West Pennant Hills - Jack Smith


Interviewee: Jack Smith, born 1930

Interviewer: Frank Heimans,
            for The Hills Shire Council

Date of Interview: 29 Nov, 2011

Transcription: Glenys Murray, Dec 2011

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

Where does your story begin?

My story begins on my mother’s side with William Bellamy in 1772-1850, on Active, 1791 the Third Fleet. Tried in London on 8th December 1789, caught for stealing six pairs of leather shoes and jail delivery on the 9th December 1789 for seven years transportation. In 1802 he was freed. In 1804 he was granted one hundred acres. He married Ann Fay age unknown, she came out on the (Marquis) Cornwallis in 1796 for seven years transportation. They married on 10th July 1797.

Bellamy stone house and kitchen block Aiken Road
with Heather Bellamy and Kerry Smith c1974

Well you’ve taken me back further than most people can do. How many generations is that? Six or seven?

Six or seven yeah. Well our grandchildren are the sixth generation at West Pennant Hills School.

That’s great absolutely. What were your parents names, who were they?

My mother was Beatrice Smith or Beatrice Bellamy prior to it. My father was John Henry Smith and the Henry part has gone right through except for me.

Stops with you?

Yeah stopped with me.

What year were you born, Jack?

On the 8th of October 1930.

Where, at West Pennant Hills?

Yes in Eaton Road one street down. (In a house rented from the Smee family).

Smee house Eaton Rd West Pennant Hills c1936

You haven’t moved very far?

No, I lived there until 1937 and then Mum and Dad bought the property in Oakes Rd. How they did I don’t know. 1937 was Depression time and how they ever bought… we’ve got a receipt for seventy two pounds when they bought this property. When you think about the Depression then it’s amazing… well I look at it and I think: God how did they ever rake up seventy two pounds? There wasn’t any work around.

What was his job actually, your father?

He was a saddler by trade like my grandfather, they were both saddlers. When my grandmother died on my Smith side. They evidently moved from Gundagai to Orange. Set up another saddlery business there and then they moved to number 12 Oakes Road. This is where I presume because my mother lived in Aiken Road, this is where they must have met and got married. As far as Dad goes I can remember in the Depression days they worked a fortnight on and a fortnight off. Every second Sunday of that fortnight for work a group of four or five men would meet out the front. They would ride off on Sunday at lunchtime for the camp for a fortnight on. Then they’d come back on the Saturday or the Sunday of the fortnight and they’d have a fortnight off (for Baulkham Hills Shire Council on the road near Wiseman's Ferry). It was a pretty tough time I can just remember Mum used to have coupons. They went to Parramatta for meat and shoes and things like that. They weren’t the only ones everyone around here… I can remember my Dad saying it was a shame to see doctors on pick and shovel crying with blisters on their hands in the Depression days.

Because they couldn’t find work?

Couldn’t find work, there was no work. Eventually I suppose when war broke out he was conscripted to the Pick-Me-Up Condiment company where he stayed for I don’t know how many years, quite a few. Then he moved to a place called Rasmussen Wyatt a cooperage at Mascot. They used to make barrels and kegs and from there he moved to Tullochs and he was there until he died.

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

What was Tullochs?

Tullochs was an engineering company. Rolling stock was the major thing that they made. They made shovels and they used to export shovels. Carriage works, carriage painters, foundries. They had a foundry and a huge fitting and machinery shop and a huge boiler shop. Across the road after the war when things were pretty hard to get they started constructing steel framed houses. They were steel frames, steel weatherboards profiled down to about six or seven layers and in old feet about six foot long. In tiles they made metal tiles in that section. That was the section where in the war where they built the boats over in that section. It was called Econo-steel and I think there is still a company got the name Econo-steel today.

I remember when I started there in 1951, 1952 we used to get two and sixpence, that sounds like a lot of money. But two and six a morning to Bundy on, on time before 7.30. We had a subsidised canteen. I worked five days a week and Saturday for thirty two pounds.

Which was not a bad wage in those days was it?

It was a big wage I was very fortunate thirty two pounds was a lot of money. In those days there were black out times. Bunnerong Power Station was the only power station for the Sydney metropolitan area. It couldn’t maintain the power supply to the entire grid. We used to have two days a week black out days in various suburbs right through. So they were all run by diesels (generators) not all the plant you would shut down probably over half the plant to run. Then we’d start these diesels about six thirty of a morning. There were two big ones in Tullochs side and two big ones in Econo side. Start those up and get it all ready, everything online by seven thirty to run. That would go till twenty past ten of a night, till the electricity authorities came and shut it down. Put their power on and we could shut it down. Then it was head for home, it was a long day.

How many employees were there at Tullochs in those days?

The foundry had two shifts. I would say it would be close to a thousand.

Major company?

It was a major company. The manager was Bernie Jones and his daughter was the secretary. He was a thorough gentleman, he walked around every day and he had a memory that he could know everyone’s name.

You were an electrician there were you?

Yeah I was an electrician there. It was good there were four electricians and two apprentices. That was a good job. It was dirty, it wasn’t clean. There were bad days and good days I think, but generally it was good. WorkCover and things like that didn’t exist in those days. If you or I were working together and you were a fitter and I was an electrician we’d both go on the same job. If you wanted a hand with something I gave you a hand all time and you gave me a hand. Nobody argued about it. It was terrific everyone worked in with everyone, there was never any problems.

Thompsons Corner 1939

Now I want to go back a bit to your childhood to your early days when you were growing up in this area, in West Pennant Hills. I believe Thompson’s Corner was an important part of it. Describe Thompson’s Corner to me in the 1930’s when you were growing up?

Well Thompsons Corner was gone a long time before that. I can really only remember a lot about Thompsons Corner I suppose when I came out of hospital after I was scalded. I never had much to do with Thompsons Corner until then. Thompsons Corner was the main store at that time. When you go back to a lot of history there was a bake house there too. I read an article where it had fourteen carts on the road with sixteen horses there’d be two spare horses. That went through Dural and everywhere with bread. I don’t know how long it went for. It had a big verandah around it and Mr. and Mrs Thorby ran it and they had Ken that was the son and Dot and Bessie were the two daughters. They basically ran it and the girls that was Dorothy and a girl named Bonnie Sharp down in the valley, they ran the mail run in an old car.

You're talking of the 1930’s now?

No that would have been in the war years when they ran that. Thorby’s had a garage on the other side of the road. Supplied hardware and everything else. It was a general store. Then in Aiken Road we had a store later on, one store which is still standing there now. A chap called Bliss built that and that stayed for a long time and eventually Thorby’s bought that too. (In 2011 this building is being used as an art gallery). Then there was a gentleman behind us (in Oakes Rd.) called Price he built a store on the corner here (in the 1930's, and it was sold to brothers George and Jock Bissett. It became the site of the BP Service Station in the early 1970's). That shut down all this area because that was the major store on the corner of Aiken’s and Oakes Road. (ie, the Bliss store was bought by the Gilsen family and used as a residence, which meant that the Bissett store became the major store in the area).

That store has gone now, has it?

Yeah that store’s gone. One thing a lot of people don’t realise it was the first liquor license put out in the metropolitan area. You could only buy beer, no spirits, you could buy bottles of beer, twelve or a case and that was it. That license still exists in Carmen Drive West Pennant Hills and that was the first license. The police used to be there at least three times a week to check it out. When the deliveries came the police were there too.

Bissetts store c1960s

So that would have operated during the prohibition days as well?

No, no it started… I think people called Bissett owned that and I think that must have started about 1948 somewhere round about there.

Now you had a rather traumatic experience when you were very young, tell me about that?

You mean the tub of boiling water I suppose it was wasn’t it. I don’t remember much about it. Again I think no wonder my mother had a lot of grey hairs. I fell into this tub of boiling water and I got my chest and my arms all up in here done. They didn’t know much about burns in those days. When you think about it they did the wrong thing. They poured olive oil all over me. So they rushed me off to Hornsby Hospital where I was in Hornsby Hospital being treated for quite some time. I’ve got the paper but I can’t give you the exact date of when the hospital burnt down (actually it was 11 August 1935). The original Hornsby Hospital. It was a weatherboard construction and it burnt down. Then I was shifted to the Royal North Shore and unfortunately all the sinews in my arms contracted and my arms were like that. The worst thing I can ever remember about it, my arms were stuck to the bed to keep them like that. I couldn’t turn over because they were strapped to the sides of the bed.

After I came out of there that was a fair time. I can’t give you a real date on that that was a long time. Then I was at home and Mum used to have to take me to Parramatta Hospital for dressing every day. That went on for quite a while. I can always remember when they took the bandages off it was terrible. I always wore long sleeves for a long time. Still do I’ve got to watch my arms in the sun. When I went to school at West Pennant Hills although I was burnt I was never ever touched or anything like that. Everyone was fabulous as far as that went.

Dunns property Eaton Rd WPH from Smees c1936

How old were you when this accident happened?

I was four when I was burnt. I was about six and a half to seven when I came out of it. The last would have been Parramatta when I came out of it and went to school.

That’s Parramatta Hospital?

Only day care in Parramatta that’s all they did. They took bandages off and put other stuff on.

Very severe burns what degree burns would they be today do you think?

Pretty severe, third degree I suppose.

Now tell me about the sort of childhood that you had in West Pennant Hills? What West Pennant Hills was like during your childhood, what was there here?

Fabulous it was, it was absolutely fabulous. Words can’t describe it. A few of us are left about my age and we just can’t believe… we made our own fun, never got into mischief. I would probably leave at breakfast time and find the other mates and we’d head to the bush for the day. You’d be playing at waterholes all day and come home for tea. Wouldn’t worry about lunch, drank water out of the creek which you can’t do today. It was a good life. You knew everyone. Nobody took anything you could leave a car on the side of the road if it had keys in it. You could leave it there for a month and nobody would worry about it. Nobody ever locked their doors. Wasn’t till the 1950’s before anyone would lock their doors. Everyone knew everyone. It was a terrific life really.

What would you do all day in the bush? I mean would you trap rabbits and that sort of stuff?

My old grandfather used to take my cousin and me rabbit trapping. We never used to bother. It was amazing we’d get down in the creek and we’d be playing round in the water digging holes, looking for tadpoles and things like that. Later on we used to make canoes for some of the waterholes. A sheet of iron, pull it all up and make a bow, dig up a bit of bitumen off a road somewhere and melt it with a bit of a fire and pour it in there. Jump in it and it would fall over they were never successful. We had a good time really, fabulous.

Hansen house Eaton Rd WPH c1936 later Simpson

I believe that you had a pet ferret did you?

Yes my grandfather had a ferret old Bill. A big old cream ferret. You could put him down your shirt or anything he was like… he was quiet. He’d go for a swim, we’d put him in the water for a swim and he’d have a swim. We’d catch him, he was good.

What other sort of bush animals do you recall being around?

There were foxes. You can always smell a fox and I can today although there’s not very many in this area now because it’s built up. But there were quite a lot of foxes in here. Never any roos or anything like that. There were bandicoots, possums of course. Lizards and all that. We used to always watch for snakes, never saw many brown snakes in this area only black snakes. But a snake always gets away from you. We’d always be making a noise so they would be gone before we ever got there. We never worried about anything like that. We never had shoes none of us ever had shoes on. We could run over a blue metal road and not feel it. It was quite strange. You know that was a funny thing too. We used to run everywhere very seldom you walked. That was with the boys. Girls used to be with us a lot of the girls in the district. Later on when we started going out we all went out together. We all went to the pictures together and all came home always laughing. Nobody ever fought or quarreled or anything like that.

So what sort of time would you get home, how late in the evening?

Well later on in life I suppose when I was eighteen or nineteen we’d walk home from Beecroft there was no buses or no cabs at that time. Sometimes there’d be fourteen or fifteen of us walking home from Beecroft. We’d always be laughing and singing and going on. No there was never any problems.

Your parents never worried about you not coming home?

No, not at all. They wouldn’t worry because everything was safe. You wouldn’t do it today but there was never any problems. Everyone knew everyone and you walked through somebody’s orchard and yell out to them. You’d probably pick an orange and just keep going. There was never any problems. I can’t remember any problems.

Mobbs plum orchard, Kinneys orchard, Mrs Russell, Old Ma Jeffersons shack Eaton Road late 1940s

What was the main activity of the people? What were they growing here, what were they doing?

A lot of poultry farms and a lot of flowers, vegetables, peach orchards, orange orchards and plum orchards a lot of orchards. There’d be carriers taking fruit to the Sydney markets around about eight or nine o’clock at night. Some of them would be very late. I know there was a farm down the road. They would leave after eleven o’clock at night for the city after they had picked all day and packed. There was a lot of apples. There was a heck of a lot of agriculture in this area. Before road transport everything went to Pennant Hills and Thornleigh railway stations for the Sydney market. It was really an agricultural set up and dairy too. There was quite a lot of dairy farms here.

Who were the people that were growing most of the vegetables? Were they Australians or other ethnic groups?

There was a lot of Italians in the vegetables. Not a lot of Italians but most of them they were Australians. Grown up, property left presumably by their grandparents and they carried on. A lot of them I think would have done a lot of hard work. This was a heavily timbered area, grubbing out trees and clearing land for fruit trees. But there was a lot of very good orchards.

How big were the blocks that those orchards had? How big a land were they?

I suppose some the orchards covered three to four acres. There was one down in Eaton Road, Ken Maher’s. That was the biggest one. That was citrus, apples and I think plums. Further down Oakes Road there was another big peach orchard and plum orchard. Nearly all the way round this area even towards Castle Hill there was a tremendous amount of agriculture. What we call the valley, that’s down Aiken Road, there was a lot of orchards down through there.

How were they doing financially, those people, were they making a buck out of it?

I think so. Well what we call a “buck out of it”. Everything was in wooden cases years ago. I was never involved in it but I would say they were making a living. I don’t say they lived extravagantly. One of the biggest things that came to orchards in this area was Howard Rotary Hoes. That was made in Northmead, in North Parramatta. When Howard’s came it made a heck of a difference. People could cultivate between rows. Where other people had to do it by hand the Howard Rotary Hoe made it ever so much easier. It was a big advantage right through to basically all this got cut up.

So what happened to all those orchards? Was it viable in the end to keep it all going?

Well they were all developed. I can remember in this area they wanted to make the valley area, that’s down toward the west of West Pennant Hills a “Green Belt” area. That was fought for a long time as a “Green Belt” What they meant was no housing, no development. Gradually development started to come in and of course you couldn’t stop it. It just got developed and the orchards got swallowed up. Same as is going on everyday now. You know you just saw the trees getting bulldozed out and the houses coming in. It’s the same everywhere now.

Jack Smith and Blue at Smee house c1936

Tell me a little bit about the house you grew up in? A little weatherboard place I think it was wasn’t it?

Oh in Eaton Road?

Yes, can you describe it to me, take me for an imaginary walk through it?

Yes there was a bedroom, bathroom a lounge room a front verandah and a back verandah. That’s about it. It was quite a pretty little place. Mum and Dad had a nice little garden of Shasta daisies round it. One of the things he built a shed. In those days it was only galvanized iron and it was bark out of a tree. You wouldn’t believe what I did, I set it alight and burnt it down. Gees I got a hiding for it. I crawled under the house and I had bandages on me and when I came out… I had a blue cattle dog. Dad’s trying to poke me out from under the house and I’d say “don’t you let him touch me Blue”. Eventually I had to come out and gees I got a hiding for it. There was no shed left. No it was quite good, it was quite good.

When Mum and Dad came out here as I said before they bought the block of ground they only built a half a house. Kerry’s house there was only a half a house. It was a Hudson ready cut and they built a half a house which they lived in for a long time. My daughter’s got in that now and she’s refurbished the one as you come up the drive.

Did the house have electricity and water and sewerage?

No sewerage there was a sanitary (pan) that was Fellini Brothers they called once a week. Their depot was in I think Mary Street Northmead. We had an iceman came round Mr. Caine(?) in an old truck with ice, block of ice. Sometimes in the summer it would be blocks a week or one and a half blocks. We used to chase after that for a piece of ice when he used to chip it off. The milkman was Taylor’s Dairy. That’s another thing there were a lot of dairy farms around too. Then the butcher I can remember Mum’s first lot of meat used to come from Dural in a horse and cart. Reg Allen and he’d cut the meat up in the cart. You know you think about refrigeration today there was none of that. When the iceman came you had to wrap it in newspaper, whatever newspaper they had and then a corn bag in the block of ice to try and hold it and put it in the old ice chest. The other thing was a drip safe. Have you heard of a drip safe? A drip safe is a square box around a timber frame and it’s about a half a metre by a half a metre by a half a metre. There was a gauze over that and on the top of it you had a tan k that held water. The tank was about four inches deep was the same thing by half a metre and you filled it with water. You put tiny little holes around it and it dripped down the side, cooling with the air. There were lots of drip safes there were lots of drip safes used in the country too. It was up off the ground on legs. That was a drip safe.

Folini sanitary waggon 1960s at Northmead depot

Is that what they used to call a Coolgardie safe?

It could have been, I don’t know we always knew it as a drip safe.

Was the water cool?

Well it was just ordinary water out of the tank or out of whatever it was. There was a heck of a lot used in the country too and it just dripped out. Sometimes they put a corn bag down the side and that would be wet. That would keep it with this water coming down over the corn bag. Not dripping, just drips, but enough to keep it moist. I don’t ever remember any meat being off. Butter I never liked, it was home made and I hated home made butter. I really did. You’d pour the milk into a separator. You know what a separator is? You’d turn this darn thing to get the cream out and you’d put it into this stupid glass bowl to make butter and a bit of salt in it. Gee I hated that.

Having one of those drip safes, it wouldn’t require electricity?

No, the first refrigerator I can remember was Silent Knight. There was a gas one, a kerosene one and an electric one. The kerosene one was a bit of a farce because there was a lot of fires through that. What they had to do was pull that out and trim the wick, if they didn’t trim the wick they would flare. They had a little flue up the back and it would flare and go out the flue. Nearly all refrigerators were put up against a wall. There were a lot of fires through kerosene (refrigerators). The electrics were good, they were pretty reliable. I can remember when the Baulkham Hills Council had them and people would ring up and say “my refrigerator is not going”. So you’d go out take all the stuff out of the refrigerator. Turn it on its lid and you’d hear all the gas go glug, glug, glug all the way down to the bottom. When it stopped you turn it back over wait till the gas went back down again. Turn it back on “oh it’s going”. That’s all you ever had to do. That was a good fridge but my God they were heavy, they were really made of steel.

They were made by a man called Hallstrom weren’t they?

Yes, Hallstrom.

Baulkham Hills Shire Council Electricity Dept Ford Prefect 1945 model at Depot

(Jack Smith worked as an apprentice Electrician for Baulkham Hills Shire Council Electricity Department from 1946 to 1951).

How many power points would there be in the average house in those early days?

In an average house you might have one for the refrig if it was an electric, probably about three or four depending on the size of the house and the lights too. I can remember out at Box Hill I helped wire up a place with one of the electricians. I was an apprentice. It was made of poles and white corn bags whitewashed, dirt floor a galvanized iron tin door and tin windows. We put in I think it was two lights and one power point in that place. They were lovely people. They just had a poultry farm out there and they thought it was wonderful and we thought it was wonderful too. People were so poor in those days and yet they were always so good. There was always a cup of tea on.

How long was your study for your electrical apprenticeship?

It was a five year apprenticeship. I only did four courses. I was well behind things. That’s when I learned more when I went to Tullochs. I got the job at Tullochs and I learnt more then. I was in a different type of industry. This was heavy industry and the household industry, you pretty well learnt that straight away. There wasn’t a lot in household but in industry it was a totally different thing. It was a good experience.

What made you decide to become an electrician?

Never wanted to be an electrician I wanted to be a cabinet maker. I’ve always been mad on woodwork. I’ve got a woodwork lathe downstairs. I couldn’t get in to woodwork. It’s a funny thing my son wanted to be a woodworker and couldn’t make the break either. My mother said “what about an electrician”? She must have known somebody in Baulkham Hills Council and within a week I was out there.

How old were you then?

About sixteen or seventeen.

So you’d done your Intermediate Certificate then before that?

No, no Intermediate Certificate just went to the end of sixth class, then I went to Eastwood High School and I stayed two years then I left. I learnt more when I left school than when I was at school.

Baulkham Hills Shire Council Electricity Dept vehicle no 8 with dog 1948

What about telephones? Did houses have phones in those days?

Yes we had a telephone box in Aiken Road that was the only phone. The next one was Thompson’s Corner.

Was it a pay phone, was it?

Yes it was a pay phone.

Do you remember how much it used to take? Money?

No I don’t really I don’t.

It was a penny or something wasn’t it?

No it was more than that I think, more than that probably a shilling. Could have been a shilling. They were never vandalised you could always say they were there. The phone books inside.

So two telephones in the whole of West Pennant Hills?

Yes as far as I know. The one on the corner up there which stayed for many, many years even when we started to get phones. I think there was two a Thompson’s Corner. I don’t know of any others.

What about entertainment for your family. What sort of entertainment did they have? Did they have radios and things?

The first radio I remember Mum and Dad had was a crystal set. They used to put headphones and they used to twiddle with this little thing and eventually they’d get something. The first power radio I remember when I was a kid was people called Branwin (in Aiken Rd, opposite Oakes Rd) I think their name was. They used to listen to the English cricket. Be about three o’clock in the morning they’d come home and just about everyone around would be in their place listening to the cricket.

The Test Match in England?

Probably, yeah.

Tennis was played a lot. There was quite a few tennis courts around tennis was played quite a bit. There was one in Aiken Road a tennis court. There was quite a lot of courts.

 Aerial view Aiken Rd in foreground and Oakes Rd WPH c1970 featuring Read rose farm

Were there Rugby playing fields?

No, honestly don’t ever remember a football match around. Always cricket, there was cricket. There was one at North Rocks and there was cricket at Pennant Hills itself. There was a cricket oval there.

Did you have chores to do at home?

When my arm started to get better, we only had a fuel stove. We had a saw horse and we used to use a cross cut saw, which I’ve still got downstairs and I‘d help Dad saw the week’s wood. When he grew a few flowers… that was another thing they grew strawberries. We had strawberries and I used to help pick strawberries and Mum used to pack them.

Were they for market sale?

They were for market. Other than their work that was extra money. There was a lot of strawberries growing in this area when I think about it. Everyone diversified and grew different things. I don’t remember things like lettuce and beetroot ever being grown. Whether it was grown further out… but you’d always see cabbages and cauliflowers, potatoes and things like that. Never lettuce, carrots I don’t ever remember seeing those grown.

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