My Grandmother's Memories

Posted by
Michael Cooper
Oswald Street, Rangers Avenue
63 Rangers Ave

63 Rangers Ave, circa 1940's

These memories, covering approx 1902 to 1920, were taken from an interview with my Grandmother (Marjorie Cooper 1897-1995) by Elizabeth Compton in 1992 at Montana Nursing Home, Mosman. My Grandmother would have been 95 years of age at the time. After returning to Mosman in 1930, my Grandmother purchased 63 Rangers Avenue, Mosman (pictured right).

“I started Killarney [School] in 1902 when I was 5 years old and finished 3 years later at aged 8 years. The School was coeducational and ran from 9 am to 3 pm with about 15 pupils in each class. I had previously been to a kindergarten run by Miss Duffy who taught us pot hooking and ‘forms’ which must have been preparation for writing.

“I lived at the head of Mosman Bay and walked by bush track or perhaps a dirt road to Killarney, up what is now Harbour Street. I was given a penny to catch the tram home. I often didn’t catch the tram home because I would spend the money on a chocolate ball. I think Mother’s friends were rather horrified that I should be expected to walk from Mosman Bay to Killarney, at the top of what is now known as Spit Road.

“Killarney was a very wonderful building with beautiful grounds surrounded by pine trees. We used to climb these pine trees with Alma and Tricia Mathews and we would swing from one to one which was great fun. We all tried to beat each other. One day Alma fell and could not move. We went shrieking into the school “Alma’s dead! Alma’s dead!”. Much to our horror Alma was taken away. We believed that she was dead. A number of days later she was brought back to school and I remarked to Miss Carter “has Alma been resurrected?’ It was a word that I had heard at Sunday school. Mrs Carter was a very wonderful woman but she had the misfortune of being cross-eyed and it was difficult to te1l who she was talking to. So quite often when I was asked a question, I thought it was the girl next to me that was being asked and I did not reply. Then Mrs Carter’s response was “Now Marjorie, why didn’t you answer that?’ I got very upset about this. I don’t remember if I cried but I was very cross. I know I went home and told Mother that Mrs Carter didn’t like me. She had an assistant by the name of Miss Grant however I only have a very vague memory of her. I can see Mrs Carter very clearly but not Miss Grant.

“It was a big room that we went into for lessons and it was my first introduction to not being free to scribble as I wanted. We really had to write words which I wasn’t very good at, and no pothooks ever helped me. It was fun and it was pleasant, you had to line up in lines and then go past and say good morning to Mrs Carter then go on into school where you sat at tables or desks. I remember them as tables but they may have been desks because you could leave your books there until the next day. You had pencil boxes given to you by your parents which you had to have when you went there.

“There was a daily exercise program using dumbbells and clubs which I 1oved. You might call it callisthenics now. I used to love anything to do with sports. The school didn’t take us but my parents used to take us swimming and I was a natural to the water.

“The gardens were very extensive the lawns were spacious and very beautiful. We would have a sports day outside which would consist of running and jumping, the 3-legged races and hoops which we ran around the ground with. You got a little present if you won something. One time I won three races and won the same prize three times. It was a little set of baskets that fitted inside of each other. They were very old fashioned. We studied English, history (The History of the English Empire), maths and geography. We had to draw maps and put in towns. Maths was my favourite subject. We did not study any ancient history or religious studies although I did go to Sunday school. We did not do drama or sewing that I can remember. I took my lunch in a haversack. We didn’t go on outings because it was all bush, there were no roads. The tracks were made by horses and carts. There were no shops; the nearest post office was down in Mosman Junction. Mosman Junction had a few shops; it was very overgrown; lovely trees that we would climb.

“There were boys and girls at Killarney School and they shared the same classroom and play ground and were given the same forms of discipline. My older brother went to Neutral Bay Public School. I had a brown dress to wear to school; it was my pride and joy because Mother had put a few touches on the Peter Pan collar. We wore hats and pinafores over our dresses- I felt that I was really dressed up to go to school.

“Mosman at the time was very beautiful. We walked everywhere because there was no transport. The coach which met the ferry at Mosman Bay was drawn by two horses. My mother used to push my younger brother around in a perambulator which she dragged behind her after she got off at Rangers Avenue and I presume my brother went into the pram and my mother would walk up Rangers Avenue to Oswald Street. The Rangers was still there then. It was not until I was 18 that they pulled it down. We had a fete to raise money to try to save it but it was no good, they would hack it down. The postman came on a horse and when he came to our gate he would get down and I would ride it while he would deliver the letters. The rabbit-oh would come round and a man calling for any old tins or irons.

“There was a huge stone (granite) rock outside our house where Mother used to sit and sew. I can just remember crawling around on it, with my brother playing near by and a nursemaid keeping an eye on us.

“Killarney didn’t go on to a higher grade so I didn’t stay there. Miss Isobel Yarnold set up a school in Raglan Street in 1908 (St Hilda’s). I went on to Miss Yarnold’s where I really had to study. I played a lot of tennis where Betty Shaw and I fought it out time and time again to be the best. At 12, I went on to Riviere College at Woollahra. Then the war came (my brother went to the First World War) and that knocked any chances of studying at the University (I had wanted to do medicine). During the war I did a lot of nursing but I never registered as a nurse although I passed all the requirements.

“When I was young there was a group of aboriginal people living up Middle Harbour. Mother used to take a boat load of us up there at each full moon. It was a big row boat that we would hire from the Spit. We would walk down to the Spit; there was a big hill in those days. Mother would leave food; she would say it was for the birds but in retrospect I believe it was for the aboriginals. She saw them but I never saw them; they never frightened me.

“[Our home] was a big house which was extended when my younger brother came along. The house stood at the intersection of Brierley Street and Oswald Street. At the top of our street was Seidenberg’s dairy with a bull. I had a red cape and one Sunday when Father and Mother and I were going out to visit the Glassfords who lived at Neutral Buy, the bull went for me- Dad had a very wonderful walking stick which he broke over the bull’s head. There was also Foley’s dairy on the Northbridge side. There was a Chinaman who used to come around every week with 2 baskets over his shoulder. The baskets had every type of vegetable and fruit you could want. I didn’t know of any market gardens run by the Chinese at Chinaman’s Beach. It may have been after my time but we used to picnic down at Chainman’s Beach and the Armatiges used to own all around there. There were the days when the butcher would bring the meat around and if cook or Mother didn’t approve of the meat then they would sent it back and he would bring some other. I said to Mother that they probably only turned the meat over and showed her the other side!

“There was Steele’s Corner on the corner of Rangers Avenue and Avenue Road and that was like a corner shop. Mother used to send us down to get the odd thing that they may have run out of, because she always shopped at Anthony Hordens or [the] Civil Service Store. Mr Steele would always give us a horn (a paper roll) filled with lollies; so we would willingly go on these messages. The newspapers must have come from Mosman Junction Newsagency because Dad got the Herald and Telegraph. He left Mum with the Telegraph and took the Herald. He worked in the city and would go down to the ferry at Mosman Bay, in gum boots because they were all mud flats in those days. Later they put the concrete channel in. At the back of Steele’s store was a cascade, a natural spring and the Council permitted his son George to build over it’. There is not the water in it now. The tide used to come over the flats too, which is why they built the bridge. Dad used to wear his Wellingtons down to Mosman wharf and collect them again at night; they would still be there.

“Outings consisted of trips to the Zoo at Moore Park which smelled but we children didn’t mind that! Another treat was a trip to Manly where there was a merry-go-around under a marquis. The Corso then was just a dirt track. I remember the dance halls at Clifton Gardens and at Balmoral but of course Mother and Father never allowed me to go there.

“I married at the end of the war (1920) and [went to live near Armidale]. I returned to Sydney in 1930 and after a short period in Roseville returned to Mosman to be closer to my parents. I have always loved living in Mosman.”

Michael Cooper · 6 August 2012

Your comment

These very early memories of Mosman are absolutely invaluable and I so enjoyed reading them.
I too had my first introduction to pre school at Killarney ..I started there, in 1956 from about age of 3, and remember the uniform of brown and white gingham. And peanut butter sandwiches and compulsory afternoon naps.
The stories of dirt tracks and horses and carts was marvelous. I do wish you could put up your own memories as soon as possible!

Linda Cairnes · 23 April 2014, 04:51 · #

I too remember attending Killarney and the brown serge uniform with sleeps in the afternoon. I had my own special pillow with a handle to carry it with. The first day I was dropped off I ran all the way home to Medusa Street at the top of Spit Hill.

— Dianne Grey · 17 October 2014, 16:31 · #