Category Archives: Oral History

George Thompson Turns 90

George 19yrs 01.jpg

The first person we interviewed for Berowra Living History was long time Berowra resident, George Thompson. He has recently celebrated his 90th birthday. George was born on 28th July, 1926. He came to Berowra with his family as a 6-year-old during the depression.

We would like to share with you just two aspects of George’s rich life. In August, 1944 he enlisted, he was just 18. This image of George in uniform was taken by a professional photographer in Sydney. George was 19 at the time and he gave this fine memento to his mother for her birthday.

During his war service years young George did very necessary electrical work on Catalina aircraft in Australia. He was discharged in March, 1946. George is currently the Patron of the Berowra RSL Sub-Branch.


Berowra football team, 1947.jpeg

Our second image is of the Berowra Football Team of 1947. It shows a laughing George in the front row on the far left. George has always been a keen and talented sportsman and has contributed much as a participant and a coach in many different sports including: swimming, football, lawn bowls, tennis and  table tennis. He very successfully coached his daughter’s netball team and the Berowra Women’s Lawn Bowls team. As a youngster he enjoyed horse riding and had fun playing cricket with the local boys and girls where they used pick handles as bats!

Thea & George.jpg

George and his wife, Thea have been much loved contributors to the Berowra community over many decades.



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The Barnetts Road Fire Tower

Barnetts Road Fire Tower

The above 8.5cmx5.75cm black & white photo comes from the collection of the late Pam Gartung (nee Corrigan),a longtime Berowra resident.

The fire tower shown was located out at what is now the Barnetts Road Reserve and Barnetts Look out. It was erected in the early 1960’s and used until about the end of the1980’s to watch for developing fires and report them. Other fire towers used in those years were built at Cowan and Canoelands  Now, our area has the Berowra Heights and Galston Fire lookout Towers.

The figure on the ladder draws the eye of the viewer. He seems to be wearing only swimmers, sunglasses, a shoulder bag & shoes! Must have been a hot summer’s day!


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This week, Berowra Living History is sharing the beautiful photograph above, which comes from the collection of A. Cunningham. The image shows Cunningham’s Service Station, with quite a crowd gathered under the awning area. The Berowra community has always been a strong one, and in my experience, people are always happy to stop for a chat in the street. The question though is, what brought such a large group of the community together at the Service Station? It appears that perhaps it is raining, which brings up the question – is this simply a community sheltering from the inclement weather, or was this a more organised community event?

Do you remember this occasion or perhaps know what brought the community together for this wonderful photograph?


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In Their Own Words: House Building At 21 Berowra Waters Road

Shirleys House

Every concrete block in the garage (finished 1946) and in the house (finished 1948) was made by my parents Bert & Thelma Hobday.

Cement was scarce (the war had just finished). So hence the slow build.

The blocks were made with sand, cement and ashes. The latter were got by the trailer-load from the ‘San’ hospital – the residue in their coke or coal fired (?) burners (for the heating of water for the laundry etc). Dad shovelled in the ingredients while Mum turned the concrete mixer by hand. When mixed, the ingredients were pressed into greased moulds for ‘curing’.

Photo (circa 1954) and words courtesy of Shirley Collins (nee Hobday)

The flowering Double Ornamental Peach tree in the foreground is a reminder that Spring 2014 cannot be too far away. Many blossoms & buds are already appearing in gardens around our local area of Berowra.



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In Their Own Words – Enterprises On The Waters

“Yvonne J “, photo courtesy of the Jones family

“Yvonne J “, photo courtesy of the Jones family

In 1948, the “Yvonne J” was the third cruiser that my late husband, Max Jones built especially to hire to people who wanted to have a holiday on Berowra Waters and the Hawkesbury River. They were the very first of the hire cruisers in NSW.

  Extract from “Outdoors and Fishing”, March 1955, p.60 (price 2/6) Periodical donated to Berowra Living History by Neil Davis

Extract from “Outdoors and Fishing”, March 1955, p.60 (price 2/6)
Periodical donated to Berowra Living History by Neil Davis

During the war in the Pacific (1942-’45) many boats were shipped out from USA in kit form and assembled in boat yards around Sydney Harbour.

When Max was in Asia with Australian Water Transport Small Ships Company he saw many of these very small boats working in shallow rivers and bays as tugs and carriers. The boats were only 26ft long, good design and built of plywood. They were known as “Dories”.

The war ended 15th August, ‘45 and Max was discharged in April,’46. About that time the army was selling off surplus equipment through Army Disposal Stores. When boat kits came up for auction Max got 8 of them. The first two he assembled and fitted out as 4 berth cruisers and sold privately and the others he kept for hiring. Later he brought in larger 36ft, 6 and 8 berth boats. It was a very successful business that we both enjoyed – many of our regular customers becoming lifelong friends.

“Jones Bros Cruisers”, photo courtesy of the Jones family

“Jones Bros Cruisers”, photo courtesy of the Jones family

In the 70s, when we had been in the boat hiring business for nearly 30 years, the first fibre-glass houseboats were being built for hire. That’s when we decided to sell up and get out. By that time we had fifteen 4 to 6 berth hire cruisers each with a dinghy and some spares. We also had half a dozen 18ft half cabin boats for fishermen, complete with icebox for cool beer and fish.

Then there was my favourite – the work boat with its massive Thunderbird motor. It was very fast and powerful for towing.

Yvonne (Von) Jones

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Celebratory Cakes

Von Jones, long term Berowra resident, celebrated her 92nd birthday this year. Von is shown with her birthday cake made to the family fruit cake recipe. Many of us can vouch for how delicious it was! These other birthday fruit cakes seem too beautiful to cut!

The fruit cake recipe has been passed from mother to daughter through the generations. Here we have Von and Max’s wedding cake from 1948 followed by their daughter, Bronwyn’s wedding cake.

Christmas for Von and now Bronwyn has always meant multiple cakes to bake for the family and to give as presents. Don’t they look appetizing!


Photos courtesy of the Jones family.

Do you have special family customs around important celebrations?


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A Golf Course For Berowra

The first golf course location mentioned to  berowralivinghistory was in the vicinity of Nalya Road. Longtime Berowra resident Peter Huett recalls working on the proposed 9 hole golf course. World War II bought the project to an abrupt halt.
View From The Golf CourseImage courtesy of NSW State Library

View From The Golf Course
Image courtesy of NSW State Library

 Time passed and then the following appeared in the Berowra District News July 1972 (published by the Berowra Progress Association)
Golf Course Proposed
A further public meeting to pursue the Berowra Golf Course proposal will be held 1st August at 7.30pm following the interim committee inspecting and making preliminary enquiries on the status of the project. In 1968 the department of Lands gave Hornsby Shire Council firm indication of making available a large parcel of land at the end of Turner Road “which would be suitable for a golf course”
Discussion at the meeting was to include debate on a Public Golf Course of 18 holes, & an associated licenced Golf Club.
Meetings continued but the newspapers reveal little progress. In 1973 a public notice advised a Foundation Membership of $5.00!

What happened?  Can you tell us?


Berowra At War – New Exhibition

Keith Holmes as a school boy. This was the only school photo Keith remembers having taken during the War

Keith Holmes as a school boy. This was the only school photo Keith remembers having taken during the War

This week, with ANZAC Day nearly upon us, I wanted to take the time to make sure our readers had heard about our newest exhibition, Berowra At War. Although Berowra would seem to be far from the dangers of war, hidden away in our rural, bushland surroundings, fear of attack and invasion was very real for residents of Berowra. In our newest exhibition we explore some of the stories of Berowra during wartime, and share some of the recollections of our residents. The exhibition is still under development, so there will be more to come.

I wanted to share with you a taster of the exhibition though:

“We had an air raid shelter just down below the school there. The parents all dug that and we got some heavy rain and it filled up with water so they had to dig another trench right away down the side of the hill to drain the air raid shelter out. We had to practice evacuating the school and down into the trench.” – Keith Holmes

This is just one of the stories which is shared in the exhibition, so head over to The Museum Of Berowra and have a look at Berowra At War!


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A Ghostly Tale

This week, with Halloween just around the corner, it seemed the perfect time to share a ghostly tale recounted to us by Alan Cunningham. As part of our research, we are collecting stories of strange events, and this is just one of the amazing tales we have been told. More will be featured in the coming Virtual Museum.

This particular tale was told to us by the owner of Berowra’s old Ampol Service Station which once stood in Turner Road (to see a Then and Now post about the service station, click here). The encounter in his story took place in the 1940s in Old Mans Valley, Hornsby.

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Travelling To Where? Shirley Collins Interview

Today, people travelling to Berowra are secure in the knowledge that it is a flourishing community with a well known railway station. Indeed, as many trains begin their journey or terminate in Berowra, it is quite an important railway station. Ask for a train ticket to Berowra and you can guarantee that the computerised system will know where you’re talking about, and the staff probably will too.  In the past though, this was not the case. There was no computerised ticketing system and Berowra was a small community in ‘the country’, a location which many people had never heard of, including railway staff.

Traveling to Berowra first for fishing trips and later as her parent’s built the family home, Shirley Collins remembers a very different experience to today.


Photo courtesy of Shirley Collins

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