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Growing Up 100 Years Ago In The Depression – Part 2

Continuing from the last issue of the “Hills to Hawkesbury” here are some more memories of Mary “Poppy” Heiler of growing up 100 years ago in Peak Hill. In this instalment Mary writes about her teenage years.

“Later in my teens, the coach for Australian girls’ cricket teams to play against England offered me a place, but the war spoilt that.

I learnt to play tennis up against a brick wall and then eliminated the seeded player in women’s hardcourt championship.

My brother and I learnt to “pole vault” with poles cut from saplings. Each afternoon we went to “The Common” to fetch our cow, we jumped the bushes each day trying a taller one. I jumped 4’6” over home made jumping bars in the backyard.

All this without cost for tuition and lots and lots of fun and pleasant competition. On the summer evenings, all the children from “our end” gathered on the side of the wide street to play cricket, tennis, hopscotch. hopstep- jump and broadjump. I bet we could have given the highly trained sportsmen of today a good run.

Jobs and money were nearly as scarce as the proverbial “hen’s teeth” but there was no lack in community caring and “helps” for each other. The sharing and “do unto others” syndromes were a natural characteristic.

I understand the “tramps” who continually passed through town, had signs on fences showing where there were houses, not on local dole, who could help. My mother was such a kind gracious lady, always ready and willing to help with a mead, to fill a billy with tea, provide warm water, soap and towel for a freshener, fruit and vegetables from our garden and milk from our cow.

Our family was very blessed and never in need as my father was fully employed as a manager at “Howards” local store, but we were taught to share our time and resources, never expecting any reward. My mother was always aware of the needs of others where there was sickness, a new baby, sorrow and I was the messenger with hot soup, meals or whatever was needed. As well. I would take messages to other members of the family or church when people were old or sick. We (my brother and I) would collect eggs or bring their cow home with ours and milk it.

51301444167 14F5391Ba14 C Growing Up 100 Years Ago In The Depression - Part 2

The joy of it all was to be able to help others for the love of it, to “go the extra mile” as Christ asked us to do for His sake and not for monetary reward.

Our car was the only one in the north-end of town, if anyone had to be taken to hospital or the doctor or family emergency, even to Dubbo Base Hospital, every one knew who to contact – my father.

Children walked, rode or came in sulkies for miles to school. The horse yard was a regular feature of “bush schools”. Children spent a lot of their lunch hour feeding and watering the horses.

One boy was so used to handling snakes on his way to school I remember him calmly grabbing the tail of a large snake as it was disappearing into a vent under the school, pulling it out and cracking it like a whip to kill it.

I often wonder how our domestic pets kept so healthy and lived so long. Just on our scraps. No money for fancy foods or injections etc.

Nothing was wasted. Flour bags became pillow slips and tea towels. Sugar bags – aprons and mats. Towels, when they became worn, were cut up for washers; best parts of worn sheets for pillow slips or made into sanitary pads or bandages. Worn tablecloths became serviettes especially for school lunches.

Everything was handed down and mended. Carboard was put in shoes each day when holes were in soles. There was no money to spend on expensive wreaths or bouquets – all gardens were available.”

These were some of the memories that Mary Heiler of Castle Hill shared of living during the depression years at Peak Hill. Life has certainly changed since then, however some of her memories brought back some of my memories as a child during the mid-twentieth century especially in the 1940s & 50s following the end of World War 2.

Ivor Jones

Ivor Jones has been involved with the Hills to Hawkesbury Community News since 1980.  He specialises in local history and nostalgic items. He has also been involved in community radio having been Chairman of the Board, and broadcaster at Cumberland Community Radio (now known as Alive90.5).  Ivor is also a passionate community volunteer in many community groups

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