Thursday, 14 February 2013

Home Sweet Home Pt 1

   Here's the first part of some notes about all the places I've lived in over the years.  Click on the photos to make them larger.

1.  97 Owen St, Woodville Nth, SA
   I was born in Adelaide and lived my first fourteen years in Woodville North, to the north-west of the city.  97 Owen Street is on the corner of Owen Street and Thirteenth Avenue.  The house was in a large estate of identical rental houses built of fibro-cement sheet and tiled roofs, to house workers at the adjacent Finsbury Munitions Factory which opened in 1941 to build mainly shell casings for the war effort.  Dad moved there with Mum from Perth to work as an engineer in the factory, which had a foundry and rolling mill.

    The first photo shows the house soon after it was built but not completed (the window awnings had not been added).  Mum is standing at the front with Auntie Hazel, visiting from Perth.

   This photo was taken in about 1953 when the yard was established with hedges, fruit trees and chooks' yard.  The house had three small bedrooms, a dining table in the kitchen, and lounge room.  The bathroom contained the toilet and had a chip heater above the bath, and there was a wood-heated copper and cement trough in the laundry.  Dad built a back verandah and then enclosed it to form a sleep-out when there were five boys needing space.  He also built two sheds in the back, one to hold the car, workbench, etc, and a new car entrance in the side fence.

   This house still stands, with an extra room or two added on the Thirteenth Ave side.

2.  26 Kipling Ave, Glengowrie, SA
   In 1959, we moved to a new house that Mum and Dad designed and had built.  It was large and solid.  All the walls were brick- double-brick cavity walls on the outside, single inside, built on foundations and the floors filled in with concrete, so it was very quiet, designed to accommodate teenage boys.

  The photo was taken soon after we moved in, with five boys and one dog- I'm with the dog, Mickey.
While the next door block remained vacant for several years, Dad used it to grow vegetables.

   Most of the living space was across the back of the house (north side).  The laundry, kitchen and dining room were only separated by benches or half-height wall, making a huge space.  The living room could be closed off and ran from front to back of the house (next to the carport).  Four bedrooms were in the front wing of the L-shape.  There were both a bathroom and shower room, each with a toilet.  Luxury!

   This photo, taken recently when it had new owners, comes from Google streetview, showing the front garden with lilly-pilly and lots of shrubs removed, and was taken not long before the house was demolished and replaced with a two-storey McMansion!!

3.  Muloorina Station, SA
   My first teaching job, in 1965, was at Muloorina, north-west of Marree, on the bank of the Frome River just before it runs into Lake Eyre.  My accommodation for two years was a self-contained flat built onto the north-west corner of the main homestead.

   The door to the flat is to the left of the green tank, with my kitchen window beside it.  (The door further left is to the laundry).  There was a bedroom, and a living area that included kitchen and a toilet and shower walled-off in one corner.  A passage joined the front door to the back door.  I wasn't flash with housework, and when the green lino turned to red after dust storms, I used to make clean tracks one broom wide from front door to kitchen sink, to bedroom and then to back door so I could walk bare-footed without getting my sweaty feet covered with red mud.

   The flat is still there but the school building has been removed, bought by some community group.

4.  Hesso Pump Station
   In 1967 I spent twelve months at Hesso, 60km north of Port Augusta.  The school and my caravan were at the pump booster station several kilometres west of the Stuart Highway (which serviced the water pipeline from the Murray River to Woomera and Whyalla), but most students were bussed from the railway siding next to the highway.

    My accommodation was a "silver bullet", a caravan clad with polished metal (aluminium?), the walls all vertical and all edges rounded.  This polaroid photo is the only one I have showing the set up.  The caravan was completely conventional except for the outside cladding (unlike the NT "silver bullets" which were huge, high off the ground and built for hot weather with lots of louvres).  I made the additions to help keep the car cool and provide for a camp stretcher outside when required.

    This photo, taken from an 8mm movie, shows the "carport" construction.  I stood railway sleepers on end, part buried, to provide structure, and the roof is mostly an old corrugated water tank cut into pieces.

   In 1968, when I was gone, they appointed two teachers to do the work I had been doing on my own, and built a house for them!  (I had 30 kids, grades Prep to 7, including 5 new kids aged 5!)  Now all the infrastructure has returned to bush except for an unmanned pump and a couple of houses which look fairly derelict.

5.  Moline, NT
   I was at Moline for 12 months in 1968, about 60km east of Pine Creek in what is now Kakadu NP.  Moline was a mining town owned by United Uranium that produced silver, lead and zinc from the Mt Evelyn mine when it became uneconomic to mine uranium at the El Sherana mine.  The town had 180 miners housed in single quarters and a handful of management couples with kids, hence the school.

   This is the only picture I have of my quarters, known locally as a donga, (rhymes with "longer"), a single-roomed hut that measured about 4 metres by 3 and contained a bed, cupboard and my record player on a little table.  It had metal louvres on all sides to allow the breeze to penetrate - the only concession to the tropical climate.

   I had my meals at the miners' mess and was provided with a "cut lunch" (sandwiches).  Recreation was provided by the "wet canteen" (open-air pub) or on pay nights by card games in the mess - these usually finished on Saturday mornings when breakfast became available.  There were no shops or any other facilities normally taken for granted.

   Not only the school and my donga are now gone but the whole Moline site is a large water-filled hole as large as the blue lake at Mt Gambier with nothing left to see of habitation.

6.  Parap, Berrimah, Milner, NT 
   In 1969 I worked at Nightcliff Primary in Darwin and lived in three different places.  The first was provided by the Commonwealth government at the Ross Smith Hostel on Parap Road.  This complex was former RAAF quarters handed over for use by public servants.  Again I had a donga, but this time not detached as at Moline - the side and rear walls had neighbours behind them.  Ventilation was restricted to the front wall so I was glad that an overhead fan was provided, given that I arrived at the height of the wet season.

   I think this building, part of the large complex, contains about 12 dongas, six on each side.  It's the only picture I can find anywhere of the hostel, lifted from Doug Whitfield's book Call of the Kyeema.  Thanks to Tangee Publishing!

   There was a mess that provided morning and evening meals and a cut lunch, but the meals were awful and because of this no-one stayed at the hostel for longer than necessary, it being uneconomic to buy food elsewhere as well as pay the hostel.  I probably stayed there two or three months.

   Friends I met while at Hesso, Lyle and Kay Sims, arrived in Darwin and offered to take me on as a boarder.  They had a caravan and annexe in a caravan park at Berrimah, so I had the camp stretcher in the annexe (with no overhead fan!) and we all managed to cope with that for a few weeks!

   Finally, I went to board with Murray and Joan Lion in Sabine Road, Milner, opposite Milner Primary, and spent the rest of the year with them.  Murray was also a teacher at Nightcliff.

    I think this house on the right, taken from Google Streetview,  was the Lion house, but can't be certain without going to look.  Anyway, I include it to give the flavour - those familiar with Darwin will know the tropical style, a house on stilts with lots of louvres and good flow-through ventilation, as well as plenty of greenery to help keep things cool, and there were overhead fans in all the rooms.  The polished wooden floors always felt cool to bare feet.  The Lions' house was rented furnished from the Government and I do remember that the Govt issue cane lounge chair cushions were covered with sticky vinyl!

7.  Leitre, West Sepik, PNG
   In 1970 I went to New Guinea to teach in a Catholic school at Leitre, 50km east of Vanimo on the north coast.  Leitre was really just a clearing between the jungle and the beach.  It had an airstrip, a church and school for the benefit of 3 or 4 villages up and down the coast, and living quarters for priest, teachers and a few others.

    The photo shows the only non-traditional building at Leitre - it had 3 bedrooms, two of which were for visitors, and a shower/toilet.  It was made of a steel dexion-angle type of frame which was gradually rusting away from the salt spray; some steel supports for the verandah had been repaired with timber and fencing wire.  It was necessary to step around the holes in the timber verandah floor.  The thatched building to the right was a married teacher's quarters.

    Meals and living space were provided in this high-set thatched building further away from the beach. Downstairs were kitchen and priest's bedroom and workshop.  Upstairs was a large open living area with dining table.  A cook was employed to prepare meals for the whitefellas (the priest and me), which is why I couldn't look at white rice again for years afterwards.  After the evening meal there was an hour when the mosquitoes became vicious and this was when I played darts.  It was impossible to sit still but pacing back and forth to the dartboard kept the mossies at bay somewhat - I like to think that I became fairly good!

   Doortje was living at the Lote mission (near Vanimo) which is where we met (and fell in love!).

8.  Lower Settlement Road, Pearsondale, Vic
   When I arrived back in Australia I stayed with Doortje and her parents on their dairy farm, "Ommel", at Pearsondale near Sale, until we were married in May, 1971.

   This shows the farm more recently, but at that time cows were still being milked twice a day and the paddocks irrigated from the Latrobe River, which is off to the right of the swamp on the right.  An irrigation ditch runs along the fence line.  I learnt to milk cows and drink lots of coffee!

   We had our wedding reception on the front lawn as well as in the large front room of the house.

9.  246 York St, Sale, Vic
   After we were married, Doortje and I moved into Mrs Luscombe's house in York Street in Sale.  York Street is also the Princes Highway which doglegs through the town.

   The house still exists as this photo shows.  We rented a bedroom at the back of the house and had a toilet and shower as well as a make-do kitchen bench all on the enclosed back verandah.  Our part of the house was "self-contained".  We were invited to use the front lounge-room to watch TV but never did, only venturing into the rest of the house when Mrs Luscombe, who lived alone, asked for help with something.  We had use of the garage as Mrs Luscombe had no car.  I used it for storage and a workshop- I remember building a bookcase from 12" x 1" pine planks which then stood in the bedroom.

10.  3936 Malay Road,Wagaman, NT
   At the beginning of 1972, I got a job with the Commonwealth Teaching Service which had just been formed, and Doortje and I headed for Darwin.  We spent a few weeks in a motel in the city until our brand new rental house in Wagaman was complete and ready for us to move in.

    The 3-bedroom house was standard tropical design supplied by the Commonwealth for public servants.  It had polished dark wooden floors, floor to ceiling louvres and overhead fans in all main rooms, and was far superior to the new on-ground brick houses built for public rental by non-employees.  There was a mixture of the two types in Wagaman, which was a brand new suburb of 90% rental housing.
   The yard was bare, but by the end of the year, we had lawn, thriving banana and paw-paw trees and plenty of shrubs including the ubiquitous multi-coloured crotons.  I recall going outside after rain and digging holes in the slightly softer ground with a knife-sharpening steel (?) and then poking pieces of buffalo grass runners into the holes to establish our front lawn.

   Jacqui was born in May and Doortje remembers that the polished floors showed up all Jac's dribbles once she was crawling, and that the balconies weren't big enough for playing or keeping cool without going downstairs.

    We moved after twelve months and not long after that the house was no more.  This photo, taken after Cyclone Tracy, shows that no 3936 was turned into what was known locally as a "dance floor".  The house was blown away leaving the polished timber floor and the laundry and storage shed underneath.

To be continued... 

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