MY name is Michelle Ashford and I am interviewing my grandfather Clem Ashford for a Regional History project in Open Foundation. The date is 30 August 1989 and 1 am interviewing Clem at his house in Merewether.
Tell us a bit about your family and where you were born.
Both my grandparents were pioneering families, one was into wine and the other had a property, that eventually remained in the family for 100 years. I was born in 1909 in Scone itself and I lived there for the first 4 or so years until the war began. In the meantime, my father was a member of parliament. He was put up for parliament and was elected in the Dubbo area and that meant that. a great part of his life 1-t of hJ.5 l j fe was spent in Sydney. Having a wife and children , we lived 20 miles out of town and in those days 20 miles was at least an hour and a half in the sulky to go out so ~t wasn't convenient to be coming up and down all hours in the train to Sydney, so we moved to Sydney, near Randwick.
Being in a minitrial position as a Minister for Lands we had a government car and there were no restrictions in those day, ~gove rnment car belonged to the faml LY, it didn 1 t m~tcer ~f 1t was used for hairdressing or taking the kids to school,11obocly said anything and I oan remember going along and seeing the :soldiers marching down the street Slng1ng " Get out and get urider, get out and get under".
Get out and get under what?
In those days not many people had oars and they were always breaking down, so they had to 'get out and get under to fix them.
You Jeft school ~t sixteen ...
We lived at numerous areas in Sydney and finally settled down i n Moc:;rna.n When I was 15 my father died suddenly. He wasn't elected to pa111ament that year~ so he was 901ng back on the property again for hs was working too hard for someone who had been sitting back doing more or less office duties and he just died suddenly, when he was Just as hade under so. The idea then was to move back to the property. I stayed with friends in Sydney and when 1 was 15 I got my first job as a postage boy of Y.R. Hall and that job kept me going for a while. I went home at Christmas to the property, then I got a job at the Commonwealth bank through inf luenoe whioh you really needed in those days,it was not a matter of passing exams or qualifications, it was simply who you knew.
Of oourse, in those days BanK staff were regarded muon more highly in the community than now, but I never wanted to work i n the bank, I wanted to stay on the property, but I was working in the bank by the time I was 16 ~nd I was livin~ on my own money . With the money I earnt in the bank I had to pay my board and live on it.
I enjoyed Sydney during the
twenty's days, although the depression w~s
coming on. Things were very hard, people didn't have work and t he
unemployed i n those days only
shillings a week which enabled them to buy 5 meals a week. alot lived in huts and on the benches around Sydney, down Chinaman 's Beacn and some of the expensive beach areas now) onoed housed unemployed.
Fortunately I was ve r y lucky to have a JOb in the Bank but
you oouldh , t look sideways or you'd get the SpOk.
Followi ng that I got attracted to Margery and eventually
became e nga9ed. 1 was very keen to get married, being lonely
and away from home , not that I didn't have friends, it's Just
that growing up age. When I was about 20 I wanted to get
married but I had to wait until I was 21 and so I got married
when I was 2 1 .
I joined the Bank when I was 16 in 1926 and left the Bank in
1946. In the meantime I had been transferred to Newcastle, I
always had the idea of moving out of the Bank but when you
have ~ family and you have your money every week and you get
a pair of shoes half soled and you'rt. broke for the ne-xt
fortnight, there's never any chance that people get caught in
a job that their money isn1 t enough to lift them out of it.
I decided then I would like to do architecture, so I went and
did higher mathematics at t he Technical College for 2 years
but in the 3rd year 1 had to be app~enticed. I found out
then that 1 oouldn 1 t possibly afford to be apprenticed with a
family to Keep, because I had 4 children and you can't keep
four- chi ldr-en and be apprenticed. I ~"lad to stay wi Lh the Bank.
During the time I had been studying, I had spent extra time
working to make money , so star ting from house painting and
one thing or another and also pencilling at the races and
doing the bag for the booKmakeri Which the BanK highly
disapproved of, sventu~lly I got into making lampehades and
then from the l a mpshades, the parts of the lampshades were
handpainted, I went f urther on and started making ashtrays
out of felt, with mexioan men a nd fri nged edges on them and
t.hey had a paper- fastener tor- the centre c>f t l"'le i'el t and
~eo~le put them over the arms of their chairs and l think I
got about 1 and 11 for them. I used to sell them at
1 Grovers' at Hamilton a nd Gary had all the ?hops seeing if
they would take t hem and I think I got about 23 shi llings for
the work on a dozen. but that was good money to me.
Fr om then I got the idea to start making beach bags, so
Margery and I, s he did the sewing on the bags and I d i d all
the designing, print1ng 1 sewing, the as5embly of the bags and
putting the brass eyelets in with an eye1ett1ng mach1ne 1
roping and packaging them. We quite a considerable amount of
money on that .
You had a letter didn't you from David Jones?
Yes, I had this lstter from David Jones saying, this was much
later on when I was still making them, that it was one of the
best lines it had and they were sorry they had to give up my
line but due to other obligations they could not keep going
so tied down with an American firm with another l~ne which
included the bags .
I werit to see if I could sell to Miss Mythyas of "Cur~ne" ,
she was not very keen at first and then people came up to the
counter trying to buy them when I put them down,after about
three people had tried to buy them she said "send me down two
dozen". After that I recs:i.ved a telegram fr-om Cursonsi saying
"Keep sending, no restriction on the order" because $he knew
I could o nly make so many , and from then I made really big
money on that. I still worKed in the 8anK at that time and
it was all weekend a nd night work .
What were the Bank t hinking of you workjn9?
The Bank didn 1 t approve of any one working in those days,
you couldn't have two jobs but if you put lt in your wife's
name they can't say anything about it bscauge they have no control
over her, so I just did it in joint names with Margery.
Eventually With that money I bought , I used to have a Mrs Jukes oome 1
she ran the Strand Theatre and the lolly shop, when the Strand
Theatre was in existence.
Across the road from David Jones was it?
No, it wa5 just opposite Martin Street. Mrs JuKes worked
there and she was married to someone who was connected to the
Fuller family and s he used to into the Bank through me , and
she used to pay in six hundred pounds a week, there was only
she and her husband there and i t was pretty obvious to me,
the Manager was getting twenty pounds a week and 1 was
getting seven pounds a weeK in the 8ank 1 it as very obvious
that they were making much, much more. You begin to think
what your customers are getting and why you are worKing in
the Bank so I said to her if any milk bare or t heatre s hops
become available or v~oant 1 let me know .
One day she came in arid told me "The chap from Stockton wants
to get out there, it will only be a few hundred pounds
the money he owes and he can't pay his rent every week and
they really want to get rid of him from the theatre. J went
over to see this man and I offered him four hundred pounds
for the business and he aotuallY jumped at it. I tooK over)
I closed it for about a week and repainted it and called it
"Shipmates" and decorated it up with shipswheels and fishnets
and fish and a few paintings on the wall and the girls wore
blue overalls with red pirates hats .
The first being Stockton, a very conservative area, you coma
into Stockton and you're a stranger, and they stick to the
shopkeeper over road and for the f i rst couple of weeks nobody
came in. It took about a month , the end of the month I would
have my plaoe packed compared to tha place over road, because
they had become used to me by then and they liked it, so I
started packing the s weets in, buying the s weet sleeves
and doing them up in the cellophane bags because nobody was
doing that and they went very well, and good orange drinks
and rnilKshaKes and coffee .
Were you selling fi s h then ~oo?
No , only oonfectionary and theatre stuff and then you could
have sandwiches and coffe~ afterward the pictures. At the
time I was running that, I was making the bags too, so in the
morning when I first got up I would go over to the theatre
shop and bring in the milk, l ock the door, go over at five
0 1 clock when I had fini s hed at the BanK, 90 over, I got up
at 4.30am in those days, go across and let the two girls 1n
that ran the shop. Then I would go home and make dinner and
Margery would go over and look after it while I had my
dinne~ 1 for a While and stay until the interval rush then she
would go home and I would stay on and do the rush after the
theatre. After that I would 90 home at night and start
printing t he bags until 3 . 00am in the mornin9 1 then go to bed
to get up in the morning at 5.00am to go th~ough the same
routine every day 1 and all day Sundays because the theatres
were not open on Sundays then
The theatres would have been very busy then too.
Yes, they were very busy because there was ho television or
videos so all the movie places were packed. So from there, I
had done so well there that Peters !cs-cream a~ked me if I
would like to do Newcastle Beach, I went down to see the ohap
who was there but he was a little b1t frightened of ms bec~use
ne had been making good money and he wouldn't give me any
figures as to how mu oh money he made so I just looked, hi~
Wife had all these diamond rings and they had a Damla c~r and
~noth~r car and a pl~ce up in Peal Street and they were
building another place some where around so I didn't need to
ask if he was making any money, but then when I tried to get some figures off him he just went um and ah because he
thought that because I used to be in the Bank he thought I might have had something to do with the Taxation department
because he had very little knowledge like that.
I suppose it was understandable for him.
Well they had been there for twenty years and that was in1967 so I had sold out to a chap at a really good price the
plaoe at Stockton to a Greek from Maitland and he bought it for his girlfriend, so he paid me well for it. Then when I got to the Beach the only place you could buy fish and chips was mum’s and dad's and down at the Sydney Show they had been selling chips down there and they were doing quite a big trade and it was run by people who ran a restaurant in Sydney they had special cone paper for it, they
had special grease paper that wrapped like a cone and filled
it up with chips) I went down there and had a good look
around and got the idea there from a chap who tried to sell
me a potato peeler. I went HMAS Adelaide they were pullin9
to bits a nd saw this potato peeler and saw it would be run on
different power to what I would be using, that was when I
bought the ships wheel , that was 1946 .
I thought otherwise and I bought a peeler and had it fitted
up and I started selling chips at the beaoli and that>s how
I sot the name potato o hips.
So there was no-one else around then.
Selling was something you did at the Sydney Show, you didn't
do it anywhere else. So the chips down there, because the
Oil was very clean and they were freshly cooked and they put
in at t he right temper~ture because I had enough stoves and
they were nioe and crispy on the outside and floury on the
inside and I worked up such a reputation that I was selling
c hips at Ne wcastle beach on a wet day, I would have a queue
waiting on a wet day.
So, from ther e I moved up, r read the paper one night at home
and there. was a bai l ~~Bft.. sale up ~ n Hunt.er Street No . 4 Hunter
Street which doesn 1 t ~x1st now, it's part of the park there.
I went up there, there was a big Russian lady there with a
big bull neok, thick nose Rnd tough as you could be, and she
ran a brothel upstairs and a dining room. She had a chap
living with her, 1 talked to her about it and she said she
had this man living with her and he paid for the things and
s he said he was "yellow", and she said s he chased him with a
carving knife and he got scared and ran away 1 and she said he
now had t he bocrts in to her, fancy being soared of a knife.
l ended up buying the business, I hadn 1 t thought of il the
day before> I only paid about four hundred pounds for it, and
I actually bought the building which was about three thousand
pounds in those days. From there I started selling these
ohips and I used to have a queue f 01- the best part of twenty
year-s 1 January 1950 ! started there and called it "Shipmates''
and I got one of the Jenkins, Alec he did nll the carpentry
for me, we worked together and I started selling the ohips
and from then for the next twenty years there was a queue
riglit up around tl1e corner and all the chips were frestily
9o you prepared all the food freshly on the pramises.
Yes, everything was prepared on the premises, and then fr om
chips, we started off with ohips only, and from that I put
in, they had an ice- cream cone at that time , a square cone
and I started and f illing the cone with a salmon, potato and
onion mi~and also a filling with rninoe meat , potato and onion
and then they were dipped in batter and I ealles them
"f~-i ttzels" ~ I invented the name, I took the patent. on the
name frittzels so no-one else could use it, because there
were pretzels, but this was frittzel s, so I started selling
these fritt~els. I used to do bananas in batter, banana
fritters 1 and the bananas were done in a sweet batter with
cream on top and the pineapple fritters rolled in cinnamon
and sugar. Eventually I put in a ref rigerator to oarry fish,
and then I started selling fish as well as ohips. The only
thi ng t hat got me about selling fish at that time
was that it changed my award, I h~d to go into the shop
assistants a ward .
So what was the award beforehand?
l used to operate on the refreshment room, like a s weet s nop,
you know with just pineapple and bananas and chips and I had
fruit salad and fruit drink. At that time people either had
an ice-cream shop or they had a fish shop, nobody ever mixed
things originally, that was the first of mixing them.
How many peopl e did you have workin9 for you then?
At that time I had t welve fryers 9oing and wewouold serve up
to four thousand serves in a day .
How many potato’s would you go through in a week.
There were about 160 serves to a bag and l t l1ink !!here were
16 bags to a tonne, so we would 90 through a couple of tonnes
a day. It was a never ending job, I used to work that hard
that I would be open of a night and you oouldn>t get the
plaoe closed, people wouldn't go home.
This was more or less the only place.
Yes , it was t he only t hi ng to do, I would be there at 2.0oam
and eve ntually when I went to go home the girls would have to
come in to do the pans, t he oil had to taKen out every day of
the two main fryers and it was moved down and down and when
i t got to the end fryer it all went out. The oil never got
any more than honey coloured , that was why they were so good.
When I went to go home late at night, I would be so tired, by
this time I had given up manufacturing the bags and sold the
pl~oa at Stockton and when I got t he beaoh goins1 I had the
place at Stockton, the beach tied up) the bags and the Bank,
at that sta9e was when I gave t he Bank up, because I always
felt you~ve got something behind you with each stepping
stone, without making one big leap) without giving everything
up and going into the th ing. I used to be that t ired of q
night tt1a I: when I left I • d go outside and think "did I turn
the stoves off" so I'd go back inside and turn the stoves
off , and I~ d go back to the oar a nd I, d thin I'( "did I close
the front door" and when I get to the door I t hink " did I
really turn U1e stoves off", you work when your asleep. I
used to have to say to myself' " I've turned the ;;toves off',
I've turned t.he stoves off'' , or '' ! 've looked the door, I've
looked the door"
So with your fish were you Just batte~ing the fish? It was
all fresh wasn't it?
No, it wasn ' t fresh fish , the only fresh fish we had was
gummy s harks, and people used to love them but you couldn' t
say it was shark, we used to say in those days when they
weren't so strict:I that it was Wh i t i ng .
Every piece of fi$h was out to the tail , you know out to t he
point, so everyone would come in and say ''I wa nt a nice tail
piece liKs I had yesterday'', beoause sverybody though they
got the tail, because that was the in3truction, you had to
slice it qown then cut it to a ~oint.
Mic helle :
What sort of fis h were you using in those days?
We were using hake, I think it was two and threspenoe a
pound, t wenty three cents a pound, that•s forty six cents a
Mi c helle :
Compared to what it is now.
The potatos were fourtee n shillings a hundred weight , that's
a penny a pound, we were charging six pennoe for them, so it
really good money then .
so you just brought in the frozen fish and iL wasn't prepared
or anything .
From that I got the idea of selling donuts, I saw the people
over the road who lived in a t e rrace house , they were on the
pension , a nd I offered them a rental for the downstairs and to
do the upstairs for them and they jumped at the idea, because
they only had pension money and for people who had no money
all of a sudden had this money coming in i n rent, every week,
I think I was only paying them about twenty pounds a week ,
which was alot considering their pension was only 3 or 4
pounds. I moved in t here, and l had these donuts, all Kinds
of donuts, and they used to be ioed with pineapple ioin9 and
passionfruit and strawberry icing and then they would have
walnuts and cream and toffee . I made up my own recipes. with
the yeast and the flour and I never used the gowny flake ,
everybody used gowny flake t hen.
Before I started that one somebody came and asked me would I
do the Dairy Queen, so l got the place next door under the
same circumst ances, and started off with this Dairy Delight,
it w~s the same as Dairy Queen but it was Dairy Delight, and
I got a franchise to sell that. Well the first day there I
took 200 pounds on sixpenny serves that's 8 000 serves the
first day. The police were down there, the whole of Hunter
Street was blooked, I ran an advertisrnent in t he Sunday paper
and it b l ocked the street.
And the polios were down there?
Tha police were down there controlling the c rowd, it was
How many people did you have working in your shop?
Only about 5 1 I only had a counter 10 feet long. rt was a
most amazing success, such as successful as th~ chips.
After t hat I started the donut stand, but eventually the
donuts, the donuts went well but they needed a bit of backing
so we started the hamburgers and donuts whioh went well
together. I,m convinced in business that the more you try to
sell the less you'll do, if you try to do everything you
don 1 t get it, it>s like selling seafoods you have to stick to
How we1 e you ~aokaging your food then?
That was another thing that was a winner, because I had so
much going I couldn't keep control of the money so I was good
friends with the Geoffer y 's in Sydney, they were in Dixon
Street, they were paper bag makers, everybody used paper bags
t hen or you would use t hese bags made out of grease paper or
some such thi ng. I hit oM a way of keeping cont~ol of the
mo ney by ha.ving a chip ba.9 printed wi t t1 "Chips" on it in
bright red and that would hold one serve, the girls oouldn 1 t
9ive big9er serves, then I picked on a tall narrow bag for
holding fish 1 and then there ware bags for the frittzels, and
there were bags i n all sorts of shapes and ~izesJ and the
g111s used every bag for a serve. Then r had larger bags to
put the $maller bags in 1 the larger bags were only made out
of ordinary paper l ike brown paper, and if you put them in
with the inside bags you had alot of grease, so you had to
use the inside ba9s , so the outside bags were never worried
about, they were just carry bags. So I had track, and of a
day I would put down 1000 of these and 2000 of these.
Mic helle :
That was really innovative.
And on the other side of the Dairy Delight I u ~ed to have a
measuriMg stick to go in tha milk drums, and I would Know
what was used by the height of fluid in the drums, in the
machines, I don't know if they still do it but they should be
emptied out e very night and put back in the drums, in the
fridge and not left in t he maohine 1 the machine should be
wasl1ed out every nigl1t.
So "Shipmates" wasn't really affected by seasonals? Through
winter was it still as busy?
No , wall that was one reason when I had the beach was, the
beach made good money , very ~ood money and it was a good
bus~ness to run , it was enough for a family to live
comfortably on, and fairly good class. But you f i nished
sell1ng at say the end of March and you diqn't 5tart again
until Sept ember, so you had all winter to sit back and have ~
holiday, and t hen you oame back to work again. The drawback
of it was that I felt you were at the wlums :'lnd wishes of the
council and you could only get a 2 year lease, you can get a
10 year lease to start with but you can't get any more, you
oould only get 2 yearg without it going to tenders , so once
the lease goes to tenders if you get what ever the council
decides 10 years or 15 years but you could only get a 2 year
renewal because you were getting it without a tender, so it
meant every 2 years . you get the lease renewed, and youv'e
sot that insecurity, your waiting for that 2 years to come up
and you might say " o t'1 no forget it" and all of a sudden
overnight you have no job and no business, that's Why 1
started u~ the street.
One day I was up water-skiing up at Shoal Bay and I struck a
little 9irl up there and she w a~ nice and s he was a nurse .
We were 5kii ng on t he same boat. She said s he was looking
after her brother who had a nervous breakdown and she said
"you would know them they've got that delicatessen shop
between Coles and Wo o~ w orths " , and she said they were trying
to sell it but they couldn't get tt1e money for it . I sald 11
How muoh do tl'1ey want?" and slie sa:i.d she thou~ht they wa11tect
only 6 thousand pounds f or it and I said " I would like to
have a look a t t hat '', because it immediately struck me that if
1 had a shop t here I could do very well, so I went to see
them and I ended up buying it.
It wa5 only a narrow little place, and I did all the oounter
with looking glass, little squares of glass a nd a stainless
steel top and I painted eve~yt hin g royal blue, r put royal
blue laminex and oran9e laminex and glitter and I oalled it
"The crystal B.ar-". I put .'3. wood bar across the roof in royal
blue with a white ceiling above and it was really startling .
It was a milk bar with ready out sandw1ches. I used to make
the sandwiohes up out of t he shop and bring them down and my
instructions were the fillings had to be as thioK as the
sandwiches and I had plenty of butter on it. Everybody at
that stage was going a nd buying there sandwiches off Coles.
When my sandwiches started mine were a penny more, a penny
was quite a bit ~n those days but they were well worth it and
all my sandwiohes were going thaL fast because the sandwiches
were juioy and nice. Coles went and did a special window
display, right next to my shop, only around the corner, with
a table set with sandwiohe5 "available inside'' , but they didn't
realise that why mine were <.:Jellin9 was the quality of the
sandwiches. That makes you think how people don't mind what
they pay, it's the quality that they want within reason
That place was such a success and l had those going and then
How many places did you have going at onee t hen?
I had the t.wo on Newcastle Beach, and the "Shipmates" and
then over the road I had the 11 Dairy Del i9~1t 11 which is a
different plaoe with all the drinks1 with kinds of milkshakes
and drinks and next door I tiad the hamburger shop going) called
''Sugar and Spioe" 1 "The Crystal Bar" in Hunter Stt-eet, then
the "Shipmates Dai1-y ~~hip 11 at Garden City, and l t Was a
terrific success, and Gary cams along to me at this time,
then later when I left and Tony did the other one. I used to
have 100 gi rls working for me.
That wa$ quite alct of people to have working for you.
Then were there other places coming up in competit1on?
No, I had it all my own way.
so when did you start travelling then?
By this time I had been putti ng up with alot at home, and
Adrian is one person who realises what I put up with 1 because
he was there, he said he had never heard anything like it,
and I deoided at that time, 1 had been reading books and
doing yoga, because I was going to the gymnasium and I was
doing weightlifting, and Alf Lester said to ms "What about
yoga, don't you ever do that?'', and r thought that wasn't for
me because not many people did it then . He said "Can you do
a headstand? 11 and I said 11 No , '' a nd he said "lsn 1 t that a
ohal lsnge? '' . So I learnt to do headstands, and it real 1 y got
me in. I started reading books on yoga and yoga philosophy
and about mental happiness a nd tranquility in your life. I
realised that the life I was living, and the partner I was
with, with alcohol , that none of it fitted together, I was
always going to live in a turmoil. Another thing th~t
disgusted me was) that I had worked all those long hours and
worked that hard to make that money to be torn to pieoes1
especially when your trying to do your be~t for everyone. and
all the work, and you think, well money hasn't brought me any
happiness, it's only brought me unha~p1ness.
So when t hings came to a point at home, and it wasn't my
suggestion, it was suggested that I go, I went, and I waE
5uppo~ed to corns home again, but it wasn't on. Then when I
left, and because of that , of having everything and striving
for everything) having to stay at the best, eat the best, and
do the best , I beoarne f1iendly then, at that stage I was
brokenhe~rted inside, and when I went to Sydney one day and I
bought a ooup1e of Alan Shores paintings and l've never
oonfided to anyone how I felt about my troubles. I thought I
can't 90 any further, and I thought here's a good one I'll
tell him , and ha said to me ''You 1 re JU st the person T, m
looking for, I've got so many women l don't know how to look
after them all", it's just the opposite to what I expeoted,
saying sympathy and that, he made fun and so from then 1 got
the opportunity to mix in with all th~ 11 hl.pp1e" crowd in
Sydney 1 that sat on lounges without spri ngs in them, did a
bit of smoking now and then, they just lived their lives on the
floor. After all the Victorian Leagues , and all the other
t hings it was such a relief to me .
When I left home I want and lived up in a room Wlth noth1n9,
I lived in a bare room for a l~ng time I wouldn 1 t buy food
unless I felt like eating, you Just learn about life, and it
doesn't t~ke money to make you happy, you oan be just as
h~ppy without it. I found I was just as happy, I had saved
up some money to go to India, so when I broke up the
marriage, to get away from everything, I went and lived like
a hermi t up on Cape York Peninsula. I oame back after 6
months of living on the beaoh and in the bush a nd having some
really 9ood experiences . I came back a9ain 1 not to 90 ~ack
to the old 1 i fe, all the 111oney had been taken care of, and I
had very little money, but I had paid my fare to Tndia .
I we nt aoross then to India, and the thing was we would land
in Madras , we went across to Singapore, Penang and then 1
ended up going across to Nugapuoknum, south of India andadras and worki n.::i my way up l n a very ol1eap way, real 1 yt11ppig li.ving to New Delhi . and from there I went up to 1 ive
in a house boat. very poor house boat too, only 3 rupees a night, about 2 shillings a night r lived 1n lndia for a while; I had my return tic ket and 1n
those days when you had a return ticket to Sydney you oould
keep going forward, so I was able to include in that Bangkok
and Manila and Hong Kong , not like today. Most of the time I
had Allan with me, and while I was there I met Yappa, an
Israeli~ girl who was very lovely . She travelled baok to
Australia; I met her when she got here , and I got her a job
through John Laws
When I came baoK 1 bought ~aok alot of things with me, all
those things that had to be ohecKed by customs . I had all
kinds of gadgets I had pioKed up from along the way, I
eventually got through custom~ t stayed here for five days
and I got on a yacht with Aleo Hankin to go around the
Pacific for 7 months. The day before we left the n~v19ator
dropped out~ here we had this boat that was about 30 feet
long, and 8 foot 6 inches wide, and four bunKs and five
people to go around the Pao1fio, and no navigator.
We Kept going, we just put the compass on 045 degrees and we
got there. There is a mountain there that is 4000 teat h1gh,
Vl9ibility of 4000 feet is about 80 miles on the ocean, so
you havf 160 mi le 1-ange to keep in 1 her-e are a lot of wreck-:;
and reet around Noumea, and before we got there, the whales
came ar-· 1ind ~nd worried the other boats, but how we got rid
of the whales was we put the motor on, we had an auxill~ry
motor, and that frightened them.
So you came baok then after that?
No, when I 9ot to Western Samoa I had this big row with Alec ,
and deserted the ship. He said "What nre you going to do?
live on the island or on the ship 1 " and I said "Aleo, 1 'm
going to live on the island". I stayed there for 3 01 4 days
and it was a lovely place, the people were lovely, bLlt then l
went baok because if I wanted to stay I had to 90 and see the
Immigration Department in one of the larger towns, I wouldn ' t
have been allowed to stay there, because they are very
strict, you are only allowed to stay there for 4 days,at that
stage and even the citizens there, if they take up a New
Zealand citizenship they are only allowed b~ok as visitors,
only allowed back the 4 days.
When we got down there, so we decided, I hadn L seen
immigration by that stage, Alec wanted to go to Aggy Grey's
that night and I thought ''Oh no, this is the very thing I've
been avoiding, because you get all these hotels with all the
western influence. I decided to go with him , I didn 1 t want to go but
he wanted me for company.
The next day we went 1.n by dinghy, and I hopped of because
Alec's muoh bigger than me, and I'm lighter, and I hopped off
onto a rocK and held tne dinghy to pull him in and a wave
came over and pushed the dinghy and a copper nail went
through to my bone. I spent 6 weeks in hospital , in the mean
time they waited about 3 weeks for me, then 1 watched them 90
cut through t he reef ,and I felt I had control of that boa~
although we had those rough seas, like for q day~ before we
got there every body thought it was the end the boat was
leaking and we didn ' t know where we were , so it was 11ke a
blt of haaven when we did find the 1.sland. But I had "n idea
that we fou nd it, I felt like a polynesian because l never
heard of Savav islands until we got there. I felt just like
I belonged there; everyone has a dream of living on a pacific
island with the palm t;ees and the reefs, it's Just a dream,
it was really just a dream come true for me. I wouldn't eat
any european food they offered me , I would only eat the
So you learnt the language and everything?
I know a considerable part of the language, but I never
learnt the language completely because they only have nine
letters, five vowel,s and it's all inta-r o_.... l'lh:ltion. You tiear
them talking about one thing, some words have forty meaning~,
because of the shortage of words. r can p1ok up language of
what people are talking about but they also talk in alot of
proverbs I know all the polite sayings, as for following
the conversation, I couldn't; it goes too fast.
In meantime Alec's gone off again, they sat off for Tahiti,
so after about 6 weeks, I asked if r could go out to the
village for the last week or so, and they saiQ yes, the
customs read the rights to me about staying there.
Mi c t"lel le :
so you left the ho~p i tal then.
Yes, I went out 1..o the vi l la9e, then ! deal ded after I liad
been there for a week, that I had better o~tch up with Alec
again, I had to get back to Australia; he had gone to Tahiti,
so I got on a plane and flew across to Tahiti. I stayed
there with ~ old frenoh ladies, in a very old boarding
houses for only $3.00 a day, opposite the post office. I had
quite a good t i me then, and mixed with quite a few people . I
waited and waited and used to go down to the yachts oom1ng in
every day1 and Lhey were never there. Eventually I got a
mec.sage from the post office that they had gone down to the
Cook Islands. I thought "What about the Cook Tslands; I)ll
possibiliy get there and they've gone somewhere else",
instead of going to the Cook Islands, I went baok to Western
Samoa again to live in the village.
got ln there on a permit somehow or another arranged, and
when I left wastern Samoa I went down to Noume~. I didn•t
have much money left by that stage so I was expecting to get
some money , but in the meantime I only had about $20.00 or
$30 .00 so l Lhink I spent about $20.00 and I got in a light
plane and I went up to Malakula Island, because it wa$ one of
tl,ese uni. nhabi ted islands with the Europeans, there were a
few Frenchmen there and a bit of a hospital and a few of the
English because they were both represented and on this island
Jived the bl9 N~mbas
I was anxious to get to these really primitve people; they
had been head hunters five years before and they never wore
any clothes, they used to wear a coconut belt and then they
would wrap their penis up in this fluffy stuff and pull it
up and tuck it in t he belt, and leave their testicle~ down,
and I thought I would like to get up to this primitive place.
r got there, and I became friendly with a guy named Marcus;
he had a wife living in one of the villages, so I said to
Mat cus "Look , this is all I've got", it was only $7.00 or
$10.00, so r gave it all to h:i.m. He said "Don>t worry about
it, I'll look after you . '' The "first thing he did was t.,o go
and buy two bottles of Lemonade . He spent the money , and he
was glad to have me for company, and he was looking after me.
He took me to the village where his wife was . When I got to
the village where his wife was, they didn't rush up and kiss
and hug eaoh other; he rushes and p1oks up the little boy and
makes a great fuss of him, and then I have work out that t his
was his son, and I had to work out who was the mother of the
son, because they don't introduce you.
I learnt alot from that guy going through and we got to
villages there with no money, and we travelled ~ight around.
1 was told I should take Malaria tablets because all ~orts of
rj1seases were going around, ~o I started taking th~~e
tablets, but I felt so well after a while I didn't bother and
within a few days I oaught Malaria.
When I got back to where we s tarted on Malakula Island, the
French people were the only people oom1ng ln on planes and
because I didn't speak French they wouldn't plok me up. I
jusL had to s t ay there and stay there. Eventually someone
got me on a plane going to Santo, and then t explained to the
woman , that I had paid for the ticket, and they didn't pie~
me up , so I was allowed to stay at the hotel but there was no
food. That's al l they would be responsible for, and l had no
money for food, but r became friendly with the native~ and
they were buying me food and drink. Eventually I got down
ard the money wasn>t there , even when I got back to Port
V ~ la, and there was a French Hotel there so I went along, and
I had a credit card for Hotel Australia which impres5ed him
very muoh, and he said I could have my meals there and give
l1 i111 the money when I had it. Eventually I got a dr-af t then
from there I oame down to Fiji again, and baok to Australia.
I stayed for about a week, and went straight back because I
was allowed to stay for another 6 months on the island, and I
lived the best part of two years over there.
so vou were away from Australia except for those 5 days you
weren't really here for a while .
No , I wasn't here for a whi le. I lived up there and when I
did come back I would go back aga1n.
So you oame back, and started up Clams 11 yea1·s .~go.
No when I came back I had to get a divorce to fix up
business for marit~al affairs. After that 1 bought Cloms.
It took me about a year and a half to build, that's fourteen
You bought that little m.i nerts cottage to live . . • in d1dn t you?
Yes , that's right. When 1 c~ me back I still had no money,
so I got some material and started doing screen printing the
same as what they did the carpet pt inting on the islands. I
used to print the frocks and 1 used to sign them "Tulomulolo"
which was the title name they had g1ven to me up there.In 1969
T went back and got the tattoo .
Fro1n then I went on unemployment then on the pension, then
with money I got from the frocks I bought the land for Clams.
The frocks were a success weren’ t they?
Yes I've had a few successes, and Clams was a terrific success when we first started it, but of course Gary helped
me there with finance in the end. There is only one thing I'm sorry for that I really got tied down with Gary; I wanted
to make it into a take-away.
I think in some ways I know they have take away at the Whnrf,
because they can pay the rent it is alright, but in someways
takeaways are so much easier than restaurants.
There is so much into restaurants , there are so many things.
There are so many worries.
Staff and everything.
You can get a person wo1-k in your place, coffee shop~ are
nearJy down to that standard.
But, with rastaurants they are a whole different ball game
aqa1n . So, do you think Newcastle has changed it's eating
habits from starting off then and now,
When r first oame to Newcastle when the kids were young, you
would go down to t he Northern for dinner . Hardly anyone
would eat out, we were one of the few who ate out, who only
ate out if you had money or were making money . When you did
go to eating out, there was the coffee shop in Bolton Street,
and othe1 wise you went to a Greek milkbar that had coffee, or
steak. You oould get a hotel n1ea1, but a hotel meal in those
days conststed of a sat menu, Chlcken or roa~t beef, Fruit
salad and ice-oream or plum pudding and t hat sort of thing.
lt s only the latter years since the war that we've had all
these other places coming in brjnging in al1 these new food5 .
Apart from that there were exclusive restaur~nt5 in Sydney
places you went to, but you could count them, otherw1se 1t
was Just 3n ordinary pub
I think also with Newcastle, people are going back to the
I agree, people are also eating in centres, like shopp1n9
centres, The Wharf , it's a centre because peapla congregate
t here. Darby Street ls turning into a centre were people
congregate. A restaurant that i$ a bit out of the wQy has to
be a bit different to draw people there; you oan do 1t, 11Ke
I'm a bit out of the w~y aren't I? But r can understand
people eating at The Wharf, there is something to walk around
and see afterwards, and the other big thing is, that you can
eat and have a few drinks in town and walk back to the accommodation,
That's changed everything too now like drinking and DUI is so prevalent.
Yes, not like before when you take the risk. People don't take the risk now . I think Newcastle has a mining town
feeling where everyone knows everyone else, but Newcastle is finally coming into it’s own now .