Life on the Range – Chapter 9

Hilda E Thomson

 No book on Avenue Range would be complete without a tribute being paid to Hilda Thomson for her contribution to the district.

Hilda was born in 1901 and was educated at the Avenue School. She has spent most of her life helping people of the district in many ways.

The Post Office which she looked after for so many years was one way in which she helped. People were very wary when the telephone first came to the district. They would ask her to relay messages, a thing she was very happy to do. When people from outlying farms came in once a week to collect their mail, Aunt Hilda (as she is fondly known) would always have time to lend a listening ear to their problems.

Aunt Hilda has set a good example of life style for our generation to follow and may the rest of her life be spent with the people of the district whom she treats as her own family.

pg 69 hilda

Back Row: Liz Thomas, Hilda Thomas, Lou Thomas, Vera Byass – teacher, Alma Schrapel. Front Row: Will Thomas, F. James, Fred Thomas, Wally Schrapel.


A Long Life Well Lived  –  Mary Ann Smith

With the death of Mary Ann Smith on August 29th, 1985 we saw the end of a life lived with distinction, dignity and enthusiasm.

To the last hours of Mary’s life of 94 years, she shared the full experience of family life, with a family that took in not only her sons and daughters, brothers

and sisters, but a, host of loved and loving friends, she was “Mother Smith and Granny” to so many of us.

Born on the 15th May 1891, at Wangolina, Mary was one of the 10 children of John and Margaret Cooper. Being the eldest of the 5 girls in the family, Mary held a special place in the lives of the three remaining sisters, Terradel, Eileen and Daphne.

Always a great story teller, she loved to recount tales of her early years at Wangolina and Blackford. Tales of true pioneering experience. It is really a part of local history that ends here.

In 1912 Mary graduated as a teacher and went on to be teacher-in-charge of White Hut, Blackford, Mt. Schank and Coomandook schools.

Mary and John Charles Smith were engaged throughout World War I, with Charles serving with the Light Horse and Camel Corps in the Middle East.

They were married in Kingston church March 25th 1920. All the family have enjoyed the story of their “Honeymoon” spent at Tumby Bay with Mary living in the hotel and Charlie and his brother Bob trapping rabbits a number of miles from town. Added to this Mary was seasick on the boat trip – both ways. Mary always said that this was the only time in her life when she had nothing to do and she hated it.

The following years saw them managing “Dalkeith”, Joe Gall’s property on the Coorong, with their 3 boys, Sydney, Keith and Max and a daughter Kathleen. Their experiences with passing travellers and swagmen during the Depression years are legend. Mr. Gall had told them never to turn away a hungry man and at times, up to 7 men slept in the travellers hut, fed with vege­tables from Mary’s garden and rabbits from Charlie’s traps.

Education for the family was difficult, so far removed from town, so when Kathleen was due to start school the family returned to Kingston where 2 more daughters, Rosemary and Vida were born.

The tragic death of the eldest son, Sydney in 1937, aged 16, was a shock which effected the family for many years and was partly responsible for the family shifting from Kingston to their property “The Valley” at Bull Island and then again to Avenue Range, where all the young people of the district knew there was a warm welcome, a batch of scones and a word of encouragement.

Although Mary was always busy with her family, her cows and her sewing machine, she still took a most active part in community affairs, she was honoured to be made a Life Member of the C.W.A. on her 80th birthday. For many years she was an active member of Red Cross and was in 1959 appointed the first woman Justice of Peace in Kingston. Probably the civic service giving Mary most satisfaction was her 18 years on the Hospital Board.

A teacher to the very end, she was vitally concerned with the education of her family, her grandchildren and took delight in her great grand daughters newly required skills in reading. A Scrabble player “Par Excellence”, she was as delighted when her opponent got a high score as she was when she did herself, with a wonderful interest in words – a new word was welcomed like a new friend lo be treasured.

As a child of 7 or 8 she was taught to do Patchwork by her Grandmother and his lasting interest became her major activity following a broken hip when she was 90. She played a major part in making a handsewn patchwork for each of her 3 daughters in these final years.

A widow for 28 years, Mary’s life was enriched by sharing the experiences of her family and grandchildren. Her strength of character, lively intelligence and vital interest in the wider spectrum of life endeared her to many and leaves a lasting influence on all of us.

The death of her 2 remaining sons in recent months was a sad blow, but was met with dignity and courage, she accepted her increasing infirmity the same way.

This little verse was written several years ago for Mary Ann by Vida.

Life is rather like a patchwork quilt
Bright patches and dark patches
All stitched together with love, patience and determination to keep going You are one of the bright patches in my quilt.


E.W. Grieve – A Happy Family

I can hardly claim to be one of the old residents of Avenue, not having come to live at Fellwood until I married Aitchison Grieve in 1954, but I must say how happy I have been to be so readily accepted by the Avenue people. I soon felt one of a very happy family which this tiny settlement is – everyone is so friendly and ready to help in any way they can if anyone should be in trouble.

When I first came here there was no telephone as far as Fellwood, only home generated electricity, no school buses, and the most awful roads. There was no road of any sort between the railway line and Crower, so if anyone was wanting to go in that direction they had either to go through Lucindale or travel on the dirt track past Fellwood.

But we did have a train three times a week! It was quite an event to go in to the store in the evening to collect mail and catch up on the local news.

I shall never forget the winter of 1956 and the ROADS! There were swans on the swamps everywhere and one didn’t dare go out without rubber boots. It was nothing to be bogged in front of Ross Stevens’ home, and as far as Drain K near Ross Johnston’s on what was a much-used road. The truck collecting cream came through twice a week and was more often than not, bogged there. If my husband and I were going to Naracoorte we left armed with our boots and the boot of the car filled with newspaper. The men at Fellwood watched until we were safely past the drain without having to send up a smoke signal telling them we needed help!!

There have been many changes since those days – good roads, lots more houses, electricity, telephones, but the friendly spirit prevails and the new comers soon settle into our happy family.

E.W. Grieve


Doddy Natt

An identity of Avenue Range and one everyone remembered with affection was Doddy Natt. When Mr. and Mrs. Fred Natt lived at “Teremina” it was his job to do the garden of which he had every reason to be proud.

His main income came from trapping rabbits, “Papinue” being his trapping ground. Dod was very fond of cards and would spend many an evening at the home of Os and Martha Rivett, along with other locals, playing well into the night. In later years he tended the vegetable garden and did odd jobs on the Paltridge properties. He adopted the Paltridges as his family and they enjoyed many a ride in his T-model Ford not knowing what was round the next corner of the track or how good were the brakes. He begged for a long time to be allowed to take John Paltridge to his hut over the range for a night and to make him some rabbit rissoles. At last John was old enough and they set off on this adventure. The rissoles were good, but sleeping in clothes with doors and windows barred against ghosts was another experience. In later years he was often seen riding his pushbike along the right hand side of the road to visit Phil Paltridge or go round his traps. As soon as he heard someone coming he veered shakily over to the left hand side of the road only until the vehicle passed by, giving the oncoming driver quite a start. Doddy died in his sleep at a Salvation Army Home where he enjoyed his retirement.


William Homfray

William Homfray married Evelyn Natt in July 1930 and went to manage “The West” for Mr. Walter Copping. There was no woolshed on the property so the sheep were droved to “Cairnbank” for shearing and dipping.

They did not have a motor vehicle until the early 1950’s so that a day out meant driving the horse and gig to Bull Island to catch the train by about 8.30 a.m., then reversing the trip that evening usually after dark. Therefore days out during the winter time were very rare.

Evelyn had to spend several weeks in Naracoorte before each of her children were born in case she went into early labour.

‘The West” was sold to G.H. Michell and then again in 1954 to Carrachers. At that stage Bill and Evelyn moved to Lucindale.

Nancy Smith


Fred and Bett Smith

Fred and Bett Smith arrived in Avenue Range with Lynette (4) and Gail (3) from Semaphore Park, Adelaide, on April 2nd 1951. The first person they met was Mary Le (Smith) at the Post Office.

Fred worked at “Fellwood” as a station hand for about 12 months when he joined forces with Alex (Toby) Tobiasen. Bett had been in the Air Force with Shirley.

They lived in caravans in Lucindale for a time and Wayne was born in Naracoorte on 11.6.52.

About the time Wayne was born they bought 9 acres from Bob Hill and John I ,etersen and built a shack and then a house where they lived for the rest of their time in Avenue.

Francesca (Fran) was born in Naracoorte on 21.9.56.

Fred worked at Ray Hocking’s garage in Conmurra for 4½ years. When the mad through Fellwood to Crower became impassable is the wet weather Fred had to travel to work through Lucindale. They eventually opened a garage on lheir own house property in May 1957 and remained in business until they re­llred in 1981.

Bett Smith


Margaret and Brian Wood

We came to Avenue in January 1956 from Pt. Augusta to help Brian’s brother Norm, and his wife Deirdre in their store and Post Office at Avenue. We only stayed with them for 6 months as we were offered a house and job with Bill and Ted Rivett. We stayed with them for 6 years. In that time we had 4 daughters. Julie was born in February 1957, Robyn in January 1959 and twins Sharon and Sandra in January 1961.

In 1962 we left the Rivett brothers and shifted out on the Keilira Road into a 3 roomed asbestos house which we rented from Shirley and Alan Barnett. About 2 years later we bought the house plus 20 acres of land.

Margaret and Brian Wood


Norman and Deirdre Wood

Norm and Deirdre Wood arrived in Avenue 1954 at the time of Rosemary and Jabe William’s wedding. They looked after the Post Office while Aunt Hilda Thomson went to the wedding. They lived in a caravan in Aunt Hilda’s yard while they built the Post Office, shop and house. It took 6 months.

They left Avenue in December 1958.

The Blue Bird used to arrive in Avenue at 6 a.m. Some mornings Norm and Deirdre slept in and the Blue Bird would blow its horn and if there was no response the driver would back the Blue Bird back opposite the shop and toot. If still there was no response he would run across and wake them up.



Richard and Isabell Ruth came to Avenue Range about 1914 to work in the railways. They lived in one of the cottages near the railway station. There were four children – Peter, Geraldine, Jack and Leo (twins). Geraldine married Ernest Jolly and their daughter, Mrs. Shirley Dicker has music books belonging to her Uncle Peter who was taught music by Miss Rabbitt, teacher at Avenue in 1916.



Teddy and Ivy Beggs were a family of true pioneering descent. They came from Ararat. They worked at “Fellwood” in the 1920’s. Their family were Bob, Eunice, Kit, Sandy, Cal and Bill. Bob attended Avenue School for a short time. The family finally settled at Reedy Creek where Hancock’s now live.



Ray Clarence Cooper was born in 1907 and is now living in the Retirement Village at Kingston. He is a son of the late Henry and Selina Cooper who lived near Cairnbank. Roy attended the Avenue Range School in 1913. His father moved into one of the Railway cottages and worked for the railways.



During the war years 1914-1918 school children from Reedy Creek, Avenue Range and Lucindale knitted garments for soldiers for the Red Cross Branch, quite a commendable effort. Ivy Wright (nee Turnbull) speaks of knitting garments having learnt at a young age.



Lilian Edith Barness, mother of Evelyn Shirley, is now living in a Home for the Aged at Albany in Western Australia. She celebrated her 102nd birthday on August 2nd 1985.

Lilian was born at Avenue Range, being the eldest child of Edward George Marshall who, when Lilian was about three years of age, went to live at Frances, where he was a ganger on the Railways. Lilian went to school in Frances and at the age of fifteen went to live in Adelaide with her paternal grandmother, Eliza Argall. Her mother died when Lilian was seven years old, so she lost contact with relatives on that side of the family after her father’s remarriage. Lilian’s mother was Elizabeth Thomas, a name which still lives on in the Avenue district.

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