Interviewee: Roy Baxter, born 1928
Interviewer: Frank Heimans,
for The Hills Shire Council
Date of Interview: 5 Nov, 2008
Transcription: Glenys Murray, Dec 2008
This interview represents the personal recollections, views and opinions of the interviewee
Did your family settle in Castle Hill? How long ago was that, do you think when they first settled?
1925, I think it was. Yes, '25.
And you were born in '28?
Right, so your father was he a Fitter and Turner at that stage, when they moved to Castle Hill?
Wasn't long after not sure of the exact date as long as I can remember that's been his job.
How many kids are in the family?
Three boys, I'm the oldest, there's Mervyn he's five years younger than me and Kevin's ten years younger than me.
Do you think they had a tough life, your parents? They went through a Depression and all that sort of thing?
It was pretty hard through the Depression when Dad got put off at David's and Shepherd's he came home and worked this acre of ground growing carrots and lettuce and stuff. We used to walk around the village trying to sell it. Which was pretty awkward, sometimes you'd be out all day and you'd be lucky to sell half a dozen things.
So the kids were doing that? How much would you get for a lettuce in those days?
About tuppence (two pennies).
Roy Baxter with dog in backyard, Showground Rd Castle Hill opposite Rowallen Avenue 1935
So where was the first house that you lived in?
Showground Road it’s still there today right opposite Rowallen Avenue.
What number in Showground Road?
Tell you the truth I don’t remember. They weren’t numbered when I lived there.
Not in those days would be now. But that’s where it was right opposite Rowallen Avenue.
Can you remember the layout of the house? The rooms take me for a guided tour through there. Once you walked in the front door what would you see?
Hallway at the front, bedroom to the right, dining room to the left the back verandah was closed in to make a second bedroom. Later on they closed the side verandah in to make a third bedroom. Kitchen, laundry and bathroom that was it.
Did you father do a lot of work around the house?
He did. He kept it spotless. The yard and the lawns and everything. He was a fanatic with the hedges. He had privet hedges well trimmed. Buffalo lawn he was a real fanatic. The old push mower of course no rotary mowers in those days.
Make less noise than these things?
Roy Baxter with Joe Higgins holding Mervyn Baxter Showground Rd Castle Hill 1934
So what materials was the house constructed of?
Weatherboard and Baltic floorboards.
Was that typical of the houses of the neighbours and so on?
Most of them around were weatherboard. There was a couple of brick places in Showground Road in those days. I think there was only two cars in the whole road from one end to the other. We used to play cricket on Showground Road you were lucky if you seen a car in two hours.
So what did Castle Hill actually look like when you were a child? Describe where the shops were, post office and all that sort of thing?
I can just remember the old train because I was only very small when they took it up. I can just remember that running along the side of the road. There was Miss Claxson’s grocery general store, across the road there was Grundy’s another general store. Up the other end of the town was Whitling’s shop. It was a bakery at the rear and a grocery at the front part of it and the post office also incorporated in it. There was another little grocer’s shop further up the road which was owned by Snells that was when I was quite young. There wasn’t much more there.
Whitlings 2nd store with horse drawn hearse carriage 1930s
Was that it? Was that Castle Hill?
That was Castle Hill. A few houses up the main street which have all gone of course.
What about the garages and things?
Oh there was one service station, not a service station a little Shell garage. Fibro and galvanised iron building which has been long gone.
Do you know who owned that?
Yes a fellow by the name of Sid Swan.
Did he do repairs as well?
He may have done wouldn’t be very much. There were old bowsers there that you had to pull the handle. I remember the petrol was one and seven pence a gallon.
One shilling seven pence?
Everyone would love to have petrol at that price now?
They would wouldn’t they?
There was a grocer, you said, or a general store?
They were grocery and general store like. There was two of those and two straight out grocers.
Do you know who owned the general store and the grocer?
General store one was Grundy’s and the other one was Claxsons it later became Midgely a fellow by the name of Ernie Midgely married Miss Claxson so it became Midgely's. Then they also built a Shell garage there so it ended up with two garages.
Showground Road Castle Hill 1951
By that stage there must have been more than two cars then?
Yeah in the whole of Castle Hill yes.
So what were the roads like in the early days when you were a child?
There was only two sealed roads. There was Old Northern Road and Showground Road the rest was dirt.
Dirt and gravel and relief workers used to get on the council and crush sandstone with hammers to make the roads. Like the convicts.
I can remember that.
With hammers and an old tip dray. Horse and tip dray.
Were there many horses still?
Those days there was yeah horse and sulkies, drays and horse and carts. That’s mostly what it was.
So would you have hawkers coming around with horses and things or what?
There was yeah there was one crowd, Rawleighs remember them. They had everything. Plenty of swagmen I remember one day this swaggie came in and asked Dad “did he have any work for him”? Dad said “can you dig carrots and wash carrots and bunch them”? He said “yes I can”. He said “well I’ll give you ten shillings for the day and your lunch”. The swaggie thought it was Christmas.
Roy's parents Ivy Ackling and Percy Baxter in bush near Showground Rd Castle Hill 1925
Was that during the Depression?
It was during the Depression and he was well paid ten shillings a day.
Yeah it was generous wage?
So your father was a generous man was he?
Who picked the carrots and the vegetables? Was it the children?
My two brothers were too young. I did help a lot Dad mainly and my mother also run some chooks up the back. That was about it. Everyone was doing it tough, neighbours helped one another out. One family he was a plumber and he broke his leg, they held a benefit dance for him to get him out of trouble. That’s what it was like.
So what were your neighbours like? Tell me a bit more about them? Who were they do you remember their names and where they were?
On the bottom side of us there was people by the name of Sneesby and on the top side people by the name of Tuckwell was a popular name in the village. Other people around the town was Kentwells there was quite a few of those. And opposite people by the name of Runge he was a First World War chappie. He was gassed in the war, very sick man he didn’t last long after he came back from the war. When I say a long time for about twelve years I’d say.
You were about eleven when the war actually started what do you remember about the war years?
I remember Mr Sneesby next door. He had a radio, we couldn’t afford a radio, didn’t even have the electricity. He used to lift the window up when the news was on and we’d stand in the backyard and listen to the news. That’s how we found out what was going on.
Ackling family Church St Castle Hill 1929
You didn’t subscribe to a newspaper, the Herald or anything like that?
Couldn’t afford it. Couldn’t even afford an ice chest. My Dad cut a hole in the dining room floor and made a pit underneath and a trapdoor. Used to put water in that and put the goods down in that to keep them cool. In a meat safe under a tree outside.
Was that a Coolgardie safe?
Was that because you didn’t have an ice chest?
That’s right couldn’t afford an ice chest. But he came from the bush as I say and he knew how to do these things. It was quite cool there going under the house. With this brick pit with water in it.
Was it effective?
It was yeah. It was like that right up 'til we left the place.
When did you leave the place?
When I was eleven years of age (circa 1940). We moved to Church Street then I was there from when I was eleven till I was twenty three and I got married.
Baxter family home 37 Church St Castle Hill built early 1940s
Was there a butcher at Castle Hill in those days?
There was a butcher his name was Dave Morris, yes I forgot about him Dave Morris. He was there for years. The Morebridges (actually Charlie and Tony Moriarty) came later on.
So the meat was pretty good in those days?
It was. If we could get any newspapers we would take them up and sell it to him. Because he’d wrap the meat up in newspaper that’s how it was in those days. So we’d get a few pence to spend.
What about a bank? Was there a bank at Castle Hill?
There was an old bank. It was the National Bank it was a weatherboard building. I forgot about that. That would have been almost the oldest building in the place. On the corner of Castle Street where it is today, not the same bank though.
What about doctors and medical facilities were there any?
There was a Doctor Davis and a Doctor Geeves but they weren’t actually here. They were based at Pennant Hills they’d come over once or twice a week. They had rooms there.
Did you have any incidents with the doctors at all anything happen to you?
My doctor was Doctor Geeves he took my tonsils out when I was seven. I remember one day at school an immunisation going on. He was there and Doctor Davis was there and I’d never been to Doctor Davis I didn’t want to let him touch me. I remember that I said “ I want Doctor Geeves”.
Train at Castle Hill Station and Goods Yard 1923 now Castle Hill Park
Now what was the state of transport at Castle Hill at that time? What sort of buses or trains were running.
Well there was an old train. Pansy they named the train. It was taken up in 1932. I was only four that’s right when it stopped. I can still remember it and then after that the buses started and there’s still buses today.
Where were the stops and the train stations?
Train stations the first one I remember was Model Farms, next one was Junction Road and the next one was where The Hill’s Bowling Club is today. It used to cut through there diagonally across the road and that was a good’s yard as well. It would leave there and come diagonally across the Old Northern Road all the way to Rogan’s Hill. The next station from Baulkham Hills was Cross Street and the one after that was Excelsior Avenue, Parsonage Lane and Castle Hill.
Did you ever take the train as a child?
You’ve been on it? Was it a steam train?
Yeah before that there was a steam tram but I don’t remember that. (The tram originally ran from Parramatta to Baulkham Hills in 1902; was extended to Castle Hill in 1910; converted to a train in 1923, and closed in 1932)
Why do you think that they took it away?
Well Jack Lang the politician was responsible for it. The reason I don’t really know but originally I think there was a packing shed at Rogan’s Hill. They used to put the fruit on there. I think that sort of died out. There was a few trucks started to come around. That was the excuse for …… and it was dangerous crossing the road all the time.
Castle Hill Dural Galston International bus driven by Ern Black 1919 with Waddell and Wrench families 1919
Was there a bit of an outcry when the line stopped? People couldn’t go to town?
They did not like it.
So it was one of the nails in the coffin of Jack Lang was it?
I’d say so.
So then it was all road transport? So tell me about the bus transport who ran the first bus company in the place?
Well near as I can remember there was MacIntosh and Alf Richards they ran it until about 1963 that’s about it.
So Richards and MacIntosh were in business together were they? What was their company called?
Parramatta Bus Company.
They ran from Parramatta to Castle Hill?
Rogan’s Hill and out to Rouse Hill and Lake Parramatta, later on down to the Masonic School that was it.
But not Castle Hill itself?
Oh yeah, through Castle Hill to Rogan’s Hill.
Did you take that bus often?
Yeah we did.
How was that company run do you think?
I think for the times it was run pretty well. Virtually an hour service it was pretty good really.
Parramatta Bus Company bus at Castle Hill shops Old Northern Rd 1948
Every hour? Each direction?
Yeah, Yeah I don’t know about when it first started. I suppose from when I was about twelve it would be every hour. I ended up being a conductor on it myself.
Now how did that happen?
Well they were looking for relief conductors for the holiday period so I applied and got the job. I was quite happy with it actually but when the holidays were over that was the end of the job.
Were they school holidays you’re talking about?
No the annual holidays for the drivers and the conductors. The bus still had to run so they had to have casual labour for it.
So how old were you when you actually took that job on?
Tell me what was your first job after leaving school?
Well when I first left school I worked in Snell’s grocer shop at fourteen. They made me go back to school. When I left at fifteen I worked at a garage. I was to be an apprentice motor mechanic. After about nine months I had a bit of a row with the boss and I finished up there. Virtually from then on I more or less worked for myself except when I worked on the bus as a conductor,
Now the service station you worked at was that Park View service station?
You were already a mechanic?
Oh no. I started there I was a grease monkey, I served the petrol and I used to work with the mechanics. Picked it up that way.
So who taught you about motor mechanics?
That’s right in between I worked for a fellow named John Britliff I learnt quite a lot from him. But other than that I picked it all up myself.
Roy Baxter's White truck 'Mighty Mouse' 1951
Now you started your own company in the carrying trade? Now how did you get into that?
When I left the bus company. I had to leave because I was only relieving and the other conductors came back so I wasn’t needed. So I used to deal a bit in old cars and trucks and things. I bought this truck and I done it all up and I was going to sell it. I couldn’t sell it so I started carrying with it. It all started from there and I’ve worked for myself ever since.
What did you carry? What sort of goods?
Started off I was carting logs from Colo to the CSR sugar refinery at Pyrmont. I was delivering produce, pipes for the brickyard (at Merrylands). Whatever I could get. I traded it (the truck) on an ex army international and started carting cement then. From Kandos to Sydney and it just went on from there. Petrol all over NSW for the Shell Company. I bought a carrying business market running. Out at Galston, Arcadia, Dural to Sydney and the Hill’s district.
What was it like running a small truck business in those days? We’re talking after the war are we?
It was very hard work. When the summer fruit was on you hardly went to bed. I remember being out of bed from Sunday afternoon - of course I had a good sleep Saturday night, and I wouldn’t get back into bed until Friday night from Sunday afternoon.
Did you have to load the truck as well?
Yes, and unload it.
So there was a fair bit of heavy work involved in all of that?
Well you’d cart fruit to the market all night then you’d cart produce back to the farms during the day. By the time you finished that it was time to load up again to go back to the market.
You said you were carrying cement bags was it? They’re pretty heavy, how did you manage with those?
Oh I got there, couldn’t do it now, too old now.
Did you have any competition in the carrying trade?
Oh yes quite a lot.
Shore family beside their truck outside the packing shed
So who was your competitor?
Jim Shore at Glenorie, people by the name of Hitchcock, Peter Boyton from Kenthurst. Hughie Moulds from Dural and J E Allen, Johnny Allen from Dural. A lot of competition.
Were you all making a living out of it?
We all struggled but we got there. As soon as I got out of it the rates went up. It was pretty good then. While I was there it wasn’t so good.
Was there a standard rate that they paid you for carrying anything?
Ninepence a bushel case it was to Sydney markets from all round the district and it went up to a shilling which made a lot of difference. I was out of it by then.
You did it the hard way? You said the road were pretty gravelly. What happened when it rained and you had a hill to climb would you have problems?
I’ve been bogged in the middle of the road with a full load of fruit before today. Had to unload it all get the truck out and load it up again. It wasn’t easy.
Did it rain frequently or was it wetter than it is today?
At one stage in 1950 it rained for three months - on and off for three months. You sort of got used to it in the finish and took no notice of it.
ANZAC Memorial Hall in southern end of Castle Hill Park c1960
Were you still single when you were doing the truck business?
I was yes.
So tell me how you met your wife Iris?
I met her at the Castle Hill dance one Saturday night. I borrowed my mate’s motorbike to take her home.
Was she impressed?
She thought it was great but her father didn’t like it. After that I used to take her out in the truck.
How old was she when you met her?
I’d say about nineteen.
You met her at a dance did you?
Yes Castle Hill dance, yes.
Was it often they had those dances or not?
Every Saturday night in the Anzac Hall it was. Where the station used to be, Anzac Hall alternate Saturday nights it was always there at Castle Hill. But alternate nights it would be out at Dural, Kenthurst, Glenorie and Arcadia. So we used to do the rounds.
Do you remember the dances that you danced? What sort of dances were they?
Pride of Erin I was never very good at the Canadian Quickstep, Canadian three step. Barn dance of course. Waltz that’s about all I could do. Oh La Bomba.
Bit sensational in those days was it?
Was that the main entertainment for the people of Castle Hill, dancing?
Other than the picture show that came in later on.
Castle Hill Theatre 1950s
So when did that come, the picture show?
Well it started in the Anzac Hall on a Saturday afternoon and then later on they built the picture show just down the road in the middle of the town. I’m not sure of the year it was built. People by the name of Pegler had it (Actually opened 23rd April 1938).
Now you were doing the truck business, how long did you actually do the trucking?
When I got married I sold the carrying run, 1951 I got married, went to work at Howard Autos because my wife wanted me to have an ordinary job. That lasted three months I couldn’t stand it. That wouldn’t work I couldn’t stand it just standing around looking at the clock all day not doing anything. So I went and bought another truck and started carting to Melbourne. I went for about eleven months and I got out of work. I couldn’t get a job, after six weeks with no job I was starting to get desperate. The chap that had the local hire cars up here sent his wife down to ask me if I wanted to buy the hire cars. I said “I’d like to but all I’ve got is a truck I’ve got no money”. She said “come up and see my husband”. He said “sell your truck and you can pay me off”. That’s how I started the hire cars. I had them for twelve years. Two years before I sold them I bought the Glenorie bus run out there 1961, September '61.
You bought the bus service?
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