page updated 14 Nov 2014
Ron Pritchett's Autobiography
Written in about 1998
This is a story about my father, his family, relations and friends from the day he was born to this day as best can be remembered and as told to me by himself and my mother. It starts at the date of his birth. Many dates and details have been given to me by my son in law Peter Andrews and members of the Pritchett and Brown Families. I thank them all so very much.
The 23rd of October,1887, at a place called "The Ferry," Rainham on the Thames River downstream from London, William was born to Isaac and Agnes Mary Pritchett. Could it be that sea got into his veins there. William was one of nine children being the fourth born with a Herbert, Annie and Eliza earlier and Matilda, Albert, Gertrude, Agnes and Maud later. Agnes migrated to this country but I have no further details and Maud came here to stay with MaMa in 1972. A bit of an old dragon as I remember and Mother was so glad to see the back of her. I have no details of Annie, Eliza, Matilda or Gertrude. Albert and Herbert I will mention later.
When William who I shall now call "Dad or Poppa" as his grandchildren called him, reached the age of twelve his father died of pneumonia an almost fatal illness in those days to anyone. He worked in a chemical factory as a labourer which may have induced his condition. He was only forty two leaving a wife and small children so those who could, had to find work. What the others did I do not know but Dad gained employment around the Tilbury Docks area and in the evenings sold papers to sailors and people from the ships that docked there. I am sure this is where the seed was sown for his eventual migration to Australia. The family got on well enough and when Dad did come to this country he sent money to his mother every month until the day she died. She did come here with mother's parents and I do remember her as short, a little stout with very white hair.
It was 1928 as there was a photograph of the three standing in front of Dad's brand new car, an American "Oakland "of that year. It was outside 27 Fairweather Street, Bellevue Hill. Dad loved his cars, he had an older "Oakland" tourer, his first car and a Chevrolet truck which he used in his business and to take all the camping gear.
This new sedan with two tone duco, an imitation leatherette cabriolet roof and wind up windows. Wow. Most cars in Australia came from that country in those days in fact did so up until the beginning of World War 2. Cadillac, LaSalle, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Oakland, Chevrolette, De Soto, Dodge, Studebaker, Nash, the beautiful Packard and a few others. Like the kids of today I knew them all and all about them. I seem to have digressed a little but when reminiscing and writing about it my thoughts will wander. Now we go back to England.
In those days around the turn of the century cycling was a great pastime with just about everyone owning a bike and when Sunday came, (they worked six days a week,) one of the main activities was to get on your bike and go picnicing or some similar outing and when Saturday night came it was dancing or evenings around the piano with family and friends. Uncle Fred was one of the best honky tonk pianists I have ever heard, that being years later at "Takapuna" in Vaucluse at family parties there. Dad also was a keen cyclist belonging to a club, entering many racing events, it was at that club he met up with another cyclist William Greenshields who lived opposite the Brown family's home. He was friendly with and eventually married Mother's sister Alice Brown, it was through this association, the picnics and cycling events that Dad met Mother. William and Alice Greenshields had a son Frank who only last Sunday 11th May 1997 had his 80th birthday at his home at Saratoga which cousin Pam Lake, 2nd cousin Gwen Bebbington, Andreanna and I attended. It is great to still have family gatherings after all these years.
I guess things carried on in much the same way except that the sea did attract them to places like Lowestoff, Lands End, Brighton and the like where they journeyed to on occasions.
Time went by till 1908 when Dad reached the age of twenty one and I guess that is when he made the decision to migrate. Did he have to wait till that age before he could make such a decision, you had to get your parents permission in those days because you were considered under age, oh, how things have changed.
He must have spent the next few years preparing and getting his International Correspondence Course on Electrical Fitting and Contracting, whereupon he left England on the ship "S. S. Nestor," a rather proud ship with a very tall funnel that was still around when I was able to take notice, I remember Dad pointing it out to me. Dad worked his passage out here as a deck hand.
While he is on his way to Australia I will mention that William Jacob Pritchett's father Isaac born 1857, his father Jacob born 1825, his father William born 1790, and his father Jonathan born 1757, I am Ronald Joseph. How come all the biblical names?
The name Pritchett is of Welsh origin along with Pritchard and Richard. In the middle ages people usually only had Christian names taken from England's famous Kings, we got ours from Richard the Lionheart. ( Thanks Peter Andrews for that piece of information.) Pritchards are more prominent here in Australia but in America it is the reverse. I once had "Playboy" magazine, the centrefold was a beautiful blonde "Jennifer Pritchett". No connection actually but just as pretty as our girl. Dad arrived in this country immediately taking up work with an electrical contractor beginning work at the original A.M.P. Building in Pitt St. wiring it up for the change from gaslight, he remained there for some time, he also wired up the old Anthony Hordern's building for telephones, it was an electrician's job in those days.
Switchgear came from England being porcelain with brass components and cover, they had to be mounted on marble slabs about 2 1/2 cm's thick which were cut and drilled, a long and tedious job, there was no such things as masonry drills or marble cutting discs in those days. They would then mount switches and fuses onto these slabs which drove Dad to doing something about it and being an inventive sort of a chap he soon came up with a self contained quick make and break switch complete with fuse. Quick make and break was necessary to prevent burning of contacts. He patented the switch and that was the start of his success, I will continue more on this subject later.
In this year that Dad arrived in Australia 1911, a few interesting bits of news were that, mixed bathing was considered offensive, the hit song of the year was Alexanders Ragtime Band still a favourite, and immigration from England was 46712 with ships booked out for six months. The population Aust.4.455.000. Sydney, 600,000.
Annie Brown (mother) received a letter from Dad early in 1914 asking for her hand in marriage and for her to come out to Australia . You can imagine how that set a cat amongst the pigeons in the Brown household. Mother told me she was most apprehensive at the thought of a long lonely trip so far away, leaving her family and friends but after eventually confiding with her father she decided to join Dad. Mother told me he said "Of course ye'll go lassie" so she with the aid of her mother and sisters started preparing things and making a wedding dress, all with much excitement. Mother left England from Plymouth on the 6th March, 1914,on the "S.S.Miltiades."
In that same year on the 9th August world war one started and if Dad or Mother had delayed in asking or accepting we might have been a very different family because our Mother would not have made the trip when so much shipping was being sunk in Pacific and Australian waters by the German raider "Emden."
While Mother is on her way I will give some details of the Brown Family. Her father Charles Alfred Brown was born on the 6th August 1857 and died 1st January 1941 a good 83 years .He was a cabinet maker and french polisher and later a tally clerk on the wharves. He liked his little sojourn down to the local every evening and always came home in a jovial mood. He loved and was always good to his family but very strict. I remember him at 27 Fairweather St. in 1928 at a little workshop and bench in the back yard always fixing something and whenever I went near his tools I got a stern rebuff. On one occasion we were all sitting around Dad's billiard table which easily converted into a large dining table, I was sitting next to Mother and said I didn't like a certain vegetable, there was just one growl from grandfather, I ate my vegetable. A kindly man just the same.
Grandma Brown, Emily was born on the 13th December 1858 and died 1st October 1935 at 76 years. She was a kind, handsome and proud woman who was always up before 5am preparing breakfast and lunches for eleven children, the older ones always helped with the younger ones, Mother told me many stories about her home life.
Charles Kirby Brown, the 1st born was not a very obliging character from all accounts, he owned a news agency back in England and migrated here in his later years as did his son also a George.
Next was Fred Brown who seemed to be the black sheep of the family always playing up and getting into trouble with his father. He would have a girl friend at the back door whilst another one waited at the front and I believe he would borrow his uncle's car on the pretext of taking his parents for a drive and then pick his girlfriends up, but never the less he was a great bloke although a scallywag. He was born in 1886 and came to this country around the 1930's, he married a Florence Quinn and had three children, Maurice, Ross and Cherry, and they lived at Parramatta, he loved the horses and was always looking for a way to make a quick quid (two dollars). Somebody gave him a rotary mower which he cleaned up taking it to the local auctions where he bid himself to kick the price up but unfortunately he was the last bidder and had to buy it himself.
The third born was Alice Emily Brown born April 1888, and died 1975, She was married to William Greenshields who I mentioned earlier, they had a son Frank William Charles G. Alice arrived in this country in 1949 and Frank a year later, Alice lived with the Lake Family whom you will read about further on. Frank married a Vera Marshal and had two children, Christine Anne and Frances Erica, both had children, two to Christine and three to Frances. Frank and Vera divorced and Frank married Ina Takasuma a lovely Indonesian girl, having a daughter Allesa a lovely capable and beautiful girl that we saw last Sunday at Saratoga.
Next came my darling Mother. Whether she was mother, grandmother, great grandmother, she was MaMa to all.
Then came William Brown who stayed back in England and married a Lillie Crotch. They had a daughter Betty who married a Len Wood. Len and Betty came to Australia in October,1995, with a second cousin Gwen Bebbington who is here again now May 1997. The three stayed at 86 Wellington St. Bondi with Pam Lake enjoying this country very much.
Florence Mabel Brown was born 29th September 1894,being four years younger than Mother, who told me that the older members of the family always helped out by looking after the younger ones and it is my guess that mother looked after Florence, because those two were just inseparable almost all their lives. Florence married Jack Zinader back about 1918 having two sons David and Maurice. They came to Australia about 1926-7. More later.
Frank Brown and his brother John Henry "Harry" born 1893 and 1897 were both killed in France in the 1st World War the moment they set foot in that country. In three weeks of fighting in the Somme River valley the British lost 60,000 men in one day and when the Australian soldiers were called in they lost 23,000 men in seven days.
What futility war is.
Horace Brown was born in 1899 and died in his sleep in 1953 a young man, he came out to this country about 1919 and soon married an Aussie girl, Ivy Hales who with her parents lived in a house that Stafford Lake eventually purchased 86 Wellingtom St. Bondi. Horace was a good singer and Ivy an exceptionally good pianist but did have to have music, she could not play by ear. They lived in a nice cottage in Radford Ave. Waverley and had a son Frank who married an Adrienne Mills who in turn had three daughters .
Emily Brown was born 20th February 1900 and married Edward Reginald Cursham Stafford "Staff" Lake on the 7th July 1923, there daughter Pamela Marie was born on the 4th August 1930. More later.
The "S.S.Miltiades" arrived in Melbourne on the 18th April 1914. Mother was standing at the rail with a group of others waiting to go ashore and in the company of another gentleman, she got the shock of her life to see William standing on the wharf waving to her, she told me she screamed "Will" as she always called him and he called back "Nance." They called each other by those names for the rest of their lives. As soon as the gang plank was down she raced to Dad who immediately said, lets go and get married straight away but mother said I can't as my wedding dress is down in the hold but that didn't seem to make any difference for they were married at St. Paul's Cathedral that day. Dad had it all lined up. One witness to the marriage was Dad's brother Albert, who came out on the same ship as mother. They came on to Sydney in the "Miltiades."
In Sydney they lived in a boarding house until they found a home to rent at Bondi. Mother became very homesick and would go down to the beach, just sit on the sand wishing she could get back to England but when she found she was pregnant she was much happier. William Charles was born on the 7th of May 1915 and the next year John Herbert "Jack" on the 15th July 1916, both were born at home.
With two babies to look after mother didn't have much time to worry about England and with Dad doing quite well with his contracting they started looking for a block of land. Bellevue Hill, seemed to be the "In" suburb and although it was mainly sand hills the curbs and guttering were in. They chose 27 Fairweather St.. Dad in his contracting got to know builder's tradesmen so as soon as he designed a home he sub-contracted most of the work. It was a great joy to them both and they would go most evenings to see its progress and on week ends would work there. Dad had an "Indian" motor cycle and side car in those times and when the house was finished he buried the bike in the back yard, in where the fruit trees were to be planted, that's when he bought the "Oakland" tourer. The home consisted of a side entrance to a decent hall, on the left were double leadlight doors into the lounge then further on the left their bedroom both opening onto a front verandah. At the end of the hall was the bathroom and on the right two more bedrooms, on the right at the entrance, a dining room the other end of which was the kitchen and off that a glassed in verandah with Dad's billiard table, then a laundry with separate toilet. The double garage was right up the back. Between them they planted fruit trees, peaches, nectarines and plums, made gardens and a very large fernery. Mother had a great love of Australian ferns. She also made tons of peach and plum jam. I got so sick of plum jam I haven't had any since. They were both very happy as they never had anything like it in their lives before.
Dad then purchased machinery to produce the components of his switch setting it up in his garage working very hard with mothers help. I remember her putting little grub screws into bush type contacts and doing some assembly and packing on the billiard table.
He had tools made to produce porcelain bases and fuses, a firm Brown and Hordern produced these and when they saw how well Dad was doing they produced a switch of their own but Dad had the market.
Years later when Bill, Jack, Horace, Frank and myself were all working at the factory a more modern version of Dad's switch was produced which had a number of advantages to suit the greater circuitry being built into homes. A larger firm Nielsen Electric copied the principle of ours and they soon had the greater piece of the market. Dad's design was still being produced and sold well right up till the time I left the company and many are still operating in and around Sydney today.
It was not long before another babe was on the way and sister Betty came along on the 8th of February 1920, followed by myself on the 22nd of November 1921, both of us like Bill and Jack were born at home with Effie Brinkley as midwife for Betty and I. She lived up the street with her parents "Pa and Ma". More about them later.
Mother had hoped to have a girl to make it two of each, sorry mum. Going back to the marriage of my parents, the witness Albert James Pritchett, Dad's brother and father of Frank mentioned a little way back married a Frances Da Gobble in 1917. They had three children Francis Herbert born 10th September 1918, Helena Margaret, born 31st of October 1921 and Effie born 9th June 1930 and named after Effie Brinkley. Francis "Frank" married Phyllis Rose White. Helena did not marry and died in June 1993. Effie married twice to a Kevin Butler and a Clarence Sadler.
Albert like Dad was an electrical engineer and one of his jobs was as an overseer in the electrification of the Sydney Harbour Bridge for the N.S.W Govt. Railways working for some thirty years with them, then starting his own business making cast aluminium lamps and lots of items for "Joe" the "bring your money with you" gadget man who worked for the Nock and Kirby store in George St. He was on the radio. Albert also made springs for Dad's switches.
In 1925 when Dad reached the age of 38 he took all of us to England including Effie Brinkley to help with four children and although I was only four and a bit I do remember the ship the "Esperance Bay." The Bay liners were the latest thing in passenger ships to Australia. There was also the "Jervis Bay" on which we came back to Australia and then the "Largs Bay" which Jack, Florie, David and Maurice came here on. They were all identical with a big fat yellow funnel. They all did great duty in world war 2 for Britain as armed merchant vessels but "Jervis Bay" was sunk by the Germans. I also remember the house of Grandpa's all decked out with flags in the garden at the side of the house, I remember the ice cream vendor (naturally) who had a musical trolley, the beaches which were mainly small stones or very course sand and St, Michaels Mount which was only accessible at low tide and if I am right Jack and Florie Zinader's home which was two storey and a light colour.
Whilst in England, I guess Dad and Mother did a lot of talking to members of the family about coming to Australia having a reason- able amount of success as the Zinaders, Fred B., George B., and his son, Horace B., Alice Greenshields and son Frank, Staff and Emily Lake and Daughter Pam all came here. I think Horace came back here with the family.
That year Sydney's population reached 1,000,000.
Before long Dad had to move his works from his home because of noise and resulting complaints so he set up shop on the 1st floor of premises in Ebley St. Bondi Junction. Horace joined him there looking after the assembly of switches and fuses, Mother helped in this regard as she had done so much in helping Dad in his garage.
In 1926 he purchased a factory and land at 2 Bruce St. Waterloo, he contemplated buying two identical units but settled on one with the land, that address remained in the family until 1966, when M.E.M. of England bought us out. They were a very large public company with associations in New Zealand who also wanted to get into the act. Our family could not keep up with funds necessary and fell to their demands. They in turn have also been taken over by the Delta Group.
In that year I started at Bellevue Hill Public School and I clearly remember Dad dropping me there on Wednesdays, he was always dressed in his bowls outfit ready to play at Waverley Bowling Club after he had checked in at the office. He continued there until we moved to Vaucluse in 1931 when he transferred to Rose Bay Bowling Club. He played continuously until the day he died on that bowling green. He was a good player, was captain of the team and Sid Craig told me his last bowl won the very tight match. The excitement was too much, Dad raised his hands in the air and collapsed to the ground. It was a great shock to everyone, Mother was devastated as we all were and she told me later, it was strange the way Dad said good bye to me that day. She would always have to check up on him before he left for bowls to see that he did not have grease marks on his clothes from the factory. Even when retired Dad would always go to the factory to see if all was well invariably getting oil on his clothes. It did not matter that they might be brand new. Mother gave me his beautiful Ebonite bowls with his initials engraved on them. Brother Jack borrowed them when he took up the game.
I think 1926 was the year Jack and Florie Zinader and their two sons David and Maurice arrived in Australia much to Mother's joy.
The Christmas school holidays of 1926 would have to have been the time that very many holidays started for the Zinader and Pritchett families and others who joined in occasionally, Horace B. came on quite a few, driving the Chev. truck with all the camping gear you can imagine. On one holiday a neighbour of Dads, a George Welsh, his brother and their families joined us in a great camping holiday at Corrimal on the South Coast, I remember it vividly as we were breaking camp I was chasing my first heart throb Yvonne Welsh and stopped right in the middle of ashes, unfortunately they were white hot, after treatment I had to sit in the car and that was the end of my love affair.
George Welsh was a builder in partnership with his brother and a great friend of Dads, they were Masons and also played bowls together. Dad took him up to St. Ives years later to look at the house and particularly the roof structure that I built there with the aid of Doug Ambrose, Stafford Lake and of course Dad. George said half an inch would have been near enough not 1/8th but I guess Dad taught me accuracy. My son David is worse or better than me, which ever way you want to take it.
We had camping holidays at Lake Illawarra, Kangaroo Valley, St. George's Basin as well as Megalong Valley, Nowra, Burragorang Valley, Kiama and others. Our holidays at Katoomba, Leura, Blackheath, and Wallacia were all great times until boating came into the picture later. At Kangaroo Valley Mother got into trouble whilst swimming with Auntie Florie. Paddling out into the river in an inflated tyre, she slipped out of it and went under. Mother was no swimmer at any time. Florie called out madly to brothers Bill and Jack who raced in and brought her to the bank. After a few brandies she was right, she only went down once. Dad and Uncle Jack were out shooting rabbits. It could have been a tragic day.
Another crazy thing Mother did on holidays was to take Auntie Florie into Nowra township while their husbands were again out shooting, in those days you could go shooting almost anywhere. Mother took Dads "Oakland" to the police station and asked the sergeant for a license, no permit, no nothing, had not driven on public roads before but she came back to camp waving her license at Dad who hit the roof. She was a very good driver her ability coming from just watching Dad. I did the same watching him and although I only backed the Studebaker President out of the garage and back in after washing it, I did once pinch it to drive around the block returning to find Dad waiting at the garage. Don't ever do that again. Two weeks later I Got my permit,(not like mother who didn't need one) Dad took me out for a lesson but after a few miles said, "how many times did you pinch the car" then of course I drove with Dad into the "Domain" where the police sergeant said drive me around to the other side of the park, the sergeant got out, went over to a kiosk, purchased a packet of blue Capstan cigarettes, hopped in, lit up and said drive back. I got my license, it was that easy. Mother just loved driving and more so in later years driving the LaSalle.
Burragorang Valley was a most beautiful valley and most people today would not know it ever existed. It was only a short distance from Camden, is now filled with water and known as a lake of the same name being held back by the great Warragamba Dam supplying Sydney with most of its water. A shame but most necessary. Today the greenies would be crying, environment.
I had a wonderful week of horse riding in that valley with friends when I was 17 and brother Jack had a recuperating rest after a tragic accident on the harbour, more of which I shall tell later.
The hotels we stayed in were mainly at Katoomba, and were large places like the "California" overlooking a beautiful valley. It still operates today as I think many do. One big family holiday, once again at Katoomba was at a very large house that Dad booked. It was called "Tilcot" and it is still there on the main road to Blackheath. Grandparents, Pritchett and Zinader families with some others all had a wonderful Christmas there. David, Maurice, sometimes sister Betty and myself would go to the station to help push the big locomotives around on the turntable for their return to the bottom of the mountain to help bring up another load of holiday makers. It was on that holiday I think that bush fires raged in the mountains and I clearly remember a big boarding house on the Blackheath Rd. was ablaze and completely destroyed. Katoomba was very popular. Dad was always organizing trips to places like Megalong Valley where we would have scones with cream and blackberry jam or picnics at the Three Sister and the like. David Zinader reminded me about Dad racing the express train on that road to Blackheath with all we children saying faster, faster. Dad would give it a go for a while. Earlier in these times when Dad and Jack Zinader drove up the mountains the roads were pretty bad, consequently there were many punctures, boiling radiators and to change a tyre was a 2hour job, it was not uncommon to have to back up an incline because reverse had a lower gear than any forward and that was after all the passengers got out. Uncle Jack's Morris Cowley with a bull nose radiator broke down frequently. They were the days and they really were full of make do yourself, if anything went wrong, you had to fix it.
Once the old Chev truck went over a bump, breaking the shackle bolt on the rear axle which jumped out of its retaining stud. Fortunately they were alongside a railway track and Horace found a good length of suitable steel to jemmy the axle back into position. Then they wired the axle to the spring. It came apart a few times but they eventually got a new shackle at a town.
Around that time Dad bought mother a "Thor" washing machine with powered wringer rollers on top, a great boon to house wives. Whilst feeding washing into the wringers Mother caught her fingers, I was about seven and heard her screaming, she couldn't turn it off herself so I ran to mothers cleaner, a big woman, who got her hand out. There was a big release lever on top thank goodness but the rollers had already torn the skin off her fingers. I got mine caught also some time later but with smaller fingers and mothers quick action it did little damage. That washing machine was built like a tank and eventually passed on into sister Betty's hands. Mother also got her hands caught in the rear door of the "Oakland", the door closing fully and she suffered nasty injuries. Dad was so very upset, he closed the door. She had a few broken fingers and it must have been very painful for her. Effie Brinkley, mentioned earlier when we went to England, was at mother's side helping her over these injuries.
Effie had met a chap Charlie Wasson from West Wyalong who had a wheat property there. It wasn't long before they were married settling on his property in a brand new house he had built for her. In the years around 1934 to 36 Betty and I spent September school holidays there. The first time we went, Effie's father, Mr. Brinkley accompanied us. He was an enormous man and that wasn't because I was small. He would have one plate for meat and one for vegetables, no kidding. He was an inspector of the Sydney Tramways. I enjoyed myself very much helping Uncle Charlie, as we called him, get ten big draught horses harnessed and lead them to a combine, a machine used for ploughing, fertilising and sowing seed or it might be some other similar machine, sometimes it was with Charlie and sometimes his farm hand. Betty would play dolls with Effie's daughter. They had no electricity, water came from a tank at the side of the house, they grew their own vegetables, killed sheep or cattle for their own meat, got their own milk and separated it for cream and to make home made butter, completely self supporting. Come Sundays it was tennis with neighbours anything up to twenty miles away and you always found tables laden with all the cakes and goodies you could imagine. Poor Charlie fell off a haystack many years later breaking his neck. Dad and Mother went to stay with Effie for quite a while to comfort her and straighten out her affairs. She died not long after, her children could not make a go of it on the land, and now they have both gone.
I seem to have gone astray so I'll get back into line for my own sake for its so hard to try to remember everything in order.
Just a bit of interest. In 1926, Sydney had its first electric tram.
1927. Andreanna, my wife was born on the 4th of March. Parliament House Canberra was opened and a terrible disaster in that the passenger liner "Tahiti" rammed the Sydney ferry "Greycliff" on the harbour. The ferry was carrying people from the city to their homes in Vaucluse after a days work. 40 lives were lost.
1928. Australia's aviator Bert Hinkler flew solo from England to Australia in 16 days.
1929. The Georges River Bridge at Tom Uglys Point was opened. I can remember sitting in the back of Dad's "Oakland" tourer a long time before, waiting for hours to cross there on a punt with a very frustrated and angry father strutting up and down the street.
Also in December of that year the New York Stock Exchange collapse of October really started to upset Australia's economy, resulting in the start of the depression. This had devastating effect on most of the families in this country. People lost their homes and their jobs, businesses closed everywhere, begging and selling anything they could lay their hands on just to be able to feed. I can remember men with a horse and cart regularly going up and down Fairweather St. calling out, clothes props, which were used to prop a clothes line up in the air. These men would go into the bush, which wasn't very far in those days and chop down small saplings leaving a fork in the top. The depression went on for a few years and then gradually things started to improve. Happiness showed everywhere, bus drivers would drop you off at your front gate if you were a regular and he knew where you lived, the milkman, baker and others would sing and call out their trade. I can remember mother playing a record "Happy Days are Here Again" on the gramophone. Dad fortunately had done very well in his business and was able to keep us all well fed and clothed although somewhat restricted, I would come home from school to bread and dripping, butter was out and very much simplified food was the order of the day. The only casualty in the family was my Uncle Herbert, Dad's brother, he was I believe destitute and disappeared up north to Queensland looking for work but came back and lived with Uncle Albert at Bankstown. In his back yard he raised chickens and canaries, a chicken was quite a luxury to eat in those years. He did well so Dad bought him a block of land out Milperra way. He married a girl Emily and apart from knowing they did well and moved their operation out to Windsor, Richmond area I don't know anymore about them. What did help him was the De Havilland Aircraft Company wanted and purchased his Milperra land for Bankstown Airport. It allowed him to buy land and build a new home with a Hudson Ready Cut Homes kit.
1930. This is the year Pamela Marie Lake was born on the 4th of August to Stafford and Emily in England.
The population of Australia reached 6.501.000. and Sydney 1.250.000.
Dad was always full of surprises, this time arriving home at 27 Fairweather St. to tell Mother he had bought a new house at Vaucluse. He bundled us all into the car and off we went to Ray Ave. "Takapuna" what a house, at least twice the size of Fairweather St. with very large rooms. After entering the front gate and climbing 21 wide white marble steps if I remember rightly, we were on the front verandah of about 18 by 12 feet, white tiled with coloured borders. There were four very heavy stone pillars surmounted by two square wooden posts on each, the top of the stone was flat and just the right height for me to look through Dad's telescope and watch the progress of building the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The whole front of the house was stone with the rest brickwork. Entering through the front door we entered a large entrance hall with doors to lounge and dining rooms on the right with my parents bedroom on the left, it opened onto the front as well as the side verandah as did all other bed rooms, there was a large kitchen, an extra large laundry, two bathrooms, a billiard room and two extra rooms at the back one of which was the maid's room.
Mother was flabbergasted at the size and although she thought the home was beautiful she said she could not look after it on her own but Dad said we'll just have to get a maid. Molly was her name and she was a wonderful help to mother, a great person, did not stand for any nonsense from we children but looked after us and was a great cook always making cakes Saturday afternoons as well. She stayed with us for about six years until she married and although mother was so pleased for her she was sorry to lose her, She was that good. Betty and I were away with Mother and Dad someplace when Dad got called back I think for a funeral. Dad and Mother arrived back home to find Molly having a party, however mother told them ,we've just come home for a change of clothes so carry on and enjoy yourselves. After Molly we had Constance and then Joan who was not bad but the second World War started soon after and she left to work in a factory, it was very difficult to get anyone else, understandably as girls were joining the services or going into munition factories.
In that same year 1930 brother Bill started at Sydney Grammar School finishing up at the end of 1933, Jack started and finished a year later and I started the year after Jack, finishing in 1937. It was a great school but not as academic as it is today. I don't think we would have made the grade if it had been, certainly not me, never the less it was good schooling, good sports and life long friends were made there. Miss Miller ran the tuck shop at Grammar and on my first day there she said and what's your name sonny? I said Ron Pritchett Miss Miller. She said, are you any relation to Bill and Jack Pritchett, I said, yes miss, they're my brothers. She leaned forward and said "Get Out Of Here". I think I became one of her favourites. Sister Betty went to "Kambala" starting in 1934, and again made life long friends. In fact it was not long before she died in 1992 that she attended a function with a lot of her old school friends.
It was this same year that Dad bought the "La Salle" which was identical to a "Cadillac" the top American car and he sure loved it. It was a powerful 5.8 litre V8. I think MaMa used it as much as Dad. She would throw that car around with the greatest of ease and confidence. As I recall she never had an accident and neither did Dad. She would call on friends, go shopping and on Wednesdays would pick up a load of tennis players including Florie Zinader. They played on a court in Bellevue Rd. and did so for many years. David, Maurice, Howard Wilkie and myself played there on Saturday mornings and sometimes Betty. Howard lived directly opposite 27 Fairweather St. He was the "Best Man" at the wedding of Mary and myself. He was also my forward hand on my V.J. sailing boat. More about that later.
1932. Dad's niece Effie Pritchett was born on the 9th of June. The major happening of this year was the opening of the great "Sydney Harbour Bridge." The start of this project was in 1924, with the reclaiming of property well back on either side, it is the longest, widest, heaviest single arch bridge ever built and is 440 feet above the harbour. 750,000 people turned out for the opening with people walking over it all day. I was one of the first with Vaucluse Public School. All public schools were in the earlier groups. Dad and Mother had a party at "Takapuna," that day and in the evening together with Florie and Jack Zinader they walked across.
It was also the year that Dad bought the "Goora," a 30 ft gaff rigged sloop for 300 pounds. It is still afloat at Little Manly where I did a circuit around it a couple of times only last week in the R.P.E.Y. Club's committee boat. The old coach house has been removed and a trunk cabin and fly bridge in its place. It doesn't look as well but I would say a lot more headroom. How Dad came to buy her was that a chap, Ernie Wilkinson, his accountant at the factory Fridays doing the books and making up the wages, invited Dad, Bill and Jack to go sailing in his little sloop "Thisby." They were all so taken with the sail that Dad set out to buy a boat of course encouraged by us all, it was not long before he found "Goora." The three of them soon joined the Sydney Amateur Sailing Club and "Goora" was registered with sail number "A 28 "and so racing started every Saturday with Dad at the tiller. Dad has his name up on the wall in the "Amateurs" club house as winner of the "Kelly Cup". He found however that it interrupted his bowls and so he left the sailing to Bill and Jack. I was too young to join them but occasionally I got out on Sundays. The boys had wonderful times with racing or just pleasure with friends, I remember Taxi Gore, Doug Murchison, Wally MacIntyre and a number of others who would crew. When holidays came they would take the "Goora" to Pittwater. In those days they almost had it to themselves and any others that were there, they knew. I was fortunate to be asked away for a week spending most of the time in Refuge Bay after a days sail, we were the only ones there. Later "Goora" was changed to marconi rig which much improved her performance winning quite a few races. We had about five or six trophies at one stage.
Dad was missing boating so one day he said to me lets go out and see if we can find a boat so after quite a good look around we found "Maigre" a 35 ft. bridge deck cruiser with a six cylinder" Gray" engine. She was built by Solomons at Newport and was in nearly new condition and could sleep six. Dad and Mother had wonderful years in her with their family and friends right up until the war when petrol rationing limited the use of it, you got just enough to give it a bit of a run maybe once a week but if you saved up you could get away for a weekend. Over those war years Dad had the boat moored at Bobbin Head until the order came through from the Government for all boats to be brought to Sydney, they were afraid the Japs would commandeer all including dinghies and raid us in every direction. We had to come down in convoy just in case we were attacked. "Maigre" was then moored in Rose Bay until the American Navy grabbed it for use up in the islands. Mother loved that boat entertaining friends and couldn't get enough of it, however she was not very keen on "Goora" after a very bad trip back around West Head in a vicious southerly gale, she and I were down in "Goora's" cabin with Dad, Bill and Jack sailing her. That was early in our family's sailing experiences, but we got safely back to the "Alfred's" mooring. The R.P.A.Y. Club in those days was a small boatshed with one slipway, no wharf, just a ramp out into the mud.
It was 1932 when I started sailing at the V.J. Sailing Club founded by Sil Rohu who lived on the beach front in Vaucluse next to the 12 ft. skiffs club. I sailed as forward hand with Robert Rourke, Ross Butler and John Stuart Duff who I now sail with in the Wednesday races and have been since I retired thirteen years ago. I bought an old V.J. the "Ami" myself for nine pounds, Mother gave me six. It was number V.J.16 and made of maple planks and always seemed to have a leak somewhere. I took it home to "Takapuna", removed the deck then virtually lined the inside with tingles over any crack I could find. Tingles were strips of canvas varnished and stuck over the cracks. It was almost a complete success until when racing in Watsons Bay one Saturday I saw a southerly buster approaching so I said to my forward hand Howard Wilkie who was my best man in a later year, lets get back to Rose Bay. I kept the boat at Ian Marshalls. We got back as far as Shark Island when the southerly hit and we went over 17 times. We got onto the bottom again, I went to grab the fin but it disappeared, the lashing had come undone, the boat slowly filled, we had to tread water. Thank goodness Ernie Messenger came along in his fishing boat and said he could only tow us to Shark Island. A man aboard Ernie's boat asked if he could contact my father so I gave him our phone number, then Howard and I struggled to get the boat ashore and proceeded to unrig her. Unfortunately being full of water and bumping about on the beach and rocks she got a whole lot more cracks and I'm afraid that was about the end of her. The chap who took the phone number forgot about us until eleven o'clock that night. At that stage Dad and Mother were beside themselves with worry as were Howard's parents. They couldn't get any information anywhere. Dad wasn't very happy with the man ringing so late, but now with some news he went down to Rose Bay pier and woke the boatshed proprietor up, hired a small Chapman Pup fishing boat, and at two a.m. Sunday morning I heard Dad calling, "are you there Ron, are you there Ron." We were cold but fortunately there had been a caretaker on the island who gave us some bread and a cup of black tea, on hearing Dad we thanked him and raced down to the wharf, hopped aboard the launch and headed home. Dad had some clothes and a blanket. It was a ten hour ordeal by the time we got home. Mother was so relieved and after a hot meal she put us to bed. Howard and I were both eleven. Later that day Dad, brother Bill and Taxi Gore, mentioned earlier, helped we two shipwrecked sailors recover "Ami", towing it behind "Goora." I remember Taxi picking up one end of the V.J. tucking it under his arm with the mast, boom and sails under the other while we struggled with the other end, he was a very big man. Now back to Dad's factory.
When Dad was in England he talked a toolmaker, a Billy Bromfield into migrating to Australia but Dad had to bring his family too. He only worked with Dad for about 5 or 6 years, then left leaving Dad in the lurch with a couple of apprentices and a fairly good toolroom. It had lathes, a rather good surface grinder I thought, various pedestal drills, a horizontal mill and a shaper. The circular saw I still do my woodwork on was machined on that shaper fifty years ago on a Saturday morning.
That same year 1932 Dad's nephew Frank Pritchett started work at the factory where his first job was assembling a new switch that Dad had designed. The switch structure was of bakelite being approximately five inches long by two inches square with a side mounted switching lever with two fuses of the same material. It was a very neat looking switch but I remember that the fuses suffered from scorching when the fuse blew from persistent overloading. They would fail and cause tracking of the electric current and replacement became frequent. Under normal conditions they were excellent but they fell out of demand.
Dad was one of the first if not the first manufacturer of bakelite products in this country and apart from switches and their components he started plastic moulding of plates, egg cups, cups and saucers and the like. They were excellent products with a beautiful shine called "Bandalaster Ware", but he had big problems with the moulding powder. It being imported from England, had the long journey around six weeks, through the tropics with delays. The shippers stored the containers near the boilers where the heat ruined the quality of the powder. Dad lost a lot of money in that venture.
A company by the name of Nally Ware today is one of the biggest plastic moulders in this country. They started their operations by renting the use of Dad's moulding presses when he gave it away. Those presses were still in operation when I left the company, they were hydraulic with electric plattens and never gave any trouble.
Getting back to Frank, he continued assembling those switches for about six months and then moved into the toolroom. He started a tool making course at the Technical College in Harris St. Ultimo where he had to do two years of a Fitting and Turning course then five years Toolmaking. He would go to Horace Browns for tea then go to the college and when brother Bill got his motor bike, he would run Frank in.
He became a very fine master of his trade and was employed in that capacity with Pritchett's and MEM Australia for fifty years. In 1982 the Metal Trades Industries Association's National Director congratulated Frank for his service to the industry describing it as a rare achievement of which he can be justly proud. I have witnessed the making of tools so fine and accurate as to be called masterpieces.
Frank now lives in retirement with his wife at Carlingford.
My son David would come to the factory with me in his school holidays to earn a few dollars and would watch Frank, ask questions and try to help where he could. Perhaps some of Frank rubbed off on David then. Frank also taught me all I know in that field.
Going back to the time Dad came to Australia, I mentioned the ship that he came on was the "Nestor." I had also mentioned to Peter Andrews that I thought it was that ship. Thinking more about it I became sure of it. I have said way back in this story that I remember Dad pointing it out to me. I also said it looked a proud ship with a very tall funnel, well, I now have in front of me a book "Ships on the England-Australia Run" by T.K.Fitchett in which the ships Dad and Mother came here on and the Bay liners we went to and from England and sure enough there was the "Nestor" with its very tall funnel. She continued on this run until 1949, its last voyage. As for the Bay liners, only one was sunk, engaging in battle with the German battleship "Admiral Scheer" to keep her occupied while the convoy got safely away. She was the "Jervis Bay" which Dad and his family came back from England in 1926. After a two hour battle with the German, ablaze from stem to stern she went down with a loss of 180 lives. Sixty five sailors were later rescued by a Swedish ship the "Sturholm."
Things carried on with the family in much the same way over a number of years in which time brother Bill acquired a motor bike, a Rudge Ulster. When he brought it home Dad said I'll take it for a run to see if everything is working OK. Dad's old Indian bike had a foot accelerator, but unknown to Dad the Rudge's was on the handlebar. Down near the Convent at a slow speed Dad crashed tearing his suit but fortunately no broken bones. He walked back swearing that the bike was dangerous and I'm not going to let you ride that thing. Bill, after rescuing the bike asked what happened and after an explanation by Dad, Bill showed him where the accelerator was. Bill was always a bit of a speedster, I remember him taking me into Erskine St. wharf from home in 4 minutes. I was also his pillion passenger coming back from the shopping centre and couldn't make the corner, so into the bushes we went and Dad was watching from the front verandah. Bill used to go rabbit shooting with Willy Bullen and others at Razorback Mountains on week ends.
Sailing and "Goora" took precedence and when some gear was wanted for the boat and Bill needed money, the bike had to go. I think it was about 1934 when" Goora" was changed from Gaff to Marconi rig.
Brother Jack joined the crew of John Jira's beautiful 40 ft, ketch "Spumedrift" mainly cruising. He also crewed with Archie Robertson on the "Mavis", a long low wooded bit of a submarine outside the heads and I remember standing on Ben Buckler the northern headland of Bondi Beach with Dad watching "Mavis" leading the fleet in the Montague Island race in a hard southerly. They sailed close in shore, right through the murk at the sewer outlet. Mavis seemed to be more under the waves than on top however they went on to win by miles. Jack also sailed in the Sydney to Hobart race early in its history on a steel hulled yacht winning the event. I can picture the boat but its name and the owner slips my memory.
1933. The 1st. automatic traffic lights were installed in Sydney.
1934. It was this year that Dad decided to buy a new car trading the old "Oakland' with the imitation cabriolet roof, buying a four cylinder "Vauxhall" sedan that gave no end of trouble, seeming to spend more time at service than on the road. He persevered with it for some time but to no avail so he traded it, ordering a "Studebaker President" sedan, but he had to wait some months for it and wouldn't you know from that day on the "Vauxhall" never gave any more trouble. I remember going with Dad and brother Bill out to a race track in it to watch Bill's friend Willie Bullen race, I think it might have been Warwick Farm. After the races we headed for home and Bill wanted to speed a bit so Dad kept his hand on the ignition switch continually turning it off, if Bill got too fast. Both got hot under the collar but we got home safely.
The "President" eventually came along after what seemed ages to me as I was always asking Dad about it. I went with him down to Nield Ave. Rushcutters Bay to take delivery, where Dad in all his cautiousness as he always showed on "Maigre" or anything mechanical, checked the dipstick to find that the sump was empty. Did he hit the roof, he had paid for it, signed for it and was about to drive off. He was always a bit worried about it wondering whether it had been driven much before he took delivery however, it never gave any trouble and was always great to drive. It was black with a very long bonnet, very pointed, spare wheels in their own metal housings mounted on each big sweeping front mudguard and big, full wheel chrome hub caps and many other features. Quite a car in those days and that was in 1936.
Dad purchased another car a "Studebaker Dictator," a 1934 second hand unit in very good condition which Bill and Jack seemed to use quite a bit as well as myself in later years if I got half the chance.
1935. Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith our famous aviator went missing in an attempt to fly from Australia to England in record time. His plane the "Southern Cross" was a single engined low winged monoplane. I remember seeing it at Kingsford-Smith Airport with Dad shortly before his attempt.
My grandmother Emily Brown passed away on the 1st of October 1935.
1936. The "Trocadero" opened, It was Sydney's main dance floor where most of the big functions, government or private were held. Dad and Mother went to so many balls there and I used to go quite often with friends on a Friday when it was public night just to hear Jimmy Coglan's big band. He had two bands on a rotating stage, so it was virtually non stop dancing. I remember attending a Sydney Grammar School Ball in the sixties for parents of the pupils. While dancing with a tall slim woman who must have been poured in to her silvery sequined dress, the almost full length zipper collapsed. The dress dropped to the waist and there was I trying to pull it up to no avail, it wouldn't come, six or so women came to her assistance, clearing me out of the way and surrounding her. Wow.
1937. Harold Nossiter and his two sons returned to Sydney in the schooner "Sirius" to be the 1st Australian yacht to sail around the world.
1938. A tragic accident, the "Rodney" disaster happened on Sydney Harbour. An American Fleet of about seven warships had spent a week or so here and were leaving on a Saturday. All were being farewelled by a big fleet of yachts, launches and ferries. The biggest, the "USS Louisville" had just rounded Bradleys Head, I was watching it through the telescope from "Takapuna" when suddenly vessels seemed to converge on one spot. The "Rodney" had capsized. The "Louisville" stopped and a number of American sailors jumped overboard to help.
Brother Jack and his fiancee Gwen Johnson had entertained a few officers while they were here and were on the "Rodney" on the lower deck when she sank. Jack had to smash a window to get out dragging Gwen after him but she had drowned by the time they got to the surface, we guessed through panic. Ironically Jack was picked up by Ken Blackwood, a long standing friend who had a team out on their 45 ft. cruiser. Ken said to Jack, why in the hell didn't you come with us.
The Blackwoods were great friends of Jacks who with sister Betty and I think David Zinader, all belonged to a youngerset group. I was just too young although I was keen on Peggy Blackwood who was in my class at Bellevue Hill public school some years earlier.
I mentioned before that Jack recuperated at Burragorang Valley for about a month, it was because of that tragedy.
1939. In January Australia experienced its worst ever heat wave with railway lines buckling, Bourke having 38 days over 100 degrees, its highest being 119. Adelaide 117. Melbourne 112. Sydney 114. Airline pilots reported that at 9000 feet temperatures which are normally at freezing point were 32 degrees.
1939 Monday,4th September, Prime Minister Mr. Robert Menzies announced that because of the persistence of Germany in its invasion of Poland, Great Britian was joined by Australia in declaring war on Germany.
Here I go again wandering back. Sorry, but I keep thinking of things and past events. It all makes a story I guess.
When the Zinader family arrived in this country they found a home in Flood St. Bondi, later they moved to Roe St. near Royal Sydney golf course. My wife Andreanna and her family lived in that street about the same time and being a short dead end with about ten houses, we feel both families must have crossed paths at some time. They then moved to a very pleasant home in Blair St, Bondi. I would spend many a day there, also going surfing on Bondi beach with David and Maurice, they would come to my home and go swimming at Nielsen Park. On one occasion, Maurice was doubling on my old bomb of a bike and we couldn't make the last curve of Wentworth Rd, hit the gutter, over the handle bars and landed right where a man had pulled back his lawn mower. That old bike was worn out with nothing much in the way of brakes, burnt out some time earlier when I had Maurice on the handle bars, and I think David doubling on the seat going down Birriga Rd. On reaching the five ways at the bottom we went straight across and continued along Old South Head Rd till we stopped, smoke pouring from the back pedal brake. That, plus hitting the gutter was about the end of the old bike. Gee, the risks you take when you're young. When very young, nine of us in Fairweather St. had little three wheeler tricycles, taking the front wheel off eight making a long 9 carriage train. Down Bellevue Rd. almost to Double Bay when we were stopped by the police. We could brake quickly with 9 pairs of feet. The police made us dismantle the unit and carry the trikes home. You couldn't do that with today's traffic.
My fifteenth birthday was coming up so Dad took me into Wentworth Ave. in the city where all the bike shops were and bought me a new "Combine" bike in green. Dad said I'll run you home, I said don't bother Dad I can ride home from here and off I went. I arrived home to be told by mother that Dad had rung about six times to see if I was home safely.
Sister Betty was also doubling on Bill Horton's bike down the same road on their way for a swim at Nielson Park and couldn't make a different corner, they, including the bike went through a Lantana bush into a vacant block. They were very badly bruised and scratched all over.
Bill Horton's mother was an American who lived opposite and a very close friend of mothers. I have the little china lamp base she gave MaMa. She was a very lovely woman, married to George the boss of Columbia Pencil Company who ran off with a nurse he had after an operation.
In the thirties Dad in his inventive mood designed another switch which was called an E.L.C.B. earth leakage circuit breaker, the fore runner of today's safety switch, designed to switch off the moment there was an electrical short circuit. In those days earthing capabilities were not good in sandy areas after dry spells and I remember Dad sinking galvanised pipes into the ground as far as he could, then filling them with salt to create a better conductivity but to no avail.
He also invented a beer tap to be installed in hotels. Beer in those days had great spillage because of the head of froth in a glass, that spillage was saved by some lousy publicans and resold. The Govt. then made them put dye in the trays to turn the spills purple. Dad's tap was designed to suppress the froth, pouring a clear beer with a small head. The publicans liked it very much but the breweries who owned most of the pubs banned it because it saved too much. I remember when Dad had his first model which incidentally Frank Pritchett made, was ready for testing. Dad bought a nine gallon keg and set it up in the laundry. It was a good looking unit all chrome with a glass cylinder about six by six inches showing the lovely beer with froth suppressed by a float. Dad was pouring beer after beer and it was the only time I have ever seen him drunk. He was pouring glass after glass down the sink when brothers Bill, Jack and Keith Spong walked in and saw him. Heh, what are you doing Dad they said, and it developed into a bit of a party. I didn't drink and couldn't understand how anybody could like beer, tasting awful, as it did to me. I learned soon after.
When I left school at Christmas 1937, I took a job for about seven weeks at David Jones in their toy dept., operating a model railway display. I was cross with a smart little brat who kept putting his finger on the line to derail the train. He told his mother and I was soon transferred to the nursery rhyme display and slippery dip to Santa Clause.
On Christmas Eve when the store closed Dad and Mother picked me up outside and off we went for a two weeks holiday on "Maigre."
I also had a job with Burroughs Adding Machine Company the following year training as a mechanic, training to become a salesman, but Dad talked me into joining Bill and Jack at the factory. I had earlier said to Dad that I would like to get into the aviation industry and perhaps become a pilot, I repeated this to him again and again but he said forget it son, there's no future in aviation, can you believe it. He said he wanted all his sons in the business, so there I went beginning at the bottom assembling fuses. It was always Dad's policy, start at the bottom and go through everything.
It was sometime through 1937 that I met Mary Scholley on a tram coming home from school. As it turned out she lived next door to Ian Marshall where I kept my V.J. sailing boat. They had a tennis court where I played and I soon asked Mary to join us. I had a few girl friends, Betty Williams, Peggy Stephenson, Peggy Bradley, nice, Margaret Patterson, blonde Marion White and a few others but with Mary I became fairly steady eventually marrying her. There was a girl Pamela Dunn who came into my class at Vaucluse public school, in later years she was at Sydney High School. One of those brainy people. She came out on my V.J. on occasions and we swam with others in our group, were always together at parties, picnics and dances. Mary joined the group and we all had lots of fun. Pam married Laurie Flower who was my sales manager in later years at York Motors and it was at their unit last Monday that Andreanna and I along with a few of the old group had a lunch party. The long friendship has been great. Pam and I have known each other for some 65 years.
Brother Jack had a girlfriend back in those years, Hope Holmes and she is in our group today, we all get together fairly regularly.
After the war was declared Jack didn't waste any time in joining the army, being recruited into the 2/1st battalion of the 6th division, going into camp at Ingleburn. Soon after, the division marched through the streets of Sydney and boarded the "S.S. Orford," departing and joining a convoy of eleven other liners supported by three warships, then setting sail for the Middle East arriving there in February 1940.
1940. Population, Australia 7,076,000. Sydney 1,300,000.
Jack was in the fighting for Bardia and Tobruk capturing them from the Italians. His and other battalions were sent to Greece which had been invaded by Mussolini's troops.
Australians, supported by British and Greek troops as an allied force, drove the Italians back right out of Greece even though they were a much superior force in men and equipment.
Hitler was aghast that his main axis partner was in such trouble and sent huge forces, army, navy and air, soon recapturing Greece. Jack was wounded with shrapnel when a lot of his mates were killed by a shell. It actually blew Jack's shoe off. He was promoted to Sergeant John Pritchett for his actions against the enemy. In the evacuation of Greece as a walking wounded he boarded the ship "S.S.Costa Rica" which was then attacked in the Mediteranian Sea by German bombers and started to sink. British destroyers came alongside taking all soldiers and crew off. Whilst this was happening Jack played the piano for the singing troops until he had to go. One tune he played was " He played his ukulele as the ship went down "and then Jack told me they took the piano apart, keys and all.
The year was 1942 and war came closer to Australia with the sneak attack by the Japanese carrier borne aircraft on the United States naval base at Pearl Harbour in the Hawaiian Islands. This really brought the Americans into the world war, against not only the Japs but also the Germans. They had been supplying arms to the Allies but now military equipment poured into England, Australia and all Allies. This was the turning point of the war in Europe but America had its big battle in the Pacific. The Allies were now at war with Japan who had captured Singapore progressively taking over Islands all the way to and including New Guinea until Darwin was bombed and Sydney attacked by midget submarines. They were trying to sink an American battleship moored at Garden Island. Thank goodness their torpedo missed, sinking only the old ferry "Kuttabull". The midgets were sunk, but their mothership, a large submarine, attacked Sydney, her shells landing in Rose Bay causing little damage. A shell actually went through the wall of a block of flats in Manion Ave., breaking a chap's ankle, fortunately for him the shell didn't explode.
Brother Jack returned to Australia in that year being one of just under 100 left of the original complement that left Sydney. They were all given a decent rest and recreation leave and I remember Jack could not sleep in a bed having to curl up on the floor or something hard for a while until he gradually became used a soft bed. Dad had sold "Takapuna," because it was just too big for MaMa to handle, help not being available or wanted under the circumstances. Believe it or not, the person who bought it, enlarged it further. He had a large family of unmarried girls.
Dad purchased 879 New South Head Rd. which was still big, but only half the size of "Takapuna". Jack came home to find that Dad and Mother had bought him a baby grand piano. He immediately sat down and played all sorts of tunes, including army dirty ditties and the like. He continued on that grand till the day he died, playing beautiful tunes like "Moon River" and a semi classical version of "Waltzing Matilda," in a style all of his own. Family and friend's parties over the years always ended up around the piano with Jack.
More duty was found for the 2/1st division and Jack, after fighting over the Owen Stanley Ranges on the Kakoda trail and further into N.G. returned to Woodside where he was commissioned as Lieutenant Jack Pritchett. From there he was posted to the Canungra Jungle Training Course in Queensland and then served with the 42nd Landing Craft Company on Bougainville. By the time Jack returned at the end of the war only thirty of the original 2/1st battalion were left. A great and glorious effort by Jack.
Mother's father Charles Alfred Brown died on the 1st January, 1941, in a pub where he was billeted away from London's bombing. He died of pneumonia I believe, but in a pub, he must have been pleased. 1942. On the 19th May, sister Betty and Keith Brooks Spong were married while Keith was on leave, having their honeymoon at Avalon where some friends loaned them a house.
After a reception in which many of their friends attended including Harry and Mary Wall who were married a few days earlier, my Mary and I took Keith and Betty to Avalon in my Morris 8/40 car. With drastic petrol rationing, that little car was used by the whole family and I remember Jack got pulled up for speeding across Rose Bay promenade after a night on the town with Audrey. The detective asked Jack for his license and found it was 3 years out of date , however he let Jack off saying, take it easy soldier, go home and get your license renewed tomorrow.
Keith was born on the 31st July 1912 and after the war he joined the Govt. Legal Aid Bureau rising to a top position chairing panels of doctors who would question soldiers who made claims against the Government. As you can imagine lots of false claims were made and Keith had to adjudicate in this regard. He got to second highest position in this department, his senior being a Parliamentary Minister.
Keith was so lost after losing Elizabeth as he always correctly called her and went to pieces. Andreanna and I had him here for a meal once or twice a week for a few years. We were with him the very moment he took his last breath on the 31st of August,1995.
Bill joined the regular army about the same time as Jack having previously been attached to a voluntary militia unit at Signal Hill on South Head for two or three years. He went into the armoured division for most of the war but fortunately there was no invasion, although there were many bombing attacks on Darwin. For about the last two years of the war he transferred to the Army Water Transport Unit based at Clifton Gardens. This was because tanks and armoured vehicles had little or no action and since Sydney Harbour had been attacked, more activity seemed likely.
I went into the services joining the Air Force on the 14th October,1940, going into training at Bradfield Park near Lindfield. Dad was quite upset because he had two sons in the army and said he wanted me at the factory. I never knew how he did it but I got called before my senior officer who just said you are being released from duty as you are required back in civilian life. I guessed it must have been Dad, and it was. I was ordered to go straight to my home, then return my uniform and equipment to the store. I was disappointed, but since I was not going to be trained as a pilot, which I would have loved, I accepted the situation, an action that I have been sorry about ever since. Once in I might have had a chance. Dad did work his factory almost entirely for the Department of Munitions making many things to help the war effort.
It was about this time that I got the desire to build a V.S. sailing boat, having got hold of plans. There was one big problem in that timber was as scarce as hen's teeth, but after phoning a firm Reg Rose & Co. at Alexandria, plywood manufacturers, they said that they had one set for a V.S. in a bit of a stained condition. I bought it and then had to find timber for a building frame and for the frames of the boat. The building frame came from old beams at the factory and for the boat I scrounged an old packing case of good, clear pine from Chrisson's box factory. The timber was the right thickness and old Mr.Chrisson cut the planks up for me to the right width. I then used the building frame as a bench to make up all the frames. When the boat frame was complete I painted the whole thing with red lead getting a dose of lead poisoning from it. I was very ill for over two weeks losing about four stone. The doctor couldn't seem to fix me up but Minnie Scholley, Mary's mother, came to see me saying, if you don't mind I will fix you giving me an enema and I was right almost immediately, she was a nurse before she was married. I finished the V.S. calling it "Roulette". I seemed to be going around and around trying to get things for it, so I thought that name will do. You could not buy a marine fitting so I made them. For the mast I planed down an old flag pole from Takapuna, boy was that some work, the sail track was a strip of flat brass from the factory and Bill and Jack's friend Don Robertson from our steel suppliers got me a steel fin cut to shape, and Mother bought me the sails. I had a lot of fun in that boat and in the summer with daylight saving I would go for a sail after work, mostly on my own, occasionally with Mary or one of my boy friends. The boat was kept on the beach near where Mary lived and alongside a boat designed and built by naval architect Alan Payne where friends of his lived. They had two model boats one of which was a bit worse for wear. They gave it to me and I spent hours doing it up, making a mast and rigging it. My son David enjoyed it very much and so did his boys. I remember it got away from David on one occasion and finished up on the other side of the harbour. We lived at Rose Bay at that time and for Christmas I decided to build a plywood dinghy for David and with help from Doug Ambrose finished it on Christmas Eve in fact the paint was still a little tacky when Doug helped me across the road from Dad's home to our flat. When David woke in the morning it was a sight to see with his excitement. He used to sail his model yacht from his dinghy and if I remember rightly that's when the model got away from him.
1943. Of all the things to do with a war on, the wharfies went on strike in Sydney, so the Govt. sent Australian and American troops to the wharves. They loaded 50% more in half the time. The Japs sank our hospital ship the "Centaur" sending 250 wounded soldiers, nurses and crew to their death.
The old "Krait," a fishing vessel sneaked into Singapore Harbour sinking 65000 tons of Jap ships. It is on view at the Maritime Museum in Darling Harbour these days. On the 25th of November Jack married Audrey Kate Lesley White. Frank Pritchett married a Phylis Rose White, there is no connection in the name.
1944. Japanese forces were surrounded by the allies. Britian's Royal Navy established its Pacific base in Sydney.
1945 Their great H.M.S. Illustrious was the first vessel to enter Sydney's new graving dock, one of the largest in the world. More importantly on the 9th of May, VE Day, victory over the Germans in Europe, then on the 16th of August the Japanese surrendered after the Atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, World War 2 was over. Australia and all its Allies celebrated wildly and the big clean up was about to begin, servicemen everywhere to be demobilised, warships returned to their home bases and decommissioned, passenger liners returned to owners, just so many things including prisoners of war returned to their countries, an enormous and lengthy undertaking.
On the 20th of March 1945, Brother Bill married Elizabeth "Betty" Cohen of Mosman. I am not sure but I guess Bill being stationed at Clifton Gardens led to their meeting. I don't remember whether it was Bill and Betty's engagement party or Mary's and mine but it was almost impossible to get beer or spirits so Bill said let me take your V.S. sailing boat back to camp at Clifton Gardens and next week end I'll bring all the drinks over on Friday night, there being no shortage in the officer's mess, which he did. There was very little breeze and Bill was worried that he might be run down by a Manly ferry because he had no lights and didn't want them with his smuggled cargo of liquor, however all was well although it took him an hour to cross the harbour to Dumaresque Rd. where Dad and I were waiting for him. Before Bill and Betty were married they took my V.S. out for the day and on the way home a gust of wind put them in the drink just under Steel Point. It was getting late when the air base rescue boat found them and towed them to shore. I think Betty was distressed as she had never experienced anything like that before, she had been in the water for some time.
"Roulette" had a big steel fin and was only able to support itself so Bill and Betty had to tread water just supporting themselves by hanging onto the boat. I think Betty was about to break up with Bill for taking her out in such a small boat, 15 feet in length. On the 23rd of November, 1945 Mary and I were married at St. Marks, Darling Point, having a reception at "The Amory" Ashfield. After staying at the "Australia Hotel", the "In" place in those days, we went to "Craigieburn" at Bowral and later to Jervis Bay. While we were there we got a call from Mary's mother telling us to come home at once as she was sitting in a flat at 788 New south Head Rd. opposite 879, Dads home. Mary's mother Minnie had to stay in the flat until we got home otherwise somebody else could squat in it. That seemed to be the rule of the day as flats were very scarce with people marrying everywhere now the war was over, if you found anything you squatted until you signed a lease. It was a great one bedroom unit with sunroom, lounge, small dining, kitchen and bathroom with a backdoor onto a small terrace, all with a magnificent view of the city, bridge and all the main harbour. We were so happy and lucky to get it. We were in the same building as Mary's aunt Dollie Huie, across the road from Dad and Mother, and a hundred yards from Mary's mother. Minnie and I always got on so well with never a sign of the "mother in law" syndrome.
Mary and I didn't have much money but that was no barrier to enjoying ourselves. We borrowed an old double bed head and frame, purchased a double mattress, our wardrobe was the picture rail around the bedroom walls and if you wanted a seat you sat on the floor. However I sold my V.S. to the son of our bank manager at Rose Bay for 100 pounds. That plus my salary of 8 pounds a week eventually got us a brand new cedar bedroom suite, a lounge suite, second hand but a beauty, a most comfortable unit, somebody gave us a small dining table and chairs.
Mary stopped work which seemed to be the practice in those days to be a good housewife and prepare for motherhood I suppose and although 8 pounds doesn't sound much, our rental was only 1 pound 7 shillings and 6 pence or 2 dollars and seventy five cents per week with a total food bill equal to about 4 dollars and we would both go to the Wintergarden Theatre on Saturday nights with an ice cream and lollies for less than half a dollar and did a bit of entertaining as well.
1946. Bother Jack and Audrey had moved into the old family home at 27 Fairweather St. which Dad had kept going on a rental basis. They purchased it setting up home in much the same way as Mary and I.
Bill and Betty bought a very nice home in Queen St. Mosman and Keith and Betty bought a home in Bulla St. Bellevue Hill.
Mother had acquired a pet name of "MaMa" from and since Keith came into the family and it stayed with her lovingly right through her life especially with her eleven grand children.
1946. Australia's population reached 7.518.000. Sydney. 1.450.000. From now on it will increase considerably and to assist it on its way, Dad and MaMa became Grand Parents for the first time with the birth of Donald John, first son of Jack and Audrey, born on the 18th of February. Then there came a bit of a rush with Diane being born on the 29th January, 1947 to Bill and Betty then came David Ronald, born on the 3rd of February to Mary and I, closely followed by Elizabeth Anne Spong on the 15th of February to Keith and Betty, the three all within 17 days. As somebody remarked we must all have been to the same party back last winter.
1947. Migration to Australia from England really took off with the governments of both countries assisting in the passage here, but unfortunately there were not enough ships and some people had to wait over 18 months for a birth, however Stafford, Emily and Pam Lake did get a passage on the "Orion" arriving here on the 31st of March.
Another family party, any excuse but this one was a beauty, family everywhere.
The Lakes and others including Grandpa Brown had a bad time when the German Blitz of London started and soon after Alice, Emily and Pam left Plaistow in Sept. 1940 finding accommodation in Devizes, Wiltshire with Grandpa following soon after taking a room in the Artichoke Inn nearby. He unfortunately contracted pneumonia and died in January 1941 as I mentioned before.
Stafford Lake was with the Admiralty and was moved to Bath. Their homes in Plaistow were destroyed or badly damaged soon after they moved away.
All the furniture from their homes was stored at Bath and when it was bombed they lost everything. Alice returned to London to be with her husband Will staying with friends right through the bombing by Germans with their V1 Buzz Bombs and V2 Rocket Bombs. After the war the Lakes moved back to London staying with friends at Eastham.
Alice's husband died and she migrated to this country in 1949.
1948. Dad and MaMa gained two more grand children with the birth of William Gary Kerr "Bill" second born to my brother Bill and Betty on the 5th of April and Jennifer Mary "Jeni" to Mary and I on the 27th of November, then in 1949, Brooke Spong was born on the 11th of May to Keith and Betty. On the 14th of April 1950, Robert Keith was born to brother Jack and Audrey, their second child. Then came a third child to Bill and Betty, Kenneth Edgar born on the 5th of June 1951, and with bit of a space Mary and I had our third child, Anne Louise on the 10th of September,1956 with the last of Dad and MaMa's grandchildren with the birth of Mark Spong to Keith and Betty on the 31st of January,1960.
Dad and MaMa had wonderful times with those children, right through from being babies to their marriages, to their parenthood and in MaMa's case grand parenthood. They saw all their grand children born with the exception that Dad died before Mark came along. MaMa saw most of her great grandchildren and what a list the grand and great grand make.
Diane William Kenneth Donald Robert Brooke
Elizabeth Mark David Jennifer Anne then the next generation,
David Amanda Melissa William Jeni Louisa Alison Claire Adam Emma Richard Peter Sally Jonathon Imogen Georgina Antony John Michael James Michelle Scott Georgia Katrina Andrew
What a team but.
Isn't it a shame that we can't get together at least once a year, bring your girl or boy friends, we used to do it. Think about it whoever is interested.
1950. The population of Australia reaches 8.307.000 and Sydney 1.600.000.
My Son In Law Peter Andrews was born 13th March 1950.
MaMa gained another daughter in law with my second wife Andreanna. I lived with MaMa around that time and was chairman of directors of the company title units we lived in. Whenever a new person wanted to buy shares in the units they had to be interviewed by the directors. All agreed that Andreanna was a very likeable and happy person and was accepted forthwith. On establishing herself in unit 9 she found some things did not work on a few occasions and called on MaMa to see if I could fix the problems which I did. I found that MaMa and Andreanna had established quite a friendship as she was often at MaMa's when I got home. I also at that time had a "Savage" fibreglass runabout in my garage and one Saturday morning I had it outside cleaning and polishing it in the sun when I heard a voice call out, what are you doing. More later.
Dad and Mother must have been very happy at the outcome of their children, all happily married and comfortable enough I'm sure, with a great bunch of eleven happy and healthy children.
There was however one bad sickness early in their lives in that David Ronald at the age of about three contracted meningitis, a nasty infection that can inflame the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. David was in his cot and Jenny in her basinet and I was still in bed. Mary was in the kitchen when I called to her saying "I'm not going to work today as I don't feel the best". While lying there, I thought, David is quiet, he's usually driving his cot around his room. He found that if he got into the corner of his cot and shook it hard, backwards and forward, he could drive it to any part of the room. No he was very quiet. I called Mary saying, this boy is not well and got straight to the phone to Dr. Corlett at his home.
It must have been about 8-30 am. Dr Corlett came straight over before going to his surgery. He said, if its what I think it is we'll have to move fast and went to the phone, rang a Specialist. He drove into MacQuarie St. and back in about 20 minutes in his red M.G. sports car with the Specialist who had one look at David and rang for an ambulance. He was taken to Camperdown Children's Hospital, Mary and I followed but could not go near or even see him and not for about a fortnight. Eventually they allowed us to look through a glass panel and there he was standing at the corner of his cot trying to shake it. It was a bit of a feeble effort as he had lost a lot of weight and strength but it brought us so much joy. He had to stay for another week and every day we saw him he was getting back to his chubby self.
We couldn't thank Dr. Corlett enough, for if it had not been for his very quick action I hate to think what might have been. I couldn't understand how he picked up the germ except that the previous day we had new carpet laid.
Strangely there was nothing wrong with me after all, something made me stay at home that day and Mary being busy may not have noticed anything wrong until it was too late.
The war over, Bill and Jack out of the services and back at the factory. Lots of changes had to be made to the structure of the business called W.J Pritchett. Switchgear Manufacturer. Firstly, none of Dad and Mother's children had much in the way of money, at least I didn't but Bill and Jack with their army severance pay and myself with a motor car contribution and very generous offer from Dad, we, including sister Betty became shareholders in what became a company called Pritchett Pty. Ltd. and a brass plate bearing that name was placed on the wall near the office door. I hope all this is not boring you, I'm enjoying it. That same nameplate is on the wall of David's office at St.Ives today. When Pritchett Pty. Ltd., became M.E.M. Australia Pty. Ltd., David grabbed it for later use. There was a company that once supported one man and his family now having to support three men and their families and Dad who was active but in a retired capacity, in fact Dad still came to the factory every day till the day he died.
My car became the sole company vehicle shared on week ends by Bill, Jack and myself. It was later traded in on a latest model of the same vehicle a Morris 8/40 tourer. Things were a struggle for a while but the company operations grew with increasing switchgear models, the toolroom producing for other companies as well as ourselves and a pressed metal and moulding sections almost entirely for outside clients.
1960. The population of Australia 10.392.000 and Sydney 2.100.000.
Dad had a Rover, his Studebakers having been traded in. Then brother Bill took over Dad's car, the company having bought him a new one. We needed a utility so a Ford V8 was purchased which Jack and I shared. The operation was managed by Bill. Sales were managed by Jack and I managed production and that's the way it carried on until brother Bill saying at a board meeting that he had been approached by an English company wanting to join us in Australia as an outlet for their electrical equipment which was already sold in this country with some success and they wanted to expand.
Dad was against it from the word go saying nothing good will come of it, how right he was. The agreement was made but they didn't want anything to do with "Westate" electric motors which brother Jack had brought into our operations on an agency basis and was going well. It was silly of M.E.M. as the switches and motors would go hand in hand, particularly their motor control gear, so Jack left the company taking his agency with him. I became Sales Manager doing quite well for a mug beginner. I went to very many country centres like Goulburn, Bathurst, Tamworth, Newcastle, Wollongong and the like arranging food, drinks and rooms to lecture on Pritchett and M.E.M. gear after having written to electrical contractors inviting them. That was hard going and I was away from my family a lot. Brother Bill was away on a trip to Western Australia on business promoting our gear but had to come home suffering with very bad back pains. Poor Bill had cancer, he died on the 7th of September 1961. It was a tragedy to us all and dear Betty was left with three young children. Betty had comfort in that she had a great number of friends, probably the closest being "Scotchie" Mc,Donald, Boyce and Ewan Pizzey and their wives and of course her Mother and family as well as the Pritchetts. At Bill's request his ashes were scattered over the starting line in front of the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron where he was a member for many years. They were scattered from the stern of Bill's lovely "Yarrawonga" by Jack, Keith, Scotchie and myself.
The late Forties and Fifties brought about many great times for all families. Brother Bill had joined the R.S.Y.S. at Kirribilli and soon after in partnership with Boyce Pizzey purchased the very beautiful yacht I thought, the canoe sterned "Yarrawonga". Bill and Boyce had plenty of willing hands to crew with their wives and children and I know they all had wonderful times aboard her. She was a sloop of 35ft. I don't think Boyce was as enthusiastic as Bill and eventually sold his share to Bill who went on to race "Yarra" but I think he mainly used it for cruising and raced with Alexis "Lex" Albert in beautiful "Norn" an 8 metre.
I couldn't afford to buy a boat so I joined the crew of Sir Claude Plowman's "Morna" at the invitation of David Higgins and went aboard as forward hand with David , Bill Vought and "Rubber" Kelloway as sailing master. David Zinader joined us up forward later.
I recall the day Morna and Norn were in a race with many others in No.1 division from Kirribilli, out the heads to Broken Bay, around Lion Island and back to Kirribilli. Norn had gained a lead of about a mile, rounding South Reef at South Head while we came around North Head in second place, that's about a mile. The wind was such that Rubber ordered the mast head ballooner to be set. As soon as we reached south reef Rubber ordered up spinnaker and down ballooner. His order was countermanded by Sir Claude who said, leave them both up. Rubber yelled out to Sir Claude, you'll pull the stick out of her. Leave it was the order. Believe it or not when we reached Bradley's Head we passed Norn. Lex, Bill, Scotchie, and all their crew just stood, saluting us as we roared past with a bow wave of about 3ft high. Old Morna's mast did all the gyrations of a Hula girl that day. I was sitting at the base of it looking up. From memory Morna was about 56ft. with a 62ft. mast. I sailed on her for nine years until Sir Claude died. He had a heart attack one Saturday. A Nth. Easter was blowing, Rubber took control and headed for Rose Bay pier telling the crew of twelve, I don't care how you do it but when I say get that mainsail down, do it and when she gets alongside the wharf throw any rope you can over the wharf poles and stop her. A really masterful bit of seamanship. When Rubber died in a later year, yachties came from everywhere for his funeral and at the spreading of ashes outside the heads, they had the biggest power cruiser I've ever been on. I don't know where it came from.
One Sunday earlier, Sir Claude rang me asking if I would like to go with him for a sail. Bring Mary and the children. We sailed out through the heads with a reduced rig. We were the only ones aboard. Sir Claude said he wanted to have a rest and went below. I was worried so I slowly pulled away and headed back for the heads. I got David to take the tiller, gave him a mark to steer for, trimmed the sails, checked Sir Claude and eventually got to the mooring in Rose Bay. David did remarkably well for a nine years old. Mary held onto Jenny in the cockpit. I'm sure David will remember it.
Brother Bill loaned me Yarra on one occasion for a weeks holiday. He kept the boat at Bobbin Head at that time. He told me the union on the fuel line was a bit dicey and since we were only motoring, to keep an eye on it. Wouldn't you know, Murphy's Law stepped in, the union failed and we were at Hallett's Beach. I asked a chap in a Halvorsen cruiser if he could tow me to Coal and Candle Creek explaining my plight. The blighter only took me to the entrance of the creek leaving me with a good mile row to the boatshed. I thought someone for sure will be going back that way. I got the new union and set off. I rowed and rowed to Halletts. Not one boat was going my way and I had to head into a N.E wind. Mary was worried because I had been so long. David had wanted to come with me but I told him to stay to look after his sister and mother.
Brother Jack also got the bug about the same time as Bill, wanting a boat. He lived at Bellevue Hill at the time. He found a New Zealand 18 footer at Busch's boatshed at Rushcutter's Bay. When they put it in the water it filled up straight away, having been out for so long. After leaving it there for a couple of days it closed up. It had been brought over from New Zealand to race against our 18 footers. It was no contest being a much heavier boat with a deck area all around plus a little coach house creating a small cabin. A pretty little thing with nice lines. Jack took it home to 27 Fairweather St. to work on it doing a beautiful job.
Jack sold Bellevue Hill buying a new home at Toolang Rd. St.Ives. Bill, Jack and myself became members of Royal Prince Alfred Yacht soon after the war, Jack and I also joining Royal Prince Edward Yacht Club and Bill joining Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron. Jack in his desire to promote yacht racing at Pittwater took his 18 footer to the Alfreds there on Green Point, Newport. It was just a boat shed but he soon got others interested and before long they had a small fleet racing Saturdays. The club grew, extending the shed, building a wharf, improving the slipways, making a sundeck and a bar which was serviced by members on a roster system. It was a great club with many harbour based yachts moving to Pittwater. It was a very friendly club. Jack went on to become Commodore and a Life Member in later years, his name appears on a plaque on the fireplace in the main lounge of the clubhouse, a big modern two storey building, part of one of the largest marine complexes in this country. Bill resigned from the "Alfreds," Jack from the "Edwards" and I from the "Alfreds". I remained with the "Edwards" which is only a hundred metres from our unit. I have been a member there for fifty years and am a life member.
It was about this time that Dad wanted to do some more building again. 879 as Dad and Mother's home was known as amongst the families all, was a ground floor duplex having a front verandah about 8 foot wide with bare wooden flooring surrounded by dark brickwork and open, a most uninteresting area, so he set about foundations, raising the floor level and so on making it a lovely big room that held most of the family and friends. Dad and Mother had many parties there.
Every Christmas they would put on a sumptuous dinner, then followed up with a tree and presents all round. It went on every year with ever increasing grandchildren and relations.
After Dad died MaMa moved into a unit in "Alvington" 6/1 Wyuna Rd. Point Piper being much smaller and something she could handle on her own. Sister Betty and Keith moved into 879 keeping up the Christmas parties which went into the nights. Dad must have had it all in mind when he built such a room. Dad was funny in that it didn't matter what the party was, come midnight or there abouts, he would come into the room in his pyjamas, say goodnight everyone and off to bed.
One of the biggest family parties including just about everyone, basinets and all was the 31st of March 1947 when Stafford, Emily and daughter Pam arrived in Sydney. Wacko, a party. Any excuse seemed to be Dad and Mother's motto. They loved having family and friends about them. Mother was the instigator of these parties and Dad never had any objection. She always had presents for everyone at Christmas. I remember shortly after getting my license she asked me to take her to David Jones in Dad's beaut. new car, of course I jumped at that. Mother gave me money saying take yourself to the pictures and pick me up at 5 so after driving around a few of the theatres I parked outside the Lyceum theatre in Pitt St. all afternoon, they were the days. I got back to DJ's just in time to see Mother coming out with a pile of parcels, some store person was helping her. Poor Dad got the bill soon after and I can still almost hear him shout, Nance, "Whaaat the hell is all this" and she would say, "Oh, hold your noise and pay it". He was really a very generous man all his life but could not tolerate waste. Mother was a bit the same with sayings " Waste not want not... A stitch in time saves nine... A blind man would be glad to see it", were amongst many.
My parents like most of that generation grew up through hard times including the depression. Dad would help us all if we really needed it and the times I saw Mother trying to decide which one, whether it was shoes or frocks or almost anything. Dad would say "take them both". I really think she had him wrapped around her fingers. I don't think I ever heard Dad swear except for "Bugger it" or "Gordon Bennett" which was his alternative for "God help me" or something similar. They were great.
The Stafford Lakes after their arrival here needed a home urgently and I believe about the only one that fitted their bracket was a rather run down old one at 86 Wellington St. Bondi. It had belonged to Uncle Horace Brown's father in law at one stage. It was a bit of a shock to Auntie Em as we all called her, and to Pam but good old Staff said, come on, we'll make something of it. They had to buy furniture having lost everything in the bombing of London. Staff worked on it until it became a nice comfortable home where Staff and Emily had many lovely family evenings there. Pam made further changes to it in later years and now it is quite a valuable old world weatherboard home. A few years back a developer offered her over $600,000. Pam said make it $1,000,000 and I'll think about it.
We still have the occasional party there.
A little more than a year later Auntie Alice came to this country having lost her husband, moving in with the Lakes where she lived until she died in 1975.
Getting back to the Zinader family who, with the Pritchetts and the Lakes were the closest of the relations, they were always getting together somewhere, sometime.
We still do this even with one of the older generation with Auntie Florie who in two months time will be 103 years old and still has all her marbles although frail.
Jack Zinader was a furrier and on his arrival in Australia joined the firm of Biber Furs. I think they are still in operation today only selling very high quality leather garments. Jack started his own furrier business a few years later on the 1st floor of a building in Elizabeth St., a few doors from Liverpool St., He did well, his two sons joining him after leaving school up until they joined the army at the out break of world war two.
At the end of hostilities Uncle Jack joined his two sons along with the two George Browns in a fluorescent lighting and sign business, Beam Fluorescent Lighting Company doing very well against some very stiff competition. In later years I believe inflation and long term contracts had a drastic effect on their business.
David Zinader was born on the 1st of July 1919 with Maurice
on the 3rd of January 1921. On the 8th of December 1944 David married a lovely, happy and vibrant girl Myfanwy Emmanual. She was born on the 21st of September 1920. They lived at Vaucluse for a few years in a unit where Peter Charles was born who in later years at Scot's College became Dux of the school. We see him occasionally at a family gatherings. He has never married, preferring to remain a bachelor.
David and Myfanwy moved to a nice home in Lane Cove where Ruth, Miriam and Simon were born. They in turn married, Ruth to Ross, a nice guy, they have Nicholas, Katherine and Marcus. Nicholas recently did a trip all over Europe with his girl. Ross and his family live in a nice home at Camden where Andreanna and I have been on a few occasions, again family parties. Miriam married Peter Dayhew who seems to turn his hand to anything helping Miriam in her duties of nursing through to being Matron of various hospitals including Marybourough in Queensland. David and Myfanwy moved there buying a block of land from the Dayhew's acreage. They built a home having only a few years there, where David cared for his wife until she died on the 6th of July 1992, after quite a long illness. At about that time Miriam was transferred to Wagga Base Hospital where Peter, as always moved with her, he, being employed in some capacity, I believe driving the hospital bus has been one of his jobs.
The Dayhews sold their property at Marybourough to a developer and David's home was included in the deal. They now live at Junee, David moving around all the time staying with his family and is at this moment at his son Simon's home in Queensland looking after Maree and grandson Samuel while Simon who is 1st or 2nd Engineer on a big bulk loader ship being refurbished in Singapore I think. David also stays at Camden, Faulconbridge his brother's place, and sometimes with his cousin Pam Lake at Bondi depending whats on in the family.
He was seriously ill in Brisbane Hospital a year ago with pneumonia, then a bad infection in his spinal cord followed by other complications. He was so down he seemed to give up the will to live and I think we all thought we were going to lose him. Miriam went to see him and arranged with the hospital for his transfer to Wagga where she could keep an eye on him. I believe Maurice told him "If you don't pull your finger out and help yourself mate, I'm not coming to your bloody funeral". That possibly did help but Miriam certainly got him back on his feet and today he is just fine. Peter and Miriam have two children Gabriel and Ian.
Maurice acquired a taste of the water when his father Jack decided to buy a boat, the old "Jean" of about 28ft., a good sized cabin with glass all around, sleeps four plus two in the cockpit. Jack Zinader wanted to take it to Pittwater so he got the services of brothers Bill and Jack. With David and Maurice they set off and under the conditions I thought were a bit dicey, however after losing their dinghy they got there safely. "Jean" was really a smooth water vessel.
Maurice acquired a very nice yacht the "Wayfarer" of about 36ft which he lived on for a few years whilst moored in Mosman Bay. He loved this kind of life, always taking the boat somewhere on weekends and holidays returning to his berth at the seawall fifty paces from the ferry for his trip to the city and work.
He met and married Eileen Salmon, I think that put an end to living aboard. They moved into a home at Manly Vale where after a few years they adopted two girls, twins, Linda and Karen. They grew up into lovely teenagers, affectionate to their adopted families then marrying, Linda to Michael Ellis who seems to have his feet well and truly on the ground as does Mark Ritchie who married Karen. Linda and Mike have a daughter Jacqui, Mark and Karen have two children Christian and Samantha.
Maurice and Eileen divorced in the late 70's, then after a few years, Maurice met and married Brenda Brook born in England on the 9th of March 1933. Both are second marriages and they lived in Willoughby at Brenda's home before retiring to Faulconbridge in the Blue Mountains. They are the greatest cooks and entertainers. Andreanna and I as well as many others have spent many days, weekends and more there, always having a great time. Brenda has a family of her own, all married with children. The last time we stayed at Faulconbridge they all turned up for breakfast down in the back garden. They were on their way for a camping long week end in the Megalong Valley.
Maurice still gets onto the water and up until a few, maybe 8 years ago had an old antique launch "Dulcy Bella". It has a big and I mean very big single cylinder "Frisco" motor, the only one of two in Australia still working. It stands about 4 ft high, the cylinder about 14 inches in dia. She runs at around 60 rpm. Maurice sold her because it was hard to look after living at Faulconbridge. I believe the boat is still in very good condition.
Maurice and Brenda have spent a number of holidays with Andreanna and I in my son David's beaut. yacht "Anukana". The first time I took her out from Paradise Beach where it is permanently moored in front of David's father in law Ivor Stokes's home, I looked back at my son on the beach. I'm sure he had a look of concern about his beautiful boat in the hands of his 68 year old father and his wife. After a night at the "Basin" Andreanna and I motored around to Cottage Point where we picked Maurice up. We had a beautiful week then picked Brenda up at Brooklyn for another week. Its a long time since I spent 2 weeks on a boat. I loved it and so did Andreanna, Brenda and Maurice.
In all we four had six holidays of about ten days and it was always great to have Maurice aboard, he knows exactly what and when a duty has to be done. There were a couple of incidents we could have done without, one with just Maurice and I aboard. We were going for a few days to finish some woodwork. On our approach to the basin Maurice noticed smoke wafting out of the cabin. I had burnt out the plastic water cooled muffler because of a shopping bag or some such similar article being drawn into the water intake. It happened to the "Edwards' committee boat back some months ago but caused no harm as we always check the outlet, something I should have done in this case. After mooring we went to Palm Beach Marina with the burnt out unit to be told we may have to wait days when, the manager appeared, recognised Maurice as an old friend and said he was going to the city and would bring one back that afternoon. Both felling good at Maurice's association we returned to "Anukana", did some woodwork and had a nice evening over a few rums and a meal. The next morning at the marina I tripped getting out of the dinghy and fell very heavily against a ramp leading up to the marina office breaking or fracturing a couple of ribs and winding myself. Armed with our new but somewhat different muffler we set about the repairs to David's beautiful yacht. We have all seen astronauts climb from one space craft to another through a small opening whilst they are weightless but try climbing through the hole between "Anukana's" toilet and engine room with two painful ribs, oh boy. We repaired the damage, took the boat for a good run around Lion Island and back. All was OK. Back to woodwork.
The other instance was when on our way to Brooklyn we fouled an anchor line around our keel, To our surprise a beautiful brand new
18 ft. runabout came zooming up towards "Anukana" with two men aboard. I put our motor into neutral and was staggered at the panic these chaps showed, they had five rods out the stern, they cut all these lines then one bloke cut the anchor line. He was then quite alarmed at having no anchor and blamed us. However he quietened down when we gave him the dinghy anchor and ten dollars for a bit of line. Off we went to Brooklyn and no sooner there when a Waterways Authority boat came alongside saying we had an accident with a boat and that we were to stay there until the water police came to us. They did taking down all our details and experience saying they would contact us if any further action was to be taken. They did in three days saying that the two men were beginners on the water for the first time and that they did overreact. I'll say.
Back in 1946 Mary and I went looking for land and came across a magnificent level block at Northbridge, water views, wide, with streets front and back. Price 325 pounds. I took Dad and Mother to see it who agreed it was a great block but a lot of money. You best take it as prices are going up. We went to the agent who told us the owner has now put the price up to 350 pounds so I told them stick it. What a dope I was. Then children came along with David and Jeni, 1947 and 48 so we settled down to doing things to the flat at 788 New South Head Rd., carpet, painting etc.
It was about that time I decided to brew my own beer and when finished, stored 24 bottles in a cupboard. At 2am the next morning they blew up one after the other, beer and glass everywhere, the place smelt like a brewery for days. I've bought my beer ever since.
David was a great little bloke, always adventurous, driving his cot around his room, rocking his rocking horse to the point of balance on the tips of its rear legs without falling over backwards, throwing nursery pictures out of the window to hear the crash on the concrete below and having a great big smile when you went in to reprimand him. I was on the phone once when he went to the table lamp in the hall, took the globe out, put his finger in the socket and switched it on. It threw him about 8ft along the hall. He was OK but had a great lesson the hard way. I don't know if its a Pritchett gene but Dad could never see if an element in a light globe was broken. He would put his finger in the socket. If he got a shock he'd say, the globes gone. I'm a bit the same, I always touch to see if its safe even though the fuse is out. I was caught once by bad electrical wiring.
Jeni came along and I remember her in her basinet being idolised by David. He was so happy when she was big enough to stand in his cot where he would take her for a drive around their room.
They always came with us every Sunday to tennis on the beach front at Rose Bay where I always had trouble keeping David away from the water.
Sometime around 1952 Dad at the age of 63 was raced off to hospital with a very bad aorta problem being that part where the main blood vessel divides into each leg. He had been very concerned about it for some time but kept it to himself until the swelling became so big it alarmed him and he told MaMa. She had been asking was there anything worrying him. However off to the doctor and then a specialist who with his wife, also a doctor in this field. Dad was on the operating table eight hours while the specialist opened him up took all the measurements and passed them to his wife who at a Singer sewing machine made the new one from nylon fabric. Things are a bit more advanced today, however all was successful. MaMa, Bill, Jack, Betty and I were at the Hospital all the time. It was an unusual operation and I guess in those days very difficult. He was home in two weeks as happy as can be.
Later on Mary and I thought we would look for land again, as the children were growing fast and the flat was getting smaller. We found a wide level block at St. Ives, 4 Kilpa Place. The price 850 pounds. Sold. The four of us would go every weekend clearing land, putting sticks where we wanted the house to go, evenings I would draw the plans eventually submitting them to the council.
David thought he would do me a favour by bringing home an old lawn mower to our flat. Good thought but it was beyond help, so I thought I would dump it in the bush at St. Ives and when I did I felt a hand on my shoulder. The local Ranger. I attended North Sydney Court, the magistrate said, steel, that will be there for a hundred years or more,12 pounds fine with 8 pounds court costs. I could have bought one for that. David's intentions were good and with his angelic look I couldn't be cross. With all the digging and clearing Mary and I became very fit and who should make herself felt, Anne. She was born at St. Margarets Hosptal on the 10th of September 1956.
At this stage I had been sailing every Saturday afternoon since the end of the war, firstly on "Morna', previously mentioned then I was invited to join Bill Furber in the Dragon Class racing on his "Calisto". I spent a good 5 years in that class, Dragons being my favourite sailing craft even though they are a bit wet.
Then Bill F. went off to England to buy a 5.5 class boat saying he would sail it in the Cowes Regatta and if it performed he would buy, then ship it to Australia with the intention of racing her in the Melbourne Olympics. Would you believe, the Melbourneites will do anything to prevent Sydney beating them. Their wharf labourers dropped "Altair" down the hold putting a hole in it that I did crawl through. Bill took it to Bill Barnett a top boat builder for repair. Three thousand dollars later she was as good as new, then sailing started in earnest, racing Saturday and sometimes Sunday morning. Bill Furber and his wife Rita went off to Melbourne to organise "Altair", I reluctantly left Mary with a new born baby, Anne, but with her saying good luck and goodbye off we went to Melbourne in brother Jack's new Holden sedan, the utility I used was needed at the factory. Peter Scott, (well hand) and I drove straight through, one hour on and one off in the driving arriving at a flat that Bill had organised. Our boat was based at the Royal Yacht Club Of Victoria at Williamtown behind a breakwater that also sheltered our Navy dockyard there. It was the only bit of calm water in that ugly unprotected stretch of water they call Port Phillip Bay. I have another name for it. 95% of the time it blew from the south and in September that can be a pretty sad sort of a place to be. We had two weeks of training in those conditions except for one day with no breeze at all, the sails and anything white including our hats were covered black with dragon flies. Racing started and finished with ourselves 2nd out of five, Jock Sturrock of Melbourne represented Australia for the Olympics. All's fair in love and war I guess, but it was shame that the rounding markers were orange the same colour as the roof tops surrounding a large portion of the racing area. We did get a win and nearly another but when you can't see the marks. Oh, that sounds a bit like sour grapes, yes, your right, it is. Brother Bill was on the starters boat over that series as an observer and felt the same way but as so often applies, in almost all that type of sport, local knowledge helps a hell of a lot.
As soon as it was over I told Bill that I would not be sailing any more as I had a house to build.
I also remember Archie Robertson who was there racing in dragons saying, if I lived in Melbourne I'd take up cricket. He was brother Jack's skipper for many years and co-skipper of "Gretel" for our first Americas Cup challenge. He invited me to join the crew but you needed a lot of time off for a challenge like that and I couldn't afford it.
Peter and I packed up and drove through the night arriving home about 4 am. I had been thinking all the time about our new born baby and couldn't get there quickly enough, I do remember going straight to her after being welcomed home by Mary. She was in her bassinette alongside our bed.
Now back to the house. I dug all the foundations with the help of Jack Wiseman from the factory and Dad checking depths, saying another inch or two out of there. It was such hard work, the ground being full of stones and pebbles, you had to use a pick and mattock all the way, then came the reinforcing metal which was very hard on your hand and then later, after the council inspector had been ,Jack W. and I wheeled concrete all one day. Incidentally my long time friend John Stuart Duff who I sail with every Wednesday laid and pegged out the land for me. The house was 28 squares. Dad or Poppa as his grandchildren called him and likewise MaMa as everybody now called her, were so interested in Mary's and my project at Kilpa Place that they came up almost every Sunday with a bevy of family helpers.
There Poppa built the outhouse and was also the mainstay of my building operations, more of which I will tell about later. Uncle Staff Lake who came most Sundays with Emily and Pam in Poppa's car, Doug Ambrose with Heather and Susan as consistently as Staff, Doug was put on light duties after smashing his thumb with a hammer but it didn't stop him coming up and doing something. Jack Zinader came with Florie a few times. It was more of a picnic for most and every- body seemed to enjoy themselves and continued to come right to the end. As I've said before, any excuse for a family get together. There were others from time to time. After the brickwork reached floor level all the floor joists and bearers were cut, painted with creosote, laid on ant caps and nailed together in one week end. Later when the brickwork was finished, Poppa, Staff, Doug and myself put up all the roof timbers, many week-ends were taken up with this task. David was only ten and a great help in his little way. I remember wanting to move a lot of surplus bricks around to the back. David on his own rigged up a series of roller conveyers, old ones I scrounged from a factory next door to Dads, there were chutes, slides and whatever he could think up. Before I knew it, all the bricks had been moved. He's been like that ever since, finding the best and easiest way to tackle a problem. Dad was really a wonderful help to me in the building of this house in that he drove there every day while the brickwork was being done and at other times as I had to be at work all through the week. Dad's brother in law Charlie May, had a brick laying team who did the job. Except for one incident he did a very good job, so much so that I employed him for my second home. Dad came home on the day they started very displeased with the work. I raced up there to find that the corner down at the laundry was 6 feet up and leaning out both ways by about 2 inches. Charlie said he left his apprentice to get the job set up, not to lay bricks. All was rectified next day.
Another of Dad's friends owned the timber yard who supplied really first class timber including the hardwood and I always felt the price was good. I'm sure Dad had something to do with that, as he did with all the paint, Dad's friend again, a Mr. Robertson, Robertson's Paint Manufacturer, his two sons were most helpful in the mixing of colours etc,. Mary nearly drove them crazy and me because she wanted this a little shade lighter or maybe a little bit more pink to this or some such request like that.
Dad got the shock of his life one day arriving there to find Wunderlich had piled all the tiles for the approx. 33 squares of roof area on the lounge roof rafters. It took the weight OK and I'm glad Dad had said, do it this way son and sketched it on the floor. They were strutted and bolted frames over 24 feet.
It was a nice home, it included a big granny flat or room as part of the main house. I built it to house Mary's mother Minnie who was not altogether happy being so far up in the sticks. She was always so easy to get along with as a mother in law, she was great. We moved in before it was finished, because I could do so much more working on into the evening. After about eight years, having purchased a block on the corner of Lincoln and Memorial Ave again at St. Ives, we sold 4 Kilpa Place.
It was during this time that brother Jack and Audrey's son Donald met with an illness that very nearly took his life. They lived in Toolang Rd. St.Ives where the younger son Robert had built a billy cart, always building something as he does today, got a bit of Poppa Pritch. in him as so many of his offspring and theirs possess and that doesn't only apply to the male gender. Jeni has built a couple of very fine pieces of furniture. Donald checking on his young brother's handiwork said to Robert, I will try your billycart out first Rob and went for a spin. A nail, I guess rusty, pierced Don's skin. The infection that set in went through his spine to his brain. Don was in hospital for a very long time, coming out with a plate in his head and with movement quite restricted on his side. Don lives with his mother Audrey at Nowra, works at a sheltered workshop there, drives his own car, has a hobby in photography and loves operating his computer and sound equipment. He is now 51 and converses well with anyone. A hell of a thing to happen but he manages very well.
I think it was about this time that Jack and I were having lunch in the board room at the factory. Jack said I wish I could get a bigger boat. I said why don't you build one to which Jack replied, you know it takes all my time to put a nail in the wall, I couldn't build a boat. I said, get your plans, it will give you timber sizes, you'll probably waste a bit but you will soon learn, in any case your crew will help you and so will I when I can. I remember we picked up the main keel out at Alexandria in the Holden ute., and when driving through Taylors Square it slid off the back right at the traffic constable's feet at peak hour Friday night about five. The cop was furious saying, get that out of here. It was too heavy for Jack and I to lift but with the kind aid of a few others and the cop we loaded it and slowly drove home to St. Ives. No charges were made. Three years and 186 dozen bottles of beer later the best built 28ft "Daydream " yacht was lifted by A.E. Marr's huge crane on to a low loader, taken to the R.P.A.Y. Club at Newport and launched. A great celebration, Dad, MaMa and lots of family, Jack's crew, Laurie "Doody" Norton, Stuart Crouch, Johnie Stafford and other club members. Daphine Ford, our forewoman at the factory whose husband was a foreman with A.E.Marr and his team did the job for nothing, they all had a great party.
"Skye Mist" was a good performer and like his N.Z.18 footer, won many races. The 18 was called "Mania" nicknamed manure or the weatherboard boat, having been clinker built. Jack, Audrey and the boys had many a good holiday in her.
When the boys were only youngsters they were around at Hallets Beach in the 18 ftr. when Jack got spiked by a catfish. He was in extreme agony. Without help Audrey sailed that boat back around West Head to Palm Beach and assistance. A wonderful effort with two young children and that is quite a trip.
William Jacob Pritchett, "Poppa", "Dad", died too young at the age of 71 on the 28th of September,1959, on the bowling green as I mentioned before. His funeral service at St. Michaels Church, Vaucluse was attended by the very many friends he had made over the years and of course his big family. He was loved by all and for a man who worked his way on a ship arriving here with 21 pounds in his pocket to being the success he was, giving MaMa and his family the best of everything and helping others, I can say no more than, he was a wonderful self made man. His ashes rest next to MaMa's at the Northern Suburbs Crematorium overlooking a pond. They have always overlooked water, as brother Bill said when he chose the niches, God bless them.
1960. The population of Australia 10,392,000. Sydney 2,100,000.
I think it was 1960 that David started at Sydney Grammar main school. He came to me one day and asked, "dad, would you mind if I joined the rowing at school". I was more than pleased and took him to Gladesville the following Saturday. Eventually with a bit of sharing around with other fathers we got the boys to and from the boatshed, it not being very easy from St. Ives. I think I took David there most Saturdays being very interested in how he and the school were going.
David was in "Tub" fours to start with, then advancing to the racing fours, then the eights. The crew that he was in did well enough but when advancing to racing fours no other team ever got near them. They were like a well oiled machine, completely balanced and coordinated. They won every race they entered into and not by just a little margin, three or four lengths was more like it. It was a pity the team broke up when David went to the eights, they were not as good.
Early in the time David was involved, Mary and I joined the S.G.S. Parents and Friends Rowing Association, I eventually falling into line as President for a few years. We, with the aid of a good team, held a number of functions raising quite a lot of money to buy racing shells, I think we bought two fours and one eight with the money raised. One function Mary and I had was a mannequin parade held at Lane Cove Town Hall. What a crowd, over 750 people turned up. It was difficult enough for me to introduce the mannequin's manageress but when she interrupted proceeding to announce, "Would the owner of car no", that's mine she says and disappears leaving me on the stage, embarrassed not knowing what to do with each mannequin that came out. Whew. Most other functions were held at the school boatshed and great times were had there.
The block of land Mary and I bought was a wedge shape corner block, 157 feet on Memorial Ave. by 110 feet on Lincoln tapering off to 45 feet at the other end. A builder who built on the other three corner blocks said, how are you going to get a house on that, I wouldn't buy it but good luck anyhow. I drew up the plans, took a rough model to the land on the shortest day of the year to see that the sun came into every room minutes after sunrise. I submitted them to council who passed them without question.
I sub-contracted for the foundations, then called the council to inspect before pouring concrete. The inspector knocked it back because a corner of the lounge encroached into the building alignment by 18 inches. the contractor had dug all the foundations, laid all the reinforcing in the wrong position and not to plan. I went to Ku-Ring-Gai council pointing out that it would spoil the look of the house if I had to cut that corner off. They agreed saying it was only half a square yard of building after all. It also increased my backyard by about 20 square yards.
I not only got a house of 25 squares and double carport on the land the builder wouldn't touch but it had a big entrance, large lounge, separate good size dining room, large kitchen, two large and one small bed rooms, bathroom, toilet and washroom, laundry and a separate granny flat with shower, toilet and handbasin and plenty of lawn. On this house I sub-contracted everything but the internal woodwork. I did ask that builder to give me a quote. He had one look at the plans saying that roof will never work, I wouldn't touch it. It's a wonder he ever built anything. When the brickwork was finished up to the wall plate the two lads who worked for that builder had just finished his roof and came over asking if they could quote. They had a look at the plans, I told them what the builder said and they said no problem. They came back the next morning, I accepted their quote and said when can you start, they said we have all our tools opposite, how about now. All the timber was there. Those boys did a magnificent job, boxed in the eaves with the fasia board. I was so pleased as it put me on schedule, the bricklayers having been put behind by rain.
It was a pretty house added to with David suggestion that a rock faced brick be placed at random throughout the brickwork.
While we were building No.1 Lincoln Rd. we rented an old timber cottage over near Jack's home and within site of our new home, then moving day came. It poured with rain all day but with bare floors it didn't matter much.
Our children liked it much more in this locality having transport to the station etc..
Jennifer started at "Ravenswood" Private School for her senior years although I don't think it was as academic as it is today, a bit like Grammar was when I was there. She wasn't such a great scholar but she makes a wonderful mother and homemaker. She made many great friends at that school still seeing lots of them fairly regularly. She lives at Mt. Macedon out of Melbourne but gets up to Sydney two or three times a year.
Anne went to St. Ives Public School also in Memorial Ave about half a kilometre from home where Honey our beautiful Labrador would wake from sleep on the front terrace at exactly the right time every day to meet Anne at the school gate. Anne finished her schooling at Dover Heights High School when she came to live with me.
There was still a lot to be done on the new home and one item was painting the brickwork. I was down underneath our bedroom where I stored all tools, paint etc., I had the ladder out against the wall, was stirring the paint when the chap next door Russ Burnett said, what's on today Ron. I'm going to paint the brickwork Russ. Good luck he said we're going for a picnic and off they went. The whole family, nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers, sisters all turned up. Paint, brushes and rollers all went into action with a drink around every corner. The whole house was finished by 3 pm and all my helpers went inside for a late lunch party. I was down where I started, cleaning the rollers when my neighbour came home. He just stood there and said, gee you can paint, little knowing my helpers were inside. I never ever let him know. The second coat was by a contract painter.
Minnie Scholley Mary's mother died soon after moving into her granny flat at Lincoln Rd. Her kidneys failed through taking too many of a certain headache powder, three of four a day. I told her repeatedly that it would do her no good.
David later took over that room which suited us all down to the ground. He could entertain his friends without any of them tramping through the main house. The double carport separated that room from the main house where a sliding window in the kitchen allowed food to be passed through when they had a bit of a party. Even though I say it myself it was a very functional home.
It was soon after that brother Bill died on the 7th of September, 1964 as I previously mentioned and that left the factory without elected management. However, I took over, notified M.E.M. in England, who were the major shareholders of Bills passing. They immediately sent Norman Blythe, their Works Manager and John Tucker, their Finance Director to Australia. They both gave me a full weeks grilling about every operation in the plant, what were my plans and intentions for the future. I was then given the position of General Manager and to keep them informed I had to send a report every month. It kept on this way for a few years everything going fine but I started to see the writing on the wall, they being the controlling interest.
Mr. Barber the Managing Director and Chairman of M.E.M. had an old friend, Bob Stewart who had an electrical manufacturing business in New Zealand who wanted to expand his business into Australia.
Barber rang me at 2 am one morning and bluntly said that Stewart was coming over to be the Managing Director of M.E.M. Aust. Pty. Ltd. and that I was to assist him in every way. You can imagine my feelings. He arrived with a man whose dubious name I won't mention but turned out to be the greatest, lying, cheating heel of swine you could ever be likely to encounter and I can't say much more for Bob Stewart for the way he went about it. This monster even had Mary fooled with his charm but when Stewart went back to N.Z this con man pulled out all his knives. You probably think I didn't like them. Oh, how right you are. I had one consolation in finding out that when Stewart paid him off he got a labouring job for a while then finished up in jail. M.E.M. sent me on long service leave and on my return all matters concerning the buy out of the Pritchett family had been completed.
Norman Blythe retired some years later but I feel he must have passed away as mail contact ceased two years ago. John Tucker also retired and we still receive Christmas cards and news from each other. He was a sailing bloke too.
After having built two houses and being reasonably capable of doing most of the jobs, I thought I would go into the game of buy, renovate and sell. I bought a beautiful block with an old timber house in Douglas St. St. Ives, 90 ft. frontage, level. After removing an old outhouse and laundry, putting in a septic tank, a toilet in the bathroom, painting and generally making the whole place quite pretty, it was up for sale. Unfortunately the market collapsed and through bank pressure I had to sell coming out of the exercise about square.
I went to see my old friend Archie Robertson, who was a very successful car salesman. After some discussion he told some very encouraging points but said there was nothing in his section but thought that there was something with Toyota. I went across William St. to see them and my old teenage friend Laurie Flower. He was the Sales Manager of the Toyota division of York Motors. After some conversation about all the years gone by I asked if he had a position for me. He held up a piece of paper saying, I've just written this add out for someone do you think you could fill it. Without looking I said I don't see why not. When can you start, I said, how about now and by 4 pm I had sold my first car. That was the best job I ever had, and as long as you made the target set for you no one bothered you.
After about six years they asked if I would like to join the management team. No, was the answer but I'll stand in when ever you want which I did on a number of occasions and eventually looked after the fleet sales dept. of our showroom.
After 16 years I retired at 63.
Shortly after joining York Motors Mary divorced me which as far as I was concerned should never have happened and I know that although I stepped out of line a bit, there were other things that supported Mary's decision and that had nothing to do with me.
1970. Population of Australia 12,663,000 Sydney 2,800,000. I left No.1 Lincoln Rd. with great apprehension and disappointment. MaMa was also very concerned and asked me to stay with her until I sorted things out for which I was very grateful. She was funny and great to be with and when ever I suggested going to look for a place to live she would haughtily say, don't you like it here. I think she really liked having one of her offspring back with her. I stayed with her for about six or seven years until Anne asked me if she could come and live with me. Sure but I will have to find a place to rent which I did in Liverpool St, Rose Bay, a modern two bedroom unit with terrace and a wee view of the harbour in the distant.
Earlier in this story I mentioned Andreanna coming to live in MaMa's units "Alvington" and that they became quite friendly with each other. I also mentioned that I heard this voice saying, what are you doing. Just getting my runabout ready for the summer to which she said I have never been on a boat before. Well, when I get it ready you must come for a run. She took to it like a duck to water and came with me almost every Sunday. I kept the boat at the Alfreds marina at Newport and we always made a point of being on the water by 7.30 then going home about 3.30 missing all the beach traffic. We also had the pick of the spots to have a picnic and at times friends joined us as did daughter Anne and her boy friend Jim Paskalis at one beautiful little beach about 200 metres north of the Basin, clear water and white sand where Andreanna could swim as long as she had her feet on the bottom. We also went to Halletts Beach, Refuge Bay and Cottage Rock. Andreanna was always so happy, always laughing, so much so that I called her Miss Happiness and still do at times.
The flat in Liverpool St. was bare so I set about buying beds, fridge, furniture and curtains etc., and who should want to help me set it up, you know who, and with Anne's help we were comfortable enough. MaMa came over with sister Betty with bits and pieces to make it more homely.
I never intended to marry ever again but MaMa set me up by having a small dinner party in her unit at Point Piper. Stan Watt who had been the director representing M.E.M. interest in this country was there with his wife Dorothy. Stan had given me great advise in the operations of the factory and we were good friends. They loved Andreanna having been in her company a few times before. She has an exceptional ability to accept and be accepted even with total strangers in all walks of life and I admire her for that quality.
After a lovely baked dinner MaMa and Dorothy disappeared into the kitchen and Stan looked at me and said, well, what's holding you back. Andreanna and I looked at him and he said again you know what I mean, you both need each other. I looked at her and she looked at me and I asked her if she would marry me. Yes. Who should come in but MaMa and Dorothy with a bottle of Champagne. They had it all set up. We were married at St. Stephens Church on the 18th of May 1974.
We were only able to have a week's honeymoon at such short notice so I rang Carl Halvorsen to see if he could help. He not only got us a boat but a brand new special 26 ft with all the luxuries that was built for some person. He reneged on the deal and the boat was put into the hire fleet. Andreanna and I motored around to the Alfreds to pick up our runabout and off we went right up the Hawkesbury River. We moored at various places, dashing off in the runabout to explore little towns and places along the river. A great week.
We returned the runabout to its marina and at that very moment a 60 mph gale swept in from the west and we were almost against the weather seawall. While I held the Halvorsen off as best I could Andreanna handled the controls under instruction doing a great job and away we went.
On the way to Bobbin Head we called at Paradise Beach to see Pam's parents Ivor and Polly, the gale having subsided. At West Head we ran into the greatest rain storm I have ever experienced, visibility being reduced to not much further than the bow of the boat. I held the boat on course as best I could guess with reduced speed, then after about 10 minutes it cleared enough to see the shore. It continued that way with occasional breaks when you could see the entire shore was a waterfall. It continued that way all the way to Bobbin Head. At Coal and Candle Creek the aluminium dinghy bow fitting broke away with the weight of the boat being full of water. Again with Andreanna's help I retrieved it, then towed it stern first back to Halvorsens. It was a very slow journey as the river was running out very fast with all that rain. When we got there the shed hand couldn't hear me nor I him with the noise of the rain so I beckoned him and with a good jump landed aboard. He saw my predicament with the dinghy which was full again and no space with all the other boats pushed sideways with the current. He took the boat to the maintenance wharf.
Andreanna and I had many a week on Halvorsen cruisers sometimes having MaMa and her sister Florie aboard. They loved every minute of their relaxation aboard as they used to do for so many years with their husbands and on this occasion they were no chickens being well into their eighties. Even so I took them for many a spin in the Savage runabout which did about 20 knots, the speedo showed 23 but I doubt it was correct. They loved it.
Mary and I also had holiday weeks on them with the children. They are great boats as I'm sure most of us have experienced them. One particular time was one of a number of buck's weekends. We had two boats, a 30 and 36 footer with brother Jack joining us in "Skye Mist" at Halletts Beach which was often the case. It rained and it rained, so after mooring the three boats together, all collected on the big boat, the beer and the cards came out and we drank and gambled the night away, and it rained. The mob, about twelve gradually dissolved to their bunks and through the grunts, groans and snoring most got a reasonable sleep. After breakfast, in three sittings of bacon and eggs followed by a swim there was a great cry, disaster, all the beers gone. I don't know whether it was Jack, Doody Norton or Stewy Crouch, but a strong suggestion came out of some mouth, 'we've got to go to Brooklyn' which was agreed upon unanimously. Leaving "Skye Mist" and the 30 footer we arrived at the pub about 11.30 am where it was suggested we might have a beer or two first. Again agreement. It was raining. Having great pianists, Jack and Doug Ambrose and a great songmaster Doody, we all set of for the lounge. After a few little bits of entertainment including 'On top of old smokey' the publicans wife came in asking us to keep it quiet as her husband had just come out of hospital and was resting. Within an hour the whole of Brooklyn's population was in that lounge having a great sing song, however it came to 5 o'clock or thereabouts and we had to go. Great alarm from the publicans wife, please don't go, please play and sing some more. What about your husband? Oh, he's alright, don't worry about that. It had stopped raining, so we left and after Johny Stafford took the wheel saying I know a good spot and nearly ran us aground. He put the boat into reverse and wrapped the stern line around the prop after which we took turns diving overboard to cut the rope away. We did find a nice beach and after scrounging around for a bit of dry wood, had a beaut barbecue.
A few years earlier Dad and MaMa's grandchildren got into the marriage stakes and the first to enter was Diane. She and John Martiensen were married on the 16th of March 1968. Diane and John had three children, the first being born on the 30th of July 1971, was Amanda Kay followed by Melissa on the 31st of January, 1973, then a son David Ross born on the 11th November, 1974. Diane and John are now divorced. Diane has her own business, Proficiency Bookeeping I believe is the name and she is doing very well. Dad and MaMa as well as her father would be very proud of her as we all are.
Next to be married was Diane's brother William Gary Kerr "Bill" the eldest son of my brother Bill and Betty. Bill married very pretty Kay Leonie Stewart born on the 12th of June 1949. Their marriage date was the 14th of March 1971. They moved into an exceedingly nice home with swimming pool with a layout I thought was very functional. It is in Dandenong Rd., Terrey Hills. I remember also seeing a very big hard chine plywood yacht being built in their backyard. I think Bill's work, raising a family etc., put the stopper on the progress even though the hull, deck and cabin were almost finished and Kay was sick of it taking up most of their backyard. Bill made a deal with my son David and Kay got her backyard. More later. Bill and Kay have two children, Jeni born on the 27th of May 1974 and William born on the 2nd of February, 1976.
I just happened to phone my cousin Frank Pritchett last week and he mentioned that his wife Phylis went into a store in the Parramatta area where the manager queried the name saying that his son had a girl friend Jeni Pritchett. On checking with my sister in law Betty it seems that this manager is Ian Clewlow who once sailed with Kay's husband Bill on "Yarrawonga", my brothers old yacht. Small world.
Years ago when Kay's children were at school I believe she started her own gardening business, loved it and did very well and all just to keep fit and well. Good on you Kay. Bill and Kay now have a new love, a motor cycle club of some 4000 members throughout Australia. They go on rallies and cruises around the country and seem to enjoy every single moment of it. I believe they have a very big luxury Honda cruising motor cycle. Bill also has a hobby these days of building computers.
The next wedding was that of my son David Ronald and Pamela Jean Stokes born on the 14th of June, 1948. They were married on the 26th of March, 1971, at St. Thomas Church, North Sydney.
They went to live in a town house in Cammeray before moving to a small cottage at Pam's parents, Ivor and Polly Stokes home at Paradise Beach on the Pittwater side of Avalon. This allowed them to save faster for a new home I'm sure and I think they were there for about two years before moving to a new home at 40 Cambourne Ave. St. Ives. Ivor and Polly are a most welcoming couple, they always made you feel comfortable in their presence. They did live at Killara when David first met Pam but I think with their dwindling family and Ivor retiring from business they moved to a town house for a while before moving permanently to Paradise Beach. It was there that Andreanna and I called in when on our honeymoon in a Halvorsen cruiser as I mentioned earlier. David and Pam have four children, all boys. There is first born Antony David born on the 1st of February, 1976, two days before his fathers birth date. Today he is 21, has his own business of computer programming, sound recording, stage lighting, sound composing, you name it, I can't keep up with it.
He had an accident a week or so back abseiling, jarring his leg rather badly causing some internal bleeding in his leg and is now in hospital with blood clots floating around but he is in good hands at the Sanitarium Hospital.
Antony had been speaking to me over the last few weeks about timbers and how to go about things in regards to a book case he wants to make for his girl friend Sam for her 21st birthday but I guess that will have to go on hold for the moment.
The next born was John Michael on the 2nd of November 1977. John apart from his basket ball and soccer is much different to Antony and would much rather muck around with mechanical things like old motor cars. In his 20 years he has had more cars than I have had. He had two Mini mokes and took all the good parts of both making a good one and a not so good one. He has had a Toyota with a hot motor, a Datsun with a rotary engine and at the moment a Mazda RX2, current build followed by a Kawasaki ZZR and a Honda CDR motor bikes. I hope I got those right. I don't know whether he's making much money out of them but he's getting one hell of a lot of experience. He has a job at the Hard Rock Cafe working nights and some day shifts. I think he is doing all right with tips added to his wage but he tells me he's looking for something else. He'll do well in the end is my bet.
The 3rd born is Michael Andrew with a birth date of 20th of January 1981 and is still at school finishing in 1998 I believe. He yet has to show his capacity, but for the moment it's girls and why not, he's a very good looking bloke as they all are.
The fourth son is James Simon born on the 18th of July 1984, who has 5 years or so of schooling to go. His hobby at this stage