Box Hill - Trish Miller - Part 2


Interviewee: Trish Miller, born 1946

Interviewer: Frank Heimans,
            for The Hills Shire Council

Date of Interview: 15 Dec 2010

Transcription: Glenys Murray, Jan 2010

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

How important was religion in your family?

We went to Sunday School for my grandmother it was probably more important. My parents didn’t go to church. So I went to church and my children went to Sunday School. There used to be a double decker bus here that used to pick the children up and off they all went into the Rouse Hill Sunday School until it closed. But now it has reopened again (since 2008). It was good I think it was something we didn’t know any different that was how you were taught. You were taught religion, you did religion at school.

What part of Christianity was it that you were interested in?

Church of England, yes, it was Church of England. My Dad was a Catholic but he really considered himself a bit of an atheist. I think the war did that to him. He was educated in a Catholic college so I guess he had the right upbringing. But then with what happened and what he saw I guess you’d change your views.

Some of the Catholic priests used to use the cane a fair bit so he might have been subject to that?

He probably was, he probably was. Don’t worry about the Catholics they used to use them in public schools too. I luckily never got it. I wasn’t an angel but I never got the cane.

Now what was Christmas like at Box Hill?

Christmas Day we’d always have it at home. Because we had the poultry farm you couldn’t leave the poultry farm. My grandmother and grandfather and aunt and uncle if they were in Sydney they would come out. We would have big roast dinners and all the trimmings as you normally did. We always got our Christmas gift. We didn’t get a lot, only got one gift. Not like now where they get about twenty or thirty. You got one major gift because that was what your parents could afford. So it was fine. Christmas was fine. Dad always got a pine tree didn’t have artificial trees back then. Used to put a few streamers on it and that would be it.

Robert and sister Trish Ludgate with Christmas gifts in front of egg
packing shed Terry Road Box Hill early 1950s

Did the community do anything for Christmas were there any communal things?

We used to have at the Box Hill/Nelson Progress Hall we used to have a party there for the children. They always got presents. The women used to do sewing and stuff all year and make things and have fetes. We always had a Christmas party at the Box Hill/Nelson Hall.

Now tell me more about the Box Hill and Nelson Progress Association and your parent’s role in that?

Dad helped build the hall when they were building the hall. The land was donated to the Progress Association by one of the local people (Anthony Skarratt). It was given really to… I know the Council now control it. It’s not to be sold. It still is a hall. We used to have dances there when I was a teenager. The women used to get together and do the sewing and afternoon teas and whatever else really I think to raise money for the Christmas party for the kids. I think that’s about all they raised the money for. I don’t think it was for anything else. I guess that was the only way a lot of children were ever going to get a little gift. There were certainly a lot of people with bigger families that were struggling. They wouldn’t have had too much.

Were they very active in communal things the Box Hill Progress Association in letting people know the views of all the residents?

Yes I think that would have happened and it still happens to this day. If you’ve got an issue with something that’s happening you still go along there and say “I think they need to change that speed limit here or put that stop sign there”. They write off from the Progress Association. There’s not many of them I don’t think really in existence these days but this one has been continual for a long time.

So they must have been a bit of a force in changing things were they?

I think they probably were a force in changing things and it was somewhere if you needed to get together you had somewhere to meet. I think that was a good thing to have a hall to meet in. They used to have weddings there people would have their wedding receptions there. I know it’s very basic but not everyone had a lot of money to do things or go to reception places. So that would be used. It was pretty rough and ready but it’s certainly improved now. It’s a much nicer hall than it used to be. They’ve raised money from renting the hall out to be able to do things. They get government grants and things now which of course didn’t happen back then.

Box Hill and Nelson Progress Association Hall after restoration 18 February 1994

Now what memories do you have of school?

I went to Riverstone Infants School and primary school. We used to catch the bus. The bus used to come around quite early. I think we used to leave about eight o’clock just get to school in time. That’s if it wasn’t raining and we didn’t get bogged in the creek which we used to quite like to happen. I was the first one on and the last one off because the bus used to go back the way it finished. It was a long day. That’s what you did.

How were the teachers at the school?

Teachers were good yes. We did have an issue when I was in year 6 with the headmaster and I must have just mentioned something to my mother. So she had the Education Department out and he was moved to another school. Which probably isn’t what should have happened but they tend to brush things under the carpet. I actually got kicked out of his class because I created a ruckus. That was all right I went to another teacher and it was much better anyway. It didn’t deter my education so that was all right. If you’re brought up with the correct ethics and you know someone is not ethical and you just mention it to your parents innocently. They’re straight onto it. Some parents might not have been but certainly my mother certainly was.

Was there much accent on music, teaching music at the school?

We had a fifth class teacher used to play violin, Mr. Bannerman so we loved it, we loved our music. I suppose everyone didn’t but it was I guess him playing gave us a reprieve from having to learn. So why not sit there and listen to someone playing the violin instead of having to learn your English or your Math’s.

So he was playing the violin in class was he?

Yes he played the violin in class if we were good. If we were good that was our treat. This is pretty amazing when you consider the treats that kids get these days we were happy with that treat.

Riverstone Public School class 2A 1954 middle row left
1st Jackie Huxley, 4th Trish Ludgate, 7th Maureen Potter from Box Hill

Did you have a piano at home?

Had a piano at home yes it came from New Zealand with my grandparents. My grandmother played, my Mum played. My brother and I played. Used to have to go into Riverstone and go to music lessons before school once a week. We were supposed to practice every day which of course we didn’t as most kids don’t practice when they should.

Where did you go to secondary school?

Went to Blacktown Girls High School that was the school that opened the year I went to high school. Prior to that everyone went to Richmond I was quite happy not to go to Richmond. I didn’t like the train going across the viaduct. Much as I fly everywhere I’m not real good on heights and I still don’t like that viaduct when I go across it occasionally. I guess I’ve outgrown it a bit. I used to have to ride a push bike into Riverstone catch the train to Blacktown and then walk about a kilometre to the school. So we were fairly fit.

What sort of cultural things did you learn at school as well?

When I went to high school we did shorthand, book keeping, typing the things that they probably don’t do a lot now. They have to do that after they leave high school. So I guess in that time we learnt to leave school and go and get a job. You learnt to cook. It was all compulsory. One session of cooking, one session of sewing, you could do French and Latin and just the normal education requirements.

Ludgate family second home was closer to Terry Road Box Hill than first fibro home

You told me earlier that you learned to dance at school?

Oh yes we did dancing at school they used to have it at lunch time. One of the teachers liked ballroom dancing so they used to do a bit of dancing. Then I used to go to dance classes after school for ballroom dancing. I did tennis after school as well.

Sounds like a pretty interesting sort of life that you had there at school?

It was fine. I found it fine. You get out what you put in. If you enjoy what you do in life it’s not such a hassle.

Did the education go up to Leaving Certificate?

It went up to Leaving Certificate I left in Intermediate though. I didn’t continue on which my parents would have like me too but I no I was a teenager I knew better.

So what was your first job after leaving school?

My first job I worked for Mitchell Townsend which were a Holden dealership and I worked doing figures in their spare parts department. Keeping control of all the parts that came in which of course would now be all computerised. It certainly wouldn’t be hand written.

So you were the computer in those days?

I was the computer that’s right. Everything was hand written.

 Trish and her parents Rose and Len Ludgate on her wedding day

Where was that dealership?

That was at Blacktown.

You were still living at home then?

Oh yes I was still living at home I was only sixteen.

What was some of the entertainment that existed for the residents of Box Hill in those years?

Radio we didn’t have television in the early days. We used to play cards and of course we had the hall where we had the dances. That was about it. There wasn’t a lot of entertainment. I suppose people visited but that was just afternoon tea type thing, social things like that.

Was there an RSL Club somewhere?

No there was an RSL at Riverstone but not in Box Hill area. That Riverstone RSL club still exists to this day and my father did eventually join there when he got off the poultry farm. He let the poultry farm go and worked at Riverstone.

How did you meet your husband?

I met my husband, I was out with a friend and we were at Blacktown Show. She knew him because they rode horses together. So that’s how I met him. His background was… his parents came from Rockdale; they then lived at Rooty Hill. His parents had a poultry farm which was amazing. He was a butcher and he did dressage and show jumping and all that sort of thing with the horses.

How old were you when you married?

Twenty both of us were twenty. Way too young, way too young we thought we weren’t though.

This house was built by the Miller family in Terry Road Box Hill c1970

So where did you live after you got married?

We rented for a couple of years at Rooty Hill and then we got five acres off my parents and built a house there on Terry Road. So I was only out of the area maybe for two years when I was first married and then came back.

You really are a local girl?

I really am a local girl I haven’t moved only two streets away.

Now you have two children?

I have two children and they love it here.

They live on the property here?

They still live on the property here. My son has just recently bought ten acres at East Kurrajong can’t afford to buy here. This is where he would like to live just can’t afford it. Out of their price range the young ones now.

That’s amazing because it always very cheap?

It was always very cheap but now it’s a desirable area to live. I mean there’s ten acres along this street for sale for two and a half million and no house on it. So that gives you an idea why it’s out of the range of the young ones.

Now, talking about your work after marriage what sort of jobs did you have?

Did accounting for Hestia was one company another company in Rosebery I worked for doing salaries and all book keeping, salaries and financial investments all that sort of thing. I was really trained at school for it and just learnt it as I was doing different jobs.

Trish Miller at Castle Hill Travel Agency 1989

How did you get into travel?

I got into travel through a friend who had a book of all the subjects being taught at TAFE. I thought oh I wouldn’t mind doing that. I had been overseas and had had a few hassles and decided I really needed to know more about this. I started the course never envisaging that I was going to separate and run my own business which is exactly what I did and still do.

So you run a travel agency do you?

I do two at the moment.

Are you enjoying that kind of work?

I do but I think I’m ready for retirement again. I just want to do less, that’s what it is about.

Now talking about Box Hill and Nelson as an area, what have been the big physical changes to the area since the 1980’s in the last thirty years?

Big physical changes probably not really a lot to be honest with you. More homes, more people but nothing dramatic because of The Hills Council and their allocation of subdivision was just stopped. So it never really developed anymore but it will be developing next year I understand. The big area between Terry Road and Boundary Road the soil is supposed to be turning over in about twelve months there. So that will be a big development.

Empty dam Old Pitt Town Road Box Hill 2002 where new subdivision is planned

When you say turning over what plans are there for development?

Low rise, medium density, high density so like little cluster things is what they’re going to do.

What are they going to call it that area, that development?

Don’t know they’ll give it a name. It will get a name of some sort. They’ll pick it from some where; I’m not sure, they’ll probably have some sort of competition and get someone to name it. Something I would imagine would relate to the history of the area, that’s what should happen anyway.

How many people do you think are envisaged to be contained in this new development?

Thousands it’ll be like Rouse Hill but probably even more dense. The idea is to have little shops and then around the shops they’ll have medium density and high density. Then go into blocks. If they do the blocks that they have at Rouse Hill they’re only about 400 (square metres) so there’s going to be a lot of blocks. It’s quite amazing. It will make a big impact on the area. It will definitely change then and it’s time to move.

  Box Hill House on the hill beside Terry Road 2003

Change it from a rural to a suburban area?

Totally change the rural to a suburban area. But that’s progress we’ve got population growth we’ve got to go somewhere.

How will you be affected by this development?

I won’t like it at all so I will move. Hopefully my property will be allowed to be subdivided into five acres. I’ll get a couple of blocks out of that and that will be very nice thank you. I’ve stayed here long enough and I think I’ve earnt it. I will move on probably up Richmond somewhere like that. I certainly won’t be going into the city. I’ll still stay within reasonable area near here. This is what I know.

Clydesdale farm Terry Road Box Hill 1993

What’s the current requirement by the Council regarding subdivision? How small can you subdivide at the moment?

You can’t it’s a hundred acres so no one has got that. So no one can subdivide at the moment. The LEP (Local Environment Plan) is supposed to come out in January (2011). We will wait and see. I believe this area is going to go into five acres, but of course it’s seventy percent five acres anyway. So it’s not really allowing much development when you think about it. This road has got more bigger lots and there’s a couple in Blind Road and that’s about it. The rest of them are all five acres anyway. So it’s not going to really change here dramatically. If you’ve got a lot of trees on your property well of course there’re all protected so there’s going to be little clusters. So you can’t do anything with them anyway. That’s our overlays.

So what are the current issues for the citizens of Box Hill?

We would like subdivision into five acre lots. The Council try to say that it’s semi rural. There’s very few people maybe one or two in the whole area that earn their money off their properties. I’m sure they’d be quite happy to move it along anyway. I’ve just been advised that Riverside Oaks which is at Cattai has been approved or Council is going to approve for them to build a hundred room hotel and a very small subdivision on quite a lot of that land, which is going to house six thousand people. There’s another little oasis and that’s going to disappear and that’s going to affect people in that area.

Box Hill Inn Windsor Road 1994

What’s the Hands off Private Property movement all about?

Hands off Private Property started about five years ago when the government were putting on a green overlay. So that you couldn’t do this and you couldn’t do that. Really you can’t even put a fence up without them telling you what you can do. If they find an ant or a snail or something on your land you can’t touch it. They say that we’re only custodians of the land, I don’t quite agree with that. If we’re only custodians we shouldn’t be paying any rates.

So that’s a movement by residents to… ?

It’s a movement by residents and it was very, very strongly supported. We had a very big rally at Rouse Hill. Quite a lot of the politicians came out from the opposition with lots of promises. But until we have a change of government it’s going to be very difficult to see whatever will happen in this area. A change of government is the only way we’re going to be able to do it. Unfortunately with the government as it stands they don’t tend to really want to deal with small holdings. They just want to deal with developers. You might own fifty acres but they’re not really interested in talking to you. They want the developers to do everything.

Marklye Robbins Road Box Hill 1994

So is Hands off Private Property fighting the State Government and the Council on subdivision issues?

We’re waiting to see what the LEP that comes out in February. That’s the same with Five Acres Now which is a group that started out at Glenorie that area. They’ve got very much different issues. They’ve got so much bush on their properties that they’re never going to really get what some of them would like. I guess it’s only happening because of the age of us people. The young ones would still like it on big acres and whatever but they can’t afford to buy it anyway. Where does it stand? It’s better to have I think five acre development or even pluses of one acre developments if people are happy to live on them. Most people look after them better when they’re in smaller lots than what they ever do in big lots, especially when it’s not farmed.

So you’re waiting for January to see what the LEP is going to decide? What action will you take if the decision isn’t one that you would like?

If the decision’s not what we would like, it’s very hard trying to get answers out of the Council is very difficult. They do come to meetings but they’ll only tell you what they think you want to hear anyway. No doubt our action will then progress again and we’ll start it up again. It’s a lot of work involved to motivate people to get them to understand what is happening. People become very complacent. When they think that their properties might be threatened by some bureaucratic decision it does often motivate people into doing things. At least voicing their opinion which is about all you can do.

 Box Hill House on Terry Road c1968

Have you visited any historic houses in the Box Hill or Nelson area?

When I was a child we used to go to the house on Terry Road (Box Hill House, built by the Terry family and later owned by a string of families including Neville, Singer, Bingham and McCall. In 1956 William McCall donated it to the Sub-Normal Children's Welfare Association, now known as Challenge Foundation). My parents were friendly with, not the Terry’s it was after that time (the Binghams), were friendly with the people that owned it. He was a dentist and he only had it as his weekender. So it just shows you what dentists must have made. Now that’s McCall Garden Colony which is a boy’s home. So it was a lovely old home.

I have been to Rouse Hill House before it became part of The (Historic Houses) Trust. I knew the owners there, my parents knew them. You’d go there. That’s about all. There’s lots of other older homes that were never really… they were just ordinary homes. Now they’re done up and they’re historic homes. So that’s quite amazing around Rouse Hill, quite a few of them around there not so much around here. There’s one, there’s the old hunting lodge just off Nelson Road but that’s about it.

Former Hunting Lodge on Copenhagen Farm The Water Lane Box Hill 1994

So do a lot of houses still exist to give Box Hill the character it used to have?

Yes they still exist even some of the old timber homes still exist. Some of the people who lived here when I was a child, those homes are still standing. It’s quite amazing really. I guess the only reason they’re still standing is because development hasn’t come through. When development comes through they’ll go. Unless they’re then preserved which sometimes they are these days.

Now just to clear up things the new development that you were talking about the six thousand people or whatever is that part of the North West Growth Centre?

Yes it will be part of the North West Growth Centre. This area is all supposed to all have been part of it. But of course we’ve been left a bit aside on that aspect. It will not be very good living here because of the traffic. You’ll never get out of my street up the end of the road it will be just horrendous. It’s bad enough now with the traffic that comes along Old Pitt Town Road from Oakville because they cut through now. Yes it will make an impact on the area. That’s progress. They’ve got to put water and so forth in. There’s no water there so they’ve got to do all these things.

So how do you see the future of Box Hill?

I can see if they leave five acres on this area here it will still be the same. For the big development no it will just be suburbia, it will just look like Rouse Hill that’s exactly what it is going to look like. With a little bit of acreage butting up to it. If Annangrove, Kenthurst all that area still stays the same there’s still going to be that acreage. They won’t develop that because there is a demand for five acres and that style of living. People can afford it.

 View from Old Pitt Town Road looking towards Mason Road ridge with Box Hill House on right 2002

Now if this area gets the go ahead for subdivision and you can subdivide your property what will happen to your children who are living here in their houses?

I will have to give them some money to build a house on these ten acres I guess. That’s what I would do anyway. I would get a house for my daughter. That wouldn’t be a problem. I would make sure… depending on where they want to live. Whether my son decided he would still live up at East Kurrajong. He works all over the place so it doesn’t really make that much difference where your base is. It’s the same with me it’s just a base. So you come and go from it anyway.

But you’ve got a very emotional attachment to this area haven’t you?

I have a very emotional attachment to the area. I think if I moved to Richmond or somewhere like that, you’ve still got your friends and they’re still in the area or in those areas that have moved say from here. There’s your attachment anyway. Progress happens, time goes on and you move. I’m ready to move. I’m ready I feel that it’s age and I’ve got other things that I want to do. I’d much rather be on a ship cruising the world or something.

 View from Annangrove Road looking north west to stone cottage in Water Lane Box Hill 2002