Lake Macquarie History

Boyhood memories of Cardiff

By H. D. Stewart

In 1923 when I was nearly 5 years old my father became Police Sergeant at Cardiff. We lived at first on the opposite side of the road from the present site of the Catholic Church. Constable McElwaine lived opposite also. My brother was in Cardiff School before me - the Headmaster was a man named Attwood, but Mr. Riley had taken over when I started. He was a small, lively bald-headed man, who died soon after.

We walked to school from the heights and from Margaret Street where we lived later. We went over the creek I now know as Winding Creek. We had a huge Union Jack in the Assembly Hall. It draped a big blackboard when the partitions were taken down for all the school to sing together. It had a band [banner] on the lower side "To the People of Cardiff, New South Wales from the People in Cardiff, Wales." Someone has since "borrowed it". It isn't there now.

There were a few occasions when we could not go to school, when there was flooding. Once a man tried to get across the wooden bridge, and was washed off. Some other men formed a chain by linking hands and rescued him from a tree. Another time, a boy named Craig took his sister to watch and the bank gave way.

Behind the Police residence was the cell made of huge, warped hoards into which the drunks were tipped. We used to get a new "Singing Teacher" every Saturday night. Often it was Dodger Lonsdale. The cell was near the toilet, Dodger used to make a running commentary on everyone who had to go. I had a lot to do with Dodger. In 1935 I used to go to the sports ground, and was usually conned into taking part in the game of League -- 22 a side. I was in front row, and found myself opposing Dodger. He omitted to shave so that he could take a more active part - he used to grind his bristles into his opponents' faces, and often made remarks about my father.

About this time I joined the Cubs. We had a parade in the main street, and Jim Thorley, the leader of the Cub pack, did not turn up. They started off without him, and I as second in command, brandished a stick with a wolf's head on it. Jim turned up half way along, with an awful 'flu, and I refused to hand over the sacred stick, and stood by it in the main street. In the end, I think some adult forced it out of my grasp. Actually the Scout Master was a little boy at heart. I did not agreed with his policies. He used to lake us out in the Cubs at night, blowing a bugle as loud as he could, getting back at all hours. Always took us the same way, up the hill. He would call "HALT!" at a certain spot, and command us to pick up some stones. We went on then, and he would call "HALT" outside the Catholic Church —this is truth! He would then command us to throw the stones on to the roof of the Church.

Ah, the picture show. Mr Clinton ran the top picture show, and Mr Edwards started the new one opposite the old hotel, which was on the way to the Subway (under the railway line). He had some open-air picture shows for a start, which we saw for nothing back to front. Then the new building came into operation complete with pianist. It cost four pence, a rise of one penny on the old one.

Our chemist was Archibald Hume Geikie, grandson of Sir Hamilton Hume. He was a pleasant chap. Once a month the travelling dentist would come out in the train, and park his mobile chair-drill-drugs-fang pullers-dispensary in Archie's doorway. I had a fang out one Saturday, when he parked in the butcher's shop. I was about II years old then. I ran screaming all the way home. It must have hurt a little.

The remains of the old railway lines are still visible from the current route. They ran at one time from the most recent Tickhole tunnel past the old Tickhole Mine close by, and there was an old station to the east of Macquarie Street fairly close to Aunt Dora's home in Munibung Avenue. The material of the old station was sand, which had been used in the casting of copper products - it is full of pieces of copper and green copper salts. At one stage, this line used to continue through a cutting about 1 km past Sulphide Junction to cut across to pick up Winding Creek.

There was a location known as Millers Wharf, where we used to swim. At some stage the coal from Cardiff Borehole or other mines was handled on a number of wooden stages at Millers Wharf, just past the old steam tram line which runs to Speers Point. Cockle Creek is a straight canal, which I assume was used to transport the coal out of Lake Macquarie. I often walked along the old rail line. picking up a spike or some other object from time to time.

The demolishing of the old hotel and the opening of the new one was interesting. I think a schooner of beer was four pence. Cyril, the publican turned on the beer, and there were sore heads everywhere.

There was once a vacant block of ground between our place and the grocer's shop. There was a soggy swamp at the bottom, and the remains of a Chinese vegetable garden. The Chinese went to Fern Gully.

At break up times we'd enjoy the walk home to Cardiff from the High School. There is a road under the main rail line, west of Adamstown, where the coal line for Port Waratah ran at one time. It was a rough old line, made of double bullhead rails on cradles. There would be gaps of up to a yard long on the top head, and it always beat me how the train kept on the line. I’ve walked it many a time - hate to have rode the train, which I saw many a time rattling along.

It was a happy time. We all used to go swimming in preference to all other things. I liked going in all seasons. The favourite spot was a few doors from Crocketts Fibrous Plaster, which was next door to the Blacksmiths, a few doors from the Bakers. None of us boys ever thought of wearing swimming costumes. We went further afield too. We took the dirt road to the Crossroads, and the steam train to Speers Point, or sometimes my maths teacher Mr Cummins from Newcastle High would give us a lift. Mostly we went to Millers Wharf, where there was plenty of wood from the old wharves to jump off. One of the family, took a liking to the beautiful orange coloured fruit in the nearby house, until he tasted some, finding it was jam fruit - Spanish Oranges, I think they called them.

We would also go out at night to see what was going on. Dodger Lonsdale was supposed to have an orchard near Tickhole Tunnel. He was also supposed to have a shotgun loaded with saltpetre, for visitors. A couple of boys got inside one night, and had a collection of peaches. They were disturbed, and left their plunder. The farmer complained to my father, who kept the evidence in our ice chest until it got mouldy.

Odd it is how things keep on cropping up. I was in the 2/3 Tank Attack Regiment, in Tripoli - we had come down in a truck in the dark from Bsarma, Lebanon, to see "Gone With the Wind". I sat on a box, minding my own business, and heard a voice saying "If you have not had seven doses you are not a man." I thought the voice seemed familiar, and then the same voice said, "I know you. Your old man used to put me in boob every Saturday night." It was Dodger Lonsdale. I got a letter from Dodger Lonsdale's sister many years later, who said he was in a home in Charlestown. I'm not surprised.