Our Place: Stories of Surry Hills, Darlinghurst & Paddington - Biographies

Our Place - Stories of Surry Hills and Darlinghurst - Rose Clements Biography


Rose was born in 1921 and recalled her father as the head of the house and my mother waiting on him hand and foot. He would be sitting there, and he would call her to put coal on the fire and when my father was due home, my mother had to make sure we were spick and span. But that was typical of men in those days. … we had a great big dining room … but we ate in the kitchen. We sat around in the kitchen, because the dining room was my father’s place; he sat in front of the fire in there.” Rose’s father took the children to The Domain on Sunday afternoons. Mrs Green and ‘The Tiger’ were two well-known characters there. Rose remembers having been taken to hear Jack Lang speak, and the most popular newspaper was the Labor Daily. A popular place on weekends  was Bronte, with its Bogey Hole for swimming. “We spent our lives there in the summer, either there or down at the Domain Baths”. At the cinema one day, during a romantic scene, Rose heard Bea Miles say, “Oh cut that out, turn it off!” Rose’s mother often went to the pictures on Wednesday, but also she’d go down Oxford Street, shopping, because she always met somebody she knew, and chatting to the locals was her only social contact. She didn’t shell peas or string the beans in the hotel saloon like other women. Rose’s mother always looked old: “women always wore dull, drab clothes ... once you got married, you dressed drably. And that’s why all the women looked old – with their dreadful hats and clothes”. There was some sense of community amongst the women, but they didn’t share their problems; disabled children were hidden. Children tended to leave school when they were fourteen or younger, and most of them became apprentices or worked in a textile factory. The building of the Sydney Harbour Bridge was a feature of her childhood, and she attended its opening, but she couldn’t see anything but people.