People Share Their Stories

“Behind the house was a laneway and opposite was Anthony Hordern’s stables, for their delivery vans. I can remember the smell of the manure and sound of the horses clopping up the street. Surry Hills was anything but wealthy – all little single-fronted cottages, all built on top of one another, with almost all having a shared wall. It was congested … but footpaths and gutters were always hosed and kept clean. There was always a close community feeling …” Fred’s Dad was a labourer at Eveleigh. During the Depression he worked three weeks on and one week off. Fred’s auntie lived in Bourke Street and was a member of the East Sydney Labor Association. His Dad, too, was interested in politics: “he used to take people to the polling booths in his old car … He was just a real Laborite; he followed Jack Lang”. Fred’s friends were the local kids: “We’d draw a big ring out in the lane at the back of the house and play marbles, and on the weekends the adults used to join in too” The family moved to Rosebery when Fred was eight, in 1932: “Rosebery was a much more affluent area. It had nice wide streets, and we had a bigger house there.” There were a few factories in Rosebery: Sweet Acres, Wrigleys, and the Eveready Battery factories, but lot of people worked in shops in the city. A neighbour lost his job in the early 1930s, and he walked to Wollongong and got a job in the steelworks. Fred tells the story of a kid who was supposed to take his little brother home from the local Catholic school. When he found that he could not because his brother was on detention in a locked room, guarded by a nun with the key, “he pulled out a pocket knife, and slashed the nun’s wrist, took they key and opened the door, and took his brother home!” He also remembers the Sole Bros circus, a wild west buck jumping show at Blacktown, and the hot day at Maroubra, when shop windows broke and the sea was too cold for bathers, who stood on the wet sand.

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