Rouse Hill - Jack Iori (OAM) - Part 2


Interviewee: Jack Iori OAM, born 1934

Interviewer: Frank Heimans,
            for Baulkham Hills Shire Council

Date of Interview: 5th June, 2006

Transcription: Glenys Murray, Nov 2006

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

What was your mother’s life like while you were working and your father was working at the eggs, tell me the typical day that she would have had in the house?

I don’t think she had much in the house poor Mum, she had to go out and pack the eggs in the cold shed, I still remember that cold shed. She had to wash the eggs, she made all the cheese like I said before, we made our own cream, she patched all my trousers, I had many patches on me and she worked terribly hard with Dad. They were a fantastic family orientated couple, they just loved their family. Over the years as we got on we all had New Years Day down there, the whole family, we had Christmas, we had Easter we never used to miss it. Mum was always happy and Dad when we called in to say hello to them. They both lived until they were just on ninety, Mum was three months off and Dad was six months off.

Hard work didn’t harm them at all did it?

I really don’t think it hurts anybody, Frank, I’ve worked very, very hard in my life and I’ve got no intentions of retiring, I’m seventy two next birthday and I still want to work, I love it, what I do.

Right, right that’s good. Now were there any particular events or instances in your life that had an influence on you as you were growing up or later on?

I didn’t like patched trousers and I always thought one day maybe I wouldn’t have to wear them and my Mum and Dad were so good. I would have liked to think that I would have bettered myself in life and I think the bringing up I had of hard work. The thing that probably had a big bearing on my life was national service, I did my national service and I’d never ever left home in my life until I was twenty then, nearly twenty one. I went into the national service and I’m not ashamed to say it I cried the first fortnight. I look back on it now, I’ve got my medals now, I go marching every Anzac Day and I’m very proud of it. I think it taught me how to live among people and it taught me a lot of things.

Now going back even before that when you were quite small, what were your chores or duties as a child, what were the things you had to do?

Oh, absolutely we had to wash up every night, both my brother and myself, I had to go and close all the chicken sheds because there were a lot of foxes around in those days. I had to go and close up all the sheds at night time and we had to milk two cows in the evening and in the morning and I used to take that in turn with my brother. My brother used to do it one morning and I used to probably do it at night and they were there continually, you couldn’t get out of them us much as I tried to get out of them a couple of times it didn’t work.

Calves and Iori poultry sheds late 1960s

So what about sport and play?

Oh look, there was very little sport here. I mean there was nothing, look I went to the opening on Saturday of the beautiful sports oval we’ve got here now, there’s about six or seven ovals on it, it’s brilliant and I was very happy to be invited to go there on Saturday. Those days there was just nothing, we used to make our own fun, I used to use the creek as a swimming pool and we used to go fishing down along the creek and they were about the only thing you could do or we used to make a sling to shoot birds or something like that for a bit of fun. I think you call them slings made out of, with a fork and a bit of rubber each side and apart from that there wasn’t much. It was all too far we had nowhere to go. But we still had fun, Frank, one way or the other we still had our bit of fun.

Now Jack you made your own cricket bats, tell me that story?

Oh yeah well, they found them up at the school after all these years. I nearly fell over when I saw them. I used to get a machette, we used to play French Cricket, I couldn’t think of it the other day. I asked my brother and he said “yeah it was French Cricket we used to play”. I used to just get the machette, I used to get a couple of tops off the lettuce cases and I used to make them and I used to take them up three or four at a time and it so happened after all these years they found two of them the other day underneath the school floor and one of my exercise books, spelling books, which I’m not going to show it around too much (laughs).

You a bit ashamed of the spelling are you?

Yeah (laughs).

So the cricket bat was featured in the local paper?

Yes it was had a whole page on it yeah.

So you did play cricket?

Well after all that time it’s amazing that they found them. A soft wood one was white ant eaten a little bit, but the other one was still in good nick.

Jack and Edo Iori's father, mother, uncle and aunt at Rouse Hill 1940s

Your parents seem to be very hard workers as you describe, did they also have a social life?

I think I’d have to say in the early days there wasn’t much of a social life, but when we got our car, I think our first car 1945 or ’44, we had a little Singer and every Friday night we’d look forward to going to Castle Hill cinema, they had a picture up there and that was our big night out every week. Not every week, but at least once a fortnight we’d go up there and that was our big night out. I still remember that, it was great.

What did your parents do for entertainment? Did they have other people over for dinner that sort of thing?

They had a bit of that, but with their in-laws down the road, with their brother-in-laws. I don’t think there was a lot to do in those days. I know they got one of the first TV’s and I remember going down, all my kids were really young and I remember every night “Zorro” was on, it was so good we used to go down there every night and watch it with them. In early days I think you had to make your own social life, there was a little bit of it, but it’s completely different today.

Well it was a terribly small population here wasn’t it?

Oh well, nothing here, you had to go to Parramatta to get anything in those days.

Now your first school would have been the Rouse Hill Public School, wasn’t it?

My school, yes.

Primary school?


Can you remember the names of any of the teachers and what life was like there?

We only had one teacher, it was Ted Harris. I still remember Ted well. I can still see his face actually. He was a good teacher all round I think. I think we used to range from sixteen to nineteen children there, mixed and I still remember what he said to us one day. He bought a 1927 Chev tourer and he went putt, putt, putt and he wouldn’t take his eyes off the road as you’re going past. One of the cheekier boys said “gee Sir you drive that slow” and he said “yes son any fool can go fast, but it takes a smart man to be able to go slow”. I still remember that saying after all these years, so look he was a good bloke. He tried a few things, he tried to grow vegetables with us and we grew vegetables and then we ran short of water, we only had tank water it was a fluke if you could grow them because you’ve go to have water. You can’t do nothing without water in this area.

Rouse Hill Public School old site 1929

Was Ted Harris your teacher all the way through primary school?


You had him every year did you?

Every year, those days you only had the one it was really like living out of Bourke those days. It wasn’t that bad, because you never had that distance but you were away from everything and you had no means of transport so horse and sulky or push bike.

You used to walk to school, did you?

I walked to school at first and then when I could afford a push bike we used to ride our bikes up there.

Right, any school mates that you’re still friends with from those days.

I was very friendly with one, he died not long ago Joe Massano, he was a lovely bloke. Norm Hession I still know well and I hear of others that are still alive, but I don’t actually associate with them. Not because I don’t want to, I’d love to see them, but I still hear that there’s a few of them still around, but we’re all getting old Frank.

You’re old enough to remember the Second World War, tell me what you remember about those days?

I still remember that, we built a big air raid shelter, my brother worked there for days and he was very good with his pick and shovel and we built an air raid shelter, near that entrance to that car park, it was just there and I remember the night, cause it was something funny for us, it wasn’t funny but it was something different. The wardens used to come out at night time to make sure they couldn’t see any light because of air raid bombings they were worried about. It was when the Japanese hit Darwin, was it, around that time they bought in this thing that certain nights you had to have all darkness. I remember him coming up and saying “you can still see a bit of light”, I can still remember those days.

The warden said that right?

Do you recall rationing, were there any coupons and things?

Yes I do. We used to... Murray Brothers, I remember going to Parramatta at Murray Brothers, specially for butter, tea and probably other groceries, but I remember the butter ones well.

Maria Iori in front rose garden 1940s

Now let's talk a bit about religion in the family, how important was religion?

All Italians it’s important Frank, we’re Catholics I’m proud to be a Catholic. I’m not a good Catholic I go once every blue moon. Mum and Dad they said their Rosary every night together, every night until they died, they said their Rosary they were very big believers in the Catholic Church. As a matter of fact my brother and my self we did a stained glass gable in the Catholic Church at Kellyville in loving memory of Mum and Dad. The priest allowed us to do it and I’m very proud that we did it for them. Also while I’m on that the Shire also gave Mum and Dad, though it’s in Mum’s name a park just up the road from here, which is a beautiful park and they got their history there of when they come here of what they did in this area. So I’m pretty proud of it actually.

That was in recognition for her service?


It’s called the Margaret Iori Park is it?

No Margaret is my wife, Maria Iori Park and it’s a big one.

Maria right, so Catholic Church was there one around Rouse Hill?

Riverstone was the closest, cause those days it was a bit hard then the Kellyville one got built and Mum and Dad went to Kellyville most Sundays.

Did the church play an important role in the community?

I think it always plays an important role in the community, probably not that much those early days, but I think after that when the community got a bit bigger and you had vehicles to travel and I think the earlier days I remember the Hessions used to go all the time because they had the first cars in this area and the Rasmussens and they were lovely families. Yeah I think later on and even now it does play a big part in society.

Pellegrino Iori in 1940s outside the front verandah that he later enclosed

Right, now let’s talk again about your father. You said he was very good with his hands. Did he build the first house that you had in Rouse Hill?

No, we had about three rooms I think here, he put a verandah right around it and then built a couple of extra bedrooms, I couldn’t do it, he had a nature towards it you know he was just good at what he did. Give him bits of timber and a few nails and he could do anything.

Can you describe the house to me, how many bedrooms it had and the layout of the rooms, what was it like?

It was fibro, it had a fuel stove, cause we had no fridge, we used to get ice blocks, big blocks and iron roof, there was no cooling stuff in those days. We had a little well and when it got real hot we went down this well and we used to keep cool water in the well and our butter in the well and that was the only means in the early days before anything came here. That’s how we used to do it.

Right, the well?

It’s marvellous how cool a well can be you know. It was very cool, it was shale on the side and you’d put a top on the top and dirt on it again and it was marvellous how cool that was.

Right. Did the house have electricity?

I don’t think, look Frank I should have found out that, but I can’t remember we had electricity until later on. We had no fridge, we had no electricity we had a fuel stove, so I think it came here a few years after we were here.

Right, tell me to get your bread and all the deliveries were they by road or were they by hawkers, how did you get your supplies?

Well I can remember the bread well, the bread used to come on a horse and cart from Castle Hill bakery and I used to get on the horse and cart here and I ran and delivered the bread for him to the end of the road and back and I still remember that like yesterday cause he was a great fellow he was an older man. He was probably six to ten years when we were here did that. The ice was delivered for us and the rest of the shopping I think Dad used to go to Riverstone or Windsor with the horse and sulky in the early days.

Was that a Mr Stevens(?) who used to deliver the ice? Was that his name?

No Mr Stevens(?) the Lebanese man….no this was after, I can’t remember who their names anyway.

 Cooper's General Store and residence 1940

Now what stores were there, shops I mean in Rouse Hill?

There was a Rouse Hill Post Office, that’s its full stop. Mrs Cooper was her name, they were here when we came here and she was a lovely lady, we used to have the old phones. Remember Frank, you ring, ring, ring and she used to always be very kind to me, because we tried to run a business from here in the chook game and one thing and another and she was always extremely kind. I used to call in there and get one pennies worth of Jaffas you know the red Jaffas the little lollies, I think I used to get about twelve for a penny, she was a wonderful woman and she stayed in Rouse Hill until she died. It was the only thing that we had anywhere in the area.

Was there a Police Station?

No, no, nothing Riverstone was the closest Police Station.

So in an emergency you would have to go a long way?

Yes it’s like if something happened to you, I remember Riverstone had a doctor way back, but apart from that how you got there I don’t know. Probably would have been ambulances that day but they’d have to be horse and sulky in the early days. They had cars in 1935 so you’d probably go by ambulance.

How was Rouse Hill regarded by the rest of Sydney, I mean did they even know about it?

Come on Frank, you’d say Rouse Hill and they’d say “Rouse Hill where’s that”? It’s very well known today but it wasn’t known in those days. If you got one person out of a hundred that knew where Rouse Hill was you’d be very lucky just nobody knew where Rouse Hill was.

Except those who lived there?

That’s right and it wasn’t many.

Now when you’re a small community like you were and only a few people fairly spread out, people have to help each other was there such a communal spirit among the people?

Yeah there was great… I think you get that in these sort of places than what you would living in the city. People know that they’ve got to depend on one another. I think there was a great spirit in Rouse Hill along those lines. People were very, very good people were wonderful. Actually people of Rouse Hill have been very kind to me on the whole and for that I thank them all. I’ve done reasonably well and if it wasn’t for the people I wouldn’t be there, would I? I wouldn’t be here anyway.

So if someone got sick, would the rest of the community come to their aid?

Absolutely, absolutely.

How did the community entertain themselves, I mean have dances that sort of thing?

I think we used to have a monthly dance, I remember later on at Kellyville we had dances. There was dancing and we used to have an annual picnic or twice a year and I think that was it. I still remember when I was fourteen down at the church hall here in Rouse Hill. Actually my brother has still got it we used to have a little record player, His Majesty’s Voice (HMV) and it was like a suitcase you opened it up and you’d wind the handle and I still remember that, my brother’s daughter has still got it and we used to go down there we used to play Fox Trots and all those sort of dances. I was fourteen then when we used that, I still remember the girl who lived opposite here Hunters she was my partner in dancing and we used to try to learn to dance.

So that was how you entertained yourself right?

Yes, there wasn’t much else.

Aerial view of Aberdour Avenue with Aberdoon in foreground late 1970s

Now let's talk a bit about your marriage to your wife Margaret, where did you meet Margaret?

I met her at a dance at Baulkham Hills. Baulkham Hills School of Arts Hall, I met her there and yeah we we’ve just been married for fifty years on the sixth of last January and we have three lovely kids and nine grandchildren so we are very fortunate. She’s been a good wife too.

How many children do you have? Three.

Three, two girls and a boy.

Right are they all living in this area?

Yeah we’re very fortunate, one lives next door to me, the other one lives at Castle Hill and the other one lives at Riverstone.

OK great so...

What do you enjoy most now about living here at Rouse Hill?

I’d have to say I love it, I’ve been overseas many a time and I don’t know when the plane hits Mascot I say thank goodness I’m back. There’s not many places better than Rouse Hill and maybe it grows on you, you’ve been here so long and you know everybody and I just love Rouse Hill.

Now there’s been a lot of change in Rouse Hill of course since you were very young, naturally, because it looks totally different now, what are the main changes do you think that have happened here?

Well we’ve got progress. Twelve years ago it was the same except for a tarred road and lights in Mile End Road and a couple of other things our shopping centre was built, smaller one that what it was today. Twelve years ago it wasn’t much different, it was a bit different, but nothing much from when it was years ago. But we got this building boom that came along and it’s become very large. Most of Rouse Hill is all housing now small blocks and they’re all homes so there has been a big change and we’re getting the big regional shopping centre being built now, which is one of the biggest in the Southern Hemisphere so I think we’ve seen a lot of changes over the years.

Rouse Hill shops 1989

You’ve had a role to play in some of that change haven’t you? Tell me about your role in developing the little shopping centre here?

How much time have you got Frank, well I’ll try to make it as quick as I can. I had ambition to do a few things in Rouse Hill and one of the things I’ve always loved to have was to have some shops. I put into it in Castle Hill, I wrote to them and said I wanted a shopping centre and they said “no way in the world” so I went to the local member Bernie Dean at those days with the Liberal member and he took me in. Frank this was after six years, and he took me down to Parliament House and a bloke named Pat Morton was the Minister of Lands and I put my story to him and he said “oh son I can’t help you, you’ve got to go and do this and this and that” and I said “well if I do that Mr Minister would you give it to me” he said “I promise you nothing, son you do what I tell you and I promise I’ll have another look at it”. So I did exactly what he told me, I got done and he had a look at it and he gave it to me. But I had to battle a long while to get it, but there’s nothing in life that’s any good Frank that you get given to you, you’ve got to battle. I have anyway.

So what did you actually develop here?

We put up a grocery, we were green about it when we look back we didn’t build it properly. We had a post office which Margaret ran for twenty six years, we had a post office, we had a grocery store we had a liquor store. That was the first one of course since then we’ve rebuilt and built sixteen shops and three offices that we only built six years ago. Alan Cadman opened it for us six years ago.

Rouse Hill Shopping Centre 1999

Right now there’s plans to house two hundred and fifty thousand people in this area, that’s what the government says plus a huge shopping development. Tell me about those plans?

Well the shopping development has already started I don’t know if there’s enough people here to maintain that at this stage but that’s the government’s program that there will be lot of people in this area. That’s yet to come, there is a lot but I don’t think there’s enough to maintain a big shopping centre. But however the shopping centres coming so I suppose the people will come.

Just mentioning that after the shops come the people to use the shops, they’ve got to build houses first haven’t they?

Well if you listen to the experts and I’m no expert, the experts say that there is not enough people here to carry that big shopping centre. Now I may be one sided because they may tell me that because that’s what I want to hear, cause I’ve got a shopping centre and I say ”jeez I hope they don’t kill me”. Well we just have to do things better than we’ve been doing and look after the people and I think if you give that service I think you’ll survive. It’s like everything else in life you give the service, you look after what you are doing properly and you’ll always survive.

Shops in Adelphi St under construction 2002

Now it wasn’t until 1995 that the water supply came to Rouse Hill is that right?

About ten years ago, we had no water I reckon we’re the closest to Sydney for so many years and never had water. They always found an excuse why not to bring it.

Was it a matter of there wasn’t enough people living here then for water to be put on?

Frank I remember having a meeting in the Rouse Hill church hall in 1940 or 42, I still remember the bloke’s name. Mander(?) from the Water Board came there to that meeting and Mander(?) said “we’re going to put a reservoir at Box Hill up where it was high and he said “there’s no way we can support putting a reservoir here, there’s not enough people and it would cost eighty thousand pound to put that reservoir up. Have a look at what it is costing today if they would have borrowed and just put that reservoir there they would have been miles in front and we’ve waited all these years to get water. We’ve had to buy it in a lot of instances when it was dry, well not only us the whole community has had to buy it. It teaches you how to be careful with water Frank if it does anything. You don’t leave it on while you’re cleaning your teeth you leave it on and turn it off. But you don’t know that unless you go without, it’s one of the things that a lot of people don’t acknowledge.

Are there any other issues in Rouse Hill that you are worried about?

Not really, I was worried I helped get one oval and get the lights on here for the kids. I think the kids here the last few years had nowhere to go and just recently we’ve got two ovals now and it’s changed things around a little bit, the kids have got something to do. We still need a lot more things for children I’m pro children I think it’s great to have children in sport, which I missed out in my days but most of my grandchildren play sport and I think it’s a great thing it teaches them how to live among people and it does them a lot of good for later on in life and I help as much as I can and I think it’s a great thing.

Have you have any recognition for the work you’ve done in the community?

I’ve had a lot of nice letters sent to me by a lot of people that I help, I also help St Vincent’s Hospital a bit cause they saved my life yeah I do pretty well.

You said they saved your life, you have a medical problem?

I had a big one I collapsed here and they took me down and I had a heart operation that went terribly wrong and they sent me home after twelve days and the local doctor came to see me after two days because I was still sick he said “quick get an ambulance, he’s grey” so my son-in–law actually saved my life he said “no don’t send him to Baulkham Hills send him back to St Vincents” he rang the doctors and they said “send him down here”. I collapsed the second night, I collapsed in the hallway, on a Friday night the whole team got called in they reopened me back up, that’s twice within a fortnight and got a seventeen inch blood clot out of me, plus four two inch ones. I was in intensive care for twelve days not knowing if I was going to live or die. I eventually got over it. It took me eighteen months to get over it so I’ve had my ups and downs. I had a bit of trouble down at the building site I fell off a wall down there and ended up in hospital, but yeah there part of life that you’ve got to meet today.

You must be a survivor Jack?

I try hard Frank whatever I do, my Mum and Dad instilled that into me which I’m very grateful for.

What do you think you owe to your parents in terms of where you are today?

I owe everything they’re the ones that came out here and slaved for the bit of money that they made and they did it all for their two sons and for that I’ll always be grateful.

That’s nice, what about the future of Rouse Hill, how do you see that?

Look with the big shopping centre coming there and it’s going to be really big, it’s going to have everything. I think Rouse Hill is going to be a great place to live and with all the ovals we’re getting and there’ll be more things built, well we’re an hour from Sydney. Probably people who come here once in a blue moon say “gee you still live a long way out” but I love it, maybe I’m a little biased to Rouse Hill after living here for seventy years but it has been good to me and I love it.

Well I think we’re coming towards the end of the interview. Is there anything else you want to put on record, any final comments you have?

I’d like to thank my family, Mum and Dad they’ve always been great people, they’ve always taught me right from wrong and yeah Rouse Hill has been a great place for me and I hope it is for many other people too.