Interview with: Annie Mitchell (nee Butt)
Date of Interview: 13 February 1985
Interviewer: Gillian Pechey
Transcriber: Colwyn Boulton
Annie was born in 1901. She talks about education and farming at Montville. She married in 1923 at Nambour and had two children.
Image: Family gathering to celebrate Golden Wedding Anniversary of D.H.F. and Elizabeth Mitchell, Montville, 1934.
Images and documents of Annie Mitchell in Sunshine Coast Library Catalogue.
Annie Mitchell oral history [MP3 41MB]
GP: When were you born?
MITCHELL: On the fourteenth of August 1901.
GP: Do you remember much about your childhood?
MITCHELL: No I don't. I don't remember not while we were all kiddies together, I don't remember much.
GP: How many were in your family?
GP: Where did you live?
MITCHELL: We lived on Montville all the time. Dad took up a selection..up there and his father took up one and his brother took up one. That was where he started off up there.
GP: Do you know how much land you had, was it a big farm?
MITCHELL: It was a big acreage, because he sold one lot to one son and he sold one lot to another son on each side of him and he still had a big piece left. I couldn't tell you exactly how much though.
GP: What did you grow on the farm?
MITCHELL: Pineapples mostly and citrus.
GP: Did you work on the farm?
MITCHELL: Yes, I worked on the farm from when I left school till twenty. Can we go back to your school, where did you go to school?
MITCHELL: On Montville, and I taught at the school after fourteen, for two years and then I gave up and went and worked on the farm then.
GP: Why did you do that?
MITCHELL: Well my father wanted me to. He had nobody, the boys had gone. The two elder boys they were working elsewhere and he had nobody. He wanted us to do that, to work, so we just did it. The three of us, the youngest one didn't do very much of it, she wasn't really a well girl. She didn't do much but we did both of us, ploughed and sprayed.
GP: When you say you ploughed, did you have a horse?
MITCHELL: Yes, a horse and one of those iron ploughs you know.
GP: Do you remember was it a good horse, did you enjoy that?
MITCHELL: Oh yes, it was quiet. No I didn't enjoy it. I never enjoyed any of the work on the farm. We had to get up at five o'clock in the morning and get the cows milked, we had two or three cows. Half the time they used to kick us and we'd have big bruises all over our legs.
GP: So after school, when you were at school, I suppose you worked before you went to school and you worked when you got home from school?
MITCHELL: I think it was about three mile we had to walk to school, and we used to get out of school at half past three, we had to run all the way home. We had to be home at four o'clock. There were a lot of gooseberries and we used had to go straight over into the gooseberry patch and pick gooseberries til dark and then have tea and then sit up til twelve or one in the morning and shell the gooseberries ready to go away the next morning.
GP: Did you ever complain?
MITCHELL: It was no good. Another thing, when I first got to know Dave he wanted me to leave and go down and work in Nambour. But you couldn't do it you know because you didn't know how to do anything. I couldn't cook, I couldn't do anything only work on the farm. I learnt everything after I got married – meself and with the help of him that's how we got through.
GP: So he more or less rescued you from..
GP: Did you ever have days when you just relaxed or went for walks or played?
MITCHELL: Oh no. Only on the weekend, on a Sunday, we nearly always went out to friends, like young people and you know Kondalilla Falls now - well we could go down to them from the Western Road near Montville. We used to go down through the paddocks and down, different roads, it was all through scrub and everything. It wasn't laid out like it is now and we had to cross, we had to walk around a ledge. Oh, it was no wider than that, and there was a big bottomless pool down there and then there was another place where we went up on top of the falls. Somebody got up on top of us and rolled a great big rock down and it was coming straight for us and one of the fellows just happened to get in front of it and stop it you know. Well we would have been knocked over the falls.
GP: How old were you when that happened?
MITCHELL: Oh just teenagers.
GP: So you didn't actually, you had no games that you can remember as a child?
MITCHELL: No, and we had no T.V.'s and no radios or any of those things. We had nothing like that, but we did have a piano. He let us learn a bit you know but not enough to make anything out of it.
GP: So it sounds like your father ruled with a rod of iron.
MITCHELL: I'll say he did, because when it came to ordering clothes for us he'd buy a dozen yards of stuff you know. I used to have to sit up with him at night and make out the order, he never got Mum to do it. I used to have to sit up and make out this order to send to, Brisbane. You had to buy everything in Brisbane and he'd buy all this stuff. But then, the worst part of it was you had to make it, make it into a frock or something, because you couldn't sew and Mum used to have to sneak and help us. Well we couldn't have it if we couldn't make it.
GP: Did you have a sewing machine?
MITCHELL: Yes, Mum had an old treadle machine.
GP: Did you use that?
MITCHELL: I could use that.
GP: So all your clothes you made yourself?
MITCHELL: Yes, and we only had one good dress, one and that was to go to Sunday School. We had to walk to Sunday School on Sunday morning. One good one and then our school frock then a couple of old ones to wear at home. You never had dresses like they got today, thousands of them.
GP: When you worked did you wear trousers?
MITCHELL: No, that wasn't heard of in those days.
GP: So you worked in the pineapples in skirts?
MITCHELL: Hmm, rain and shine, your dress'd be wet through. It's no wonder I got arthritis and all these things today.
GP: Did you have umbrellas then, I know it rains a lot up there?
MITCHELL: Oh yes, I think there was umbrellas but we never had anything. I don't think we had a coat even on a rainy day.
GP: So you just got wet?
MITCHELL: Yes, stayed like that til we finished picking the pines, then go home and change. (LAUGHS)
GP: Did other children have the same sort of lives?
MITCHELL: Oh no, I don't think so. Because lots of the people were really annoyed at the way he treated us. But it was just his nature I suppose.
GP: And your mother, was she just quiet and took it?
MITCHELL: Yes, she was, she was really quiet and when he died, he died twenty or twenty-five years before her. She lived to be ninety two, he was only seventy-one, and you know, she used to fret a bit about it but I said, "Don't, that was sent for you to enjoy yourself now for a few years before anything happens to you, enjoy yourself, have a good time, and spend some money. "She didn't know how to spend money, she didn't know how to do books or anything.
GP: Did you get married about 1923?
MITCHELL: Yes but the other sister was married before me, one of them. She married before me, the second one.
GP: And you went off to Nambour and didn't go back?
MITCHELL: No, I went to get my things. A man drove me up from Nambour..and I went in and he was crying away in a chair when I went in,.you know. I suppose he didn't like me coming back or something I don't know. But anyway it's over now and I try to forget about it but the older I get I think the more I do think about it now.
GP: So if we then go to your marriage, you had children?
MITCHELL: Yes, Alan and Ray, that's all. One was born in September '26 and the other in December '27 and that was all we had. Quite enough too. (LAUGHS)
GP: What else did you do, like when you went to Nambour?
MITCHELL: I joined the Presbyterian Guild and I used to go to that. I joined a croquet club and I played croquet. I won a few trophies playing croquet.
GP: The CWA, were you ever in that?
MITCHELL: No, I was never in any of those things.
GP: What did you do in the Presbyterian Guild?
MITCHELL: You just went to a meeting every, I think it was once a month out in the church and decided what functions you'd have to make money out of and that sort of thing. I worked hard for them, I suppose in my time I've made thousands of bottles of jam. Ruth when she was out at Bell, I used to make hundreds and hundreds of bottles of chutney and pickles and that, jam for her to sell out there for the school.
GP: I think I remember that.
MITCHELL: I still make chutney.
GP: Did you ever grow your own vegetables?
MITCHELL: Not in that time but he does now, we never buy any vegetables. He grows it all, we freeze it, we've always got plenty in the freezer to keep us going from one time to the next. We haven't got anything now but it's too hot he can't do it now.
GP: So before they had freezers you bottled everything?
MITCHELL: Yes, but we didn't grow so much vegetables in those days you know.
GP: What did you do, if you didn't grow did you buy things?
MITCHELL: Yes, I had to buy it, you had to buy it all. In the war years well you couldn't buy it really, couldn't get any.
GP: So what did you do?
MITCHELL: We used to cook leaves off choko vines or pumpkins or anything like that you know, cook it but it was always alright. They had to or do without in those days. I've had a hard life really. It certainly was a hard start. Going back to the '20's and'30's, if you were sick then, what did you do?
MITCHELL: On Montville? Well I can remember once, I must have had, don't know whether I had mumps or what it was but I got sick and I had lumps in my neck and I was really sick in bed and I don't know how they got in touch in Nambour then. There wouldn't be a phone or anything then, but anyway they had to get medicine up and I had to take it and stay in bed. And my grandmother they lived down the road and she got appendicitis up there and Doctor Penny was the doctor in Nambour then. They only had the horse and buggy and they'd send for him at night time and he'd come. He had bells on his horse and you'd hear the bells ringing and he'd be coming. They nursed her, all the women took it in turns and nursed her and she go over it. She got through with it.
GP: There was a hospital then?
MITCHELL: I think there was in Namba. I can't remember the hospitals. Our boys were born up on top of the hill from where we were at a midwife's place, you know. I just went up there and they were born up there.
GP: What do you recall of life during the war?
MITCHELL: Oh, I remember them going off; and writing to them and sending parcels, things to them, I had a boyfriend went over and I never heard of him after the war. Then we got married, well Dad bought a place at Maroochydore then and we used to take a lot of the soldiers at Christmas time down and give them a holiday in our house at Maroochydore. To get to Maroochydore that's the part in those days, we had this house and we only had the horse and wagon and we'd break up school on Friday and he used to put a hood over the top of the wagon at the back and pack it all up and away we'd go. We'd get up real early and start off and you'd get down to half-way along the road anyway and that'd be dinner time - from Montville down to there from early morning before daylight til dinner time and then we'd have a stop there and we'd have our dinner. Then we'd set off again and go and we'd get down there by night time. That'd be all day, be on the road to go to Maroochydore. Then we'd stop there for six weeks, he always gave us the six weeks holiday. We'd stop there for the six weeks and then he'd have to take us back home again in the wagon and horses. So it's different now isn't it?
GP: Come back to your sister and the war.
MITCHELL: It'd be just after the war I think.
GP: Before you were married?
MITCHELL: Yes before we were married.
GP: So Maroochydore must have been quite different.
MITCHELL: Yes, there was nothing hardly there then. Nothing at all. My grandfather opened the first shop at Maroochydore and then Cliff's father - that was granddad's son, Dad's brother like - he took over from his father. He moved it then along a bit further. I used to go down of a weekend sometimes, Dad'd send you down to work for them in the shop for Grandad and Grandma in the shop. Then we'd have to go back home. But I don't know how we got there and how we got home down but I know me sister used to go sometimes and she could ride a horse but I couldn't ride. She used to ride down.
GP: Can you remember working in the shop?
MITCHELL: Yes, I couldn't remember prices and things but I can remember working in that shop, weighing out potatoes and all that sort of thing. I never had anything to do with that before though.
GP: A bit of a change from picking gooseberries?
MITCHELL: I'll say. But you'd only be there perhaps from Saturday til Monday to go and help them and do her washing and everything for her and go back home again. Start again.
GP: Did you ever go for swims in those days?
MITCHELL: Swims? Yes but I never liked the breakers - they always knocked me over. I gave it up, I hated it. (LAUGHS)
GP: Did you stay with your family or your relatives?
MITCHELL: When we went to Maroochydore. No, .Dad had a little house down there that he bought. Then afterwards we bought a piece of ground next to them and built a house. When the Nambour School was built, the new school, that's many years, he bought the old school, Dad did. We moved it down to Maroochydore and he built it down there. Bought it for twenty-five pound
GP: Is it still there?
MITCHELL: I don't know if they've shifted it now or pulled it down. That'd be - oh our boys were only very tiny then - that'd be sixty years ago, nearly sixty years ago that would happen.
GP: There's one incident in Maroochydore that you started to tell me about the other day about when your grandmother or is it your mother arrived by boat.
GP: Yes, well I've got the story about that. I've got a story about it. Mum's people landed first. You know where the hotel is now, at Maroochydore. Well they landed there, they came over by boat, they were a long time coming out on a sailing boat and then they came and landed there. Well then Dad's people, they'd never met or anything then, it was just strangers. Well this over lot came and they were wrecked on the bar and got everything wet when they came. When they landed they went there too and Mum's people had - her washing was lying all over the grass you know. Dad walked all over and she went for him. They were both kids about seven, Mum was about seven and Dad was about seven and Mum went for him, "You keep off my mother's clothes." and afterwards they married.
GP: So that was their first meeting?
MITCHELL: Yes, so she could tell it interesting Mum could, you know really interesting. She used to tell yarns. (I must give them to you some time to have a read of them, you know the old pieces of paper. I've got two or three of them but they're glued in books.)
GP: I notice they seem to have been very loyal to King and Queen.
MITCHELL: Oh yes, they liked their Royalty, Queen.
GP: Do you remember when they went to the war they were fighting for the Queen and they were very loyal to England.
MITCHELL: I can't remember a lot about it though, you know, really. In England the Royalty, the Queen and them, they were very good weren't they? They used to visit all the soldiers and that and all the people that had been bombed, they used to visit them.
The Princess Elizabeth (the Queen), and Margaret they had to go out of England; they went to Canada for a while during the war. Yes, it was the Second World War that Australia worried about wasn't it? We had a air-raid shelter in the back yard in Nambour - they built a big hole in the ground and lined it all round with saplings and I can remember the first time we had to go down in it. An aeroplane came buzzing over the top over the hill behind us and Ray, he was upstairs having his first shave, so he'd be about fifteen or sixteen, he was having his first shave, but he wouldn't come out. He was going to finish his shave. But it was a false alarm.
End of Interview
GP: The power went off and we went on talking. I asked what she would have chosen as a career if she had had a choice? She said, "Oh, I don't know. There was nothing I could have done. There was just work on the farm or in the house. I could have been a servant. That's all I could have done.