Lake Macquarie History

Temporary Dwelling

Kevin McWilliams

Late in 1960 I had popped the question to a local girl and we had set a date for our wedding in April 1961. Living with in-laws was not practical, so we made a decision to take advantage of a block of land I owned in Prince Street, Fennell Bay. I had owned this for many years after paying $720.00 for it and I parked my Semi Trailer there whilst home from Interstate trips or when carting local materials such as coal or quarry materials with a Tipper Trailer. We knew it would be impossible for us to borrow money from a bank to build a normal sized home, and did not want to live with in-laws so looked at alternatives. After submitting plans, the Council then approved a dwelling on the site measuring 24 feet by 12 feet (8x4m) with a small laundry bathroom attached.

photo: mcwilliams home

At that time I was carting spalls - which were huge blocks of rock - from a quarry in Raymond Terrace across the bridge at Hexham to Walsh Island. I would reverse the trailer at right angles to the edge of the Harbour, tip my load which then created a wall and then it was filled behind with sand and mud pumped from the Harbour and so was created Kooragang Island. Several homes had been demolished there and there was a large amount of second hand bricks and sand available. With the help of a friendly loader driver on the island and a bricklayer who told me how many bricks I would need, I was able to take home the start of our new home.

An advertisement resulted in me buying an old motorised cement mixer which threw half it’s solid rubber tyre while I was towing it home. But with sand, bricks and a Bricklayer lined up, we were on our way. Firstly, we had to lay a concrete pad 24 feet by 12feet (8mx4m approx.). First things in the budget were cement and some blue metal from the quarry where I was loading. Then with hard work loading our old single cylinder concrete mixer with metal, sand and cement we began pouring concrete. The aim was to carry the brickwork, but also with the intention that in time and with more money we would be able to remove the wooden floor of our Shack once we were able to build a more substantial dwelling and turn it into a garage.

photo: mcwilliams house under construction

We had also started scrounging. My brother was the manager of a transport company which intended to build new premises in Wickham, and they had purchased several old homes which needed to be demolished. I was able to take old floor joists which were as hard as steel and also pine flooring boards and our choice of old windows. A gift.

In the meantime the Government had advertised Nissan huts for sale by tender. These had been used by defence forces and had housed migrants at Shoal Bay. I had put in a price of £25 pounds ($50.00) for one of these. They were the Igloo type huts still to be seen in some areas around Belmont today. Approximate measurements were about 60feet x 15feet (20x5m) and they were curved galvanised iron all along and over the top, and the insides had all the internal timber and Masonite linings we would require for our Shack. With my tipper trailer and some sweat and tears - and the aid of a good friend and his wife - we were able to remove all of the pieces of the hut in one weekend and bring it back to our land. With some judicious probing, I had been able to find a firm just opposite where the Newcastle Council is today and took the curved iron in and straightened it for us to use on the roof.

SO, we had the brickwork, the complete frame and roofing and a cousin married to a carpenter - and before too long we had the semblance of a house.

Time to look at the insides. My carpenter worked in a coal mine and for just a few pounds he was able to purchase for us a wood/coal fired kitchen stove to also heat our hot water which was stored inside a water tank above the tubs. Our bathroom consisted of concrete tubs one side and a bath the other. Hot water was transferred from the tubs via a piece of water pipe to the bath in the initial stages. My father worked at a local coalmine and we were able to get a load of coal for heating and cooking and of course our hot water. A bucket sufficed to catch water under the sink initially. A grease trap and earthenware pipes were included as standard features. We were running a little behind our timeframe, and moved in with quite a lot needing to be done. The toilet was the old pan type - since there was no sewerage at that time - and initially till we could obtain a door we had to go into the toilet and move a piece of Masonite over the entrance.

We were married in 1961 and we had a one-night Honeymoon, compliments of a family friend and then returned to our temporary dwelling in which we lived for the next seven years of our life together. I had run into a tree during a cloudburst in Victoria late one night whilst carrying a load of potatoes bound for Newcastle markets. I wrote off the semi and thus was introduced to my new career - Direct Sales - and eventually we purchased several caravans and toured the country from Adelaide to Cairns for seven years while I worked in various locations.

The beautiful thing about the Temporary Dwelling was that in those seven years we paid no rent, had no storage problems and it was ours, lock, stock and barrel. We were able to go anywhere, do anything and the only thing we ever had to worry about was pay the rates and getting to the next town so I could start work. And we saved money. When we decided to have children we had sufficient savings put away over the years to be welcomed by our bank. It really was not a Temporary Dwelling - it was a Life Changer.

All young people today should have the opportunity that we had instead of trying to save for years and years to get a deposit on a 4 bedroom mansion. After all, they only need food, water and a bed. But I guess Councils and developers are not too keen on Temporary Dwellings. However, our Temporary Dwelling is still standing after 56 years, and looks as if it will last another 56.