Annangrove - John Doering


Interviewee: John Doering, born 1930

Interviewer: Frank Heimans,
            for Baulkham Hills Shire Council

Date of Interview: 30 Oct 2006

Transcription: Glenys Murray, Jan 2007

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

Now, your grandfather worked for the Cranston family did he? In the orchard, is that right?

Yes, I think he might have been caught somewhere around about that area (having jumped ship in Sydney), I'm not too sure. But anyway, he did work there for quite a while. And I think he used to walk across the bush. He may have lived at Kenthurst and walked across the gully to work.

When was it that he also became the manager of the Roughley's orchards?

I don't know exactly. It was a number of years after he worked for Cranston's I know, but just when I'm not too sure.

Do you know which Roughley it was that he worked for?

Probably Albert Roughley, but I could be wrong - I wasn't around in those days.

John Doering with father Carl and grandparents at Annangrove 1930s

Who did your father marry? Was she a local girl?

No. Dad married a Miss Goodwin. Miss Goodwin was a school teacher. She taught in Annangrove from 1920 to 1926. It was in those years that Mum and Dad courted and eventually married. I think they were married in 1928. I think in the interim, Dad had built the home that we lived in, I think prior to the marriage and that's where they settled - in that home. And that's where myself and my sister lived for many years - and my wife and their children too for quite a number of years before we got our own home.

What was your father's full name?

Leslie Frank Doering.

He was born in 1904, you said. Which school did he go to?

Annangrove School. Same school as I eventually did.

When was it that your father actually took over the orchard from your grandfather?

As my understanding goes, my dad left school at 14 and carried a chippo, and he had orchard planted before he left school - more orchard. I suppose it was around about the time - a year or two before he got married that he took over the orchard, as far as I know.

So, what was your father growing in the orchard?

Oranges, lemons and mandarins.

He didn't have any poultry?

No, my grandfather had poultry. My grandfather started off with eggs in incubators and proceeded from incubation into holding under brooders until they were of age where they could exist by themselves, and then they went into the big sheds for laying eggs.

Your father never took the poultry side over?

Not at that stage. Years later.

Now you said your mother was Evelyn, was it?

Evelyn Emily.

She was a school teacher, right?


Which school did she teach at?

Annangrove School. That school was on part of my grandfather's property. The Department of Education paid a peppercorn rental each year for the use of the land. And Grandpa took it over from the gentleman that owned the property prior to him buying it - a Mr J D Verdan.

What were some of the values that your parents imbued in you as you were growing up? What sort of ethics in the family, if you like, did they sell you?

Well, I think really that the tough times united us. They united us into a family unit in which we all pulled together. We had chores to do - we had to go and get kindling wood for the fires. We had to do many things that the children don't have to do these days. I think it was a unity and Mum always stressed on us that we had to be honest and that we had to have good integrity in life.

Evelyn Doering on Annangrove Rd near shopping centre site 1920s

Has that stayed with you for the rest of your life?

Well I'm hoping so, I think so.

So, talking about childhood play. Where did you play and swim and play sport? Where was all that going on?

Well, as we grew up... of course in those days you could roam the bush - you could be away for hours in the day and your mum just didn't have any fear of anything happening to us because we could wander all the way down the back of my Grandfather's place, the back of Dad's place, down to the creek. As we got older we went swimming in the creek. We went fishing in the creek. We took barrows into the bush and brought kindling wood back home for Mum for the copper and the stove. We played tennis with tennis balls for catchings. Marbles. We had bikes. We used to go for bike rides. We always had something physical to do. Something that was active... and if Mum saw us idle well it was "You can go and do this or go and do that".

So that's why you didn't spend much time at home?

No. We used to try and play as much as we could.

To get out of the chores at home?


So which creek was it that you actually swam in?

Bluegum Creek. Bluegum Creek was pristine, clear water in those days. And many adrink I had in that creek when I was thirsty. We went fishing in that creek where we caught little gudgeons, and crayfish and sometimes a Perch. Spent a lot of time down there. Used to climb trees, all that sort of thing. We had two gum trees at home that had forks in it and I can remember Dad putting a nice strong sapling across and it was like an exercising bar, and we used to do somersaults and those sorts of things on it...

Sounds like a great childhood that you had?

Well it was. My sister used to have dolls and dolls houses and I had little cars. We used to get a present for birthdays and a present at Christmas and by jingoes we still had them the following Christmas, I can tell you! We used to play with those and make up all sorts of... well Dad used to play cricket with us, and sometimes with the little kid next door. So we always had plenty to do, but within the family unit.

Carl and son John Doering playing cricket. 1930s at Annangrove

What was Christmas like at Annangrove? Can you remember much about it?

Yes. The district used to hold a Christmas Night in the local Hall. Someone would collect money from the different families. Someone would be designated to go to town to buy presents and a bush tree would be erected in the Hall with all sorts of Christmas decorations on it, and there was a toy for every child that was in the district. We used to all go down there and Daddy Christmas would come around and someone would hand Daddy Christmas a present and he'd give us one... it was someone who was... "Oh, I know who that is!" But that was as we got older. Then the tree would be taken down and the adults would have a bit of a dance. One of the locals would play the piano and we used to have a very good evening. And then at home we'd have Christmas Dinner on Christmas Day. My Grandfather and Grandmother of course came up. Grandpa always liked his drink of DA which he took from the bottom of the well which was on a string so it was nice and cool. And we had a bit of fizzy drink and all of that sort of thing - plum pudding. And got a present each, and that was more-or-less Christmas.

Now, there wasn't much food around because there weren't any shops were there where you were living, so how did your mother and father get the supplies for the house? What did they do to get enough food?

Well, the greengrocer used to come once a week - I can remember his name, Mr Sutch. He used to have all the veges and apples and peas with all these goodies and Mum would purchase them once a week. The butcher came twice a week from Round Corner at Dural. And the baker would come each day down the road and put the bread in the bread box. And then of a Thursday we'd leave the grocery list in the Bread Box and the baker took the grocery list and gave it to the grocer and the grocer used to come down and he'd deliver the groceries.

Where did the milk come from?

Powdered milk, mainly. We were more or less brought up on it, I suppose. It wasn't bad, full cream powdered milk!

There was no water in the house was there? Town water?

No city water. No. We had tanks which were usually pretty low because we needed a lot of rain. It used to be carted if we needed water, from a standpipe just down near Old Castle Hill Road. I don't think we ever paid for any city water... there was a standpipe there and you filled a tank and then took it home and siphoned or pumped it - I don't know how we got it into the tanks, I wouldn't have a clue. But that's how we got our water when it didn't rain.

Was there enough water to have a bath, though, regularly?

Not really. We had a wash. Sometimes we'd have a bath in a couple of inches of water. Water was very sparing. All the water that was gathered - washing and bathing, whatever - any spare water went on a shrub in the garden to try and at least have something around the house in the way of shrubs.

Different days, huh? We're getting back to that, mind you, with the water shortages, aren't we?

Yeah, that's true. People are going to have to do a bit of what we used to do.

Evelyn Doering with son John towing neighbours car on Annangrove Rd 1930s

What form of transport did your father have?

He had a car, an old Chev car. First of all, my mother had a Citroen car, and when they first got married they used to use it. It was only a single-seater car, and when the family came along Dad bought this... he traded it in and bought a Chev car, a two-seater with a canvas hood. That lasted us for years and years and years. Dad drove it to work, Riverstone when he had to go to work. He eventually had a motorbike, and he used to ride a motorbike in to work because it was a lot cheaper.

The first car you mentioned... was it a Citroen, the French car?


Right, a one-seater?

Yes, well it was like a single-seater - just the passenger and the driver. I've got photos of it.

Did he carry his produce in that car as well? Could he do that?

No. He had a T-model Ford for a while, and then he bought an International truck, and then a Bedford to cart the fruit.

And he used to do his own fruit carting to the markets?

Yeah, well, that's right. And other people's. He was running a carrying business, but, of course, that was curtailed when he decided to go to work, so he sold the trucks.

Now, let's talk a bit about your school years at Annangrove Public School, taking you back about 60 or more years now.

Yes, it's going back a bit!

Can you describe those school years at that school? How were they for you?

Well, I found it very pleasant to go to school - especially since it was just running across the bush to school from home, the school being on the property. It was a subsidised school, subsidised by the parents of the district. Only about 10 of us went to school there. Miss Harvey was the teacher's name. And Miss Harvey was an ex-pupil of my mother's, and she taught us as best she could, as she wasn't a bona fide teacher, but the inspector used to come from time to time and inspect our work, so she must have been doing a reasonably good job. We used to play in the playground all the types of things that kids used to do, and Miss Harvey used to come out and supervise us and we would play all sorts of different games. But she was very strict, I must say, because of a morning when we went into school she'd line us up and we'd have to have our hands out like that to make sure our fingernails were clean and our hands were washed. We had to make sure that we'd cleaned our teeth and so forth. She was very good that way - asked if we'd cleaned our teeth. And we had to march into school, take our place at the desks, and then "Good morning Miss Harvey". "Good morning children, sit down", and then she'd teach us.

Devastated bush after Glenorie 2002 bushfire

Now let's talk about some of the major events that happened at Annangrove. What would you say was the major event that happened at the end of the Thirties?

Well, the most disastrous event that happened was the 1939 bushfire which was on the 14th of the 1st '39. I was only about 9 year old. My sister was younger, and we had a cousin staying with us. It was Christmas holidays, hot as anything and very dry - it was still drought. We had experienced a lot of wind and the sky was full of red dust from out West, and I can remember to this day, Mum coming in and telling us - we were in the bath trying to cool off, it was very hot. We only had a couple of inches of water in the bath, there was little water about but Mum had allowed us to have a little bit of water there - but then she came in and said "You'd better come and have a look out the window!". Which we reluctantly did, of course, but we did, and that stirred us into action. There was a bushfire coming across from the... you could see it coming. Smoke and flames and the red dust - it was shocking. I can remember it as plain as though it was yesterday. Mum said the only thing to do was for us to go out into a ploughed block of land that was bare of any vegetation, and she gave us some blankets and we all took a bucket of water, which took a fair while to fill out of the tank, because there wasn't much water in the tank, and put us in the paddock. She was going to make us lie down and lay the blanket over us and wet us with the buckets of water. The chap next door, Mr Mackenzie, he saw the fire coming, of course, and he saw what Mum was doing. He'd got his family down into a little waterhole not much bigger than this room, and he said that's the safest place to be. He said "If you stay there you're going to either suffocate from smoke or lack of air, or your blankets are going to catch alight. You'd better come with us and get in the waterhole." Anyway, Mum in her wisdom decided that she would do that because it was the last thing she could think of... of course, she wouldn't stay in the house because she reckoned the house would be burnt down, the way the fire was coming. And all the men had gone further towards the Windsor Road to try and light a firebreak or something to stop the fire if possible.

Anyway, we all got in the waterhole and this fire raged over the top of us with a Nor'Wester blowing at gale force, and luckily our house wasn't burnt, but Annangrove House, where Mr Mackenzie and his family were living was destroyed by fire, and all his orchard, and all Dad's orchard, because with the drought and so forth. We were lucky enough to not get damaged by the fire. But the fire burned all the way down to... there was grass all the way around this little waterhole and the fire just burned down and sizzled out in the water, but we were getting a lot of hot ash and bark falling on us. We wet our hair and all that sort of thing, but we survived it.

Historic fire fighting tools at Kenthurst Fire Brigade. L to R: foam
making branch, 3 branches, hose spanner, knapsack and 2 stirrup pumps

Were you terrified by this experience?

It happened too quickly to get too terrified. I can't remember, but we all had jobs to do. I remember Mum's was standing in the water - it was up to about our waist - and there was a bit of a ledge around the edge of it, and she was holding one of the babies from next door, Mr Mackenzie's daughter's babies, and our Kelpie dog who had dived in the water too, because he reckoned he wasn't going to get cooked. He was swimming around and got tired, and he was resting his legs and head on Mum's lap, and Mum was holding this baby. Of course there were other people in the water too with children. It was quite an experience, I can tell you, something that I'll never forget. Dad's car and Mr Mackenzie's car, both canvas hood cars, were down further in the orchard and they were unscathed, and yet the house was burnt. And a sewing machine that was on the driveway around Annangrove House was just a little bit of molten metal. It was a pretty hot day!

You were very lucky that your house escaped the fire...

Well, I think the reason that our place was... Dad did come home, raced down to our house and there was part of the garden alight and he put it out, but our house was made of fibro and Annangrove House was timber, and I think the fibro was the saving factor.

So what effect did the bushfire have on Annangrove itself?

Well, it devastated the farming in most cases. I know a lot of those that hadn't sought work elsewhere had to go to the Riverstone Meat Company to work. Eventually we used to take it in turns going because the War broke out and petrol rationing came in, so it was a matter of "Well, I'll go this week, you go that week".

Were there less orchards after the fire than there were before?

Yes, I'd say so. There were less people interested in continuing farming.

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