Northmead - Enid Davis


Interviewee: Enid Davis, born 1924

Interviewer: Frank Heimans,
            for Baulkham Hills Shire Council

Date of Interview: 17 Aug 2007

Transcription: Glenys Murray, Sept 2007

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

Enid, can you tell me your full name and where and when you were born?

My married name Enid Lucy Davis, I was born in Parramatta Private Hospital on the 11th July 1924.

What was your maiden name?


Now that’s an Italian name of course. Can you tell me a little bit about maybe the background to the family?

Yes my father was born in a little town in the mountains on the Swiss Border called Castionette in 1896. Came to Australia…his father died when he was three months old, his mother was killed when he was seven. He came to Australia in 1914 just before the war as an eighteen year old, penniless migrant, settled in Northmead round about 1920.

What did he do before he went to Northmead?

He did some cane cutting, he didn’t like to be an employee he had to be a ganger, cause he wanted to be in charge. Then he made up his mind that he would have to have his own business.

What was that business?

First of all he bought eight acres of ground here at Northmead. Planted peach trees and he did market gardening. As a sideline he bought the Parramatta Sanitary Contract for fifty pound, tried to sell it three months later for twenty five pounds, had no takers. So he had to continue on and do it and that’s how he became the sanitary and garbage contractor and industrial waste contractor.

Joseph Folini (on left) with friends c1914

He was quite an enterprising man by the sound of it, was he?


Tell me where was the eight acres of land that he bought, where was it located?

Well it’s now the end of Windermere Avenue and round Caprera Road, but it wasn’t then. Windermere Avenue was a dead end. My house was the last house in the street and Dad had the forty five acres that was bounded by Mary Street, William Street and Windermere Avenue and that was his.

Did he buy that forty five acres later?

No he bought eight acres originally and the other was a Chinese market garden. They were great gamblers and every weekend they’d go to Sydney and play Mah Jong. Any way one weekend the boss of the market garden lost it on a game of Mah Jong. The fellow that won it wasn’t interested in market gardens so it became an opium den. The Australian girls used to come there and one night at home police came knocking on the front door. My mother said “lay down Blue” and the voice said “its not Blue madam it’s Parramatta Police we’re looking for the opium den that the Chinese have”. So we sent them up there and after that the garden just went to the pack and my father bought it. That’s how we got the forty five acres.

This forty five acres of land can you tell me where that was located?

At the end of Windermere Avenue, it was boarded by Windermere Avenue, William Street and there was a lane which was an extension of Mary Street. It was called The Lane. That’s all been closed off and is now the football field down there or the soccer field that Northmead had.

Forty five acres is not a mean block of land it’s quite sizeable?

No but a lot of it is in bushland because it goes to the creek all round.

Is that Darling Mills Creek?


So how did your father actually… said he bought it not off the Chinese man who lost it in the game but he bought it off the man who won it in the game? Is that right?

Well that I don’t know, I just know that Dad bought it from the Chinese.

It was another Chinese man that owned it then?

I don’t really know because I was only a young kid.

Sure, now tell me about some of your earliest memories Enid of growing up here?

Well I went to school first year in the train, 1930.

Was that a steam train?

Yes, it used to run along the Windsor Road, then Railway Street then up along old Northern Road to Rogans Hill. So I went to school in that my first year. We used to carry in the horse and sulky. There weren’t many cars or trucks or anything like that. All dirt roads, this Windermere Avenue was nearly all bush and dirt road. Not many houses.

Baulkham Hills Railway Station c1926 (now site of The Hills Bowling Club)

Where did you pick up the train that you took to school, which station?

Model Farms Station at the top of Windermere Avenue there there’s a siding and the street at the back of the siding, Parramatta Council named it after my father. It’s called Folini Avenue.

So it was a working railway station then?


So was the area around Windermere Avenue, was it also called Model Farm?

Not on this side of the road, on Winston Hills side. We knew it as Model Farms Station.

What does Model Farms refer to, is it some kind of farm that they set up?

I don’t know.

The forty five acres had a house on it, is that right?


Is that the house that you grew up in?


Can you describe the house to me, what sort of a house was it?

It was weatherboard, as I got a little bit older Dad had a nice brick front verandah put on it. It had a kitchen with a fuel stove. Of course there was no electricity then Dad had to bring electricity and the phone from the Windsor Road down to the farm. He had to put in all the poles himself. Our first phone was one of those that had a bell on it that you had to ring and the radio was a crystal radio with a big speaker like a horn thing on the top. It used to sit on top of a cupboard. We thought it was Christmas when the electricity came through because we had the kerosene lamps and the chip heater and the copper. We had to carry the water for the bath to the copper.

The radio, did it work on electricity?

No, no, no it was a crystal battery.

 Folini's weatherboard home 1932. It was in the
area of Caprera Road just south of Pye Avenue

Car batteries?

That I don’t remember, it was some sort of a battery. It didn’t work with electricity because we didn’t have electricity.

Tell me about the duties that you had as a child, what sort of work chores did you do?

Well I know that Dad had a bit of poultry, he had chooks, and I used to have to go down and help pick up the eggs. I had a little pet pig called Toby and I used to go down the chook yard with Toby and it was one raw egg for me and one for him, one for me and one for him. Now I couldn’t stand a raw egg.

Who were your friends?

The only friends that we had were a neighbour. It was Angus Cameron that I can remember because there was no one living around there. It was all bush and Angus and myself we used to go down to….Pyes used to live next door and Birdie Pye used to take Angus and myself swimming down the creek. That was great we were only little kids. The best part of it was when we came back and Mrs Pye who was a little tiny lady. In their house they had no electricity, no running water, they had a well and they had a big fuel stove. She used to make the most beautiful scones. So Angus and I used to love to go swimming because after swimming we’d come up and we’d have scones and jam and cream. That was our… oh we loved that, we loved it, that was our treat.

I bet you’ve never had such good scones since, have you?

Oh no and she was such a tiny little lady, to do the washing she used to have to stand on a lettuce case or a banana box to reach the tubs to do the washing.

What was her first name, Mrs Pye?

I don’t know Mrs Pye’s first name (actually Martha) but she had two daughters, Annie and Birdie that I knew. There was Joe and Squire I don’t remember the others (Actually James, Ernest and Patience).

Mr Pye what was his first name do you remember?

There was no Mr Pye when I was going there. There was only the mother, the daughters and the sons.

He’d obviously died already?


How old was Birdie?

Birdie (actual name, Madeline) would have been in her fifties or sixties and we just young children. They were lovely people. The homestead is still there now and it’s on the market for about one point two million or something because it’s been renovated. It’s all sandstone, convict built.

Where did they live compared to your house?

Just down along the track as we called it because there was road, just through the bush.

You mean further along Windermere Avenue?

Yes, no further along Caprera Road but it wasn’t Caprera Road then it was just bush.

So, what a few hundred metres from your house was it?

No it would have been more than that, would have been more than that.

Joseph Folini in his Northmead orchard c1930

Now I believe that your father being an Italian obviously must have had some friends. Italian friends, tell me were there any other Italians in the neighbourhood?

He had other Italian families where they would meet there weren’t a lot, there weren’t a lot of Italian families in those days. Then the war broke out and some of the Italians were interned, but not my Dad.

Why do you think that was?

Because he was carrying out an essential service.

Growing vegetables?

He used to grow vegetables for the army. They would specify what they wanted grown and he would grow them specially for the army. He also had the garbage contract at the time.

I believe he grew stringless beans for the army?

Stringless beans, yes and if the army didn’t want them and there was a good crop you had to plough them in. You weren’t allowed to sell them or do anything with them, you had to plough them back into the ground.

What other fruits or vegetables did your father grow even before the war?

He had quite a big peach orchard which I hated because I can’t touch peaches they give me goose bumps. I used to have to have to pack them I didn’t like that, I didn’t like picking them either. I always vowed that I’d never marry a farmer. We had peaches, we had plums, we had lemons, it was like a typical orchard. He used to grow all sorts of vegetables. Lettuce, tomatoes I hated the tomatoes because they used to stain your hands.

You obviously weren’t a country girl?

No I was no farmer.

Did your father have any chooks?

Yes we had quite a lot of chooks, matter of fact. One night a fox got in and killed a hundred and twenty. He had a pile six foot high of dead chooks.

One fox?

Oh I wouldn’t know how many foxes came in but they killed in one night a hundred and twenty chooks.

So did he stock up again after that?

No he didn’t no. That was the end of that we only had a few for our own personal use after that.

Did you pick the eggs in the mornings?

In the afternoons.

Was it one of your chores?

That was one of my chores and another one of my chores was to make the butter every Saturday, which I hated because it had to be done in a churn. In the summer it used to take ages to form the butter and I used to hate that job. In the winter it was alright because the butter would form quite quickly. But in the summer…..

You had to do a lot of stirring?

You had to do a lot of turning of the butter churn, yeah.

Was it good butter?

Oh yes, just have a look, every picture tells a story.

The Folini family at Northmead on baby Valentine's christening day 1930

Who milked the cows?

We only had one cow and as I got a bit older occasionally I used to do it. Dad built a little workman’s cottage and he had an elderly Italian couple living there. So Victor used to milk the cow then and make the butter. When I was twelve I went to boarding school. My father sent me to boarding school to make a lady of me but it didn’t work.

How did you feel about going to boarding school?

Hated it, hated the idea. But then when I was there, I was there for four years, you get used to it.

You made the best of it, did you?

Yes, you get used to it.

What was the school called?

Our Lady of Mercy College Parramatta.

I guess it would be run by nuns was it?

Oh yes, Mercy nuns.

How were they dressed?

In the black, the black gowns and the white collar thing that they had, they were strict too, they were strict.

What would happen if you transgressed a bit?

You weren’t allowed to sleep in on Saturday you had to get up to go to Mass.

What sort of punishment was there metered out?

You were perhaps deprived of different sport because I used to love tennis. I didn’t get into trouble very much at school. My trouble was for talking, I was always getting into trouble for talking and as you can guess I just can’t keep quiet.

Did they use the cane, the nuns?

They did at that time, yes my word they did.

Did you ever receive that?

Not when I was at college but the last year at St Monica’s Primary School at North Parramatta, North Rocks I got six of the best.

Enid Folini and her mother Doris Folini at Northmead 1925

When your father had the farm how did he transport all those vegetables, the produce to the markets? What did he have as transport?

In 1928 he bought a Chev truck, it was the first truck that he bought. They used to have markets in Phillip Street, Parramatta and he used to take vegetables and produce in there. When we had the peaches, the big peach orchard and we would pack hundred to a hundred and twenty cases a day the carrier used to come and pick up the fruit and take them into the Sydney market.

Enid the house that you grew up in was that the house that your father bought from the Chinese?

No, no it wasn’t. Dad built his own home or he had it built. In those days it was a kitchen, two bedrooms then as his finances improved we added on a lounge room, a dining room, a back verandah, front verandah and a back porch.

So you had your own bedroom?

Yes I had my own bedroom.

Now we haven’t spoken much about your mother, can you tell me something about her background?

My mother was born at Marsfield, Eastwood of Italian parents. She was educated at Epping Catholic School. She married my father in 1922. She was 22. Her name was Doris Giumelli which means twins in Italian, Giumelli is twins. But that was their surname Giumelli, Doris Giumelli. Her father had a big peach orchard too at Waterloo Road Marsfield.

How did they meet actually, your father and mother?

Well apparently there weren’t many Italians and they used to get together at Christmas where they’d get to know different families. They’d meet up and have parties. As I say there weren’t many Italians here at that time.

I believe they used to have an Italian picnic, is that right?

Yes I remember the Italian picnics. We used to go to Killarney. Go down and get the boat and off to Killarney but of course all that stopped when the war broke out.

When suddenly they became the enemy, kind of?

Yes, that’s right but Dad never had any problems.

Enid Folini and Bob Davis were married at the old St Monica's Church North Parramatta 1946

What sort of medical facilities and services were available at Northmead in those days?

Nothing, nothing there was one doctor, one doctor on Windsor Road called Doctor Lang but very poor, very poor.

So if you had to go to a hospital would it have to be Parramatta?

Yes it was Parramatta.

Now your mother also had a problem didn’t she?

Yes she was diabetic and so was my brother and I can remember when Mum had to have her teeth extracted she was in hospital for two weeks. Because they were scared of gangrene, they were scared of gangrene so she was in hospital two weeks just to have her teeth extracted.

She also walked with a limp didn’t she?

Yes she was born a hip out and of course they didn’t pick that up until she tried to walk and it was too late so she used to walk with a pronounced limp on the ball of one foot.

Now being Italian was the family religious?

Yes, yes. Church every Sunday right up against the wall. I was a bit of a wriggler so he used to put me against the wall in the front seat. Oh yes we used to go to mass every Sunday.

Which church was it?

St Monica’s that was the only church, it’s not the church it is now. It was a little stone church built by the convicts. That’s where I was married too in that little church.

Can you describe Windermere Avenue when you were growing up, in your younger years? What was it like, you’ve said already it was a bush track and had dirt but who were the neighbours in the street?

There was probably half a dozen houses in the street, dirt road, bush.

Bob Davis with emu in their playground for children at what was the end of Windermere Avenue c196

Do you remember the name of the neighbours around?

Dad’s property went down to William Street and on this side he built four houses in Windermere Avenue. They were fibro houses in those days. Then we had some neighbours. Then the next door neighbours they built probably five years after we built this house (circa 1951) and then gradually people came into the street. When I was young there was maybe three, four houses in the whole street.

Which people lived in those houses, their names?

The only one I can remember is Greta Cush(?), Mrs Pyke and then there was Isod’s(?) garage up on the corner. Mr Billy Isod(?) had the garage. I don’t remember any of the others.

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