Lake Macquarie History

Holidays at Belmont Bay

By Mary B. Boyes, daughter of Robert and Nell Blair

18th January, 1985

Belmont Bay is today known as Belmont South

These memories took place during the late 1920's and the 1930 decade and early 1940's. During these 15 years my mother (Nell Blair, nee Fleming), my sister (Marjorie Arnott) and I used to spend two weeks of our Christmas school holidays out at Belmont Bay. Our father, Robert Blair, always stayed at home.He was a boilermaker at Morison & Bearby's, and could not get holidays at this time as a lot of timber companies wanted their boilers overhauled while their employees were on leave. We were accompanied by one of my aunts and her family - generally a different set of cousins each year. There were always 10-12 members of the family at the one time.

The house that my grandmother Mrs Mary Fleming, nee Broome (widowed daughter-in-law of Peter and Mary Fleming) had built was situated on the opposite bank of the creek to the one that had been built by her mother-in-law Mrs Mary Fleming. Mary Fleming’s house was named Palm Cottage because of the date palms on this block of land. This house is still standing although it has been moved to the back of the block and a new one built onto the highway - still being called Palm Cottage.

My grandmother's home was situated in the bend of the creek, as it was in those days. To reach it we had our own private bridge, or walked around a small path on the bank of the creek and through a small gate - as this was a shorter route we usually went this way.

The house was weatherboard with a wide verandah right across the front, a smaller verandah was at the back on which were the washing tubs and copper. It had a large dining-sitting room, three bedrooms and a large kitchen built as a separate room and entered from the back verandah (possibly with fire in mind). The kitchen was complete with smoke darkened walls from the fuel stove and a very large Blackwood dresser filled with fabulous china - which unfortunately we did not appreciate at that time. There was also a large sea-chest in this room. The bedrooms were furnished with cedar chest of drawers complete with mirror stands. In the front bedroom there was a vase in the shape of a green glass "Cinderella Slipper" which Marjorie still has at home as one of her treasures. In the back yard of course was an Australian "outhouse".

Now for memories of our holidays.

At first we went out by train and walked to the house carrying our luggage - later we went by bus. When we arrived the first job was to air and choose our beds, but always we children slept on the wide open front verandah - with no fear whatsoever.

The next day we used to walk up to Belmont village to the shops that were situated on the Newcastle side of the Public School. This small cluster of shops was on the left hand side of the road opposite the Fire Station. Our first stop was at a fancy goods shop where the lady owner kept a wonderful array of printed doilies, duchess sets and runners. We would choose one complete with all the skeins of stranded cottons, and no matter how long we took to make our purchase she very patiently offered her expertise and advice to all small girls. These treasures were worked in our spare time during the holiday.

There was also a grocery shop and butcher shop - we used to walk up to these shops every few days to buy some meat which was kept either in an ice chest or a hanging wet bag safe - any groceries we wanted were purchased from a shop in Belmont Bay itself.

Each day we went up to Thompson's Bakery and shop on the corner opposite to the turn-off to Belmont Park, to buy our fresh bread. We used to spend a lot of time at the baker's shop, for although we were never allowed in the bakehouse itself we were always intrigued by the baker bringing in the hot loaves of bread which always smelt so lovely and made us very hungry. At times we would stand at the open bakehouse door at the rear of the shop and watch the baker at work. He always seemed to be in a hurry making fresh bread for hungry holiday-makers. When we got home with our loaves we had slices of fresh bread and butter and Cocky's Joy (golden syrup).

Before we went home we would cross the road to buy our daily supply of groceries from the grocery shop that was situated where the service station now stands. While there, we also got our daily supply of sweets - threepence (2 cents) worth. My greatest thrill was "Lamp Posts", large toffee type of lollies shaped like "gas lamps" and large "all day suckers". Oh what a thrill to see these large marble shaped lollies change colour the longer you sucked them.

Our days were filled with swimming, rowing the boat or going out in the boat to fish with hand lines. We always used "cat gut" lines wound onto corks so that they would float if accidentally thrown overboard. Oh what excitement if one of us caught a fish, which happened often as fishing was always good out across the first line of seaweed - especially if you could find a nice deep clear hole. At times we would catch a crab or lobster (which were brought into the boat by a fishing net). When we got home, these delicacies were cooked in a kerosene tin over a wood fire in the back yard. Some times at night we went prawning, walking in a long row carrying a kerosene lantern. At other times we went for a long row around to Cardiff Point, Pelican, Marks Point etc.

Our cooking was either done on the fuel stove or on a primus stove which used kerosene and was pumped up to make a kind of gas. Oh my, what consternation if either of the implements were stubborn and refused to light straight off. To get the fuel for the stove we would walk along the waterfront and pick up lumps of coal which were washed across the lake from the mines at Cardiff Point, which we could see if we rowed around Anderson's Point. At times we would watch the colliers plying their way across the lake on their way to Swansea Channel. There was also coal lying around in the bush behind us and it was easy to pick up - this land at one stage was owned by my great grandfather Mr. Peter Fleming.

Another occupation was paying a visit to "old" Mr. Pringle (who possibly wasn't very "old" at all), who lived at the back of us. I think he used to be a miner but then had been a professional fisherman, and we used to enjoy his reminiscences and he would advise us where to fish and when. I will always remember the most beautiful ginger plant he had growing near the gate at the end of our yard. It was always a mass of pink and cream bells - it was the type that they get "green ginger" from but he never seemed to dig any of it up.

Another of our enjoyments was to go into the bush behind us near Belmont Lagoon - which was much smaller and tidal at that time - and pick large bunches of white wild violets, which grew in large clumps under the gum trees. We would arrange in the many vases around the house.

At night or on wet days we would all stand around the old H.M.V. upright gramophone - which was wound up with a handle and played all the old sing-along records - and sing at the top of our voices. We also used to play card games such as rummy, euchre and match stick bridge. Also we played charades and indoor cricket on the front verandah. Sometimes our mothers packed a picnic lunch and we all walked past the cemetery, up over the high sand dunes to Belmont beach. No swimming was ever done at this beach at that time. We spent hours picking up hundreds of the beautiful coloured shells. We tried to find those that had holes in them and we mostly collected beautiful coloured cone shaped ones and flat ones. When we got home, we threaded all these shells into necklaces and bangles, making holes where necessary. When we were tired of gathering shells, we would walk along "Nine Mile Beach" towards Redhead or the other way towards Blacksmiths. We were always very tired but happy when we arrived back at the house, so this is when we made the necklaces as it was not a very energetic occupation.

Other days we went up to the Misses Whiteheads home - cousins of some sort - to sit and talk or play a game of "hit and giggle" tennis on their tennis court. I was hopeless at tennis as I was always frightened of getting my glasses broken.

Another memorable holiday was when the cousins of my cousin were there with us. As it was the birthday of one of these cousins, we had a day to remember. It was decided to hold a mock-wedding. Ross chose Marjorie to be his "bride". She was dressed in one of our mother's dresses with a lace curtain for her veil. We went out and picked dozens of violets and made bouquets. The other girls were bridesmaids and the boys best man and groomsmen. My mother was the preacher and we had a wonderful "wedding breakfast" birthday party afterwards.

One day a very important looking gentleman, carrying reams of paper, knocked on the front door and asked if anyone knew the name of the creek out the front. My mother answered, "I only know it as Cold Tea Creek" because the colour reminded my mother of cold tea in a tea cup. It turned out that he was from the Main Roads Board as the D.M.R. was known in those days. He replied, "That is good enough for me", so it is known as Cold Tea Creek to this day. I believe that a large number of creeks in the State were named in this way.

Another pastime was to climb to the top of Andersons Hill near the motel and Squids Ink Restaurant, and against parental advice and orders, we used to roll down the side towards the road. Just as well it was not as busy as nowadays - we always seemed to be able to stop before we reached the road. We also picked the large rock lilies that grew on the side of the hill - they were very large cream bell-shaped flowers that grew in the shape of a large acorn, about three feet long (1 metre), and were very hard to break off and carry home so we only used to pick one a holiday.

Another enjoyable occupation was fishing for "poddy" mullet off our private bridge. To do this we used to mould stale bread and water into balls of "burley". This "burley" was placed into oyster bottles, to which string was tied around the neck, and these bottles were drawn along at a very slow pace and the fish entered the bottle after the "burley" and could not get out again. We let them go most times in the lake where perhaps we caught them later as larger fish. In winter our boat was slipped into the boat shed that was situated in the back yard. In this was also kept the spare oars and anchor and fishing tackle.

In later years a shower and laundry was added to this. In my later teen years our holidays changed. My mother and one of her friends used to take a group of about ten teenagers from Merewether Central Methodist Church out there on the January Anniversary weekend - as it was called then - and what a wonderful time was had by all. Swimming, rowing, fishing and walking by day and at night we played all the different parlour games, the adults discreetly keeping in the background.

Unfortunately the house no longer stands, as early in 1942 the Army, in its wisdom, decided that "Cold Tea Creek" was a war danger. So they gave the family 24 hours to remove anything they wanted - then they auctioned off all the beautiful furniture and china for a very small sum of money. They then bulldozed the house down, changed the course of the creek, placed large triangular cement tank traps over the land and in the creek causing it to silt up. After the war they tried to restore the creek to its original course under the bridge, but cut the land around so much that it was not large enough to build on again and it still stands empty to this day.

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