Local News at Your Fingertips

Snapshot of Millicent – The Fabric of Life by Noel Boyle


2014-03-28 19.41.23

Guest Speaker Noel Boyle and Cheryl Chambers

by S Lowe 5THE FM newsonline wattlerangenow

Geltwood Festival’s official opening held on Friday 28th March featured local historian enthusiast Noel Boyle with his snap shot of Millicent, as he lived it as a boy. Noel cleverly wove humour and candor into his tales of life and adventure, and judging by the response from the crowd it would seem that many remembered these times too.

Noels oft said , ‘get me a red’ was rewarded with a red wine from the Mayor to quench the guests thirst.

We thought that Noels recollections of life and humour deserved a full transcript and we are happy to provide this for you to enjoy.

Noels story begins here:-

“ Last years guest, Peter Goers spoke about how he obtained his clothes from the Op-shop so I thought if my speech was not up to scratch I would get a few votes for my choice of coats,” said Noel as he disrobed from his suit coat and donned a ‘coat of many colours and furs.’

“Also my talk tonight should mention the “Fabric of Life” because that is what the Geltwood Festival is celebrating and I believe I can say without question this coat is the Fabric of Life because I would not be seen dead in it!”

“Jack Kain my Primary School teacher, once told me this area where we are tonight was an Aboriginal meeting place because of the high ground.”

The name Millicent.

“Millicent is lovely name for a town and a number of people would come into the Post Office, when I worked there, just to get the name Millicent on a Postcard to send to a friend who had a name Millicent. Most of you who have travelled interstate or overseas would attempt to explain where Millicent is on a map. How many times have you met a complete stranger somewhere in the world only to say yes I have been to Millicent or know someone who lives in the town. Millicent may be small in the scheme of things but it is well known and you cannot help to feel proud when someone mentions it to you.”

“Still on the name Millicent. As you know it was named after Mrs Millicent Glen nee Short. Millicent married George Glen in 1857. The belief in some circles is that her correct name was MillEcent with an E and only one I. Now unless I actually see it in Mrs Glen’s diary I say it was two I’s. If you owned all the land around Millicent and the paper was spelling your wife’s name incorrectly you would say something. Also if your father was Bishop Short of Adelaide I’m sure he would let someone know to get his daughter’s name correct. In the Public Library in a letter to Joy Melano dated 1968 the Rector of the Holy Trinity Church in Adelaide stated he has seen the original and states it is an I not an E.”

A Claytons move

“So in May 1870 the township of Millicent came into being. Now most of you know the road nearby is called Main Street. In Joy Melano’s great book on Millicent, called Walking Tall she states that Millicent North is a separate town that was surveyed in 1878. I would like to do more research on this fact myself one day. So where is this leading to? I was brought up in the township of Millicent North very near to this building, and I would like to share a few memories about growing up in Fourth Street.. Well I used to live in Fourth Street until the PMG department issued Street numbers in about 1965/1966 and they advised us that as our house was facing Ridge Terrace our address was now 24 Ridge Terrace. So that is what you could call a Clayton shift. A shift when you actually don’t have one.”

Swaggie Fear

“Many years ago just over the road where the Kindergarten is now there once was a tree surrounded by bushes. Now for several days a swaggie was camped under this tree. Each day after school I would have to walk passed him to get home. The school I attended by the way was the primary school where the Family History centre is now situated. The longer he stayed the bigger the stories became of what he was actually doing there. This particular day I had braved the taunts of the big kids at the High School. Now this area was the High School in my early days and the kids would hang over the stone fence and tease me. I could not even see over the fence as in those days I was not very big. OK, not everyone can be big. Now back to the swaggie story. This particular day I heard from good authority he had a sugar bag with him and he would catch small boys and stuff them into his sack. A modern version of the “Once a jolly jumbuck” song but with a “R” rating. So by the time the tree came into sight I was absolutely panic stricken. I cannot remember how long I waited, but eventually a woman dressed in black came along. I took my school cap off and in my most polite voice I asked if I could walk with her. Years later this story was told to me by my brother and he found out about this episode in my life, because the lady I asked help from was my Aunty Fanny Bratchell.”

I ended up in the creek

“There used to be a drain running down the side of our property, in Fourth Street that used to go under Ridge Terrace into the drain just out the side here. It was not big but I suppose it would have been about 4 feet deep, just big enough to hide in when it was empty. Leading into our property from the Fourth Street was a small bridge that we could cross to get to our property. We would put out our milk billy for the milkman to tip our milk into. When we had to pay the milk bill the money would be put into a jar under the bridge, and as kids we would always check to see if he had dropped any money. Just up further was a railway sleeper for walkers. As you know a railway sleeper is not very wide. Some times as an act of courage the Postie on his pushbike would ride over the sleeper without stopping, although sometimes he would go a little fast and go head first into the drain. Still on the subject of drains the main drain was a child’s paradise. You had willow trees that you could hold onto swing out in the water and return to the bank, sometimes. Some of the kids from the district would make a raft from the tractor tubes and we had great fun sailing in them. Over this main drain was a wooden bridge with a hand rail just so only one person at a time could cross. I was nearly across one day when the school bully started to cross. The conversation went something along the lines of “Go back or you will be sorry”. I said I won’t because I was here first. The bully said go back or you will be sorry. Anyway that is how the bike and I ended up in the drain and I had to receive a couple of stitches in my forehead from the doctor.”

Grocery orders and the magical carbon paper.

“Lofty Clark, who can remember Lofty or Robert as his parents called him. Tall skinny bloke played basketball, long before tall blokes played basket ball and was a proud member of the Emergency Fire Service. Well those people who lived in Millicent would remember him arriving at your door for the Eudunda Farmers weekly or fortnightly grocery order. He was always seemed to have all the time in the world. Thank goodness they didn’t have time and motion studies in those days. Well one day he left a piece of carbon behind as all his orders were in duplicate. We kids thought it was Christmas in those days to have something like this. Those were the days before i pads. My brother Kevin also worked a Eudunda farmers and he was always bringing home broken biscuits which my mum would make into hedgehog cake.”

“Who has had hedgehog cake?”

The Watkins lady

“Another regular caller was the Watkins lady. Now can anyone remember her? She used to sell everything and it smelt as though the smell would fix it even if the ointment did not. The creams were a miracle worker and actually worked.”

How do you stop it?

“My mother Ivy wrote a few pages of history for me and in her notes she mentions a car trip she went on. In her notes she mentions the garage that was on the corner just over the road. She states when she was 12 years old, this would put the date at about 1927. Her Aunty Tilly who lived at Mount Muirhead had purchased a motor car. ONE DAY Aunty Tilly drove my mother home and she knew how to start the car but she forgot how to stop it. So she was driving around the roundabout past the Presbyterian Church and then back past the garage yelling out “how do you stop it”. Mum said she kept going around the block until she ran out of petrol.”

Ducks out of season

“Like most people of that time we had a large vegetable garden and numerous fruit trees so we were fairly self sufficient. We had our own chooks and ducks. Dad would go out rabbit and duck shooting on a regular basis so meat was no problem. Sometimes mum would pluck possums in the shed, or that is what she told us kids. Years later I found out it was ducks out of season. She was frightened one of us would let the cat out of the bag.”

Towsers record spoilt
“We had a curly retriever dog called Towser that dad was very proud of. It went with him when he went shooting and was great in returning the shot ducks from the swamp. Dad had great faith in his dog and at night time if we had visitors he would give a penny and ask them to throw a penny in the tall grass after the dog was allowed to sniff it. The only rule was that you were not allowed to throw it in the drain. In all the years of returning the penny Towser had only one failure. One night after performing his party piece he came back without the penny. Towser came in really dejected and dad would send him out again to look for it. This happened several times before mum decided to follow him and found the poor dog had stopped for a drink on the way back and had dropped the penny in a bucket of water. All was forgiven. Still on the subject of dogs, after school I would go up the street to Pedler’s Butchers once a week to collect a bag of dog bones in a hessian sugar bag . This particular day i saw my brother Kevin’s ute and knew he would be home soon so I put the bag under his car seat. I forgot all about it and that day was a warm one. After tea Kevin took his girlfriend for a drive and took him a while to work out where this terrible smell came from.”

The great comic swap

“One of the very important things we did as kids, was the regular comic swap. Now I was told if I mention the comic story I was not to mention the person’s name so Pat, I won’t mention your name. It was a great art to swap comics and we would spend ages wheeling and dealing, working out should it be the Phantom comic or perhaps a Donald Duck. My little sister thought she was up with the big league so one afternoon unbeknown to us she went over to Alexander Square to swap comics and came back with the same ones we had swapped that morning. Now as I have not mentioned the person’s name I can share a story she told me. When the Father from the Catholic Church would visit them all the kids would sit quietly watching him. This unknown friend was asked after a visit by the Catholic priest why she was so interested in his visit. Her reply was “Dad you said he eats so much when he visits us one of these days he is going to bust “

Boy scouts

“I used to be a member of the Millicent Boy Scouts and I was lucky because the meetings were held in Waples shed at 30 Ridge Terrace. Many a time I went out bottle collecting to raise money to build the Scout Hall on Stark Avenue. Also did Bob A Job to earn myself a badge. You would spend ages doing someones garden for very little money.”

Kevin had to spit out the kero quickly

“Where the Baptists Church is today the Altschwager Family lived and for some reason they had a cattle grid in front of their house. They also had when I was young a washing machine that did everything. Our washing days consisted of the copper where all the work overalls went into. Then into a washing machine until you thought they should be clean, then out into a trough of water to go through a hand ringer to then be put into the other side of the cement trough, for a final rinse. Everyone did the washing on Monday so you knew it was not the day to visit friends. We knew we had the big time when we purchased an electric fridge. Up until then we had a kerosene one which would run out of kero and quickly defrost. I can still see my brother, Kevin filling it. We would have a large container of kero and he would put a hose into the drum. Then he would gently try to suck the kero up and let it fill the tank under the fridge. Most times when he would suck it up he would end up with a mouthful of kero and then he would try to get the taste out as quick as he could.”

They weren’t just marbles
“Breakfast consisted of porridge in the winter, but in the summer we would progress to the famous Kelloggs Corn Flakes. I enjoyed them but best of all you would find a little army figure in the box. These were good for swapping. They stopped putting them in the packets because they thought someone might swallow them. They were too precious to swallow. While on the subject of toys, just on the road reserve in front of our house was a round piece of clay. It was just the perfect spot to play marbles. All the different types of marbles had their own special names. They weren’t just marbles. I’ll have you know.”

Blue Hills was true

“Blue Hills by Gwen Meredith was A True Story as far as we knew, that was on the radio every week day around about lunch time. We were never allowed to disturb mum when this show was on. When mum had visitors this was discussed. Just like they do with TV shows.”

The fabric of life – if only grand dad had written it down

“Well this is my story; your life would have some things that I mentioned in it. History is not someone doing the shopping in a horse and cart – history is made today. Most of the group would have said “if only I had asked” or ”if only granddad had written it down”. I hope no one in the future will have to say the same about you because you hopefully would have recorded it. It is called the FABRIC OF LIFE.”

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