Baulkham Hills - Elizabeth Porter
Interviewee: Elizabeth Porter, born 1930
Interviewer: Frank Heimans,
for Baulkham Hills Shire Council
Date of Interview: 3 July 2006
Transcription: Catherine Sapir, Nov 2006
This interview represents the personal recollections, views and opinions of the interviewee
Now you arrived here in Baulkham Hills in 1956 or 57 and you were looking for a house. Was Aubrey (husband) actually living in the house before you married him or were you actually looking for a house then?
No he was already living at 'Mayfield' (at Baulkham Hills) with his mum and dad and we moved in together with them until such time as we found what we really wanted, which was a good idea. When we saw the machinery coming onto the land, it was the beginning of the new estate. It was to be called Yattenden Estate and Charles Street, where we lived, was the first street that was really built. We could have been about, we’ve often thought the very first house on this street, but the very first one would have really been the spec home which is closer to Windsor Road, which everybody looked at and so did we. There was another house which was a little bit on the other side of the road which was closer to Arthur Street. You could not go through from Charles Street to Arthur Street, it was a dead end and they would have had to have got their water, electricity and gas from Arthur Street because it was not at that point in Charles Street.
Aub took me up as soon as he saw it and said this is where I think we should be and right on top of the hill looking out towards Parramatta and when you looked out that way at all the empty blocks of land and the grassy paddocks and the trees you could look for miles and it was very much the same. Not these days, it is all built in. Anyway he found the Estate Agent at Castle Hill, which was Coates and Son and went up and organised himself to buy some land. He liked the block next to him on the left hand side and he liked the block behind him and he thought that would be nice to have an extra block but in those days you didn’t have that kind of money to extend it out.
We paid 700 pounds for the block of land which in comparison today could be anything up to $40,000. It’s amazing, but you could have bought lots of blocks of land for that price had you had the money.
How big was the land you bought?
I can’t exactly tell you what the size is. It’s a very big block of land. Big enough for a house, big enough for something else at the back. We had fruit trees straight away, we had citrus trees put in straight away. He was a keen gardner and he was always up here doing something to the property.
The history of Baulkham Hills, the ancient history, is rather interesting too. Have you done any research on that?
I have been researching for some time. I belong to The Hills District Historical Society and I find that extremely interesting and it’s good to be part of something that you keep going because we’re losing history left, right and centre particularly with the way buildings are going today and something that’s disposed of perhaps when it shouldn’t be disposed of. It is very historical.
This land that we’re on was a grant from the Governments of the time and it goes back to 1796 to a fellow called John Pye. Now John Pye was an Englishman, he was also a highway robber in England and that’s how he got to Australia but he wasn’t all bad and he did so well, he married and did so well. He was given a grant. Now the Governors of the time were Governor Hunter, Governor King and Governor Macquarie and they were so thrilled with what he did with the land that they kept giving him more and more. So the land that we’re on which goes down as far as Junction Road and out down past the 'Bull & Bush' hotel and back again into Connie Avenue and towards Toongabbie was all John Pye’s land. He utilised it for sheep farming and mostly fruit trees. We were great orchard country. They tried wheat but wheat didn’t go in this area.
Best's Thornbury Lodge, Seven Hills Rd, in 1980
Yes, it’s fascinating to look back and see this.
Now John Pye had quite a big family and if you read the history of the family, a very good family. Very exceptional in what they did. John Pye also started to build another home for himself which was up on Seven Hills Road but he passed away before all that happened and it was taken over by his neighbour who was George Best and George Best was on the Masonic School Ground. If you’ve heard of the Masonic Schools that is quite an interesting history. But also, the one point that really amazes people when they hear of the Yattenden Estate was that there was a racecourse on it and that racecourse today is the Yattenden Oval where we play football and cricket and all the rest. But there was actually a racecourse. They said a six and a half furlong course but a friend of mine says that was awfully big for those days and it had a straight that went up towards the corner of Windsor Road and Seven Hills Road. There was also a Horse and Jockey Hotel about the place. All sorts of inns about the place at the time and it’s just exciting when you look back and you know this.
So you are living in a very historic place here?
Yes, very much so.
Do you think your land might have been the original racecourse?
No, the racecourse itself was down on the actual oval where the oval is today and that’s just off Windsor Road down to left angled towards us.
Very interesting, thanks for that history, it’s very good to know. So what interests you about the Baulkham Hills area or rather what interested you when you first arrived here in 1957?
I think the open spaces. See I came from more like a city area which was my city area was very quick to the Sydney 30 minutes away from the Sydney city itself and I spent all my young life in there. We had the train, you had the bus, it was easy to get anywhere. It was different out in Baulkham Hills. You hardly had any transport. You had a bus to Parramatta and nowhere else. You had to get a train if you wanted to go to the city or you used your motor car. But driving in those days was easy, not like it is today. It was not a hassle. You could go, and people did, they came from anywhere just to go for a country drive. You could go along the road and you could buy fruit along the road, you could buy vegetables, you could buy furniture, you could buy anything along the side of the road. In later years, our Council kind of stopped that sort of thing. But you might still find a little bit of that up perhaps Dural way or Glenorie way. It was great in the summer time to go and buy your box of peaches or buy a box of apricots and that was thing you did.
So will you describe the Baulkham Hills of the late 1950’s for me, the character of the place, obviously it was rural or semi-rural. What was it like living there then, was it exciting or quiet, what was it?
Aerial view of Baulkham Hills in 1947 with Masonic School
in centre and Seven Hills Road on right
Very quiet, very quiet indeed. There was no activity, particularly for women. There was nothing at all. I used to take my first child to the Baulkham Hills Park. There was a Baby Health Centre built then, around about that period of time and you would find other mums. That’s where we would meet and chat. We’d sit there and chat and the wife of the then manager of the 'Bull & Bush' hotel used to bring her son over too, so that was the main thing that we did – there was nothing else about for us. Pre-schools and things like that didn’t come in til nearly 1960.
Of course the expectations of people in the 50’s were not as high as they are today. Did you sort of accept what was there and what was available?
Yes you did. I usually find that my husband was a golfer so he would go out to golf and so not to be left alone at the weekend I’d climb in the car with my knitting or the books or the baby and wait for him. Then we’d come home together.
So what was available in Baulkham Hills in terms of shops and amenities and so on?
Not a lot of shops in ’57, not a lot at all, just scant but a little later on yes the shopping centre improved so there was quite a bit more happening. We had an Ampol service station. Aub actually left the Parramatta district and came out to Ampol and worked at Ampol service station for quite some time before it changed hands and became a car yard.
Can you take me through the development of more and more stores. I mean there was a Rodney supermarket started coming and the Post Office. Tell me about that and about how it developed.
Well, Seven Hills Road there was a Chemist. Now there wasn’t a Chemist in the place prior to that and the Chemist was Bernie Mullane who became one of our Councillors and our Mayor and did a lot for the district. He lived in another area but it was said that he came out on the motor bike all the time to collect prescriptions and everything, have them filled and bring them back again which everybody thought was the most wonderful thing. He did eventually have a shop in Seven Hills Road and he also moved to Baulkham Hills and lived not far away from here. There was a Butcher, there was a Delicatessen with a man by the name of Mr Blessing who was running it and I’ll never forget Mr Blessing, but lots of other people don’t remember him and I can’t work that one out.
The other side of the road was very scant. There was Horwood’s Butchery. Now Horwood’s Butchery was a stone sort of a place and there is divided feelings exactly where that building was. Some say it was next to the Bowling Club, some say it was tucked towards the back of the park even where the old tram and train tracks went through. But I don’t remember that, I just remember climbing the stone steps to go and get some meat for my mother in law. Later on there was quite a development in the shops. Bernard Mullane moved his shop into Old Northern Road. Horwoods built a beautiful shop not far away from him. There was a Greengrocer, there was McLaughlin’s Drapery shop which you could go and buy your wool, your needles, your pins and everything else. You couldn’t buy those anywhere else unless you went to Parramatta. Later on they became Claire Ellen Fashions and they only sold dresses for all of us who really loved to dress up. There was a National Bank. Originally there were no banks. There was only a bank at the Post Office.
Bull and Bush opened in 1937
Now the earlier Post Office was in a house on the corner of Seven Hills Road and Windsor Road. It was also a Newsagency. But that’s where you went, you had to go to the Post Office to do any Commonwealth bank.
Now tell me a bit about the Pub, the 'Bull & Bush' that was there. It’s got a rather interesting history hasn’t it?
The 'Bull & Bush Hotel' has. It was built in 1937 but prior to that it was called the Royal and it goes back further still than that. It’s always been a Hotel. But in 1937 there were great big (celebrations) and I think the Mayor at the time might have been Arthur Whitling who opened it. Now one of the interesting things about the 'Bull & Bush' is around 1920, this is just before, it would have been the Royal then, there was a movie made in the district. I don’t remember the name of the movie at all.
Could it have been 'On Your (Our) Selection'?
Yes, it was 'On Your (Our) Selection', thankyou. We’re not exactly sure of the spot the movie was made. We think it was somewhere between Old Northern Road and Cook Street which is coming down towards Parramatta here, not very far away from the Hotel and it is said that all the stars stayed at the Hotel. Now this movie was made in Baulkham Hills except for the big bushfire scene at the end of it and they packed up all their equipment and all their stars and took them to Western Australia and had their bushfire there.
First home at Charles St,1958, with trees at Masonic School on right
It’s a very famous movie now.
A very famous movie, a silent movie and there is a copy of it in the Baulkham Hills Library. Interesting to look at.
The Film and Sound Archives would have a copy too I think.
Fascinating. OK now this house where we are doing the interview, is this the original house that you and your husband built in the 50’s.
Yes, it’s the original house. We made an extension around about the 1970’s, we just put a room on the end of it because we had to take a father-in-law in and we had to make some extra space. Yes it is the original property. We have been here 48 years.
Wow, that’s good. What facilities were there when you first came to this house. Was there town water, was there electricity?
FJ Holden with Watkins Rd in distance c1959
There was electricity on the property and there was gas but no water. They hadn’t got to putting water on and in 1958 when we had set to building it was really just fortunate that the Porter family knew somebody in the Water Board back from the Camden days and he had a high enough position in the Water Board so it’s who you know sometimes and he got the water put on and we would have been one of the first to have organised that.
Right, excellent. How did you heat the house in winter?
A gas fire. Nothing else but a gas fire and it was excellent.
Now who was living around you, some of the neighbours that started moving in after you had established yourselves? Can you remember their names?
Oh yes. Across the road there was Mr & Mrs Geale (?), a young couple. They are still there and they are my very best friends and the most wonderful people out for looking after you and since I’ve lost my husband they are there for me. Next door to me, the McMahons, they came a little later. On the other side were the Watsons. They were an older couple and they of course have passed on also. The Dobsons further up, we are still together. There are new people in but some of us are still together after all these years and still very friendly.
So what was the occupation of these sort of people. Were they tradesmen or what kind of people moved in?
School teachers, tradesmen, salesmen and one was in the Army, so yes various.
So what kind of development was coming later on when the 60’s and 70’s came. How did it develop Baulkham Hills as a place?
Well it started to grow bit by bit. There were various places put in. More shops, more arcades put in as well. I think they developed more parks. Parks became better. We started our girls, when they were young, to play tennis from Champions Tennis School. There was a tennis school came in. There were tennis courts down behind the Church of England Church on Windsor Road and they learnt from Champions Tennis School. There were openings starting to happen everywhere. There was a group called the Castle Hill Sports and Recreation Club which we joined and the girls played tennis and their father joined them because he was a good tennis player. So the three of them would go out playing competition on Saturdays. All around the district out towards Annangrove, everywhere and I’d go along as tea lady. Then I was working at the Bowling Club at the time and I only got a certain amount of time.
So you have got two girls.
What sort of schools did they go to?
To start with the district lacked preschools. One of the earliest ones was in a house up on Old Northern Road and I can’t remember what it was called these days but it is still there after all these years. There was no other until one was started on top of the Yattenden Oval and it was called the Baulkham Hills Preschool. Now we had something to do with that, Aub and I. We went down, it was sort of a prefab thing that came in, perhaps an old school building from somewhere else. The teacher then was Miss Glendenning and we are looking roughly between 1961-62 and we painted it, helped do it up and that was quite a satisfactory thing to have done. Our youngest daughter joined that when she was three years old. So that was one of the first preschools, the first two preschools.
Daughter Julie in Charles St driveway with Windsor Rd in distance c.1960
By 1975 there was a change in churches and there was a big church built in Edgar Street which is off Arthur Street and not five minutes away from us here. They put a preschool there and it has become one of the biggest and best preschools in the whole district. Then after that, preschools started to pop up everywhere and this was a good thing in that they were really needed by the district.
My girls went to Baulkham Hills Central Public School which is down on Windsor Road going towards Parramatta and they did all their primary infants primary school work there and then they went Northmead High School. Following Northmead High School they went to Teachers College and both these days are teachers.
They are both teachers?
Both are teachers.
So are you happy with the education that they did get at the public school?
I think yes. I was happy at the time but education today is more vast than it ever was, even when I went to school, it is bigger and bigger and it gets bigger as it goes, but then there is more learning that happens around the world, wherever you look, everywhere. But they did very well, they really did very well.
Right, so they went to Teachers College?
Daughter Julie outside Baulkham Hills Public School which closed in 1998
Yes. One went to the Catholic Teachers College in North Sydney and the other one went to Kingswood with the Department of Education. But both are with the Department of Education these days.
Now with young children, you can have accidents and may need medical attention. Was there a Doctor around the place or a Hospital? What was there in terms of these?
There was a Doctor’s surgery situated right next door to 'Mayfield' and there were two or three doctors in there, which was very helpful but earlier on it was very hard to find a doctor or if the doctor came out it was only at certain hours. There were doctors in Castle Hill as well and these days we have come into Medical Centres and that’s been a boon to have those.
Right, so if you needed hospital care, where would you go in those early days?
In those early days, your only hospital care was in Parramatta. There really wasn’t anything else, or privately somewhere else, where you could find a private hospital.
Talk about entertainment now. You said already that there was the 'Bull & Bush' hotel. Was there any entertainment there at the 'Bull & Bush'?
The 'Bull & Bush' was quite a good place to go to for some Saturday night entertainment. Bert Carroll was one of the ones we absolutely loved. He lived down on Windsor Road below the Hotel and he was a delightful singer. You just loved sitting and listening to Bert, but they had various other items too. The only other place would have been the Castle Hill Country Golf Club which often had entertainment and we’d go along to those. The RSL had started to come into being also and at the RSL you would have found Bert Carroll up there as well. You would have found Ted Hamilton. You would have found Eddie Charleton and you would have found James Pegler, Col Joye, John Lang and Slim de Gray plus many others and as time has passed it’s bigger and better than ever with what they put in.
There’s some famous names there.
Heywood, site of Castle Hill Country Club 1989
Was Bobby Limb on the scene yet?
Not that I know of. I don’t think Bobby Limb came out here. Leonard Teale did. Remember Leonard Teale? He was very good at poetry. A great actor and very good at poetry.
Was he a local man?
No, I don’t think so.
When did you first get television because that was something that wasn’t around yet?
No not straight away. 1960 and I had a baby that didn’t want to eat or drink or do anything and it would take me ages and ages and I would just have to sit so my husband bought a television set so I could look at television whilst I was feeding a troublesome baby. But, before that my family in Concord West had a television and we would watch that when we’d go over there. Down on Windsor Road or just across the road from Mayfield, Aub had a family of friends over there and they had a television set so we would go over there for evenings and supper and that was good.
Do you remember any programs that you saw?
Not really, I remember that my daughter Julie was about four. My brother was working for channel 7 and he took her into a children’s show, Captain something or other it was and it was an afternoon show where he was all dressed up as a captain and there were sea things all about the place and Julie was on television.
We haven’t spoken about the Church. What kind of life was centred around the Church here?
To start with, no Church for us to start with. I was Methodist, my husband was C of E. The nearest Methodist Church was South Baulkham Hills Methodist Church which was on the left hand side going towards Parramatta and roughly around where McDonalds is today. I didn’t go down there until Robyn was baptised and we started Sunday School and everything to do with Church was South Baulkham Hills from about 1961. There was another Methodist Church going out towards where The Hills Private Hospital is today. That Church is still there. It was called the North Baulkham Hills Church. Now there was the Holy Trinity across the road down on Windsor Road. There wasn’t a Catholic one close at hand. The nearest one was North Parramatta but the Priest used to come out to the School of Arts and do a service down in the School of Arts.
Did you take part in any Church activities?
Always. Always. I moved to Castle Hill Methodist Church from the South Baulkham Hills one and we did a lot of activity up there. My girls were in the choir. They had a wonderful junior choir which was in Eisteddfods all the time and Castle Hill Methodist Church ran the local Hills District Eisteddfod also and I was on the committee of that at one stage. There came a time with the Methodist Churches that they decided to sell the South Baulkham Hills Church and the North Baulkham Hills Church and make another Church which after a lot of groaning and finding places and that they built St Matthews Methodist Church which is the one in Edgar Street and about two years later all Churches became Uniting so today it is called St Matthews Uniting Church.
Go To Part Two