West Pennant Hills - Jack Smith - Part 2
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
Was there a shopping centre at West Pennant Hills?
No there was Pennant Hills. Pennant Hills and Beecroft always had something. But the main one was Parramatta.
Is that where you would usually go shopping?
Well that’s where Mum and Dad used to do their shopping. My grandfather even I can remember when I was very small, they used to go to Parramatta Friday night for shopping. That was the main shopping centre. Billy Watson ran a bus from Beecroft to Parramatta and people used to go in on that.
Were you close to a railway station here?
Beecroft was the closest.
How long a walk was that from home?
Twenty minutes to run, half an hour to walk and an hour if you were dawdling. No Beecroft was the closest one for us. There was one at Carlingford but nobody ever went to Carlingford. We didn’t. That was a steam train. But they were electric in Beecroft. If I remember rightly they used to run every half hour. They talk about trains today not on time, they were always on time, very seldom they weren’t on time so if you were running late you’d miss it.
John Taylor at Eaton Road filling quart milk measure 1950s
Did you have a cow?
Yes we had a cow. When we were in Eaton Road we had a cow. I can remember Dad saying they couldn’t afford a cow. Johnny Taylor in Eaton Road was the dairyman and all the people that couldn’t afford it, you wouldn’t believe this, he used to give them a cow. Didn’t want anything for it he just put it in the paddock “that’s yours look after it”. That’s how Mum and Dad had a cow and he was the local dairyman.
That was an amazing guy?
Johnny Taylor was a terrific bloke.
If you could only bring those days back huh?
If people couldn’t pay for their milk well they got time to pay for it. That was good.
Did you run up a credit bill at the grocery shop?
I think they did I really do until pay day. Old Mr. Price up there I think he had a book and they’d come in if they wanted flour or something. They’d run that and pay it off at the end of the week.
Do you remember who your neighbours were along Oakes and Aiken Roads?
Yes, Miss Chaffers-Welsh was there, then Bill Dalgairns then Miss Lois and John Lois, Mrs Jefferson she lived in a funny little old weatherboard shack just one room. Hastings and Marj McCance on this side. The other side Jack Read they had the roses, Bill High and Suffolks that was all on this side.
So what was their main occupation all your neighbours?
Those people Miss Chapel Welch(?) they came off a cattle property in Texas (Q’ld) to live here. They arrived in their old Dodge and a blue cattle dog, luggage all up the mudguards. They retired here. The Lois's I don’t know where they came from I really don’t. Mrs Jefferson came from a place called Fiddletown. She came and lived there for a long time. Johnny Taylor again used to look after her with milk and things like that. She had an old horse and when it died he buried it in a pet’s grave. He was fabulous to people that way. Hastings they didn’t do much. They ran a little Sunday school on the front verandah. Fred and Marj McCance I don’t know where Fred worked. He drove the taxis later on in life. Frank Russell was the other side, he didn’t do anything, he was more or less retired.
Taylor's dairy Eaton Road West Pennant Hills with Mahers Road
in distance Haynes House White House now M2 c1940
What was the transport situation like at West Pennant Hills in the early days?
Well as far as right here or Pennant Hills road?
Pennant Hills Road what about that?
Pennant Hills Road, Jack Morrow ran a bus from Parramatta to Pennant Hills in the early stage. There was another bus company ran too but I can’t think who it was. But everyone knew old Jack. He had this funny little red bus and he used to wear a grey felt hat and a grey dust coat. He’d light a cigarette at Pennant Hills and I don’t think he ever did the drawback and the ash would come down to boomerang style and I think he used to light another one at Parramatta. But there was always this cigarette.
He never spoke much you’d say “g’day Jack” muh that’s all he’d say. If you weren’t in the middle of the road sometimes waving to him he’d drive past you. Now Billy Watson he was really a nice fellow. We’ve got a park named after him. Bill was a fabulous person. All the kids sat around with their arms around him, which would never happen today. The kids absolutely loved him, he never gave them lollies or anything they just loved him. I can remember my Mum saying people used to give him a list in Parramatta and he’d buy the groceries and bring them home for them. If they weren’t at the stop he’d back up the road… he was a fabulous person.
It was amazing it would never happen again.
Was there a local policeman?
Only at Pennant Hills, never ever saw him. I think his name was Blue Anderson and there was one at Castle Hill that’s all never knew who he was.
There probably wasn’t much for them to do with such a low crime rate?
I would say in deaths or something like that. When you say crime they would have been petty crimes I suppose in those days. All they had at Pennant Hills was a little black and white box, like a little toilet box with a phone in it. I think that was all that was there. He had a Harley Davidson and sidecar.
View from Taylors Dairy Eaton Road towards Oakes Road WPH 1945
Now you’ve already described a little bit about West Pennant Hills Public School. Can you tell me how many classes were there? How many kids in each class were there?
Well there was first and second in what we called the little room and Miss McCourt used to do that. She always wore a hat and sometimes gloves. Then Mr. Johnson had third fourth and fifth class. No third, fourth, fifth and sixth in the other room. Three or four blackboards he had and he used to do the lot.
So he used to take four levels of classes at the same time?
The big room was the long room he did the lot. He didn’t seem to have any problems with it.
How many kids do you think would have been at the school in total in the late 1930’s?
Take a rough guess forty.
I believe you were at school when Coca Cola was introduced?
Yes they came to school with a little bottle of Coca Cola, only once then it went into Thorby’s store the next day.
Thompsons Corner 1939
You just got a taste of it?
Yes got a taste of it.
We never had milk in those days either. (Free school milk). There was no milk.
Now war broke out when you were about nine years old? What do you recall about those days, the war days?
Not a lot in the first place just seeing people enlisting and going away. Not so much enlisting I think a lot of them were conscripted to go away. Most of them in this area went in the 35th Battalion and were trained and then went to Western Australia to Geraldton. They were bought back on leave and were posted to New Guinea. So this uncle of mine he was in the Navy, Alf Heath he was very lucky. Every ship he stepped off something happened. He was off the Adelaide, the Canberra, the whole lot… and even the Kuttabul. He was home on leave the night the Kuttabul was torpedoed. He was so lucky. He was a stoker, petty officer on all those ships. But nothing much more I can remember.
Do you remember any US troops passing through?
US troops were everywhere. If it wasn’t Navy, you know the cap on the side. One of the girls down the road, the girl Suffolk she had a sailor friend. I can always remember the women around the place when she walked down the road with this American sailor on her arm. They were horrified. How things change.
Jack and Jean Read's home front view Aug 1980
Were there any air raid drills?
No, we didn’t even have them at school. We never even had a trench at school that I can remember. The only one that we had was over at Jack Read’s house. Dad and Jack made up sugar bags full of dirt underneath the cellar under the house. That was about the only thing. I think a lot of people thought it would never come here. Till the Japs came in the harbour things changed.
Do you recall the night the Kuttabul was sunk in Sydney Harbour?
I can remember the night, it’s hard to realise that you could hear the guns go off here. But don’t forget there wasn’t the noise level what you’ve got today. The siren went and everyone ran out and we could hear the guns go. Everyone was saying “oh the Japs are here, the Japs are here”. Grabbing everything all their papers and things and over to the cellar.
You could actually hear the guns go off on Sydney Harbour?
As I was saying there wasn’t the noise in those days, everything was so quiet. Don’t forget it was at night when it went.
What other things do you remember about the war years? Do you remember the cars had charcoal burners?
Yeah, Forrester used to make the burners. Only saw one charcoal burner and the Council had that on a 1938 Chevrolet utility. I went in it a couple of times. They lit this darn charcoal burner and it would get half way up Rogan’s Hill and it would be nearly stopped. It had no power at all. And the other thing, poor old Jack Morrow’s bus it had a gas bag on top on the roof. That was the only time I had ever seen a gas bag on. It was a frame on the roof and this gas bag was the full circumference of the bus. The walls would have been well we go a metre and a half high. They were like a canvas and I think they used to put fish oil on it to seal it. As the bag got deflated it had a metal surround around it. As it got deflated it used to be like a sail on the top. The fish oil used to drip down the side of the bus. It never did the old bus any harm because after the war and the gas bag came off, he still ran it for years. So it didn’t do any harm.
Now you left school in Year 8 at Eastwood High School and got yourself a job as an apprentice electrician with the Baulkham Hills Council? What was that like in those days in 1946 when you joined?
Well it was after the war. A lot of the people were returned soldiers, naval, army and air force. Bits of hard cases we had to watch ourselves. No it was quite good really. It was all rural and agricultural. Charlie Higginbotham was our boss which was a terrific boss as far as I was concerned. Roy Hollis was the engineer. I’ve been lucky in life really everyone I’ve been associated with has been good.
L-R Bill Lane & Roy Hollis on 'Miss Margaret', Arthur Edwards, Jimmy Baker, Jimmy Mills, Dave Lindsay c1949
How many electricians did Baulkham Hills Council have on staff and do you remember any of their names?
Eight, Ken Vickerage, Geoff Mercer, George Stewart, Dick Webb, Keith Stevens, that’s all I can remember.
So how did you find yourself as a very young apprentice with all these electricians?
Well there were other young apprentices there too.
You were not the only one?
I wasn’t the only one, no.
Jack Smith's original electrician's tools and toolbox
Did you enjoy the work?
Yes it was good.
Did they train you properly?
Yes they were good. You went out with an electrician everyday. We started off around Castle Hill and this area. There were consumers where you went and picked up their toasters and jugs and repaired it. Stoves as a repair section in these areas… As you went out to Kenthurst and Kellyville and all those that was a different thing it was mainly installation and it went right through to Wisemans Ferry. I didn’t go in the electrical part… I went as far as Glenorie on that part of it. Although we did go to Wisemans Ferry.
So you were installing electricity in those new areas were you?
Yeah there were not very many new houses. They were all existing houses, very few new houses. All mostly existing because they were kerosene lights before.
Before the war you mean?
So this is the big period after the war when electricity came to Baulkham Hills?
Well that I don’t know just when it came. It was well and truly entrenched because I can remember when Mum and Dad built here 1938 they got the electricity on here then. The power came into Post Office Road Carlingford that was the substation.
Eaton Road in middle distance with Pennant Hills Road at top c1967
There were electric stoves coming out in those days weren’t they? What kind of stoves were they?
Well there were Metters Early Kookers they were a cream and green enamel. There was the Metters No. 1 was a tiny stovette. It had one solid hotplate on the top and one little oven door. One of the stoves had three hotplates two round and one square and an oven and that was on legs. Then you came to the Early Kooker that was an elevated oven and it had one, two, four hotplates and it was on long legs approximately eight or nine hundred high. So it was at waist height and everything was there and I think it had a drip tray underneath it. It had a splash back it was quite a nice stove. They were the main stoves. Then English Electric came out with an aluminium one. That was quite something. It was I would say it was melted down aluminium from the war years. It was a sand casting which leaves it very rough. All they were, were cleaned off and they had three hotplates and an oven. Gees they were rough those things. The other one was a Right Temp they were much the same.
Nothing anyone today would buy right?
Well everyone was so darned pleased to have one. They’d accept it because it was away from the fuel stove. There wasn’t a lot of things you could buy. You were pretty restricted. It was war surplus really, after the war there wasn’t a lot of stuff around so you accepted it with a smile, like the Halstrom refrig.
What about washing machines what was available in that?
Well the first real washing machine I ever saw was in a dairy farm at Rouse Hill. It was an American one called an Easy. It had three arms and at the end of the arms they looked like open fingers and it used to come down in a half circle motion and up. That was the first one I ever seen. The main one was Westinghouse and it had a wringer on top. That was real modern. It was white with a blue lid I can always remember that.
Now did you wire up kitchens for all those stoves?
Yes, most of them were single phase or what they called two-phase... that’s 415 volt or 240. The Early Kookas were 240. Most of the others were two phase. That was two live wires coming in, one neutral and one earthed.
Top of Eaton Road looking down to Oakes Road c1969
What were the big changes at West Pennant Hills that occurred during your lifetime?
I’d say roads. Most of the roads, even Oakes Road was a metal or shale road. A lot of the roads around here were covered in shale and stone. Some of the roads in Beecroft… although Beecroft was more advanced than we were. There wasn’t any curb and guttering in this street until about 1960 before this road was tarred. The tar in Aiken Road only ran as far as Oakes Road and it stopped and the rest of it was all blue metal all the way through. Most of the roads were hard surfaced not tarred and just normal, no curb and guttering, just the normal drains down the side.
So what would be the biggest things that happened to the neighbourhood to develop West Pennant Hills?
I suppose transport. We had electricity, we had water. Probably transport.
What about as far as population's concerned? The influx of other people from different countries did that make a difference?
We never had a lot of people from different countries. We had Italians in Aiken Road and their name was Guiffres. Everyone accepted it, we always thought the Italians were good citizens, they worked hard, they weren’t in luxurious houses or anything. The poor devils were in sheds. Some used to say later on “look at that house they’ve got” but they didn’t realise how hard they had worked for it. No they were quite good.
A lot of Lebanese and Asian people came in later years didn’t they?
Yes we had Lebanese up the road they were good neighbours, both of them finished up working at Tullochs. Dad got them a job. They were quite good.
Has that influx of new people changed the overall population?
Yes I think the saddest thing about it is today you don’t know anyone. The locals we would wave or blow the horn but today you’re just a number. I think this applies everywhere today.
Now the whole community has changed from being so rural to residential. What do you think were the gains and the losses in doing that?
I think the greatest gain was the real estate agents. The developers couldn’t get at it quick enough.
What has the community lost as a result?
It lost the farming part of it which was lovely really.
Sydney’s market garden it was?
Market gardens and flower gardens.
Last flowers grown Bill & Kath Bellamy's Oratava Avenue c1977
Now the population density has increased a lot of course. You’ve got better transport, you’ve got better schooling these days. You’ve got James Ruse High School you didn’t have before.
We’ve got a lot of schools now.
Has that improved the municipality?
I would say so. It’s very hard to judge because as I said before you don’t know everyone. Now I know down here of a morning at 7.30 the bus goes down here loaded with small children and I think they go to James Ruse. That’s at 7.30. Then you’ve got Tara, you’ve got quite a lot of schools. If you go out towards Castle Hill there’s a lot more private schools.
In terms of better roads the M2 was a major development. Tell me of your role in documenting its construction?
Yeah that was quite funny really. I’d retired and I was going for a walk and I was coming down from Carmen Drive and there was this chap in black trousers and a white shirt and he’s got a broom and a shovel. I thought God and I was only in a pair of normal trousers and I said “good morning” and he said “good morning” and I said “give me the shovel and the broom and I’ll clean it up”. “No, no, no”. So I cleaned it all up and shovelled it to the side and he said “where do you live”? I said “I just live up the road” he said “well I’m the overseer of this are you interested in this”? I said yes I am”. He said every fortnight I’ll pick you up and take you over it”. Which he did it was the most interesting thing. He explained to me lots and lots of things that you’d never… You just think well you just bulldoze a road and that’s it.
It was amazing he took me and showed me a big retaining wall down there and I think there was ten to twelve New Zealanders there. They had big webbing straps and they were pulling these back into the centre of the road to hold these retaining walls up. People don’t realise it but they drive over it and that retaining wall is all held back by big nylon straps. I said to Warren, this was the overseer, I said to Warren “how long do you anticipate these to last”? He said “while ever they’re under that surface and they’re dry forever and a day”. It’s a funny thing seeing as your recording this he said to me “do you realise this will be a car park in two years and he was pretty right”. He made a comment one day we were coming back up he said “what they should have done with this was made it heavy rail”. I think he was dead right look at the money they’re spending on it now, it is a car park.
Yeah sometimes it is, yeah.
So why were you so keen on photographing all the various stages of its construction?
Well nobody did. I said to him “do you mind if…” he said “no go your hardest”. Well I had the opportunity to do it. So this is why I took all the photographs. I took photographs before houses came down or before the street started. I did it basically for my two children and my grandchildren. Honestly I’ve got heaps of photos in there and its lost otherwise.
Aerial view from DC3 of M2 and Pennant Hills Road 9 Nov 1997
You did a great job. Now what would you say was the best period of your life?
I suppose when I got married, yeah. The wife and I have had a wonderful life I think. Good life.
Your children live in this area?
Yes my daughter lives next door in my mother’s place and my son lives the next street down.
No one has moved very far, is that right?
Well David did in the first place he was over at Baulkham Hills and sold that out and came over closer. It’s lovely really because the grandkids come up and he pops in. Kerry sees us every night.
So what is it that you like most about living here in West Pennant Hills?
I just think the convenience of it. When you think about it as you get older… the place has got so many hospitals. It’s just very convenient. You’re not far from shopping centres. You’ve got a North Rocks shopping centre, you’ve got a Carlingford shopping centre, you’ve got Pennant Hills. As far as we’re concerned we never ever thought it would be like this and I think its very good really, very stable.
Is there anything you don’t like about the modern-day West Pennant Hills?
I think the development really to be honest. As an old person, younger people would say no its not, but I think for what you’ve seen in the past I’d say development. It was a totally different lifestyle, never come back again