Box Hill - Trish Miller


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

Can you tell me when you were born?

I was born in 1946 in Riverstone in a private hospital.

What’s the family background?

Mother is a Kiwi (New Zealander), Dad comes from South Australia. They met in Sydney during the war.

So that was what 1943, 1944?

Possibly I’m not sure because Dad joined up in 1939 in Darwin. Whenever they would have had R&R (rest and recreation) in Sydney at some stage, it could have been earlier than that I’m not sure?

Did your father fight in the war then?

Yes he did he fought in New Guinea at the end of the war. He fought in the Middle East, Greece, Libya and did a lot of training in the UK.

That’s interesting isn’t it? Did he tell you some stories about that?

Yes we got a lot of stories. Unfortunately they didn’t desensitize these people when they came back. I would think that he had a bit of war neurosis is what I would call it.

He must have seen some terrible things of course as you do in war? It affected a lot of people quite strongly.

Yes he seemed to cope with that all right even though I found some photographs of his that he should never have taken which was interesting.

What sort of pictures are they?

Bodies would have been the Middle East.

Rose and Len Ludgate on their honeymoon in Manly 1942

His own soldiers or the enemy?

Don’t know I can’t tell.

What about his New Guinea experiences where did he fight there?

New Guinea not quite sure exactly where he fought he has been mentioned in a book that has been written regarding the Thirty Niners which he is a member of. But he certainly came away from New Guinea with an absolute loathing of the Japanese. For what he saw that they did to people, canabalisation I think that was what got to him.

Is he still alive?

No he’s been dead about ten years.

He must have been one of the very first to join up?

He was. DX67 was his number when he joined in Darwin. So he was very early. Living in the Northern Territory I think they were all just yahoos and off they trotted up to Darwin to join this big experience. He loved travelling he loved the travel part of it. I guess maybe that’s where I got it from.

So what was it that motivated your family to move to Box Hill in the 1940’s?

I guess Dad (Len Ludgate) wanted to become a farmer that’s what it was. So he came out here and I’ve no idea how they would have even got on to it. Mum (Rose Ludgate) lived in Randwick so it wasn’t exactly the area. I don’t really know how they ever got onto the property here (in Terry Road). I guess they must have found it through a real estate or whatever they had back in those days.

Rose and Len Ludgate with Robert 1 year 4 months and Trish 6 weeks at Terry Road Box Hill 1946

Was land cheap to buy, land in Box Hill in those days?

Compared to what we think about it yes very much so. I’m not sure what they paid for their first block but their ten acres that they added to later on was £100. That was probably a lot of money back then but for us it’s a pittance. That would have been in the late 1940’s.

What was Box Hill regarded as in those days by people in Sydney. Was it on the fringes?

Absolutely I don’t even think it was on the fringes I think it was just out just no man’s land really. The Hawkesbury is the boundary for the metropolitan area but I don’t even know if it was back then. It certainly was out in the sticks.

People used to say that you lived in the country?

Yes oh well I would have considered it country definitely country when we lived here.

Did it look very rural as well?

Very rural it doesn’t look terribly different though. It’s still very rural. It’s got more homes but certainly not suburban by any stretch of the imagination.

Yes you get the feeling when you’re driving around that you’re in the country?

Yes and some people still farm here. We’ve still got poultry farms up the road but there’s not much farming. It’s just hobby farming people with horses for leisure.

Do you know something about the history of Box Hill? Can you tell me something about how it started?

Well I think it would all come down to the Terry Family because they had a home in Box Hill (Box Hill House). That was in Terry Road. They had a house at Rouse Hill (Rouse Hill House). That was one of the cousins or brothers. It was quite a big parcel of land I’m not sure how much but quite a large parcel. Which is now McCall Garden Community for boys, disabled, not disabled mentally challenged I would probably put it at, quite a mixture there now.

So the Terry’s would have subdivided their own land would they?

Originally, yes, they would have had a much larger holding. They would have owned all of it between Rouse Hill and here. There wouldn’t have been too many other people that were owning land back in the 1800’s.(Actually in 1820 Samuel Terry acquired Robert Fitz's large grant and established Box Hill Estate which his descendents expanded. However in 1919 the family's financial difficulties led to the subdivision of their land between Terry and Nelson Roads into small farms which, as advertised, were used for poultry farming and orchard).

In the 1900’s it was a different story of course. People moved out here. I guess it was affordable. People needed things to do. You had the Riverstone Meat Works which employed a lot of people. That was always probably a backstop for people as well as it was for my father.

Sydney Hunt Club Box Hill c1907

How many children were there in your family?

Three and I’m the middle.

Your father became a poultry farmer, right?

He became a poultry farmer, yes.

Did he do well at it?

I think so. We had a nice life style. But eventually with the problems with the Egg Board and the cost of wheat it wasn’t viable anymore. Of course it was free range which went out even though it is probably preferable these days.

Do you know how many chooks you were running on your property?

No, I wouldn’t have a clue quite a lot quite a lot of sheds. He used to get the little day olds (chicks) and they used to go under little incubators to rear them up. He didn’t breed his own he bought them in. I don’t know who it was that used to come in. It might have been a vet every chicken was inocculated - like given an injection of some sort for whatever diseases they might have been prone to. I do remember that.

Robert and sister Trish Ludgate with free range hens on their
Terry Road Box Hill poultry farm late 1940s

As a child did you help out in the raising of the chickens?

Oh yes we had to collect eggs. Had to pluck chooks, didn’t worry me. You just get used to it. It’s just part and parcel of life. Dad always milked a cow. We used to separate… had a separated we used to separate the butter from the cream. Mum made butter and ice cream. We always had milk. Dad used to give milk to the chooks actually.


Yeah, yes I just thought of that and the dog of course.

It sounds like a fairly ideal life style?

I think it was. You didn’t work morning till night or anything like that. You went to school, you played.

How many eggs would you collect in the mornings?

You didn’t collect them in the morning. They were collected through the middle of the day I think. We had a little weigher thing that you weighed them on as to which way you packed them. They went into crates and the crates went off to the egg board. So they weren’t in dozen lots like we see them now. They would have been packed at an egg plant somewhere. They would have been all graded in their sizes.

Thirty dozen eggs were packed in a box

Were they fairly large?

Yes you didn’t send much in the way of pullet eggs away, the little ones. They probably made pulp or something out of them, I don’t know.

What were some of the problems connected with poultry farming in those days?

The foxes were probably the worst problem especially if you didn’t close your sheds up early enough. We came home one time and foxes had been in and there were dead chooks everywhere. So that was pretty traumatic for my Dad. That’s a lot of money that you lose and you couldn’t afford to do that back in those times. Everyone was battling to survive.

Water didn’t appear to be too much of a problem because we had a big dam. So he had that pretty well under control. He put the dam at the top of the hill which everyone said was a crazy idea. His idea was to collect the water that came from the hill across the road and what came off the road. So he never, ever ran out of water. So he wasn’t such a silly man after all. I guess having lived in the Northern Territory he learned to make the most of water. So you do probably have more survival instinct in you.

Are there still foxes around here?

Absolutely yes there’s foxes here we hear them at night. We see them running across the road, lose ducks. We don’t have any poultry here but the wild ducks get lost, you see them. So there’s still foxes you’ll never get rid of them I don’t think.

What were people farming around here apart from the poultry?

They did citrus fruit mostly. Some people did peas a man in George Street did peas. But it was mostly poultry. Mushrooms the man next door did mushrooms. Open mushrooms not like they do now in humidified buildings. That’s probably about it. Everyone always had a cow or two but nobody made money out of cattle as such. There was a big dairy on Boundary Road which would still come under Box Hill. That was Hurrell’s Dairy (Red Gables) so that was a big dairy. They ran a lot of cattle. That was about five hundred acres. That was quite a large holding which of course is all going to be subdivided into housing. Supposedly starts next year 2011. So that’s been a long time coming.

Picking field mushrooms c.1956

Was there a shopping centre in those days?

No nothing Riverstone was the closest shop. As I was growing older say as a teenager. At Scheyville there was a migrant camp when they were bringing out a lot of migrants. So there was a little shop there which we’d ride round on our bike to buy a drink or an ice cream or something but that was the closest. Riverstone was about three miles away.

Where did your family buy their fruit and vegetables and all their other needs?

Vegetables were mostly grown. Fruit was grown a lot as well in the early days. Later days of course Mum shopped in at Riverstone. In early days everything was grown, fruit and vegetables. Flour and sugar and things all came out from Anthony Hordens in the city. They delivered all that. That was delivered every few weeks whenever that was. It came in big sacks because Mum did a lot of cooking. That was how that came about.

You grew all your own vegetables?

Grew our own vegetables big vegetable garden lots of strawberries, my grandfather loved coming up for the strawberries and cream of course.

What about hawkers? Apart from Anthony Hordens were there any hawkers that came round?

Yes, we used to have a hawker used to come round selling clothes. He came from Dural. (Ron Jones from 1954 had a 1953 30cwt Bedford van. In 1964 he and his wife opened a drapers shop in Round Corner. From 1973 to 1985 they owned Melody Farm herb nursery on Old Northern Road Dural. Under the name of Allegro, Ron wrote a column for The Hills TV Magazine from circa 1986 until 2006). Don’t remember any other hawkers. Used to have swaggies pop in looking for food and my parents always gave them food and sent them on their way. We never encouraged them to stay. There was quite a lot of them back in those days. So that would be in the early1950’s for me to remember them.

What about the state of the roads what did they look like?

Dirt roads all dirt if the creek went over between our house and the Windsor Road we used to have to walk down there. Dad would pick us up on the other side. You couldn’t get across that just saved quite a way coming around. Cause to come home we had to come around again. That was the only place that went over and that hasn’t happened again for a long, long time now. Not out here really because there weren’t enough rivers to create a problem. The roads yes all dirt roads no bitumen.

 Floodplain near creek facing Terry Road Box Hill below Box Hill House 2003

Can you describe your house at Box Hill what it looked like? Can you tell me what materials it was made of?

When Mum and Dad bought the property there was an old house on there. They added to it. It was all fibro, fibro and tin roof, timber floors. Dad milled a lot of the timber off the property because back then there was lots of timber on the farm. We had fifteen acres so that was a fair bit of timber. Used to chop the trees and have it milled. A lot of that was put into the house and into the sheds. So it was pretty self sufficient in lots of ways. Only bought what you really had to buy. He had a builder though that came and helped. He wasn’t a builder but it was comfortable enough. Wood fire, open fire in the lounge room, Mum did have an electric stove eventually but never really used it that much. She was used to using the wood fire.

What about water how was the water piped to the house?

We had tanks, we used to have an underground tank but Dad eventually closed that in. So we just had tanks and it was gravity feed didn’t have pumps. Used to have a tank further up to get the pressure down didn’t have pressure like you do now of course. But you survived with it it’s amazing really.

I believe you had a well?

We did we had a well yes had a very big well. All the properties around here would have had wells. I know where the well is. He actually filled it in after a cow fell in. He wanted to make sure that we didn’t fall in I guess. He filled it in and put a willow tree on it. So that was lovely.

Willow tree. Would have liked that?

Willow tree would have loved it I’m sure.

Did you have electricity connected to the house?

I know we didn’t have electricity when I was born, but I don’t remember. I’ve always known electricity. I do know they did not have electricity when they first came out here which would have been in 1945 maybe early 1946. (Actually electricity was connected to Box Hill and Nelson in May 1947).

Original fibro house back view with water tank and outside toilet on Lot 77a Nelson Road Box Hill 1966

Did you have a telephone?

Eventually we had a telephone and it went through the exchange at Rouse Hill (Post Office Store). You only had it certain times so you had to dial in and ring through. That was the only communication that you had then. It was a party (line) phone as such. It was only really used for an emergency really. Wasn’t a have a chat phone.

How did your mother do the washing?

Originally Mum did the washing in a copper I remember that outside with the fire underneath it. The wooden stick and the copper and the glass scrubbing board then eventually got a ringer type machine as we were children. So that made it a lot better. But yes they survived it that was what they were used to.

Did you have sewage connected?

No we didn’t have sewage connected. We had an outside toilet but it was not a pan system. Dad had put some system that he bought that you used chemicals in that went into a pit. So he never had to empty pans and drop toilets and things like that. So I guess it was fairly innovative for the time. The chemicals came out from Anthony Hordens as well. I remember that. So maybe that’s where it came from originally.

Now what form of transport did your family use?

Originally a push bike was what my parents would have had. So Mum wouldn’t have gone too far. I know when I was born the neighbours took Mum into Riverstone on a horse and cart. She told me that I know that from what I’ve been told. Eventually they got a car, a Holden ute, probably one of the first Holden utes. So they did eventually get a ute and us kids used to have to sit in the back, which was allowed back in those days, Dad had a canopy made so that we weren’t exposed.

Graham Ware with one of his coaches at Copenhagen 22 Nelson Road Box Hill 2001

Who is Graham Ware?

Graham is my neighbour now he’s probably only lived here for the last twenty odd years. He came from the city his father had horses and carriages and things and he still does that. Wedding carriages, does movies all that sort of thing. He has an adjoining property to me now.

Did he teach horse riding in those days?

Not that I’m aware of, no. There was a few private schools around here for riding. My children went the Riding for the Disabled to learn. That was at Rouse Hill. So that’s where they went to learn to ride. We used to get horses off Graham of course. We just borrowed horses. It suited him because then he didn’t have to feed them. My son used to have a big horse and my daughter had a little horse which was bit cheeky.

When we built this house we lived in the shed and it came in and ate her hamburger one day. She was most upset. So Graham always lends everyone… all the kids around here my children’s era that is all borrowed horses from Graham. This road of course was dirt and the kids would pound up the road on their horses racing each other as kids do.

Did you ride as well?

No I didn’t I was never allowed.

House on Terry Road north of George Street Box Hill 2011

Now who were your neighbours on both sides in Terry Road? Can you describe their names and what they did?

In Terry Road we had the Huxley’s (Geoff and Alice) on one side their property was the same acreage but it was a narrow block so it went back further than our property or part of it did. They were sort of joined into one another. He had poultry originally and then he went to mushrooms. Then when they moved to Boundary Road the people that came in there did dogs. They bred show kelpies for training and so forth. They really only bought the property and had a caretaker in there so I might have met them once or twice, they had a caretaker and I remember his name was Fred. We knew him, he was a Welshman actually.

You had other people alongside the road?

The other side originally would have been Wilson’s. There was a chap there. He eventually married and moved to Old Pitt Town Road so he didn’t move very far. His brother lived down the road his parents lived down the road. So that was the little family of the Wilson’s.

The Crawford’s came next door to me when I was a child. They lived there for a long time until maybe only a few years ago when Bruce died. He was the father. So he was quite elderly. They had a family there.

We had Coxes lived in Terry Road, the Potters lived in Terry Road. Mr. and Mrs Lackey lived in Terry Road. The Cherry’s they lived in Terry Road, Turnbull’s.

What did the Turnbull’s do for a living?

Mr. Turnbull worked for Hurrell’s Dairy so that’s where he worked. He used to drive around there. They had a large family six or seven children.

Dams and ironbark trees on Red Gables dairy farm site Boundary Road looking north east towards Maraylya 2003

I believe there was some Russians called Stoove were there?

Yes there were some Russians they lived up the road a bit further. He lived there for a long, long time him and his family and children. We all went to school together. He eventually sold and moved to Riverstone and owned a service station. I think he is now deceased as well. He lived there for a long, long time.

Were there many people from ethnic origins living in the area?

No a couple of Russians no one else that I would recall. English but not ethnic of course they had a different accent to us so I suppose they were different when we were children. It still hasn’t changed a great deal to that extent. There’s still no city water here so a lot of people who aren’t used to that don’t want to get into that situation.

Now who was Arthur Munro?

Arthur Munro lived in Alan Street he had trotters and I think he was a butcher as well. He had a brother as well. He moved to Hynds Road and built in Hynds Road. He had a little trotting track where the water used to always flood. So the land was not really terribly viable. You certainly couldn’t put a house on it, it still floods and there’s still no house on it. It’s a bit low down there I suppose eventually one day they’ll fix the creek up in that area and there won’t be any surface water anyway.

So who were the old established families in the area?

The old established families would have been the Turnbull’s they were here certainly forever, the Coxes, and my parents of course.

What were your parent’s last names?

Ludgate. English I believe definitely not local.

How long does it take to be accepted as a local here?

Well I think I’m accepted now.

It’s only taken forty or fifty years has it?

Exactly, exactly and that is the truth. That happens out here it’s a bit like country towns it takes a long time to be a local as such. I talk to people “how long have you lived here”? “Oh twenty years is that all”? To me it doesn’t seem very long when I’ve lived here for sixty years. I guess that’s how you think. As we get older we think a bit more like that too I guess.

So you’re old established now?

Old established definitely old established. Don’t know about the old but certainly established.

View from Box Hill House with Terry Road in foreground 2001

So what was the state of the flora and fauna at Box Hill when you were young? Has that changed a lot?

No, no I don’t think so. Less trees, less iron bark gum trees that I can recall. Everyone that moves and lives out here even now we’ve always planted a lot more trees than what was ever taken. I don’t think there was ever… I mean I know there’s a lot of problems with people taking down a tree here and there. Gosh my father took the trees down and used the timber. We certainly had plenty of trees and he made sure there was always shade and there was always trees for the animals, chooks and the house. I think most people still tend to do that to a degree. Just the normal grasses that were around then Paspalum and so forth, we didn’t have Kikuyu out here then but it is now.

So the country hasn’t changed much in itself?

Not really, not really I don’t think so, not at all.

Apart from the foxes what other animals were there?

Lots of birds, always lots of birds, Magpies, Crows, all the parrots. We used to have lots of parrots we used to get the little parrots sometimes and have them for pets. There was always lots of birds. Not a lot else really other than domestic animals, not a lot else. Now of course we do see kangaroos occasionally and I’ve seen echidnas which we never saw as children. I think that’s development in Kellyville, Rouse Hill that just pushed them out a bit further all the time. I think that’s what happens.

Any platypuses in the rivers?

There’s platypus locally yes I haven’t seen them for a long, long time. We just don’t bother anymore but there is or there used to be and I believe they still are there. They're hard to find.

Platypus hole in a local creek 2003

Some of the other people we’ve interviewed, not in this area necessarily have talked to us about catching eels in the creeks?

Oh eels yes, but we never ate them. My brother always caught eels because there was always eels. When we cleaned this dam out here oh my goodness there was hundreds of eels. There’d be eels in there now yes oh yes always eels. Yabbies sometimes too and in the little creek across the road here my son used to fish and he used to get some sort of a fish out of there which wasn’t terribly nice eating. They were just natural fish so there’s still a little bit of fish in the fresh water area. Of course Little Cattai Creek the closest here has a lot of the treatment system going into it from Rouse Hill so I would think that will change the ecology a bit there.

Were there any Aboriginal people living in the area or any evidence of Aboriginal occupation?

Never saw Aboriginal people in Box Hill but there were certainly Aboriginal people in Riverstone. They lived in the Vineyard area there just in the bush. It was quite interesting, intriguing I guess for kids to see these natives as such. So yes possibly they would have been in Box Hill at some stage as well I would think.

Do you have any Aboriginal relics in the area here?

Not that I’ve got, certainly not on my property. I know there are on other properties.

Trish Miller nee Ludgate swimming with her dog in the dam Terry Road Box Hill 1950s

Carvings you mean and other things?

Carvings yeah.

What are your childhood memories about growing up in Terry Road? What sort of things did you do as a child?

Swum in the dam, it was hot when I was a bit older. Rode our bikes, billy carts we had a billy cart. Used to go for long bike rides with friends, all over the place out to Annangrove, probably seemed a long way as children. It’s probably not really that far in mileage. We just had a good life style, played a bit, normal.

I believe you even drove a truck when you were fairly young. Tell me about that?

I used to help my Dad on the farm so I used to have to steer the truck and drive the truck and used to change the gear. That was probably when I was about eight. Then you learnt to drive you always got your licence as soon as you were old enough when you lived out here. Before I even got my licence he use to drive for a company and I learnt to drive the pantech because he thought you should learn to drive everything.

A big truck?

A big truck I’ve driven… I’ve just thought of that. Another neighbour had a big army thing which I used to drive as well. You just wanted to drive anything that you could get yourself behind because that’s just what you did. My son used to plough the paddocks here at ten on the tractor. He got his licence the day he turned seventeen. No lessons just learnt the book and off he went because he’d just did it for ever. I got my licence in Richmond and I know I kangaroo hopped a bit and the policeman said “ah doesn’t matter you’ll get over that”. That’s how you got your licence. A few questions and hop in the car and show me if you can drive and that was it.


Box Hill-Nelson Bushfire Brigade's first water tanker

So how old were you when you drove the pantech? 

Oh about twelve or thirteen very young but I could reach the pedals and I did alright. Probably kangaroo hopped it as well. That’s all part of learning.

People would be horrified today… ?

Oh absolutely horrified, totally horrified. I still think in rural areas kids would still be driving trucks and tractors and everything else because that’s just part of how it is. That’s part of survival I think and the way the lifestyle goes.

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