Lake Macquarie History

Teralba Tales

Reminiscences of Clive Read

photo: clive readl

Local historian Clive Read has lived in Teralba for most of his life and has developed a keen interest in Lake Macquarie's history over the years. Now in his 80s, Clive is a lifetime member of Lake Macquarie and District Historical Society. Perhaps his biggest project has been the discovery and documentation of the street names of Lake Macquarie - around 3,600 of them - a project which took over ten years. The results of this hard work are available in the Street Names Search on our website.

Early Years

I came to Teralba in 1931 when I was three years old, my parents having purchased the Teralba dairy farm. We had about fifty cows and the milk was delivered around Teralba, Booragul and Marmong Point - there was a much lower population in those days. I still live in the same street, Quarry Road, and have gathered some stories along the way.

photo: a young clive readl

When I was four, I went for a walk out in the bush and became lost. A number of search parties were formed from this end of town, and old ladies went around poking poles in the water holes. Len (Lightning) Rodgers, who was on horseback, found me somewhere near Barnsley that afternoon.

My father needed a new dairy and bails built so he had this done by Walter Edwards of Booragul. This building survived until the 21st century. I was playing with a stick one day and I poked it into the belts driving the milking machine motor. This caused the motor to stop and the milking cups fell off the cows into the mud. Big trouble that day!

At one time during the early 1930's, there were only three motor cars in Teralba. My father had one of them - a black one. One of the miners living nearby, had a little child die. The depression was lingering on in the town and they decided to conduct their own burial. They got help and advice from the Clerk of Petty Sessions who had his office in the Teralba School of Arts in those days, and they asked my father to use his car as a hearse. The little coffin, made of rough, sawn, but new-looking timber, was placed on the back seat. The mother rode in the front with dad and they set off in low gear with family and friends walking along behind. As they passed the hotel a number of miners came out and joined the procession walking to the Teralba Cemetery. There were railway gates on the northern end of Booragul station for access to the cemetery in those days.

The Dairy

photo: read milk cart

On the milk run, dad used to write letters for old people who couldn't read or write. Back then, the elderly didn't get the help, attention and medical care we know today. Some of them lived under atrocious conditions, with poor health and little dignity. You had to see it to believe it! I remember seeing old men with patches crudely sewn on their clothes with copper wire.

Teralba Bowling Club began in 1948, the beginning of an institution. Early one morning while making my deliveries, I saw a fire burning in Wilcox's yard - in the wood heap next to the garage or workshop. I woke Peter Wilcox and his father, and they were able to take charge of the situation quickly. Later I was told that it was caused by spontaneous combustion of oily rags under the wood.

The War Years

photo: world war 2 headlight cover

At the beginning of the war Teralba had an air-raid siren installed on an electric light pole opposite the Post Office. Once, during a drill, I saw Mrs Johnston the Postmistress run across the road carrying a chair. She stood on the chair, unlocked a little box on the pole, and switched on the siren. The sound nearly blew her off the chair. Later in the war the siren was removed, presumedly it was sent to where it would be of more use.

Air-raid shelters were dug at Teralba school. I had started high school by that time. I do remember that the Teralba fire engine was painted khaki.

An army camp was built at Booragul. It only took milk for the Officers Mess, the enlisted men apparently, were given powdered milk. The butcher, however, said the camp took lots and lots of sausages!

With petrol being rationed, two enterprising young local boys went into business making charcoal. This was for trucks and cars that had been fitted with charcoal burners. One day the 'Manpower Inspector' came around and found them lying down under a tree waiting for the fires to cool. He was not impressed, and gave them an order to report to the BHP for work. People around the town thought this was really funny. Dad tried to extend his petrol ration with la bottle or two of turps. The car became very hard to start. One day, on a long downhill stretch, he turned off the ignition to save petrol. When he turned it on again there was a loud explosion and the muffler was blown off - no comment!

An 'Ugly Man Competition' being held in Teralba aroused a lot of interest. This was a fundraiser for the Comfort Fund for Soldiers. Mum told Dad he better not enter as it would be unfair to the other contestants.

A Volunteer Defence Corps was formed and marching and training commenced. One man showed me a box of hand grenades they had, all filled with cement instead of explosives. At least they could knock the enemy out with these if all else failed - like `Dad's Army' perhaps.

Family

My brother Alan, was the founder and editor of the Westlakes Advertiser newspaper which lasted for 25 years and ended after his death at the age of 55. I delivered milk to Lake Macquarie (formerly Booragul) High School canteen and Home Science department for a great many years.

A few years ago the Council named a new street in Teralba, Read Close, after my parents - the owners of the last dairy farm in the area.