Interview with: Eva Flatt
Date of interview: 19 March 1985
Interviewer: Caroline Foxon
Transcriber: Valarie Poole
Eva Isabell Humphreys was born in Casino, N.S.W. in 1915 and moved with her family to Cooloolabin in 1916. Eva married Victor Kennedy Flatt in May 1938. Eva and her husband were devoted Salvation Army members all their life. Eva passed away 13th June, 2013 in Nambour at the grand age of 97.
Image: Pupils in front of the first school at Cooloolabin, ca 1924.
Images and documents about Cooloolabin in the Sunshine Coast Libraries Catalogue.
Eva Flatt oral history - part one [MP3 29MB]
Eva Flatt oral history - part two [MP3 29MB]
Eva Flatt oral history - part three [MP3 29MB]
CF: Well Eva, you’ve told me you were born in Casino in 1915 and your family moved to Cooloolabin in 1916. What made your parents come to this area? Did they have a background in farming?
FLATT: No, they didn’t have a background in farming. My dad was in business in Casino, but by this time he had four children, three boys and a girl. It was during the war-time and so he felt like he would like to have a change. He had become a Christian, and his people weren’t practising Christians, and I think he thought that it’d be a good idea, a good thing, to take the children out and start a new life, and having the three boys, well farming would be very interesting.
CF: So you came up to Cooloolabin?
FLATT: yes, we came to Cooloolabin when I was only nine months old. That would be 1916. When we arrived in Yandina, it was pouring rain and then we had to stay with a family, just the next farm to where I’m living now. And we were there for six weeks because we couldn’t get through to Cooloolabin because of the rain and the roads weren’t so good. And then finally we got to Cooloolabin, where my aunt and uncle were living.
CF: Had your father bought land there at Cooloolabin?
FLATT: Yes, he’d bought a holding there. It cost five hundred pounds. It was up near the Cooloolabin Dam, just alongside the Cooloolabin Dam. We go back up there to see the dam and I always enjoy it because I remember the times that we swam in that little creek there. Memories of my life when I was a girl, up ‘til I was eleven, was there in Cooloolabin.
CF: So the family worked the land there?
FLATT: We did build a house on this land and we lived there for a while. But the land wasn’t really that good ground for farming. It was white, very white sort of soil and Father didn’t stay on that very long. He looked for other better ground. And there was better ground at Cooloolabin. Then he grew bananas and that was alright.
This place that he was on there wasn’t his own. It was a friend of ours, a sawmiller from down Woodford. And he went on to his land then. It was better soil and we grew bananas and then he had another place, sort of back further, I don’t know actually where it was, it might have been Kiamba, but it was very good soil too. We grew bananas there. Then later we went to dairying.
CF: In the same area?
FLATT: Yes, in the same area. Just right on Cooloolabin near the School of Arts. We went dairying there for firstly for a Mr. Fraser, and then we later changed over and a Mr. Johnson. And my father was just half shares in that dairy and we were doing alright there, and that was where he got hurt with the horse. Riding. He had bought a lovely lively horse, cause he liked good horses, and it threw him. And six months later he fell ill and it was from this fall. He had blood poisoning from an abscess that had formed inwardly and that’s where he died, when we were on this dairy.
CF: Going back a bit then, was that his main concern then, the dairying and the farming.
FLATT: Yes, dairying that was what he was, and he grew some bananas still too. Then of course, he also did some timber work, like, overseeing and falling trees; they used to sell timber. And they used to have bullock wagons. Someone he would engage to bring their team in an take timber to the mills. That was mostly for Woodford Mills, the sawmill down at Woodford. He was really a relation of my husband. He used to send the timber off their place. This man owned that, Fredin their names were. He used to oversee this timber that was cut and pulled down to Yandina and sent down on the train to Woodford. That was another thing that we did.
CF: You mentioned that it was very much his conversion that decided him to move up to this area. How did this make itself felt in your family life? Was it very strong influence?
FLATT: Yes. Well see our aunt was a Christian too, Savationist, and she lived at Cooloolabin. Up near where the Cooloolabin Dam is. They had fruit, pineapples, a lovely farm. It’s all just timber now. And she used to have Sunday School at her place, every Sunday morning. And the children of the district – didn’t matter what denomination they were – everybody used to come to that Sunday School, every youth. And we used to go. Cooloolabin was a nice free area really in those days. Everybody was friendly and we (Cooloolabin) didn’t miss out on anything because, everytime there’s certain holidays, they’d make it nice for us, especially at Christmas time. We always had a picnic at the School of Arts and a Christmas tree and Santa Claus used to come on a slide. One year it was a slide, and a horse, you know what they call a slide. Then toward the end, when trucks came out and that, he probably came on a truck about that time. What else did we have? A wagon probably. And Santa always came. We had this beautiful big pine tree. You know, those bunya pines? They’d have it up on the platform in the School of Arts and it would just be covered with toys and all the children would get the toys and books. The school would give us books for our attendance and our work, you know. That was good.
CF: Who used to arrange these functions?
FLATT: See our parents, adults, they would be on the School Committee and then we’d have races. And they used to run from the School or Arts up to our dairy, up past the tennis courts. There used to be tennis courts too there, still there. Every year, I go back up and have a look around. We used to run up there past our house and we used to have great times. Then they’d give us money, if we won the race. Oh, they were great times. And on Arbor Day our teacher used to always take us down to Rocky Creek, where it was lovely water and big stones. There were stones and we used to cross over and the maiden hair fern used to grow there. We’d plant a tree for Arbor Day and we’d have a picnic and our parents would all go. In fact, they were great days. I’ll never forget them.
CF: You mentioned you went to Sunday School there, and all religions went to the same one. Was there a Salavation Army church or citadel?
FLATT: No no, there was no church. No one had churches there. It was always held in the School of Arts. That was where we held church. And Sunday School was on the front verandah of my aunt’s. Every Sunday morning we would go there.
CF: So how did the Salvation Army people in the area get together as a group?
FLATT: There was two families who were really Salvationists, but then we used to have – the Salvation Army Officers from Nambour would bike up there, on push bikes, mind you, to come up to Cooloolabin. But those were different meetings to the Church. See, when it was our Salvation Army’s turn to have Church, well we would have it the same in the School of Arts, and then when these officers just came up during the week, we would just have Cottage Meetings and that would be mostly just Salvationists, but anybody could come. Sometimes the neighbours might come. But that was as special meeting, that they had fellowship with their own converts and their own church people. That was held in our homes. But then we used to have three homes. We used to have one at my aunts and one at our place and then there was a nice old couple there, Kennisons, they were Scotch, and we used to go there too for Cottage Meetings. They were the times. We had some lovely times. They were what you would say, more personal times.
CF: What sort of things would you do at the meetings?
FLATT: Oh we just, we’d sing, just the same as at Church. We’d sing hymns, songs we call them. We use sort of military terms. We don’t call them hymns. We say songs. “Song so-and-so.” And we’d sing choruses, little choruses, not a whole song, but parts, what we’d call choruses. We’d have prayer and then we’d have an address, talk, by whoever was leading and just a friendly little atmosphere. Just friendly, you all come and unite together in the best room and you bring in more chairs and they sit around. It’s more homely.
CF: And the whole family would go to these?
FLATT: Yes, that’s right, everybody would.
CF: You mentioned that your father became involved as a circuit rider. Now how did that eventuate?
FLATT: Well see, when he came here, he was a Salvationist. And we have what you call Local Officers. We’ve got our full-time Officers that come, who get commissioned here or sent here. Then we have quite a number of Local Officers. Even now, we have one that takes charge if we haven’t got any Officer, is the Sergeant-Major. That’s what my son does. If the Officer’s not there, or we haven’t got an Officer, he’s go to be in charge of everything, even do the meetings or services. Then we have a Treasurer, and we have a Secretary, same as all Churches have. And then we have some folk who they make Envoys and it’s a pretty good position. They pick out men of character, and men that are solid in their faith, and they would make them Envoys. And they’re supposed to be like a local preacher and they can ask to go here, there and everywhere and that’s what my Dad did. He was an Envoy. He used to be a local preacher and he would go around and help the Officer because he’s got the centre to do. He would be a very busy man, going around all the outposts.
CF: So the Officer would have been situated in Nambour?
FLATT: Yes, that’s right. He’d do that. And then in different districts, like Mapleton and Cooloolabin, and Yandina here, they had their Envoys that would take services, and so that’s what my father was. He had a very big circuit, but it wouldn’t be all one. He’d visit North Arm one day, and Yandina. The day we went to North Arm that was just that. We did just hat. But then when he come to Yandina, he’d go to Maroochy River and Bli Bli. We had a church at Bli Bli. That was one we did. And we had one at Cooloolabin, but North Arm we had it in the School of Arts. Yandina had a little hall, and Bli Bli had a little hall; but the one at the River must have been at home. Then they would go into Nambour at night and then ride home from there on horseback.
CF: How often would your father do this? Was this something he did once a week, or once a month?
FLATT: Well this time, it probably would have been once a month I should say, because he could hardly do it every week could he? I think he’d have it once a month, I should say, yes.
CF: Did you ever go with him on any of these trips?
FLATT: yes, I was allowed to go to North Arm. That was the only one. Then my brothers used to go with him on this bigger trip.
CF: Did you remember your trips to North Arm? How would you get there?
FLATT: Oh, yes, I remember them real easy. See I had a little pony, “Benny” I used to call him, and I used to ride. I loved horses. I had a little bit of my Dad’s people in me, and I loved horses and I used to love that day, that big ride, you know from Cooloolabin to North Arm.
CF: What time would you have to leave in the morning?
FLATT: It must have been pretty early. I think that the boys must have done the milking that day. And then I’d start off early, because we must have had it at eleven, because we just had time to come from North Arm to here where we live, this next farm. Not the next farm, the one after. It was there we had lunch. We’d have lunch and then after lunch we’d ride home to Cooloolabin.
CF: So obviously the Salvation Army influence was very strong in the family. Did you ever feel different to other people in the area?
FLATT: Not at Cooloolabin. Not at Cooloolabin at all. The people there were very thoughtful of each other, and they used to join in, you know. In fact, they respected my Dad and Mum because if there was any trouble, sickness, they would call on Mum to come and pray for their children. And I can remember one incident that this family, Scottish family they were and they had a family and their youngest daughter got polio. She was very, very ill, not expected to live. And I remember my Mum going. They asked her to prayer for her, and Mum used to go and visit them and cheer them up and pray for Olive, and she got over it, but she always walked very slowly.
Especially my Mum, she was such a lovely person. She used to be everywhere where there was need. Anybody would just call her and she would go. Same thing after we came to Nambour. She did the same thing down there. She was very well-known, well-respected in Nambour, Mum, even though she didn’t have a husband to help her there. She looked after us children.
Cooloolabin State School
CF: When you were in Cooloolabin, when would you have started school?
FLATT: I should say it was about six. They didn’t start so early those days. I wouldn’t be sure when I started. I don’t think it would have been five, I think it would have been more six. I might have started five and a half. The usual time I started.
CF: And that was the Cooloolabin School?
CF: Was it a very big school?
FLATT: No it wasn’t a big school. We only had one teacher, but he was a fine teacher. Mr. Keys. He was a good teacher, he was. He had a family of his own. See that’s how it was. The community there was a very close community, and everybody was concerned of the other person. We had some lovely folk that lived there, older people. In fact, there was more people there than there is today. Still it’s building up now, there’s new houses being built up there, brick homes. So it’s going ahead.
CF: Back when you were at school, there was just one teacher, was there?
FLATT: Yes, he controlled every class. He was a very good teacher.
CF: Do you remember what you favourite subjects were there?
FLATT: Oh well, I think we sort of enjoyed everything. It was a good school. We were free. Everybody used to play together you know. The girls versus the boys, in football. (LAUGHS)
CF: How many pupils were at the school?
FLATT: I couldn’t really remember that. There would have been thirty or so, I suppose. There was a fair few of us anyway, so there could have been forty or fifty.
CF: You mentioned football. What other sort of games did you play?
FLATT: Oh we used to have fun. We had a fairly big area, and one thing I’ll never forget, we used to make terrific cubbies. But they weren’t cubbies, we used to build. The boys’d get poles and they’d put them in and it was like a tent. The boys would help the girls. The boys would have their own and the girls would have their own, and we’d build it like a tent, in the shape of an old-fashioned tent. You’d get two forks and then they’d dig the ground and put them in properly, solid and the fork at the top. And then they’d get a long pole sapling and put along the top. Then they’d get sticks and put all down the sides and we’d get dead grass. We’d cover that all with this grass. You’d keep covering it until you couldn’t see any blue sky through it. Then we’d decorate them. Kids would bring little treasure and bits of things and then we’d get the clover flowers and make chains and decorate our tent up. Well we called them cubbies, I suppose, and make them look beautiful.
CF: Did you do this during your lunch hours?
FLATT: Yes, in our lunch time, and the girls’d go and have their lunch in theirs, and the boys’d go and have their lunch. The boys were very good you know. They’d treat us well and build. We’d do the grass thatching, but they would do the heavy work. Then we used to have gardening. School was fun there.
CF: You mentioned gardening. That was done during school time?
FLATT: Yes, sometimes they’d work, if they had the fever, they’d work probably at lunch time on it, you know.
CF: What sort of thing would you do at gardening?
FLATT: We had roses and all the flowers. My brother was good at gardening. He was always poking around the garden. Oh, we had a nice garden, roses and all there is to go with it, that you’d have in those days. Then I used to remember – see we had scrub, bush – teacher used to take us for walks in that for a sort of Nature Study, and we used to collect the leaves. Then we’d come back and draw them. You know, it was different schooling. You had the Nature Study, and then sometimes our teacher would take us right up to a very high point behind the school, and then he’d take us for a walk right up there, and we’d look out. You can look back over all Yandina from up there. He used to take us up there for strolls and school was interesting.
CF: Did you ever go on trips out of the district?
FLATT: No, no, never. Never did those sort of things. We had our fun there because we used to go for picnics and that sort of thing. We always went like as a family. My grandparents lived in Brisbane right on the tramline there at Lutwyche, and they had a business and it was right on the tramline. It was double-storey, and we had our family trips to Brisbane to our grandparents, and they used to take us into the city, at night, you know, at Christmas time, and see all the toy displays. So we had the farm, but we also had the grandparents in the city which we used to go down and have some lovely times there.
CF: When you were ten and at school there at Cooloolabin, what was your home life like then? Did you have a lot of entertainment in the home?
FLATT: You made your own fun. Our dad was sport-minded,
End Side A/Begin Side B
FLATT: being in the boxing beforehand; although he didn’t allow boxing gloves in the house, but he used to wrestle with the boys. They’d start in one room and do a whole circle of the place. I think that’s what made our life. Dad was so fond of playing with us and that. And on holidays, when we had school holidays, Dad would play cricket with us, and marbles with the boys at night. They’d get their marbles out you know. And that was our only entertainment.
We didn’t have a wireless. Wirelesses came in, radio came in there, you know the old… what they had in the first. Our next door neighbour, they had one and they used to ask us. They had a citrus orchard, and they had a nice home and they used to ask us to come over and listen to the wireless. So we used to spend time like that. We’d go over there.
CF: What sort of programs would’ve been on the wireless then?
FLATT: Oh, that’s a bit hard. It was nice. We used to think it was great, but it’s a bit hard to remember after all that time. Music I think, mostly.
CF: Were you a musical family? Did you play music at home?
FLATT: My eldest brother he learnt the violin. He used to play the violin, and he was used to like singing. Well he had the opportunity. He was the only one that learnt music then because he used to come into Yandina. Oh there must have been a woman up at Cooloolabin taught him. He used to go up to lessons. He had a violin and he used to play quite nicely. He was sort of interested in music, but we others didn’t do anything like that until we come to Nambour.
CF: Did you do a lot of reading at home? Were there lots of books in the house?
FLATT: We would read, yes. The girls and I, we used to love roaming. See you had so much area on this farm, this dairy farm. There was plenty of area, plenty of things to do, you know. We never had a dull moment. If you weren’t climbing up… we used to go around the farm, and we’d spy up. I used to get into terrible trouble climbing. Tomboy. Used to climb a lot, get into trouble; and I used to like riding fast on the horse. I wasn’t a reckless sort of a person, but boy, I used to love to go on that horse and climb trees.
The girls and I, we had our dolls, we probably didn’t have a lot of money those days, but our parents never let us… we always had nice things. Always had dolls and we always had sunshades, and you know, we made our own fun. Like I had three sisters. There was four of us. We used to get our dolls all dressed up and get out brollies and we’d go for a walk up to see the neighbours. We used to walk up Cooloolabin, pst the School of Arts and up the road to, you know, everybody was friendly.
CF: Did you used to have films in the area in those days?
FLATT: No, I don’t remember any films. Might have been once or twice. We were never allowed to go to the picture theatre.
CF: Was that part of the Salvation Army creed?
FLATT: yes. We don’t still go but a lot of Salvationsists do now. We only go to anything that’s… I think I’ve been to one film, in all my life, at a cinema, and that was only at Nambour, and it was “The Ten Commandments”. Oh that was terrific. I thought that was terrific. You know about the Israelites crossing the Red Sea. I’ve been to lots of other Christian films.
CF: So there weren’t many films at the time?
FLATT: It was a very different thing on the farm. Farm life is… I don’t know… you’re glad to have your life in the day. You kind of… at night, you’re glad to stop home. You don’t like to be gadding around all the time. Even now, we were out all day Sunday to Church, and then we might be out of a Friday night sometimes if there something on, or a Saturday night. Now we’ve started these Cottage Meetings, I sort of go out Wednesday night, but I’m mostly home. Farming… by the time night comes, you’re sort of glad to just do some little thing and you’re in bed early. You know, you get up early.
CF: When you were at Cooloolabin, did you do a lot of chores around the place, your brothers and sisters and yourself?
FLATT: Of course, my brothers helped my dad in the dairy. They did the milking. The only time I used to help, even though I was young, I only helped to give the brothers a break, you know, like Sunday morning say. Every Sunday morning, one would have a break, you know, give them a sleep in, instead of having to get up. Well that morning, I would get up but Dad would always come in. It was lovely. He used to come in. he never said, “Oh, get up,” or anything like that. “There’s my big girl. Going to help me this morning.”
He’d always give me thirty pence – well, I was only tiny then – thirty pence if I helped milk, and my brothers probably got more than that, because they helped. If anybody was sick, say if one of my brothers was sick, and they were short of a hand, I could milk twenty cows without a fuss. See it was only done with hand.
After Dad died, my eldest brother would have to take the cream cart to Yandina, the wagon and pick up all the mail and all the groceries, for everybody – not the groceries, the bread and meat – for everybody, and the mail. Well he was busy doing that. And then my other brother Bill, there’d be some cows missing, and he’d have to go and get the cows. And then it would be left for brother Ted and I to do eighty cows on our own.
CF: How long would that take you?
FLATT: Well we were pretty good at it, him and I. So I got a bit sick of this. This was after Dad went, because I had to help more then because we stayed there six months after Dad went. It was in the lease sort of thing, or the half shares, that he could have so many cattle. He had quite a few cattle of his own built up, and of course we had to sell all them. And because of the man who we were working with, we did six months; and Dad asked Mum to go to Nambour or to Brisbane, sell everything up, and not stay on the farm. It was too hard for us.
CF: It must have been a great shock to the family when your father died?
FLATT: Oh yes, because he was only forty-two, it was. It was a thing. It was really caused from an accident. If they’d only know that in the first place. But then of course, who was to know? I don’t think it worried him. It just formed there afterwards, might have took a few months to form anyway.
CF: So the family stayed another six months before you settled up?
FLATT: Yes another six months. I must tell you one funny incident. My brother and I was always milking these cows. I thought, and me loving horse riding, I said, “Look. Let me go out and get the cows for a change.” I rushes out, you know, and jumped on my pony, and in the excitement, I fell off. Head first into the dirt (LAUGHS) So you know, we had lots of fun and that. I think my older brothers think it was a bit hard, but to me who loved the outdoors, it always seemed wonderful to me. You know I love nature and loved horses.
Depression in Nambour
CF: Did your life change a lot when you had to move to Nambour then?
FLATT: We came to Nambour, because, while we had Mum we didn’t worry about anything much, you know. Our mother was everything to us after Dad went. Dad was pretty important to us and that was a terrible thing. I’ll never forget that when he died. I was jus told enough to know what it all meant. But anyway, Mum sold up and she felt that she – well, being a Christian – she asked the Lord about where she should go, and although her parents were in Brisbane, she felt that it was Nambour. And so she bought a home in Nambour. She had enough money to. I think she put a certain amount on it and might’ve had to pay a bit of it off if I remember rightly. We come to Nambour.
CF: Where were you living in Nambour then?
FLATT: We were living up… they’ve changed it now. Our street was called Arnold Street. But now it’s Mount Pleasant Road. That’s where we lived. Then of course, being Salvationists, it was only a small Church sort of those days in Nambour, and so they were very happy to have this big family that came in. And by this time the boys were growing up. I was eleven, next brother was thirteen, next brother was fifteen and next brother was seventeen. They had old heads on them.
CF: So they really were supporting the family then?
FLATT: yes, my brother got work. He worked in business in Nambour. He was a good grocer. First he used to work for the local grocer shop we had. And it was more than a grocer shop. It was a big shop where they sold everything.
CF: Do you remember the name of it?
FLATT: Yes, Williamson. I think it was J. Williamson. That was his first job at this store. They sold drapery and everything. It was a real store, groceries and heavy stuff like. It was a real store. He worked in the grocery department. He was good. He was pretty good with figures, and he just delighted in that sort of work. Then he went, they sold out; and then Coles opened, and he worked for Coles. He was head grocer at Coles, when they had groceries and everything there. Where the Variety store is now, that was the groceries and they also had drapery and all the variety stuff. He was supporting us.
CF: Was it a very difficult time then?
FLATT: Yes, that was the Depression. We managed. Mum never worked. She had enough work to do with the eight of us. We were all at home but she used to be a terrific gardener. She grew all our vegetables, and pineapples and pawpaws. It was nice up where we were, we were out of frost. And she grew pawpaws, pineapples and all our own vegies, even bananas she had. That was a great save to us. She was a good seamstress, and she used to turn our clothes, those days. They don’t know anything about that today. She used to turn our clothes and make our clothes. And even thought she didn’t go out to work she save a lot of money by her handiness at home. Then my older brothers got jobs and the brothers helped out see. They kept us. And that’s how we managed.
CF: Did you feel that you were worse off than other struggling people in the area, or was everybody really struggling?
FLATT: We were better off than some I suppose, because we had our own home, and we didn’t only just have an allotment, we had enough for about four allotments. So Mum had a bit of ground. And we kept a cow. We brought one of our best cows with us from up there. There was a farm behind us, and they let us run our cow on their pastures. So we had our own milk and Mum made butter too. Those things she did. Being a farmer’s wife, she was pretty thrifty. She was interested in the Church. But then she did a lot of good work too. Even in Nambour she was always busy and she was well-known. Then I think people did respect her for how she looked after us.
CF: You would have still been at school then?
FLATT: Yes, I went to Nambour Primary School. They used to learn Domestic Science there, underneath. It was next to the Sugar Mill, the old school. And that’s where I went. I wasn’t quite up with the grade, their work, when I came to Nambour, coming from a little school. But I soon sort of come up to it. It was a bit hard at first. That’s where I first felt this opposition to the Army, at school. Not from the children, the teacher a bit, and yet he was a nice teacher, a good teacher, but he used to throw off a little bit about us being at the Army all night.
CF: You were made to feel self-conscious?
FLATT: A bit embarrassed there. But he got over that, because I’ll never forget – later on we had an Officer who came. He had been a missionary in China, and they had done their term over there. They had a little girl, hadn’t started school when they came, and she started school here. And I got on really well with those few people and so did my teacher. He had a little girl and they were real friends. And I’ll never forget I was down there this day, it was Sunday, and we were at Sunday School and I was really thrilled. I see here comes Mr. Sally. The Army Hall used to be where our new one is, but it was an old one built in 1914; next door we had what we call the Quarters. That is where the Officer lived. And here’s Mr. Sally bringing his little girl to her birthday party. And he was so nice to me. (LAUGHS) He saw me and he said, “Hello Eva, how are you?” He didn’t rough me after. It was just when I first come there – when I couldn’t keep up with this work – and he said, “I suppose you’ve been up at ‘Sallys’”. His name was Sally. (LAUGHS)
CF: Did you ever feel it from the other children at all?
FLATT: No, not really. The children were good. I got on well with the children.
CF: Did you spend a lot of time in church activities when you were still at school there?
FLATT: Well I suppose we did in a way. See it was Sunday nights you’d be at Church. You wouldn’t be that late getting home, but see, he (the teacher) had a class to bring along and I suppose that’s how he got his… He used to say to me… course, he was Roman Catholic too, and there was… there’s not the tension between the Churches now, the Catholics and the Protestants is there? If I didn’t know my work, “Oh you’ve been out with the Sallys all night.” And that used to hurt. But anyway, I said, “I’ll show you.” Then he gave me great credit when I picked it up. These things you have in life don’t you.
CF: So you’d be at the Church on Sunday nights?
FLATT: Sunday nights.
CF: What other sorts of activities would you have?
FLATT: On Sunbeams. That’s what is a kind of Brownies. I used to belong to Sunbeams. We had Sunbeams in those days.
CF: That was a church association?
FLATT: yes, like the Lifesavng Guards. They call them Brownies then they call them Girl Guides. We have what we call Sunbeams and Lifesaving Guards.
CF: What would you do in the Sunbeams?
FLATT: The same as they do in Brownies and that; handiwork, sewing, and all these different things they have to do, First Aid, and everything like that. I went to that. We used to have socials and programs, Sunday School. We had a lot of activity because we had open air work too. You know, the band. And you sing and you go down the street, and form a ring and give out the gospel.
CF: And you’d go out with them while you were still at school, would you?
FLATT: Oh yes, kids used to go too. I sued to do a lot of that sort of thing, singing solos, and speaking and all that sort of thing. When you’re young I used to do a lot.
CF: So most of your social life, or all of your social life, revolved within the Church?
FLATT: And of course, we had our friends. Those days, it used to be great. You’d go to your friend’s place of a weekend, and she’d come to your place for the next weekend. I had friends out in the country after I came to Nambour, and I’d go out in the country. The eldest sister of my friend, used to drive a sulky and horse mind you, before the days of cars. And she used to come to town and she lived out at Diddilibah. Those days they had a cane farm out there. I used to go out with her in this. She’d come to town to get the groceries, and she’d pick me up Friday afternoon, and I’d go out there. They used to play, they had the piano. Their brother was musical. He was our headmaster after anyway.
CF: So most of your friends would also have been in the Salvation Army?
FLATT: Yes. Then I had friends the other way top of Nambour, up past the hospital way. I had a friend that lived up in the top point there – now it’s all houses up there – and I used to go up there with her. Well you had more fun I think those days. You could walk anywhere. Today it’s not safe to walk. You could walk anywhere in Nambour. Today you don’t feel like letting your children walk. You don’t know who’s going to pick them up.
CF: How old would you have been when you left school?
FLATT: I must have been fourteen.
CF: Did you manage to get a job straight away?
FLATT: Yes, well I went caring. Child-minding sort of, more or less. I went for this lady. Her husband worked in the telephone business. He was a technician and she had been a school teacher, and she had her first baby. She had twins. It was a bit much, so she asked Mum could I come. It was hard to get jobs see.
CF: This was still presumably during the Depression?
FLATT: Yes, and having so many younger children in our family, I was pretty good at that. So I went and helped her. I was only young. I must have helped her for about two years.
Then I got a job at the hospital, working up there as a domestic, you’d say. But I did everything from making nurses uniforms to washing up and working in the theater, cleaning up after the theatre; oh everything. Then I used to make all those masks, and those cloaks they wear, all sorts of things.
CF: Was the hospital very different?
FLATT: Oh it was different. For one thing, it didn’t have very much money to run. It was harder even n the Matron. Hard on those who had the administration because they weren’t realy getting enough money. Well I know truly, that to buy the good, she had to ration it a fair bit. It is not like today. There seems to be plenty. The food is beautiful isn’t it, today. It was the Depression and it was felt everywhere. Even the doctor. Even the people you’d think had the money. They didn’t. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t easy for anyone. Depression hits everybody, low, high and everywhere. Well you felt it even in the running of any public place, things like hospitals and that. If they only knew. I don’t know if we got paid once a fortnight or once a week. Must have been once a week surely.
CF: What sort of hours did you have to work there?
FLATT: Oh well we did a bit of overtime, but you didn’t get any extra pay. You’d get, I suppose, I think I got two pound, four shillings a week. Of course it would have been a fortnight. No… All I got when I went to work at the other place (child-minding) was only ten shillings a week, and of course my food. I went home at night.
End Tape 1/Begin Tape 2/Side A
FLATT: No, there was no big wages.
CF: So really it was a very difficult time in Nambour?
FLATT: Yes it was. I should say it was more difficult for the parents, adults, than it was for the children, because we only saw the fun. We were young and didn’t want very much. As long as we had good food and something to wear, that’s all we worried about. But one thing about it in those days, the people shared things with each another, like even the jobs, just didn’t put so many off and the others have the jobs. They shared whatever days they could work. It got down to … having two days a week. See now they were getting some money. Instead of just putting some right off. They didn’t get any money. Of course those days there was no help like the Unemployment, and so they divided the work up evenly with people.
My sister was working for Whalleys stores. She was a businesswoman and also she was a seamstress. Those days you could go and buy your material at their store. It was a big drapery store and grocery store combined and my sister worked in the dressmaking area, where they made up the frocks. People just come in a buy the material in the store and walk along to the dressmakers, and they would make it up for them. And that’s what my sister did. Then she used to serve on the counter. And afterwards that closed because of the Depression, or he got rid fo the store, closed up the dressmaking.
CF: He didn’t close the store altogether, did he?
FLATT: Well, he must have sold it out later, that was William Whalley. That’s been a great name in Nambour.
CF: When did he close then?
FLATT: I don’t know what happened there. How that ended up. They closed the grocery and just had the drapery for a while I think. Then they closed that. Then they just had the shoe store. See they had the whole thing. They had groceries, and manchester and drapery and shoe store too, and hardware, over here with the groceries. And then they used to sell heavy stuff too, I suppose, tanks and that. It was a very big store. But then Mr. Whalley died after. I can’t remember just how it dissolved up, but gradually it all went. Then my sister lost her job there. The closed the dressmaking up. Then she was manageress of a store that opened. They opened another branch from Gympie, and she managed that. A little thing she was, and she was all business you know.
CF: That would have been quite unusual for a woman in those days, wouldn’t it?
FLATT: Yes, she was very good. She was fortunate that she got a position that she liked. She got into this drapery store where she was a good seamstress. Then she was a real good tailoress she was too and a dressmaker. Getting into this drapery, where they sold materials it was. She could tell them how much they needed and she worked there until she got married.
CF: How did your brothers cope? Your brothers that were working?
FLATT: Yes, well my oldest brother became a builder and my brother Ted, he still went on working in the business world as head grocer, and then he got married afterwards. He lived just a couple of houses down. Then he built his house in the next street later. He got his own home eventually. Then he was transferred to Bundaberg. Then they brought him back here again. They needed him back here. Then they sent him away again. He lives at Bundaberg now, but he’s retired of course. That was my second eldest brother. Well my third brother, he wasn’t as fortunate as Ted although he could of. He was very good at maths too. All my brothers were good at maths. He wasn’t as fortunate as Ted. He had to do farm work. Later he worked with the Public Works Department.
CF: How far out did he have to go to get to work?
FLATT: He used to do all sorts of things. He did work on a cane farm for a friend of ours, who was a Salvationist, down on the Maroochy River. Where Dad used to go when he was going down the river. He went down and worked there. He did pick up jobs around Nambour but in the cane season he would go back down there, because that was good money. But he had to work hard. He lives at Parklands now. He’s just had a bit of a stroke, but he’s at Church twice every Sunday. He did the same job as what my son’s doing now at the Church. He was the Sergeant-major. He’s been a great worker in his time for the church.
CF: During the Depression in Nambour, presumably there were a lot of people that just didn’t have work at all. How did they cope?
FLATT: Yes, well that’s right. Well I don’t know how they coped. I had an uncle that lived in Brisbane, and he was a builder. He lived at Corinda, had his own home. He lost his job. Building had gone. There was no building. Do you know what he did? He came up home. He’d gone around in Brisbane. Those day we only had private draperies, and down there they had bigger stores, and they could go around and buy little bits of things – boot laces, all little gadgets and things that would be acceptable to farmers. He used to come up with this roll of stuff. Our boys had a horse – they still kept a horse – and he used to ride around to the farms selling his wares. My uncle had to do that. I don’t know whether he made anything much. I don’t suppose he made a lot. I’ve still got letters from my grandmother telling me. My aunt used to work in business in Brisbane, and she said that Grace was only getting two days a week. I read this the other day.
CF: Were there a lot of people travelling around doing that sort of thing?
FLATT: Yes, oh yes, everybody tried to make a few pence wherever they could. They could get work on the farms. They wouldn’t get a lot. But I suppose some of them’d work for food anyway, those days. You were lucky if you could get your food.
CF: During that time, obviously you were lucky and you were working. Was there much in the way of entertainment? Did people have time or money for entertainment?
FLATT: I can remember this lady that I worked for. She taught me the piano too. Course, I’ve got away from in now. But when I went to work for her. This is the one with the two children – every afternoon she would give me lessons. She was a teacher like. I liked that. It was good. And she’d make sure that I had time to practise and on her nice piano. You know she treated me lovely. It was like being home, although I used to like to get home after it. I sued to just help her with the little ones. And those little kids got to love me. They were lovely kids. Not only was she teaching me the piano, letting me have the privilege, I was always sorry that I didn’t continue with it, but we didn’t have a piano, you know. Unless you’ve got a piano in the house, you can’t. While I was with her I was coming on really good, but it was… you know, experience in life. She was good to me. He was a nice fellow. He had his work to do. That was a start anyway to working. It was probably just for a couple of years until I got a bit of age anyway.
CF: How long were you working at the hospital?
FLATT: Oh, for about four years, or five years. Probably four. Then I got a bit fed up with it. You know, you’re sort of working very hard. Expected to do everything. What I got annoyed about was, we didn’t have enough hands, and I was doing everybody’s work, and it just got a bit much. I thought, “Oh goodness, I’m tired of this.” I walked out on it. The thing was, I went straight down to the doctor. You see they were glad to get good girls those days, that you knew how to handle things, you know. And I’d had experience at home with the family we had, and anyway, I wasn’t out of work long. The doctor was the chief doctor at the hospital. I went straight down to his surgery.
CF: What was his name?
FLATT: His name was Doctor Kennedy. He was a very clever doctor. I went down there, and not only him, there were other doctors there.
CF: What sort of work did you do there?
FLATT: I kept the surgery clean. I didn’t live in or anything. I only come to work and tidied the surgery and kept it nice, you know. Then after that job, then they sold out, those doctors, and a doctor came here on his honeymoon. Then I worked for them. I did all sorts of things there. I kept the place, and you know looked after them, and then he didn’t have a trained nurse there for a while, so I took on that job, helping him in the surgery with his patients, doing the bookworks and all. Sort of turn my hand to anything. That was the best job I had. I enjoyed that one. You know, it was clean and you’re mixing with people. That was the last job I had. I got married after that.
Salvation ArmyALVATION ARMY
CF: Before you got married, and moved up to this area, as you were getting older, you were then about sixteen, seventeen, were you becoming more involved in the Church?
FLATT: I was very involved in the Church.
CF: What sort of things were you doing there?
FLATT: Teaching Sunday School. Course with the work at the hospital, I was a bit tied up. I couldn’t do a great lot then unless I was off for the weekend. I used to be working Sundays there, and I would only get out for Sunday night and that would be too hurry to get down too. I used to remember, running from the hospital down to the Church. They’ve got a road there now, you know, where you go behind the station and go up. Well we only had a kind of footbridge then, and we girls, if we wanted to get to Church and we were pretty late leaving, we would run it down that hill. One thing it was running down that hill – that was good – to get to Church on time. They were good days, because there were lots of my friends working at the hospital. There was about eight of us, and quite a number of them were Salvation Army. They liked the Salvation Army girls.
CF: Why was that do you think?
FLATT: I think we were good workers. We had quite a few of them there. Oh it was rough, but we used to have lovely times together. You know of a night-time after work, we’d be pretty tired, but we’d go for a moonlight walk, up the Mapleton Road. That was nice about working there, was the fellowship you had, the friendship with the other girls. Then the nurses was nice. Most of them was nice. There was a terrific lot of companionship there. So we had our own fun really. We didn’t need to go for much else, you know.
CF: Did you ever experience hostility, the sort of thing you felt from the teacher?
FLATT: No, no, no. That business really, he might have been just exasperated with us all. Teachers do say things sometimes. I suppose you would have, but it never worried us, sort of thing.
CF: So your activities outside of work, were more with other Salvation Army girls?
FLATT: I had some friends out of the Army, some lovely girls I knew. When I went back to the Nurse’s fellowship I met some of them. I was really close to them. They weren’t belonging to our Church. They were from other Churches or some were not Church girls at all, but they were lovely people really.
CF: Was it through the Church that you met your husband?
FLATT: Yes. His father was a Salvation Army officer see, and then of course, when they come here, well I didn’t know him before he come here. As I said, I knew his uncle. I didn’t know him (my husband). I didn’t have any clue about him. I didn’t know he existed. I was a surprised when they come here. But then, they used to come to Church. When you belong to our Church, everybody knows each other. Everybody’s sort of friendly to each other. So they’d come down to Nambour and, as I said, when they built this little house they had a little service to bless the house. No wonder I’ve been happy, because they had the whole Church to come, but I didn’t come to it. We had younger children. I must have been only fifteen because I’m a year younger than him. I said to Mum, “Look I’ll mind the children and you go up. It would be nice for you to have a break and go up to this House Blessing.” Little did I know it was going to be my home for all these forty-six years. But I’m real thrilled Mum was here, you know.
CF: When would you have married then and come up here?
FLATT: Five years from the time this house was built. Seven years Vic was here. He was sixteen when he came, and he wasn’t quite twenty-four when we got married. We got married in the May and I would have been twenty-three in the July.
CF: What year was that?
FLATT: That was 1938. Vic was twenty-four in the August. I had my birthday first in the July and I was twenty-three. He’s eleven months older than me.
CF: Was it a big change, leaving Nambour and leaving your family? You were obviously very close and then moving up to here?
FLATT: Oh no, I just loved this coming out to the farm again. And I can see where I lived when I was a girl from my back landing. And I feel very close to my father coming here, because this where he and I used to ride the pony through on this track. Bridle track realLy, that’s all it was. I must have crossed over this land many times and didn’t know who owned it. I was trespassing, wasn’t I? (LAUGHS)
CF: So when you came here the house had all been built and everything, was it very different having to do things like washing and ironing and things like that, in those days to what you find now?
FLATT: Oh yes. One thing I noted since you were here – we had a lot of blessings that they haven’t got today. We had the order man to call and he used to come out from the grocer shop, and take our order. Then the next day they would deliver our groceries, and also be kind enough to bring our mail. We had a carrier who used to bring the bread and meat, and leave it out at a box on the main road and we just had to go down and collect it. But then we didn’t have all these lovely ‘mod cons’, like the washing machines and dryers and refrigeration. We used to have to have the old copper outside and fill it up. Carry the water out, fill it up, then light our fire.
CF: What did you use for washing-up detergent and that sort of thing, in those days?
FLATT: Well we didn’t have detergent, but we used to have a powder. The favorite one if I remember… Mum used to always use a powder. We had washing powder to use, or if you didn’t have washing powder, you just had to make shavings of your soap. We used to use that. Washing powder come in … Persil. Persil was one of the… There was others too, but Persil comes to mind, but I remember just having shavings. When you had a family – it was alright if you didn’t have little ones – but you go down and get your copper going and get your fired going. Then you might have a baby to feed, and you’d come upstairs, and by the time you’d get back, the fire had gone out, and you’d start all over again. (LAUGHS) A terrible tragedy, when the copper would strike a leak and the water would trickle down on your fire and put it out, and you never could get the thing going again, ‘til you got the whole fixed up. You know it was probably got a bump or something or worn or something.
CF: You say you didn’t have refrigeration then, when you moved here, and your meat was delivered. What did you do with it?
FLATT: Yes, well we had to get it pretty nearly every day or every second day. Every second day I think we got it. You had to cook both the meat. You couldn’t keep fresh meat. You’d get two days supply. It would come every second day or three times a week, and you’d cook, your first meet fresh that day, and you’d half cook, or you’d cook the meat for the next day. See it’d keep alright if it was cooked. We didn’t get – my husband worked this out for me, then I worked it out later – we didn’t have refrigeration until 1960. It was a fortnight before my eldest daughter got married. So I didn’t have it until 1960.
CF: So how did you keep things like butter?
FLATT: You could have one of those water coolers. Have you seen them? It’s a safe thing, you put water in it. But a good way that we used to keep our butter was, you’d get your butter in a basin and you’d stand the basin in another container, with water in. And then in you get a cheese-cloth, or some sort of cloth, and wet it all over then put it across your butter, and the ends of that cloth, you’d put into the water all around, and stand it in the breeze, and that keeps beautiful and cool. The wind blowing on this cheese-cloth, soaks up the water all the time, and the wind blowing on it sort of kept it cool. That’s how we used to keep our butter.
CF: How did you keep your milk?
FLATT: Well it wasn’t so bad for us. We had cows. You’d have fresh night and morning, so that wasn’t a very big thing. It would be more terrible in town.
CF: Do you have any other little household hints that you’d use, like keeping the butter cool? Were there other ways that you coped in those days?
FLATT: I’ve nearly forgotten. When I made jams, I used to have a sort of little room built. Those days we had two tanks up on high blocks see, so you could get the pressure. Even before I was married, they did this. They built a sort of little room around them, and they had shelves in them and it was rainproof. It was cool down there under the tank, and I used to put any of my preserves and that sort of thing down there on the shelves, and keep that.
CF: How about anything in the way of home remedies when you were married, or back when you were home with your mother?
FLATT: One household remedy, and it must have worked too for us, because, there was eight of us, and Mum, nine, and the period when diptheria was raging. That was when I was at school, soon after we come to Nambour. That would be about ’27, ’28. Oh it was really raging in Nambour and there were a lot of carriers, you know. They took swabs of all the children and there was a dreadful lot of carriers. But we never got diptheria, and we never had a carrier in our family. With eight children you would think. Some of them had two or three in their family. You know what Mum used to do? It was pretty primitive sort of thing, but she used to swab our throats every day when we come home from school. We had to line up and she used to get a feather, just an ordinary feather, and clean it, sort of sterilise it, clean it as good as she could. And then she’d get kerosene in a saucer and she’d put this feather in this kerosene, and we’d have to open our mouths and she’d swab our throats. As soon as we had a sore throat we told Mum. We’d get this swabbing done and she used to give that to the boys too, that had left school. They used to have it too. We never had any trouble. None of us were carriers either. The poor kids when they were carriers, they had to go and live away from home. They would put them in isolation, yes.