Violet Nutt OAM

Hills Shire Senior Citizen
of the Year 2009

Interviewee: Violet Nutt, born 1936

Interviewer: Frank Heimans,
            for The Hills Shire Council

Date of Interview: 16 April 2009

Transcription: Glenys Murray, April 2009


Could you tell me to start with your full name and when and where you were born?

My name is Violet Nutt and I was born at Ulmarra on the Clarence River on the 30/05/1936.

Now what was your maiden name Vi?

Bowling like the bowling green.

Now you grew up on a dairy farm tell me a bit about that?

I was on the dairy farm and I used to get up and help milk the cows and feed pigs and poddy calves. Then ride our bikes two miles to school. Then come home and help in the afternoons.

That was everyday?


Vi Nutt nee Bowling as an infant 1937

Sundays too?

Yes cows donít stop on Sunday.

How many cows did your parents have?

Round about up to seventy.

So was that a medium size or a large dairy farm?

Medium size, yes.

Does dairy farming run in the family?

Yeah my brothers are still in it. The great grandfathers that came out in 1856 and my brother is still on the property up there where they started.

So the ancestors that came out in 1856 were they dairy farmers?


Where did they come from?

Scotland, from Aberdeen.

They know about dairy farming up there? Tell me a bit about your family how many children were there?

There was five of us. Iíve got two brothers and two sisters.

Vi Nutt back row on right with her siblings c.1987

You were what number in the family?

The second one, my brother is older than me then my younger brother and then Iíve got two younger sisters.

So how would you describe your family at that time? Were they middle class working people?

Middle class working people working hard to make ends meet.

Now you were born in 1936 so you canít remember the Depression but do you know if your family suffered through the Depression?

No Iím not sure about that. I can remember us having ration tickets for the wartime. We had to go with ration things to get your clothes and things like that. I can remember that but I donít know about the other.

What other things do you remember about the Second World War?

At school they had trenches out in the playground you had to run out there if the alarms went off to go into the trenches. Another thing I can remember is Yamba that is at the head of the Clarence River and they thought the Japanese might land down there. So they got all the boats they could find and brought them up and put them on the dry land just down the bottom of our school.

Did you help dig the trenches at the school?

No didnít help dig the trenches.

Civilians digging trenches in wartime

Were people scared during those years do you think about invasion?

I suppose they were. I remember that we used to have black outs on your windows so that at night time there was no light to go out. If Dad went out in his car he had to have the black out on the lights on his car as well.

Now did you make your own butter as well on the farm?

Yes we did especially in the ration time because you were allowed a certain amount.

So we used to make our butter and kill our own meat. We had chooks so we didnít have to go and buy a lot of stuff.

How many dairy farms would there have been in the area at that time?

There was probably up to nearly forty around there.

You mean just around Ulmarra. Thereís a lot of other places further out but where we were there was around about forty. Then they were up Copmanhurst way and that way so there would have been quite a few.

Itís a tough life isnít it dairy farming? What time did your father start milking the cows?

We used to get up at four oíclock in the morning and start to milk. They used to come around and collect the cream and you had to be ready for the truck. So you had to be finished and the separating done by seven oíclock, then in the afternoon youíd start at three oíclock or half past three. Then youíd be inside to listen to Dad and Dave at half past six.

On the radio?

Thatís right.

Cows on Bowling family dairy farm c.1940

What other shows do you recall?

Hagenís Circus, Mrs Hobbs.

What was your favourite?

Dad and Dave and Mrs Hobbs were really good.

Was that the ABC who used to broadcast those?

Yeah I think it was. Then there was Blue Hills at lunchtime but you very rarely got to listen to that. Not unless you had your lunch at that time.

Was that the only form of entertainment around the place?

Well as we got older we used to go dancing. Used to dance on a Friday or a Saturday night, go to Grafton. The bus used to pick us up at seven oíclock and take you to Grafton which was sixteen miles away. Go to the dance or to the movies and the bus would leave Grafton at midnight and bring you back again.

A special bus for the dances?

Yeah a special one for Saturday night.

Is that where the girls used to meet the boys at the dances?

Yes at the dances.

Bowling family home c.1940

What kind of dances were you doing?

Well not ballroom just old time dancing thatís all come back into vogue now.

You mean the Pride of Erin that sort of thing?

Yeah all those ones. Then thereíd be balls as well that youíd go to. We used to have a good time.

Tell me a bit about your education what school did you first go to?

We went to Tucabia School which is a little school just across the river from where we lived. I went to school there until sixth class. We only had one teacher. He used to teach from first class right up. After he got fifty six students he got an assistant teacher. I think I was in fifth class when they got an assistant teacher. After sixth class I didnít go to high school because there was no bus to take us to high school which was in Grafton. So you did correspondence papers and I left when I was fifteen. The buses just started then to go to high school. When I left school I went to TAFE and did dressmaking and millinery.

You were fifteen years old were you?

Yeah when I left school.

Was that normal for the time?

In the country at that time it was. They left at fifteen and we were still helping on the farm as well.

Do you recall any girls that might have gone higher than that and finished high school?

Oh yes, some of them, my sisters all went to high school. The two sisters, the three eldest ones didnít go because thatís when there was no transport. My two brothers and my self didnít go to high school. My sisters went. Daphne the middle sister ended up as a TAFE teacher and my sister got a job in the butter factory as a secretary when she finished school.

Vi horse riding c.1952

Do you know any girls that might have gone to university?

No but a couple of boys did. Couple of young boys went to university and one of the boys of Firthís ended up as a professor down at Monash University in Melbourne.

What were the expectations for girls at that time? What did your parents expect?

Just to do whatever you could do. I wasnít a very good scholar at school because I canít spell. I still canít spell. If I could have I would have gone and been a nurse I think. Thatís what I probably would have done. But Iím quite happy with what Iíve done.

You wanted to be a nurse when you were younger?

Yeah probably.

What sort of leisure activities did you have say as a young woman and a teenager? What was there around the farm to do?

Horse riding, used to go horse riding a lot. As we got older we learnt to drive the car. We used to go to the beach down at Woolli because itís not very far away. They used to have picnics at the beach so we used to do that.

What about sports?

I used to run when I was at school. I ended up the North Coast champion when I was at school for running. Used to have a bit of fun.

Vi was North Coast Champion in the school sports competition c.1951

Did you play any tennis or any other sport?

Played tennis, yeah I forgot about that. Used to play tennis.

What did you do with the knowledge that you gained with your dressmaking course that you did at TAFE?

I used to sew a lot when I was younger. I sewed a lot of clothes for different people, for my sisters, just enjoyed sewing.

Do you still sew now?

Yes I still do make some babies clothes and things like that. When I first came to Sydney I used to go and have a look in the shops and then come home and sew the dresses.

So how did you come to live in Sydney?

Well when I was twenty two there were no jobs in Grafton. I was working in a café up there and I used to ride my bike six miles in and out every day to work. Then we decided that weíd come to Sydney and see if we could work somewhere. So my girlfriend and I came down when I was twenty two.

How did your parents feel about that?

They werenít happy at first but I used to go home every time we had holidays so that was all right.

Did you find a job in Sydney easily?

I ended up sewing in the city. We used to sew tea towels and table cloths for David Jones big factory in Chinatown. I was there for three months and they got slack. So we were put off. Then I got a job at Cottees at Leichhardt where they make all the jams and peanut butter and cordials.

Brian Nutt and Vi Bowling before marriage c.1960

What was that particular job?

I ended up as the head person on the cordial section. We used to do all sorts of jobs. Just packing the jams and filling the jars with cordial and all that sort of thing.

I remember all the passionfruit cordial and all that?

Yes passionfruit.

Passiona it was called?

Yes that was the nicest, Passiona.

Itís gone isnít it?

I donít know whether they still do it because General Foods bought them out. Then they moved out there near Liverpool. So I donít know if they still make it or not.

Now you were single during all this time?

Yeah when I first came to Sydney at twenty two and then I used to go to Petersham Town Hall to the dances. I lived in Haberfield and I met my husband up at Petersham Town Hall at a dance.

So what was his name?

Vi on the boat pror to depature for New Zealand c1960

George Brian Nutt his name was. I called him Brian I didnít like the George. I met him there and I think I was going with him for probably twelve months. I wanted to go to New Zealand for a holiday because I always wanted to go over there. I went over there for just on nine months I think I was over in New Zealand. Then came back and my sister got married.

How did you get married? When was that?

My sister got married in 1961 and I came back and then I got married in 1962.

So Brian was pretty persistent was he?

Yes he was. Heíd made up his mind before Iíd made mine up.

So how did you come to live in North Rocks when was that?

We lived in Haberfield until 1965 we bought the block of land here at North Rocks. We were paying it off so in 1968 we built our house and moved up here.

Marriage of Brian Nutt and Vi Bowling 1962

So it took three years to start building your house?

Yes before we built. In those times it was a lot of money to save up.

Thatís right in those days you had to save it first?

Yes thatís right.

Not go to the bank to get a big loan?

Well we went to get a loan and they said no. You had to have collateral before you could get the loan. You had to have so much money or something to back up. You couldnít just go and get it like they do today.

They were a bit more prudent in those days?

Yes thatís right.

The house was built from plans was it?

Yes a Neeta home. Itís a Neeta home and they built it in about three months.

And itís still the same house that weíre in now today?

Yes itís still the same one. We moved in just before Christmas 1968.

Vi's home in North Rocks after completion in 1968

So when did you have your children?

We adopted two children because we couldnít have any children. So in 1971 we got a son, thatís Steven(?) and in 1973 we got Katrina.

What are they doing today?

Steven was working fixing the bull dozers up with Komatsu the big earth moving equipment. Now heís in head office and heís thirty eight now. Katrina is overseas. Sheís working in Ireland sheís in the hospitality industry.

What did your husband do for a living?

He was a maintenance fitter with Rheem the hot water service. Well thatís where he ended up working. In 1955 he came out from England his Mum and sister were out here. He was in the air force. Then he got out of the air force and came out to be with his Mum and sister.

Was he one of what they called the ten pound Poms?

Yes he was a ten pound Pom.

Did you ever make fun of him about that?

Yeah we used often laugh about that he was a ten pound Pom.

Katrina and Steven Nutt with Santa 1973

How long did he work for Rheem?

He was working for Lever Rexona down in Balmain for quite a few years but he was at Rheem for about five years Iíd say. Then he got sick.

What happened?

He had a lot of tests and they came up with calcium deposits in the brain which they called Fahrís Syndrome. It was affecting him a bit like Parkinsonís disease. He used to take turns and that sort of thing. He finished work in 1981 I think it was and he was at home for quite a few years. Then I couldnít have him at home it was too much so he went into hospital and he was in hospital for seven years before he died. It affected him a bit like Parkinsonís disease.

Do you know how he contracted that disease?

No they donít know. He was with the British Air Force and he was at Woomera Rocket Range out here. Letting off the rockets that the British let off and they only had to turn their back to that. They canít prove that there was anything from that.

Was he also connected with the atomic bomb tests?

Yes some of those tests they were doing.

They were at Maralinga?

No he wasnít at Maralinga he was at Woomera.

Brian, Katrina, Vi, and Steven Nutt 1980s

Now tell me a little bit about your involvement with the Soccer Club at North Rocks? I believe itís been a long one?

Thirty three years or something like that. We started there when Steven was little and he decided to play Soccer. We got involved with that and when my husband got sick I got more involved in it because you had company. I was the manager of the soccer team for a while. My daughter played too for a while up there. Then I got onto the committee and ran the canteen and helped grade the kids.

What got you interested in the Soccer movement?

I like watching it on TV so when it got here they wanted someone to help so we went and just did it.

Now you said you managed the canteen, you worked on the canteen?

Thatís voluntary in the canteen of a Saturday.

It was all voluntary work was it? Did you raise any funds for the club?

Yes we raised a lot of funds for the canteen every year. We probably raise sometimes around about eight thousand (dollars) in the year or more.

So how long has your involvement been with the soccer club? How many years?

Thirty five years I think.

North Rocks Soccer Club Room at North Rocks Park 2009

Thirty five years, thatís a real dedication isnít it? What positions have you had with the club?

Been in it as social coordinator and ladies delegate and vice president. Still vice president.

So when you used to go to committee meetings for the club what sorts of issues were discussed at those meetings?

Different things that come through. Referees and then you get things that come through from the association that youíve got to follow up. Sometimes you get some letters in. Some of the parents are not happy with something so youíve got to follow that up and sort it out.

Now I believe that you do a lot of fund raising using trivia nights. What are they about?

Weíve done the trivia nights and weíve raised five thousand dollars on a night for the soccer club. They have a panel that asks all the questions. Some of them are very hard too. It keeps your fees down so you donít have to charge so much for the fees if you raise money.

Do you have barbeques as well?

Yes we do barbeques on Saturdays when the soccerís on. Then when we have a big gala day we have barbeques as well.

Theyíre all fund raising activities as well?

Yeah all fund raising.

Now registration days what sorts of things happen on registration day?

They all have to come up and sign up for registration day and have their photographs taken. They buy socks and shorts because we donít supply that. We just supply the shirt.

BBQ and picnic area at North Rocks Park 2009

So how often do the teams play?

They play every Saturday usually start the first week in April and finish the last week in August. The grand final is the last Saturday in August.

How many teams are we talking about here?

Weíve got fifty seven this year. In the seventies when there was a lot of people in North Rocks, young people. There was sixty one sides we had.

Youíve still got fifty seven sides? So thatís individual teams of kids?

They go from under sixes to over thirty fives.

Thatís a lot of teams to manage?

It is a lot of teams.

How do you manage that?

Oh they get there. Every team has a coach and manager. Then they have to send all their results back. Then you have a competition person that sends all those results into the Granville Association.

Who provides the playing fields? Is it the Council?

Yeah the Baulkham Hills Council. Weíve got two at North Rocks. One at Murray Farm oval and Hazel Ryan just down the road. We pay so much for the use of the grounds to Council.

Soccer Fields 1 and 2 at North Rocks Park 2009

So how many other clubs do your fifty six or fifty seven teams play against?

Well thereís thirty clubs within the association so you play against most of those.

What does the association consist of?

Thatís the Granville Association and theyíve got thirty clubs. So youíve got Baulkham Hills, North Rocks and then youíve got Castle Hill and Kellyville and Rouse Hill is in it now. Then you go the other way thereís Holroyd and Granville and Guildford and a few others.

Now the coaches for those teams are they also volunteers?

Yes they all are. All are volunteers the coaches nobody gets paid.

You do this every Saturday during the season?

Yes, so this Saturday Iíve got to start at half past eight and open the canteen.

So what has soccer meant for your life?

Itís just kept me sane I think. Cause when my husband was sick I probably would haveÖ it was hard. When youíve got soccer youíve got a lot of friends you can talk to. Youíve got all the kids.

Now youíre a life member of the North Rocks Soccer Club how do you feel about that?

Thatís all right I want to leave sometimes and they tell me you canít. You canít because youíre a life member they say. There are not many life members that they present to different people so itís very privileged to be a life member.

How many hours a week do you spend on soccer?

We meet on a Monday night twice a month we have our meetings. Then the other time is Saturdays when the games are on.

Do you enjoy watching the games?

Yeah I do especially some of the boys they say to me ďyouíve got to come and watchĒ. This is teenagers that youíve known from when they were little. The Psaltis boys always say Iíve got to come and watch their game.

Vi Nutt with a North Rocks Soccer Club team 2008

Have you found any star soccer players amongst them?

Thereís been quite a few. Weíve had Brendan (?) used to be with North Rocks and he played quite top soccer. A few other boys have gone to play in State sides.

Now youíre also a 355 committee member what does the 355 stand for and what does it involve?

Itís to do with the Council. The 355 is a committee from Council. We have a look around all the parks and the different places and you can ring Council if thereís graffiti around. To come and clean the graffiti or if thereís things want doing around. We meet every three months and just report everything to Council. It saves them having to go out and look at everything.

Thatís on a volunteer basis as well is it? So a community service?


What sort of involvement have you had with the Orange Blossom Festival Committee?

I used to be on the Orange Blossom Committee years ago. Not on it any more because theyíve got a different way of doing it now. I used to help out and we used to have Orange Blossom things at North Rocks. We donít have any over there now.

Orange Blossom Festival Parade North Rocks 1985

Why not?

I donít know itís just a lot of people didnít want to get involved.

Youíve also had something to do with The Hills Shire Council North Rocks Park and John Wearn and Murray Farm committees?

Thatís the 355 committee.

Thatís also 355?

That's the one that looks after all those parks.

It seems that wherever thereís a committee youíve been on it? Youíre also a member of the Australia Day Committee tell me about that?

Yes they organise an Australia Day function over at the Council. Our Rotary club is in that as well has the flag raising at North Rocks. Then we have a breakfast up there. We just organise the things for next year. The committees working on it already for next Australia Day they have a big function over at the Council Chambers. It starts at three oíclock and finishes at nine. We help organise that.

Vi Nutt at local community Australia Day BBQ breakfast in North Rocks

Thatís on Australia Day itself?


Youíve been involved with the North Rocks Rotary Club, in what capacity?

I was president there one year and Iím the community service on the committee. We run a Fun Day at North Rocks Park. Usually in September or October we raise money for different things. Sometimes we do the shelter boxes. When thereís a disaster they bring in this. Its twelve hundred dollars for one of those and I think weíve managed to send about six of them. They go if thereís a disaster and thereís enough in one of those boxes for twelve people. Thereís cooking utensils, and thereís blankets and a tent all in that. I think some of them went down to Victoria for the bushfires in Australia as well as overseas.

These are kits to help people survive?

Yes it is.

Itís amazing what youíve done? Now youíve raised money for the Rotary Wing at the Westmead Hospital?

We did that a few years ago when they were building the Westmead Childrenís Hospital. Our club raised five thousand dollars for it.

Do you raise any money by knitting any scarves and doing that sort of thing?

No I raise money for myself doing that. I go down to Ronald McDonald House and the little kids down there that have got cancer and theyíve lost all their hair. I usually give them a scarf or I give them a beanie. Knit them a little beanie that looks like a gumnut flower off the trees. See them all running around down there with all their little beanies on, then someone else wants one and youíve got to knit another one.

Now you also visit schools in the area, what do you do there?

With the Rotary Club we got a competition going now. Youíve got to write a story about ďMy Mum, my friendĒ. We pick two winners from each North Rocks Public School and Christ the King. I used to in there sometimes to just talk to the kids every now and then.

Vi Nutt on the North Rocks Santa run c.2008 that began about ten years earlier

So what do you do with any spare time that you might have?

Sit down and knit.

You also look after a priest donít you?

I work four days a week round at Christ the King, Father Burton I do all his washing and cooking.

Is he an elderly priest?

Yes heís 86 now but heís still working.

You cook for him as well?

Yeah I cook for him he doesnít know how to cook.

Apart from all the other things that you do youíre also a part of Wesley Missions Drug Counselling Team?

I was doing that but Iím not doing that any more. I was doing that for about ten years. I used to go out on the street van on a Friday and Saturday night talk to the kids that were smoking and drinking in the parks. But it got that we werenít finding any so the van has gone somewhere else now.

Well maybe youíve overcome that problem in the area?

Yes well could do but whether theyíve gone underground thatís another thing.

You never know do you?

You never know with kids.

Vi Nutt accepting her Heroes Award from Wayne Merton State MP for Baulkham Hills

So what were you doing with those kids an education campaign?

We were talking to them we had pamphlets on how bad the different drugs and marijuana was to them. If they needed counselling we had other counsellors that they go to. Weíve had kids come back and say ďthanks for your helpĒ. Because if it wasnít for the van theyíd either be dead or in gaol they said. Theyíve come back and told us that when they left school they had all got apprenticeships. They didnít smoke marijuana any more they just had a drink. Because if they did that they couldnít go to work stoned and theyíd lose their job.

Do you still work with other organisations like the Salvation Army?

No I havenít done anything with them lately. I used to a long time ago but not anymore.

Now youíre also a volunteer for local schools, what work do you engage in there?

I used to help them when the kids were little in the canteens. Just go up and do things. Help out in the canteen when the kids were little. So I havenít been doing that lately.

What sort of involvement do you have with the North Rocks Youth Club?

Thatís up at the soccer club we used to have a youth club up there. We used to open it on a Friday night. The kids used to come up and play table tennis and we had a pool table for them. That was way back in the seventies because thatís when we had a lot of young ones. Now they seem to have a lot of other things that they do. We just run bingo for the kids when theyíre at soccer. We run bingo a couple of nights for them now.

Mayor Larry Bolitho left and Vi Nutt centre at The Hills Shire Council's Australia Day Awards 2009

Now itís no wonder that you were made a Senior Citizen of the Year for 2009. Vi, how do you feel about having received that?

I was very proud to get that, very surprised. I took my son over because I said to him ďwould you like to come to a function at CouncilĒ? He really got a surprise as well. It was very good.

So youíre proud of it?


Does it involve you in any activities?

When the Senior Citizen Week was coming up they got me to go over and get some photos taken. We went to different places in Heritage Week. We went to the gym at Castle Hill and got on a bike with the Deputy Mayor and they put it in the paper for Senior Citizens Week coming up.

Vi, youíre now in your seventies when do you think youíll retire?

I donít know just keep going as long as I can I think.

Itís a bit hard to shake it off is it?

Thatís right I tell my kids Iím going to be around till Iím 86 so I could go up 'til then perhaps.

Vi's grandchildren Abbey and Zachary 2008

Well is there anything else that you want to mention in the interview?

No I donít think so. I think youíve covered just about everything havenít you. Only that Iím at the show this week, The Royal Easter Show.

What are you doing there?

Volunteering out there Iím in the pigs and goat section. A lot of people come along and theyíre lost. Theyíve got a map but they donít know where they are. They come and ask you where you pat the animals and all that sort of thing. So you tell them and have a bit of fun.

Has the Royal Easter Show changed much over the years do you think?

Yes I think it has. A lot of people donít think itís as good out at Homebush as it was at Moore Park. I think itís more spread out and itís very good. The district exhibits with the fruit and everything. They put a lot of work into that.

Whatís The Hills Shire Council attitude on community service are they very supportive of it?

Yes they are because they always say that they wouldnít be able to do the thingsÖ with all their volunteers. I reckon itís only Council that has so many volunteers. Some of the others do but donít have as many as Baulkham Hills do.

So why do think that is?

I donít know itís probably just the people that want to do things.

How have you seen the Shire change over the years?

Itís had a lot of changes.

What were they mainly?

Itís got bigger.


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