Mary Meagher
Archive number: 1389
Preferred name: Doyle
Date interviewed: 20 January, 2004

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Mary Meagher 1389

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Transcript

Tape 01

01:00:40:00

Mary, if you could just start by giving us a brief summary of your entire life.
Starting from when?
Starting from where you were born and when you were born. Where you went to school, so on and so forth.
I was born in Forbes on the 1st of February 1923,

01:01:00:00

at Forbes Hospital, and I went to school in Forbes at Our Lady of Mercy Convent School. And at 16 years of age I left school and I began working as a bookkeeping machine operator at John Meagher and Co. And I worked there for nearly three years until I joined the army in 1943. January ’43. Then I was in the army until 1946.

01:01:30:00

And what happened after joining the army?
I was married during the army. In 1945 John and I were married and I met John through John Meagher and Co. and we met up again during our army life. He came on leave in Sydney from Western Australia and we met up again. So we ended up being married. We’ve been together; we were together nearly 54 years when he died.
And how many kids did you bring up?
Five children,

01:02:00:00

we lost one little boy two days old, but the others are all around.
And when did…
One boy lives in Forbes, he’s a photographer and photographs for Sothebys in London and did all the Duchess of Windsor’s jewels for the auction and so forth. And he had a wonderful time in England for a few years. Married over there. And so all the kids are married, I’ve got ten grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

01:02:30:00

So it keeps me busy.
Especially Christmas time, I would imagine.
Yeah.
And when did John pass away?
In, just nearly 30th January 1999. Nearly the anniversary, five years.
All right, well thanks for that summary Mary, that’s great. Nice and concise. Let’s go back to the early days in Forbes.

01:03:00:00

Did your family also have a background in Forbes? Has this been an area for your families for a while?
My father came from a family, we were the Doyle family and he came from Yamma Station out on the Ugarra Road [?] and it’s passed hands many times since then. But then my Dad, after he married Mum, he had a cordial factory in Forbes and they

01:03:30:00

used to have a horse and wagonette. Two big horses and a wagonette. They used to go to the railway and collect all the big beer kegs and deliver them to all the hotels in town. I think there were about 13 hotels at that time in Forbes. And then that was up in Dowling Street and the big old premises are still there, old cobblestone floor where the horses used to go in there.
What was the name of the company?
M & T Doyle.

01:04:00:00

We’ve even got bottles, you know, with the marble in and also ginger beer bottle that my son ended up making a lamp out of it because it was like a stone bottle with the name on. Dad’s partner was his cousin. Dad was Tom and the other one was Mick.
Did Dad have that business going when you were born?
I can’t

01:04:30:00

think now whether, I think that he only started after I was born. I think I was about six when I can remember him being there.
What sort of a man was your Dad?
Great old man. A funny old man really because he was a real bushy. He loved his horses and his dogs and he ended up having a little farm out on the Parkes Road later on, he used to take us on the horse and sulky out there when he was working there.

01:05:00:00

We lived in town, but …
What did he do with the farm?
He sold it years and years ago.
What was he growing on it?
Just sheep and a bit of wheat. Yes, it was only a small farm. And I can still picture him riding along on his horse with three dogs following along. Sheepdogs. And his stock whip in his hand.
Was he a good dad?
He was a good Dad. Yeah, a very good Dad.

01:05:30:00

And what about your mum, was she also from the area?
No, she came from Burragorang Valley and that, where it was all flooded for the Warragamba Dam, you know that story. Sydney got all their water from there. Oh, she loved her Burragorang Valley but when she was a young person she used to ride with her Dad side saddle,

01:06:00:00

Around the Megalong Valley, and she was a great horse rider in her day. She lived till 94, still in her own little unit and quite, her brain was good, which was wonderful.
How did your mum and dad come to meet?
I don’t, can’t really think now how they got, I think Mum came from Sydney to work in

01:06:30:00

Forbes. I think she started off as a waitress in the Van Der Burg Hotel and that was a famous hotel many years ago. It’s still a very nice hotel but it was different, it was all the polo players and people like that all gathered there and I think that’s how they met. My memory’s not all that good now. But Mum was 35 and Dad was 40 when they were married, and they had five children after that, three

01:07:00:00

of us after Mum turned 40 so how about that?
They made up for lost time. And how would you describe your mum?
She was just a gentle lady. A very religious lady, loved her church. And we lived right up on Killarey [Killarney?] Road and that was about a mile and a half walk. She’d walk off, walk down to church two or three times a week.
What denomination?
Catholic, she was. We all were. And

01:07:30:00

there weren’t any buses in those days and we all walked to school. Later on we did get a pushbike, my sister and I, sometimes we doubled one another to school.
How long was the walk?
About a mile and a half. It was just, never ever thought of a bus in those days.
A lot of the kids would be walking to school?
Oh yes. And of course in those days there were only a few houses up there. Now it’s just gone ahead like mad. It’s the top part of the town now. A really lovely

01:08:00:00

area to live. We had six acres of land and we used to run a couple of horses and cows. We always, Dad always had some cows to milk. We never, ever bought milk.
So you had chores around the farm, the kids?
Yes. We had chooks to feed and things like that, hobby lambs to feed.
So what time would you get up in the morning to do all that?
We didn’t get up all that early, not really. I can remember the days of having bonfires and

01:08:30:00

where our brothers used to build these big bonfires and we used to have to go out and sleep sometimes around them at night because the kids used to come from the neighbours and set them on fire before it was bonfire night. And we used to get so annoyed. And then after the bonfires we’d go out looking for all the fizzers that didn’t go off and out in the frost, walking around in the frost looking for. Those were the funny old days with the boys.
So you’d have a lot of fireworks?
Oh yes. A lot of

01:09:00:00

fireworks in those days.
You could buy them locally?
Yes. Hasn’t it changed now though, you can’t do anything like that.
So that was a big night for the kids?
A big night. Always. All the neighbours came from everywhere for our big bonfire. But if some of them were a bit naughty, they’d come in and set it off before bonfire night. So.
So you’d nail up all the Catherine wheels?
Yes.
Set the rockets up.
Yes, that’s right. Yes, everything going sky high, yes.

01:09:30:00

Would you have a bit of a barbecue or something beforehand?
No, not really. No, not in those days. I don’t think we ever had barbecues in those days. But we had to make our own fun too, really. My sister and I we used to have a cubby house in the bush and we had all sorts of little bits of china and so forth. We’d make our little rooms out of these spreading trees and things. Also later on in life we made our own fun.

01:10:00:00

We used to go to dances in the town hall, and also with the church group we had dances. And if you didn’t go to a dance every Friday night you’d think there was something wrong. But now there’s nothing like that, they all go to the hotels and the clubs. We made our own fun and we also sang around the piano. They were great nights when we’d get the neighbours in and sing around the piano.
You had a piano in your house?
Yes. Yes.
Could you play piano?

01:10:30:00

No, I didn’t ever play. And our neighbour always had a piano. We used to walk across the paddock to her place. And we’d all gather there and.
So where were you placed amongst the siblings as far as…
I had my brother Bert, and then my brother Frank and then myself and then my sister Jan and then my – now I’m lost.
Another brother?
Kevin. Yeah.

01:11:00:00

And how would you describe your character as a little girl? Were you an outgoing little girl?
I don’t know, I think I was just an ordinary little girl in those days.
Were you forced to be a bit of a tomboy living out in the sticks?
Not really. No. No, I wasn’t really a tomboy. But my two brothers went into the army and they went to New Guinea and

01:11:30:00

Port Moresby and places and I just didn’t go out of Australia, I was in Sydney all of the time. Did my rookies’ camp at Ingleburn and I was in camp at Homebush for some time and then later on we were moved out to live in hostels and lived at Rushcutter’s Bay in the Country Women’s Association hostel there. The women there were all voluntary workers and they were fantastic. They cooked for us and did everything, if we were

01:12:00:00

homesick they’d look after us. And our boyfriends were allowed to come in and have a meal with us. It was very, very nice.
Just before we go right into that phase, I’ve just got a few more questions about the earlier days in Forbes. Were you a close group of kids, did you play mostly with your brothers and sisters or did you play with the local kids as well? Bit of both?
Locals as well, yes. Yes, the brothers were sometimes a

01:12:30:00

little bit hard on us and they were really, I don’t know what you’d call it. A little bit chauvinistic or something towards the girls. But anyway…
And what school did you go to?
St Lourdes, not St Lourdes, Our Lady of Mercy Convent School
Did you enjoy school?
Yes, I did enjoy school. My brothers went to the Marist Brothers.
Were you a good student?
I was just a fair student.

01:13:00:00

Didn’t excel very much, but I did all right later on when I worked at John Meagher and Co. Our bookkeeping machines were so ancient, they, you typed along and then you pushed it along like that and then you brought it back again and then you screwed the paper out. Put another lot in. It was just very old fashioned in those days. I did all the, sending out all the accounts.
What were your favourite subjects at school?
I don’t know, really, I just think

01:13:30:00

I just took everything as it came by. I just quite enjoyed school, but I left early at school. I was only 16.
So you said Mum was very religious.
Yes.
Did that rub off on the rest of the family?
Not on the boys it didn’t, only on the girls.
So you were quite involved in the church from a young age?
Oh yes.
Sunday was a busy day?

01:14:00:00

Sunday we always went to our mass. We still do. And it’s a different way of life now with your children, though.
Was there Sunday School as well?
No, we didn’t ever have Sunday School.
Were there other youth groups related to church?
Youth groups, yes, and then we had dances and things like that and go away on little picnics. St Patrick’s Day was always a great day to have a picnic.

01:14:30:00

Would that picnic be in town or would you go somewhere?
When you think about it, we used to ride out on the back of a big truck and go out four miles out in the country and set up a picnic out there. And now if you had a load of kids on the back of a truck wouldn’t you be in trouble.
Round about how many kids would go off to a picnic like that?
30 odd. From the school. Yeah, St Patrick’s Day. The parents all went too. It was just a

01:15:00:00

great day out, St Patrick’s Day.
And what was the Forbes community like back in those days, was it a tightly knit community?
I don’t think you’d call it tightly knit. It’s always been a friendly place and we always made lots of friends and we always enjoyed our dances. We didn’t have a lot of things to go to but we made our own fun.

01:15:30:00

Had concerts and things like that.
From what age did you start going to the dances?
Not until I was about 16. And then you had to be home by a certain time. You couldn’t sneak in.
What would the curfew be?
11 o’clock at night. That’s if you went to a dance, otherwise you had to, if you went to the movies, you had to be home before ten.

01:16:00:00

Who would be providing the music at a dance, what sort of a band would you have?
Just have the piano. Yeah, sometimes the drums, mostly the piano or pianola.
And what sort of dances would you do?
All the old ones, the Pride of Erin and the Quickstep and the Foxtrot and all those. And the old time waltz.
Would there be a wide variety of age groups at the dances?

01:16:30:00

There’d mainly be 16- to 18-year-olds I suppose.
Mainly the younger folk.
And then later on I went to the town hall and danced there as we got older.
That’s where older young adults would go, to the town hall rather than to the other dances?
Yes. But you were never at a club or anything like that. I don’t think we had the clubs in those days.
Where would the dances be held?
Always, mostly in the town hall, or

01:17:00:00

the Country Women’s Association Hall, that was quite a place for dances.
And a good opportunity to spend some time with the boys?
Oh yes. Sometimes we, oh well, you sat around the hall waiting, hoping the boys would ask you to dance in those days. You didn’t go along with a partner, you just went along. It was so funny, and at the town hall if it was in the winter time it was so cold, and they used to have those drums burning outside to keep

01:17:30:00

you warm and you’d stand out around those. If you didn’t get a partner to dance with you stood out around there to be warm.
And you went all right as far as the boys coming and asking you to dance?
Well, when the air force came to Parkes we used to go over there and John, my husband, who I wasn’t going out with at that time, he used to drive us over. In his story that he wrote about his life he tells how he used to take the girls over to Parkes for the air force dances and

01:18:00:00

he was left stranded. So one time he took off and left us behind. But we used to love going out to the air force dances at Parkes.
How old were you when you first became friendly with John?
Well, I met him through working at John Meagher and Co because he came, he was at school in Sydney at Riverview College, and when the war broke out his mother was worried about him and brought him home to Forbes. So he went in to work in

01:18:30:00

John Meagher and Co doing whatever was happening. He ended up driving the big truck, bringing all the goods from the railway and things like that. And that’s how I first met him and after I joined the army he started writing to me and when he came on leave we met up in Sydney. And that’s how it all started again. But in those days we just went around in a group. Mostly staff who worked in the store.
Before you did start at the store and you were

01:19:00:00

at school, were you enjoying school and education? Did you feel like you would’ve liked to have continued to learn?
Yes, I think I would’ve liked to continue. Those days it wasn’t easy because I can remember the Depression days, the thirties and Mum and Dad, it was very hard. And I always said my Mum could make a meal out of almost anything at all. She’d have a stew with dumplings in it to fill you up or you’d make apple dumplings and all sorts of things.

01:19:30:00

It was amazing what she could do with bits and pieces to make a nice meal. It was very hard in those days and so I think it was one reason why I left school early was to go and start work.
What else do you remember from those harder days of the Depression? Do you think the family always had enough food on the table?
I think we just had enough, yes.

01:20:00:00

We did manage.
What sort of lengths did you and the rest of the family have to go to to struggle through that time?
My Dad used to kill his own sheep, I can remember. He used to hang it up in the pine tree up, out in the back yard and cover it up with a bag overnight so dogs couldn’t get at it. He had to pull it up really high so as nothing could get it. And then the next morning he’d get it down and cut it all up. We’d have lamb’s fry for breakfast and every bit of the lamb was used.

01:20:30:00

There was nothing wasted. And then we had our own cow for the milk and Mum made our own bread. So we did cope. But you didn’t have any luxuries in those days, in the Depression days.
And I believe you would often go looking for turnips, is that right?
Well, when the war started, the people out in the country

01:21:00:00

started growing turnips for the soldiers. And so five or six of us at John Meagher and Co used to go out on weekends to pick the turnips and they’d all be shipped down to the soldiers. And never did, I think, when I went into the army, I’d be served up turnips every day. And John was the same, we always had turnips. He never ever ate turnip, if I wanted to make soup with turnip in it, he’d say, “I won’t eat that.” And

01:21:30:00

every day we were dished up, a big plop of mashed turnip on your little tin plate, and so I never thought after picking so many turnips I’d be eating them.
Did you…
I’ve got a photograph of us out in the turnip field.
Before joining the army did you ever take some of the turnips home?
No, I didn’t. I guess we had, we used to have lovely picnics and things, the weekends

01:22:00:00

riding bikes out in the country and going to the rivers, swimming and things like that. It was mostly the staff, that was Meagher and Co. because they had big staff in those days. I’ve got a photograph here, and I reckon there was over 50 people on the staff. And now if you go into the shop you’re flat out getting someone to serve you. Well, the old Meagher and Co. building down here, which is now Target, you walk in there you’ve got to really look after yourself and try and find someone to take your

01:22:30:00

money. Whereas those days, they were rushing to help you. And we had big staff. Amazing. We had lovely picnics and we used to have a Meagher and Co. Ball in the town hall. That was great.
So just prior to starting at the store, were you having a bit of a think about what you wanted to do with your life? Did you have any dreams or any plans?

01:23:00:00

No, I didn’t really. I just think I just wanted to go and work in a shop. I think that was all I felt in those days, I wanted to, and I can remember my Mum taking me to the different places in town for interviews.
What were some of the other places you went to?
Arthur Hughes and Co. And Mr Hughes always said to me later on, he said, “Mary, we wanted you to start with us,” he said, “and you went to John Meagher and Co.” It was just big general stores they were in those

01:23:30:00

days. There was a fleet of Meagher and Co. stores, all around the west.
So it was a good wicket, Meagher and Co., to become involved in.
Yes they were very good. They looked after us very well. It was great working with them. A great lot of people we worked with too. Some of them are still around in Forbes which is nice. Now and again I meet up with some of them in the supermarket. One man

01:24:00:00

I met the other day and he said, “We’re still around, Mary.” I said, “Yes, there’s only a few of us left though.”
Just going back to, you were telling me about standing around the piano singing songs and that was...
‘The Old Spinning Wheel in the Parlour’, I can remember singing that.
What were some of the other songs you can remember from those days?
Trying to think now, some of those really old ones. We sang the war songs too,

01:24:30:00

‘Pack Up Your Troubles’ and all those.
How would such a gathering work? What time of day would you generally get together?
After tea at night. We always called it tea, it wasn’t dinner. Tea at night. We always got around.
So what time round about would you be standing at the piano ready to sing?
About half past six, seven o’clock. Especially in the winter time.
So you might do it at home or you might go to a neighbour’s place.
Walked across the paddock to a neighbour’s place, that was one of the main places.

01:25:00:00

My Dad used to walk across the paddock to play cards at this neighbour’s place and then the old lady from there used to walk across. It was so funny, they always called each other Mr Doyle and Mrs Bardon and my mother always had these great friends, “Hello Mrs Crowley”, “Hello Mrs Doyle.” It was just amazing to think they were so close as friends and always Mr or Mrs. I don’t think it happens now so much.
No, I don’t think so.
No.

01:25:30:00

Times have changed.
Oh yes.
So the kids and the adults would gather around the piano together?
Yes, it was wonderful.
And everyone knew the songs? And sing along.
Yes. It was a great time really. And then we’d have some supper afterwards.
How long, round about, do you think you’d sing before you had some supper?
Only about an hour or so, and then you had to get home and get to bed.
What time would you get to bed?
About half past eight or nine o’clock because you always had

01:26:00:00

to be up for school. You had to walk about a mile and a half the next morning.
Would you have to do any chores before going to school or were the chores more on the weekend?
Nothing very much we didn’t. Mum and Dad seemed to do most things. We just had to help get in the chooks and things like that and feeding the dogs. Rounding up the, I remember rounding up the cow and the calf and we had to separate the calf at night so as it wouldn’t take all the milk. Sometimes the calf would break out if we didn’t put it in properly,

01:26:30:00

and then we’d be in trouble for not tying up the calf properly.
And did you play any sport through school?
Yes, we played tennis and vigoro in those days.
Did you enjoy sport?
Yes I enjoyed it. Used to, John’s parents had a tennis court and after we were married we used to have a quite fun on the tennis courts over the years. Lots of friends used to come and play with us.

01:27:00:00

When you were younger? Sorry, go on.
I took up golf later on and so did John, of course. I love my golf.
When you were younger was Sunday the day to play tennis generally?
Yes. Yes, usually Sunday, yes.
Would you play in competitions or just friends?
Oh no, just with friends in those days, yes.
Did many people have courts?
Oh yes, lots of people had courts. Yes, not now though. I think it’s the upkeep, a bit like the swimming pools,

01:27:30:00

it’s the upkeep on them and people are getting old and they can’t look after them.
And you were…
And we used to love going out in the horse and sulky and going on picnics. I’d pick up, Dad’d get the horse ready for me and I’d go and pick up my friends and we’d go out with a picnic out in the bush and it was really fun.
So you were quite good with horses from a young age?

01:28:00:00

Yes, I used to ride quite a bit. Dad always had to saddle it up for me at home, get me organised. He never minded.
Did you find yourself becoming quite a religious girl through all the contact with the church?
Yes, I’ve always been quite good with my religion. My daughter’s a bit like me. She’s about the only one in my family

01:28:30:00

who’s really interested in the church now, the boys are a bit different. But we’ve always felt we loved our church.
And did you have time for any hobbies?
Yes, we had hobbies and things. I can’t think now what I used to do. But we were always busy, we weren’t bored. What we used to do mainly was listen at night to all the serials on the wireless

01:29:00:00

as we called it. Dad and Dave and what was it? Green Bottle and those, and Pickles, and what’s it. The one that was on at midday on the ABC, the country one. Went on, serial for, anyway at night we used to always have to hurry and get our tea over so we could sit around and listen to the wireless and the serials. And Mum and Dad always

01:29:30:00

sat with us and listened to it all. That’s all you did in those days, no TV or anything like that. But we used to love listening to all the serials.
So the radio, the wireless would brighten up most days?
Yes. And they were old fashioned boxes.
Big.
Big like.
So everyone would just gather around.
Yeah, gather around.
Let their imagination do the rest.

01:30:00:00

Yes.
And from what age, round about, do you think you started going to the pictures?
We’d only go if we went to a matinee. If we were going to go Mum would take us to a matinee. But we didn’t go out at night until we were about 17 or so, you went out to the pictures at night. 16 or 17.
So when you were younger it’d be a Saturday matinee?
Yes, Saturday matinee.

01:30:30:00

And that was a big deal?
Oh yes. Of course, the children used to be squealing and going on down the front, and throwing peanuts and everything else under the sun. It was a wild time in those days, I don’t think they’d allow you to go on like that any more. It was always packed, though, when the matinees were on. Of course it was always an afternoon thing, so kids enjoyed it.
So it’d mainly be the kids in the audience, the adults would leave them to it?

01:31:00:00

Yes, it was so noisy I don’t think they could stay.
And would the ushers and the staff try and settle the kids down?
Sometimes they would try to do them, yes, settle them down. Yes. Yes, so we sort of made our own fun.
Can you remember some of the movies that you saw back in those days? What sort of movies did you like?
Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald and you know the Riverboat [Showboat],

01:31:30:00

with the black man on it, Paul Robeson, and all those movies.
Did you like musicals?
Greer Garson and all those sort of things.
Was there a type of movie that you preferred, did you like musicals?
I used to love just all the lovely ones with Greer Garson, Spencer Tracy and all that sort of thing. Of course there were great cowboy ones too. Really a lot of cowboy ones. I can

01:32:00:00

remember one boy saying, used to go every night, he was a little bit, not quite right, and he used to go to the pictures every night and he used to call out, “Why don’t you go the other way, you went that way last night.” When the fellow was shooting at him, “Why don’t you go the other way?”
So romance, musicals, action, you liked them all.
Yes, you didn’t get to go all that often really.

01:32:30:00

But we had a big old picture theatre here.
And you had an intermission?
Yes.
And could you get some goodies, ice-creams and…
Yes that’s right.
What would be available?
Just ice-cream and chips and lollies mainly. And cool drinks. Well, you didn’t get it there, you used to run around to the café just around the corner. They didn’t ever have it at the theatre, it was Mum and Dad Café.

01:33:00:00

So that’s where you went at half time.
Was there only one theatre in town for the movies?
Yes, only the one.
And was the milk bar a bit of a social scene as well?
Yes, not so much like you see the young ones now in the milk bars but it was the place you went to if you wanted an ice-cream or cool drink. There were a couple of milk bars, there was the

01:33:30:00

Mum and Dad and another one up the road, I can’t think of the name, the Wattle Café. And I think there were three or four cafes in those days, now I don’t know that we’ve got any cafés in town. How things have changed. Oh, we have got, we’ve still got the old Wattle I think, in town. But about the only one.

01:34:00:00

So you got to the age of 16 and did your parents sort of say, “Okay, Mary it’s time to leave school and get out there and get some work?”
No, it didn’t happen like that really, it’s just that times weren’t good and I needed to get out and get a job and do something and it was, Mum

01:34:30:00

and Dad were very keen for me to do well and when I asked if I could leave school they said, “You know, as long as you get into something, you’re not going to be somebody who doesn’t want to go out and do housework or something like that, you’ve got to do something worthwhile.” So that’s why Mum went around to shops with me to interviews. These days people go out and start waitressing and all that sort of thing. Well, they have to,

01:35:00:00

if they want to go to uni and things, to get extra money. But they wanted me to start off, it was something decent that happened and I’ve never ever regretted it.
So round about how many different interviews do you think you went for?
I had about four interviews.
And how did the process work? Did you then just wait?
I just waited, yes. And John’s father was the first one to call me and so that’s…

01:35:30:00

He got you.
Yes, he gave me a very good reference when I left to go into the army too. Somebody said, “I wonder if he’d have given you a good reference if he knew you were going to marry his son.”
So it was quite a big deal, the store, it sounds like it was the biggest of its type in town.
It was, certainly. Yes.
And it’d been in town for a long time?
Yes, well,

01:36:00:00

the old Honourable John Meagher started off in Bathurst, I can show you that paper over there with all his, bit of a story of John Meagher and Co. starting right back. Tim’s the one that’s got all the historian there. And it was quite a thing to get a job at John Meagher and Co. in those days.
So they had stores all over the place.
Yes, all over, yes.
And in the major country towns?
Tahmoor and Cootamundra

01:36:30:00

and Wyalong, Parkes, Yes, and lots of places. Farm Edmond [?], I think about eleven all told. And then they were all taken over eventually and then Grace Bros came in later on and now they’re all gone. And now we’d got a Grace Bros just closed in Bathurst as well.
So the one that you started out at had been set up for quite a

01:37:00:00

while by the time you started?
Yes.
And it was a big establishment?
Yes, a big establishment.
It was, was it like a, what we know as a department store?
Yes, big department store. Yes. Oh yes, a bit of everything, and then they had a machinery section as well. And hardware, everything.
Clothes.
Yes.
Did they have food as well?
Yes. Delicatessen department, and

01:37:30:00

John went overseas to America with his cousin to open up the first supermarket type in the store. It was just like an old grocery store before there, and they opened it up into a supermarket and grocery part. And they had six weeks over there studying all that.
So starting there as a young girl of 16 must’ve been quite exciting.
Oh yes, it really was.

01:38:00:00

A whole new world opening up to you as an independent young adult.
We used to work Saturday nights there, funnily enough, in those days you worked until half past eight at night.
So late shopping was Saturday rather than Thursday.
Yes.
And did you start straight away on the accounting machine or did you have some other jobs?

01:38:30:00

No, started straight away, because I had done some bookkeeping and shorthand while I was at…
Where had you done that?
At Our Lady of Mercy Convent School I was doing shorthand and bookkeeping and that’s how I got into the job at the office.
So they put you straight into the office.
Yes.
Now this wonderful machine…
Yes, it was so old fashioned.
You started straight on that?
Yes, yes typing away.
Was that difficult to master?

01:39:00:00

No, not really, because you were just used to it, because that’s how you learned to type, on that kind of machine.
So you were trained with one of those at school.
A very old nun teaching me and she used to rap me on the knuckles if I didn’t do the right thing.
So how big were the machines?
Oh, they’d be about that size I suppose. A big machine, push it up there and back down that way.
Did they have a special name?
No, I don’t think so. I can’t think now.

01:39:30:00

Just like an old typewriter sort of thing.
But specifically designed for accounting, for adding, for doing mathematics, for doing invoices?
Yes, for doing invoices and things yes. And that’s what I ended up doing in the army, invoices and things and a bit of typing and switchboard and things like that. Sending out all the food to the soldiers, which you’d get all the invoices for that.
So were there many people in the office at Meaghers?

01:40:00:00

Yes, we had a big crowd, I suppose we would’ve had about 14 or so in the office.
And where was the office relative to the rest of the store?
It was upstairs. I used to go upstairs. Yeah, it was a very big building.
And what time would you start your working day there?
We started at nine in the morning. Finished at half past five.

01:40:30:00

And you always broke off for lunch, the store was always closed between, I think it was twelve and one.
The entire store. Closed.
Everything, all the shops in town were closed between twelve and one at that time.
So would you go home for lunch or would you bring it with you?
I didn’t go home because it was too far to walk home. Or if I had a bike it was, even if it was busy, you didn’t want to ride for the hot weather. You just had a lunch, sat in the park or something like that and had your lunch.
So you’d bring a sandwich along or something like that.
Yes, or just go to the Mum and Dad’s and get something to eat.
You wouldn’t be able to find a milk bar open or something like that if you really needed some food?
I’m not sure whether milk bars closed, they may have stayed open. I don’t know, but all the shops closed. It was quite a thing. Everyone went home for lunch.
All right Mary, we’ve just run out of tape on this one so we’ll just have a little break and Kylie [interviewer] will pick up.
Interviewee: Mary Meagher Archive ID 1389 Tape 02

02:00:32:00

Mary, in the last tape we were talking about Meagher and Co. and the different, what you sold there. I’m just really after some detail about some of the clothes that you remember selling. We were having a look at some of the boots there, can you describe the fashion of the shoes at the time? The women’s shoes that you remember them selling.

02:01:00:00

Well, I don’t know that I can remember much about them but I think, they weren’t, they were really older ones on that paper, because that’s when Meagher and Co first started. But we got some more of the modern boots but there was a lot of lace up boots and things like that. I can show you a pair of lace up boots that I’ve got, that as a matter of fact are about 120 years old. But,

02:01:30:00

well, the stilettos came in too in my day too, the stiletto and then they went out and now they’re all back again.
Really. Do you remember what kind of year, around what year the stiletto came in?
I think in the ’40s they were around. I remember going to the dances and some of the girls with stilettos, I wondered how ever they stayed on their feet.
Did you ever buy a pair?
No I didn’t, no. But when I was in the army we used to go to the

02:02:00:00

Trocadero and dance and we had, I think we used our, we had our army shoes most of the time. We used to dance at the old Paddington Town Hall.
We’ll talk about that when we get down to Sydney. With Meagher and Co., what was, so you would’ve been working there in the ’30s?
I was only in the office. No not the, not the ’30s no. I went into the army in ’43 so I was there in

02:02:30:00

1940, ’41, ’42.
So the war had started.
The war had started, yeah.
So was there a lack of, was it hard to get different goods in because of the war?
There were certain restrictions, of course. You had coupons also, you had to use coupons to buy anything at all. At that time, the flour used to come in,

02:03:00:00

it all had to be measured out by the men in the back store. They used to measure the sugar and the flour and the – everything, the rice. Everything had to be bundled up and bought in bundles. It’s so different now. And they used to mix up the rum and things like that and put it in the bottles. They put Meagher’s O.P. Rum on it and they, all sorts of things were done out in the back store. Everything was bought in bulk

02:03:30:00

And then everyone had to, who worked in the back store had to just put it into bags and things ready to be sold. And if you went in and asked for two pound of flour they’d go out and measure it up and bring it in to you. So a bit different, isn’t it.
Very. So was there a shortage of anything because of the war?
There was a shortage, yes, there were at the time. That’s why we had the coupons, because there was such a shortage of butter and all that sort of thing.

02:04:00:00

It was all restricted in those days.
You mentioned during the Depression days when you were growing up, you didn’t have any luxuries.
We didn’t have any luxuries at all.
So when you say luxuries, what didn’t you have? What do you remember missing out on?
It was just your parents couldn’t buy lots of things that you’d call a luxury. Like as I said, we used every little bit of the sheep, the kidneys, the liver,

02:04:30:00

everything, the shanks, everything. Now the shanks are a luxury that you buy them now, they’re expensive to buy. People used to give them to the dogs at one time. And now the, in those days we used every single bit because you couldn’t afford to have everything, like you didn’t buy steak or anything like that, you just depended on your sheep and your cow for your milk and so forth. There were lots of shortages of course.

02:05:00:00

Also with the petrol, because John’s father built a gas producer on top of his car, and I’ll show you the photograph later, with the gas producer on it because there was no petrol, not enough petrol around. Not enough coupons for it.
How did that work, the gas producer?
It worked very well. It just, amazing, it looked enormous on this little Morris car and I’m not sure, Tim Meagher

02:05:30:00

might be able to tell you how it worked but it certainly worked. It’s all in John’s story, he wrote about it.
So it sounds like you had to be a little bit ingenious and inventive at that time.
Yes. John’s father could do almost anything and John was the same. They could make anything at all, they were very clever.
What about you and your sister Joan, what did you do for dresses and clothes during the Depression years?
We seemed to just manage. Mum used to make

02:06:00:00

some of our clothes. My sister Joan worked on the switchboard here in Forbes and before she married. That was quite a funny job because they had all these party lines, everyone had the, everybody along the line used to listen in.
Who was she working for?
For the PMG. For the Post Master General’s Department. It was quite a thing in

02:06:30:00

those days for girls to be a switchboard operator.
Was it?
Yes, some of them are still around here in town. Yes they used to have a big line up of them back then. They could tell you some funny stories about what happened in the country on those party lines.
Do you remember any of the stories that Joan told to you?
Yes. She used to tell me but I couldn’t repeat them. But see, they had so many rings for each household and they’d know it wasn’t their ring but they’d still pick it up, the people,

02:07:00:00

and have a listen to see what was going on. What gossip was happening.
They must’ve got a real insight into all the different dramas in the place.
They did, yes.
What were the qualifications to be a telephonist? Did you have to have a good voice?
I don’t think so, I don’t think. They just applied for it.
You were talking about your mum, talking about being a genius in the Depression years, you said

02:07:30:00

your mum was able to make anything, cook anything out of nothing.
Just amazing she was. Scones and all that sort of thing. I can cook most things but I can’t cook scones.
Did she teach you how to cook during that time?
No, she didn’t, no. She didn’t, I just started, after I got married I started cooking. I can cook anything at all now. I made a 12 egg pavlova yesterday for a friend for her birthday.
Wow.

02:08:00:00

So you remember what she, you said she made dumplings, do you remember how she would make those? Did you ever watch her?
Just the flour and the water and a bit of butter in them, I think, and then she’d have the stew with all the lovely gravy in it and she’d just pop the dumplings into it. We just loved it. And she’d make an apple, stew the apples and put the, then to make a sweet put the dumplings into the apples and so you’d have apple dumplings. And golden syrup dumplings. They were wonderful.

02:08:30:00

And, you know, made it out of flour and water but we all survived it all right. And she made them lots of stews, they call them casseroles now.
What would she put in the stews?
Every bit of vegetable she had and every leftover she had from the lamb. Left over bits and pieces. And then you always, if you had a roast dinner you always had a bubble and squeak afterwards or potato pie.

02:09:00:00

What’s bubble and squeak?
All the left over vegetables all chopped up and done, put the gravy in with them and whatever meat, chopped that up and put it in and you just served that. Bubble and squeak was great.
What about for breakfast, what would you do for breakfast?
Mostly porridge for breakfast on an old stove, and always a big, rolled oats, pot of rolled oats going for breakfast. And breakfast delight, that was one of the

02:09:30:00

ones that was easy to make.
What was that?
That was another porridge. That’s a lighter one than rolled oats.
You mentioned your family’s background, are they of Irish stock as well?
Yes.
Do you know, the Doyles, do you know how they actually came to Australia, came to be in Australia?
Yeah, I’ve got some story here too but I haven’t got that out, that’s in my cupboard I think. And I’ve also got the story of my Mum’s called the

02:10:00:00

Carlin’s story from when they started out at Burragorang Valley.
And they were of Irish stock as well?
Yes.
So would you describe your family as, were they middle-class or working-class while you were growing up in Forbes?
Just working-class people.
And when you met, you said John and you, obviously you were friends for quite a while before you actually got together. You met him at Meagher and Co., that was the first.

02:10:30:00

Do you remember the first meeting?
I just remember through working there, that’s all. I can’t remember the first time I met him there, but he was just one of the staff and we all used to go out at weekends, a group of us and go to dances or go out on a picnic or something like that. Go swimming at the pool. But you always had to make your own fun, there weren’t discos or anything like that.

02:11:00:00

And was he, because he’d gone to Riverview and he was obviously from Meagher and Co., was he sort of regarded as a bit of a catch because he was a little bit…
Yes, because he went to boarding school and that sort of thing. But he was a very, he wasn’t the type of person that had a thing about his being to boarding school.

02:11:30:00

He was a very down-to-earth man, or boy he really was. A bit rough and tough really.
And when you went to the dances in Forbes, apparently you used to wear, dress up in all kinds of clothes and beautiful shoes. Can you tell us what you used to wear, describe a typical dress that you might wear to a dance in Forbes?
We just really, only if you went to a ball did you really dress up.

02:12:00:00

Otherwise you’d just go in your normal day frock to a ball.
What did that look like?
Just, it was a matter of fact, a bit like they’re wearing now. A length down to about here, not even ankle length, just a bit long past the knees. I can’t imagine anything, it was nothing very dramatic just to go along to an ordinary dance. But you dressed up for a ball.

02:12:30:00

And always a long frock, of course now you hardly ever see a long frock, only if you go to Sydney, I think.
Do you remember any of your ball dresses that you wore at the time?
Oh yes, I can remember some of it. John and I used to dress up quite a bit, even for fancy balls. I should show you some of the photographs out in the, they’re out in the garage as a matter of fact, where we used to dress up. For all sorts of things, the centenary of Forbes and the centenary of Meagher’s and all sorts of things we had dress-ups.

02:13:00:00

We just loved dressing up.
And back in those days when you would go to the dances, more the casual dances, was the dress made out of cotton or nylon or polyester?
Oh no, I used to have lovely shot taffetas and all sorts of lovely things in those days. Yes. We never ever talked about nylon, that seemed to come in after the war the nylon, like the nylon stockings. What did we used to call them before,

02:13:30:00

the nylon. I can’t think, I can’t think of it, just sheer stockings. But nylon was the thing that came along later on. The fabric that came later.
So what would you wear for, what were the stockings, would you wear stockings?
Stockings with the seam up them. My goodness, you had to watch them that the seam wasn’t crooked. Of course, can you imagine doing that now? I don’t think they ever have a seam up, do they?
For special occasions you can buy them.
Bet they’d be

02:14:00:00

expensive.
Yeah, and what about the shoes, what was the fashion in the shoes at the time?
Toeless shoes and then and the round, they were, I’ll show you photographs of my shoes in those days that I used to wear. One where Margaret was a little girl. Margaret’s 56 now, my daughter. When she was about two or three we had this photo taken in Sydney and I’ve got these round navy and white shoes. Somebody said, “Oh, that was the fashion years ago, fifty odd years ago.”

02:14:30:00

What about the makeup? Were you able to get a hold of makeup during the war years?
Yes, we wore makeup.
Where would that come from, the makeup?
Just a shop like Meagher’s or somewhere like that, or a chemist shop.
Was it expensive? Was it a luxury?
No, it wasn’t a luxury really I don’t think. I can never think about that being a luxury.
And what about, did you have a hairdresser’s

02:15:00:00

that the girls would go to at the time?
Yes, I mostly did my own hair in those days. We used to put it in rollers. Never ever had a perm then but now I do.
When you went to those dances, you mentioned that you weren’t very often out, sitting outside by the fire, that you usually got chosen to dance.

02:15:30:00

We usually danced, usually had a great time. But you know, the boys, you know how boys all gather together and they still do it and the girls sit around. And the boys’ll be out having a smoke outside and leave us there sitting like wallflowers. And if we get cold we go out and stand around the fire. And then they started to come in because they were around there too getting warm, so we’d go out there too, join them and then they’d eventually come back in and start dancing.

02:16:00:00

Was there any, did your sister Joan go with you?
She loved dancing, yes. She was a great dancer.
Was there any girls that were more popular than other girls?
Yes, always was.
Were you quite popular?
Oh yeah, just did all right, I guess.
And what kind of songs would you be dancing, what were your favourite musicians at that time?
I can’t think now. Just all the old time, well, they played a lot of the war songs at that time.

02:16:30:00

You’d dance to those, and I can’t think now.
What was the fashion in the dancing, what kind of dancing did you do?
We did the Foxtrot and the Barn Dance and the Pride of Erin and the old time waltz. That’s about it, I suppose.
Did you have a boyfriend

02:17:00:00

or someone at that time?
Not really a boyfriend, we used to go out with different ones and we’d all, we were all just good friends. It was only after I went into the army I used to go out sometimes with a boy in the air force or an army boy. And then when John came back from Western Australia that was it. We just got, started going out again and whenever he was on leave we met up.

02:17:30:00

Do you remember much war talk while you were growing up, when the war started in Forbes? Do you remember what people would be saying about it?
We were all worried about it, our brothers going to war or about the fathers of little children going to war. It was always a very upsetting thing. But they were all keen to go. John put his age up to go, he was only 17 and because they just thought it was the thing to do to go. But it left

02:18:00:00

all the mothers and the wives very distressed. And the women joining up, we were able to let the men go out to war while we did the work that they were doing in camp, we did their work so they could go to war. Which was the hard part.
Can you talk about how

02:18:30:00

Forbes changed as a town once a lot of the men went to war?
I don’t know that it changed, because everyone worked well to do things for them and send them parcels and making knitting and sending food parcels. All sorts of things they did to help out.
Were you involved in any of that?
No, because I’d gone into the army by then, see. I was, it was

02:19:00:00

only after ’43 that they got really going doing all this work. Here comes Tim.
You described how Forbes changed during the war. There was the difference in what people had to deal with.
I don’t know, I think things just went on naturally but we had to get used to the rationing.

02:19:30:00

I can’t think how it changed, we used to have the troop trains go through Forbes and we used to all rush up to the railway station to take them up food and chocolates and things. I’ve got a photograph to show you of troop trains with all the soldiers with legs hanging out the windows as they pulled up at the station. But I think things just went on as usual. Of course, our people were short of men

02:20:00:00

on the land, of course, and that’s why the Land Army girls were so fantastic. They went out and worked like men on the farms driving the tractors and the old ploughs with the horses in front. Just amazing.
Where did they come from?
They came from all over Australia. They joined the Land Army and they were sent out all over. Wonderful the way those girls worked, just like men and digging trenches and all sorts of things on the farm.

02:20:30:00

Looking after all the stock. I think the Land Army girls were all great.
Did you meet any of them?
Yes, lots of them, especially when we had our ex-servicewomen’s reunions we used to have the land army girls. We’ve had some wonderful reunions here in Forbes and we’ve had great times.
What was the background of some of those girls.
Just came from all sorts of families really, had good positions and just

02:21:00:00

joined the army just to do something to help out. And some women wanted to be on the land and that’s what they did. I’ve got stories about it, I’ve got a couple of books here about it all.
And when you went to meet the troop trains, how did you, what kind of sweets did you used to take?
We’d take chocolates and biscuits too, lots of biscuits and we’d make up all sorts of little hampers and take them to them.

02:21:30:00

There was great excitement going through because the girls loved it when the men went through. Because there was a shortage of men around in Forbes at the time.
Did the men ever stop off in Forbes?
No, they just stopped at the trains, at the railway station and just stopped to give them refreshments and drinks and things and then on they’d go.
It must’ve looked great seeing them in their uniforms.
Yes it was, yeah. See, when John went to Western Australia

02:22:00:00

he travelled on the back of a, the back of what they called the, the big things, they were just, no canopies on them or anything like that, just, I know the word, I can’t think of it, just on the tops of these cabin things. Not cabins, but anyway, they travelled with their army vehicle beside them, out in the heat and going across the desert in the heat and the

02:22:30:00

dust and everything else.
Amazing.
Sandflies and flies, and yes, they were on those for a week at a time going across Western Australia. All the army gear and then living in the desert in the tents. He said the Aboriginal people were always clambering on the railway lines hoping they’d throw them out some food and he said the soldiers would throw it out and it’d land in the sand and they’d pick it up and eat it. He said he couldn’t believe it, how they, the

02:23:00:00

Aboriginals could eat it like that.
What about, apart from not having the men to work on the land, how did the absence of men in Forbes affect the feeling amongst the women in town?
I don’t know, I suppose that’s why we just all got together and had little sing songs and things, because the men weren’t around. And you

02:23:30:00

were busy making things for them and sending parcels and writing letters. That was the main thing, kept writing letters and kept working.
What were some of the songs you would sing during that time?
Just mainly all the old ones, ‘Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag’ and Gracie Field songs and…
Did you have a best girlfriend during that time?

02:24:00:00

I had lots of best girlfriends, especially ones that I worked with and I’m still friendly, I still write to one lass who lives in Forster and one lass I saw her this week in Forbes. She still lives here. And I’ve got photographs taken of us years ago in the forties and we’re still friends. And the same as some of the staff now who are in their

02:24:30:00

late 70s and 80s and they’ll always see me and call out. Some of them, funnily enough in those days they always respected you because John and I were only young when we came to work at John Meagher and Co, when John came back from the war after training as the manager for two years. And they always called him Mr John and I was Mrs John. And now I met this man in the street the other day and he’s 75, I think, he said, “Hello, Mrs John.” And I thought, “Isn’t that strange, not calling me Mary”.

02:25:00:00

“How are you, Mrs John?”
Did you mind?
No, I thought it was great that he still felt like that. And Barry Sullivan, who owned this shop and only sold it recently, he’s been down here 50 odd years, just sold it out recently, he always called me Mrs Meagher whenever I went into his shop. And he started at Meagher and Co. the day we came back from our honeymoon and he always remembered our wedding anniversary and he always rang me from the store down here

02:25:30:00

to, rang us both to say, “Happy anniversary”, because he started at Meagher and Co when he was only 17. And then he retired here the other day at 74 or something and Tim and I went along to his send off and he said, “Thank you, Mrs Meagher, for coming.” I couldn’t believe that, because he’s almost my age, he’s always called me that because I was the boss’s wife.
It must’ve been an interesting experience coming back after

02:26:00:00

having worked there, coming back married to the boss’s son.
I know, but that all made a fuss of me, it was great. Used to take the babies in to show them. And even when they were, Margaret was born in Temora and I remember coming in, bringing the baby in the basket to show all the staff the new baby. No, we always got on well and we had great staff parties and we used to have them at our big house next door for Christmas every year. And we’d

02:26:30:00

put a dance floor down and they’d all dance. And we had a small pool and we used to, everyone ended up in the pool whether they were dressed or not. Great night, and I catered for them all.
Sounds like good times. We’ll get on to that later on. Also, you played a lot of tennis.
Not a lot, but I played tennis. I loved tennis.
Was that something that a lot of country people did?
Oh yes, tennis was the big thing. Yeah, it certainly was.

02:27:00:00

And you went out into the country to play on their courts. Nearly everyone in the country used to have a big tennis court.
Did your family have a tennis court?
No, John’s family had a big one and now there’s houses on that area now, just over the road.
And how were you at playing tennis?
Just an ordinary old tennis player. I liked it.
All right, just getting back to the war, do you remember when the war was announced?

02:27:30:00

I can remember that, yeah. Yes it was in, sitting in front of the old wireless in the house up in Killarey Road with Mum and Dad and everyone when we heard it announced.
And what ran through your head at the time?
Just all horrified at the time and wondering what would happen next. And of course the next thing boys were being called up. A lot of them joined up straight away.

02:28:00:00

And that included your brothers?
My brothers, yes. They both were overseas.
Was that difficult on your mother?
Oh yes. Very difficult. Yes. Yes, see a lot of labour went out of town because all those boys were called up or either volunteered and were gone. It was the thing to do though, they were excited about joining up and you’ve only got to read stories abut what they

02:28:30:00

say about, you know, they couldn’t wait to get into the army. Terrible things that happened to them, POWs [Prisoners of War] and so forth.
Your brothers came back safely?
They both came back, yes. They lived, one lived till ’76 and the other one, he was much younger, he had cancer in the lung, he died in his 50s.
Did you miss your brothers when they went away?
Yes, I used to be writing to them all the time.

02:29:00:00

Did they ever write back to you?
Yes they did, not as much as I’d write to them. I used to keep in touch with them. And of course you didn’t get letters very often from them when they were serving overseas. See they, not many of the men that went to war wanted to talk about it. When they came back nobody wanted to talk about what they went through. And people are only finding out about it now after people have died, that’s what they’ve been through.

02:29:30:00

And see, now people are able to record things like you’re doing today. I often wish we’d recorded the things my Dad used to tell me about from way back, because he was born in 1878 and I think the history he’d have. And we didn’t ever record it.
Just oral history passed down by word of mouth.
Yeah.
So do you remember any of the letters, the few letters you did get back from your brothers, do you remember

02:30:00:00

some of the contents?
They’d just tell you what was going on and where they were. They couldn’t tell you where they were at the time, they weren’t allowed to do that all their letters were censored.
Did they have big holes in them or were they crossed out?
Crossed out, sometimes it’d be cut out but everything was censored, so you had to be careful what you said and what they said. But they never ever told you too much about it though.

02:30:30:00

But they weren’t very long letters. Some men did, POWs too, they were lucky to be able to write letters. Some who were POWs were able to smuggle letters out. I don’t remember a great deal about it.
Do you remember how your father was during that time with his sons away at war?
Yes, well, Dad worked hard because on the farm he had to do all the things that the boys weren’t there to do and so

02:31:00:00

he was only a little man too.
Had he been to war?
No, he hadn’t been, no. His brother did. His brother lost all his hair, he was as bald as a bat when he came back and he never ever got his hair back.
Stress, perhaps.
That was the First World War, though, he was in.
And do you recall ay of your girlfriends or any of the people you know

02:31:30:00

getting that horrible knock on the door saying their son wasn’t coming back?
No, I don’t really, I didn’t experience anything like that. But I know lots of friends who got the knock with just terrible news. And the mothers too, that, it was very hard on a lot of the mothers, sometimes losing two boys. And then I read a story about one who lost three boys, it must’ve been terrible.

02:32:00:00

In Forbes, there’s someone who had that particular job of passing on that news during the war?
I think it was mostly the army gave the news. It came through the army, they’d send somebody to give the news. Yes, it wouldn’t be a policeman or anybody like that, it’d be through the army.
You said there was an air force base, I was going to ask

02:32:30:00

if you had much to do with any of the men from the air force base. Did they come into Forbes at all?
Oh yes, they used to come over here because they’d meet up with, when they were on leave they had different girlfriends here. We just went for the dances. John usually took us over and dropped us off. And he got cranky with us. And then I can remember, he tells it in his story how he was running over, he was so annoyed with us for dancing all night with the

02:33:00:00

airmen and he was left on his own, and driving back on this dirt road in Parkes or Forbes, he was running over rabbits and killing them and we were all horrified and the more we were horrified the more he’d chase after rabbits.
So he would sit outside the dance, he wouldn’t come inside and dance with you?
He’d come in, but we were all dancing.
He was probably jealous do you think.
Mmm.
Did he

02:33:30:00

have his eye on you at that stage do you think?
I don’t know, I think we just all were a group at the time. It wasn’t really until we started corresponding during the war we sort of, that’s…I was going out with different ones during my time in the army and when he came home on leave we just sort of, that was it, I stopped going out with other blokes.
So when the air force blokes came into

02:34:00:00

Forbes, did the atmosphere in town change?
Everyone loved it, because they thought it was great, yeah. There was one pilot who came in and flew over low over the town, over where his girlfriend worked. She worked in the jeweller’s shop, he later married her but he was really cautioned because he came so low over the town. He came swooping over the shop where she was. Of course that caused a big stir in

02:34:30:00

Forbes and was all written up in the papers. But she ended up marrying him and she’s lived in Forbes ever since. She’s only just moved, recently, her husband died last year and they were a lovely couple. We always laughed about the romance that went on, then coming over from Parkes and swooping down over the shop. True love there.
A romantic gesture. All right, well let’s move on to

02:35:00:00

Ingleburn and you enlisting. Can you take us through that process, when you decided that you were going to help the war effort?
Well, I just decided one day working at the store that I’d like to join the army and my Mum was a bit concerned at the time. I don’t know why but I think she wasn’t in the greatest of health then, but she ended up living until 94. I think she thought I was deserting her.

02:35:30:00

But anyway, quite a few of us joined from Forbes and there were two of us from Forbes ended up in the one unit, other girls went to different units. And we had about three weeks in rookie’s camp, and we lived in big dormitories, just like big huts, and we slept on straw palliasses on an iron string bed and the bugle went off

02:36:00:00

at six in the morning and everyone flew out. It wasn’t always a hot shower, and then you lined up for your breakfast with a pannikin and the porridge was just slopped on there like that. And you went to the next one and they gave you something else.
What’s a pannikin?
It was a tin thing with sides on it and you got your, when you had your lunch you took the same thing along and you put the turnip in one and the potato in another and the meat in another. I mean, out another plate all into the pannikin, it’d all go.

02:36:30:00

We had this tin pannikin. Then after breakfast you’d go on a route march.
What would that involve?
Marching up and down for miles all around the big campsite. And then you’d go on, also gas chamber exercise with your gas mask, going in and out in case of a gas attack.
Can you walk us through one of those exercises?

02:37:00:00

Just, you went in with this big gas mask and all this gas was flowing in the room and you had to pass through that. One of the chores, in case of that sort of war. Then after you finished your rookie’s you were then allotted to your different positions where, you were billeted, I was billeted first of all to Camperdown

02:37:30:00

to work in the Australian Army Canteens in the office there, and I was billeted in Homebush at the camp there. And used to travel in by bus to Camperdown every day, and sometimes if we went on leave and we got off the train at Strathfield, they’d arrange for the, what did they call it again, military police

02:38:00:00

to meet us at the Strathfield Railway Station because there were people who were hopping around, men wanting to accost the girls. But we were more scared of the military policemen, because once we got in their trucks sometimes it was hard to get out.
Why was that?
They were sent to get us safely home and they’d want to canoodle up with us. So we’d have to, we always travelled in twos and threes. When we were met we were never arrived at Strathfield on our own to get in a military

02:38:30:00

police…
Can you, you said there was a, there were a couple of girls from Forbes that joined up, can you talk about the discussions that you girls had about actually going? Did you all decide together one day that you were going to do it?
No, no, this girl just happened, she was a friend of mine but not one that I’d ever gone out with much, but she just ended up in my unit.

02:39:00:00

A whole lot of us just decided we’d join up. There weren’t many that worked with me, really, that joined up though.
What did your work, Meagher’s and Co., what was their reaction to you saying you were going to join the army?
They were quite okay about it. But John’s father gave me a very good reference.
What did he say in that reference do you remember?
(UNCLEAR) Tim framed them all. It was extraordinary the things that he said about me, and I couldn’t believe it, how conscientious I was and a good worker and reliable

02:39:30:00

and so forth.
So you made a good impression.
Oh dear, a long time ago. 60 years when you think about it, it’s over 60 years.
Yeah, a long, long time ago. But so your employer, Meagher’s and Co., were completely fine with you, losing a good staff member that they obviously thought you were?
Ah yes, a lot,

02:40:00:00

I think everyone went along with it in those days. Everyone was patriotic and they felt if you were going out to do something for the war, why stop them. There was no fuss about that whatsoever.
What was it that really gave, brought you to the decision that you’d do it? Was it John being away?
No, I wasn’t really with John at that time, I only met up with him later on through him writing to me. Got my address through my family and started writing to me.

02:40:30:00

I must tell you, when I started working at Meagher and Co. I got 16 [shillings] and fourpence a week.
What would that buy you in those days?
In those days it was quite a bit of money.
What would it buy, can you sort of, I’m trying to get an idea of what…
I used to clothe myself.
Is it like earning $400, $500 a week?
I suppose it would be, yeah.
So what would you buy with that amount of money?
We just kept ourselves, because we lived

02:41:00:00

at home. Mum was always cooking, I don’t think we ever paid board, we just kept ourselves. That was the main purpose of me going to work, so as to not have to rely on my parents.
So with that money you’d buy your dresses.
Clothes, makeup and whatever I needed.
What else would you buy? You wouldn’t need to buy food because…
No, never had to buy food.
Books?
Yes, I can’t remember much about books or anything like that.

02:41:30:00

I suppose in those days I didn’t read very much. Just too busy with going to work and yes, anyway it was all interesting. I can’t ever remember being depressed about things when I was working or at school. I can’t remember ever being depressed at all.
Do you think that was because people had less expectations then or what?

02:42:00:00

I don’t know what it was. Life was easy.
Interviewee: Mary Meagher Archive ID 1389 Tape 03

03:01:05:00

Before we continue talking about your war experience, Mary, I just wanted to jump back a little way, just to get a few more bits and pieces of detail. That machine of yours at work, at Meagher’s and Co, the accounting machine, it’s an intriguing old device, can you just

03:01:30:00

explain to us how perhaps you’d have to load it up. If you were going to do an invoice on it, what would be the process of loading it up and how would you do the invoice?
Like a big old typewriter, really, only it was just a very big one and you had to roll it around, you rolled your paper in and rolled it up and then typed away and then it went up that end and you pushed it back that end. It went on like that. It was just like a big old fashioned typewriter.
And if you happened to make a mistake in your typing…
Well, you had a little thing that you,

03:02:00:00

what you call that, you whitened it out.
Was it an eraser or was it actually a fluid?
Just a little fluid thing. Sometimes we used an eraser.
So most of your days in the office would be spent with that machine.
Yes, yes, nearly all the time. Sometimes I did the mail as well and so I’d be responsible for going to the post office and getting all that away.

03:02:30:00

But it was mostly in the office, and also I did, if necessary, I’d be on the switchboard. Had the old-fashioned big switchboard where you plugged everything in and we also had those old carriers that when you sent the money down and you pulled a thing and it went across, down to the other department. I used to have to do that, send the change down, across to the other department in this funny little box. Extraordinary.
How did you find operating the switchboard?

03:03:00:00

I liked that all right, and I did it again when I went into the army. Quite good.
Does that take a bit of getting used to? Operating a switchboard?
Not really, it was bigger in the army than it was, of course, at Meagher and Co. It was a different thing altogether because you had calls coming in from everywhere, all people from different areas ordering the food and the grog. I was responsible for issuing the invoices for all those and. It wasn’t such a big job.

03:03:30:00

But also, you had to have all your invoices correct, and I remember having to make sure that everything was right. You had to balance it up properly, you didn’t have a little computer or anything like that in those days to do it all. What do you call those little ones you play on? You just had to work it all out in your head and have everything correct. So that was all, it wasn’t all that interesting what I did in the army, but I suppose

03:04:00:00

I helped out a bit. I ended up being a corporal. Came home on leave, when John and I came home on leave, he’s even got it framed in there, “Private John Meagher and his wife Corporal Mary Meagher were home at the weekend on leave”. They used to…
You were a higher rank than what he was.
Yeah, they used to write it up in the paper when you came home on leave. But they don’t write anything like that in the paper any more because people come in and steal your things if you say you’re going away or doing whatever. But we used to make

03:04:30:00

the social columns in those days.
While you were still at work before the army, did you have a sense that the war was getting close before it actually started? Did you have that information coming to you?
Yes, we were listening all the time on our old radio, and always war talk the whole time. I think we will always remember when it was announced.

03:05:00:00

It was such a frightening thing. And we knew that the boys would be called up or they would be volunteering. Which they did happily, funnily enough, but some of them weren’t all that happy about being called up because they thought, “Now will we have a job when we come back?” And also they were on the land where they were needed. That’s why I was saying to Kylie where the Land Army girls did a wonderful job coming in and working.

03:05:30:00

They just worked as hard as the men. And when you see them with a horse and that old fashioned plough behind it and the girls with the reins, hanging on. Unbelievable.
Was loyalty to the British Empire a big thing for you back in those days?
I don’t know that it was. I don’t know that it was that.
Did you feel like the European war was our war?
No, I don’t think I did, I did really. I think I just thought about the

03:06:00:00

Australians going to war and we just were so concerned about them. Like I was upset about the Australians going to Iraq, I think it was a terrible thing they went over there and so many of them injured and all these Americans that have been killed now. Heard today it’s up to 501. It’s just awful.
So initially you thought perhaps that we were getting involved in a war that wasn’t our war?
No, I don’t know that I thought that at the time. I don’t think I did.

03:06:30:00

So the war, while the war was happening and you were still going to work, did you start to feel awkward or guilty that you weren’t more involved in the war effort? Before you did sign up.
No, I didn’t feel guilty at all, no. Just felt, all of a sudden I just felt I wanted to be a part of it. Because my brothers had gone and

03:07:00:00

I just felt I wanted to be part of it.
Had the war become more intense and more threatening locally? Do you think that was part of why you suddenly decided to make that decision?
Yeah. Well, it was then, because see in 1942 when they were getting the scares with the Japs [Japanese] coming in and the air raids and things. See, John was in Western Australia

03:07:30:00

when the air raids came on and he didn’t ever go out of Australia, it wasn’t his fault. He joined the RAF [RAAF, Royal Australian Air Force?] but he was sent out on the boat Manoora when there was a threat of the Japs coming in. So he did go out of Australia, but nothing happened and they came back with the result, that’s why I’m not able to claim a War Widow’s Pension because he didn’t go out of Australia, even though he joined up at 17. And they gave him a gold card,

03:08:00:00

and yet they said to me that it wouldn’t pass on to me because they couldn’t prove that John died from anything to do with the war. Had he been an alcoholic or a strong smoker, the gold card would’ve passed on to me because the stress would’ve caused it. It’s unbelievable.
Crazy. So there was a definite change

03:08:30:00

in mood and atmosphere around Forbes when the Japanese started threatening us directly.
Yes.
It felt like a more serious situation for Australia?
Yes, everyone felt that. It caused great concern.
Did you consider any of the other options? Some of the other services? Why did you end up going for the army?

03:09:00:00

I don’t know why, I suppose, perhaps just because my brothers had gone into the army, I don’t know. I just decided. I didn’t apply for anything else. Some girls went in the navy and some the air force.
It wasn’t because the army had a better uniform?
No, nothing. Oh no. Golly, we couldn’t wait to get out of our uniform when we got out of the

03:09:30:00

army. Different ones’d say, “Oh, did you keep your hat?” “Did you keep your jacket?” and this sort of thing. I said, “No, we got rid of them all.” And now, at different times when we have ex-service women’s reunions we wished we had some of our gear to dress up in. But anyway.
When you initially put that uniform on did you feel proud?
Yes, we felt proud. We were quite proud of it.
Did the uniform …?
It fitted all right, it was good. It wasn’t non-fitting. The greatcoats were a bit heavy.
Did it give you, did it bring a bit of attention from the boys? Do you think the boys liked a woman in uniform back in those days?

03:10:00:00

I don’t know that they did. I think they were just used to us all. There were so many in uniform then, there were the men and the women in uniform. I don’t think that it’s anything much different.
When you were saying that you used to get a little bit of unwanted attention at Strathfield Station, do you think that was because the uniform drew attention to you or that was just any woman around that area was going to get a hard time

03:10:30:00

from some of the blokes. The dodgy characters in the area.
Yes, I think so. I don’t know what it was, but they used to say the girls had to be protected once they got off the trains at Strathfield to go home.
And you mentioned that you weren’t much better off with the military police giving you an escort home. That must’ve been a bit of a concern.
It was, really. We were glad to get out, that’s why we always travelled in twos and threes. Were always glad to get out of the vehicle.

03:11:00:00

Did you hear any stories from any of the girls where things got a little out of hand?
Oh yes, it did go on occasionally.
Were you aware of any official complaints being made?
No, not really, no.
How did the girls feel about that side of things back in those days?
We didn’t like it at all, one bit. But we survived.
So there was safety in numbers, particularly if there was a couple of you.

03:11:30:00

We always went around in numbers.
Would you be escorted by one military police?
No, there’d be two.
There’d be two. So as long as you had backup you could fend for yourself.
Hmmm.
Okay, let’s move on to when you first joined the army and

03:12:00:00

you started your rookie training, how did you feel about what you had taken on? Did you feel like you’d made the right decision or was it a bit daunting initially?
Oh no, I think we were all quite excited really.
Was there any homesickness?
No, don’t remember being homesick.
So it felt like a bit of an exciting adventure.
We were always, busy, so… And we had made good friends.

03:12:30:00

So you’d be meeting girls from all over the place?
Oh yes. Everywhere.
And was that the first time you’d spent time in Sydney?
Yes, I’d only ever been to Sydney once before. I went down to Burragorang Valley on the bus. On a coach really, a mail coach to visit my Mum’s people and I was 13 and I hadn’t been to Sydney again since.
So it was an exciting thing to suddenly be in the big smoke.

03:13:00:00

Quite a business. Yes. Quite a different Sydney now to what it was then, though, when you think about how it’s grown. Just amazing.
So when you were, you’d finished your training course and you were stationed at Strathfield – sorry, at Camperdown.
Yeah, Camperdown and I was in camp at Homebush.
You were in camp at Homebush?

03:13:30:00

Homebush. After Ingleburn.
How long were you at Homebush?
I was there I think about nearly 12 months. And then they moved us out, we could go out and live at hostels so I moved from there to the CWA [Country Women’s Association] Hostel in Rushcutter’s Bay.
What was the camp like in Homebush?
It was just all right. We were fed well and we still slept on our straw palliasses on the wire beds.

03:14:00:00

Was that a camp exclusively for the women?
Just for women, oh yes.
And what were the quarters like?
Just great long dormitories, 30 of us in one dormitory. Not a dormitory, a hut, it was a tin hut. But we…
A bit rough and ready, or were you comfortable?
We were comfortable enough, we were used to it.

03:14:30:00

Would you get much leave?
Yes, we got our regular leave. That was good. Got our leave passes.
What was regular leave? Was that every weekend?
No. Once you moved out, of course to the CWA building, you had regular leave then, but before then you had to be in by a certain curfew at night.
What time was that?
11 o’clock if you had a leave pass. And then the ones coming in late and

03:15:00:00

John trying to get me over the fence.
And what sort of things would you do with your leave?
Well, we’d go dancing. Go to the Trocadero or out to the Paddington Town Hall to dances. We’d go to movies.
There were regular dances at the Paddington town hall back in those days?
Yes, and the Trocadero.
Was Saturday night the big night for dancing?
Yes, usually the weekends, yes. And

03:15:30:00

also we used to go to the State Theatre and all those lovely theatres and the orchestra would come up and it was just absolutely wonderful. And some of those lovely old theatres are gone now.
So it must’ve been very exciting for a country girl to suddenly be in the middle of all that sort of stuff.
Yeah, we used to go over to Manly on our weekends off too, on the boats, and that was always good.

03:16:00:00

Would that also involve an occasional visit to Luna Park?
Yes, my word.
What was Luna Park like back in those days?
It was wonderful, I’ll never forget my first ride on the Big Dipper, but never ever again would I go on that. But it was very exciting to go to Luna Park because that’s where you met up with so many friends. Just wonderful. Yeah, and we used to go over to Clifton Gardens and have picnics over there.

03:16:30:00

And when John was on leave we used to go early and pack a picnic with some of our friends, meet up with them and it was great.
If you had weekend leave were you allowed to wear civvies [civilian clothing]? Or did you have to keep your uniform on?
Yes, you were. You could wear civvies. I just showed Kylie a photograph of me on leave with John. John’s in his uniform and I’m in my civvies. And at that time there used to be a lot of photographers roaming around snapping people in the streets.

03:17:00:00

At the dances, the bigger dances like the Paddington town hall and the Trocadero, would they have a big band?
Yes, they had a big band. Not like you see now though, but they’d have quite a band. But a lot of the dances we used to have only a piano.
And would there be drinking at those dances?
No, nothing like that. I never ever had a drink in the army, not ever.
And the blokes

03:17:30:00

couldn’t get a beer there?
No, no, no. Nothing like that. Even when we went to the dances here in Forbes at the town hall, the blokes had to go over to the pub to have a drink. We, no drink was ever allowed in the hall. It’s a different time altogether.
So it sounds like you spent a fair bit of time while you were based in Homebush on leave exploring Sydney.

03:18:00:00

Yes, getting out to different things. People used to think, because you were in the army they’d say, “You had a great time, you girls. I bet you did a lot of drinking.” I never ever had a strong drink, ever. It’s just a thing, they had a feeling because you were just in there, you’d play up and so forth. It wasn’t the case.
Were any of the girls drinkers?
I can’t remember anyone ever doing the wrong thing. Not ever.

03:18:30:00

So there was a good sense of friendship amongst the girls?
Oh yes, good.
You’d look out for each other?
Yes, wonderful.
So starting your official work at Camperdown, can you tell us what the setup was at Camperdown and where you worked and what your role was?
Well, it was

03:19:00:00

in a two storey building and downstairs was where they issued out all the uniforms and things. And one of my friends who’s still here in Forbes, she used to be issuing out the clothing with a lot of other people. And then I was upstairs and the switchboard was upstairs and also then we sat at a long desk. And the lieutenant and the sergeant would all be at the same long desk as I’d be at and they’d be passing the invoices on to me and I’d be correcting them

03:19:30:00

And…
And they would be males?
Males, yeah, a lot of males. And then we, they had a downstairs part where we would take a break and go down to the kitchen and make ourselves a cup of tea and have a little break and then we’d go back upstairs and sit up with the men again at these long desks. It was just very civil and very good. I wasn’t ever any nervous of them, sitting up

03:20:00:00

with the top men. But I’ve still got their leave passes where they signed out for me with their names on them. It comes back to me every time I look at them, I think of their names and the person. I can picture the person sitting there.
And how did they relate to you?
They were alright with us, they were never rude to us or treated us as though we were below them. Always very good.
So the area downstairs where…

03:20:30:00

That was an enormous area, the men used to always come in with their, down with the big trucks to load all the grog to take out to the camps.
So it must’ve been quite a big building to house all this various stores.
It was a big area, very, very big area, it was like a big factory that was taken over. Lots of places were taken over during the war.
So what was the variety of stores that were downstairs, you’ve just mentioned beer, there were uniforms?
Uniforms, yes, and food.

03:21:00:00

Really it was called a canteen but it’s not as though it was a canteen where you come and buy a drink or something like that, like you think about a canteen at school. It was a canteen meaning they supplied all the goods to the camps all over. I can remember all the names of the places I used to issue the invoices to.
Did that also involve any weapons at all? Did they have…
No, no weapons.

03:21:30:00

Nothing like that.
Any other sort of equipment?
No, no, I think it was mainly food and all the grog and the equipment, the uniforms. The shoes and all that sort of thing. Hats. Yes, I can still picture my friend standing at the counter downstairs when I went down to visit her one day, and there she is handing out these things to the soldiers, and the girls as well.

03:22:00:00

But mainly for the soldiers.
Was there many people behind the counter?
Yes, quite a lot in those days.
How many, round about, do you think would be there?
I’m not sure, but it’d be a lot of people. I suppose there’d be forty or fifty of us working in the whole business, upstairs and everywhere.
So there’d be an area for trucks to drive in and load up.
Yes, there was a big area. Yes.
And was it busy most of the time?

03:22:30:00

Oh yes, busy, busy.
And was the canteen part of a larger army barracks situation or was it just an isolated building, just an army building?
Just a great building that had been taken over just for this purpose. Missenden Road I think it was.
Were there other army buildings near by?
No, I don’t think there was. Wasn’t, we used to walk into Newtown on our lunch break.

03:23:00:00

Only a ten minute walk into there.
And what was Newtown like in those days?
It wasn’t busy like it is now. It was busy enough.
Nice area?
Yes, it wasn’t a rough area. Surry Hills I was in one area too, the canteens, we had a big building there and that’s where we had to be really careful walking around, that was a bit rough in those days. But I never had anything happen to us though, really.

03:23:30:00

Camperdown was a good area?
Camperdown was quite safe, yeah.
Did many people live in that area?
Yes, it was a pretty busy place.
Was it a fair bit of industry and warehouses and…?
Oh yes. A lot of industry there.
Was Newtown more suburban or did it have a lot of shops back in those days?
Still had a lot of shops. John bought my engagement ring in Newtown.

03:24:00:00

Yes, it was always quite a busy place. It’s grown now. Of course the whole of Sydney has grown because when you think about all the area that was vacant and now it’s just so overcrowded. Like when John went to school at Riverview there was hardly a house to be seen anywhere and you could see across to the Harbour Bridge and everything.
And what about

03:24:30:00

Homebush, what was that like in those days?
Fairly busy. I don’t remember a lot about Homebush, because mostly when we were camped there we didn’t go into Homebush much, mainly got on a train at Strathfield and went into Sydney. And then we, because we could catch trams and buses too. The day the war ended we couldn’t get on a tram, too crowded. So we walked all the way in.

03:25:00:00

So at Camperdown, what were your tasks when you started working there?
Just mainly doing invoices, like doing office work.
Were you working with a similar machine?
No, didn’t have a machine at all, it was only checking all by hand, setting the invoices and extending them. Making sure the right amount went out on the side and then tallying it up at the end. And then I’d also take over on the

03:25:30:00

switchboard as well. That’s about all.
Would you work with a fountain pen or a pencil or both?
A fountain pen, never a pencil, didn’t ever remember using a pencil.
So was it work that was easy to learn? Was there anything new that you had to do or it was straight forward stuff that you’d sort of done before?

03:26:00:00

Oh yes it was, yes. Nothing to worry about.
And did you get on to the switchboard work straight away or that was after a while?
That was just, I’d fill in if somebody wasn’t there on the switch. That’s all, they’d ask me to fill in knowing that I had switchboard experience. I’d just do that occasionally. And if we’d finished our invoices and somebody wanted a break, you went on to the switchboard and they could go off

03:26:30:00

and have a break.
So within the canteen, how many girls from the Homebush camp do you think were there?
I don’t, there weren’t many from Homebush at all. Only a few were there, but the ones from Homebush went all over the place. There was only a few of us from Homebush that were there.
How many girls do you think were out at Homebush when you were there? Round about.
Oh, it’d be hundreds.

03:27:00:00

Hundreds. You’ve only got to see that photograph of our rookies’ camp, how many was in that. And there were lots, every three weeks there was a rookies’ camp. So there’d be, some’d go to Homebush, some somewhere else. Then they’d go off, course a lot went all over the place, Victoria, everywhere. All over Australia.
Some of your closer friends at Homebush, what other sort of situations did they end up working in?

03:27:30:00

Can you give us any examples?
All those girls that I photographed down at Martin Place, they were all girls that worked at Camperdown with me. And so they were with me all the time, but there was only one girl from Forbes with me, the others were just from everywhere. And whenever we had an army or ex-service women’s reunion here in Forbes, I’d invite all those girls that I was with there, and so many of them came up here. We had some of the biggest reunions ever, here.

03:28:00:00

And so I, and I kept contact with them for years. Used to write them at Christmas time and I still have contact with two or three of them, a lot of them have passed away. Still have contact with some.
So your closest friends at that time were the people working at Camperdown. Did you have any friends who weren’t at Camperdown who were working elsewhere?
I had two lovely friends, sisters

03:28:30:00

from Forbes who I used to go out with regularly. We used to go to the ice skating rink, and all sorts of things. They came to my wedding too, those photos.
Was that at Prince Alfred Park, ice skating?
Yes, yes, yes, and these two girls were photographed at my wedding too, they were in uniform at the wedding.
And what sort of work were they doing?
They were doing office work too. But some of the girls here in Forbes have done all sorts of interesting things like driving trucks, one of my friends,

03:29:00:00

Meg, she used to drive the big trucks and they used to work on them like the men. And they’d do a special course so as they could repair them and change the tyres and everything else. Amazing, and some worked in the outback on the guns.
And can you think of any of the other jobs that some of the girls ended up doing? Some of the other situations?
They did all sorts of things. I just said I wish I could have had some of them with me telling of their experiences.

03:29:30:00

Because some of these, Meg, here in Forbes and some of the girls have really had an interesting time. A lot of it too was driving around the generals and that sort of thing. They were the chauffeurs and that was all interesting. They could tell you a few stories.
So did they allocate the work according to your experience most of the time?
I think so, yes.
They realised what

03:30:00:00

you had been doing and were trained.
Some of these girls hadn’t done anything like Meg, only just came from the land, from the country. I think she just wanted to go into something and she asked can she go into whatever it was, working on the big trucks.
Were you given a choice?
No, I don’t think I was. I don’t know, I can’t, yeah I don’t think I was given a choice. I think I was quite happy when I was allocated to where I went to. I was used to what I was doing. At that stage I had never driven

03:30:30:00

a car. I didn’t get my license until I was married, well, just after I was married I got my license. So I’ve had that for over sixty years.
Did they make it clear to you when you joined?
It’s not sixty years. It’s not sixty years since I got my license because I’m only 81. I got it in 1946, I got my license after I was married.

03:31:00:00

Did they make it very clear to you when you joined the army that you would never be required to leave Australia? Was that a clear thing or was that an unknown thing?
No, it wasn’t but funnily enough, after we were married, I was then told there was something offering in New Guinea, I could go there. But I didn’t want to go there. A couple of the girls went but it was mainly nurses went to New Guinea afterwards. But not many

03:31:30:00

girls went overseas, went over in the (UNCLEAR).
You didn’t have any burning desire to go overseas?
No.
So how old were you when you first started at Camperdown?
Nineteen.
And it was required that you had to be based in Homebush for a certain period of time before you could have the freedom of going

03:32:00:00

and boarding somewhere else.
Yes. I don’t know what happened, they all decided we could go out and live individually. For a while I lived with an aunt in Campsie and then I moved to the CWA place.
So your first step was Campsie. And that was an aunt on whose side?
My mother’s side.
And how long were you with her?
I was about five or six months, I suppose.

03:32:30:00

And how was that?
Very good. She looked after me very well, very happy. Yes, but we were looked after at the CWA place too, it was wonderful.
So was it nice being out of the camp and having a little more freedom?
Yes, it was good. Oh yes. And living in nice quarters and having meals prepared for you. Nice meals by all these volunteers.
And no more turnip?
No more turnip, we were all, the turnip was served but we didn’t have it.

03:33:00:00

We didn’t have to have it. Whereas if you were hungry in camp you had it.
So what was Campsie like back in those days?
Well, it was a nice place to live but now you wouldn’t want to be there. It’s just so changed. I was never frightened getting off a bus and walking home. Not at all. But now you wouldn’t.
So why did you end up leaving your aunt and going to Rushcutter’s Bay?

03:33:30:00

Well, I didn’t want to be, stay with them all that time. They had young family and I just wanted to do my own thing and it was fair enough to aunt. She took me in in the mean time with the change over from Homebush and so it worked out quite well.
So you started to look around for your next place to move to?
I think I was told where I could go to, we were advised about this

03:34:00:00

lovely place and we were well looked after. We had to be in at a certain time of night there too.
Whereabouts in Rushcutter’s Bay was it?
Down the, what do you call the road, the long road down the, what’s the long road down Rushcutter’s Bay? I’m getting old. It’s well known, St (UNCLEAR) Church is just near it.
I should be able to tell you myself but I can’t think of it either.
Yes, it’s just down there. Yes, St Canice’s Church.

03:34:30:00

You know, there’s the tennis courts down that way.
White city.
Yes, so John tells in his story how when he was in Western Australia he used to ring me at night. And because it was three or four hours difference in time, we used to have a night watchman on and he’d have to wake me up at three in the morning to get this phone call. And imagine how happy he’d be getting a phone call and having to wake me up. And that’s (UNCLEAR)

03:35:00:00

They didn’t care, they were out on leave, having a good time, and he’d think he’d ring me up. It was only ten or eleven o’clock at night where he was, but they were very understanding.
So had you and John started corresponding while you were at Homebush?
No, not until after I left Homebush.
So it as when you were settled at Rushcutter’s Bay that John came onto the scene.
We used, I think we did write soon after I left Homebush, I’m not sure now.

03:35:30:00

So it was a hostel in Rushcutter’s Bay?
A two-storey place.
And it was organised by the CWA?
Yes, and there was a dear old lady, Mrs Mack from Borenore up here and she used to look after us. And she was an elderly lady, she came from a very beautiful big property out there near Borenore. And there were lots of

03:36:00:00

lovely volunteers and they were so good to us.
Were they all ladies?
All ladies, yes. And they cooked beautiful meals for us. And we shared rooms, there’d be three to a room. We were all very comfortable.
Plenty of room.
Yeah.
How many of those rooms do you think were in the whole complex?
I’m not sure, there were army, navy and air force girls. There were a lot of us there. We met up with a few

03:36:30:00

Forbes girls who’d been there. They’d come there to stay sometimes just on an weekend.
So that was an opportunity to find out a bit about how the girls went in the other services, I suppose? Get an insight into what those worlds were like?
Yes. We had good times, we had little dances there as well, and our boyfriends were allowed to come and visit but they had a curfew. They had to go by a certain time.
And where would you do the dancing?
Just there, they had a,

03:37:00:00

like the lounge room and they pulled all the chairs back and they just had a, it wasn’t a big area. But there wasn’t a lot wanting to have a big dance but just occasionally they put on a little dance for us and it was nice.
And was there a common dining area?
Yes, we all just lined up in there and took our plate with us and were served a beautiful meal. Like a real cafeteria type thing.

03:37:30:00

And shared a table…all the girls.
Oh yes, shared around. Oh no, it was a good atmosphere.
Did you get the impression talking to the girls from the other services about whether one service seemed a better option than the other? Did you get a feeling that you were happy that you were in the army rather than one of the other ones? Or it didn’t really matter.
Didn’t ever matter to us all. Didn’t mean a thing.

03:38:00:00

Just all happy with what we were doing.
Did you ever strike girls who were unhappy about their situation?
No, I didn’t really. I can’t say that I did strike anyone that was unhappy with what they were doing. I think we were all there for a purpose and we knew that. We were glad when the war ended, we were able to get out.
Being in Rushcutter’s Bay, saw you

03:38:30:00

very close to Kings Cross. You would’ve…
Yes. That’s why we were always lucky. We’d get on a tram to come home and this tram stopped right outside the door of the CWA. And there were lots of American soldiers used to be travelling on it. I never had any trouble with them, but I was always glad to get off because they were always on these trams when we got on and I’d be sometimes getting off on my own. So we’d just, anyway, as soon as we pressed the buzzer

03:39:00:00

the bloke was there to let us in the, the night watchman would let us in. But we had to be in there by a certain time anyway, but they did close the door at a certain hour and then you had to ring to get in. That was all very good.
So the American soldiers would be interested in girls in uniform?
Yes, they were. And there were a lot of them around there. They’d be out on their R&R [Rest and Recreation].
Do you think they were more interested in civilian girls, or it didn’t

03:39:30:00

really matter to them?
I don’t think it mattered much. No. They were out for a good time.
Did you mix with them much?
No, not much, no.
Why is that?
We didn’t come into contact with them. We were a different group. Didn’t go to the nightclubs that they were going to. Of course we didn’t ever go to a nightclub in those days.
And there were quite a few nightclubs in Kings Cross at that stage?
Yes, Romano’s and all those places and I went not so much in Kings Cross but in Sydney, they were

03:40:00:00

some, Prince’s and all those places. I remember when John and I, early marriage we used to go to Prince’s and Romano’s for dinners with the head men of John Meagher and Co, really. They had all the big dos on for all the directors. But those places are all closed now. I suppose you wouldn’t even know those names, Prince’s and Romano’s. Some of the other big places, but now they’re different, they’re all like discotheques now, aren’t they? They’re a different thing altogether.

03:40:30:00

So you went to the clubs more after the war than during the war?
Yeah.
So what sort of a place was Kings Cross when you were there at Rushcutter’s Bay?
I can’t remember it ever being frightening like it is now. I can’t remember that no. We were just always warned to be careful and try and not travel alone and that so, we were okay. I never had anything. I can’t remember

03:41:00:00

any of the girls having anything happen to them either. It wasn’t scary.
But it was notorious for attracting the US servicemen?
It was, yeah. But see, there wasn’t the drugs around and the alcohol as well in those days. It’s just, as I said, we girls, I can’t remember ever going to anything where they all wanted to have drinks. I can’t remember anyone

03:41:30:00

having too much to drink.
Did any of your friends have a particular interest in the American boys?
Some of them did, yeah. I know one girl, she was a Forbes girl and she was in the air force and she married an American. And when John and I were in America we visited her and her husband. She’s passed away since.
Interviewee: Mary Meagher Archive ID 1389 Tape 04

04:00:31:00

Mary, can you tell us what happened on your 21st birthday? You were in Sydney by this time working for the army, tell us what happened.
Well, I just decided I wanted to be at home for my 21st birthday so I boarded the train at Central Railway Station. It must’ve been, took 12 hours the trip. I arrived in Forbes at twelve o’clock on the

04:01:00:00

Sunday, midday and walked a mile and a half up to my home at Killarey Road, where my parents were having a roast dinner. My Dad always cooked the roast dinner on Sundays and I knocked on the door and they got such a shock. And I was at the door. So I spent a few hours with them and I was back on the train at six o’clock at night on my way back to Sydney. And I can remember the

04:01:30:00

train used to go past, over, right opposite the other side, but from our house in Killarey Road you could see the train going back to Sydney, and Mum was out with a big sheet waving to me like this with the sheet. Waving goodbye. And I had the hankie out and crying and waving to them with the little hankie as though they could see me from the window. But I’ll never forget Mum with the big sheet waving to me because she knew that she’d see the train as she went by. So that was all I did for my 21st birthday, but

04:02:00:00

I just wanted to be at home for it.
What made you decide at the spur of the moment to go home?
It wasn’t on the spur of the moment, I thought all along that I wanted to be there. I only got that weekend leave, so that’s all I could do. So I just went home. So it was no great celebration, but they did have a roast dinner on when I got there and it was a very, very hot day.
Were they, you didn’t, you decided that you wouldn’t let them know that you

04:02:30:00

were coming?
Yes, I just decided. Well, we didn’t have telephones in those days. Well, Mum didn’t, Mum and Dad didn’t have a phone then. And it wasn’t until a long, long time later they had phones. So I just got on the train and came.
Were you in your uniform?
Yeah, in my uniform, it was very hot too. Yes.
Was it a bit scary travelling all that way on your own in uniform?
No, no. The trains were always packed, very packed with people going home on leave.

04:03:00:00

It was a long trip though.
Did you ever get homesick when you were in Sydney?
No, I don’t think I ever did get homesick. Because I had relatives down there and they were very good to me like the aunty I stayed with for a while and always Mum and I always kept in contact through letters. But Mum hardly ever travelled to Sydney.

04:03:30:00

She didn’t ever come down while I was in the army.
She didn’t like Sydney, your mother?
Oh no, it was just that she didn’t, well, they didn’t have a car and the train was such a long trip. And anyway, she had other family at home so I didn’t expect her to be coming visiting me anyway. I doubt she, because the first time they travelled to Sydney for a few years was when they came to my wedding and that was in St Mary’s

04:04:00:00

Cathedral.
We’ll talk about that a bit later. When you arrived back in Forbes, did your mother and father talk about how much they missed you and worried about you at all?
They weren’t worried about me, but they were glad to see me. They got such a surprise.
How did your mother react to seeing you in uniform?
She had, yeah, she was just, I don’t think she could believe it really at first when she saw me.

04:04:30:00

But anyway…
While we’re on that, we’ll talk about your uniform. Can you describe from top to toe everything that you had to wear?
Give you a photograph. We had a, it’s easier to just get a photograph and show you because we had a jacket with the buttons on here and big pockets and buttons and the skirts. We didn’t ever have pants. The girls I think that worked in the cars and

04:05:00:00

the, all the big machinery and stuff, they wore heavy pants. It was like a heavy fabric, what would you call it?
Was it a wool?
I suppose it would’ve been wool. Our greatcoats were wool and they were so heavy. We had an army hat with a badge on it, army emblem. And our army shoes. I’ve still got my little briefcases and little things that I had, they’re

04:05:30:00

all leather and they’re still in good order. And gloves, kid gloves. Not so much kid, I suppose, leather gloves. Yes, they were leather gloves, because they were heavier than kid.
Did you have to wear your gloves when you were outdoors or outside?
You did when you were in camp, you always had to be dressed correctly when you left camp and you had to come in dressed correctly.

04:06:00:00

Even in the summer you had to wear those clothes?
You had a summer uniform, a lightweight, didn’t wear your gloves then, but you had a lightweight short-sleeved uniform. It was like a, I don’t know what the fabric would be but it was much lighter, it wasn’t wool. I suppose it was a cotton, in the khaki.
And it was a skirt and top?
No, it was a dress, frock or whatever.

04:06:30:00

It was quite nice. I’ve got photographs of those different styles.
And a hat as well?
Yes, you always wore your army hat.
Same hat?
Same hat, yes. I was saying to, in the photograph of me in Martin Place, a few of us had our hats off and we could’ve been fined for not having our hats on that day, but we were all rejoicing, throwing them up in the air and going on. I was caught in the photograph without my hat on.
It was up in the air somewhere?
Oh yeah, we were throwing them. No, I was holding it in the photograph, but we had been throwing them up in the air.

04:07:00:00

How much would you have been fined if you were…?
I don’t know, perhaps not been able to go on leave the next weekend for not dressed correctly. But I don’t think they would’ve worried about it because it was the end of the war.
During the war did they enforce those kind of rules quite strictly?
Yes, my word they did.
Were you ever punished? Were you ever caught?
No.
Misdemeanours?
No, I wasn’t, no.
All right, can you

04:07:30:00

tell us a little bit, some about the girls that you worked with in Camperdown?
Just a great bunch of girls, we all got on well together. Often went out in groups and had a meal together somewhere.
Where would you go out for dinner in Sydney at that time?
You’d just go to some easy eating place, it wouldn’t be any posh place, you’d just go. I can’t think of the places now, around Rushcutter’s Bay. Also there was another

04:08:00:00

area in Rushcutter’s Bay where the army, navy, air force men and women could all go and have a meal any night at all. And lots and lots of us met up there. And that was another area, I can’t think just where it was in Rushcutter’s Bay but it wasn’t far away from where we were and there was such a lot of men and women volunteered there. And they all did the cooking and they were, waited on us. Cleaned up.
Did you have to pay for the meals?

04:08:30:00

No, they gave it, at that place it was given to us. It was wonderful. You’d just go in there and they’d feed us. It was just a volunteer bit for these people who wanted to do something to help out.
What sort of food would you get there?
All sorts of lovely home food. Like, you’d have a nice roast dinner with all the vegies and you’d have all sorts of sweets, and baked custards and rice custards and

04:09:00:00

all sorts of nice things. Casseroles, or stews as they called them in those days, all nicely done. Chicken dishes. There was just such a variety, it was beautiful.
It doesn’t sound from what you’re saying that there was much shortage of food during that time.
I don’t know, we didn’t ever starve. I’m sure, I don’t know what happened but there was special

04:09:30:00

foods for us when we went out to those dos. We all loved going there. Wouldn’t have gone there if it had just been ordinary, there couldn’t have been too much shortage. It was mainly in the Depression days that I talked about, the shortage of food, I think. But you had to have coupons, as I said, to get special foods.

04:10:00:00

Did you have a close friend at Camperdown, one of, can you talk about one of the friends that you remember?
I had lots of close friends at Camperdown. I used to have one friend, her parents had a little holiday place at Woy Woy and we used to go there for weekends when we were on leave. I’ve got some lovely photographs, I look at them every now and again and wonder where those girls are. If they’re still around. Yes, we had some lovely times. We used to love going ice-skating.

04:10:30:00

Prince Alfred Park. We had some great times.
And the girls came from all over Australia or only from New South Wales, the ones that went…?
All over, yes.
And what kind of, were they from backgrounds similar to yours?
From everywhere. Every type of background. Everywhere.
Was there any girls with more airs and graces there than others?
No, I never found anything like that. Not at all.

04:11:00:00

Not ever. I think, once you were in the services, you were there to do the job and there was no point of having airs and graces because nobody took much notice of that. I don’t think so.
Did you often think about Forbes while you were working at Camperdown and miss it?
Yes, I did miss Forbes. I missed my parents.

04:11:30:00

But it was three years of a different sort of life for me and it did me a lot of good, I think.
Why?
Well, getting you out of the country and meeting up with girls from everywhere and having the experience of being in the army and not having been to a big place like Sydney before, only just once passing through to go to Burragorang Valley and that’s about all.

04:12:00:00

How would you describe the general atmosphere in Sydney during the war time?
I just, it didn’t worry me at all. I just found it quite all right. I wasn’t ever nervous there or anything else and I was always busy and people were always concerned about the war. To me it didn’t worry me much that I was in Sydney having come from a quiet little town.

04:12:30:00

Because you had so many friends and you got about and did things with them and enjoyed it.
It sounds like you were a popular girl.
I had lots of lovely friends.
Did you find the people in Sydney, was it like a depressed time because there was … away at war?
No, I can’t say it was. I can’t say I found it depressed. No. I don’t think I was ever depressed in Sydney. Wouldn’t like to live there now.

04:13:00:00

Did you ever pick up a newspaper and read what was going on in the war in the Middle East?
Oh yes, yes. Yes, we always followed up what was going on. Always thinking about the boys that were over there. Some of the girls, of course, were really very anxious about some of their boyfriends who were overseas.

04:13:30:00

What would you do to console them?
You couldn’t do much, you’d just go out somewhere and have a meal and sit and chat and go on the ferry over to Manly or something like that. You couldn’t do much. But they were all pretty good. But the worst part was if they had a boyfriend and they’d heard that he’d been wounded, that was the awful part. And they’d wonder if they’d see him again.

04:14:00:00

Did that happen?
Didn’t happen very often though, no.
What about, you mentioned before John there was a couple of boyfriends. Can you tell us about them?
Oh well, I just used to go up, when I was on leave on weekends we’d go out on boat trips and things. At one time

04:14:30:00

we went to this lass’s place at Woy Woy, two or three boys and two or three girls, but there was no hanky panky business or anything like that. We were just all well behaved, but it was just a nice area to go for a weekend and he was an army fellow that I was friendly with then. He was so tall, he was about six foot three and I was five foot one. And also I had an air force friend. I had lots of lovely times with him.

04:15:00:00

Where did you meet the air force friend?
Just going out to one of these places, like going out to one of those free meals at Rushcutter’s Bay with all the different army, navy and air force people there. And he was interested in dancing, so we went dancing.
Where did he take you dancing?
Mostly to the Trocadero or somewhere like that or the old one I talked about, Paddington Town Hall, and then we’d have some little

04:15:30:00

army dances at little places. And we’d just, I just got around and enjoyed myself. I wasn’t a very, ever a bad girl.
And what did you like about him? What …?
It was just company, that’s all. He was just a nice fellow to go out with.
Where was he from?
Victoria. I’ve often wondered about him. I’ve got a photograph of me sitting up in a boat with him.
And did he want to take it further? Did he want to get engaged

04:16:00:00

and take it further?
No, no, we were just friends. Yeah, well, a lot of us were just like that. It was just company. He most probably was lonely. We were all looking for a little bit of company to go out with when we went on leave.
And the other man that you met that was in the army, can you tell us a little bit about him?
I don’t know much about him now, can’t remember much. It was just somebody we met and went a couple of weekends and that’s all we, just had dances and

04:16:30:00

that’s all that they’d do, went to a dance. There was no going to pubs or anything like that.
And the man that was in the air force, did he end up going away? Overseas?
Yes, he did. I never ever heard any more about him though.
Do you know where he went?
No, no. No, they were just people we met and had a good time with them and that was it. All went their own ways.
Can you describe what the Trocadero looked like?
It was an enormous

04:17:00:00

place, just absolutely enormous. It was the place to go to then.
Was it?
Yeah, just a magnificent big place. I remember the beautiful floor, gliding along on it.
What was the floor?
Timber floor, just beautiful. Very polished and lovely.
Can you paint a picture of it?
I can’t tell you much more. I don’t think I remember much of it, just

04:17:30:00

was magnificent big hall and we just loved going there to dance. We thought it was the thing to be asked to go there to dance. A long time ago.
Was it expensive to get in?
Not very much, not if you had an army pass.
And was it the more well-to-do kids that would end up at the Trocadero?
No, no, anybody went there in the war years. Anyone went there to dance at the Trocadero.
So they let anyone in?

04:18:00:00

I’m not sure what it was, but I know we just loved going there. There was no nonsense or anything like that there. No drinking.
You couldn’t buy alcohol?
No, no. I never went to any dance where there was alcohol. Not ever.
And what about the Paddington Town Hall?
That was much the same. That was a nice place to go to. They used to organise dances for the service people.

04:18:30:00

I met up with a man from Forbes, or Gilgandra really. And then met up with him here a couple of years ago. Only died a few months ago. He said, “Oh, Mary, remember” he said “when we used to go to the old Paddington Town Hall for a dance?” And his wife said, “I’m a bit envious about you pair, what were you up to?”
What kind of bands, would there be bands playing?”
Yes, bands, only a small band. Mostly piano and a drum or something like that.

04:19:00:00

And where would people sit?
Sit around the hall like wallflowers hoping the boys would pick you up to dance.
So would you normally go there with a man or would you wait?
No, I wouldn’t go on my own no.
Would you go with the girls sometimes?
Sometimes we would, but I mainly went there if somebody took me there.
And was it, in that time, if a man asked you to a dance he would spend the whole night with you?
No.

04:19:30:00

Wouldn’t.
So you might be left halfway through?
Oh yes, he would, but I don’t know, I can’t remember really being a wallflower. But I can remember that in the Town Hall in Forbes sitting around waiting for the boys and they were all outside chatting outside, like they do. But that was how things still happen now. The girls get up and dance together now, we never did that.
Didn’t you?
But they do that now, they go and dance. I’ve seen them do that at weddings, and their husbands even

04:20:00:00

won’t get up and dance with them. I think, “Oh, you horrors.”
All right, so back to Camperdown, if you could just take us through an entire day there. Relive a day for us, from when you got up in the morning, what you did, every hour. What did you do?

04:20:30:00

There was nothing.
From when you went to sleep.
At Camperdown, but that was only where I worked.
So you start off at Camperdown and then you go to work. Just walk us through.
Camperdown was where I worked, but I was in at Homebush. I used to go to Camperdown from Homebush and then I moved into Rushcutter’s Bay and then I went from there to Camperdown.
Okay, so what we want is for instance, you spent a year, you lived in Homebush for a year.

04:21:00:00

I’m not sure how long I lived there, but I could most probably tell by all my leave passes how long I was there, but I’m not sure, I don’t know that I was there for a year.
And then Rushcutter’s Bay.
And also Campsie with my aunty. And I’d travel on the bus from Campsie to Camperdown and from Homebush I used to get the train and go to Camperdown. We used to get trams in and out from the city.

04:21:30:00

And we’d start of work, I suppose, at half past eight in the morning and then sit at your desk and do all your invoices and things and occasionally do the switchboard and just issuing all the supplies to the men. Some of the girls were issuing it downstairs, issuing the clothes and the food and so forth, and I was just mainly in charge of the invoices and checking them out.
So what kind of, can you describe

04:22:00:00

what an invoice would look like?
Like an invoice you get these days, only more detailed because there’s so much, I’d have to check the stock coming in and price it all out, extend it out and I’d have to make sure that was all balanced. I used to sit at a long desk with a lieutenant and a sergeant and a corporal just beside me. And the girls that

04:22:30:00

issued the clothing and other stuff was downstairs and that’s about all. So it’s a bit boring, I suppose, in a way but it was part of our work that got the goods out to the soldiers.
So what kind of, can you tell us exactly what would be coming through, what kind of goods you would be invoicing?
Well, it’d be all the beer and the spirits and wines. And all the clothing and

04:23:00:00

foodstuffs. They’d come in big trucks out the back to pick it up.
Would you go out the back?
Sometimes I was out the back checking out invoices and things. I did get a few wild boys calling me “carrot top” and so forth, “How are you today, carrot top?” because my hair was so red. And just a few things, they always flirted with you a bit, the boys on the

04:23:30:00

big trucks, but I didn’t have much contact with them.
Did you mind being called carrot top?
After a while I got so used to it when I worked at Meagher and Co that the boys in the hardware counter, they’d always call me that. That’s part of being a redhead.
So with the invoices, you said that it’d be beer and spirits. What kind of beer were people drinking at that time?
I don’t know, couldn’t even remember that, wouldn’t know what it was.

04:24:00:00

And the spirits, was it rum?
Rum and whisky. Plenty of rum in those days.
And the clothes?
The clothes were all those heavy army gear.
So boots.
Boots, the works, yeah, socks. Scarves. Hats and berets, jackets, pants, the works.
Was there anyone sitting on that table with

04:24:30:00

you doing invoices or were you it?
No, I was with the lieutenant and the sergeant, along this long line of tables and there was a couple of other girls on other desks not far from me. That was, wasn’t all that interesting see.
Yeah, it was. Did you have to be fast?
No, you didn’t have to be fast. Didn’t have any little calculators in my day.

04:25:00:00

So there wasn’t much pressure on you.
No, no pressure at all. I was quite at ease working with these men beside me. I remember one staff sergeant was a really wonderful man, he was in his fifties, always very nice to me. I think he realised I was a country girl away from home. He used to always be good, look after me.
What was his story?
I don’t know, he was just, he was working on the invoices the same as I was and

04:25:30:00

the lieutenant used to give us all the leave passes and do our pay and so forth.
How much were you getting paid at that time?
Not much, because I only had 16 and four pence when I started at Meagher and Co, so I don’t think it was much more than that if it was that. It wasn’t much.
You obviously had an aptitude for figures, adding up, for mathematics.
Oh yes. I coped, anyway.

04:26:00:00

What about the other girls? Did they sometimes find it difficult?
No, I didn’t ever see anything like that. They all seemed to cope with it because we were allotted to the part where they thought we could cope with it, I think, having been in offices before.
When did you know that you’d been allotted office work?
The day that we finished our rookies’ at

04:26:30:00

Ingleburn. They just had worked it out apparently, where we’d all be sent because of what we’d done beforehand and if you asked to go into something else, I think.
So, if you did ask, you had some choice.
Well, I think they had a choice but I didn’t ever ask. I just took on whatever what was allotted to me. I didn’t ever think in those days about driving big trucks and things. I didn’t have a driver’s license. But some of the girls that were on the land, they were dying to get into that sort of thing.

04:27:00:00

What was your impression of girls who wanted to do men’s work like that, at that time?
I thought they were great, they were being very brave. I really did. And they enjoyed it. It was hard yakka for them and they worked hard. They had to learn how to repair their vehicles, mend a tyre, and they weren’t small tyres either.

04:27:30:00

At Ingleburn, did you at some point realise that they were kind of assessing you for certain work?
No, I didn’t, not at all.
Because you said you did marching, and what else? What training did they give you?
Nothing much, really, mainly marching and going through the gas chambers, and I can’t think of anything else that had anything to do with how they allotted me.

04:28:00:00

I don’t think so. I can’t think of what else we did during the day. I should check up with my friend that was with me at Camperdown. I was going to but she went into a retirement village last week. I thought, “Thank God I’m not in there”.
So back at Camperdown, what happened in the afternoons?
Well, I’m not sure, I think that we must’ve done something or other to

04:28:30:00

prepare us for what we were going to do. I can’t even remember now what we did. Terrible when your memory goes, isn’t it?
And what time would you finish up?
We’d finish at about five in the afternoon. And then you could relax and then you’d have a roll call for the meal at six o’clock at night.

04:29:00:00

And then you’d have the bells sound for time to go to bed. And the bell would go in the morning at six o’clock.
So what time would you get from your work back home? Say you lived at Homebush, what time would you actually finish up the work day?
Well, I think you’d finish about half past four or five, and when

04:29:30:00

I was at Rushcutter’s Bay we’d get home at about six at night, get off the trams and you’d be back there in the morning about half past eight.
At Rushcutter’s Bay dinner was at six o’clock?
It would’ve been about that, soon after you got in. We might’ve got in a bit before six but the meal was always ready when you went there.
And at Rushcutter’s Bay what would they prepare for your meal?
The same sort of things that all the lovely roast dinners and

04:30:00:00

things and everything that these old, not all old ladies but lovely ladies, could cook nicely and gave you a nice home-cooked meal. Nice sweets and apple pies and custard. Lots of nice things.
Did you put on weight while you were working in Sydney in the army?
I did at one stage, and then when I was married I was only seven stone two, but I did put on weight. When I look at the photographs, when I looked about nine stone, I couldn’t believe it.

04:30:30:00

So I don’t know how I lost it. It must’ve been just in the rookies’ camp, when I had all that food and stuff, mushy stuff, I put on the weight. But in the photographs when John was home on leave, I don’t look fat in them.
And do you remember the girls that shared? You said there was three girls in the bedroom in Rushcutter’s Bay, do you remember the two

04:31:00:00

girls that you shared your room with?
They’d vary from time to time. That was a three room thing and they’d come and go. Some only might come for the weekend. We had one girl that slept with a hat on all the time. We always, she was a funny thing. She came from a very wealthy family, quite eccentric she was, but we loved her. We used to have so much fun with her. We used to, whenever, you hardly ever saw her without her hat on.
So why did she sleep with a hat?

04:31:30:00

She just was eccentric. Yeah, so I met a variety of girls at the Rushcutter’s Bay, it was lovely.
Any special friends?
Yes, well some of these girls are the ones I went to Woy Woy with, the special ones, and some of the girls are in those photographs of us at Martin Place. They were special friends.

04:32:00:00

They used to keep in contact with me long after I was married.
And let’s move on to John returning into your life. So you had contact with him via, he started writing to you as soon as you joined the army or when you’d gone down to Sydney?
Yes, he was in Western Australia and no, he wrote to me first of all in Forbes and I told him I was joining the army and he found out where

04:32:30:00

I was and he kept writing. And then he was over there for two years and then he came home on leave and arranged to meet me in Sydney.
And the letters that he used to write, were the friendly letters or did you get a hint that he may have liked you?
He used to send a photograph, “To my darling Mary, love from John”. With him over in Western Australia, so I don’t know.
So you had a pretty fair idea that he might’ve had a soft spot for you then.
Yeah.

04:33:00:00

He was such a torment when I was at the store though, he used to torment me like I don’t know what.
Really, what did he used to do at the store?
He was just, he locked me in the big safe one day. The big one with a big door that you’d walk in. and the accountant came in and caught him and he was in trouble because the accountant was a very strict man. He had to soon open the door and let me out. And I’d go to the swimming pool with my friends and he’d always want to duck me, therefore I gave up swimming. I

04:33:30:00

can’t swim now. I hated being ducked. He was just a torment. I never thought I’d end up marrying him, I thought he was too naughty.
Did he single you out for that torment, at that time?
I don’t know, I think he did a bit. He reckoned I was a giggler, I’d laugh at nothing. He put that in his story. It’s sad that he was writing a story and died in the middle of writing it. But he had great memories.

04:34:00:00

So what was the contents of the letters that he would write to you?
He’d just tell me very mundane things, whatever they were doing, wherever they were going. He was on a (UNCLEAR), he used to ride the motorbike and he used to go ahead of all the troops and give the messages, what was happening and so forth. And he used to leave a lot of messages for them. It’s all in his stories, terrific.
And when, your first meeting in Sydney,

04:34:30:00

can you describe that day or evening?
I can’t really think about it, I just remember him coming out to Watson’s, to Rushcutter’s Bay to pick me up and I was dressed in civvy clothes and we went off into the city and we went out around the beaches. And then later on we used to meet up with some of the other girls and their boyfriends and we’d all go together for picnics.
What did he, did he look different to you when he turned up at Rushcutter’s Bay? Had he changed very much?

04:35:00:00

No, he didn’t look much different, no. Because he used to send me photos quite a lot, I think he was a bit on himself. He was always a great one for taking photos because he ended up, after he left Meagher and Co, being a photographer.
And what about, what did he say to you when he saw you after all those years?
I don’t remember what he said. I can’t remember that. Anyway we just went off together and enjoyed ourselves.

04:35:30:00

There must’ve been a bit of a spark.
Oh yes.
Did he still continue to torment you at that time?
No, he didn’t, no. Iit was only when we were younger, here in Forbes. He grew up a bit I think, because he was only 17 when he went in the army. I was 16 months older than John.
Had his army experience changed him at all that you noticed?
Yes, I think so. He made

04:36:00:00

lots of good friends in the army too.
And how did you notice the experience changing him when you met up with him again?
Just a big more mature, that’s all, I think.
So you were able to get on with him a bit better, being the older woman in the relationship.
Yes, I know, not that I didn’t really get on with him when he used to do all these things, I just didn’t like it.

04:36:30:00

And we were just all in a group of good friends at the time, but I hated the way he used to torment me. But I must’ve liked it a bit, I suppose, if I decided I’d end up seeing him again. Anyway.
And when he picked you up, what did he pick you up in?
He didn’t have a vehicle then, no, just came on the tram. We went off on the tram together. Nothing very exciting.

04:37:00:00

And what happened, he was billeted to Randwick was it?
Yes, it’s all in his story. I’ve only got to, I should read it out to you. It’s all just there. He, yes, he was there. He used to be a Don R [dispatch rider], still on the motorbike and driving the big trucks and things.
Do you know why he was posted to Randwick?
Well, they’d done their stint in Western Australia

04:37:30:00

So they brought them back to Sydney. And there was still thought there could be an air raid or whatever. I think that was the whole thing, why they were brought back again. But I’m not sure why they were brought back, but that’s what, I think. They’d done two years over there.
What year did he come back to Randwick?
It’s all in the story. Just there, I should have read it all up for you.

04:38:00:00

Well he must’ve come back, we were married in 1945 and he must’ve come back in ’44. I think so.
So you’d been working in the army for a couple of years at that stage.
I started off in January ’43, I came out in January ’46, or February ’46.
Do you think that

04:38:30:00

working in the army sort of changed your outlook at all?
I think it was good. It was a good experience for me, I enjoyed it. Very interesting and meeting so many interesting girls and quite an experience.
Did you have… sorry.
That’s all right. I still march on Anzac Day, there’s only a few of us march now. There used to be about 34 of us in the Anzac Day every year. This year we had eight.

04:39:00:00

And they all clap us as we go by. “Good on you girls”, they call out as we go by. So I hope I see the one this year, it’s not far away, April.
At the time would you describe yourself as very nationalistic?
Oh no, not really, just an ordinary old girl. Ordinary young girl.
What were your thoughts on the Japanese at the time?
Oh well, we hated

04:39:30:00

them of course. Yes, and now I feel sorry for what happened to them in Cowra, the breakout there and how they were killed over there when they broke out. Wars a terrible thing because nobody wants to be in it really, do they, and they’re forced into it. To me it’s just terrible when you see young people being taken away from their wives and children and everything else

04:40:00:00

to go to war. Same as what’s happening now.
What did people, what did the girls that you used to mix with and you yourself used to say about the Japanese at the time?
None of us ever had good thoughts about them. We always thought things were bad news. But that was it, when you saw what they did to some of the prisoners of war.
Did you know about that at the time, during the war?
We didn’t really know about it

04:40:30:00

until the soldiers got back. That’s when it all came out. When you saw them arriving back so thin and pathetic. It was just awful.
What, were you around when the Japanese came into Sydney Harbour?
No, I was there in ’43 when the air raid sirens were going. I wasn’t there in ’42 when they came in.

04:41:00:00

I got there the beginning of ’43. And then we were some place herded into the air raid shelters and people would be there with their guitars and mouth organs and singing along. Nobody seemed to be crying or upset, they all seemed to be, tried to make a bit of fun because of how serious it was. I remember the mouth organs quite

04:41:30:00

plainly, they used to carry them around in their pockets for this sort of thing.
Were you fearful when the air raid sirens used to go off?
Oh no, we didn’t seem to be frightened, no. We didn’t seem to be…
We just ran out of tape.
Interviewee: Mary Meagher Archive ID 1389 Tape 05

05:00:30:00

Mary, just going back to Camperdown, when you were working, did the soldiers use to get a bit playful with the girls who worked there? Was there any sort of teasing or tormenting or playing around?
No, nothing at all, no. Very good workforce it was, yeah.
And I believe that

05:01:00:00

One of the girls you worked with at Camperdown got married at one stage and you provided a guard of honour. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Yes, I’ve got all the photographs here too. Yes, it was at Newtown which, the church was sort of a run down old, big old church and scruffy looking. But anyway we all turned up in our uniform. There must’ve been at least 40 of us, I think, in the guard of honour.

05:01:30:00

And they were both in army uniform.
That must’ve been quite a sight.
It was quite good, yes, it was wonderful.
Was she a good friend of yours?
Yes, we were all good friends at that place, at Camperdown. Of course we weren’t really an enormous group, but it was just very comfortable and nice.
And the bloke that she married, what was his story?
He was just back from overseas, so there was great rejoicing that he’d come back.
Do you recall where he’d been?
No, I’m not sure, but he had travelled.

05:02:00:00

He’d been overseas with his regiment or whatever.
So he’d come home and decided it was time to…
I think so, they were engaged before he went away. Yeah, so that was the only wedding that we had.
Were you able to have a bit of a reception afterwards?
No, we didn’t, really, I think they went off quietly and did something on their own. It was very emotional, of course she was very emotional because he was

05:02:30:00

back safe and sound and that sort of thing. So we just went up and formed the guard of honour and were there for the ceremony.
We spoke a little earlier about letter writing during the war. How often do you think you’d be writing home to your parents?
Oh, I’d write regularly to Mum, not so much to Dad. I’d write to them both really and

05:03:00:00

just keep in contact, at least twice a month I’d write to them.
So you were writing to them and you were also writing to John.
Oh yes, yeah, and writing to my brothers.
So you must’ve been pretty busy with the letter writing.
Yes, I’m not so keen about it now. But being family we kept in contact.
So you were writing to your two brothers who were away and John, was there anyone else that you were writing to?

05:03:30:00

Not really, I don’t think, no.
And can you give us a bit of a broad outline of where your brothers ended up going to and what they were involved in?
I can, I’ve got it right here, can I get up and get that?
Yeah sure. Just hang on a sec and we’ll …So Mary, your two brothers

05:04:00:00

ended up going north to Papua New Guinea, and I believe one of them enlisted and the other one was called up. Which was which?
Frank was called up and he went to Wewak.
Had he considered signing up?
No, he had not. He didn’t want to go at all.
Wasn’t interested but eventually they got him anyway.
The age group,

05:04:30:00

they were calling up.
Do you remember that being a stressful thing for him when he got that news?
Yes, he was a bit stressed out about it. But then he settled down, I think he spent two or three years over there.
And he came back in one piece?
Yeah, but he was never very well after the war.
What sort of problems did he have?
Well, he always had a lung problem and also he didn’t ever marry and I’m afraid he took to drinking, which

05:05:00:00

was very sad. So he was always a bachelor. And Bernard never married either. And they never ever talked about their war experience, though. Bernard lived until 74, 76.
So you never had an opportunity to talk much to them about what they’d been through over there?
Bernard only talked, just a few years before he died, to my son Tim.

05:05:30:00

Tim was very close to him, and when Bernard was in the retirement home, Tim used to go and chat to him and he got more information than I ever got from him. Most of the men were like that, didn’t talk very much about it. As I said it’s only in later years they seem to be talking about it. But we didn’t ever record it in those days, unfortunately.
So you got the impression that some of their problems later in life may have been caused by

05:06:00:00

their experiences?
Well, they saw mates killed beside them, that’s the thing and they were lucky, knew they were lucky to escape. And they said they’ll never forget things like that.
And was it Bernard who had the lung problem?
No, Frank.
Sorry, Frank. And there was a theory that perhaps that was also something that stemmed from…
I used to try to get him to go to Veterans’ Affairs and try

05:06:30:00

to get some help for him, but no, he’d be all right. He thought he’d get through it, wouldn’t get any help.
So they were obviously…
He worked hard on the land too, very hard on the land, out on a big property looking after cattle and so I think he was. I think he was in his, 56 I think he was when he died.

05:07:00:00

So when you caught up with your brothers, when they’d come back at the end of the war, was it obvious to you that they were changed boys?
Yes, quite obvious. Seemed to have a chip on their shoulder. They both worked hard, though.
Had their personalities changed in many ways?
Not so much, no. I think the trend was to their having alcohol, whereas my Mum and Dad never had alcohol in the house at all.

05:07:30:00

It was a no-no, and of course they came home from the war having, as I knew, having issued it out to them. The soldiers got plenty of alcohol and cigarettes and everything else. That’s why I think when they issue you these things and you’ve got to fight to get a pension, it’s just ridiculous. But never mind. That’s part of me.
So the boys

05:08:00:00

seemed to do a bit of therapeutic drinking.
Yes, they worked hard but they drank at the weekends. I used to try and look after them. We were always going to them, they had little flats and I used to take food to them, look after them, try to do my best. And they were wonderful with my children, they just loved kids. And they were really very good. They only hurt themselves, nobody else. That’s the sad part, and I think it’s happened to a lot of people that have gone through the war.

05:08:30:00

Especially people who have been to Vietnam, that’s who I feel sorry for, a lot of those. That was a terrible war that never should’ve happened, as you know. All those boys called up, only 18 year olds.
Did you notice that some of the other local boys who came back from the war also had difficulties like your brothers did?
Yes, lots of them did.

05:09:00:00

Broken marriages afterwards too. It’s still happening though today, isn’t it? You know, people coming back from the, the Vietnamese people. There’s so many boys from Vietnam who have had troubles and their wives have been so upset about it.
I want to talk a little bit more about that but I think I’ll leave it

05:09:30:00

for a bit later in the piece because that’s a really important thing we should investigate a bit more, I think. But since we’ve been talking about some of the other war experiences of people around you, I wonder if you could just give us an outline of John’s involvement in the war prior to him coming to Sydney and working out of Sydney. When

05:10:00:00

did he enlist and what was his experience?
I’d have to read out that story, it’s all in that. In 1942 he enlisted and…
That was with the AIF [Australian Imperial Force]?
AIF, yes. And he wasn’t going to turn 18 for six months, I think it was, so he put his age up to get in and I’m not sure whether, where he went first. I think he went to

05:10:30:00

Narellan in those days, I’m not sure. It’s all there in that story, though.
So he did a bit of training around…
Yes, he did his training there. And he trained up, out in the sticks, out Narrabri way, out that way. Every time we’d go on a caravan holiday he’d say, “That’s where I used to camp, out there in the frost.” Out Gunnedah, out that way. And then they

05:11:00:00

moved to all different areas to train. Trained a lot before they went to Western Australia.
So he was in transport?
Yes he was a Don R [Dispatch Rider] , which means riding a motorbike. Used to take all the messages out and I should’ve read all that story up to tell you. It’s all there.
This detail is good enough for us. So then he was meant to be heading off out of the country, wasn’t he? Can you tell us that story?
Well, that’s when

05:11:30:00

the scare came, when they thought the Japs were coming in in ’42 and they were all put onto the Manoora, I think the name of the boat was, and sent out to defend Australia. Of course the Japs didn’t come in, so they were returned back to Western Australia, and I think they moved on from there, I’m not sure. But there was a scare at the time.
So he almost

05:12:00:00

left the country to go to war.
Almost left the country, yeah. Which he wanted to do, he just was so excited about joining up to go, but it didn’t happen.
Did that remain a bit of a frustration for him? That he didn’t actually get a chance?
Oh yes, it did, because when he came back here he wasn’t recognised so much in the RSL [Returned and Services League] and it was only in the last 15 years I suppose, with all the other amenities that all the other people get, and that was a big thing with a lot of the boys who didn’t go overseas. It wasn’t their fault,

05:12:30:00

they joined up to go overseas and he didn’t get all the lurks and perks that they others got. But now, it was only in the last, it must’ve been fifteen years I suppose, it all happened and of course in the end he got a lot of help when he was so ill with the cancer. He was taken by air ambulance to Sydney to go to hospital and all that sort of thing. Everything was done for him then. Everything in the hospital, St Vincent’s, was all free.

05:13:00:00

All done by the Veterans’ Affairs. So that really worked out in the end.
So when he got off the Manoora, he ended up spending a fair bit of time over in Western Australia.
Yes.
And then eventually he was returned to Sydney and that’s when your relationship had a chance to blossom.
Yes, I remember we, he came back

05:13:30:00

it says in January ’45, and we married in December ’45. I’ll never forget my dear old mother, because she was so religious and so terrified her daughter might do the wrong thing. She said, “It’s only ten months since you were getting engaged, why are you getting married so soon?” She thought we should have waited at least 12 months or more. I think she thought I might’ve been pregnant and I was in a hurry. I said, “No way, Mum.” I shouldn’t be telling you all this on the…
Oh, please do.
Anyway, so that’s what,

05:14:00:00

she was frightened.
So what was considered a respectable length of time for an engagement?
Mum being old fashioned, of course, thought two years or something. But ten months was too early.
Do you think the war actually sped up generally the period of time that relationships developed and engagements were reduced and people wanted to cut to the chase?
So many people got married just as soon as they came back. Yes, well, John was anxious to get married long before that.

05:14:30:00

But Mum was against it all. Anyway, all ended up happy and nice.
So when you had been living apart from each other in different parts of Australia but exchanging letters, did it, had it come to a point in those letters that you had a strong sense that you were boyfriend and girlfriend at that moment? Or was it, it wasn’t until he arrived in Sydney that that was…
Not until he arrived really. Yes.

05:15:00:00

So you started to go on outings together.
Yes, whenever we had leave together we were going out. We’d meet up at other friends and some of his army friends and their girlfriends and different things.
So was it a matter of days or weeks that it was clear to the two of you that you were an item?
A couple of months, I’d say, before really, I knew that

05:15:30:00

he really meant it.
So then you would do a lot of socialising together as a couple.
Not so much socially, we didn’t do so much socialising at that period.
Picnics…
Yeah, we had all that sort of thing, yes. Did a lot of socialising after we were married. We did a lot of entertaining and doing things together, we did lots together.

05:16:00:00

So you’d go on picnics to? What were some of your favourite spots for picnics?
Clifton Gardens was one spot, and there’s another lovely spot in Sydney, and Mrs Macquarie’s Chair was another one. We’d meet up with friends there and we’d go over on a little ferry to the zoo. There’s another spot, I think, over near the zoo, I can’t think of it at the moment and we used to picnic over there.

05:16:30:00

So that’s about all we did, it was nothing terribly exciting. As I was saying, we didn’t go to clubs and things at all at that time. I don’t even remember ever going into a hotel or anything.
So did it take long before John started talking about marriage and engagement?
Yes, he was keen, and then we got engaged. Mum thought after we got engaged we should wait at least 12 months. Well, John wasn’t going to wait 12 months.

05:17:00:00

Were you ready to get married when John started talking about it?
Yes, I was, yes. So we ended up with nearly 54 years, so that was pretty good.
So let’s have a bit of a chat about you organising your marriage and the actual big day itself.
It was a big thing organising,

05:17:30:00

because my parents were in Forbes and I did most of the organising on my own. We were married at St Mary’s Cathedral at eight o’clock in the morning on one of the hottest days as you could imagine with a strike in Sydney and no electricity, no gas, no trains running all day. And when we went to the reception at the Amery at Ashfield, everything had to be done. All the food was cold, the photographs had to be done outside

05:18:00:00

In the garden because there was no electricity. And it was just a, we were married at eight in the morning and had to wait until eight at night to get a train to the mountains. And we didn’t get there until after eleven o’clock at night.
Did you spend also some time with guests at the hotel after the reception?
Yes, we all went around to the Australia Hotel and stayed there

05:18:30:00

most of the day chatting with all the guests. You couldn’t get on a train to go anywhere or a bus or anything.
Where was the Australia Hotel?
That was Castlereagh St. I don’t know what it is now but that was the place to stay in those days. That’s where my sister and I were dressed for the wedding and we were there on our own and we did everything, our hair and our makeup and everything on our own. Got ourselves there.
Must’ve been a lot of pressure for you.
And it was so early in

05:19:00:00

the morning. And John’s grandmother was staying on the ninth floor and she forgot her handbag and John had to, he wasn’t staying at the hotel but he came. Because he wasn’t supposed to see me at all beforehand, so anyway, he had to go to the hotel to pick up grandma and she said, “I’ve left my handbag upstairs.” And he had to walk up nine floors to get the handbag for her and down again. But at

05:19:30:00

the time there was a big wedding supposed to be at the hotel that same day as us and they had the red carpet out. And it all fizzled out in the end, it was very wealthy people and this lady was a bit of a con woman and they thought it was going to be a big wedding and they had the red carpet out. So Mary walks out down the red carpet to go to the car to go to the wedding, and they’re all waiting outside the lift for this lady to arrive and out walks Mary. That was the funniest thing.

05:20:00:00

So we always laughed about walking out on the red carpet.
So had the problem with the power been there for a few days or was it just that day that it had come?
I think it was a couple of days’ strike. It was all that day anyway, because there was nothing running whatsoever. It was unbelievable.
But you managed to overcome the odds and the challenge of having no power. So the reception was all right, despite the lack of power?
Yes, it was. Everything was beautifully done.

05:20:30:00

And they had, at that time you went, first of all you went into the Amery and they greeted you and then you went into a room for drinks, and then they moved the next wedding couple in wherever you were, and then you went on to the next room and so forth. And then you went for your meal and then you went somewhere else for cameras and all the time behind you somebody else was following, waiting to go in. it was a big place the Amery, and they had a junior place called John Rowe, that’s if you didn’t have a big wedding, you could go to

05:21:00:00

John Rowe.
So it was one of the places to get married and have your reception.
It was a really nice place. That’s all gone now.
How many guests did you have?
We didn’t have a big wedding, I think we had about 80 guests. They were mostly from the country.
And can you tell us how you managed to get your wedding dress?
Yes, well, I was out on leave and I was walking down, I think it was

05:21:30:00

the corner of Pitt and Castlereagh St. It was a frock salon anyway and this wedding dress was on a model in the window. It was a Sunday night and I was with some girls and I said, “I’m going to get that wedding dress.” So I said, “But I haven’t enough coupons.” So they said, “All right, we’ll run around.” So when I got back I decided to go in first thing the next morning and fitted the frock on and it fitted me and that was it. So I saw it on a

05:22:00:00

Sunday night and …
It was yours on Monday.
Yes.
So can you vaguely recall how many extra coupons you needed to get such a dress?
No, I’m not sure, but it would’ve been quite a few in those days to get a wedding dress. But I’m just not sure.
So your sister was bridesmaid.
Yes. She had her dress made in Forbes and the big hat was made in Forbes, always wore a big hat at those weddings.

05:22:30:00

In the war years everyone seemed to have a big hat on.
And who was John’s best man?
John’s brother, and he was later killed in an accident. He was a pilot.
Was that after the war that he was killed?
Yes.
So you had the reception and then you headed to the Australia Hotel and

05:23:00:00

caught up with the guests there…
With all the family just talked and chatted and got on the train and went to the Blue Mountains. What’s the name of the place there? Don’t know, then we went down to the Jenolan Caves the next day and had a week down there.
Was it Mount Victoria that you went to first?
Yeah, Mount Victoria, that’s where it was. And every time John drove by with the kids when we were going through, “That’s where Mary and I had our first night,” he say and he’d point upstairs.

05:23:30:00

Had you been up to the Blue Mountains before?
No, I don’t think I had.
So that was a new experience?
Well, going to the Jenolan Caves was exciting.
So you spent the first night in Mount Victoria and then you went to Jenolan Caves. Did you stay at Jenolan Caves?
Yeah stayed there for about a week and one of my army friends was there on her honeymoon too, so we got, the four of us used to get around together. It was quite good.

05:24:00:00

And what was the accommodation like at Jenolan Caves?
Very nice and very good. Of course the meals was done beautifully with starched white serviettes and, you know, with the serviette over their arm when they served you, breakfast time or whenever. It was beautifully done. It was a very nice place. I think it still is. We’ve been back a couple of times with our children, it was always very good.

05:24:30:00

So how did you put in the days?
Climbing up and down, going through caves and things. Exhausting on your honeymoon.
So was it difficult to organise enough leave to have a honeymoon?
No, I was due for leave. I had that.
And it was okay for John?
Yes. We must’ve arranged it well before, because the war was over.

05:25:00:00

Of course, it had just finished by the time you were getting married.
It had finished in August, we got married in December.
Right. Okay. So just to continue that story a little bit further, when you did return to Sydney, did you immediately move in together?

05:25:30:00

Did you start renting a place together?
When we were married?
After you got married?
Yes, went out to Chatswood and lived in Chatswood in a house. An old lady owned the house and she lived in it and we had like a separate part. I think we used her kitchen, though, and we lived there for a few months.
And what was she like?
An awful old lady. Watched us all the time for fear we’d do something wrong. Never mind,

05:26:00:00

that’s why we left there.
So it was all a bit awkward. All right, we’ll continue that story in a little while, but I just wanted to go back and ask you about when you received your rank.
Yes, that was…
When was that?
I think that was early ’45. It might’ve been,

05:26:30:00

when did John, said he came back in ’45 didn’t they? We came home on leave together and I was a corporal and he was a private. That must’ve been ’45, early ’45. It’s all in the pay book and everything there.
And was that a bit of a surprise?
I don’t know that it was a surprise, really, because I felt after I’d been in there for nearly three years it was time that I did get a promotion.
And what did that promotion entail?

05:27:00:00

Just a little bit of extra pay. Not very much.
No change to the job as such, what the tasks…
No, still did the same thing. Just got two stripes on your shoulder, on your sleeve.
That must’ve felt nice too. Did you rub that in with John?
No, I didn’t really.

05:27:30:00

You could’ve ordered him around.
People used to joke about it. He didn’t care.
When you were in the middle of your Sydney experience, working at Camperdown, spending a lot of time with the girls who were involved in the army and some of the other services, did you have a feeling, have a sense that being

05:28:00:00

in that sort of situation, the war forcing women to become involved in that way, did you sense that that was somehow liberating in general for young women? Suddenly being able to get out and be involved more in the workforce and be a bit more independent?
No, I don’t think we thought like that in those days. I don’t think so. No, it was just something that happened and we enjoyed it. It was different.

05:28:30:00

Did you feel like the world had opened up a little more to you? That you could be a little more independent?
No, I never ever felt like that. It was just okay.
So when do you think you started to get a sense that the war was drawing to an end?

05:29:00:00

Only just by listening to all the radio broadcasts where you could tell it was getting close. Because all the terrible bombing, it was just terrible they finished it the way they did. I think it was just awful all those people that were killed. When you see the photographs of that little girl running with her clothes burnt off and things like that. That was pretty horrifying and terrible, to think they had to end war that way.

05:29:30:00

And it’s not over yet with it now, is it?
Did your friends and family, do you think they reacted to the atomic bombs the same way as you did?
I think they did, everyone was just devastated about it all. Such a terrible, terrible thing. But they were glad the war was over.

05:30:00:00

So it was a double edged sword for you. Was there much information in the papers and on the wireless about the details of what an atomic bomb did?
Yes.
And how many people were actually killed?
Yes, it was on the air all the time.
Was there an atmosphere or mood that people were shocked

05:30:30:00

by the reality of what the Americans had done with those two bombs?
Yes, I think they really did. They felt shocked about it.
I just want to change direction quite radically here for a second, Mary. Bear with me. I’m just wondering, before you did get married

05:31:00:00

to John and you would spend some time with him, would you often get an opportunity to come back to Forbes together?
We came back occasionally, not too often. I remember coming back in ’44, that was before we were engaged, I think it was. The drought was on then and we had the worst dust storms ever and the heat was over 102, 104 [Fahrenheit]

05:31:30:00

every day for ten days. And the red dust was rolling in and you had a light on in your house at three o’clock in the afternoon because you couldn’t see. And we didn’t stay for the full ten days’ leave, because the heat was so exhausting and awful. And then we’d come home in this funny old jalopy that John bought, then crashed it, then drove around with bags on the side for doors and people thinking how weird we were, driving around. John Meagher’s son, O.J. Meagher’s son,

05:32:00:00

driving around in an old jalopy like that. And then he did it all up and I used to drive it around town with camouflage all over it. I was discharged from the army before he was and so I used to drive around in this old thing and they all thought we were quite weird.
So it was a unique contraption. Were you aware of anyone else who had the gas producer on their vehicle?
No, not at all. He and his father were just so different, they could do anything.

05:32:30:00

So it was entirely their invention?
Yeah.
They hadn’t picked up the idea from someone else?
I don’t think so. I don’t know whether you noticed the photograph in the back toilet with the gas producer on the top of the car. Did you see the photographs on the wall?
I haven’t had a look at that one.
No, well, have a look at it. It’s got the gas producer on this little Morris Minor, and nearly as big as the car itself. But this other one that John had, we had the drum on the back and he used to get out and stoke it all the time and then the big

05:33:00:00

flames shot out through the back. Unbelievable.
Did the police ever have a look at the vehicle?
Never seemed to worry about it. Extraordinary. We used to drive up to Tahmoor, that’s near Picton, whenever we had leave and go to visit my aunt there with this old jalopy. Around the Razorback Mountain. That was pretty hairy scary too.
Was she a reliable old girl, the jalopy?
Yeah.

05:33:30:00

It was an old Buick. He borrowed 15 pounds from his mother to buy it and when he sold it after doing it up and (UNCLEAR) he got 30 pounds for it. He loved the old thing.
And I believe he, one New Year’s Eve he had one or two sherbets too many and …
Well, that’s when he crashed it, and thank God he’d dropped me off, and that’s why

05:34:00:00

I wasn’t with him. He’d dropped me off at Homebush there. Then he went on and partied with his friends and a taxi careered into him. The taxi didn’t give right of way, but John had had a few too many sherbets. Otherwise he might not have had the accident. But they weren’t hurt, which was one good thing.
And John also had an accident on a bike too.
On a motorbike the day before our wedding.

05:34:30:00

Crashed on the tram line. When we knelt down at the altar the blood came through. He had a summer uniform on for the wedding and the blood oozed through on his khaki pants. He, the day before the wedding he measured the aisle right at St Mary’s Cathedral, I forget how many yards he said it was, it was a long walk. Long steps that go up there too.

05:35:00:00

Was he a nervous man on the day?
Was a bit nervous.
How were you?
I was all right really. If only you could see our photographs, we looked pretty good in them. Looked pretty happy walking down the steps. Kylie saw it.
We’ve heard that in his younger years that he was a bit of a scallywag and he’d give you a bit of a hard time, playfully

05:35:30:00

here and there. What sort of a, how would you describe his character back in those days, around the time that you married him. What sort of a man was he?
He’d matured a bit by the time I married him, but before that he used to torment me when I worked in the office. And he’d go up there, he had to report in every so often, what he was doing. He did work in the office for a little while when he first came back from boarding school.

05:36:00:00

And while the accountant was out one day he locked me in the big safe which was pretty frightening. But when the accountant came back in and went to unlock the safe, John hurriedly got me out. He was, certainly in the bad books. The accountant was a very, very severe man. And then when we’d go to the pool as a group he always insisted on ducking me because I think he knew I couldn’t swim very well. But that put me off swimming,

05:36:30:00

I didn’t ever bother going back for swimming. Never mind.
So when he matured a little bit…
After the army he matured much better.
He was an outgoing sort of a chap?
Oh yes. So when we were married he was into all sorts of things. He was the secretary of Rotary, a person of Apex, Deputy Mayor, all in one year. And he was very involved in everything in town

05:37:00:00

All the time, that’s why he got this award after he died. This marker in memory of him, because he did so much. And in the flood years he was fantastic. Used to boat around the town and rescue people and check the houses for them if they couldn’t get there to check. He opened one two-storey window. He boated right up to the top floor, opened the window and the piano floated out. He had to have, it had been put on drums and the drums were empty.

05:37:30:00

And he stayed down town for five days. He flew into ham radio and he was the only communication out of Forbes at the time, with ham radio, because everything had gone under with the water. We had to go and meet (UNCLEAR) and anything like that. And they couldn’t even get into town because the current was too strong. And he just stayed down there and camped in John Meagher and Co. All the water was through Meagher and Co and through the cellars

05:38:00:00

and everything else. And then his brother Tim, the one that was, the pilot, he used to drop food out to all the people out in the bush. And sometimes John even went out a long way in the bush in the boat to take food out to them.
This was 1952, was it?
Yes.
Just want to take you back now, to when

05:38:30:00

the announcement came that the war was over. Can you tell us how you spent that day?
Well, we all jumped up from our desks in Camperdown. And the lieutenant said, “Just go.” And we just went, and of course we rushed out thinking we would get a tram. No way, there was so much excitement in the streets. So we marched singing all the way from Camperdown into Martin Place. And John’s parents came down too, and they were staying at the Australia Hotel.

05:39:00:00

I can remember that night, we went up on to the balcony and we watched everyone down in Martin Place all performing and celebrating and singing and so forth. There was a great celebration everywhere. Everyone was so happy.
It must’ve been a magical day.
It was wonderful, it really was.
So did you get told by one of the officers that the war was over or did you hear it on the radio.
They just announced it. I think they were waiting for it. At Camperdown we were working and once it was announced

05:39:30:00

everyone went berserk. We just tidied up and off we went.
What time do you think it was when you headed off?
It was in the middle of the day, I think it was. It was certainly day time. I think it was about the middle of the day.
So you got together with a group of the girls then, did you?
There was a crowd of us. Everyone from Camperdown just all raced down to the road hoping to get a ride, but we couldn’t get a ride off anyone. So we just walked cheering and singing all the way.

05:40:00:00

Girls and boys, everyone.
Do you recall what you were singing? Some of the songs.
I don’t know, I can’t now. But it was just a wonderful experience.
So once you got into Martin Place, can you describe the scene?
There were thousands of people there. Thousands of people all cheering and going on. You can see by our photograph how happy we all looked. Throwing up our hats in the air and carrying on. You’re not supposed

05:40:30:00

to take your hat off when you were in uniform but I don’t think they would’ve worried too much if they’d caught us that day.
So I imagine the noise must’ve been deafening down there.
Yes. And to hear them all that night, I don’t think anyone went to bed that night, they were all there.
Including you?
We were watching it, most of it, from the balcony, because John’s parents had come down and we’d had dinner with them and then they all wanted to go out on the balcony and watch.

05:41:00:00

So we mainly watched it from there.
So what sort of things were people getting up to in their celebrations?
I can’t remember very much other than cheering and chanting and having drinks, and that’s about all it was. Just all jumping around and happy and dancing in the streets. They’d grab anyone at all and dance with them. Yes, so that’s a long time ago.

05:41:30:00

Indeed. Well, thanks for that Mary, we’ve just finished this tape.
Interviewee: Mary Meagher Archive ID 1389 Tape 06

06:00:31:00

Mary, we were speaking before about your interest in photography. Can you tell us when that began? When that started?
My little brownie camera? Just when I was in high school, about 13. I was about 14 I suppose and I always had this little brownie,

06:01:00:00

I was always taking photographs. As a matter of fact we had a school reunion just recently and I produced all these photographs of that period and they were very excited about me having all these photographs of all the pupils and a lot of the pupils that had come back for the reunion. It just was a hobby I had.
How did you happen to come across the brownie camera?
I think Mum and Dad bought it for me, it was the little thing in those days, the little brownie camera.

06:01:30:00

Had you seen someone with a camera?
Yes, a lot of the kids used to do it, and then I started experimenting in the bathroom with the little red light up the top.
To develop the photos?
Yeah. Couldn’t believe it. And then what my husband and Jack, later on, they couldn’t believe that I used to ever do that. John was a great photographer, he used to do

06:02:00:00

wonderful work after he left Meagher and Co. And Jack followed on and he went to London and lived over there for years and married there and we went over for the wedding. Then he stayed on with Sotheby’s and then came back to Sydney and now he’s back and forth.
What kind of photographs would you like to take back then?
It was mainly just going out on picnics and things,

06:02:30:00

like out, when we were picking the turnips for the war. I used to use the camera still, before I went into the army, I still had the old brownie taking these photographs. It’s just only fun things, nothing very exciting.
Did you have a tripod?
No, nothing like that. Just a funny little one you held, little brownie camera you carried around in your hand with 125 film or a 625, something like that.

06:03:00:00

Was it difficult to use, the brownie?
No, not at all.
All right, did you ever feel that you wanted to get into photography?
No, I didn’t, no. It was just a fun thing when we were out on the weekends with the girls and boys.
When, just taking you forward a little bit, to the time you spent with John, before you were married, you mentioned that you went back

06:03:30:00

to Forbes with him when you were both on leave. How were you two received when you were both locals of Forbes, and you were probably quite well known? And how was your union received in Forbes?
All right. I can’t remember. Tim says most probably people all thought, you know, “Here’s Mary Doyle marrying the boss’s son”. Most probably they did say that but it didn’t ever get back to me. I don’t think, when we

06:04:00:00

came home on leave I stayed with my parents and John with his parents and we always went to dinner every night with John’s parents while we were home on leave. And we always, always got on well. There was never any problem whatsoever.
Did you get on better with John’s father or mother?
Got on with them both very well. His mother was a beautiful lady. A beautiful lady.
What was his mother like?
His mother was a beautiful lady, really

06:04:30:00

lovely.
What was she like?
She worked for the Red Cross and she was very artistic. She used to have the most magnificent garden and whenever there was a wedding she did all the bride’s bouquets and they were exquisite, and she donated all the money to the Red Cross to go towards the war. And she was very clever with painting, and just a lovely lady who was a home lady. Didn’t want to be out

06:05:00:00

socialising. They did entertain quite a bit, but she wasn’t one of these who wanted to be out all the time. And John’s father was a very good boss. He was a hard boss when I worked there, he was a caring boss. Very caring to poor people, especially in the drought years when people couldn’t pay their accounts and he let them hang on for twelve months knowing that things might come good. And they always stuck to

06:05:30:00

doing business with the firm then, because he stuck to them during the drought. They were good citizens and we all got on well.
Did John’s parents get on with your parents? Did they have much to do with each other?
Not a lot. See, my parents were so much older. They didn’t get about much at all, see. I was saying that Mum was born in 1883 and Dad in 1878 and they were

06:06:00:00

much, much older than John’s parents. My parents were too old to be mixing much anyway. But, see, John’s parents being in business, and they entertained quite a bit with country people and things like that. Mum and Dad were just ordinary citizens living a good life, looking after their kids and cooking and sewing for us. That’s about all, but they weren’t ones to go out looking for entertainment.

06:06:30:00

When you think about it, Mum was 94 when she died and that’s 20 years ago.
A different era. And what did they think of your match? I know you’ve told the story about your mum wanting you to wait before you actually got married. But what did your parents actually think about your match with John?
They were quite happy with John.

06:07:00:00

Happy with John, but I think they were just a little bit at one stage thinking, What’s Mary doing marrying the boss’s son?”, sort of thing. That’s how it happened.
Would they have wished you’d married someone different?
No, no, I hadn’t anyone in Forbes that they were thinking about me marrying, I don’t think. I don’t think they even thought about me marrying.
What about your sister Joan, who did she end up marrying?
She ended up with an

06:07:30:00

air force man. And he was a Forbes man. He was a very nice fellow. They both died with cancer.
Did you have much to do with your sister?
A lot. She looked after my children when I had, looked after Margaret when I had to go to Sydney for four months to have Jack, because I had three premature babies. And so she looked after her and her husband was in Broken Hill at the time and he was really

06:08:00:00

fretting for her. And I found all these lovely letters after she died where he was saying to her, “When are you coming home to me, darling? You’ve been away too long.” She was absolutely wonderful to me. And I used to visit her, she moved to Coolangatta and we used to visit her regularly. She died about ten years ago.
Were you very alike as sisters?
Yes, we were both redheads and we both had black freckles.
What about personalities?
No, she was a different personality altogether to me. She was really

06:08:30:00

happy-go-lucky, always wanted to be out dancing and going on. She was known as the girl in town who loved life and just wanted to get out and enjoy life.
And you weren’t so happy-go-lucky?
I was always happy enough, but she was just a different personality. She just had to be on the go all the time. What nonsense.
All right, well, is there anything in the war period that you think might be

06:09:00:00

interesting for the archives that we haven’t mentioned? If you think that people are going to be maybe wanting to get an impression of how it was for women during the war, of women working in particular, because that’s what you did.
Yes, I can’t think now of what I could say about that. I think it was just a good time and a great experience for girls and I don’t think anyone regretted joining the army. And we had a lot of

06:09:30:00

discipline, which was good. And I think discipline doesn’t hurt anybody, and that’s why I think some of our young people aren’t in the army these days getting a little bit of discipline, we wouldn’t have the trouble on the streets like we’re having here even in Forbes, with the people damaging windows and things every night. Nearly every night there’s something broken. The lovely lights on the bridge over here thrown in the lake. One night I was sitting here and I hadn’t

06:10:00:00

had the curtains drawn and somebody came up through the lake. I hadn’t locked the gate and I didn’t know, and I was sitting there reading and all my lights went out. So I picked up a torch and thought I’ve blown a fuse. And I went out and this man ran straight out the gate and a sensor light came on out the front, giving me a scare. I suppose he saw me sitting there as he went around. And he came in the gate and gave me a fright. And everyone said, “Fancy you going out with a torch.” I said, “I thought I’d blown a fuse.” And so

06:10:30:00

he could’ve hit me on the head or anything, but just the things like that. And then my other neighbour in my other unit, she was sitting there one night and had a big crack on the window and somebody had thrown a big duck egg on the window because they saw her sitting there. And it was a really frosty night and all the egg set all over the window and all over the porch. You know, at our age you can do without those sort of things. That’s why I think they need a bit of discipline.
Do you

06:11:00:00

think the army, they disciplined the women like they disciplined the men?
We had discipline, we had to abide by their laws and everything else. Certainly did, it didn’t hurt us.
When you came back from the war after having that discipline, did you find that you got up early and had a shower and did all the things you were doing during the war out of habit?
I don’t know, not so much really because John was still in the army and I fell pregnant on my honeymoon and then he,

06:11:30:00

I was doing really well, quite healthy and well and walking that mile and a half to my mother’s place down town. Then, later on John, when he was moved over to Parkes, he used to ride a pushbike over here to visit me until he got out of the army. See, I applied to get out of the army once I found I was pregnant and so, and then John was able to come to

06:12:00:00

Parkes and be there.
What did he do in Parkes?
There’s an army depot there, so they put him there. So he used to ride the pushbike over one day and back again in the morning and back again at night. And then he was over, I’m trying to think now. Then I’d been downtown shopping and I came home and I was sitting with my Mum and Dad around the fire, it was the end of July

06:12:30:00

and a lovely big cosy fire and I was knitting for the baby and I got this terrible pain and I was rushed to hospital and it was a beautiful little boy and he only lived two days. And of course the nurse’s problem, she was only 17 and had only been there a few weeks and she had to put the tube back in his nose after she fed him with the tube, and she didn’t put the tube back in. And John had just been over from Parkes to have a look at the baby,

06:13:00:00

and the doctor assured him everything was, because they wanted to fly the baby to Sydney and wanted me to go too so as I could breastfeed. And I said, “No, I don’t want to go to Sydney,” it was only a little plane. The doctor’s little plane, a two seater. And anyway, so John had to go back to Parkes, so he caught the train from Forbes to Parkes and when he got to Parkes there was a message to say the baby had died. And he couldn’t believe it, because he was only an hour before he’d seen the baby.

06:13:30:00

So that was a big shock to our system, so then he applied to get out of the army and that was when we moved to Temora.
So what was the hospital called where you had that baby?
I think it was Cromby Hospital, and it was pathetic. There was no humidicrib in those days at all, and then the room he was put in was just a brick room, brick. It wasn’t even lined. And the only warmth, and this was the end of July when all of the heavy frosts were on, was a water bag

06:14:00:00

To put around the baby to keep it warm. Because you know what they do now with the babies. So it was a great shock to us, because I went home with nothing and had everything ready. And so then we moved to Temora and within three months I was pregnant again and I spent three months in hospital, in bed, to have Margaret and she arrived at seven months and she was just under four pound and they didn’t have a humidicrib in those days so she

06:14:30:00

was wrapped in cottonwool and she had jaundice and she had all this white cottonwool and little black side levers, she had really thick black hair, little black side levers and this yellow face. So when she was a month old I brought her home to Forbes for the first time to visit the family and on the way home we had a trailer behind our car and the trailer lost a wheel and this was in the middle of the night.

06:15:00:00

Not middle of, it was early in the night but we couldn’t find the wheel, so we had to park in the road with mosquitoes and everything and this little baby. Fortunately I was breastfeeding. So we were there all night and John went looking for the wheel and found it a mile down the road. So we got that together and my mother thought we’d gone to John’s place to stay the night, and John’s mother thought the opposite. Otherwise they would’ve been out of their mind worrying where we were.

06:15:30:00

Coming home to show the baby for the first time. So that was an experience.
Did Margaret get better quite quickly?
Yes, she survived all right. She was, when I brought her home to Forbes to show her, she wasn’t five pound. When I brought Jack home from Sydney he was a month old and he was just on five pound. And then I got really good with Timothy, I got to eight months with him. And when I got to Patrick he popped out

06:16:00:00

in half an hour. He got to full time and I thought it’d never end when I got to Patrick. And he was my biggest one, five pound eleven. Out of the five babies. Just couldn’t hold on to them, it was funny. Strange, really. They had a lot of treatment after Margie, and that’s why I had to go to the city for four months to have Jack. And then I was raced off, I was at a nursing home and raced off with the ambulance screaming to go into the Mater.
Did it worry you, being pregnant

06:16:30:00

and being in a country town?
Didn’t so much then about that, but what the homesickness when I was in Sydney for four months was awful. And Margaret, being away from my little Margaret. Yes, four months in Sydney was pretty awful.
How did you get through it?
John used to come every second weekend, down and see me, because he was running the store and he had to be there. And so, anyway we got through it.

06:17:00:00

But it’s a different way now, things are, if they can get you away quickly to Sydney in an air ambulance and have humidicribs and all sorts of things for you.
What was it like coming back to Forbes after being in Sydney all that time?
It was, just seemed to fall back into place, all my friends and things. Everybody was knitting for me and making things.

06:17:30:00

Did you adjust to the quieter life well?
Yes, always loved the country. Didn’t worry me leaving Sydney, didn’t worry John either.
And so how was it that John came to take over Meagher and Co, what happened?
Because it was just a business, a family thing that the eldest son always took over the managership.

06:18:00:00

And I always often would think that John should’ve gone to university or done something in engineering because he was so clever. And I mean, a lot of the family were never happy running the stores. I mean, they had the brains to do other things. It was just the family thing. Like on the farms, now the kids rebel, they don’t want to go on the farms because it’s such a bad time on the farms for those people these days. So a lot of the Meagher and Co, younger people didn’t go into the stores.

06:18:30:00

Like my boys never wanted to go into anything like that. It was just the general thing, so he was sent to Temora to train under his uncle.
Train in managing?
Train to be a manager of the store.
And when he came back how did he take to it?
He took to it all right. Extraordinary, the staff calling him Mr John when he was only, what,

06:19:00:00

21, 22? 22.
So he had a bit of leadership quality in him?
I don’t know if he did, he did all right. The staff liked him. Still a few of them around that still talk about him.
And how was it for you coming back as the wife of the new boss after having worked there?
It was okay. Yeah, we got on quite well.

06:19:30:00

Yes, we had a little house down here in the corner. Came back to that.
Did you build that house or did you buy it?
No, we bought it.
How did you afford to buy that house?
Well, John said that in his letter, he doesn’t know how we afforded to buy it. I don’t know how we did really. He said that in his story.
Did he get help from his parents?
I think he must’ve.

06:20:00:00

Did you ever go into the store once you came back to Forbes? Did you spend any time there?
I never ever worked in it, but I was always in and out showing off the children. They loved seeing the children.
So what kind of, how would you and John spend your recreation time in those early days?
What, after we were married? I tell you what, the bank manager’s wife over at Temora when I moved there, every bank manager’s wife would want me for morning or

06:20:30:00

afternoon tea and they’d have these delicious morning and afternoon teas. Here’s me with a new baby crying, and I’m sitting up trying to make sponge cakes and I’d throw them one after the other into the bin. And they’d be that high and I’m trying to compete with these women. And then when I came back to Forbes the bank manager’s wives were doing the same thing, entertaining. You don’t even know a bank manager now, there aren’t bank managers anymore. It was unbelievable. But John and I had such a social life. My

06:21:00:00

dear old mother was the wonderful one who used to mind the children while we went out. It was just amazing. And we’d go to the picnic races and Mum’d mind the kids. Even a new baby, she was an amazing old lady. But we had a very busy life and we used to entertain a lot, especially when John was President of the Golf Club and deputy mayor and things like that. Always had big crowds around our big table in the old house.
When did

06:21:30:00

John become deputy mayor?
Soon after we were married. He was, it’s all in his story there somewhere. But he went on the council soon after we came back to Forbes. His father was always on the council.
So who was it you mixed with? The bank managers’ wives, what other kind of women?
Solicitors’ wives too. It was always a busy time.
Did you enjoy

06:22:00:00

being asked out to all these functions? Or did you find it…?
Yes, we did, it was always the thing to do. And do you know, we used to do terrible things, we’d take our kids to the ball and we’d put them asleep in the station wagon outside and go and check them all the time. If you did that now the police would be on to you. We’d go there in the middle of winter to a ball in the town hall and have the kids tucked out and we’d go out, everyone would take a turn to go out and check their kids. So we didn’t, get away with, well, we

06:22:30:00

still went out and did our thing even with our children. We didn’t do that a lot but if there was a ball on and we couldn’t get a babysitter, that’s what we did. We had a very busy life.
Did you find it easy to find things to talk about with these women?
Oh yes. We always got on real well. Played golf in summer.
And you opened a dress shop

06:23:00:00

at some stage there.
Yes, after Meagher and Co, John bought into this frock shop, Jean Cameron’s frock shop. It was an exclusive one, we only had one of the thing. It was very hard, I had to go down to Sydney buying for it, and very hard buying in small quantities because all the big warehouses all wanted you to buy up big. And if you came back, say, with Sportscraft, it was very popular in those days, if you had six or seven skirts in all the different sizes, but if they were the

06:23:30:00

same colour or something like that, the people wouldn’t buy them. “Oh no, somebody else will be buying one like that and I’ll be walking around in Forbes in the same skirt.” Very hard buying them now, if you want something exclusive it costs you a thousand dollars. Isn’t it really, you need to call it Dinnigan or something even though I read in the paper two girls turned up at a do and both had Colette Dinnigan frocks on the same. But it was pretty tough doing that. And John was in the photography out the

06:24:00:00

back and he used to develop all the pictures and frame all the frame for everyone. Frame all the pictures, and all sorts of things he framed. Then we moved up here and we built a big shed in the back here and he used to do all the framing there. All his equipment’s all there in the garage still.
The frock shop, when did you open up the frock shop?
I was 48, I think.
And so Sportscraft was a big fashion label then.
Big thing, big thing, yeah.
What other fashion labels?
Tallow was another one.

06:24:30:00

You wouldn’t know these.
I know Sportscraft.
I know, but you wouldn’t know Tallow. There was such a lot of names that are never heard of now.
Would they be imported labels or were they Australian made?
A lot of them were Australian made. Yes, it was a big job going down there and buying alone. For the first few months the lady bought out, she used to go with me. Then I had to go on my own because John had to stay with the kids.

06:25:00:00

Well, Patrick was really the only one at home, I think, then though. He was about 11 when I went into this frock shop.
What made you go into a dress shop?
John decided. And I wasn’t very happy at the time because I’d just started golf.
What, did he think that you needed some …?
We were putting the kids through boarding school. When you’ve got three at boarding school at the one time it’s a bit tough. So that’s what we did.

06:25:30:00

Did you make any money out of the shop?
Yes, we must’ve to put the three kids through and so forth and live as well as we did, because we were always quite comfortably off and entertaining and so forth.
What was it like as a mother sending your kids away to boarding school in Sydney?
Pretty awful. Margie was pretty bad, and now Tim tells me years and years later, he was homesick all the time. But Margie used to, we’d put her on the plane, she’d be crying when she went on the plane and

06:26:00:00

she’d cry herself to sleep when she got back to the school. She was terrible, she was so homesick. Now I feel I couldn’t do it to a grandchild, but now my little grandboy, child who’s just eleven is starting next month up in Brisbane at boarding school. So that’ll be hard for them I guess. But he’s quite, he seems quite thrilled about it so I hope he is.

06:26:30:00

But Tim never ever liked it and now Jack tells me he never ever liked it also. They seemed to get along all the time, they were always bringing children home all the time with them for holidays. Used to have great parties.
Did you miss them yourself while they were away?
Oh yes, you’d miss them. Yes.
At that time it was more common for children to be away at boarding school?
There’s still a lot of children in Forbes would go to

06:27:00:00

boarding school. A lot of children from here go. And see, out at Red Bend College, they come in from all the outback places like Broken Hill and Cobar and all those places. But see, the drought’s so bad out there, a lot of them weren’t able to send their children in to boarding school the last two years, really. Which is very hard. They’re very well looked after out here, but

06:27:30:00

it must be a hard time for the parents. And it’s hard for the brothers too, because those Marist Brothers stick by those people who can’t pay their fees and they let them pay it off just slowly. And it’s very hard on everyone because the drought does affect everyone and I know there’s children out there now, that their parents are nearly destitute and some of them have been put off their farm. It must be a terrible thing after

06:28:00:00

generations have been on a farm and the bank come in and walk you off. Lock up everything. It’s happened to so many people out west.
Do you remember, when you came back from the war, any time of drought like we’re having now?
Yes, in 1944, terrible.
Can you describe it?
That’s when I came on leave, that’s when the drought was so terrible. And the red dust rolled in every day and it was over a hundred degrees for ten days running. At least ten days, about a hundred degrees every day. And it was

06:28:30:00

just, you didn’t have fans. We had a drip safe with the hessian on the side and you’d have to keep pouring the water over it to keep the butter cool and the milk.
How long did that drought last for?
It lasted for months and months. Yes, and this is one of the worst droughts since then. They say it’s the worst drought really in a hundred years.
So you don’t remember another time apart from ’44 when …
I remember ’44.

06:29:00:00

So over, having been a Forbes girl all this time, did you notice that the country town was in sort of decline slowly, or did you this town, is this something that’s really recent, all the problems that you’re talking about, farms foreclosing?
This has been going on years and years, this foreclosing of farms. For the last twenty years it’s been happening. I know of a family who were on TV

06:29:30:00

out here at Wirrinya and they were photographed when the police went out to take them off and the mother was screaming and the children were screaming and it was just terrible. And that’s about 20 years ago. So we have droughts quite often, but some are worse than others. This one’s pretty bad now.
Did you ever wish that you were, had a farm, given you were brought up on a little farm.

06:30:00:00

We had a farm but we didn’t live on it. Dad used to take us out in the horse and sulky and he grew wheat and he had some sheep and it was only a small farm. We didn’t really grow up on it, but he used to take us out and he used to have the water bag hanging on the back of the sulky, that’s how we’d have our drink of water out on the farm. Mum’d pack us lunch and he’d take us out there. That’s only

06:30:30:00

a small farm though.
Did you ever wish that you became a farmer’s wife and lived on the land…?
No, I didn’t. No, I don’t think I’d like to live out on the land. No. I don’t think I could bear to be out there on my own, at nights if they were away or anything like that. But most people on the land love it. Because so many girls from Sydney who went to boarding school and then met up with boys who went to boarding school from Forbes. They’d come out here

06:31:00:00

to live on the land and how they’ve taken the drought you wouldn’t know. But they’ve reared families and most of them seem to have had three or four children. They seem to have settled in well, seem to be happy. But it must be hard coming from the city to a drought.
Terrible. Now you and John sound like…I was just asking about you and John as a couple, being a social couple, a well known couple around town.
We were very active, I think that’s the whole thing.

06:31:30:00

Active?
In all ways. We always helped out and all sorts of things in town. Charity things.
What is some of the charity work you’d get involved in?
All sorts of things, like with the hospitals and retirement villages and St Vincent de Paul, different things. I was at one stage awarded by the,

06:32:00:00

what was the name of the group? I was awarded Woman of the Year, and John was awarded Citizen of the Year. And I was also written up recently as a volunteer and photographed and the story in the paper, and my work at the Mater.
What do you do at the Mater?
I look after the dementia patients, which is a very rewarding job, I enjoy it.

06:32:30:00

I feel that we’re giving these people a little bit of pleasure.
What do you think it was that inspired you and John to do all this charity work?
I don’t know what it was, just seemed to come naturally to us, I guess. John used to look after, he looked after two people who were quadriplegics. One’s still at the hospital and it’s 26 years since he had the stroke and John used to go up and help feed him every morning. And the other

06:33:00:00

man had a car accident and John fed him every morning. And he, they missed, the one that is still there missed John so much he cried and cried. He can’t talk but he’s got a little machine and he types out little things on it. And he cried and cried when John died. And it was just something he liked doing and he used to visit the hospital and see if anyone wanted anything and he’d take them a paper. And he was very good to my brother

06:33:30:00

when he had to go into the nursing home. Looked after him very well. As a matter of fact my brother used to say, “John does more for me than Mary does.” Because John used to take him up sweets and give him the newspaper. But I used to make him up all sorts of things and he thought John was great. But we just did things and we didn’t feel we were doing anything very exciting.
Was it a real blow to John

06:34:00:00

when Grace Bros took over Meagher’s and Co store?
Yes, it was. All the Meagher staff, all the Meagher families from way back all (UNCLEAR), but that was the way things were going and takeovers happen all the time, aren’t they, every day.
Did he try and fight the take over?
No, it was no use him fighting because it was a family company. And then it was taken over way before that, because it couldn’t last as a family company after it had been going for about 60 years.

06:34:30:00

So it had to be taken over. But then he went in and he loved his photography.
How did the Grace Bros store go compared to the Meagher and Co store?
It was much the same, it moved on much the same but it soon closed up.
When did the Grace Bros store close up in Forbes?
I don’t know how many years it’d be now, I suppose it’d be about six years or so, I’m not sure.

06:35:00:00

They’ve closed all the, closing up all the country areas. Bathurst has just closed, they say Orange will be the next one.
You had a lot to do with the women, the friends that you met during wartime, during your wartime service, you were involved in a lot of reunions afterwards?
Yes, well, I was president of the ex-service women’s association here in Forbes and I had a good group with me and we used to organise these reunions.

06:35:30:00

We had wonderful times. The dress-ups were fun, I’ve got all the photographs, just amazing. We went out to the vintage village and raised, rode on the wagonettes with big loads of hay on them and we were all sitting on the hay and we drove through the main street. All the women cheering as they went through.
When was this?
That was a fair while ago now. I’m too old for reunions now but I suppose it would’ve been in the ’60s.
So how many women would’ve been in the returned service women’s

06:36:00:00

club in Forbes?
About 34 of us used to march, I don’t know whether there were more than that now that we’ve got the (UNCLEAR) this last Anzac Day. There’s not many now of us who are able to march, their feet have gone or they’ve got arthritis and/or gone to heaven.
Would you talk about your wartime experience when you got together with the girls?
No, we don’t really, not much. It wasn’t much use, because we were all from different units. It’s not as though I was marching with anyone on Anzac Day that I had any

06:36:30:00

association with in the army. But when we had the reunions we did, we talked about all sorts of things because the girls came from everywhere. We laughed about the things we did.
What are some of the things that you laughed about?
Just some of the dress-ups and things and mad things that we did. But it’s amazing, when these girls came to Forbes for the reunions, they all brought outfits and all dressed up. We all did something. And then when we used to go to Orange and go to Albury, all

06:37:00:00

over the place, and to Sydney. I took five girls down to Sydney years ago when Carlotta was at the, in the Kings Cross. And she was the big time girl there now, well, she’s there now but she was the big timer and we went into this night club and it was all dark and we were walking down and had one army, ex-army lady who was about fifteen years older than us, and we were walking in and she said,

06:37:30:00

“Mary, you said we were going to see Les Girls”, she said, “this is Les Girls.” And she said it out loudly and we nearly died. And while we were sitting around this darkened room watching, these men came out performing, Carlotta and all. “Mary, I think that one’s not a boy, I think that one’s a girl”, she’d say out loud. Gosh, we nearly had. And everyone said, “You didn’t take the girls to the Cross.” I said, “Yes,” I said “we went to the Pink Pussycat, we went everywhere.” We just had a bit of fun.

06:38:00:00

But then we’d meet up with some of the girls that we knew that used to come to the reunions and have a great time. We went down, a lot of us went down from Forbes for when it was 40 years from when the AWAS [Australian Women’s Army Service] started. We went down and marched in the big march down there.
What was that like?
Very wonderful, exciting. Thousands of people lining the streets to cheer us. And I’ll never forget at dawn, when

06:38:30:00

we had the Dawn Service in Martin Place. It was five o’clock in the morning and we were standing there and it was so quiet. And the leaves were just dropping, it was wintertime and the leaves were just dropping down. It was just so magic and beautiful. So sad.
When you went to that service, what kind of things were going through your head?
Just thinking about all the ones that were lost and all the families, it was sad at the time. But we had a great time.

06:39:00:00

We had a very big do at the Menzies Hotel. We all went there and had a big dinner. It was just a wonderful weekend. I saw a lot of, that’s when we really got to see people that we’d gone through Camperdown and Homebush and places, and rookies’, that’s when we saw them, because they all turned up for the big forty year AWAS reunion.
Sorry, where did you have the weekend?
In Sydney.
Whereabouts was it?

06:39:30:00

Well, we stayed at a place, I think it’s not far from Kings Cross. We had a setup there where six of us stayed and we had our own kitchen and we just went out each day. And they all stayed at different places. But the big do was at the Menzies Hotel.
And has it been good for you to be able to keep in contact with these women over the years, from AWAS?
Yes, but we’re losing contact now though. Because we, I don’t know whether, how many are alive these days.

06:40:00:00

And what was it about being in AWAS that actually, that you felt like you wanted to keep contact with these people?
It was just something about being with them for three years. Not so much three years with them, just the ones in Camperdown I was with for three years, but the others, like the ones that I met in rookies’ camp, they just used to keep in contact with me. It happened with a lot of girls, I made some really good friends in rookies’ camp.

06:40:30:00

What did you teach your children about war?
I don’t know that I taught them anything much about war. I don’t think so, I never ever advised them against joining up or anything like that. I always said to them, “I hope they never have to go to war.” I always had that feeling they might. Now my grandchildren might be going instead of my own children. That could easily happen to them.
Did you ever talk to your children about your experience?

06:41:00:00

Your personal experience?
Yes, I told them there, because there was nothing that could frighten them or anything like that, that I went through. They know just what went on. Tim especially knows a bit about it. He’s always wanting to know a bit of history about things and that’s why he keeps so much stuff.
And what’s your view on war now? It seems to be like you’re a bit of a pacifist.
I think it’s a terrible thing to have wars, it’s so unnecessary. and

06:41:30:00

I do think that George W. Bush is a warmonger. I think he’s just out for war. He’s just, he wants all the power. I think it’s terrible, terrible. I don’t think it’ll ever stop. I wonder if they’ll put him back in, that’s what I wonder.
Do you think we’ve learnt anything about war?
I don’t think we’re learning anything at all. I think it’ll still go on.

06:42:00:00

What’s happening now, I mean Saddam Hussein, they’ve only got…
Interviewee: Mary Meagher Archive ID 1389 Tape 07

07:00:30:00

So, Mary, you said to Kylie that it didn’t take you too long to adjust back into civilian life after your involvement in the war.
No, not after, once you were married and back with family and things. I enjoyed my two years at Temora, over there. People looked after us very well. As a matter of fact too much so, as they entertained us very well and I was

07:01:00:00

trying to cook for them and I couldn’t cook in those days. And having babies.
And John had no problems adjusting back into civilian life after being in the army?
No, he was so busy with running the store and also with all his commitments with the council and Apex and Rotary. He was into everything. Always busy, busy and then we used to have great outings with the

07:01:30:00

Apex. Now it’s all gone in Forbes, it’s closed up unfortunately, but all the families used to go on picnics and we’d go to the old people’s places and clean up their gardens. The men would do that and we’d take out the food and drinks and have a picnic. After the flood all the Apexes went in and cleaned up the houses and mowed the lawns and did all sorts of things for people. Sometimes we thought they should be at home mowing our lawns when they were out doing it for other people. But those days, the young ones don’t do that

07:02:00:00

any more, it’s all gone. And the Lions Club here is closed.
So those community groups were really big back in those days and achieved a lot of important things.
Yes, they were. Yes. Yes, we were always out busy doing something.
Did you miss the friendship that you had with the girls from the army?
No, I didn’t really, because see I got into a new way of life. Married life. I didn’t really miss them. But I had lots

07:02:30:00

of contact with them, so that was good.
Do you think that time changed your personality in any way?
I don’t think so. I don’t think it changed me at all. I think I came back the same way as I went away.
And you mentioned earlier that you thought John’s army experience seemed to mature him a bit.
Yes, he matured.

07:03:00:00

Well, otherwise he wouldn’t have got into all these things he did in town. All the organisations he worked with. And he wouldn’t have got onto council if he wasn’t a mature sort of person, out to help the town. Took, went off on his father’s footsteps.
How did he used to reflect on his army involvement, was that something

07:03:30:00

he was fond of recalling?
He didn’t recall it very much. He talked a lot about the ones he was really close to in the army. Didn’t talk a great deal about it.
Do you think he enjoyed the discipline side of it?
I think he enjoyed the army, I think he enjoyed it all right.
When you did come back to the country,

07:04:00:00

you were obviously surrounded by a lot of blokes who had been to various parts of the war and some of them probably had a pretty rough old time, did you observe that some of those guys did have difficulties getting back into their normal civilian life?
I can’t say I saw much of that. That were all so happy that the war was over and they had got

07:04:30:00

back home safely, but I can’t remember anything happening that was, that they were unhappy or whatever. I think they just got on with getting into jobs again. Or they won soldier blocks and they got back on the land and things like that. A lot of them went back to work with Meagher and Co that had gone off and left to go to war. They seemed to

07:05:00:00

get back into things.
Do you recall what Anzac Day was like the first time it came along after the war?
No, I don’t remember that at all, because Anzac Day wasn’t celebrated for a long time after the war. I can’t think when, but we certainly celebrated it here. Not last year, the year that we had the Anzac march here.
Do you recall when that first year might’ve been?

07:05:30:00

No, I can’t think when it was, but it was when my family were fairly grown up, I think, before they started the Anzac march here. We have a wall down at the park now, and all our names are on it. Everyone who were enlisted from Forbes are all on it.
Does that make you feel proud?
It does really, I think it’s great. Some people objected to it, the heritage people objected because they thought they shouldn’t do that sort of

07:06:00:00

thing in a park where people have picnics and things. But I don’t think it’s affected the park in any way. And it’s got a lovely plaque up the top with an army, navy and air force man in it and an army girl. I don’t know whether you’ve seen that or not. It’s just opposite the, it’s in the park anyway, our park. Just near the Town Hall, opposite the Town Hall.

07:06:30:00

Are you proud of the contribution that you made to the war effort?
Yes, I think we all were.
And why do you think Anzac Day continues to be an important day?
I think because of all those soldiers who went over to Gallipoli and all those men that were there on their horses and things, and they

07:07:00:00

didn’t have a chance. And I think they’re the ones we’re honouring really, because it was just terrible the slaughter that went on there. Just, what they people, their families must’ve gone through. Two and three boys in some families were killed. But I think it’s worthwhile honouring and I think it’s a shame when people object to young children wearing their

07:07:30:00

grandfather’s medals. If their grandfather’s died why can’t the kids walk in the parade and wear their medals? I think that happened in Sydney but I don’t think they’d do it here. If you could see the little ones here marching, not so much wearing the medals, but the little kids, five- and six-year-olds trying to keep in step. And the little things, they’re gorgeous. And everyone claps. I love seeing them. And it’s always a holiday and I think it’s wonderful the way the teachers get them there because it’s school holidays as well when

07:08:00:00

Anzac Day comes. And it’s amazing how they must talk to them before the holidays and get them organised. I had to address the children at the Forbes Public School last Anzac Day, just on my experiences. I was a bit nervous about that.
How did you go?
It went all right, I guess.
What sort of things did you talk to them about?
I told them just true facts about war and what soldiers went through and the POWs and

07:08:30:00

how some of them starved to death and how they lived and the water and the caves and all that sort of thing. A lot of the kids wouldn’t know anything about war. I only talked for ten minutes, that was enough.
Did they have questions after that?
No, they didn’t, the kids were only primary school. It was a very, very hot morning and the flies were terrible and we were out in the open and I think,

07:09:00:00

I was glad to get away anyway, because it was out in the hot sun and it was a bit too much for me, it was. Never mind.
Do many people get involved in Anzac Day in Forbes these days?
Yes, the people all turn out. Last year was one of the biggest Anzac Days we’ve had.
Have you noticed that’s been a trend?
Yeah, it is, the last few years. Yep. It certainly is.

07:09:30:00

I just want to now go back. You told us a little bit about the floods of 1952. Can you just tell us a bit more about that? How they came about and more about John’s involvement and what you and the family did during that time?
Yes, well, when this flood came in there was a wall of water three feet high coming down the Ugarra Road coming into Forbes. And people didn’t know how big the flood

07:10:00:00

was because it came in the night. And there were people on the land who were sitting having breakfast and looked out the window and saw the waters coming and they just fled with their children. Got in the car and just fled. And there were cattle going down here, down this, moaning as they were going. And there were wardrobes washed down there and then it got to the bridge and they were all clogged against the bridge down there. It was just awful. And then, of course, the town was cut off so John went down town

07:10:30:00

and stayed there and his mother was fantastic. When the army ducks [amphibious vehicles] came in they couldn’t even get down, the current was so strong they couldn’t get down town. And Mrs Meagher fed all those men. Cooked and did everything for them in the house just over the road over there. And old people were rescued from the rooftops. Some people were foolish enough to go out in boats, thought it was exciting, the floodwaters and got trapped and had to climb trees and then they

07:11:00:00

had to be rescued. Fortunately there was no loss of life in the floods but it was pretty devastating because it went through so many houses and stores and everything else. And of course the drought – the floods on the properties with the sheep drowning and things like that, just awful.
And how did your house fair?
I was in the big house and you wouldn’t know – over there it was going through the rugby union club, right over the windows and over the house opposite and we were safe.

07:11:30:00

It was just amazing. It was just, we were ready to plug the holes around the house and pull up the carpet but it didn’t happen. It just got in the corner of the garden and then we, they had all these snakes washed up afterwards. So I was walking young Tim around, and I had to be very careful because we were just walking around. Went into the fern house and there was a big brown one curled around in the fern house. But anyway.
So how long did it take for the waters to subside?
It took about a week.

07:12:00:00

About five days at least before you could get anywhere.
And there were a lot of efforts to pump water away.
It was unbelievable, and the mud. The mud after a flood, in house is (UNCLEAR) and the smell, unbelievable. But I don’t know whether they’ll have another one now, after this terrible drought. I think it’ll be a long, long time. And John used to ferry

07:12:30:00

groceries around in the boat to people and go and check their houses for them. He went out and his brother used to fly him out over the countryside and drop all the bread and things that they needed.
So he just took it upon himself to do as much as he could.
Yes, everyone was doing what they could. Anyone who could fly and do whatever. It was a very, very trying time. A worrying time.

07:13:00:00

Just going back to your frock shop, it sounds like that was an enterprise that you were a little bit reluctant about taking on.
At my age, 48 years of age, I didn’t want to really because I was just starting golf. And I thought, “Oh, I’m just”, Patrick was eleven, “I’m just about to do things I want to do”. I didn’t take up golf until Patrick was eleven. And John just thought we needed it and I suppose because there was still

07:13:30:00

three kids at boarding school that I went along with it and I, in the end I enjoyed it but it was a bit worrying when the season was bad. See, you buy your clothes six months ahead of time and I might go down in wintertime to buy for summer. And then the summer might be really a bad summer and people don’t want to buy. Or the winter could be just a mild winter and you’re not selling the clothes and you’ve got all that stock. And then you’ve got to reduce your things to half price to sell them. And that still

07:14:00:00

goes on today. They’ve always got half price sales down here. And of course this hot summer, nobody wants to go out and buy really expensive things so the top one in Forbes now has got everything below cost price. And she’s just an exclusive lady too. But they must have a big mark up on it, is all I can say. But that was the worrying part about it, the buying. But I used to get out to my golf. I used to have a lady come in, and

07:14:30:00

I always played golf on Wednesdays. Of course I played Saturdays because that was a half day holiday, of course. But Wednesday, John always made sure I got out to golf and that was good.
How long did you have the shop for?
I must’ve had it about eight years, and then we took on a franchise. That was a bit of a disaster because the people we had the franchise with were popping all the stuff they couldn’t sell at

07:15:00:00

other stores onto us until we woke up to it.
What was the franchise?
Suzanne Grey, still going. They were two crafty fellows so we got out of it.
So did John stop the photography to do that with you? The franchise, or you just did the franchise?
Oh no, and he kept on and then when we got rid of the franchise we sold it, sold the top part of the shop

07:15:30:00

to the credit union, and they’re still there now, and then we moved up here and John worked up in the big shed here until he got the cancer. And he was fantastic with his framing, he just had a touch about him, to use the right mount to go around the right colouring. He was very popular.
So that became his speciality, the framing side of things more than the photography.
It was his speciality. Yeah, he gave up the photography. He just was a speciality with him.
So he didn’t really retire as such, he kept going.

07:16:00:00

No. He never would’ve been able to, he would’ve gone mad in this place. But anyway, it would’ve been too small for him. He could’ve still had his workshop it would’ve been the same. Because we used to, enormous, see, all this was our garden. Enormous big trees, and we had a train that ran right around our house. He built all the train. Had an engine with carriages on and he made every carriage you can think about, cattle trucks and the

07:16:30:00

sheep trucks and the petrol things that carted the petrol. And we always, we used to ride around on it. For my 70th birthday I was on it with the birthday cake singing ‘Happy birthday’, the cake was, and all these people here. It was all filmed and it was unreal.
He sounds like he was the sort of person who didn’t sit still for too long.
No. He used to say to me when the bus trips were going with the

07:17:00:00

Probus or the college’s seniors, “You go on them, I’m quite happy working in the workshop.” And people were telling me, “Why doesn’t John come on these trips too?” And I said, “Because he’d be bored to tears, he doesn’t mind that I go.” So I used to go on the trips with them. And he’d putter along, come down and meet me on the bus when it came in, have dinner ready for me. But he loved his trains, very clever with them. We used to take them over to Wago Park [?] over near the bowling club

07:17:30:00

and have rides for the children. And he had friends who used to bring their little train engines over too and he’d hook on all his carriages. And then the insurance beat us, two million dollars in insurance, so that was the end of the trains and all the fun for the kids. There soon won’t be any fun, will there, for kids? They’re taking down the slippery slides, all sorts of things of things here, all the swings have gone because people sue if a kid has a greenstick [fracture] now. You didn’t take any notice

07:18:00:00

of them, yet now they sue the council if their kid falls off a swing or a slippery dip. It’s a changing world. Better not get on to all that.
So the franchise was the last time you worked?
Yes, then I helped out in the photography section. I used to do all the accounts and served on the counter because we had all the, we had cameras and films

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and all sorts of things. And we used to take them and send them off to Kodak and I used to have to record all that. So I kept busy and was in my 70s before I really retired. Then even when John moved up here I still did all his bookwork and he just worked in the big shed out the back. In the end we had to bulldoze it down because Mrs Lowe objected, which

07:19:00:00

nearly broke his heart. It cost us a lot of money to put it up when we moved up here.
And the involvement in various charity continued over the years, it sounds like it was a constant in your life.
Yes, anyway we didn’t do that much but we enjoyed what we did.
All right, I’ve just got a

07:19:30:00

couple of fairly different questions here that I thought I’d just throw your way. How do you feel about the way war is portrayed in movies that kids end up sitting in front of?
I think it’s terrible. I think the parents are so wrong to allow the children to sit up and watch them. I think, “No wonder they do these violent things like those children who go into school yards with the knives

07:20:00:00

and things and do terrible things”. It’s because they see it on TV. They think, “Oh good, we ought to have a go at that. We’ll do that.” I think some TV programs are terrible, same as what the children are watching now on the email and stuff. I think it’s just, parents are at work a lot of them and the children come home from school and they get on to programs and they’re not even supervised. You can stop children from watching things if it’s locked up. To me it’s a different,

07:20:30:00

different way of life and it’s a sad way of life.
Did that partly motivate you when you went and spoke to the kids, the fact that you wanted to give them a real picture of the grim reality of what war could be?
Yes, and Tim helped me write it too, and he wanted to give them that feeling too. But I don’t know whether it sank in to little children.
How do you feel about the Japanese

07:21:00:00

these days?
It doesn’t worry me anymore about the Japanese. I feel sorry for them because Tim went to Japan and did a course in Japanese and taught Japanese at school and met some lovely people in Japan. And they, like everyone else were sent off to war. But I just hated the brutality. But when you read about some of our soldiers and the Americans, they did some very bad things as well. But that, I think the Japanese were pretty brutal but I don’t know whether they’d ever be like that ever again.

07:21:30:00

They may have changed. Matured a bit. But it was all war and hatred, wasn’t it. Because I can remember one man saying the saddest day was the day he shot a Japanese man dead because he said he had no chance to get away from him, he said, “He came at us on his own.” He said, “I had to shoot him.” And he said, “I’ll live with that for the rest of my life.” So war was bad for everyone.

07:22:00:00

And how have you felt about the other wars that Australia’s been involved in since the Second World War, the Korean War and the Vietnam War?
The Vietnam War was terrible, I think the Korean too. I don’t think they should have been involved in any of those.
What should we learn from war do you think?
I don’t know, I think it’s all greed and power.

07:22:30:00

That’s what I think it is. I don’t know what else we can learn from it, it’s just that. I don’t know what to think, they just want to take over and be powerful. I don’t know whether we’ll learn much from it though. It’ll still go on forever I think, like the drugs will go on for ever. Never get rid of drugs.
Do you think it’s part of human nature?
I think so now. You didn’t hear about it in our day.

07:23:00:00

In the army I never knew anything about drugs, but it’s rife in all the schools here. Every country town, everywhere. It’s a frightening thing.

07:23:30:00

If you wanted to pass on a message to people, generations of Australians to come about war, what would your message be?
What do you mean? Not to participate or…?
What would you like to let them know about war? It could be that yeah, is that something you’d like them …
Just that it’s not a good thing

07:24:00:00

to be at war and they’d have to think about it, I think. But then they’ll be conscripted, so what do you do?
Just to throw you totally into a whole different dimension again, as we’re jumping around a fair bit here on this tape. Could you tell us a bit about some of the household appliances that you started to get

07:24:30:00

access to after the war. Like the various ways of washing your clothes with dryers and washing machines. What was that sort of technology like?
Well, see, when I was first married we had the old copper and the pot stick and we didn’t have air conditioning or fans, we had the old combustion stove and that of course…
And that was hard work?
Yes, all hard work and the old wringer, you turned it like that

07:25:00:00

to put the sheets through and that was a big job trying to put the sheets through. And then, after we were married of course it was a little bit better, we got a modern washing machine. But of course, in my Mum’s day they had the old drip safes to cool the butter and milk and things and the old stove with the flat iron on it. And I think it was just unbelievable.

07:25:30:00

Well, things, after the war things came back but I didn’t get all the modern things kids have got these days, until many, many years after the army. Like, I didn’t have a clothes dryer or an air conditioner or anything like that. But it took a while for all that to come though. But these days every young person that gets married has got every modern thing. I remember in

07:26:00:00

’44 when we didn’t even have fans in that awful heat and the dust. And only the drip safes. And we also had the old ice, what do you call it, thing to put the ice in. Ice chests, they were called and the ice man used to deliver the big blocks of ice like that and put it in the top of that and that came after the drip safes.

07:26:30:00

Then after that came the refrigerators and the big freezers.
Do you recall when you got your first refrigerator?
Yes, I think we had one not long after we were married. It was not very long after we were married we got the first refrigerator. It was an old-fashioned one, and then later on we had a big one out of John Meagher and Co. which was a big deep freeze and it was on our back veranda. And John thought it was the

07:27:00:00

greatest thing out and I hated it. It used to leak. So I eventually got rid of that. But it wasn’t very easy when we were first married because things were very old fashioned. Now it’s just so modern.
Makes for saving a lot of time doesn’t it. Sounds like it used to be such a big effort

07:27:30:00

just to get a load of wash done for the family.
Oh, I know, Monday was the washing day, now you wash every day.
Kylie, can we just pause for a sec, please? So looking back on your war years now Mary, what sort of memories are they? Do you remember that as a happy time in your life?
Oh yes, it was a happy time.

07:28:00:00

You made such lovely friends. And we did enjoy it. I don’t think I was ever bored in the army.
Any other highlights apart from the friendships that you made?
No, I don’t think so really. Just as I said, the discipline was good and that kept us in good stead.

07:28:30:00

And some of those friendships have lasted a very long time?
Yes, my word. Just now that we’re all getting older and lots of us are passing on. Just this friend of mine who was with me in Camperdown has now gone into a retirement village up here. Only went in last week, so I must go and see her this week.
How many of the ladies would you still be in regular contact with now?
Not many that are in Sydney and places,

07:29:00:00

only just mainly the ones around here. And I keep in contact with the ones here all the time. I go and visit the ones that aren’t so well. And one just lost her husband, I’ve been helping her out a little bit.
And you’ll get together with a few of them this coming Anzac Day?
We’ll all be together Anzac Day, won’t be many of us but we’ll just do our best to march, we won’t go in the

07:29:30:00

cars yet. Only about eight of us, I suppose, will be there. My friend next door doesn’t march because she’s not, she smashed her knee. She had a, slipped on a carrot in the kitchen and smashed her knee so she’s not marching. Lost her kneecap. So easily you can fall when you’re older.
So you go to the service in the morning?
Yes, five o’clock service in the dark.
And then the march?
Yeah.

07:30:00:00

And the drum at five o’clock in the morning going drum, drum in the dark. Not a light on the streets or anything. We don’t march far, we just go from the RSL round to the cenotaph which is in the park. This last year was the biggest crowd and then we go over and have breakfast, beautiful cooked breakfast. And then we go back for the march at a quarter past ten. Always a very hot day. Our feet burn

07:30:30:00

standing on the hot asphalt and sometimes the guest speaker talks a little bit too long so a few pass out and an ambulance has to arrive. Some of the children pass out too.
And when does the march and the ceremony afterwards tend to finish up?
Then we go and have a lunch over at the RSL. We only pay five dollars for a luncheon and then sometimes you go back for the

07:31:00:00

lowering of the flag at five o’clock.
And you might spend some time with some friends in the afternoon just chatting.
We used to, but now we seem to get home now. We used to do that but all of us are getting a bit too anxious to get home. We used to all be, at one time we used to go and have a little flutter on the poker machines but that’s all gone. We’d just put a few dollars in for something to do. Like big kids.

07:31:30:00

Is it a day that you look forward to?
We do look forward to meeting our friends, because after the march, even the ones that don’t march, all come and meet with us and we all sit at one big table and all chat around there and have a bit of fun together. So we do have the ones that don’t march as well, which is good.
So it’s usually a nice day for you.
It is a nice day. John used to say to me, “Off you go.”

07:32:00:00

And he used to march and then he’d go back to do whatever he wanted to do in the workshop. “Off you go, I’ll see you tonight.” I never ever stayed out that late, but we used to stay out till, sometimes, and we used to play two-up. They’d put the two-up on at two o’clock in the afternoon. The girls used to go in and have a bit of fun throwing the coin. That’s all gone too, that was years ago. So we’re good girls now because we’re too old.

07:32:30:00

Fantastic, Mary. All right, well, I think we’ve covered everything. So thank you very much.
That’s okay, I hope it wasn’t too boring for you.
Not at all, that was great. Thanks.

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