MY STORY by Eunice Lennaen February 2001
GROWING UP IN MANILDRA 1926
No, I cannot remember the flood of 1928, but was told about it so often by my mother that sometimes I think I can. It happened on the bank of the Bocobra Creek, close to the junction of that creek and the Mandagery.
Father worked on the Shire Council, Boree then. Mother worked the market garden, which paid for the 1927 Chevrolet car. We moved from there to the other side of town to “Old Manildra”.
My father became the local butcher. They had sawdust on the floor in those days, and occasionally he would drop a penny in the sawdust for me to find. You could buy a fair bit with a penny (about one cent) in those days.
An early memory of that time is the opening of the new bridge across the Mandagery. Mother drove across in her 27 Chevrolet. What a lot of fun that was, sitting in that car driving across the bridge, instead of the risky crossing in the creek further downstream.
No wireless or TV then for our amusement. We filled our days watching goods trains as they loaded with wheat, sheep, cattle, you name it, everything travelled by train then. No semi trailers then, an odd “lorry” or two.
We went on picnics in the hills behind our house or down to the creek for the day. Celebrating May Day, with a crown for the “Queen of the May”. Riding a pony, or trying to stay on one.
Walking to school on frosty mornings, scraping the frost off the logs at the Jack Flash crossing, pretending it was ice cream.
We moved to the main town about 1933 to the Imperial Hotel flats. Father had sold the Butcher’s shop and the house on Orange Road.
It was a dry dusty old town then. No water supply other than tanks on the houses to catch the rain water. In drought times these tanks often dried up and water had to be carted from the “soft water creek” by horse and cart.
No electricity in the town meant no heating, no refrigerators, no wireless “radio” or washing machine. All cooking was done by wood stove, can you imagine it in the summer time, but you could not have a “cuppa” if you let the fire go out. Open fires for warmth in the winter and some cooking.
To keep things reasonably cool we had a meat safe consisting of a wire gauze covered frame with a tin dish of water on the top, with another at the bottom to catch the drips dropped by a wheat bag hanging down each side. It worked amazingly well, especially in a draught of wind.
There was the odd battery wireless, not many. My uncle had one; “His Master’s Voice” was the name of it, with a picture of a dog on it. I was fascinated by it, hearing a voice come out of a box.
TV or computers had not been invented then, but I can remember our school teacher telling us that one day we would be able to see who we were speaking to on the telephone. The mind boggled at that, as there were not many telephones in town either. But he also told us that the world was supposed to end in the year 2000. Obviously that wasn’t correct.
Our main entertainment was playing in Cudal Street. It was used as a cricket pitch, tennis court, hopscotch area and marbles, of course. And bashing a tennis ball against a cement wall – that only on weekends though as it was a solicitor’s office.
We often walked to the Waterfalls for a picnic, taking up the whole day; our mothers probably glad to get rid of us for a whole day. Swimming at the Junction near the golf course, the willows near the mill house, or the Railway Station hole. It all depended on the best “hole” after a good flood.
Mr Strom put the electricity on in town in the early 1930s. Mother had two lights and a power point put in for an electric iron. It was as heavy as lead, but a great improvement on the old flat irons that had to be heated on the wood stove. Can you imagine ironing on a hot day 38-39 degree heat, much more with a fire going full blast, ironing stiffly starched pillow slips, tablecloths, tea towels and shirts and dresses.
“Tomsie” built the picture theatre in 1936, we had movies before that but in a marquee down the main street, or the hall. The theatre was used as a roller skating rink on Saturday afternoons, so we all learnt to roller skate, with quite a few sore bums to prove it.
The flour mill was burnt down in 1936, an old corrugated iron building. We were warned to stay well away from it as the boiler might blow up. This was the steam boiler that ran the mill, heated by great logs of wood. A brick building replaced the iron building in 1937.
Rain, hail or shine we lined up each Monday morning for cleanliness inspection. Hair, nails, teeth, and chastised severely if not clean. Also shoes had to be polished. Then we would recite “The Flag”.
“It’s only an old bit of bunting
It’s only an old coloured rag
Yet thousands have died for its honour
And shed their best blood for the Flag”
We did not have the so-called luxuries the children of today have, but we had a happy childhood and I think we were very lucky to grow up in Manildra.
For further information see Manildra Memories folder at Manildra Library