Yvonne Phyllis ASHDOWN's Autobiography 'When Grandma was a Girl'

Taylor & Ashdown Family Genealogy

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Yvonne Phyllis ASHDOWN's Autobiography

'When Grandma was a Girl (Growing up in the Depression Years)'

These pages are dedicated to my parents

Our family owes a lot of the inspiration in compiling our Family History and more importantly our Social Background, to my mother Yvonne Phyllis ASHDOWN. These pages are dedicated to both her and to my father, Bryan Henry TAYLOR, for it was his stories that he told to me in my childhood that planted the first information from which by obsession with Family History research grew and the seedlings emerged, thanks to my mother who began writing this story in September 1994.

This is Mum's own story in her own words. In reading her story, I hope you enjoy the many hours of pleasure that I have shared with Mum in this journey

'I have been told and can remember, I was born in Military Road (Mosman) on the corner of Lang Street. It was the house my grandmother Ashdown lived in before she moved to 51 Bond Street (Mosman). It was in the Depression and things were very hard when I was born. My dad (Arthur George Ashdown) rented a flat at Mosman Junction above a shop. Then my dad lost his job like so many thousands of people. My Mum (Irene Syliva Kewn) told me they lost all their furniture and they made me a bed in a drawer. So I must have been still very young. Mum & Dad slept on the floor and had butter boxes as seats and that was it, no furniture.

Dad would walk from Mosman, over the Sydney Harbour Bridge, to get work. He had to be there by 5a.m. to get at the top of the que. They would take about ten men out of one hundred and say 'Come back tomorrow'. Some days they would go back to be told 'Not employing today'. It was very hard times. So often the walk was for nothing. He got one job on a bluff to drive a motorcycle with a cart. He had never driven a cycle before and Mum said he was on the top of the moon. Regular employment at last. But it only lasted one day. I believe he was on a very steep hill and some how the side car with the parcel came off the bike, so he lost that job. Then he got a job down Wollongong or Kiama way in a Coal Mine. So he would be down there to work Monday to Friday and home at weekends. Mum hated him being away. Anyway, the work only lasted about six months or so and Dad was home for good.

If you were out of work you had to que up one day a week at Mosman Town Hall for ration coupons. There was no dole in those days. The first house, 19 Bray Street, used to have gas lights you lit. So did No. 10, but they were out of use when we went to live there. I remember my Dad, every Sunday boiling the wood copper and adding cold water to it. Helen and I would get in and have a bath in the laundry copper. We had a bath, but only cold water. My how things have changed. We only had a radio as kids. T.V. never came in until after I was married.

Then Mum got a job as cleaner for the Rectory at St.Lukes Church in Mosman with the Reverend Cameron, who was the same person who baptised all my children. I attended Sunday School at St.Lukes over the years.

I learnt piano for about two months. We could not afford a piano, so we went to practice at Grandma Ashdown's, who was always called 'Ma' by us girls, Helen & Me. I remember old Pop Taylor, Ma's father. He had always lived there as far as I can remember. I did not see Ma's mother at all. Pop Taylor always sat in the Dining Room at 51 Bond Street. I would go and kiss him hello and goodbye. I remember him lifting me on to his knee. I do not remember seeing my Grandfather Ashdown. Pop Taylor lived at Lane Cove before his wife died and was known by all in Mosman for walking from Bond Street, through Spit Junction and down to Raglan Street early in the morning and about 3pm in the afternoon. When I grew up, older people would talk to me about him.

We were the first people to get a car in Bray Street. It was an Oldsmoville. That takes me back. I remember as a child that the top side of McPherson Street from school was a Milk Dairy owned by the Annette Family, who dad's sister and daughter married many years ago. I remember the Ice Works at Military Road, and opposite where the Liquor Shop and Offices are now, there were just paddocks. So much of Mosman had not been built on. A lot of houses had larger blocks and lots of fruit trees. I spoke of this as a child to Dad. He said there were a lot of orchards as he was growing up as he lived his whole life in Mosman, except when he was at war or down at the Coal Mines during the Depression. He told me that all the land opposite 68 Ourimbah Road was a Dairy with a thousand cows and pigs. There was also a farm at the top of Lang Street with Horse Stables and a cart. This was still there when I was a child, but much smaller. It may have been there when you girls were small.

My Dad went to Middle Harbour School. His sister Dorothy went to a private school, as only boys went to Middle Harbour at that time. As for Ma Ashdown she was always sick in bed, or in a chair. She always gave Helen and myself a book for Christmas and birthdays. She was too sick to visit us, so we always went to visit her, and she would always give us a penny for an ice-cream on the way down the hill home to 10 Bray Street.

Dad got a job at Mynor Cordial when he came home (from the war). It was great. He was given a bottle of cordial with his pay. We never had it before, a different colour each week. Dad would work on the Ice Works from 2pm to 6.30, then start at Mynor at 7 to 4.30. When I was older, about eleven I think, he went to the P.M.G to work. I think though he still worked at the Ice Company until that closed. I remember we had an Ice Box when we got married and lived in Ourimbah Road at Middys. Dad would get the broken ice when he could and so we didn't have to pay for it. A block of ice cost 6D and it was good if you could save it.

We had a dicky seat car after the war and on Sunday we would go for a ride to St.Mary's where there was a large park. I remember us going to Bulli and Dad and Algie would put the car in neutral and roll it down the hill to save petrol. You would never these days, but it was accepted then. We had no headlights in the car and we would hold lanterns out to see the way. From Bathurst to Parramatta you would only pass three other cars.

After the war we went for a holiday to Tuwna. Dad would go to shoot rabbits to eat and kangaroos to make rugs. There was no lights or electricty. A clay hut and clay pot with wood for fuel. It was the best rabbit stew I ever tasted. It was so cold it snowed at night. It was a great holiday. We learnt how to cook 'Johnny Cakes' and went to a Bee Farm, where we got fresh cream and honey. Things we did not normally have.

At home, in June or July of 1946, I recall a man used to come up our steet every week selling rabbits, calling 'Rabbits, Rabbits, 1 Penny each'. There was also a Propman selling sticks for Clothes Lines and Green Grocer Trucks with fruit and vegetables.

As a child I would go fishing with Colin Mithell's brother. He had an old row boat and we would go out to the old wreck and fish. We always got fish there in those days. There were no homes around Inkermann (Mosman), just bush. You could walk around Joel's Boatshed along the forshore and only see one or two homes. I remember counting the lights at Spit Hill as a child and I could count only three to five. Now there are 1,000s, where then all of Seaforth and above the Spit were bush.

Even when we got married, we were offered a house at French's Forest. Dad said he 'would not go that far in his holidays'. Now there is not any land. In those days it was every where. (a family friend) said he sold a block after he got married, as it was too far to go. So it was not only dad. A lot of people thought that then.

When we were getting married I worked at the North Sydney Orpheum Theatre as a Booking Clerk for the Vautier Family on Friday and Saturdays's and at their Cremorne Theatre from Monday to Thursday. That is why I think I liked Luna Park, as I often went there on a Saturday night with (your) dad. There was a blue plaster cupid doll there that I really loved and (your) dad was determined to win it for me. It would have been cheaper to go and buy one. But we went home with it and we filled it with sand and it became our door stopper.

We were living at Middy's in Ourimbah Road and Mum and Dad went to live at Milperra, Liverpool, so we moved in to 10 Bray Street (Mosman), as I was expecting your sisters. On the night Maureen and Sharon was born, for hours (your) poor Dad was running up the street to phone the doctor. ..Sharon's head had arrived. Things were different then and and Dad ran so fast for help. Our neighbour came back with him. 'Emmy Moore', was wonderful to me and sent her husband to ring the doctor and tell him he was taking me to hospital and get their car (that was only one week old, a holden), as we did not own a car. I remember we were going up McPherson Street, passed Middle Harbour School, when Sharon arrived. So I sat on her all the way. God was with me all the way, as except for the bruising there was no damage. We arrived at St. Monan's Hospital and Emmy told Dad to go ring the emergency button. They told Dad to bring me in. I heard a lot of yelling and Dad refusing and he said they were to come to me, and they did. Sharon was delivered in the car and they said if I had of moved she would have been strangled. They took me into the theatre and Maureen was born before they could prepare anything. The twins were rushed away to Tresillian as the hospital was not prepared to cope with them. They were in like a shoe box, each packed in cotton until they got them into a humid crib. I later went to Tressillian to learn how to look after the twins.

A little time later we moved from (10) Bray Street to Giffnock Avenue, North Ryde (a factory now stands there). That is where we had to buy hens to get the garage converted to live in. My Dad said he would go half on the price with Dad and they would split the profit at the end. I know we sold hens for ten shillings. That was about fifty pounds, because we had at least one hundred hens. So my Dad and yours must have put in twenty-five pounds each to make a total of fity pounds. I know my Dad felt bad about moving back into Bray Street, after selling us the carpet and bath heater, so he got a loan off the bank and Dad got a loan of Pop Taylor. Everyone was a great help getting stale bread, especially Nanna Taylor (Iris Jessie Asher). Dad would go to the bakehouse and get day old bread for free and bring it home on the bus. Also we would get the end of cabbages and greens in cases, free from the greengrocers. People were different in the fifties and were prepared to help each other better. We would break all this up and soak it in water and add some power like stuff we bought at the produce store. We would sell our eggs at the P.M.G (where her father worked), Bus Depot and to the local people at Crows Nest for one shilling a dozen.

We also had fruit trees (like dad's great-grandather Henry EZZEY) and Dad had a wonderful garden, so we only had to buy meat and groceries. No where like you get now. We used to buy a large billy of milk off the people down the road for a pence six I think. We would let it stand over night and get one to two pints of cream off it. Funny, you soon don't want cream, so Mum and Nanna would take it home after a while. Nanna Taylor would give us five cents or one shilling for what she sold. We had a fuel stove, copper and bath heater and had to set them like a fire to heat up. We lived there until I found out I was expecting you. Dad decided he 'could not leave me stranded so far away' and he said that my Dad felt the same way. When we were there Dad had to get up about 3am, get dressed and go to work. He would have to be at Lane Cove Road at the corner of the Drive-Inn Movies and the Pan-Truck would pick him up (we had outside toilets, no sewerage, except in the city in those days, which had just started) . He would jump on and off collecting pans until he reached The Pacific Highway. That was where he could catch a bus to North Sydney. One day the Pan-Driver was running late and a Flower Driver stopped for him. It was the accepted thing in those days that you worked for your lift. They were glad to pick up a hitch-hiker and Dad found the smell a lot better. Anyway, the driver told Dad he would look for him each morning. The next day, Dad hid behind a tree so the Pan-Man would not see him.

We lived up there until I became pregnant with you, then we went back to live with Middy. She always had rooms and she liked me and she did not charge us key money a second time around. I still think our life would have been so different if we had stayed at Giffnock Avenue, but there was no way three beds would have fitted in, as we were cramped as it was. So we sold all the chooks at a shilling each and did not loose any money on the deal.

I also attended the Salvation Army. I went two times a week in those days.

..I do love Xmas so much and the last few years you girls have made it very special....I have all my Santas up, mainly on the shelf between the main room and kitchen. Approximately thirty-seven Santas and extras. Looks realy good. Barry said it was like walking into D.J's Xmas Shop...' Love & God Bless, Mum (December 1994)

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