May was born in 1906. She talks about life and schooling at Woombye, social life, fruit farming and the CWA
Interview with: May Francis
Date of interview: 18 February 1985
Interviewer: Susan Brinnand
Transcriber: Valarie Poole
Place of Interview: Woombye
May was born in 1906. She talks about life and schooling at Woombye, social life, fruit farming and the CWA.
Image: May Francis (on left) and Alice Rutherford, Woombye, 1920.
Images and documents about May Francis in the Sunshine Coast Libraries Catalogue.
May Francis oral history - part one [MP3 59MB]
May Francis oral history - part two [MP3 59MB]
SB: Could you tell me a little bit about your grandfather?
FRANCIS: They arrived from England in 1885. He was an engineer at Brookfield on the water, Gold Creek Reservoir for many years. Then he got the idea of taking up a settlement and they moved from Brookfield by horse and dray up to what was then, Cobbs Camp. He first had to build a bark place to live in and gradually as they got the ground cleared, trees were planted. He built a home which had a shingled roof. This is where they first made their start.
SB: So your grandmother planted the trees?
FRANCIS: The jacaranda and figs, they were beautiful. That's what we lived with. She had the jacaranda seeds, they were given to her, and she planted these jacarandas. Then there were some of the original Moreton Bay figs which grew naturally on the country. We had the three big jacarandas and two big fig trees.
SB: Did they plant any fruit trees?
FRANCIS: The fruit trees were planted later. Yes there were fruit trees planted, and I remember they had grapevines as well.
SB: When your grandfather came to Woombye, did he come to do farming?
FRANCIS: Yes. He was not a farmer, but that was his idea. He gradually grew crops and then he got cattle. They made it into a part fruit or vegetable farm and cattle.
SB: What was his name?
FRANCIS: He was James Shurvell.
SB: Your mother was born in Woombye or did she come from England with them?
FRANCIS: My mother was born in England. She was 2 years old when they arrived in Brookfield and 9 years when they arrived in Woombye.
SB: Can you remember, as a child, any stories that she would tell you about the early days in Woombye?
FRANCIS: Well, that's going a long way back. No, I really can't remember that.
SB: What was your grandfather like. Can you remember him?
FRANCIS: My grandfather - I think he was a wonderful man. He had a lovely disposition, happy and always willing to help people. I just have very very happy memories of my grandfather. I remember he had a horse and a cart and I can remember when I was older, and he was on a different property, going to help him. He used to make hay. He loaded it on to the cart and I would help him unload it, and one day we were coming up the hill towards his house, and I and half the hay fell off. I had to call out to him and tell him he was leaving half of us behind. (Laughs) He was very surprised, and he said that he hadn't even missed me. Grandfather was, really and truly was, in my book, a wonderful person. My Grandmother was too, but she was a more severe person. Grand- father had that lovely happy nature. Everybody liked him.
SB: How did your grandparents do the cooking?
FRANCIS: As near as I can remember, they used to have a camp oven. Which was a round pot about 20 inches across and it had little iron legs. They evidently lit the fire and that burnt away to coals, and that was put over. That's how they cooked, and that's how they made a lot of the bread. So I don't know what year they would have got a stove or anything like that. I do remember my mother saying about cooking in the camp oven. They used to shoot pigeons and things like that. As I was saying before, the bacon house was built on, so pork I imagine, would have been quite a part of their diet as well.
SB: How did the bacon house work?
FRANCIS: It had about four or five benches. Which were slabs cut out of big trees. Trees were very big then, and four legs put in. After the pigs were kil1ed and prepared ready for the bacon. That was laid onto these slabs. Every day, salt and a certain amount of saltpetre was rubbed into the bacon. They had to be turned every day, and that went on for about eight or nine weeks to prepare the bacon. We did love our ham at Christmas time. The hams were beautiful.
SB: Did people have chickens and dairy cows?
FRANCIS: Oh yes. They did. Grandfather had cattle. They always had poultry. Because that was a part of their life, to have the eggs and things like that.
SB: When did your parents meet each other?
FRANCIS: Well, I guess being in the same district, they would have met up at different things. I don't think they had dances and things like that very much. But they evidently met up and they were married in 1897. I think they were married from my mother's home. It wouldn't be a big wedding or anything like that, I imagine. But that I don't know so much about - just about the wedding part. They settled out on dad's property, on the Blackall Road and lived there for quite a number of years, until they were having a family and it was a little bit too far for the children to walk to school. Dad didn't sell the property or anything. That was kept and he used to run cattle on that. For a time things got very bad. Dad had a horse team and he worked with that for a period until things sort of come good again. Then he bought my grandfather's property, out on the old Palmwood's road. That is where we really lived and went to school from. We lived on that property until 1951, when we sold it and moved up to Carter Road.
SB: When were you born?
FRANCIS: I was born in 1906.ti
SB: How many brothers and sisters did you have?
FRANCIS: I have four brothers and five sisters. At the moment, I have five sisters and three brothers. We lost a brother about a year ago. So out of a family of ten...
SB: How did your mother cope with having ten children?
FRANCIS: Well, I think she was wonderful. I really do think she was wonderful to cope with us all. But she was naturally a good organiser. I always think she was wonderful because before she was married she didn't do a lot of sewing or anything like that. As we were growing up, she made all of our frocks, our clothes and even the boys suits. So how she coped? Well, you know, it is only someone who has had ten children that would know.
SB: Did you have to do any family chores?
FRANCIS: Oh yes. There was Bunny, that's my sister. Her name is Alice, but she is always Bunny. I think Dad always called her Bunny. There was no boy between us, Bunny and I. So in the mornings, one week, Bunny would have to do upstairs work, you know anything that needed doing. Of course, in those days, we didn't have indoor toilets or anything like that. That was a job that always had to be done, which was called the slops, a special pail. (Laughs) The other one would have to wipe up. I can always remember that's what we had to do in the mornings. Then on a Saturday morning, of course, it was all wood stoves, and my grandmother and grandfather lived above us. So every Saturday we had to go and gather a heap of fine wood, for to start the fires, and then some thicker wood, for to put on after. This we had to do. Every night we had to carry the wood in, put it beside the stove, for to light the fire in the morning.
We always used to get enough for my grandmother for to light her fire. That was always a Saturday's job. As we were growing up we had a lovely creek running through our property, and there was a shallow pool and a deep pool. We'd be allowed to go and have our swims and things like that. It was a part of our growing up. I remember so much about growing up. We used to call it the 'paspalum'. It was a beautiful grade and we had trolleys, and we used to ride down. Well there was a gully running along and we had to be careful we didn't overshoot. It was a beautiful place to play. We were very lucky really, you know. We had all of these things.
SB: Can you remember any other games that you would play?
FRANCIS: Well we used to play rounders a lot, with the tennis ball.
SB: How did you play rounders?
FRANCIS: Well I've got to think myself about this. We used to play it such a lot. We had the tennis ball and one used to run so far...
SB: Is there any other games you used to play?
FRANCIS: We used to play hopscotch a lot. We loved playing our hopscotch. Drawing on the ground, so many squares. We didn't have any tennis courts or anything like that. We had that at school but not at home.
SB: In the afternoon did you have any chores to do, or was it just in the morning?
FRANCIS: Oh yes, I suppose we had some to do in the afternoon but... Course, when we used to come home from school; we used to have a play. I don't suppose we did very much in the afternoon. Excepting to take the wood in. Yes, we had to take the wood in at night. The chopped wood for to put on the stove. They were our main chores.
SB: Since your mother had to cook for so many children what were the meals that you would usually have?
FRANCIS: The older sisters helped with that. We always had our meat and vegetable meal. She always had a pudding. Maybe it was a milk pudding, maybe it was a plum pudding, or something like that. But we did always have good meals. Boiled fruit pudding, rolly polly, (but they were lovely) she used to make. Put all the currants and sultanas and all that sort of thing and boil them up and tie them up into a cloth. In the mornings we always had our porridge. As I said we had the hens. We had probably eggs and bacon and things like that.. I would say would be mainly our breakfast.
SB: Was there anything special that your mother would make that you would enjoy?
FRANCIS: Well yes, I am just trying to think what we used to call these puddings. We used to love them. They were called spotted dogs. Being a big family, we had a very big table. After Grandfather's house was pulled down and dad rebuilt, we had a very big dining room. I know our table cloths were four yards long. Our table must have been about 3 or 4 yards long. See to seat 12, it had to be. Well that was always a set thing. Meals had to be proper. You know, that was a proper part of growing up.
SB: Your routine - you'd come home from school and play and then?
FRANCIS: We'd have to come home and we'd have to get out of our school clothes. We weren't allowed to play in our school clothes. We were allowed to play and then we did have to get the wood. That was our main jobs. When I was older, course, I had to take my share of the cooking and all that sort of thing. But apart from that, it was routine work.
SB: How did you heat the water for bathing?
FRANCIS: On the stove.
SB: Would you have big pots?
FRANCIS: Yes, we had boilers. Some would take out what they wanted. The bathroom was just so different. It was just the bath. You'd have to put your water in and let it away."
SB: How would you iron your clothes?
FRANCIS: First of all my mother had, what they call Potts' irons. You had to heat them on the stove. Then I can remember getting one that was heated with petrol, pump it up, and that we thought was wonderful. Until we just sort of went along. That we used till we got up to the electric iron.
SB: When did electricity come to Woombye?
FRANCIS: I was trying to think of that myself the other day. We had the telephone before we had the electricity. I always remember when it was put in. Ruth, that's my eldest sister, she always said she was going to be the first to answer the phone. So my second sister, Annie, she set the alarm clock and let it ring off. Of course Ruth ran up thinking it was the phone ringing. I can remember, she was so furious.
SB: Was it a wind up phone?
FRANCIS: No I think, it was just an ordinary, on the wall one.
SB: Was it a box?
FRANCIS: Yes, as much as I can remember. That was put upstairs, which we would never think of doing now, because it was a two storey place we had. Dad built that house, I think during the first war, between 14-18. Iron was so expensive. You see, he had the two storey place built. Later that was all put on to one floor. It made a lovely home. We did have a lovely home, down there. No, oh no, they were happy years. They really were happy years.
We were a big family growing up, all the comings and goings and we were always more or less encouraged to bring our friends home. That's one thing in our growing up days that did happen very much. All the different ones around. Course the neighbours would come in and play. We'd go to the neighbours and play games. Always of a Sunday evening, whoever you wanted to take home for tea Sunday night, you took home. As I say, we had a big table. Then afterwards we had an organ at that period. We had learnt to play the organ, and we used to have a singsong of a Sunday night and we used to have, sometimes, there would be over 20 there.
SB: Can you remember some of the people who would come?
FRANCIS: Yes, well there used to be Smith's boys, they were friendly with my brothers from Palmwoods; Sid and Bill Smith. Actually later on, their sister married my uncle. Well then we used to have the Smiths, that, was Jack and Bill Smith, they were connections of my mothers. They used to come down. The McNall girls, they used to come across. But we always had people. Mum was good like that. She was very tolerant. She had a big family but she didn't restrict us in that way.
SB: Can you remember some of the songs you used to sing?
FRANCIS: Oh well, that's asking a lot. Through the week days we had the other but we were brought up you know, quite strictly. We always had to go to Sunday School and...
SB: So you would mainly sing hymns on Sunday.
FRANCIS: On Sunday, and Sunday nights we did and then someone would give a reading. We were quite strictly brought up. I can remember the big Fig trees when we were growing up, on a Sunday. We'd pull the limbs to grow down so grandmother couldn't see us. She got so annoyed if she saw us playing on a Sunday. See, that's the difference. She didn't think we should do. But then Mum did. Mum thought we should be allowed to play. We used to pull this fig limb so it would grow down so Grandmother couldn't look down on us.
SB: What about working on Sunday?
FRANCIS: Oh no. We did all our chores. It wasn't anything like that. Nothing like that. It was just that we were brought up, we went to Sunday School and we went to church and things like that. But that was apart of our growing up.
SB: Was that Anglican?
FRANCIS: No, it was the Methodist.
SB: There was a Methodist church in Woombye was there?
FRANCIS: Yes, the Methodist Church was on the main road as you come up, but earlier on they used to have the services in the School of Arts. My sister has prizes from the Presbyterian Church, so apparently they were in the early days in Woombye. Then the Salvation Army used to have it in the School of Arts. I don't remember those. But I remember when I went to Sunday School, I went to where the present Methodist Church is now. They did have one lower down. I think the Masons took that over. We went to the Methodist Church and they had a picnic every year. We used to have a Sunday School Picnic which we used to have a lovely time at.
SB: Where would you go for the picnic?
FRANCIS: Up to Joseph Roses Property. It was a lovely place for a picnic.
SB: Where was his property?
FRANCIS: Well it's up more where Waldons are. Back in that part. But it was lovely up in there. His wife and my grandfather were brother and sister. The Roses came out, and my Grandfather came out so there was a very close tie between them because, there weren't - well there were a lot of people about - but you know, not like it is now.
SB: On the Sunday School Picnics, what food would they give you? Can you remember?
FRANCIS: Oh yes, I can remember. They made sandwiches, and then we had lovely cakes, and then we were given sweets after that. I can remember Mr. Bartholomew, he was one of the first to have a motor car. He brought that down and we were given a ride in his motorcar. (Laughs) That's fantastic isn't it. Just think of today and the cars. And think, it was a privilege.
SB: What sort of sweets were you give
FRANCIS: I think they were mainly, what we all, boiled lollies. Because there was the same up at the school when we went to school. On breaking up day we would get a packet of boiled lollies
SB: What about ice cream and chocolate was there much of that around?
FRANCIS: Oh no, that come much later. My mother could give us a penny or threepence, and we would go and buy quite a lot of lollies with that. See this is where it is so hard to think that a penny even bought so many lollies. But I know often Mum would give us a penny or thripence or something like that. When we went into town, we would have that to spend.
SB: What shops were there in Woombye when you were a child? I
FRANCIS: There was Tytherleighs and McLoughin. They were the two main shops - with everything. Then there was the butcher, I can't remember whether that belonged to Tom Low. Then later on there was Newtons.
SB: Can you remember Mr Tytherleigh?
FRANCIS: I can remember my parents talking of him, but I did know his daughter Pearl, very well.
SB: What sort of things did he sell?
FRANCIS: They sold everything. If you wanted a new scrubbing brush, you went to one counter on one side, for all your hardware and groceries, and the other they sold their drapery and all that so t of thing. You used to get your paper from the shop too.
SB: And magazines?
FRANCIS: Yes, we used to have comic papers. I don't remember a whole lot about magazines, but we were allowed to have our comic papers. I can remember we loved those very much.
SB: Can you remember any of the characters?
FRANCIS: I'm just trying to think of them, funny stories.
SB: When you were getting older, a teenager, were there any women’s magazines, that you would want to look at?
FRANCIS: Mum used to get Woman's World. I’ve got some of the old ones about. I loved to read even walking to school. She threatened to take the books away from me altogether, if I didn't cut that out. (Laughs)
SB: Do you remember any of your favourite books?
FRANCIS: Oh yes, I used to love the Polyanna Books. I loved that Porter. I was just trying to think to tell some kiddies, the story I loved so much all about bees. I have to sort of look that up again. Her books were lovely and we all read a lot. She wrote 'Just David'. Also Ethel Turner who wrote 'The Seven Little Australians'. I think they had a library at school and then, of course, they had the library in the Woombye School of Arts.
SB: You used to walk to school.
FRANCIS: Yes, we used to walk up the back. We used to have to cross the creek. When it was flood time it used to be a bit of a bother. We used to be helped across or we used to have to walk all out around through the town. But otherwise, we used to walk in more of a direct line. Up through Mr Taintons, he had a property. He was very good to us. When the citrus was on, he always used to give us a mandarine or something to eat on our way coming or going to school. They were awfully good to us. Then we used to walk up through a scrub. Mr Reynold's scrub, and then on to the highway, and walk the rest of the way to school. I suppose we used to walk, it must have been about two mile, I would say. I don't know. You don't think about that. I can imagine the job my Mother would have cutting all our lunches.
SB: What did you used to take for lunch?
FRANCIS: Well we had sandwiches, and then we always had a piece of cake or a biscuit. I guess we had fruit. But we had a leather bag to carry it on our shoulder. It used to go across our shoulder and that left your arms free, you know it was easy carrying. We all had our own bag.
SB: What did you have on your sandwiches?
FRANCIS: We used to have some meat and some cheese and perhaps, I don't know whether, we might have had some jam. But it was mainly meat and things like that.
SB: When you started at the Woombye School, can you remember your teacher?
FRANCIS: No I really can't remember my first teacher, but the one that, I suppose I was older and remembered more, I know there used to be a Miss Furlong. She used to teach us. But the one I really remember was Mr. Low. He must have been there for many many years. I suppose I was getting on to about 9 or 10 by then and see it made more of an impression.
SB: What did you used to enjoy at school?
FRANCIS: I used to like spelling and I used to like composition. But I was never a really very marvellous. I used to get through with my arithmetic. But I didn't love it so much. But I loved the other subjects better.
SB: Did you play any sport at school?
FRANCIS: Yes, well at the later part of my years, they built tennis courts at Woombye. Turned the first sod. I can remember so well Mr Wilson, telling me, you turn the first sod for the tennis courts. We used to play, as I say, tiggie, oh really and truly, I just forget.
SB: Did you ever go into Nambour very much?
FRANCIS: Well yes. Dad had a horse and sulky and when we were young we used to go in with my Mother. But as we got older we were allowed to drive the horse and sulky into Woombye and we'd have to leave the horse tied up and get on the, train and go up to Nambour by train. That's on the 11 o'clock and we would come back on the 3 o'clock and home like that. I can remember when Dad got the car, and we were so free just to go back and forwards like that. That was from about 1927, Dad got the first car, a Dodge.
SB: So you learnt to drive the car did you?
FRANCIS: Yes, I learnt to drive the car right from the beginning. Dorrie used to drive the car, and Irene. See there was the three of us after. But we all used to drive the car.
SB: Who taught you to drive the car?
FRANCIS: Where we brought the car, Roy Brookes, actually taught me. See this is why I can remember. That's when Dad was in the Council. Because I can remember the first time we got the car, Roy Brookes was driving. I was driving part way, but he drove up the range. Another thing I can remember very much about is the girls were forming a hockey team, at the time, or club. I wanted to go to the dance so badly, and Jim, that was my younger brother, I said to him would he go. Would he take me. And he said, "Well if you can talk dad into buying the car, I'll take you." By the time we bought the car, I think I had a migraine-headache by then, but I still went to the dance. Before we had the car… We used to go to a dance. Jim had a motor bike and it had a sidecar on. I used to go in the sidecar. We'd be going out along the road and he'd say, "She's starting to oil up a bit." (Laughs) Motor bikes weren't as reliable as motor cars. But even then, my other brother had a car, and he used to take me to the dances too. So we had a very happy growing up really. Nothing spectacular.
When we had anything big or if there was a ball they used to get a band from Brisbane for that. Then Vic McFadden and some of the Airds formed a band. Chris Aird used to play the violin. That's what they used to have for the dances. The dances were lovely then. Well they were just country dances and I used to go with the boys to the different places, you know different dances, to Palmwoods, out like to the balls and that sort of thing.
SB: Where you’d you get your dresses?
FRANCIS: Well, my mother used to make them mostly. that's why I say I think she was wonderful because she used to do them so nicely. I think now, I used to always like things different. I'd say did she think she could make it and she’d think it out. She used to make my frocks, long frocks too, you know. I can't really remember when I had a bought evening frock.
SB: Did you used to buy the material in Woombye.
FRANCIS: Well in Nambour mainly for that sort of frock.
SB: Can you remember any of the materials that ere used?
FRANCIS: Oh yes, it used to be crepe-de-chine, and things like that. They were soft pretty materials. I loved the voiles. They were lovely too for frocks.
SB: Did you used to curl your hair and wear makeup?
FRANCIS: When I was older. I had a friend, she is now Mrs Rogers, she was Kathleen McNall. She went away and she learnt hairdressing and she came back, and she showed me how .. Inthose days, there were no perms. It was set. Your hair was set. She showed me how to do that. This is how I used to do our hair. We used to set it for ourselves.
SB: What do you mean by set it?
FRANCIS: Well, as my hair is straight, it would be wet. Well, you'd get your comb, and you'd comb it down into a wave there, and back there, and down and back. Then we used to put what we called butterflies. That would just peak the top edge of those on. My hair would just be all set you know, in a wave. It wasn't permed.
I remember when I had it permed. I think it was terrible really. Because a perm in those days, it made my hair frizzy because I've got very fine hair, a legacy from my father's side. And that's how I learnt and Kathleen showed me how to cut. See I always cut dad's hair for years and years. I still cut my brother's hair. I used to cut Dorrie's hair, and my nieces, they used to come and I used to do all their hair cutting.
SB: Did people ever put their hair in the rags?
FRANCIS: Yes, My mother, her hair. Because I think mum's hair was put in so much, mum hated it so much, that I don't think she would ever put ours in. Grandmother used to do hers, and make the curls. Mum's hair had a bit of a wave in it. We used to wear it plaited. When we went to school it was long and we wore it in a plait. It was after we were older that Kathleen showed me how to set it. Then we used to set our hair like that with these little butterfly clips. That used to pick up the wave.
SB: What about when the page boy came into fashion?
FRANCIS: This is the cut?
SB: Yes, Did people around here get their hair cut in that style?
FRANCIS: Oh yes. I'm just trying to think back to the cutting era. I'm trying to think when I had my hair cut off. I know I was 16 or 15 could be. I can't think I ever wore it up so it must have been cut. I must have had it cut. My mother never ever had her hair cut. She always had her hair long. She had lovely hair. She used to put it back here, and it just used to come out naturally. But I haven't any of those blessings.
SB: What did your parents and your grandparents think of the changing fashions?
FRANCIS: I don't think it worried her, as far as my mother was concerned. I think she was quite happy about it. I think she thought it was quite sensible, really. Dorrie and those I think they would have had it short, you know, quite early in the piece. Because when we went to school, my mother always had to keep a little special comb, because we used to get nits. I can remember Mum having this little comb and every week she used to comb our hair to see that we didn't have any. They don't get anything like that now do they?
SB: They do sometimes, actually.
FRANCIS: Because I can remember mum so well with this little comb, combing our hair.
SB: What about the makeup you would wear to go to the dances?
FRANCIS: Well, we had just the powder. I can't think what I used for under makeup. Just the lipstick and rouge. The rouge was different then. It was a little round pot. I think it was still a powder rouge. Cream rouge came later. We didn't have lipstick until I was going to dances I don't think.
SB: Could you get different colours?
FRANCIS: Oh yes, but not like what you get now. Well I think there was mainly a red, California Poppy. I think as far as the rouge, there was only a pinky one, as much as I can remember. And the powder, it was rice powder, pink or white.
SB: Were people still wearing the tight corsets then?
FRANCIS: My mother wore them. Let me think what I wore. I wore some with the bones in. Not big ones, they only just used to fasten around my waist. I'm just trying to think about bras. Because when we were little mum used to make, she called them stays. We'd put those on and they would be buttoned down the back and have buttons all around the waist and our pants were buttoned on to that. I remember Ruth, my other sister, always going off, because she used to have to keep the buttons sewn on. That's a fact. Like a little bodice, just come to your waist. It just used to fasten around and there'd be two buttons at the back, that was to unbutton the back and 3 across the front and 3 down the back.
SB: That must have been very hot.
FRANCIS: Well it was something we always wore, and we always had to wear our petticoats. It was just so different but still it was accepted. Now see the pants we wore, I could imagine they'd be down to here.
SB: Down to your knees?
FRANCIS: Well above my knees, but you know. And it wasn't not at the early stage, that we had elastic. Bloomers came later.
SB: About when did you get elastic?
FRANCIS : Well I'm just trying to think. I can remember them. You know, we thought they were just so wonderful because we'd have elastic in the leg and elastic in the waist and we'd just pull them on (Laughs heartily) Oh dear life. Of course, quite often if we had shoes they were lace up shoes, or we had boots. For school we had boots. Aren't you lucky.
SB: Did you have a school uniform?
FRANCIS: No, school uniform, I don't think they came in for quite a time. Irene, had a school uniform. That's my youngest sister. But I don't think Dorrie ever had a school uniform. But I think Irene did. Whether they did at Woombye school, I don't think they did. But Irene finished off at the Rural School in Nambour. They learnt cooking and things like that. She used to go up on the train at 11 o'clock and back on the 3 o'clock. That wasn't there - I don't think even in Dorrie's time. I think it was just Irene, the youngest.
SB: Did you go on to high school from primary school?
FRANCIS: No. But there wasn't a high school. It was a case of going to Brisbane to do that. See they had the Rural School and then they had the High School in Nambour after that.
SB: When you were going to school, there was no high school?
FRANCIS: No not unless we went to Brisbane, and I'm sure my parents couldn't afford to send all of us to Brisbane. Well they just couldn't have done it. My two elder brothers bought a 1914 Buick. That was an old one you see. This was their first car but it was a second hand car. It was one of my mother's cousins car. But it was an old 1914 Buick car. I've got photos of that. We used to go skating a lot. We loved that - Roller skating. The boys would have the car and we would go into roller skating - we loved that. They had that in the Show Pavilion. It was burnt down later. But we used to have lovely times.
SB: Was that in Woombye?
FRANCIS: It was in Woombye. Where the sports ground now is, well the Show Pavilion was right on the edge there, and it was a big building. The boys used to go in and we used to have a lovely time. See it was simpler. It was a simple life. We hadn't had anything different, and we didn't miss it. That's what it amounts too doesn't it. See we used to have a lot of fancy dress carnivals and that sort of thing. Then we used to have the fancy dress balls. Things like that, you know. But, something they don't have now is it?
SB: Did you used to get prizes?
FRANCIS: They used to give a prize for the best - the one they thought was the best.
SB: What would the prize be?
Dances and concerts
FRANCIS: I can't remember. At the dances see, they always used to have the Monte
Carlo. That would b a prize for that.
SB: This would be the 1920’s would it?
FRANCIS: No that would be further on than 20s. Getting on quite a little bit, because I think further along to the bigger dances in Woombye.
SB: Late 20s?
FRANCIS: It would be in the 30s, between the 30 and 40 era. Because first of all we didn't use to have band at all, we had someone to play the piano. Course, the dances were quite different. When we had a ball or anything, we would hire them from Nambour. They would come down and play. If it was a big one, well we'd get somebody from Brisbane.
SB: What is some of the dances you would do?
FRANCIS: The waltz was always very much in. The foxtrot...Form four sets of fours, you know, and dance between the lot. - the schottische.
SB: Did the Charleston come to Woombye?
FRANCIS: Yes, it came. But it was never, what I would say, very popular.
SB: Could you do the Charleston?
FRANCIS: No I couldn't do the Charleston.
SB: Were there ever any concerts in Woombye?
FRANCIS: On yes, Mrs Wilson. They were the school concerts. She used to have those every year. She really did train them very well. Then they would have concert and they would bring artists from Brisbane. A good artist, would be asked to sing or whatever they did. They used to have very nice concerts really. Somebody would organise a concert, if you were raising money for different things. See this is where it would come into it. Another thing which was very very prevalent then, for the girls being married, - have kitchen teas. They were lovely. You'd take a gift, you know, for the kitchen. Golly me, it was wonderful the things. We would just organise it, whoever was being married. They were always lovely. They really were lovely.
SB: What were some of the presents, can you remember?
FRANCIS: They used to just give you everything for the kitchen. A colander, or you know, forks and spoons and basins. I know with Bunny, my sister, just older than me, she just had everything, truly. It was just everything that she could have, and things she didn't - you know, too many of some things. No, true, they were just so lovely, then of course, always when anyone come up to their 21st Birthday. They were always lovely. See there was that togetherness about it. Invitations would go out but most people would get one. Whoever had the party they would cater for the supper. But they were always lovely. All of those things, they really were lovely.
SB: What did you drink at the gatherings?
FRANCIS: We didn't get any beer or anything like that. Well I say mostly it was made up lemonade and things like that. That was one of our main drinks, lemonade. I can remember so well, we used to think it was a treat to get a bottle of lemonade, because it had a – special top a little marble in the top. But I just can't remember how it works. But lemonade I really feel was our main drink, as we were growing up. If we had to go into town, and we had to walk in, we'd be given money to have a drink, or we could spend it on lollies too, whichever we would like the best.
SB: And being a young girl, about to get married or something like that, what would be the item they would really want for the house?
FRANCIS: When my sisters were married, they always had all of their sheets and pillowcases and all that sort of thing, and they always had all the embroidery those days. Yes, they always had plenty o dressing table sets. Of course, in those days, we used to use pillow shams.
SB: What are they?
FRANCIS: When you made your bed. It wasn't like it is now. You had these pillow shams embroided. They were very lovely, and they would go on either side of the bed over the pillow.
SB: Was it a cloth?
FRANCIS: Like a piece of embroidery. A special design that would go all round. I was cleaning out inside there and I thought, Oh I don't know what to do with these, because they are beautifully made a lot of them. My grandmother, she was a very very fine needlewoman. Before they came from England, she used to do – where the wealthy people let out trousseaus and things, well that's what Grandmother used to do. When I was growing up, we used to have to wear our stockings all the time.
SB: When you were playing?
FRANCIS: Yes, we had them all the time, and as we grew up, they were our daily life. We'd put on our stockings the same as we would put on our dress. After Grandfather died, she came to live with us. Grandmother used to darn so beautifully. When we had to darn our own, they were not darned like Grandmother used to do them. See, she never did anything but white embroidery and she was 94 when we started her off, you know all the coloured work that they have now.
Look she just loved doing it. We've got pieces of her work there. Just to use the colour. She used to sit and stitch. I suppose that is where mum ..only mum was sewing with the sewing machine. But she must of had a natural flair for it because she didn't go and have dressmaking lessons. We used to buy a pattern of what we wanted but I don't know how she made the boys suits and that. They used to wear a collar, on it something like a sailor collar, and then the bop used to come down drawn in with elastic. She used to make those for the older boys. I don't remember that, but I know she used to do this. See this is what they used to wear to school.
SB: To school they'd wear suits?
FRANCIS: That's right. They used to wear these. That's right, but then they had to didn't they. (Laughs) Oh no, its just fantastic isn't it really. You know when you are covering a life time, aren't you? Woombye was always to me a very nice little town. Very friendly people, very nice people. I think it was a lovely little town to grow up in. We were all very happy. All of our neighbours along the road were all very nice. That's the way it just went. Because they used to have the shows in Woombye. That was 1917, I think.
SB: Can you tell me a little bit about the Woombye Show?
FRANCIS: Well as I remember, of course, from my younger days we were always thrilled, we did an exercise, or anything we had been making at school, we exhibited it in the show. It was a great thrill to go and see if we'd won a prize. Why I mention the exercise book, our exercises were sort of on display in the school and some of the older girls said, "That’s the worst one we've seen." And you can imagine my surprise when I went and found I had got second prize. That I'll never forget. But then, as it went on, the show, it was always great exhibits of fruit and vegetable and then they had the ring events, which were always quite exciting and as growing up, you know, in the country it was something that we looked forward to - going to the show. My father was always a keen worker, my mother worked in the booth as we called it, that's where they served the meals and then my father worked in the show generally. For many years he was the president of the Show Society. Then later on Irene and Dorrie and Walter, they had a little Shetland pony which Mr Wilson had given them, after they'd sort of finished with their family, and they used to ride the horse and you know win ribbons and this sort of thing. So that's how the show progressed, till eventually it was taken to Nambour, and now of course, we go to the Nambour Show.
SB: And did your mother ever enter any of the cooking?
FRANCIS: Mum was a good home cook. She wasn't a cook, she never had time to do that sort of cooking. I've never inherited any love. I do it because I've got to, not for love. But Dad, he used to have a farm, and he used to put in potatoes and all sorts of things like that, you know. I mean it was something that as children we did look forward to the Woombye Show. Actually I have got a photo of one of the first pictures, a very old one of the Woombye Show.
SB: Did they have a side-show alley?
FRANCIS: I can't really remember much about it. I don't think they had very much of that. I can't remember that there was.
SB: Last time you were telling me a little bit about the medicine that you had to take?
FRANCIS: Oh yes, on a Saturday morning mostly it was a mixture of sulphur and treacle, I think it was so much sulphur and so much treacle. But that was to keep your skin healthy and keep your body healthy and keep you from getting pimples.
SB: Did it work?
FRANCIS: Well everybody said we had nice skin in those days, but then we were bought up on good wholesome food, no reason why we shouldn't - whether it was the sulphur and treacle or not that I don't know.
SB: Sounds awful, did it taste alright?
FRANCIS: No it wasn't so bad. We used to have a teaspoon, small teaspoon full before we had our breakfast of a morning. That was part of a routine.
SB: And were you ever given castor oil?
FRANCIS: Yes, if we had anything very very wrong with us but that was very seldom and we were very very sick if we ever had a dose of castor oil because that was very severe. No my mother was never hard on us like that but if she felt we needed it well she was 'Read'.
SB: Were there any other home remedies that you can remember?
FRANCIS: It wasn't a home remedy but if anybody was down Mum used to give us Clements Tonic, it was as it says a tonic. But we never had very much medicine for anything like that, although we were a big family we were pretty healthy family. But I remember about Clements Tonic when you talk about any other medicine.
SB: That was the pick-me-up was it?
FRANCIS: Yes, it was as it says a tonic. It was a pick-me-up.
SB: Also you were talking about the car and I was wondering how you used to get petrol when you had the first car?
FRANCIS: Oh yes, that was no worry -we used to get it from a bowser in Woombye. There wasn't a lot of cars in those days no, we just used to go and fill up and for much much less than we'd pay for four gallons of petrol now.
SB: Can you remember how much?
FRANCIS: Oh no I couldn't remember how much. I mean in those days it was through the Woombye Fruitgrowers. It was all put on the account and Dad paid all of that at the end of the month and everything like that, we used to get. So it was never a worry to fill the car up but we were never restricted in that respect.
Fruit and pineapple farming
SB: And your father was a member of the Woombye Fruitgrowers Association?
FRANCIS: Yes, Course that was early formed, right way wayback when they formed. I've got a photo of the first fruit train that was run you know, they're very old, just how old I'm not sure. But it was well back.
SB: And the Association did it go on to become the Progress Association?
FRANCIS: No, the Fruitgrowers is Fruitgrowers, the Progress is a separate Association. The Fruitgrowers still carries on.
SB: The first fruit train. Can you remember the first fruit train going through?
FRANCIS: Oh I don't say I would remember it. I mean I wouldn't be that interested in it. But I happened to have the photo there I suppose Dad had it and Ithought you might like that to make a copy of it.
SB: Since Woombye was such a big pineapple growing area, there were canneries here too weren't there?
FRANCIS: That's right, there was about three I think. There was one not very far from where we lived, Dawsons,..Moxey and Dawson and then Collier's had one out on the other road. I really don't know but they were the two that would come to my mind and they were quite big. Course it was very very big pineapple growing district. We didn't grow very much pineapples, Dad had more vegetables and cattle and things like that but all around it was all pineapple farms here.
SB: What happened to the canneries?
FRANCIS: Well actually later on they had the big cannery in Brisbane. Before the farmers would just take their fruit to that which was handy, to that cannery. Collier's was out on the Diddillibah, out that way. Moxey and Dawson was over on the Woombye Palmwoods. People just took their fruit directly there to them. Well now you see this is where the fruit train came in, although that photo was the Fruit Train that went, through to Sydney. The fruit trains that they run now just run down to the factory. They're separate. But the Fruit Train does go every week. We had two big properties and on one of them we used to grow bananas. The boys worked over there. See all that was what went on to the Fruit Train down to Sydney - all that sort of fruit. It was just the special pines, the good pines that would go on, the pawpaws and that sort of thing was what went on the Fruit Train. The other ones they just grew for the factory, well that just went on the train.
SB: To Brisbane?
FRANCIS: Yes, but it really was terrific the pines that were grown. It was a wonderful district, it really was you know. Apart from anything else butit really was amazing the fruit that was grown in the district, of course it was a good district. They were lucky they had men that could organise and that sort of thing which you've got to have haven't you? You can get plenty that'll do the work but you can't always get somebody to organise. Well this is where they were lucky, where Mr Wilson and Mr McNall they did that, a lot of that and then of course, my father worked with them a lot.
SB: And he was in the Woombye Fruitgrowers Association? Were there ever any problems in the association in terms of ...
FRANCIS: You mean in disruptions?
FRANCIS: I don't think that there were. But then you've got to be in these things to really know but no I really feel that it was a well run organisation.
John G. Francis, Cr. 1920/30s
SB: And when did your father join the Council?
FRANCIS: Oh now well he was in that photo and that was 1930 so I would say in '27 or '28 you know in that area. I think he was in for about seven or eight years.
SB: He was elected in?
FRANCIS: Yes, he was elected like they do now.
SB: And did he represent any particular party or faction?
FRANCIS: Well just the area like you see the Woombye area, it was he represented. While Dad was in the Council they started to build the Maroochydore Road. See Dad never drove the car and he wanted to go anywhere in particular or anything like that well we always used to drive him. But I know he was very very interested and this is when they first started Maroochydore Road was only graders and all that sort of thing. There was no big shovels, there was pick and shovels and all that sort of thing. It is hard to realise, isn't it. That's really what happened. They wanted to go one way and Dad was very much for it to go down through where it's going. Then at that time I can remember it was in the depression and I think they could go and get rations at the police station but Dad used to always pick the men that had families and give them whatever work there was. They could get so many days work a week and were paid for. Dad was very keen, whatever Dad did, he really did with his heart, there was no half measures about him.
SB: It's interesting, like today you seem to hear a lot of arguments that go on in the Council, was it like that then too?
FRANCIS: Well not really I don't think because it was all on a much smaller scale and they all worked more with one another. Mr. Rose, he was the Councillor at Eudlo, well he would pick Dad up and I think Mr Lingard he was Palmwoods. Mr Rose had his car and he would drive through and pick them up. Well then they would come back and nearly always they would have dinner at our place and then go on home after the meeting.
SB: So what sort of things would they discuss?
FRANCIS: Oh well of course the roads. This is one document which I was going to get from Elsie Menary, do you remember about being allowed fifteen shillings to do one job? See the money was just so small then you just couldn't visualise. There was some twenty pound allotted for a job. This is what they had to do.
SB: The Councillors had that much for a job?
FRANCIS: Yes, see they were allowed so much. I remember now where we lived in Woombye there was two steep hills, well Dad organised and got all the men from around and they came and gave a days work and they put in a fill in between at the bottom of these hills. That didn't cost the Council very much because everybody living around they had the benefit of that work and although they were given twenty pound to do it, it was the voluntary labour that enabled them to do this job. But I can remember it used to be such a bad place and such a slippery hill, and there was no bitumen or anything like that, it was just ordinary dirt roads and where they were very slippery and that, they just used to cart stones and put on them they broke it down and put on them.
SB: So the council would ask for voluntary labour to do things like that?
FRANCIS: The Councillor would, see now Dad would, not the Council. Dad would organise that work that he wanted to get done. That way see he'd go and see Jack and Bill Smith and somebody else and somebody else and they'd come and give a day or whatever of their time that they could afford to, and with the Council money, that's how those places were put in.
SB: What other things would they discuss? Can you remember any of the discussions to do with the depression.
FRANCIS: Well no I can't really. All I can remember is that I know Dad was particular to where there were families, to try and see that those men got the work. But I mean the depression as far as we were concerned I didn't know - it didn't hit me. It might have hit my parents but it didn't make any impression. I wouldn't remember much about it only as I say I remember Dad doing that for the different ones.
SB: Was there ever any thought of there being women Councillors then?
FRANCIS: No, definitely no. No women hadn't progressed that far at that stage. It was a man's position and I don't think any women ever thought - well as a matter of fact I don't think they had time in those days because rearing a family. There was no pre-schools or anything like that you know, we went to school and we went into our first class. We went to school when we were five. Well till we were five it was our mother's job.
SB: Did they vote in Council elections?
FRANCIS: I can't remember about that. I would imagine they would have - oh yes, I feel sure they would have voted. Oh yes, I don't think they were down trodden to that extent. I really think that they had a vote like that.
SB: But I'm just wondering if it was voluntary and if the women did exercise that vote?
FRANCIS: The days that were set aside for a voting day, well that was all organised like any other voting day. It was a properly organised thing, to vote in a Councillor. I think they served for three years or five years, I'm not sure what it was.
SB: What did you do when you left school?
FRANCIS: Well worked at home, just lived at home because in those days it just wasn't the thing. My mother was pretty much that way that we just used to do things about the house or whatever was necessary to be done. So different - see I've never had a job in my life really. When I came up here I made arrangements to get a position. Mum said, "It's going to be very lonely you know, in the house all day." I said, "You make up your mind whether you're against me or not." Anyway in the meantime the Adult Education came and asked me would I take classes so that solved the problem.
SB: When was this?
FRANCIS: This was about '51. But see I had done a lot of travelling. This is what I was going to do today with the CWA, I have learned a lot of craft work with that and I was pretty well known and I carried on with the Adult Education. I did Tuesday night classes and Thursday afternoon for twenty four or twenty five years and I've sort of left off. So see all my life I've done nothing but teach craft like that. So as I say I'm not a well versed person in other things.
SB: So till '51 you stayed and helped your mother?
FRANCIS: Yes, just lived at home.
SB: And you didn't find that boring?
FRANCIS: Well I don't know, we used to go out to everything and I suppose we hadn't tasted the other life and I suppose that makes a difference. We used to go to all the dances and all the things that was in Woombye. Of course, it was really at one of the Woombye Shows that they first organised the CWA. This is where it first came to a head, at the Woombye Show. It was in 1927 I think and of course from then on after they bought the crafts in, I travelled a lot.
SB: Why did they start the CWA, what did they want it for?
FRANCIS: Well it's Country Women’s Association and of course it is for people to get together. You go into the west you realise so much more even in here what it means to people. The getting together and I myself think it is a wonderful organisation.
SB: Did your mother join the CWA?
FRANCIS: Yes, Mum joined the CWA. I suppose our family was grown up and everything like that and she was able to do that because she hadn't been in any organisations very much before that and she was a foundation member and Bunny, my sister, and I, we were joined up associate members. And having the car and that I drove Mum to the CWA.
SB: Where did they first used to meet?
FRANCIS: In the School of Arts in Woombye.
SB: What would the meeting be like then, have they changed much or is the format still the same?
FRANCIS: No, its still much the same. They still have the usual things. When they first formed the branch in Woombye there wasn't a lot of things to assist. But what they used to do was any needy cases that there were, they would collect clothes or make clothes or do things like that for them and what I remember they used to get what they called combed and carded wool from the Ipswich Woollen Mills. The combed and carded wool was pieces of wool about four inches wide and this was wound into a bundle. The women used to have a piece of fine cloth, cheesecloth or something like that, and this wool was stitched up and down, put on and then it was threaded in and out this way right across and then that was stitched and another piece put over the top. We have a quilt in there now, it was made I'd say about 1930. Well it's used every winter and I think it's the warmest still because it was a pure wool and I think live things like pure wool and feathers they have something, not the artificial...
SB: They used to make these quilts?
FRANCIS: They used to make these quilts and then any family needed them well they were given to them or they would send them to headquarters. And they were always glad of them because they would have more in the cities than we had in the small towns. But I can always remember that because every year we get this quilt out and it goes onto Walter's bed but it seems now as good as new. All its had is new covers on the outside. The inside is perfect.
SB: The Woombye Branch, did they meet in Woombye?
FRANCIS: They met in Woombye and then there was a lot of visiting between the branches. As we had the car, well I used to take a carload and we'd visit the different branches for annual meetings or if they had a fete or anything like that. There was a good interchange of people between the different branches. That's where I got to know so many different ones because we used to go to Buderim and down to Maroochydore and up to Nambour here and Palmwoods. Then later on as the Branch grew and they introduced handicrafts into the Branch, then I used to go to demonstrate. We used to visit Caboolture quite a lot. They had a very active branch and I can remember they came up to visit our branch one day and they taught making possies with pumpkin seeds. I can remember Mrs Hurl making these pumpkin seeds. She used the seeds, and make a little hole and put it onto wire, it was quite attractive, I'll have to try again making a pumpkin seed possie.
SB: When would that have been?
FRANCIS: Well I would say in the '30s. Cause we had to travel by train then. They used to come up by train and I'd meet them at the station and take them home and they'd have lunch. See things were in a different way then, there was nowhere much to take them. They come up on the 11 o'clock train and come home for lunch, go into the meeting and then they'd get the three o'clock train back home again. So this was where it was just so different.
SB: And that's when the handicrafts were just beginning?
FRANCIS: Yes, I guess they were, because I've always been interested in handicraft. Well then I happened to go to Toowoomba to conference and learnt there how to make baskets out of crepe paper. You got the crepe paper, Dennisons' was the best, and you had to tie one end onto the machine, the freewheel of the machine, and you had the other one back on the chair or held it and you spun so many times you see, till that made a cord. You'd spin the two pieces like that spinning the wheel the right way well then you'd reverse the order and that order and that spun it into a cord and you had to use wire for the frames and this is where I learnt - actually I didn't get all the demonstration and I came home of course very enthusiastic and I said I'II make Mum a work basket. I covered all my wires and did everything like that and made the basket but it really was a bit bumbly and I can remember Mum unpicking it all for me. That was one of the first things that I did start to demonstrate on because it really was lovely in things.
SB: And it's made with crepe paper?
FRANCIS: Yes, Dennison's crepe paper. We made quite a lot of baskets you do anything with them. It really was wonderful and then it was painted, you did it over with a lacquer to make it waterproof. That was one of the first things I ever taught and actually from doing that was where I learnt the cane work which I started later. It was on the same principle.
SB: So did you learn how to do the handicrafts from other women in the CWA.
FRANCIS: Yes a lot of it I did. If you did anything well you were invited to a branch to give a demonstration. This is really how it originated and then of course they formed the handicraft section in the CWA which is a big part of the CWA, a very big part. It's just so good for the getting of people together and they asked me about 1950 I think, just before we came up here, I did a trip out into the central west teaching which was most fascinating
SB: Was it the first time you left Woombye for any length of time?
FRANCIS: Well other than to go for a holiday. You see this was entirely different, I wasn't paid to do this. The CWA paid my fares, it didn't cost me anything but I wasn't paid any money. It's all voluntary. I think I taught basketry and natural grass, that blady grass work, and cellophane hats - at that time hats were very hard to come by after the war. The cellophane was cut into strips and plaited and these were made into hats. They made very attractive hats and then you'd use dye. I forget what we used to colour it, whatever you wanted. But I've got photos with my big black cellophane hat.
SB: But wouldn't they get wet?
FRANCIS: But then you see they were painted and it didn't affect them. Oh no they wore very well. You trimmed them yourself. I found going here to use the cellophane it was very much easier than when I went in to the dryer climate. You know it had a bad affect. The women were so keen we used to have some wet cloths and have the cellophane like that.
SB: So where did you go out west?
FRANCIS: In 1950 I was asked if I would do a trip to Longreach, taking in Alpha, Jericho, Barcaldine, teaching handicrafts. I had to order and take along what material was needed for the various crafts. I travelled by train to Rockhampton caught the Western Mail and started in Alpha and worked through to Longreach. In Jericho I met Sergeant
Bill McNaught who had attended the Woombye School and knew me, also Mr Wassell another local who was Shire Clerk, he also attended the leather classes. So I really enjoyed my stay.
In Barcaldine and Longreach were much bigger branches with more people. Still very interesting and when I left Longreach one of the head women told me that I had created much more enthusiasm than any other demonstrator who had been around. It was just so different out there. The women would travel in thirty, or forty miles just to attend the classes and they were just so enthusiastic about all of these things. To me it was just such a big experience.
Alpha was a different town I wouldn't like to live there. It was a sort of a changing for all the trains. Well Jericho was more like a town like our own – the people were friendly and nice. You know I was very much at home with them. At night I taught leather, that was a very keen subject. Nearly all the men and all the women around would do that and then the Shire Chairman now he came in on this and you know that became a part of it. You were a part of all this. In the evenings they'd take me out to the pictures or whatever there might be doing you know you were just so much a part of the things.
It was my first trip into Longreach and then I was very lucky in Longreach. I stopped at the hostel. Well some of the station people always came and I went to visit, always stopped on a station or some thing over the weekend which of course it would never happened otherwise. Then they'd show me all the workings, the different workings at the stations. To me that was very interesting but the big one was in 1952.
I again went to Longreach and out to Paynes Siding and travelled to Manfred Station where Mrs Davidson she actually came up and asked me would I do this trip. They had a big station, it's between Winton and Longreach actually, where I stayed and I held classes there till Wednesday when I left for Muttaburra where I had, to travel by car. It is off the railway. I stayed at the hotel and really and truly you have no idea what a hotel is till you go out into the western area. Muttaburra is just a small town and I was fortunate that Mum and Dorrie gave me a lovely little beauty case because with this harsh sun coming in on the mirror, there was no mirror left there. Everything had gone. It took the quick silver and everything off. Mum would have had a fit if she'd seen me out there. To go out to the toilets you had to go right out the back and the toilet and the bathroom – I’ll never forget this - it was sort of together and where you shut the door -you know when a tree gets a knot in it and it leaves a hole? Well there was a big bolt put into that now that was the lock on the door and then it was bore water and was very hot. Well it was beautiful, you'd have to let it run, you'd start the water running and then you'd go to the toilet and the water was the right heat for you to have your shower. I just thought if Mum could see me you know she'd have (Sigh). I was there for three or four days and the chaps that were boarding there said, "What are you doing here?" They couldn't believe anybody - see it was just a place where when they came in on the train, if it was too far out on the station, they stayed the night and went on the next day. Nobody stayed on more than a day. And when I was stopping on more than a day I had to explain that I was teaching crafts, but it really was wonderful experience.
SB: What were some of the hardships that the women had to face?
FRANCIS: You just wouldn't, you had to just go and see it, I feel. The station women were alright but in the small town it was just so different to me you know.
SB: Was it the isolation?
FRANCIS: It was just life. I think it was in Alpha, they had something on, and look there were girls about thirteen and fourteen, they were all there and they just had drink and it was such a shock for me. See I just hadn't been into the world like that you know. I hadn't seen that kind of thing. But the people were nice and everything like that. I can remember when I was in Alpha I thought it was a little lamb and I said to this little girls something about a lamb and she looked at me and she said, "It's a goat."
I knew a calf and all that, but I didn't know lambs and goats. But see this is what they depend on so much. In Longreach they have on either ends of the town what they call the common; and this is where the goats go for all day. About five o'clock you'd see all these heard of goats come in and two'd drop off at that gateway and two or three at this gateway. They each know where to go to be milked. I hadn't ever had goats milk or anything but they depended on it. That's all the milk they had out there.
To me I just had to go there and be a part of it to understand and when I was in Jericho I stopped with a Mrs Hunt and she was a mighty person. She was wonderful really but for a light she had a contraption - I wouldn't understand - she fixed this up for me because it was just an iron house and I said to her couldn't she just give me an ordinary kerosene lamp because I could manage quite well with that. This was a lamp you pumped up and all that sort of thing, well I was scared of it. But I can remember so well begging her and she gave me this kerosene lamp and she was wonderful truly. But she had known life the hard way. See, she never wore her shoes and she used to milk the cows and do all this sort of thing. Well it was just the way, life was hard on her, the way they grew up. Her husband - she had a husband and son -well they were away working out on the station and she lived in Jericho you see. Well this is where I met Bill McNaught, he was out there. It was just so lovely to meet somebody like that.
He said to me, "You wouldn't remember me because you lived in the big house and I lived in the little house." I said, "Nobody talks to me like that." I said, "There's no big and no little house as far as I'm concerned." They were a big family but there was never anything like that. They were wonderful to me you know, I have a lovely time. When you get away amongst strangers it's lovely to meet somebody like that and the Shire Clerk of course. I had known him in here so it was pretty wonderful really just to meet others and it does make teaching a pleasure.
I remember on Saturday night when the shearers would all come into town they'd go along and look in each window to see if there was anybody in that room. I just thought if Mum just could see. But the station people kept in touch every day to see if I was alright. One of them would ring up. I loved all that part.
SB: And where would you teach the crafts when you were in these towns.
FRANCIS: Well when I was in Longreach I was at the hostel. Well, in the school or if they had a hall, that's really where it was mainly, in whatever place there was available to teach in because there wasn't any picking and choosing sort of business. There was not much that you could do about that but I did love going out onto the big stations. One I went out to - it was about forty miles out I think - and their big dining room, it was so large, there must have been about forty or fifty people there. It was large enough for people to just sit like this in this room. And they had all the meals sent out, still in the same room. The verandahs they were just fantastic. Be about ten or twelve foot wide and all gauzed in. Every thing that, you know, that I just hadn't been used to. But what I liked about it was the people, even on the stations, those station women, I could just go and sit down and talk. It was exactly the same as I'm talking to you. There never seemed to be any barrier because CWA did mean a lot out there, it meant a lot to the people. More than you can really realise here.
I left for Aramac by taxi. Each taxi travelling half-way. Fifty eight miles each taxi did. The country was very dry - I remember I had a tan linel1 suit which I found most useful because it didn't show the dust. Aramac is a nice little town. I left there for Barcaldine. From there I left by coach for Blackall, travelled in the rain for about twenty-four miles when the coach became hopelessly bogged. The mud just built up in the wheels and they won't turn round. Well there were about five travellers, five other men and there was just a little girl. I was the only woman on the coach. Well we spent the night sitting on the coach. In the morning two men left to walk to a drover's camp in search of food and two more walked in another direction to look for accommodation for us. Both returned within about half an hour of each other. By this time it was twelve o'clock and we were glad of a drink of tea and a piece of bread and jam. I can remember this so well, when the men got back they were just so annoyed. There was a commercial traveller on the bus and he hadn't got off the bus. He was in a drip and I loaned him my raincoat unfortunately but he never got out of the coach. The men when they got back and knew that he hadn't, they were so annoyed you see because we had left about five o'clock that night previous and they thought that man should have got out and gave me a chance to go out. No big trees around to do, you know whatever I wanted to do. So anyway when they came back, these men had found accommodation, and they said for me and for the little girl, to follow in their footsteps and we would find this place, because they were giving me the opportunity….
FRANCIS: Yes. Well when I walked through the trees and the trees were about this high and I'm this high. I thought well I've sat all night, I'll just wait till I get to the station. Well the place where we were going. When we got within walking distance of the place I could see them hastily building the toilet.(Laughs) So I had to wait till six o'clock.
Oh, look you just wouldn't read about it. I could see that as plain as plain - these men hurrying up to get this built. By the way - out there, they didn't have any containers, they had a big deep hole dug and that's what happened you see.
Later I learnt that it was Mr Noone, the Police Magistrate, he was from Longreach, he was a mighty person, and fortunately I knew his sister, she lived in here and the other man who was so good was Mr Kane, the AWU organiser. We walked across the country for one and a quarter miles barefooted to Gregory Downs. Although the house was unfinished we were grateful to get a roof over our heads and away from the mud. The men used to take the crockery down to the bore and wash up while I had a bath etc of an evening as there were no windows in the house. After about two days a coach came to pick us up, the road still very heavy and about thirty miles from Blackall the coach developed mechanical trouble and we sat on the road till about one thirty when a truck load of shearers picked me up and took me into town and found Mrs Fletcher for me.
They booked a room for me at the Barcoo Hotel, but I was held up and they had a big tennis week on in Blackall and they wanted my room. In the mean time my port which was up on top of the bus it was wet, everything was wet in it when I opened it. So I went down to Mrs Fletcher and she said she would take me in there but there were no doors on the house. So I said would she take me in because all my things were wet and I didn't mind in the least about no doors on the house.
SB: No doors on the house?
FRANCIS: No the people that'd been in there had taken all the doors off. I'd wake up in the morning sometime, Mr Fletcher would be in doing his hair. (Laughs) This is just so different but she was a very very nice woman, Mrs Fletcher and Mr Fletcher was too you know. It really was a fantastic experience and what I remember about Tambo and Blackall was I loved - cause I loved trees always and their streets were lined with these bottle trees and they were the fine leaved ones and they told me that they didn't plant them as small trees. They dug them out as big trees and put them in the streets and they were beautiful.
I had very good classes in Blackall. I left for Tambo and was met by Mrs Bell with whom I was staying. Again there were very good classes but one night we had a very bad storm which blew the chimney off and blew the fire all out into the kitchen. This completed my experiences. I can see that, you know, the chimney went and see they had more of a big open fire. All this fire blown out into the house. I left Tambo for Charleville where I had my seat booked on the train for home and was glad to be back again after a very successful trip. I think I was away for about 8 weeks. You know it really was a wonderful, so very very different and I've got lovely letters back from the women. You know that I taught an had been with all the heads, see they are so grateful to you. You really feel you've done something worthwhile.
As a matter of fact when I was going into Charleville I'm not sure if it was on the bus but I have a feeling it was, I met a woman and her daughter. Her daughter was about 14, she had never seen a train and this woman hadn't been on one since she was 9, you see you can't believe that sort of thing can you?
SB: Well they are so isolated aren1t they?
FRANCIS: They are so isolated yes. So actually after I came back I just carried on teaching craft in Woombye till we came up here to Nambour when I joined the Nambour Branch. I say this is here the Adult Education asked me if I would teach.
SB: Had Adult Education been going very long in the area?
FRANCIS: No, they were just sort of starting the classes in Nambour at this time. They had the crafts, well then they had leather classes and something else I just forget, they had different classes like that, different times. Actually as far as I was concerned I was glad of that because I could do the classes and then they went on for so long that if Mum and Dad were not well or if I was held up in any way, there was other women that would carry on for me, which made it so much easier. I don1t know whether if it's people that re interested in crafts or whether they all have something the same make up but everywhere I've been I’ve never had any arguments or any trouble, there's never been any upsets or anything like this. I often feel that it is because the women t at like doing these things have got the same kind of a temperament.
SB: It's very calming isn't it?
FRANCIS: Well it is. And I helped so many where they lost a son or something like that. I've gone to see them and got them into the class and it's just helped them so much and this is where so many of them have been so grateful for that. But before in the last few years with Mum and Dad, the first year, I just was so taken back, they made my Christmas cake for me ready for the table. It was good for Dad because you see, Dad he was 97 and he always said, you know, we always did have a lot of visitors, but he didn't have any men up around his age group coming along. I said that was one of the things he was paying for, living so long. But still the women would often come up and they'd sit down, talk to him or when I'd come home from class I'd make myself a cup of coffee, and take it along and sit down beside Dad and tell him you know, what this one had done and what that one had done, was doing. That created an interest for Dad.
SB: And the Adult Education classes, did they appeal to men as well?
FRANCIS: Oh yes, no they had a lot, I had quite a lot of men even in my classes.
SB: What were you teaching then at Adult Education?
FRANCIS: Well I used to basically start off with cane work. That's what they wanted to start off. Then whatever craft I learned you see I went on and taught the copper embossing and the mosaic tiles and all that sort of thing you see. And then any other craft I used to learn a lot, I used to get books and learn a lot of different things. It was always of interest for somebody, doing it. But no, I was never short of ideas.
SB: Did they have cooking classes in the CWA?
FRANCIS: Well I don't know. They do now but they didn't then but then I wouldn't have gone along to a cooking class. No interest that way.
SB: Tell me what a meeting would be like in those days?
FRANCIS: Oh well, they would open the meeting with saying the creed, repeating the creed. The minutes would be read and then the discussions would be whatever had come up. You know whatever had come up from Headquarters or anything they were doing. They hold fetes and things like that you know, we used to work hard for that and for dances. And looking among my mothers notes when she was a member and for a dance some of them would make about nine or ten pound. (Starts Reading) .. When Mum went up to Toowoomba, the fares were Thirteen shillings, herbed was Six shillings, breakfast was Tenpence and dinner for two Three shillings and Threepence. Tea, Eleven pence, breakfast one shilling and nine pence, Total was One pound, Five shillings and nine pence.
SB: This was in the 1920's was it?
FRANCIS: Well I'd say it was in the '30s.
SB: And where was the headquarters for CWA?
FRANCIS: In Brisbane. Well then after they broke it up into divisions you see, we're in the North Coast Division. But when they had a conference, this one that my mother went to was in Toowoomba. The one I went to was in Toowoomba.
SB: Does the CWA have national conferences or is it just a Queensland thing?
FRANCIS: Yes, they do but I never was interested in CWA as CWA.
SB: Can you tell me what the Comfort's Fund was?8
FRANCIS: Oh yes, that I think was very worthwhile cause they did do a wonderful job there. It was in 1939 till 1946, the CWA became the Comfort's Fund. You see they didn't work as CWA, it became the Comfort's Fund. This was during the war.
SB: So the CWA just disbanded did it?
FRANCIS: Well, they didn't disband I don't suppose but it did go as the Comfort's Fund. I was Secretary of the Comfort's Fund right from the first meeting till the last. We used to hold dances and raffles to raise money and entertain boys that would come home on leave and all that sort of thing. Women made socks, scarves, balaclavas, caps and pull overs - they were knitted, underpants and handkerchiefs and washers were made and sent to the Woombye boys and a lot to the headquarters. I've got a book in there, I was looking in it, for the amount of things that were made, the articles - it's fantastic for a small Branch. From November '39 till December '46, there was approximately 11,981 articles made; and for bomb victims appeal 1941 l,369 poundsl9shillings and 5 pence. That's a lot isn't it? See Woombye was only a small Branch but they were a good Branch. See a lot of other different women came in.
SB: Women who weren't CWA?
FRANCIS: Yes, that's right, they joined the Comforts Fund. Then after when they carried on the CWA, so it really gained both ways. They had a lot of different things to entertain the, boys as they came home, they used to make up parcels and send them and all this sort of thing. It really was very active.
SB: What sort of entertainment.?
FRANCIS: Well mainly they were dances because any of the men who were camped in the area you see, they all came in and then quite often they used to put on supper for them as well.
SB: Was there any politics in the CWA?
FRANCIS: No no politics, not allowed, it's one of their rules - there's no politics in it. I think that is a very good thing and this is why I feel they have held together and carried on as they have over the years because it is a wonderful organisation.