Thursday, 15 June 2017

Dorothy Wall, Blinky Bill and Warrimoo

Dorothy Wall, Blinky Bill and Warrimoo

Dorothy Wall was no shrinking violet. She was a proud and determined author, illustrator and mother. Her time spent at Warrimoo was a true distillation of her character.

Born, raised and educated in Wellington New Zealand, Dorothy Wall travelled to Sydney in 1914, the year the Great War began. She was twenty years of age and seeking adventure, as well as wider horizons for her creative talents. She was influenced by the success of May Gibbs, and began drawing bush characters in charming and unique ways. It was a period of growing Australian nationalism, and many parents wanted to cultivate ‘Australian’ values in their children.

A young and beautiful Dorothy Wall as she arrived in Australia in 1914. Her youthful gaze holds a confident, optimistic hopefulness, and just a hint of ambition.

 In 1921, Dorothy married the swashbuckling war hero and pilot, Andrew Delfoss Badgery (‘Del’), a descendant of the same family after whom ‘Badgery’s Creek’ is named. The couple moved from flat to flat, living at twenty one addresses during the first two years of their marriage. Dorothy was a restless soul, and could find no satisfaction in her homes and neighbours, with whom she invariably clashed.

Andrew Delfoss Badgery, 'Del', swashbuckling pilot of the First World War. Surely he was the perfect match for an adventurous young woman from New Zealand, eager to make her mark...
Eventually, Dorothy and Del bought a home in Dee Why and subsequently Dorothy gave birth to a son, Peter Badgery, in 1925. The marriage was in deep trouble, however, and by 1932, at the onset of the Great Depression, the couple had separated. The first ‘Blinky Bill’ book, “Blinky Bill—The Quaint Little Australian” was not written in the Blue Mountains but in Sydney, during this intense period of turmoil in Dorothy Wall’s life.

Blinky is baptised by the Reverend Fluffy Ears. In this illustration, Blinky's father looks on, but he is soon murdered by a bush shooter leaving Blinky to survive alone with his mum, just like Peter and his matriarch/author parent, Dorothy Wall.

 When it was published, in 1933, Dorothy had already moved to Blaxland and enrolled Peter at Blaxland Public School. Shortly afterwards she moved into a rented cottage at 3 Albert Street Warrimoo—a very basic weatherboard with an outside ‘loo, a wood stove, no window screens, no town water supply, no sewerage, no telephone and no mail delivery. The basic building still stands today but fibro extensions have been added.

The house at 172 Great Western Highway, where Dorothy and her young son, Peter, first lived in the 'Mountains--the rental, however, was too high, and the young mother and son were soon obliged to move to cheaper digs at Warrimoo. Today the Blaxland house is a Denture Clinic ...
Warrimoo in those days was a rudimentary residential settlement that had been subdivided some years earlier. There were few houses. What was appealing to Dorothy was the surrounding native bushland, the railway station, and the existence of a general store. For Peter Badgery, it was “…a great place for a kid to grow up in.”

Dorothy Wall's 1930's home as it appears today at No. 3 Albert Street. Extensions have been added around the original two-roomed cabin. If you look at the roof-line where the chimneys appear, you will get an idea of the original size and box-like shape of the dwelling.

Same house, different angle...
In her first few months at Warrimoo she wrote the seminal Blinky Bill story, “Blinky Bill Grows Up”, about a young and mischievous Koala Bear who embroiled himself in the perils of bushland life. Illustrating the book herself, it is clear that Dorothy loved the vibrancy of the native plants and wildlife surrounding her and Peter, who was undoubtedly the inspiration for Blinky’s character.

Peter and Dorothy took walks along a bush track that begins at the end of Florabella Street and descends, through angophoras, stringybarks, mountain devils and banksias, beneath overhanging rock ledges and amidst a plethora of birdcalls, to a narrow, sheltered fern-gully stream that ultimately flows into Glenbrook Creek. Here, one can envisage the lyrebird mimickry and dancing taking place at the “bushland bazaar” visited by Blinky Bill himself.

One of the seminal scenes from 'Blinky Bill Grows Up', where Blinky stumbles upon the 'Bush Bazaar'. Scenes like this were conjured by Dorothy's walks with Peter down the Florabella Track, at the end of the street of the same name.

Being masterpieces of natural observation, the Blinky Bill books are a wonderfully entertaining education for young children in the mysteries of Australian flora and fauna:

“’Ah! I know who you are!’ Blinky said very cheerily.’You’re Willie Wagtail.’

‘Quite true’ came the reply. ‘I’m sorry I woke you, Mr. Koala, but I’m in such a hurry to finish my nest. My wife is growing quite impatient because she wants to lay her eggs and the nest is not quite ready. Do you mind if I gather a few more hairs from your ears? They are so silky and pretty, and besides, I think the colour will look very well with the grass I have gathered.’

‘Go ahead,’ Blinky answered. ‘Only don’t pull too many at once.’” ( from Blinky Bill Grows Up)

 At first, Dorothy Wall was a frequent visitor to the village general store and post office, a two storey building on the Highway standing opposite the station, run by Mr. and Mrs. Duckle. Today, it is the ‘Monte Italia’ Pizzeria, hosted by the energetic and affable ‘Danny’, but in those days it was quite different, with a cluttered d├ęcor over-arched by dangling flypaper. Dorothy considered the Duckles to be busybodies, and resented using the public telephone inside the store for fear of being overheard. She thus launched a letter-writing campaign to the Postmaster General for a free standing outside ‘phone-box, which ultimately proved successful.

Dorothy's stay at Warrimoo was feasibly the happiest time of her life, because Peter was under the tutorship of Blaxland PS teacher William Wurth, allowing her to pursue the many avenues of her talent without anxiety over her son's future.
 Concern over Peter’s education drew his mother into a happy situation at Warrimoo. When enrolled at Blaxland Public, Peter was eight, and would have been obliged to walk to school from Albert Street. Dorothy arranged for him to be tutored by the (soon to be retired) schoolteacher, Mr. William Wurth, who visited to instruct Peter in the basics, and to carry out a Rousseau-esque style pedagogy in the bush, encouraging the boy to learn from his observations of nature as well as readings from the Sydney Morning Herald.

 There has been much conjecture over the relationship between Dorothy Wall and William Wurth. Dorothy was fully divorced in December 1934, but she was struggling to survive on paltry royalties from her books and some small maintenance payments from ‘Del’—certainly she was reduced to begging Angus and Robertson for advance royalties on her work at this time.

An example of the kind of graphic art Dorothy excelled in--she was frequently employed by newspapers and women's magazines on a casual basis to portray recent fashions or changes in style...
 So, was the relationship a business one, or platonic, or a romance? It was quite close, because William acted as proof-reader for much of her work at Warrimoo, and Peter testifies that he was the only man to whom his mother had shown any kind of affection. But William Wurth was 25 years older than Dorothy, retired, at the end of his career, and she simply wasn’t the kind of woman to engage in affairs—her work was too important. To foist any particular kind of relationship upon them would surely be presumptuous.

 Whatever her personal situation, it’s true that Dorothy Wall’s stay at Warrimoo was prolific and satisfying from a creative perspective. Apart from the completion of Blinky Bill Grows Up, she designed a stream of dustjacket covers for other Angus and Robertson books, illustrated two books by other authors, wrote and illustrated a further book titled Brownie, and completed yet another text for older children called The Muddles of World’s End, which never saw the light of day.

One of the more famous dustjacket covers: Ion Idriess' 'The Desert Column', an account of Australian Light Horse heroics in World War I. Dorothy Wall had a brilliant eye for dramatic design.
She would have stayed in the ‘Mountains, but by 1936 Dorothy was looking towards Peter’s secondary education, and wanted him enrolled at Sydney Boys’ High. This necessitated a move to Randwick. The change provoked further restlessness and frustration, moving from school to school, address to address, project to project.

 All the while she struggled to keep her own and Peter’s heads above water. She strove to have Blinky Bill animated like Mickey Mouse, or syndicated as a cartoon strip character, or promoted on china ware, or in any form possible, but failed on most counts. In 1937 she came back to the Mountains, this time taking up residence on the Hawkesbury Road at Springwood, where she wrote the third book of her series: Blinky Bill and Nutsy.

Over the three books of 'Blinky Bill', the artistic style evolved from 'naturalist' to 'cartoonist'. This mural at Telstra's Warrimoo exchange reflects the latter technique. Wall never gave up on her dream of world-wide recognition for her bush characters, along the lines of Disney's 'Mickey Mouse', who had burst upon global imaginations in the late 30's.
Again, Dorothy Wall’s stay in the ‘Mountains was productive and Springwood must be entitled to some bragging rights, but her stay there was briefer, and they (Springwood/Faulconbridge) have Norman Lindsay. It’s appropriate that Warrimoo, the “teacher and children village”, should have adopted Blinky Bill, Dorothy, Peter and William as their own.

 Dorothy Wall moved back to Sydney and thence to Auckland, New Zealand, where she worked as an artist for the New Zealand Herald until mid 1941, when the lure of  wild bush spaces and character-filled native animals lured her back to Australia. When she returned to Sydney to live at Neutral Bay with her sister Marjorie, she was just up the road from May Gibbs’ ‘Nutcote’. The contrast between the two women authors could not be more complete, nor galling: May Gibbs was well off and a celebrity in her own lifetime, living in an architect-designed cottage overlooking Sydney Harbour and receiving the MBE for her services to children’s literature, while Dorothy continued to battle to make ends meet.*

More earnest, matronly and demure now, Dorothy Wall is photographed in Sydney just prior to her premature death in January, 1942.
In January 1942, before she could return to her beloved Blue Mountains, Dorothy Wall contracted pneumonia and died shortly afterward in Lanchester Hospital, Cremorne. Penicillin had already been invented and could have saved her life, but it was not publicly available till some few months later. She was forty eight.[1]

[1] Information for this summary biography came exclusively from: Dorothy Wall, the creator of Blinky Bill, Her Life and Work, A Biography by the inimitable Walter McVitty, to whom Warrimoo Historians are most grateful, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1988.

* Ironically there are also unconfirmed reports that May Gibbs, author and illustrator of the famous 'Gumnut Twins', once stayed at Warrimoo, visiting a relative in Rickard Road.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

The Kookaburra Tea Rooms

The ‘Kookaburra Tea Rooms’

The most common climax of a social day’s or weekend’s jam-packed itinerary was a dance at the renowned ‘Kookaburra Tea Rooms’, located at 230 Great Western Highway, Warrimoo. The manager was Mrs Mary Ellen Griffiths, who along with her bricklayer husband Edward, bought the property in 1928 and immediately set up a commercial ‘Tea Rooms’ for weary travellers..

The business must have been ideally placed for drivers making the arduous journey from Sydney to the Mountains in those inter-war years—ascending the Lapstone escarpment often entailed an overheated radiator stop, and motorists usually carried a tyre repair kit in the boot for the all-too frequent flats that blew out on rugged Mountains’ roads. Overall, it could take the good part of half a day to arrive at Warrimoo, at least, such were the expectations of the day.

Mrs Mary Ellen Griffiths serving up a delicious cup of tea on the verandah of the Kookaburra Tea Rooms. Not only were the Tea Rooms an iconic stopover for motor tourists visiting the 'Mountains, but a hub of social activities from Warrimoo and Blaxland alike.

So the site of clear off-road parking, a refreshing cuppa and delicious scones with jam and cream would surely have been a welcome one. The ‘Tearooms’ was said to be quite a successful enterprise, with notable identities such as Ben Chifley regularly dropping in on his frequent trips from Sydney adding to the lustre of the place. Of course Chifley was the local Federal Member of Parliament, and would later become Prime Minister of Australia.

Then there were the ‘dances’. By all accounts—and there are a lot of local ‘paper references—they were a pretty regular occurrence, complete with live band from Ryde, ‘Clayton’s Orchestra’ mostly, later transforming into ‘Clayton’s Victory Orchestra’ during the war years, and generally well attended. Warrimoo Historians assumes that the verandah of the Tea Rooms opened into a larger, ‘small-hall’ sized area to accommodate dance-goers of between 50 and 100 people.

Ben Chifley as Prime Minister and Member for Macquarie. Chifley was a familiar sight around Warrimoo in the '30's and '40's, being a frequent visitor to the Kookaburra Tea Rooms and a good friend of the Labor supporter who lived next to the Patmans in Florabella Street.

Like Blaxland Public School, the ‘Kookaburra’ was ideally placed near the ‘border’ between Blaxland and Warrimoo to service both communities so that social interaction between the two small townships was frequent, inexpensive and cordial. Feasibly it may well have been the only social outlet for many battling residents in those clouded years. There is a touching reference to the ‘Kookaburra’ in a brief interchange between Lawrence Way and his mother, Ellen…

…a hall was built on the highway half way to Blaxland where mum would take us once a week. It was called “Kookaburra Hall”…I had to foot slog it home after 11.00pm on those occasions. My mother was 33 years old, so I know now she had to have some outlet. Dad would be away… [1]

 As the Depression wore on Lawrence’s parents drifted further apart, and they ultimately separated.

Mrs Griffiths died in 1939, yet it seems that the business continued to operate for some years after that.  Newspaper articles from the Nepean Times in 1940 and 1941 detail fundraising dances held at the Tea Rooms to raise money for the Springwood branch of the Red Cross and for the war effort generally.[2] Possibly her aging husband, Edward Griffiths, who did not die till 1956, may have continued to manage or lease the Tea Rooms into the war years, but in September of 1941 the following ad appeared in the ‘Classifieds’ section of the Sydney Morning Herald

Kookaburra Tea Rooms, main Western Highway Warrimoo, sell or let, reasonable terms—licenced dining hall 3 bedrooms, lounge verandahs etc[3]

The 'Tea Rooms' as they appear today, at 230 Great Western Highway, Warrimoo. It is wondrous to think this humble rental accommodation was once the vibrant hub of social life for local residents.
Presumably the Kookaburra property was sold and converted into rented accommodation from that time onwards. The building still stands today at the same address, partitioned into 3 flats. It is hard to imagine how this humble timber and fibro abode occupied such an exalted role in the social life of Warrimooians in that age gone by, but it did. 

[1] WAY, L. W., My Story, Cliff Lewis Printing, Caringbah, 2011, p 14
[2] TROVE, ‘Nepean Times’, Thurs 13th November 1941 p.1
[3] Ibid, SMH Classifieds, Sept. 7, 1941

Thursday, 30 March 2017

'Fun Times'

‘Fun Times’

Social life in Depression Warrimoo was by no means all ‘doom and gloom’. By 1930 the 44 hour week had become entrenched in Australian employment practice, meaning Saturday afternoon as well as Sunday were now available for leisure activities. The legendary ‘Great Australian Weekend” was taking hold.

Naturally the Blue Mountains, and this certainly included the Lower Blue Mountains, became the focus of one of Sydney society’s favourite weekend pastimes—hiking and bushwalking. So much so, that a celebrated ‘hike’ of several hundred people drew the attention of the Sydney Morning Herald whose photographer captured highlights of the event as it wound its way from Valley Heights to destinations round about, including Warrimoo…

Since the Great War engagement of women in active rather than purely passive pursuits became a hallmark: women could be seen smoking in public, travelling about unescorted and taking part in a wide variety of sports. One such—extremely popular at the time—sport avidly involving players of both sexes was tennis.

It so happened that one of the truly attractive features supplied to Warrimoo by Mr. Rickard was a set of clay-based tennis courts at Warrimoo, immediately next to the station on the southern side and a stone’s throw across the Western Road to the General Store. Another court was formally opened in Florabella Street by Mr. and Mrs. Powell in 1933. It was positioned roughly where the Warrimoo PS canteen car park is today, and was greeted with orations and fanfare.[1] After all, who could resist a game or two with members of the opposite sex, engaging in cheerful banter which might possibly lead to further activities into the evening?

A very old pic of the General Store, taken in the 1930's. The little girl is next to an indiscernible adult in the shadows, but you can make out the near new front windows and the frontage of the owners' accommodation above. This shop supplied many of the necessities for tennis players directly across the newly tarred highway...

As a theme to this chapter it is worth noting that a new and dynamic group had infused the Warrimoo Progress Association—family names which were to dominate the minutes of the Association, the pages of the Nepean Times as well as the Tennis tournaments themselves, began to appear: ‘Mudie’, ‘Neall’, ‘Bolton’ and ‘Wicks’…In a spritely piece in the Nepean Times they were announced…

The Progress Association, of which Mr W. Mudie is President, and Mr. Arch Neall secretary, is regarded locally as being a very live body, always ready and willing to do its utmost for the welfare, and in the interests of, the district generally.[2]

The Progress Association took a leading role in organising social events, usually with the aim of raising funds for some worthy community cause. The following excerpts from Nepean Times articles explain the process…

During the week-end Warrimoo Progress Association conducted another highly successful tennis tournament, followed by a grand euchre party and dance in the "Kookaburra" at night. Despite the inclement weather, players came from Sydney and Blaxland, and a very enjoyable week-end was spent by all.

Winners: Mixe d doubles championship, Miss Bradbury and B. Mudie; runners-up, Mrs Parmenter and H. Powell. Men's doubles championship: O. Powell and J. Sobels runners-up, A. Neall and N. Leaght.[3]

Such ‘Tennis Tournaments’, often held over a weekend, were major events and were a fond excuse to invite friends and relatives to Warrimoo to ‘stay over’ and take part. Numbers often reached over 50 and could grow up to 100 participants. Sometimes high profile players were invited to play ‘exhibition matches’. Guests from the city frequently stayed at the hotels in Springwood, so it was not unusual for them to walk/catch the train back to Springwood after the tournament, refresh and change, then return for the evening’s festivities at Warrimoo.

A likely group of tennis enthusiasts at the Warrimoo Courts--you can see the General Store in the background and the structure of the courts in between. Ukelele players and pianists were stars in the 20's and 30's, when sing-a-long parties were 'all the rage'. The renowned 'Archie Neall' looms to the right of the picture.

Tennis tournaments reliably had another purpose other than a purely social one—fund-raising for the Red Cross, local church or the Progress Association itself assisted the community’s growth. A famous visit to the ‘Mountains by Bert Oldfield’s ‘Womens Cricket Team’ inspired the Progress Association to raise pounds, shillings and pence for a very worthy cause indeed…

…A case in point was the recent purchase of three acres of land, at £5 per acre, for the purpose of establishing a local cricket ground—considered to be a long-felt want by the sporting fraternity at Warrimoo. The ground has been named Neall Park (after the Secretary of the Association, Mr Neall), and all work with regard to the clearing of the ground, etc, is being carried out by voluntary labor.

For the purpose of getting funds to help pay for this venture, a tennis tournament was held on Easter Monday and was a great success. About 80 entries were received, and a splendid days' tennis resulted. The following were the prize-winners:—Gent's singles, Mr W. Bolton; ladies' singles, Miss Rene Galicher; men's doubles, Messrs K. Watts and Powell; mixed doubles, H. Powell and Miss Elliott.

A very successful euchre party and dance was held in the Kookaburra Hall at night, and altogether the day's festivities added to the funds the very respectable sum of £4/4/-

Another tennis tournament will be conducted on the local courts on the Saturday of Anzac Day week-end, 23rd April.[4]

A Test Match between England and Australia held at the SCG in 1935. Famous Aussie cricketer Bert Oldfield brought a women's team to play exhibition matches in the Mountains in the early 30's, which inspired local activists of the Warrimoo Progress Association.

‘Enthusiasm’ was key to social activities of the day—people could have a marvellous time for very little cost as long as this key ingredient remained. The ‘cricket ground’ block here mentioned was located ‘at the bottom of Cross Street’ and as mentioned, consisted of 3 acres. It was indeed ‘cleared’, by voluntary labour and used as a cricket field, nominally as a womens’ cricket ground to encourage growth of the game in the ‘Mountains.

Obviously the ‘Warrimoo Cricket Ground’ did not survive the war years and again became overgrown with native bush. It is the surmise of Warrimoo Historians that this block was later purchased by the NSW Department of Education and thus morphed into the ‘Cross Street Reserve’ so avidly fought for by residents several decades later.[5]

[1] TROVE, Katoomba Daily, 2nd March., 1933
[2] TROVE, Nepean Times, Sat. 9th April 1932 p.6
[3] Ibid, Sat. 4th Feb, 1933 p.6
[4] Ibid, p.6
[5] Subject to confirmation, it is probable that the ‘3 acres’ referred to was bought by the NSW Education Department after WWII for a future school site. As it transpired, however, the block upon which the current school stands was bought later and became the preferred location, thus leaving the original block available for alternative usage—this became the centre of a protracted struggle between community, Council and State government for the ‘Cross Street Reserve’.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

A Boy's Eye View of Depression Warrimoo

A Boy’s Eye View of Depression Warrimoo
By the time the Great Depression hit in 1930 William Way was ten years old. His youthful impressions give us a sharp picture of life in Warrimoo during that bleak decade, when unemployment remained a threatening black cloud until the outbreak of war again in 1939…

As the depression worsened, Dad lost his job as a cook at Tweed Heads. As we children were all growing all we could do to survive was to go to school in the same clothes, we did not have any shoes. During this time many men became tramps. Swagmen were looking for anything they could do. A carpenter was offered keep for six months and twenty nine pounds for building a house at Blaxland bordering Warrimoo on the highway and many families were applying for the dole.

These men are workers on an 'Unemployment Relief' project. They are wearing fairly typical work clothing of the period, and they hold some commonly used tools, including the omnipresent kerosene tins, which were used to carry just about anything..

A man named Mick Donnelly sometimes called on us as he travelled the mountain route looking for work. With Dad out of work we were sent out early on spring mornings, after it had rained, from daybreak to late morning scouring the flats for mushrooms and we would often come home with enough for a few days.

 Dad also assigned us to setting up a stand where the (Citizens) hall now stands where we would sell fruit, flowers, etc. to people driving back to Penrith, Sydney, or returning from higher up the mountains. Cars would be going slower as they had just crossed the railway on a bridge which went at a right angle over the line. It was a wide open area to pull into. We sold strawberries for ten pence a punnet, passionfruit for threepence a dozen, and other fruits in season.
'Waratah Road' earned its name because it was a part of Warrimoo flush with the beautiful red emblem of NSW. Yet it was also a prized addition to many tourists' lounge room vases. Hence they are difficult, if not impossible, to find in that vicinity today...
We sold waratahs, mountain Boronia which had a very pleasant perfume, and flannel flowers etc.. The road at this stage had been tarred to Springwood and beyond and more people were using it.[1]

In the early 1930’s, the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge captured the imagination of the young boy, Lawrence Way. It was such a major thing that the progress of the ‘marching arch’ was followed by the newspapers regularly, so it was a central talking point among the residents of Warrimoo…
The Sydney Harbour Bridge was one of the engineering wonders of the world in the 1930's--its construction was followed closely by local Sydney siders and Warrimooians alike. Sixteen of its workers died building it, but only two of those from falling off.
Lawrence continues...

The work on the Harbour Bridge continued and the progress was continually in the paper. The steel arch was lengthening from both sides. The progress on the bridge was always a thing of great interest especially as we watched the joining of the arches for with that event it would only be a year or so to it being used.
After Premier Lang had cut the ribbon and dignitaries and troops had crossed the Bridge, the general public, including Lawrence Way and family, could stroll across. Note the railway line on both sides.
I think it was Australia Day 1932 when we heard that the day for the Harbour Bridge opening was to be celebrated. On the opening we all went to Sydney for the occasion and walked across it using the walk way and the road way. As well as the thousands of pedestrians a large number of goods and steam engines were on it. We were told it had to do with strength testing.[2]

There was another connection of the Harbour Bridge to Warrimoo. Premier Jack Lang, who opened the Bridge by cutting a ribbon already famously slashed by New Guard member Captain de Groot, was to mysteriously visit Warrimoo and seek respite there, shortly afterwards.

Subsequent to the loss of his father’s job, life became more difficult for the whole Way family. When an ‘Unemployment Relief’ project was set up in Warrimoo, Walter jumped at the chance and Lawrence came to help out too…

In the Depression days Dad was able to get work for the dole on a scheme set up by council or through council by the government. This work was making* a three mile track from Florabella Street Warrimoo down into Florabella Gully, across two adjoining creeks with a section for picnic tables. From here up to the next ridge that crossed the creek further down then up to Bridge Street in Blaxland. I helped him lift the heavier stones for making steps. I think it was my willing attitude that led him to offer me threepence (called a ‘tray’ in those days, WH) if I hurried home from school and spent an hour chopping a barrow load of wood for the house…[3]

A 'Work for the Dole' project in action. Some might question the credibility of the scene because it seems 'posed' and some workers have bare feet. But one of the first unaffordable items of the Great Depression was expensive leather shoes. Much of the population, especially children, went without shoes for most of the time, and their feet grew hard and tough as a result--most 'kept' shoes were for special occasions, such as the opening of the Harbour Bridge. Not work or play.

Let’s deal with ‘Florabella Gully Track’s’ construction*. The Relief project mentioned here didn’t literally ‘make’ the track. That had been done at the outset under Arthur Rickard’s instructions as part of the ‘Warrimoo Estate’s’ attractions. There are several references to this track prior to the work done by Lawrence’s dad and his fellow unemployed. Indeed, many visitors to Warrimoo had made the trip to Florabella Gully to specifically observe and record the diverse botany, fauna and creek settings so sought after in the Mountains generally.

However the level of sophistication of this track, like many others elsewhere in the Mountains, might have left something to be desired. Florabella Track required a serious upgrade if it was to match the inspiring ‘tourist walks’ being constructed around Leura, Katoomba and Blackheath at the time, and believe it or not, the residents of Warrimoo were generally proud of the drawing power of the settlement’s natural gifts. Hence the wisdom of the Council’s choice of Relief Projects.

Thus the Florabella Pass Track was ‘civilised’ thanks to the Depression: it now had a designated, carved pathway through rocks and bush and over streams, as well as constructed steps, guideposts, and even a picnic table and seats in a clearing next to the creek—and there was ample evidence that it was used, too, not only by Warrimoo schoolkids taking the ‘shortcut’ to Blaxland PS, but by willing tourists soaking up the energising variety of diverse walks in all parts of the Blue Mountains.

Despite a fine legacy though, the story today is somewhat different. In contrast to the high usage of the ‘Fiveway’ tracks on the northern side of Warrimoo, Florabella Pass Track seems to lag unobtrusively behind, with a rundown entrance at the end of Florabella Street, deteriorating steps and occasionally dangerous gaps as well as, at times, confusing direction. Unfortunately, it has simply been allowed crumble.

Entrance to the Florabella Pass Track today. It is overgrown with weeds and ill-cared for. Neither Council nor National Parks nor local residents seem moved to repair its entrance nor the full length of the walk.

Only the collective efforts of Warrimoo residents, one way or another, can save the Florabella Track from complete obliteration.

[1] Way, Lawrence, Op Cit., 'My Story', p. 30
[2] Ibid., pp. 32-33
[3]Ibid., pp. 31-32

Thursday, 1 September 2016

The 1930's

The 1930’s…

Photo shows the interior of 'Everglades' at Leura, an Art Deco mansion built during the Depression years and now managed by the National Trust.

Ironically, in the period when Australia’s economy struck a collapse of markets leading to awful Depression and widespread unemployment, Warrimoo experienced the kind of growth that established it as a permanent community with nascent institutions and an effective economy. Apart from the ongoing timber-felling industry, the 1930’s saw the development of poultry/egg farming, some attempts at orchardism and the establishment of a local dairy.

Main Street, Katoomba, showing tourist bus of the 1930's.
A raw kind of tourism chimed into the opening up of Katoomba and the Upper Mountains to visitors from Sydney, anxious to free themselves of the pong of pan toilets and smoky coal-fired industrialism. Tuberculosis and bronchial sufferers escaped to the peace and ‘clean air’ of the sanatoria of the Blue Mountains and in doing so passed through Warrimoo, another important link in the chain of stops encountered in a full day’s journey to a ‘different world’ of cool, clear climate and healthy atmosphere.

 Even the unemployed sought respite in the ‘Mountains and Warrimoo—the blocks along Torwood Road were said to have been Warrimoo’s own ‘shanty town’ of makeshift shelters and desperate attempts to ‘grow one’s own’ survivalist veggie patches during the ‘hard times’.

While this Electoral Roll is labelled "1930", it is actually referring to 1920. These are the original settlers on the Warrimoo Estate founded by Arthur Rickard, or at least those who had registered to vote (adults over 21 years of age).
Certainly, the population grew. A comparative perusal of the ‘Electoral Rolls’ for Warrimoo in 1920, 1930 and 1934, will provide evidence of the increasing number of residents, as well as their addresses in the township and their occupations.

Registration for voting in Federal elections became compulsory in 1912, so that all citizens of Australia, men and women over the age of 21, were recorded on ‘Electoral Rolls’. Naturally, children, and by all accounts there were quite a few straying the dirt roads and bush tracks of Warrimoo, are not mentioned, so we must draw rather general conclusions about their number in the township during the 1930’s.

The Roll of 1930 shows a substantial jump in the number of residents. However, ‘Mrs Simpson’, the war widow who won possession of the ‘Volunteers’ residence, is notable by her absence. ‘The Duchles’—and there are several alternative spellings of this name in other publications, most notably ‘Duckles’—have arrived and are managing ‘The Store’ (present day Monte Italia Pizzeria). They will play a substantial role in Warrimoo’s history from this point.

Warrimoo's Electoral Roll for 1930. Note the wide variety of occupations listed. How many of these suffered unemployment in the coming years--1931-32--is anyone's guess, since these were the worst years of the Depression when unemployment hit 30%, a rate unheard of today.
The Watts family lived on the corner of The Avenue, The Mall, and Florabella St., diagonally across from the Ways’ poultry farm, which was directly opposite Henry Todd’s place. The house currently standing on their corner still bears the historic name “Watts’ Bella” (‘Beautiful Watts’).

Henry Todd lived opposite on the Florabella Street corner (Number 3). Henry was one of those for whom the ‘Rejected Volunteers’ and Arthur Rickard had set up the Warrimoo estate—he was a war veteran, but after signing up in 1916 and serving in France he was medically discharged in July 1918 with ‘premature senility’[1]…Given the relative ignorance of the authorities at that time, it can be supposed that this diagnosis in effect refers to what we call “shell-shock” or "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder" today. According to Walter Way[2] he built a beautiful glass garden dedicated to his wife, titled “Mons Regina”—“Mountain Queen”. Sadly, he too had gone by the time of the 1930 Electoral Roll.
The "Embassy' cinema in Katoomba--1930's--note the 'Art Deco' style yet again. Going to the 'Flicks' was an essential part of life in this decade, and Warrimooians dressed up to the nines if they were ever to engage in such a palatial night out.
Nevertheless a new family had moved in (probably the “Ozannes”—Elizabeth and Thomas). Indeed this particular intersection could be said to be the densest population of Warrimoo in 1930, and a veritable hive of activity, with Mrs Watts perpetually encouraging all and sundry to attend Anglican Church services every Sunday.

By the time of the 1934 Electoral Roll the number of registered residents had more than doubled, with a wonderful cross-section of occupations evident, ranging from Bus Driver to Hairdresser to Miner to Bricklayer and Dressmaker, Cabinet Maker, Plumber and Labourer. Warrimoo Historians wonder whether the “Harry Charles Swain, Bookseller” of The Boulevarde was in fact the same “Swain” who came to own an extensive chain of bookstores throughout Sydney.

The 1934 Roll--massive upheavals had happened in Australian political life: two Labor Governments, the State under Jack Lang, and the Federal under James Scullin, had been swept out of office. Fascism was on the march in Europe and Asia. Yet the township of Warrimoo had grown by over 100% in the same period...
One must not become too fazed with the broad term used by many women to describe their roles—‘Home Duties’—with any sized family and little support from electrical home appliances we have today, this was indeed a full-time and demanding job, often supplemented by other very worthwhile activities. We already know, for example, that “Catherine Yousen” acted as an “Attendant” for the Warrimoo Station—basically, ‘Station Master’. Many of the women mentioned would have been executing valuable skills such as sewing, boot repair, and vegetable gardening to supplement the family income.

Whatever the case, Warrimoo was becoming a true ‘melting pot’ of varied skills, classes, and interests, maintaining a solid component of mutual respect and assistance common in many Australian communities at the time. There was no real ‘crime’, and people helped out with a cup of sugar, a bowl of milk or a lift when it was needed. Without neighbourly support, life would have been miserable indeed.

[1] RICHARDSON, E., and MATTHEW, K Warrimoo History Project, Library Records—War Records, ‘Henry Todd’
[2] Op Cit., ‘My Story’, p.10

Sunday, 27 September 2015

The Timbergetters

The Timbergetters

No history of Warrimoo in the 1920’s would be complete without reference to the main industry carried out on the northern side during this time, “Timbergetting” or “Logging”.[1]

The area covered by logging activities ran from the rear of Cross Street and Warrimoo Oval across Long Angle Gully to Sun Valley and Singles Ridge Road, which contains rich volcanic soils. The combination of soil fertility, moisture from water sources and sunbeam direction gives this part of Warrimoo some very unique and impressive vegetation, most especially tall, straight timbers.

The magnificent 'Mountain Blue Gum' (Eucalyptus Deanei)--a feature of any bushwalk on the northern side of Warrimoo, and the principal target of early Loggers such as the Baxter Brothers
Trees most prized were the ‘Mountain Blue Gum’ (Eucalyptus Deanei—so named after the Railways Engineer who designed much of the Blue Mountains railroad, including the Newnes tunnels, Henry Deane); the ‘Cabbage Gum’ (Eucalyptus Amplifolia), and the turpentine (Syncarpia Glomulifera), a row of which now grows on the Great Western Highway between Warrimoo and Blaxland.

'Mountain Blue Gum' from a distance. You can see why they were so prized for telegraph and electricity poles. They occupy a special part of the Blue Mountains Significant Tree Register
The Mountain Blue Gum is a stunning and magnificent tree. So valuable is its preservation in the ‘Mountains that bush regenerators have worked hard restore its habitat in the present-day ‘Deanei Forest’, which can be found surrounding the Council Depot at Springwood, just off Hawkesbury Road. Clearly, the timber derived from the Eucalyptus Deanei is tall, straight, and hard.
Henry Deane (1847-1924)--the tree was named after him in 1904, when he was Engineer-in-Chief of  construction for the NSW Railways, and a keen amateur botanist
 At the turn of the century government institutions required such timber for products like railway sleepers and telegraph/electricity poles. Thus evolved the enterprises of two timbergetting families, the Goddard and Baxter brothers, the latter of whom lived on Singles Ridge Road.

The Loggers cut trails down into the valleys and hauled logs out by bullock teams. Bruce Cameron provides some details:

‘At one stage the Baxters used a light rail system to remove logs to a ridge-top saw mill driven by a boiler, near Rickard Road, Warrimoo. They also operated a bush saw mill built by the Goddard brothers (c. 1918), near the present day Springwood Golf Course. This was close to their home in Singles Ridge Road, where another sawmill operated. A mill was also located in the vicinity of the (old) Sun Valley Nursery, near the highway.

The Goddards and Baxters used boilers such as this to provide the steam power for saw mills set in the bush at Warrimoo, Sun Valley and elsewhere
When the Baxters were cutting timber they tapped into all the principle stands around Long Angle Gully. The main product was used for power poles. When the Mountains were first hooked up to the electricity grid, the Baxters supplied poles to the Blue Mountains Council. Other timber was cut primarily for firewood consumption.

The local market was supplemented with orders from other areas. Poles were cut and then loaded onto steam trains for transport to the required location.

This scene at Faulconbridge station gives us a clue as to similar sites at Warrimoo, where loggers loaded timber for various destinations up and down the Mountains. Log freight was one of the primary reasons why the siding at Karabar was reopened early in the 20th century and continued beyond the Second World War (note all the telegraph poles in the picture)
The Baxters often camped overnight in make-shift timber camps. Signs of crude bush huts and relics can still be found in the bush near Sun Valley. Old trucks, machinery and watertanks are rusty reminders of the days when the valleys echoed with the sound of the logger’s axe. Numerous slot marks where loggers could place cutting boards in tree trunks can also still be seen. An old dug-out saw-pit is located on private property not far from Long Angle Gully.


This picture reveals the combined usage of both Bullock and 'Blitz' power to haul logs up to the mill and/or station at the top of the ridge
In later years the Baxters used an ex-army ‘Blitz’ four wheel drive to assist the bullock teams remove logs from the gullies around Long Angle. In the Depression they would save petrol tokens so the Blitz could be used to remove timber. Both the bullocks and the Blitz would tow a large log trailer or ‘jinker’. In the disastrous fires of 1936 the trailer was destroyed by fire near Yellowrock Road. The old loggers road that ran off Singles Ridge Road is now known as Long Angle Gully Road.

The Baxters were fine axemen and often entered woodchops at shows and competitions. They also cut timber near Glenbrook Creek and along Blue Gum Swamp, at Winmalee.[2]

For the most part, today, the impact of the logging industry on Warrimoo is largely obscured by the intensive forest growth of the past two decades. It is hard to envisage the thin bush landscape that prevailed at that end of Warrimoo during the 1920’s and 30’s.

Awesomely beautiful Mountain Blue Gum stand on the Sun Valley/Fitzgerald's Creek Walk on the northern side of Warrimoo--a walk well worth doing!
If, however, you are game to do the ‘Sun Valley Trail’ either from the Rosenthal Lane entry (Sun Valley) or the Warrimoo Oval side—if you are game to enough to endure the cacophony of birdcalls along the route, and you keep your eyes peeled, you just may come across some of those evidential remnants and relics of that bygone era.

[1] CAMERON, Bruce. Sun Valley and Long Angle Gulley—A History, Springwood, 1998 pp21—31 Bruce’s booklet provided the vast bulk of information on this topic. WH thank him for his extensive research.
[2] Ibid., pp 21-22