Les Shore


Interviewee: Councillor Les Shore, born 1931

Interviewer: Frank Heimans,
            for Baulkham Hills Shire Council

Date of Interview: 20th Dec 2006

Transcription: Glenys Murray, June 2006

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

Now, in which year were you born, Les?

I was born in 1931 on the 17th of February.

In Sydney?

At Eastwood, according to my birth certificate. My parents at that stage lived in Glenorie where my father was born (actually brought up from age one). My mother was born (in Glenorie). Her family goes back to the early settlement - the days when they lived in Carlingford. The Moore boys, and families of 17 and that, they spread to the Hills District to take on farming. That's why we're part of the history of Glenorie and the Hills District.

So how far does the settlement of the shire by your forebears go back?

On my mother's side, until about 1870 (1800?). For my father's to the turn of the Century.

Now your parents came from Glenorie. Can you tell me what they did for a living there?

My father started off by working for his father on the farm. As he got older and the little children came behind, he went out and worked for other farmers around the place. My mother spent her childhood - her schooling - in New Zealand, because of incidents that happened, she came back here and got a job as a telephonist in the Glenorie Post Office where she knew all the gossip that happened because in those days you spoke on party lines and you had your own... we originally had "Glenorie17" as our phone number.

One of the earliest numbers, eh?

One of the early numbers, that's right. While we were still in Glenorie, my father at one stage, just after I was born, the Depression was upon them, farms weren't paying, so my father was offered by my mother's uncle, a position of driving trucks. The trucks were taking fruit and that to the markets. During the War it became difficult to get petrol and my grandfather became ill and my father took over the farm. It was probably fortuitous that at the same time he and a friend won 125 Pounds each in the Lottery and with that he bought part of the business of driving trucks, so not only did he have the farm, but he had the trucking business into the city markets.

That was a bit of foresight there to do that, wasn't it?

Oh, a bit of luck!

Shore family beside their truck outside the packing shed

Now, what sort of fruit did he grow?

In those days we virtually grew citrus fruits and vegetables. The vegetables, basically, were to keep the kids occupied picking beans or picking peas or cutting cabbages or digging turnips... all part of the healthy life you lived on the farm.

So was it your job to pick the beans and so on?

All of the kids were involved in that, and even Mum. Mum was there to supervise us. It was a lovely life when I look back on it. I never felt that I was ever bored, because my father saw that not only did he keep us busy but he also saw that we had recreation, as he did. He built us a cricket pitch for us to play in, and all the boys around the district came along. Then he built us a tennis court when my sister got old enough, and that became another part of it. He, to my mind when I look back on it, was very modern in his approach compared to what most were.

Now, your mother's one of the Mobbs family, isn't she? Can you tell me a bit about how far they go back?

They go right back to, I think, 1798 when they came out to the settlement. The Mobbs at that time, he came out single and married a person by the name of Singleton and, if I remember rightly, she was on the convict side of the settlement and he was a free settler that came out at that time. They were eventually given grants of land at Carlingford and from there they started the orchard. So as you trace the history through it's quite amazing how brothers married sisters of another family... so we're well spread around the Hills District of Glenorie.

And what do you know about your grandparents on both sides?

Shore 40 acre orchard Cattai Ridge Road 1950s

My grandmother, I'll always remember her, because she was my mother's mother and a very strict grandmother she was. As each child was born she seemed to come and look after us. To us she was rather strict and taught us what was expected. But on the other side, when you heard her talking to somebody else of her own age, we were the best that you could imagine. But she never let on to us and she would never have her photo taken. We had to wait until she was about ninety until we got a decent photo of Grandma. Grandma was from the Jordan(?) and they had an orchard in Murray Farm Road Carlingford. She went to West Pennant Hills School. I don't know much about Grandfather on her side because they split up in the earlier times and went their own ways, so that's how far I know on Mum's side. On Dad's side they came out from England and came from Crow's Nest way - Chatswood - and got a 100 acre allotment out at Glenorie and started farming.

They are very much associated with the District, aren't they, your forebears?

Yes. It's amazing the numbers of cousins and relations that first encouraged me to take on public life... enough of them to get elected, I'm told.

That always helps!

Did you play cricket as well?

Yes. I was involved in cricket from the end of the war when the Glenorie Cricket Club was re-formed and my father was the President and he came home from the Annual General Meeting- I was probably 14 at the time - and he said "Les, you're the Assistant Secretary of the Glenorie Cricket Club, and you're going to play". Then at the same time I went from Assistant Secretary (Dad thought I could write all the letters) to being Secretary, and followed that through until I finished up being a life member of the Glenorie Cricket Club and life member of the Hornsby-Kuringai Cricket Association where I had an association with Neil Marx and a few others. Now Neil came out in 1963 to open the new oval that now bears my name, so I'm quite pleased that I've had some association with the development of sport.

Castle Hill Theatre 1950s

It was one of your first official positions, wasn't it?

It was my very first official position.

Now I believe, Les, that your father took you on the back of his truck to the pictures at times?

Well, that was Saturday night's entertainment - into Castle Hill. The Castle Hill Picture Theatre is no longer there. But we had the front seats, or thereabouts, that's where the kids were. My Auntie and Uncle, who we worked with, had a permanent booking in A Row, right at the back. I think I was 8 or 9. I remember they were there both Saturday and Wednesday nights for entertainment. It was a fun time going in there - the serials. But cricket took over from that really, but I still tried to get back there, but as I got older we didn't finish until 6 o'clock and we may have been over at Berowra or somewhere like that and just didn't get home. But, when you could, we went.

What sort of food was your Mum cooking at home?

Mum did the usual cooking... stews, mashed potatoes, beans, peas - plenty of vegetables. Mum, as well as working on the farm while Dad was driving trucks, to get drivers in those days we used to provide sleeping accommodation and Mum was the cook. And they used to come in after going around the farm and picking up a load of fruit, they'd come home about 10 or 11 O'clock and Mum would be there cooking the second meal. That proved to be handy when I was in High School. The reason being, I used to get home late from school and I'd go and have my meal on the second session, not the first session.

Now, you had your own chickens. Did your mum cook any of those chickens?

Les Shore's Mum at their Glenorie stone house

Yes. We always raised our poultry for Christmas. And there's another funny story... I used to be the person who chopped the heads off the chooks so Mum could pluck them. One day I wasn't home to be able to do that and Mum attempted to cut the head off. The poor animal lost its beak and it wouldn't stay still... we relate that story to show just how determined my mother was.

She had quite a job, though, cooking for... how many people did she cook for, those drivers?

Drivers would be up to 8 to 10 at a particular time.

Every night?

Every night. No, not at the weekends. They used to go somewhere else at the weekends, but basically Sunday until Thursday night.

Quite a formidable woman she must have been.

We think so.

... Well, maybe you were meant to be a teacher?

Perhaps. But the thing is that I like kids and was always involved in my earlier days with the development of the junior sports team, youth clubs, and all that sort of thing... and the management of it. So this sort of fitted in and I liked it.

Well before we get onto the teaching side which I want to go into in detail, I'd like to get a picture from you of life in Glenorie in your childhood. What was here in Glenorie at that time in terms of facilities?

Glenorie was built around a General Store that had everything. There had been a garage that sold petrol - we finished up owning that. My father did. It had the old fashioned type of getting petrol, I don't know if you remember it. You had to decide how many gallons you'd want so you'd lift it up, fill up the thing and when it got to that particular level - if you wanted 4 gallons - it would stop at that and then all run down the centre, so you just got the right quantity. We used to have to pump it up out of the ground. The telephone, as I said, was part of the General Store at which my mother had worked in, and it was still there until a little bit later after we had moved out there the General Store was sold off and various parts of it... the Post Office went into a vacant house, the petrol part of it became a separate identity and the store became the Grocery part.

Glenorie General Store 1966

Then later on after the war they formed a co-op because that was the modern thing to do. All the farmers would group together and that was the Co-op. It was one of those old Army huts that was a semi-circle, almost like an igloo. That was the original Glenorie Co-op. The Hall was there. The Hall was the meeting place for dances and, later on - that's the thing I forgot - Later on the Hall had its own projection, its own movies, so we didn't have to go to Castle Hill. I wondered why it had stopped, but that's... I've recalled that while I've been sitting here.

How many people do you think would have been living in Glenorie at that time?

The school had about 80 children. Probably 200. It mightn't have even been that, I'm just trying to think of the various customers... when I got a little bit older I was driving trucks and I had my particular run which was out to Canoelands and I got to know those people.

They were mostly farmers, of course?

That's basically all they were. But there was a workman's bus that used to go from Glenorie to Castle Hill, and that was the bus I caught to school.

Sounds like it was a very isolated place. Did you get that feeling?

No. I didn't get the feeling like that. It was what I knew. And because I was in the trucks I could almost name all the people from Glenorie to Castle Hill - who lived her, who lived there... as well as travelling on the bus that used to take us, I used to know all the various kids that used to hop on and join me during that trip into Castle Hill, going to school.

Glenorie bus depot, 1967

...Then I came to Castle Hill in 1976, thirty years ago.

Now, you said that Castle Hill Public School was the biggest in the state already, was it?

Yes, it was the biggest in the state at that particular time. They had just on 1500 girls and boys. I know I had over 200 children in Kindergarten... if you can imagine enrolling over 200 children and getting them settled, it was a mighty job but we developed some methods that are still being used, I believe, to induct them into the school.

Right. Was there anything innovative that you can talk about that you might have introduced?

Oh yes. Well we decided that children needed to settle in. We took 8 for each of the classes at a time, so in 3 or 4 days we had them all in. And the older ones in each group - the oldest children were put into groups and divided, then we brought the next lot in, and then we started having talks to the parents before the induction days, and before they came to school. And they're still doing that sort of thing now. That was new to those days. When I came to Castle Hill the children - there were 200 on the day I saw them - were all sitting on the verandah and they were taking them one at a time. Forms were filled in... and I soon changed that.

It would take forever...

What were some of the major challenges that you had to face as Principal of the Castle Hill Public School?

The ever-demanding growth of the school - having buildings, having facilities, establishing a different format of school... I believed in parallel classes. I believed that each teacher should have the good, the bad and the indifferent. In other words, they had to teach in groups. They had the bright group, they had the middle group and then they had children that needed special help. Rather than putting all those children, I felt, into one special class, it was better that they all spread out and the whole school got to know them. And then I would each year change the composition of the classes, so by the time they got to Sixth Class they would have spent some time with every child that was in their class. So then it was 200 children who knew one another. As they grew up into Sixth Class that really made a big differenece 'cause they knew one another. The other thing that I think was the greatest challenge was, I decided... was asked... to take two blind children into a normal class and I accepted the challenge. The Scouts refused to take them. They were in the School for the Deaf and Blind at North Rocks. The interesting story with them, and I think it needs to be recorded, is that both Cameron and Vaughan went on to... one of them came Dux at Castle Hill High School. They are both solicitors, both are married and both have a child. I think that's absolutely wonderful, as a result of integrating them, but integration, I think, has to be for children that can cope mentally. i think there's a difference if they're retarded in that way that they have great difficulty assimilating. But children that have wit... children that have blindness can have as much wit and fun as you can imagine.

So, when you look back at your time at Castle Hill Public School, what do you think were your main accomplishments that you were able to do there?

Oh dear. I think one of the things was the increase in Drama and Music and the full roundness of children. The fact that I took in the blind and they were assimilated. We had three blinds, and teachers were prepared to take on a challenge. The development of the computers, that was one of the major things that I did... I haven't learnt a thing since I left there. But when you look back on it now, it's a great joy to walk around Castle Hill, and only last Monday I gave a presentation at Kellyville Public School for the outstanding student. It was a lovely girl. I'd seen her on "It's Academic" from Kellyville. And as I'd finished the day her father walked up to me - I knew who it was - and he said "Do you remember that 30 years ago you presented me with the Principal's Prize, and now you're presenting the prize to my daughter". Wonderful feeling!

Castle Hill Public School c1920

Did you start getting involved with the community while you were Principal at the school?

Oh yes. See, having been a boy in the town, going to school there, having to always been going through Castle Hill I knew the growth and therefore when I was offered Castle Hill I was delighted because it was leading on to its Centenary and at that Centenary of the school the parents raised $50,000 in that time to restore the building, and it's still the highlight of the town. I became involved in Scouts, you name it. The Show Society. And I got elected to Council while I was over at Harrington Street and I'm still there nearly 38 years later.

Tell me how that happened, how you did get elected to Council. Was it your initiative or did someone suggest that you should run for Council?

The story goes like this... The Council had been elected all over and they decided to go back to Wards or Ridings, as they were called then. We used to have a representative in the olden days when it was Wards and Ridings, but when the amalgamation came, the little towns missed out. So when they came back I was asked to stand, but it was a different form of elections now and I had to virtually get 50% of the votes, but I missed out by 25 votes, so I wasn't elected to the Council. Unfortunately, one of the Councillors that opposed me and just beat me by the 25, Alf Whaling, also a very fine gentleman and at one time Shire President, he collapsed and died. So there was a by-election and I'd shown so well the last time that this time when they were only to elect one, yes, I achieved it rather comfortably, and I've been there ever since.

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