Interview with: Hilma Weston (nee Anderson)
Date of Interview: 9 May 1985
Interviewer: Amanda Wilson
Transcriber: Colwyn Boulton
Hilma Vuolle was born 28 October 1898 at Kilnkoski in Finland and migrated with her family in 1900 for Australia. Hilma's family on arrival in Australia changed their name by deed poll to Anderson. Hilma Anderson married Harold Fredrick Weston on 5 June 1920.
Images and documents about Hilma Weston in the Sunshine Coast Libraries Catalogue.
Image credit: Hilma Weston, 1917.
Begin Tape 1/Side A
AGW: Mrs Weston, when were you born?
WESTON: I was born in Finland.
AGW: When though?
WESTON: Oh, 28 October 1898 at Kilnkoski.
AGW: Where abouts in Finland is that?
WESTON: That's on the northern part.
AGW:And how did you come to Australia?
WESTON:We came by ship. It was in the winter time when we left and we went to Ahtari, caught a train from Ahtari to Honkionime. We left Finland from Honkionime . Then we went to Hull, in England and we took the train from there to London. Where we caught a ship to Australia.
AGW: There were mostly immigrants on the ship?
WESTON: Oh yes. I showed you in that there, that we came with a group. This man came, what's his name again? Oh yes, Mattikurikah.
AGW: And he came to the village and told ...?
WESTON: Well he came to many Finnish people and asked them would they were interested in going to this new country, Australia.
AGW: So at the time in Finland things weren't so good?
WESTON: No, as I say the hours were long and the wages were poor.
AGW: So why did your parents come to Australia?
WESTON: Well for that reason. Well this was a new country and he had read so much about it, gold fields in Ballarat and Gympie and so forth. And he thought, 'Oh well, it's a new country. ' He was very interested in this new country.
AGW: How many brothers and sisters immigrated with your family?
WESTON: Oh there was Oscar and Bob, Tyyni, Sal and I and Edwin was born, we landed in January. Edwin was born in Brisbane on 4th April
AGW: That 'was in 1900?
WESTON: 1900, yes.
AGW: So you were fifteen months old when you arrived?
WESTON: Oh, would I have been sixteen months old?
AGW: Roughly about fifteen or sixteen months old?
AGW: Yes cause October, late October.
AGW: Where was your Mother born?
WESTON: She was born in Ahtari.
AGW: Do you know when she was born?
WESTON: Oh dear, I think I've got it in my birthday book.
AGW: It's okay we 'll work that out later. What were your parents occupations?
WESTON: Oh farming.
AGW: This is in Finland?
WESTON:Yes, they were farmers, yes.
AGW: What is your maiden name?
WESTON: My maiden name, well when we were in Finland, we were known as Vuolle and we came to this country, well, they didn't quite understand foreign names. When it all went down on paper they always had it spelt wrong or something like that, so he thought the best thing is to change it. And his father's name is Andy, so he gave the name of Anderson.
AGW: In those days was it necessary to change your name through deed poll or could you just change it?
WESTON: Oh no done by poll. It was - nearly all the Finns did that, in those days. Our neighbours were Pehuleveta and they changed it to Renlund. And
who else? Lundon, he was Lundanti and he changed it to Lunden.
AGW: These are neighbours from Image Flat?
WESTON: Yes, they're all in Image Flat I'm talking about, right back to Image Flat now.
AGW: So it was a common thing for immigrants to change their names because..?
WESTON: Well there was so much misunderstanding, especially when you bought property and things like that. Everything had to be correct, you see. They always had trouble spelling and so forth.
AGW: Why did your family move to Image Flat, was there any particular reason?
WESTON: Yes, I'll tell you why. G.L. Bury, he was high up in the Sugar Mill - what would you call him, Executive?
AGW: Was he an official in the Sugar Mill?
WESTON: Yes, he owned the land. He owned the land all round in Image Flat and each of us took out seven year leases over it. It didn't cost us anything to go on the land, but we had to open it up.
AGW: So these are people you came out on the boat with? That came to Image Flat, or were these Finnish people that were already here?
WESTON:No, in fact they all came on the same boat. Renlunds came and who else came? Lundon was on it, and Kotkama's, Hannus's .
AGW: So you all went to Mr Bury and got a seven year lease for this land at Image Flat?'
WESTON: That's right. They didn't all do that but Lyntrucses they left for America. They didn't take the full term. They were paid - this is something very strange - but they weren’t paid for the work they did on the place. I remember Mum and I, I was only young - I don't know how old, I must have been about five I think - and she comes out with this. We had to say goodbye to them. She came out with this tabacco tin, she said, "Gus Raha". ("Look at money") She had this tobacco tin full of gold soverigns .
AGW: What did they get that money for?
WESTON:For the work. They were paid for the work they did on this farm.
AGW: On the farm?
WESTON:That's right. And they went to America. I'd like to take you to Image Flat, to see how hilly it is. How it gets it's name I don't know.
AGW: So they got very hard living, trying to make a living off there?
WESTON: Oh yes, it was very dry in 1902 drought. The biggest drought that 's ever known in Australia, or Queensland. They survived all that and how they did it I don't know. They had to go down the creek and wash and do your washing and everything like that. Carry your water.
AGW: Going back to Image Flat, where did your family live? You got the seven year lease on the land Mr Bury owned and you had to build a house. Where did you live while your father was building the house?
WESTON:Well I'd better tell you when we left Brisbane you see. We had to wait for four months. We came in January and Mum was pregnant you see, we couldn’t go to a place like that because there was no doctors and hospitals, anything so we waited in Brisbane Edwin was born. He was born in April but it may have been May or June. We arrived from Brisbane by train and then we had to go.
AGW: By train to Nambour?
WESTON: Yes, we came to Nambour and we had to carry all our belongings. And virgin scrub, it was all virgin scrub, a bit of forest too. But we came out to Image Flat then, and there was a bark house that the bullockies had for their you know - where they camped. And that’s where we stayed until that was built.
AGW: So can you remember while the house was being built or were you still too young?
WESTON: No I remember when there was a bit of forest there, beside the road and he had to fall the timber, the pine, bunya pine trees. And he cut sapplings, you know about say five foot or four foot six or five foot long. You know, like a fence sapling, no longer, boards. And however, he made all that. Cause he had a bit of money saved up from the depot, cause he was working in Brisbane, as you see in that there. Working in Brisbane. And of course he had money from Finland
WESTON: too. I don’t think it cost us anything to come out, I thïnk we came out as migrants you see. So anyhow Father then started building this house and had to pull all the trees, make all the saplings, you know like they do. And then the shingles on the roof and all that. Nice house too, it was ‘L’ shaped and made frames like this and Mum put - Dad made the frames and Mum put the calico on them.
AGW: This is for windows?
WESTON: For the windows, yes.
AGW: So how long did’ your family live in this house?
WESTON: Well for seven years, we lived in that house for seven years. And then our time was up, we either had to buy the place or sell ït.
AGW: So that was a condition of the lease, that you’d take it for seven years and either buy it, or move out?
WESTON: That’s right. So he decided to move out, then we came to Bli Bli here.
AGW: Well getting back to Image Flat, you would have been of a school age?
WESTON: No I wasn’t at school age yet, but we went to Highworth School.
AGW: Highworth, and where was that?
WESTON: Well Highworth is on the road going up to Dulong. It’s a funny thing, it’s never mentioned anytime, Highworth isn’t mentioned. It’s along that - you know after the hospital, you go up to Mapleton, do you, but you get to Dulong first. Just below the range, below the range.
AGW: So that’s where the school was there, at Highworth?
WESTON: That’s right. We had to walk from Image Flat to there.
AGW: Did many children go to this school there?
WESTON: Oh yes, I had a photo but someone’s pinched it. I’m getting someone to print one for me, so some day I’ll show that to you.
AGW: So you can’t really remember how many children went there?
WESTON: There were a lot of blacks and a lot of Finns, and Irish and Germans amongst us all. Only a one teacher school, a Miss Jones, she was very good. Course when I started school, I couldn’t even speak the language. She had to teach us the language and everything.
AGW: That’s interesting. So most children had to learn English?
WESTON: Oh yes. But it’s marvellous how quickly a child can pick it up. And I loved school, you couldn’t keep me away from school. I liked it very much.
AGW: Oid you have very far to travel to get to school?
WESTON: Oh yes. Say from here to Bli Bli.
AGW: How would you get to school?
WESTON: Well you had to walk. Walk along the tramline and I remember one day, I fell in the mud. I was that keen to go to school, I fell down in the mud and Bob had to bring me back to get another dress and Mum said, “Oh you can’t go to school now.” Well I howled and I said, “No, I’m going.” And put on another dress and off I went.
AGW: So how old were you when you went to school?
WESTON: I started when I was four.
AGW: You were four, so that would have been in 1902. So that’s the same year as the big drought. Can you remember any of the effects of the big drought?
WESTON: Oh, don’t I!
AGW: Do you want to tell me a little bit about that?
WESTON: Well Mum had to go down the creek and wash.
AGW: Which creek was this?
WESTON: There’s one Bark House Creek, that they call Bark House Creek. That is not far from where we first lived, in the bark house. And then, from there the water had run out, we went to Gaylards Creek. Gaylards were our neighbours.
AGW: So Bark House Creek dried up?
WESTON: Yes, at that time.
AGW: How did the drought affect the farmers of the area?
WESTON: Well I think Father had the best farm in Image Flat, cause it’s nice and flat - I’ll take you there some day if you like. And it’s a lovely farm, I’ve been out there several times. But the others, it was so steep. See when they got no rain, the cane didn’t grow and so forth and they couldn’t make a go of it. That’ s why they left - Koskis and Lyntrucs, - they left because they just couldn’t make a...
AGW: The business centre of Nambour - I know there’s a few springs in Nambour and they also dried up, so what did people do for water?
WESTON: Well you had to just go for the first puddle hole there was.
AGW: How long did the drought last for?
WESTON: Well I remember when it was broken we had a terrible storm, it was cane cutting time...
AGW: So when’s cane cutting time, that’s roughly in September isn’t it?
WESTON: No, used to start in July, August, September and go until Christmas time. And another thing, T.M. Bourke, they used to have horses drawing the empty trucks from Nambour, and the full trucks then up to Highworth School and the line used to go down, they used to bring all the full cane trucks up to just opposite the school. Of course the tramline ran to Nambour then.
AGW: So all the farmers had to get all their cane to the line near the school?
WESTON: T.M. Bourke did all that hauling with his horses.
AGW: With horses?
WESTON: Yes, there was no locos in those days, only horses.
AGW: Did the Mapleton tram go up that way, can you remember?
WESTON: Oh no, that’s many years afterwards. Yes I remember that.
AGW: Can you remember what year the Mapleton tramway went through?
WESTON: Oh I can’ t think.
AGW: Well roughly how old were you?
WESTON: I can’t think. Cause I got the Buderim tram once, the tram that used to go up to Buderim too, at one time. Yes we can work that out later.
AGW: After the big drought there was also redwater fever that struck all the cattle of the area, a tick from up north?
WESTON: Hardly anybody had a cow. We only had a house cow.
AGW: So you had to be fairly well off to have a bullock team in those days?
WESTON: Oh no, we didn’t have a bullock team, oh no. Bullock teams were on their own, there was a lot of timber there in those days. It was all scrub, it was beautiful pine, pine timber you see.
AGW: So how did the redwater fever hit the bullockies, like their bullocks would have been dying?
WESTON: Oh redwater? Oh that was later on when we came to Bli Bli.
AGW: Really? So it hit the Sunshine Coast much later?
WESTON: Oh yes. Because we came to Bli Bli in 1909 I think...
AGW: No, if your lease was only seven years and you’d taken up...
WESTON: Oh yes, I’m sorry, my age was nine. That’s right, I get mixed ups That’s right. Seven years that’s right. But we were here in 8h Bli a good many years before the redwater hit. Luckily Dad doctored his cows and we didn’t lose one. But Love’s, Saint’s, they lost every one of their cattle.
AGW: These are some neighbours here at Bhi Eli?
WESTON: That’s right. Mr Love, he had a dairy farm and they kept all the separators and everything, and newly married too. He married the school teacher from Rosemount School and Saint’s, they had a family, just started too. And they lost all their cattle.
AGW: You were saying at Highworth School there were a lot of aboriginal children, were there many aboriginals living in the area?
WESTON: No that’s South Sea Islanders. They came here to cut cane in those days. They were really nice and some of them were not really dark. And they were nice and slender and so forth and some of them were very brilliant, great at drawing and painting.
AGW: How did they go at school?
WESTON: Very good.
AGW: Can you remember as a child much said, ill-feeling or discrimination against the South Sea Islanders?
WESTON: No we all got on very well.
AGW: You had a very multi-cultural school didn’t you? You had Germans and Finns.
WESTON: That’s right. As I say, English and Irish and German and Finns and South Sea Islanders. We had Luke Taana. We had one aboriginal, Luke and Mary Taana, they were very black and ugly, to my way of thinking. I was always afraid of them.
AGW: How did the local people, just the general people in Nambour, treat people of other nationalities?
WESTON: It’s never been brought up against us, you know.
AGW: What about the blacks, were they treated differently?
WESTON: No, no everybody got on very well. But of course the South Sea Islanders they had to leave.
AGW: Can you remember what year that was that the Government brought the change in?
WESTON: Well we left the Highworth School, as I say, after seven years and we came here.
AGW: It would be roughly 1906 or 1907?
WESTON: Yes, I think it would be.
AGW: That the Islanders were sent home?
WESTON: Yes, Emily Santo, the Santo’s, Taanas and Neurses.
AGW: Neruses, that was another Islander family?
AGW: Did you have any Kanakas on your farm?
WESTON: No, no we didn’t have any Kanakas at all.
AGW: They mainly worked down here on the bigger land owners farms?
WESTON: I don’t know really where they worked, because they were camped not far from between our school and Nambour. I don’t know just where they lived or anything or what sort of huts, or anything they lived in, but they lived somewhere between Nambour and Image Flat, along that tramline somewhere. That’s where they came from, up in that direction.
AGW: So moving along, when your seven year lease finalized, what did your parents do then?
WESTON: Well we left Image Flat to come to Eli Eli.
AGW: Did your father get paid for the house he built on Mr Bury’s land?
WESTON: Oh yes, he got two hundred and fifty pound for the work. And when we came here, there was fifty acres to that block and he got two hundred and fifty for the work he put into the house he built and Gaylards bought it. And Gaylards still own it. He bought this hundred and sixty-five acres for the same money.
AGW: Here at Bli Eli?
WESTON: Yes. He paid cash for it.
AGW: So that’s this property here? What’s this area here called? Is this Eli Eli hill?
WESTON: Well this has always been Anderson’s Hill, because Dad owned all the property, first there was the one hundred and sixty-five acres. There’s five hundred shares to the Sugar Mill into that too.
AGW: So you got five hundred shares in the Sugar Mill as well?
WESTON: Yes, the Bank Manager came out. See he had paid cash for the land and he had the deeds and all, and the Bank Manager came out, you know Dad went to get a loan, and he came out to see what the property was like and he said, “You haven’t even got a pig in the place, I can’t lend you any money.”
AGW: So there was discrimination there from the Bank Manager?
WESTON: Did you ever hear anything so stupid?
AGW: You were telling me your parents couldn’t speak English so you had to act as interpreter for them. How did, say the Bank Manager, how did he react having to negotiate with children? you would have been nine at the time.
AGW: That’s right, of course Oscar and Bob they were older than I was.
AGW: So they did most of the interpretating?
WESTON: Thatt s right. Dad had a very good friend, Albert Hillman, Mr Hillman. He did a lot of his main part, interpret and I don’t know how many languages he spoke, but he was really Dad’s main man. That’s what - all the things you know, if you’d go out with Father you know, with business dealings like that.
AGW: So the whole family moved here to Bu Bli, to Anderson’s Hill in 1907?
WESTON: That’s right.
AGW: Was there a house on the property?
WESTON: Oh yes, oh it had glass windows, oh it was nice. It had a nice roof on it too. And there was nice boards on it. We thought we were in Buckingham Palace. Although Dad’s house was lovely you know, the one that he built, it was really nice, one of the nicest ones there. And he had flooring and everything on it, you know and it was big. I haven’t told you about that one, did I? About the one Dad built in Image Flat.
AGW: The ‘L’ shaped house?
WESTON: That’s right.
AGW: So that’s the one Mr Gaylard bought?
WESTON: Mr Gaylard, that’s right.
AGW: Where did you go to school once you moved here to Bli Bli?
WESTON: Well we were told we should have gone to the Bli Bli school because Hillman said, “You’ve got a very good. ..“ and she was Miss Blakely now. All
WESTON: her people were school teachers, from the mother and the father.
AGW: Miss Blakely was the school teacher at Eli Bli?
WESTON: Miss Blakely yes. But anyhow Prentices came along and Gomersalls. Course we had I think four going to school, there was Tyyni and Saland, I and Edwin. So they had four going to school. They were going to close it if they couldn’t get anymore pupils. So anyway they came along on this Sunday, that was the following year. See we came in January this would be, they came along and asked Mum and Dad would they allow us to go to Rosemount School, cause they’re going to close it up if they can’t get anymore pupils. Dad was very much against it but Mum said, “Oh we’d better send them to Rosemount School.”
AGW: So who came from Rosemount School to see if you were going to that school? Who was it that came to see your parents to ask if the children were going to Rosemount?
WESTON: Mrs Prentice and Mrs Gomersall.
AGW: Mrs Gomersall, right. So you and your brothers and sisters went to Rosemount?
WESTON: That’s right.
AGW: Was that, the school called Sylvania School then?
WESTON: Sylvania, yes. The trouble is we were needing teachers. Mr West was teaching, but he was a very sick man and he left. We had so many relieving teachers only. We had Miss Power and Mr Mamey — oh and I tell you what he used to do too - he used to play football up there. And he’d have a football afternoon and he’d go off to play his football. And he said, he used to leave us kids, and he said, “Now no-one must leave until half past three. And when half past three comes, then close up the school and go off home.” We never told anybody - oh that was lovely - anyhow we used to stay in school and do our work. And the older boys used to lock up and we used to go home, real good. We didn’t burn the school. Just as if the teacher was there.
AGW: And nobody knew?
WESTON: Nobody knew, we didn’t tell.
AGW: What’s the name of this teacher?
WESTON: His name was Bernard Mahoney I think. Mamey.
AGW: And he used to go off and play football and leave you children at school to do your work?
WESTON: We thought it was good.
AGW: That’s interesting. Did many girls go on to do higher education?
WESTON: Oh no, no, nobody went to the higher education, there was no such thing as secondary school. If you wanted to go to scholarship, you had to go to Gympie or Brisbane.
AGW: So did anybody you go to school do further education?
WESTON: Not in those days. No not in those days at all. We had the relieving teachers, were very poor too you know.
AGW: When you say poor, poor financially or the way they treated you?
WESTON: No the way they taught really. Because they were only there for a short time and so forth.
AGW: So you felt that maybe your education suffered?
WESTON: Oh yes, if we had of gone to Bli Bli School, we had a good teacher there, and we wouldn’t of had any interference because she taught at the school, there was never any changes there. We managed anyhow.
End Side A/Begin Side B
WESTON: Our best clothes we’d have them made by a dressmaker, coming home from school. And she always had her good clothes made... and our hats. We used to order our hats in Whalleys.
AGW: In Nambour?
WESTON: Yes in Nambour.
AGW: So you all had a good going out outfit?
WESTON: Yes we had to go to Sunday School. We had those Leghorn hats you know, not leghorn, but you know, those hats and they were beautifully trimmed with lace and muslin and all that.
AGW: Looking at old photos I noticed that most women did wear hats in those days, was that out of fashion?
WESTON: No it was essential, to wear hats in those days, in the summer too you know.
AGW: Because of the heat?
WESTON: Everybody wore hats. And we didn’t get any Government assistance. I might tell you this too. We had no Government assistance, it was only through William Whalley, he would give us twelve months credit, and J.T. Lowe, he was the butcher, he used to give us twelve months. And the cane cheques would come at the end of the year, they used to be paid.
AGW. So once a year you would get a check from the Sugar Mill?
WESTON: That’s right.
AGW: Before you were telling me about being an interpreter for your parents and you were going to tell me about the Sugar Mill? Did you ever have to go and do any business wïth the Sugar Mill people?
WESTON: Well yes, if Dad ever wanted anything done, he’d always take one of us.
AGW: When you say done, what do you mean?
WESTON: Well let me tell you this instance. Now Sal went, that’s my twin sister, she was only a little thing, I was much taller, she was short and fat and I was tall and thin, so anyhow she’s only a little girl. She went in with Dad one day and Dad was very angry about something. Scott was the inspector, secretary at the mill and here’s this bit of a kid, rousing on Scott like, you know, and they talked about this later on, they must have had a good laugh, she said, “Dad was angry, so I thought I’d have to be angry “
AGW: Do you remember what your father was angry about?
WESTON: Oh I don’t know, but there was many things you know, Dad did for the Mill, because he had shares in the Mill too. I suppose he can’t grumble at that. When they built this line up here, he gave all the timber for the bridges and all that you know.
AGW: Because Lorna Fischer was telling us how her father was put in as a farmers’ representative checking on the Mill because at some stage, the Mill wasn’t doing the right thing to the farmers as far as checking the right weights of the cane coming in, the C.C.P. I think it’s called, or C.C.F., C.C.P. which is the sugar content. Did you have any problems with the Mill in that way?
WESTON: No we didn’t have anything like that, but different things that Dad did and you know and so forth. Little incidentals.
AGW: So when you moved here your parents went into sugar farming again?
WESTON: Yes, he went into sugar farming. He finished up with fruit, pineapples, bananas and dairying and Sal and I, we all went to work. Cause Sal and I used to milk the cows and feed the calves and pigs.
AGW: So when you finished school...
WESTON: Yes, funny, when we went to school we never had to do anything at all.
AGW: No chores at home?
WESTON: No chores at all!
AGW: That would have been unusual for the time?
WESTON: Yes, thatt s right. Mum did everything herself. Then of course there was my elder sister, she left school, she was a bit of a help to her. We made our own bread, own butter.
AGW: So you were practically self-sufficient in your food ways?
WESTON: Oh yes, that’s right.
AGW: How did you get your produce to market?
WESTON: Well I’ll tell you about the groceries too. I’ll tell you about how we used to get our groceries - Mum would always get a big order for a month, a sack of flour, a bag of sugar, a case of kerosene, a hundred weight of potatoes. Whalley used to bring them out.
AGW: Whalleys delivered?
WESTON: They deliver. There was no order men in those days. You took the order in, for about a month.
AGW: How would you get to Nambour, like how would you cross Tuckers Creek for example?
WESTON: Well there was a bridge there. There was a bridge there and nobody had a car. You always used to walk.
AGW: You’d walk into Nambour?
WESTON: Yes, walked into Nambour. We had a horse, we had a horse and saddle. But later on we got a sulky, when we got on our feet a bit, we had a sulky. Mum and Dad went to Brisbane to have a big buy. They bought lino for the house and Mum got lovely curtains, we thought they were nice anyhow.
AGW: This is all from Brisbane?
WESTON: That’s right, they went to Brisbane.
AGW: Did you go to Brisbane often, when you were a child?
WESTON: . Oh, I’ll tell you what Dad used to do. We always, at school we got, whoever wanted to travel on the train at all. I don’t remember that. At Christmas time when school closed up we said we were going to Brisbane so we got a pass. And Dad used to take Sal and I practically every holiday, down to Brisbane.
AGW: What was that like?
WESTON: Oh we thought it was lovely. Yes we used to stay with friends down there you know. He was a bit of a kid, you know. He used to take us to the museum and to the gardens and everywhere like that - oh we thought it was Christmas.
AGW: Getting back to cane farming, were there many Finnish people in the area with cane farms?
WESTON: Yes, when we lived at Image Flat, there were all cane farms.
AGW: How about out here at Bli Bli?
WESTON: Oh yes, well the Suosaaris came many years after the First World War, they came out.
AGW: The Suosaaris?
WESTON: Suosaaris. They came out about 1917 I think, or 1918.
AGW: So did you know Doris Sousaari? She was in the Neptune Womens Swimming Team.
WESTON: Oh that was Vic’s wife.
AGW: She married Axel’s brother.
WESTON: That’s right.
AGW: Do you remember her at all?
WESTON: She was a swimmer, that’s right. My sister married Jo Suosaari, my younger sister Lil, married Jo Suosaari the swimmer.
AGW: With the cane fields and the Kanakas going back, I was reading the other day about the unions wouldn’t sign on any blacks in the unions, and to work in the cane fields you had to be in the union.
WESTON: I was too young, but I don’t think there was any unions or anything like that. Very often Dad had men working for him, even at Bli Bli and Image Flat too. There was Albert Roosevelt. I don’t know what nationality he was; he worked for Dad for a long long time. He used to give him a pound a week and keep. Even here, he always had someone working for him. Although there was Oscar and Bob too, but you see there’s so much to be done on a farm.
AGW: What would you do in harvest time? Did you just get in Contract Gangs?
WESTON: Oh no, they used to have a Cane Gang. Oh I had a photo too of a cane gang.
AGW: I’ve heard, somebody else that we’ve interviewed mentioned that there were a lot of Finnish people in the area and quite often it was a habit for people working in the fields, to work in the nude. Can you remember any of that going on? The Finnish people in the cane fields used to work in the nude, because it was so hot, it was much easier, can you remember any of that going on around here?
WESTON: What rot. What did they say?
AGW: They said there were a lot of people that would work in the nude from the Finnish community.
WESTON: Oh rubbish.
AGW: No, you don’t think it happened?
WESTON: That’s all a lot of rubbish! You know what they used to do? What Father used to have? A flannel shirt, Mum used to make the flannel shirts, they always used to have that. Big flannel shirts, you know what flannel is? And they’d have them loose over their pants cause it was that hot.
AGW: So maybe that was a little bit of somebody discriminating there against the community?
WESTON: No. That’s one thing the Finns would never do. You say no clothes at all? Oh, who said that?
AGW: I was just told.
WESTON: No, that’s all poppycock. There’s absolutely nothing in that at all. That’s absolutely disgusting.
AGW: Well did you hear any rumours like that going around in the old days?
AGW: Was there much integration of the nationalities socially?
WESTON: No we used to go to dances and we used to have a wonderful time and we had our tennis clubs and so forth. Go to dances down here, no there was never anything like that.
AGW: As far as the cultural activities, did your parents or the Finnish community generally, did they bring any cultural background with them from Finland? Say festivals or celebrations at all?
WESTON: No, it was a very funny thing. They tried to forget Finland. In those days you didn’t like to say you were foreign somehow.
AGW: Why do you think that was?
WESTON: I don’t know. There was no need for it, but see when you leave a country, you’ve got to live like the country does and forget. Kotkama’s were the only ones, I think that were a bit that... Some of the Finn girls married Finns and others married Australians.
AGW: Well you were telling me that your father built a sauna?
WESTON: Yes, he had a sauna.
AGW: Did many people in the area have saunas?
WESTON: Yes. Suosassis didn’t, but Markanens did. No, they were the only two I think.
AGW: And what did the Australians think of this, this new invention?
WESTON: Oh well that’s how they got round it, because when you're in sauna - in Finland when I was there, well I’ve been there four times, you go in and take all your clothes off... But it’s never mixed, only the women go in and so forth. When you have the saunas you go with no clothes on and I think they make a big song out of it. That’s what I really think.
AGW: So its a new tradition, a different culture to the Australians so they don’t understand?
WESTON: No they don't understand, you're quite right. But I think it’s taken on - all the big hotels in Australia, they’ve all got saunas. That’s quite a common thing. But in those days no. If you’ve heard of a sauna, oh they go about naked and so forth.
AGW: So they probably frowned on it?
WESTON: That’s right.
AGW: Did you wear any different clothes, or any different sort of food do you remember?
WESTON: No. Of course they made their coffee bread. When Mum ever made a batch of bread, she always made some, you know sort of sweeter bread, with butter and eggs and milk and so forth you know, and then she used to make toast out of it, fingers of toast and so forth.
AGW: Famous pasteries.
WESTON: Renlund, he’s a lay Minister. He christened one of Mum’s children, Lil, and we had a big party there at home. And one of his children died and he was only a little baby. He was buried in the garden; we had the burial service through the lay Minister.
AGW: He was the father?
WESTON: The father of the child, Renlund.
AGW: He was a Minister in the Luthern Church?
WESTON: Yes he was the Minister in the Luthern, well he was a sort of a lay Minister, but there wasn’t any Ministers in those days at all. He was the only one. So Mum would have her babies christened you see so that’s how it is, they all come over and they made quite a party of it.
AGW: Did religion play a big part in your family?
WESTON: Well to this extent it did. But Father wasn’t too - but he read the Bible. He knew more about the Bible than any of us. But Mum was a bit that way. She would have us go to Sunday School, she used to put our hair in plaits. Saturday afternoon give us a bath and put all plaits and make us look real nice. She used to dress us up Sunday morning. We had to take our lunch with us and we had to go to Church and Sunday School.
AGW: Which Church did you go to?
AGW: What was that Methodist?
WESTON: Methodist, that’s right. Methodist Church. And we’d stay there all day and sometimes in the winter time, we’d come home in the dark. Even in Image Flat, when I was only very young, we went from there, from Image Flat too. But how Mum had the time to dress us, and all these plaits, give us baths and all that and put the Sunday best, you know every time. I don’t really know how she did it.
AGW: Did you go on any Sunday School picnics? And social gatherings?
WESTON: Yes, the Sunday School picnic. I’ve been to two of them and used to have to march from this Methodist Church to where Nambour School is today. It was Currie’s paddock - not Currie, oh it started with a ‘C’ - it was a paddock anyhow. There was no houses or anything at all. It was a lovely green place, the swings were there. We had lovely sandwiches and cakes and all that you know. We enjoyed ourselves.
AGW: So everybody would bring a picnic basket?
WESTON: No, we didn't. I think the Church provided all that. They made great big tubfulls of sandwiches you know and lovely cakes.
AGW: Did you ever go to any of the Salvation Army Christmas camps in Maroochydore?
WESTON: Oh yes.
AGW: Can you tell me a little bit about them?
WESTON: Yes. They were the ones, early days. I was about sixteen I think, fifteen or sixteen. We used to go camping. Oh maybe a bit older than that. And anyhow we used to go camping down there and Bob and my brothers and sisters you know. All the young people used to go down camping. We used to go down by boat. And the Salvation Army used to be there, a great big tent, as big as this house. And we used to go have the services there and then they used to put the acetlyne lamps, I guess acetlyne, all round in a ring like this and then we used to play games there until midnight.
AGW: Really, did many people go?
WESTON: Oh it was full. Yes well whoever went there, everybody went to Church. In the beginning and then we used to play games.
AGW: And this happened every year did it?
WESTON: Yes, two or three years anyhow to my way of thinking. When you get older you see you seem to forget that don’t you?
AGW: Did your family ever go on holidays, apart from your visits to Brisbane?
WESTON: Oh Mum and Dad, often used to go out, it was a Sunday though. They very seldom took Sal and I because we were twins you see, but my eldest sister used to generally go with them and of course their babies too.
AGW: I’m interested in the political happenings in the area, were you very aware of what was going on politically on the Sunshine Coast?
WESTON: No, no, Dad was a great Labour man. And we were all Labour people. Well Mum wasn’t! He and Suosaari used to get talking and oh dear, they used to have it out and so forth. But Mum was a bit on the uppish side.
AGW: When you say uppish side, you mean she was more Liberal minded?
WESTON: A bit more Liberal minded.
AGW: Was any member of your family in a political party?
WESTON: Oh my younger brother, Rainer, I don’t know what he was - everybody else was on the Labour side.
AGW: Do you remember as a child or later in your teens, getting newspapers and magazines into the house?
WESTON: Oh we always, right from when the Nambour Chronicle was printed. In the early days I forget. I used to get it in Image Flat. I don’t know how we’d get our mail either because Gaylards used to - I think they used to bring our mail out, but here we had a mailman. (Bli Bli) But we always got the Nambour Chronicle and Father used to always get the Finnish papers too.
AGW: So generally as a family you were aware of what was happening in Europe?
WESTON: Oh yes very much so. At one time we used to get the Finnish papers from America and when we went to Finland, when we told them what was happening and what was in our Finnish papers in Australia, they couldn’t believe it because you know about the so forth. Cause we’d always get the working paper too you know.
AGW: What do you mean by the working paper?
WESTON: You know what I mean, “Do em less destic” that’s like a workers...
AGW: A socialists paper?
WESTON: A socialists paper, that’s right.
AGW: So you’re virtually Socialist, when you say you were Labour, cause there was no Socialist party in the area was there?
WESTON: In those days it was Labour and Liberal.
WESTON: No, two seperates, Liberal and Labour. That as I recall anyway, that’s all I remember.
AGW: Can you remember World War One? Was there much ill-feeling towards the Finnish and the German community, through Germany’s activity in the War? Did people ever mistake you for being German?
WESTON: Yes. Bit of a mystery there, I don’t know. What we got from the American papers and what happened really in Finland and Germany, when we got to Finland, it’s entirely a different story.
AGW: So more on the local scene here, did people treat you differently during the War?
AGW: So people just treated you as if you were just ordinary Australians, they accepted you. More on the political scene, did you know the Williams’ of Maroochy River? Mr Williams was a Socialist. Did your parents have anything to do with the Williams’?
WESTON: Well in this respect they did. I remember Lorna when she was a little girl about two or three, she was a dear little thing. One day, I think a spider bit her, something bit her anyhow. They walked from Maroochy River along the tramline, and ! I wasn’t home that day My eldest sister drove them into Nambour for medical treatment and they went to Dr Penny. Whatever he did, I think he made a bit of a blue there, but I don’t want to say cause he was a wonderful doctor, you know. Anyhow he lanced it.
AGW: So Lorna lost her leg subsequently.
WESTON: Right, in Brisbane.
AGW: So your families did have some connection then. On the medical side, you mentioned Dr Penny in Nambour, what did people do when they were really sick in the old days?
WESTON: Now I’m going to tell you. Dr Malaher, he was the only doctor that was in Nambour at the time, until Dr Penny. And do you know in February about 1904, when Fred was born, it was in February the wet month, he came out, course Oscar had to go and get him. There were no telephones or anything like that, you always had to go and walk in. Anyhow he came out, on this February night on his little cream pony and he had a lantern. But when he arrived at Image Flat, Fred was already born.
AGW: So he’d came all that way out in the bad weather?
WESTON: Yes on his little cream pony. And anyhow, I don’t know, because Reilly’s Creek always - and he wanted Oscar to go back with him, he asked him.
WESTON: He said, “You can stay at my place and go home in the morning.” “No.” Oscar said, “No it’s pouring rain, No, I’ve had enough.” He went to bed and he was tired I suppose too and wet. So anyhow poor old Dr Malaher had to go home all on his own on his cream pony.
AGW: So medical people in those days went out in all weather and all times?
WESTON: Well that’s in February.
AGW: In the wet season. Did you know of a Mrs Axe? She was a midwife in the area.
WESTON: Yes, that’s right. She was a midwife. Oh, she used to come down out to Image Flat, she used to midwife for Mum, cause there were no hospitals.
AGW: So she delivered some of Mum’s babies.
AGW: Mrs Axe had an accident and broke her leg, do you know anything about that?
WESTON: Yes that’s right. I can remember and she went to Mucahan’s and she was going to have a baby...
AGW Mrs Makkoner’
WESTON: Mucahan. They were Finnish people. Going down that hill to the house, I don’t know what happened. I think she fell out or the horse bolted I don’t know. But anyway she broke her leg and although she was in all this agony, she attended to Mrs Mucahan with the birth of one of her children.
AGW: My word, hardy people.
WESTON: Yes that’s right.
AGW: Did you use herbs often, any home remedies?
WESTON: No. But Father was very good, and so was Mum really. We’re a healthy crowd. Like today they seem to have all sorts of complaints, but I don’t know, no-one ever seemed to complain. We were always well.
AGW: On the family side, because your parents couldn’t even speak English, you were saying, you felt you had to act as interpreters for them, how did it feel being a child and also being active in this adult role? Like organizing the groceries and things like that? How did it feel?
WESTON: It’s just natural. We learnt a lot from it.
AGW: In what sense?
WESTON: In the sense that we knew the value of things, value of money. We knew all the business that went on. We knew pretty well everything like that.
AGW: How did the business sector of Nambour treat you? Like you were saying Mr Lowe, the butcher was very good to you.
WESTON: Oh, only for them I don’t know how we’d got on. There was no Government assistance of any kind. They were the people to be praised, them and Dr Malaher, he was another one. Now I remember once here in Bli Eli, Mum was chaffing cane...
End of Tape 1
AGW: Right, so your mother used to chaff the cane for the cows?
WESTON: Thatt s right, and Fred got his fingers caught. He thought, beautiful sweet bit of cane, and he told us this afterwards how he saw this bit of cane, he grabbed it with his fingers. Anyhow he got his fingers caught in the chaff cutter. This one was almost off and all these fingers, (indicates on her hand) something happened to them all. But anyhow what Mum did, when it happened, she just got hold of him, brought him up to the house and she didn’t go running to Dad or anything like that, and Tyyni, that’s my eldest sister, was home from school. And she went down, just as she was and put a clean handkerchief on his hand and rushed him off to Nambour. And we got a loan of Prentice’s trolley, you know trolley?
AGW: This is the cane trolley?
WESTON: Thatt s right and when I was coming home from school, they waited for me. You see from Rosemount School we went to the tramline and we had to walk along the tramline. But anyhow they walked and Tyyni pushed the trolley as far as the school and they waited for me when I was coming home from school. They said about Fred having this accident, “Come on now, let’s get him to Nambour fast.” So anyhow I put my schoolbag on the trolley, off we went, Sal, Tyyni and I pushed the trolley. And we arrived in Nambour. Luckily Mother was home. And do you know what? He operated his hand and he didn’t lose one of his fingers. This is just hanging off and all these were in a terrible mess. (Indicates to her hand.,) And anyhow he said, “I’ll like to see you in the morning, I think you’d better stay in Nambour the night.” So we went, Mum and Tyyni and I, we went to the Royal Hotel. And anyhow when Oscar got to hear of it, that’s my eldest brother, when they came home they knew what had happened. Because Sal came home and said what happened, that Fred had cut his fingers. Anyhow Oscar came in and found out that we were at the the hotel, so he took me home on the trolley.
AGW: He came in and got you from Nambour?
WESTON: Yes thatt s right, but Mum and Tyyni, they stayed at the hotel so the doctor could see them the next morning.
AGW: So Dr Malaher was a very good doctor?
WESTON: Oh he was. He was remarkable. But luckily he was home. And he didn’t lose a finger.
AGW: More on the medical side, an ambulance person from Maroochydore was saying that a few people in the Finnish community got T.B., that Axel Suosaari died of T.B. Do you know why it would have been mainly in the Finnish community?
WESTON: Well he had sugar and he was a great swimmer. They seemed to think that Axel, who’s a great... you know... I can show you some photos of him too I think some day. I’ll show you. And they seemed to think he got a germ or something down south or something. He went to Melbourne swimming down there. That I don’t know if there’s any truth in it, but that’s how this rumour goes.
AGW: Do you know of any other people that had T.B.?
AGW: Only Axel?
WESTON: And John, they both died, Axel and John.
AGW: So we’re up to say 1916, after the War. In 1919 do you remember the flu epidemic that hit the Sunshine Coast? What sort of things were happening then?
WESTON: Yes, well nothing very much happened here, we only kept out of big crowds and so forth.
AGW: Did your school close down? Or had you left school by then?
WESTON: Oh yes, I had, oh yes I had left school by then. Oh yes.
AGW: So you avoided going to the town?
WESTON: That’s right. After I got married, there was a woman living next door to me, forget their name now, that’s over sixty years ago - and anyhow she married again, she said she was one of those victims who said her husband went to Sydney and she’d never seen him since.
AGW: During the First World War?
WESTON: Yes, when the epidemic was on.
AGW: Oh right.
WESTON: And she seemed to think that he was one of the victims of the epidemic in Sydney.
AHW: Did you have many friends die from the flu?
WESTON: No, I don’t remember anybody getting the flu either. They were making masks too, which we never wore but we had them in case.
AGW: So just in case you went...
WESTON: Yes to put over your nose and so forth.
AGW: Just in case you went in crowds and things like that?
WESTON: That’s right.
AGW: Any other big diseases like that, like do you remember anybody with rheumatic fever or diphtheria or anything like that in the area?
WESTON: There was one boy at Highworth School he got rheumatic fever. In the early days, yes that’s right. I was very young. And I think he was the only one.
AGW: So when did you get married?
AGW: Where abouts was that?
WESTON: In Nambour.
AGW: When you were married, did you stay in Nambour?
WESTON: Yes, I ‘was a bride, you know the estate, you know where the Honey House is? You know you go over that tramline and on the left-hand side that was Weston’s farm. I was a bride that came in. He worked out on the Alan and Stark at the time.
AGW: This is your husband?
WESTON: Yes, so anyhow she said, “Oh well, I think. ..“ the farm seemed to be doing alright, so she thought she’d get him back to Bli Bli. So she bought this farm and with a nice house on it and he was no more a farmer than...
AGW: So you ended up doing most of the work did you?
WESTON: No I didn’t, we only lived there two years and then they sold it.
WESTON sold it, his mother?
WESTON: Yes that’s right. And then after that he got a job at Collins’ and he was a grocer then.
AGW: Was this in Nambour?
AGW: Was there much pressure in the early 1900s on women to get married? I get the impression that once women were over the age of twenty, if you weren’t married by then you were regarded as being an old spinster.
WESTON: No I don’t think so. Well it was a bit that way, but no one ever took any notice you know and...
AGW: So you didn't take any notice?
WESTON: No we didn’t. We didn’t, no we weren’t that way at all inclined. No.
AGW: After the War were there many people getting married?
WESTON: Ah yes, when we were going to school, you know to the dances here. Actually my first boyfriend...
AGW: What about your first boyfriend?
WESTON: He was a very nice chap but I was only sixteen, he was going to the War. He sent me a letter of proposal of marriage. Fancy me, a bit of a kid, and I had to answer this letter you know. And I remember going into the dairy and I said, “How the dickins and I going to do this?” And anyhow I put it off and he said if I don’t accept his offer, he said he doesn’t care if he never comes back from the War. So anyhow I wrote back to him and said, “You’d better come back for your mother’s sake.” He was a nice chap too. But I was so young, never thought of marriage. But during that time I met the guy that I did marry. He was at the War.
AGW: Harold, your husband Harold was also at the War?
WESTON: No, that’s when I met him during the War. At Bu Bli School, at a dance. That was my Waterloo.
AGW: On the social side, did you socialise much? Was there much activity?
WESTON: Oh yes, we had dances every night. Oh yes, we had a really good social life.
AGW: How did you get all the work done and dance?
WESTON: And I tell you, there used to be no television or radio. We used to go to house parties and have sing songs there you know. And Harold
WESTON had one of the best voices I’ve ever heard. -line
AGW: Was there ever alcohol at these parties?
WESTON: No, never heard of alcohol, nobody ever drank in those days. At the dances nobody had drink. In fact if there was a man came it’d get round the girls, “Oh don’t dance with him, he’s drunk. He’s been drinking.” .
AGW: So it was a stigma for the people to be drinking in the ‘20s?
WESTON: Yes. That would be only a stranger would come in and just have a look in or something like that.
AGW: Were there any women’s groups on the Sunshine Coast do you remember? Any women’s groups, support groups - child-minding, that sort of thing, sewing groups. That you were involved in?
WESTON: Not to my knowledge. Only during the War, that’s right, the Red Cross. We were in that. And I remember bringing home a flannel shirt that I had it to make. You know a flannel shirt, how thick it is? Giving a sixteen year old kid, I don’t know - a bit older than that I suppose, seventeen, during the War, I suppose about eighteen and good heavens I knew no more about making a shirt than flying over the moon. You have to have special machines H you know to make that You know how thick it is. Putting pockets on them and all that, and the collars and all that. But anyhow I managed it somehow. But I don't know how it passed because I wasn’t happy with it. But I did my best, that’s all I could do.
AGW: Was patriotism running high in the community? Like everybody doing their bit for the War.
WESTON: Oh yes, everybody did their bit, that’s right.
AGW: What did you think about that?
WESTON: Oh well, it was just a thing. We used to have plenty of dances too, to send off the boys going to the War. Oh it was fun.
AGW: Did you ever think of the ramifications of War? The ramifications of War, like of death or was it just all the rosy side of, you know, everybody was helping out?
WESTON: Yes, that’s right. It was no casualties anyhow. This boy who lost his, Bill Prentice, the boy who proposed to me, he lost a leg. But there was no casualities.
AGW: Did the newspapers report what was going on?
AGW: Knowing now what the War was like, at the time.
WESTON: We like the social part of it you know. Sending them off and bring them back again. And going to dances and all the rest, the other part didn’t worry us.
AGW: So you felt that people didn’t really want to know about the actual war side of it?
WESTON: Not the younger ones anyhow.
AGW: We hear about the ‘Roaring Twenties’; did Nambour roar? Was it a gay place to be?
WESTON: No, not to my knowledge.
AGW: No, why not?
WESTON: It burnt out so many times. The fires, you know? You know how many times it’s been burnt out don’t you?
AGW: No, how many times?
WESTON: I know there has been three times at least.
AGW: So Nambour centre was a bit dull, was it?
WESTON: Well we had so many interesting things out in the country. We didn’t worry about Nambour much at all.
AGW: What was interesting out in the country?
WESTON: Well we had our tennis, we had our bikes, we had our horses, and all the dances pretty well every
WESTON: weekend you know. I remember going there for a dance once, but I didn’t enjoy it at all.
AGW: So Nambour’s really just down the road, but it seemed in those days...
WESTON: Well we only had a horse and sulky too you know.
AGW: So it was a long way to go to Nambour then.
WESTON: Oh yes, that’s right. Although sometimes, at nights we used to walk to dances. But sometimes we went to Eli Eli, we’d take the horse and sulky. They’d have to wait there till we came home. But very often we used to walk with a lantern over the ridges. Women were only secondary people. That’s what I thought - this world was only a man’s world.
AGW: So you didn’t want any daughters for that reason?
WESTON: No, for that reason I thought, well I wouldn’t like to have a daughter, you know, going through what I ‘m going through now.
AGW: Were you ever vocal about how women were treated?
WESTON: No, no.
AGW: Why not?
WESTON: We never used to talk about life at all, you know. You never spoke of anything like that. If you had a bad marriage or anything, we just shut-up and we didn’t like to be thought of as so stupid to fall into that category.
AGW: Was this because of pressure from men?
WESTON: No, I don’t know. There was some wonderful men about, but if you just happened to get the wrong one, well.
AGW: Because you were telling me that your marriage broke up so you left with two children.
WESTON: Oh no, they were both grown-up, they were both working then.
AGW: Were they? So you were married in 1920, when was your first child born?
AGW: And did you go to hospital for having this child?
WESTON: No he was horn at Eli Eli in that house down there
AGW: How was that, having a horns birth? Did you have a midwife?
WESTON: Yes, midwife.
AGW: Was it still an accepted thing in those days that women would have their children at home?
WESTON: Yes, but anyhow it was a very bad birth and I had to finish up, by being stitched all up.
AGW: So when you had your next child did you have your next child at home?
WESTON: No, I had it in hospital, five years after.
AGW: When was your second born, lets see, ...
AGW: And that was Ronald?
WESTON: That's right yes.
AGW: So in 1927 the farm was sold at Bli Bli?
WESTON: Oh no, the farm was sold at Bli Bli when Len was only about nine months old.
AGW: So what did you do after you and your husband Harrold left the farm at Bli Bli?
WESTON: We went to live in Nambour.
AGW: Oid you work at Nambour?
WESTON: No, but he worked in Collins’ at the time. He was a grocer at Collins’.
AGW: Why did you decide to leave the area?
WESTON: Well I don’t know, it was after Ronald was born we thought we’d like to have a break. We went down to Melbourne, we were there for a while and we didn’t like it. We came back. Then we went to Brisbane and he got a job as a grocer then in Newmarket. Gaythorne, I should say, we lived in Newmarket and Gaythorne
AGW: So you were in Brisbane for the Depression? Do you remember much about that?
WESTON: Yes, I remember it. I remember the Depression alright because my husband at that time he was manager of a branch of Williamsons’, the grocers. The firm he was working for, opened a branch at the Mitchelton School. And I don’t know how they survived, the people used to each get a yellow slip, a long yellow slip. Twelve and sixpence a week. And the father or the husband used to get one day from) the Council. They had to live and feed a family on that.
AGW: Was this like an unemployment benefit was it?
AGW: Oh, that was your husband’s wage?
WESTON: No, no, no, oh he got five pound a week in those days. The customers, I’m talking about the customers.
AGW: What sort of effect on people’s lives did the Depression have much effect on people’s activities? Did they go out as much?
WESTON: Well, I don’t know, because there used to be always dances at the Mitchelton School because the
WESTON used to be the M.C. And they had very big crowds there.
AGW: And your parents were still running the cane farm at Bli Bli?
WESTON: Oh no, that’s many years now, I was married and - oh they did but I don’t think they had the cane. But oh yes, they did, but they had fruit, bananas and so forth.
AGW: Did your father tell you how it affected them? Like did you often talk to him about how the Depression was affecting the farmers of the area?
WESTON: No, he used to take a trip to Brisbane and the times went you know, there wasn’t much... We all had to tighten our belts and so forth. A lot of unemployment. And the younger boys used to jump the rattler. I think the Government must have gave them something because there was no work for anybody. What they got. They used to have to jump the rattler and get off at each town.
AGW: So they’d jump the train to get their payment? They had to be in a different town each week. Did you know many people that were having to live this way?
WESTON: Yes, now Fred, my brother was one of those. But he did very well for himself. I know this time we were living at Gaythorne and he came to visit us. And anyhow that night we were going to an evening at a private house, we took him along. That’s where he met his bride. He wasn’t working. About twelve months, or eighteen months after it, they married. She was a pianist. She was a great pianist, she had a cap and gown when she was sixteen, a cap and gown!
AGW: She had a degree in music?
WESTON: Yes. I’ve sent all those photos to a historical museum. Should really have taken a copy of that.
AGW: So when did you move back to Bli Bli? After the Second World War?
WESTON: Oh yes, wait a minute now. Oh yes after World War II, that’s right because I’ve been here twenty—one years. I’ve been here twenty-one years. Oh it would be more I think.
AGW: So this house you were telling me is the original house that was on the property, one hundred and sixty-five acres that your father bought. So this is really your childhood house?
WESTON: That’s right. It was taken wholeis-bowlis down here and put here.
AGW: So this is an old neighbour’s property here?
WESTON: That’s right this is the neighbour’s property, that's right.
AGW: So when you and your husband split up, your children were working you were saying, they were at working age?
WESTON: Yes, they were both into aviation. Ron was working for A.N.A. and he had worked there forty r : years he had a lovely silver plate given to him on his fortieth years And Len went to Hong Kong
AGW: So I was interested as far as how you coped as a single parent, but your children were well and truly grown up by that time.
WESTON: That’s right. Well I went to work. When I left him I only had a hundred dollars, a hundred pounds in those days. So I was very very lucky, I left him just towards the end of the war you know, everybody wanted to start work and it was very hard to get labour. So anyway I got my first job as a machinist, did I tell you that?
AGW: No. That was the first time you ever really worked for a while? Can you remember what your wage was?
WESTON: This is how lucky I am. When we lived at Sherwood there was a young couple, they started a children’s clothing factory; that’s where I learned to use the pound machines. And then we left there, I left my husband, well when I had pluck and and courage to go and work in a factory. I couldn’t sew but as long as I could manage these heavy machines. Because they’re entirely different to the domestic machines. Anyhow I was there for about seven years. I bought this house in Brisbane, which I’ve still got. And I let rooms. It was a big house, four bedrooms, I let two of them and I was getting two pound each for a week. A week, that was four coming in. Then I got my wages. And that’s right my husband was in the Army at that time, so I was getting his Army allowance too, for a while until he got out of the Army. Then I got nothing then I got such a nice letter back from them too, they’d say, “Well your allowance is cut out.” I hadn’t divorced him yet then, he’d left the Army now so I’d get no more money. That didn’t worry me because I was getting his money, and I was working and I was getting the rent from the house. Anyhow I had it paid off, I had the house paid off in two years. But wait till I tell you, I’ll tell you, another Bank Manager. Anyhow this man that sold this house to me; and I said, “Oh I haven’t got the money.” “Oh you go to National Bank, the corner of Queen and Creek Street, you know the National Bank in Brisbane. You go in there, they’ll give you a loan.” And anyhow the next Saturday morning I got up, luckily the banks were open in those days on Saturday mornings. And anyhow I went in there, I was shaking - but this man with a red coat, I went into the bank and I sat and anyhow I put the proposition to him and “Oh no we’re not interested. That’s too small.” I said, “Look, I’m putting a proposition to you. . .“ “That’s right,” he said, “why don’t you try the other bank.” I said, “Yes I’m putting a proposition to you
WESTON: which I haven’t put to them.” I said, “Thank you, you’re wasting my time and I’m wasting yours. Goodbye.” And I rushed off to the Brisbane Permnant Bank and the man was just closing the door and I’d just got in. I just put my foot in before he closed the door. Funniest thing that ever happened. That’s how lucky I am. So anyhow he said, “Look write it in paper and give us all the particulars.” So anyhow I did that. Went straight home and wrote the proposal, my letter and I had no trouble in getting ït at all.
AGW: It’s only recent that women have been able to get bank loans and things like that, so you were very lucky.
WESTON: Well did you know what? I couldn’t have bought a house in my own name - a woman couldn’t. I had to put Ronald in. They don’t like to tell you that. And they hummed and ha-red, they didn’t like this at all. “Oh you’re a woman.”
AGW: How would you feel about that?
WESTON: Oh I felt real bad I said, “What,” I said, “do you mean to say ...“ Oh yes that’s right. And I went and had to sign the papers and his name is on the deeds to the house in Brisbane. And I said, “Look, I don’t want his name. I don’t want to put his name on these papers. What if something happens to me, he’d get the lot”, if I was to peg out. Oh I was real mad. Ron came in with me and anyhow he said, “The only way you can get out is if you divorce him.” He said, “We’re got to put who you are.” “What is it? Can’t you tell me I’m just an ordinary person?” No I had to say who I was. And there’s his name on the deed.
AGW: Harold’s name or Ronald’s?
WESTON: No, Harold’s name. But then I couldn’t have bought that house unless,... See I put Ronald’s name in then.
AGW: Well how did strong willed women like yourself handle situations where women were openly discriminated against?
WESTON: Well you just had to put up with it.
AGW: And there was no ground swell from women to try and change?
WESTON: Things have changed.
End Side A/Begin Side B
AGW: So you had to be strong after you were married you feel. Why was that?
WESTON: Well he was a fool. I married what you call a fool of a man. He was brilliant in his own right. He was a great admirer of other women and drink. And he was an altar boy in the Catholic Church!
AGW: A bit incongruous.
WESTON: I said, “Yes,” I said once, “you’re a great credit to your church and country. If it was in my country you’d be put out of harms way.”
AGW: Today there’s lots of support groups for women in the groundswell of the women’s movement, of the early ‘70s. Did you feel triumphant at all that finally women were getting their say, some equality?
WESTON: To me women never had their say.
AGW: Do you feel that’s still true today as well?
WESTON: I don’t know. Since I’ve been on my own, I’ve battled and I’ve been very lucky as if I’ve got something... it’s a strange thing, I’m not religious or anything, but there’s something that seems to be guiding me. Have you ever been like that?
AGW: Yes I have.
WESTON: Yes there’s something that’s guiding me. As I say I’m very very lucky, things have always come my way, but you’ve got to grab it with both hands or otherwise it’s useless. Otherwise if you don’t...
AGW: Do you feel that your upbringing, the unique situation of having to be adult while you were still a child - in the sence of being the interpreter for your parents - do you think that’s had any bearing on how you look at life?
WESTON: I think it helped a lot in business life. I’ve got to have the confidence. I think I've had the confidence and that’s helped me a lot I think. wasn’t timid in any way.
AGW: You’re obviously a boisterous woman, spoke your mind. Did it offend many men when you’d say how you felt?
WESTON: Well I wouldn’t know. I very seldom answered him back.
AGW: That was your husband?
WESTON: Yes. No, only sometimes as I said you know I told him. But I won’t repeat it to you.
AGW: How about just general men?
WESTON: When you marry a man when he’s a alter boy in a church until you’re seventeen, you’d think he’d make a ... that’s what I thought. That’s what I went by that he’d make a good husband. It was just the reverse. I think that he was led by the church so much that when he grew up he couldn’t think for himself. The church did all his thinking for him. Like a ship out of ... when he got out into the world, more like a ship out at sea.
AGW: So religious indoctrinations, this area is very very religious, did people, like atheists, were they frowned upon?
WESTON: Well I’ve been called an atheist. My daughter-in- law she feels sorry for me.
AGW: Why’s that?
WESTON: I said, “Oh, I’ll get through the pearly gates,” I said, “without any trouble. Death doesn’t worry me,” I said, “I’ve done nothing wrong.” And all my life I’ve tried to help people and all I’ve got is a kick in the pants!
AGW: Do you feel you’ve had a good life?
WESTON: Yes, yes I’ve enjoyed it.
AGW: Was there any particular period that you enjoyed the most?
WESTON: Well of course my young days. But anyhow I’ll just give you an idea when we went on our honeymoon. We had to go and see Grandma Woodlock. He was only a little alter boy, seventeen year old alter boy. Lovely lad you know. I remember, went to see Grandma and she said, “What you got that baby for?”
AGW: Was Harold younger than you when you got married?
WESTON: No, he’s about five years older than I was. No they looked upon him as this young alter boy you
WESTON: see. In their eyes he never grew up. And she had two spinster daughters, they weren’t even married. And she thought he was only a baby. That’s when I should have gone for my life and I should have ... and anyhow I had to go in later and...
AGW: Sounds like women had a hard life in those days.
WESTON: What would you do in a case like that? Would you have run for your life?
AGW: I would have stood up for myself. I would have said something and then gone. (Laughs)
WESTON: I was very timid and I didn’t want to cause a row or anything.
AGW: Do you ever regret it? Do you ever regret not saying how you felt?
WESTON: No I don’t think so. I didn’t like to cross people and I didn’t ... And I never saw the old woman afterward that at all. I’m going to tell you something too, which I think I’m not far out with. This was many years ago at Mrs
WESTON’s - they parted too - he was from England. He was - what will I call it - he was high up anyhow. They had a big hat factory in Adelaide Street there. And big staff, and all the Woodlocks were working. There was Mimi and Manan, the two married ones and Alice, she married
WESTON. And then there’s Hal. They all worked in the factory. Anyway I have an idea, what he did was so overrun with them all one day he just closed up hïs shop and went to New Zealand.
AGW: This is Mr
WESTON: Harold’s father. And I have an idea they pestered him so much he thought, ‘Well let them run the show themselves now.’ And he left. I only thought of thïs afterwards now because that Woodlock, the way she jumped on Harold’s neck for marrying me. You don’t live that sort of a life always bossing. Well he wouldn’t put up with it any longer, he just left.
AGW: Was there anything else you feel we haven’t touched on that you’d like to tell us about?
WESTON: No, I don’t think so. I told you about Dr Malaher there. And Whalley and Lowe, and G.L. Bury. They’re the ones that really - cause the Government didn’t give you any assistance.
AGW: Can you remember when the local Government, like Maroochy Shire Council formed, most of these business people you just mentioned became Councillors. Mr Lowe became a Councillor didn’t he? And Mr Whalley?
WESTON: Yes, they were all Councillors. That’s right, Lowe was the - what was he? - he was a top Councillor in Nambour years ago. Because I remember Lowe and Whalley going on a trip to England, they were going to trip to England. It was a very big thing. They came home, all of us went to Nambour Station to meet them.
AGW: So there was a lot of community involvement in the early 1900’s. Do you think that has changed much?
WESTON: Oh yes. Times are entirely different somehow. I remember there was a William McGregor too. He was Governor of Queensland at the time. And Lady McGregor and all us school children were to form a body-guard and they were to come up. And it was so different. Nowadays you never see anything like that. I remember us walking into Nambour all dressed up. He gave a speech. Sal, she drew a map of Tasmania for the Rosemount School, her and Elsie Gominersal. Anyhow she rushed up (when the show came up) to see how she got on there was only two maps and ... anyhow “Oh you’ve got first prize, isn’t that lovely. Your’s is much better than Elsie.” And they could hear us talking. The Governor and his wife were just at the back of us and they heard us talking. They came and congratulated Sal, she had her hands behind her back and I said, “Go on, shake hands with him.” didn’t but she did. Anyhow I think she did in the finish. Anyhow it was put in The Chronical about the two little girls dressed in blue. One of them had got first prize with the map of Tasmania. And we were so pleased, these two little girls in blue.
AGW: Can you remember, living so closely to the Nambour Showgrounds, can you remember the first show that happened down there?
WESTON: Well that was the first one we ever went to I think.
AGW: How old would you have been then? If you were at Rosemount it would have been after 1908?
WESTON: Oh yes, well that was many years ago. I started school before her, although we were twins and she went back two years after I did. I was always seemed to be two years ahead of her.
AGW: How come? How was that?
WESTON: Well I don’t know. She was always smaller than I was and she was a slow ... I think not only in this respect — I was taller and I was more outgoing and she was a bit on the shy side.
AGW: So she was a bït of a slow learner because she was shy?
WESTON: She was a good scholar but more of a slow learner.
AGW: Were the shows a big deal, the Great North Coast Show?
WESTON: Oh yes to us kids it was. All our dresses made and all new hats and everything you know. We had to look our Sunday best going there.
AGW: Do you still go to the Show these days?
WESTON: I didn’t go last year. I’ve been once and there was that much mud, raining you know, and anyhow I got all my shoes ... and when it rains ever since I’ve been here, that’s what my brother - he’s passed away now, and I vowed I’d never go again. It was the most miserable day I’ve ever put up with. It was so wet and horrible.
AGW: Well I think that’s probably about all, can you think of anything else?
WESTON: Is it any sort of an interview? Are you happy with it?
AGW: Yes very happy. I’d like to thank you very much for letting me interview you.
WESTON: Oh no, no, I don’t think there’s anything else really. But you can thank all those people I said, they really deserve it because ... Dr Malahar and Whalley and Lowe and G. L. Bury, only for them - I don’t know because we got no Government assistance.
AGW: So if it wasn’t for their help you would have had a very hard life, you wouldn’t have been able to get your food and stuff?
WESTON: No, because Dad had to build that house, and fall ,. : the scrub and burn it and dig it in with a mattock. You know, you couldn’t plough the ground in those days, it was all stumps and things you know. You just made a hole with a Mattock and put the cane in it.
AGW: Did you ever help with the cane harvest?
WESTON: No, that’s one thing we didn’t have to do. When we were girls we didn’t have to work on the farm at all. We used to pack bananas when we got older. That’s about all I did. We were very lucky. Of course we milked the cows.
AGW: So you were more in the dairy weren’t you?
WESTON: Yes, that’s right.
AGW: So it’d be going on for eighty years old?
WESTON: Oh yes, but it's still going. Sam Cook, a Dutchman bought it and he’s done it up, put carpets all through it, painted it all up. It’s still holding. I think it’s the only old house in Bli Bli that is holding it’s own.
AGW: Did your father saw all the timber for that?
WESTON: Oh no, no. Lanham built that, Lanham built that for us.
AGW: So you had a builder?
WESTON: Oh yes, the builder, oh yes a builder. But that would cost two hundred and ninety pound.
AGW: To have the house built?
WESTON: To have the house built. It was just before the big rise — there was not much building in those days. It went up. They just happened to get in before that rise.
AGW: So your father’s property would have been worth a fair bit because if the land cost two hundred and fifty pounds and the house cost two hundred and ninety pounds.
WESTON: Oh but he bought this hundred acres right down at Petrie’s Creek but he had two hundred and sixty acres altogether in the finish.
AGW: So that would have been a fairly big farm?
WESTON: Oh big farm, that’s right. And to think he reared all of us kids, that’s the part that gets me. Lot’s of people say he didn’t learn the language; how could he? He couldn’t go anywhere to learn the language.
AGW: Did you ever try to teach him to speak English?
WESTON: No, we were just happy, no it’s a funny thing because we went with him to buy it, because we learnt the Finnish language, I can speak it to you now, see otherwise - I have known people, Finnish children and they can’t speak a word of Finnish.
AGW: Going back to the store keepers, Mr Whalley and Mr Bury and all these people, do you think because your father was such a large land holder that you got better treatment than the average farmer? Did they treat everybody the same?
WESTON: No, Dad was always one who always paid his way. The others used to grumble you know, and they weren’t happy. I’ll tell you a case with the neighbours, after we left Bli Bli. I don’t know who it was - and were holidaying there and what do you think - Lowe’s came along and pinched their Ranlund’s pig, pig that they had. I suppose they didn’t pay their bills and they thought they’d take the pig.
AGW: So a lot of people looked down or weren’t very friendly towards the storekeepers because they saw them socially or economically higher than themselves do you feel?
WESTON: To me they were the anchors and helped all the farmers. But I suppose a lot really left them with money owing and so forth. Most of the Finns were very honest to my way of thinking, the ones that I know. But I don’t know what the recent ones are like. But in those days anyhow.
AGW: Yes, I’ve heard that - that the Finnish community was greatly looked upon as being hard workers and honest people.
WESTON: And honest. My father was anyhow, because he said, how does he put it now? It’s in Fin, “...“, “Truth and rightiousness.” We’ll put in English, “Truth and rightiousness.”
AGW: You were telling me that your father came from a wealthy estate in Finland. How did his family react when coming to this barbaric country of Australia?
WESTON: How did they react, yes. Oh, he went and got a loan from some of them you know to come here, and “Oh, (name) you silly old fool, what you want to think of doing a thing like that for?” You know, it’s in Fin. And they wouldn’t give him a loan.
WESTON: Ones that had the money wouldn’t give him a loan, they thought he had gone mad, going to a country like that where he can’t speak the language. A new country. And oh he’s making a terrible big mistake. And anyhow he got a loan and many years, (they used to write to each other) all the loans were paid off and everything. With all that family he got through life. That’s what he was. But he wouldn’t get the pension and Mum. He wouldn’t stoop. He said, “I didn’t come to this country to live on the Government.” He was too proud of a man.
AGW: He paid his taxes though?
WESTON: Oh yes that’s right. And of course he had shares in the Sugar Mill too.
AGW: So he lived off his shares and his investments?
WESTON: I don’t know if you could have got it in those days or not. I get the pension, I don’t get the full pension, but I’ve got to fill in an income tax on account of the house in Brisbane. I get the rent from that and I got my pension.
AGW: Who’s this photo of here?
WESTON: When little Andrew Albert was a very delicate baby. And I’ll tell you about him, we had to take him to have him christened, did I tell you about that?
WESTON: Well he was only a few days old and he was a very delicate baby so Mum wanted him christened. So Mrs Coulson and I went to Nambour and we went to the Methodist Minister there and had him christened. Anyhow the baby lived for three weeks, he died. And this morning the little baby had been crying, we were in the old house. In this house. We were in the old house.
AGW: So it would have been roughly 1910?
WESTON: About 1910. Wait a minute, yes, because Randall was born in 1911. And anyhow he was crying and Mum asked me to go into Nambour and go to Dr Malaher and get some medicine for the baby and tell the doctor the baby’s sick. Anyhow I went and got the medicine and I got back and the baby had died. So anyhow Mrs Coulson, we go to Mrs Coulson again. Oscar, my eldest brother, went and got the coffin, a little white coffin. And Mrs
WESTON: Coulson laid him out. And next day, there’s Oscar, Oscar was on horse-back. we didn’t have a sulky in those days. He had the coffin in front of him. And Mrs Coulson, Dad and Tyyni and I walked beside. We had black armbands, she provided all those you know. You’d be surprised how wonderful people were in those days. Anyhow we walked to the cemetery like that, part along this road and then buried him in the Nambour Cemetery.
AGW: Wherreabouts, was the Nambour Cemetery in those days? Same place?
WESTON: Same place, but not the garden cemetery but the other one. You know the old one.
AGW: So your mother had eleven children in all? Big family to do the work.
WESTON: That’s right. And I don’t know how she did it. In the beginning before we had the sewing machine, she bought a singers machine in Image Flat, but before that she used to do all the sewing by hand.
AGW: By hand for eleven children.
WESTON: In those days, it isn’t like nowadays, you can let a boy go with just with a pair of pants on but in those days you had to have all this shirts and everything to go with it. You wouldn’t dare to put a child out in the sun without a shirt on.
AGW: Dïd the boys have to wear stockings in those days?
WESTON: Yes, big shoes and stockings.
AGW: You bought them did you?
WESTON: Oh no, Mum used to do a terrible lot of knitting. She used to knit all our socks. Great knitter.
End of Interview