Northmead - Enid Davis - Part 2


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

How would you describe Northmead as a suburb at that time? Would you say it was rural or commercial?

It wasn’t commercial, it wasn’t commercial, it was rural and on the other side of the Windsor Road on the Winston Hills side was all Maltese market gardens. I can remember when Caroline Chisholm Drive was opened up. There would be celebrations.

There was industry around wasn’t there? There was the Howard Rotovators?

Yes there was Howard Autos and there was The Sydney Woollen Mills. I went and I worked at the Sydney Woollen Mills as their book keeper and their accountant in the war because the young man that was the accountant there went to war. So I did his job. I did that until I got married.

You must have married in 1946 did you?

I was married the third of August 1946 on my brother’s sixteenth birthday.

So what were the war years like? What do you remember about the war years in Northmead?

What do I remember, well when I left school I was always interested in book keeping, I loved that sort of work. My father was friends of the Shire Clerk Mr Street and so three months of the year I used to go up and handwrite the rates book for Baulkham Hills Council which was a big job at that time. Dad being the garbage contractor in those days the contractor had to collect his own rates. So the fellow that used to do that went to war so I took his job and I used to get the same commission as what he did, which was two shillings in the pound. That was my commission.

Baulkham Hills Shire is quite a big shire and anyway I went round and collected the rates twice on the pushbike. Then I said to my father “this is too hard, too many hills in Baulkham Hills” so I bought myself a little motorbike. A little Peugeot two stroke cost me thirty five pounds and that’s how I travelled around Baulkham Hills Shire. Then after a few years when the book keeping machines came into operation Baulkham Hills Council put the rates on the rate notice and that was all included in the normal rate notice so we didn’t have to do it anymore.

Baulkham Hills Shire Council staff 1947

Now they had a name for you on the motorbike didn’t they?

Oh they used to call my bike the “blue terror” the girl on the blue terror.

It sounds like a good title for a book? So that was one of your jobs?

One of my jobs, yeah.

This is while your father was doing the garbage collection?

Yep, yep.

Did he buy that contract from the council?

No, he tendered, he commenced the garbage contract in Baulkham Hills Council (circa 1942, only in the south of the Shire).

He was the first one?

He was the first garbage contractor in Baulkham Hills Shire and we kept it until I sold to Brambles on the fifth of December 1986, I sold it to Brambles.

How was it that you came to take over the garbage contract?

Well my father died in 1954, what date was it? Oh I know my daughter was exactly one year and two weeks old. So he died on the 27th October 1954. He had formed the company a fortnight before because he was sick, he’d had three strokes and so he said that he thought it would be better that it was formed a company. Which he did and he formed the company a fortnight before he died. I thought to myself well it’s either keep the name going or let it go and I thought no in honour of my father I was going to keep this company going whatever it took. I did it for thirty three years and I sold it on the fifth of December 1986.

Tell me some of the highlights of running the garbage contracting for Baulkham Hills Shire?

It wasn’t only for Baulkham Hills Shire at this stage we were contractors for Baulkham Hills, portion of Parramatta, Ryde and Concord that’s while I was doing it. Then the compaction trucks came in and life was a bit easier you didn’t have so many employees. At one stage there were forty trucks and eighty employees. But then as the compaction came in, instead of having three men on a truck you only had one. You only had the driver so that made it a lot easier.

I believe that you brought in an innovation at the time?

I went to Germany and bought twenty five thousand Sulo bins, Baulkham Hills Council is in the process of changing it over to some other system. But I started that in Baulkham Hills, I did that to change it from the little garbage tin to the Sulo bins.

That must have been quite an expense, twenty five thousand bins?

It was, it was.

Folini compaction garbage truck with new bins on top
in Orange Blossom Festival Parade early 1980s

It must have run into millions did it?

It did, I had a good bank.

That was a gift from you to the people of the Shire?

Well I suppose it was in a way. See they used to call tenders every three years and you had to keep tendering every three years. You could have lost the jobs. Anyway when they decided that they were going to bring in the Sulo bins, we had spoken to them about it. They extended the contract from three years to five years. Part of the contract was that the contractor had to supply the bins. That’s how I come to go to Germany to buy twenty five thousand Sulo bins.

They must have come on a huge ship did they?

I don’t know how they brought them out. But they delivered them to our yard, it was a heck of a lot of bins.

You had to distribute all those?

That’s right, yep.

Did people have to pay for the bins when they got it?

No, I believe though after if they destroyed a bin or it was stolen I think then they had to pay something like fifty dollars at the time. I’m not quite sure the procedure at all now because that was twenty years ago.

More than twenty years ago?

That’s right, more than twenty years ago

When did you buy those bins? Would it have been in the early eighties?


So it must have been quite a bit of an empire that you were running?

Yes it was, it was. You know that I had a housekeeper that used to work for me. She worked for me for twenty years she did. She knew the run of this house better than I did. Sometimes if I couldn’t find something I’d have to ask her where it was. That’s the way it was.

Now tell me a bit about you meeting your husband. Who was your husband? Give me some background about him first?

I was a member of the CYO in Parramatta (Catholic Youth Organisation) and the priest used to take us out to the 103rd AGH military hospital at Masonic Schools. There were soldiers in there from all over Australia different parts of Australia. With various injuries where they couldn’t write letters. We used to go out once a month and if anyone wanted a letter written home we would do it for them. On this particular evening I was writing a letter for a young soldier who came from South Australia. In the next bed was this other wounded soldier and he asked me where I came from I said “Northmead”. He said “oh I came from North Parramatta I lived just down near the gaol”. So just one thing led to another and we just talked about things in general. Each time I went up cause he was in plaster, he had been machine gunned through both legs. He was sort of in plaster from just under the arms right down to the feet. We’d just start talking “what do you like”? “What do you do”? So he told me he liked tomato sandwiches so then every time I went up I would take him out some tomato sandwiches. One thing led to another but he was up there for a couple of years because by the time the legs started to heal he was on crutches, on callipers, on all sorts of things to get walking again.

As he was getting better he would do little odd jobs for them just to make him self busy. He wasn’t the sort of person who could sit around and do nothing he had to always be doing something. What he could do. Then when he was discharged from the army he came straight to work for my Dad driving the truck.

Enid tell me about the Woollen Mills where you worked during the war? What sort of operation was it?

It was a very big operation. It was the sister mill to the one at Marrickville, the head office was at Marrickville and I was there during the war, working there during the war. They were making the grey military blankets and it was a big concern. I used to do the wages. There was perhaps two or three hundred employees working in the mill. My dad was friendly with the manager Mr Hannon and I think they used to go occasionally and have a beer together at the Northern Hotel. It’s now the Toll Gate. Because Dad had a market garden it was classed as number one priority. I had to get a special dispensation from the Labour Department to go and work for the mill. Because I hated the land and I wanted to work in an office and I had to get special permission to go and work in the Woollen Mills.

Sydney Woollen Mills 1985, now site of Bunnings

So it was like an essential war service thing was it?

Dad’s was classed as an essential service and that’s why I had to get permission to leave that because I hated it. I always said the ground was too low.

They were making blankets for the soldiers were they?

Yeah the factory was, in the factory yeah.

So it would also have been an essential war service?

Oh that’s right too, but it was however the Labour Department qualified the different….

How much did they pay you for doing the books at the Woollen Mills, do you know?

Oh yes I was getting top dollars, I was getting two pound ten a week. The manager was only getting fifteen pound I knew because I used to do the wages. He was getting fifteen pound and I was getting two pound ten that was top money. That was good money.

Folini sanitary waggon 1960s at Northmead depot

Doesn’t sound like a lot today, does it? Was it a good atmosphere there in the factory?

Yes, yes as a matter of fact there were one, two, three, three girls in the office, four girls in the office and one was called Flo Cordina. She was there before me, she was my bridesmaid, she became my bridesmaid. I don’t know whether she’s still alive, I don’t know now because she was older than me.

Now I’m interested in what Windermere Avenue and Northmead looked like at that stage and what services there were. You said your father brought in the electricity, he dug the poles.

No he had them put in. He had to bring it from Windsor Road down for us to have electricity and the phone.

What about water?

Well he would have brought the water too because there was no facilities there.

So he brought the pipes across, you mean?

Yes down, he would have had them put down.

Amazing man?

Oh yes, wonderful man, wonderful man he died too young.

Worked too hard I think?

Yes he had an enlarged heart they said through overwork.

Folini open garbage truck 1967

So how many families do you think would have been living in Northmead after the war years?

After the war years it started to build up, I wouldn’t have a clue, wouldn’t have a clue.

Did it grow quickly the suburb?

Well of course after the war people would come from overseas. See all the travelling from overseas was stopped during the war. People began to migrate into the country. Then it built up, it’s like Northmead now you see all around the houses here, well there was nothing, nothing.

So would those houses have been built more in the sixties?

The ones in this street probably would have been more before the sixties. Up here yes, well Dad died in 1954, when they put Windermere Avenue and Caprera Road. In those days you had to pay land tax and with so much acreage I couldn’t afford to keep it, I kept it for as long as I could but then the land tax was too high. I couldn’t keep it so I had to sell it all except the yard where I had the trucks (This was circa 1968). Then when I sold the business (in 1986) I sold the ground too where the trucks were. That’s where all those new houses are in Caprera Road.

 Folini compaction garbage trucks, including Colonel Klink c1980 at depot which
was near junction of Windermere Avenue and Caprera Road Northmead

What do you know about Howard Rotovators?

I don’t know anything about that, I just know that it was the factory opposite the Woollen Mills and that Dad had a Howard rotary hoe and I used to go in among the peach trees with it. I didn’t mind doing that.

It became very famous, this rotary hoe?

Yes it did, it was there for many, many years. Of course now it’s all changed.

So the people that came after the war, migrants as you said, what sort of things did they develop when they came here? What did they bring with them?

Well I don’t know much about that because I had my own business and I was involved in that. I didn’t worry much about what other people did, I was too busy myself.

You said you had eighty employees at one stage. What sort of employees were they?

Truck drivers as my father said when he formed the company, he used to call me girlie, “girlie I’m telling you now, you will not get university students in this job, you will get more the bottom of the barrel”. It was true, but then again I must say the drivers that I had they always respected me, they never disrespected me. I mean I treated them well.

Folini effluent tanker Mister Whiffy at Northmead depot was used for residents with septic tanks 1970s

So out of these eighty employees that you had, that you ran the business. What sort of classes of work did they do?

You had good and bad as you know in everything. They were very faithful employees because it was like a big family. If they had debts I would pay their bills for them and every Christmas I would give them a Christmas party. As I say it was just like a big family. When I sold out I actually saw some of them cry. The day that I told them I put on a barbeque and we had a party because it was the fifth of December it was near Christmas. I told them that I was selling. Some of them had been there…. there were fathers and sons there. The majority of them were entitled to long service. It was very sad in a way because I’d seen the families grown up. But it was time, it was time.

Were you in a unique position running this business?

Yes I was the only woman contractor in Australia at the time, I don’t know about now. I was a member of the Industrial Waste Association. I used to go to their meetings I went to America twice with a group of them. The only woman amongst ten, twelve, fourteen men went all over America, Mexico and Hong Kong. I travelled quite a bit found it very inspiring. When the men used to go out at night I used to look after their wallets and their passports for them. They used to give them to me to mind because I didn’t drink. They’d go out and have parties.

Enid Davis with compaction garbage truck 1980s

Tell me what do you think have been some of the biggest changes that have happened to Northmead in your lifetime?

Well the going out of all the market gardens and the coming in of industry. There’s a lot of industries taken up around Northmead now. You go along Briens Road Northmead now and it’s nearly all factories. There was none of that years ago it was just…there was more market gardens. I remember a big market garden there was the Vidilinis.

Now in Kleins Road Northmead, my husband’s grandparents, now his mother was a Klein. They were German migrants and that street was named after them Kleins Road. Those streets down there I think were named after the original German and English settlers.

Of course there is also Folini Avenue, isn’t there?

Well there Folini Avenue up here yeah.

How do you feel when you walk past Folini Avenue?

Oh so proud, so proud yes. I mean he came here at eighteen and died at fifty eight. He came here where he couldn’t speak a word of English, yes two words corned beef and plum pudding.

So now Northmead has changed physically as well, the houses that they built in the sixties and the seventies you mentioned that there had been a lot of changes?

Lot of town houses.

What’s happening to those houses?

They’re demolishing the old homes and building town houses, this street was a very quiet street, now when you try to come down here at night there’s cars on both sides where all the town houses are built. St Monica’s church now is a beautiful church where it was a little convict built church before. My father’s name was Joseph Folini so I have a beautiful stained glass window in St Monica’s church of St Joseph. I had that put in, in his memory.

You’ve certainly made your mark on Northmead haven’t you? The Folinis?

Yes, yes.

 Aerial view of Northmead and North Rocks with Caprera Road
and Darling Mills Creek in foreground 1997

Are you proud of living in Northmead?

Oh yes, because this block here is the last block zoned for town houses and I don’t know how many agents I’ve had knocking on the door wanting to know would I sell. When would I sell? I said “they will carry me out in a box”. I am staying here until I leave permanently.

So what do you think is the future of Northmead?

Well the industry is doing very well in Northmead. If you go along Brien’s Road now there’s all factories and very, very well. I can remember on the Windsor Road down where the plaza is now that was all paddock along there down to the Woollen Mills. There was a little hall called “The Northmead Progress Hall”. That’s where I had my wedding reception, it was all paddock around, nothing, nothing.

Do you think it has a good future?

Oh yes it’s really come ahead. It’s good it’s nice to see. Of course we’re very lucky country, very, very lucky country. My Dad came here as an eighteen year old and never, ever went back to Italy. Never wanted to go back to Italy and always said it was the best country in the world to raise your family. Never, ever had any inclination and he had more property over there than he had here, so he left it all to the church.

I think I told you that he left it to St Vincent de Paul and they went to the trouble of sending a priest out to get my signature so that they could claim the land and they built a beautiful day nursery in his honour. On the front of it there is a big photo of him and that’s in the town where he came from.

Well we’re coming near the end or our interview, are there any other things that you want to say in this interview, things that we haven’t spoken about?

Only that I’ve seen so many changes all of them for the better, well most of them for the better.

Which have been the changes for the worst do you think?

I can’t say that I’ve seen changes for the worst. Only to see all the beautiful old homes go, but it seems to be everywhere. And town houses and units springing up in their place I think that’s sad, it’s losing the atmosphere.