Thursday, 1 September 2016

The 1930's

The 1930’s…

Photo shows the interior of 'Everglades' at Leura, an Art Deco mansion built during the Depression years and now managed by the National Trust.

Ironically, in the period when Australia’s economy struck a collapse of markets leading to awful Depression and widespread unemployment, Warrimoo experienced the kind of growth that established it as a permanent community with nascent institutions and an effective economy. Apart from the ongoing timber-felling industry, the 1930’s saw the development of poultry/egg farming, some attempts at orchardism and the establishment of a local dairy.

Main Street, Katoomba, showing tourist bus of the 1930's.
A raw kind of tourism chimed into the opening up of Katoomba and the Upper Mountains to visitors from Sydney, anxious to free themselves of the pong of pan toilets and smoky coal-fired industrialism. Tuberculosis and bronchial sufferers escaped to the peace and ‘clean air’ of the sanatoria of the Blue Mountains and in doing so passed through Warrimoo, another important link in the chain of stops encountered in a full day’s journey to a ‘different world’ of cool, clear climate and healthy atmosphere.

 Even the unemployed sought respite in the ‘Mountains and Warrimoo—the blocks along Torwood Road were said to have been Warrimoo’s own ‘shanty town’ of makeshift shelters and desperate attempts to ‘grow one’s own’ survivalist veggie patches during the ‘hard times’.

While this Electoral Roll is labelled "1930", it is actually referring to 1920. These are the original settlers on the Warrimoo Estate founded by Arthur Rickard, or at least those who had registered to vote (adults over 21 years of age).
Certainly, the population grew. A comparative perusal of the ‘Electoral Rolls’ for Warrimoo in 1920, 1930 and 1934, will provide evidence of the increasing number of residents, as well as their addresses in the township and their occupations.

Registration for voting in Federal elections became compulsory in 1912, so that all citizens of Australia, men and women over the age of 21, were recorded on ‘Electoral Rolls’. Naturally, children, and by all accounts there were quite a few straying the dirt roads and bush tracks of Warrimoo, are not mentioned, so we must draw rather general conclusions about their number in the township during the 1930’s.

The Roll of 1930 shows a substantial jump in the number of residents. However, ‘Mrs Simpson’, the war widow who won possession of the ‘Volunteers’ residence, is notable by her absence. ‘The Duchles’—and there are several alternative spellings of this name in other publications, most notably ‘Duckles’—have arrived and are managing ‘The Store’ (present day Monte Italia Pizzeria). They will play a substantial role in Warrimoo’s history from this point.

Warrimoo's Electoral Roll for 1930. Note the wide variety of occupations listed. How many of these suffered unemployment in the coming years--1931-32--is anyone's guess, since these were the worst years of the Depression when unemployment hit 30%, a rate unheard of today.
The Watts family lived on the corner of The Avenue, The Mall, and Florabella St., diagonally across from the Ways’ poultry farm, which was directly opposite Henry Todd’s place. The house currently standing on their corner still bears the historic name “Watts’ Bella” (‘Beautiful Watts’).

Henry Todd lived opposite on the Florabella Street corner (Number 3). Henry was one of those for whom the ‘Rejected Volunteers’ and Arthur Rickard had set up the Warrimoo estate—he was a war veteran, but after signing up in 1916 and serving in France he was medically discharged in July 1918 with ‘premature senility’[1]…Given the relative ignorance of the authorities at that time, it can be supposed that this diagnosis in effect refers to what we call “shell-shock” or "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder" today. According to Walter Way[2] he built a beautiful glass garden dedicated to his wife, titled “Mons Regina”—“Mountain Queen”. Sadly, he too had gone by the time of the 1930 Electoral Roll.
The "Embassy' cinema in Katoomba--1930's--note the 'Art Deco' style yet again. Going to the 'Flicks' was an essential part of life in this decade, and Warrimooians dressed up to the nines if they were ever to engage in such a palatial night out.
Nevertheless a new family had moved in (probably the “Ozannes”—Elizabeth and Thomas). Indeed this particular intersection could be said to be the densest population of Warrimoo in 1930, and a veritable hive of activity, with Mrs Watts perpetually encouraging all and sundry to attend Anglican Church services every Sunday.

By the time of the 1934 Electoral Roll the number of registered residents had more than doubled, with a wonderful cross-section of occupations evident, ranging from Bus Driver to Hairdresser to Miner to Bricklayer and Dressmaker, Cabinet Maker, Plumber and Labourer. Warrimoo Historians wonder whether the “Harry Charles Swain, Bookseller” of The Boulevarde was in fact the same “Swain” who came to own an extensive chain of bookstores throughout Sydney.

The 1934 Roll--massive upheavals had happened in Australian political life: two Labor Governments, the State under Jack Lang, and the Federal under James Scullin, had been swept out of office. Fascism was on the march in Europe and Asia. Yet the township of Warrimoo had grown by over 100% in the same period...
One must not become too fazed with the broad term used by many women to describe their roles—‘Home Duties’—with any sized family and little support from electrical home appliances we have today, this was indeed a full-time and demanding job, often supplemented by other very worthwhile activities. We already know, for example, that “Catherine Yousen” acted as an “Attendant” for the Warrimoo Station—basically, ‘Station Master’. Many of the women mentioned would have been executing valuable skills such as sewing, boot repair, and vegetable gardening to supplement the family income.

Whatever the case, Warrimoo was becoming a true ‘melting pot’ of varied skills, classes, and interests, maintaining a solid component of mutual respect and assistance common in many Australian communities at the time. There was no real ‘crime’, and people helped out with a cup of sugar, a bowl of milk or a lift when it was needed. Without neighbourly support, life would have been miserable indeed.

[1] RICHARDSON, E., and MATTHEW, K Warrimoo History Project, Library Records—War Records, ‘Henry Todd’
[2] Op Cit., ‘My Story’, p.10

No comments:

Post a Comment