|Marle’s family came to live on the Peninsula in 1935. Marle attended Humpybong School and went to work when he was 13 years old at Margate Cash and Carry. Marle enlisted when he turned 18 and served in New Guinea and Borneo. After the war Marle returned to his old job at the grocery store. It wasn’t long before he purchased his own business and set about learning to become a baker. Eventually several ‘Marle Cake Shops’ were established on the Peninsula.|
|The ladies worked much harder. There were no washing machines, it was the old copper up the back and it was fired by heat with wood. They were heated up and she’d cut the soap how I said and use a copper stick and then pull them out into a basket and drain them, take them out to the clothesline which was a post each end and two wires along. Men used to come around selling the clothes props for usually a shilling each; that’s 10 cents each for a clothes prop.|
Even talking about wood, I lived in Duffield Road just down towards the beach from Woolworths. Everyone had wood stoves then; electric stoves hadn’t come in before the War to my knowledge anywhere that I knew, but we used to get our firewood just up from Duffield Road where Mama’s Restaurant is now and just over Oxley Avenue. We’d get plenty of wood there and bring it back and saw it up. That was my job and my brother’s. We all had different jobs; saw the wood up, chop it up into blocks and the younger ones used to have to get the chips for the week and those old wood stoves were great in the house.
Mum had a boarding house later on. We used to have boarders there as well as flats, in Omar Flats and they bought the place next door later on, but in the wood stoves she’d do all the cooking on that and in the night time and the wintertime you could make your toast on the wood fire. It was very homely.
|My name is Marle Juster. I live at Scarborough. I’ve lived on the Peninsula for 70 years; came here in 1935 and went to Humpybong School. It was pretty generally the practice in those days – we were just coming out of a depression and the people were still badly affected by it. |
There were bigger families then, a lot of us used to get jobs and my first job was on an ice run, delivering ice from one end of the Peninsula to the other. Ice then was 6d a block, we used to take it to the house and the lady would have newspaper there. We’d wrap the ice in newspaper because that kept it longer, and then put it in the chest and then go on to the next customer. As well as that we used to sell butter and small goods as well.
My next job was on a paper run at Woody Point. I got five shillings a week for that and that was from Duffield Road to the Hornibrook Highway and everywhere in between. We also used to deliver ‘Women's Weekly’ and ‘Womens Mirrors’ and at one stage the mail contract ran out and we were delivering the mail for a little while as well.
Before they got the new contract my brother got a job delivering the mail, from Duffield Road to Clontarf, on a pony for ten shillings a week. I just wonder how much it costs to deliver the mail from Duffield Road to Clontarf today!
My first permanent job in Redcliffe – I was 13 years old – that was in 1957 at the Margate Cash and Carry. It was on the corner of Margate Parade and McCulloch Avenue. It was a little old shop with sawdust on the floor, but it was self-service and probably the beginning of the supermarkets, as we know them today. Three men in Brisbane started it, and it was reported at times to be one of the first supermarkets in the world, but there were about 12 in the Brisbane area.
From there we moved into the present building that is still there today, where Hermans Real Estate is. It was more modern, with turnstiles, all in Brisbane Cash-n-Carry colours, but we were the Margate Cash-n-Carry. One of the outstanding things when I walk through the supermarkets today is the products that are sold.
We had a very big area of jam, for instance. Two pound tins – you don’t see that now. Rayers Plum Jam was the most popular one – it probably would have 50 or 60 2lb tins of jam sold out of that every week, and that was 1/6½d for a 2lb tin. There was apricot and marmalade and quince, and a big variety of tinned jams, either 2lb or 1lb.
Another one was a whole shelf full of soaps, which was something else that was sold very, very much. These were all bar soaps – soaps about 12 or 14 inches long, about two inches wide and about one-and-a-half inches deep and some had little sections where you could break them off. Others were just a solid bar and the ladies, of course, used to slice that off and put it in the copper when they boiled the clothes up because then there were just the coppers and clotheslines and very different to the washing machines that we have today.
The other thing was, all the wrapped products today. We used to wrap our own such as sugar, flour, salt, pepper, carb soda – you name it – cream of tartar – all different sized packets and you had to be very, very careful weighing them, which we were, and wrap them neatly. The boss used to be very particular that they were all neat and we’d have the printed bags with sugar and the weight and so forth on the front.
The other thing was, the washing powders we see today. I think there were only two – was Persil and Rinso – and the width of the packet would be no more than 6 inches wide for each one.
Cheese in the shop – we used to have a cheese counter. We used to get the big round blocks of cheese or tasty cheese or whatever else – they were the two main ones – and you’d cut them up with a piece of wire and a piece of wood on the end for a handle and just pull it through and cut it that way and then cut them up into little wedges like you see cheese still sometimes. We’d wrap them ourselves in greaseproof paper, put the price on and weigh them, and we’d do it like that.
Same with the bacon – in the store room we’d have flitches bacon on hooks hanging from the ceiling and you’d just pull one of those flitches down, wrapped in a cheesecloth bag, take the shoulder off and cut it and wrap it – take the bone out of it and the ribs out and slice it up and wrap it once again – wrap the bacon. So all those compared to today – grocery was a sort of a trade in those days, you might call it, where you had your storeroom with all the different things in there.
One of the things that I remember was very popular was tin kettles, and you’d have all these tin kettles on a rope – different sizes – 1pint, 2pint or a quart, whatever – and you’d undo the rope on one side in the corner of the room and let it down and take off whatever kettle the customer wanted or had ordered, with the price on the bottom and so forth.
Then you had a produce room, which you’d never see in a supermarket today. That was where you weighed all your potatoes and onions and pumpkins and that sort of thing, but the thing there was, there were bags – corn sacks we used to call them then – of corn and cracked corn and wheat, laying mash and bran and pollen, because a lot of houses had chook pens here then. They had their own chickens and they’d want those foods for their chooks. They used big paper bags of say cracked corn or corn – quality bags – strong brown paper bags would hold twenty pounds of corn, so it was a fair weight.
The other thing that happened in the shop in those days was, and this was very modern then, they’d go through the turnstiles, pick out their products – a little wire basket, no wheels or anything like that. They’d carry it to the counter and when they brought it to the counter you’d wrap it in newspaper as a rule – very seldom in a box and, of course, there were no plastics then, there was a ball of string from the ceiling. You’d pull that down and you got expert at packing a nice square. If it wasn’t too big, instead of Sellotape it was brown paper strips with glue on one side and you used to put it over a little roller with water in the bottom to wet the glue and you’d pull it over and stick it with that. At the grocery shop I was in, the Buchanan Margate Cash-n-Carry, it was pretty modern in those days and we wrapped our bread in white paper. Most other places didn’t wrap it at all, or wrapped it in newspaper and we even had ‘Margate Cash-n-Carry phone Redcliffe 3’ on the paper.
Then we had a milk bar in there. We’d sell malted milks and milk shakes, soft drinks and all that sort of thing. We had a chocolate counter with all different sorts of chocolates. This was all in Margate – very, very self-service on everything and a lot of products in there.
The other interesting thing about those days was the delivery. We had a delivery van and as I got older, it’s quite a story. You’d thought how I got the job and I didn’t even have a licence. I went out on Monday afternoon and Tuesday and got my licence at the Redcliffe Police Station on Wednesday morning, and Wednesday was Deception Bay and Strathpine day – went out there collecting orders and back in a 1939 Ford V8 and delivered them on Thursday.
On Monday I used to collect orders on my pushbike on Monday from Duffield Road to the highway. I’d ride back from wherever I was at lunchtime, they’d start packing those orders for next day and at the end of the day I’d bring them in, they’d work that night packing the orders in a great big box. Next day you’d have to have your perishables, like cheese and bacon, eggs that sort of thing separate, and next day on Tuesday I’d deliver that all day. It used to take me all day. Wednesday and Thursday I told you about and on Friday I’d do from McCulloch Avenue to Scarborough, all day Saturday – and on Friday collect the orders and deliver on Saturday.
So on the run we’d go to every house individually, always up the back steps, run up the back steps, yell out ‘grocer’, the housewife would come out, I’d have my order book and I’d usually say, “Our special this week is a cake of Lux Soap and a free comb” and I’d say that I sold a cake of Lux Soap and a comb to 80 percent of the customers and then she’d start to give me the order. I’d write it down and then I’d run through things that she might have forgot. I think I still know how I used to run through; sugar, flour, salt, bacon, eggs, cheese, sago, rice, tapioca and so forth. Not as fast as that – give her time to think (this is salesmanship, Pat!). And “Oh yes, gee whiz, I nearly forgot that.”
That order would go back and be packed and the next day I would deliver it, put it on the kitchen table, the lady would pay the bill, I’d have a leather money bag (I don’t know if you see them now – I can’t remember), put the money in there, mark the duplicate in the book ‘Paid’ and, of course, at the end of the day I would have to go back and balance the book. I know on Saturdays I would want to go to the movies. I was 17 years old and the book would be a shilling out or something and I’d think about the boss and I’d put the shilling in. He always checked it and when he came back I’d be a shilling over! Of course, I was in trouble then!
It was really service, when you think about that and today, where the lady has to get in a motor car, drive to the supermarket or in the big 4-wheel drive very often, pick up her own groceries, take it to a young girl on the counter and it’s put in a plastic bag. She’s got to hump it out but they really knew what service was in those days.
The ladies worked much harder. There were no washing machines, it was the old copper up the back and it was fired by heat with wood. They were heated up and she’d cut the soap how I said and use a copper stick and then pull them out into a basket and drain them, take them out to the clothesline which was a post each end and two wires along. Men used to come around selling the clothes props for usually a shilling each; that’s 10 cents each for a clothes prop.
Even talking about wood, I lived in Duffield Road just down towards the beach from Woolworths. Everyone had wood stoves then; electric stoves hadn’t come in before the War to my knowledge anywhere that I knew, but we used to get our firewood just up from Duffield Road where Mama’s Restaurant is now and just over Oxley Avenue. We’d get plenty of wood there and bring it back and saw it up. That was my job and my brothers. We all had different jobs; saw the wood up, chop it up into blocks and the younger ones used to have to get the chips for the week and those old wood stoves were great in the house.
Mum had a boarding house later on. We used to have boarders there as well as flats, in Omar Flats and they bought the place next door later on, but in the wood stoves she’d do all the cooking on that and in the nighttime and the wintertime you could make your toast on the wood fire. It was very homely.
Thinking about those days in Duffield Road, my youngest brother who is 12 years younger than me – mum was expecting and he’s the last in a family of six – and I can remember it quite plainly. Mum said to me, “Marle, I think the baby’s on the way. Jump on your bike and go and get Nurse Gillingham.” Nurse Gillingham lived, I think it was in John Street or around that area in Redcliffe, so I jumped on my bike and raced up there and said to Nurse Gillingham, “Mum said to come down. The baby’s due any time,” so it was “On your way back, call in to Dr Brockway and tell him he’d better come over,” so I did that and next thing I heard the baby crying. I’m not sure, about two or three hours later.
So having a baby in those days was very different compared to my third son, who was born in the Nurse O’Loughlin Hospital in MacDonnell Road. I remember it was a Sunday afternoon and that was a very quick delivery and you didn’t have to wait long for Neil to come along.
Knowing Paul [Morris] from a very young age, because I was his father’s first egg customer when I started my business, they were right on Saltwater Creek. So that day I rang Paul up and we got talking about those old times, how we used to go every Sunday afternoon to get our eggs and we watched the kids grow up, so I said, “Paul, you ought to write a book about your dad’s farm, call it ‘Morris Farm’.” A few months later he rang me up one day and said, “You asked me to write a book about Morris Farm. Will it be alright if the wife brings it in today?” He brought it in and it’s in the Library. I read it straight away and it’s a very interesting little book. They used to employ up to 43 people on that farm and a lot of other farms in Redcliffe.
When I read the book he said about there’s no supermarkets in those days and they’re at Saltwater Creek. He said the grocer used to come one day and collect the order and deliver it next day on mum’s kitchen table. I said, “Did you know who the grocer was?” He said, “I wouldn’t have clue, I was only two years old then and only told about it,” and I said, “Well, that was me” and in the book he’s got that the mail man used to come, a little man on a big horse, all the back of Redcliffe and out along Deception Bay Road and so forth, and he told about the little man on the horse delivering their mail. I said, “Did you know who the mail man was?” He said, “No, I just told you I was two years old, I wouldn’t have a clue.” Well, that was my uncle, and my cousins Geoffrey and Keith Harrington are still here and it was my uncle who used to have the mail contract for years all at the back of Redcliffe and he used to do it on a horse, but after the War Redcliffe population went ahead and I think he had two or three vans as well delivering mail in the back blocks. Of course, there are enough people there now and they have postmen living there.
I might go on after the War, Pat. One of the things after the War was, rationing was very, very hard on sugar, tea, building materials, clothing, butter, meat – all those sort of things and I’d started my business. I’ll tell you a little bit about starting my business later on and how you did things like that years ago, just after the War, but there was all this rationing and I’d started my business then and Redcliffe used to open all day Saturday and close Wednesday afternoon.
To try to get over some of these shortages I used to go up – and other business people did – especially grocers’ shops and go to the warehouses and get to know the warehouse manager and make a friend of him and maybe take him for a drink or a cup of coffee or something at afternoon tea time so you’d get an extra bag of sugar without tickets. Dried fruit was often very short so you’d get an extra case of sultanas or currants or raisins or something like that and sometimes you’d have quite a load and this was against the law to go and do that and bring your own products home. That was the law and you had to use a carrier because petrol rationing and it was a lot more petrol efficient to have one big truck bringing all the products to Redcliffe instead of everyone running up and saving a little bit of money on that.
They used to have inspectors waiting at the Redcliffe side of the highway; not always, so you were always worried about being pulled up by an inspector, and this day a little Morris 8/40, that’s only 8 horse power so it’s only a fairly small utility and I’m sure I had it overloaded come over the highway, and there was a policeman waiting there with a Ford V8 police car. My wife was with me and I said, “Oh, we’re gone Jan, we’ve got caught today for sure. This’ll be a fine.” She said, “Put your foot down and get away from him.” In a little car like that against a V8 I wasn’t in the race so I got fined!
But another chap here was luckier than me, because he (I’d better not mention any names here – some of relations are still around and they probably wouldn’t mind at all, but I’d better not) – but he had a grocer’s shop, a fairly big grocer’s shop in Redcliffe, and he had a V8 utility and he was doing the same, coming across the highway this day, there’s the police car there, the policeman pulled Joe up – “What have you got on here,” and Joe said, “Have a look in the back.”
He kept the motor running, never got out of the car. He had a cover over the back, the policeman undid the cover and the first thing he pulled out was a grocer’s basket, dropped it on the ground, and as he dropped it on the ground Joe put his foot on the accelerator and took off! The policeman got that big a shock that he didn’t even get his number and Joe got away with it!
Rationing was severe. There was rationing inspectors who used to come around. Some were quite decent, some were very nasty fellows, even though they might be visiting friends and their friends would say, “Oh, I got this extra meat from the butcher. He’s very good and I didn’t have to put any coupons on.” Some of those inspectors would be back there next day and catch the butcher, you know.
After the War there was price fixing, strict price fixing, and I can tell you one little incident that happened to me in about 1952. The War had been ended for a while by then but there was still price fixing on different products. I’m not sure about fruit, but certainly on vegetables there was price fixing, and certainly as far as I was concerned, on bread, and at this stage bread was a shilling and a farthing a loaf – that’s 10 and a quarter of a cent - a loaf.
In those days it was all bread deliveries around Redcliffe. I told you about the groceries and bread in Redcliffe delivered to the back door, so in shops like mine or any shops there was not much bread sold, usually half a loaf or a loaf at the most and they’d just run out of bread because the baker would be there again tomorrow. A loaf was a shilling and a farthing, but there were no farthings then so we had to charge a shilling and a halfpenny and this fellow came running in one day. There were a few people in the shop and he said to my girl, “Look, I’m in a hurry. I’ve got to catch the bus. Can you give me two loaves of bread?” The girl gave him two loaves of bread, that was 2/1d because she was used to charging a shilling and a halfpenny or ten and a quarter cents or ten and a half cents. She doubled it, he immediately pulled out his authority, the Price Fixing Commission, “Where’s the boss?” She should have charged two-and-a-halfpenny because a shilling and a halfpenny doubled is 2/1d but the fixed price was a shilling and a farthing.
I spoke to the inspector and said that he wasn’t fair and he’d caught that girl, he was rude, he butted in on the customers, and he said, “Look, just leave it to me. I’ll fix it up.” but he didn’t fix it up and I got a fine. I don’t remember what the fine was but the worst part was, in the ‘Redcliffe Herald’ after that “Baker Profiteers on Bread” – that was me – profiteered by a halfpenny on a loaf of bread, so I wasn’t real happy about that!
What with rationing and price fixing it made it hard – we’ve got our problems today, I suppose we had problems then and, of course, with all the shortages and with petrol shortages – they had a thing, ‘gas producer’ – it was fairly big. You used to fit it on a carrier at the back of your car, and I think it was coke; I don’t think it was coal. You used to light a fire at the back of your car to heat the coke, the coke would put off a gas, and that was piped through to the engine and the cars would run on gas produced from your own gas producer at the back of your car.
There were all sorts of innovations like that during the War due to necessity and even building materials I mentioned, they were very short. Fibro was rationed and it was very, very hard to get a bit extra. The only way you’d do that was either the black market and there were black marketeers in Redcliffe (they made a lot of money, some of those people) or else a builder that you knew and he might have a little bit over on a job but as I say, a sheet of Fibro, it happened to me. I was one sheet of Fibro short on a garage I was building on the roof and a fellow who was in my class at school, he was able to give me the sheet of Fibro.
My father was in the Army during the War and he got discharged. I can’t remember the name of the department, but his job was to check out the materials and where they were going, and one of the things that was a big issue in those days was baths, because I think nearly every house had a bath in those days, but you could only get a bath, because they were so short, if you had some medical problem like a weak heart or arthritis or something like that, so one of dad’s jobs was to check out with the doctors and Medical Certificates and so forth and you would get a bath. I remember people used to come to dad to see if he could wangle it for them to get a bath when they had no good reason to have a bath.
Things were different and just what effect War can have on industries and people in all sorts of ways in their lives.
After doing the grocery deliveries for several months, and my birthday was on 24th February – I would be 18 years old and old enough to join the Army – so I gave Mr Buchanan, my boss, a week’s notice, which he was most unhappy about and I had to get my licence, which I got after one-and-a-half days’ practice and doing the run all that time. Once I went up, on my Birthday, to Water Street, the Valley to join the Army. That was the recruiting depot there and that was my 18th birthday and I went in there and they gave you a form with 10 questions of what you’d like to do. One of the questions was “What unit would you go in?” so I was an experienced driver by this stage (a driver of a V8 van) and I said Transport Driver.
Anyhow, I got put into a transport unit, 5th Division Transport Petrol Company. Their job was to cart petrol. I went in on the 4th March; Darwin was bombed on the 19th February so this was the 4th March only days after so things were pretty serious. The Japanese were coming down all around us by this stage so we did three weeks training here – bullring training they called it – but after about a week or so (they were short of drivers then) my name got called out of the bullring and other fellows names went up and I realised that they were all truck drivers. They’d driven trucks in Brisbane and timber trucks and we went out to Mitchelton to a big paddock out there. They wanted to test us, to give us a licence and you had to double de-clutch in those trucks and they had synchromesh gears, and of course, I couldn’t get my gears in and the instructor said to me – I’d put down that I was a timber truck driver from Nambour – and he said, “You’re a timber truck driver! In your sleep!” so I was the only one that failed.
Two weeks later my name came out again, pulled out for truck drivers. They were mainly older men, some owned taxis around Brisbane or delivery vans and that sort of thing, and that day a friend mine showed me how to double de-clutch and I went out there and came my turn and this instructor said, “Oh, you’re a truck driver from Nambour.” He said, “Look, you can take these fellows, I’m gonna have a smoke,” so the rest passed as well as I did which was a pretty stupid thing because one of the first jobs was three ton of petrol drums to take to Narangba. There was a petrol dump out there and there was a corporal with me in the front and he put me out of the truck and drove it himself! Anyhow, we got sent to Townsville about a month after that and some of my mates had more access to vehicles and they showed me how to drive, so we were very poorly trained on just about everything, but the best thing we would have trained on was gas warfare. We did a lot of training on that because we’d never had to use it.
Getting back to after the War and I’d worked in a grocery shop all that time, went back to the grocery shop because that was the law then. Wherever you worked they had to give you your job back. It didn’t matter if they had somebody ten times better than you, that was the law that they had to give it to you, so actually the business had changed hands. I wrote to the new owner and asked did he want me back and he did. I’d be happy to go if he didn’t, I’d look for another job, that didn’t matter, so I got the job back there and I didn’t like it after the Army, plus I wasn’t real well. I’d got Malaria real bad after the War and there was a chap who’d been a Sergeant Cook in the Air Force. He wasn’t a baker or a pastry cook but he’d got into the cooking section in the RAAF and he had started a little cooking place, supplying a grocery shop behind the butcher’s shop next door, and he was making pies and sausage rolls, apple tarts, little cakes, bar cake – he had five different products that he made and I knew afterwards that he wasn’t even doing that in a tradesman-like way. He had a room 12 by 12 and what they called a two-tray oven and nothing else, no tables, no machinery or anything like that.
He said to me one day, and he’d been to the Middle East and Italy and all over the place and he couldn’t stand it, in this little room 12 by12 – “What about buying me out, Marle?” and I said, “How much do you want?” He said, “£ 250,” and I said, “Well, I’ll think it over” because I wasn’t enjoying the shop either. I went back next day and said, “I’ll take it on condition you show me how to do it” and he said, “I’ll teach you in two weeks” so he taught me only for a week, and I paid him the money after a week. I gave him the £250 and he went. He came back to work for me many years afterwards, the same fellow.
From there I taught myself, I did a course through Post War Reconstruction on a part of the trade. Later on I built the business up and put a tradesman on, and that’s how I learned on the job and by people who worked for me and between you and I, I finished up as Queensland President of the Pastry Cooks Association of the Queensland Baking Industry and a Life Member. I’m doing a little job for them now, as a matter of fact and also I was National President for seven years, so there are very, very few in the industry who would know how I came to be a tradesman in the industry.
Later on I left that little room and I built a bakery in Oxley Avenue and I sold that. That was all wholesale and I went into retail then from 1952 in Redcliffe Parade, and that’s actually when I took the name ‘Marle Cake Shops’ – the name Juster, I couldn’t call them Juster Cake Shops so I called them Marle Cake Shops, and that was from 1952 on.
When I moved to the bakery in Cox Street, actually, well Oxley Avenue – I was in Cox Street first – I moved it holus bolus because I built my home there – there were a lot of strikes, a terrible lot of strikes, mainly caused through the shortage of coal. Coalminers had all sorts of demands; they were going on strikes, there were blackouts the whole time, and that makes it very hard in business. I remember at one stage we had no power to work our machines and it used to come on again – very intermittent – and I had bought a ‘T’ Model Ford because of petrol rationing, actually. I bought this ‘T’ Model Ford and this little Morris so that I’d have plenty of petrol to run my business, deliveries and so forth.
I had the ‘T’ Model Ford outside and had a leather belt made to put on the back wheel of the ‘T’ Model Ford to drive my cake mixers. It was interesting – Chifley was the Prime Minister of Australia at the time and he helped break the strike by putting the soldiers – the Army – into the coalmines to do the work, which I don’t think would ever happen today.
After being in the Army and having all that training that I told you, it was very little indeed and certainly different to later on when we got reinforcements up there and they were much, much better trained than we were. We learned from practical experience.
We went to Townsville when the Coral Sea Battle was on, and we were in Townsville when Townsville got bombed; I was there then and I remember Townsville quite well at the airport there. It was just flat out, day and night, with bombers going out and coming back and sometimes someone had been shot up and that sort of thing, but we got sent from Townsville. We put our vehicles on a goods train and they took us to Chillagoe (if you know where that is) in North Queensland and took our vehicles off there. We went up to Cape York, Jacky Jacky and that area, because at that stage they were on the Kokoda Trail, Milne Bay, and the Japanese were coming round through there and we were starting to slow them up. They were frightened that they might come down through Timor into Darwin or into the Gulf country, so there was a big force moved up there from then on in 1942.
We drove our trucks and it was the first time I went to Cape York, about August 1942, from Chillagoe to Cape York. I had petrol on, we had other supplies and so forth – they were establishing units. We were the first convoy through, incidentally. I’ve got a model here of the truck; they were all four-wheel drives, except mine, was what they called an imprest truck. They’d taken it off some private person. It was a three ton dual-wheel Chev, so I got bogged many times per day but it was a very, very interesting trip – it was real frontier country then. I’ve been back twice since and Erica and I are going up in July this year, overland.
From there we went back to Cairns, got some intensive training in Cairns and in those days it was different. The Army today everyone knows what everybody is doing; we were just taken off training and closed camp, a little leave stop then we did nothing for about a week then one night about eleven-o-clock everybody was out and we were on a boat and went to Dutch New Guinea and I was in Dutch New Guinea in the swamps there for about 21 months. It was a very interesting place, Dutch New Guinea. The southern side is all very swampy and waterways, and infantry used to go out on patrols and they would have to strap themselves up for night against trees or whatever because there’s nowhere to lie on the ground to sleep and that sort of thing. There were some good fights in those waterways, with running into Japs on barges and so forth.
We came back from Dutch New Guinea – we had several air raids there. The most planes we had over there was 28 planes in one hit, which is not very big compared to Europe, but we came back to Strathpine Camp and we were there for about three months. We were trained there and fed up – a lot of us had a bit of malnutrition and things like that and they fed us up on good food, a lot of salads and fresh vegetables and a lot of mutton and lamb, plenty of route marches to get us fit again and I got put on the boat on the 20th December to go to Bougainville in the Solomon Islands.
We were there until the War ended in August, the 15th August 1945 I think it was, and where I was in Bougainville – we were in the middle of the island up into the hills and the mountains. One trip there was 15 miles over the Numa Numa [Trail] River. We used to cross that Numa Numa [Trail] river 28 times so we just picked our way up there, taking up supplies and ammunition. They are very high mountains there and the 25 pounders – that’s a 25lb shell about 4 inches round – they had those big guns jacked up with timber and used to fire up over the hills and it used to really rattle through those valleys, especially a night time when you were up there.
When the War ended we quickly brought in the Japs close to us but a lot of us got sent over to Rabaul and there was over 100,000 Japanese in Rabaul and we got sent to round the Japanese up there and put them into compounds and look after them and feed them. They worked for us – we weren’t allowed to work in front of the Japanese – that was our orders – so if you loaded a truck you did it out of sight of the Japanese so we used to employ them to polish our boots and so forth and they confused me for years later because they were very different prisoners than what they were fighting soldiers. They were very brave or stupid soldiers; they were unreal and that’s why so many of them were killed, I think, but there they were very docile and bowed to us and gave us – I had 28 fountain pens (old fountain pens they gave me) and the Japanese flag, and they’d give you presents and all sorts of things and we were feeding them too.
They were short of food; they were growing their own. Actually where we camped at Rabaul was on a peanut plantation they’d grown. We could lie on our stretcher and pull up a bunch of peanuts. They were growing peanuts, paw paws and bananas and things like that, so we had plenty of bananas and paw paws and peanuts for quite a while. They made their own Sake there that would blow the top of your head off! I tasted it one day and a mouthful was enough for me!
I was there until May 1946 so that’s about nine months I was there with the Japanese and got to know them quite well, and then I came home and like I said, I went back to work then and it was a very different life, but our brigade, our unit, still has reunions. As a matter of fact, next Monday I’m going to our reunion. I’ve always been Treasurer of our unit Reunion Committee and the brigade was about 4,000 men but over the years, over four or five years there would have been a few thousand men went through there with reinforcements, but we get about 80/90 people along – that’s about third-wise now, and I’m Chairman of that Brigade Reunion Committee, which we are in the process of organising for the first Sunday in July now. We are all still good mates and there are some good stories told there on some of those days. So that’s a little bit off Redcliffe but says something about that stage there.
You should know that after the War, one of the great things to come home to was to see females again. I came back to the shop, and it was my future father-in-law who had bought Hal Buchanan out and his daughter was the same age as me, a month younger than me, worked there and actually, the first time I met her I went home that day and said to my mother, “I think I’ve just met the girl I’m going to marry,” and I did, but I had to get well first and I didn’t let her know, but we got married and I just thought I’d mention that.
We got married in the Church of England there in Redcliffe, in the old Church of England and we had our wedding reception in the old CWA Hall. That was about half the size just after the War but it’s been extended since and Col Akred was the Chairman and Rev. Gillingham was the Minister here then but we went ahead and got married.
I built a garage with one of Jan’s brothers. I built the garage and we lived in there because housing was short, then Frank Lincoln – the builder here who later on had the joinery works – built a house in Cox Street, Margate and we had 4 boys there. John was born in 1950 and we had one every second year, so it was pretty good timing!
We didn’t have the birth control they have today and now the youngest - John will be 55 this year - and Robert’s 49. I lost my second son, Philip, who passed on last year at 51 years of age.
So, it’s been an interesting life. I love Redcliffe; I’ve had a lot of fun here, I’ve been involved in a lot of things, there are a lot of changes from 2000-odd people to over 50,000 people. I’ve seen people really going crook because houses were being built at Woody Point, especially one of my friends who reckons he’s going to leave Redcliffe because it’s too big a population here and one of the houses built blocked his view of Woody Point, and things like this. I’ve learned from all those things that you can’t stop progress, that it has to be controlled, and you do the best with the City and you can’t be selfish and just keep it all to yourself.
Of course, 21 years ago I married Erica in the Summer House at Margate and moved here to Scarborough and I’ve had a great time here. Erica and I have travelled the world a bit and travelled Australia quite a lot and driven around it, and now instead of having four sons I’ve got six sons and a daughter, and they all get on very well together and we have a great time and, in fact, one of them was here last Sunday, so we see quite a bit of them.
We must be getting close.