1930s Vignettes - Val Ross (nee Fullwood)

Letter from Val Ross 23-11-2005

Dear Heather,
Please fine enclosed a cheque for $30 to cover costs of forwarding to me, a copy of the Historical Society's publication regarding the history of Chermside and its school. If there is any residue after payment and postage of this publication, please accept it as a donation for the society.

I have enclosed a couple of photos that I have taken of the Dawn Theatre and a photo of a few of the soldiers that were camped at Chermside, also old school photos taken about 1941.

Now, it seems for my generation, the Chermside we knew so well and enjoyed, must live only in our memories. The creeks we swam in and, for some almost lost their lives; (including me), the Sunday School picnics which were held on Labor Day, the caring people of the neighbourhood will remain very special memories.

Neighbours brought in each others washing if the owner was absent, and/or look after their neighbours children if the parents happened to be detained elsewhere. It was a wonderful community, united with concern for each others welfare. No wonder we loved Chermside very much.

Sam Davies, in my memory is still collecting the admission tickets at the Dawn Theatre, and the Cynthia Baines still selling tickets at the Box Office. Mr Harris still singing "Dare to be a Daniel" at the lodge meetings, and Mr Reid full of respect towards the young, shaking hands with us after the church service. Another Mr Read at the post office giving us, by example, the need to be correct in all our endeavours. Mr Rice teaching us how to grow potatoes from old potatoes. He was a giving more than formal education, but showing us a way to live should adversity befall of us.

Maybe we were too immature to understand or appreciate these benefits at the time, but each person left us (unintentionally) with a memorial of themselves. There are so many more it would take too long for me to elaborate all about them here.

Yours sincerely

Val Ross

Family Details from a separate sheet.
Parents: Charles born London 2nd June 1906, migrated in 1924 - Died 12th February 1979
Annie "Boyne" Stanton born 3rd January 1911 - Died 14th June 1935
Married in 1927 and came to Chermside
Two children: Valma (1928) and Frank (1929) - both attended Chermside State School.
Valma Marion No. 1692 - 23rd January 1933 - Grade 7 1941 - left March 1942
Frank No. 1791 - 31st May 1934 - Grade 6 in 1941 - Left March 1941?
Lived in Victor Drive in a government owned house on land which was on a 99 year lease; the lease would expire in about 2026/7.

Asleep in Class

Times were tough, too tough. Rarely was a home equipped with refrigeration, some food items were bought daily. Milk and meat were two such items.

Jack was neither privileged nor a dull student. He was in fact a good scholar, and blessed with better than average learning ability; but here he was once again asleep at his desk.

The teacher, Mr Hooper, made a remark to Jack about not being permitted to sleep in class, and with a hint of sarcasm about not sleeping at home. A few days later Jack was once again asleep at his desk. Mr Hooper, the teacher, was a wise compassionate thinking man. Privately, he spoke to Jack. The next time Jack fell asleep in class, Mr Hooper said to the other students, "Let him sleep" and so we did. The reason for Mr Hooper's change of heart was as follows:

The milk was transported to our homes, early each morning, by horse and cart. The usual procedure was for residents, nightly, to place a billycan on or near the front gate with the milk money and order form. Each household on awakening would collect their milk From the front fence, and enjoy very fresh milk. We'd paid for the milk, but without thought at the real cost of our fresh milk.

Jack's father was the dairy farmer who supplied the milk, after milking the cows (without milking machines), harnessing the horses, the milk rounds began. Jack's help was needed to assist his father. He would commence working about 3 a.m. each morning.

Indeed times were tough, too tough!
Valma Ross (nee Fullwood)

Bullock Teams and Short Change

A Memorial to the Bullock Teams

Gympie Road, how broad it is, at the main shopping area, as if by careful planning and far thinking design.

Yet, about 1932, I remember when the bullock teams would travel down from the north, carting logs to Steven's sawmill, which was almost opposite Chermside School. The road was un-surfaced at that time and pools of water and mud at times made the centre sections of the road an impassable quagmire, the bullock teams would diverge in wider and wider swoops, in order to proceed. Gympie Road by this manner of use, became wider and wider.

Later the road was surfaced, and the tramline was extended from the Lutwyche Cemetery terminus, to Hamilton Road. A median strip was formed and planted with floribunda roses. It was a beautiful sight. There would not have a resident of Chermside who was not proud of our suburb.

Perhaps bullocks have played a larger part in our environment, much more than we have been aware. (But not in widening of Gympie Road. Editor.)

Short Changed

I remember one day in 1934, my Father sent me to buy tobacco at Jeff's shop, which was a minor grocery store and Post Office. I must have been six years of age. I purchased the tobacco, and because there were other children, there, whom I knew who were buying lollies, so I too began to spend my Father's change. A boy, my next door neighbour was also in the shop. He knew I was not allowed to spend the money; he threatened to pimp on me, which he very promptly did.

I began to head for home, while Dad came down the street to meet me. The event must have been like a practice scene for the film High Noon. I hid the lollies behind my back and Dad still continued towards me. I tried to hide behind the lamp post, but Dad kept coming towards me. I began to circle the lamp post. Alas, there was no escaping, I was caught red handed. I had a loving father and so the punishment was no worse than Dad's anger at my behaviour, but it was enough for me never to forget.

Changing Times


Due to my Mother's fatal illness, my brother and self lived in Melbourne for 12 months. It was 1935. Relatives cared for us until Dad could make appropriate arrangements to care for us at Chermside. I was seven years of age and my brother was six years old.

When we returned to Chermside, we soon realized times had changed. Many old friends had moved on, and new friendships to be made. One boy, whose name was Norman, was new to the district. My brother soon made friends with Norman. What a lot of new words Frank learned from Norman?

Frank taught me the new words. One day when I was playing with Frank I was using all these new sounding new words with gusto. My Grandmother coming down the back stairs nearly had a fit, "Where did you hear those words?" she asked me.

Frank taught them to me, and he learnt them from Norman who uses them all the time.
We were then enlightened to the fact these words were swearing words and we were not to use them.

Years later I visited my brother, who had become a minister of religion, he had renewed acquaintance with his childhood friend. "Do you remember Norman." he asked.
"Yes." I replied, "He taught us our first swear words."

My brother burst into hearty laughter, "Norman would love to hear that, he too is now a minister of religion."

Childhood at Chermside

Childhood at Chermside

There were many small creeks and water holes, and children who lived at Chermside were never short of taking part in some interesting activity. Swimming or lobbying in the creeks was always worthwhile or climbing trees, building cubby houses in the scrub, or picking wild flowers and gum tips for our mothers was always an option. The boys made canoes or other types of floating craft and had fun trying them out in the creeks. Supplied with an armful of potatoes, the boys could finish off their day by roasting them by an open fire.

There was a place at Hamilton Road that the children called the Orchard, and an orchard it was. There was no house, and the orchard seemed to be abandoned, there were mulberry and guava trees on the property. Every child in the district knew when the fruit was available and we all had our fill. Never once was a child hunted from the orchid.

The church at the corner of Hamilton Road and Gympie Road was originally called Downfall Creek Church; later it was called Chermside Methodist Church. It was a wonderful, friendly meeting place for the residents of Chermside. It did not take long for the children to discover that, during the night; one could pick up a handful of gravel and throw it down, hard, onto the ground, and watch the sparks fly.

Sunday school was the meeting place to make wonderful friends, and have wonderful picnics. Picnics were held on Labor Day in May, there were paper chases, and adults served sandwiches and tea to the children who were seated in large circle, on the ground.

Later, there were foot races and prizes, games and fun. At one picnic meeting, it rained,
so the fun continued inside the church, which was highly unusual. Elva Smith, (my
Sunday school teacher,) and myself were allowed to skip inside the church with a rope.
Well! The church was old and the floor was full of borers and we went through the floor.
There was no more skipping inside the church.

We also had Lodge meetings, for children, held at the School of Arts. The Harris's were people who were always the center of all these activities; they gave so much to our childhood. How distressed we were to lose two Sunday school teachers, the Harris's boys in the dreadful circumstances of the war.

The Harris family, through their generosity of spirit and friendship, has carved permanent memorials in our hearts.

Could any child have had a richer childhood than those from Chermside? I think not.

Days of Orange and Green


Times were tough, too tough, but it seemed humans are prepared to make it even tougher for some.

The 1930s were days of serious religious intolerance, where families could be split apart because one family member changed their religious affiliation from one branch of Christianity to another.

This could have far reaching consequences in unexpected circumstances. It was not unusual for children to have only one parent. Death was always a threat, before the days of penicillin, and the medical skills of today.

One student sat in the class weeping all day. He was usually a well-behaved and very quiet boy, so it was difficult to have a feeling of rapport with him. The rest of the students in the class were concerned over the boy's distress. Another student offered the distressed boy comfort and asked what the trouble was.

The reply was, "My Mother is getting buried today, and my older sisters will not allow me to go to the funeral."

More questions followed, it seems the boy's parents were of opposing Christian religions. They had agreed to have the daughters follow the Mother's religion, and the sons follow the Father's religion. The boy believed he was not permitted to enter into his Mother's church, a belief that was reinforced by his older sisters.

I'll never forget the tragedy of that day, or the distress of that boy.

Isolation and Before Sliced Bread

ISOLATION (1938-9)

Students had attended school, on this particular day in or about 1938 or1939. They were waiting for the bell to ring heralding us to line up for assembly. The bell did not ring as expected, and it was getting late, too late.

Rumors began to circulate among the gathering students. "There is no school today," one student said. Another said," We are getting six weeks holiday." That seemed to be a little unbelievable. Eventually we were called into line, and were told to go home until further notice.

It had eventuated that a mother of some of our students had been inflicted with Poliomyelitis, (generally referred to as Infantile Paralysis). The risk of contamination to the students was considered to be serious enough to close the school for a few days.

We returned home, but not for the rumored six weeks. There was a full six weeks ban preventing children from attending meeting places, including going to the pictures at the Dawn Theatre.

Before Sliced Bread (Depression Years cf 1935)

This particular day, my Mother had to go into Brisbane, which would have taken a good part of the day. The long walk uphill to the tram terminus, at Lutwyche cemetery, was fatiguing and time consuming.

The bread had only one slice cut from the loaf. Left at home, alone, was a little boy who must have been very hungry. By the time my Mother arrived home there was only a huge hollow crust of bread remaining, the soft part had been eaten by my brother.

I can still remember my Mother cutting off each slice of crust and saying at every slice, "Look at it, look at it." Times were too austere to discard even the crust. These were the days when a meal consisted of a slice of bread, spread with dripping.

Bed clothes were made from second hand clothes taken apart at the seams and remade by hand, into a blanket. Mine lasted for many years and I loved it.

Joe or Josie?

I used to call her Josie, my neighbours called her Joan, my Grandparents called her Joe, but her real name was Bonnie Shepherd.

In 1924 she was born near Melbourne, where my Grandmother owned a haberdashery shop. Bonnie's mother came into the shop explaining that she had urgent business in the city and would my Grandmother care for the baby until she returned. My Grandmother agreed to do so. People helped one another those times, so the baby was left in my Grandmother's care.

The baby's mother never returned. My Grandmother had just lost a baby and so she poured her motherly love and care into Bonnie. The abandonment of Bonnie was never reported to the authorities. My Grandparents reared the child until she was about 4 years of age. it was believed that Bonnie then became an heiress, and the parents of Bonnie came forward to claim the child.

There followed the necessary court battles, which my grandparents knew they would lose. They played for time and prepared to flee to Queensland with Bonnie. Her hair was cut and she was dressed in boy's style clothing. If anyone asked her name, she was to say, Joe Kingsley,"

The Stantons walked away from their business and everything they possessed, and took the name of Kingsley. Eventually the Kingsleys settled at Chermside, and Joe needing an education became a little girl named Joan Kingsley.

Time passed and eventually the people from Melbourne looking for Bonnie traced her to Chermside and the school. She was taken from school (1929-1930) and my Grandparents waited in vain for Joan to come home. They could not go to the Police, because they had broken the law in not handing Bonnie over to her rightful parents. The Kingsleys returned to Melbourne to look for Bonnie and, once again, they became Stantons; they never saw Bonnie again.

About 1945 a lady knocked on our door, the place where Bonnie used to live. My Stepmother answered the door. The lady asked to see Mrs. Fullwood, "I'm Mrs. Fullwood." was my Stepmothers reply. My stepmother explained that the first Mrs. Fullwood had died.
"Well, may I see the children, "the lady asked.
"No." said my Stepmother, and she sent the lady away.

That evening my brother and I were informed about the stranger. My heart sank, because I knew my Stepmother had sent Josie away.

The editor found the following information in the Society Archives.

Chermside State School Register
Of the thousands of children who attended the school, there are only two Kingsley children registered.

Joan - No. 1416 12th September 1928 Age 5.6 yrs Born --/12/1923 Parent Mr Kingsley - Iron
Pipe Maker, Victor Drive, Chermside - E. C. (Church of England)
Classes Gr 1 Sept 1928 Gr 2 Jan. 1930 Left July 1930

Jean - No. 1471 20th May 1929 Age 6.2 years Born 11/2/1923 Parent Joseph Kingsley -
Fruiter, Victor Drive, Chermside - E. C
Classes Gr 1 May 1929 Gr 2 Jan 1930 Left July 1930

It looks as if the one person, Joan or Jean Kingsley was registered twice at Chermside State School. Why?
More importantly, how was she registered twice?
Surely the teachers would have known who she was from the previous year. The Head Teacher, who was responsible for maintaining the register, Mr Samuel Menerey, was there from 1925 to 1934. However, there was a strong tendency among teachers in those early days to be able to count more pupils than ever the inspectors could find, so she might have slipped through.

The age on enrolment of Joan/Jean is consistent with one person; the address is consistent; Grade 2 is consistent; the leaving date is consistent.

Privileged and A Lesson with Mr Rice

In the early thirties life and times seemed harsh and unfair to many children. Several children lived in poverty, some had lost a parent; one family of girls had lost both parents. At least four schoolmates had died as children. Child abuse was acceptable; by community standards, parents had the right to brutally control their children.

Many students of Chermside State School felt indifferent about attending classes. It was something we had to do. The best day of the year was break up day, a treat that Mr Rice offered, in great style.

The students were indulged with gifts, fruit and sweets distributed by some parents, then we were dismissed for six weeks. Six weeks of swimming or lobbying in the local creeks, playing Monoply; riding our bicycles, or having fin climbing and chopping down trees. We would build a cubby house on a nearby vacant block, bring sandwiches from home and have our own picnic.

Several years ago I purchased second hand an old encyclopedia. As I flipped through some of the encyclopedia's volumes, I was flooded with memories of school days. There were many, many poems, stories and lessons, which had been part of my education.

In my maturity, I was able to consider the quality of our school lessons. I marveled at the richness of it, and in appreciation of the teachers that gave us so much without adequate recognition and reward. I offered a belated heartfelt prayer of thanks.

Indeed we were privileged, although we were unaware of it at the time.


I would like to tell one wonderful story about Mr Rice our headmaster. He taught our class whenever it was necessary. This particular morning he conducted the usual school parade. When we were in our places in the classroom, he announced that his dog has been poisoned by a bate and we were to accompany him into his back yard.

When we arrived there, we circled around the prostrate dog. Mrs Rice brought out a mixture of Epsom Salts and water in a bowl. Mr Rice then appointed the larger boys to assist him as he forcefully poured the liquid down the dog's throat. In turns the boys and the Master swung the dog in circles holding the boor animal by its back legs. After awhile the dog was place on the grass and we returned to the classroom.

Our lesson that day, we were told, was 'how to save a dog that has been poisoned'. We were keen to learn f the outcome of that morning's lesson. The dog lived.

Mr Rice earned a special place in our hearts that day. (Jack Smeeton was one boy who helped swing the dog.)

The Cinnamon Cake

The Cinnamon Cake - Val Ross

In 1935 my brother and I had spent almost 12 months in Melbourne. My mother, who had been devoted to us and indulged us as much as circumstances permitted, had been ill with a heart condition; she needed rest. Her elderly parents had agreed to care for us, in order to help my mother recover.

Sadly, my mother did not recover, and we returned to Chermside. Being in Melbourne during the cold winter weather, my clothes were warm and thick with thick Lyle stockings my wardrobe was complete. This clothing was very much out of place in the warm Brisbane climate. My Grandmother did not seem to understand or could not help; I had to wear these unsuitable clothes.

Now, in reflection, I suppose there was a real shortage of funds within our family, considering the expense of my Mother's illness, death, and our travelling expenses back to Chermside. There were no luxuries for us. It had been a long time since I'd eaten a piece of cake, or fruit. Breakfast consisted of white bread cut into cubes, sprinkled with sugar and milk. Never during my short life had I tasted Cornflakes or Weetbix. These were luxuries.

One day at lunchtime, I remember being in the back of the school ground,. I was feeling so dejected, alone, and also so ugly in my thick hot clothes, when unexpectedly a teacher approached me. She had a cinnamon cake, which she said she could not eat and would I like it. Suddenly I felt like the ugly duckling, the moment it found out it was a beautiful swan.

Me! The teacher had noticed me, of all the other children, the teacher gone out of her way singling me out to offer me this cake. I gratefully accepted it.

No cake had ever tasted so good. How long was it since I had eaten home made cake? I couldn't remember.

The cinnamon flavour was so unique and delicious; it created its own memorial.

Today, whenever I have cinnamon, I am compelled to remember that teacher and the occasion.

The teacher in her kindness, unknowingly, created her own permanent memorial in my psyche.

The Grey Days of War


The children of Chermside had noted the rumblings of war. On day sitting in class looking through the window, we saw the soldiers on horseback gathered at the corner of Gympie Road and Rode Road. It was morning recess, which we used to call it 'Elevener'. Several of the students went to speak with the soldiers and to attempt to charm some of them into giving us the feathers from their army hats. It did not happen. Few people realize Australia had a real Light Horse Battalion at the beginning of the Second World War.

More and more soldiers were transported to and were camped at Chermside. There was no need for a clock in the home, as the sounds of the bugle calls could be clearly heard from Marchant's Park to the Dawn theatre. Every morning and night, meal times and bedtimes the various bugle calls became part of our lives. The children knew what each tune meant and had appropriate words to accompany every call.

The School of Arts hall became a very popular place for dancing each Friday night, and no lady was left to sit alone unless by choice. There was always somebody's Mum at the dance, unobtrusively observing and protecting us.

The policeman was always available, he would stand in the foyer of the Dawn Theatre every night the theatre was open. If there was trouble at the School of Arts, one only had to cross the road and enter the theatre foyer and help was on hand in seconds. The Chermside I knew was trouble free.

During the war some commodities were hard to buy. Chocolate, potato crisps, hairpins and elastic were among such items. Some necessities were rationed. Our manpower was not squandered but to be utilized towards wartime successes. The lamp posts of many streets had signs upon them, informing the reader that the people of the street were subscribing cash to the Red Cross for the benefits of Prisoners of War. The women formed a group called the Australian Comforts Fund (A.C.F.) and they knitted and did charitable works for our soldiers.

A radio station had regular concert benefits, which were named Smokes of Sick Soldiers. Funds were raised to distribute cigarettes and other small comforts to give to the soldiers in hospitals. The Dawn Theatre was a host to one such party, which I attended. I was selected with a few other ladies to sew a patch on the trousers of selected male victims. The ladies were seated on stage and the boys had to lean across our laps as we sewed the patch upon the seat of their trousers. After a few needle pricks in the victim's bottom, the audience were in fits of laughter. Those occasions were never to be forgotten days.

The Lady and the Lamp

Our first neighbours were elderly, and were like grandparents to my brother and me.

Mrs. Phipps had retired as a hospital matron, but she had not retired from the attitude that was part of a matron's armour. To reinforce her control, she continued to claim the title of MATRON.

Her home was an amazing display of her prolific artistic talents. Curtains were made from thousands of tiny pink shells sewn by hand in long strips and mounted upon a rod. They were very unusual; all her cushions had drawings upon them. Sketched in Indian Ink were kookaburras, koalas, peacocks and so on. Embroidery and all manner of home crafts adorned her home.

Mattie Phipps was well known throughout Chermside. During the 193O's as it was often the choice for the women to give birth at home, Mattie Phipps often acted as mid-wife. She personally knew all her children and had an enduring interest concerning their progress throughout life. Mothers would often bring their baby sons to her home, and the doctor in attendance would perform a ritual snip. It was not unusual to hear the cry of infants emanating from her home.

My brother and myself had a very strong bond with Mattie and Mr. Phipps, they were like grandparents us. Both of us were well aware that we had received special treatment from them, and we felt deep affection toward them. I knew I could always seek comfort or friendship From Mattie.

Little did I realize there would come a time when my brother would be screaming as loudly as any child that had entered through her doors.

My father had owned a motorbike, with a carbide type lamp. He stored the bike under the house where my brother and self often played. One day, while we played, the bike fell over and carbide went into my brother's eyes. No time to waste, my father dashed with my brother into Mattie's home; my Mother rushed in also, carrying my brother's high chair. I was banished from the scene.

After some time I ventured up Mattie's back stairs, there was water flowing from her kitchen door as if someone had turned on a hose. I entered the kitchen, the floor was covered in about half an inch of water, and I saw my brother tied firmly in the highchair while Mattie continued to furiously syringe his eyes with water. This was not the time to be house proud.

In spite of the mishap, my brother grew up with good vision, I wonder if he would have been so fortunate if it wasn't for a follower of THE LADY WITH THE LAMP.

The School Bell


The school building at the beginning of 1930 was small; the next 10 years saw a rapid expansion of both student numbers and in the number of classrooms. The children were called to assembly, by the ringing of a hand bell until the school became large enough to have a large bell mounted on a tall frame, set in the school grounds.

An older student was nominated to be the bell ringer. The bell rang out and the sound of the chimes could be heard over half a mile away. It reminded us that in a few minutes it was time to fall in for assembly, and if we were not yet at school, it was time for us to hurry along.

That arrangement seemed to work well and please everyone, until some prankster thought it would be fun to ring the bell in the middle of the night. The sound of the chimes in the still of night could be heard all over Chermside. Next morning at school assembly, an admonishment was given the unknown culprit. The whole affair was a joke, we believed that would be the end of the matter.

Not so! Frequently, within the next couple of months, during the late night the bell's chiming woke the residents of Chermside. The joke ceased to be funny, the chiming, now had become a nuisance that had to be stopped. The bell, stripped of its pride of place, was partly dismantled; there was silence once again.

Tit for Tat


We had returned to Chermside from our stay in Melbourne, and during our absence Dad had the Evans family share his home and help out with the running of the home. Mrs. Evans was a gem, as she took over the roll of a temporary Mother to my brother and me. When everything is so good something got to happen to spoil the situation. This was going to be no exception.

Mrs. Evans won the casket. The Evan's family no longer needed to share our premises. They had the means to buy their own home now, which they did. When they left they gave us their Rosella Parrot. This was no ordinary parrot; he could sing Pop goes the Weasel, which was very amusing to all fortunate enough to hear the bird.

One day the parrot flew away, and flew to the Woolgar's home. The Woolgars had a lovely collection of birds and parrots, so I suppose the parrot was looking for company of its own species.

Dad went to the Woolgars and asked for our parrot to be returned, but the Woolgars were not relinquishing their uninvited guest. Oh, well, that was that, or was it?

A couple of months later, a very lovely Galah was perched on our back fence. "That's Woolgar's galah." I said. I stretched my arm towards the bird and the galah climbed upon it. The bird was taken inside and that night, the father of the Woolgar boys came and asked for their bird. "No, your not getting it.' Was my Dad's response, "you wouldn't return our parrot and now you are not getting your galah."

We kept the bird and it was a good companion. I don't know if it was really was a good deal, considering the polished wooden furniture and dining room suit that the bird gnawed into one day. Eventually a flock of galahs flew by our place, and rested in a tall tree opposite our home. Our galah flew off and joined them.