I was born in Mosman: Lauriston Private Hospital, which was at 4 Mandalong Road, near the fire station. In 1939, Australia was clawing its way back from The Depression and the world was sliding towards war.
One of my earliest memories is at age three on the night of 31 May 1942 when air raid sirens woke up the neighbourhood. Japanese midget subs had attacked Sydney! My sister and I were hustled into our dressing gowns and hurriedly taken into a shelter that dad had made within the massive sandstone foundations of the house. There we remained until the “all clear” sounded as dawn was breaking.
Named for the harbour-front geographical feature, Beauty Point was a land estate, released in 1928 with defined boundaries: probably as few as 120 blocks of land. It was not a sub-suburb of Mosman! The estate adjoined the Pearl Bay Estate. Until the Beauty Point land release, there were no houses beyond the end of Medusa Street. My parents purchased land in Beauty Point Road and built our home in 1928-9: ours was the 6th house to be built on the Estate.
Beauty Point was a “middle class” area with a strong community spirit. During the late 40s, just on one side of Beauty Point Road Nos.12-28 (14 and 30 were still vacant blocks) …photo-engraving, printing, confectionery mfr, tailor, car dealership, trucking/transport. Within another couple of hundred yards in Bay Street, lived families whose business was retail Butcher (Spit Junction), Manchester & Drapery (Spit Junction), Jewellery (City), Sports Store (City), Wholesale Vegetable/Fruit Agent (Sydney markets), Sports Store (Crows Nest).
Honesty, Simplicity, Frugality, Community were the catchwords of the time.
Most homes were relatively modest bungalows and cottages: nearly everybody knew everybody—at least by sight. As kids, we had probably been to and/or played inside at least 25% of all homes.
Most afternoons after school, we played in the bush that lined the harbour-front… most of us knew every track, significant tree and cave between Quakers Hat and The Spit Reserve.
Our family bungalow had only two bedrooms; one of which I shared with my sister. As I grew older, the north-facing verandah became my area. Single bed and a tiny wardrobe and desk but I was “king”. I could look down into the garden and shared my space during the day with Silver Eye, Bulbul, Blue Wrens, Butcher birds, Sparrows, Kingfisher, PeeWee, and Kookaburras. At night, visitors to my verandah rail were Possums, Mopoke (Tawny-shouldered Owl) and in summer the huge “Christmas” beetles (as we called them).
A wire antenna was strung from the verandah barge-board to a tall blue-gum in the back yard providing quite good reception for a Crystal set (fore-runner of today’s radio). You had to make the crystal set yourself then listen with ex-military headphones.
Our post-war garden had apple, nectarine, peach, mandarin, orange, lemon persimmon, as well as Lady Finger (“sugar”) banana trees together with a whole range of “vegies” grown from season to season.
The house was heated during winter with an open-hearth fire, burning bush timber. An Autumn chore was to gather and store dried twigs and small branches from the vacant block next door as “fire-starters” and lug larger logs – one at a time – from the bush up to the house where my father would chop them into usable sizes with an axe.
Recycling – an “in” phrase today – was just the norm during the 40s and 50s. Brown paper was carefully removed from parcels: smoothed, flattened, then folded and put in one drawer of the kitchen together with brown paper bags. String from parcels was carefully untied, untangled, re-tied loosely, and stored in the “String” bag that hung in the broom cupboard. Silver-foil from sweets or seals from milk bottles were washed and added to a large “silver” ball that also hung in the broom cupboard. Newspapers were carefully folded and put away, then tied in bundles and lugged by bus up to Spit Junction where they were sold for pocket-money to the local shops to be re-used for packaging or wrapping bulk goods.
In the early days, nearly everything was delivered¬—letters, milk, bread, vegetables, ice. Mr Crouch, our local post-man for nearly 25 years, used to bring letters right to the front door.
At the end of Medusa Street was a small dairy. Dairy Farmers Co-op later replaced cows with a refrigerated bulk-milk warehouse. There were stables and a small farrier/blacksmith to re-shoe the horses. The milkman’s horse used to plod its way up the medium slope of Beauty Point Road’s odd-numbered houses, on the high side, then one back wheel was locked to the cart with a leather strap as a brake while coming down the steeper part where we were. As kids, we would take out a large china jug and fresh milk was dispensed straight from the taps of a large stainless-steel container within the cart.
Bread, also, was sold from a horse and cart—later in a small Morris van—by the Gartrell White Bakery at Cremorne. Littles, the Dry Cleaners, would also call in a small van to collect and deliver cleaner clothes.
Before the ubiquitous Hills Hoist was invented, returned servicemen, trying to get a new start and make a quid, would cut gumtree saplings with a strong fork at about two metres, strip the bark and sell them to homes. They would walk the neighbourhood with four two six of these balanced across their shoulders, calling, “Clothes props, clothes props”.
In the days before refrigerators, the “Ice-man” would come to the back door twice a week with a huge block of ice gripped in ice-tongs and swing it up on and into the kitchen ice chest.
Twice a week, the greengrocer would come to the back door with one sample of everything that they had on the cart in a big basket. Mum would choose what she wanted, then he would go out to the cart and make up the order and bring it all back.
Another horse-and-cart retailer was the man who sold freshly killed and dressed rabbits, and he’d “clip-clop” round the streets calling “rabbito, rabbito”.
Then, of course, we kids were sent out with trowels to collect the horse manure on the street for the garden. We didn’t particularly like it but was just part of growing up at Beauty Point.
BEAUTY POINT POOL
The Beauty Point community made its own enjoyment! After receiving permission from the Maritime Services Board, the husbands of the families living here built the first pool of local bush stones and rock from foreshores. Some years later, when there were more houses and more money to put into it, the community extended the pool further out, loose rocks were pushed aside; wooden piles put down and a wire fence strung around it.
I, along with many similarly aged kids, learned to swim in the clean waters of Beauty Point pool—and without inflatable “floaties” or buoyancy vests: float face-down first while holding your breath, then float on your back, then dog paddle, and finally “over-arm”.
Each spring, “working bees” of local fathers would clean up the area prior to summer. Wheelbarrows were man-handled down the winding bush path. Sand was shovelled through large sieves made from old metal bed frames—with wire springs intact—to separate loose oyster shells, then the cleaned sand was all spread over the bottom of the pool to beyond low tide level.
It was such a beautiful spot for an early morning dip. Whole families would come down with light lunches and make a day of it. Birthday parties were held at the pool. Launches would moor close by and row over for a swim. From the schools of fish that moved up to Bantry Bay on the incoming tide you could nearly always catch a mullet or two for dinner from the corner platforms or collect a small bucket of nice crabs for lunch from Loughman’s boatshed, just metres away.
We would watch the tugboats shuffling barges containing army/navy shells and explosives from the military magazines built into the hills at Bantry Bay around the Seaforth headland and through the Spit bridge.
Somewhere in the early 1950s, Mosman Council took over management of the pool. The wooden corner platforms and ladders were removed. Ignoring the advice of locals, they built a one metre wide, solid stone and cement wall right down to low water mark, which stopped the natural tidal wash. Sand, driven by the nor’ easters blowing the water, banked up high against the stone wall and it got very murky and covered with oyster shells. Flotsam drifted in and fouled the beach. People stayed away in droves: the pool fell into disrepair and was finally demolished by Council.
As population grew, the State Government established a bus route (236) from Pearl Bay to Musgrave Street ferry wharf via Spit Junction, which linked to trams to Crows Nest and Chatswood.
It seems unbelievable today, but as a reserve soldier (CMF then) with 30 Bn, NSW Scottish Regt, it was not uncommon to get on the bus in dress uniform with .303 Lee Enfield rifle in your hand (bolt safely in your sporran) and an 18-inch bayonet hanging off your waist. Try doing that today!
For many businessmen, getting to work meant a bus then a ferry then a tram to get them to their office building. Seeing an opportunity, a Mr. Lardelli started his innovative “taxi-bus” service. Using a small 28 seater vehicle, the “Blue-Bus” as it was known had no marked stops! You just flagged it down like a taxi. Terminus was just outside Stan McCabe’s house at a safe point where the two levels of Bay Street merged briefly. The route wove through Beauty Point picking up passengers as far as Central Avenue then went straight into the city at its drop-off point in Barrack St. Though a little more expensive, the trip was quick and easy while the return journey home was equally quick—non-stop to Beauty Point—then passengers were dropped off at their chosen point, often right outside their home.
In a typical bureaucratic reaction, the government progressively legislated enough rules, regulations and conditions that the Blue-Bus went out of business in about five years, and as “pay-back”, government buses ceased to run after 7pm (no way to home after the movies) and no buses after noon Saturday and none at all on Sunday.
For several years on the 24th May, “Cracker Night” (aka Empire Day), folks would come to the fundraiser/bonfire held in our backyard in support of the NSW Society for Crippled Children (now Northcott Disability Services), started in response to the growing number of children left with the effects of tuberculosis and polio.
I had been with my friend, Phillip Curl, in his room on a Thursday after school: by Saturday he was in an “iron lung” fighting polio at RNSH, then moved to Prince Henry Hospital at Little Bay. He died about three years later!
Locals came around just before dark: the bonfire was lit and bungers, thunders, tom-thumbs, roman candles lit the night. Out came the empty milk and beer bottles to hold the skyrockets, while the Catherine wheels were nailed onto the big gum tree.
In 1958, Empire Day was renamed Commonwealth Day but is no longer celebrated within the Australian community and is not observed as a public holiday in Australia.
THE BEGINNING OF THE END
During the late 40s, the extended gravel roads of Bay Street (roughly from the current 30 to 60 numbers) were sealed providing access to a further land release, known as the Quakers Hat Estate. Nonetheless, the overall community remained somewhat self-contained… roads relatively traffic-free and kid-safe.
This was until bureaucratic-thinking in the mid-1950s built a further Bay Street extension linking to Carrington Ave, which created the rat-run from Spit Hill through to Ourimba Rd opening the way for peak hour traffic to zoom through our narrow streets.
This was the beginning of the end of the true Beauty Point community.
Beauty Point perimeters became “elastic” depending upon your social goals. We all lived in Mosman! Mr & Mrs Hall’s beautiful bungalow at 96 Bay St, (still there!) is almost right on the point of Beauty Point. They always gave their address as Mosman. However, one particular socially-prominent family at Shellbank Ave, nearly 3.5 km from Beauty Point and almost on the North Sydney municipality border, but anxious to be “seen” to live in a “better area” used to give invitations to musical events at their home at “Beauty Point”. Many Sunday afternoons we had great fun—redirecting the lost “social wannabies” wandering down Beauty Point Road trying to find the venue for these concerts—to the furthest perimeters of Mosman.
Gone are the days where you would walk around the neighbourhood, wave to local acquaintances in their front yards, stop and have a brief chat. Modest and fairly low fences are now replaced by two-metre high, concrete block walls hiding the front doors of painted, concrete block, multi-level boxes called houses: many have their own in-ground and tiled swimming pools. Few have any “real” connection with their neighbours!