Memories of Lakemba and Roselands by Richard Cutting

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These excerpts are taken from an interview with Richard Cutting at his residence on 14 April 2015 by the Community History Librarian. You can listen to some sound bites of this interview on the Oral History - Richard Cutting page

Richard Cutting

I was born at a very early age at 23 Ridgewell Street.

What suburb?

Ahh….23 Ridgewell Street…it was Lakemba in those days, now called Roselands. No brothers or sisters.

None at all, only child?

Only child, yes. And my father went off to war, World War One. In 1916 he was shot in the elbow and gassed, so it must have been 1915 when he went away to Villers-Bretonneux.


I had to walk to school which was three quarters of a mile at Wiley Park. Wiley Avenue ran from Canterbury Road to Punchbowl Road, then beyond Punchbowl Road was what we used to call “Devils Den”. And you weren’t going to go there because kids used to get lost – it was all bush from Punchbowl Road right up to Liverpool Road, Chullora never existed and Bass Hill was all bush right out to Georges River at that stage.

What was the name of your school?

Lakemba School, there was only one school there; the original school was on Canterbury Road at the intersection of Canterbury Rd and King Georges Road.

So you walked to school, how long did it take you to walk to school?

Well, if you didn’t play on the way it took you about a quarter of an hour. There was only up to 6th class in those days. One school it was boys and girls were in the same class, and in 1924 a boys school was built opposite, what we called the “bubs” school. And that was built in 1924 and opened for boys in 1925. So I moved over there, I was there at the opening there and that continued to 6th class. From 6th class I went over to Belmore Junior Technical School, Belmore North. And that was the year I went there that it opened, so there were two schools that were opened.

And what memories do you have of your school? Did you like school?

Oh, it was alright… it was a Trade School. I learnt carpentry, metal work, I did science, got the intermediate certificate which was actually third year, and I couldn’t go on any further because I couldn’t get in to a school. That was in 1920…1930 I think. I spent me 15th birthday there, I sat for the intermediate on that day and after that I couldn’t do the leaving because I couldn’t get into a school, because there were no jobs. Kids couldn’t get apprenticeships, everybody was out.

Things were tough in those days because…at first I was lucky, I knew a chap who was the Head Traveller for Meta Stoves and I got a job at Anthony Hordens, a big departmental store. And we worked 30 hours a week and I got a pound and sixpence a week. That getting a sixpence over the pound stopped my father from getting the dole. That’s how low wages were.

What year would that have been?

Ahh, let me see…. 1930. And I worked there until I got too old… and they put a 15 year old on.

And did you like that work?

Oh it was good. Then I got odd jobs, pottered around and was out of work for years until I went in the Army and I was stationed up in Bathurst and then I got married.


How old were you when you got married, were you quite young?

About 24 I think.

Where did you meet your wife?

At a dance. Yeah, oh we went together for about 3 years. It was when I was in the Army that I got married. And then in October 1944 I went up to New Guinea and I was up there for 12 months, or near enough to 12 months, and come home and then my first daughter was born and the second one came along in 1946.

And where were they born?

In Lakemba.

In hospital?

Yes, one was born in Belmore, the other was born at um…..what was the Matrons name?

Was it a private hospital it sounds like?


Do you remember what street is was on or what it was called or anything?

The Boulevarde. One daughter was born at the Boulevarde and the other one was at uh, I can’t think of the name of the place, it was in Belmore. So I was truck driving for a firm called New South Wales fresh food and ice company and we used to deliver bulk milk to dairies day and night, shift and that. Finished up with my own business, gave that away in 1979.

What were you doing for your own business?

Cigarette shop in Riverwood. I had that for 10 years and then I retired, and finished up here.


Going back to early school days…we used to… every Monday morning we had to assemble and we had to salute the flag, and used to sing the anthem, we used to sing the National Anthem and the Australian Anthem.

Do you still remember it?

Haha….had to sing the British Anthem on account of it being King George the V. Well I can remember when I was about eight I think, before I went to school, and they had started building a pumping station at Wiley Park, right opposite Wiley Park Station, that didn’t exist in those days. And I used to wave to my father… that’s how I know it was built in 1920…that’s how I knew the date.

There was a street called Hillcrest Street, they closed it off now because they built another girls school. So there are three schools there at the present time. And anyhow at lunchtime my father came over and used to sit down under the bushes, it was all scrub, and he’s give me the bottom part of his billy tea. You used to boil a billy in those days.

Getting to school was a bit of a hassle because I had to cross Canterbury Road and I must have been about eight at the time from what I can remember and they were digging it up. So that meant that it wasn’t even tarred, they were digging it up for tarring. They had a lot of rain and no motor vehicles much in those days, was all horse and cart. And anyhow, what happened to poor little Richard? He got stuck in the mud! And they had to come from the dairy which was opposite to let me out.


Yeah. That’s how long it’s stuck in the memory.

And all the little kids used to assemble there under the headmistress and everybody was frightened of her. We used to march down to a picture show in fact. It was a big tin shed, Spencers Picture Show. We used to get in for four pence I think, equivalent to, what, about 4 cents.

There were very few houses in those days and there was no such thing as a number, every house had a name. The postman knew everybody, in fact we practically everybody on the route – we walked from home to Lakemba station.


Our groceries – we had spotted around the joint, were butcher shops. We had one butchers shop about half a mile away, the shop was built in 1917 and most other things were by horse and cart.

We had the egg and butter man – milk deliveries twice a day, a bread carter came every second day; ice hadn’t been invent4ed for the suburbs cos there was nobody to deliver. And there was only ah, excuse me, the old…the big cold stores in Sydney. You could buy a rabbit for sixpence a pair skinned.

The peg man come down…he used to sell pegs, and clothes props. It’d be a clothesline to dry the clothes you picked a couple of trees, throw a sink line of wire and then out your clothes on it and propped it up, which was a stick with a V shape in the top. You went down the bush and cut one down if you wanted a clothes prop. If you couldn’t do that well you bought one.

What else…oh the grocer used to call, free delivery. He’d pick your order up in the morning and deliver it that day and then you’d pay your bill at the end of the week and you got a little bag of lollies. I always went with mum, get your little bag of lollies.

How old would you have been then?

Oh as young as I can remember, say from 8 onwards.


Trains were early in the piece, the end of the line was Belmore. And I don’t know when it was extended through, but they used to rattle a lot, that’s how they got the name the Red Rattlers. Anyhow it used to take 25 minutes by steam train to get to Central, and when they put the electrics on it took 23 minutes!

Not much better, is it?

Everyone laughed, what do you want electric trains for?


I did find out a little about the Lakemba Cycling Club at Wiley Park? It says a cinder track for cycling was built in the 1930s. It became a popular cycling venue and many state championships were held there. It became home to the Lakemba Cycling Club and later the Bankstown Sports Club. However when Canterbury and King Georges Road were widened across two frontages of the park in the 70s, the grand stand over the cycle track had to be removed.

That would be right. The war broke everything up, because everybody got too old when they come back….if they came back.

What was it like during the War period in Lakemba?

The War period? It was four years out of me memory cos I was stuck in Bathurst. And we only come home… every…we got 6 days every 3 months….so I don’t know much about what happened, it’s like you lost your memory.

Do you remember where you were when you heard about the end of WW2?

I was up in…I was home on leave, that’s right, I‘d come back from New Guinea. And anyhow I went to town…just gallivanted around the town and met a lot of others.

It would have been a good atmosphere?

Oh it was. The place was packed because Hyde Park had a big eatery down there for soldiers…you go down and get a free feed….well it was better than five bob a day tucker! You see, we never saw meat, I never saw meat for about 8 months…the only reason we saw it was we had some wild pigs…and we shot a few and ate them.


You asked me something about when was Haldon Street tarred? There were trees on either side. Now I only think it was tarred….but it was concreted and I saw a film with Alderman Branston, he was the Mayor who served on 1929-31 and he was skiting to be voted in on what he’d done and he was in a vehicle and he was photographed from Canterbury Road down Haldon Street, to Lakemba Street and right through to Beamish Street and Ninth Avenue. That’s all I can tell you about that.

Canterbury Road when I got stuck was all dirt, and that’s how come I got stuck in the mud, it was stick clay. It had been raining. I don’t know if you know Wiley Park at all…you know where the first pond is? Well the drain used to run down to where that pond is. And that’s where I got stuck. It was that deep, nearly as deep as me, I was up to me knees in mud!


Did you get pocket money or anything like that?

My grandfather used to give me a shilling a day

And what did you spend it on?

Ohhh…liquorice all sorts…not liquorice all sorts, liquorice blocks.

Yes it was….at school, there was a shop called “Sweets” and they used to make toffee on sticks and toffee apples so we ate those. And “Starvers” a starver is a saveloy.

Oh ok, I haven’t heard of them before….Starvers…. So you bought them at school?

Yeah, by the time you got outside they let you bring sandwiches….you know, soggy tomato sandwiches.

What was the house like that you grew up in?

Well, me grandparents came out in the early 1900s. They come out in 1907 from Liverpool in England. And the mother came with them, naturally. And he bought 3 blocks of ground at Ridgewell Street….. and he built it bit by bit. They built two rooms, and lived in those two rooms until they got enough money to buy enough to put another room on, and they shoved another room on. And that’s how they built the house. And my mother and father, they built on one block in 1920 but I mostly lived at my grandmothers because I had a room to myself there. No fences, we had a fence around the whole lot, the three blocks. My kids were lucky, in 1946 I bought the house at the back and they had three yards to play in…no four yards! Our own yard and three blocks.

They were lucky. Are the houses still standing now?

No…it was built in 1914…..but I modernised it since.

Where was the house that you were born on the dining room table?

Oh that was the grandparent’s house because the mother and father were living there, they had a room and that… Nurse Wright…I think Nurse Wright delivered me…I wouldn’t be sure on that, the trouble is I can’t find out. It’s like everything else, your parents told me nothing. But going back to the early days in Lakemba, there was Nurse Wright… and the Methodist Church. The Methodist Church was in what they called Godfrey Street, they call it The Boulevarde now. And the nurse came around in the horse and cart …and the nearest doctor was in Belmore in Redman Parade. That being the end of the line, that’s where all the doctors were. In fact, I think it’s all doctors now.

Oh yeah, at the end of the train line.

I remember one house, a midwife, her name was Trennary. I’m not sure whether she was at Belmore or Campsie. That name rings a bell, that’s all…I can’t remember that. And old Reverend Dowe, he was a Methodist Minister. And ah….do you know Lakemba at all? You know the Boulevarde? I think the Boulevard in those days ran from what is now King Georges Road to Haldon Street; from Haldon Street down to Belmore to just past Moreton Street was originally called Godfrey Street.

Ok, yes because now it continues all the way down, doesn’t it?


Did you go to church a lot?

I had to go to Sunday School. Well I finished up…I got christened at the Church of England at Belmore, you know near Belmore South School. I was christened there. I spent all my time at Presbyterian Church because it was close to home. And got Christened, and married in a Catholic Church. So I’ve got three religions!

Do you remember the name of the house you grew up in?

Aigburth – a-i-g-b-u-r-t-h

Do you know what that means?

It’s the name of where they lived in Liverpool, a suburb of Liverpool in England. In fact in England there, I have the deeds of a block of ground where my great….my… grandmother…my… grandmother or grand grandmother was buried.


We used candles and kerosene lights. I don’t know whether I mentioned that. We didn’t get the electric light on until the 40s. We didn’t get the sewerage on until the 60s! That’s how far behind we were!

So what happened before the 60s?

We had what was called the “Dunny Man”. Used to pick up once a week. The Council had a tipping arrangement. The Church, Moorefields Road’s got a Church there…well where they used tipped it was right down the back. Which sloped right down to Wolli Creek. Wolli Creek, when we were kids, all the drains drained into Wolli Creek and we used to go down picking blackberries, getting birds eggs…..And we used to a place where Kingsgrove Station is now called “Three holes”, we called it. We used to swim in that. It was a part of Wolli Creek it was very clean because all the liquid from where they tipped, by the time it seeped through it was pure water. I think they call it in the book “The Chain of Ponds”

And why did you call it three holes?

Because there was three big water holes there. And that’s how it got the name I think, the chain of ponds. But…oh the birds that were there in those days… but they’re extinct now.

Were there a lot of them around?

Very few…. parakeets, very few of them. Rainbow lorikeets never existed then. No, they didn’t come down here until the….80s. They were up in Currumbin in Queensland but they gradually got down here. I used to feed them at home.

When the grandfather, he went to work…he used to walk in a straight line from where we lived in Ridgewell Street to Belmore Station….and also in the earlier days, I don’t know, round about 07 now, my other grandfather, if he wanted water and ran out they went to that water point. But my father himself, he was born in Burradoo, which is a suburb of Bowral…so he was Australian.


Referring to the bike club…we had to pay Council so much towards it….first off it was a cinder track…a dirt track, cinder track…and then a tarred track. And that was all done by…and the lights put on, all done from income from dances. We held a dance about every fortnight and all the girls used to come. We used to take up two rows of seats in the picture show. The Picture Show originally was a big tin shed called Spencers. And they had a gas engine that generated electricity to run the lights. And ah… a chap named “Britz”, he bought it out, and pulled it down and built a new one and called it The Magnet Theatre.

I was going to ask you if you remembered the Magnet Theatre.

And in the middle of the depression he built The Royal which was down near Lakemba Street in Haldon Street.

Did you go to the theatre a lot to see movies?

Oh yes – you used to get a news reel, a comedy and two pictures. Used to get in for sixpence….used to follow the matinee…Hoot Gibson and the matinees…and Fatty Arbuckle, that was the old silent pictures. Always remember Fatty Arbuckle, he stood on the footboard of a tram, and he was that fat the tram turned over! And I always remember that. It’s funny you know the things that stick in your memory that come back to you.

Where would you take your wife or girlfriend out for a date?

Oh, we went dancing all the time! two or three times a week, the dances.

Where did you go?

Canterbury Town Hall

On Canterbury Road?

Yeah, they had a good dance floor…the Capitol in Lakemba, that was all jazz. And Churches had halls, we went to dances…the school, the girls school in latter years…Well you had what they called 50/50 dances, or all jazz, what ever you like. But then you used to go to the Leichhardt, there was a big dance hall over there… used to go there…Go to the Showground, the old Showground… where you used to get the sample bags.

Oh yeah, like at the Easter Show you get your Show Bags.

Yeah. Show Bags cost you nothing. And I suppose your mother and father have spoken about that.

So this is Sydney Showgrounds?

Yes they had a good dance floor there.

Not the Hordern Pavillion?

No, that was only for shows and that. Only one dance hall. And there was another one on City Road called the Albert Palais…no that was Leichhardt, the Albert Palais at Leichhardt. Trouble is you had to be careful in these other ones there, you get into a fight very easily.

Yeah, why?

Oh, well the regulations for dancing in those days was that you never tried to take another blokes girl for the last dance otherwise you were in trouble! I finished up with a black eye one night…I was sitting down quietly, I always remember that, next thing’s a bloke piled on top of me hit me in the eye! Mistaken identity!

Do you remember when Roselands Shopping Centre opened?

Yes, that used to be called Belmore House.

Yes! That’s right. And a golf club, golf course as well.

Yeah. Well the whole shopping centre – it was one of the first because people came from Newcastle, Wollongong, Nowra….picnic parties used to come up there by coaches. Like the club we belonged to Lakemba Soldiers Club. We used to go out every month on a trip where we went up to Newcastle to different, other clubs. Play the pokies and have a few beers and all that. And they used to…all the old age pensioners and all that, they used to come from Wollongong. Wollongong was only a village early in the piece, now it’s a city. In fact earlier that that people in Wollongong, Thirroul, Austinmer and that, they all came done their shopping in Hurstville

We’ve come across, when we are looking at Service Records, that some enlisted at “Victory Hall”. Have you ever heard of Victory Hall?

Victory Hall? Yeah.

Do you know where it was? We have only seen it in Serviceman’s Records as enlisted at “Victory Hall”.

Well you know the Methodists Church at Lakemba? That’s the one right at the, down at the foot of Haldon Street near the station. Well, it’s the hall next door was a church. So it’s the one on the corner…? Yeah. There was a Victory Hall there…Although I’ve got an idea…you know the George Hotel? St George Hotel?

On the corner of Kingsgrove Road?

Well just down the other side used to be a big picture show. But the Victory Hall that I know that would be in the early days, was the…like a dance hall next door to the Methodist Church. And they had another hall down on Lakemba Street called a Band Hall. Where Lakemba had a band… and they used to gather round there. Well that finished up the Air Force and Navy Club. I don’t know what’s there now.

Another thing we used to do to, a chap down at Ridgewell Street, he was a carrier. You know what a carrier is?


Well…a person that travels…has a vehicle and they cart goods…like ah....they used to have coke for fires and the chaps that used to deliver that coke was called carriers. And this chap had a 4 horse wagon and a single horse would pull the wagon. What he used to do was get the neighbours all in the street and we’d all pile in to the wagon…you know Milperra Road? Where you go over the bridge? Milperra bridge? Over on the left….its called “Vale of ah”. We used to pile in…we used to get the neighbours, about three or four families…and we’d sit all around with our feet hanging around. And we’d go down Canterbury Road down to this Vale of ah on the Georges River.

What was your street like when you were growing up?

Dirt road… we used to play cricket on it. They were all dirt roads, no guttering or anything like that. And your drainage went out into the street.

It would have been very dirty and muddy wouldn’t it?

Yes they used to dig it out and you’d finish up that deep! All slimy and everything like that. Stink! See what they called sullage water used to run out. Nine times out of ten you run it down into your garden...but your stormwater, all depends. Stormwater used to run out into the street. You put pipes down.

So you played cricket with the neighbours?

All the kids played cricket. We had all sorts of games…we had catapaults…. Or shanghais….in fact I’ve still got mine at home! But if you want to cut the grass, you had to use a scythe…a scythe or a reaping hook. You know what a scythe is? That’s the TWO handed one. In fact there’s home at home still! You started off with a scythe…and a reaping hook, and then you had a hand mower. I converted mine with an electric motor on it so I had a motorised mower. Then Victor Richardson invented the Victa lawn mower. The petrol tank was a jam tin! So we got that…. that was a motorised one. And now they got full electrics, or full motorised.

Moorefields Road in our day, early as a kid, was all little farms…poultry farms and all that. I lived in Nichols Street and it goes down into Albion Street that never existed. There was Canterbury Road and all bush from there to Moorefields Road. And then you had what they called “Butchers Bush” down there, that was an old farm…not in the convict days of course.