Although I was born close to Mosman (on the Cremorne side of Holt Ave, at the demolished St Monans Pte Hosp) my family soon moved back to the bush as my Dad feared a global nuclear war. He was in the Reserves at the time…
However, as you may already know, thermal global war did NOT break out but we did have fire, locusts, flood, drought and a mouse plague – which made the “a pound a pound” price for wool frustrating when the sheep are dying and can’t feed.
So, Dad came to “the city” to get started on re-establishing our life. He came back to Mosman and took a job in a Real Estate Agent’s office. He figured it would reveal who was doing well when they pop down the money for a house in Mosman. (He discovered people in “computers” had money and although there was no way to afford a computer, he did learn that they used up an awful lot of pre-printed forms. If you have an HSC, his company printed it. Not the part with your name and grades, but the fancy flourishes and lettering. On-the-spot fines, too. But I digress).
Eventually the day came for Mum and I to move. It had been six months and Dad was ready for us, all set.
We packed everything in the car and headed to Hornsby, where my Dad was to meet us and drive the rest of the way.
I “knew” we had lost all our money and I decided to make the best of it.
I had some experience of the city from our flat at Manly where we spent every Xmas holiday.
I suppose I should have reasoned that completely broke people might not be also re-locating their Housekeeper. Bessie, our Housekeeper of many years moved with us, but I thought nothing of that, after all, she was always with us.
So we meet Dad at Hornsby and he drives us in. It is dark, quite late and I am tired, “Go to sleep Joey” my Dad’s pet name for me “I’ll wake you when we are nearly there”.
Relieved, I slept.
To be awoken by an “almost there”.
I looked out the window. To my horror the road was narrow and twisty, there was a sandstone wall, a streetlight was out, the houses were so small and so crowded together. Certainly none had room for a horse in the backyard! What sort of people were these?
Faintly depressed, I decided this was a slum. I’d heard of slums and this certainly fitted the bill. OK, I thought, if I’m going to be a slum kid, I won’t complain, I’ll make the best of it. I’ll just be really brave like those kids in the movies and novels.
We got to the house.
Out I tumbled.
Dad took us in, showed us briefly around “the rest can wait until tomorrow” and put me to bed in my room.
I must say my new room looked very much like my old room… wait a minute, it’s all my old furniture, including my bed! Confused as to how they did that, I went to bed and fell asleep.
In the morning, I awoke to the sounds of children screaming. Oops, this is a whole side of slum-life that was unexpected.
I went to the breakfast room to find my Dad (as always) sitting at the table with a cup of tea and a cigarette.
“What’s that noise, all those kids screaming?”
“Oh that, it’s just kids having fun. On the beach”.
ON THE BEACH?
Our slum has a beach? Things might be looking up.
“What beach? Is it Manly?” (the only beach I knew). “Where is this beach?”
“It’s just there, it’s called Balmoral. No surf, but you’ll like it”
Sure enough, he was right – it WAS just there and I DID like it.
As we were leaving Boggabri, my best friend’s Mum said “well John, I suppose you’ll be a city kid now”
Thoughtfully I said “No Mrs Matthews, I’ve been a country kid for eight years, it will take another eight years for me to become a city kid”.
Eight years, pffft! Once my toes wriggled into Balmoral sand it took about eight minutes!
The narrow road with sandstone walls was near the top of Mandolong Rd near Mandalong House. The Estate Agent was Craig & Littley. After the trip from Boggabri to Hornsby, my Mother never drove again. Our car was a big English car and made the roads seem even smaller. Bessie eventually retired and went back to Boggabri. Another famous ex-Boggabri Mosman resident was Bob Miller who had a sail loft at Spit Junction and later changed his name to Ben Lexen. As Bob Miller he brokered the sale of my Moth to Sir Tristan Antico, complete with its Miller & Whitworth sails. I played with MRUFC, rowed from Mosman Bay for MRC, was in 1st Balmoral Scouts, Loved the Easter Regatta at Balmoral Sailing Club. I have a daughter who just finished school at Queenwood. She was surprised I knew who Ms Medway and Ms Rennie were.
Well there I was at 36 Mandolong… and would skate board down that last stretch to the beach. We’d sneak into the Queenwood school tennis courts and bash the ball against the wall of the back of the milk bar The sandstone foundations gave a great unpredictable rebound. Still helpful in my current tennis playing ! Old” Whisky” the dog would always bark at you when you walked past the side door of Mrs Riddle’s – didn’t put me off dogs though.
And there was no going home time- it was just when you couldn’t see what you were doing anymore !
I’m the volunteer Marketing & Publicity person for Balmoral Sailing Club and I’m hoping someone may have contact details for Alan Stevens (or his family) who lived in Mandolong Road, aged 12 in 1945. He sailed at Balmoral 12 Foot Sailing Club (now Balmoral Sailing Club). After the war Alan and his parents moved to Hong Kong and he represented Hong Kong, sailing a Finn, at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games.