Nelson - Norm Hession - Part 2


Interviewee: Norm Hession, born 1933

Interviewer: Frank Heimans,
            for Baulkham Hills Shire Council

Date of Interview: 10 Nov 2006

Transcription: Glenys Murray, Jan 2007

This interview represents the personal recollections, views and opinions of the interviewee

Do you recall any school events, things that happened at school while you were there?

Every Empire Day that was May 24th they’d have a picnic day with foot races and things like that but then Mr Harris decided after probably only two or three of these that there was a war on and his two sons were away at the war and we shouldn’t be enjoying ourselves back here so he cancelled them from then on.

You didn’t have any more Empire Days?

No, no celebrations any way I remember two of the picnic days were in the paddock alongside Rouse Hill House between Rouse Hill House and what is now Guntawong Road and then there was another one down on the flat behind Brocklebank’s place that lived in Blind Road and it was down on the flat near Cattai Creek. No excursions nothing like that never ever thought of anything like that.

Apart from the Empire Days, is there anything else from the school years that you recall that stands out for you?

Every Christmas we had a big Christmas tree in the school some of the mothers would be appointed to go to Sydney and buy toys for the kids and then you’d have your name on it and then Santa would turn up and he’d present all the presents to the kids.

What about sports what sort of sports did you play at school?

Cockylorum there was another one countries, rounders, things like that, can’t remember playing cricket ever.

No running races or anything like that?

Oh occasionally.

Did they have a carnival day once a year sports day?

No nothing like that.

Did you feel sort of isolated in that school?

No if anyone had the life we had they’d call it underprivileged now but we weren’t it’s what things were like didn’t expect anything different.

Did you go to high school?

No, there was two high schools available one was Richmond Rural the other one was Westmead Technical that meant riding the bike into the train to either of them whichever you chose riding the bike home in the afternoon seemed like too much hard work for me so I stayed at Rouse Hill.

How far did you go with your education, how many years did you do of the primary school?

I went to sixth class then did a correspondence course, did it more in theory than practical I think, wasn’t very interested at all, couldn’t see how algebra and all that sort of stuff would help me change gears in a truck.

Rouse Hill Public School old site 1929

You said you did the correspondence course which college was that with?

The name of it was Blackfriars, I think it might have been in Redfern but I’m not sure but it was from Sydney anyhow.

So you used to send your work into them by post did you?

Oh I can’t remember they used to send the work out I think that Mr Harris used check it, you’re asking me things that’s sixty or more years ago.

I know we’re going back a long way here. So did you have any other interests as a teenager as a child for instance in anything apart from school?

When I left school played a lot of tennis, played in the Blacktown competition district then we built our own tennis court in Dad’s place next to Nelson Road and we shifted then to the Hawkesbury District.

What efforts were made at Nelson to raise funds for the war, were there any organised activity for that?

Yes the mothers used to go up I think once a fortnight to Mr Len Holmes' place. He had a big house Old Pitt Town Road at Box Hill right on the top of the hill. They’d go up every fortnight and the main activity I think was knitting thick woollen socks for the troops and they’d do up food parcels and send them away to the troops.

Now let’s talk a bit about the neighbouring properties in Nelson can you remember the names of your neighbours the people that lived on this road? Blind Road and other roads in Nelson. Tell me the names of the people and where they lived?

Mr and Mrs Bill were the first on Nelson Road on the left hand side, then for a few years during the war Stewart Brothers, they were bag merchants from Arncliffe they bought the next property and some of their families lived there for the next few years because a lot of people were frightened of Sydney being bombed. Then further up the road there was Frank and Henrietta Lester, then just after the war Ted and Betty Todd bought a big block of ground up the end of Blind Road and Mrs Todd is still there, Ted’s dead. On this side of the road, right hand side going up there was this property, Uncle Mick owned it but there was not a house on it until we built it, then going further up there was Mr and Mrs Brocklebank and that was about it.

How many children would those families have typically would you say?

Mr and Mrs Bill had two sons but they were grown up when I was a boy, Lesters had about seven as far as I know there is only one living still lives in the old place, Todd’s had a boy and a girl, Brocklebanks had four children, one boy, three girls.

So they were fairly large families in those days?

Yes Dad was one of ten his father was one of nine.

Which other people were there? Where did George and Jean Gilholme live?

Nelson Road north from the junction with Blind Road.

There was also a Mr and Mrs Flack wasn’t there?

Yes further up towards the end of Nelson Road, then there was Mr and Mrs Kelly, George Howe he had a T Model Ford used to work in at the meat works and take the Mason girls to work, they worked at the meatworks too. When he couldn’t get up the hill in forward gear he put it in reverse and reverse up the hill.

Where did Jack Peterson live exactly?

He was corner of Commercial Road and Windsor Road Rouse Hill. He lived on the creek further on down towards Commercial Road early on before my time then he built a new brick house on that site.

Now all those people that we’ve just talked about they’re all poultry farmers were they?

Yes, yes.

You’d wonder how many chickens Sydney could eat, because a lot of people in the area had poultry farms people like Jack Iori as well didn’t they?

Yes, yes he had a big farm later on his father started it.

Tar pot or kettle towed behind horse and dray for patching Maroota Road 1930s

Now what were the roads like in Nelson and who would maintain these roads?

They were gravel Box Hill they were all red clay but Nelson was different sort of soil you tended not to get bogged so much in Nelson but my Uncle Hughie Mason had a contract with the council to maintain some of Nelson Road he used to do it with a horse and dray even till it was tarred you could still see the napped up sandstone that he’d put in the road.

You said Nelson had orchards as well and you said they grew oranges mainly was there anything else that they grew, any other type of fruits that was grown here apart from the oranges?

Mandarins Uncle Mick had mandarins on our place here Dad used to talk about beautiful peaches down the back near the bush he used to grow the variety was Alberta Dad used to talk about that and he had a few persimmons. There’s one tree left now on our place, it’s the only tree left of Uncle Mick’s orchard I think but it is still down there and of course the birds enjoy the fruit off that.

So that was about it persimmons, oranges, a few peaches was there anything else? Nothing else that was grown here?

Uncle Jack on his orchard had grapefruit but that’s about it, yes.

Now what sort of entertainment was there in the district if you wanted to get together with other people how would people entertain themselves?

Peach trees in bloom

Before my time in the older times they used to have house parties but in my time picture show at Vineyard, I never went dancing but a lot of the other people went dancing. Not much entertainment at all.

So if you wanted to meet as a young man a member of the opposite sex would you go to a dance?

Oh yes I suppose they did, I didn’t though, I met mine she worked in a milk bar at Northmead, used to call in and get milkshakes when I went past in Jack Peterson’s truck.

So she used to make the milkshakes for you?

Yes and lemon squash in the summer.

Was there any music played in the area did anyone have any musical instruments?

Dad’s sister Auntie Angela she was a good pianist but that was a bit before my time. She went into the convent before my time.

No piano in your house or anything like that?

Well later on there was my sister used to play it but she’d got that when I’d grown up. Dad had a wind up gramophone used to play old records.

Do you remember any of the records?

There was one “Casey” and “Casey at the dentist” and all the rest was real funny stuff.


Yes. Sister liked what we called back then hillbilly songs, that’s country and western now.

Now talking about the type of people who lived here in Nelson, were there any other people apart from Anglo Saxon Australians living here like were there any Chinese or Maltese or Greeks anyone like that living around the place?

There was Chinese about here Dad held them in very high regard but I can’t remember them it must have been just before my time I think. Dad reckoned they were a great people. Maltese can’t remember any Maltese, there were Greeks later on when I was just about grown up yes.

What about Italians?

No a few Italians at Rouse Hill but none around here that I can remember.

Jack and Edo Iori's father, mother, uncle and aunt at Rouse Hill 1940s

So it was mainly an Anglo Saxon community?

Yes, yes.

Where did you get your meat from, you said that you ate meat but where would it come from?

It used to be delivered with a whole host of other things that you needed, now all you get delivered is the mail and soft drinks. There was always a butcher in Riverstone.

So your family used to go there once a week or so to buy the meat?


How would they keep it?

In what they called a meat safe.

Can you describe that, what it looked like?

It was probably eighteen inches square all around made out of metal with small holes drilled all over it like a sort of metal fly gauze and you’d put your meat in that, keep the flies off it.

You had to keep it fairly cool wouldn’t you?

Yes, yes

Where was that meat safe placed?

In the back verandah, I can’t remember how that was kept cool, but then there was a what they called a butter cooler and you put your butter and stuff in it and it had a shallow dish of water on the top and bags or calico hanging down the side and the water would, I think it’s called capillary action would come up out of the water at the top and the bags down the sides would be wet or damp all the time and of course any slight breeze it would be quite cool inside. Mum used to always put the butter and such stuff inside that.

Right, interesting.

Then went on to an ice chest that was another thing that was delivered was ice and of course that was not too bad at all. I think the ice was delivered probably twice a week and later on got a Silent Knight refrigerator made by Hallstroms in Sydney and that had a long narrow tank underneath it with kerosene in it and you lit the kerosene and somehow or other that turned the heat from the flame into cold in the fridge, worked quite well. Then when electricity came round 1947 Dad got a Frigidaire electric refrigerator, they were made by General Motors.

Must have been a big day for the family when you got your electric fridge?

Oh yeah, yeah.

Draught horse on Todd property Burrawang Road 1950s

Where did the fruit and veggies come from, was that also delivered to your house?

Not when I was a boy, later on they were. There was a family from Vineyard did it for a while, then Prince Greentree and his daughter still lives in Nelson they did it for a while too. There was a fruit shop in Riverstone, Dick Stacey owned it and when there was nothing delivered Mum and Dad used to get the fruit and vegetables in there. Dad always grew peas, beans, cucumbers, tomatoes himself. He always had plenty of those things in the season.

Where was the nearest bank if your father wanted to do some banking?

Riverstone there was the Commercial Banking Company I think that’s Westpac now.

What about medical attention if you were sick or you needed some medical attention where would you go?

There was a Dr Rich his surname was Rich, he was in Riverstone he was the only doctor about. Then there was a Dr Arnold in Windsor he was a great old fellow.

So you had to go quite a way to see anyone what about if it was very serious what would you do?

Still go to the doctor I suppose never thought of getting the ambulance or anything like that. I remember riding the bike to school going too fast and fell off and hit my head on a fence post and they had a little hospital in Riverstone at the time. The school teacher’s son brought me home in his twenty seven model Chev and Mum took me to the doctor and he put me in the rest of the day in a little hospital at Riverstone. I think I had concussion.

Old Box Hill Nelson Bushfire Brigade building Nelson Road Nelson 2002

Now what about volunteering activities, what was happening around here in terms of volunteering?

I think just the Bushfire Brigade. I think it was formed in perhaps 1939 or 1940 it was Box Hill-Nelson and that’s still the name of it today but it was joined I think with Rouse Hill at the time. Later on they parted company and it became just Box Hill-Nelson. I did fifty years in it myself. My brother was in it even longer than me.

So you’ve been a bushfire volunteer for fifty years?


So you must have seen some pretty horrific fires? After the 1939 fire what would you say were the next lot of fires that were pretty momentous?

I particularly remember one started over Shoplands Road the other side of Cattai Creek it was in Anniversary Weekend in 1975 and it had a howling northerly behind it. Came right through the western edge of it was about a kilometre up from our place went across then through into Annangrove and up into Kenthurst. I think it was eleven houses it burnt. Something funny happened that afternoon you’d think it was arranged, a heavy shower of rain came through in the afternoon at three o’clock and dampened it down. Didn’t put it out but it certainly made it more manageable.

Have you had any bad fires since that time, since seventy five?

Not just around here we’ve been very lucky. There was one here only a few weeks ago, that terrible Sunday with the terrible wind out in Scheyville National Park and through to Janpieter Road at Oakville.

Opening of new Box Hill Nelson Fire Station 21 Sept 1985

Now you bought the egg run from Jack Peterson at one stage?

Late 1961. no late 1960 sorry.

So how was it for you to have your own egg run?

Oh it worked out alright something I’d always wanted so it had to work out alright, I made it.

So how long did you have it for, how many years?

Twenty nine years.

Why did you stop doing that?

Nick Greiner had abolished the Egg Board and there was no future in it for me so I got out of it. You were still allowed to pick up eggs from the farms and deliver them direct to shops but I’d had a taste of that early on for Jack Peterson and was not remotely interested in that side of it at all.

So after you finished with the egg run in 1989 what kind of carrying did you do?

I started carting water round the district here but I started the water carting in 1977 I did both for twelve years and when I knew that carting for the Egg Board was finished as far as I was concerned. I built up the water run and started a lot of customers to the stage where I had too much water carting business. I seemed to manage.

How long did that last the water carting business?

From 1977 to 1998 and that’s when I got sick and had to give it all away.

What happened to you?

I had a stroke and two heart attacks within two days nearly cashed my chips with the two heart attacks but I survived.

Brimbecom dairy site - now the site for the New Rouse Hill

Can you tell me the family connection to the neighbouring property the Peterson connection to the property that will become the Rouse Hill Regional Centre?

There was no connection as far as I can remember it was just open paddocks where the regional centre is being built now. I remember taking Jack Peterson’s tarpaulins over and hanging them over the three rail post and rail fence to dry them after the rain had stopped.

So Peterson owned the land this regional centre will be built on?

No Peterson didn’t own that I’m not sure but I think Brimbecom's Dairy would have owned it.

So what do you know about that dairy?

Of course the old house (Mungerie House) is still there and I can remember taking a couple of loads of cow feed down there for Petersons. There was a big light green shed and it had printing on the side in big letters you always read it as you went down Windsor Road “fresh raw milk for Manly” they had it in big white letters.

Is that dairy still operating?

No, no people by the name of Sharkie had it bought it off, I’m pretty sure, bought it off Brimbecoms and they had a small poultry farm there but they’ve gone many years ago. Ian Sharkie bought an old stone house that used to belong to the Pearce family and its up the road behind what is now the Ettamogah Pub.

Now when you were carrying water and you said you did it from 1977 onwards, were there any particular bad years, drought years that the water would be needed for?

Oh one I particularly remember was the early 1980’s it nearly drove me mad. I used to pick the water up at Vineyard and I’d be coming down Terry Road into Box Hill watching for storm clouds over the mountains day after day. It was awful everyone wanted water and everyone wanted it yesterday.

You couldn’t deliver it fast enough you mean?

That’s exactly right, occasionally I’d have that much I couldn’t handle it and I’d get other water carters to help me but until I met the chap that bought the run off us I didn’t have any that were really satisfactory.

What do you remember about that drought and the way that people managed to feed and water their stock? How did they do it?

Most people with stock had dams and then if the house water ran out in the tanks they’d just ring up a water carter and get fresh supplies.

Did people have to pay for their water?

Yes, yes you get nothing for nothing.

Was it ever free though, the water?

It was free for some years to the water carters but of course you’d have to charge cartage and charge for your truck and time and all the rest of it. Then Alan Jones got his teeth into that and reckoned the water carters were making a fortune paying nothing for their water. So that’s when the Water Board introduced stand pipes with metres on them. Now from that day on water carters pay for exactly what they get.

Now talking about changes in the Nelson suburb, what changes would you say you’ve witnessed since you were young. What have been the big changes here?

Most of the district cut into five acre blocks and of course every five acre block got a house on it, two or three motor cars. Whereas when I was young there was probably two or three motor cars in the district, now everyone’s got two or three. As soon as the young ones leave school they’ve got a motor car. A lot of horses around that weren’t around in the early days of my life. They’ve all got a horse trailer most have got a Land Cruiser to pull it with.

So it been basically in the subdivision of the land is it?

Mostly yes and of course when electricity came around that transformed the place.

So those people who had sixty acre lots of land with their orchards and so on how much could they subdivide it when the changes came, the rezoning in 1977? How low could they go, how small could they make them?

Before 1977 they could be cut into five acre blocks since 1977 legally none of them could have been subdivided. It’s now zoned a hundred acre minimum, so to subdivide now you’ve got to have two hundred acres, of course there’s no two hundred acre blocks in Nelson.

Todd's Burrawong Orchard 1950s

So how does that affect you then?

I wanted to cut a couple of five acre blocks off here to fund our retirement but we weren’t allowed to do it.

How many acres do you still have here?

Twenty nine and a half.

That’s acres or hectares?

Acres. Eleven point whatever hectares.

Is there a post office now in Nelson?

Never was, mail always came through Riverstone. Now it’s sorted in South Windsor.

Let’s talk a little about water supply, when did that first come to Nelson?

There’s still no city water laid on. There is a few square miles here that’s at Annangrove, Rouse Hill, Vineyard, Oakville but none in Nelson.

Why do think that is?

Not enough houses here I don’t think. They supply it to Rouse Hill and all these built up areas, not enough houses here. It was going to be put on here a few times but it’s never happened.

So do you expect it ever to happen?

Not in my time when its housing blocks it will be.

Since everyone stopped being a poultry farmer what have been the changes in their employment around here?

Earlier on a lot of them worked at the meatworks but the meatworks is now closed down. That was in Riverstone so most of them just drive away to work. They start about half past three in the morning you hear them going to work round probably Parramatta further in towards Sydney I would imagine.

Is that the main occupation for people do you think.

I would say so yes, there’s only one poultry farm left in Nelson now, they all go away no one makes a living off their place anymore.

Your family are involved in the local progress association?

Yes my brother Laurie was president for some years.

Tell me a little about the local progress association?

I think they started in the late 1940’s (actually 1944). They lobby for various improvements around the district. It was a Baulkham Hills councillor Harvey Lowe used to attend all the meetings until he died. Of course that gave them direct access to the Baulkham Hills Council and he’d be pushing the council for tarred roads and all the improvements about the place. Early on electricity was run by Baulkham Hills Council.

What’s the history of the progress association hall? Can you tell me that story?

I’m pretty sure it came originally from Scheyville, that was an army camp and later after the war it was a migrant centre and most of the work was done by a fellow called Johncey he lived in Hynds Road. It was just an angle iron frame with the roof and the covering around. More recent years I think it was done under the Work for the Dole Scheme then council took an interest in it and now it’s a lovely hall with a kitchen and it’s nice and I think the last improvement they’ve put a ceiling in it. It’s very nice now. It was built on land donated by Tony Skarratt he lived in Box Road and they built a tennis court there too. It’s long gone it was built with soil donated from Ted Todd in the end of Blind Road. They live in what is now Burrawang Drive.