up all around the country side, put them on the train and send them to Hobart to Jones' Jam Factory. They never gave you any money. You had to go to their store and take drapery for your money. Sylvia bought all of Kevin's cloth from there so Cyril called Kevin the Blackberry Baby.
Eventually he arrived on the 26th of May 1937. Our beautiful baby boy, all seven pounds, some odd ounces of him. What a proud day that was. To this day I have the most vivid picture of Sylvia standing at the window and holding Kevin up. It just stands out in my mind, I don’t know why.
When Kevin was about seven or eight months old we moved and came down to Green Banks, where Ulverstone Golf Club is now days. There was a house just up on the bank from where the bridge is now. What brought me down there was that the farmers in North Motton was paying 10/- shillings a day for eight hours work. That was 30 cents more for two hours less work. Living there was closer to home for Sylvia. We would go home to her parents of a Sunday for dinner.
When we wanted to go to town we had to row a boat across where the bridge is now. Sylvia would load the pram into the dingy, then put Kevin in it, row across the river, tie up the boat and take them out on the other side. Then she would walk five miles down the town on a very rough gravel road.
One day she was ready to cross and picked up the pram to put it in the dingy and missed and the pram went into the water. She then had to take it back to the house, take all the wet things out, wipe it out, put dry things back in it and start again.
We had to rely on a tank and the rain for water. Once when it didn't rain for quite some time I had to row the boat up the river to lobster creek, borrow a lot of cans from the hatcher, fill them at the creek and put them in the boat. It was quite a weight. I suppose it would have been two or three miles to carry them up from the boat and tip them into the tank, which was six or seven chain. They weighed about 100 pounds. I had just finished tipping them in the tank and down came the rain.
I was working farm work, still casual and getting 10/- ($1) a day. We had a few fowls and a cow by now. We would milk the cow and separate the cream and Sylvia would make 15 lbs (8 kilos) of butter and sell it at the shop for sixpence (5 cents) a pound. With the money she made she would buy groceries.
We had an old wireless, run with a twelve volt battery. About every three weeks we would be without the wireless while the battery was away getting charged up. Apart from that I would go to the pictures of a Saturday afternoon and of a Saturday night I would babysit and Sylvia would go. She would ride the bike down to town in the dark. One night on returning she was on one side of the river and me on the other. Of course I had fell to sleep hadn't I. Dear Mother was calling out to me to bring the boat and fetch her but I couldn't hear for snoring could I. I had a little dog, she was barking and woke me else Mother would have been there all night.
While we lived there, on the 11th of January, Darral Cyril and Dale George were born. When the doctor told Sylvia she had twin boys she said “send the little buggers back.” Kevin was 19 months old.
Of course I had to be at work the day that she went to hospital. She would have had to stand on the bank of the river and call out to the neighbours who lived over the river quite a way, say a quarter of a mile. They had to go another half mile down on the farm and ring the doctor as phones were very few those days. So when I got home from work that evening this is what I found. Kevin over at the neighbours and Sylvia in the hospital with a false alarm. So next day I never went to work and took Kevin down to Cyril and Beachie. He was a good little boy. We could leave him anywhere with anyone and he was never any trouble. We had to go back and forth a few times before they arrived. Then there were the names to decide on. I wanted David and John but Mother was dead set on Darral, didn't care what I called the other one. She had a boyfriend in Hobart when she worked down there and never forgot him. I overheard her asking Topsie about if she knew what had happened to him. Beachie said to me at the time, "I wouldn't allow her to call him that name." But I didn't care.
We had two years at this place. Very happy years they were with our babies. Of a night time we had one each to feed with bottle, the twins I mean. Some times of a Sunday I'd go find a bee tree, fall it and take the honey from the poor little things. I remember one Sunday we had been up to Nan and Pop Applebee's with Cyril and Beachie, on the way back the back wheel came off of the truck and went flying down the road, down through the bush in front of him. The babies were in their pram on the back of the truck, Pop was there looking after them. About the worst that happened was the little one had turned over in the pram. I suppose you wonder where I was. I was riding my bike at the time and was right there and saw it all.
We moved to 1 Vincent Street in Ulverstone because we had three babies and another one on the way. This is where Sylvia had two years on her own. It was a very old house. No bath, no hot water, no lining on the walls and a dirt floor. All the water had to be heated in a kerosene tin which was really hard with three little kids.
She had a girl working for a while. You could get a girl to work for you them days for fifty cents a week. I was only making about $2.50 - $3.00 a week. Out of that there was $1.00 rent, first thing that had to be paid and don't think that was a permanent wage because if you had a wet day you never got anything. Soon as Elaine was born on the 16th of July, and Sylvia came home the girl left. It very hard for Sylvia with four small children to care for on her own.
The day after Elaine was born my brother and I tried to join the army but when I said I had four in the family I was turned down. Maurice had some time in the army in peace time and was offered a job training the recruits which he turned down.
We went back to potato digging. We would leave home about 6.30 on Monday morning on our push bikes and head for Central Caster, arriving there about 8 o'clock. The roads weren't sealed them days. They were half inch metal and loose at that. We would take our week's supply of food in a sugar bag on our backs. It consisted of a large loaf of bread, a pound of butter, half a dozen eggs, four pounds of cooked meat and tea and sugar. We had a fry pan, two billy cans - one to make our tea and the other to boil a few spuds which we had at tea time and we would fry some for breakfast. That's what we did for about eight or nine months of the year or maybe a bit longer.
Then Maurice left and got a job on the PWD wheeling stones up to the stone crusher. I carried on for a bit longer setting spuds for Bonde's. I was still camping. When that finished I came home to my dear wife for the last few weeks of the year.
First day home I headed up to North Motton to see if I could find something to do. I first went to a Mr. Chris Bonde who gave me a job pulling wild turnips and radish out of a paddock of oats. I said I'd start in the morning as I had no food with me but he said, "start now or don't start at all. You can have dinner with us." Oh how I enjoyed that! His kids had been playing in the pig sty with the pigs. They came to dinner without having a wash and smelt of pigs and pig crap. I hope you can imagine how I enjoyed that meal. Each and every mouthful I took I felt sick. So I made sure I had my own food from there on.
I had work there for a week or two and then a job turned up on the PWD (Public Works Department) working on the stone crusher, crushing beach stone which they first sealed the highway with. That went to Christmas time then we had a holiday for three weeks with no pay, so brother Maurice and I went felling mill timber for Hobb's Saw Mill for that three weeks. Then after Christmas it was off to Guilford leaving my dear wife and babies again. This was during the war of course. We loaded our gear onto a truck and off we go leaving about 8 o'clock in the morning and arriving about 4 o'clock in the afternoon. There was some lovely scenery on the way through the Gorge and just over the Wandel River where the myrtles grew on either side of the road and over lapped.
When we arrived we had to put our tents up which was very rough that night so the boss said we could have the next morning to fix them up. When we got to the next morning there was six inches of snow everywhere. We had to get our own wood to make a fire. For our fire we had a forty gallon drum cut in half with a piece cut out of the side and a few little holes knocked in the top. We had to cook our meals on that. To get our water we had a kerosene tin, 4 gallon, and we had to carry it from the river half a mile away. Our toilet was anywhere you liked to go and cock your bum up. Our beds were wire mesh and I had a tent fly on that for a tick (mattress). It wasn't very comfortable but it managed to serve for six months until the job was finished.
Our first job was spaulding stone. To do that you used a sixteen pound hammer and belted hell out of big rocks till you broke them down to pieces that you pick up and load into the truck. There were four of us who had never seen a spaulding hammer before. We were working in a very small space of about four or five feet of one another and you would have thought we were at the war. We were blood from head to foot from the scats that were flying off those stones we were flogging. You have no idea but never the less we got through it all and at the weekend there was a fellow with a car that was coming home. He brought Maurice and one of the single fellows home with him so that left me and one of the other single fellows behind. After we cleaned up a bit and had a bite to eat we decided to go to the railway station and have a beer or two.
That was about two or three miles away but on the weigh out station we heard the train whistle blow. We made our minds up very quickly that if we could catch the train we would head for home. We ran like hell and managed to catch that train. It was only an old ore train but all trains had a guard them days. We got in the van with the guard to Burnie and from there to Ulverstone we caught the dance bus and arrived home very late that night and had Sunday at home with my dear wife and family. It was so lovely to be home even if it was only for Sunday. We had to leave at four o'clock on Monday morning. We got back to work with the fellow that could bring us home. His wife tore strips off him for leaving me behind and bringing the single fellow home. So it was back to the stones, the march flies and the red arsed blow flies. They would blow your towels, your bedding and everything in sight.
It used to cost us one pound ($2) a week for travel and I used to earn three pound ($6) a week for a forty hour week and it was very hard work.
We were there for six months and for the last six weeks we never saw the sun once. It just drizzled with rain and was freezing cold all the time.
Dear Sylvia was left to take care of the kids on her own. She had a very hard life. She wasn't well after Elaine was born, she had a bleeding bout that lasted for two years before she had an operation. She had no washing machine those days, nor hot water, she had to put a four gallon tin of water on the fire and boil her clothes. There used to be a bar in the chimney with hooks on it for you to hang your pots and pans on. That's where she used to put her tin of water and clothes, that would weigh fifty or sixty pounds. So her life wasn't easy.
Now it was back to work. There were four of us in a double tent. That was two tents pitched end to end about ten feet apart and then we had a tent fly over the top of that space. That made a kitchen for us where we had our fire pot to sit around and dry out clothes at night because it rained a lot there and lots of mud always to put up with.
Things went along quite smoothly for quite a while. The Donahue brothers were a bit on the lazy side. They would lay in bed of a morning till it was nearly time to go to work. Then of course they had nothing to do, the fire would be burning, the billy would be boiled, there would be only for them to put the hot water on their weatbix and grab a cup of tea from the billy and they would be away. So one morning I tipped the water on the fire and put it out so when they got up they had to run around the other tents looking for hot water to have their breakfast. That improved them.
It wasn't long before we were parted up. There was a fellow by the name of Hec Hills there, the wood and water Joey with his horse and cart. He used to lead the horses about on a long reign and it used to bite him on the arm until it gave him a paralysed arm. He went to hospital for a week or two and I took his job for the time, getting the wood and water for the engine to keep the steam up for the crusher. Maurice and the Donahues went picking surface stones. When Hills came back I went back in the quarry and spaulding stones again.
It was lovely to get home of a weekend. We would go with Cyril and Beachie for a picnic or up to Sylvia's parents on the Sunday. We would have lovely Sunday dinners. Beachie use to be always onto the old fellow to put more cream on the table so he bought a jerry pot and put the cream in that and when the pudding or pie, whichever it may have been, was put on the table he put the pot right in front of her. That quietened her for a while.
But the lovely weekends used to pass and then it would be back to rocks and mud and slush and that wonderful bed of mine. It all came to pass and we moved on down to Wivenhoe, right on the side of the highway. We set up our tents, only this time there was no Maurice. He was sent up to Ridgley, the Donahues, well I don't know where they went but once again I had to camp away from home because those days there was no transport. Maurice had an old motor bike and he used to pick me up on Monday morning and again Friday night. Going to work one morning we were nearly to Penguin when a train came around a corner, light on full beam, and Maurice was blinded by the light and we ended up in the ditch. Nothing broke and no injury so we continued on our way and went to work.
There wasn't much traffic on the road them days but we had to get out on the road with a flag when we were blasting, which we were doing quite often. When old Ernie Quinn, that was our boss and powder monkey, started blasting he really done a job of it. He shook the earth for a long way around. I bet the people around Wivenhoe would think that there had been an earthquake. Ernie was the blacksmith, sharpening the tools as required. I became his white head boy, he would get me to help him with these jobs. Shovelling those stones into those Leyland trucks wasn't much fun. They were six foot high and we had big forks to shovel those stones with.
It came Burnie Show time so we took our good clothes to work with us that week and the boss gave us half a day off and so we went to the show. Laurie Banks, that was my tent and work mate, and I went together. He thought it would be a good idea for us to go and have our fortune told but he wouldn't go on his own so we went in together. I have no idea what she told Laurie but she told me a few facts. She said "You are trying to win lottery with others, next time go on your own." So I just stopped altogether. Another thing that she told me "You will go over the water to work." I had no intention of doing that but in the very near future my brother who lived out from Melbourne at a place called Mulgrave, wrote to me telling of a very good job that he had for me. I packed my things, leaving my dear wife and little ones and off I go to catch the boat.
My first time to Melbourne. Arthur was waiting on the ship side with his old ute when we arrived. First time I had seen him in a few years. Out we went to meet his wife and his little ones as I had never met her before and didn't know what to expect but she was a very nice person.
Next day I went off to see about this wonderful job. It turned out to be on a milk truck lumping great cans of milk. The empty cans weighed about fifty pounds which would hold anything up to twenty gallons of milk. At ten pounds a gallon that meant each can could weigh up to two hundred pounds and I only weighed around one hundred and forty myself. The other good thing about it was that if I took the job I was going to have to go for a fortnight to learn the round with no pay attached. So I just said goodbye to that job and went to look for another. I went to a brick kiln. There was plenty of work there wheeling bricks up planks which I didn't like the look of very much. I didn't think that I was made of the right sort of stuff for that neither so I ended up getting a job on a marked garden. That looked more to my liking. I started the next morning for this fellow out at a place called Clayton. I arrived at eight o'clock in the morning. I asked how much I was going to get per day, one pound (two dollars in today's terms of money).
For a start we pulled apart twine to get the threads for tie strings, then we pulled umpteen bunches of carrots, then the same with onions, beetroot, silver beet and God knows what else. We weeded beds of one thing and another, eventually it became dinner time and we set off to the house. When we got to the back door he said just wait here, so in he went, didn't even say would you like to wash your hands. A few minutes later out he came with a plate of food I thought he was going to feed his dog, but no, that was for me. So like the good boy that I was those days I took it, thanked him and sat down on the grass with the dog and ate my dinner. If it was now there would have been an accident in the take over.
After the dinner break he said you can harness the horse now and harrow that piece of ground. From somewhere, somehow, before night, a fellow came from out of the blue and offered me a job with him. I never did know how he knew about me. He laid cement paths and did other cement jobs. He was a big fellow by the name of Tiny Grant and he had a fellow who looked so much like George Formby so it was what I called him. I started work for him the next day. That market fellow still owes me for a day's work. I never saw him again so I got dinner with the dog for a day's work.
I put in about three weeks for him and came home again. In the meantime George Formby and I was going to the Melbourne Cup but whatever happened, we didn't go. Arthur and a friend of his and I went to a hotel at a place called Wheeler Hill to have a few bets and had a good day. Wheeler Hill wasn't very far from where Arthur lived at Mulgrave so we walked. Just after cup day I caught the boat and was very glad to be coming home. My wonderful job that took me there turned out to be a working holiday and a little more experience.
So here I am back with my wife and family once again and very pleased to be home, to look for work again. Back on the spud fork again for a Mr Sid Grant. He had a farm on the Gawler Road somewhere near where the hot houses are now. I was only there a few days when I got word to go back to the PWD again. I gathered up my camping gear and caught the train down to Doctors Rocks near Wynyard and back on the spaulding hammer again.
My camp mate this time was Albert Whitely, a little fellow from Ulverstone who had a motor bike. I think I travelled with him of a weekend. It was very close to Christmas now and as we broke up for Christmas we decided to go into Wynyard and have a few drinks. That was where I first came in contact with the one armed bandit. A fellow had been playing it for some time and moved away from it so I thought I would like to try my luck and I won three pounds some odd shillings. It was more than a weeks wages so I was very happy with myself but I couldn't say the same about the fellow who had been playing on the machine before me - he got quite abusive.
Next day we broke for Christmas. No holiday pay but we had a happy Christmas just the same. The little ones were bouncing about to see what Santa had brought them very early on the Christmas morning which wouldn't be much but they were happy. That was the end of 1941.
Start of 1942 we moved to George Street and brought Nan and Pop to live with us. We were going to King Island to build and aerodrome. All of our gear was loaded and ready to go but the weather was so rough that the boat we were going on couldn't get into the island and we were waiting around for three weeks with no pay. Sylvia was pretty sick so I pulled my gear off the truck and got a job on the flax where I could be home every night.
The flax was used for making tents for the troops. I think every man, woman and child was on that job. First we had to cut and spread it in rows in the paddocks, leave it for two or three weeks then we took sticks about ten feet long and turned the flax over. Next we had to pick it up by hand and make it into sheaves and tie it so it could be loaded back on wagons and carted to the yards and stacked there. Later it was put through the mill and the seed threshed from it to make Linseed Oil and the fibre was to make tents and whatever with. When we were about the yard or the mill we sometimes had to work shift work. Then of a day when we had worked afternoon shift Laurie Donahue would go ferreting and get a few rabbits. There were plenty of them about those days.
When the flax was finished, I suppose it only lasted two or three months, the manager asked me what I was doing the next morning and I said I was going looking for a job. He said "I'll be around about ten o'clock to pick you up." He was as good as his word. He picked me up and took me over to Spreyton to the Ovaltine Factory and gave me an introduction to the factory manager and got me a job there, which I couldn't take because there was no transport those days. I couldn't see myself riding a bike that far daily. The highway those days went out through the stony rise. I suppose you wonder why he took me out of all the men that worked on the flax? Well, one evening we went to work his stack builder never turned up and I had a fair bit of experience on stacks around farms, so I jumped on the stack and helped him out and he never forgot it.
Maurice and I went to the Pulp Mill and saw about a job there. They put us on the list so we went and took a job of spud digging at Preston. We got settled in our hut, got started to digging a spud or two, I might add it rained like hell so we never hardly got started, when the fellow we were going to work for got a phone call to tell us we had a job at the Pulp to start the next day. Being a good fellow he loaded us into his car, gear and all, and brought us down to town.
Now to go to our new job the next day. In the yard doing all sorts of dirty jobs, a big three pounds a week. Out of that we had to pay eight shillings a week to travel by train. That left us two pounds twelve shillings and out of that I paid one pound a week rent for the house I lived in. It wasn't too bad because Pop paid half seeing as he shared the house.
He got a returned pension and he got a job at the sawmill at West Ulverstone. He soon had more money than he had ever had. He bought ten acres with Cyril on the South Road. It had a few trees about it so he put a man on to cut wood for him, bought himself a horse and dray and carted the wood and sold it about town. Then he went to the sale and bought another horse, which he didn't think he could handle so I took a day off and put the new horse in the dray and a friend of mine took the horse by the head and lead him out of the yard, which was sandy ground. I got up in the dray. Now the horse went along quietly till the wheels of the dray hit the footpath, which was gravel, with that he took one bound straight across the road into a ditch on the other side of the street, head first. Me, dray and all. We got out alright, took him out of the dray, put the other horse in the dray, went down the beach, put him back in the dray, loaded it with sand and I gave him a few trips up and down the beach with a dray full of sand. That made him behave and he was alright after that. That land only cost five pounds an acre, or ten dollars. Later we built a house there after about four years and we lived there for twenty four years, but I'll come back to that later on in my story.
Back to 17 George Street. I was now at the Burnie Pulp Mill. Dear Sylvia had to have another operation so off to Launceston she goes all on her own on the bus. It went once or twice, not very often them days on account of petrol shortage.
Grandma and Grandpa Applebee lived with us at the time but I had to hire a young girl to take care of the children. I had to pay her five shillings (50 cents) a week. She used to walk from away out at West Ulverstone morning and night after I got home. I suppose you might think I got her on the cheap but you could get girls to work for you by the dozen for that them days. There was just no work for girls those days.
My poor wife was in hospital for six weeks and I had no way of going to see her so one day a friend offered me his motor bike to go and see my dear who was just as lonely as I was. His name was Jack McKillop but I had never ridden a motor bike and I had never been to Launceston so I had to thank him and say I had never rode a motor bike and that I wouldn't know where to go to the hospital. He said he would let his son take me as he had a girlfriend in Launceston. He would be only too pleased to do it.
On the Saturday away we went, but when we arrived the hospital had very strict visiting hours those days and I couldn't get in to see my dear Sylvia until the evening. We went and arranged for my accommodation then went out to White City and saw the dogs race for the first time. They were quite different those days. The dogs ran in a straight line, they had string lines for the dogs to run between, very different today. I got into the hospital between seven and eight o'clock then for one hour on Sunday which wasn't very long but it was well worth while.
On the way home from Launceston Hospital my friend's motor bike seized up at buttons creek, run out of oil, so poor fellow had the expense of repairs. I offered to pay but he knew I had no money and he wouldn't hear of it but he told me of a better job in the mill than the one I had.
I never got to see my dear wife again until she came home. She had to go down town and catch the bus home after six weeks mostly laying in bed. She had a pretty big operation, she had a hysterectomy and her ovary removed. She was cut from the navel to the playground. She was never quite the same any more, used to get upset very easily and if I went down the street as soon as I got back she would want to know who I saw, what we talked about. I would get the third degree every time. She was so jealous and never trusted me any more. When we would go to the pictures she would grab a case and start to pack her things and get set to leave me and the kids until one night I offered to help her pack. That made her decide then and there to stay and behave herself. We settled after that.
Then it was my turn to be sick. I had appendicitis and used to get attacks so I would go to work and would have to come home and go to the doctor, Gollan was his name. He would say, "You have acute indigestion. Don't eat anything out of a frying pan, don't eat white bread" and many other things. I got that bad I couldn't put up with it so I went to Doctor Ferris one morning and he said "Go and get your pyjamas and come straight back," which only took a few minutes and within less than half an hour I had my appendics out. I remember walking down the passage way and climbing onto the table, next thing it was all over. Them days you had to stay in bed for about eleven days but today you go into the hospital and out the same day. Well, that over the cost of Sylvia being in Launceston Hospital for six weeks was four pounds, or eight dollars in today's money, for my little stint in the Ulverstone Hospital. I don't know whether the Pulp paid for it or not. They paid if you went to Wynyard Hospital. Our next episode was the kids with their tonsils. They went to Wynyard, we stayed at the boarding house till they were allowed to come home, might have only been a few days, I don't remember, it's a long time ago.
I went back to work at the Burnie Pulp Mill and was offered a good job sinking peer holes. It was heavy, hard and dirty work but we got paid extra for it. That was really handy because I was getting paid three pound ($6) a week and out of that I had to pay eight shillings (80 cents) a week for my train fare.
Bert Pain was the old miner's I was working with, a very good mate. We would take it in turns digging for about an hour and then when we got down about six feet we would wind the windlass up, as each hole had to go down until we struck solid rock. Then we would have to bore holes in the stone with the jack hammer and blow it with Jellie. Sometimes we would have to wait for hours for Jellie to come. Just sit and wait, there would be nothing else to do.
Each morning when we got to where we had been working the day before the hole would be filled to the top and running over with water. Then we would have to get a pump and pump it out before we started digging. This went on for a few months, I think we dug about ten of those holes. While I was winding a drum of muck out of the hole some fool came along and slapped me on the back. Of course that made me lose my grip on the windlass handle and of course the drum full of dirt would have went down on Bert. It would have crippled if not killed him if I hadn't thrown myself on the handle. It hit me on the top lip and split it open. So up to the hospital I had to go and get it stitched. The Burnie hospital them days was a house around in Alexandra Street or just off it, there was no other.
Anyway, the hole digging came to an end, so one morning they sent Bert and I with the jack hammer to the chipper room to cut a chipper boot out. I asked the engineer "Where do the electric cables go from the electric motor." He took a piece of chalk and drew some lines where he thought they would be but he said "We don't know where they are for sure but if you cut that piece out there you will be quite safe."
Away I went and I picked up the jack hammer and put a hole through the cement floor, nothing happened, so I pulled the hammer out through it. I went in again but it was a different kettle of fish. There was a big explosion, I was sent flying for yards across the room, the whole pulp mill stopped and was plunged into darkness. I had my eyebrows and my eyelashes and a good part of my hair burnt off and it had burnt six inches of steel off the end of the drill I was using. There was only 22,000 volts in that cable! Those engineers was there before the dust had settled. I really think they expected to find a body. They had a taxi there and made me go to the hospital and have a good checking over.
I think they would have given me the mill at the time. Had I known what I know now, I would have sued them for a lot of money. They offered me a fortnight off but big brave me, I declined. All I wanted to do was go back to work but they insisted that I take the rest of the day off. I caught the train home and I was back the next morning, never said a word about what happened to Sylvia. Within the next day or two when I got home, a guy that lived two or three doors down the street came home and told his wife how lucky I was that I hadn't been killed, then I was in trouble at home.
That was 1942 and here it is 2002 that I am telling this story. I worked on at the Pulp Mill till some time in 1943 and left when we started sinking the pier holes. They had promised us both a job with the fitters as off-siders but they never lived up to their promise although we were man powered those days. I got out through Mr. Okie Wright who had a contract to get furnace wood for the Dehydration Factory here at Ulverstone so I went wood cutting and made twice as much money. I have jumped Christmas 1942 and am well into 1943 now.
We had four years in George Street. For the next three years I put in most of my time cutting wood for Merv Wright. I grew a paddock of potatoes with him one year but done no good with them. I just wasn't meant to be a spud grower so I left it to the farmers. I went to the Dehydration Factory and helped on the boilers for a week or two because their usual man was sick.
I played a bit of football and I remember one day when it was raining like hell, my mate and I decided we weren't going to play. We waited till we thought they would be out on the ground, got dressed in our navy blue suits, white shirt and tie, then went down at our leisure only to find that the boys wouldn't take the field without us. So we had to drop our coats and go out after all in long trousers and white shirts. It wasn't long before a waster by the name of Guy McCulloch lined me up and spilled me in a big water hole. That really made my day but I think we beat them, North Motton, that day.
I used to go and help Cliff Picket on his farm sometimes to dig a few spuds or a bit of harvest work. I remember we were carting in a paddock of hay when we were having our lunch he saw his neighbour Fred Lakin coming towards us. Cliff, a bit of a demon, said "Let's have a bit of fun with Fred." It seemed that Fred thought he would like his wife to present him with twins. So when Fred arrived Cliff said something about the subject and said "Herb's got twins he'll tell you how to get twins."
"How?" said Fred.
"Well," says I, "I'll tell you if you promise not to get wild."
"So how? What do I do?"
I said, "when you go home tonight, get your wife to have a bath, put on a nice clean nightie, put clean sheets on the bed and go to bed."
"Then what?" Fred wanted to know.
So then I said, "Send for me."
Well he would have killed me if he could have caught me but you know what, next increase in his family was twins and he never sent for me neither.
On another day when we were having lunch Cliff said to Nobby Hayward, that was my mate and Cliff's permanent man, he said, "see that rooster out there Nobbie," he said. "He's a bit silly. You can have him if you like."
"Good," said Nobbie, "that will be alright. I'll cut the silly part off." He reckoned he eat just as good as any other and I dare say he did.
Well, it's back to the sawdust and chips for that's where I put most of my time in. It was ace and cross cut saw because chain saws weren't thought of them days. I would cut four or five tons a day. The measurement of a ton of boiler wood was four feet long, four feet high and the length of the wood five foot long. If you think that's easy, go and try it, firstly you had to fall the trees, cut and split the wood so it was easy to handle. It had to be light enough to be loaded on the trucks and then into the furnace. That bit on the trucks and in the furnace wasn't my job, although when it was time to go home we would get around the truck and help throw the load on so we could get home a bit earlier.
During those years between 1943 and the early part of 1946 I was a fireman and in the V.D. Corp. We used to go of an evening to play soldiers to train in case of fire and on Sundays we would be out playing soldiers. Talk about Dad's Army. We would have given those Japs a fright if they had ever got to Ulverstone I can tell you. Something else we done, we held dances, run raffles and held a boxing tournament. I was going to take part in it. I was lined up to fight a fellow from Launceston but I got knocked very early in the evening. The doctor looked me over and said "No way are you going to fight. You have a bad heart. Go to your own Doctor in the morning and get a check up and don't ever put those gloves on again." Which I haven't.
Another thing in those war days, it was a total black out. There used to be people going around and if they saw the faintest bit of light they would knock on your door and tell you to get it out.
Early in 46, people from the country started selling their farms and were looking for places in town to buy. Mrs. McCulloch was the woman that owned the one that we lived in and someone came and wanted to buy the house and offered her three thousand pounds for the place. She thought she would never get an offer like that again so she was begging me to leave and find another place. Although she couldn't get me out without she was to find me a place and it had to have everything the same. Floor space had to be the same and all. I had a lawyer friend that told me all this. Herb Guy was his name, we were in the home force together. I really loved that old place. That was where my little ones started their school days from and we had some good friends also but we left after all.
The people that bought it said that Nan and Pop Applebee could have a couple of rooms to live in so it was with deep regret that we had to move. On the 11th of March 1946 we boarded the train very early in the morning and headed for Guilford Junction.
My poor dear Sylvia had never been there and didn't know what she was letting herself in for but she never complained, she was happy to be wherever I took her. We arrived at Guilford in the early afternoon. The fellows that I was going to work with were there to unload and carry our belongings into the house and the neighbours of course were all having a good stare. Someone was heard to say "look, that lady has triplets," when they saw our three boys all about the same size and were dressed alike.
It was a corrugated iron house with four rooms and the bath was in a shed out the back. The school was one room with twenty-nine students in it and one teacher for everyone – Mrs. Grainger. There were about twenty houses down one side of the road and on the other was the railway station which also served as a dance hall and a bar.
I was ready for work the next day. We loaded onto the rail motor and away out the line some miles before we came to a halt. I suppose I should tell you who my work mates were. Firstly there was the boss George Luke and his brother Eddie, Jim Dillion and of course the mate that went with me, Nobby Heywood.
Our first lesson was to learn all the tools. There was a gigger, that was a brace and bit to bore the holes to start the dogs into the sleepers. Then there were the hammers and bars to move the line when it had to straighten up a bit. There were beaters, fish plates to join the rails and last but not least was the crow. This was not a bird in a tree but a tool to straighten or put a curve in a rail. These things were all new and strange to me.
Anyway, first day over and back home to Mum and the kids and the little corrugated house. Once we had no electric light at night, the kids thought it great to have candles for a light to go to bed with but no hot water to wash with and no wireless to listen to and not too much wood for fire neither till the Saturday afternoon. Then Nobby and I went out the line with a trolley and felled a tree to get the limbs which were dry.
Although there was wood everywhere you couldn't get any of it dry enough to burn. I often had to go across the line to the coal bunker to pinch a bit of coal to get the wood to burn. Now we had a maintenance man, a Mr. Ken Hogden, who had come in and done a few little jobs, he even silver frosted our bath. I suppose he thought it made it look pretty but all it made look pretty was our bums for all that it did was give us a nice silver bum for a few days.
We weren't there very long before the EBR were selling off all the snaring runs. They had a big auction for the purpose so there were snaring runs for miles around sold but there was one close to Guilford that they never even got a bid for because it was the local's hunting ground all through the year. No-one would bid for it so my neighbour said "Go offer the auctioneer five pounds for Taubot Plains." The auctioneer refused but he said to me to write to the manager of the EBR which I did and he accepted.
There were four in my group. We leased a place called Forbes Plains which no one ever wanted and it cost us five pound ($10) for the rent for the full season. Fortunately for us there was one bloke in the group who knew what he was doing, my good neighbour Trevor Warren, which was just as well because we didn’t have a clue. We had to trap or snare the kangaroos and possums, then skin them, then peg them out to dry before we could sell them. Thanks to our mate who knew what he was doing, we got top price for our skins.
I worked the whole time for the railway. I was a fettler, that was keeping the railway lines in good order and changing the sleepers on the railway track. We would take it in turns having a sickie each week and of course we would go around our snares and set a few fresh ones of a weekend.
I remember one Sunday morning we set out to put down a line of snares well before daylight. It was pouring with rain and I was soaked to the skin in the first half hour and remained that way all day for we started cutting springers and every time you drove your axe into a tree you got a shower. I have often said I wouldn't go through that day again for a thousand pounds but I did the whole six weeks for one hundred pounds ($200). That was a lot of money.
(this is a fresh start three months later. Today is the 26th day of January 2003)
Did I say that six weeks of my wages would have been eighteen pounds and eighteen shillings. The one hundred pounds never did me any good because Sylvia gave it to her Father to put into the house that was going to be built on the South Road but he gave it to Reg to bring him and his family over from Melbourne. So that was that.
Back to Guilford. Sylvia had to write her order for groceries and meat and send them to Ulverstone by post. The grocer and butcher would put the order on the train and send them to us. Then eventually her Mother took a stroke so we had to get a place down around Ulverstone somehow. Sylvia came down to see if she could find one and to see her Mother of course but no luck. So she got some supplies and brought home with her. She had Elaine with her and of course, I had the boys and worked in the railway yard while she was away. When she arrived home I just stopped work and went to see if I could help her. It was go up to the station and get the things she had brought back with her. Now there was a drain out the front of our house about four or five feet deep and over that drain was two sleepers laying side by side for a walkway, and in that drain was a good mixture of snow and water. Away I go and as I was going near that drain Mother decided she had something she had to tell me before she forgot, so out of the bedroom window she popped her head and started to tell me and where do you think I finished up. You guessed it. I jumped up and looked all around to see if anyone was looking but no-one seemed to be in sight. I would have run in and hid under the bed if there had been but I just went on my way. It was a beautiful sight when it snowed and it hung on the young myrtle trees, they looked like Christmas trees.
About the next thing to happen was our next door neighbour's kids were playing out on the side of the line with ours and young Warren hit Kevin over the head with a hoe and cut it open. I had to go and get the only fellow with a car to come and take us into Waratah to the bush nurse. She took a look at it and said "I'll have to take him to Wynyard to hospital."
So she took Kevin by ambulance to Wynyard and Allan and I set off for home. It was the worst fog you ever saw in your damned life, we drove that twelve miles and I don't think we got out of second gear. We had the windows down and I was watching the side of the road on my side and would tell him if he was too close to the side.
I'll never forget my first trip to Waratah, the young teenagers were like wild animals. They were peeping around the corners of the buildings at us.
Before I finished telling you about Guilford I must tell you about George Luke he was the gang leader on the line. He put his son on the train at Guilford for Burnie in care of the guard, to see that he got there alright. He had never been out of Waratah, but after all, the boy was only 21 years old. George gave the boy a bottle and asked him to go down to the sea and get him a bottle of sea water and bring it back with him. He arrived back with the bottle half full. George wanted to know why it was only half full. The young fellow wasn't that big of a fool, he said "And have the tide come in and burst the bottle, no way!"
Next I came to Ulverstone to look for a house and had no luck so I got my friend Merv Wright to look out for me. In a week or so I got a letter from him saying a place he had at North Motton was empty, have our furniture at Ulverstone Station on a certain day and he would be there with his truck to pick it up. All went to plan. We loaded on the truck, got to Motton and there we found the other family still in the house so there we were.
There was Bill Purton, his wife and four kids and her brother and the six of us all in a five room house. They had two rooms and we had two and the women had to share the kitchen - and we took poor old Nan Applebee in her chair, but we managed somehow. As far as I can remember, the boys slept in the room with Grandma and I think we lived that way for about twelve months until the house in South Road was built.
There I was back wood cutting for a living again. The kids had a long way to go to school and a very hilly road so the next thing was to get some transport to take them to school. I advertised for a horse and cart and got one answer to my ad, a fellow at Elizabeth Town. Away I go up to have a look. Brother Maurice took me up on his motor bike. I bought the pony and cart. Mr. Radford was the gentleman's name, said, "Don't drive him to North Motton, I'll put him on the train out at Whitemore and send him through." I thought that would be good so away I went off home and left the horse and cart behind. I gave him a couple of days, then I started. I was riding my bike down to Ulverstone every night for the next fortnight expecting to get my pony and cart but no, it never happened.
Back up to Elizabeth Town I go to see what happened to my horse and cart but Mr. Radford, being such a gentleman as he was, had taken my pony out to Mole Creek and turned him out on a farm so I had extra miles to do. I drove the poor little fellow from the other side of Elizabeth Town to Ulverstone where Wright Motel is now. Those days the highway went through the Don up over the big hill and down through Forth. It was a lot further and besides the highway came through Latrobe and out through Spreyton so it was a lot further than it is now. I stayed at Beach House for the night and it didn't cost me anything to stay because Merv and I were good friend and because I worked for him.
Purtons stayed in the house right up till we were about to move. They had some sports at Motton one night such as chopping and sawing. Bill Purton and I won the double handed sawing and I the single handed. When Purtons did move they had a few fowls which I bought from them. The kids had the time of their lives naming those hens, like Dorothy Laymore, Bren Gunn and so on. We also had a little dog that one of the Purtons gave to us. He had distemper very bad and a pot belly from worms.
We moved into the house on the South Road on 7-7-1947. It was heaven. The house had four bedrooms and it was on seventeen acres which ran all the way down to the river and it was all bush. It took a lot of hard work but eventually the land was cleared and we planted fruit trees and a vegie garden in the paddock next to the house.
I went back to North Motton digging spuds, then went to Melbourne for a while, but returned home. I did lots of odd jobs including digging a big hole for a service station. I also went to work for my brother-in-law Cyril Applebee making cement tiles and plaster for walls. I stayed there until 1952.
I got a job on the Burnie Wharf. I became a wharfie and worked at Beauty Point and Devonport.
Sylvia was taken to the Launceston General Hospital with suspected tuberculosis of the knee bone. She was there for several months when the doctors finally decided that she didn’t have tuberculosis and sent her home.
When retirement benefits came around, I had to have my birth certificate. I sent away the details for Herbert Roland Knight and discovered that I had been christened Henry Allan. It was rather a shock.
My family are old enough to remember the rest. I stayed working at the wharf until I retired in 1983. We stayed living in the house that was built for us on South Road until 1972. We then moved to 14 Grove Street in Ulverstone where my Sylvia passed away with a stroke on the 1st of October, 1997.