Hills Shire Senior Citizen of the Year 2009 - Violet Nutt OAM


Hills Shire Senior Citizen
of the Year 2009

Interviewee: Violet Nutt, born 1936

Interviewer: Frank Heimans,
            for The Hills Shire Council

Date of Interview: 16 April 2009

Transcription: Glenys Murray, April 2009

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

Could you tell me to start with your full name and when and where you were born?

My name is Violet Nutt and I was born at Ulmarra on the Clarence River on the 30/05/1936.

Now what was your maiden name Vi?

Bowling like the bowling green.

Now you grew up on a dairy farm tell me a bit about that?

I was on the dairy farm and I used to get up and help milk the cows and feed pigs and poddy calves. Then ride our bikes two miles to school. Then come home and help in the afternoons.

That was everyday?


Vi Nutt nee Bowling as an infant 1937

Sundays too?

Yes cows don’t stop on Sunday.

How many cows did your parents have?

Round about up to seventy.

So was that a medium size or a large dairy farm?

Medium size, yes.

Does dairy farming run in the family?

Yeah my brothers are still in it. The great grandfathers that came out in 1856 and my brother is still on the property up there where they started.

So the ancestors that came out in 1856 were they dairy farmers?


Where did they come from?

Scotland, from Aberdeen.

They know about dairy farming up there? Tell me a bit about your family how many children were there?

There was five of us. I’ve got two brothers and two sisters.

Vi Nutt back row on right with her siblings c.1987

You were what number in the family?

The second one, my brother is older than me then my younger brother and then I’ve got two younger sisters.

So how would you describe your family at that time? Were they middle class working people?

Middle class working people working hard to make ends meet.

Now you were born in 1936 so you can’t remember the Depression but do you know if your family suffered through the Depression?

No I’m not sure about that. I can remember us having ration tickets for the wartime. We had to go with ration things to get your clothes and things like that. I can remember that but I don’t know about the other.

What other things do you remember about the Second World War?

At school they had trenches out in the playground you had to run out there if the alarms went off to go into the trenches. Another thing I can remember is Yamba that is at the head of the Clarence River and they thought the Japanese might land down there. So they got all the boats they could find and brought them up and put them on the dry land just down the bottom of our school.

Did you help dig the trenches at the school?

No didn’t help dig the trenches.

Civilians digging trenches in wartime

Were people scared during those years do you think about invasion?

I suppose they were. I remember that we used to have black outs on your windows so that at night time there was no light to go out. If Dad went out in his car he had to have the black out on the lights on his car as well.

Now did you make your own butter as well on the farm?

Yes we did especially in the ration time because you were allowed a certain amount.

So we used to make our butter and kill our own meat. We had chooks so we didn’t have to go and buy a lot of stuff.

How many dairy farms would there have been in the area at that time?

There was probably up to nearly forty around there.

You mean just around Ulmarra. There’s a lot of other places further out but where we were there was around about forty. Then they were up Copmanhurst way and that way so there would have been quite a few.

It’s a tough life isn’t it dairy farming? What time did your father start milking the cows?

We used to get up at four o’clock in the morning and start to milk. They used to come around and collect the cream and you had to be ready for the truck. So you had to be finished and the separating done by seven o’clock, then in the afternoon you’d start at three o’clock or half past three. Then you’d be inside to listen to Dad and Dave at half past six.

On the radio?

That’s right.

Cows on Bowling family dairy farm c.1940 

What other shows do you recall?

Hagen’s Circus, Mrs Hobbs.

What was your favourite?

Dad and Dave and Mrs Hobbs were really good.

Was that the ABC who used to broadcast those?

Yeah I think it was. Then there was Blue Hills at lunchtime but you very rarely got to listen to that. Not unless you had your lunch at that time.

Was that the only form of entertainment around the place?

Well as we got older we used to go dancing. Used to dance on a Friday or a Saturday night, go to Grafton. The bus used to pick us up at seven o’clock and take you to Grafton which was sixteen miles away. Go to the dance or to the movies and the bus would leave Grafton at midnight and bring you back again.

A special bus for the dances?

Yeah a special one for Saturday night.

Is that where the girls used to meet the boys at the dances?

Yes at the dances.

Bowling family home c.1940 

What kind of dances were you doing?

Well not ballroom just old time dancing that’s all come back into vogue now.

You mean the Pride of Erin that sort of thing?

Yeah all those ones. Then there’d be balls as well that you’d go to. We used to have a good time.

Tell me a bit about your education what school did you first go to?

We went to Tucabia School which is a little school just across the river from where we lived. I went to school there until sixth class. We only had one teacher. He used to teach from first class right up. After he got fifty six students he got an assistant teacher. I think I was in fifth class when they got an assistant teacher. After sixth class I didn’t go to high school because there was no bus to take us to high school which was in Grafton. So you did correspondence papers and I left when I was fifteen. The buses just started then to go to high school. When I left school I went to TAFE and did dressmaking and millinery.

You were fifteen years old were you?

Yeah when I left school.

Was that normal for the time?

In the country at that time it was. They left at fifteen and we were still helping on the farm as well.

Do you recall any girls that might have gone higher than that and finished high school?

Oh yes, some of them, my sisters all went to high school. The two sisters, the three eldest ones didn’t go because that’s when there was no transport. My two brothers and my self didn’t go to high school. My sisters went. Daphne the middle sister ended up as a TAFE teacher and my sister got a job in the butter factory as a secretary when she finished school.

Vi horse riding c.1952 

Do you know any girls that might have gone to university?

No but a couple of boys did. Couple of young boys went to university and one of the boys of Firth’s ended up as a professor down at Monash University in Melbourne.

What were the expectations for girls at that time? What did your parents expect?

Just to do whatever you could do. I wasn’t a very good scholar at school because I can’t spell. I still can’t spell. If I could have I would have gone and been a nurse I think. That’s what I probably would have done. But I’m quite happy with what I’ve done.

You wanted to be a nurse when you were younger?

Yeah probably.

What sort of leisure activities did you have say as a young woman and a teenager? What was there around the farm to do?

Horse riding, used to go horse riding a lot. As we got older we learnt to drive the car. We used to go to the beach down at Woolli because it’s not very far away. They used to have picnics at the beach so we used to do that.

What about sports?

I used to run when I was at school. I ended up the North Coast champion when I was at school for running. Used to have a bit of fun.

Vi was North Coast Champion in the school sports competition c.1951

Did you play any tennis or any other sport?

Played tennis, yeah I forgot about that. Used to play tennis.

What did you do with the knowledge that you gained with your dressmaking course that you did at TAFE?

I used to sew a lot when I was younger. I sewed a lot of clothes for different people, for my sisters, just enjoyed sewing.

Do you still sew now?

Yes I still do make some babies clothes and things like that. When I first came to Sydney I used to go and have a look in the shops and then come home and sew the dresses.

So how did you come to live in Sydney?

Well when I was twenty two there were no jobs in Grafton. I was working in a café up there and I used to ride my bike six miles in and out every day to work. Then we decided that we’d come to Sydney and see if we could work somewhere. So my girlfriend and I came down when I was twenty two.

How did your parents feel about that?

They weren’t happy at first but I used to go home every time we had holidays so that was all right.

Did you find a job in Sydney easily?

I ended up sewing in the city. We used to sew tea towels and table cloths for David Jones big factory in Chinatown. I was there for three months and they got slack. So we were put off. Then I got a job at Cottees at Leichhardt where they make all the jams and peanut butter and cordials.

Brian Nutt and Vi Bowling before marriage c.1960 

What was that particular job?

I ended up as the head person on the cordial section. We used to do all sorts of jobs. Just packing the jams and filling the jars with cordial and all that sort of thing.

I remember all the passionfruit cordial and all that?

Yes passionfruit.

Passiona it was called?

Yes that was the nicest, Passiona.

It’s gone isn’t it?

I don’t know whether they still do it because General Foods bought them out. Then they moved out there near Liverpool. So I don’t know if they still make it or not.

Now you were single during all this time?

Yeah when I first came to Sydney at twenty two and then I used to go to Petersham Town Hall to the dances. I lived in Haberfield and I met my husband up at Petersham Town Hall at a dance.

Vi on the boat prior to departure for New Zealand c1960

So what was his name?

George Brian Nutt his name was. I called him Brian I didn’t like the George. I met him there and I think I was going with him for probably twelve months. I wanted to go to New Zealand for a holiday because I always wanted to go over there. I went over there for just on nine months I think I was over in New Zealand. Then came back and my sister got married.

How did you get married? When was that?

My sister got married in 1961 and I came back and then I got married in 1962.

So Brian was pretty persistent was he?

Yes he was. He’d made up his mind before I’d made mine up.

So how did you come to live in North Rocks when was that?

We lived in Haberfield until 1965 we bought the block of land here at North Rocks. We were paying it off so in 1968 we built our house and moved up here.

Marriage of Brian Nutt and Vi Bowling 1962 

So it took three years to start building your house?

Yes before we built. In those times it was a lot of money to save up.

That’s right in those days you had to save it first?

Yes that’s right.

Not go to the bank to get a big loan?

Well we went to get a loan and they said no. You had to have collateral before you could get the loan. You had to have so much money or something to back up. You couldn’t just go and get it like they do today.

They were a bit more prudent in those days?

Yes that’s right.

The house was built from plans was it?

Yes a Neeta home. It’s a Neeta home and they built it in about three months.

And it’s still the same house that we’re in now today?

Yes it’s still the same one. We moved in just before Christmas 1968.

Vi's home in North Rocks after completion in 1968 

So when did you have your children?

We adopted two children because we couldn’t have any children. So in 1971 we got a son, that’s Steven(?) and in 1973 we got Katrina.

What are they doing today?

Steven was working fixing the bull dozers up with Komatsu the big earth moving equipment. Now he’s in head office and he’s thirty eight now. Katrina is overseas. She’s working in Ireland she’s in the hospitality industry.

What did your husband do for a living?

He was a maintenance fitter with Rheem the hot water service. Well that’s where he ended up working. In 1955 he came out from England his Mum and sister were out here. He was in the air force. Then he got out of the air force and came out to be with his Mum and sister.

Was he one of what they called the ten pound Poms?

Yes he was a ten pound Pom.

Did you ever make fun of him about that?

Yeah we used often laugh about that he was a ten pound Pom.

Katrina and Steven Nutt with Santa 1973

How long did he work for Rheem?

He was working for Lever Rexona down in Balmain for quite a few years but he was at Rheem for about five years I’d say. Then he got sick.

What happened?

He had a lot of tests and they came up with calcium deposits in the brain which they called Fahr’s Syndrome. It was affecting him a bit like Parkinson’s disease. He used to take turns and that sort of thing. He finished work in 1981 I think it was and he was at home for quite a few years. Then I couldn’t have him at home it was too much so he went into hospital and he was in hospital for seven years before he died. It affected him a bit like Parkinson’s disease.

Do you know how he contracted that disease?

No they don’t know. He was with the British Air Force and he was at Woomera Rocket Range out here. Letting off the rockets that the British let off and they only had to turn their back to that. They can’t prove that there was anything from that.

Was he also connected with the atomic bomb tests?

Yes some of those tests they were doing.

They were at Maralinga?

No he wasn’t at Maralinga he was at Woomera.

Brian, Katrina, Vi, and Steven Nutt 1980s

Now tell me a little bit about your involvement with the Soccer Club at North Rocks? I believe it’s been a long one?

Thirty three years or something like that. We started there when Steven was little and he decided to play Soccer. We got involved with that and when my husband got sick I got more involved in it because you had company. I was the manager of the soccer team for a while. My daughter played too for a while up there. Then I got onto the committee and ran the canteen and helped grade the kids.

What got you interested in the Soccer movement?

I like watching it on TV so when it got here they wanted someone to help so we went and just did it.

Now you said you managed the canteen, you worked on the canteen?

That’s voluntary in the canteen of a Saturday.

It was all voluntary work was it? Did you raise any funds for the club?

Yes we raised a lot of funds for the canteen every year. We probably raise sometimes around about eight thousand (dollars) in the year or more.

So how long has your involvement been with the soccer club? How many years?

Thirty five years I think.

North Rocks Soccer Club Room at North Rocks Park 2009 

Thirty five years, that’s a real dedication isn’t it? What positions have you had with the club?

Been in it as social coordinator and ladies delegate and vice president. Still vice president.

So when you used to go to committee meetings for the club what sorts of issues were discussed at those meetings?

Different things that come through. Referees and then you get things that come through from the association that you’ve got to follow up. Sometimes you get some letters in. Some of the parents are not happy with something so you’ve got to follow that up and sort it out.

Now I believe that you do a lot of fund raising using trivia nights. What are they about?

We’ve done the trivia nights and we’ve raised five thousand dollars on a night for the soccer club. They have a panel that asks all the questions. Some of them are very hard too. It keeps your fees down so you don’t have to charge so much for the fees if you raise money.

Do you have barbeques as well?

Yes we do barbeques on Saturdays when the soccer’s on. Then when we have a big gala day we have barbeques as well.

They’re all fund raising activities as well?

Yeah all fund raising.

Now registration days what sorts of things happen on registration day?

They all have to come up and sign up for registration day and have their photographs taken. They buy socks and shorts because we don’t supply that. We just supply the shirt.

BBQ and picnic area at North Rocks Park 2009 

So how often do the teams play?

They play every Saturday usually start the first week in April and finish the last week in August. The grand final is the last Saturday in August.

How many teams are we talking about here?

We’ve got fifty seven this year. In the seventies when there was a lot of people in North Rocks, young people. There was sixty one sides we had.

You’ve still got fifty seven sides? So that’s individual teams of kids?

They go from under sixes to over thirty fives.

That’s a lot of teams to manage?

It is a lot of teams.

How do you manage that?

Oh they get there. Every team has a coach and manager. Then they have to send all their results back. Then you have a competition person that sends all those results into the Granville Association.

Who provides the playing fields? Is it the Council?

Yeah the Baulkham Hills Council. We’ve got two at North Rocks. One at Murray Farm oval and Hazel Ryan just down the road. We pay so much for the use of the grounds to Council.

Soccer Fields 1 and 2 at North Rocks Park 2009 

So how many other clubs do your fifty six or fifty seven teams play against?

Well there’s thirty clubs within the association so you play against most of those.

What does the association consist of?

That’s the Granville Association and they’ve got thirty clubs. So you’ve got Baulkham Hills, North Rocks and then you’ve got Castle Hill and Kellyville and Rouse Hill is in it now. Then you go the other way there’s Holroyd and Granville and Guildford and a few others.

Now the coaches for those teams are they also volunteers?

Yes they all are. All are volunteers the coaches nobody gets paid.

You do this every Saturday during the season?

Yes, so this Saturday I’ve got to start at half past eight and open the canteen.

So what has soccer meant for your life?

It’s just kept me sane I think. Cause when my husband was sick I probably would have… it was hard. When you’ve got soccer you’ve got a lot of friends you can talk to. You’ve got all the kids.

Now you’re a life member of the North Rocks Soccer Club how do you feel about that?

That’s all right I want to leave sometimes and they tell me you can’t. You can’t because you’re a life member they say. There are not many life members that they present to different people so it’s very privileged to be a life member.

How many hours a week do you spend on soccer?

We meet on a Monday night twice a month we have our meetings. Then the other time is Saturdays when the games are on.

Do you enjoy watching the games?

Yeah I do especially some of the boys they say to me “you’ve got to come and watch”. This is teenagers that you’ve known from when they were little. The Psaltis boys always say I’ve got to come and watch their game.

Vi Nutt with a North Rocks Soccer Club team 2008

Have you found any star soccer players amongst them?

There’s been quite a few. We’ve had Brendan (?) used to be with North Rocks and he played quite top soccer. A few other boys have gone to play in State sides.

Now you’re also a 355 committee member what does the 355 stand for and what does it involve?

It’s to do with the Council. The 355 is a committee from Council. We have a look around all the parks and the different places and you can ring Council if there’s graffiti around. To come and clean the graffiti or if there’s things want doing around. We meet every three months and just report everything to Council. It saves them having to go out and look at everything.

That’s on a volunteer basis as well is it? So a community service?


What sort of involvement have you had with the Orange Blossom Festival Committee?

I used to be on the Orange Blossom Committee years ago. Not on it any more because they’ve got a different way of doing it now. I used to help out and we used to have Orange Blossom things at North Rocks. We don’t have any over there now.

Orange Blossom Festival Parade North Rocks 1985 

Why not?

I don’t know it’s just a lot of people didn’t want to get involved.

You’ve also had something to do with The Hills Shire Council North Rocks Park and John Wearn and Murray Farm committees?

That’s the 355 committee.

That’s also 355?

That's the one that looks after all those parks.

It seems that wherever there’s a committee you’ve been on it? You’re also a member of the Australia Day Committee tell me about that?

Yes they organise an Australia Day function over at the Council. Our Rotary club is in that as well has the flag raising at North Rocks. Then we have a breakfast up there. We just organise the things for next year. The committees working on it already for next Australia Day they have a big function over at the Council Chambers. It starts at three o’clock and finishes at nine. We help organise that.

Vi Nutt at local community Australia Day BBQ breakfast in North Rocks

That’s on Australia Day itself?


You’ve been involved with the North Rocks Rotary Club, in what capacity?

I was president there one year and I’m the community service on the committee. We run a Fun Day at North Rocks Park. Usually in September or October we raise money for different things. Sometimes we do the shelter boxes. When there’s a disaster they bring in this. Its twelve hundred dollars for one of those and I think we’ve managed to send about six of them. They go if there’s a disaster and there’s enough in one of those boxes for twelve people. There’s cooking utensils, and there’s blankets and a tent all in that. I think some of them went down to Victoria for the bushfires in Australia as well as overseas.

These are kits to help people survive?

Yes it is.

It’s amazing what you’ve done? Now you’ve raised money for the Rotary Wing at the Westmead Hospital?

We did that a few years ago when they were building the Westmead Children’s Hospital. Our club raised five thousand dollars for it.

Do you raise any money by knitting any scarves and doing that sort of thing?

No I raise money for myself doing that. I go down to Ronald McDonald House and the little kids down there that have got cancer and they’ve lost all their hair. I usually give them a scarf or I give them a beanie. Knit them a little beanie that looks like a gumnut flower off the trees. See them all running around down there with all their little beanies on, then someone else wants one and you’ve got to knit another one.

Now you also visit schools in the area, what do you do there?

With the Rotary Club we got a competition going now. You’ve got to write a story about “My Mum, my friend”. We pick two winners from each North Rocks Public School and Christ the King. I used to in there sometimes to just talk to the kids every now and then.

Vi Nutt on the North Rocks Santa run c.2008 that began about ten years earlier

So what do you do with any spare time that you might have?

Sit down and knit.

You also look after a priest don’t you?

I work four days a week round at Christ the King, Father Burton I do all his washing and cooking.

Is he an elderly priest?

Yes he’s 86 now but he’s still working.

You cook for him as well?

Yeah I cook for him he doesn’t know how to cook.

Apart from all the other things that you do you’re also a part of Wesley Missions Drug Counselling Team?

I was doing that but I’m not doing that any more. I was doing that for about ten years. I used to go out on the street van on a Friday and Saturday night talk to the kids that were smoking and drinking in the parks. But it got that we weren’t finding any so the van has gone somewhere else now.

Well maybe you’ve overcome that problem in the area?

Yes well could do but whether they’ve gone underground that’s another thing.

You never know do you?

You never know with kids.

Vi Nutt accepting her Heroes Award from Wayne Merton State MP for Baulkham Hills 

So what were you doing with those kids an education campaign?

We were talking to them we had pamphlets on how bad the different drugs and marijuana was to them. If they needed counselling we had other counsellors that they go to. We’ve had kids come back and say “thanks for your help”. Because if it wasn’t for the van they’d either be dead or in gaol they said. They’ve come back and told us that when they left school they had all got apprenticeships. They didn’t smoke marijuana any more they just had a drink. Because if they did that they couldn’t go to work stoned and they’d lose their job.

Do you still work with other organisations like the Salvation Army?

No I haven’t done anything with them lately. I used to a long time ago but not anymore.

Now you’re also a volunteer for local schools, what work do you engage in there?

I used to help them when the kids were little in the canteens. Just go up and do things. Help out in the canteen when the kids were little. So I haven’t been doing that lately.

What sort of involvement do you have with the North Rocks Youth Club?

That’s up at the soccer club we used to have a youth club up there. We used to open it on a Friday night. The kids used to come up and play table tennis and we had a pool table for them. That was way back in the seventies because that’s when we had a lot of young ones. Now they seem to have a lot of other things that they do. We just run bingo for the kids when they’re at soccer. We run bingo a couple of nights for them now.

Mayor Larry Bolitho left and Vi Nutt centre at The Hills Shire Council's Australia Day Awards 2009 

Now it’s no wonder that you were made a Senior Citizen of the Year for 2009. Vi, how do you feel about having received that?

I was very proud to get that, very surprised. I took my son over because I said to him “would you like to come to a function at Council”? He really got a surprise as well. It was very good.

So you’re proud of it?


Does it involve you in any activities?

When the Senior Citizen Week was coming up they got me to go over and get some photos taken. We went to different places in Heritage Week. We went to the gym at Castle Hill and got on a bike with the Deputy Mayor and they put it in the paper for Senior Citizens Week coming up.

Vi, you’re now in your seventies when do you think you’ll retire?

I don’t know just keep going as long as I can I think.

It’s a bit hard to shake it off is it?

That’s right I tell my kids I’m going to be around till I’m 86 so I could go up 'til then perhaps.

Vi's grandchildren Abbey and Zachary 2008

Well is there anything else that you want to mention in the interview?

No I don’t think so. I think you’ve covered just about everything haven’t you. Only that I’m at the show this week, The Royal Easter Show.

What are you doing there?

Volunteering out there I’m in the pigs and goat section. A lot of people come along and they’re lost. They’ve got a map but they don’t know where they are. They come and ask you where you pat the animals and all that sort of thing. So you tell them and have a bit of fun.

Has the Royal Easter Show changed much over the years do you think?

Yes I think it has. A lot of people don’t think it’s as good out at Homebush as it was at Moore Park. I think it’s more spread out and it’s very good. The district exhibits with the fruit and everything. They put a lot of work into that.

What’s The Hills Shire Council attitude on community service are they very supportive of it?

Yes they are because they always say that they wouldn’t be able to do the things… with all their volunteers. I reckon it’s only Council that has so many volunteers. Some of the others do but don’t have as many as Baulkham Hills do.

So why do think that is?

I don’t know it’s probably just the people that want to do things.

How have you seen the Shire change over the years?

It’s had a lot of changes.

What were they mainly?

It’s got bigger.