Adelaide - Suburbs
For histories of Suburban Churches see Religion - Church Histories
For information on suburban housing see Housing, Architecture and Ancillary Matters
A Walk Through the Eastern Suburbs - 1879
Taken from Geoffrey H. Manning's A Colonial Experience
Some of the most beautiful suburbs of Adelaide will be rendered practically
uninhabitable by nervous people unless the forces of law and order soon assert
themselves against thievery and personal violence.
( Register, 12 and 15 July 1898, pages 4g-5a and 5a.)
With the coming of 1879 my husband and I completed 30 years of residence in Norwood and, accordingly, with nostalgia upon us, on a fine Autumn day in May we walked at a gentle pace throughout the eastern suburbs contiguous to Norwood, the majority of which were but open woodlands when we removed from Adelaide.
Commencing on a dusty North Terrace, whose termination was to a certain extent defined by that ancient Stepney hostelry where the ardent youth of old were wont to 'chase jocund the hours with flying feet', we diverted our steps to the Company Bridge near which was an illustration of the mischievous consequences produced by the practice of building houses in defiance of all sanitary law.
The cottages were built close together; the backyards were small and there was no proper provision for drainage. It seemed to me that it was monstrous that, although we had many acres in Adelaide and the suburbs lying vacant, the cruel greed of rapacious landlords was allowed to crowd their poorer tenants into premises devoid of every convenience for the maintenance of proper sanitary condition.
It was a disgrace that, at a short distance from the Botanic Park, which we took pride in showing to visitors, there should have been habitations which were samples of the rookeries which land jobbers and others had crowded around the city and which became hotbeds of fever and other diseases. There was, at this time, a lot of talk about the rights of property. For myself, I considered it was about time to think a little about the rights of people to live decently, and to show no consideration to those who ran up ill-built houses on a space so limited as to render cleanliness almost impossible.
We then entered upon one of those chosen resorts of gentility in the form of College Town, the creation of William Randall in 1849, at which time the construction of Saint Peter's college had commenced. In those far away days he advertised for sale '24 villa allotments nearly adjoining the Company's Mill, commanding an extensive view of the Park Land and being closely adjacent to the college... In the same soil Mr Bailey has naturalised the productions of Pomona and Flora from all parts of the globe.'
Mr Bailey's garden dates back to the quiet old times when slabs, reeds and lath and plaster were popular building materials; when neighbours were for the most part several miles apart and when Aborigines were to be seen in scores without the encumbrances of raiments. It had its origins at a time when the capabilities of the soil were unknown, when the signs of advancing civilisation were scanty, and when a public or private improvement was an event worth talking about.
This, perhaps, would be an appropriate time to interpose some information on John Bailey (1800-1864). He was trained at Conrad Loddiges & Sons nursery in England and following his arrival in Adelaide he was appointed to run a botanic garden on behalf of an Adelaide Citizens Committee. At the same time by arrangement, he was able to sell seed, produce and other items.
The garden project was abandoned after a year or two of operation, because of the financial position of the government of the day. In 1841 he opened a nursery known as 'Bailey's Gardens' and 'Hackney Nursery' situated near the junction of Hackney Road and the road to Magill.
The property remained in the hands of the Bailey family until early 1859 and, in 1876, the owner, George Church, honoured the family when he created the subdivision of 'Bailey's Gardens' on part section 256 contiguous to College Town. Today this subdivision is included in 'Hackney', bounded by Westbury Street, North Terrace and Company's Bridge Road [now Park Terrace]. Macadamised streets were made through former flower beds, stately palms were chopped down and spreading sycamores and noble magnolias felled in the cause of progress.
The numerous noble trees even now remaining on the old site testify to the work done by Mr Bailey, and as so long as they are allowed to stand will keep his memory green. Time, however, rolls ever onwards and man passes away, leaving his works behind, which other men either preserve or ruthlessly destroy, as the whim may take them.
There was not a hovel in College Town, the cottages being large, handsome and new. Every house was built back on its allotment and nearly every one had a garden. Here and there Buffalo grass had been planted and, when mowed regularly, a neat clean space was to be had at the front door. Among the prettiest gardens was that of Mr & Mrs A.W. Dobbie - it was laid out with a central circular bed, with circular paths and geometric beds around it, whilst at each side there was a straight path, bounded by a long, straight bed adjoining the fence. On the north side was a carriage drive leading to the back of the house.
The land at the back was occupied by a well-kept lawn, which made a nice clean playground for the children. In beds scattered about were a great number of dahlias, which grew exceedingly well there. Over the door at the back of the house was a vine-clad arbour and we were told that during summer there were enough grapes to satisfy the most extravagant demands of the children. There were several orange, apricot and cherry trees that furnished numerous treats to the youngsters at the proper season. A small green house stood at the back in which were kept a number of plants such as begonias, pansies, coleus, phlox, fuschias and many others.
No one walking down Baliol Street could fail to admire the beautiful garden of Mr Hartley at Erne Cottage, whose endeavours to advance the love of floriculture amongst children proved so successful. First, he commenced by filling their minds with the idea of holding a flower show - later, this was carried out successfully - and gave lessons in floriculture to children, illustrated by practical experiments, showing them how to take cuttings, sow seeds, mix the proper soils and so on.
Continuing our walk, the direction of the roads; the easy distance from town by bus or horse tram, or even pedestrian transit; the 'lettered' nature of the surroundings, fostered by the university names attached to the rows of streets - all these accounted sufficiently for the rapid transformation of this spot into the collection of elegant buildings before us, and for the increasing demand for sites in so eligible a neighbourhood.
This demand was being met by the surrender of part of the section immediately opposite to the 'Maid and Magpie' and this was being studded with homes of refinement and taste under the name of College Park, created in 1874 by Henry S. Anthony and William Dixon on section 257. The most noticeable feature of this suburban extension, however, was undoubtedly the large speculative undertaking taken in hand by capitalists to meet the requirements of the building public.
Stretching down from College Park to the Torrens were between 300 and 400 acres of land all of which, except a block of 70 acres reserved for cricket and general recreation grounds, were available for building purposes. Good metalled roads traversed the property, water was laid on in advance of the population it was designed to serve and the Second Creek, which formerly took a meandering and indefinite course to the river, had its channel rendered civilised and was, in fact, canalised, at an evidently large outlay.
As we passed the Maid and Magpie Hotel in Stepney our minds went back to the late 1860s when this and other localities were the scene of a series of audacious robberies enacted by a highwayman commonly known as 'Captain Moonlight'. Some of our old colonists may, perhaps, recollect that, when children, their parents frightened them into being good by threatening to give them to the highwayman.
For some time he prospered in his adventurous career. Thrusting a murderous-looking weapon into the face of some passer-by he would relieve him of his valuables and was far away before help was at hand. Although he escaped justice for some time, while the locality was in a comparatively rural condition, the march of progress eventually defeated him and he underwent the inevitable fate of his kind. To the surprise of everyone, and to the chagrin of more than a few, his capture revealed that the business-like weapon with which he conducted his operations was nothing more than a camouflaged pipecase. His years spent behind bars resulted in entirely reforming his character and he became a respectable member of society - even to the extent of becoming a churchgoer and was acting in the capacity of an organist for a church.
As we progressed on our excursion it was noticeable that Norwood and its tributary villages had, naturally, not been forgotten in the extension of building operations, but did not strike the eye readily, as in the case of agricultural sections suddenly transformed into populous areas. Nevertheless, penetrating the numerous petty lanes and cul-de-sacs, hidden between the better-known streets, we found ample evidence of the growth of the population owing allegiance to the Corporation of Kensington and Norwood.
If ampler scope was required to give, as it were, increased elbow room to intending denizens of these parts they would have found it in Maylands, created in 1877 by William Wadham, or in North Kensington stretching northward from Clayton Church. On the south, directly fronting the Park Lands and Old Racecourse, the South Australian Company, in 1878, created Rose Park, named after Sir John Rose (a former chairman of the SA Company), on sections so long occupied by Mr Prescott.
On our visit no improvements were visible on the ground, though considerable portions had been sold at high prices. I might add that when the subdivision was to be named local sentiment plumped for 'Prescott' but, alas, insular internal forces within the South Australian Company prevailed.
Further east again, and traversing the outer limit of the suburban tramway, we noticed signs of revival in the long-neglected Kensington district. The old township was waking up through the influence of the artery of communication running to its extreme boundary, which in effect almost equalised its advantages with those enjoyed by its more crowded rivals nearer the metropolis.
Rising as the country immediately at the back of Kensington does, large scope was afforded, not merely for pedestrian excursions, but for permanent residence in more picturesque spots than the plains afforded, while yet within easy distance of business. It was to be wondered at that more attention had not been paid to this, the nearest hill country. A few well-to-do citizens had erected residences on 'Shipster's Section' which directly abutted the tramway terminus and which, with its fine timber and cricket reserve in the centre, seemed to be ideally adapted for suburban habitation. Kensington Park and other varieties of the original nomenclature of the place were laid out in the direction pointing towards 'Burnside the beautiful' - as auctioneers' advertisements not unjustly styled that pleasant, if not populous, hill village; but at the time of our excursion primitive gum trees and land agents' notices were the main objects to be observed on the soil.
And so we completed our traverse of the district and turned for home in Queen Street, pondering along the way as to what the next 40 years might bring. Let us hope that by social pressures and judicious legislation the division between the wealthy and the poor in our community will be narrowed and that secondary and tertiary education will be made available to the working classes at a nominal cost. Indeed, in this respect the words of two former legislators, B.T. Finniss and G.W. Cotton, in the 19th century bear witness:
There was a time within my recollection when Church and State were leagued
against the education of the labouring classes - 'If you educate labour,
where shall we find men willing to earn their bread by the sweat of their
brow.' I heard this frequently in my youth in England.
Some of us think we see the dawn of a Christian socialism, when the strong in brain and heavy in purse shall need no goading to induce them to share their superior endowments with their weaker brethren...
A Day in the Life of a Suburb - 1907
(Taken from Geoffrey H. Manning's A Colonial Experience)
Like all the satellite villages around Adelaide, the commercial life of Norwood commenced with the 'essential' of the period, namely, a hotel; with progress, churches brought spiritual comfort to their parishioners and general stores, butcher shops, etc., opened for business. To service the diverse needs of 'Norwoodians' schools were opened, entertainment provided in the form of magic lantern shows, while the mortal remains of the deceased had to be prepared for appropriate burial rites. Let us pause for a moment as I recall past events and enter into the lives of some of those who contribute towards the well-being of Norwood.
Our plumber maintains that he works hand in hand with the doctor for the public good and insists that modern civilisation owes a debt to him that is not satisfied by remuneration for his work. His duties? Well this is how he expressed them to me:
1. To keep water out of houses (roof work).
2. To get water into houses and store and distribute it where required.
3. To get water out of houses after it has served its purpose.
He also undertakes the functions of galvanised iron worker, gasfitter, glazier, coppersmith and tinsmith and in connection with the more restricted operation as a leadworker, from which the name of his trade is derived (Latin plumbum - lead). He also works hand in hand with the smoke-test man as many residents have learned to their cost. After the vicious smoke has curled its way through tiny leaks the owner of the premises is given a mandamus to have the vents repaired within a certain number of hours.
The man with the firepot and soldering iron is called and in exchange for hard cash the customer has the satisfaction of knowing that the shining patches put on the pipes have possibly saved him from falling victims to fevers and various other diseases. Just now it appears that the increasing adoption of Marseilles tile roofing will displace to a large extent the use of galvanised iron for the covering of suburban villas, but the plumber is not disturbed by that. He holds that the fortune which brought him the harvest of deep drainage work when times were bad will enable him to profit by a later march of science.
In support of this contention he submits that already English architects are talking about a renaissance of the old ornamental and artistic lead waterheads, gutters, downpipes, sundials and the like to lend attractiveness to the plain brick fronts of the more modern houses. He also points with satisfaction to the larger popularity of small gables and turrets which also make more work for the plumber.
The ordinary man in the street can find cause for marvelling at the facility with which the plumber can lift a globe of molten solder on his iron and smoothly run it along just where it is required, while in his own hands the feat is well nigh impossible. His tools comprise implements of the most awkward appearance and of many materials including flannel, wool, copper, iron and steel; and in many of his operations he does not despise the grease from a tallow candle, in others he seeks the aid of the hardest of all substances, the diamond.
One of his mysterious masterpieces of work - an evidence of skill rather than a result of commercial value - is the manufacture of pipe in the form of a double cross (six ends) beaten in one piece out of a flat sheet of lead. This is accomplished by first hammering the ductile metal into somewhat the form of a football case and afterwards by dint of much patience drawing one portion out and delving another part in on mandrils until the desired result is obtained.
The School Headmaster
He leaves his home at 7.30 am. and upon arrival at the school starts on his pupil teachers and monitors for they have lessons every morning upon the subject of 'The Principles of Teaching'. At 'first bell' at 9.15 he makes his way into the yard for the morning 'fall-in' and inspection and from 9.20 until 9.30 he is occupied in an observation lesson, that is, a talk about the weather and noting the clouds in the sky, the direction of the wind, rainfall (if any) since the previous morning, reading of the barometer and thermometer. This lesson is usually concluded by making a simple forecast of the possible weather for the next 24 hours. Then one boy is told off to copy the Register weather map on a large map, which is always kept hanging in the shelter shed.
Parents are interviewed between 9.30 and 10 and he allows himself an hour a day to attend to correspondence. He calls upon each class once a day and often takes a whole lesson thus enabling him to know the weaker pupils and at the same time allowing time for teachers to get on with their endless correction work. He leaves for home at about 5.30 and scarcely a single night passes without further work connected with the school; he carefully looks over work prepared by pupil teachers and plans his work for the ensuing day.
At the school there are two grades of assistants. A chief assistant (male) takes precedence over everyone else in the school except the headmaster; he teaches a class and has innumerable other duties. The assistants are responsible for their classes and at lunch times are rostered as to 'yard' duty while the children play. On Saturday mornings they are kept busy making teaching models, apparatus, relief maps and so on.
Nearly every teacher is engaged in some university work and also in a systematic course of reading on the subject of education. Much time, too, is taken up with cadet work. Most of the teachers are ladies; they are born teachers but the work tells on them. Managing large classes and working in hot, stuffy atmospheres with little rest from the time of starting till night, must in the long run undermine their health. It is not the class that beats the teacher, it is the number in them - it is a blot on the school system when you have an assistant teacher controlling 70 pupils. Tackle that size class for a year and a holiday at the conclusion is essential.
The average housewife in Norwood works about twelve hours a day in a domestic gilded cage - sometimes by the joys of matrimony and the song of children. Truly, there are few moments when a married woman with children and without help can claim freedom from duty or immunity from work. Pleasure and recreation she must dismiss from contemplation or practice.
Lest one be accused of exaggeration let me detail a typical daily round of a Norwood housewife. The family consists of herself, husband and three children, the latter comprising a baby, a boy three years old, and another boy of school age. The husband works in a factory for good wages, but these are insufficient to pay for domestic help at the present tariff.
The wife rises at six o'clock to cook an early breakfast for her husband and at seven the children are dressed, with another breakfast to follow; at 8.30 the eldest is sent to school. Then the working day begins in earnest. Need I enumerate all the items of labour in the house when a few will suffice - such as the eternal washing-up, cooking, dusting, ironing, polishing, scrubbing, sewing, mending, sweeping, darning, baking, keeping children clean and in order - an endless task in itself - and sundry other jobs in the category of an occupation pre-eminent for monotony.
About two o'clock the mother faces a pile of clothes that require mending operations on a large scale, and at five o'clock returns to the kitchen to prepare her husband's tea. Washing-up follows and the time arrives to bath the children and put them to bed. With reasonable luck about eight o'clock the tired mother may have a breathing space after being on duty for fourteen hours, but crediting her with a spell we strike the average of twelve hours as her working day.
Of course, there is an alternative; she can abandon the struggle, take the line of least resistance, allow the house to remain in chaos and permit the children to exist in neglect. But to her credit she carries out the unending drudgery with a fortitude little short of heroism. Our local doctor tells me that a large number of women in Norwood are victims of complaint due to overwork in the home and some are in hospital either resting or seeking a cure - often arrested by return to conditions that caused the breakdown. This is part of the price we pay for the housewife's twelve-hour day.
Another result is recorded in figures of premature mortality among infants, still-born babies. or more tragic still, the occasions when a woman's strength is insufficient to bear the ordeal of maternity, and a further victim of the twelve-hour day passes to the Great Beyond. There is another price that few helpless housewives can hope to escape. This is a premature ageing, where the married girl of 20 looks 30, and the woman of 40 is transformed with an outer mask of old age.
In such conditions how can marriage be popularised or the advent of children welcomed in a house that strives to be a home, where the average woman works without change in tasks that never cease, that are without reward, frequently devoid of recognition, almost invariably the cost of health - sometimes of temper - and not seldom accompanied by the final loss of marital happiness and security.
If women must continue to regard the home as a place of monotonous and unending servitude, I foresee the time when there will be a revolt. To avert this tragedy, for the sake of women we must reduce the 12-hour day and banish the 12-hour look.
From that great art of coffin making,
Old Death tore him asunder,
His life was just one great undertaking,
But now he's taken under.
(The Lantern, 23 May 1885, page 17.
A story is told about our local undertaker and he is still trying to live it down. A short time ago he was commissioned by the relative of a deceased to obtain the body from the public hospital and convey it to their residence preparatory to placing it in its last resting place. The undertaker sent one of his men along to take the necessary measurements, and then set about making the coffin. Having accomplished so much he went to the hospital and the corpse was delivered; but the coffin was too long and after the body was taken to the residence one of the women of the house fainted, while another screamed.
The undertaker was as innocent as the corpse but, a further a visit to the hospital found another excitable undertaker walking up and down the morgue fanning his flushed face with a hat and exclaiming: 'A man can't even get the right body nowadays. I have no more chance of getting my corpse into the coffin than I have of flying.' The two men looked at one another and slowly the situation dawned upon them. The right men had measured the wrong bodies!
His funeral parlour has a coachhouse which is occupied by three hearses, some mourning coaches and other vehicles. Carefully groomed horses feed contentedly in the looseboxes; one of them was a former ex-hurdler and was, no doubt, more proud of his glossy black coat than of his deeds on the turf. In a cupboard in the men's room were three or four tall hats and black ties. Our undertaker is also a raconteur and delights in telling stories appertaining to his profession. This is a tale he told me:
An old lady had a number of boarded-out children under her charge and when
one of them died she sent for me. On the way to the cemetery we picked up
our popular clergyman who made himself very pleasant. The lady was so delighted
with his manner that when we arrived at the cemetery she bowed and curtsied
and backed until she fell into the child's grave. Well, her proportions were
ample and the grave was small, but three of us got her out.
The Dog Catcher
From the time the first house was built and occupied in Norwood, 'man's best friend', the dog, became a prerequisite in sharing the home and hearth of many families. But there were others in the community who failed to appreciate their presence and, in 1848, a resident issued a note of warning to those which frequented local creeks:
All dogs and other animals of the canine species are hereby warned that any
further molestation by them of the putrid carcasses in the great hole near
the lower watering-place will be attended with the risk of having their living
carcasses mingled with the unburied dead.
Local shopkeepers were also listed among the 'dog-hating' fraternity one of whom exclaimed:
I am surrounded by dogs by day and night - dogs digging into my house, jumping
through my shop windows, running away with meat and loaves of bread, and
endangering the life of every horseman who passes by. A heavy tax should
be enforced on all the canine tribe.
Another disgruntled citizen suggested to me an all-out campaign to purge the district by a concerted community effort:
We would at once propose a crusade against the suburban swarm of dogs whilst
the population is still strong enough for the task of extermination.
In the course of time the dog became, in number, of plague proportions despite the levying of licence fees; by 1907 the Corporation of Norwood had its local dog-catcher who roamed the streets snaring neglected and disowned dogs. A reporter has left us a first hand account of a day in the life of the catcher:
I had pictured them tempting them with a piece of beefsteak in one hand and
lassoing them with a rope in the other. He does it without bait or lasso.
As he cycles along the streets or walks leisurely over the park lands nobody
would guess his mission - much less would the dog suspect his machinations.
To all appearances he is intent on pursuing the even tenor of his way, when
with a dart he pounces upon an unwary little mongrel and secures it with
He catches sight of another - this time a fox terrier, but the latter spies him and keeps out of reach. He tries to coax it but scenting trouble it refuses to be wheedled into capture. The next victim is a bigger dog and more game. It faces him defiantly and as he makes a feint to grasp it by the back of the neck it ducks aside and shows its teeth, growling ominously.
He resorts to strategy. Shaking his fist in its face he goads it on until a fitting opportunity enables him to thrust the closed hand in its mouth. Few would care to emulate the example, but he doesn't mind. He always gets his quarry and withdraws his hand uninjured. Sometimes he carries a baton but the bike pump often serves as a 'quietener'. A fair day's haul is about seven dogs and in the four months he was engaged last year he caught 173 of which 142 were destroyed, thirty were released and one escaped.
It was almost pitiable to see the 'prisoners' at the council's depot. They were chained in a shed waiting to be claimed. If their owners did not appear in a reasonable time their fate was sealed. They were mostly yellow mongrels, but the exceptions included a smart looking greyhound, a sharp little terrier and a water spaniel. One could not help feeling sorry for the last-named. Whenever it was approached it sat up on its hind legs mutely imploring to be released and allowed to go home. It was evidently someone's pet, well trained and well looked after.
The Rent Collector
'Mother ain't 'ome, and sez will you call to-morrer.' That, the collector and family friend said, was a common answer to the knock at a door. His life is like the policeman's in the Pirates of Penzance - Not a happy one. It is said that a fool and his money is soon parted but most tenants are not in that category; it is a hard job to part money from some of them and when they do they think they are conferring a favour.
He gets into his office at about 8 am and goes through his books and steps out into the street at about nine o'clock and keeps going until about 6 pm. The worst times are the weeks following race days. At house after house it is - 'We backed the wrong horse, but we will pay next week.' From one firm a collector may get a fixed salary or a small salary and commission. But the man who collects for a number of firms on commission only has the worst time, as he will get only doubtful ones that ensure a lot of trouble with small results.
A collector has to find horse and trap or bicycle and that all reduces his money. The time payment men have about the best of it as the goods are sold on the hire system, so that the payments must be kept up or they will lose them and the collector has the chance of picking up commission on fresh sales when the old ones expire. He says his occupation is healthy in spite of the fact that on some days he was wet through to the skin and on others nearly roasted.
'I think we are a necessary evil', he said, 'some people would never pay if we didn't call on them. One large firm decided to ease their collectors by attaching to the account a slip notifying that for the future the collector would not call and requesting customers to forward cheques. The customers were delighted and the firm found that the new rule did not pay.'
Nobody dislikes our postman or any of his auxiliaries. He brings many of the pleasant surprises and excitements as well as the irritating disappointments of life. He is popular and deserves to be - which is another matter. Our postman has a red face, shines with mirth and he is always jokey. A poetry lover, too; he can recite all sorts of verse including Shakespeare. As he handed to me a long official communication he exclaimed in melodramatic tones:
-- read o'er this
And after, this, and then
To breakfast with what appetite you have.
'This' was from the Deputy Commissioner of Taxes who under penalties demanded a certain return from my husband. Confound that postman's ill-timed merriment. A postman's lot is not a happy one. Leaving out the actual office work, look at the weary miles they have to walk every day. Why, the distance would kill anybody but a trained athlete or a postman. His morning round takes him about four hours and after lunch the afternoon round is got ready which is followed by another four hours of tramping around Norwood on the average he walks about 15 miles a day.
He prefers mostly winter when its summer and summer when it's raining cats and dogs. He explained to me:
If you're strong with a constitution like a horse you get accustomed to it,
but if you're weak and liable to take cold - take on something else. Some
funny people in the district? You bet. Some have queer notions of what a
postman should do. One lady asked me if I would call back in half an hour
as she would have a letter ready for me to post. Another had a note pinned
to her door telling me she was away for a few days and asking me to leave
her mail with a friend who lived a mile away and out of my round.
Finally, they have trouble with dogs:
See that darn (pointing to a neatly-mended ragged tear in the leg of his trousers).
That was caused by Blank's dog. I could show you his teeth marks in my leg.
He was a big ugly brute - just the kind to take mean advantage. Several times
he has tried to eat me but I objected. Still the owner would not chain him
up; but after he had sampled my leg he had to take in an ounce of lead.
The DustmanOld boots, broken crockery, kitchen refuse, rags and fish tins. What more profitable occupation can be named than that of collecting them. Yet banish the dustman and what a nuisance would result. As purifiers of backyards they do work that must be done by someone, and fortunate it is for householders that such men can be found to do it - well, too, generally. Of course, the scavenger cannot wear kid gloves, high collar, patent leather boots and a nosegay, but what matter. His stock-in-trade are an old tub and a roomy tipdray with a horse to match.
Tramping by the side of his steed, or in the wake of his rumbling dray, the dustman plods along the lanes and byways - usually a bit of a philosopher after his own fashion. Rarely does he see the householder because the household rubbish is not kept too close to the house. Generally the only welcome he gets is from dogs - occasionally cross dogs.
The 'Boss' scavenger talked to me: 'Our chaps are as happy as Larry. The work is healthy and they never have an ache or pain. It makes 'em as hard as barbwire and there's no strain on the mind. Talk about smells giving people fever! Why, there can't be anything in it. I'm not fond of dirt but I've noticed that the nervous folk are the first to go under when they get scared with these germ notions - it wouldn't do for our chaps to worry their heads about them.
'It's pretty hard graft. They can get eight bob [shillings] a day anywhere at other work but seem to be content to carry those old tubs around for seven. You see it's constant and that's why they stick to it. We get our really busy times. It's when the cauliflowers are in. You'd be surprised at the difference they make to us. Think of all the stalks and leaves the people throw away compared with what they eat.
'We get on well with people taking 'em all through. It's only now and then we have a bit of a "scrummage". Last week a fellow objected to our chap opening his white gate with dirty hands. But, then, the poor cove was only newly-married, so you mustn't be too hard on him. Dare say he will get the conceit taken out of him before too long. We are not bound to cart away anything and everything.
'One lady was wild when we had to tell her that brickbats, garden cuttings and yard sweepings were not in our line. The circulars headed "Duties of the Scavenger" which we carry round save no end of arguments. People think at first it's a bit of lawyer's work of your own but you can see for yourself that they're issued by the Local Board of Health.
'No home dog likes to see strangers taking stuff away - specially bones; and that's why they want to go for our chaps. But we can refuse to go into any yard where a savage dog is off the chain. One got at me the other day. When my hands touched the tins he started to bark like mad and brought the missus out.
'"That's only his play", she said. 'But where the cur nipped me and hung on until I lifted him away with the point of my boot I thought it was no play for me. The lady said she was sorry, but Towser must have been in a bad temper that morning. I guess he was sorry, too, when he felt my boot.
'We have some funny experiences. The other day a lady offered one of our chaps half a crown if he could find her false teeth among the rubbish. How she lost them I don't know, but she said she had hunted all over the place except the dustbin. Another one had lost her wedding ring while sweeping the floor. She was a sweet young thing and was in a terrible fluster about telling her husband. Any of our chaps would have eaten his hat if only he could have handed her that little bit of jewellery.
'I am often asked whether we pick up anything valuable. My reply is that if we were to wait till we made a fortune out of what's left in Norwood dust heaps we'd be as old as two blooming Methuselahs and a Wandering Jew and a half, and then die as poor as Lazarus's dog.'
He begins his day a 3 am. every morning and as soon as he tumbles out of bed he bails the cows, feeds them and after a while commences milking which takes he and helpers about an hour. The milk is then strained and the cans filled and put in the carts. He says they don't use them 'new-fangled' milking machines, thank goodness! They then have a snack, harness the horses and start the rounds and upon completion they 'fix up the neddies' and put any milk left over into a can.
And then its time for breakfast: 'Can't you eat these mornings - rather. After three hours on the cart your appetite's got an edge as sharp as a razor.' They then make up their returns which are checked by the boss, wash out and clean the cans, sweep and spread lime in the stalls and mix the afternoon feed for the cows.
Although the life of a milkman, on the whole, is not prosaic, and far from a bed of roses, there are many compensations in it. Humorous episodes often tend to counterbalance drawbacks and disadvantages.
According to statements made recently during the hearing of a court case, in which a milk vendor took a prominent part, it is by no means a unique experience for customers, on rising in the morning, to find that the usual quantity of milk has not been left. Next day a note to this effect awaits the milkman who realises then that somebody has been up to tricks. Invariably, investigations disclose that a boy on his way to work has taken to sampling the supply.
In the immigration days in South Australia one new chum who had come out as a 'farm labourer' and therefore knew nothing about farming was engaged in a dairy. At night he was told to rise early in the morning and milk the cows. At breakfast time - no milk. The man was found to have baled the bull and he explained: 'The beggar gave me such a lot of bother that I've not been able to start milking yet.' No, this was not the man who afterwards sent a mob of wethers to stock a sheep station in the north.
To say a parson works on Sunday and has all the week off to get ready is to be flippant as one of our local ministers explained: 'Last Sunday I started with a short meeting before the morning service, conducted a funeral service in the afternoon, spoke in the street before entering church in the evening and afterwards celebrated the communion. That was mental toil switching the mind off and on from subject to subject and concentrating all of energy and thought on the matter of immediate moment.
'We have no average day, and our work is not like office routine. This morning my work began with a study of public questions as placed before us by The Register. Next I gave hours to a batch of correspondence. Up till a few weeks ago I had a private secretary of my own. A clergyman's salary won't stand such luxuries; but the poor fellow - a well educated man, apparently - had to be kept from starving while he pulled himself together and looked around.
'Eleven o'clock found me at the vestry; I attend here as regularly as a business man his office. Half a dozen people were waiting for an interview. In trouble of all sorts! Unemployed, hungry, homeless, wretched men and women. That is the penalty of living in this poorer district. It is not typical. I studiously refrain from breaking into my meal hour. Regularity improves the digestion and the odd minutes of after-rest constitute my recreation moments. Then I do what reading I can - never half as much as I would wish. 'Tonight I badly want to go to a lecture at the University but I must stick to my Bible study class. That will occupy not only my evening. It is not merely attending the meeting, or the actual talking while there - it is the preparation that runs away with the minutes and the hours. Yes, I think I will get back to my study and think hard for a little while.'
Our local butcher starts his day at six o'clock when he feeds his horses and goes into the city to get the day's meat from the freezing works. Back at the shop the meat is cut into joints, he loads his cart and makes a block of sausages; he is then ready for a good breakfast. By nine o'clock he has started on his round which he completes about 1.30 pm. He then feeds his horse, makes up his cash and if he's lucky he will have dinner at about two o'clock.
In the afternoon there's sausage meat to be trimmed up for mincing the next day and the hooks and bars in the shop to be cleaned. After that he harnesses up again and goes to a nearby paddock from which he gets some sheep for slaughtering; this is a daily event and on Friday's he usually kills a pig and a calf. The carcasses then have to be dressed, the offal to be cleaned and the fat taken off, the skins hung up to dry and the slaughterhouse washed out.
The meat is then taken to the shop and cut into joints. Then there is brine to be made for the salt meat and to be forced into the beef, mutton and pork with a brine pump, and tripe and oxtails to be cleaned. On the first four weekdays he finishes at about 7 pm., on Friday's 9 pm. while on Saturday he labours until 10 pm.
On his rounds he meets bad and good people. The biggest trouble he has is with people who want to handle the meat before they buy. Others have the cheek to ask him to go back to the shop and bring them a particular joint after he has shown all he had in his cart. Often he is asked to kill a fowl because his customer hasn't got the heart to do it. Then there are the 'catsmeat' misers - women who buy twopence worth of 'meat' for the cat, when there's no order for the house - and no cat!
There work is much easier now than it was a few years ago for freezers and cool chambers have done away with lots of the hard graft. It used to be a frequent thing in hot weather to turn out at 4 am. in the morning and kill before breakfast; and if there wasn't meat enough then, they had to come back from the round and kill another lot. All the summer they killed mutton after sundown so as to dodge the flies, and cut up early the next morning. Now the meat can be kept several days all through the year, and it gets a better flavour.
He is a sensible man, our local cobbler. He sticks to the last like a true son of leather, although he did advise my sons to be anything except a bootmaker. But he would not talk about himself. He is not used to it. His shop is the assembling place for all sorts and conditions of purveyors of news. All that he does not actually read of in the newspapers (his work permits only a cursory glance) he hears from chance callers. In return he prophesises on the events of the morrow anything from likely weather to who will win the next test match.
He was talking to me steadily while he contrived to cut two soles from a piece of leather in which I could see only a sole and a bit. But finally it appeared that he was right and I was wrong. In years gone by, he said, he mended mostly men's boots, but now there were quite as many women's. I asked him what the moral was. He replied that he knew nothing about such things.
He told me that leather was very dear whether imported or home made and by the time he paid two shillings for the soles and odd pence for the nails and other items, and put in the necessary work, there was no great surplus for bread and jam. However, he had worried along and was healthy - 'So What's the Odds', he concluded.
The Lantern Operator
I asked our local lantern operator how long he had been at the job and he entered into an interesting discourse on the profession and the latest form of public entertainment, the cinematograph: 'Oh, since I was at school. After seeing one of the crude instruments of my early days exhibited at a Band of Hope meeting I procured materials and directions and made a magic lantern and began to experiment with it with a two-wick oil lamp. The views which had particularly struck my fancy were gaily coloured slides depicting people in action. This business is constantly growing in importance.
'No university, college, or public school even, is complete without its lantern outfit and shutters to darken its lecture room at midday for demonstration purposes; and it is beginning to be recognised that education through the eye to the mind is quicker and more permanent than the tedious drumming in of abstract information.
'I expect to see the day when many costly chemical and other experiments will be adequately illustrated in progress to our State school students by means of the cinematograph. There are some funny incidents occasionally when lantern slides get out of order. At a missionary lecture the announcement: "The next picture will show you one of our best-loved teachers surrounded by his domestic circle" was followed by the appearance of a burly cannibal and his 15 wives!
'The common house fly has several times bothered me exceedingly. In the summer evenings these pests often get on the slide and are projected on to the sheet enormously magnified. In one instance when a lady vocalist was engaged on an illustrated song, and had come to the death bed scene, her equanimity was completely upset by a tittering audience, which, as she had her back to the screen, was totally inexplicable.
'A fly had settled on the lens, and appeared as a fearful monster two feet long, tickling an angel's foot. The lantern was never more popular than it is today. The favourite subject here for lecture purposes appear to be first-rate views of Australian scenery.
'The cinematograph? Well, it is a great institution, and can be made a powerful factor in public instruction and entertainment, but a high grade of pictures must be insisted upon. I shall never forget the thrill that went through me when I first saw an exhibition of the triumph of science represented in the realm of animated pictures. Before they are safe for indiscriminate use some less combustible material must be invented for the films.'
"Villages Around Adelaide" is in the South Australian Magazine, 1841-1842, page 187.
A letter in respect of "cottage building" is in the Observer,
14 December 1844, page 3a.
"Cottage Economy" is in the Express,
6 July 1870, page 2c.
Information on a variety of fences is in the Observer,
30 May 1846, page 6b.
"Municipal Institutions" is in the Register,
26 November 1856, page 2d.
"The State of the Suburban Roads" is in the Register,
1 April 1858, page 3b.
A map of Adelaide and suburbs showing roads and subdivisions is in the Pictorial Australian
March 1877; also see
September 1889 (supplement).
"Robbers of Gardens" is in the Chronicle,
24 December 1859, page 4b.
"Suburban Burial Grounds" is in the Observer,
13 December 1862, page 6h.
Also see South Australia - Miscellany - Burying the Dead.
"The Embryo Suburbs of Adelaide" is in the Register,
2, 8 and 14 May 1879, pages 5e, 5f and 5e,
"Sunday in the Suburbs" on
3 January 1881, page 5e,
14 May 1881, page 5g,
"Lungs for the Suburbs" on
15 and 16 November 1912, pages 6e and 11e,
"Shall the Suburbs Suffocate" on
14 an 18 December 1912, pages 14g and 7g.
A report on trees is in the Chronicle,
11 January 1879, page 17a.
Information on tree planting is in the Observer,
25 April 1885, page 11b.
A map of Adelaide and suburbs showing roads and subdivisions is in the Pictorial Australian
March 1877; also see
September 1889 (supplement).
"Memorials in South Australia" is in the Express,
28 May 1879, page 3a.
Also see Statues and Memorials.
"The Backyard Pirates" is in the Chronicle,
31 May 1879, page 13d:
[They] are becoming so general and are of such frequent occurrence in our neighbourhood
that it is high time for some united action to be taken. No amount of police
surveillance could entirely stop the nuisance over such a large district.
It remains then for householders either to form vigilance committees or to take individual action. I have adopted the latter course lately and should any of my nocturnal visitors have their families decimated, or any of their limbs blown off, they may have themselves to thank.
Scattered indiscriminately through my wood pile are carefully prepared billets of wood highly charged with dynamite and only distinguishable from others by marks known to myself and family... Formerly they were contented with stray pieces of chopped wood; then their ideas gradually expanded to larger logs, and now if none is ready they take away the wood axe.
During the past week or two no less than seventeen of my neighbours have lost their axes... My axe went last Thursday night and on Friday morning I had to try at three of my neighbours before I could borrow one, and that was only preserved by being thoughtfully chained to the dog kennel overnight.
Then on Saturday, as all the portable wood had gone, these too-practical jokists borrowed my wheelbarrow for the conveyance of timber and have not as yet returned it. I shall look forward with fiendish joy to the first accounts in your columns of the mutilation of my enemies.
"Street Numbers" is in the Express,
4 August 1882, page 3a.
An editorial on the hazards attached to the purchase of suburban land is
in the Advertiser,
30 October 1882, page 4d.
"Our Front Gardens" is in the Observer,
8 December 1883, page 11c.
"Letters by Tricycle" is in the Express,
19 June 1884, page 3e.
Also see SA - Mail and Postal.
"Burglars at Work" is in the Chronicle,
25 May 1889, page 10a.
"Burglars at Work - Suburban Raids" is in the Advertiser,
4 January 1902, page 8e.
"Among the Blockers" is in the Advertiser,
10 September 1889, page 7b.
Also see Place Names - Hundred of Cotton.
"Local Medical Officers in Suburban Districts" is in the Register,
21 October 1884, page 6g.
"The Population of Adelaide" is in the Observer,
9 May 1891, page 24e.
"The Dividing Fences Difficulty" is in the Observer,
2 January 1892, page 9a.
"Notes on Suburban Gardens" is in the Observer,
6 May 1893, page 10c.
"What is a Suburb?" is in the Register,
20 September 1893, page 5c.
"Fire Alarms in the Suburbs" is in the Express,
11 July 1894, page 2c.
"The Fire Brigades - A Trip Round the Suburbs" is in the Register,
3 February 1899, page 6f.
Also see Fires and the Fire Brigade.
An editorial on the hazards of buying suburban allotments "The Growth of
Adelaide" is in the Chronicle,
13 February 1897, page 19.
"The Growth of Adelaide" is in the Chronicle,
13 February 1897, page 19.
"Adelaide and Its Environs - Is the Police Protection Sufficient?" is in
19 July 1898, page 3e.
"Greater Adelaide" is in the Register,
2 September 1899, page 8b.
"Dust and Disease" is in the Register,
10 October 1900, page 4h.
"Suburban Sanitation" is in the Register,
16 June 1903, page 8d.
Julia W. Farr's reminiscences of "The Old Charities" such as the Norwood
Refuge, Orphan Home, Home for Incurables, etc, are in the Register,
7 July 1905, page 7c.
"New Buildings in 1907" is in the Express,
7 February 1908, page 3d.
Information on suburban hotels is in the Express,
9 and 26 March 1909, pages 4g and 3g.
"Suburban Expansion" is in the Register,
13 November 1909, page 6d.
"The Cultivation of Hedges" is in the Observer,
13 August 1910, page 13c.
The pleasures of "A Suburban Garden - An Afternoon at Home" is in the Advertiser,
30 December 1911, page 8e.
"'Lungs' for the Suburbs" is in the Register,
15 and 16 November 1912, pages 6e and 11e,
14 December 1912, page 14g,
"People's Playgrounds" on
14 November 1913, page 6d.
Also see Playgrounds.
"Suburban Development" is in the Advertiser,
22 July 1913, page 8c.
"Suburban Birdlife" is in the Register,
3 March 1916, page 4f.
"The Trail of the Tram - Improvement of Suburban Property" is in the Register,
19 June 1919, page 4d.
"Primitive Conditions in the Suburbs" is in The Mail,
25 November 1922, page 7g,
2 December 1922, pages 7g and 7g.
"Western Suburbs Floods - A Comprehensive Government Scheme" is in the Advertiser,
16 and 20 November 1923, pages 15c and 12e; also see
3 May 1924, page 14e,
10, 24 and 31 October 1924, pages 16c, 15a and 15e.
Also see Adelaide - Natural Disasters, Place Names - Fulham, Place Names - Henley Beach and Place Names - Reedbeds.
"Suburban Ovals" is in the Express,
31 March 1914, page 2e.
"Letter Boxes on Gates" is in the Advertiser,
12 January 1924, page 17d.
"Letter Boxes for Private Houses" is in the Register,
19 February 1924, page 3g.
Information on the introduction of letter boxes is in the Observer,
1 September 1928, page 71a.
"Naming the Homes" is in the Register,
26 March 1925, page 5d.
"Spreading Population - Density in Suburbs" is in The News,
5 August 1925, page 9a,
"Rapid Expansion of Suburban Areas" on
30 December 1925, page 6b.
"The Cross Road" is in the Register,
9, 11, 12 and 22 March 1926, pages 9g, 11d, 14f and 11e,
15 April 1926, page 8e.
"City's Spread - Old Orchards Disappear" is in The Mail,
19 June 1926, page 3e.
"Crossword Suburbs - State a Huge [Nomenclature] Puzzle Board" is in The
25 June 1927, page 1a.
Also see South Australia - Nomenclature of South Australia.
"Rubbish Fires - Smoking Out Neighbours" is in The News,
8 January 1930, page 8e.
"First Boxthorn Hedge in SA" is in the Register,
15 February 1930, page 8b.
"The African Boxthorn" is in the Register,
11 April 1917, page 6c,
13 March 1919, page 3f,
20 September 1919, page 8c,
14 April 1917, page 29e,
"More Boxthorn Trouble" in the Register,
4 October 1920, page 6f,
24 July 1922, page 5g,
"Boxthorn Menace in Suburbs" in the Advertiser,
22 December 1932, page 10e,
"Clearing Land of Boxthorn" on
23 January 1935, page 12f.
"Housebuilding in the Suburbs" is in The News,
15 May 1930, page 11a.
"House-to-House Salesmen" is in The News,
27 November 1930, page 8c.
"Seeing Morning Sun with Milkman", Mr McGowan, is in The News,
4 July 1931, page 4d.
"Memory of the Past - The Backyard" is in The News,
26 June 1936, page 6f.
"Our Street and Its People" is in The News,
17 November 1936, page 4f.