The 30’s to 50’s
Life on the Range – Chapter 6
Charles and Mary Smith – “The Valley” and “Walteela”
John Charles and Mary Ann Smith both came from families who had lived in the Kingston district for three generations. They sold their property on the Coorong and bought 2,455 acres of land from Aitchison Grieve in March 1938 for 1100 pounds.
Because of the attractive terrain, a long fertile flat with dense scrubby hills on one side and gently rolling hills on the other, it seemed natural to call the place “The Valley”.
As there was no house on the property Mary stayed in Kingston so that the younger children could go to school. Charles built a hut and camped there during the week, trapping rabbits, fencing and clearing the land. He would return to Kingston each weekend to have his tuckerbox refilled. One of the first jobs was to put a fence around the hut and to plant some fruit trees. During the first summer Mary and Max who was still a schoolboy, would take turns in going to water the trees, catching the train in Kingston about 7 a. m. to travel as far as Bull Island, then walk the three miles to the garden and spend the day drawing water from the well at the bottom of the hill and carrying it in buckets up the hill to give each tree a good drink. In the evening they would walk back to Bull Island to catch the train arriving home about 8 p.m.
There were a lot of big old wattle trees nearby so Mary enlisted the aid of her old uncle, Sam Cooper to teach Keith, Max and herself to strip wattle bark. There was a market for wattle bark as it was used in tanning leather. In this way they earned enough money to buy a windmill, thus making the watering of the garden much easier. Fifty years later those trees are still bearing their annual crop.
After Max left school the hut was enlarged and Mary and the family all moved out to live on the farm. Keith and Max both worked on the property and occasionally for neighbours. The three girls, Kathleen, Rosemary and Vida, attended school at Avenue Range, either driving a horse and gig or riding their bikes. On three days of the week they could catch the train at Bull Island and take their bikes with them to ride home.
Charles worked hard setting two hundred rabbit traps which he would walk around night and morning, as well as doing the fencing and clearing. The money for the rabbit skins supported the family while the land was being cleared and being brought into production.
In the particularly wet winter of 1942 it was too wet to cross the flooded drain and swamps to go to school so the girls had correspondence lessons. Rosemary remembers well the thrill of opening those big brown envelopes with all the exciting lessons and the wonderful smell of the fresh new papers.
One exciting day in November 1941 the Governor, Sir Malcolm BarclayHarvey, came to the Avenue School. The girls had set off for school that day dressed up in their best dresses, driving their horse and gig, and to Rosemary’s horror when she got down to open a gate, she stepped on the hem of her dress and ripped it from neck to knee. When the Governor arrived he asked to meet any little girl named Rosemary (as he had a daughter Rosemary), so to her embarrassment she was pushed to the front with her dress hanging half off and pinned up with safety pins. The Governor arrived earlier than expected, at lunch time, while Miss McLean was at home for lunch, so the children all crowded around his car on the side of the road.
Early in 1943 the family moved to “Walteela” to manage the property for S .E. Tavender and after his death they leased that property and continued to live in the old stone house. Rosemary and Vida continued their schooling from there, either riding bikes or a pony or getting a ride with the Grieve children who drove a horse and gig from “Fellwood” every day.
Another exciting day, 15th August 1945 was the day Peace was declared. Mrs. Limbert arrived at the school to tell the children and a holiday was declared -quite unofficially -and they all went out to “Walteela” and had a chop picnic at the spot about where Brian Copping’s woolshed now stands.
In the years after the war the company of J.C. Smith and Sons became well known for the good, reliable strain of strawberry clover seed which they grew and harvested on ‘The Valley” and sold all over South Australia.
Kathleen White and Rosemary Williams
Max and Mary Smith -“The Valley”
My mother Elizabeth Thomas was born at Avenue Range in 1887, eldest child of ganger Robert Thomas and wife Barbara; the other children were William, Lilian (Mrs. Dow), Fred, Vic, Lou, Bert and Hilda (Mrs. Thomson).
I left Central Telephone Exchange in 1947 and came to my mothers’ family home to help with the Avenue Range Post Office which had been managed by our family since 1915. I was there for about 6 years, also spent some time at the Kingston Post Office and was relieving at the Lucindale Post Office at the time of the change over from the Miss Rabbits’ shop to the new Post Office building.
I married Max Smith in May 1958; and lived at The Valley and had two children, Fiona and Timothy.
Before the children were school age we gave a home to Mr. Peter Baldwin Wochatick -a wool classer of reknown in his earlier years. He trapped rabbits on the property and helped in the garden, the children adored him as he belonged to the pre-T. V. era and could recite, sing or juggle and tell stories, all of which he did without much prompting. He died one morning while going around his traps in 1964; he was 83 years of age.
During the children’s years at the Lucindale Area School we boarded quite a few school teachers, some of them were school bus drivers -we became fond of all of them and still keep in touch with the majority of them and their families.
Max and I were particularly proud of our home and garden, Max laboured for the old stone mason who built the house from Mt. Gambier stone and he was a hard task master, Max always maintained he knew every stone personally after lugging them up the ladder only to have the old chap reject them and want others. The garden, over the years, became the home for lots of native birds who thrived in the cat-free environment and learnt to take food from our hands or the kitchen window sill; we belonged to the Bird Atlassing Club of Australia and found it very interesting; it was a hobby we shared with Max’s brother Keith.
The children both left home to further their careers, Fiona to study in Adelaide and Tim to join the Navy. Fiona is now a podiatrist at Mildura and Tim is a radio technician.
Max bought a small block in Lucindale for our retirement, ensuring that it had plenty of trees and birds to keep me happy; but it wasn’t meant to be as he died in his sleep in May 1985 on his 60th birthday -so he didn’t have to leave his beloved “Valley”.
Mary Smith, nee Le Strange
Jabe and Rosemary Williams – “Karlakeena”
After Rosemary married Jabe Williams they moved back to their part of “The Valley” -Karlakeena -and lived in a galvanised iron garage for a few years – about a mile from the old “Valley” house and they milked cows in the old “Valley” shed.
The next year, in the wettest August for many years, and after a week of constant rain and thunderstorms, their son Andrew was born 6½ weeks prematurely on the back seat of their bogged car. They had been attempting to get out to the main road to Kingston. There were no roads or houses in that area in those days so Jabe was faced with a long walk to “Walteela” and when he returned on the tractor about two hours later he was greeted by a tiny baby boy howling on the back seat, but everyone survived the ordeal.
Within a few years they had a gravel road, built a new house, a drain was constructed with a beautiful solid bridge and they had a telephone so life was made much easier for them. The four children, Andrew, Patricia, Sally and Nicholas all attended the Avenue Sunday School and went by bus to the Lucindale Area School for the main part of their education.
Andrew is married and he and his wife, Jan, have two children -Nerissa and Peter -and they have recently built a new house on the property. Andrew and Nik both work at home and help run the property. They have recently bought a section of brother Max’s land -the original “The Valley”. Their two daughters have left the district. Tricia is married and she and her husband, Chris, live and work in Adelaide. Sally lives in the Northern Territory.
Alan and Shirley Barnett and Family – “The Glade”
G.B. Barnett & Sons from Reedy Creek purchased our first land in the Hundred of Minniecrow from Howard Flint of Kingston in 1943. The rest was purchased from Mrs. Gavin Limbert in 1949. The whole property was in its natural state when the Barnetts took over. It was over-run with rabbits and carried only one sheep to five acres. Stock were watered by wedge holes as there were no windmills. Initially the property was worked from Reedy Creek, Alan and Peter camping in a tin hut when working for any length of time. The sheep were crutched at Bull Island and driven back to Reedy Creek for shearing and dipping. Riding up on day trips to check the stock and water, they were often invited in for a drink or a cup of tea with Mr. and Mrs. Harvey Limbert at Bull Island or if riding the short track, which was the old mail road, with Mr. and Mrs. Bill Homfray at Long Island. This was always an enjoyable and very welcome break during a long day.
We named our place one day just after we were engaged when we came up from Reedy Creek in a horse and gig to pick out a spot for our home. It was the only clearing amongst the timber along the Minniecrow road, a lovely sight. We fell in love with the spot immediately and decided that “The Glade” was an appropriate name. Our house was started in August 1949. We hoped it would be finished to move into after our marriage in January 1950, but because of building restrictions, caused through World War Two, we were unable to purchase materials and only had a permit to build three rooms.
We arrived after our honeymoon to two partly finished rooms. We had a Simpson No. 2 wood stove, table and chairs, a bed and the bare essentials. There was no bath or shower for the first few months. We washed and showered under the hose each day after the sun had warmed the water, keeping nip for each other in case of unexpected callers. Bore water (260 grains of salt to the gallon) was laid on from a windmill. As the cooler weather crept in, we heated water and bathed in a tub in front of a lovely warm stove. Washing was done outside, but we did have troughs, rubbing board and copper.
We did not feel like newcomers, both having lived at Reedy Creek all our lives. We both knew the locals through cricket, local dances and other social events. We were given a welcome by Bill, John and Dick Paltridge (then teenagers) who woke us one night by turning a hose on us through the bedroom window.
From Avenue at that time, there was a metal road to Cairnbank, but just a winding bush track to ‘The Glade” and on to Keilira, along which trees met overhead for most of the way. It was well known locally as “Lovers Lane”. We had to wait 15 months for a telephone, just before our first child was born. We had to install it ourselves and hook it up with the party line. We were happy and did not look to go out very much in those early days. Of course life had its ups and downs. One of the downs being a first attempt at bread making. It turned out too hard to eat so we threw it out for the dogs. It proved too hard for them until a few weeks later when it rained and softened the “bread” enough for them to get their teeth into it. It disappeared eventually. Another attempt was even worse. The dough would not rise. It was duly thrown out, in fact, buried out of sight until the next day when the sun came out to just the right temperature, raising the dough in a healthy white mound above ground level. Droughts, bushfires, blow flies etc. were quite minor compared with these early disasters!
Improvements came gradually on the land. In the summer of 1951-52 myxomatosis was introduced which wiped out an enormous number of rabbits. Trace elements also made a huge difference to the land at that time. This made it economical to develop and improve pastures. Two sub-artesian bores were put down in 1964 – one to water paddocks and another at the house. This made an unbelievable improvement to the flower and vegetable gardens, shrubs, trees and lawns. Until then, bath water, washing water, tea pot dregs etc. were saved during the summer months to water the garden. A few very special plants received pure rain water. The stock close to the house are also watered now from the bore.
Our four children were born between 1951 and 1960. Merrilyn-Anne born 24th March, 1951 married local grazier Andrew McWaters. At present they have three children and live on their Conmurra property “Stone Hut”. Philip Alan born on 2nd December, 1952 married Lucindale school teacher from Glenelg, Lindy Brooke. At present they have one child and have a home in Lucindale. Keith Wayne born 24th December 1955 has a home in Avenue Range. Both Philip and Keith run “The Glade” property as well as other properties each has acquired separately. John Lindsay born 10th April, 1960 has a home and a hairdressing business in Robe. All attended Lucindale Area School. We drove Merrilyn to Avenue every day to catch the school bus. We often became bogged as the roads were bad at that time especially during the winter. After two years of this we boarded the bus driver. The road gradually improved in the 1960’s until it was made a main road and bitumised in the late 1960’s.
We used to take our sheep to be shorn at “Nettlina” Reedy Creek every year until 1955 when our woolshed was built. Other sheds, shearers quarters, etc. were added as we were able to afford them. Our home was extended to its present size in 1960 to accommodate our family. We are very proud of “The Glade” which we and our children have built up to what it is today. We also feel very proud and fortunate to have been members of the Avenue Range community for 36 years.
Lyn and Sheila England – “Shepherd’s Hill”
When asked to recall some memories of my life on the Avenue Range, my most vivid recollections were, 1) The extreme kindness of our neighbours, and 2) The appalling conditions of the roads during winter.
In October, 1951, after weeks of building delays, we decided to move from “Mt. Scott” to the Avenue Range even though our house was still incomplete.
On the very morning that we arrived with our first load of furniture etc., the delayed builders also arrived to install the ceilings! Thankfully my as-yet-untried stove worked efficiently, or meals for that day would have been very limited. The site of our home was close to what had been a camping area for drovers in years gone by, so the obvious name for the property was “Shepherd’s Hill”. Lynn’s Father had purchased the land from Mr. Hubert Banks some years earlier, but I understand that it was originally a part of the Keilira Station.
Our neighbors were Mr. and Mrs. P. Paltridge, 2 miles to the South; Mr. and Mrs. Romie Paltridge and Mr. and Mrs. Lou Paltridge, approximately 4 miles to the South; the Vandepeer property (only Murray being in residence at that time) 3 miles due East; Mr. and Mrs. J. Kelly at Keilira Station, 5 miles to our North; and “Mt. Scott”, home of the England family, 6 miles due West. We had lived at “Mt. Scott” for 6½ years prior to moving to our new home, and although we still had lots of forest birds at Shepherd’s Hill, I missed the incredible variety of water-birds which prevailed at “Mt. Scott” when the swamps filled up annually -usually from late July until October. One year at “Mt. Scott” when the flood gates had been opened near Millicent, such a volume of water came down the Reedy Creek that we were quite isolated. To reach Kingston we needed to travel in a horse-drawn jinker from the homestead in order to be able to cross the creek. We then transferred to a car which was left on the Kingston side of the creek, often needing chains on the wheels to negotiate the muddy track for some distance. The time of our return from the town was prearranged so that we could be duly met again and safely ford the creek. During the year in which Judith was born, Lynn took the precaution of building a single-plank bridge over the foundations of the old bullock bridge, and set up a hand rail to help me in case we needed to cross without the aid of the horse-drawn vehicle. Thankfully I did not have to make use of it. Our only contact with the outside world was a party telephone line from Mt. Scott to the Blackford homestead (4 miles distant) for use in an emergency. With the advent of the large drains in later years, conditions improved greatly, even though graziers in the area were concerned that a large amount of fresh water was being drained away. The flooded area with which we were familiar is now the Mt. Scott National Park! What a transformation!
“Shepherd’s Hill” was not nearly so isolated as “Mt. Scott”. The morning after we had arrived at our new home we received a visit from Mr. Phil Paltridge who brought with him a bucket almost full of fresh milk, “For the children”, he said, “until you have time to get a house-cow”. This was one of the most thoughtful gifts our family ever received, and it gives me great pleasure to record it here. Our ‘milkman’ continued his deliveries until we acquired our own cows. At Christmas time I suppose I should not have been surprised to receive an invitation from Miss Una Evans (now Mrs. Curkpatrick) for our children to attend the Christmas Tree and social at the Avenue Range School, but this was another very pleasing and unexpected kindness. Our eldest children were then receiving Correspondence School lessons, and had very little opportunity to mix with other children. That Christmas social, with Father Christmas bringing a gift for them as well as for the Avenue school-children, was a never-to-be-forgotten incident in our children’s young lives.
I mentioned earlier the doubtful state of our winter roads. Nobody ventured out unless it was necessary. In wet years, for us to reach Avenue Range we had to wind our way along a well-consolidated scrub track until we reached Mr. Phil Paltridge’s home. Here we turned through his front gate, out through his back gate, then through the scrub again until we re-joined the ‘road’ near Minniecrow. Water covered many sections of the road from there to “Cairn bank”; and from Avenue Range to Naracoorte the whole distance was a series of pot-holes, so all motorists learned to travel cautiously for the _sake of both their passengers and their vehicle.
The 63 Telephone party-line north from Kingston was in operation as from 1942, and this was gradually extended to our area, ultimately having 14 subscribers. We were responsible for keeping our sections of line free from treebranches, and Lynn undertook to check mechanical faults when necessary. On December 5th, 1966, the Keilira automatic exchange was working and the 63 line was taken out of service in March 196 7. Some of the wire used in this line in 1942 was wire which had been used in the intercolonial telegraph line from Kingston to Melbourne from 1858 to 186 7, so this particular wire was in use for 100 years. This data was compiled from subscriber cards, per favour of Mr. J. Victory.
In 1956 the Keilira school was opened with 13 initial students. Mr. J. Kelly had donated the land to the Education Department, and a transportable building placed there before the beginning of the school year. A school committee contributed a necessary windmill, and popular dances and socials were held to raise funds for school cupboards etc. With the development of country and more employees engaged, the school numbers grew to over 40 pupils, necessitating a second building and a second teacher. The school also served the community as a church, and for meetings. Although it was forced to close in 1981 from lack of pupils (who transferred either to Lucindale or Kingston Area Schools) the building is still being used as a tennis clubhouse when tennis matches are held on the community courts, and as a Church twice-monthly.
Mr. Kelly sold the Keilira property in the fifties. Mr. P. Haines bought the northern section; Messrs. A.J. and P.A. McBride Pty. Ltd. bought the homestead section; and Messrs. T. George, A. McLean and D. Trott each bought sections of the more southerly areas. With increasing population we began to feel quite civilized. Our tracks became gravelled roads. As the result of a petition signed by 22 land-holders and submitted to the Director of Posts and Telegraphs on April 5th, 1956, a mail-delivery service from Kingston to Wimpinmerit was commenced on July 1st, 1957. The initial contractor was Mr. Archie Gibbs, who received 1 shilling and 3 pence per mile! On April 27th, 1959, Mr. Noel Dowling took over the mailrun and served the district for many years. This service amalgamated in 1982 to form what is now the KingstonComung-Wimpinmerit run. (Information received from Kingston P /Master, Mr. J. Wilde).
Steady development of pastures took place, scrub being gradually replaced by lucerne on the range, and clovers and perennial grasses on the flats. We usually planned to develop 400 acres annually. By 1962 the road from Kingston past Shepherd’s Hill was bitumized. This was an unexpected achievement! and certainly one which I had never thought possible. 240V Electricity was in the pipe-line by 1971 – another boon! No more candles, kerosene lamps, no more kerosene friges, or 32V windlights for power1 Now, in 1986, most homes have 240V deep-freezers, ‘fridges’, washing-machines, and colour television. Even videos and computers are appearing. Effective fire-fighting units are owned by most land-holders, with a special Keilira Community fire-truck, with 2-way radio, ready for emergency. In just 35 years what a transformation has taken place!
Answering your questions, our children were born as follows: Twins Peter John and Edith Pauline 21.4.45; Judith Frances 6.10.47; Jeffrey Lynn 8.6.49; Christopher Robert 27 .12.50. Education was by Correspondence School until 1956, Robert being the only one of our children who attended a school for all of his education. By gaining scholarships the children were able to continue secondary schooling in Adelaide – the girls at Walford, and the boys at Urrbrae Agricultural School. Tertiary courses followed. Peter gained his Bachelor of Agricultural Science; taught at Armidale University, gained his Master’s degree in Agricultural Economics; taught at Melbourne Universiy, then at Roseworthy. He married Miss M. Rowell in 1967. They have a son and a daughter, and now live on the Blackford property where they breed A.M.S. sheep. Pauline gained her Bachelor of Arts degree, some subjects being studied as an external student from Adelaide University.
She and Mr. R.S. Johnston were married in 1968, and settled at Kerewong grazing property, Avenue South. They have three daughters. Judith gained her Bachelor of Science degree, then took up scientific Agricultural Research at Waite, then later at the Adelaide University. After some years she applied, and was accepted, for a Computer programmer course. In 1972 she and Mr. D.S. Stewart were married, and soon after moved to a grazing property, Cherrita, Avenue North. They have 2 sons and a daughter. Jeffrey studied at Melbourne University where he gained his Vet. Science degree. He worked with the Bordertown Vet. Clinic until forced to retire temporarily through illness. He and Miss A. Tindall were married in South Africa in 1974. They have 2 sons and 1 daughter, and now run a grazing property near the Kingston-Keilira road. Robert interrupted his secondary studies when he gained an American Field Scholarship at the age of 16 years, and spent 1 year in North America. On his return he completed his Matric. year with A gradings in each subject. He then spent 2 years at Marcus Oldham Agricultural College, and topped his course. From here he returned to Shepherd’s Hill and began to put into practice valuable experience gained at M.A.O.C. He and Miss M. Warner were married in 1975, and they also have 2 sons and 1 daughter; and are now running the Shepherd’s Hill grazing property, Avenue Range. All 5 of our children take an active part in Community life.
Clarrie and Flo Thomas
Clarrie Thomas visited the South East looking for a property. Liking the virgin country he finally purchased an undeveloped block from Jim McKie, a man who spent his time working for his neighbours. Clarrie was sure that he could develop the area into a good grazing block – a goal which he achieved over the years.
The family arrived at Avenue on Easter weekend 1949 from Canowie Belt – ten miles east of Jamestown.
Flo’s first thoughts were not very happy ones as she felt it was really “blackfellow’s country” and they could have it back as far as she was concerned. But over the years things improved with everyone doing their share of the work.
They brought most of their farming plant by train from Canowie Belt. It was lucky that the truck containing the tractor was left at the Lucindale station as the train was derailed between Lucindale and Avenue. They soon put the plant to work clearing the scrub and sowing down the pastures. Fences and windmills had to be erected and bores drilled.
Their first few months of living at Avenue were very different from their life at Canowie Belt. Their property was isolated, had no modern amenities and the roads were shocking. Kangaroos hopping past the bedroom windows at night kept them awake. On one occasion they had friends from Canowie Belt to stay with them and, because of the state of the road to Naracoorte, decided to travel on the railcar. This was the most memorable trip they had ever taken as the railcar rocked and swayed so much that it was necessary to hold on to their seats lest they be shaken off.
They added two rooms to Jim McKie’s house and lived there for fifteen years before building a Mt. Gambier stone home of eight rooms. They also built a four-stand dairy and chaff shed when they were milking up to twenty seven Jersey cows, selling their cream to Penola and Millicent. With the improvement in their finances they were able to build a shearing shed, implement shed, fowl run and pig sties.
Flo decided to rear turkeys, as she had at Canowie Belt, and to this end purchased a handsome turkey gobbler. She put him in a high netted yard thinking that he would be safe, but one of the greyhounds got into the yard and killed the gobbler.
One year was particularly wet forcing Clarrie to use the tractor to bring in the milking herd as the water was so deep. One day they had a strong west wind which blew the water across the flat into the cattle yards. It had so much white foam on it that they thought the Kingston Beach had moved inland!
Roads were in a disastrous state with sandhills in summer and water in winter. That same wet year the road was flooded for six weeks making it necessary to carry rubber boots whenever they were making the journey to Avenue. Kangaroos were always a hazard for which they had to be alert. Driving their two eldest children to the Avenue school, a distance of eight miles, was frequently difficult. On one occasion Flo could not drive up a sandhill so walked to Cairnbank, collected the children and walked back to the vehicle to drive home. When she arrived there, Romie Paltridge, Councellor for the Minniecrow area in the Lacepede District Council, was visiting. He was able over the years, to pressure the Council into improving the road until now it is a good all-weather one. After having such poor roads for some thirty years they are very grateful.
The family attended the Avenue Church and Sunday School for many years and Clarrie became circuit steward in the Lucindale Church. He also played cricket for Avenue for several years and then the whole family became tennis stalwarts.
The three eldest children were born at Jamestown and Neville and Jeanette at Kingston. Malcolm and Neville have both married and work the home property. Heather was shop assistant at Avenue for many years before her marriage to Garry Sanders and move to Chinchilla, Queensland. Marilyn worked in an office in Adelaide. She married Paul Ryan and lives in Adelaide. Jeanette worked in a bank in Adelaide and Naracoorte and has married local man, Michael Rivett.
Over the years ‘things have changed considerably and the family now live in a very changed place. 240 volt power and bitumen roads have been great factors in that change, making Avenue a very pleasant place in which to live.
David and Judith Mugford – “Seriston”
We came back to live in the Avenue District in 1953 shortly after the death of my mother. I had married David in Adelaide and lived there while he was working as a bank clerk and studying accountancy. The transition from bank clerk to farmer/ grazier was a giant step not without its difficulties. However, it was negotiated quite successfully and now David is the “compleat” grazier.
My father, Aitchison Grieve, made some of the “Fellwood” land over to me and since that time we have been able to buy other areas from Mattners and from his estate. We have worked in various partnerships within the family and have managed to clear, develop and redevelop most of the “Fellwood” land, greatly increasing the carrying capacity of the property.
We have kept up and expanded the Angus Cattle Stud started by my father in 1945. We have had some success in carcase competitions at various times.
Our sons, Jim and Robert, both attended the Lucindale Area and Naracoorte High Schools and Roseworthy Agricultural College. Jim returned to the family farm in 1977 and now has his own home. Rob joined the Department of Agriculture, and after a period managing the research farm at Struan, is now a senior livestock officer at Mt. Gambier.
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