Forever at Holme in Ringarooma

• Edgar Holmes has called Ringarooma home for all of his 85 years.


By Daisy Baker
17 October, 2018

WHEN Ringarooma dairy farmer Edgar Holmes started working on the family farm, he used a pair of draught horses and a pair of bullocks, but things began to change when they bought their first tractor in the 1960s.
He has lived on the family farm for all of his 85 years, except for three months in 1952 when he was in national service abroad.
He says the advent of pickup balers meant what was once done with a pitchfork could be done from the seat of a tractor.
“With the invention of spades, I suppose, and cultivation, it’s changed. It’s magnificent to what it used to be,” he says.
Mr Holmes went to Scottsdale High School in 1945 but he laughs saying that when the time came that he could leave high school, he couldn’t leave quick enough.
“I always wanted to be a farmer,” he says smiling.
“I came home to the farm in 1947 and have been here ever since.
“I only wish that sometime in the past when I was younger that I had taken photos so that I could show people what the place used to look like.
“You wouldn’t recognise the place if I transported it back to what it was in 1955 – there were big trees everywhere.”
He says it’s not just the farm that has changed markedly over this time.
“It’s sad to see Ringarooma now, compared to what it used to be,” he says.
“We used to have a grocery shop, a butcher shop, a drapery, a garage and a hotel.”
Mr Holmes was the director of the butter factory for several years and he says when this and the timber mills closed in the 1950s, people had to seek employment in other towns.
The closure of Ringarooma’s bank also drove more people to Scottsdale on a regular basis, he says, and before long the grocery store in his hometown closed due to lack of support.
“Now that the hotel’s closed, there’s no meeting place for the older people of the town to meet up for a chat.”
Despite this, Mr Holmes loves the peace of mind and sense of community throughout the town.
“At the moment the school and the young people about the place do a wonderful job, and the school is a real credit to the place.”
Mr Holmes was a keen sportsman back in the day, playing football from the age of 16 right through to 43, and also played cricket and golf.
When asked what he’d like to see in Ringarooma in the future, he says he would like to see the town get another football team but is not hopeful of this happening.
These days Mr Holmes spends most of his time tending to a flourishing garden which he and his wife built up over the years, with veggie patches, trees and flowers.
“It’s been a wonderful life,” he says. “It’s been a magnificent area to live in.”

Lois looks back on life
• Lois Jensen reflects on 80 years in Bridport.

• Lois Jensen reflects on 80 years in Bridport.

By Daisy Baker
19 September, 2018

WHEN Lois Jensen moved to Bridport with her family from West Scottsdale as a child, it was a town of gravel roads, shacks and far fewer residents.
More than 80 years on, Lois is still a proud Bridport resident.
She says her light-filled Richard Street home would have then been covered in tea tree scrub.
“As I remember, if you came up the hill to the cemetery, that would’ve been the finish of the road,” she says.
“You wouldn’t have gone up to Port Hills and Walter Street. You wouldn’t have been there.
“Bentley Street was there, and you could get out to Granite Point but that was a sandy road.”
Bridport Primary School in those days was one classroom, taught by Mr Best.
“I’d been living on the farm until I was six and I wasn’t used to sitting down and learning so I found that a big change in lifestyle when we moved here,” she says.
The struggles and anxieties of the war years were felt in Bridport too, where trenches were dug around the primary school which the students would practise getting into when planes flew over.  
“We as kids just thought this was funny and didn’t see the seriousness of it… It was a worrying time for the adults but we as children didn’t realise how serious it was,” she says.
“The men on a Saturday afternoon, the ones that hadn’t gone away in the army, dressed up and they would march around the streets of Bridport with their rifles.
“And everyone’s gate had a painted number of how many people you could billet if it was necessary for the army to come down.”
It was a time when families used coupons for clothing, butter, sugar and other necessities, and sent their meat order to Scottsdale which would be returned later that day on the bus.
When she was growing up, Lois says they didn’t have electric light or a town water service. 
“One thing I do remember is having to have some teeth out as a child and the dentist came to our house and took them out in the front room,” she laughs.
“A friend of mine had her tooth taken out just up the street in the front garden.
“That was modern dentistry at Bridport!”
Lois left school at 13 after attaining her Merit certificate.
She says she felt well-equipped despite spending only a few years in education.
“There were no school excursions or sports days and instead we had tests every Friday and regular homework – we got down to business.”
Lois laughs remembering the concerts held in the Bridport Hall every holiday season, where the local policeman would always get up on stage, like clockwork, and sing “On the Road to Mandalay”.
After leaving school, Lois took on more domestic duties and learned dressmaking and piano.
With a love of music, Lois continued to play and teach music for many decades, finishing just 16 years ago.
She says had it not been for the social conventions of the time, she would have liked to pursue a career as a journalist.
Lois has remained passionate about writing, however, and has written many short stories and poems, some of which she reads to close family.

Jim’s royal ride
• Jim Bennett remembers collecting letters for the Queen.

• Jim Bennett remembers collecting letters for the Queen.

By Daisy Baker
08 August, 2018

JIM Bennett has many memories of his 84 years in the North-East, growing up in Scottsdale and his adult life in Bridport, but there’s one Saturday in 1953 that he will never forget.
Mr Bennett was set to play football against Launceston that day at the Scottsdale Recreation Ground but missed the game after being nominated to pick up letters from North-East schools for the Queen, commemorating her coronation.
The young track rider was driven to Gladstone in a bus, and then the next morning he then rode his fixed-wheel bike more than 120 kilometres, picking up mail from Pioneer, Herrick, Winnaleah, Derby, Branxholm, Ringarooma, Legerwood and Kamona.
“It was a very long ride, it took me seven hours or so to do it,” Mr Bennett says.
“I was only a track rider, so I’d never ridden on the road before.
“I used to ride in carnivals at different towns but that was sprints.”
At each town, a young Mr Bennett collected a bundle of letters and put them in his backpack, which he was to hand to Wilfred A Rose when he returned to Scottsdale.
“I got over to the football ground at a quarter to three, it was half-time,” he says.
“I handed over the letters for him to take to the Council chambers and I raced home. I was exhausted.
“There were no gears on the bike, it was just an ordinary old fixed-wheel – your legs were your brakes and you had only your legs to get you along.”
He laughs, saying Gladstone to Scottsdale would be long journey for him today in a motorcar.
Mr Bennett went on to be a successful baker and pastry chef, with his own bakery in Bridport, which was situated where the hardware is now.
He did his trade in Scottsdale under Laurie Clark, learning how to make bread, sausage rolls, pies, pasties, small cakes, and cream horns.
He says it took him a good six months to learn the art of making and folding a good curly pasty, which Mr Bennett says he then taught to Max Hall.
After finishing his trade, Mr Bennett worked throughout the North-East, in George Town, King Island, and Victoria.
One of his specialties is curried scallop pies, which he says he still makes every few weeks.

Neil of the North-East
• Branxholm’s Neil Auton.

• Branxholm’s Neil Auton.

By Daisy Baker
18 July, 2018

NEIL Auton has called the North-East home for more than 90 years and still lives in Branxholm in a house not too far from where he was raised.
He says growing up in a family of eight children during the Depression and the second world war, things were tough.
“Everybody was poor but we didn’t know it, we were just growing up you see,” he says.
“We always had food to eat and a bed to sleep in.
“We came out of the Depression and things just started to improve, then the war started in 1939 so then there was six years of war.”
Mr Auton joined the army after the war ended, as part of the British Commonwealth Occupational Forces in Japan.
“Here I was, a boy from the bush who’d never been past Launceston and went to the other side of the world for two years,” he laughs.
“It was marvellous, you see because there was no war, it was peace time.
“I did a transport course in Australia and away I went – working over there as a truck driver.”
He returned to Branxholm before his 21st birthday, and started working in forestry, falling trees with axes and planting pines in winter time.
Several years later, he turned his hand to tin mining.
He’s a self-described mining buff and has found several water races and tunnels in the years that followed.
After carting timber for almost 18 years, Mr Auton bought a school bus and drove high school children from Derby to Scottsdale for 29 years.
When he wasn’t working, Mr Auton loved to dance.
He says he won several waltzing competitions and fondly remembers teaching a group of 30 or so local children to dance before a local debutant ball, alongside Jenny Brown.
“For three months I went down on a Tuesday night and I didn’t think they’d get it but then a week before the ball they came together and never made a mistake,” he laughs
It’s through dancing that he met his partner Judy and he says they frequented local dances and balls.
These days, Mr Auton is an avid reader and enjoys gardening, particularly growing dahlias.
Several years ago, he won first place at the Branxholm flower show for an arrangement of his dahlias.
Mr Auton has four children, 13 grandchildren, and at last count, 27 great grandchildren.
“I’m lucky to have my family all around me and to have been such a big part of their lives.”

Tiny's Tales
• Irene and Ronald ‘Tiny’ Le Fevre.

• Irene and Ronald ‘Tiny’ Le Fevre.

By Daisy Baker
27 June, 2018

HOW to skin a wallaby, use a cross-cut saw, and milk a cow are all things Ronald ‘Tiny’ Le Fevre learned at a young age growing up in Winnaleah.
His older sister gave him his nickname, calling him the ‘tiny baby’ when he was born.
His wife Irene laughs, saying the baby wore off but the tiny stuck.
The couple have been married 59 years in July and Mrs Le Fevre says they were dating three months before she knew his real name.
At nearly 81, Tiny has lived an adventurous life in the North-East, largely working as a farmer, but also had a five-year stint as a ranger at Mount William.
He learned a good work ethic at a young age, getting two bob a row for picking carrots during the war years.
He says above all, he remembers the kindness of the old people in Winnaleah as he was growing up. “You were safe. You never had a worry in the world,” Tiny says.
“If you went up into the town and skun your knee someone would’ve picked you up and put a bandage on it.
“If you went up the street and misbehaved someone would’ve kicked your butt and sent you home. That’s how it was.”
One of his vivid memories is being thrown from a horse when he was 11, while taking 250 cattle into the high country though the tiers.
“It was a rough track, but my mate and I were regarded as capable of doing it,” he says.
“Only thing was I got a horse I couldn’t handle and ended up in hospital with a broken ankle and a few other problems.”
Tiny was picked up by a Chinese man, who put him on the back of a truck and took him to Herrick.
“The only one that had a car in Herrick was the postmaster and they had to shut the post office so he could take me home.
“Now everybody’s got a motorcar, but I don’t know if they’ve got the heart they use to have.”
After leaving school at 13, he cut railway sleepers in the bush with a cross-cut saw and axe.
“That’s how it was in those days – if you didn’t work, you didn’t eat,” he says.
“When I got a little bit older we used to ride a horse from Winnaleah to Scottsdale to pick up a mob of cattle.
“Work was tough, and we never had any money, but life was good.”
Pointing to photos on the wall, he tells me with great pride about his many grandchildren and great grandchildren.
“I’m so thankful that I grew up in that time when the people were so good and so caring.”