Tag Archives: bill foster

Horse Power

Bill On Dolly

Bill On Dolly

Today Berowra like most parts of Sydney is buzzing with cars. Our shopping centre and railway car parks are full to capacity a lot of the time.

It is hard to imagine Berowra in the period shown in this picture from the 192Os. The photo is from the collection of the late Bill Foster who is shown as a child on the back of a much loved working horse, “Dolly”. Bill’s parents have taken a moment from the hard work of running their general store near Berowra railway station, to pose for the photo.

By the time Bill was in grades 5 and 6 at the original Berowra Public School, his father would drive the horse and cart up to the school at 3:30pm. Bill would then begin the afternoon grocery run, collect orders for the next day and twice a week take produce, mainly eggs, from the various local poultry farms to the railway station for dispatch to the markets in town. Along his route it was not unusual for young Bill to be offered a cup of milk from people, like the artist, Margaret Preston’s maid, Myra.

At the end of the rounds Bill unhitched the cart and fed “Dolly”. Bill remembered his father always being most concerned about “Dolly” being adequately fed even in difficult times.

Today, 1st August is the official birthday of all thoroughbred horses in the Southern Hemisphere while their cousins in the Northern hemisphere count 1st January as their birthday.

We salute the working horses of Berowra and worldwide.


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Mystery Solved

Clearly a whistle, but what was it used for?

Clearly a whistle, but what was it used for?

This week we had a correct guess as to the provenance and importance of the whistle. Congratulations to Neil and Merle Davis for their guess:

In my opinion the article is a scout`s whistle and lanyard, which was part of the scout uniform, in past years. My son Mark has one identical to this, which was worn by me when I was in the 1st Hornsby troop. And both my sons used this same one.  Also, this same whistle was worn by the late Bill Foster. He, being, one of the 1st Berowra boys to join the 1st Berowra troop. Bill Foster was my brother in law, and he gave me the whistle when I joined the scouts and so on.

Congratulations to Neil and Merle Davis for their guess – an in fact, this is the very whistle they talk about!


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Fosters Store – An Artistic Rendering

Fosters Store by David Lever

People gathering around the local or corner shop prolonging their stay to engage, gossip and exchange information was a familiar scene throughout Australia during the inter-war period.  The Fosters store in Berowra epitomised one of those places. It was a store that stocked almost everything that a household required in those days from bread, butter, cheese and meat to hardware, petrol and farming equipment and much loved by the local children the lolly jars that flanked the shelves. An easy stroll to the Fosters store was part of the daily routine for most living in Berowra. If you were unable to make the store Bill Foster would deliver your goods to your doorstep each day by horse and carriage. All you needed to do was ring your order through the day before and Bill would have the order ready the next day.

Being situated right near the railway station the Fosters store would hang a tea towel on the back of the shop to warn train travellers about ticket inspectors being at the station. The store was also the location of the Berowra telephone exchange, bank and postal services in addition to the Post Office located along Berowra Waters Rd.

David Lever has vividly captured the experience of living in a small rural community like Berowra during the 1930s – transporting us, the viewers, into a time and place where everything seems to stand still. The women are depicted in various roles from mothers with their small children to women gossiping, an easy slow pace far removed from what we experience today in the very hectic and at most times stressful car park at Coles Berowra.

Bill Wall’s bus is depicted in its glorious state being one of the main transport vehicles during this era. Wall was able to adapt the back of the truck so the vehicle could carry passengers from Berowra Station to Berowra Waters which became a much needed service as tourism increased within this area throughout the 1930s.

But what intrigues me the most about this image is the character placed strategically in the foreground of the picture. His city style hat looks very sophisticated paper slipped under his arm with cigarette hanging from the mouth in a very cool and unassuming way. This character seems somewhat familiar – as if cast from a film set and transported into the sleepy town of Berowra. Is he observing the others in this tableau or are the others watching him with hesitation and suspicion. This extraordinary history painting affords us ways of looking at life in different ways and how it plays out on a daily basis which transcends time and place.

David Lever has provided us a unique insight into Fosters store which was once the heart of Berowra.

If you would like to see more works by David Lever, please visit his website


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A Classic Image

Why A Classic Image?

For us it’s one that encapsulates much of what our Berowra Living History blog site and virtual museum are about.

The photo was taken by Gabe Lomas on Day 2 of our 2007 Berowra Living History Exhibition in the Berowra District Hall which served as the first school built in Berowra.

Bill Foster, who along with many of his old friends attended this school in the first half of last century, is seen here communicating with a little school girl and her three schoolboy companions.

The painting the group is engaging with is of the Foster family’s general store, a vital hub for the community of its day. This painting is by local artist, David Lever.

Notice that at this point Bill is listening to the youngsters, his mouth is closed, his head inclined, his attention given to their enquires generated by the painting and his stories. Sharing of ideas, pride in one’s place and one’s story, respect, dignity and commitment to others, are all present.

Bill and others of our senior citizens have shared many of their Berowra stories through their visits to our local schools and through their recorded interviews and images which we can draw on for our blogs and the construction of our virtual museum. We thank them for their generosity and invite you to share your stories and images also.


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Berowra Veterans

A burned out stump gives an orchid a place to live

In our Berowra area we have wonderful gum trees which have endured the scars of bushfires but have tenaciously lived on, regenerated and flourished.

A stump bursts into life after fire

They have continued to serve their plant, insect, bird, animal and human community for many years.

A stump flourishes after fire

These powerful witnesses stand in the Berowra Valley Regional Park today.

Our Berowra Living History interviewees include a number of valiant local women, men and families who bear the scars of war.  They teach us the significance of strong lives of service in times of conflict and of peace.

Bill Foster, in uniform, 1942
Photo courtesy of Bill Foster

 One of our most senior Second World War veterans, Bill Foster OA is pictured above in 1942


(Images courtesy of Ann Lomas unless stated otherwise)

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Blue Pool, Berowra and Margaret Preston

The drive from Berowra to the northern beaches on a hot summer’s day, parched by the heat sitting in traffic congestion, is not my idea of fun. But, did you know Berowra once had its own swimming pools frequented by the locals.

In 2004, I came across an entry about a woodblock print created by Margaret Preston called “Blue Pool, Berowra”, 1933. This work has always intrigued me and in many ways remains a mystery, as the original print has never been sighted.  Berowra once had many wells, massive waterfalls and natural rock pools situated at the nearby creeks. Remnants can still be found today, as you encounter along Warrina Street – Devlins Creek.

Devlins Creek

Bill Foster’s memory of 1930s Berowra tells this story which also provides some likely clues to the location of Preston’s “Blue Pool” in the following recollection:

“The Warrina St Oval was once a natural spring, which contained a big well. It was known as Devlins Creek. Huge rock clearances nestled the rock pools to give a lovely swimmer. There was always water running through with an entrance bridge, you could cross that creek on the bush track that leads further down the valley.”

I wonder if that’s the bridge we know the Preston’s built on their property nearby.

Myra Payne, Mrs Preston’s maid once stated that the Blue Pool had been filled in with sand! Is this the area that now forms Warrina Oval? Does anyone know of a Blue Pool in the Berowra region?

Is This Margaret Prestons 'Blue Pool'

Have you ever seen this painting/sketch that once hung on the walls of Margaret Preston’s Berowra home in the 1930s. We are very keen to hear from you and any clues you may have to offer us in finding out more about the Blue Pool, Berowra.


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Rhapsody Of The Flowers

One of the most spectacular things about Berowra from late August throughout Spring and into Summer is the colourful show the local bush stages. Berowra is known for its spectacular wildflowers, massed along fire trails, sweeping up valleys and spilling over into local yards. With colours ranging from yellow and white to pink and blue the bush around Berowra is a truly beautiful place to visit. Yet according to our interviewees, what we see today is only an echo of the flowers which were once found in the area.

Local resident Bill Foster remembers:


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